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. (Rev 1:1)
The Greek word for “revelation,” in Revelation, literally means to uncover or unveil something previously hidden; it can be translated “appearing.” Revelation is an important way we receive knowledge of the divine. For Christians, our faith is founded upon Christ’s revelation in the Scriptures (Lk 24:27; Jn 5:39, 46). So our very gospel of salvation hangs upon divine revelation (Gal 1:11f). Even our hope, in Christ’s future return, is called “revelation,” expressing the idea of Christ’s “appearing” (1 Cor 1:7; 2 Thess 1:7; 1 Pet 1:13).
Despite its importance as a concept, the word “revelation” itself only occurs once in the entire book of Revelation. Revelation 1:1 says “The Revelation of Jesus Christ…”
At the core, biblical revelation has to do with knowing the truth and the source of it. Sadly, many people today prefer the lie over the truth. Satan is the father of lies and a deceiver (Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9). Jesus, in contrast, wants to reveal the truth to us. For He Himself said, “I am…the truth” (Jn 14:6).
To live in a generation where “truth” is whatever we make it out to be, or the exclusive license of the highest bidder, instead of what we need to hear, is a very serious challenge to our faith and society today. This is why the Revelation of Jesus Christ is very important for us today.
Revelation 1:1 says the revelation is from Jesus. This tells us of the need to know the source of our information. Gnosticism, a heresy in the early church, emphasized that it possessed the hidden truth of wisdom and knowledge. A large majority of our news and media is controlled by six private corporations. Do we discern the source of our information? When we go to the store, do we look for the manufacturer? Is it wise to naively believe everything we see on the internet or blindly trust what our college professor told us? Should we believe history happened just like we saw it portrayed on the big screen of Hollywood? Images, like a terrorist attack on 9-11, can deeply impress themselves upon our collective psyche. Once the stage is set, that image turns into a controlling influence on our lives via law and regulation, fears and insecurities, personal beliefs and actions. But if we never discerned the source, we can easily be misled into living the narrative someone else manufactured for us.
Today, we should think about how we get information. Because information affects the way that we think and how we view the world. We may wish it untrue, but we live in world full of deceit and misinformation. The motives may be different, but the effects are upon us all—not only in the physical spaces but also in the mental and spiritual. Today, people have mental pictures of how they should identify, who they should be afraid of, what they should look like, or what success looks like. But how did they get that image? By meditating upon a picture of Jesus? By looking through a money magazine? Or by watching a sitcom of a dysfunctional family? Every day, images upon images flood our minds, from a very early age. What we, as Christians, must realize is that not every image, in our perception of reality, is the truth God wants us to see.
To receive the truth God wants to impart, we must return our vision to the source of all truth—Jesus Christ. We need to return to the One who is called the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; He alone holds the keys to life and death (Rev 1:8, 18). Christ’s revelation is the very reason why reading Revelation can bless us. Because only Jesus can change the image and vision of our lives in the last days. But He can only change our vision if we look to Him for revelation and not elsewhere. So Christ becomes the centerpiece, in revelation, upon which we interpret every other vision.
Notice that Jesus does not directly impart His revealed message; rather, Christ uses His angel. The angel imparts the message to John, and John, in turn, imparts it to us—Jesus’ servants (Rev 1:1). The use of mediators tells us the importance of mediating Christ’s message. Today, each of us, as Christ’s servants, are mediators of Christ’s message to the world (2 Cor 5:20). As the true church of Christ, our primary message is not about ourselves, our personal influence, or our own political vision. It should not be about promoting a particular group or to satisfy our personal pride.
Revelation 1:2 speaks of three items that John bears witness to:
- the word of God;
- the testimony of Jesus; and
- all the things he (John) saw.
These three items have three subjects: God, Jesus, and John. These three subjects correspond to the “True Jesus Church” as follows: God is true (Jn 7:28), Jesus reveals God (Jn 1:18), and John represents the witness of the church (1 Jn 1:3). They’re successive revelations of the ultimate truth. The three items referenced also correspond to three essentials for the true church in the last days:
- the truth of God’s word (Jn 1:14; 17:17; Eph 1:13);
- the Spirit of prophecy or truth (cf. Rev 19:10; Jn 14:17); and
- the signs and wonders of God’s work (Heb 2:4).
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, then, is given so we can prepare for the challenges to the true church before Christ’s return. It also provides comfort that God will judge the world in righteousness at His “appearing” (Rom 2:5).
Revelation 1:1 says the revelation concerns things which must take place “shortly.” The noun “shortly” is found twice (Rev 1:1; 22:6), speaking to how the events revealed by Christ will occur “with speed.” The adverb “shortly” can be found seven times (an important revelatory pattern), often used to describe the “quickness” with which Christ will come.
The emphasis on speed gives us both a sense of urgency and comfort. “Urgency” because we realize that Christ is hastening His coming, and so we ought to prepare and hasten His coming in our hearts (2 Pet 3:11f). Do we earnestly seek the return the Christ, or are we so much in love with the world we can’t be bothered? “Comfort” because we understand that our redemption is near, and so a Christian’s head should not be hung down but lifted up (Lk 21:28).
The Revelation of Jesus Christ is given to each of us. It is our blessing. Revelation records seven blessings. The first is found in Revelation 1:3, and the last in Revelation 22:4.
Revelation 1:3 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 records three actions: reading, hearing, and keeping. Upon close examination, we notice that the verse begins with the singular for “reading” but progresses to the plural for “hearing” and “keeping.” The teaching is that we should first, personally, read the message of Revelation to receive what God wants to reveal to us (Acts 8:30; Eph 3:4). Yet, in Scripture, reading was often done publicly, out loud, and for teaching (Lk 4:16; Acts 13:27; Col 4:16). When we realize this, we can begin to understand the importance of “reading” Revelation outside our private devotions. Revelation was meant for public reading and sharing among God’s servants. In this context we can better understand why only one person would read while many others would hear and keep what they received.
Reading should be with understanding. Hearing must be done with an open heart to receive. But both are fruitless apart from actually keeping the teaching. So we must guard and preserve the message of Revelation in our hearts. In this way, we can receive the blessings that Christ has in store for us in the reading/sharing, hearing, and keeping of the message found in Revelation. May the Lord continue to guide each of us in this endeavor within the church. Amen.