Monday, December 1, 2014

APOKALYPSIS (Revelation Chapter 1)

Revelation 1:1-3, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. 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 that he saw.  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”

The Apostle John had been exiled to the Isle of Patmos, a small rocky island about ten miles long and six miles wide located in the Aegean Sea southwest of Ephesus (Cf. Revelation 1:9).  According to church tradition the aged apostle was sent there by the Emperor Domitian and was forced to labor in the mines until about A.D. 96, when upon Domitian’s death, he was allowed to return to Ephesus.  He had faithfully served His Lord for over half a century.  The disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20), the “Apostle of Love,” was exiled “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).  His fellow Apostles had all previously suffered martyrdom for the same cause.  He, the last remaining of the original twelve, was privileged to receive this “revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1).

The word “revelation” (not “revelations”) translates the Greek apokalypsis which means “a revelation, disclosure, or unveiling.”  The book unveils truths regarding Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ had already revealed Himself to John.  His true identity as the Divine Son of God had been unveiled in His incarnation (Cf. John 1:14-18).  John was a witness to the truth of it (Cf. 1 John 1:1-4).  But Jesus had promised to return, and not in humility but glory (Cf. Acts 1:6-11).  John had faithfully served in anticipation of Jesus’ return.  Though it had not yet taken place, the revelation instructed and assured John--and his fellow servants--in “the things that must soon take place” (Cf. Revelation 1:1).

On that island John received instructions to write of that which he saw “to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatria and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodecia” (Revelation 1:11; Cf. Revelation 1:4).  The message of the entire book was to be sent to the seven churches along with a particular message to each individual church (Cf. Revelation chapters 2-3).  The seven churches were all located on one main highway in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey).  They faced representative challenges that would be the experience of individuals and churches throughout the church age.  The message, regarding Christ’s ultimate triumph, has relevance to all.  The promised blessing of verse 3 is extended to anyone who reads, hears, and keeps the “words of this prophecy” (Revelation 1:3).  The Risen and Exalted Lord stands in “in the midst of the lampstands” (Revelation 1:13; Revelation 1:20, “the seven lampstands are the seven churches”).  He is coming again to reign and rule.

John was instructed to write of “the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this” (Revelation 1:19).  “The things that you have seen” refer to the vision received of John of the glorious and exalted Christ (Cf. Revelation 1:12-18).  The things “that are” include chapters 2 and 3 and the seven messages to the seven churches.  The third division, “those that are to take place after this,” includes the remainder of the book and the future events (still future to us) that relate to Jesus’ return (i.e. “the words of this prophecy”; Revelation 1:3). Though the book is interpreted according to four different models--preterist (the book refers to first century events); historicist (the book speaks of events from apostolic times to the present); Idealist (a timeless depiction of the ongoing struggle between the forces of good and evil); and futurist (the events of chapters 4-19 speak of events that will unfold during the end times, climaxing with the return of Christ)--we will adhere to the futurist view in our interpretation and comments.  Revelation 1:19 serves as a good outline of the books contents.

The book of Revelation is all about Jesus.  Truths about Him and His ultimate triumph are unveiled to us.  We are not left to wonder about what will come to pass in the future, as such matters are made clear to us in the book.  One should not read the book merely to be fascinated by its contents, but rather to worship the One of whom the book speaks.  A blessing is promised to those who listen, and respond in obedience, to its message (Cf. Revelation 1:3).

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