Revelation is ‘an apocalyptic prophecy in the form of a circular letter to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia.’ RB, Theology of the Revelation, p. 2.
That is the simplified take on ‘what kind of book is Revelation,’ The first division in chapter one of Richard Bauckham’s ‘Theology of the Book of Revelation.’ The remaining first chapter sections are as follows.
— Revelation as a Christian Prophecy:
— Revelation as an Apocalypse:
— Differences from other Apocalypses:
— Revelation as a Circular Letter:
— Understanding the Imagery:
Revelation as a Christian Prophecy
Among the points RB makes here are these:
- Early Christian prophets communicated their revelations to the churches [Ac 10:9-11:18]. John was a prophet, and Revelation was his vision report.
- John had an extraordinary vision. He also reflected on it deeply for a long time. The form of Revelation is astonishingly complex.
[Note: This opens room for theological purpose and author personality, factors usually reserved for other authors. This seems to open a new factor in our reading/understanding of the Revelation of Jesus Christ].
- John wrote as a Jew in OT prophetic tradition. His commission was patterned after Ezekiel’s prophetic commission [Ezkl 2:9-3:3 cf. Re 10:8-11]. But John was also a Christian prophet, led by the Spirit [Re 1:10].
- As a prophet himself, John need not rely on OT prophets. But he alludes to them numerous times [though he never quotes them].
- In his prophetic work, John refers to earlier OT writings, just as later prophets borrowed from former prophets.
- John is therefore able to reinterpret the prophets and use their work to serve his own, Spirit-shaped purposes as a Christian prophet.
Lastly, RB makes an intriguing point regarding the oracle against Babylon in Re 18:1-19:8. He says that the oracular prophesy of Re 18-19 ‘echoes’ OT oracles against Babylon [Is 13:1-14:23; 21:1-10, 47; Je 25:12-38, 50:1], plus two oracles against Tyre [Is 23; Ezek 26-28].
If John borrows from multiple authors speaking to several situations, a large question mark hangs over any prophecy ‘expert’ who flatly ties an OT statement to a text in Revelation. That there are several hundred allusions to the OT but not one single OT quote is also reason for caution.
Reading Scripture Sanely
Caution is exactly what is needed in broaching such a book. It is also what is so lacking in Fundamentalist and Evangelical treatments of Revelation and other Scriptures. So again, it isn’t that one doesn’t necessarily believe the book of Revelation. It’s that the theology is sufficiently important that it must be done well. That’s the rub.