TO CHEW ON: "Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first born from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth." Revelation 1:4,5
During the month of April we're going to be reading passages from the book of Revelation one third of the time. Perhaps, like me, you prefer to start a book with a little background—the cover copy, book flaps and endorsements—to see what you're getting into. Today I'm going to do a little of that for Revelation. It's a difficult book at the best of times and I can use all the help available.
So, to start, some big-picture stuff about Revelation (taken from the Introduction of Revelation in the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, Introduction and notes written by Earl Wesley Morey, pp. 1811-1814 - emphasis added):
Author: John, Jesus' apostle.
Date: 70-95 (some scholars suggest an early, other a later date).
Literary form: A letter: "…Revelation begins (1:4-7) and ends (22:21) as a typical New Testament letter. … Within this letter is "the prophecy" (1:3; 10:11;19:10, 22:6, 7, 10, 18, 19)."
Occasion and Purpose: "The purpose of this message was to provide pastoral encouragement to persecuted Christians by comforting, challenging, and proclaiming the sure and certain Christian hope, together with the assurance that in Christ they were sharing in the sovereign God's method of totally overcoming the forces of evil in all its manifestations." (Wow! Now that puts life, with all its difficulties, in a hopeful perspective.)
Central Message: "the Lord God omnipotent reigns" - Revelation 19:6.
Method of Communication: (This, I think, is key to understanding this kind of writing.) "The Revelation is a cosmic pageant—an elaborate, colorful series of tableaux, accompanied and interpreted by celestial speakers and singers. The spoken word is elevated prose… The music is similar to a cantata. Repeatedly, themes are introduced, later reintroduced, combined with other themes, and developed. … Signs and symbols are essential because spiritual truth and unseen reality must always be communicated to human beings through their senses. Symbols point to what is ultimately indescribable."
Christ in Revelation: "Nearly every title employed elsewhere in the New Testament to describe the divine-human nature and the redemptive work of Jesus is mentioned at least once in Revelation, which, together with numerous additional titles, provides us with our only multidimensional unveiling of the present position, continuing ministry, and ultimate victory of the exalted Christ."
Holy Spirit in Revelation: "The description of the Holy Spirit as 'the seven Spirits of God' (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6) is distinct in the New Testament. The number seven is a symbolic, qualitative number conveying the idea of completeness, and when related to God, the idea of perfection. The Holy Spirit is thus denoted in terms of the perfection of His dynamic, manifold activity."
One thing that really fascinates me in the bits I shared above is the claim that Revelation employs nearly all the titles for Jesus found elsewhere in the NT and more. Here's my challenge to myself and to you, if you care to take it up. How many names and titles of Jesus can we find in Revelation? Here's the beginning of my list from Revelation 1:
- Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1,2,5)
- faithful witness (Revelation 1:5)
- first born from the dead (Revelation 1:5)
- ruler over the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5)
- Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8, 11)
- the Beginning and the End (Revelation 1:8)
- I am… who is (Revelation 1:8)
- I am… who was (Revelation 1:8)
- I am… who is to come (Revelation 1:8)
- Almighty (Revelation 1:8)
- the First and the Last (Revelation 1:11,17)
- Son of Man (Revelation 1:13)
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for this encouraging, victorious book. Please open my eyes to its messages to me and application to my life in the days ahead. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.