Summary: A small introduction to the Apocalypse of St. John and a verse by verse exposition of the first Chapter of the book.
A few years ago a friend asked me what I thought was the most important book of the Bible for our own day and age. My answer to him was a resounding, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is because, I believe, we are getting nearer and nearer to its literal fulfillment every day. (This is the one great portion of scripture that deals chiefly with the prophetic future.) The subject of this writing is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the title indicates. In it we are given the most brilliant picture of our glorified Saviour in Chapter 1. But, throughout the book, we find Him revealed some 28 times, as “the Lamb (who had been slain).” This is an expression exclusive to John the apostle in his gospel. Thus, without any doubt or argument, he is the writer and “the Revelator” of this powerful prophecy. This truth of Jesus as “the Lamb of God” became very real to me a number of years ago, when my wife bought me a lamb-skinned coat. It became symbolic to me of my covering and protection. (What a beautiful example of how Jesus saved me by His blood, and how He protects me from anything the world, the devil, or the flesh can throw at me.) As we begin in Chapter 1, verse 1, I am reminded of this fitting verse which Peter the apostle wrote, in his first epistle: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13).
The Revelation of Jesus Christ- The meaning of the word revelation is “revealing, uncovering, unveiling, laying bare, making naked” [Gr. APOKALUPSIS]. It is of something that has been hidden from view, which has now been opened to our understanding, such as a mystery or secret not perceived by the human senses. It is of a person, “the Man, Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5), who comes into view and is now revealed to us here in this book, as He was truly meant to be, and as He now stands: “The faithful witness” (vs. 5), “He (who) cometh with clouds” (vs. 7), “The Son of God” (2:18), “A lamb as though it had been slain” (5:5), “Another mighty angel” (10:1), “The Word of God” (19:14), and “The Lord God Almighty” (21:22). It is a writing penned by a man, John, the evangelist, about a Man, who is also the One, true living God revealed to all of mankind and to His creation.
Which God gave unto him- This revelation is given to Jesus, the Son, by God, the Father, and came forth out of His Holy Spirit. This is a deep truth of scripture: that the Lord would be revealed to us as the triune (three-in-one) God. Jesus said this to the religious Pharisees of His day: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God” (John 8:42). He also said these words to His disciples about the Spirit of God, who would be sent to His followers after His death, resurrection and departure from them: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from My Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). This is what takes place throughout this writing. Kind of like a court scene, with the Father sitting as judge, the Son standing as the defense lawyer, and the Spirit taking the witness stand, and reporting all that he has heard and seen. They will present a solid and indisputable case in the final Judgment.
To shew unto his servants- It is interesting that the word shew [Gr. DEIKNUO] has the meaning “to expose to the eyes,” as “to give evidence, or proof of a thing.” The disciples truly did testify of the Son to their fellow man, not just in the words they said, but also with their very lives. John said this in his first epistle about Jesus, “who came in the flesh” (See I John 4:2, 3): “We have heard (him)… have seen (him)… we have looked upon (him)… and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life” (I John 1:1). Peter said these words about his encounter with the Christ: “(We) were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (II Peter 1:16). These men were given the opportunity and awesome responsibility of giving forth the gospel, which is “the Good News.” They paid dearly for their witness to the world. They left behind all that they had, for a righteous, heavenly Kingdom, which has no end.
Things which must shortly come to pass- This speaks of the fact that when these things begin to take place, they will come about in rapid succession. The word shortly means “speedy.” We get our word tachometer from it. Thus, when these things that are revealed in this writing of John’s, begins to come to pass, they will come about speedily, and accelerate faster and faster. It will be as when Jesus said this, to His disciples: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption [our complete and ultimate salvation, when we go to be with Him] draws near” (Luke 21:27). He was talking to them about what conditions would be like at the time of His second coming. Know that this prophecy will come to pass, just as numerous others already have. If the various verses (of which there are many we could cite here) concerning Jesus’ first coming have precisely come to pass, know of a certain that those of His second coming will also truly be fulfilled, as we will see in this writing.