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The Apocalypse


The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. (Revelation 1:1a)


The Revelation


The very first phrase in this verse is actually the name of this New Testament Book: The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Some Bibles list it as The Revelation of St. John the Divine; some, the Revelation of John; some, The Revelation to John; some simply call it Revelation. My New King James Version styles it The Revelation of Jesus Christ. While the name we give this book may not seem significant, the name given it by inspiration as shown in the Bible helps us to understand the nature of this book, if we comprehend the meaning of the words.

The first significant word is the word “revelation.” The definition of our English word is: something revealed or disclosed. This definition is not really clear as the word revealed is used in the definition—revealed is essentially the same word as revelation. The words revelation and revealed come from the verb “to reveal.” The meaning of reveal is: to make known; to lay open to view; display; exhibit. This definition gets us close to what the Book of Revelation really is.

The Apostle John wrote this book in the version of the Greek language known as New Testament Greek, so it will help us to turn to the Greek definition for a final understanding of this word. The Greek word translated “revelation” is apokalupsis, which means an uncovering, or in its simplest form, nakedness. It applies to anything that has been covered and then later is to be exposed by the removing of the cover. So, the act of uncovering, revealing, exposes something that was there in the first place but was hidden from sight by the thing covering it.

Apokalupsis also suggests that the thing to be uncovered, which was there all the time, is a mystery. It is a mystery because whatever is covered cannot be known until the cover is taken off. Guess as much as you like, but you will not know what is there until the cover has been taken away.

This word also implies that the disclosing of the mystery may be accomplished in any or all of three ways. It can be made known by means of instruction. For example, algebra exists but it is obscure or unknown to students until they have been taught algebra. It can be made known by the occurrence of the event itself. If I just open the door so that you can see what was behind it, the mystery is cleared up. Or, it can be revealed through the use of words, signs, or symbols. In this case, it means that the vail of mystery can be lifted through the use of highly figurative language. The figurative language of the Revelation uses mental pictures of angels, animals, people, cities, mountains and anything that conveys a particular thought or substance of the mystery.

The name of this book also tells us that it is a disclosure of an extraordinary nature; one that is outside mankind’s normal ability to comprehend. It is a special communication from heaven that conveys two facts: first, God has knowledge that has been hidden from the human race; second, this strange book is God’s way of making this knowledge available to anyone and everyone that wants to know it.


Of Jesus Christ


Revelation is the first word in the name of this book, and now we have a fairly good idea of what that means. Following this is the prepositional phrase “of Jesus Christ.” This is of utmost importance because it gives credibility and authority to what is written in the book. While the Apostle John wrote the book, it was not the product of his intellect or his imagination. The origin of this book is in the Godhead; it is divine, not just in its inspiration; it is an expression of the very mind, knowledge and thoughts of God.

The phrase “of Jesus Christ” is in the genitive case, which indicates ownership. In English, we would say it is possessive. This revelation belongs to Jesus, it is His property. This tells us He has a vested interest in making the contents of the Book of Revelation known to us in whatever manner and in whatever time He chooses. This fact alone tells us that it is up to Jesus Christ to make the contents of this mystery known to His church. For centuries this book has been a mystery, almost impossible to explain. As time progressed the church understood certain things in the Revelation, but never the entire book. This is because Jesus would open only the parts He wanted understood at certain times in history. Never has He revealed to anyone events that were in their future. The only things He revealed were events that had happened in their past or that were happening at their time in history. From this, people might anticipate the effects of those things and anticipate the results or consequences to some degree, but they will never fully see specific events in the future beyond them.


Which God Gave to Him


While the Revelation is the property of Jesus, He alone is not the source of its contents. The next phrase is “which God gave Him to show.” From this statement we are to understand that the Godhead is the ultimate source of the Revelation.

God created the heavens and the earth, and of necessity He created time as the essential element in which all creation exists. In His omniscience, God sees all time, the beginning and the end at one time and without interruption. Therefore He alone knows all events of history that have happened, that are happening, and that will happen. God revealed many things of historical importance to the Old Testament prophets. We learned in our study of the prophecies of Daniel that God revealed in great detail the historical events from the time of the Babylonian captivity to the coming of Messiah and His finishing His work. In the Book of Revelation God has laid out in similar fashion critical events in history from the first advent of Messiah to His second coming and the end of all creation.

That the Triune God is the author and correspondent of the Revelation is clearly seen in the nature of the Trinity. In the Trinity there is a mediatorial dependence of Christ on the Father as seen from these key statements of Jesus:


Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. (John 5:19–20)


My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. (John 7:16)


As My Father taught Me, I speak these things. (John 8:28)


For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. (John 12:49)


We will also see in a following verse that the Holy Spirit was actively involved in bringing out the Revelation message. No Person of the Godhead works independently from the others; the three Persons of the Trinity always work in concert with each other. Therefore, this strange book is the work of the Trinity, and the Trinity will be seen in much of what is revealed.


The Audience of the Book


From our text we also learn that the audience of this book is restricted. The Book of Revelation is not for the world in general. It does not have the same function as do the gospels and epistles, which are to convey the message of salvation from sin to the world. The only people to whom the Revelation is given are His servants.

The word servant(s) occurs 11 times in the Book of Revelation. The Greek word translated servant is dool-os, meaning a slave. It comes from the verb meaning to bind, to tie, suggesting serving or being subject to. This word is used regularly throughout the New Testament in several contexts. Dr. Joseph Thayer lists some of these contexts in His Greek-English Lexicon: (1) One who gives himself up wholly to another’s will; (2) Those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men; (3) All who obey God’s commandments; His true worshippers.

In the Revelation 1:1, John is called Christ’s servant; clearly, one whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men.

In Revelation 10:7 and 11:18 we see His servants, the prophets—clearly the same meaning is applied here.

In 2:20 His servants are seduced by Jezebel; in 7:3 His servants are to be sealed by the four angels—these servants are then identified as the 144,000.

In 19:2 the blood of His servants is avenged and in verse 5 His servants praise Him.

And finally in 22:3 His servants shall serve Him.

From this we learn that the servants to whom the Revelation is addressed are all who obey God’s commandments, His true worshippers, among whom are those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men.

In the simplest of terms we can say that the Book of Revelation is addressed to the Church built by Jesus Christ. This is perhaps rendered more certain by the fact that in 1:11, Jesus instructs John “to write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia.”

Only the biblical church of God can receive the understanding of the Revelation—the biblical church of God being those who obey God’s commands and are His true worshippers not just a group calling itself by that name. The unregenerate world has no interest in what this book reveals. Those that only pretend to be the church also are unable to comprehend the real meaning and importance of the Revelation.


Which Must Shortly Take Place


The title tells us that the apokalupsis contains the very mystery of things which must shortly take place. Things are persons and events. The word “must” speaks to the certainty of these things coming to pass. The things revealed here are no idle guess on the part of the Apostle John. They are not things God says could happen; they must shortly take place.

These things must happen because God sees them happening during the unravelling of time. It is not that God is the author of these things or the cause of these things. While God does intervene in history from time to time, most history is a matter of cause and effect—the combined results of the choices and actions of all people throughout time. God does not decree these events as the Calvinists believe; He simply sees them in advance and reveals of them the few things He wants us to know.

The things that must take place, according to Jesus, are to take place “shortly.” The Greek word for shortly means “in a brief space.” In verse 19 they are described as “things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”

The timeframe of the Revelation is not specific other than it begins essentially in the time of the Apostle John and continues onward. There is to be no waiting for these things to happen; but it is not necessary that they all happen at one time. They will just continue as long as the path of God’s omniscience sees them. For certain, the events of the Revelation are not to wait thousands of years in John’s future before they begin to happen. Notice in verse 3, He says the time is near. But it is true that the effects of these things will be felt throughout the history of the Church.


Now, To Us


The church of God has had a history of almost 2000 years. No one living at the time of Christ or through the first century could have imagined how long time would last or what things God’s church would have to endure.

As the church passed through time, it could look back on events that transpired, some good and many very evil, and learn lessons essential to deal with its specific time in history and to lay hope for a better future.

Today the Christian Church faces challenges perhaps greater than in all its history. We must look back on 2000 years of our history for understanding and guidance for the things we face today. We also must let the message of the Revelation prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead in what little time is left before God calls the end of time and brings all humanity before His great throne of final judgment.

As we study the Revelation let us not get so involved in the facts of history that we lose sight of the lessons and warnings God wants to give us in our time.