Q&A: The Original Audience of the Book of Revelation

The Original Audience of the Book of Revelation

Why is it important to understand the historical setting of the book of Revelation?

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Answer

The majority of scholars think that the book of Revelation was written during the reign of Domitian, who claimed to be a god. And that would have just exacerbated the problems in Asia Minor where, in many of the cities that are addressed in the book of Revelation, there were temples for the worship of the emperor. And of course, people worshiped many other gods. It was a setting of paganism. It was also a setting where persecution could easily arise, and had arisen in some of the cities. Some of the other cities, however, were not experiencing persecution. Some of the other cities, actually, were compromising with the same world system that was killing their brothers and sisters elsewhere. And I think that gives a lesson to us today, because today, in different parts of the world, the church is experiencing different things. Some places the church is suffering; some places the church is compromising with the values of a world that are inimical with values of the kingdom of God. And I think, we who are not suffering so much have a lot that we can learn from our brothers and sisters who are.

Answer by Dr. Craig S. Keener

Dr. Craig Keener teaches New Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.