“Guts! … Guts, Guts, Guts!” Have you seen the 9 year old Ramona say that? Six years before Ramona’s arrival came her oh so perfect big sister: Beezus. Ramona’s teacher did not approve of imaginary words like “terrifical.” Neither did Ramona’s teacher give her good grades. The older Beezus having no such problem was basking in parental praise while Ramona brooded that she was just misunderstood.
Why start a study on Revelation with a bit from Ramona & Beezus? Well, you see Ramona didn’t interrupt her family by saying, “Guts!” Rather she said, “I’m going to say a bad word.” That made the family stop, look and listen only to have the artsy Ramona emphasize that the bad word was not only going to be bad, but very, very bad. Finally she said,”Guts!” only to have the relieved and humored break out in great laughter further. Ramona even failed in saying bad words and she rushed from the house.
I could say something like this: “I’m going to say a church word….(pause for effect)….a very, very common church word…(pause again)….Revelation.” I fear the word Revelation is a catch & release Christian word like a prized fish at a fishing hole. We hear Revelation and think “Got it!” Revelation is so connected to pathways in our mind that we drive down the street into our mental neighborhood and miss the houses and signs, the children, fences, flowers and all kinds of other things alongside the sidewalk.
What I want to do is stop you as you pull in to that mental neighborhood or driveway or sidewalk so we can revisit what that word means.
What does revelation mean?
Revelation could be a thing that some people know but others do not.
It could be like a surprise birthday party. The unsuspecting 1 year older person arrives and Bam! Surprise! Happy Birthday they all scream. The party is revealed. What about a mystery revealed or why something happened. Why did the wreck happen? Who was driving when they crashed? Were they texting? Did they fall asleep? Or, try this on for revelation: “And the winner is….” What about a solution for a vexing problem.
Revelation could also be speaking about the future.
- Will so and so do well after returning from drug rehab?
- If Obamacare is repealed will that help? Will premiums fall? Will medium sized businesses allow their employees to work beyond 30 hours?
- When will Jesus come back?
- Will that person’s dad be saved?
- What about the potential neck surgery Mr. Crunch needs?
- How about the throwing shoulder of that baseball player?
The book in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, called Revelation reveals much of the return of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:1 is a precursor to the rest of this book.
Don’t forget the source…
Suppose you have a guinea pig and its nose seems to be bleeding. Do you sit in a chair by the street and ask the mail-lady when she comes by in her truck? What about the fellow across the street who breeds mourning doves? Will he know why the guinea pig’s nose bleeds? How about a farmer or a large animal vet? All of these people may be kind and interested in the plight of your cute, little, hairy pig, but you need a regular vet and preferably a vet experienced in the care of small to medium sized rodents.
Well, if you want to know about heaven you need someone who has been there. Jesus Christ has the credentials. He had a miraculous birth followed by an amazing set of prophecies when presented at the temple on his 8th day of life. Twelve years later he continued his remarkable progress by discussing and debating with the religious leaders many years his senior.
His uniqueness did not stagnate, but took off far more briskly during his 3 years of ministry in Palestine. He healed people, raised people from the dead, calmed the storms and chased off evil spirits. He spoke with authority in matters spiritual and raised up from obscurity a set of men who would carry his message to the world changing it from within.
That earthly life concluded with a brutal, albeit gracious, death followed on by a well attested resurrection. Some time after he ascended back to heaven completing his round trip from heaven to earth. Jesus was the man from heaven.
5 words in the Holy Scripture
“The revelation of Jesus Christ…” (Rev 1:1–ESV–first 5 words)
In these first five words we see the purpose of this book. This book is a telling of hidden things (that is revelation) by one from that hidden place (heaven). He, Jesus, has a believable history and is alive. We are to listen to the revelation.
Where did Jesus get his information?
Do you figure that Jesus just knows all this stuff because he is God? While that may be a pretty good assumption we must not forget what the Bible has to say about it. Look at the next part of Revelation 1:1.
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him…” (Rev 1:1–ESV–4 more words)
See what these four words say? God, meaning God the Father was the source. When the time was right God gave the information to Jesus. Remember in John’s gospel when one of the disciples asked Jesus when he would return? What did Jesus say? “No one knows…except the Father.” In Romans 11:36 we see it said, “…for from him & through him & to him are all things.” That is not talking about Jesus, but about God the Father.
So God is the holder of all truth. The wholeness of truth is in him, and when the time was right he gave it to Jesus.
Note how the role of God the Father is distinctly different than the role of God the Son: Jesus.
God holds all information and doles it out as he sees fit. He doled some things out in the creation. Other things he doled out by giving us a mind to learn and study the things he has created. Still other things are only doled out to Jesus and I think we can safely extrapolate that some things remain solely in his understanding and counsel not revealed anywhere.
So truth is FROM the Father TO the Son. Jesus received what God chose to give him and then Jesus obeyed doing God’s will on earth as it was in heaven.
No dead ends with truth
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants…” (Rev 1:1–ESV–first 11 words)
God the Father gave, Jesus the Son received. God’s giving came with implications. The implication was that he would share. Jesus was to receive and then broadcast, put on the web, publish, tell, etc.
There is the way that the Bible describes Jesus. He is described as being first from among the dead1. That means he rose from the dead first. Guess who is second, or third, or fourth, or 1 millionth? We are. We are to be about the same process of Jesus Christ. In 2017 Curtis Baptist Church announced a theme: knowing, living, sharing.
Let me diverge to relate a story. Once I found myself in the middle of a discussion about the homosexual lifestyle. A lady I worked declared a live and let live stance. Gently walking into that conversation a little further I said the scriptures indicate homosexuality as a thing God disapproves of. I went on to say that same sex attraction is a reality for many people, but scripture says acting on or fantasizing upon those attractions is off-limits. Like it or not the Holy Scriptures say these activities are not acceptable. I also quickly went on to say that heterosexual activity outside of marriage falls into the same “not acceptable” category. Temptations are to be resisted no matter their quarter.
This explanation seemed to make sense to her, and I think helped to draw her away from the tacit approval of the live-and-let-live. We need not only to hold firmly to scriptural constructs, but also not dismiss people’s real world struggles. This is but one personal example of truth telling.
What was to be shared?
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place…” (Rev 1:1–ESV)
The things given in this book were for the servants of Jesus Christ. That Jesus would function this way was not new. Look at John 17:6 as it is put in the NIV2. Jesus is quoted as praying, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.” Jesus had been about revealing God to people while on the earth. Jesus continued to do that from heaven after her ascended back to his home venue.
John was the last Apostle remaining alive. He had been one of those servants that Jesus spoke about in his John 17 prayer. The elderly John on the island of Patmos was still one of those servants.
Jesus told John words and visions of the future. God had given this information to Jesus that he might show those God gave Jesus out of the world. In this book will be words of prophecy, a revealing of hidden things of the future. Years before this when items of prophecy came up the disciples would ask, “When will these things happen?” Jesus replied that that was privileged information.
Timing remains the secret of God the Father, but the events which God knows before hand were shown in glimpses to John. It was as if God tipped his hand a little bit. There were things God wanted us to know
So we see here God the Father as absolute sovereign giving people (to Jesus), giving a message (to Jesus) and sending Jesus. Jesus remains the obedient son. We are the recipients of God’s words.
Jesus obeyed giving sight to a man who valued faith
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.” (Rev 1:1–ESV)
There is the answer. It is “yes.” Jesus published God’s words by an angel to the exiled John. John had been one of the inner 3 and the only one to adhere tightly to Jesus throughout his misery. He had proceeded to Jesus’ trial. At the cross Jesus committed his mother to the safe keeping of John so John was present at the crucifixion. John believed at the tomb. When Jesus reinstated Peter John had been walking nearby (John 21:22).
John had valued faith. Think of the story of the doubting disciple. Thomas declared that without definitive proof of Jesus’ resurrection he would not believe it. When Jesus arrived Thomas made a statement not of faith, but a statement of sight. “My Lord and my God,” he said. John recorded Jesus as going much further than this saying that blessed are those who believe without sight. That is the best thing.
Here on Patmos, John, an apostle of faith will be given more sight. The last hurrah of Jesus to his servants was going to be on that island. Jesus’ obedience brought harmony among God and men. God desired a thing to be revealed and gave sight to a man who valued faith.
What about John?
“…who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” (Rev 1:2–ESV)
So again look at the scripture for the answer to this question. Jesus shared and John shared. John testified to everything he saw. When we read the book of Revelation we hold the obedience in our hands. We would not have this book if it were not for John’s obedience.
John himself seems to categorize what he was given into God’s word and Jesus’ revealing.
We must not forget that this order is needful. Sin separates men from God. They cannot mix. Jesus’ life was the needed ingredient.
What about us? Did John guide us to anything?
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it,” (Rev 1:3–ESV)
When I read a phrase like “blessed is the one who reads aloud” my mind fires off alarm bells. The human tendency is to control things, control others, and even to control God. So does this passage mean that I only have to read these words and read them aloud to get a blessing? Is reading the quarter I put in the candy machine? In goes the reading and out comes the life-candy?
I know that is not true, but how do the words of this verse get explained? The answer is by going to the original languages. That can be done on many websites where the Strongs numbers are.
Let me summarize though what I have found in doing that. The English word read is how the translators of the Greek texts compiled our scriptures. The Greek word was a compound word including the word to know with an emphatic prefix. So the word read here means to perceive accurately, to recognize. It is to know by reading so no magic beads here.
The same concept underlies the word hear meaning to understand and comprehend. A student of the Bible will be familiar with the phrase, “he who has ears, let him hear.” That means hear to comprehension.
Comprehension and understanding is not the whole picture. Those steps must be carried out in the keeping of what is written. Remember back to the beginning of this lesson where I mentioned that Mark Sterling’s God given theme for Curtis Baptist Church for 2017 is: knowing, living, sharing? Well here it is in Revelation 1. John and Jesus were sharing. They told us to be knowing and living. We should, like Jesus go on to share.
John also tells us of an urgency.
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”(Rev 1:3–ESV)
The book of Revelation is about the return of Jesus to earth. When God sends Jesus the end is at the door and the great winding down of the world as we know it comes into full swing. The great winding up of things into a new heavens and new earth will begin.
When Jesus returns and the new heavens and earth are established then faith really becomes sight. When faith becomes sight there is great joy, peace, mental pleasure. Blessedness is how that could be stated.
In John 20:3-8 is recorded the arrival of Peter and John at the tomb of Jesus. John arrived first but stayed outside the tomb. Peter arrived and raced into the tomb and John followed. When John saw the arrangement of the burial clothes it is said that he believed. He had not yet seen the resurrected Jesus, but something clicked on and he accepted it. He knew Jesus was alive. Where he did not yet know, but there, some where he was.
A blessedness set into his mind at that moment.
The same thing happened on Patmos. He saw a prophecy, and while he did not experience the fullness of it he did experience the fullness of the blessing. He had learned the transformation of faith.
In Revelation 1:3 John tells us that a blessing is available in learning what God says and taking it to heart. Jump on that today and life will shift into a new plane. Troubles and trials will persist for God takes us through the valley not over the valley (see Psalm 23), but he does take us through it. John learned, loved and lived it. May we do the same.