The Revelation of Jesus Christ

THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRISTThe revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: (Revelation 1:1-4a)

The Purpose – The opening words of the Book indicate that the purpose of the entire book is “to show his servants what must soon take place.” As previously noted, the word revelation is a translation of the Greek word apokalypsis, meaning an unveiling or a disclosure. From this word comes the English apocalypse,(1) which in modern common parlance has become a synonym for chaos and catastrophe.(2) As noted in chapter 1, Taming the Terminology, there are two aspects to the term revelation.

Previously Concealed – What is being revealed was previously a mystery.

True All Along – What is being revealed has always been true (e.g., 1 Corinthians 2:9-10).(3)

Thus, Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, is God revealing something that has always been true, but was previously concealed from man.

The Subject – The preposition “of” in the phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” is likely used primarily in the sense of being by or from Jesus Christ rather than the sense of revealing something about or concerning Jesus Christ.(4) In Revelation, John is recording a first-person account of things he was shown by (received from) Jesus, or by messengers sent by Jesus. Yet, in a sense, John’s prophecy is also a revelation of Jesus Christ, not just the revelation of future events being conveyed by Christ. One cannot divorce the Person from the prophecy, for without the Person there would be no real point to the fulfillment of the prophecy.

In Revelation Chapters 1–3, Christ is a Priest ministering to the churches. In Revelation 4–5, He is seen in heaven as the glorified Lamb of God, reigning on the throne. In Revelation 6–18, Christ is the Judge of all the earth as the tribulation unfolds and comes to its climax. In Revelation 19, He returns to earth as the conquering King of kings. The book closes with the heavenly Bridegroom ushering His bride, the church, into the glorious Heavenly city.(5)

The Time Frame – The revelation was given to communicate to Jesus’ servants (His Church), what must soon take place. The Greek word that is translated as soon means that the action will be sudden when it comes. It does not necessarily mean that the things prophesied will occur within a brief time from when the revelation is given. Many of the described events, in fact, have not yet taken place. But once the end-time events begin (which could still be a very long time in coming), they will likely occur in rapid succession (Luke 18:8; Acts 12:7, 22:18, 25:4, and Romans 16:20) and with increasing intensity (birth pains).(6)

Expressions like “soon take place” cannot always be measured in standard units of time as reckoned by man. Rather they must be reckoned by a God who is timeless, having no beginning and no end, and for whom “a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8)(7) What could possibly be a long period of time to Him? Nevertheless, an excessive amount of time and energy is expended in speculation about when or how soon the prophecies will be fulfilled. This is compounded by fretting over what is believed to be an inordinate delay or slackness in the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to return. In the process, one can lose sight of the certainty (“did God really say?”) of His promises. John was told these things must take place (the absolute decree of an infallible God), for “if it were not so, I would have told you.(8) We may speculate about and fret over the timing, but we must not do so over its certainty.

The Messenger – The book of Revelation is attributed to the apostle John. While this cannot be definitively established, the usage of John without any other clarifying language tends to support this claim. Including a name in this manner represented an appeal to authority, and the only John that would be that well-known from this time period was the apostle.(9) The Holy Spirit used the apostle John to give us three kinds of inspired literature: the Gospel of John, three epistles, and the Book of Revelation.(10) While John does not name himself in his Gospel or in the Epistles, he does append his name to his testimony of what he heard and what he saw in the book of Revelation.(11) This is not that unusual in Bible literature. The historical books of the Old Testament did not always have the name of the historian prefixed to them, as in the books of Judges, Kings, and Chronicles. But in the prophetical books, the name was always prefixed, as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.(12) While cannot be certain, this may be the reason John’s identifies himself here. The purposes of John’s various works are outlined in Figure 3.1.(13)

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The angel who carried the message to John is not named, but some believe it was Gabriel, who brought messages to Daniel, Mary, and Zechariah.(14)

The Blessing – This blessing is the first of seven beatitudes (see Figure 3.2)(16) in Revelation, and is somewhat reminiscent of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3–11). This is the only book of the Bible that openly pronounces a blessing upon its readers and hearers.(15) Jesus did not give this message for the seven churches to John merely to satisfy their curiosity about the future. They were going through intense persecution and needed encouragement (“let not your hearts be troubled”). As they listened to the reading of this book, its message would likely inspire hope and added strength to persevere. It would also help them examine their own lives to determine those areas needing correction. They were not only to hear the Word, but they were also to keep it—that is, guard it as a treasure and practice what it said. The blessing would come, not just by hearing, but by doing (see James 1:22–25).(17)

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Jesus rebuked the Jews and His own disciples for not understanding the prophecies relating to His First Advent (John 5:39, 46; Luke 11:52; Matthew 16:3; Luke 24:25). His Olivet discourse was given so that His people might be warned in advance of His second advent (Matthew 24:4, 15, 24, 25 and 33). The implication, of course, is that it should be studied and taken to heart. This does not necessarily mean that a full and complete understanding of all the details of all the prophecies will be achieved by all who faithfully study them. Doubtless, many things may remain dark to even the most earnest students, perhaps even to the beginning of the end.(18)

The Audience – The immediate audience, of course, was the seven churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). The number seven was regarded by the Hebrews as a sacred number. Throughout Scripture it signified God’s covenant to mankind, especially to the Church. In the Apocalypse, the number is particularly prominent. In addition to the seven churches, there are seven spirits before the throne; seven golden candlesticks; seven stars in the right hand of Him who is like unto a son of man; seven lamps of fire burning before the throne; seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb; seven seals of the book; seven thunders, seven heads of the great dragon and of the beast from the sea, seven angels with the trumpets, seven plagues, and seven mountains which are the seat of the mystic Babylon.(19)

While the book was originally sent to seven actual local churches in Asia Minor, John makes it clear that any believer may read and profit from it (Revelation 1:3). The Apostle Paul had sent letters to seven churches—Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica, and now John sends one book to seven churches as well.(20)

These were real churches facing real problems and challenges that were somewhat unique to their specific environment and circumstances. But why were these specific seven chosen? They were not the only churches in Asia (Colossae, Miletus, Hierapolis, or Magnesia). Why were the others excluded? Three possible reasons are typically given:

Message Specific to These Churches – Perhaps it was because the seven chosen were very influential and located on a well-known circular route. Additionally, their cities were centers of the imperial religion.(21)

Common Message for All Churches – Many commentators also see these particular churches as representative of the problems and challenges that churches in every age face. Their strengths and weaknesses are typical, and other churches can gain insight by studying Jesus’ message to them.

Panorama of Church History –Others see the churches as representative of the different ages of church history, with the first, Ephesus, representing the apostolic church and the last, Laodicea, representing the increasingly humanistic church of our own day.

Whichever view one holds (see Figure 3.3), there are many insights we can gain and many warnings that we can heed.(22)

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Up Next – The Salutation.

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  1. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 928). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  2. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 566). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 867). San Francisco: Harper & Row.
  4. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 1:1). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  5. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 566). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  6. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 928). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  7. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 407). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  8. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 407). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  9. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 1:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  10. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 566). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  11. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 408). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  12. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2464). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  13. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 566). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  14. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 928). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  15. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 1:3). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  16. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 929). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  17. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 567). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  18. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 90). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  19. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 411). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  20. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 567). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  21. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 1:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  22. Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (p. 1071). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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