The Promise and the Demand
New year, new series, and we're picking up and working through the book of Revelation. We'll be going through it as fast, and as slowly, as required; some weeks we'll be looking at big passages, others we'll study just one word or one verse. Today we're looking at Revelation 1:1-2.
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
This NIV translation has "from Jesus", while the ESV translation says "of Jesus". This raises our first question. What is being revealed or unveiled? Is Jesus doing the revealing or is Jesus the one being revealed? While the ultimate subject of the whole Bible is Jesus Christ, this first verse points to Jesus being the one that is doing the revealing. God has revealed to Jesus, Jesus (through His angel) reveals it to John, John reveals it to the seven churches and in turn, we are the extension of these early churches. God is the ultimate fountain of all truth and knowledge. His purpose is to reveal His character and invite us to worship Him.
There is a debate about who John is. Is he the same writer that wrote the Gospel of John and 1,2 and 3 John? The lack of personal details and clarity opens the door for various options, however, this also supports that John is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee, one of the 12 disciples. This is the most likely option. John only identifies himself as a "servant of God", he doesn't exalt himself, which goes towards supporting this being Jesus Christ's revelation rather than someone else's. This John is known by the seven churches, so he doesn't need to identify himself any further. While his Greek in this book is simpler than the language used in the other books, this can be easily answered by the access to a secretary or scribe he could have had earlier in his life, compared to when Jesus revealed the truths in this book to him. Many of the themes in this book can be found across the other books, such as Lamb of God and Logos. Ultimately John is the writer, but Jesus Christ is the author.
So, what is being revealed here? John's testimony is of what Jesus revealed to him. This testimony is similar to what we do in a courtroom. In fact, he is testifying in a courtroom, proclaiming Christ, witnessing with consequences. He writes this in exile on the island of Patmos for this very witness, (Rev. 1:9).
As we work through this complex book of the Bible, we are to approach it with humility in our heart and as a servant of God. We are to have obedience in speaking a less than popular message and we are to read this book with several lenses in place. We have to look at the context that these early churches received the message, as well as the eternal message of hope found in this book.
God's revelation is both a promise (to us) and a demand (of us). The promise is a new way of looking at the world, one full of hope, justice, and healing. In the long run, justice will always prevail, God will always prevail. The demand of those that have heard and have received the Gospel must be to "witness". Those that truly long for a kingdom of justice in the future must act justly in the present. While we wait for God to right all things we must avoid being wrongdoers today.
Jesus's revelation to us is both a promise and a demand.