ImmerseMessiah NLT - Page 465



I M MER SED IN R EVEL ATION
T H E B O O K O F R E V E L AT I O N has been interpreted in many ways through
the centuries. But the starting point for reading Revelation—or any
book of the Bible—well is to appreciate the meaning and impact it had
on its first readers.
The book of Revelation is addressed to “the seven churches in the
province of Asia.” John wrote down the vision he received in order to
describe for his readers “events that must soon take place.” The seven
brief letters at the beginning of the book shed much light on the situation facing these believers toward the end of the first century.
John himself has already been exiled to the island of Patmos for his
testimony about Jesus. The followers of Jesus are experiencing pressure to participate in immoral feasts honoring the Roman gods in pagan
temples, and local Jewish leaders seem to be denouncing believers as
participating in a subversive sect serving a false Messiah. The seven letters to the seven churches largely warn of suffering and imprisonment,
urging believers to “remain faithful even when facing death.”
Adding to this pressure on believers, the Roman Empire was promoting a cult of emperor worship that had its origins a century earlier. A
Roman inscription from 4 bc describes Caesar Augustus as “the god
made manifest, the universal savior of human life. Land and sea have
peace, the cities flourish in harmony and with an abundance of food,
there is an abundance of all good things, people are filled with happy
hopes for the future and with delight in the present.”
This cult was especially strong in Asia Minor (that is, modern-day
­Turkey), where the churches of Revelation were located. And now
­Emperor Domitian was demanding to be addressed as “Lord and
God.” Anyone who refused to participate in the cult faced the wrath
of the vast majority of citizens, who were eager to curry favor with the
emperor. Revelation was written to give strength and courage to Jesus’
followers in this difficult situation. It urges them to persevere in their
worship of the one true God and the one Lord over all other lords.
John wrote down the vision that Jesus presented to him, intending for
it to be read by the seven churches in Asia Minor that it addresses. The
vision is shared in the form of an apocalypse (meaning “unveiling”), a
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