Preachers of the gospel are either naturally endowed with or acquire early in their ministry a healthy curiosity. Perhaps this quality is nowhere better reflected than in a course of study in a theological seminary. To such reflection the author of this work owes a debt of gratitude for having brought to his attention the acute need for just such a study as is presented in this work. Particularly should appreciation be expressed to the class in New Testament 7 for the summer session of 1941. It was during that eight weeks' study in the book of Revelation that the determination was made to pursue this study. In the years that have followed the class has been given once or twice every session, and out of this "laboratory" has come this work. The views have been subjected to the consideration of hundreds of students. The result has been both gratifying and stimulating.
The purpose in this study is twofold: First, to study the historical background of the book of Revelation. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit this book was given by a man to men. To both it must have had a meaning as it found them in their life situation. To get the meaning, we must understand that life situation. Through-out this work the starting place for interpretation is the Christian people of Asia Minor in the last decade of the first century a.d. I do not believe that any interpretation of Revelation can be correct if it was meaningless and if it failed to bring practical help and comfort to those who first received the book. To start from any other viewpoint is to follow the road which leads away from the truth of the book rather than the road which reveals the marvelous message of truth here given to troubled hearts. The second purpose of this study is to apply our knowledge of the background of the book in the interpretation of the book. We are to apply this knowledge to know what the book meant for those who first received it and, inviii consequence, what it means to us today. It is the view of this writer that both meanings are the same.
Many limitations have presented themselves in the course of this research. The study of apocalyptic literature is voluminous. For the present purpose it has been necessary to limit the consideration to the apocalyptic literature which may have influenced the writer of Revelation; i.e., Jewish apocalyptic. There are many places where one feels a temptation to turn aside for lengthy discourse on obviously false interpretations of frequently perverted passages in the book, but limitation of space forbids one's yielding. For the most part the interpretation here presented is positive rather than negative. It has been necessary, too, to avoid lengthy polemics and try to present the book as it must have been understood by those who first received it.
Many books have been consulted in the course of the years which have gone into this study. To all of them acknowledgment should be made. A bibliography is given to indicate the most helpful works. Of these, the ones which have been leaned on most heavily are indicated in the footnotes. Perhaps others used and not indicated will be apparent to the reader who has devoted much reading to the hundreds of volumes printed on Revelation. If so, I regret the oversight in the acknowledgment due. One unconsciously absorbs much which he later uses without ability to give credit where credit is due. The title chosen, Worthy Is the Lamb, presents the central idea of the book. It is God's redeeming Lamb who dominates the lives of his people and the activity of this book. He is the One who is finally and completely victorious over the forces which try to destroy the work and the people of God. When the curtain falls on the last scene of this marvelous drama, the reader is overcome with the emotion which leads him to bow his head in reverence before God and join Handel in his soul-stirring chorus, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain and has redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive riches and honor and glory and power."
Fort Worth, Texas