Revelation – Revealing Christ to Christians – 1
1 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, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 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.
Greeting to the Seven Churches
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
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An apocalyptic event from history (September 11, 2001, or Pompeii).
The city of Pompeii is famous because it was destroyed in 79 CE when a nearby volcano, Mount Vesuvius, erupted, covering it in at least 19 feet of ash and other volcanic debris. The city’s quick burial preserved it for centuries before its ruins were discovered in the late 16th century.
What if you knew of the event one day before? What would you do? We should think of Revelation in this way. In movies where you have an apocalyptic event happen, they kinda allude to this. There’s always that old disheveled homeless-looking dude that is grungy and has a long beard who is holding a big cardboard sign, and what does the sign always have on it? Something like, “THE END IS NEAR.” I guess that’s how the world sees Christians, as some caricature. It’s probably because, if we’re honest, they don’t see actual Christians doing it. Proclaiming the end is near. Telling people they need to repent and believe. They know what Christians believe about this and how they should react, but we so often don’t act consistent with what we believe. We should view the book of Revelation and our response to it in the same manner as the homeless-looking dude on the street a day before Pompeii is covered with ash. What will help us get to this point is in realizing why this book of Revelation matters.
Why Revelation matters: It reveals. It reveals Christ. It reveals the way things are and will be.
We love when things are revealed. We don’t like things to be hidden…unless they are bad. Revealing can be good and it can be difficult. Two renovation shows that highlighted how celebratory revealing can be is Extreme Home Makeover and Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Fixer Upper. After the renovation in Extreme Home Makeover, a big bus would be in front of the house, obstructing your view of the renovations. Everyone would yell, “Move that bus!” Then the homeowners and viewers would get to see the house as it is now. It’s the same with Fixer Upper. They would have a huge picture of the old house obstructing your view, then they would wheel it apart, revealing the renovation. And what is always the response from the homeowner. They lady almost always immediately starts crying because she is overwhelmed with what she sees. This is how the revealing of Christ in Revelation should be for us. The curtain is being pulled back and we are seeing things as they are. Jesus is the only one worthy. And as John sees this, he can’t help but weep. And neither can we.
On the other hand, there are some things we don’t want revealed. Why do girls wear makeup? Why do they put on concealer? Why is it called concealer? Because they are covering up things they don’t want revealed. What they consider blemishes. What would happen if all of a sudden we could listen to each thought you had today? Would that thrill you? What would you do if we yelled, “Move that bus!” and a large screen tv that plays all of your secrets started playing? The same thing as those homeowners…you would start crying. But not in the good way.
Revealing is glorious and difficult. We will see both in this letter. We will see the glory of Christ and the reality of our blemishes. But it will all lead us to glory in the God of our salvation.
So, we see a little about why Revelation matters. But what exactly is Revelation? Is it some horror book added onto the Bible?
What Revelation is: Apocalypse, Prophecy, Epistle
We see in verse 1, this is an apocalypse. The word revelation is the Greek word apokalypsis. This suggests it belongs to the genre of ancient Jewish and Christian literature or apocalyptic writings. When you hear the word apocalypse, what comes to mind? (end of the world…fire and brimstone…some world-shattering event…a new dystopian way of living) What we get from John’s isn’t just a transporting vision to the final outcome of earth. The effect of John’s visions “is to expand his readers’ world, both spatially (into heaven) and temporally (into the eschatological future)…It is not that the here-and-now are left behind in an escape into heaven or the eschatological future, but that the here-and-now look quite different when they are opened to transcendence.” When you realize who God is…what He has done, is doing, and will do, it changes your perspective on everything. We have such a small view of God and near-sighted view of history and eternity. The apocalyptic component of Revelation gives us a HUGE view of God in his grandeur, his holiness, his judgment, and his glory. And that is meant to change our perspective here-and-now.
One commentator says that apocalypses have two purposes: (1) “to encourage and comfort believers” in their suffering and (2) to “challenge believers to adopt a new perspective on reality” in light of the end. Another adds that “in Revelation the readers are exhorted to remain faithful to God and Christ, to endure until the final day not by capitulating [giving in] to the pressures imposed on them from the world.” We need this. Especially in today’s age when the world is pressing in harder than seemingly ever before and with such loud voices. This apocalyptic vision is meant to strengthen us in the struggle and to help us endure the fight.
We see in verse 3, this is a prophecy. Revelation tells us what is to take place in the future. If you could know the future, would you? Would you pick that superpower if you were given the chance? I’m not totally sure I would. Maybe I would live in fear and dread some horrible thing on the horizon that is going to happen. But on the other hand, it might cause me to live more fully. To appreciate each moment more. To make the most of every opportunity. We are told how things are to end. Jesus is victorious. Satan loses. Forever. That gives me so much hope amidst the battle right now! Knowing what is to take place, no matter how devastating and how glorious, should cause us to live each moment to its fullest. If you knew you were about to have a last few moments with somebody, wouldn’t you make it count? Part of this component of Revelation being a prophecy is that we should live this way, as we can see from verse three, “for the time is near.” This phrase “must quickly” or will soon “take place” occurs seven times in Revelation and emphasizes that it could happen at any moment. Revelation isn’t the only place this is mentioned, but several times in the New Testament, we are told the same thing. “Hebrews 1:2 teaches we are now in ‘these last days.’ James 5:9 tells us, ‘The judge stands at the door.’ First John 2:18 affirms, ‘It is the last hour.’” So, Christ could come at any moment. The events of Revelation could happen at any second. This is the nature of this prophecy.
We see in verse 4, this is an epistle (a letter). Hear what one commentator says about this: “The churches appear to be named in the order in which a letter carrier would have gone from one church to another, starting from Ephesus. This book is a circular letter addressed to Christians in churches. That means it was written to encourage Christians. The whole book was probably intended to be read aloud, in one sitting, in a worship gathering of the local church. In writing to seven churches, seven being a number of completion and wholeness, John writes to all the churches.” Another commentator says, “We shall observe quite often in this book the symbolic significance which attaches to numbers in Revelation. Seven is the number of completeness. By addressing seven churches John indicates that his message is addressed to specific churches as representative of all the churches.” So what this means is this is also a letter written to you. For us to read aloud together. To be encouraged and to live for God in the short time we have left. We have to seek to understand the imagery and the intended meaning behind certain components to be able to apply it correctly to our present church age, but it is written for us to read and study together.
So, Revelation “seems to be an apocalyptic prophecy in the form of a circular letter to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia.” Ok, we have seen why Revelation matters and what it is. Now, I want to tell you how we are to read and understand Revelation.
First, you should try to read it as they would have understood it. This is part of the aspect in understanding that it is a letter that was intended to be read aloud in real churches. So, we should read it and seek to understand it within the context they would have understood it.
Also, we should remember that this is also prophecy. Many prophecies in the Bible often had two fulfillments (an immediate and a future fulfillment). Many of the prophecies we study at Christmas time about Jesus are this way. Take for example the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 about Immanuel. It had an immediate fulfillment at the time of Isaiah of a child to be a sign to Ahaz, but it had greater fulfillment when Jesus was born in Matthew 1:23. As we seek to understand how they would have read it, it may give us insight to understand it as we should. There could even be some past fulfillments of the prophecies found in Revelation, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still greater fulfillments to be had of those same prophecies in the future.
As with all prophecy, and really everything, we should major on the majors and minor on the minors. As certain as we like to be, we need to admit that we are not certain. And if anyone says they are certain about some specific aspect of end times prophecy, you should immediately be uncertain about their certainty. We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. We don’t know if any or which historical position of end times theology is correct or most accurate. We can’t know what each symbol means with complete certainty. We can and should seek to come to reasonable conclusions and convictions, but we should hold them with loose hands.
Here’s why I think this. The Jews had the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. They studied them diligently and were eagerly awaiting His arrival. Yet, they missed it. He came as a humble baby born to die rather than a conquering earthly king like David. He didn’t come as they expected though He perfectly fulfilled every prophecy in the Old Testament. Who are we to think we are any different? We have the scriptures, and we are eagerly awaiting His second coming. There is much uncertainty, but we can be certain about two things, and that’s how we are going to view this whole study.
We can be certain that Jesus is coming back again, and we should be found ready.
Are you ready? Are you ready to study this book? To have Jesus revealed? And heaven revealed? And your sin revealed? And the glory of God revealed?
Are you ready for Him to come back again? What if it’s tomorrow?
 This introduction is inspired by the introduction to the following commentary. James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 17.
 Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, New Testament Theology (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 7-8.
 Brian J. Tabb, All Things New: Revelation as Canonical Capstone (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019), 5.
 Thomas R. Schreiner, The Joy of Hearing: A Theology of the Book of Revelation, New Testament Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021).
 Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 5.
 See also, Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 12. He states, “They are probably named in the order in which they would be visited by a messenger starting from Patmos and travelling on a circular route around the province of Asia. But many misreadings of Revelation, especially those which assume that much of the book was not addressed to its first-century readers and could only be understood by later generations, have resulted from neglecting the fact that it is a letter.”
 James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 20-1.
 Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 16.
 Thomas R. Schreiner, The Joy of Hearing: A Theology of the Book of Revelation, New Testament Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 26.
 Schreiner, The Joy of Hearing, 22-3.