Monday, July 22, 2013

Revelation 1:1-3 "The Revelation of Jesus Christ..."

Text: Revelation 1: 1-3  

Title : The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Date:  21/07/2013                                                         

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.[1]  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.

Revelation  1:1-3

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 .

[1]  1:8,17; 21:6 ; 22:13

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