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"An Introduction to the Revelation of Jesus Christ"

Revelation 1:1-3

Wednesday AM Bible Study
January 21, 2009

This morning, we begin a study of the last book of inspired Scripture to have been given by God to His church. The Revelation of Jesus Christ (its God-given title) is not a book intended to be obscure or difficult. It is not like Daniel—which was, for a time in God's program, a closed and sealed book (Daniel 12:9); but rather, is a book that is an unsealed prophecy (Revelation 21:10). It is an "open" book that begins with a blessing to those who read it (1:3); and closes with a warning not to add to it or take away from it (22:18-29).

There have, traditionally, been four ways of interpreting this book. The Preterist view (praeter is Latin for "past") holds that the book is strictly describing events that occurred in 70 A.D.; and therefore was written after the facts as God's description of the significance of those events. The Historical view holds that the book is describing events that would occur in the unfolding history of the church; and therefore concerns itself with events that are occurring even now. The Symbolic view holds that the book presents lessons in the form of allegories and symbolisms; and is therefore not concerned with objective historic events but rather with abstract spiritual concepts. The Futurist view—the view we will follow in this study—assumes that the writer is prophetically describing—through signs and symbolisms—literal events that will occur in the future. The Futurist View allows that some portions of the book describe an unfolding history over long-periods of time (e.g., chapters 2-3), or that the book contains much that symbolically represent spiritual truths. But its primary interpretive principle is that the book is a prophetic view of literal, future events.

There have also been three basic views of the structure of the book. A Linear Structure sees the events as flowing in a straight, chronological sequence (i.e., the seven seals is followed by the seven trumpets, which is followed by the seven bowl judgments). A Telescopic Structure sees the events as contained one in another (i.e., the seven bowl judgments are contained in the seventh trumpet, and the seven trumpets are contained in the seventh seal). A Recapitulation Structure sees the description of the events as a repetition (i.e., the seven seals are the seven trumpets, which also are the seven bowl judgments). Our study will follow a modified form of the Recapitulation approach. It sees the telling of the seven seals of 6:1-8:1 as being repeated in the pageant of the woman and the dragon in chapters 12-13; and the telling of the seven trumpets of 8:2-11:19 as being repeated in the seven bowl judgments of 15:5-16:21.

The key verse of this book is Revelation 1:19; where our Lord tells John, "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this." This gives us the three main divisions of this book: "the things which you have seen" being described in 1:10-18; "the things which are" being described in chapters 2-3 (see 1:20ff); and "the things which will take place after this" being described in chapters 4-22:7 (see 4:1ff).

This precious book needs to be handled with the utmost humility and reverence; always keeping the great theme—the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ—ever in the forefront. We learn much about how to approach this book from the introduction in the first three verses.

1. ITS THEME (v. 1a).

Its great theme is Jesus Christ (19:10). Specifically, it is "the revelation" (that is, the apokalupsis—the unveiling or manifesting) of Jesus Christ. In it, Jesus Christ is revealed in terms of the glory in which He will return and commence His reign on this earth. Note then that the proper title of this book is not (as some habitually call it) "Revelations". It is only one revelation; and it is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Note that this "revelation" is something that is given to Jesus Christ by the Father. Before He went to the cross, He prayed that the Father would glorify Him with the glory that He had with the Father before the world was (John 17:1-5). This is the telling-forth of that glorification as "things which must shortly [or swiftly] take place" (see also Revelation 22:6, 12).


The revelation of Himself, which is the gift of the Father to Him, was given to Him "to show to His servants". It is a book that is meant to minister to and edify those who belong to the Lord Jesus while they are on this earth. The Father gave this revelation to His Son; and the Son then sent His angel (or "messenger") to communicate it to John. It was communicated to John by being "signified" to him—that is indicated or shown by signs. And John, in turn, is the human instrument by which it is then communicated to us. Note that this book is not a product of John's imagination; but rather of divine "signification". He didn't have dreams, but was objectively shown signs.

3. ITS HUMAN AUTHOR (v. 2a).

John identifies himself as the one "who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ . . .' This identifies this 'John' as the same writer who wrote the Gospel of John (1:1-5; 19:35; 21:24), and the letters that bear his name (1 John 1:1-4).


Note that he wrote literally—bearing witness "to all things that he saw". Though the book is filled with symbolism and signs, John did not write what he merely "dreamed" or "imagined".

5. ITS BLESSING (v. 3a).

There is great blessing attached to the study of this book. No other book of the Bible is spoken of as having so much of a blessing in store for those who read it, those who hear it, and those who heed it or keep it. It leads to a deeper relationship with the One who is its great theme (see also Revelation 22:14).

6. ITS GENRE (v. 3b).

Note that this book is specified as "prophecy". It forth-tells to us that which is to come; things which must shortly take place, and that are near. (This justifies our taking the "Futurist" approach to its interpretation.)

7. ITS RELEVANCY (v. 3c).

It is meant to be practically applied to life; because it is specifically a blessing to those who "keep" it. And this is particularly true, because "the time is near" for these things to be fulfilled.

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