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Revelation 14:6–12 and the Case for Preterism


Sabbath school commentary for discussion with the Adult Bible Study Guide on May 6, 2023.

Recently, a friend asked if I had any thoughts on the meaning of Revelation 14:6–12, with specific reference to its interpretation and use by some Christians who have historically sought to understand themselves and their status in what they consider to be “the end time.” So, I decided to take at least a cursory look at the text.[1] Here are my observations.

Contextual and Global Comments

First, there is nothing especially remarkable about this section of Revelation. Although there is some sequencing of material within individual sections of the book, there is little or no sequencing of the sections themselves. This section (14:6–12), which occurs about two-thirds into the document, is not tied to what precedes or follows it. The immediate context of the section is the preceding material in 14:1–5, which depicts the lamb on Mt. Zion with the 144,000. The scene is accompanied by loud sounds, voices like harp players, and the blameless 144,000 choir singing a unique anthem. The so-called “first angel’s message” unit launches in verse 6 with no perceivable connection to or transition from verses 1–5. The only connection between verses 6–12 to 1–5 is the unimportant and unrelated common use of the word μέτωπον (“forehead”) in verse 1 (regarding the 144,000) and in verse 9 (regarding the “animal” worshipers).[2]

As for the following material, the so-called “third angel’s message” unit, ending with verse 12, has no obvious connection or transition to verses 13–20. These latter verses, constituting the final paragraph of the chapter, include a command from an unidentified celestial voice to write something; the confused descriptions of the Son of Man sitting on a cloud holding a sickle and later using it; and the appearances of the other angels[3] from the temple and the altar, not only calling for the grape harvest to begin but launching it. The only notable linguistic connection between these two units is the expression “the wrath [or anger] of God” (τοῦ θυμοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ[4]) in verses 10 and 19, with their respective references to wine and the wine harvest. So, the second paragraph of chapter 14, verses 6–12, is contextually isolated with no significant connections to what precedes or follows it.

Second, there is nothing particularly remarkable or special about the “angels” who speak in this section. Angels abound in Revelation. Repeatedly mentioned individually or in groups, they are among the most common characters in the book.[5] They appear everywhere and in all kinds of circumstances. They are mentioned in this section only individually and never identified as a group or described with a common function, as elsewhere in Revelation,[6] and never specified as “three angels.”[7] Each angel in this section is referred to as “another angel” (ἄλλος ἄγγελος),[8] which is a very common expression in Revelation.[9] Most importantly, each angel in this section speaks, or more accurately, makes a general proclamation. This is not unusual, since it is very common throughout Revelation for angels to make proclamations.[10]

Third, other language in this section echoes words and phrases from elsewhere in the book.[11] Angels one and three are said to speak “in a loud voice” (ἐν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ), an expression found frequently in Revelation.[12] All the classifying elements in the expression “every nation and tribe and language and people” (πᾶν ἔθνος καὶ φυλὴν καὶ γλῶσσαν καὶ λαόν) are found in Revelation prior to their appearance in 14:6.[13] Describing all the essential regions of the universe in terms of heaven, earth, and sea is common in Revelation besides 14:7.[14] In 14:9, the third angel refers to one who receives “a mark on his forehead or on his hand” (χάραγμα[15] ἐπὶ τοῦ μετώπου αὐτοῦ ἢ ἐπὶ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ). As we have noted, marks on the forehead are common in Revelation.[16] The angel in 14:6 is said to be flying in midheaven (ἐν μεσουρανήματι). This noun, limited in the New Testament to Revelation, is also used regarding an eagle and other birds.[17] The expression, τοῦ οἴνου τοῦ θυμοῦ (“the wine of the passion[18] [or anger]”) in 14:8 and 10, is common in Revelation.[19]

Based on what we have observed, I contend that Revelation 14:6–12 is not a particularly significant paragraph within the whole document. On one hand, it is isolated, having few, if any, ties to what precedes or follows it. On the other hand, it represents a composite collection of undefined content, expressions, and vocabulary not only found elsewhere in Revelation but often more highly developed in such places.

The Three Units of the Text

Let us consider each of the units of this section and a few comments on the whole section.

Unit 1 (verses 6–7)

And I saw another angel flying in the middle of the sky, having an eternal gospel (or never-ending good news) to announce (lit. to gospelize) to those who live (lit. sit) on the earth and to every nation, tribe, language, and people, said in a loud voice: “Reverence (lit. fear) God and give him glory, because the hour (or time) of his judgment has come, and worship the one who made the heaven, the earth, sea, and springs of water.”[20]

This starts with the narrative voice, declaring, “I saw another angel.” It is not clear from the preceding material or anywhere else what he means here by “another angel”[21]—i.e., “another” regarding whom or what? Despite the common perception that this is the first angel of three and that this angel’s proclamation is known as “the first angel’s message,” the angel in question is never so identified in the text. The unnumbered character is simply “another angel,” flying in the middle of the sky and speaking loudly. He is said to have “an eternal gospel” (or “never-ending good news”)[22] for everyone on earth, no matter how they may be classified. However, the content of his good news is strangely the command to reverence and to glorify God because the time of God’s judgment has arrived—the latter ostensibly providing the motive for the former. The angel concluded with another command, this one to worship the one who made all the regions of the universe. This is not really a proclamation of good news but a universal command to fear[23] and worship God.

Unit 2 (verse 8)

And another angel, a second, followed and said, “The great Babylon, which made all the nations drink from the wine of the passion (or anger) of its sexual misconduct, has irrevocably fallen.”

This, the briefest of the three units with the shortest angelic speech, establishes the sequence of the three units. It does so with the clause “another angel, a second, followed” (ἄλλος ἄγγελος δεύτερος ἠκολούθησεν): (1) by identifying this angel not only as “another angel” but also as “another angel, a second (one),” which implies that the preceding unnumbered angel was indeed the first; and (2) by indicating that this second angel followed (a preceding angel). We now have a set of at least two proclaiming angels in this section of chapter 14.

The structure of this angel’s proclamation in Greek is noteworthy but jarring to English readers. It begins with two verbs followed by their subject—it actually repeats the same verb (lit. “fell, fell Babylon” (ἔπεσεν ἔπεσεν Βαβυλὼν[24]) and proceeds in the rest of the sentence to characterize Babylon.[25] The context requires the aor. verbs here to be syntactically understood as consummative (describing a completed act), i.e., “fallen, fallen” or “has fallen, has fallen.” The repeated verb, especially at the beginning of the sentence, has two effects: (1) its location heightens the importance of the declaration and (2) the repetition of the verb conveys a sense of credibility and certainty—Babylon has definitely and irrevocably fallen.

The rest of the proclamation sentence describes Babylon and its activities through a set of complex and mixed metaphors: “which made all the nations drink from the wine of the passion of its sexual misconduct”[26]—wine, passion, and sex! This is presumably meant to picture Babylon as a city that engulfed all nations in its evil actions. Although not stated as the reason for the city’s fall, this was probably the author’s intent.

Apart from sequencing this angel’s proclamation to that of the preceding angel, the content of this unit is not tied to the previous unit nor does its subject matter flow from it. The only exception may be a possible point of contact between the reference to judgment in the first unit to an implied “judgment” regarding the announced fall of Babylon in the second unit. However, this is very unlikely at best, in that God is not said to be the source of Babylon’s fall nor is its fate described as a “judgment.”

Unit 3 (verses 9–12)

And another angel, a third, followed them and said in a loud voice: “Whoever (or if anyone) worships the ‘animal’ and its image and receives a mark on his (or her) forehead or on his (or her) hand, that one (or he or her) also will drink of the wine of the anger of God, which has been poured unmixed into the cup of his wrath, and he (or her) shall be tortured with fire and sulfur in the presence of holy angels and the lamb. And the smoke of their torture goes up forever and they have no rest day or night—those who worship the ‘animal’ and its image and anyone who receives the mark of its name.” Here is the endurance of the holy ones, who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.

Like the second angel, this one is described as continuing the sequence “another angel, a third, followed them” (ἄλλος ἄγγελος τρίτος ἠκολούθησεν αὐτοῖς).[27] This establishes the section as a description of a set of three angels. Like the unnumbered first angel, the third angel made his proclamation “in a loud voice.” Unlike either of the first two angels, this one, by comparison, makes a very long proclamation.[28]

The third angel loudly proclaims that everyone who worships the “animal” (and its image) and receives its mark[29] on his forehead or on his hand[30] will suffer perpetual,[31] fiery torture—“they will be tortured by fire and sulfur . . . and the smoke of their torture will ascend forever.”[32] This is expressed by a complex, convoluted metaphor, somewhat like the previous proclamation: every “animal”-worshiper “will drink of the wine of the anger (ἐκ τοῦ οἴνου τοῦ θυμοῦ[33]) of God, which has been poured unmixed into the cup of his wrath. All this will occur with “holy angels” and the “lamb” as witnesses![34]

After what appears to be the end of the third angel’s proclamation of endless torture for the “animal”-worshipers in verse 11, the author adds an ambiguous and contrasting observation in verse 12: “Here is the endurance of the holy ones,” who, while unidentified, are described as keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Although a contrast to the fate of the “animal”-worshipers, the experience of the “holy ones” is not explained. Do they themselves undergo the tortures but survive? Or, more likely, do they avoid them altogether? Whatever the answer, they do not share the same fate as the “animal”-worshipers. Keeping “the commandments of God” seems to be an obvious reference to broadly obeying the divine commands in the Hebrew scriptures in general and the Decalogue in particular.[35] Keeping “the faith of Jesus” is not so obvious. Does it mean “the faith that Jesus displayed” or “the faith in Jesus, the Christ”? Although one could probably make a case for either, the latter is more likely—these holy ones are simply believers in Jesus as the Christ.[36] In any case, these positive experiences ostensibly qualify the holy ones to avoid the torturous fate of the “animal”-worshipers.

General Observations

In this section, only angel one is said to be “flying in the middle of the sky.” This probably has no particular significance. Only angels one and three speak “in a loud voice.” This may or may not imply special importance to what they proclaim. Both angels one and three feature worship—the first: commands the worship of God; the third: proclaims torturous judgment on those who worship the “animal” or its image. Although it is not mentioned or explored in the material here, there is a detectable common theme in 14:6–12 involving a potential crescendo from the mention of God’s judgment in verse 7 as a motivation for worship (first angel), through an implied “judgment” on Babylon in verse 8 (second angel), to described “judgment” on all “animal”-worshipers in verses 10–11 (third angel). Finally, we may note that, while the “judgment” on Babylon is simply stated and final, the “judgment” on the “animal”-worshipers is one of perpetual torture with angels and the “lamb” as voyeur-like witnesses.


We have found that Revelation 14:6–12, a section that contains the proclamations of three angels, is not especially noteworthy within the book. (1) It has no contextual ties to what precedes or follows it. (2) It introduces no unique content in the book. (3) It is essentially a composite collection of undefined content, expressions, and vocabulary not only found elsewhere in Revelation but often more highly developed in such places.

Notwithstanding this assessment of the section’s status, what, after all, does this text mean? We can answer this through a kind of matrix:

1. What does the text mean? 2. What does the text not mean?
    a. generally as part of the whole book     a. generally as part of the whole book
    b. specifically in its own right     b. specifically in its own right

As for what the text means generally as part of the whole book, we must note that there are several well-known hermeneutical approaches to the eschatology of Revelation:[37]

Historicism: the approach that understands the book as a series of prophecies concerning various time periods and events throughout history from the first century to the present and beyond.

Preterism: the approach that sees the book as a series of prophecies fulfilled by AD 70, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.

Futurism: the approach that understands the book as a series of prophecies yet to be fulfilled in the future.

Idealism: the approach that understands the book as not referring to actual persons or events—past, present, or future—but to allegories and issues appropriate for any time or place within the history of Christianity.

Although historicism has dominated the hermeneutical landscape of Revelation throughout most of Christian history, it has produced an ever-changing set of interpretations, heroes, and villains over time. Its principal weakness is the practice of continually attempting retroactively to fit the details of the text to known historical people, organizations, and events.

Futurism essentially removes all the uncertainties and time conditioning of historicism but locates everything in the future, about which there can be no meaningful discussion or debate.

Although idealism is attractive and supportable as a worthy endeavor to uncover timeless challenges and negativity and to promote eternal values and solutions, it does not account for the high level of specificity and detail exhibited in the book.

That leaves preterism. However, I don’t endorse this approach simply through elimination. In my view of Scripture, I place the highest values on the intentions of the writers—whether they are right or wrong—and on the expected understanding of their initial readers, given their time, place, and circumstances. I believe the writer understood his message and expected his readers to do so. We should read it through their experience and understanding in around AD 100. This is a modified form of preterism.

Thus, for the interpretation of Revelation, the only meanings of the whole document or any of its parts that I consider supportable are those that would arguably make sense to the writer and readers at the turn of the first and second centuries AD.

So, my answer to question 1a in the matrix—what does the text mean generally as part of the whole book—is that Revelation 14:6–12, like all of the document, deals with issues and challenges, as well as values and solutions, that the writer thought important and vital for his first readers to understand and embrace. The text of the book provides clues that this was indeed the author’s intention.[38]

As for the specific meaning of Revelation 14:6–12—question 1b of the matrix—particularly in the context of the above conclusion, the text contains the summarized and insignificant proclamations of three angels, distinct from its context and conveyed through expressions and vocabulary drawn from throughout the book and the Hebrew scriptures. Apart from a broad understanding that Christians seemed to be encountering serious challenges to their faith and practice from those within and outside their group, especially public officials, I have no idea what the symbols and metaphors, obviously known to the writer and expected of the readers, actually meant around AD 100. I am content with that, even as I and others continue to seek more evidence to further enlighten us.

In light of the above, it is easy to answer question 2a—what does the text not mean generally as part of the whole book? Given my answer to question 1a, the conclusion here is simply that Revelation 14:6–12, as part of the whole, does not have anything to do with time periods or events that extend beyond the reasonable lifetimes of the writer and the original readers.

Finally, what specifically does Revelation 14:6–12 not mean—question 2b? None of the language—literal or figurative—and none of the characters, plots, prohibitions, or commands— real or fictitious—have any prophetic reference to times, places, or circumstances beyond the writer and original readers. Furthermore, this statement contends that no person or group after the time of the original readers may legitimately claim to see themselves uniquely in this text or to justify their specific existence, significance, or mission by appeals to it. Revelation 14:6–12 simply did not have them in mind.


Notes & References:

[1] Chapter 14 consists of three paragraphs: vv. 1-5; 6-12; 13-20. We are concerned here with the middle of these. It is not my purpose to recount and review the historical position of any person or group of Christians regarding this text

[2] This word, not used elsewhere in the NT, is very common in Revelation, as we shall later see.

[3] Each is called ἄλλος ἄγγελος (“another angel”).

[4] For other uses of this expression in Revelation, see 15:1, 7; 16:1. Cf. 16:19; 19:15.

[5] The Greek text of Revelation in NA28 includes 67 uses of the word ἄγγελος (“angel”).

[6] E.g., 1:20 ἄγγελοι τῶν ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησιῶν (“angels of the seven churches”) and the individual angels of each church (2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14); 5:11 ἀγγέλων πολλῶν κύκλῳ τοῦ θρόνου (“many angels around the throne”), cf. 7:11; 7:1 τέσσαρας ἀγγέλους (“four angels”) at the “corners” of the earth; 8:2 (cf. 8:6, 13) ἑπτὰ ἀγγέλους (“seven angels”)  with seven trumpets and the numbering of most of them (8:8, 10, 12; 9:1, 13; 10:7; 11:15) ; 9:11 τὸν ἄγγελον τῆς ἀβύσσου (“angel of the bottomless pit”); 15:1 (v. 6; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9) ἀγγέλους ἑπτὰ ἔχοντας πληγὰς ἑπτὰ (“seven angels with seven plagues”); 16:5 τοῦ ἀγγέλου τῶν ὑδάτων (“angel of the waters”); and 21:12 ἀγγέλους δώδεκα (“twelve angels”) at the gates of Jerusalem.

[7] Nevertheless, the angels in this section constitute a group of three, if only because they appear in succession with two of them identified by number.

[8] The three references are ἄλλον ἄγγελον (“another angel”), ἄλλος ἄγγελος δεύτερος (“another angel, the second”), and ἄλλος ἄγγελος τρίτος (“another angel, the third”) in vv. 6, 8, 9 respectively.

[9] See 7:2; 8:3; 10:1; 14:15, 17; 18:1. The subjects in these texts seem be angels without portfolio.

[10] Angels in Revelation make proclamations involving announcements, commands, or questions in many places: 5:2; 7:1; 10:6-7; 14:15, 18; 17:1; 18:2-3, 21-24; 19:17-18; 21:9; 22:6.

[11] Of course, the author of Revelation found many of these ideas and expressions in the Hebrew scriptures.

[12] This expression appears not only in 14:7, 9 but also in 5:2; 14:15; 19:17. For the same meaning without the preposition, see 5:12; 6:10; 7:2, 10; 8:13; 10:3; 14:18; 21:3. In the following, the expression without the preposition refers generally to a “loud sound”: 1:10; 11:12, 15; 12:10; 16:17; 19:1. Potential OT sources include: Gen 39:14; Deut 27:14; 2 Kgs 18:28; 2 Chr 32:18; Prov 27:14; Isa 36:13; Ezek 8:18; 9:1.

[13] See 5:9; 7:9; 11:9; 13:7.

[14] The full expression in 14:7 is τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ θάλασσαν καὶ πηγὰς ὑδάτων (“the heaven, the earth, sea, and springs of water”). For mention of the first three essential elements plus a fourth element related to the third, as here, see 5:13; 10:6 (where the creation is also mentioned). For only the three essential elements, see 12:12; 21:1. Potential OT sources, particularly related to creation, include: Exod 20:11; Neh 9:6; Ps 146:6. Cf. Pss 69:34; 96:11; 135:6.

[15] Verse 11 refers to “those who worship the ‘animal’ and its image and whoever receives the mark of his name” (οἱ προσκυνοῦντες τὸ θηρίον καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ καὶ εἴ τις λαμβάνει τὸ χάραγμα τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ). For marks on foreheads and hands elsewhere in Revelation, see 13:16; 20:4. Cf. 16:2; 19:20. Potential OT sources include: Gen 4:15; Ezek 9:4, 6. Cf. Jer 44:19; Hab 1:12.

[16] Cf. 20:4. For other uses of μέτωπον, see 7:3; 9:4; 13:16; 14:1; 17:5; 22:4, all of which involve seals, marks, or names on foreheads. Potential OT sources include: Exod 13:9, 16; Deut 6:8; 11:18.

[17] 8:13; 19:17. The word μεσουράνημα means “zenith.” Here it implies “the middle of the sky” or “midheaven.” Only the first angel is said to be “flying in the middle of the sky” (πετόμενον ἐν μεσουρανήματι). Therefore, we should not assume that the other two angels in this section are “flying,” much less that they are “in the middle of the sky.” Some angels in Revelation are said to be standing, cf. 19:17. Potential OT source: Josh 10:13.

[18] The word θυμός is used here in the sense of “intense expression of the inner self, freq. expressed as strong desire, passion, passionate longing.” BDAG, s.v. θυμός. This is clear from its association with the word πορνεία (lit. “unlawful sexual intercourse,” 9:21; fig. regarding “Babylon” in 14:8; 17:2, 4-5; 18:3; 19:2 and other fig. 2:21).

[19] There is no sexual nuance, lit. or fig. when the expression τοῦ οἴνου τοῦ θυμοῦ is used regarding God (16:19; 18:3; 19:15), in which cases the meaning is “the wine of (the) anger.” Potential OT source: Isa 63:3.

[20] The translations of these units are mine.

[21] The last individual angel to appear in Rev before this reference is the seventh trumpet-playing angel in 11:15.

[22] The incredibly common NT word εὐαγγέλιον (“gospel or good news”) is used in Revelation only here. This is also the only place in biblical Greek that has the word combined with the adj. αἰώνιον (“eternal”), conveying the meaning “never-ending good news.”

[23] Ordinarily, we would understand the verb φοβέω (lit. “to fear”) with reference to God as “to reverence,” especially in co-location with προσκυνέω (“to worship”). However, the command, φοβήθητε τὸν θεὸν (“reverence” or “fear God”), when accompanied by the reason, ὅτι ἦλθεν ἡ ὥρα τῆς κρίσεως αὐτοῦ (“because the hour of his judgment has come”), suggests that the imperative verb should likely be understood lit. (i.e., “fear”) in the sense of “be terrified.” More broadly, this implies that one should be terrified of God not only because he can destroy you in the judgment but also because he made everything, i.e., he is all powerful!

[24] Cf. 18:2. Potential OT source includes: Isa 21:9. Cf. Jer 51:8.

[25] Although Babylon is mentioned twelve times in the NT, six of these are in Revelation. In 14:9, “the great Babylon” (Βαβυλὼν ἡ μεγάλη, cf. 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 21) unexpectedly appears, undefined and without prior reference in Revelation. In chap. 17, a female prostitute has the name of Babylon on her forehead; chap. 18 has a detailed description of Babylon’s fall. Within the description of the seventh plague (16:19-20), the “great city,” presumably Babylon (v. 20), is split three ways.

[26] This first of two uses of the expression “the wine of the anger” (τοῦ οἴνου τοῦ θυμοῦ) in this section—see also 14:10—is the wine of Babylon, which here, as in 18:3, is accompanied by “of her sexual misconduct” (τῆς πορνείας αὐτῆς). Potential OT source of Babylon’s “wine”: Jer 51:7.

[27] Lest there be any doubt about the three-unit structure of this section and the sequence of its units, the writer added the pron. αὐτοῖς (“them”) in the third unit.

[28] First angel: 28 Greek words; second angel: 18 words; third angel: 87 words. The last assumes that the third angel’s proclamation ends with v. 11. If what seems to be the author’s commentary in v. 12 is included in the proclamation, the total words would be 103.

[29] The third angel mentions three clearly negative things: “the animal” (τὸ θηρίον, lit. “wild animal” cf. 6:8), its “image” (εἰκὼν), and a “mark” (χάραγμα, “stamp or mark”). Although none of these metaphors are defined or described here, they have already been introduced in Rev: (1) the θηρίον (“animal”) is first mentioned in 11:7 and extensively developed in chap. 13. See also 15:2; 16:2, 10, 13; chap. 17 (multiple verses); 18:2; 19:19-20; 20:4, 10; (2) the εἰκὼν is first mention and developed in chap. 13. See also, 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4; and (3) the χάραγμα is introduced in 13:16. See also, 16:2; 19:20; 20:4.

[30] Cf. 20:4. The text provides no clue concerning what is meant by marks on the forehead or hand. It is possible that head and hand may imply some type of mental assent or ideas combined with practical application or action.

[31] This is expressed in v. 11 as torture that goes on forever (εἰς αἰῶνας αἰώνων), cf. 1:6, 18; 4:9, 10; 5:13; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 15:7; 19:3; 20:10; 22:5 and as suffering without relief day or night (οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἀνάπαυσιν ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς), cf. 4:8; 7:15; 12:10; 20:10. Potential OT source: Isa 34:10.

[32] 14:10-11 (βασανισθήσεται ἐν πυρὶ καὶ θείῳ … καὶ ὁ καπνὸς τοῦ βασανισμοῦ αὐτῶν εἰς αἰῶνας αἰώνων ἀναβαίνει). Potential OT sources of the idea of “fire and sulfur”: Gen 19:24; Ps 11:6; Ezek 38:22. Cf. 3 Macc 2:5.

[33] Cf. 14:8, where, rather than God’s wine as here (cf. 16:19; 19:15), it refers to Babylon’s wine. Potential OT sources of the idea of God’s wine: Ps 75:8 (where the wine is well mixed); Jer 25:15. Cf. Isa 51:17, 22.

[34] 14:10 (ἐνώπιον ἀγγέλων ἁγίων καὶ ἐνώπιον τοῦ ἀρνίου).

[35] It is certainly not a back-handed way of putting any specific commandment into play here. None of this has any demonstrable connection to a particular group of such people at any specific time in history.

[36] It is certainly not the start of a convoluted textual linkage (e.g., Rev 14:12 > 12:17 > 19:10) that purports to justify the existence and indispensability of any individual considered to be a prophet by a Christian group and, thereby, to establish the status of the group itself.

[37] For a convenient summary of these hermeneutical approaches, see “Book of Revelation,” Wikipedia.

[38] The most obvious clue is the fact that the introductory statement in 1:1 declares that God gave Jesus, Jesus gave his angel, his angel gave John, and John showed God’s servants “what must soon take place.” This is followed in typical letter fashion by the address in v. 4: “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace.” So, this is a letter to seven Christian congregations in the Roman Province of Asia (in what is now western Turkey). In fact, what follows in chaps. 2-3 are specific letters addressed to each of these seven congregations. This unequivocally links the Book of Revelation to a specific time and place. We also find numerous references to events that, according to the writer, are to occur “soon”: e.g., 2:16; 3:11; 6:11; 11:14; 12:4; 22:6, 7, 12, 20.


Warren C. Trenchard received his PhD in New Testament and Early Christian Literature from the University of Chicago. In retirement, he continues to serve La Sierra University as Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and Director of Graduate Programs for the H. M. S. Richards Divinity School.

Title image: the second angel and the fall of Babylon from The Cloister’s Apocalypse, ca. 1330 (public domain).

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