THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST
Since 1948 there has been a great revival of interest in the future and end time events. You may ask, “Why is the fact that Israel was reborn as a nation in 1948 and the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967 an important event to the study of God’s word by God’s own prophets?”
Because God said He would one day regather the children of Israel into the land promised them through His covenant with Abraham. For it is written: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land (Ezekiel 37:21).” This prophetic regathering, God’s greatest miracle of the past 1900 years, which we have seen take place within our generation, is to serve as a sign to the world that the “Day of the Lord” draws near.
Also, the year 1967 fulfilled this key prophecy of Christ Jesus: “And they (the Jewish people) will be led away captive into all nations (A.D. 70 and 135). And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles UNTILL the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24).” The year 1967 marked the end of more than 2500 years of Gentile rule over Jerusalem when Israel gained control of the entire city of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War in 1967. This is just more proof that we are now living in the end times. Before 1948 it was not possible to know that we were living in the end times. The nation Israel is the timepiece, or the point of reference God has given us for discerning the times of the season we live in.
Yes, there is only one true source of information about the future and that is the ONE who holds the future in His hands – the God of the universe. If we are to know what is in store for us and this old planet, we must look to God’s word and those portions of it which foretell what one day will become history.
Revelation is such a book. However, many say, “I can’t understand Revelation. It’s all a big puzzle to me!” Well, take heart. God knew many would close their Bibles when they reached its final chapters. Nowhere does it say we will fully understand all that is included in this wonderful, prophetic book. God doesn’t expect us to understand it perfectly. He doesn’t promise we will. What He does promise is found in the first chapter, the third verse. Mark this verse and remember it well. God promises, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” No, we are not promised perfect understanding. But we are promised a blessing by reading the words of Revelation or hearing them and by keeping those things written therein.
This does not mean, however, that Revelation is unintelligible or that we will understand none of it. John was commanded not to seal the words of this prophecy. They were to remain open so that everyone would have the opportunity to understand its contents. It is written in chapter 22 verse 10: “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand’.” If we are promised a special blessing for reading it, then apparently the book must be helpful to those who do read it.
Even the very word “Revelation” is significant. Literally it is an “apocalypse,” a revealing, or an unveiling. The book is not meant to cloud our minds or to mystify but to clarify, enlighten, and inform. We should expect to gain a fuller understanding of the program of God by reading the Revelation, even if we don’t understand everything we read.
Therefore, as we embark on this important study of this magnificent revelation, we seek the promised blessing of God and greater insight into what God has decreed for the future.
THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST
The title of this writing is misleading in some Bibles. Even the King James Version denotes it as “The Revelation of St. John the Divine.” Many people speak of the “Book of Revelations” in the plural. All of these are man-made titles and do not accurately convey the true purpose of the book. Verse one of chapter one is far more accurate for it is the designation given by God. We may properly refer to this writing as “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” for that is what it is. This is not a simple guide to the future, an unveiling of predicted events, but it is a grand unveiling of a person – Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Revelation is a book about a person, the Savior of men and Sovereign of the universe. Thus, we properly refer to it as “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” or “The Book of Revelation” or simply “Revelation.”
The author of this revelation is God, but the man chosen to record it for posterity was the Apostle John. The first verse of the book indicates, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants – things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.” This beloved disciple of the Lord was privileged in his old age to be an eyewitness to the unveiling of the events foretold in Revelation.
John continues by telling where he was when he received this revelation. Verse nine states he was “on the island that is called Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Patmos is a tiny, wind-swept island about 35 miles southwest of the coast of Asia Minor. It was used by the Romans as a place of banishment for criminals. When John says he was there “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” he doesn’t mean he was sent there as a missionary. John had apparently been the pastor of the church at Ephesus and because of his faithful and fearless preaching the Emperor Domitian exiled him to this forsaken island. John was banished because toward the end of his reign Domitian demanded all Christians worship him as God and instead the apostle “preached the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
We can fairly accurately place the time of the writing of Revelation by determining the date of John’s exile to Patmos. Now, if John was banished to Patmos during the persecution of Christians near the end of Domitian’s reign (A.D. 81-96) and returned to Ephesus in A.D. 96, the recording of Revelation must have taken place about A.D. 95 or a bit earlier. Revelation, then, is the last recorded writing from the mouth of God put to the pen of man.
Since Revelation is a unique book, the only prophetic book of the New Testament, we must ask ourselves how we will interpret it. In the past, those who have studied the Bible have devised no less than four ways to view the events of Revelation.
First, there are a number of theologians who hold that nothing written in Revelation is real. They say that it is not literal but fictional. By using allegories, these theologians say the book simply points out spiritual lessons, mostly for encouragement. Really, I see little encouragement in the Great White Throne Judgement.
Second, there are those who take the position that everything recorded in this book has already been fulfilled. Adherents to this view say that the Book of Revelation records the conflicts of the early church with Judaism and paganism. They claimed that, with the exception of the last two or three chapters, everything recorded was fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem and the old Roman Empire.
Third, some say we should interpret Revelation as continuous history. They maintain the events recorded in the book cover a time span from the early church and culminate with the coming reign of Christ. Thus, we are now living somewhere in the account of Revelation.
It is my opinion that each of these approaches fails to fit the facts. Thus, it appears that the proper method of interpreting this unveiling of the person of Jesus Christ is prophetically. Therefore, beginning with chapter four, all events recorded are yet future and will one day be fulfilled. This means that chapters 4 through 19 relate to the period just preceding the second coming of Christ in glory; chapter 19 refers to His coming to earth, chapter 20 to His future millennial kingdom (1000-year reign on earth); and chapters 21 and 22 to the events subsequent to the millennium. Over the next two postings we shall be viewing those things “which must shortly come to pass,” for the rapture of the Church, prophetically pictured in the beginning of chapter 4, cannot be far off.
DIVINE OUTLINE OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Although there may be many ways one could divide the book for studying purposes, there is none so simple, yet so profound, as the way God divides it. Chapter one, verse 19, bears the most natural or should we say supernatural division of Revelation. John is commanded to “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” Quite simply: The past, present, and future.
The first division, “the things which John has seen” are recorded in the first chapter, verses 9 through 18. At verse 12, John “turned to see the voice that spoke to me.” What he saw was a vision of seven candlesticks or lampstands, which are explained in verse 20, “and in the midst of them one like the Son of Man.” John saw Jesus Christ dressed in His priestly garments. In verse 14 we read: “His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow….” This is reminiscent of the Ancient of Days of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 7:22). John saw that Jesus Christ’s eyes “were like a flame of fire; and his feet like fine bronze, as if they burned in a furnace (vs. 14, 15).” The Lord had come in the fires of judgement. “Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and His conference was like the sun shining in its strength (v.16).” All of this John saw and was commanded to write.
The second division, “the things which are” is recorded in chapters 2 and 3. These present things refer to that which takes place during the age of the Church. They include the entire Church. From its beginning at Pentecost to its consummation when our great God and Savior Jesus Christ will rapture Is Church.
The third and final division is the “things which will take place after this” or in the future – end times. Literally, this means the things which happen after these things, the events of chapter 2 and 3. They are the words of prophecy which constitute the bulk of Revelation, from chapter 4 to the end of chapter 22. These chapters describe the events which will take place after the Church Age has become history – after the Rapture.
Bearing these three divisions in mind will greatly help us in understanding that which is revealed in The Revelation of Jesus Christ. “The things which you have seen (the past)” are gone. “The things which are (the present)” will soon come to a close and we will see before our very eyes “the things which will take place after this (the future).”
Yes, we are living in exciting days, near the end of the Church Age, and even a knowledge of Revelation that barely scratches the surface makes them much more exciting. Jesus is coming soon.
F/B – Signs Of Our Times