This Tuesday we will be in the Book of Revelation. Please read Chapter 1. Please use a study Bible if you have one. Almost 70% of the verses in Revelation allude to the Old Testament with more than 500 total references. A study Bible will help bring these references to light.
In most of the letters of the New Testament, the opening salutation will establish the theological foundation upon which the writer will compose his letter and will help establish those theological themes the writer will explore later within the letter. Revelation is no different. Although in reading Revelation, we all want to skip forward to the extraordinary visions, it is in the opening words of the book in vv. 1-9 that tell us what the book is about and how we are to interpret the visions. Never skip over the beginning.
As we read through the opening salutation, there are a few words that should jump out to us and which will anchor the remainder of the discussions of Revelation.
Revelation opens with the words: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” Rev. 1:1. The Greek word “of Jesus” is in the genitive case, meaning “origin” or “possession.” In other words, the revelation is not simply about Jesus, rather it originates with and is from Jesus. This is Jesus’ Revelation. These very first words tell us that Jesus is the author of the book and that John is merely the scrivener (Rev. 1:11). Every other letter in the New Testament (except for Hebrews and John’s letters) tells us that the work originates from the mind of another specific person. Here, John tells us that the words of this book do not originate with him, but with Christ. Therefore, as we read through the book, John wants us to understand that the visions and the message contained within those visions originate with Jesus and not with him.
The keyword in all of Revelation is the Greek word martus (a witness) or martureo (to witness, to give testimony). In Revelation 1:2, it is John who e-martyresen (testified) to the martyrian (testimony) of Jesus. It is from this word that we get the English word martyr.
Revelation is the story of the conflict between God’s elect and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. In this conflict, the saints do not fight with swords since Jesus commands that our swords be sheathed (John 18:11); rather, the only weapon that the saints wield in this battle is their testimony or witness – their martus. The only sword that the saints use is the one that issues from their mouths. Rev. 19:15. Of course, Jesus is the first witness, testifier, and martyr. Rev. 1:5. Before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, Jesus testified as to his identity and his purpose and for that testimony, he was killed. John 18. This is the example given to John’s audience and to us as to the means of fighting the spiritual forces of evil.
As you read through Revelation, whenever you see the words witness, testimony, or any derivation thereof, think not only about witnessing as speaking but also think about witnessing as being killed or martyred for speaking. John’s congregations are being persecuted because of their testimony. Revelation is about the nexus between that witnessing and their persecution. Therefore, for example, Revelation 1:2 should read: “John who bore witness/persecution for the word of God, and to the testimony/martyrdom of Jesus Christ.”
Revelation has seven (of course) Beatitudes. The first we find in 1:3: “Blessed is the one who reads and the ones who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things which are written in it.” The other beatitudes are found in verses 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, and 22:14. These series of blessings, and the emphasis on reading, hearing, and keeping the contents of the revelation tell us that this extraordinary vision is not primarily a series of predictions of future activity to satisfy our curiosity. Rather, the book is a challenge to John’s audience and to us to faithfulness and to perseverance in the face of setbacks, persecution, suffering, and death. This is how Revelation says we are blessed. As Dr. Gorman puts it “the prophet (John) is a visionary, not merely of a present crises or future events, but of an alternative way of being grounded in the vision of God.” (p.82). Just as the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount call us into a different way of being, so does Revelation. One of the great themes of Revelation is the blessed communion with God experienced by the saints that persevere.
From the beginning, John tells us that it is through Christ’s blood that we are freed from sin, and that Christ shed his blood for us because he loves us. Rev. 1:5 (b). His blood is the ransom given over to the spiritual forces of wickedness to set us free from the hold that they have over us. Rev. 5:9. Within Revelation, it is not only the testimony of the saints that brings victory, but it is the blood of the lamb who was slain. Rev. 12:11. It is his blood that cleanses us and makes us holy to stand in the presence of God. Rev. 7:14. According to Revelation, Christ’s death is not to placate the wrath of a retributive deity, but to ransom us from slavery to sin and to free us from all vestiges of the powers of evil. Without this understanding of the Cross and the purpose of the shedding of Christ’s blood, Revelation will be incoherent.
The introduction ends with the word “Almighty.” Rev. 1:8. This word will be used nine times in Revelation (and only once elsewhere (2 Cor. 6:18)). The Greek is Pantokrator which literally means “prevailing over” (krateo) “all” (pan). “Almighty” means having unrestricted power and exercising absolute dominion. God is in battle with the rulers of this world, like the Roman Emperor, and with the spiritual forces of evil, like Satan and his demons. The issue for John is whether his audience will capitulate to the power of Rome or persevere in their faith. By calling God “Almighty,” John is explicitly stating that Rome and the deified Emperor are not. The great theme of Revelation is that God will prevail because only God is Almighty and everything and everyone else is under his power and dominion.
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is baked penne and meatballs. Discussion about 7:15 ending with Compline. Hope to see you here!
He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.Colossians 1:13-14