Monday, 31 August 2020
Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. Revelation 1:19
Some manuscripts include the word “therefore,” saying, “Write, therefore, what you have seen.” Thus, the thought is based on what was just given concerning John’s vision of Christ, the descriptions of Him in that vision, and His proclamations concerning Himself. However, even without the word “therefore,” this verse flows naturally in thought. John has had a vision and he has heard the words. Now, he is given explicit instruction concerning why Christ has manifested Himself. It is so that John will document everything that he hears and sees.
In this, Jesus tells him to write out three specific things based on a sequence of time. The book of Revelation, like other biblical books, can be divided in a various number of ways. It can be divided into chapter/verse divisions, topically, chronologically, or even as based on the Hebrew aleph-bet (see the Introduction commentary), etc.
One way of dividing the book, and indeed the principal way to do so because it is directed by the Lord, is given in this verse –
1) The things which you have seen.
2) The things which are.
3) The things which will take place after this.
This may seem cryptic, especially when it was written almost 2000 years ago, but it is a logical and carefully worded exhortation directly from Christ Jesus and so is to be thoughtfully evaluated. Such an evaluation needs to be carefully considered, especially because the words translated as “after this,” which are meta tauta in Greek (literally “after these”), are repeated nine times in the book.
The context of this revelation, and how it pertains to God’s redemptive workings in human history, needs to be considered. Jesus is speaking to John. It is this moment that is the focal point of the command for John to write. Therefore –
1) “The things which you have seen” is speaking of everything from verse 1:1 to 1:18. Jesus is directing John to write down the things that he has seen up until the moment that He now speaks. It is that which opened the book to us.
2) “The things which are” is a definite amount of time based on some event in God’s redemptive history. For John, the context is the Church Age, also known as the Dispensation of Grace. Jesus was speaking to John who was a part of that dispensation, just as all members of the church are.
There is no reason to assume anything else is being considered. All of the writings, from the resurrection of Christ at the end of the gospels, through Acts, and through the epistles, is directed to the church age. Some of the writings anticipated the end of the church age (such as the rapture verses of 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4), and some anticipate what happens after that (the Judgment Seat of Christ, the glory that lies ahead, and so on), but these writings were given in the context of the church age. But, as we know, there is a point when the church age will end.
At that time, God will unfold a new part of the redemptive narrative. It is 3) “the things which will take place after this.” As we can determine the church age from the book’s own content, then we can determine what will come after it.
The time of the church age is the focus of Jesus’ words from Revelation 1:1 until Revelation 4:1. It is mentioned directly or indirectly numerous times during these verses. That verse, Revelation 4:1, begins with the same words, meta tauta, or “after these.”
From that point on, starting with Revelation 4:2, a sudden change takes place in the narrative and the church is never mentioned again until Revelation 19:14. At that time, the church returns with Christ at the end of the Tribulation Period. Therefore, “the things which will take place after this” begins at Revelation 4:2 and continues on from there.
To state that this is otherwise is to do damage to the obvious context of what Christ Jesus says in this verse now.
Life application: Replacement theology says that the church has replaced Israel. Thus, it dismisses what is obvious concerning the timeline presented in this verse by Christ. With this view, what is presented later in Revelation has no sound footing, and it dismisses the covenant promises of the Lord to the people known as Israel.
The heretical doctrine of Hyperdispensationalism says that the letters to the seven churches are not written to those in the church age, but to Jews after the rapture. Again, that abuses the obvious intent of John’s words now.
These and other such views are based on presuppositions, mostly concerning the Jewish people, that are found to be entirely incorrect when evaluated properly. Understanding the nature of God and the nature of His covenant promises will help students of the Bible not fall into such error. In understanding His faithfulness to Israel – despite their unfaithfulness – we can then be reassured of His faithfulness to us when we likewise fail Him.
Let us trust the promises of God, even when we fall short of the commitment we have made. He will not. The time of the church age will be over soon enough, and He will bring His people to the glory He has promised them, despite themselves! And, from looking around us in the world, that glorious day may be soon!
Lord God, praise You for Your kind hand upon Your people. We call to You through Christ for salvation, and You grant it. We fail You, but You remain faithful. We are anxious until we pick up Your word and find that we are secure. And then, we rest again in Your faithfulness. Thank You for Your word which comforts us and reminds us that You have saved us, and continue to save us, despite ourselves. Thank You for Jesus our Lord. Amen.