However, those of us in the Church have more resources from which to draw when studying the book than the world knows of. The inspired revision of the Bible made by Joseph Smith made a tremendous contribution to the meaning of Revelation. The Prophet revised almost 20 percent of the verses of that book. He changed 94 percent of the verses in the very difficult chapter There is a helpful section in the Doctrine and Covenants that sheds light on Revelation. Section 77 is ofttimes referred to as the key to interpreting the book. The key, however, only dealt with matters of the first half of the Book of Revelation, chapters 1— Additional passages of scripture located in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants offer some assistance in understanding the book.
On several occasions in the later years of his life, Joseph Smith gave some public discourses that dealt entirely or in part with the interpretations of various aspects of the Revelation. To ascertain his thinking on the book these sermons are indispensable. To be fair and thorough in his studies of Revelation every Latter-day Saint student should exhaust all of these sources, those of the scholarly world as well as those that come from Joseph Smith, before making any interpretive conclusions.
Indeed, each Latter-day Saint student has the responsibility to study and stretch his mind and spirit upon the scriptures with all the helps available to him. Joseph Smith was quite clear on this matter:.
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We may spiritualize and express opinions to all eternity, but that is no authority. This statement should serve as a guide to us and should temper each of our efforts in intellectual and spiritual pursuits. A sound interpretation and understanding of a scripture becomes easier to obtain as a correct view of the historical and literary setting and background is ascertained.
This is no less true with the book of Revelation.
First, to be better prepared to interpret Revelation some knowledge of the nature of biblical apocalyptic literature is necessary. Second, at least a cursory acquaintance with the Roman Empire and some of its emperors would be necessary. A brief exploration of each of the above three major areas of background material would seem appropriate at this point. It is their belief that rewards are proportional blessings from God for their righteousness.
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Where were their blessings then? Why did God let the wicked heathens do this to them?
Where were their promised blessings? In order to put the saints at ease concerning their plights and ultimate destinies, prophets ofttimes wrote apocalyptic literature.
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All of the promises made to the just will still be theirs, but after tribulation. Righteousness will ultimately be victorious over wickedness; the saints will surely inherit their heavenly abodes in the end. But they will have to bypass or detour around the present crises and look with hope to the end of times. The writer of Revelation most vividly presented a drama of the historical struggle between all the forces of evil anti-Christ and the kingdom of righteousness Christ.
He presented very colorful descriptions of the complete destruction of evil, showing the Saints to be triumphant in the battle. In order to present this drama, John had to deal with the evil with which the saints were then contending. Therefore, if the writer made it clear who or what the evil was, his literature could very well have been considered treason literature, especially if the evil was a world government or a particular governing tyrant. In the case of Revelation, it seems certain that John saw the Roman Empire and its emperor as the present evil.
A writer of apocalyptic literature, therefore, needed to use a vocabulary filled with odd and strange symbols and images to disguise and hide the real message from the world. He cleverly employed numerological puzzles, and almost everything he described about the evil was cryptogrammic in nature. All of them were well-known and used in apocalyptic literature.
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Roman Empire On the Ides of March, 44 B. This was ironic because it was Pompey whom Caesar fought and defeated. It was Pompey who began an initial monarchial control over the Roman government. Through him the seeds of dictatorship over the empire were sown. Although Pompey did not abandon the Roman republican government, he did in reality become the chief power in the state. Without him the senate had become helpless. And now on this fateful day, Caesar, who totally ended the Roman republican government by his overwhelming dictatorship, lay dead.
The effects of his leadership were to be felt from then on in the Roman Empire. Augustus was the so-called first emperor of Rome and was the reigning monarch when Jesus Christ was born. The following are the names of all the emperors from Augustus to Domitian, who was the emperor at the time of the writing of Revelation:.
Three military generals who acted as leaders over Rome for a short period of time. For purposes of interpreting Revelation we must be mainly interested in the lives of two of these emperors, Nero and Domitian. Nero had plunged the dignity of the imperial people into weakness and contempt. He was only sixteen years old when he succeeded Claudius, and the reason for his early career was because his mother, Agrippina, who was the fourth wife of Claudius, poisoned her husband to insure the succession for her son while he was still young enough to be molded by her will.
However, as Nero grew to maturity he dissociated himself to a great extent from her and also from the advisers Seneca and Burrus.
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Nero began to cater to his baser instincts by performing deeds by which history would assign him the name of tyrant and use his name as a synonym for evil. He forced his own mother into exile; but not satisfied with her exile and under the influence of his mistress, Poppaea Sabina, he had his mother murdered in A. In order to marry his mistress, he had his wife banished and put to death.
As he took over independent reigns of government, the sole object of his policy was the gratification of his capricious whims. He exhausted the imperial treasury, which demanded new confiscations of private property. Extreme heavy taxations were imposed and any man of wealth could expect momentarily to have some trumped-up charge brought against him and have his properties summarily appropriated. So deep a hatred had developed toward Nero that the senatorial class sought relief by plotting his assassination. Unfortunately, the plot was discovered, and sixteen nobles were sentenced to death by Nero, including Seneca and Lucian the poet.
On July 19, A. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle and was exhibiting a show in the circus while he mingled with the people in the dress of a Charioteer or stood aloft on a car. This was the first persecution of Christians conducted by the Roman imperial government and with it, the name of Nero would be indelibly remembered for being the evil man he was.
So cruel and so much a tyrant was he that people rejoiced at the news of his suicidal death. In fact, some people believed he would surely come again with even increased power to inflict domination and cruelty upon mankind. However, it is certain that neither John nor his readers could have seriously entertained a belief that Nero would literally be revived to life again the Christians knew he would be resurrected with all evilness at the second resurrection , but figuratively they might have believed Nero could live again in the life and deeds of another person.
Domitian succeeded his brother, Titus, as emperor of Rome in A. Like Nero, he was constantly plotting the death of his possible rivals even though they were members of his own family. Nero-like, Domitian also became obsessed in the belief that he was divine; but Domitian, unlike Nero, took a further step in this obsession. Domitian was the first Roman emperor who commanded that he be worshiped as a god.
This even out-Neroed Nero. There is no specific record in the Roman historians of a wholesale concerted persecution of Christians in this period, but there can be little doubt that the social and religious atmosphere of the empire was becoming increasingly unfavorable and that in some localities Christians were brought to trial and martyred for their faith. It is easy to discuss history, sources, and backgrounds of Revelation. It is another matter to give interpretations, and, therefore, much that will be given here has to be considered speculative in nature.
But for the reader, the following interpretive outline of Revelation by chapters may serve as a challenge to him to study, ponder, and stretch his own mind and heart to understand. Each reader through study and faith should find his own interpretations.
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Of course, there will be some basic interpretations upon which all should agree because they are made on the basis of modern revelation in scriptures or from Joseph Smith the Prophet. A safe overall interpretive statement of Revelation would be that it is the apocalyptic drama depicting in its historical struggle past, present, and future the forces of righteousness Christ with the forces of unrighteousness anti-Christ.
Latter-day Saints, then, do not fall solely into the various schools of interpretation, such as allegorical, preterists, and futurists. Chapters 1—3. The problems the saints were experiencing all over the world are dealt with in the letters to the seven churches of Asia. But what really matters when you run an organization?
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