A SPARKLING GEM OF SCRIPTURE
When I read the Revelation and consider ALL it's elements, I'm amazed at the vast amount of DETAIL that the Holy Spirit has provided for us to consider and KNOW. I teach according to a "word by word" or a "phrase by phrase" approach. This is so that we miss NONE of the wonders that God has given us in this DIAMOND of a book called the REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST. And like a scintillating GEM, many FACETS of truth are there to discover.
REVELATION 1:1--THE FIRST GLIMPSE AT THE PROPHECY
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass: He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John."
Right up front, there’s words and phrases that should catch our attention.
First of all, this is a REVELATION--SINGULAR. A few people mistakenly call this book "Revelations"--plural. But it’s ONE REVELATION--even though the subject is composed of many scenes, viewpoints, signs and symbols.
Another fact to be aware of--in SOME OLDER editions of THE KING JAMES VERSION, the TITLE of this book has been worded incorrectly, like this: "The Revelation of St. John the Divine." [I just looked in my NEWER edition of KING JAMES--the book is entitled--"The Revelation TO John (The Apocalypse)"--editors have made a correction.]
The point I want to make is this--that the book is NOT a revelation of who "St. John the Divine" is--as the OLDER KING JAMES title would imply. It IS a REVELATION of JESUS CHRIST!
A SEQUENCE IN HOW THE REVELATION WAS TRANSFERRED FROM HEAVEN TO JOHN
In verse one, we see that (1.) the Revelation was given BY God--TO Jesus--(2.) Who then SHOWED IT TO AN ANGEL, (3.) who then BROUGHT the message to the Apostle John (4.). Therefore, this message involves four steps--starting with God (the Father), to Jesus, to the angel, and finally, to the Apostle John--a penman who THEN wrote it down.
REVELATION IS AN "UNVEILING" OR "UNCOVERING"
The Revelation is a "revealing" or an "unveiling" of Jesus. In the Greek, revelation is "apokalypsis" which literally means "unveiling"--"uncovering"--like pulling back a curtain. This uncovering (or revealing) brings out the GREAT EXTENT of the PLAN of God FOR JESUS, which shows NOT only Jesus as He was in the past, but what He will be and do in the ages to come.
ANOTHER MYSTERY--Why did God give the REVELATION to Jesus? As SECOND PERSON OF THE GODHEAD, even in the glorified body of a Man, doesn't Jesus already KNOW all things? So why would God GIVE Him the Revelation?
Obviously, Jesus (in the flesh of a MAN in His earthly ministry), even while He is definitely GOD, did NOT know everything. As a child, Jesus was required TO LEARN as any other child would need to learn. Luke 2:52--"And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." This was recorded after the story of Jesus in the Temple, who at the age of twelve, amazed and astonished the scribes and scholars by His command of the scriptures.
Even though Jesus IS God, when He took on human form, he EMPTIED Himself (of His Godhead glory and splendor) and "took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as A MAN, He HUMBLED Himself, and became OBEDIENT unto death, even the death of the cross." Phil. 2:6-8.
In the Revelation, we see that Jesus STILL IDENTIFYING Himself with mankind. Because, even at GOD'S THRONE in heaven, Jesus remains a MAN--clothed in a glorified resurrection body. (Revelation 5.)
In Mark 13:52, we see that Jesus (while in His earthly ministry) did NOT know the time of His return. "But of THAT DAY and THAT HOUR knows NO MAN, no, not the angels which are in heaven, NEITHER THE SON, but the Father."
To take that idea further, there's the possibility, that Jesus, even now (IN THE ROLE OF SON AND BRIDEGROOM--and STILL IDENTIFYING Himself with mankind in a glorified body), is waiting for the Father to give the command--"Go get them, Son."
You see, God KNOWS the full NUMBER of the Gentiles who will COME IN, which will make the Church COMPLETE--as seen in Romans 11:25. (Later in Revelation, we'll see a PERTINENT STRUCTURE of events--which SHOWS the PROPER PLACEMENT of EXACTLY WHEN--IN the end time events--that God will send His Son to meet His Bride--BEFORE the Tribulation.) But right now, as scripture declares, NO ONE knows THE EXACT HOUR, except God, because that TIME is based on a NUMBER (the FULLNESS of the Gentiles who are destined to enter the Church).
It's a MYSTERY to us, at this time, of WHY God GAVE the Revelation to Jesus. WE ONLY KNOW THAT THIS IS SO, BECAUSE THE WORD DECLARES IT. There's also GOD'S GLORY to be seen in His communication with His Only begotten Son.
Right now, we see through a glass darkly, but when we get to heaven ourselves, many mysteries about God will be totally clear! (I can hardly wait to get there! I have a long list of questions for Him, LOL.)
TO RECAP-- here in the first verse of Revelation, we see a DEEP truth unveiled--that in the form of a MAN, Jesus NEEDED to learn. With this idea in mind, we get an inkling of WHY God GAVE the Revelation to Jesus, Who, in turn, gave it to an angel, who then delivered it to the Apostle John, who wrote the message down. (Revelation 1:1.)
THE SUBLIME LANGUAGE OF REVELATION
As we read the Revelation, we can discern how THE LANGUAGE “feels” lofty and profound. The way it’s recorded is DEEP, and UNDERSCORED with shades of SUBLIME MEANINGS. Revelation is GRAND and AWESOME.
When we stop to think about it, we can readily SEE WHY.
Revelation is the HIGHEST form, the most supreme, the utmost expression--of God's Word. It’s GOD giving His message to JESUS--A MOST HOLY BEGINNING. This Word was then delivered to an angel. Then the angel APPEARED before John and “dictated” the Revelation to him.
YES, JOHN WROTE DOWN WHAT WAS DICTATED TO HIM--BECOMING A SECRETARY FOR THE MOST DIVINE WORD IN THE BIBLE!!! Because John wrote down what he saw and heard, we see VERY LITTLE of John's personality shining through in the style of the writing. BUT WE DO SEE MUCH OF GOD AND OF JESUS CHRIST, their thoughts, their attitudes, and a HEAVENLY feel--which envelops ALL of this. HOW GLORIOUS IS THAT?
"Rev. 1:1 continues... "TO SHOW UNTO HIS SERVANTS..."
God gave the Revelation to Jesus, "to show unto His servants." Notice how the book of Revelation is NOT shown unto "the saints"--rather it IS shown to "servants of Christ."
The Greek word used for "servants" is "DUOLOS" which is literally translated as "BONDSLAVES."
The Apostle Paul used the term "bondslaves of Jesus Christ" in his epistles. With this idea comes a question--"Are we truly BONDSLAVES of Jesus? How far does our commitment and our obedience to Him really go?
For a correct understanding of BONDSLAVES, we need to understand the LOCAL and HISTORICAL use of the concept. When a person was INDENTURED into slavery, he paid the debt he owed by working for the number of years it took--to COMPLETELY PAY OFF THE DEBT. At the time the debt was PAID IN FULL, the slave would be released and re-enter society as a free citizen.
However, this SLAVE could CHOOSE, at the ending of his debt, TO REMAIN a slave to the master for the REMAINDER OF HIS LIFE. Upon that DECISION, an AWL was driven through his ear against a doorpost and a ring was inserted into the ear. Thus, when people saw a slave who wore an earring, they KNEW that THE SLAVE, by his OWN FREE WILL, chose to BE A LIFETIME COMMITTED, TOTALLY DEVOTED, OBEDIENT "BONDSLAVE" TO THE MASTER HE SERVED.
This picture shows the relationship of a person who is a BONDSLAVE to Jesus. It's a FREE WILL decision. It involves LIFELONG COMMITMENT, OBEDIENCE and SERVICE to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the BONDSLAVE relationship to Jesus, we DO NOT follow after our OWN WILL, DESIRES or THOUGHTS, but INSTEAD, we FOLLOW AFTER the WHOLE WILL, DESIRE and THOUGHTS of Jesus. "Not my will, Lord, but YOUR WILL be done."
Now for the question--"Are we really BONDSLAVES of Jesus?" Just how FAR and DEEP is OUR commitment, obedience and service to the Lord? The Revelation was given by God to Jesus, so that Jesus could show the prophecy unto His BONDSLAVES...those who are FULLY COMMITTED to Him FOR LIFE!
The concept is deeper by far than many people imagine...an abiding love of God and Jesus, nurtured, fanned and assisted by the Holy Spirit. It's the Holy Spirit Who ENABLES a person to remain steadfast to the BONDSLAVE relationship with Jesus. NOT by OUR OWN personal STRENGTH, but BY FAITH, looking to the Holy Spirit to ENABLE us--that’s HOW we walk in the position of BONDSLAVE to Jesus. With our OWN FREE WILL, we CHOOSE this lifestyle, and YIELD to the POWER of the Holy Spirit TO HELP US perform it.
Continuing Rev. 1:1 (phrase by phrase)...“THINGS WHICH MUST SHORTLY COME TO PASS”
God gave the Revelation to Jesus--to show to His servants, "THINGS WHICH MUST SHORTLY COME TO PASS."
The word "shortly" in this phrase comes from the Greek "EN TACHEOS"--the same Greek root from which we get our English word "tachometer" (an instrument to measure SPEED, or HOW FAST a vehicle is moving). This word SHORTLY is used with THE SENSE that ONCE THINGS BEGIN TO PASS, THEY WILL HAPPEN rapidly, speedily, swiftly, suddenly.
This same word is used in Luke 18:8 to reference a time when God will avenge His own elect who cry unto Him day and night. "I tell you that He will avenge them SPEEDILY (EN TACHEOS). Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?" The rapidity, the speediness, the suddenness--of the "time of judgment" is shown IN LUKE in the VERY SAME WAY as the judgment pictured in the Revelation.
Continuing in REV. 1:1...“HE (God) SENT AND SIGNIFIED IT…”
The word "SIGNIFIED" is defined by its FIRST FOUR LETTERS--"sign." The Revelation is sent and SIGN-ified, that is, it's sent and revealed by SIGNS.
The Greek word for "signified" is the very same one that's translated as "signs" in other places in God's Word. Luke 21:11--"and there shall be SIGNS from heaven." Luke 21:25--"And there shall be SIGNS in the sun." John 4:48--"Except ye see SIGNS and wonders..." John 20:30--"many other SIGNS truly did Jesus..."
There are 13 OTHER places in the New Testament where a SPECIFIC word is used for SIGNS. It's the SAME as in Revelation 1:1 (use Strong’s Concordance to look them up).
"SIGNS" is the Greek word “SEMAINO”--a word translated as SIGNS or SIGNIFY, which is literally DEFINED as to “INDICATE.” A regular dictionary defines it further--“to to make known by signs or words.”
Therefore, in the Revelation, the language isn't just phonetic or linguistic--IT'S CONCEPTUAL. That means there are IDIOMS presented that CREATE A PICTURE of THE TRUTH that’s to be established.
For instance, the Apostle John, in chapter 5, is all upset because a voice came from the Throne saying: "Where is He Who is worthy to open the seven-sealed book?"
NO ONE is found worthy among men in heaven, or ON the earth, or UNDER the earth. John wept. One of the ELDERS turned to him and said: "Weep not, behold the LION of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the book."
So John turned, and WHAT did he EXPECT to see? A LION? No, he EXPECTED to SEE Jesus!
The phrase "LION of the tribe of Judah" is an idiom, a concept, a SIGN which describes Jesus Christ in His role as a conquering King Who will come to earth to rule.
John also saw Jesus as "A LAMB AS IT HAD BEEN SLAIN." Did he see A LITERAL LAMB, with wounds?
No, he saw Jesus with the MARKS of His crucifixion--Jesus in His role as a Savior Who had suffered, Who had died to save all mankind, and Who carries the SCARS of that tremendous sacrifice! This is another idiom, a SIGN--used to SHOW a splendid spiritual truth.
There have been artists who've attempted to paint THE EXACT IMAGES which are described in Revelation: Jesus with A SWORD in His mouth. A 7-HEADED DRAGON-LIKE BEAST. And these artists felt they were true to what God's Word pictured.
BUT HARDLY! All these IMAGES are idioms, concepts, metaphors: they are "SIGNS" used to PORTRAY spiritual and prophetic truths.
The TRUE PICTURE goes much so much DEEPER, and EXPRESSES the complete spiritual reality which lies underneath the WORD PICTURES. We study to discover the meanings of these SIGNS. We find the signs DEFINED by looking at how God consistently uses these SYMBOLS throughout the scripture. What God says of them in one place is the same way He means them as they are recorded in the Revelation. God CHANGES NOT.
So, we see that the Revelation was sent and SIGNIFIED--the book's truths are revealed through SIGNS and symbols.
All GLORY be to God forever and forever. Amen!
Be abundantly blessed in our Lord Jesus Christ.