Revelation of Jesus Christ

The first paragraph of Revelation presents us with its purpose, key themes, main characters, how it communicates, and its chronological outlook. The Book of Revelation reveals rather than mystifies. It is “THE prophecy,” singular, sent to the Assemblies of Jesus to “show them what things must come to pass,” a declaration that provides the timeframe of these coming “things,” namely, “Soon.” Above all, it is a revelation about “Jesus Christ.”

He is portrayed in detail, and in various ways, often unexpected and paradoxical. For example, though he is the “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth,” he is the sacrificial Lamb who “shepherds the nations” to the city of “New Jerusalem.” He is the Messiah of Israel and the “King of kings” who redeems men from every nation by shedding his blood rather than that of his enemies.

Beach sunburst - Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash
[Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash]

The Book communicates with symbols (“
he signified”), and the opening paragraph provides the first of many examples of how Revelation applies passages from the Hebrew Bible (“What things must come to pass soon”).

It is a single document. In its entirety, it is addressed to the same audience, the “Seven Assemblies of Asia.” It includes a prologue, a series of visions, and an epilogue. It is the “Revelation” or apokalypsis of “Jesus Christ.” The Greek noun Apokalypsis means a “revelation, disclosure, an unveiling” (Strong’s - #G602).

  • (Revelation 1:1-3) – “Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him to show his servants the things which must come to pass soon, and he signified, sending through his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatsoever things he saw. Blessed is he that reads, and they who hear, the words of the prophecy, and keep the things written in it, for the season is near.”

The term “revelation” is not the title of the Book, but the designation of what it is. The word is singular - It is not a collection of loosely connected visions but a singular disclosure to the Church about coming events and “Jesus Christ.”

The genitive construction of the clause can mean it is an unveiling about Jesus, one that belongs to him, or both (“of Jesus Christ”). Since the Book reveals information about the identity and role of Jesus, both senses are intended. He certainly is the center of Revelation, and by far, its most pivotal character.

God “gave” it to Jesus, who in turn, “gave” it to his angel to “show his servants” imminent events. The stress is on his possession of the “revelation.” Events in the subsequent visions unfold as he unveils them to “his servant,” John, but it also includes information about Jesus and HOW he reigns over the Earth.

The contents are labeled the “Word of God” and the “Testimony of Jesus.” The latter term is repeated several times in the Book to stress the faithful “testimony” given by Jesus, especially in his sacrificial death, and the “testimony” of his saints who persevere in tribulation and persecution - (Revelation 1:4, 1:11, 1:20, 12:11, 13:7-10).

OLD TESTAMENT USAGE


The purpose is “to show” God’s servants “what things must come to pass soon.” The phrase summarizes the Book’s contents. It is a verbal allusion to a passage in the Book of Daniel that Revelation modifies and folds into its narrative. Events that for Daniel were in a remote future (“In later days”), are imminent for the “Seven Assemblies of Asia” (“Soon”).

When John does allude to the Old Testament, he uses the Greek Septuagint version. Note the first verse of Revelation compared to the passage from the Greek version of Daniel from which it is derived:

  • (Revelation 1:1) - “Revelation (apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what things must come to pass (ha dei genesthai) soon.”
  • (Daniel 2:28) - “There is a God in heaven that reveals mysteries and made known to king Nebuchadnezzar what things must come to pass (ha dei genesthai) in later days.”

The unveiling of imminent events is necessary because the “season is near.” Imminence is reiterated in the Book’s concluding section. The phrase is another allusion to a passage in Daniel:

  • (Revelation 1:3) - “Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of the prophecy… for the season (kairos) is at hand.”
  • (Daniel 12:4) - “Shut up the words and seal the Book, even until the season (kairosof the end.”

Daniel was told to “seal the Book until the season of the end.” In contrast, all those who read heed Revelation are “blessed” because the “season is at hand.” This understanding is confirmed in the Epilogue - “Seal not the words of the prophecy, for the season is at hand” - (Revelation 22:7. Compare Daniel 12:4).

Jesus “signified” to his servants. This rendering translates the Greek verb sémainō, which is related to the noun used elsewhere for “sign” or semeion (Strong’s - #G4591). It means to “indicate, show by sign, to signify or signal.” In ancient warfare, it referred to visual and audible “signals” for ordering advances, retreats, and attacks. It points to the symbolic nature of the visions and their images. The Book communicates through symbols.

The target audience is composed of the “servants” of Jesus (doulos, “slave, servant”), a term applied to the followers of Jesus elsewhere in the Book, and it certainly includes the “Seven Assemblies of Asia” - (Revelation 2:20, 7:3, 12:17, 13:7).

Mountain Sunshine - Photo by Armand Khoury on Unsplash
[Photo by Armand Khoury on Unsplash]

Thus,
Revelation discloses how the Kingdom of God achieves victory on the Earth, the role of God’s “servants” in the process, and what this means for the marginalized congregations of Asia. What Daniel anticipated in a remote future in a veiled form is revealed openly and put into motion by Jesus.

The time of fulfillment began following the death and resurrection of Jesus, the “Faithful Witness and the Firstborn of the Dead… I am the Living One, and I became dead. And behold, I am living unto the ages of ages, and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.”



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