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The Book of Revelation
“Introduction: The Unveiling”
The book of Revelation is primarily a book of prophecy. It foretells those things that are going to come in the End Times. We see vivid word pictures of what it will be like during the seven-year time frame of Tribulation with God’s wrath being poured out on planet earth along with the ultimate defeat of the Satan and the Anti-Christ. We also see heaven and the final state of humanity.
Literally what we see is that the book of Revelation ends with what began in book of Genesis.
When it comes to the book of Revelation, often times we read and study it with the wrong motives. We read it to study prophecy, that is, we want read about the sensational, about the doom and gloom, the death and destruction that is foretold in the book, and then we like to match current events to what we read.
And don’t get me wrong, we’ll see these very things and we’ll look at what they mean in our current political and social economic climate. We’ll see that our world today is on a downward spiral toward natural and economic disaster.
But through it all what we’ll see is that God is ultimately in control. And so the main focus of the book is upon the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
We see this in the first five words; “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” It’s not John’s revelation; rather it’s the revelation of Jesus Christ given to John by God. Further, it’s not the book of Revelations; rather it’s the book of Revelation, that is, one revelation given by God about Jesus Christ and the End Times.
Seeing that it’s the Revelation of Jesus Christ, this means that it’s not only what’s revealed by Christ, like His letters to the seven churches in chapters two and three, but it’s also God’s revelation about Jesus Christ, which is what we’ll see in next week’s description.
And so the main focus of the book isn’t the Apostle John, nor is it the beast, the Anti-Christ, or the false prophet. Nor is the focus about all the stuff that’s going to happen during the time of Tribulation and the Millennium: rather the main focus of the book is Jesus Christ.
And so as we launch out into this powerful study, we need to be looking not so much for the sensational, but rather for the sovereign Lord, and we shouldn’t be looking exclusively at current events, but rather for our coming King of kings, and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.
But there’s something more, and that is while a blessing is received when we read or hear the words of this prophecy, these words must be followed and obeyed. It’s not enough to read what Revelation says; we have to keep what it says.
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3 NKJV)
Prophetic doctrine is only as good as when we connect it with our every day lives, and our responsibilities as Christians. In other words it’s not how excited we get when we read and hear these things, rather it’s how we walk them out once we hear them.
This is also the only book in the Bible that contains this promise of blessing, yet it is probably the least read out of all the books of the Bible.
Read Revelation 1:1-8
The word “revelation” is the Greek word “apokalupsis” meaning “an uncovering,” or “an unveiling.” It’s an unveiling of not only what is to come, “things which must shortly take place,” but also of Jesus Christ, not only as He presently is in heaven, what we’ll look at next week, but of His coming again that’s found at the end of the book.
Also take notice that it says it’s about what is shortly to take place. The word “shortly” means that which happens quickly or suddenly. The idea isn’t that the event will occur soon, which far too many people have believed, even as far back as the early church, but rather that when it does come to pass it will happen quickly or suddenly.
This is how the Apostle Paul described the coming Rapture of the church. It’s found in his first letter to the Thessalonian church.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NKJV)
The word Rapture is the Latin translation for Paul’s Greek word for being caught up, or “harpazo,” which is described later in 1 Thessalonians 15:52 as “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”
Therefore, this event known as the Rapture will happen suddenly. In other words, one minute you’re here, and the next minute you’re in heaven with Jesus. And the same goes for this time of the end described by John. One moment everything is going along as it always has, and then suddenly the time of Tribulation is upon you.
This is a revelation of Jesus Christ given to John through the intermediary of an angel.
We don’t know exactly who the angel is, and while Gabriel and Michael have been mentioned, there’s nothing in the text to indicate it. But what has brought about the most debate is who wrote the book, that is, the servant John.
Some have thought that it’s John the Presbyter, or John the Elder, but this comes from more modern scholarship. Those who were closer to the time of the writing, however, and who quoted Scriptures from the book of Revelation, said it was the Apostle John. These were the early church fathers including Clement of Alexandria, Origin, Tertullian, and Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John.
Further proof is found in the text itself where he uses similar descriptions of Jesus as “The Word” (Revelation 19:13; John 1:1), “the Lamb” (Revelation 5:6-8; John 1:29), and “Witness” (Revelation 1:5; John 5:31-32).
It is surmised that the book of Revelation was written around the year 96 AD when the Apostle John was in his 80’s, or about 65 years after Jesus called him to leave his fishing boat and become a fisher of men.
He’s writing the book while in exile on a small barren island called Patmos located in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Italy and southeast from Ephesus, which was where John pastored. Patmos was like the Alcatraz of that day, that is, it was the place where the roughest criminals would be sent.
The Roman Emperor, Domitian, banished John there for preaching the gospel. First he had John boiled in oil and then left him on Patmos to die. It was there in a cave that John was given the vision while spending time in prayer.
John is therefore bearing witness or giving testimony of everything he heard and saw.
John begins by giving the greeting of grace and peace. Grace being the Greek method of greeting, while peace is the Hebrew form, and from these two words the richness of our faith is revealed
Grace is God’s unmerited favor given to man through the forgiveness He provides through Jesus’ sacrifice, as the Apostle Paul exclaimed that it’s by grace through faith we are saved, and such grace doesn’t come from any human effort, rather it is totally a gift given by God, Ephesians 2:8-9.
And it is from this grace that we can now have peace with God. It’s a peace that only comes through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27 NKJV)
And so grace is our standing in Christ Jesus, and peace is what we experience because of that grace.
Then we are introduced to the Godhead, or what we know today as the Trinity.
John begins with the Father.
“Him who is and who was and who is to come.” (Revelation 4:b NKJV)
In verse 8 we read
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:8 NKJV)
This has brought some confusion, because it is also a description of Jesus.
In Isaiah chapter 48 the Lord is speaking and says,
“Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last. Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand up together.” (Isaiah 48:12-13 NKJV)
Clearly the Lord is speaking, but it’s what He goes on to say that brings out God’s oneness.
“Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me.” (Isaiah 48:16 NKJV)
Further, the Apostle John in his gospel said Jesus not only is the Word, and that He was with God and was God Who was made flesh and dwelt among us, John 1:1-2, 14.
John also said that Jesus was also the Creator; “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:3 NKJV)
But to ally any misgivings that this description applies only to Jesus, let’s look at what Jesus Himself said.
Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, and Jesus said, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NKJV)
But why do I say this is a description of the Father, because if it was of Jesus then what is stated in our next verse is somewhat redundant when it says, “and from Jesus Christ.”
Next we see the Holy Spirit
“And from the seven Spirits who are before His throne.” (Revelation 4c NKJV)
This has perplexed many, but it’s clearly a reference to the Holy Spirit. First the number seven in biblical numerology is the number of God, the number of divinity. There is also the sevenfold work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the coming Messiah as described by the prophet Isaiah.
“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2 NKJV)
It was the Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus after His baptism. John the Baptist bore witness of this saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.” (John 1:32 NKJV) And then it says the Holy Spirit led Jesus.
Finally we see this greeting coming from Jesus Christ
“And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 5a: NKJV)
These three aspects reveal who Jesus is, which is then followed up by Jesus’ present work.
Jesus said to Philip that if they had seen Him then they had seen the Father. In His earthly life Jesus was a faithful witness. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 NKJV)
Also there is when Pilate asked, “Are You a king.”
Jesus responded, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37 NKJV)
This is seen when it says He was the “firstborn from the dead.”
Jesus was the firstborn from the dead. In other places Jesus is called the “firstfruits” of those raised from the dead, and is followed by all those who believe at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:23).
Jesus was indeed the first one who was resurrected with an incorruptible body, which is what we’ll experience at the rapture and then those remaining and who believe at the second coming.
This doesn’t mean, however, that Jesus was the first one born, as the Mormon faith believes, but rather that He is preeminent. This is what the word, “firstborn,” means in the Greek. The word is “prototokos.” It means that which is given preference over, that which is first in order.
It goes on to say that He is ruler over the kings of the earth.
The Psalmist talks about how the kings of this world set themselves against the Lord and His Son, who is called the “anointed,” or the “Messiah.” And then the Lord tells them to bow down to the Messiah so that they don’t perish.
And we see the ending of this when Jesus returns, and upon Him are these words, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:16 NKJV)
After this description of Jesus being the Faithful Witness, Preeminent One, and Ruler over the kings of this earth, we’re introduced to Jesus’ mission. And from this we see several things.
“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” (Revelation 1:5b NKJV)
Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life for us, that is, He shed His blood so that our sins can be forgiven.
The Bible tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, Hebrews 9:22, Leviticus 17:11.
The Apostle John said, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7 NKJV)
And so the first thing Jesus does when we come to belief in Him is that He forgives us of our sins when we confess.
“And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.” (Revelation 1:6a NKJV)
Jesus gave us this as the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations, and to teach them everything that He commanded, Matthew 28:19-20.
The Apostle Peter tells us that this is done through our new identity.
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV)
John ends this section by saying Jesus is not only the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and the One who forgives us and gives us purpose, but that He is coming back.
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.” (Revelation 1:7 NKJV)
But why mourn at such a joyous occasion? Mainly because that which is known to those who witness His coming is that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Messiah, the One in whom their sins are forgiven and the One who then ushers them into heaven, and they missed it.
This is actually brought out by the prophet Zechariah.
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10 NKJV)
Again they mourn because they realize that the Messiah they’ve been praying for already came, and it was no one less than Jesus who was crucified.
As we end our introduction my hope is that you’ll continue through this wonderful book, and since it’s such a hot topic and so many people wonder about it’s meaning, maybe you’ll invite your family and friends to join us.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study