Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Revelation 1:1-3

July 11th, 2010 by Vic

Revelation 1:1‑3

“The Apocalypse Begins”

The story in Revelation begins in Genesis (2:9; 3:22).  God’s plan for man is life, but man’s life is not within himself.  Man did not create himself.  Life is a gift from God and the quality of man’s life is subject to his relationship with God.  The Tree of Life, God’s gift in the Garden of Eden was fulfilled in Jesus Christ and later in Revelation we find the Tree of Life again available to those who respect God and walk in obedience (22:19).

I had a Bible teacher years ago who said that Revelation is at the end of the Bible for a reason.  If you understand the rest of it, Revelation is easy to understand.  He went on to say that there is a lot in Revelation we can understand.  Pay attention to what you do understand and don’t speculate about the unknown.  So in the days ahead I hope to focus on the things we can be sure of in Revelation.

Rev. 1:1 This word apocalypse/revelation literally means to take the cover off.  The Greeks used it for finding a spring of water that was hidden underground and is now revealed.  Taking the cover off reveals the living water that we saw the evidence for, but did not see clearly.  It was also used for undressing.  It could mean to unveil or take a curtain off something.  Many writers discuss the word for apocalypse.  But there are 3 words in this 1st verse that can mean to uncover or reveal.

The fact that there are 3 synonyms tells us this book is different than all the other literature that at first glance appears similar to apocalyptic writings.  This book or letter reflects the creativity of John and Jesus Christ not just some symbolic second hand speculation of some vague vision.

Creativity is the heart of God.  God created you with a creative song in your heart.  What you sing indicates your proximity to the heart of God.

This book of Revelation will teach us the songs of heaven that angels and the saints are singing.  Our lives are to be songs of praise.  But Satan doesn’t want you to be in tune with the heart of God.  He does not want you to sing God’s song in harmony.  He wants discord.  He wants broken strings.  He wants broken instruments.  He destroys the song of God.

If we were to base our economic system on creative stewardship rather than consuming, we would become a choir living in harmony as God planned.

We need a Revelation to enjoy the living water and the music.  We need our eyes opened to see all things new.  God invites us to come and dine, drink and sing.

This word apocalypse is used 17 other times in the NT.  To the Christian it meant an uncovering of God, a manifestation of God, or a better understanding of God.  The revelation was also the coming or appearing of Jesus Christ.  What we are about to read is an uncovering of God.  How much of God can we understand?  How much of God do we want to understand (Dan 10:12)?

Notice in verse 1 that this writing is a gift that God gave “to show.”  God wants us to see Truth.  It’s a  “deiksai” revelation or a showing of a gift.  This is a special showing.  God wants us to have and understand something.  We serve a giving God that wants to be understood.  This is the second word in this verse that suggests an uncovering or understanding.  This word is used again in 4:1; 17:1; 21:1; 22:1,6,8.  It It is translated as to point out, show, make known (1Tim 6:15; 1 Cor 12:31) or to explain or prove.  In Acts 10:28 Peter says, “God has shown me that I should not call any man unclean.”

“What must soon take place” suggests a moral necessity arising from the nature of God.  Because of who God is, it is necessary that what we are about to read must take place soon.  Nothing that is going to happen is controled by man.  History is not a haphazard sequence of unrelated events.  It must happen because of the laws God put into place.

The third word in this verse that can also mean to uncover or reveal is “eseemanen”. The verb is translated “he made known.”  It is used 3 times in John’s gospel when Jesus predicted His death (12:33; 18:32; 21:19).  The root word means sign post (Acts 11:28).  “seemeion”  the noun can also mean a personal distinguishing mark like a signature or a foot print (Matt 26:48; Lk 2:12; Rom 4:11).  It can be a warning (Matt 12:39; 16:4).  It is the evidence of someone making a mark.  Jesus himself is the sign (Mk 13:4; Lk 21:7, 11, 25; Acts 2:19; Rev 12:1; Matt 24:24).  In this letter God has given us some signs, foot prints, some videos, and some uncoverings.  How has God made Himself known to you?

Don’t expect a literal presentation.  A sign post points to the real thing.  Revelation is a symbolic video or signing type of communication.  The sign posts, showings, or uncoverings are the mediums used to communicate reality.  John is trying to record a live event of visions on a paper scroll.  These visions are revelations of God and how He works.

The Jews asked for signs (1 C 1:22), but they were looking for signs of conquest and triumph not signs of love.  Our expectations control what we see.  Signs can be pointers.  You can miss the trail if you are looking for one kind of sign, but a different one is given.  Signs are prominent, visible, maybe an omen.  Thunder and lightning were considered signs or voices from Zeus.

Jesus made it know by sending his angel to his servant.  Angels are referred to 67 times in Revelation.  The ‘servant’ as a title for a man of God or people of God occurs 14 times.

1:2 The Revelation is different from the other writings of that time.  All other Jewish and Christian apocalyptic or revelation writings were pseudonymous.  The writers did not reveal their true identity.  This apocalyse tells us 4 times that the writer is John.  Because its style was similar to apocalyptic literature of that day it would be natural to assume that John is a pseudonym.  But Christian tradition has universally identified John the apostle as the writer.

In 1:9 John identifies himself as one suffering with them.  When the problems are great, when you feel like you want to give up, when nobody seems to care, when the burden gets too heavy, John thinks we need this revelation.  He wrote this for us.  We need to see God.  We need a fresh glimpse into heaven.

This book has 404 verses and 265 of those (2/3) contain references to the Jewish Bible that we call the OT.  So to understand the book we need to know what apocalypse meant to the Jews.  Apocalyptic literature grew out of despair as the Jews sought for hope.  Jewish history was a catalogue of disasters and it became clear that no human deliverer could rescue them.  Many apocalyptic books were written between the OT and the NT.  John clarified that his writing was more than an apocalyptic uncovering.  It was a showing and a signing.  This letter is intended to be different.  It is not the apocalypse of the apocalypse.  It does not pretend to reveal how the Revelation will be revealed in the future.  It is written to reveal God through Jesus Christ in the now.

The popular apocalyptic literature was basically pessimistic.  In it the world is totally evil, could not be reformed, but needed to be remade. The golden age would come, but only after a great tribulation. Apocalyptic literature was never intended to be preached, only studied and read, not to be heard.  It was often written in code.  Symbols were common.  Words were spelled backwards.  Numbers replaced letters.  It has not been easy to translate some of the Dead Sea scrolls.  This Revelation is different.  It was meant to be read aloud.

Revelation clearly claims to be a book of prophecy (1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19).  Prophetic writings are not apocalyptic.  The prophets wanted to see justice in this world.  They called men to serve and obey God in the present world.  If men would repent, God would bless them in this age.  The prophet was the optimist.  He talked about the present age.  He mentioned the age to come, and the Day of the Lord between them, but these were only mentioned as a warning to call men to repentance today, not as a message of future hope.  The apocalyptic literature was ethically passive.  It did not care if you were good or bad in the present time.  Revelation calls the sinner to repent now.  It calls for a moral choice now.

Apocalyptic literature talked about the sin of the present age, the terrors of the Day of the Lord, and the blessings of the Golden Age.  These writings are composed of dreams and visions of the end, which means it had to use symbols and word pictures to express things that physical eyes have not seen.  The more the Jews suffered, the more they dreamed.  But if their conquerors understood their dreams and their hope in a conquering Messiah, they could have been interpreted as subversive or revolutionary. So their writings were written in code and the author never signed his real name.

The Revelation of John is different.  It is signed; it is positive. The coming of Christ is not a mystery to be revealed in wrath, but it is a fact that has been revealed in love.  This apocalypse did not begin in the mind of man, but in the heart of God.  In apocalyptic writings the climactic event was still future.  But in Revelation the slain Lamb has already gained the victory.  The climactic event has already occurred.  And there is also another big event coming.

Jesus is now seated in heaven at the Father’s right hand.  He has sent His Spirit to help our spirit know the realtiy of His presence with us, among us, and in us.  Jesus is revealed by His Spirit in the church, in the world, in judgment and in the new world.

There is a lot in Revelation that I do not understand.  If I understood everything, I wouldn’t need you or God.  However there is much we can learn if we read and heed.  The number 7 occurs 54 times in this book. Seven is the number of completion, perfection, fulness.  Seven is the combination of 3 and 4.  Three represents the Trinity and four represents the world with 4 winds, 4 points of the compass, 4 elements, 4 seasons, etc.  When God the 3, comes to earth the 4, we have the completion of seven and fulness of time.

The 7th day was set aside as holy because it was a covenant between the world and the Trinity.  Revelation is the book of sevens because it is the book of the fulness of everything of which it treats.  Whatever has the number 7 in God’s reckoning, is full, complete, with nothing to be added because nothing is left out.  There are 7 beatitudes in Revelation and 7 times John says, “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:5), 7 churches, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 signs, 7 bowls, 7 last things.

This is the revelation about Jesus Christ and it is the revelation about God that Jesus Christ brings. (Rev 1:1)  It was probably not all written in one sitting.

There are 4 traditional ways of interpreting this book.  1) The preterist says it is history and poetry that applied to the time it was written.  It is a political cartoon for that time.  All the symbols and types refer to people and events at that time.  2) The historicist says it is a series of prophecies of progressive world history.  It is God’s plan for the ages.  3) The futurist says it is prophecy pertaining to the end time and there are several variations on the timing of the millennium.  Are the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls to be understood in seasonal time (kairo) or chronological (crono) time?  For the futurist all events relate to the 2nd coming except the 7 churches.  4) The idealist says it is a spiritual, symbolic, or poetic book with no literal meaning.  My basic assumption is that the author wrote this book for his own day in a way that they would find comfort and encouragement.  He was not writing something to put in a time capsule.  When we understand what it meant to them we can make many applications to our lives.  God’s will and ways have not changed.  I believe the full meaning of all Scripture will be fulfilled when Jesus returns.

God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, wants to be understood. Throughout history He has revealed Himself in ways that He expected man to understand.  He wanted to be understood so badly that He sent His only Son so that we might understand His love.  He wanted the first readers to understand just as He wants us to understand.

This book has often been the sandbox of theologians who have built elaborate castles to prove their own opinions.

One author I read feels the book is divided into 7 parallel sections.  The first 3 sections deal with the second coming struggle from earths point of view.  The last 4 sections progressively take a higher view.  He said there is a spiralling progress in intensity, but each section ends with a note of Christ’s Second Coming.  It is a view of the earth as we spiral upward.

Another author says that chapter 1 is a summary of the whole book. and the rest is a series of historical events.  Another writer says that chapters 4 and 5 contain a survey of the plan of God for all mankind.  Many writers put the book in a time line even though time is irrelevant with God and in heaven where time does not exist.  John says he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day not in the future.

Revelation begins with God.  He is the source of all Truth.  He desires to communicate with man that history is not haphazard.  History is His story.  God wants you to know that He is in control and things must happen as He has determined.  Some things must soon take place.  There is a cosmic conflict between Christ and Satanic powers.  There will be a final judgment of evil.

God wants to speak through men, the servant kind of men.  The greatest men of God felt that the greatest title they could carry was, servant of God.  The ambition of the great men of God was to be a servant of God.  God only uses servants.  He uses the things the world considers weak to confound the wise.  My foster brother was a worship leader in his church.  He is a classic example of how God uses the weak to confound the wise.  He would say the same thing about me.

This morning I want to conclude by reading the 7 blessings in Revelation.

RV 1:3.  Our Scripture today ends in a 3 fold blessing.  The same word that Jesus used in Matthew 5 when He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, the poor, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers” is the same word used 7 times in the book of Revelation.  Paul used the word in Acts 26:2.  He felt blessed.

We are blessed because the time is near.  The “kairos” season for Christ’s return is always near.

We will be happy and blessed if we read, hear and heed.  God will bless us because the time is near.  The season of fulfillment is at hand.  Jesus has come, is coming and will come.  The schedule is set and certain.  To hear God’s word is a privilege; to obey is a duty.  There are benefits for obeying the word of God whether we read or hear.

This is an open book; meant to be read, heard and obeyed.  God has revealed His plan of the Ages so we can adjust our conduct for our own good.  The more we read this book and know of God’s will and God’s ways, the happier and more blessed we will be.  This was not intended to be a mystery.  It deals with both the present and the future so symbols are used, but the symbols are shadows, showings and signs that point to God and what is really real.

If you were John and you saw a video tape of astronauts floating in space, how would you describe it?  Maybe a bottomless pit?  If you were to describe an armed helicopter with rockets and guns, would you compare it to a large, loud locust?

The blessing in verse 3 is conditioned on obedience.  Blessed are those who read, hear and heed.

Rev. 14:13

This blessing is in the midst of disaster and terror.  God wants it plain.  Evil is being punished and good is being blessed.  The false are promised punishment and the faithful are promised blessing.

When the night is darkest, the consolation is often the greatest. There is rest for the faithful weary.  No one suffers more than the one who suffers unjustly, and God says we will suffer unjustly.  We may suffer for doing good, being righteous, and telling the truth.  When that occurs, here is the promise of God, keep being holy and you will be blessed.  There is a great day coming.

The message here is that if living a righteous life literally kills you, you will be blessed, both now and in eternity.  In fact the Spirit within us confirms this heavenly promise.

This blessing will not mean much to you until the burdens grow great.  This blessing is not for you if you are not suffering.  But there may be a day coming when you will remember this promise for those that endure to the end.  Joy comes brightest in the morning for those in the darkest night.

Your labors end at death, but your reputation follows you.

Rev. 16:15

This blessing barely interupts the writer.  In the midst of wrath, while the unclean spirits are stirring up all the kings and gathering them for battle, John hears a voice.  It sounds like Jesus.  It is a similar message given to John and the other disciples just before the crucifixion.  When it seems like I am the only one left, Jesus says, “Keep holy.  Keep dressed in righteousness.  Keep on the armor of God and stand firm.

There is going to be a wedding.  Your good deeds are the clothes you wear or the quilt you wrap in.  Jesus is coming to take those who are dressed, watching, and waiting for heaven.

Rev. 19:9

First the Bridegroom comes, then the marriage, then the supper. This is the supper immediately following the marriage.  This is when our faith becomes sight and all enjoy the bounty of God.  The conclusion for everything is blessing for the faithful.

Rev. 20:6

The dead in Christ shall rise first.  All the Christians who have died are blessed and holy.  There are 5 times in Revelation where saints are taken to heaven.  Here John identifies these as blessed because they are part of the first resurrection and death is powerless over them.  Also God gives them priestly authority and royal authority for a thousand years.

Rev. 22:7

This is similar to the first blessing in our Scripture today.  Now read the next verse.  Rev. 22:8  John saw and heard what he wrote. His adoration put him on his knees frequently.  The majesty of the revelation gave him weak knees.  As we study this book, I hope we get weak knees.  When you sense the presence of God, the only wise things to do is kneel.  In fact the Bible seems to teach that it is impossible to stand in His presence unless He gives strength.

Rev. 22:14

This verse takes us back to the garden.  God wants to walk with us. Clean clothes represent good deeds from a clean heart which is required to be in God’s presence and attend the wedding.

Titus 2:11‑13  Watching, waiting, and hoping keeps me clean.

The tree spans the river.  Jesus said out of Him would flow rivers of living water.  Jesus is the tree of Life.  The garden has been restored in the new heaven and new earth.

When John looked in the future, Jesus was there.  During the greatest terrors and wars, Jesus is among the churches comforting His people.  We can read and be blessed because we can know that God is in control of my yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows.  This is a book of comfort.  Amidst all the terror this life can produce, we’ll find God’s blessing.  The pure in heart will see God in everything.

Jesus has invited all to the big wedding celebration in heaven, but only those in white robes can attend.  Lets live holy lives and be faithful.  Good deeds are our white robes.

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