Modern biblical scholarship attempts to understand Revelation in its 1st century historical context within the genre of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature. This approach considers the text as an address to seven historical communities in Asia Minor. Under this interpretation, assertions that “the time is near” are to be taken literally by those communities. Consequently, the work is viewed as a warning to not conform to contemporary Greco-Roman society which John “unveils” as beastly, demonic, and subject to divine judgment. There is further information on these topics in the entries on higher criticism and apocalyptic literature.
Although the acceptance of Revelation into the canon has from the beginning been controversial, it has been essentially similar to the career of other texts. The eventual exclusion of other contemporary apocalyptic literature from the canon may throw light on the unfolding historical processes of what was officially considered orthodox, what was heterodox, and what was even heretical. Interpretation of meanings and imagery are anchored in what the historical author intended and what his contemporary audience inferred; a message to Christians not to assimilate into the Roman imperial culture was John’s central message. Thus, his letter (written in the apocalyptic genre) is pastoral in nature (its purpose is offering hope to the downtrodden), and the symbolism of Revelation is to be understood entirely within its historical, literary, and social context. Critics study the conventions of apocalyptic literature and events of the 1st century to make sense of what the author may have intended.[