THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST

Introduction and Salutation 1:1-8
-Introduction 1:1-3

Welcome to the beginning of our verse-by-verse exposition of the matchless Book of Revelation. We will add to this commentary day by day so that you can gradually learn how this last great book of the Bible relates to the rest of God's Word, and opens our minds to our present world situation and the glories of the world to come. We use the New King James Version unless otherwise noted. Please come back regularly for the next installment. Of course if you miss some of it you will be able to go back and catch up.

The first few verses are an introduction to this greatest of all prophetic books.

Revelation 1:1-2

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants-things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.

The first three words of this book in the original Greek language express the purpose of the entire work. The first word is "Revelation." It is also translated as "Apocalypse" (Gr. apokalupsis - disclosure, unveiling) which indicates that the information the book contains is meant to reveal truth, not conceal it. In other words, it is knowledge that can and should be understood.

One of the chief excuses people give for not studying this intriguing book is that it is too difficult to understand. Some people think that its meaning is hidden from them; that the frequent use of symbolism conceals the truth; that it is a waste of time to try to analyze these prophecies. If that were true, why would God give us this detailed information? And why would He call it a "revelation," an unveiling of truth?

When I was a boy I witnessed an important event in Idaho Springs, Colorado, the little mountain town where I grew up. It was the day of the unveiling of a statue in the town square. The image had been set up at night and was covered with a huge cloth. We had been waiting for this big event for months. Finally, the day arrived, and most of the people of the town were there for the occasion. There were speeches, musical performances, and a carnival atmosphere as we all waited for the big moment to arrive. Finally the time came, and with great fanfare, the cloth was slowly pulled away from the statue. There it stood in all its glory; and we all went wild with our applause. At last we could see with our own eyes every detail of this valuable sculpture!

The "Apocalypse" is like the unveiling of that statue, but infinitely better. It is the revelation of God's plan to bring the Earth and its inhabitants back into a harmonious state when Jesus Christ will reign over His creation in righteousness.

Because of the trials recorded in the book the word "apocalypse" has taken on an entirely different meaning to many people. It has come to mean "catastrophe," "Armageddon," and "The end of the world." The book does predict dreadful events. Including wars, plagues, earthquakes, and asteroid collisions. It warns of an evil world ruler, persecutions, and the "mark of the Beast." But it is NOT the unveiling of all these evil and dreadful things. It is the unveiling of something incredibly wonderful.

The second and third words are "Jesus Christ." The clear implication here is that Jesus Christ is the central subject of the book. Therefore, we should not focus on the Tribulation or Antichrist or the terrible events that are described in these pages. Bad things will happen in the future, but these are preparatory to the glorious coming of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords in chapter 19. This corresponds perfectly to Jesus' own teaching in the Olivet Discourse that the coming trials are like birth pains (Matthew 24:8 NIV). An expectant mother may suffer greatly with hard labor, but when the result is a beautiful baby, she will always say that the labor was worth it.

"Jesus" is our translation of the Greek word Iesous and the Hebrew word Yeshua, or "Joshua." It means "Jehovah saves." That is why Mary was told by the angel Gabriel to name Him Jesus, "Because He will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

"Christ" is the third word. This is the English translation of the Greek word christos, or "anointed one." It is the equivalent of the Hebrew meshiach, or "Messiah. Numerous passages in the Old Testament predicted a Messiah, who would partake of the divine nature and be a deliverer of mankind. He was seen as one who would atone for sin, and would also deliver His people from tyranny and establish His righteous kingdom. We now understand that when Jesus came to Earth as a baby his mission was to pay for our sin. When He comes the second time it will be to establish His kingdom on Earth.

The focus on Jesus Christ is seen throughout the book. Chapter one includes a vision of Jesus in Glory. Chapters two and three are messages from Jesus to His churches, chapters four and five are a heavenly scene with Jesus in view to prepare the reader to know that He is righteous in all the tribulation that will follow. In Chapters nineteen through the end of the book, Jesus is shown to be the coming king.

This revealed knowledge is given from God the Father to His son Jesus. This is in keeping with what He said in John 15:15.

...for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

These things would "shortly" take place. As you read through the New Testament you will notice that the writers expected Jesus to return at any time. In every age Christians have looked for His return, just as earlier believers had constantly been looking for the coming of Messiah the first time. Even in the First Century there were cynics who asked "where is the promise of His coming? (2 Peter 3:3-4) Peter answered,

8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. - 2 Peter 3:8-9

One view of prophecy, known as Preterism (from the Latin word praeteritus, meaning "past.") teaches that many prophecies, especially those in the Book of Revelation were fulfilled during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and/or the persecutions of the Roman Empire. Most adherents to this belief are "partial" preterists because they still expect the literal return of Christ and judgment of the dead. "Full" preterists believe that all of Revelation has been fulfilled. They believe the return of Christ and the rest of the book are allegorical.

This view was originated by Roman Catholic writers and later adopted by some Protestants. It is incompatible with a literal approach to Bible study. Their explanations about how the prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled are not at all convincing the way the Old Testament prophecies were in the life of Christ.

An angel (the Greek word angellos means "messenger") entrusted this revelation to John the Beloved, one of Jesus' twelve apostles. There are many angels in the book, but one in particular seems to have been the messenger of these things to John. John himself was very old at this time, probably in his 90's. He was in exile on the island of Patmos because of his faith in Christ. John was the only one of the twelve apostles who, according to tradition, was not put to death for his belief in Jesus. However, the traditions do say that he was thrown into a boiling pot of oil and miraculously survived.

In our next segment we will consider the incredible promise that is given in verse 3 to those who will read (or even hear) the contents of this Book! In the meanwhile, you might want to follow the links on this page to our outline of the book, the Harmony of Revelation Chart, or to further study in the Blue Letter Bible.


Next: Revelation 1:3


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