“1The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Revelation 1:1-3 NIV
Okay, be honest. What was the first thing that popped into your head when you read these verses and then saw where they came from? You may not have thought anything of it, but the book of REVELATION comes with a certain sense of foreboding. It is rather ominous mainly because of what it “reveals”. While the “eschatology” (the part of theology concerned with the end of days, death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind) and the apocalyptic narrative gets most of the headlines, it really is so much more than that. This is expressed in a book titled “Unveiled Hope: Eternal Encouragement from the Book of Revelation” by Michael Card and Scotty Smith, which I highly recommend. The book of Revelation really is a book of hope and encouragement despite its dark and mysterious overtones.
Eschatology or ἔσχατος (éschatos), is an ancient Greek term that means “last” and “ology” being “the study of” so from that we get the “study of last” or what comes last. Several times in the book of Revelation God/Jesus refer to themselves as the “Alpha and Omega” or the first and the last. “Alpha” and “Omega” also happen to be the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. But this isn’t the first time that the Lord has referred to Himself as the “first and the last”. In Isaiah 44:6 and 48:12 the Lord says, “I am the first and I am the last”. God is the beginning and the end. Of course, with God we know that there is no beginning and end because He is eternal. He has always been and forever will be, but the book of Revelation is in a sense closing the book on the human or Genesis experiment if you want to call it that. It is not the end of all things, but it will be the end of sins dominion over the earth, which should be a great cause for celebration and worship. Oh, and by the way Jesus was “in the beginning” too. He didn’t just show up in a manger. Read John 1:1-5. Jesus is the “Word” from the beginning.
I’m not sure this is going to be a series on the whole book. Taking on the book of Revelation might seem foolish due to its complex and enigmatic nature. I guess I’m hoping that this will be more of an encouragement. In other words, don’t be afraid to dive in. Well, maybe just wade in slowly to test the waters. If you’re new to the Bible, this probably shouldn’t be your first stop or first book of the Bible that you read. For those who like to skip to the end, I wouldn’t advise that either. Jesus does say, “Yes I am coming soon” in the final chapter and second to last verse, but there is a lot of stuff from Genesis to Revelation that you don’t want to miss or skip over. I was always told the best place to begin was the book of John who also wrote the book of Revelation.
Anyway, did I just give you a reason not to read this devotional? I think I did. That’s not a good strategy is it? Well, no worries. I’m not going to spend much time with eschatology or the study of the last days or end times, which is incredibly complicated and almost impossible to unravel with complete certainty. Some will say they have it all figured out, but the point of Revelation is not how the chronological events unfold. The point is, well, what the point of the Bible or God’s word has always been. God. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The trinity or God in three persons. He/They are the point of all of it and everything. As I’ve said in other devotionals, it’s His story or His/story, and we’re included in that story, which is incredibly cool.
We are given the purpose of this Revelation in the first three verses of chapter 1. It would probably be safe to assume that Jesus is sending one of his angels, probably Michael, Gabriel, or another archangel, to deliver or give this Revelation. The one thing that’s clear is that the revelation is from Jesus because in verse one, it says that this is “the revelation of Jesus Christ”, so It’s from Him. While we are told that Jesus sends “His” angel to His servant John, there is evidence that Jesus himself is present and speaking to John. In verse 13 it refers to the messenger as a “son of man”, but later in verse 18 this “son of man” says “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades”. (Revelation 1:18 NASB) Hold the phone and shut the front door! For anyone even an angel to make this claim would be blasphemous, so I think it’s pretty clear who’s doing the talking here and it ain’t no angel. When He says, “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades”, it should be crystal clear who this “son of man” really is.
Why is that significant? Well, there are plenty of people out there that do not believe that Jesus is divine, nor do they believe that the Bible is true, so this information adds to its authenticity and authority. Jesus is the one doing the talking. He has been raised from the dead and is present, so that is pretty compelling evidence that He is indeed divine-God. Many translations put the “words of Jesus” in red letters, which I didn’t know until today that the red letters only started appearing after Louis Klopsch, owner and editor of Christian Herald magazine in 1899, came up with the idea, which is nice but trivial. Nevertheless, these words are spoken by Jesus whether they are in red letters or not.
The recipient of this revelation is none other than John the disciple of Jesus also referred to as John the “Revelator” because he’s the one to whom the Revelation is given. Not to be confused with John the Baptist who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. This John who wrote the Gospel of John, 1st-2nd-3rd John, and Revelation was a part of the inner circle of friends or followers of Jesus. He is the only disciple to hang around after Jesus is arrested. He didn’t abandon Jesus. He is referred to as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” in John 13:23. They were close, and he stuck by Jesus till the end and was even present at the crucifixion.
At this point, John is in exile on the Island of Patmos, a Greek island just off the west coast of Turkey, and it’s probably a result of anti-Christian persecution by the Roman emperor Domitian. It’s not clear, but highly likely that John is the last of the original disciples-apostles still living. He is also the only one to die of natural causes. The rest were martyred or killed because of preaching the gospel.
After a brief introduction in Revelation 1:1-3, John begins to unveil the Revelation. His first order of business is to address or write letters to seven churches that reside in Asia Minor or western Turkey today. The seven churches are in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These letters will most likely be the focus of this series that I’m going to title the “7 Red Letters” because the message of these letters is from Jesus. John is just the administrative assistant. He’s just taking dictation from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No pressure.
Just try to imagine John’s role in all this. The letters contain both good and bad news for these churches, so he may have prefaced the letters by saying, “Hey guys don’t shoot the messenger!” He probably didn’t do that, but it just popped into my head. I never like to be the bearer of bad news because in this case some of it is criticism.
The book of Revelation is an incredible experience or better yet an incredible encounter or adventure with God. At times it is straight-ahead practical teaching, instruction, exhortation, and even criticism from Jesus Himself and at others it is a mixture of symbolism and prophetic visions. “There be leviathans, dragons and other beasties so beware!!!” (Read that last bit like a pirate. It’s way cooler.) Revelation also contains one of the most detailed and powerful descriptions of heavenly beings and a possible resurrected appearance of Jesus that we will ever get this side of heaven. It’s a thrill ride for sure, and while we won’t wonder too far away from the “7 Red Letters”, there is some symbolic stuff that requires explanation as they relate to the letters.
So here we go, a giant leap of faith into one of the most feared and misunderstood books of the Bible. Buckle your safety belts!
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC