Text: Revelation 1: 1-3
Title : The Revelation of Jesus Christ
At the beginning of 2000, at the start of the 21st century, now 13 years ago, I preached a number of sermons from this wonderful book of the Bible. I never completed the exposition of the entire book of Revelation at that time, but I have always had the desire to complete the work which I had begun then. Since so few of you were there at that time, and those that were there probably remember nothing of these expositions, I might as well start all over again! On a more serious note, I do sense the need at this time to anchor your hearts and minds in the ultimate realities presented in this book. We currently live under the pervasive influence of post -modern thought processes. Post -modern people do not believe in absolute truth. History and the future are in a sense irrelevant, since everything is subject to doubt and uncertainty. The here and now is all important. Only the present is real. Therefore feelings and emotions rule. Post- modern people do not ask, “Is this true?”, but they ask, “does it feel right to me?“. The matter of wanting to live in the “now“ is not wrong in itself. After all, Matthew 6 :25-34, makes that very clear, and some people live only in the past while others are utterly consumed by thoughts of the future. The problem with only living in the ‘now’ without reference to past or present, makes people intensely self- centered, arrogant and opinionated. It makes people very shallow in their thought processes. Since there is no absolute truth, and since the past is irrelevant and the future meaningless they do not think about ultimate realities such as death, or whether there is a God, or an afterlife, or whether there is a judgment to come.
Now, the book of Revelation is deals with all these ultimate matters in a definite, absolute way. There is a God of absolute truth who directs history, who helps us in the now and who directs us into the future. A key to the understanding of the Revelation is the Lord’s identification of Himself as the “Alpha and the Omega” . He is the Sovereign God! He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He is God from eternity unto eternity. He is at the beginning and at the end of history. This implies that God finishes what He starts. The last two chapters (Ch’s 21&22) reveal the consummation of creation- the end for which the created order was designed and intended. When He says, “Behold I am making all things new “ (Rev 21:5), then He tells us that He intends to renew the world, which until now has suffered from decay and degeneration, all as a result of the fall (Gen.3). The renewal of all things began when through Christ God ‘reconciled all things to Himself, whether things on earth or in heaven, having made peace by the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20). The paradise that was lost is regained in Christ. So the past determines the now for the future! We are now living in the time of that renewal, and we thank God for the great work begun on the cross of Christ, but we are also aware that we are in a process of transformation that will be completed when Christ comes again.
The first three verses help us to see how this book has come about: Here we find that it is 1. a revelation of Jesus Christ. 2. a revelation of the things which must soon take place. 3. how this revelation was received. It was given by God, through Christ, through the agency of an angel, to His servant John, and by John to Christ's servants. 4. It ends with a blessing (v.3)
“The Revelation of Christ…”
The Greek word for "revelation" is apokalupsis, from which the word "apocalypse" is derived. It means “uncovering”. Here it refers to what God has chosen to reveal to John for the benefit of the church in all ages. It is the "revelation of Jesus Christ." The genitive case (‘of’ ) here can either mean that Jesus revealed to John what follows in this book, or it can mean that it is the Lord Jesus Christ that is being revealed here. Without getting too technical as many commentators tend to be, I believe that it could mean both. This is the revelation of the eternal plan of God through Christ to John, and in that process He reveals Himself to John.
So this book is about Jesus and His work, but now from His perspective as the ascended Lord. Remember that the revelation of Jesus Christ to us is not finished! He appeared in the flesh (He was born), He died and was resurrected and He departed again to the Father, but He needs to reappear from heaven in radiant glory (1:7) to judge the living and the dead and to create the new heavens and the new earth. His work on earth is done, but the complete revelation is not finished. And don’t we know it! We are currently groaning under the weight of sin. (Rom 8:22,23). The creation and the church is suffering. Christians are persecuted. The church is eagerly waiting for the revelation of Jesus Christ when He comes with the clouds, and every eye will see Him (1:7). But we are living in the ‘not yet’ . We are living in the ‘hope’ stage. We are living in anticipation of future realities. So, while things often look out of control, this book teaches us that nothing is out of control. Even now Jesus has all power in heaven and on earth. Even now He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16;17:14). Even now He controls all things and directs everything for the benefit of His church. Even those who die in the Lord are not lost (14:13).
But right now He is not revealed to us as He is. This will happen on the day when He shall be revealed in His glory, never to be hidden again after that. Then shall His revelation be perfected. This is what the book of Revelation is all about, and this is what we must remember as we work our way through this fascinating book.
Now John is receiving this revelation from Christ and about Christ (and His past , present and future work), and when we must remember that John is permitted to see things that literally would take His breath away (1:17). The things that He sees cannot be described in literal language. He has to use descriptions and words subject to the limitations of human language and comprehension. What he describes often looks rather gloomy. We read of oppression , wars in heaven , earthquakes and destruction, the killing of God’s saints in ever widening and increasing intensity. But don’t be tempted to get lost in the details. Keep the end in view. Keep eternity in view. All things lead to the final revelation of our Lord in glory! If you see this then you shall not fail to receive the blessing that is promised to them that read and hear the words of this prophecy!
“To show to his servants the things that must soon take place”
Now we must get this right. The Book of Revelation is not a literal outline of God’s time table. The day and the hour of the coming of the Lord are not revealed. Jesus also made that clear in Matthew 24:36. The purpose of the book of Revelation is to provide the church of the last days (the time between Christ’s ascension and His descension) with timeless principles and perspectives that would encourage us to persevere.
To "show the things that must soon take place!” These things must take place. This comforts us to know that history is in God’s hands. All things are determined, but they are determined not by cruel fate. They are determined by the counsel of an all-wise and an all- good God. So, when we accept the Word of God and believe that all things must come to pass, our hearts find rest because they find rest in Him and in His good purposes!
But note that John says that these things must take place soon. This word ‘soon’ has often confused people. This kind of wording is however not uncommon in the NT. "The night is far gone; the day is at hand" the apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome (Rom. 13:12). Peter writes: "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be self- controlled and sober minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Pet. 4:7). To the church of Philadelphia the Lord says: "I am coming soon; hold fast what you have so that no one may seize your crown" (Rev. 3:11), and again in Rev. 22:7 He says: "And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." (and again in Rev 22:12). How do we understand this sense of ‘soon’? Centuries have gone since these words were written, and still they have not been fulfilled.
The answer to this is that we should understand the ‘soon ‘ (quickly /shortly) in terms of “the Lord will not delay”. When questioned about the delay of the Lord’s coming, Peter reminds his readers that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise “ (2 Pet. 3:8-10). There will be no failure of fulfillment, and when He comes things will move speedily to a conclusion. It is like doing a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Initial progress seems painfully frustrating and slow , but as progress is made, so the last pieces are quickly inserted until the puzzle is complete, and the picture that once was ‘higgledy piggeldy’ and distorted is now clear and complete.
“He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all he saw”
Having received this revelation from God, Christ communicated it to His servants through an angel to John and John then became the human messenger to the 7 churches, and to all the church in subsequent generations. Angels often appear in Scripture as a medium of God’s revelation. Talk about divine inspiration! This book claims to come to us straight from heaven! It is received by dictation. Christ sends an angel to John, who is commanded to write down the revelation (cf. 1:11,19; 2:1.8.12,18; 3:1,7,14 etc.)
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy…” (v.3)
The promise of a blessing is attached to the reading, the hearing and the keeping of this prophecy. In simple terms this means, “If you take what is revealed here seriously, and if you will apply the knowledge of this practically, you will be blessed”. Blessed are they that read and hear and keep the words of this prophecy, in the midst of these challenging days! Keep the revelation of Jesus Christ before you in these spiritually compromising times. If you live in the expectation of His coming, there is peace and hope and joy for you, for you know that He has overcome the world! But there is nothing to be gained from simply reading this prophecy or having it read to you. You are also called to keep what is written in it. To keep the Word of God means to obey it, to be doers of the Word. This means that you must often swim against the stream of current popular opinion.
The message of the Revelation is to hold on to Jesus in spiritually compromising times, times like our own, such as I have described in my introduction. Learn to live a life of principled obedience. Don’t give into your feelings and emotions as ‘post moderns’ are inclined to do. Listen to the truth. Read it, hear it, keep it! Let the Scripture (past) speak to you about your future, and live in the present with these things in mind.
The matter is urgent, for "the time is near!" Amen .