Although absent in body, I was present at church both in spirit and in mind. Thank God for the gift of radio. The preacher to whom I was listening made to me an astounding confession: He found the book of Revelation confusing.
I usually enjoy a challenge and for this one I’m prepared. I have been studying the book of Revelation for over a year.
A wise person years ago told me that the best way to start something is at the beginning. This is the place at which I begin my discussion of this image and allusion rich book of prophecy.
A good way to begin a discussion about a book is about its author: who is the author of Revelation and what was his purpose? This book was a collaborative effort of no less than 7 persons. The collaborative group of authors introduced in the very first sentence:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and he sent and communicated it by his angel to his bond-servant John. (Rev. 1:1)
The above text shows us that God is the primary source of this fascinating revelation. He gave it to Jesus who sent his angel to communicate it to John who in turn wrote it down.
Anyone familiar with the gospel of John has already recognized the excitement of John about receiving this prophecy. John was excited because receiving this revelation was affirmation that Jesus’ promises were still true. Jesus gave John and the other disciples a promise that would occur after his death and resurrection. Here is the promise:
When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. (Jo. 16:13)
If you read on, you will discover that Jesus explains that God gave him all things and because of this, the Spirit would take what was his and disclose it to them. (Jo. 16:15) That is what John was describing in his introduction.
You may be wondering about the other collaborators not mentioned above. Who are the other three? In addition to God, Jesus, and his angel, the Spirit of God is a fifth. It was the Spirit that enabled John to pass beyond the vale of the flesh into the realm of heaven and the future. (Rev. 1:10; 4:1-2) It is apparent that being in the Spirit does not always result in glossolalia (speaking in tongues 🙂
Another collaborator in the publication of this book is one of the 24 ruling elders who basically tells John to whining about the sealed book. (Rev. 5:4-5)
There also seems to be another angel who instructs John. This angels angel first instructs him about one of the beasts and a harlot who rides it (Rev. 17; 19:10) and later shows John the bride of Christ, the heavenly city, and the tree of life (Rev. 21-22). If this is meant to be two separate angels, then the consistent numerological symbol 7 ceased. I think it more probable that John could not tell the difference between the different angels. Consequently, the last angel was most likely the same as the previous, which again would fit the use of 7 in this Revelation of biblical allusions and symbolism.
The purpose of this collaborative work is indicated in the first verse of John’s introduction and elaborated on later in the chapter. The simplified version is “the things which must soon take place.” In verse 3, these things are called prophecy. Elaborating further, Jesus says to John, “Write the things you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things” (v. 19). As our discussion progresses, you will see that the latter words also serve as general headings of the outline or as markers for this multi-authored book. The nearness of Christ’s return is also mentioned. (Rev. 1:3, 7, 19)
This hope cannot be extinguished if it is remembered that to God one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. The kingdom of God is still at hand and His coming is drawing nearer each new year, but according to the Jewish calender this is the 5769th year.
Occupy until I do come, said Jesus. (Lk. 19:13 KJV).
Source: NASB except were noted otherwise.