God’s Will and Testament: Introducing Revelation

God’s Will and Testament: Introducing Revelation

Revelation 1:1 & 2

 We open with a question: Which John was the human author of Revelation?

“Four times the author identifies himself as John (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8). From as early as Justin Martyr in the second century AD it has been held that this John was the apostle, the son of Zebedee (see Mt 10:2). The book itself reveals that the author was a Jew, well versed in Scripture, a church leader who was well known to the seven churches of Asia Minor, and a deeply religious person fully convinced that the Christian faith would soon triumph over the demonic forces at work in the world.

In the third century, however, an African bishop named Dionysius compared the language, style and thought of the Apocalypse (Revelation) with that of the other writings of John and decided that the book could not have been written by the apostle John. He suggested that the author was a certain John the Presbyter (or Elder), whose name appears elsewhere in ancient writings. Although many today follow Dionysius in his view of authorship, the external evidence seems to support the traditional view.

I, personally, reject the idea that anyone other than John the son of Zebedee was the author. There is insufficient information to support the claims of Dionysus. Eusebias tells us that the ancient writer Papias spoke of two Johns in prominence in the church, John the Apostle and John the Presbyter. There is almost no information extant from Papias upon which to evaluate his claims.

 

From the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Introduction:

“A strong argument may be made that John the apostle wrote Revelation. (1) The author identified himself simply as “John” when addressing Christians in seven locations in Asia Minor (1:11). This implies that he was well known in the churches and needed no title. (2) Scholars note the Semitic style of the Greek and the many allusions to the Old Testament that imply that the writer was a Jew from Palestine. (3) He claimed to be the writer of a “prophecy” (1:3; 22:7-8) by supernatural revelation from Jesus Christ (1:1; 22:16), a message of divine authority (2:18-19) binding whole churches (v. 7), thus placing himself on the level of the prophets and apostles. (4) He used expressions also found in the Gospel of John, such as identifying Christ as “the Word” (John 1:1; Rev. 19:13) and “the Lamb” (John 1:29; Rev. 5:6), and offering the water of life to those who thirst (John 7:37; Rev. 22:17). (5) Justin Martyr (writing c. AD 155), identified the author of Revelation as the apostle John, and later writers in the second century, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, agreed. Therefore, we conclude that the author of Revelation is the apostle John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James.”

 

Let’s summarize before we dig deep:

The word translated “revelation” is the Greek apokalupsis (“to take from what is being covered”), and it implies an “unveiling” or “revealing.” This book is a revealing from Jesus Christ about himself. This is extremely important because (1) it reveals Jesus’ evaluation of his churches 60 to 65 years after his resurrection and ascension back to heaven and (2) it reveals insight into future events concerning the end-time tribulation (i.e., the period when God unleashes his severe end-time judgments on the world), God’s ultimate triumph over evil, Christ’s return to reign on earth and the glory of God’s eternal kingdom.

 

Dr. McGee teaches:

There are six striking and singular features about the Book of Revelation.

 

  1. It is the only prophetic book in the New Testament. There are seventeen prophetic books in the Old Testament and only this one in the New Testament.

 

  1. John, the writer, reaches farther back into eternity past than does any other writer in Scripture. He does this in his gospel which opens with this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Joh. 1:1). Then he moves up to the time of creation: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Then, when John writes the Book of Revelation, he reaches farther on into eternity future and the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

  1. There is a special blessing which is promised to the readers of this book: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:3). It is a blessing promise. Also, there is a warning given at the end of the book issued to those who tamper with its contents: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18–19). That warning ought to make these wild and weird interpreters of prophecy stop, look, and listen. It is dangerous to say just anything relative to the Book of Revelation because people today realize that we have come to a great crisis in history. To say something that is entirely out of line is to mislead them. Unfortunately, the most popular prophetic teachers in our day are those who have gone out on a limb. This has raised a very serious problem, and later on we will have repercussions from it.

 

  1. It is not a sealed book. Daniel was told to seal the book until the time of the end (see Dan. 12:9), but John is told: “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 22:10). To say that the Book of Revelation is a jumble and impossible to make heads or tails out of and cannot be understood is to contradict this. It is not a sealed book. In fact, it is probably the best organized book in the Bible.

 

  1. It is a series of visions expressed in symbols which deal with reality. The literal interpretation is always preferred unless John makes it clear that it is otherwise.

 

  1. It is like a great union station where the great trunk lines of prophecy have come in from other portions of Scripture. Revelation does not originate or begin anything. Rather it consummates and concludes that which has been begun somewhere else in Scripture. It is imperative to a right understanding of the book to be able to trace each great subject of prophecy from the first reference to the terminal. There are at least ten great subjects of prophecy which find their consummation here. This is the reason that a knowledge of the rest of the Bible is imperative to an understanding of the Book of Revelation. It is calculated that there are over five hundred references or allusions to the Old Testament in Revelation and that, of its 404 verses, 278 contain references to the Old Testament. In other words, over half of this book depends upon your understanding of the Old Testament.

 

Interpreting the Book of Revelation

 

(1) The preterist interpretation views the book and most of its prophecies as having already been fulfilled in the original historical setting of the Roman Empire, except for chapters 19–22, which await future fulfillment. Therefore, this view sees most of Revelation as already being fulfilled and its present-day application as purely historical reference.

 

(2) The historicist interpretation views Revelation as a prophetic forecast, describing the long chain of events in church history from John’s day to the end of history. From this view, the events of Revelation have been unfolding throughout church history and will culminate, or reach their climax, in the end times. In this view, the church of each generation adapts the general principles of the prophecy to its own time.

 

(3) The idealist interpretation considers the symbolism of the book as conveying certain timeless spiritual principles about good and evil that are effective throughout history in general, without reference to actual historical events. Therefore, this view sees Revelation as an allegory in which everything is purely symbolic of spiritual principles and there is no literal historical fulfillment of events.

 

(4) The propheticist interpretation follows the same principle used to interpret much of OT prophecy in which the message often has both (a) a short-term, partial fulfillment for the prophet’s own generation and (b) a long-range, future fulfillment at the time of the Messiah’s (Christ’s) coming. In this view, the book of Revelation also is understood as having (a) a prophetic meaning and partial fulfillment for John’s generation in the Roman Empire and (b) a complete future fulfillment in the final period of history and the end of time as we know it.

 

(5) The futurist interpretation views everything, or nearly everything, from chapters 4–22 as prophecy about events that will occur primarily during a brief period of time (usually thought to be seven years) in the end times. This period is seen as a time of severe tribulation and ultimate judgment on the earth (see article on THE GREAT TRIBULATION), culminating with Christ’s return to destroy the forces of the antichrist and to establish a thousand-year reign of peace. Following this time will be the final defeat of Satan, the final judgment of the ungodly and the establishment of the new heaven and new earth in which God will live with his people forever.

 

I actually take a somewhat eclectic view in my interpretation of Revelation. Taken on its face, there can be no doubt that a futurist approach is the correct view of Revelation. On the other hand, in 2020 we have the benefit of church history and can see an already but not yet in the fulfillment of the prophecies. Some of the symbolism also points to both physical and spiritual realities. Case in point the “Mark of the Beast”. And I will develop this further when we arrive at this point in the book, is both a spiritual and a physical mark. Spiritually, the Mark of the Beast is a rejection of God, His Law and authority, essentially, a licentious lifestyle. It is a literal mark at some point yet future when the Antichrist has total economic control and those without his mark will not be able to engage in commerce. Those who bear the spiritual mark are virtually guaranteed, apart from Saving Grace, to accept the physical mark, continue in their lawlessness and be forever damned.

 

When interpreting, we must be careful not to speak where the Bible is silent. We take the plain and simple meaning of the text. Metaphors will be treated as metaphors, signs treated as signs and so forth.

 

This leads us to ask…

Can we take Revelation literally? Yes. Revelation is full of signs and symbols, all of which point to realities on the earth. Revelation is prophetic and it also bears a striking similarity to how Jesus taught when he was on the earth. Jesus used parables to reveal Kingdom Truth to His lambs and to mask it from the wicked. You will find Revelation to be very similar-the signs and symbols reveal the truth to the believer willing to do the work to get to that truth and, those same signs and symbols, hide the truth from the lazy and the unbelieving wicked.

 

Permit me to quote Dr. Vines:

“John says God “signified” the revelation (1:1). God showed John the literal truth of the revealed events through signs. At this point, interpreting Revelation reaches a gray area. Signs and symbols do not reveal truth about other signs and symbols. Instead, they reveal literal truths about actual events taking place in the space-time continuum. Signs can conceal truth as well as reveal it (Mark 4:11). Those who do not believe will never be able to understand the mysteries of God’s eternal kingdom. The Bible, however, explains the signs so believers will remain vigilant.”

 

 

Let’s dig in:

 

Apokalupsis…an unveiling/uncovering/revealing something previously unknown. “Apokalupsis appears eighteen times in the New Testament, always, when used of a person, with the meaning “to become visible.” In Luke 2:32, Simeon praised God for the infant Jesus, describing Him as “a Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Simeon exulted that the Messiah had been made visible to men. Paul spoke in Romans 8:19 of the manifest transformation of believers in glory as “the revealing of the sons of God.” Both Paul (1 Cor. 1:7) and Peter (1 Pet. 1:7) used apokalupsis to refer to the revelation of Christ at His second coming.” {MacArthur}

 

 

Of Jesus…In Revelation we will Jesus in a manner previously unknown. In the Gospels He is meek and mild, the humble King. In Revelation His deity is on display. The veil is pulled back and we get a glimpse of the Lord Jesus in blazing glory. Dazzling majesty bows its head before Him as God the Father reveals His Son in such unrivalled glory that language fails to describe Him. In Revelation Christ’s prayer from John 17 is answered and He is revealed to His former glory such that the nations will shake before Him.

 

(Summary from John MacArthur): Christ is shown

  • In blazing glory (vv. 7-20);
  • over His church, as its Lord (chaps. 2, 3);
  • in His second coming, as He takes back the earth from the usurper, Satan, and establishes His kingdom (chaps. 4-20);
  • as He lights up the eternal state (chaps. 21, 22).

 

  1. A. Criswell, long-time pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, gave the following explanation as to why Christ must yet be revealed in glory:

“The first time our Lord came into this world, He came in the veil of our flesh. His deity was covered over with His manhood. His Godhead was hidden by His humanity. Just once in a while did His deity shine through, as on the Mount of Transfiguration, or as in His miraculous works. But most of the time the glory, the majesty, the deity, the wonder and the marvel of the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, were veiled. These attributes were covered over in flesh, in our humanity. He was born in a stable. He grew up in poverty. He knew what it was to hunger and to thirst. He was buffeted and beaten and bruised. He was crucified and raised up as a felon before the scoffing gaze of the whole earth. The last time that this world saw Jesus was when it saw Him hanging in shame, misery and anguish upon the cross. He later appeared to a few of His believing disciples, but the last time that this unbelieving world ever saw Jesus was when it saw Him die as a malefactor, as a criminal, crucified on a Roman cross. That was a part of the plan of God, a part of the immeasurable, illimitable grace and love of our Lord. “By His stripes we are healed.”

But then is that all the world is ever to see of our Saviour-dying in shame on a cross? No! It is also a part of the plan of God that some day this unbelieving, this blaspheming, this godless world shall see the Son of God in His full character, in glory, in majesty, in the full-orbed wonder and marvel of His Godhead. Then all men shall look upon Him as He really is. They shall see Him holding in His hands the title-deed to the Universe, holding in His hands the authority of all creation in the universe above us, in the universe around us, and in the universe beneath us; holding this world and its destiny in His pierced and loving hands.” (Expository Sermons on Revelation [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969], 1:16-17)

 

 

God gave Him to show… Revelation is the Testamentary Document of God the Father. He is not telling the Son anything He does not already know. Instead, God is giving His promises the force of Law. He has promised Jesus glory and, in Philippians 2:5-11, we see that the Father has given to the Son that Name at which all men will bow and that Name is Lord.   In the Gospels, the Son was seen in humiliation. In Revelation God the Father, who is pleased to give all things unto the Son, now exalts the Son. No longer is the Son simply at the right hand of Majesty on high, now He IS the Majesty on High.  Christ is the conquering King who takes back the Earth. The usurper is vanquished but more than that he is consigned to everlasting damnation replete with horrors unimaginable, forever cut off from the benefits and comfort of the Exalted Lord Jesus. Once the crown jewel of Heaven, surpassed in beauty and majesty only by the Godhead, Lucifer now faces his final doom as Jesus, with the word of His mouth  conquers all and then share His inheritance with His people.

 

Must happen soon– this actually speaks of nearness rather than time. Nothing stands in the way; the Eschaton can begin at any moment. The nearness of Christ’s return is emphasized in what we call the Blessed Hope:

 

EXCURSUS: THE BLESSED HOPE

The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church. (Romans 8:23, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Titus 2:13, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

 

REVELATION REVEALS

THE TRINITY

  • The opening greeting is from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (1:4-5)
  • We see the Father and the Son together as the Lamb takes the scroll containing both the Title Deed to the Earth and the 7-sealed Testamentary Document of God the Father (Chapter 4)
  • The angel speaks of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (14:12-13)
  • In the closing images we see the Throne of Grace, hear the words of Jesus, and are invited to response by the Holy Spirit (22:1)

 

GOD ALMIGHTY, SOVEREIGN OF THE UNIVERSE

  • Numerous of the visions reveal God as Almighty and show that nothing can thwart His will (1:8, 4:8,16:7,21:22)
  • Nothing stands in the way of God’s plan for Redemptive History (7:10-12, 11:18, 15:3-4)

 

THE HOLY GOD

  • A great chorus of angels and earthly saints repeatedly cry out in antiphonal chorus that God is Holy, magnificent, and the sum and seal of perfection (4:8, 15:3-4)

 

THE COMING KING

  • Especially with regard to the Millennium, Revelation shows Jesus coming in power and great glory to rule over all the Kingdoms of the Earth (11:15, 15:3-4,17:14, 10:11-16)

 

THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE

  • The entire world will stand before Christ and be judged. (14:7, 19:11-12, 20:11-15)
  • Christ’s judgment will be perfect, guided by righteousness and justice (16:7)
  • The righteous will be acquitted of sin on the basis of their faith in Christ while the unrighteous are judged guilty of sin based on their lack of faith in Christ and are accordingly sentenced to the Lake of Fire (20:15, 21:22-27)

 

A distinctive feature to watch for in our study is the frequent use of the number seven (52 times). There are seven beatitudes (1:3), seven churches (1:4, 11), seven spirits (1:4), seven golden lampstands (1:12), seven stars (1:16), seven seals (5:1), seven horns and seven eyes (5:6), seven trumpets (8:2), seven thunders (10:3), seven signs (12:1, 3; 13:13–14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20), seven crowns (12:3), seven plagues (15:6), seven golden bowls (15:7), seven hills (17:9) and seven kings (17:10), as well as other sevens.

 

Symbolically, the number seven stands for completeness. From this we can deduce:

  • we are given a full (complete) revelation.
  • 7 churches represent the whole church
  • The 7 Spirits symbolize the Godhead in totality
  • 7 horns and 7 eyes are complete power and wisdom
  • That the judgments come in three sets of 7, they are the full judgment of the entire Godhead on a Christ rejecting world
  • A city on 7 hills as well as 7 kings show that the whole world is judged; there is no escape for anyone

 

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