DIG: What is this revelation? In this case, who is revealed? By whom? To whom? For what purpose? Who is John? Who cannot understand this book? Why? What does the book say about angels? How does the book use the TaNaKh? In what sense is Messiah’s return imminent?
REFLECT: In what ways are you a bond-servant to Jesus Christ? How do you feel about receiving a blessing for hearing and taking to heart what is written in this book? What does it mean to you when you take something to heart?
Many people are fascinated, even obsessed with the future. They faithfully read their horoscopes, seek out Tarot card readers, have their palms read, feed on futuristic science fiction books, or call one of the many “psychic hot line” advertisers on TV. Some people sink more deeply into the occult, seeking out mediums (as did King Saul), futilely and sinfully attempting to obtain information about what is to come by consulting the dead on behalf of the living (Isaiah 8:19). But all such efforts to tell the future are useless. There is only One who knows and decides the future, and that One is ADONAI (Isaiah 44:7, 45:21, 46:9-10). Only in Scripture can truth about the future be found. The prophets of the TaNaKh, and Christ Himself, provide glimpses of the future. However, in the entire Bible, the book of Revelation provides the most details. It is the capstone of prophecy and details Jesus’ return and the setting up of His eternal Kingdom.8
The revelation (1:1a): There are those who are confused by the book of Revelation, seeing it as a mysterious book that cannot be understood. Martin Luther said he could “in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it.” But nothing could be further from the truth. Far from hiding the truth, the book of Revelation reveals the truth. This is the last chapter of God’s story of salvation. It tells how the story ends. Just as the description of ADONAI’s creation in the beginning was clear (Genesis 1:1), so is His record at the end.
The very first Greek word of this book, apokalupsis, translated the revelation, sets the stage. It appears eighteen times in the New Covenant, when used of a person, the word means an uncovering of something hidden, the making known of what man could not find out for himself. It makes plain that the book it introduces is not a book of human wisdom, nor for that matter a discussion of philosophical or theological problems. It is revelation.9 It contains truths that had been hidden, but have now been made known. Although it does not directly quote the TaNaKh, 278 of its 404 verses point to truth revealed in it, and makes clear what was merely suggested there.
Concerning Jesus Christ (1:1b): While it is true that the entire Bible is revelation about God (Second Timothy 3:16), in a special way the book of Revelation is the revelation about Jesus Christ. And while the book is certainly from Christ (22:16), it is also concerning Him. The Gospels are also about Yeshua and they present Him in His First Coming as the Lamb of God (John 1:29); however, the book of Revelation presents Him as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (5:5) in His Second Coming. As we witness the unfolding events leading up to Messiah’s coming Kingdom, our mental picture of the person of Jesus becomes clearer. This is true because the testimony of Jesus Christ seen in verse 2 is itself the spirit, or inner heart, of prophecy (19:10). The person and ministry of Yeshua is the blueprint that connects all the pieces of the prophetic puzzle.
Which God gave Him (1:1c): God the Father gave this revelation to God the Son to show to His bond-servants. He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John. Angels are important in this book and are referred to sixty-seven times. Notice the order, God the Father gave His message to God the Son, who made it known to His angel, who gave it to John, to give to us. So Jesus Christ is the mediator, through which, the revelation comes because God the Father is the ultimate source.
To show His bond-servants (1:1d): The object of the revelation is for believers, who are characterized as His bond-servants. The Greek word for servants is doulois and literally means slaves (Matthew 22:8; Mark 13:34). But the doulois was a unique kind of slave – one who served out of love and devotion to his or her master. If a servant said: I love my master and my wife and children I do not want to go free, then his master took him before the judges who met at the gate of the city that had doorposts. He was then brought to the doorpost and standing up against it, his ear lobe was pierced with an awl. Then he was a bond-slave for life (Exodus 21:5-6). There was a difference between a slave and a bond-slave. Circumstances beyond one’s control made someone a slave. But a bond-slave chose to remain a permanent slave. In that case his ear was to be pierced with a permanent mark, symbolizing his new status.
This is why the world cannot understand this book (First John 2:15-17). It was not meant for them. It was given from God the Father to God the Son to show to those who willingly serve Him. Those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Lord cannot grasp what is being revealed here. The man without the Spirit, Paul explains, does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (First Corinthians 2:14). But Yeshua said to His disciples: The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand (Matthew 13:11 and 13). Godly truth is hidden from the worldly wise. They find nothing in this book but bewilderment and chaos. To His willing bond-servants, however, it is a lighted path (Psalm 119:105), and an unveiling of the prophetic future.
What must soon take place (1:1e): The Greek word for soon is tachos, which can mean soon or quickly (Luke 18:8; Romans 16:20). The context determines which one is used. The context here would indicate that the word does not convey the speed with which the Messiah acts when He comes, but the nearness of His coming. In prophetic literature, the future is always pictured as just beyond us. There is this idea of imminence all throughout the TaNaKh and B'rit Chadashah, an insistence, really, on the nearness of the end. But it has been over twenty centuries since these words were written! How do we explain this paradox? We need to realize that the incarnation-crucifixion-resurrection-ascension, on the one hand, and the Second Coming, on the other hand, are really one continuous divine event. They are only held apart by the mercy of Messiah, who desires to give mankind every opportunity to come to repentance (Second Peter 3:9). Therefore, when we think of imminence in this way, we can see that the Second Coming is always just beyond us because the incarnation-crucifixion-resurrection-ascension has already taken place. This is an essential part of our faith. Ever since the birth of Christ, the Church has been living in the last days. And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His Coming (First John 2:28).
He made it known by sending His angel (1:1f): The English phrase: He made it known, is from the Greek verb esemanen, meaning to make known by signs or symbols, but it also includes communication by words.10 In the book of Revelation, we have both words and symbols. It is the only book in the Bible that is made known to its human author by His angel. Later, Yeshua would reaffirm this by announcing: I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches (22:16a). Angels were just as active in giving the book of Revelation to Yochanan, as they were in giving the Torah to Moses (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2). To say the least, angels are highly visible in the book. They appear in every Chapter except 4 and 13. In fact, the words angel or angels appear seventy-one times in Revelation, more than any other book in the Bible. Therefore, this book tells us a great deal about the ministry of angles.
To His servant John (1:1g), who testifies to everything he saw – that is, the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ (1:2): The writer of the revelation identifies himself as John, and the uniform testimony of early Church was that this was, indeed, John the apostle. Some claim that it was some other John, largely because the vocabulary of Revelation seemed different from the vocabulary of the Gospel and epistles of John. There can be no doubt, however, that the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23) wrote the revelation as well as the Word of God and the testimony about Yeshua Messiah in the book of John.
John was always careful to emphasize that he wrote only what he had seen and heard. But he really got an eye full. In his concluding remarks of his Gospel he said: This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true (John 21:24). In writing about the amazing events of the crucifixion, John wrote about himself, "The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe" (John 19:35). The opening words of his first epistle again stressed that he had seen and heard, and touched the very One of whom he was writing, concluding with him saying: We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard (First John 1:3). Although John saw forty-four different visions in the revelation, he wanted us to know that he was only writing what he had seen and heard. Nothing more. To us, Revelation is a prophecy. To John it was actual history, recorded just as he observed it.11
Blessed is the one who reads the very words of this book of prophecy (1:3a): In the first century, not everyone had a Bible and when they got together for worship they usually had someone read the Scriptures out loud after the pattern of the synagogue. John is saying this one would be blessed just for reading it. This is the first of seven blessings in the book of Revelation (1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 22:14). This first blessing parallels Luke 11:28: Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it. It is very significant that right at the outset of this book of Revelation that we have this appeal to action. John calls for a moral response. This is quite different than most apocalyptic literature. This is the only book of the Bible that promises a blessing to the one who reads the words of this prophecy.
The book of Revelation is bracketed by promises of blessing, just as the beatitudes are in Matthew 5:3 and 11. Thus, the promise of blessing here in 1:3 is bracketed by 22:14, where Yeshua proclaims: Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.
And blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it (1:3b): It is clear that you cannot keep what you don’t own, neither could you be blessed by it. Therefore, this amazing promise assumes that those who read the revelation or hear it will be able to understand it and apply it to their lives with the help of the Holy Spirit. This can only be true if the words of this prophecy are to be taken literally, if possible.
But these words are not only to be read or heard, they need to be taken to heart. There are many blessings of God that are unconditional, and believers are entitled to them simply by the fact that they follow Christ. However, other blessings of ADONAI are conditional, and the blessing here is one of them. Studying prophecy gives one a love and longing for Christ’s return. Those believers who love and look for His return will be given a special crown (First Thessalonians 2:19). But believers sometimes rob themselves of blessings available to them because they fail to take the LORD's conditional aspects seriously. While blessings are available for the study of God’s Word in general, a special blessing is available through the study and application of this particular book. The believer, after reading and listening to what the Book of Revelation is teaching, should also be watching for these things to come to pass and be on the alert for the fulfillment of these things. The same admonition to watch was given in the Olivet Discourse when Jesus said: Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him (Matthew 24:42-44).
Because the time is near (1:3c): This phrase restates the truth taught earlier in the first verse. The events described in this book are imminent. The Greek word here for time, does not translate chronos, which refers to time on a clock or calendar, but kairos, which refers to a decisive time, that is, the time of the end (Daniel 8:17; 11:35 and 40, 12:4 and 9). So, because of the context of the book, this time obviously refers to the Second Coming of Christ (Luke 12:35-40). Despite the skepticism of scoffers, who demand: Where is the coming He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation (Second Peter 3:4), Jesus the Messiah will return. And His return is near.12 If He came today, would you be ready? Or would you be left behind?
When the hope of Yeshua’s return is in your heart, you will feel what John felt when he wrote: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be as He is. Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (First John 3:1-3). When the hope of Christ’s return, which is what the book of Revelation is all about, is fixed on you, literally resting on you, it becomes a part of your life. You are looking for Jesus to appear. You believe it. It is in your heart. With all your problems and the world’s problems, you anticipate it and you are blessed spiritually. Amen.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017