Thursday, 13 August 2020
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, Revelation 1:1
The book of Revelation opens with the words, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The word “Revelation” is translated from the Greek word apokalupsis. That is derived from apó, meaning “away from,” and kalýptō, meaning “to cover.” Thus, it signifies to uncover, or to reveal what is hidden. It makes plain that which was previously obscured.
Here, then, we see that what will be presented is the “unveiling of Jesus Christ.” It is an unveiling that He makes. However, it is also what needs to be unveiled concerning who He is and what His purposes are for the world within the unfolding plan of redemption. In other words, the world fell into sin, but God in Christ – even from the very beginning – presented the initiation of His plan. That was found explicitly stated for the first time in Genesis 3:15 –
“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
From that point on, the redemptive narrative was carefully recorded. However, there are veiled hints of the work of God in Christ even from Genesis 1:1. These continue, carefully hidden within the recorded narrative, to reveal what God was doing in typological pictures of Jesus. To understand these types and pictures, one can start with the Genesis 1:1 sermon from the Superior Word and continue on through until every sermon has been seen. They carefully evaluate the passage presented, revealing these truths.
However, the Jewish people as a whole rejected Christ when He came. Their eyes have been blinded to the truth of who He is. The book of Revelation, leaning heavily on Old Testament writings, will tie those writings into a panorama of events that have and will come upon the world, demonstrating to them that Jesus is the Christ and that they missed Him on His first advent.
However, the church itself has been woefully blinded in its own theology concerning God’s covenant promises to Israel. The church has claimed that it has replaced Israel in the redemptive narrative. Because of this, Revelation is given, when properly understood, to steer believers away from this aberrant theology as well.
The book begins with an address to the church which lasts for three chapters, instructing them that they are the main focus of God’s attention within the unfolding redemptive narrative. However, in verse 4:2, a dramatic shift will take place, with the intent of unveiling Jesus Christ to the nation of Israel. The church will not be mentioned again until Chapter 19. During all of the intervening chapters, the events focus on Israel. This is to bring them to an understanding of who Christ is, and that what is said of Him in both the Old and New Testaments is the true and reliable word of God.
This unveiling, then, is intended to go in both directions – opening the eyes of the church to God’s faithfulness to Israel, and also to opening the eyes of Israel to the Messiah they had missed for the many years of their exile and punishment. It is this body of literature that John writes out concerning Jesus “which God gave Him to show His servants.”
Jesus Christ is the Mediator between God and man. Being fully God and fully man, He is the means of transmitting the events of redemptive history to the world – especially to “His servants,” meaning His redeemed people. Each member of the Godhead has its own role within the Godhead, revealing the unified purpose that they share. This is seen in Jesus’ words of John 16 concerning the Holy Spirit –
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” John 16:12-15
Jesus is the one who draws out from the Father the will of God. The Holy Spirit declares what is drawn out. The process of this is what forms the word of God, and it is what then allows man to understand more fully what God is doing within the stream of time. Of this, the Pulpit Commentary rightly states –
“Christ is both the Mystery and the Revealer of it. He comes to reveal himself, and in himself the Father, whose Image he is. Thus in its opening words the book takes us beyond itself. What is revealed is not secrets about the future, but a Person. And the Revealer is not man, but God; not John, but the Divine Son, commissioned by the Father. For even the unincarnate Word receives from the Father that which he reveals.”
Understanding that it is Jesus who is the focus of the unveiling will help keep the reader free from the error of using the book of Revelation as some type of tool to predict future events. Countless readers of the book have, unfortunately, used it this way. Predictions about the date of the rapture, who the Antichrist is, and a host of other such things are dogmatically argued over, and they are always found to be incorrect. The reason for this is that they are attempting to use the book of Revelation in the wrong, self-centered, way.
Avoiding such error will keep the contents of the book in their proper perspective. Of those things God gave Christ Jesus to show to His servants, John next says that they are “things which must shortly take place.”
The Greek words translated as “shortly” is tachos. It signifies swiftness or in a brief space of time. It can mean with quickness, speed, haste, or immediately. Those, such as preterists, will understand the word to mean “quickly” as in “soon after John penned the letter.” In other words, they hold to the view that all is fulfilled millennia ago.
Others will consider the word to mean that when the events are set to come about, they will come about rapidly. Thus, a gap of two thousand years is not a violation of the intent of the word. The church age will end at the rapture, and then the events of Revelation which follow will come about rapidly. As God’s faithfulness to unfaithful Israel is not to be questioned, and as His covenant promises to them must come to pass, the latter view is correct. Replacement theology and the preterist view are both false doctrines which fail to account for what is otherwise obvious concerning Israel.
John next writes, “And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.” The word “signified” comes from a Greek word meaning “to indicate” or “give a sign.” It was used in John 21:19 to convey to Peter how he would die, saying, “This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God.” Jesus has sent His angel to signify what would occur.
The angel, or messenger, doesn’t come into the focus of the narrative until Revelation 17:1. But it is he who conveys the message to John. However, at times – and, in particular, the first three chapters of the book – Jesus speaks out His words directly to John. Therefore, the angel is there to communicate a variety of events that Jesus has specifically determined to be transmitted indirectly from Him.
In both occasions – whether from Christ directly, or through His angel – it is John who receives the word in order to record it for the servants of the Lord to read and understand. Again, it should be stressed that Revelation is not a tool for people to predict future events in a dogmatic fashion or timeframe. Rather, it is a general panorama of events which are to be fully understood after they occur, not before.
Life application: The entire Bible, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, is about Jesus Christ. However, much of the Old Testament is veiled and requires looking back from the clear focus of the Cross of Calvary to understand the types and pictures that were “shadowed” in the time prior to the incarnation.
The four Gospel accounts present a full picture of the Lord that was evident, but veiled, such as during the theophany seen by Ezekiel – “As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle” (Ezekiel 1:10).
This theophany of the Lord (Yehovah) describes the four faces of Jesus presented in the Gospels – Matthew presents Jesus as the King (represented by a lion); Mark presents Jesus as the Servant (the ox); Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man (the man); and John presents Jesus as the Son of God (the eagle).
Revelation is more fully unveiling Jesus for His beloved church to understand that they have an assignment in holding to doctrinal purity and maintaining His church in the manner prescribed in the New Testament. It also has a second assignment which is to understand that He is not finished with His people, Israel.
The fulfillment of His promises to Israel, as is evidenced by His prophets – such as Daniel – is realized in the coming pages and it is a duty of all Christians to understand this. Christians are to accept that God has not rejected Israel, even during their time of “spiritual blindness” (as is indicated by Paul in Romans 11:25).
The Church Age will end at the rapture, and the time of tribulation (the time of Jacob’s Trouble) will follow. Jesus is coming again, first for His church at the rapture, and then to His people Israel, as He declared with His own mouth to Jerusalem, the seat of power in Israel –
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Matthew 23:37-39
Lord, it is with eager anticipation that we begin each day in Your precious word. What other way can we start it with such comfort and joy! Please open our eyes to its truths. May our doctrine be pure, and may our hearts be receptive to the glorious love and mercy that it reveals to the people of the world. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.