The Author of Revelation
* The Word of God -- Rev 1:2
* The Testimony of Jesus Christ -- Rev 1:2
* A Prophecy given by Jesus -- Rev 1:3, 11
* A Letter written by John -- Rev 1:4
John -- To the seven churches in the province of Asia.
A Letter written by John
Revelation is a letter from John to the seven churches. Its introduction is typical of letters of its time. For a quick comparison, see the introduction to ‘First Peter:’
1 Peter 1:1, 2
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect …
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
John also signs-off in his letter as a letter writer would. He concludes, ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen’ (Rev 22:21).
A Prophecy from Jesus Christ
The content of the letter is a prophecy from Jesus Christ. Jesus told John: “Write on a scroll ‘what you see’ and send it to the seven churches” (Rev 1:11). John was instructed to write what he saw – that is, to write what Jesus showed him. While John is the author of the Book of Revelation, its prophetic content comes directly from Jesus Christ.
It is called a prophecy.
Blessed is the one who reads the words of this ‘prophecy.’
As a prophecy, it gives us insight into future events. The events described in Revelation are momentous and relate to ‘life changing’ – ‘life-verses-death’ experiences. The book demands that decisions be made by its readers. The choice is -- to stand by Satan and receive the ‘mark of the beast,’ or to stand with God and receive the ‘Seal of God.’ This choice is presented to all people. There is no middle ground, you will ultimately be found either in one camp or the other. The decision to stand with God now will give this result: 'to live with God for all eternity.’
Rev 21:3, 4
“God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Satan is the one who brings ‘tears, and death, and mourning, and crying, and pain.’ Satan is responsible for all the hurt in the world. And God has made this promise: He will 'restore all things' unto himself.
The end result is sure. God will reward you according to your decision. God does not work in the fashion of a TV game show, a lottery, or a knowledge-based quiz show – where the results are uncertain. With God, you will most certainly receive your reward. It is based solely on your relationship with a loving God. If you have chosen to align yourself with God, God has already made the first move, he has already chosen you, and he will bring you into his everlasting kingdom.
The Word of God -- the Testimony of Jesus Christ
(This topic has already been addressed in the commentary on Rev 1:1, 2, ‘The Chiasm of Revelation.')
As we have previously seen, Revelation is the 'word of God' and the 'testimony of Jesus Christ.' As such, Revelation should be important to everyone, and to every Christian -- it is of infinite value.
It is John’s letter, it is also a prophecy given by Jesus, it is the word of God, and it is the testimony of Jesus Christ.
And God promises that we shall be blessed ‘if we should read it.’
The revelation was given to God’s servant John -- to be shared with all of God’s servants. For what purpose was it given? It is given for this grand purpose: ‘To show his servants -- what must soon take place’ (Rev 1:1). This is the focus of the prophecy: God readily reveals to us 'crucially important events' which must occur soon.
The author of Revelation identifies himself four times as John. In Rev 1:1 he writes his servant John indicating that he is a servant of Almighty God and Jesus Christ.
In Rev 1:4 he simply calls himself ‘John.’ The context indicates that he is the author of the book. He writes, ‘John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia.’
Again, in Rev 1:9 he identifies himself to fellow believers as ‘I, John, your brother and companion,’ indicating that he is united in fellowship with them. Thus, he identifies as a servant of God (verse one), and a Christian brother and companion (verse nine). He reveals that he, along with other Christians were living in troubling times. And he reveals that he was ‘on the island of Patmos’ when he received the revelation (verses 9, 10).
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Also, in Rev 22:8, he says ‘I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things.’ Thus, three times at the beginning of the book and once at the end – he identifies as John.
The Identity of John
Who is John? Is he the Apostle John? He does not specifically say.
Commentators are divided on his identity. Some say that he is the Apostle John who (in his Gospel) identified himself as the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ (John 13:23). Others maintain that though his name is John, he is not the Apostle John, he is a different John -- otherwise generally unidentified and unknown in history.
I live some two-thousand years after the book was written, and I have no unique personal knowledge on the matter. And obviously, I have had no face-to-face relationship with the author – so I have no insight into this matter on a personal level.
Please note that I do have a view. I follow the lead of the ‘early church fathers’ who lived much closer to the time when John wrote the Revelation. They possessed knowledge on a personal and intimate level which I do not have today.
Justin Martyr believed that the Apostle John wrote Revelation.
Justin Martyr debated with Trypho in Ephesus in about A.D. 135. In his ‘Dialogue with Trypho (81.4),’ he writes, “There was a certain man with us, whose name was ‘John, one of the apostles of Christ,’ who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem.”
He says that John who was an apostle of Christ ‘prophesied’ through a ‘revelation’ made to him. I personally believe that the revelation given to ‘the Apostle John’ is recorded in the Book of Revelation (The Apocalypse).
Justin Martyr stated that John ‘prophesied,’ – and John in Revelation says that he wrote a ‘prophecy.’
Rev 22:18, 19
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. -- And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
Regarding the authorship of Revelation, I follow Justin Martyr. I accept his testimony that the Apostle John was the author of Revelation.
Irenaeus prefaces quotations he took from the Book of Revelation with the claim that John, the Lord’s disciple wrote the following words in the Apocalypse.
Irenaeus (in his early years) spent time in Smyrna with Polycarp. He claims Polycarp knew John the apostle. Therefore, Irenaeus and John were not too far removed from one another in time and place in history.
I accept the view of Irenaeus that ‘John, the Lord’s disciple’ wrote Revelation. I also accept his testimony that he (Irenaeus) spent time with Polycarp, and that Polycarp knew the Apostle John.
Justin Martyr and Irenaeus both agree that ‘John the apostle’ was the author of Revelation.
Additional documented support confirming this view comes from the Muratorian Canon, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Origen.
Additional support for the Apostle John’s authorship can be found online.
In his commentary on Revelation published in 1919 on page 351, Ibson T. Beckwith concludes,
“So much external testimony to the personality of the author, traceable back to almost contemporaneous sources, is found in the case of almost no other book of the New Testament.”
‘The Apocalypse of John. Studies in Introduction with a Critical and Exegetical Commentary’ -- Ibson T. Beckwith
The commentary can be found online as a ‘pdf File.’
An Opposing View
Not everyone agrees with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus regarding their identity of the author of Revelation.
Dionysius of Alexandria
Dionysius of Alexandria in the middle of the third century denied that ‘the apostle John’ wrote the Book of Revelation.
Was Dionysius’s assessment of John’s authorship of Revelation theologically motivated?
His opposition to the apostle John’s authorship occurs during a theological debate. He was opposing the teaching of Nepos, who appealed to ‘Revelation chapter twenty’ as evidence for a millennial reign of the saints on the earth. It is in the context of that debate that he rejects the apostle John’s authorship of Revelation, and he proposes that it was written by a different John.
Eusebius lived in the fourth century and became a well-known church historian. He followed Dionysius of Alexandria. Like Dionysius, he denies the apostle John’s authorship of Revelation – for the purpose of denying that an apostle was responsible for Revelation’s teaching about the millennium. He makes suggestions regarding a different author but fails to provide any actual, historical evidence that someone else (a different John) wrote the Revelation. Note that Eusebius lived a long time after the Book of Revelation was written.
The views of Dionysius and Eusebius exercised a considerable influence upon the Greek-speaking churches of the East thus enabling their views to spread widely.
References supporting this article, and further information on the identity of the author of Revelation can be found online.
I personally follow the ‘very early church fathers’ -- Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.
Disputes over the authorship of Revelation continue to this day.
Much of the debate centres on the ‘themes’ and ‘grammar’ of Revelation. Revelation is accordingly compared to the Gospel of John, and John’s Epistles regarding stylistic differences. The question arises -- because of differences in style and content, could the same author have written each of these books?
Satan cast out
I will give just one comparison of theme. (I acknowledge that this single example supports my personal view that the same John was the author of both the Gospel and Revelation.) Then we need to move forward.
John (in his Gospel) records Jesus’ words – Satan shall be cast out (John 12:31).
Jesus said, “Now the prince of this world shall be cast out.”
John (in Revelation) records these words – Satan was hurled down (Rev 12:9); He threw Satan into the Abyss (Rev 20:3); And the devil was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur (Rev 20:10).
The great dragon was hurled down (out of heaven) -- that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Rev 20:2, 3
He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. And he threw him into the Abyss.
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had already been thrown.
Initially, Satan is cast out of heaven to the earth, then he is cast into the Abyss, and finally he is cast into the lake of burning sulphur -- after which, he is not heard from again.
The theme of the ‘casting out of Satan’ as recorded once in the Gospel of John, and three times in the Book of Revelation is theologically similar and complementary. This example shows a consistency of theme between the two books.
I believe the Apostle John wrote Revelation.
The Recipients of the Letter
John -- To the seven churches in the province of Asia.
Jesus Christ revealed to John what to write. John's letter is addressed to the seven churches. He records messages to each congregation. The churches are named in Rev 1:11, and the messages are recorded in Revelation chapters two and three. John not only records these seven messages, he records the entire prophecy, just as Jesus had instructed him to do (Rev 1:11).
Author: Graham Düll, Dubbo, NSW, Australia
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