After four previous chapters laying the ground work to rightly understand and interpret the Revelation, this will be the first chapter actually walking through the Revelation verse by verse. My intention in these subsequent chapters is to begin at Revelation 1:1 and work my way to Revelation 22:21. My plan is to start at the beginning and finish in the end, covering all the details in-between to the best of my ability. As I have already stated I do not claim to have full, complete or perfect understanding of this book, but after looking at it for some years now, a large portion of it makes sense to me. We must never forget that the Revelation is the consummation, or the completion of all that is spoken of in the previous 65 books. This means that the Revelation is a divine ocean of truth, filled with the Revelation of a Man who has no beginning and no ending.
At times I feel as if I get a handle on some of the information in this book and then as I am staring at Jesus fairly intently, He moves just a little bit and I am back at square one. Just the slightest movement of His heart and I feel as if I’m starting over in my relationship with Him.
The Unveiling Of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1-2)
Revelation 1:1 says The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him (Jesus Christ) to show His (Jesus Christ) servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John… The book of Revelation is the fourth largest book of the New Testament, given to Jesus by His Father for the purpose of showing His servants things which must shortly take place. This book is not the revelation of the anti-christ, the devil or the great tribulation, but the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
It’s a stunning reality that this book, which is the Revelation of Jesus Christ didn’t even come forth by His will, but by the will of the Father. This speaks of a humility that I know so little about. I believe it to be true that God doesn’t ever talk about His own beauty forthright. I believe it’s a biblical concept that what God does is reveal Himself to humanity and He gives us the opportunity to respond to Him or not. Some falsely assume for instance that when Paul fell from his horse in Acts 9 that it was God knocking him off and forcing Saul who would later become Paul to serve Him. This isn’t at all what happened. The text tells us that Paul saw a great light from heaven, and it literally blinded him causing him to fall off his horse. It was then Paul who called out to Jesus asking Him what he should now do with his life (Acts 9:6). What I believe took place has taken place and continues to take place is that God opens up the curtain between heaven and earth, reveals Himself and gives humanity, or Saul, an opportunity to respond to His beauty. In the same way, Jesus isn’t revealing Himself on His own, but rather through the Father’s command.
The Father loves the Son so much that He couldn’t wait any more. So in great passion He said “Son, enough is enough, I want You to reveal Your beauty, Your majesty, Your power and Your leadership to the nations of the earth (Revelation 1:1-2).” And this is exactly what unfolds, the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It’s also crystal clear from this opening passage that this book is not written to non-believers, but to saints, meaning both Jews and Gentiles who are in Christ. What you must understand is that this book is your glory. Don’t let anybody talk you out of giving yourself to the glories of this book. In partnership with the Holy Spirit there is an ever deeping well of encounter locked up in this book.
Revelation 1:1 is the thesis of the entire book. Some have made this book about charts, diagrams, graphs and theories but above all that, it’s the Revelation of a Man called Jesus Christ. The actual word Revelation is the Greek word apocalypto and it simply means to unveil something that was previously veiled. So if you read it differently with the idea of it being unveiled Revelation 1:1 would now read The unveiling of Jesus Christ (which was previously veiled). The primary theme of this book is about Jesus and the Revelation of Him to the human race.
It’s also true that you couldn’t have used the word apocalypto (Revelation) at Jesus’ first coming because it refers only to His second coming. In Jesus’ first coming He was veiled from His creation and they were unable, apart from Divine Revelation to see or know who He was (Matthew 16). John the beloved, the same person who wrote and caught a glimpse of the resurrected, fully alive God-Man, Jesus Christ in the Revelation wrote this about Him in his Gospel concerning His first coming He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own and His own did not receive Him (John 1:10-11).
But, upon His second coming which we get much insight into through this Book (the Revelation) that which was veiled at His first coming will be totally unveiled at His second coming. The last time the earth saw Jesus they, for the most part, saw a broken, bruised and beaten down Man, but this won’t be true of His second coming. Jesus, though He still bears the marks of the Cross and of His Crucifixion, won’t be returning as a veiled Man, but as a totally revealed and unveiled Man. The entire earth will see Jesus in a way they have never seen nor even attempted to imagine Him.
This book which is so holy to God isn’t so much about the destruction of humanity or the rule of the antichrist, as it is about the unveiling of Jesus’ beauty, majesty, worth, dominion and His wisdom to rule all the nations of the earth. This book puts the wisdom of Jesus on display for all to see that alongside Him there is no equal. He’s truly the Chief among ten thousand (Song of Songs 5:10).
There is a branch of Christianity which focuses on studying the Person of Jesus Christ; it is called Christology. It’s rather fascinating to see the Christology, the study of the Person of Jesus Christ, within this book. Below, I list the various names as He is described within this 22-chapter Revelation:
He is Jesus Christ; The Faithful Witness; The first born of the dead; the Ruler of the kings of the earth; Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End; The Lord; The Almighty; The One who is who was and who is to come; the First and the Last; The Son of Man; He who lives, was dead and is alive forevermore; The Amen; He who has the keys of death and Hades; He with the Seven Stars in His right hand; He that walks in the midst of the Seven Lamp-stands; The Son of God; He that is Holy; He that is true; He that has the key of David; the Faithful and true witness; The Beginning of the Creation of God; The Lion of the Tribe of Judah; the Root of David; The Lamb slain; Jesus; Lord God Almighty; King of Saints; Lord of Lords; King of Kings; Faithful and True; The Word of God; Christ; the Lamb and the temple; the Light; the Root and offspring of David; Bright and Morning Star; Lord Jesus; and Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Beloved, that’s nearly 40 titles ascribed to the Son of God in just 22 chapters of one book. Does that elicit worship and call us to study and come to love this book in a way that we don’t currently love it and adore it? I would say yes!
The next phrase from Revelation 1:1 that I want to look at is …these things which must shortly take place… This phrase is best understood in the way that the Old Testament prophets prophesied. When the prophets from the Old Testament were prophesying, they weren’t able to understand their prophecies in perfect Chronology. This meant that all their prophecies were imminent. Now this word imminent has two primary meanings and it’s important that we take a moment to look at both.
The first meaning of the word imminent is that it means something can happen at any moment, at any time and in any place. Whatever is about to take place doesn’t need any warning, it can just suddenly take place. Unfortunately, this meaning is what most denominations have adopted in their understanding of this word in relationship to Jesus’ return, therefore most Christian denominations don’t believe anything needs to happen in order for Christ to return. They say that it can happen at any moment, and we always need to be ready. I do not believe that this is what the Bible teaches; which leads us to the second meaning of the word imminent.
The other definition of this word is that something is established in the future; it’s overhanging and will happen. Jesus’ return, as set forth in the Bible, is declared as a return that will surely happen, but it’s not imminent in the sense that at any moment it might happen, but that at a fixed time it will take place.
Now getting back to how Old Testament prophets prophesied, they most often weren’t connected to the timing of their prophetic words. Sometimes Old Testament Prophets were actually prophesying about both the first and second coming of Jesus in the same prophecy. This is why we see the disciples of Jesus after His resurrection, in Acts 1:6, asking Him if at this time He was going to restore the Kingdom into their hands. What were they asking Him? They were trying to understand if it was then that Jesus was going to establish His kingdom on the earth. The reason for this was because they were very acquainted with the prophetic scriptures in the Old Testament which spoke about Jesus ruling and reigning on this physical earth. Then, there in Acts 1:6, it wasn’t clear to them which prophecy Jesus was fulfilling. Jesus’ reading from the scroll in Luke 4 is another great example. He only reads a portion of Isaiah’s prophecy because the rest of it related to His second coming, and He was only reading what related to His first coming.
You might be wondering what this has to do with Revelation 1:1 and this is what I am getting at. It has everything to do with the phrase …these things which must shortly take place… When we read this from John we are not to think that this could happen at any moment, but rather within our lifetime. His return is imminent meaning that it’s surely coming, but not any second. We should be living in such a way that we aren’t trying to wake up because He might be coming, but we should be living as if He is and could be coming in our lifetime. The window of the Tribulation is only 7 years, which in light of the years we have lived and how fast it has gone, it could be that suddenly things shift in our day, setting the stage for the season of Tribulation and Jesus’ return.
This is why Peter warns us in 2nd Peter 3:3-4 of those in the Church that will mock the season of Jesus’ return saying, knowing this first; that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. I personally know men who have served the Church for years as Elders who say this very phrase that Peter said in relationship with Jesus’ return. In my opinion, they have a mocking spirit, belittling the return of Christ and the seriousness of that yet, future season. Many leaders in the body of Christ today say that Eschatology is not that big a deal; in fact this is the stance with many Christian denominations. I want to say to you that this is directly opposite of what the Bible teaches.
Just like what John was writing in Revelation 1:1 the idea is that we are to be living today in such a way that it’s possible Jesus might return within our lifetime. Every generation since we received the New Testament has been commissioned by the Bible to live sober, righteous, fully awake, alert and in step with the Holy Spirit. John is saying that we should be alert, watching and even longing for Jesus’ return to the planet to set all things in order.
Reading, Applying and Speaking the Revelation (Revelation 1:3)
John continues this prophecy by saying in Revelation 1:3 Blessed is he who reads, and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. Because of this passage when I read it nearly 12 years ago, I actually read the Bible out loud. I read out loud for a number of reasons, but this is one of them: I want the blessing. I don’t know if you realized that this is the only book of the Bible that offers a blessing to those that do three things; read it, apply it (obey it, live it) and share it. That means that in all the other 65 books of the Bible there isn’t a blessing offered to any of them as there is to the Revelation. My next question is, if this is true, why do so many people avoid it and work to discredit the Revelation? Strange.
Something that must be said, prior to talking about this verse, is our definition of success. It’s easy to have a definition of success in which things are always growing, increasing, gaining more influence and increasing financially. I am embarrassed to admit it, but often this is my definition of success as well. When the things I am a part of are growing I am happy and fulfilled, but when they are decreasing I can head down to the dumps and feel like a terrible leader. But when it comes to a Biblical perspective of success it must be said that the previous definition of success is from a predominately worldly view. Although the Bible speaks of growth, increase and blessing it’s also filled with the counterpart of suffering, decrease and difficulty.
The days that are yet ahead for the Body of Christ are days filled with both trouble and blessing. The bold proclamation of the Revelation to the people of our culture is going to alienate us from the majority of the people of our culture. Having to stand up and declare that a president-like figure (the antichrist) is fully demonized, and that the world is going to see him openly cast into the lake of fire for eternity is going to cause social trouble in a way we could never comprehend. I believe that the blessing connected to reading, applying and speaking the Revelation is central to being able to keep this prophecy in the days ahead. I believe that the blessing connected to this book is critical in relationship for us to hold out this book in the midst of a confused culture. That means if our definition of success is increase, this book is going to be a stumbling block to us.
Now I will break down the three steps in order to receive the blessing from the book of Revelation. Firstly, John says Blessed is he who reads… The first command is a command to understand the Revelation as a whole. It’s the idea that you can’t apply something you don’t know, so you must first become acquainted with the actual Revelation. Ezekiel in Ezekiel 3 and John the beloved in Revelation 10 were both told by God to eat the scroll. The idea of eating the scroll is that we give ourselves to reading the Bible in a consistent and full way; working to understand the message that we are reading. So in order to apply it, which is the second step; we must start by reading it.
Secondly, John says Blessed…are those who hear the words of this prophecy… Upon reading and hearing this prophecy we are then commanded to obey it in a wholehearted way. Hearing and obeying are dynamically connected in the Bible, meaning that when we hear something we are required by the Bible to obey it, applying it to our lives. James said it’s possible to hear the word of God and forget it; but in doing this we deceive ourselves, not anyone else (James 1:21-25). I believe that our ticket to keeping this book is found in encountering the beauty of Jesus Christ within the book itself. We are able to obey this book when we read about the beauty of Jesus in this book. It’s a hook that grabs hold of our hearts and doesn’t allow us to let go.
And lastly John says Blessed…are those that keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. The last part of us receiving the blessing of this book is that we speak it or share it with others. Our reading and obeying this book must lead us to speaking and sharing about both the positives and negatives that are within it. It’s called holding out the Word of life in the midst of a perverse and crooked culture. Reading this book helps us become acquainted with it. As we become acquainted with it we also become responsible for it, and now we are responsible to share it with others.
This is why the blessing isn’t just connected to one part or the other, but to all three things. Our blessing is received from Jesus when we hold fast to all three of those elements. Beloved, many people want to talk about the positives of this book, and that’s good, but it’s also only half of the equation. The other half is that it’s also filled with many negatives and they must both be emphasized. David Pawson once said, Until the Revelation makes you sick to your stomach when you read it, you haven’t fully digested it’s message. That’s a painfully true statement and it’s in agreement with the Bible itself in Revelation 10. May God give us grace to hold out the Word of life in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.