The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Part One (HTML)
IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 5, Number 32, September 8 to September 14, 2003

The Revelation of Jesus Christ:
Part One

Rev. Charles R. Biggs





Revelation Chapter One

Revelation 1: The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

The Book of Revelation is God's Word to Us!

The Book of Revelation is a book that is either misunderstood and avoided, or it becomes a book where Christians become overly preoccupied or imbalanced in their study of it. Oceans of ink has been spilled in attempts to interpret the book rightly, and there have been a variety of interpretations, particularly with regard to issues such as the Millennium (Is the Millennium referred to in Revelation 20 literal or symbolic?), the time of Christ's return, as well as many other issues.

Some wise teachers in the past have avoided preaching or writing on Revelation altogether, and many Christians today avoid reading it because it is very confusing to them. In the next few studies, I want to attempt by God's grace to write on what is clear from this book and to remind us as Christians that there is a blessing that goes along with the reading of the book (Rev. 1:3). The next few studies will be from chapter 1 of Revelation, a very foundational and important chapter for interpreting the remainder of the book.

I do not presume to have all the answers for this challenging, as well as important book, but I do know that it is part of the God-breathed, infallible, and inerrant revelation of God to man. The Book of Revelation is part of what God has given us for the people of God to be fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He has given it to us in Holy Scripture to rebuke, encourage, correct, and strengthen us. He has revealed Jesus Christ in this book so that we might have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-10). Therefore, for all these reasons, it is important for us to try and understand this book as Christians.

"The Main Thing"

The title of the book, 'The Book of Revelation', comes from the first sentence which describes the book as 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ'. As we begin this study, I think it supremely important to understand that the book, in addition to everything else we learn in it, is foremost 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ'.

In other words, the Book of Revelation is to be understood as the unveiling, or revealing of Jesus Christ. Not merely Jesus' revelation ( the revelation belonging to Jesus), but the book should primarily be understood as the revelation of, or about Jesus (God's revelation about Jesus -- to us!). The knowledge and understanding of this important focus may keep us away from unhealthy preoccupations with how history will unfold in the future, as well as fictional speculation on when the return of Christ will be. [see note below].

I was once told by a wise pastor that one important idea to keep in mind when speaking, writing, or preaching is this: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." In our study of Revelation, by keeping the main thing, well, the main thing, that is the focus upon God's revelation of Jesus, then our attention and our primary concern in our interpretation and understanding of the Book of Revelation will be on the present work of Jesus NOW for his people and the encouraging hope, promises, grace, and strength that this knowledge, this revelation brings to us today in the midst of our struggles in this world and our pursuit of holiness.

[Note: This book is entitled Revelation (singular), not Revelations (plural). This matters. Many today call it Revelations and I think this is because there is a misunderstanding of what the Book is communicating.]

Our study of Revelation chapter 1 will proceed in this way for the next few issues of Word of Encouragement:

JESUS IS THE...

  1. RESURRECTED AND LIVING KING (VV. 1-5A)
  2. COMING JUDGE AND KING (VV. 5B-9)
  3. SPEAKING KING (VV. 10-16; CHAPTERS 2-3)
  4. "EVER-PRESENT HELP IN TIMES OF TROUBLE" KING (VV. 17-20)

Introduction to the Study

Recently, I taught the Book of Revelation to my students at Chapelgate Christian Academy. Although initially the students were intimidated by the book, after a few studies beginning with the above outline in chapter one, they were encouraged to read further- - and many seemed to love it. In fact, many of the students told me after the classes that they were reading it for themselves and seeing Jesus as the King who reigns right now, is present to help his people, and to remind us that no matter what we go through here on earth, Jesus is King, He reigns presently, ever-interceding for his people, and encouraging them on through "danger, toil, and snare" by his grace to the finish line when he comes again. This is a good summary of the book!

Many of the students were delighted that the Book of Revelation has "present tense" significance and practical application for believers today (as well as the unbeliever today in the way of a warning of denying the King who reigns and hopefully bringing the unbeliever to repentance). Some of the students told me that they had been so preoccupied with what the Book of Revelation had taught about the future (and some fanciful interpretations read into the book about the so-called future), that they had failed to see what the Book of Revelation taught them about their present relationship and walk with Jesus Christ!

Some of the students were upset with well-meaning, but misguided fictional writers who had gotten their focus off the "main thing" of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ in Revelation. These students realized that these writers had perhaps unintentionally focused them mentally and spiritually elsewhere on speculations that may be legitimate in a fictional novel, but were illegitimate and quite dangerous when written to provide a grid for the understanding and interpretation of the Book of Revelation!

Learning from my teaching of the book and especially from my students, this study will focus on the present encouragement as well as blessing that the Book of Revelation was inspired and written to communicate to believers of every nation, tongue, tribe, and peoples from the time of Christ's ascension to God's right hand until the day he returns for those who await him! Before we begin our study, let us consider two important reminders about the Book of Revelation.

What in the World is an Apocalyptic?

Part of the frustration for us today in reading the Book of Revelation is not fully understanding what kind of book it is, or its genre. The Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation in the last part of the 1st century in a genre that would have been extremely familiar to the people. Genre is a type of written material or literature (like a letter, history, narrative, poem, etc.). The genre of the Book of Revelation is called apocalyptic. The Book of Revelation is mostly an apocalyptic piece of literature as a genre, but it has other genres such as prophecy and letter as well. The apocalyptic aspect of the book is what is the big stumbling block for most and the reason why many Christians are apprehensive about attempting to read it.

Simply put, apocalyptic literature in the Apostle John's day was written to encourage believers that God was on the throne. However, apocalyptic was written in highly symbolic language. In Jewish apocalyptic writings, the Jews of the 3rd to the 1st century B. C., were encouraged through persecution and warfare in this world that there was another world that God had promised that would eventually come. The purpose of apocalyptic literature was to develop and encourage perseverance under trials, sobriety and continued faith through sufferings, martyrdom and times of unfaithfulness and faithlessness, and to be reminded that God sits upon the throne of the universe, ruling history for his good purposes as well as for the good of his people!

This is ultimately the same purpose for which John wrote. He addressed the Book of Revelation to the seven churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The primary reason for his writing a letter and prophecy in an apocalyptic genre (or type of literature) was to encourage the saints that Jesus the Messiah and His Kingdom had come. The Lamb sits victoriously upon the throne because he completed all the work on behalf of his people and therefore they should not fear, but be encouraged that Jesus reigns and will come again to restore all creation in order to bring about a new world without sin and misery where holiness and righteousness are all that is to be found.

The Apostle John wrote 'the Revelation of Jesus Christ' to encourage, to assist the saints by the Spirit's work to persevere in their faith no matter how corrupt or difficult this present evil age becomes, no matter how much they are tempted to give up and give in to sin, they were to be sober, watchful, standing firm in the victory of Jesus Christ as they fix their eyes and the focus of their lives upon the Redeemer ever present to help in times of trouble and through many trials!

The seven churches were seven real churches in the historical setting of the 1st century, but as I shall attempt to develop in the upcoming studies, these churches had representative problems as well as spiritual virtues that would be addressed by the living and active Word of God in the present. So, even though the churches were real historical churches, the problems, the challenges, the temptations, the spiritual virtues, were similar to all congregations of the visible church throughout history all the way up to this very day! The Word of God, the Living Christ still speaks to his churches for those who have ears to hear what the Spirits says.

Blessings from God!

Another truth that is important to grasp as we seek to study the Book of Revelation is from chapter one, verse 3. It says:

"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near."

A couple of truths need to be addressed. First, this is the only book of Holy Scripture with a blessing to those who read aloud, who hear and keep the words of this prophecy. This is extremely important. The Book of Revelation may have its challenges because it is of the genre of apocalyptic literature, but it holds a blessing for those who read aloud, hear and keep the words of this prophecy.

Through the gracious interaction and living illumination of the Holy Spirit, we can understand this book (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6-14)! It may be a challenge, but we can understand it. God inspired John to write this book to encourage his people throughout church history in various times and places with the hope of Jesus the King and his resurrection! God is not as some unbelieving philosophers suppose someone with a great deal of power, but no love for his people. In other words, God would not have teased his people with such a book, offering a blessing to those who read aloud, hear and keep the words, only to confuse his people by the prophecies.

If there is one diabolical trick presently that should be exposed, it is the mininterpretation of the Book of Revelation that has gone on throughout church history; it is the misunderstanding that one needs a specialist, someone with a "secret key", to unravel the "true" meaning of this book; it is the mistaken focus on the lesser important details of the book causing the Christian to theoretically and functionally only have a 65-book canon, or a 26 book New Testament! I am afraid many have been duped, tricked, mistakenly informed by the wiles and craftiness of the devil!

Think about it, if there is a blessing from God, a clear revelation or unveiling of Jesus Christ, especially meant for Christ's people who live in a world of sin and misery, an age ruled by the evil one (Eph. 2:1-5; 6:10-18; 2 Cor. 4:4), then this would be a book that the devil would want us to avoid, or become overly preoccupied with! Christians be encouraged! God has not left us without a Teacher, a Great and Sovereign Interpreter, the One Who wrote and inspired it Himself! (cf. John 14:25ff; 16; 1 Cor. 2:6ff). The Holy Spirit will help and guide God's people by faith as they truly believe that their is indeed a blessing for those who read aloud, hear, and keep what is written in the book!

Conclusion

As part of the prevention of the imbalance, and to avoid the fanciful misinterpretation that we face today in our congregations as we try to understand this book, we should be reminded that although apocalyptic literature is highly symbolic, we can still compare Scripture with Scripture. One of the reasons for our imbalance and misinterpretation of Revelation today is that many do not understand how to recognize the book's genre, and once they do, they do not know how to interpret the book in light of other Scripture. When we read the difficult and highly symbolic passages, we are to be reminded that a great deal of what John is alluding to is found in the Old Testament, especially in the biblical books of Genesis, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. Could this be because the people of God today are functionally biblically illiterate, particularly of the Old Covenant? I am not trying to be overly critical, but it is always worthwhile to ask the question.

Another important truth to be remembered to help us with the imbalances and misinterpretations is not only to be informed concerning apocalyptic literature, but to also be humbled by the need for the Holy Spirit's help and illumination in our interpretation. If more Christians would humble themselves before God's holy Word rather than being spiritual "know-it-alls", this may lead not only to fruitful interpretation, but a fruitful life as well as we learn to meditate upon God's Word, thinking His thoughts after him as we are led by the Spirit of the Living God (John 15).

If I had to sum up the entire study of the Book of Revelation that we are about to embark upon, it would be encapsulated in this summary:

The Lamb of God overcame and so can his people! Jesus died and was resurrected, defeating the power and works of the devil. Jesus' people will be resurrected and can stand firm in the victory won by the Lord Jesus!

The Book of Revelation reveals Jesus' victory over and over again, so that God's people will be reminded that His victory is our victory!

Soli Deo Gloria! www.APlaceforTruth.org