When it comes to understanding the Word of God, it is typical to hear people say, “Understand it according to the plain reading of the text.” In other words, it doesn’t take a degree in Biblical Studies to understand the Bible. And i am a huge proponent of convincing people that they have everything they need to understand the Scriptures on their own.
Between cross references, study bibles, various levels of commentaries, and ultimately–and most importantly–the Holy Spirit, every believer can come to grips with the meaning of any given passage of Scripture. The plain meaning of the text is the intended meaning of the text.
However, too often even those who hold to the plain reading of the text want to make one specific book of the Bible much more complicated than it needs to be. This would be the final book in our canon, the book of Revelation. In this study–no post of which should be more than 1,000 words–i will seek to work through the book verse by verse and break it down simply and clearly.
The first two verses are indispensable in getting started on the right foot.
Revelation 1:1-2 (HCSB)
“The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave Him to show His slaves what must quickly take place. He sent it and signified it through His angel to His slave John, who testified to God’s word and to the testimony about Jesus Christ, in all he saw.”
The first line tells us exactly what follows throughout the book.
“The revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The word revelation looks a lot like our word reveal, and that is exactly how we should understand this phrase. The revealing of Jesus Christ. More than anything else, the book of Revelation seeks to reveal Jesus Christ. We need not get caught up in charts or theories on how world history will ultimately end; we need not look at the morning news and turn to Revelation to attempt to figure out how they connect. We need to see Jesus! He is the one the book is showcasing.
The first verse continues:
“The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave Him to show His slaves what must quickly take place.”
So, it would be incorrect to argue that Revelation has nothing to do with the future. There is a sense in which this book focuses on the future, but to get overly caught up in that is to forget that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ, not a revelation of the end of the world. We must keep our eyes on Jesus and Jesus alone. We will know the end of the world is here when He comes on the clouds. Until then, we must seek Him and Him alone, and not get caught up in conspiracy theories about the end of the world.
Also, it is important that Christ’s followers are called slaves. As the book progresses, one of the clearest themes will be the difficulty of this life. Slaves are obedient. Slaves don’t complain. And yes, God is a loving Lord, but the emphasis on Christ’s followers obedient following is essential to this book. One commentator–who i believe is 100% accurate–sums up the theme of the book as “first commandment faithfulness.” In other words: will those who call themselves Christians remain faithful to God–loving Him above all else–or will they fall back into the world system, proving they were never saved in the first place?
Our passage for today concludes as follows:
“He sent it and signified it through His angel to His slave John, who testified to God’s word and to the testimony about Jesus Christ, in all he saw.”
It is important to note that John was one of the closest people to Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry. However, John refers to himself as a mere slave. To be a slave of Jesus is no shameful thing, though as this book will show clearly, the world sees it as the epitome of shame. If you are a slave of God, count that as an honor no matter what others say.
And what does the slave do? He testifies. The word behind testify is the same Greek word from which we get the word martyr. Those who follow God as slaves are those who testify about Jesus, and those who testify about Jesus are those who become martyrs. According to the Greek language, even if you don’t give your life for the gospel, as long as you are a proclaimer of it, you are a martyr.
God gave Jesus a revelation, and Jesus revealed it to John. John testified of it in “all he saw.” You see, John will come to know Jesus much more closely as Jesus is revealed throughout this book, and since he testifies about his experience, he ultimately wants his readers to come to know Jesus more closely as a result of reading and hearing (see the next entry) this book.
Do you know Christ? I hope that you do.
But if you do not, i will warn you up front that this life is not easy. As a Christian martyr famously said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him ‘come and die'” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). But if you surrender your life to Him, this book promises many eternal rewards, even though life will be extremely trying. Come, follow Jesus, the one who gave His life for the sins of those who believe (Revelation 1:5).
I plead with you to believe if you never have before, and if you have believed, i beg you to continue believing, no matter how hard your road gets.
In this with you
Soli Deo Gloria
The next entry can be found here.