Saturday, 12 March 2016 14:59

4. Communicating though symbols * Revelation 1:1-3

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1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show to his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John:

2 Who bore record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

3 Blessed is he who reads, and they who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.


*** The Revelation of Jesus Christ ***: here we have the title and the central theme of the book. 'Revelation': the Greek word is apokalupsis (Apocalypse), which means "an unveiling" or "an uncovering". 'Of Jesus Christ': the revealing is "about" Jesus. At the same time, the revealing is also "from" Jesus. The author of the message is God. God gave the message to Jesus, so Jesus could show it to His servants.

*** Things which must shortly come to pass *** : some versions say "things which must soon take place". Those things MUST take place, and are not supposed to happen by chance. The Greek word for 'must' is the verb dei, which means "it is necessary", "inevitable". The time of the end began at the cross. And so the events that soon followed the cross had to happen as they did. The final events that John said would "soon to take place" started in the first century, and will come to an end with the second coming of Jesus. We do not know the exact day of Christ's second coming. But we only have a short time to prepare ourselves for His coming. We only have our own lifetime to choose to be His servants.

*** He sent and signified it ***: The Greek word for signified is sēmainō or esēmanenwhich means "to show by a sign or symbol". This is an important key in the way the book is to be understood. The descriptions used in the book are not intended to be depicted in a literal way. The message is being expressed through signs and symbols. The first step in understanding these symbols is to discover how the first century Christians would have understood them.

*** Who bore record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw ***: Some versions say "who testified to all that he saw, that is the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ". The Greek key word translades as 'bore record' is martureó, which means to witness. Throughout the book, John sees things, to which he witnessed, and wrote them down. The text specifies which were the things he saw: the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, the expression 'word of God' or 'word of the Lord' is used to express the message the prophets received from God (Jeremiah 1:2; Hosea 1:1; Joel 1:1; John 1:1; Zephaniah 1:1; Zechariah 1:1). Jesus received the message from God, and is now communicating (or testifying) it to John through His angel. The message is now the 'testimony of Jesus'. Revelation 19:10 further explains what exactly this testimony is: it is the "spirit of prophecy". We can see now that the message from God is a prophetic message. The word 'prophecy' comes from the Greek proféteia, which means to clarify beforehand, or foretell. The testimony of Jesus is a message from God about the future - a future that was about to start from John's perspective. A future that would soon take place.

*** Blessed is he who reads, and they who hear, and keep ***: This was a message originally sent to the churches in Asia. Here we can understand that the message would be read out loud by a church leader ("he who reads") to the congregation ("they who hear"). Verse 3 of chapter 1 is actually the first of the seven beatitudes found in the book of Revelation.

- Revelation 1:3 - who reads, listens, and keeps the word
- Revelation 14:13 - the dead who died in the Lord
- Revelation 16:15 - who watches and keeps his garments
- Revelation 19:9 - who are invited to the wedding supper
- Revelation 20:6 - who are part of the first resurrection
- Revelation 22:7 - who keeps the words
- Revelation 22:14 - who washes their robes

The word 'blessed' is translated from the Greek word makarios. It means supreme happiness. And so, a special blessing of happiness is promised to those who read, listen, and keep this message. The keeping of the message is a very important step in this beatitude. Because it represents the choice the readers or listeners will make once they read or hear the message. In Luke 11:28 Jesus says: "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it". The reading or the hearing of the message is useless if we don't do something about it, because the time is at hand. We are called to be doers of the word (James 1:22-25). The time to keep the word of this prophecy is now.

*** Overview ***: The book of Revelation is not a book intended to cause fear on those who keep God's word. As the title describes, it's a book about Jesus. In fact, it's a book that continues from where the four gospels end. The gospels end with Jesus ascending to heaven, and Revelation starts by telling us what happens when He gets there. The Gospels talk about Christ's ministry here on Earth, and Revelation talks about Christ's activities in Heaven, and how they affect the events on Earth. God is sending this important message so we can be blessed by it, and become active keepers of His word.

   
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