The beast with seven heads and the number 666 seem to allude directly to the emperor Nero (reigned AD 54-68), but this does not require that Revelation was written in the 60s, as there was a widespread belief in later decades that Nero would return. Massyngberde Ford argues that the core of Revelation, chapters 4-11, was written by John the Baptist and later surrounded with a Christian beginning and ending.

Revelation rarely quotes directly from the Old Testament, almost every verse alludes to or echoes older scriptures.

In other words, special revelation would stop—be “sealed up”—by the time Jerusalem was destroyed.

The author names himself in the text as "John", but his precise identity remains a point of academic debate.

Second century Christian writers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Melito the bishop of Sardis, and Clement of Alexandria and the author of the Muratorian fragment identify John the Apostle as the "John" of Revelation.

Some modern scholars characterise Revelation's author as a putative figure whom they call "John of Patmos".

The bulk of traditional sources date the book to the reign of the emperor Domitian (AD 81-96), and the evidence tends to confirm this.

Over half of the references stem from Daniel, Ezekiel, Psalms, and Isaiah, with Daniel providing the largest number in proportion to length and Ezekiel standing out as the most influential.

Because these references appear as allusions rather than as quotes, it is difficult to know whether the author used the Hebrew or the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures, but he was clearly often influenced by the Greek.

Its title is derived from the first word of the text, written in Koine Greek: apokalypsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation".

(Before title pages, books were commonly known by their first words, as is also the case of the Hebrew Five Books of Moses (Torah).) The Book of Revelation is the only apocalyptic document in the New Testament canon (although there are short apocalyptic passages in various places in the Gospels and the Epistles).

The current view is that Revelation was composed in the context of a conflict within the Christian community of Asia Minor over whether to engage with, or withdraw from, the far larger non-Christian community: Revelation rejects those Christians who wanted to reach an accommodation with society.

This is not to say that Christians in Roman Asia were not suffering, for withdrawal from wider Roman society imposed very real penalties; Revelation offered an escape from this reality by offering an apocalyptic hope: in the words of professor Adela Yarbro Collins, "What ought to be was experienced as a present reality." Dionysius (248 AD), bishop of Alexandria, disciple of Origen wrote that the Book of Revelation could have been written by Cerinthus although he himself did not adopt the view that Cerinthus was the writer.

The obscure and extravagant imagery has led to a wide variety of Christian interpretations: historicist interpretations see in Revelation a broad view of history; preterist interpretations treat Revelation as mostly referring to the events of the apostolic era (1st century), or, at the latest, the fall of the Roman Empire; futurists believe that Revelation describes future events; and idealist or symbolic interpretations consider that Revelation does not refer to actual people or events, but is an allegory of the spiritual path and the ongoing struggle between good and evil.