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.
It’s the First Century, the early days of the of the Post-Pentecost Church. Something is in the air. There is change on the wind. You can feel it like electricity, clinging to you, causing the hair on your arm to stand up. It has been 50-60 years since the Spirit fell on the apostles and disciples in that upper room. Time is the great equalizer. It levels everything, bringing balance. But the process can be quite chaotic. With time comes the unknown and fear of the unknown. It can be paralyzing. A consuming dread.
The infant Church was not immune to this debilitating fear. But a paralyzed Church is inconceivable. The Lord Jesus Christ suffers many things, even to the point of death. But He would not see His spotless bride without wrinkle or any such thing, whom He had washed clean with water and the Spirit, be so utterly disabled. And so in the midst of persecution, and on the precipice of even greater oppression still to come, He took to doing what He has always done and always would do. He went to them to comfort and console, to bind up the broken, and to strengthen the weak. And He did this as He had so many times before; on the lips of a man as the Word of God.
Enter the Revelation of John. Or should we say, “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This is how John opens the apocalyptic letter of Revelation to the seven churches. During a new age in redemptive history, when the future of the Church looked so uncertain, facing so many obstacles and attacks from without and even within, the tone of Revelation is one of comfort and peace. Its purpose is to give joy and reassure the entire Christian Church that Jesus is still very much God, that He is still on the throne, and most especially, Jesus is their God, on the throne, for them!
Jump forward about 2000 years. Sadly, if you open just about any book, or preview any Kindle version on Amazon dealing with the subject of Revelation, you may come away with a very different view. Quite the opposite of comfort and anything reassuring, you may be led to believe that there was a very different tone and purpose to the book of Revelation. We might call it soft-horror. The Department of Homeland Defense might categorize modern interpretations of Revelation as Religious Terrorism. And that wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Far from a comforting book, Revelation is often interpreted in a fashion more akin to the way a tyrant would read it than a saint.
For far too long, people have either flocked to Revelation to the neglect of other books, getting wrapped up in the sensational interpretations laid out by popular media and chronologically-stunted, fundamentalist teaching with a horrifying and macabre tendency toward the nightmarish. Or, people have ignored Revelation altogether, frustrated by it or too afraid to read it.
Ironically, Revelation was written with the intent to quiet sensationalism and to alleviate paralyzing fear, not inflame it. What if we could go back and speak face-to-face with the Apostle John and get His take on Revelation? What if we could read it through First Century Christian eyes? Would we still be led to believe that John’s vision of beasts that looked like locusts with stingers on their tales was what a First Century man thought of when he saw Apache helicopters armed with Hellfire missiles? Probably not. The revelation was written for the benefit of all Christians everywhere and throughout all time, but it is especially for John’s contemporary audience, not ours. If they couldn’t possibly comprehend or readily grasp an interpretation of John’s letter, then it isn’t the right interpretation.
Without going into too much detail, we’ll walk from here through the Revelation of John, verse by verse, unpacking the original intent one thought at a time, and learning to apply it to our lives for the benefit of the strengthening of our faith. We must begin where John begins: by getting our subjects straight.
So whose Revelation is it anyway? It’s not John’s. That’s the title we gave it. But if we read John’s words, it is, in fact, God’s revelation which He gave to Jesus.
What is it about? It’s not primarily about the Church. It’s not even about the last days, not exclusively. And it is most definitely not a Worst Case Scenario Survival Guide to the End Times. Revelation is about precisely what John writes it is: Jesus Christ. That’s how John, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, introduces the letter: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
In other words, Revelation is God’s message to the Church intended to communicate in such a way that it would reveal to them Christ for them. This is what John reiterates in verse two, not once or twice, but three times, saying, “who bore witness to the Word of God [that’s Jesus] and to the testimony of Jesus Christ [again, Jesus], even all that he saw [which turns out to be a lot of Jesus acting on our behalf throughout redemptive history].”
Who delivered the message of Revelation? God (first Person of the Trinity), gives it to Jesus (second Person of the Trinity), who in turn sends an angel to deliver it to John. John then delivers it by letter to the Church.
What is the formal intent of Revelation? “To show His [Christ’s] servants the things that must soon take place.” This is the formal intent. The material intent will focus in more detail on what precisely these events are. What that looks like is, to put it simply, for now, a whole lot of God doing Jesus to us, for us. The revelation has nothing new to say that hasn’t been written beforehand. It just shows us, again and again, and under the veil of apocalyptic literature, God who works all things to the good of those whose lives are hidden in Christ. And this will be plainly seen as we delve further into the material of Revelation, progressing further into the text.
Until next time, the grace and peace of Christ be with you.