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What the Bible says about Revelation of Jesus Christ
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Revelation 1:1-2

Verse 1 opens the book with the words, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ." This is the book's real title, not what the Greeks titled it, Apokalypsis Ioannou?"The Revelation of John." In a sense, the apostle John is merely a witness or observer of the visions and sayings that we find within these twenty-two chapters, one who faithfully wrote them down for the instruction, preparation, and edification of the church (verse 2).

Apokalypsis means "unveiling," "disclosure," or "revelation," which is just the opposite of what most people suppose it means. The book is not intended to be a collection of arcane prophecies, mysteries, symbols, and warnings, but an uncovering of knowledge about "things which must shortly take place." As verse 1 maintains, the Father gave the contents of Revelation to Jesus Christ, who as Head of the church passed them on to His disciples through John, so that they would have all the facts that God allowed about the imminent future. God does not desire the book of Revelation to be a frustrating, impenetrable enigma, but as a gift of His grace, a sharing of privileged information.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The All-Important Introduction to Revelation

Revelation 1:1-2

The apostle John identifies himself as the human author and witness of the Revelation three times in the first nine verses (verses 1-2, 4, 9). He humbly calls himself God's "servant" (doulos, "bond-slave"), not even titling himself an apostle. In verse 9, he adds that he is "both your brother and companion in tribulation and the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ." He claims no special prominence or distinction; in his own mind, he is just a "regular guy" enduring the same trials in his walk to God's Kingdom as any other Christian. These few details are surprisingly more information than John normally includes about himself in either his gospel or his three epistles.

Traditionally, the book of Revelation has been ascribed to the apostle John, son of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21), "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 21:20; 13:23; 20:2), and no creditable argument has been put forward to dispute his authorship. When it was written about AD 95, he would certainly have been a very old man, but by all accounts, the apostle John lived to be nearly 100 years old, dying a peaceful death in the area of Ephesus sometime during the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan (AD 98-117).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The All-Important Introduction to Revelation

Revelation 1:1-2

The book itself tells us, right at the beginning, what it is about, but because of the way it is translated into English, we can read right over it and miss the book's own declaration of its contents. We are immediately told that this book contains the revelation of Jesus Christ. This phrase is the title of the book. But what does "revelation" mean? It is the Greek noun apocalypsis, which is why this book is often called the "book of the Apocalypse." This noun comes from the verb apocalupto, which literally means "to take away the veil," such as when a painting or statue has its covering taken away. Even though apocalypsis is most often translated "revelation," the best equivalent word in English is "unveiling."

In common usage, when someone refers to the "Apocalypse," or describes an event as being "apocalyptic," he is usually talking about widespread devastation or ultimate doom. Mel Gibson recently produced and directed a movie entitled Apocalypto, which portrayed the end of the Mayan civilization—and it was a very bloody end.

Using "apocalypse" this way derives from the content of the book of Revelation, not from the word's Greek meaning. Simply, apocalypsis and apocalupto refer to "taking away a veil" or "unveiling" rather than to cataclysmic events. However, in this specific instance of apocalypse, of a veil being taken away (when Jesus Christ returns), widespread devastation will in fact occur as this present age closes with wars and disasters.

In the Greek New Testament, apocalypsis appears in two senses. When used figuratively, it has the sense of "bringing someone to knowledge," as in the English phrase "remove the veil of ignorance." For example, when we say that a mystery is unveiled, we mean that the veil of ignorance is lifted so that the matter can be plainly understood. In terms of the book of Revelation, this is the sense that most interpreters and readers recognize in it. They see it as the unveiling of prophetic events to understanding.

However, when apocalypsis is used in a literal sense, it refers to "the visible appearance of one previously unseen," as a woman shrouded by a veil is revealed when her covering is removed. In Revelation's case, as the book of the Unveiling, apocalypsis literally refers to the visible appearance of One who is now hidden from human sight, and that One is, of course, Jesus Christ.

The New Testament consistently supports the literal sense of apocalypsis rather than the figurative, and that the "revelation of Jesus Christ" is not limited to His testimony or to His unlocking of prophecy. Instead, the "revelation of Jesus Christ" is, in fact, an advance record of His visible appearance in glory, to overthrow the spirit and human rulers of this world and to establish His Kingdom on earth.

A key to effective Bible study is to let the Bible interpret itself. Another key is to let the Bible's usage of a word determine its meaning rather than to rely solely on what it means in secular Greek or Hebrew. Apocalypsis appears in eighteen places in the New Testament, and in ten of those places—including Revelation 1:1—it is used literally, referring to a person or a thing. In every case, it denotes the "visible appearance" or "unveiling" of that person or thing, confirming how it should be understood in Revelation 1:1.

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Book of Revelation?

Revelation 1:4-8

Verses 4-8 comprise an extended greeting to the seven churches in Asia (later specifically named in verse 11, as well as in chapters 2 and 3). As the human author of the book, John includes himself as a sender of the greeting, but the bulk of it reemphasizes the real authors: God the Father, shown as eternal and sovereign, and Jesus Christ, extolled as "the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth" (verse 5).

John ensures that we understand that Jesus is the same One who exhibited His love for us by sacrificing Himself for the forgiveness of our sins and made possible our future glorification (verses 5-6). In verse 8, he carries the identification even farther by quoting Jesus' own words: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'" Lest we misunderstand, John makes certain that there is no doubt that Jesus is the Lord of the Old Testament, the first and the last (Isaiah 44:6; 41:4), the Almighty God, who "declar[es] the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'" (Isaiah 46:10). This extensive greeting certifies, not only that the prophecy has its source in God, but also that it will come to pass.

The greeting also includes "from the seven Spirits who [or which] are before [the Father's] throne" (verse 4), a quite controversial phrase. Commentators are divided among four interpretations, which can be summarized as angelic, symbolic, mystical, and Trinitarian. Understandably, the Trinitarian view—that "the seven Spirits" identifies a so-called Third Person of the Trinity—has the support of most Catholics and Protestants. Their primary reason centers on the fact that this phrase appears between greetings from God the Father and the Son of God. They contend that this phrase refers to the sevenfold description of the Spirit of the Lord in Isaiah 11:2.

The book of Revelation itself identifies the seven Spirits as equivalent to the Lamb's "seven eyes, which are . . . sent out into all the earth" (Revelation 5:6). These "seven eyes" probably allude to Zechariah 3:9 and 4:10, where they are shown to be "upon the stone," a symbol of the Branch or Messiah, and directly described as "the eyes of the LORD which scan [or rove] to and fro throughout the whole earth." In addition, Revelation 3:1 states Christ "has [or possesses] the seven Spirits of God," and Revelation 4:5 calls them "seven lamps of fire . . . burning before the throne."

This may indeed be a description of the Holy Spirit, not as a "Person" somehow divided into seven parts, but as a seven-branched conduit of God's communication to the seven churches mentioned earlier in the verse. Thus, John includes "the seven Spirits" as a source of the prophecy to specify how it was imparted to the seven churches. The apostle Paul pens a similar greeting in II Corinthians 13:14, in which he writes of "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit," meaning that God's Spirit is the means by which Christians can have a relationship with God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The All-Important Introduction to Revelation


 




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