Sufficient Revelation; Revelation 1:1
The main theme in Revelation is the resolution of human history. In this we have the resolution of the angelic conflict, the judgment of the human race and ultimately angels for sin, and the resolution of all sin, suffering and evil in human history. In an nutshell, what Revelation portrays for us is the consequences that come to those who rebel against God, to those who reject His Word, to those who are influenced by the world system which we call the cosmic system. The term "cosmic system" refers to the system of thinking that characterizes Satan's rebellion against God. What we see in the book of Revelation is what happens, what the inevitable consequences are of that kind of thinking and people who give in to that kind of thinking—that it is self-destructive because eventually there will be judgment. And that is the theme of Revelation, not just judgment on the earth during the time of Tribulation, not just judgment at the great white throne judgment, but there is also the emphasis at the beginning of the book in the seven letters to the seven churches a warning that believers will be evaluated in heave, and we know that is the judgment seat of Christ. In Revelation chap6ters two and three there is a call to the churches to wake up and to be aware of the fact that we, too, are going to be evaluated, not with reference to salvation—salvation is a free gift based upon the finished work of Christ on the cross—but it is on our spiritual growth, our spiritual maturity, and is related to our ultimate responsibility to rule and reign with Him. We will see that very clearly as we go through each of those letters and then we will put them together in one complete study. So Revelation is a warning to all of us that there will be an evaluation.
There are a lot of believers who don't think there is going to be much of an evaluation. They just think that we are going to live our life and they have a very shallow view of ultimate rewards, that we will all get the same rewards, we will all get the same resurrection body and all have the same position in heaven, a sort of Marxist-Leninist view of the eternal kingdom, that we will all end up with the same thing and it doesn't matter how we live on earth today. But that is not what is taught in the Scriptures. So we are continuing our study of Revelation which is the only book in the New Testament which is primarily prophetic. There are four hundred and four verses in Revelation and three hundred and twenty-three of them are prophetic and have to do with what will take place in the future.
We began last time with a study of chapter one, verse one. One of the key things that we must do in exegesis is identify what the main clause is in any particular verse. This is a classic example of a sentence that extends beyond one verse and so we have to identify the main verb, the main subject, because that gives us the main idea of the passage. The main thought here is that God gave Jesus Christ the revelation to show to His bondservant. God has disclosed this information to us for a purpose. We have seen that part of the purpose is to motivate us because we understand where history is going and we understand our role and position in the future. If we begin with the end in mind then that will motivate us to persevere and remain steadfast in the midst of testing. This is the major theme that we will find in both of the chapters dealing with the seven letters to the seven churches.
This is not apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature is a secular category of literature that really has its roots in Persian literature and other Near Eastern literature that began to influence some Jewish writings, and there are various apocryphal works written between the Old Testament and the New testament that pictures this end-time struggle between good and evil. It is characterized by a lot of things that happen with angelic forces, the battle between the holy angels and the evil angels, visions, all of this kind of thing. So a lot of people want to classify the book of Revelation with that kind of literature. That kind of literature is very cryptic, very symbolic, you don't use a literal interpretation necessarily, and so the danger that happens when you classify Revelation as apocalyptic literature is that you use a wrong hermeneutic, a wrong principle of interpretation.
The book is often referred to in context as a prophecy. As such it fits other prophetic books in the Bible such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, the Minor Prophets, books which also should be interpreted on the basis of a plain, literal historical-grammatical principle of interpretation. It is something that is written to be understood; it is the revelation of Jesus Christ. This book is about the future, the revelation Jesus Christ provides. He is going to disclose the future so that we can live with the end, the future, in mind.
The subject of the main clause in verse one is God, the noun THEOS [qeoj], and here it is God the Father. This is the revelation that God gives, so the main clause is indicated by this noun, the subject of the clause and the subject of the verb "gave," which is the verb DIDOMI [didomi] in the aorist active indicative. That means that it is just a simple past, referring to a past action; it simply summarizes the action in the past, that God at some point in the past gave a certain body of information to Jesus Christ for the purpose of His disclosing that to His bondservant. Whenever we see this verb DIDOMI where God is the subject we need to remember that the emphasis is on grace. Whenever God gives it is always on the principle of grace, not on who and what we are but on who He is and what Christ did on the cross. God has graciously provided revelation to us so that we are not in the dark.
The idea of revelation is that it enlightens us, it gives us information so that we know truth from error. God the Father has provided this body of information so that we have sufficient revelation. That means it is enough, we don't need to know everything that will happen in the future. The danger in reading Revelation is that people get into all kinds of speculation. People love to speculate and try to figure out who the Antichrist is. The giving of the Scripture is part of God's logistical grace for believers. It is available to every believer without charge. Every believer has the tools to get into the Word and understand the Word at a rudimentary level because of the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit. But God has also provided us with pastor-teachers who can give us the information we need to grow to spiritual maturity. That is the purpose of the gift of pastor-teacher, to be able to dig into the Word and to be able to communicate it in such a way that people can get information they couldn't normally get and are therefore able to grow to spiritual maturity.
So God gives this revelation graciously. The word DIDOMI means to give, to grants, to graciously bestow or to provide. So this is revelation that belongs to Jesus Christ which God graciously provided Him [Jesus Christ]. Remember that Jesus Christ can't reveal anything unless the Father gives it to Him. The Father gives this information to Him for a purpose. The word there translated "to show" is the Greek word deiknumi [deiknumi] which is an aorist active infinitive of purpose in this clause. The infinitive indicates this is the purpose of God's granting this to Jesus Christ. God wants us to know things. The word deiknumi means to point out, the present something to the sight. It is a visual demonstration of something. It means to cause to see, to exhibit, to display, and it is a metaphor of showing something by words, i.e. to teach. So Revelation is given to teach something "to His bondservants," that is, believers. This is not written for unbelievers, it is written for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So this revelation is given for the purpose of teaching us by enlightening us as to the facts of the future what will "soon take place." And this is a crucial term, "the things which must soon take place. If we just read that in the English we think that all that is being said is that this book is going to tell us about the future, and we think it is going to happen soon in terms of a relatively close amount of time. But that would be misleading. This is not what this phrase means. In fact this is an extremely important phrase and it is not original to the writer of the apocalypse. It was a word that originated in the Old Testament in Daniel chapter two, the chapter where Daniel interprets the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had about the future of the Gentile kingdoms. In verse 28 Daniel says, "However there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and has made known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what will take place the latter days." This is in the section of Daniel that was written in Aramaic because it deals with the Gentile kingdom, and the Aramaic was translated into the Septuagint by the exact same phrase that we have in Revelation 1:1—ha dei genesthai [a( die genesqai]. Ha is a relative pronoun meaning "things"; dei is a verb which is a word of necessity; genesthai is aorist passive infinitive of ginomai [ginomai], meaning the things which must come to pass or come into existence. So this phrase is a technical phrase that comes right out of Daniel 2:28. When? "In the latter days." Daniel repeats that phrase in verse 29. Some of what was revealed to Nebuchadnezzar was taking place. The head of gold in the image represented the king of Babylon, of which Nebuchadnezzar was the head from 605 to 539 BC. So it was already taking place, but if you look at Daniel and the way that image is revealed the focus is really on the conclusion, what happens to the image, not on the events of the image, because most of these kingdoms have already come into existence. In 2:28 we are told that this will take place in the latter days. The "latter days" is an eschatological term referring to the future. If the thrust of that image was in the latter days then the latter days would have begun in approximately 605 BC. But that is not true, latter days is yet future. So the thrust of this image is what happens to it at the end, and this is revealed in verse 44, "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." That is what takes place in the latter days.
Reviewing the history: The head of gold represented the kingdom of Babylon which lasted from 606 BC until 539 BC when it was destroyed by the silver kingdom, which was the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians. The Medo-Persian empire lasted from 539 BC until 331 BC. It was under the Medo-Persian empire that the Jews were told to go back to the land and to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. They were defeated and replaced by the kingdom of Greece under Alexander the Great. That kingdom lasted from 331 BC to 146 BC. At that time was the rise of the iron kingdom, the kingdom of Rome, from 146 BC until approximately 1453 AD. Then the iron and clay shows a mixture of the former iron kingdom and the new clay elements. This is the revived Roman empire, the ten-nation confederacy that the Antichrist puts together during the Tribulation period. So this is the image of Daniel chapter two. At the end of the dream there was a stone that destroyed all of these empires, and that is what Daniel interpreted in verse 44 as the final kingdom—the establishment of the Messianic kingdom. Daniel 2:45, "Forasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what must take place in the future: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure."
So when Revelation begins with this phrase it is saying what we are going to see in Revelation is the culmination of what began in Daniel chapter two. But Daniel 2 isn't the only place where we find this verbiage. We also find it in the Olivet discourse in Matthew 24:2-6, "And Jesus said unto them, Do you not see all these things? truly I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age?" So the question has to do with the second coming, not the Rapture. "And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And your will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars: see that you are not frightened: for those things must take place, but the end is not yet." "… for those things must take place." That is the same phrase as in Daniel chapter two. So again, this locates that in the future.
We find the phrase again in Revelation 4:1, "After these things." What we will see when we get to 4:1 is that the Rapture takes place. "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show what must take place after these things." This is the same phrase that we have in Revelation 1:1, but it is not the last place we find it in Revelation. We find it again in 22:6, "And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel [An angel was sent in 1:1] to show [DEIKNuMI] unto his bondservants [DOULOS] the things which must soon take place." So we have a bracket here between 4:1 which says, "Now we will see what must take place," and 22:6 which basically says, "We've seen what must take place." So the things which must take place are described and unfolded and revealed between 4:1 and 22:6. That describes the things which must soon take place.
What does the word "soon" mean? This is the Greek word tachus [taxuj]. This is an important word in understanding the doctrine of imminence, it provides something about the timing. It can mean a very brief period of time and focus on the speed of an activity: when something begins it will happen quickly. In other words, there will be a quick succession of events once it begins. The other idea that TACHUS can communicate is that it describes a time, a relatively brief span that follows shortly after another point in time. What we see here from the use of this phrase is that Revelation brings to a climax and close the events that are first revealed in Daniel chapter two. These are the events that are associated with the bringing in of the kingdom. For example, in Revelation 11:15, "Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." This happens just before the return of Christ, it announces the destruction of the cosmic system and those who are aligned with the cosmic system. "…and he shall reign forever and ever." See how this connects back to the Daniel 2 passage. Then in Revelation 20:4, "Then I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus, and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast, or his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years." So the events that are spoken of in Revelation 1:1 are the events that bring about this kingdom, the establishment of the Messianic reign of Christ in fulfillment of the Old Testament covenants to Israel, what we also refer to as the Millennial reign of Christ. These are the things which must shortly take place.
Then we read, "and he sent and communicated it by his angel unto his bondservant John." The verb here is the verb to communicate, from the Greek verb semaino [shmainw]. It means to make something known, to communicate something about the future, or to explain something enigmatic. Some have related to this to the noun for "sign," and they say, See, this is just a symbolic book and you have to interpret it in an allegorical manner. That is not what the word means at all. It simply means to communicate. We are told that He communicated by His angel. What we will see is that Jesus Christ will appear to John, but there is also this emphasis that it is communicated by an angel. Even though the angelic presence is not always emphasized it is there. In chapters 17:1 and 21:9 Jesus communicates to John by means of angels only, but other times He is communicating directly to John. But throughout all the judgments there is always an angel associated as sort of a witness to what is taking place.
The point here is that there is an evaluation coming. Revelation is about the culmination history and all the things that must come to pass before Jesus Christ establishes His kingdom. He will put an end to all authorities and rulers and powers, and then he will give the kingdom to the Father at the end of the thousand years, and then there will be an end to all death and an end to the angelic conflict, and everything will be returned to the position of being under the authority of God.