The Apocalypse of John

Historical Context

Author: John
Date: A.D. 95
Location: Island of Patmos, Asia Minor mainland; Roman Empire; the heavenly firmament
Situation: Persecution of Christians by imperial edict — Domitian declared himself to be “Lord and God;” Christians (especially the noteworthy ones) were being rounded-up, arrested, imprisoned, exiled, or executed for failing to express their worship of the emperor: impiety = un-patriotic.
Occasion: Apocalyptic literature arose out of oppression, foreign occupation, and persecution. The use of bizarre and enigmatic imagery (which often hides allusions to the oppressing empire under the guise of a previous enemy such as Egypt or Babylon) helps to veil any references to contemporary historical events and personalities. The present enemy would not readily understand the text, and thus would not respond by escalating its persecution of the faithful. It is possible that even the intended audience did not fully understand the precise meaning of the apocalyptic imagery.

Literary Context:

The overall shape of the Apocalypse of John (set in the context or liturgy & worship):

Apocalypsis of celestial liturgy introduced
Interlude: Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor
Apocalypsis of

celestial liturgy continued:
breaking of the seven seals w/sealing of God’s servants
sounding of the seven trumpets w/cosmic conflict & Victory of God’s Lamb
pouring of the seven bowls of God’s wrath
punishment & fall of Babylon and pagan nations; victory in the heavens
celestial liturgy concluded: the heavenly Jerusalem; new heaven and new earth

Literary Analysis:

Form: “apocalyptic” (prose, poetry / hymnography; oracles, etc.
Literary Techniques: symbolism, metaphor, verbal repetition, chiasm and other patterns, irony, simile, alliteration, allusionary, allegorical, enigmatic imagery, pseudonyms, cryptic numbers, symbols, and mystical events, etc.
Genre: Apocalyptic genre was most popular from about 200 B.C. until about A.D. 200. It had a profound and pervasive influence in Judaism (the book of Daniel being the archetype) and Christianity (The Revelation to John being the archetype) as an expression of hope in the face of oppression and persecution.


Verbal icon of liturgy:

  • a-temporal celestial (prototypical);
  • O.T. Jewish terrestrial — tabernacle and temple (antitypical);
  • N.T. Christian terrestrial — universal in time and geography — (antitypical);
  • a-temporal eschatological (archetypical)

Recapitulation and fulfillment of the past,

Interpretation of the present,

Revelation of the future,

In order to give hope & encouragement

to the members of the Church

in the face of persecution —


Apocalyptic literature points simultaneously toward the past, the present and the future. It alludes to salvation history from events of ages gone by. It concerns the age in which it was written. It concerns the inauguration of the new age of God’s Kingdom to come. It is equally “applicable” and “relevant” to subsequent times and places (ages and environments) after its initial revelation. Apocalyptic literature is not a simple allegory that can be “translated” to fit a one-to-one correspondence with this or that particular era, setting, or meaning. Apocalyptic literature has special significance for its contemporary world, but it also has a universal meaning:

“The Kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ and He shall reign unto the ages of ages.” (Rev. 11:15)

The purpose of God’s revelation (apocalypse) is to show the whole community of faithful – in the midst of a world gone mad with the sometimes subtle, and sometimes obvious intoxicating, destructive, and fatal machinations of Satan – a glimpse of the true homeland which beckons our return. With such a goal upon which we set our sights and toward which we strive, we are promised strength from God to bear the suffering and hostility of this world in this age, and to emerge victorious on the Great Day of His Appearing.

The “apocalypsis” that St. John sent to the churches of Asia Minor (which were under his oversight) was intended to call his flock to faithful endurance amid raging persecution. By sharing in the visions he was granted, his flock could also find (and share with others) the comfort and encouragement echoed in the message of Psalm 91, “The Lord is God and has revealed Himself unto us” (Ps. 118:27).

 A Collection of Beastly Numbers (Apoc. 13:18)

X / 666Beast Common Denominator
0.00150150… Reciprocal of the Beast
25.8069758… Square Root of the Beast
443556        Square of the Beast
1010011010    Binary Number of the Beast
Route 666     Highway of the Beast
666 mph       Beast’s Highway Speed Limit
666              Biblical Number of the Beast
DCLXVI           Roman Numeral of the Beast
665              Number of the Beast’s Older Brother
667              Number of the Beast’s Younger Sister
999              Number of the Australian Beast
6, uh…, I forget      Number of the Blond Beast
666.0000                Number of the High Precision Beast
00666                   Zip Code of the Beast            E-mail Address of the Beast             Website of the Beast
1-666-666-6666          Phone & FAX Number of the Beast
1-888-666-6666          Toll Free Number of the Beast
1-900-666-6666          Live Beasts, available now! Only $6.66 per minute! [Must by over 18]
666-66-6666 Social Security Number of the Beast
66.6%            Tax Rate of the Beast
666 Minutes Weekly News Show about the Beast
666o F           Oven Temperature for Cooking “Roast Beast”
666k             Retirement Plan of the Beast
Word 6.66        Word Processor of the Beast
Windows 666 Bill Gates’ Personal Beast Operating System
66.6 MHz         FM Radio Station of the Beast
666 KHz          AM Radio Station of the Beast
666-i            BMW of the Beast