Studying prophecy is not the easiest task. There are strange images, flowery language, and sometimes difficult truths to decipher. The book of Revelation gives us a picture of the end results of God’s ultimate redemption of all creation. Specifically, it points us to the second coming of Christ and the events leading up to that point. As we study through this letter, we see important truths echoed throughout the book, including God’s eternal nature, Jesus’ rule as King over the earth, the glory that will be given Him, and His glorious return to Earth. We see in Revelation 1-3 that Jesus has a blessed plan to prepare His church for His return. Jesus provides the blessing of true security, freedom from sin and acceptance into God’s family, and the future hope of His return. In light of this, the church must set aside earthly distractions and look to Jesus alone for provision, carefully resist any message that gets in the way of preaching the Gospel, and point her gaze on the coming Kingdom.
Breaking down the main points that are echoed through the book will give us tentpoles to associate the reading of the text.
First, we see the idea of “He who is and who was and who is to come.” This is found in places such as 1:8, 1:17-18, 4:8, 10, 21:6, and 22:13. God is timeless! He has always been and will always be. It is hard for us as temporal beings to try and understand God’s eternal nature, but it’s also a comfort to know that the God we worship is not a created being and has no beginning and no end.
Second, the establishment of God’s Kingdom wherein Jesus will reign as King of Kings on earth can be found very specifically in chapter 13, but also in other places like 6:15. The true Kingdom of God is coming, which helps us understand the conflict we currently experience and also the conflict to come is over who truly rules the world. Satan may have power now, but we know that Jesus will ultimately reign!
Third, we see the importance of Him who loves us and that He has freed us from our sins by his blood. This pointing of the blood of Jesus can be found in Revelation 5:9, 7:14, 12:11, and 22:14. We must not forget that freedom from sin requires a blood sacrifice, and this awesome truth of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice orients the readers of Revelation back to the source of salvation.
Next, we see the giving of glory to God through worship of different groups of entities in Revelation 4:11, 5:12-13, 7:10, 12, 15:2-3, 19:1-7. So many of these doxologies will go on for eternity, with the true believers, angels, and even creation crying out the praise due to God for who He is and what He has done.
Finally, we see the assurance of Jesus’ second coming. This point bookends the letter- (1:3, 8 and 22:20) but is also mentioned in places like 2:25, 3:3, 3:11, 16:15, 22:7, 22:12. There is no doubt that Jesus is coming, and the events leading up to this and the immediate aftermath make up the majority of this letter. However, the letter opens with something special.
Revelation 1:4-7 sets up what’s to come in the messages to the seven churches found in the next couple chapters, which we will be studying intermittently throughout this year. We can see the purpose of these messages as we break down this text.
Revelation 1:4-5a- John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
This text teaches us that Jesus provides the blessing of true security. Therefore, we must set aside earthly distractions and look to Jesus alone for provision. After all, He is Creator of the universe, a faithful witness who can only be truthful, Lord over life and death; why do we seek out from anywhere else? Yet money, family, status, knowledge, all these things can get in the way. Even though they may be good things (it is good to work in order to have money to feed your family), we have to see that Jesus gave us the skills, orchestrated the opportunity, and created the very things we consume! And we know that Jesus wants to provide for us, as we see in the next portion of the text.
Revelation 1:5b-6- To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Here we see that Jesus provides the blessing of freedom from sin and acceptance into God’s family. If you’ve ever done a year-long read through the Bible, you have been through the genealogies contained in the Old Testament. While it’s easy to gloss over them, for the initial audience of Jews, these were of utmost importance. It was a way of saying, “Yes, I am a part of God’s chosen people. I’m a part of the lineage that gets God’s promised blessings.” For us, we get to say that too. Not because we are Jewish, as we have been studying out in Galatians, but because we are adopted into God’s family! And it’s important to recognize that the church, true believers, have that status. Because of this, we must set aside any message that gets in the way of preaching the Gospel. We are called to action because of the status gained through Jesus’ sacrifice. And we know that the Gospel is life-changing. So we must be careful not to preach a Gospel of change yourself/clean yourself up and then come to Jesus. We must not preach a Gospel of knowing a lot about God, knowing about the Bible, going to church, as though any of this will save us. We must preach the message of admitting sin guilt, believing Jesus died, was buried, and rose again in order to pay the debt for our sin, confessing our need for His salvation and repenting of that old life in pursuit of becoming more like our Savior.
And as Phil 1:6 says-
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Which this day of Christ is exactly what this text is pointing to!
Revelation 1:7- Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
Here we learn that Jesus provides the blessing of the future hope of His return. Because of this, the church must point her gaze on the coming Kingdom. If you feel like your life is meaningless- recognize the work that you are doing is not in vain as long as it is for the Lord. If you feel like you’re set and good to go- check that your priorities align with the coming King, and don’t be caught in the wrong. If you feel like you’re drowning and there’s no way to keep treading water- reach out to the hand Jesus offers. He’s already won. If you can’t seem to let go of worry- cast your cares upon the Creator, and take up his yoke. It’s work, but it’s much easier work than trying to plow through alone. And he’s going to restore us, this world, and the beauty of eternal life with God. (Rev 21-22)
As we look at these seven churches through this year, we will see points of praise and points of warning, all of it to show that Jesus has a blessed plan to prepare the church for His return.
Love in Christ,