Tuesday, June 29, 2021

7. The Revelation: Its Central Theme, Divine Source, Human Recipients, and Prophetic Character (Revelation 1:1b-e)

We continue our look at the central characteristics of The Revelation in Rev. 1:1. Revelation 1:1–6 provide eleven specific characteristics that reveal the uniqueness of Revelation.

2. Its Central Theme

"...of Jesus Christ" (1:1b)

While all Scripture is revelation from God (2 Timothy 3:16), the book of Revelation is of Jesus Christ. While this book is certainly revelation from Christ (22:16), it is also the revelation about Him.

Even a cursory glance through the book of Revelation reveals that Jesus Christ is its main theme. He is “the faithful witness” (1:5); “the firstborn of the dead” (1:5); “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5); “the Alpha and the Omega” (1:8; 21:6); the one “who is and who was and who is to come” (1:8); and “the Almighty” (1:8). Eight references can be found in just the first chapter! (See additional references in 1:17, 18.) The book of Revelation reveals the majesty and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in song, poetry, symbolism, and prophecy. In it the heavens are opened and its readers see, as did Stephen (Acts 7:56), visions of the risen, glorified Son of God.

3. Its Divine Source

"...which God gave Him" (1:1c)

The book of Revelation is the Father’s gift to the Son in a deep and marvelous sense. As a reward for His perfect, humble, faithful, holy service, the Father promised to exalt the Son:

Christ Jesus, … humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5, 8–11)

Christ’s exaltation, promised in the last three verses of that passage, is described in detail throughout Revelation. The book of Revelation chronicles the Son’s inheritance from the Father, ending in the showing of the full glory of Christ.

4. Its Human Recipients

"...to show to His bond-servants" (1:1d)

To further exalt and glorify His Son, the Father has graciously granted to a special group of people the privilege of understanding this book. John describes those people as Christ’s “bond-servants,” from a Greek word literally meaning “slave.” The bond-servant was a special type of slave, one who served out of love and devotion to his master (cf. Exodus 21:5–6). This is why unbelievers find the book of Revelation such a mystery. It was not intended for them. It was given by the Father to the Son to show to those who willingly serve Him. Those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord cannot expect to understand this book. “A natural man,” explains Paul, “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The unbelieving skeptic finds Revelation as nothing but confusion. Yet for willing bond-servants of Jesus Christ, this book unveils prophetic truth about the future of the world.

5. Its Prophetic Character

"...the things which must soon take place" (1:1e)

Revelation’s emphasis on future events sets it apart from all other New Testament books. The first four books of the New Testament are about the past, especially the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the next twenty-two are about the present, especially the life of the church. Revelation, though it contains some information about the past (Revelation 1) and the present (Revelation 2–3), focuses on the future.

A dual emphasis can be found in Revelation. One emphasis is the portrayal of Christ in His future glory with the blessedness of the saints. The second emphasis is the judgment of unbelievers to eternal punishment. The profound and compelling truths in the book of Revelation result in both sorrow and joy.

Believers are not to try to set the “times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7). Instead, they are to follow the Lord’s warning to “be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). The knowledge that the events depicted in the book of Revelation are soon to take place should motivate Christians to live holy, obedient lives (2 Peter 3:14).