(Click here for the sermon audio of the Introductory sermon to Revelation.)
In his commentary on The Revelation of Jesus Christ, John Walvoord says:
“No other book evokes the same fascination… the book reveals truth relative to every important fundamental of Christianity. It is advanced in the Gospels which unfold the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God. The epistles add the theological interpretation of the person and work of Christ. To all of this dramatic and tremendously significant revelation, the last book of the Bible provides the capstone. It is indeed THE Revelation of Jesus Christ not only as the Lamb that was slain, but as King of Kings and Lord of lords who is certain to return.” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Walvoord. p. 7)
Many evangelicals and mainline Christians read this book in hopes of discovering within the apocalyptic literature a secret to identifying antichrist or predicting the hour of Christ’s return. But it’s not “the revelation of antichrist” or the “revelation of the date of Christ’s return.” The book was given the title by its author, John, under the direction of our Lord. It is, indeed, The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
There are a variety of interpretive approaches. While I believe the Revelation contains apocalyptic visions describing the consummation of the ages, we must never forget that this book meant something, from beginning to end, to the persecuted church at the end of the first century. Actually, that should give the book greater relevance. For we are not certain whether or not Christ will return in our lifetime. But we can be certain that the church will face persecution, and is facing great persecution, in the last days.
The Revelation of our risen and glorified Lord served as great encouragement to the suffering churches in Asia Minor. Therefore, I believe these scriptures will encourage the body of Christ to lift our heads in the face of the persecution and marginalization we are facing as believers around the world in the twenty-first century.
How Jesus Christ is being revealed in this book:
- The Person of Christ is Being Revealed: It is the “revelation” (unveiling) of Jesus Christ (vs. 1). Jesus appeared to his beloved disciple personally. Can you imagine what that must have meant to the one who overheard Jesus tell Peter, “What’s it to you if he lives until I return?” If we read this book with greater passion to determine dates, interpret current events in the Middle East, or identify antichrist than we do to fall more in love with our resurrected Lord, we are missing the point. Verse 2 reminds us that this is the testimony of Jesus Christ!
- The Promises of Christ are Being Revealed: Verse 3 contains the first of seven beatitudes, promises of blessings for those who read this book, obey its precepts, or heed its warnings. Yes, many of the promises are contextualized by apocalyptic visions. The principles behind the precepts, however, point to a blessed way of life and entrance into eternity for those who walk faithfully with our Lord.
- The Power of Christ is Being Revealed: The seven churches, as referenced in verse 4, are quickly reminded that Jesus is still on His throne. The “seven spirits” possibly even refers to the omnipresent nature of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, as the “firstborn from the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth”, not only has resurrection power, he also has ruling authority! (vs. 5)
- The Purposes of Christ are Being Revealed: Verse 5b-6 serve as reminders that everything that was, and is, and is to come is wrapped up in the message of the Gospel of the kingdom and the Glory of God. As Christ-followers, Revelation should motivate us to live to those ends… knowing and glorifying Jesus Christ as we make Him known to the world, over which He has ultimate dominion.
- The Plans of Christ are Being Revealed: Verses 7 and 8 conclude this introduction with a reminder from John that Jesus is coming. While we do not know the day or our, we find strength for living in knowing that he will return and make all things right!
I know the message of the Gospel is not as popular in our nation as it once was. I also realize that religious freedom is under fire like never before. But as we study this book written to a church that had suffered immensely under the hands of Roman emperors Nero and Domitian, we are reminded that Christ’s faithful servants can lift their heads come what may! Lift your head today and walk in the confidence of one to whom Jesus Christ has been revealed.