“The Revelation of Jesus Christ”
Jesus is Coming!
Introduction & Background
The subject of future events attracts a great deal of attention. Prophecy conferences draw significant curious crowds. Many promise to uncover the latest new and exciting insights. More than a few assert that they along have the inside track concerning the end times.
I agree that the Bible urges us to be aware of the events of the last days and to look for Christ’s coming, but never to the neglect of present effective living. In fact, most passages that provide significant details concerning His return also strongly stress how we should be living now in light of the nearness of Jesus’ return. I will focus our attention on the practical and personal application rather than the sensational.
We will cover many of the background issues as they come up in the text itself but there are a few preliminary items I want to introduce as we begin our journey.
CHARACTER of the Book
John’s writing is very unique. It is different than his gospel and any of his three letters. Some go so far as cast doubt that John even wrote it. The uniqueness of the book can be clearly understood by its unique subject matter. It bears the characteristics of apocalyptic literature dating from 200BC.
Apocalyptic literature makes extensive use of graphic and symbolic word pictures to reveal coming events. It announces God’s promised severe and sudden judgment.
Revelation also bears some characteristics of prophetic literature that is similar to apocalyptic but somewhat more subtle.
John’s writing also has similarities with that of a personal letter or epistle.
Revelation alludes to the Old Testament more than any other New Testament book. (250-500)
Of the 404 verses, 278 contain some reference to the Old Testament.
There are a number of approaches scholars take to understanding this book of the bible.
The method of approach to the book determines how you interpret its content.
Symbolic Interpretation (Idealist)
This approach maintains that Revelation is not prophetic at all but purely symbolic. It is symbolic of the cosmic conflict of spiritual principles. The content then is “divorced from the realm of history and placed exclusively in the realm of ideas.” (Walk Thru the Bible page 512)
Limited Historical Interpretation (Preterist)
This approach also denies any prophetic aspect by limiting the book to the events to only first century in which it was written. The content symbolically describes the persecution of the church during the Roman period and its eventual judgment and disintegration.
Extended Historical Interpretation (Historicist)
This view approaches Revelation as an “allegorical panorama of the history of the (Western) church from the first century to the Second Advent of Jesus.” (Walk Thru the Bible page 512)
The Prophetic Interpretation (Futurist)
This view recognizes definite connection to the first century conflict but also believes the bulk of the writing is direct prophetic revelation concerning the events slated to unfold just prior to the return of Jesus in power and glory.
Proponents of the first three views tend to interpret symbolically rather than literally and are postmillennial (Jesus returns after the millennium which is not a literal 1000 years but the rule of Christ in our hearts that has already started) or amillennial (no literal millennium at all).
The prophetic view anticipates a literal fulfillment of the symbolism at a future time and is premillennial (Jesus returns to begin a literal 1000 year reign on the earth).
Although the graphic events of Revelation are often used in evangelism to scare people into the kingdom, it was not written for that purpose. It was written to encourage Christians struggling to maintain their faith in a hostile environment. Revelation records the prophetic words of Jesus and His encouragement to keep faithful to the end in light of His imminent return. Revelation reveals the final chapter in the culmination of God’s redemptive plan.
It is the revelation or unveiling of “what soon must take place.” It focuses on the Lamb of God occupying His promised rightful place on the throne. It details the ultimate tribulation and the ultimate utopia. It describes final judgment for those who oppose Christ and eternal bliss for those who embrace Him. It promises a special blessing for those who read, hear and heed the message of the book.
•It is my desire that we discover that blessing in our journey together.
•It is my desire that we develop a grander view of Christ than is presented in the Gospels.
•It is my desire that our hearts are stirred to more faithful service in the present in light of the imminent (soon) dramatic return of Jesus.
•It is my desire we be fully armed and equipped to faithfully endure whatever persecution or tribulation we may be called to face in the future.
•It is my desire that a clearer knowledge of the final chapter of history will give us new courage and confidence to stand up for Christ in persecution.
•It is my desire that a fresh glimpse of the holiness, glory and absolute rule of Christ will rouse more profound worship.
Prologue: Things which you have seen (1)
Message to the Seven Churches: This which are (2-3)
Things which will take place (4-22)
Heavenly Vision of the Throne (4-5)
Seven Seals (6-7)
Seven Trumpets (8-11)
Seven Signs (12-14)
Seven Bowls (15-16
Ultimate Triumph & Second Coming (17-19)
Millennial Kingdom (20)
New Heavens and Earth & the eternal state (21-22:5)
Talk thru the Bible by Bruce Wilkinson has a fascinating contrast of the first and last three chapters of the Bible.
Genesis 1-3 Revelation 20-22
“In the beginning God created the heaves and the earth.” (1:1)
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” 21:1
“The darkness he called night.” 1:5
“There shall be no night there.” 21:25
“God made two great lights” 1:16
“The city had no need of the sun or moon.” 21:23
“In the day that you eat you shall surely die” 2:17
“There shall be no more death” 21:4
Satan appears as deceiver 3:1
Satan DISAPPEARS forever 20:10
A garden into which defilement entered 3:6-7
A city where no defilement will never enter 21:27
Walk of God with man interrupted 3:8-10
Walk of God with man resumed 21:3
Initial triumph of the serpent
Ultimate triumph of the lamb 20:10
“I will greatly multiply your sorrows” 3:16
“There shall be no more death or sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain” 21:4
“Cursed is the ground for your sake” 3:17
“There shall be no more curse” 22:3
Man’s dominion broken in the fall of the first man, Adam 3:19
Man’s dominion restored in the rule of the new man, Christ 22:5
First paradise closed 3:23
New paradise opened 21:25
Access to tree of life disinherited in Adam 3:24
Access to the tree of life reinstated in Christ 22:14
Driven from God’s presence 3:24
"We shall see His face” 22:4
I. PROLOGUE 1:1-20
A. John identified his source 1-2
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Revelation 1:1-2
John authenticated the source of his material as a message from God the Father entrusted to Jesus Christ, communicated to John through His angel to pass on to His bond-servants.
John the Apostle’s name appears both at the beginning and again at the end of his letter.
John was the last of the original Apostles; probably in his nineties by the time of this vision. He provides more detail as to his personal circumstances later.The very first verse introduces most of the players in the book. Jesus, God, His bond-servants, John the apostle and angels, who play a very prominent role in the end times. (Angels are mentioned 67 times in the book.)
This is the “revelation” of Jesus Christ. “revelation” = the Greek word apokalupsis from which we get our English word apocalypse. It basically means unveiling or revealing. The book records the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This could refer to information revealed about Him or by Him. Although it could be both, the focus of the book seems to be more on the revealing of events divinely decreed to take place in the future by Jesus Christ.
Some of the message was actually communicated by “His angel”. The angelic messenger doesn’t really show up however until chap 17. An angel communicated future events to Daniel (10) and Ezekiel (8). Hebrews (2) tells us the Law was spoken through angels.
Actually, a variety of revealing “agents” appear in the book.
Jesus 1:10-11; 4:1. Living Creature 6:1. Elder 7:13. The Lord accompanied by and angel 10:8-9.
A Voice 10:4. What is clear, the message written here came from God through Jesus to us.
John emphatically confirmed that He heard from God through Jesus and wrote down the things he was shown by Jesus. He confirmed that what he wrote was the very word of God and the testimony of Jesus. This stands as an oath that he was telling the truth, the whole, truth and nothing but the truth so help me God.
B. John offered a blessing for exposure to Revelation 1:3
This is the first of seven blessings pronounced in the book. (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14)
At the start, John understood the power of the information he had received from Jesus. Exposure to it carries a special blessing.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:3
To be blessed is to be fortunate, well off, happy. It is the same word used in the “beatitudes”
Blessed are the poor, meek, persecuted etc. Here, blessed are those who read, hear and heed what is written in Revelation. John used present tense participles to indicate regular activity; those reading, hearing and heeding the words of Revelation. Not everyone was literate in those days; thus promise of blessing to those who heard. He also added ”heed” which meant to guard, observe, watch over, preserve, hold fast. John indicates that those who regularly read, hear and heed the truths of this book are blessed “because the time is near.”
He is obviously referring to the culmination of God’s redemptive plan. Perhaps the blessing comes from knowing the last chapter while enduring difficult times. It would bring great comfort to those suffering and wondering how it will all play out to know you were on the winning team. I am not sure exactly how this blessing applies practically, but God promises special spiritual benefit to those who expose themselves to Revelation’s truth. The promise is repeated at the end of the book also with a connection to the imminent return of Jesus.
"And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." Revelation 22:7
An opposite promise appears at the end of the book to those who neglect or abuse its message.
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. Revelation 22:18-19
So far, John has referred to this writing as apocalyptic (revelation) as well as prophetic.
C. John identified himself and his audience (readers) 1:4a
In contrast to much of the apocalyptic literature of the time which was written anonymously, John clearly identified himself; lending credibility to the writing. Everyone would have immediately known which John attached his name to the book. God sent His message to His bond-servants in general and to the seven churches in particular. He was to reveal or show it to God’s servants.
And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true"; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. Revelation 22:6
What Daniel was told to seal up (Dan 12:4), John was commanded to reveal.
And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Revelation 22:10
Jesus instructed Him to write specifically to the 7 churches in Asia.
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: 1:4
John intended this writing to be circulated among seven churches in Asia Minor and passed on to all bond-servants of Christ everywhere in every age. The order listed in his letter is most likely geographical. Ephesus would be the first city you would come to from the island.
The rest all aligned in a semicircle or loop back to the coast. We will unwrap the specifics related to these churches when we explore Jesus’ particular message to each one in chapters 2 and 3.
D. John prayed for an outpouring of grace and peace on us 1:4b-6
Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
This part of the book takes on the feel of an epistle or letter. It is equivalent to the address on an envelope. John sets the tone for the letter by indicating God’s desire to pour out His grace and peace. The letter will reveal some pretty gruesome events. John reveals a rather disconcerting side of the Godhead. From the beginning, John wants them to know the heart of God longs to pour out grace and peace on His bond-servants. What a comfort to rest in the grace and peace flowing from all three persons of the Trinity. Grace and peace was a common blessing and greeting expressed by the writers of Scripture. Sometimes the writers add the term mercy.
“Grace” = favor, blessing, power, ability and strengthening all apart from personal merit.
“Peace” = prosperity, rest, quietness, tranquility, inner confidence, security, harmony.
This is God’s desire for all of us. It comes from Him. Only He can bring ultimate grace and peace. He wants us to be energized and confident as result of our connection to Him. John informs them that this blessing flows from the whole the Trinity. He calls our attention to each one.
From the Father
“Him who is and who was and who is to come”
Here John focused on the eternal nature of God – the “I AM”! The verbs should all be seen together to form a noun emphasizing the eternal nature of the Father. This same designation appears in verse 8 and is the focus of the heavenly perpetual praise team in chapter 4.
And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME." Revelation 4:8
From the Spirit
and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne
This is a most curious reference to the Holy Spirit found three more times in the book.
"To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ’I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1
Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; Revelation 4:5
And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. Revelation 5:6
Some interpret this as a reference to angels but angels are never called spirits in Revelation.
Also, angels are never seen as equals to God. The context and it being sandwiched between an obvious reference to the Father and the Son most likely refers to the Holy Spirit. One commentator explains it this way…
The number seven signifies the fullness of the Holy Spirit in his person and work as exemplified in the prophecy of Zechariah 4:2, 6. In the Holy Place of the temple, Zechariah sees a golden lampstand with seven lights each having seven spouts and wicks (v. 2). The abundance of oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit at work, as is evident from God’s declaration, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (v. 6). God rules this earth not by an earthly power but by his Spirit. In short, John relies on Zechariah’s prophecy when he writes the greeting in his Apocalypse. (New Testament Commentary by Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen)
Here the Holy Spirit is seen as the one whose fullness and completeness operates in every church. His presence completely fills the church. “He fills all in all”
From the Son
and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
John gives Jesus three designations.
Jesus was always God’s faithful witness. He always spoke from God.
"For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. John 3:34
"I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world." John 8:26
He bore a faithful testimony.
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 1 Timothy 6:13
He was a reliable, complete, trustworthy witness bearing witness of the whole truth of God.
“firstborn of the dead”
Jesus became the first of a restored immortal race of people.
“Ruler of the kings of the earth”
What Satan offered without the cross, which would have resulted in a mortal race of people slated for eternal judgment, because of the cross, Jesus received from His Father as an immortal kingdom of immortal citizens transformed into His own likeness.
The only true source of grace and peace flows from the Trinity who is eternal, and empowers the church and whose truth and life communicates to His creatures and directs the people and events of this world.
E. John offered a grand doxology of gratitude and praise to Jesus
John launched into a brief doxology of gratitude and praise. He expressed his passion that Jesus receives all the credit. He expressed his passion to see Jesus dominate the universe for eternity.
To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:4-6
John’s passion to see all glory and dominion be His, rose from his contemplation of what Jesus did for us. John spoke for the church.
• Jesus “loves” us – present tense.
• Jesus “released” us from our sins at great cost to himself.
• Jesus formed us into a unified community; a kingdom. (Provided a new sense of belonging)
Later we see what a glorious thing it is to be a citizen of God’s kingdom. Jesus made us priests to His God and Father. (Worshipers, those who lead other in worship)
This blessing appears again as the subject of the elders and living creatures song in chapter 5.
"You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." Revelation 5:10
Peter felt the same wonder.
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:9
F. John introduced his theme – Jesus is coming!
BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. 1:7
BEHOLD! Look, pay attention, take note, keep an eye out. Jesus is coming! He is about to break back into History! He comes! The imminent or soon return of Jesus appears all throughout the book.
“Time is near”
“Soon take place” 22:6,7,10,12,20
He means that when it comes time for His coming it will unfold quickly.
John added some other descriptive facts about His return.
1. He will come with the clouds. (Visible promised return.)
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." Acts 1:9-11
2. His return will be physically seen by everyone everywhere.
Those who mistreated Him will see Him (Jews repentant reception).
"I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10
All the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. (Fearful Gentile reception)
"And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. Matthew 24:30
John affirmed the certainly of this event by a double affirmation.
“So it is to be!” (Greek)
“Amen!” (Hebrew for let it be so)
How do we know it will really happen? God Himself decreed it will happen!
The Lord – God – Alpha – Omega – Eternal - Almighty
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Rev 1:8
He is the eternal God demonstrating His involvement in the plan form beginning to end.
He is the all powerful God orchestrating History to His desired ends.
CONCLUSION – APPLICATION
This is God’s revelation.
God is the author of history and writes the last chapter.
Jesus is coming.
He want to bless us.
He offers His grace and peace.
He promises His blessing.
Be a devoted worshiper and leader of worship.
Be a faithful citizen of His immortal unshakable kingdom.
Look for His coming.
Read, listen and heed the words of this book.