Revelation Lesson 1: The Purpose, the Blessings and the Reminder
“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, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. 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.”
Many people are terrified of the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. They find it hard to read, don’t understand the word pictures that are used, and find it to be confusing. I have known some Christians who have read just about every book of the Bible but Revelation. Many persons who only read the New Testament will find reading the Revelation difficult. But, God put the Revelation here in the books of the Bible for a purpose and for our benefit.
Remember, God does not need the Bible; we do. And God, in His infinite wisdom, penned this book through the Apostle John for us to know things that we need to know to be equipped for the work in the Kingdom of God.
Over the next few months, we will endeavor to go through the Revelation as slowly and as deliberately as possible. We will try to take small chunks, digest them, understand them, and then put it all together so as to understand the whole as best we can. There will always be more to learn. We will never get to the end of a book in the Bible, and that is it. Each time we re-read a passage of scripture, God offers us a new insight into His mysteries and truths.
The Bible ‘ages’ with us; we will understand things in our 20s, that we did not get in our teens, and then see things in our 30s, all from the same passage, and on and on until Jesus comes. The Bible is a ‘living word’ from God, in that we grow with it and it with us.
God is the author of the Revelation, and John the Apostle is the penman. We meet him in Matthew alongside his brother James; they are partners with Peter and Andrew in a fishing business (Matthew 4:18-22). We are now about 65-70 years removed from that initial call of Jesus on their lives, and John is the only apostle alive of the 12 that we see in Acts 1. The others have all been executed for the cause of Jesus, and an attempt was made to kill John as well.
John had an eventful life. He walked and talked with Jesus for 3+ years; he was known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (he was an earthly friend to the heavenly God); he was entrusted with the care of Jesus’ mother after His death; he wrote 4 other books of the New Testament; and according to history, had an miraculous delivery from death by execution. Finally, he gets to see Heaven and the end of the world like a movie playing before him.
John was arrested in Ephesus and sentenced to death by boiling oil because he was preaching about Jesus. He survived the ordeal and was subsequently sentenced to being in exile on the Isle of Patmos, a small island in the Aegean Sea. Here he sees the Revelation of Jesus Christ and records it for us. We begin our journey here, close to the end of the first century after Jesus.
John has spent the last 70+ years preaching about Jesus, and he has seen some hard things: the death of His Savior and friend; the death of his colleagues; the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans; and his own encounters with near death. And now he is about to see the end. And the end is our beginning:
The Purpose, verse 1
What is the purpose of the book of the Revelation? Many would say that it is to confuse us and hurt our brains. It is not. The Revelation is about Jesus. In fact, the book is called The Revelation of Jesus Christ. When we meet Him in the book, He is seen as the Lamb of God (5:6); He is seen as the Lion of Judah (5:5); One worthy of worship (5:11-14); The Righteous Judge (20:11-15); The I Am (1:11); The head of the Lord’s churches (chapters 1-3); The captain of the Lord’s armies; and the King of Israel (19:11).
To be honest, the entire Bible is the Revelation of Jesus; and if we keep that in mind we will understand it a lot more. From Genesis 1:1 (where we are told in John 1 that He is the Creator) all the way to Revelation 22:21, it is all about Jesus. He is our Ark; our sacrifice; our Kinsman Redeemer; our Scapegoat; our Sustainer; our Provider; our Life; our Resurrection; our God; our King; our Master; our Lord; our Friend; our Brother; and on and on we can go. Jesus is the entire story of the Bible. And in the Revelation he is no less the central character. Keep this in mind.
We are going to travel some dark roads in this book. We will see death and destruction on a level that will make 9-11 look like a children’s fairy tale. It will make the 58,000,000 deaths of WW2 look like a small bump in the road, and the rapid succession in which things will happen will leave the people on earth fraught with fear, awe, begging for mercy, and downright angry with God. But in all that we explore, remember that this is the Revelation of Jesus. This will keep us anchored and focused on the task at hand.
The Blessings, verse 3
This is the only book in the Bible where just reading it gives us a blessing. This should be an incentive for us to read this book. Forget about understanding it right off the bat; just read it. If you want multiple blessings, read it often. God incentivized the book of Revelation with a blessing to get us to read it. Let me get in your head a bit more: God intended for you to understand this book. In fact, He has His Holy Spirit in you to help you get it. But it takes work and determination.
Simply read the book, then read it again, then again – and like a puzzle – the pieces will begin to fall into place. But many of us want to understand it before we read it. That is not possible. We know that. Think of your son or daughter coming home from university and telling you they don’t understand the books in a class. The first question you will ask is ‘have you read the book?’
Read the book of Revelation. We need it as Christians and as churches. The first three chapters are addressed to us, the church-age people. The book of Revelation begins with you and me and makes us aware that we are going to be judged by Jesus as to how we ran His churches. Notice I said churches; there is no such thing as a Universal church. The church has always been local.
Notice that each church is addressed as a church at a specific location: the church at Ephesus, Laodicea, Pergamos, etc. Each local church is a visible assembly of saved and baptized persons who have gathered together for worship, edification, and the promotion of the Gospel of Jesus. Each church is headed by Jesus, as we can see in chapter 1-3, as Jesus pronounces blessings and judgments on each church.
Lastly, while these churches do represent dispensations of churches – for instance the church at Laodicea represents the kind of churches that will be dominant nearer to the beginning of the Tribulation – there have been churches like all seven churches throughout the last 2,000 years since the ascension of Jesus.
Once again, I emphasize the importance of simply reading the book of the Revelation. God offers us a blessing just for doing so. Go be blessed by God today.
The Reminder: verses 1, 4
We are reminded twice in the first 4 verses that the things in the Revelation must soon happen. In verse 1 we are told these things must “shortly take place,” and in verse 4 we are told “the time is near.” Wow, you say! It has been 1900+ years since this Revelation was written; John sure got it wrong! These things did not happen soon; and in fact, most of them have not happened yet, so what is this about soon?
Time is relative for us. As an adult, we can look at a week and it does not sound long to us. We promise our children that we will take them to the newest ride at the local amusement park, and it is only a week away for us. But to them a week sounds like forever, so we break it up into sleeps – only 7 sleeps to go. When we are teenagers, being thirty years old is just that, old. But when we get to thirty and see how fast it went by, we do not think it is old.
Time is the same way for God. He is not bound by it. He is the First and the Last; they are the same for Him. He sees time like a chess board. He is above it and can actually see the end of the game even while it is still playing. To God, who is not bound by time and who has no past and no future, 2,000 years is near and soon. We must get the right perspective or we lose context, and then we lose the proper interpretation. Without the right understanding we lose sight, and then we lose our faith.
For us, the things in the Revelation are closer than ever before. Truthfully, they must shortly come to be, and we will begin to see some of the preparations in our time. We have seen so much of the Old Testament fulfilled in the last 100 years that one has to be deliberately blind to deny that all God has said will happen has happened. As such, we should expect everything else to fall into place as well.
Jesus is coming soon; He is coming for His churches, then He will refocus the world on Israel—and in particular, Jerusalem. Then He will show up and judge the nations, set up a new kingdom, and then prepare for a final battle royal with Satan and his cronies. He, Jesus, will destroy Satan and usher in the true New World Order—one of righteousness and Holiness and one that will last forever.
Are you ready? Do you know Jesus as Savior?
Now is not the time to waste; now is the day of salvation. God’s free offer will soon come to an end for many; but for now the grace of God offers you and I salvation paid for in Jesus’ blood. In it you and I are redeemed; our sins are completely and forever washed away, and we are covered in Jesus’ righteousness.
Do you know Jesus? Rather, does Jesus know you?
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”