Revealing Revelation – Chapter One Part 1

07Mar11

We now begin the overview of the text itself. As discussed in the previous post we noted the bookended way in which the urgency of the message and the immediacy of the events was clearly described. Term like soon, quickly, at hand and near (depending on translation) all point to the speed at which the events would be arriving on the scene.

In a previous post we discussed how the term soon and quickly are used to express what is later (v 3) described as “near.” One example used was a request from a parent to have their child clean their room quickly. Would the expectation of the parent be that the child would clean their room in a speedy manner or that they would begin the process immediately. Most likely the answer is both. This is not uncommon language both in John’s time or ours.

If there was an emergency at your home and you requested that the 911 operator send help quickly, would your expectation be that when they eventually get around to your request some 2,000 years later the ambulance driver would drive at a high rate of speed. The double connotation of both the rate at which the event would occur and the timing as to when they would occur are both in view. And this is exactly what happened as the judgment against apostate Israel was both swift and soon.

For Jesus to say “I am coming quickly” and assume that means when He actually does get around to coming it will be a swift action is to miss the point of John’s attempt to show immediacy. This is also found in the term “near” or “at hand” and in John insistence that those who pierced His side would recognize the events (they would have to be alive to do that) that he, John himself, was a fellow partaker in the described tribulation. This is also amplified by the demand that this letter be sent immediately, without delay. This even included not sealing the letter as the time was so close as a delay as simple as sealing the letter would be deemed unnecessary.

Those combined with the themes previously discussed make taking the term quickly in relation to the speed of the action of coming actually non statement. What other options would the action of the coming appear? In slow motion? Even Young Literal Translation of the Bible denotes the speed at which the events would appear is the point of John’s time indicator, both in the term quickly (soon) and “near” (at hand).

Rev 1:1 A revelation of Jesus Christ, that God gave to him, to shew to his servants what things it behoveth to come to pass quickly; and he did signify [it], having sent through his messenger to his servant John,

2who did testify the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, as many things also as he did see.

3Happy is he who is reading, and those hearing, the words of the prophecy, and keeping the things written in it — for the time is nigh!

The immediacy of the timing is what is in view and that is why every major translation from the King James to the ESV use to the term “soon” to denote the expectancy of the timing of the events. And note that no contemporary translation is a friend of the Preterist interpretation so employing the term “soon to take place” would not benefit their view, but they simply cannot overcome the evidence of John’s expectation of immediacy.

So, what is john doing in his introductory verses?

Rev. 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,

This is the ultimate theme of Revelation, the revealing of Jesus Christ. But what exactly is being revealed about Him? As discussed previously His revealing involves proclaiming beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was who He claimed to be. He was Messiah, the Son of Man who is Lord over all and King of Kings. This revelation was hinted at in his discourse with the High Priest.

Matthew 26:64-65 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” [65] Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.

We also must note that this revealing shows that His reign is current and not postponed until some future time. This is shown later when only He is able to open the scroll and proclaim the judgment upon His enemies. Remember that the most often referenced Old Testament passage is Psalm 110:1 in which we are told that He sits at the right hand of the Father UNTIL His enemies have been made His footstool.

[2] who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

John here is identifying himself not only as the one who saw the visions but also the one who walked with the “word” and was a direct witness to His work while He was present on earth. He bore witness to the word of God as He also notes in the opening words of his Gospel. The phrase the “word” (logos) is one of the many common themes littered throughout John’s writings.

Rev. 1:3 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.

This book contains a blessing, especially to the original readers. How do we know this? Because it was assumed by John that not every original recipient would have his own copy. In fact, the haste with which the letter was sent denotes that only one copy was available and would be sent from Church to Church.

That is why there is also a reference to the blessing being not only on the reader, but on the hearer as well. And take special care to note that the reader is one who reads aloud the words. This was the common practice in these times, where today the proliferation of copies of the book would not necessitate this special blessing upon the one who reads aloud. But in the first century this blessing upon the reader show again the immediacy and urgency.

They would be blessed by the reading and hearing because, as John once again emphasizes, the time was near. John takes great pains to express this nearness and reemphasized it here. This would encourage the early Church that was facing intense persecution from the two enemies of the Gospel.

Rev. 1:4-6 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.

Note here again the specificity of the audience. Why the urgency if it would actually mean absolutely nothing to them? This would be cruel to declare to them these promises of support, rescue and retribution against their enemies if that is not what the book was actually promoting! What a cruet tease indeed. Especially since they were personally addressed and promised those things within it’s pages.

4b 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,

This phrase regarding the one who is, was and to come will show up later regarding a counterfeit.

[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

His resurrection secures and is a “promissory” of ours. He is the firstborn among the dead, which more than implies there will be later born among the dead.

But most importantly this passage points out that His reign is NOT postponed to the future…but a present reality. He, as John was writing, was ALREADY the ruler of the kings of the earth! This was not prophetic proposition, but rather a statement of present fact. This is part of revealing who He is!

His kingdom began at His first advent and will be consummated at His second advent. There is NO POSTPONEMENT of His kingdom as Dispensationalist insist, but rather a present reality. Note that John makes the declaration while Christ was in heaven next to the Father and not physically on earth. He does not need to be physically present to rule and reign! So, not only is His kingdom a present reality, but His rulership over the earth and kings of the earth was not postponed and his presence physically is unneeded.

In the following post we will deal with the issues regarding the “seeing” of the coming, and exactly what kind of coming is associated with the clouds.

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