The Reason for the Letter (Rev. 1:9)
Revelation is a passionate pastoral letter intended to produce confidence and hope among God’s people. It was written by the apostle John on the island of Patmos, forty miles from his hometown of Ephesus. John, who was also suffering persecution, had a concern for the persecuted Christian community. The book is frequently referred to as The Revelation of John; however, the book identifies itself as The Revelation of Jesus Christ. This is significant, because a revelation of Jesus will always transform one’s outlook and thereby affect the outcome of their situation.
A revelation of Jesus will always transform one’s outlook.
While the book of Revelation contains seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor, the entire book was actually one letter, expected to be read publicly to all the churches. This letter is apocalyptic in nature; the Greek word for apocalypse, αποκάλυψη , means the uncovering or revealing of things that are otherwise hidden. One characteristic of this apocalyptic literature is that the revelations are about not just what will happen in the unseen future but what is happening right now in the present unseen realms. The book is more than just a revelation of hidden things; it is also profoundly prophetic in nature. The predominant reasons for the prophetic literature are to proclaim the impending judgment of God and to promote the certainty of His promise of salvation.
Things Hidden yet Seen
The things which are (Rev. 1:19; 2; 3). The book of Revelation unveils deep structures of the universe. These deep structures are not visible to the most powerful space telescope or particle accelerator. Revelation reveals them by drawing back the veil of spiritual obliviousness to show us a world unseen by the human eye. We are able to see a world of despair and pain; however, in that world there is also hope and promise. This encourages and inspires Christians to endure and remain faithful during the time of conflict, both the internal wars between personal faithfulness and the abandonment of faith, and the external wars of a culture out of control.
There are three hidden truths from the things which are that everyone must acknowledge. First, nothing is hidden from God. He knows all about us, our struggles, our failings, and our triumphs. Second, overcoming is an imperative and is possible through the power of Jesus. And finally, it is important to heed the revealed warnings and counsels of the Holy Spirit.
The things which shall be (Rev. 1:19; 4–22). We see these deep structures also at the beginning of John’s vision when he is caught up into heaven to be shown “what must take place” (Rev. 4:1, NIV). There, in heaven, he sees a throne and One seated upon it. Everything else is described in relation to this throne. The throne is surrounded by four cherubim who cry out “Holy, holy, holy” (verse 8) and by twenty-four elders who fall down and say, “You are worthy” (verse 11, NKJV). There is a single throne at the center of the universe, and its occupant rightly receives worship because He is the Creator of all things. The world is not out of control. The One who created it is still actively sovereign.
Also, on the throne is a Lamb “standing as though . . . slain” (Rev. 5:6, NKJV). This Lamb is also the Lion of Judah, who has conquered and thereby has the key to God’s plan of history. Here is the second deep structural truth: the key to history is this mixed metaphor of the conquering Lion who is the slain Lamb. He has conquered by being slain and raised to new life. At his feet the cherubim and the elders fall down and say, “ ‘You are worthy’ ” (verse 9, NKJV). They are joined by all the angels, saying, “ ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain’ ” (verse 12, NKJV). There is a hidden truth from the things which shall be that everyone must acknowledge: the throne of God is still the center of the universe, and a glimpse of that throne will dethrone all other gods we worship.
Making Room for the Kingdom (Rev. 11:15)
To understand the book of Revelation in our day, we have to understand the nature of hope. For Christians hope is not a wish. It is not a tooth under a pillow or fingers crossed. Christian hope is assurance, a firm, binding promise. It is not a feeling; it is a fact. Hope is independent of circumstances, and it will never be conquered by evil. Even if hurt seems to be winning, the battle has already been won. It is a fact rooted in the reality of the prophetic nature of the book that “ ‘the kingdoms of this world [will] become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever’ ” (Rev. 11:15, NKJV). This is the promise to those who are suffering for the kingdom—and the warning to those opposing the kingdom.
1. What are some of the challenges you face that are discouraging as a Christian?
2. How is your life impacted by the revelation of the promise that the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of God?
3. Explain how you find encouragement in the promises revealed.