Revelation is the Bible’s climactic and concluding prophecy. Writing deliberately in the tradition of the Hebrew prophet, the prophet John gathers up and completes their contributions to the overall theme of biblical prophecy: the coming of God’s kingdom in all the world. His own prophetic revelation discloses the way in which the universal kingdom of God is finally to come, through Jesus the Messiah and his people.
In order to read Revelation appropriately, we need to recognize equally the way it relates to its original context and the way it transcends that context and continues to address the church in all periods. Like all biblical prophecy, Revelation addressed a concrete historical situation— that of Christians in the Roman province of Asia at the end of the first century CE— with the purpose of enabling them to discern the purpose of God in that situation and to respond in an appropriate way. So although the prophecy concerns the final victory of God’s rule over all evil and the final completion of God’s purpose in the new creation of all things, it portrays the coming of God’s kingdom in direct relation to the situation of its first readers. The eschatological future is envisaged in terms of its impact on the present, so that the first readers might see how to live in their own situation in the light of the coming kingdom. This means that we cannot ignore the situation of the first readers if we are to perceive correctly the continuing relevance of Revelation to later readers.