What does Revelation 1: 1-8 mean to me and you?

Our call is to be blessed so the character qualities we receive from the Spirit come from the inward love we have for our Lord and we will desire to spill them upon others around us (Psalm 1).

John begins His book by reminding his readers of whom and what Christ is, His supremacy, and His role of Redeemer and Judge. He then gives us a glimpse of end-time events. We must never forget who we are in Christ. If we do, we will quickly fall to pride and apostasy, buying lies and living in our depravity. God is beyond time and space, and beyond our comprehension other that what He has clearly revealed to us. He has a plan; let’s face Him, not our fears or our doubts or other’s misgivings. Let us swim in His living waters (Jer. 2:13; 17:13; John 4:10-11; 7:38; Rev. 7:17). God may seem to be slow, taking His time, but He does this for good reason. Life is about learning and growing, about becoming faithful, infused with His Spirit, spiritually responsible and character-driven. It is not about how we feel or what we want.

Questions to Ponder:

1. One of the main themes of Revelation is the call for us to stand firm and grow further in our faith. Does this surprise you? What did you expect to find from Revelation?

2. Why do you suppose most people see Revelation as an ominous apocalypse of chaos and catastrophe? How do you see it?

3. What is your take on the word and theme of soon? Does it mean the sudden nature of the Christian era and the unexpected return of Christ, or is it a time reference? This has been the crux of the debate for theologians since the 1840’s. How would this affect how you view Revelation?

4. Most people see Revelation as only about future events. What does it mean to you that it is actually more about how we should conduct ourselves in times of distress and the strength of faith to endure and learn from those times?

5. What needs to take place to better connect your relationship with Christ more firmly? How would this help you receive hope and encouragement?

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Exegetical look into Revelation 1: 4-8

John is proclaiming an important fact we must all agree upon, that God is Sovereign and in control! He gave us grace that we did not deserve and a precious plan that will unfold. We have hope both now and in the future.

Grace and peace is an ancient greeting, as John sends his blessings.

· Seven churches. The principle theme is the seven churches which all were real, actual churches in Asia Minor with real, actual problems. These are not allegories; rather, they are relevant to your church now and symbolize the various ages of the Church in history and also represent how each individual church is, through all times and places, in its operation and faith (Phil. 2:15; Matt. 5:14-16; Rev. 1:1-3; 2:1-3:22; 22:7-21).

· Him who is, and who was, and who is to come. The Lord’s Supremacy echoes the words of God given to Moses in the burning bush. This is a Divine Name of Christ meaning Eternal Deity and Authority (Ex. 3:14-16).

· Seven spirits. The word, seven, means its importance is compounded. This is a name for the Holy Spirit referring to His Fullness, not a split personality. Some believe this is referring to the seven celestial beings (Rev. 8:2). However, context and word meaning attest of the Holy Spirit and His various roles as Counselor, bearer of Wisdom, Fruit… (Isa. 11:2) etc., just as this passage gives several titles for Christ. It also testifies to the profundity (depth and reality) of the Trinity (Zech. 4:2-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:1-2; Rev. 4:5; 5:14).

· Faithful witness, the firstborn… ruler means reliable. It sets Jesus as Divine and Lord over all the living and the dead. This also refers to the roles of Christ in His Church. As He is faithful to us, we are called to be faithful to Him, too (Psalm 2:7; 89:27; Prov. 14:5, 25; Isa. 8:2; Acts 13:33; Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:15-18; 1 Tim. 6:13; Rev. 2:10-13; 3:14).

· Him be glory…To him. Christ is the quintessential subject and prominent theme of Revelation. This is a doxology of praise, used to wholeheartedly worship and praise Christ as exalted and worthy because of His Sovereignty and the redemption He gives us. Praise is also our frontline weapon against spiritual warfare (Rev. 4:8, 11; 5:9-14; 7:12; 11:15-17; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 19:1-8).

· Kingdom and priests in the O.T. meant that all God’s people were holy to Him. Under law, there were specific roles in the priesthood that people were called and ordained to fill. Priests were to be bridges from God to man. Now, through Christ, we have direct, intimate access to Him, and in the future, each of us will reign with Him. Each of us is a royal priest as a representative of Christ (doctrine of the priesthood of all believers) on earth, and as ministers, we model His character and thus have no need for a Temple. God’s Kingdom is now; those who say the Temple must be reconstructed before Christ returns do not get this vital point (Ex. 19:1-6; 20:6; Lev. 10:10-11; Isa. 66:20; Matt. 21:43; 28:19-20; Rom. 15:16; 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 2:1-10; Heb. 7; 10:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:1-10; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:9-10; 20:4-6).

· He is coming is one of the main themes of this epistle, the announcement that Christ is coming back. This is comfort for the suffering Christians and chastisement for those who are evil and reject Him (Deut. 33:2; Isa. 19:1; Zech. 1:16; Mal. 3:1-2; Matt. 10:23; Rev. 2:5; 3:20).

· The clouds means a spectacular event, such as numbers of angels testifying to God’s glory. It could also mean an extraordinary storm of clouds. This also means judgment (Ezek. 30:3; Dan. 7:13; Zech. 12:10; Matt. 16:28; 24:30, 34; 26:64).

· Peoples of the earth. This means Jesus loves us and has washed our sins away from God’s presence. Not just the Israelites, but also all people in Him are those elected ones and have courage, comfort, and faith in Christ. He rules over all (Prov. 21:1; Dan. 2:21; 4:17; Zech. 12:12).

· Mourn points to the distress of Christ’s Second Coming. Those who refuse Him will be judged. The realization will come that our will is not in control and our desires and sin have gotten us a raw deal. What comfort to those in persecution at the hands of such people to know that they will get what is coming (Zech. 12:10)!

· I am refers to God the Father testifying that the Son, Christ, is God (Heb. 13:8).

· Alpha and the Omega means God is eternal and rules over all places and time. He is omnipotent, all-powerful. Referring to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet meaning His Sovereignty, Christ is all in all; He is LORD of all that is past, present, and is to come. His will and purpose will come true, and ours will not; so, to grow, we must surrender to Him (Isa. 41:4; 44:6; Rom. 8:18-25; Gal. 2:20-21; Rev. 22:12-16).

· Who is to come. Christ is coming and all will consummate His will and purpose. Justice and His Kingdom will be fulfilled, and every knee will bow (Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10; Rev. 21:1-22:5)!

Exegetical look into Revelation 1: 1-3

What does Revelation mean?

Another key word is what does soon mean? This will affect how we look at this passage!

· The word, Revelation, is from the Greek title word “apokalypsis.” This means “discourser of events,” as opposed to secret or hidden. Thus, even though Revelation is symbolic in places, it is not hidden to us when we take an honest look and compare it to other Scriptures rather than trends or newspapers. It also means an uncovering, an unveiling or, as we have it in the English, a Revelation. The other title that has been used is “The Apocalypse.” Thus, Revelation is a book of disclosure of John’s seven visions and God’s exhortations; hence, this is why sometimes it is rendered in the plural, Revelations (Judges 6:11-23; Dan. 7:16; 10:5-21).

· Him…John was John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee (Matt. 10:2), a prophetic witness and disciple of Jesus, and the writer of the Gospel of John (John 1:1; Rev. 1:1, 3-4, 9; 22:6-10, 18-19). He was exiled to the Island of Patmos around 95 A.D. during the writing of this Epistle (Matt. 20: 20-23; John 21:24; Acts 12:1-2).

· Show is the hope in the midst of the reality of life and suffering. Being in Christ is eternal security, but dangerous in the world in which we live; we may experience martyrdom (Rev. 12:11).

· His servants suggests that there is no special elite class in the Kingdom of God. We all are His servants; we are all special and anointed to serve.

· Soon/swift/shortly (Greek “Tachos”) means quickness and speed. The events that will happen suddenly and unexpectedly (Matt 24:32; 2 Pet. 3:8-18) refer to God’s divine providence and the final phase. The time of waiting is over, for Christ is here. The time is near for God who lives outside of space and time, but not necessarily near for us. This is similar to the last days, referring in context to the sudden nature of the Christian era, not necessarily a time reference (2 Pet. 3:3). Many Christians took this to mean that it would happen soon. We need to understand God’s perspective, not our desires. This word is critical to which approach and view of Revelation one takes. If we take this word as it is in English and do not pay attention to the Greek or the context, we will jump to the conclusion of immediate fulfillment. This also suggests that we will see spiritual warfare. Our battle with Satan is real and will engage us in conflict and strife with one another until the end of the age (Acts 2:16-17; 1 John 2:18; Rev. 22:6-12, 20).

· Testifies/witness are legal terms. In contrast to the early Christians who were being betrayed and prosecuted in courts by false witnesses and fake evidences, nothing is fake in Christ. He is our hope and light (Isa. 43:8-12; 44:8-9).

· The testimony of Jesus Christ indicates that even though an Angel delivered this message to John, Jesus is the principle and prime Witness we look to so we can have strength of faith and perseverance, and so our testimony is strengthened (Rev. 3:14; 19:10-11; 22:6, 16-20).

· Blessed. Those who are faithful in Christ will receive the good will of God as blessings from Christ; those who reject Him will be judged. Being blessed also refers to the emotional states of satisfaction, well-being, and contentment that result from being approved by God and by the fulfilling of our duty. It is enjoying God’s special favor and His Grace working in us. It is like being told by parents that they are proud of us (Matt. 5:1-12; Rev. 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7-14). This is a book more of blessings than of just predictions, as there are also seven beatitudes in Revelation (Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14).

· Prophecy points toward Revelation, which contains visions of future events meant to help us fortify our faith and remain faithful (Isa. 1:1; Jer. 1:1; Hosea 1:1; Rev. 19:10; 22:7-19).

· Take to heart/keep. The purpose of this epistle is to strengthen our spiritual formation, not to seek melodramatic theories or sensationalistic ideas.

· The time is near. God is ushering in the last days and revealing to us His previously hidden agenda and plans. The concern is not just for future events, but also how we conduct ourselves in them. Whatever unfolds is irrelevant if we do not have the strength of faith to endure and learn from it (Heb. 1:1-2; Rev. 22:10).

Revelation 1: 1-8

“Greetings to the Seven Churches!”

Introduction

This Epistle opens with Christ testifying to the visions of God given to John the Apostle through an angel of what is going to happen to the Church. The purpose was not for information for John or encouragement for his captivity and isolation; rather, it was meant to be shared with the rest of the Christian community. Its purpose is to bless and encourage us so we can stand firm and grow further in our faith. What has been revealed will happen to us personally and in a future culmination. This book has meaning and application for all who read it as well as a glimpse of a hope to come.

This letter is primarily targeted to seven, actual churches in Asia Minor, which is now modern Turkey. John is proclaiming the Divine Authority, Sovereignty, and Lordship of Christ as well as the important relevance of Christ in us, so that we can have peace and anticipation in Him. Christ is Lord.

This is reality for us, both now and when He comes back for us. Even when all seems lost and hopeless, He is in command and His plan is in commission. Although it is John who pens the words of this book of Revelation and an angel delivers it, it is witnessed to as truth by Christ Himself who is faithful to us. We are exhorted to praise and worship Him Who is worthy of our praise because He has freed us from our sins and separation from God by the shedding of His own blood. He has made us a home, a kingdom, and a dwelling for eternity.

Now, the theme switches to the magnificent glory to come as we are given a glimpse of the coming of our Lord that all will see. It will be the ultimate of shock and awe. Christ is proclaimed as the All in All of all things, the Beginning and the End, the Almighty One!

Context

Revelation has often been identified as an ominous apocalypse of chaos and catastrophe. But, this is not necessarily the point. Revelation opens with an elaborate greeting so we can more firmly connect our relationship with Christ and receive hope and encouragement. John calls us to the privilege and necessity of reading and hearing His Word (most people could not read and needed it to be read to them), because the authority is Christ Himself.

The Church was undergoing the beginnings of more severe persecution than what they initially went through in James’ and Peter’s time when the Roman Emperor Nero was blaming the Christians for the burning of Rome (which he had caused), making them the scapegoat (54-68 AD). And/or (depending on date; see previous posts on the date) at this time or a time soon to come, the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) had stepped up the persecutions. They were harsh, perhaps the worst ever endured in church history. Perhaps this letter is also preparing them for the road ahead (Rev. 1:9; 2:9-13; 13:7-10).

Research insights into the Date of Revelation, Part VI

Did the Early Church Fathers give credence?

Some of the other Early Church Fathers give credence to a late date. Jerome, Sulpicius Severus, and Hippolytus all thought that John was exiled to Patmos under Domitian, where he saw the visions and wrote the Apocalypse. Another was Clement of Alexandria, who was an “Ante Nicene Father.” In his work, “Who is the rich man that shall be saved? XLII,” he gives credence to a late date too. So say many Futurist scholars. But, when the text is examined,

the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit…

The key is how you translate the phrase the tyrant’s death, because it could be Domitian as this theory argues, but it could be someone else like Nero. Jerome also stated in his Book of Illustrious Men that during the final reign of Domitian, he instigated the biggest persecution of all, even greater than Nero’s. Therefore, this sets up the situation for Revelation. However, these statements can easily be cross-examined and refuted because of contextual issues similar to the Irenaeus refute. Thus, these late date theories may come out of interpretative errors by their scholars, from reading into a theory and grasping for any evidence, or that the historians just could not recognize how Christ’s statements applied to the audience as he said they did.

The other main theory for a late date is when the events recorded in the book of Revelation take place in Domitian’s reign (81- 96 AD), the contention is that it is in the future after the date of around 82 to 96 A.D. This is backed up by the early church historian, Eusebius (A.D. 300-340), who actually did not state the date but just gave a general connection between John and Domitian, which could just mean John was still alive in Domitian’s reign.

Keep in mind that a Futurist view will require that the date for Revelation be after 70 A.D.

When I originally wrote this fifteen years ago, I was seeking to research and perhaps prove a late date, but the investigative study proved to have too many holes. However, as I said in the beginning, Revelation does not come with a date and time stamp, so scholars and Bible students need to make a reasonable, logical investigation before an assumption can be made about the date and views. Although I personally lean toward an early date now, I am not an advocate of it nor am I totally convinced. Why? Because Revelation has more to do with how we live than what will come. Thus, having a Preterist or Future view or even something else is not as important as what the beasts in our lives are, as well as in whom and where our hope is (which is more of a Spiritualist view, but I can’t hold to that—I am Reformed! lol)

Research insights into the Date of Revelation, Part V

A late date after 70 A.D.?

Most modern, historical, and biblical scholars tend to state that Revelation was written between 95 and 96 A.D. with the major exceptions of McGuiggan, Jay Adams, Philip Schaff, and some others who contended for an early date of 70 A.D., specifically in the spring, during Vespasian’s reign, thus making an argument for an early date steps one out of the herd into the presumption of pride or a theological agenda; of course, the majority can be wrong too. If the later date is true, then the Preterist position cannot stand up well—if at all. The majority of the prophecies were fulfilled (except Christ second coming). Keep in mind that the key to this position is Jesus’ own words in Matthew 24.

Most scholars contend that the date of Revelation was around 95-96 A.D. near the end of the Domitian’s evil reign. How, and why?

Iraneaus is the main spokesmen to this date. He lived in the second century A.D., a principal “Early Church Father” who made a statement in 185 A.D. that the apostle John “saw the revelation…at the close of Domitian’s reign (A.D. 81-96). (Ref: Contra Haereses 5.30.3; ANF, 1:559-60 also called in the fifth book of his work “Against Heresies”.) The argument against this is that in context, his statement is not clear, rather ambiguous, but can be implicit in various ways.

Here it is: We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen not very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.

There are at least four main problems with this statement. 1. It is actually a “second hand” account, which he quotes from Polycarp. Thus, it is not a direct quote from Irenaeus. 2. In context, this quote referred to Polycarp’s remembrance (also referred to by Eusebius) “that” sometime toward the end of Domitian’s reign there will be an antichrist (which simply means anyone who opposes Christ; here in a grand scale). 3. It is not clear from this statement to what Polycarp was referring or what he meant by “that was seen.” It could have been referring to Revelation or to a coming antichrist that was also implied by John. 4. Irenaeus suffers from credibility issues and/or textual and scribal errors. He also wrote when he was very old and/or made major mistakes. For example, in the same work as the aforementioned quote, he states that Jesus was crucified when he was fifty years old. Thus, the principle source for the late dating of the Book of Revelation has some significant holes.

Research insights into the Date of Revelation, Part IV

Textual redaction considerations:

• The “Syriac version” of the New Testament, which dates back to the second century A.D., states that Revelation was written during the reign of Nero making a date of 64-68 A.D.

• The “Muratorian Fragment,” dating back to 170-190 A.D., states that this work of John was written during the reign of Nero.

• The “Aramaic Peshitta” version has a remark that places its date prior to 70 A.D. The title page of Revelation states this work of John was written right after the reign of Nero.

• The “Monarchian Prologues,” that dates back to 250-350 A.D., claims that Paul also wrote to these seven churches (possibly Romans which was a “circular letter,” it went out to many addressees) following John’s Book, thus, placing the book even before some of the other Pauline epistles.

•A quote, arguably attributed to Papius (130 AD), states that John the Apostle was martyred before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Roman law of exile:

Nero Caesar exiled John on the island of Patmos. Nero died in 68 AD, and according to Roman law, those banned by a prior Caesar would be released by the succeeding Caesar. Thus, John would have been released from Patmos around 68 AD. (John himself mentions he was at Patmos when he received the Revelation).
The condition of the Church in Asia Minor:

John is clearly writing to the seven churches and consequently to people being persecuted by Rome. Rome was a bloodthirsty, pagan empire that oppressed its people, especially Christians, who were considered criminals and slaves and used for sadistic entertainment.

Peter also wrote to the Christians in Asia Minor around the same time for an early date or a few years before John (1Pet. 1:1-6; 4:12; 5:9). He notes that they were in extreme persecution, suffering, and in dire anguish. This is similar to John’s language and situation (Re 2:9; 3:9) and similar situations recorded by Paul in Acts 13:50; 14:5,19; 17:5-8,13; 18:12. Thus, the severity of the persecution is consistent with an early date.

Keep in mind that a Preterist view would require that the date for Revelation be prior to 70 A.D.