A BRIEF LOOK AT CHAPTER 1.
What do you know about Jesus? How do you see him? To some he’s just a teacher or healer, or good man, to many just a very nice man, but the Bible says a whole lot more.
“The Revelation of…” It’s a Revelation, an unfolding. It is meant to be understood.
“Of Jesus Christ” – it’s about Jesus. John knew him, but now he gets another powerful revelation, a revelation that Jesus has won! This is where some end times theology falls down as it proclaims a yet cosmic battle in the future, and undermines the cross.
“About what must quickly take place” or as Wuest translates it in his Expanded Translation of the New Testament which seeks to bring out the full meaning of the Greek, “must necessarily come to pass in their entirety shortly” ….. “the time is near,” or “the things which in it have been written and are on record, for the strategic, epochal season is imminent.” This idea of imminence is repeated v. 10, in chapter 2 and 3, and at the end.
“Made it known” (ESV) or more literally “Signified it” (HCSB) that is it was in signs, sign-i-fied. It was meant to be seen, it’s cinematic, and it’s not all that it appears to be! The stars are the angels, the lamps are the churches, the seven heads of the beast are ‘seven mountains’ and ‘seven kings,’ the Lion is the Lamb who is the Son of God, the new Jerusalem is not bricks and mortar but the people of God. This means we cannot take it literally, but must take John’s pictures/symbols as symbolic of something or someone.
Our problem is reading backwards into the text, from a modern day, global, high tech world. The fact is it was for them and they were meant to understand it! The first place to look is Scripture itself which is filled with such images – Revelation has more references to the OT than any other New Testament book. As Dennis Johnson puts it, “Revelation only makes sense in the light of the Old Testament.” At the same time God does not simply cut and paste, so care needs to be exercised.
“Is blessed…” There are seven blessings pronounced throughout the book – what kind of blessing would it have been if these words were totally unrelated to them, for some distant generation?
“Prophecy” is not just about prediction but more frequently as it is the Old Testament a sense of Divine diagnosis, and the needed response/cure.
“To the seven churches in Asia.” This also helps to set the time and the place/context. (also v.10). Seven particular churches, in a particular place, at a particular time in history. Asia Minor was divided into seven postal districts and each of these places was the main town in the district from which information was distributed.
“Grace and peace.” This is a common apostolic greeting emphasizing that our new life is, and was, and always will be, by and dependent on God’s amazing grace, and the need to receive and be living in his ‘peace’ no matter what the circumstances.
“From the One…. and the seven spirits/sevenfold Spirit and Jesus Christ…” reminds us that the God of the Bible is a Trinitarian God – a holy, happy, blessed fellowship of co-equal persons from all eternity to all eternity, One in Three and Three in One, and that having been made in his image is the basis for all our relationships.
“To Him who loves us….” Here we a have a reminder that the gospel is central, as John gets caught up in praise to God for the good news of Jesus Christ – washed, freed, kings and priests!
“Look! …..” draws immediate attention – what is said here has an imminent and a later context, and echoes the word of Jesus in Matthew 24.
“Coming with the clouds” is an O.T. reference to God coming in judgment, and had a present as well as a future reference. It can also be read as, “Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. And all the tribes of the land will mourn over him. This is certain. Amen.” This doesn’t have to mean that literally every eye will see him, but can simply mean it will not be done in a corner, but will be a very public event.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega….” An alphabet speaks of the letters we use to convey knowledge. He is the fount of all knowledge, the beginning and end – it is he who will have the last word.
“Partner in tribulation, kingdom and endurance….” John is suffering, even as they are, but it’s for the sake of the kingdom and requires endurance. Acts 14:22.
“In the Spirit..” a particular and conscious awareness of the Spirit – do we have such experiences? How do we identify them?
“Seven gold lampstands, and seven stars…” the seven churches and their angel or messenger, perhaps leader.
“Among them…” Here were seven suffering churches, and John sees Jesus standing among them. What reassuring words.
“One like the Son of Man…” This harks back to Daniel 7:13,14, “I saw one like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom, so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will now be destroyed.”
Many empires, emperors, kings, rulers have come and gone, but his one will not, he is greater than Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander and any Caesar, or for that matter Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddaffi! John saw him even as Daniel did, and stunned he falls down before him.
John, the Christians and the churches lived in a world where Caesar was lord or king of all the known earth. Look at what he says: “Don’t be afraid! I AM ….”
Notice that HE holds the keys of death and Hades, because he has defeated them. He is the resurrection and the life, and the gates of hell will not prevail! Whatever Rome or the Jewish persecutors, or the devil, would throw at the church He has the last word, because he has already won! And because he has won we may have every confidence in him.
John has an increasing revelation of Jesus Christ, from his first encounter in the Gospels to this one in Revelation. Has your knowledge and experience of Christ grown? Are you open to fresh encounters?