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The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3


I'm excited about our study over the coming weeks and months and, in fairness, probably years of the Book of Revelation. And I have already enjoyed my own study and I hope that I can share just a little of the fruit of that with you.

The Book of Revelation. The Apostle John wrote this book to the seven churches in Asia around the year 96 AD. It was at the very end of the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian. He was the last in the Flavian family. With him, the Flavian dynasty ended. His father was Vespasian, his brother Titus - both of whom had served as emperors before him. He actually began quite well, but soon, bitterness about his youth and frustrated ambition twisted his thinking, setting the stage for the wicked ruler that he would become. By nature, Domitian was arrogant, aloof, completely without humor, and terribly cruel. He was openly hostile to the Roman Senate. He even carried out a reign of terror that kept the entire city in upheaval. Because of a shortage in treasury funds (seems to be a perpetual problem) he extorted money from the aristocracy in the city of Rome. He took to himself the right to vote first in the Senate, and he did so in order to intimidate those who would vote after him. And anyone who voted after him against him, became a marked man. Augustus had been worshipped during his life and there were a few Roman emperors before Domitian who were proclaimed deity at their deaths (which is ironic) but Domitian was the first emperor to demand that he be worshipped as God. He insisted that he be addressed as Dominus et Deus (Lord and God). When he issued a command or drafted a law, he began with a statement something like this: Domitian, our God and Lord, commands..." He was intensely paranoid and fearful of all potential rivals. He was easily swayed by every word of gossip that suggested someone around him might be disloyal to him. And anyone who fell under that suspicion, he promptly removed from office and sometimes they simply disappeared from Rome. Pliny tells us that Domitian was quick to think that he was slighted. He saw every move by someone else as some way to slight him and he took every perceived slight as a challenge to and a denial of his divinity.

You can imagine how difficult life was in Rome with this man on the throne. But it was the Christian church that suffered most at the hands of Domitian because of his blasphemous obsession. He made the persecution of Christians the stated policy of the Roman state. In his effort to establish emperor worship as the religion of the empire and himself as God, he erected images of himself in all of the temples and he demanded that all Roman citizens show loyalty to Rome by bowing down and worshipping his image as the face of Rome, the god of Rome. He exiled and executed countless citizens for refusing to do this and, of course, chief among them were Christians who gave their universal obedience to their Lord, their Kurios, Jesus Christ and not to Caesar. Because of their refusal to worship the gods of Rome, especially that of the emperor, they were labeled atheists and insurrectionists; the atheists because they worshipped an invisible god and insurrectionist because they refused to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. Domitian said of Christians in the 1st century, "I will annihilate them".

Now you understand a little of the background behind this book, you can understand why the Book of Revelation would have been such an encouragement to the early Christians in Asia minor who received it. And frankly, I think you can understand why this book holds out such rich encouragement to us in our troubled times. This book was the last biblical book written. It was written by the Apostle John, as I said, around 96 AD, at the end of the reign of Domitian.

As we look at this book, there are four primary interpretive models or approaches. I reminded you of them last time. There's the preterist model which says that its events are past history, fulfilled mostly or completely in the 1st century. The historicist or continual historical model says that the events in revelation are past history but fulfilled chronologically through church history; so, from the 1st century all the way up and to somewhere around the present time (and in some cases they would even say beyond). You have, thirdly, the idealist or the spiritual model. This says that Revelation records neither past history nor future prophecy but rather it is fulfilled symbolically or spiritually in the life of the church throughout the history of the church. And then, finally, you have the futurist model that says most of the events of revelation will be fulfilled in the future.

Revelation 4-22 is predictive prophecy. Yes, it uses symbolic language, but it describes real people and real events that will actually come at the end of human history. This is where, as I said last time, a literal or we could say a normal reading of the Book of Revelation takes you. If you approach this book using the same interpretive approach that you take with your mail, or the pages you read on the internet, or the newspaper you receive, or that most people take with the rest of the New Testament, you naturally arrive at a futurist position. Why? Think about it. The cataclysmic judgments that we're going to see unfold in chapter 6 through 18 simply haven't happened yet, or if you think they have, you have to redefine a lot of terminology - the second coming recorded in chapter 19 hasn't happened yet, Christ hasn't reigned as King on this earth for 1000 years, the resurrection of all the dead (the unbelieving dead), and the Great White Throne of Judgement hasn't yet occurred. Christ hasn't yet destroyed this current universe and created a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness is at home. All of those things are described in the Book of Revelation. They haven't happened yet. Where does that lead you? To a futurist view and interpretive model of this book. All these events from chapter 4 on are yet future.

Now an outline of Revelation. I gave you a more detailed outline last time. This is just an overview. You have in chapter 1 the things which you have seen. Using chapter 1:19, what Jesus says there as a sort of framework for our outline. You have in chapter 1 the things which you have seen, that is, the setting of Jesus' prophecy. You have the things which are, the state of Jesus' church, in chapters 2 and 3. And then you have the things which will take place after these things. This describes the stages of Jesus' final triumph beginning in chapter 4:1 and running through chapter 22:5. And then finally, you have epilogue in chapter 22:6-21.

Now last time we just began to consider the things which you have seen - the setting of Jesus prophecy; in other words, chapter 1. And that chapter begins with an introduction of the book in the first eight verses. And that introduction begins with what I called the preface in the first three verses. Let's read the preface again together. Here's the basic preface to all that's going to unfold. "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, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." I cannot explain to you how rich these verses really are because within these verses John tells us so much about this book. In fact, we're going to see tonight that he introduces us, in these three verses, to eleven features of this book that are essential for us to really understand it and see it unfold before us.

Last time we discovered just the first of these features and that is its stated title: The Revelation of Jesus Christ or the Revelation of Jesus Messiah. I noted for you that the Greek word for revelation is apokalupsis from which we get our word apocalypse. It literally means to unveil, to uncover. In the New Testament it's used of the unveiling of Christ in his first and second comings, and it's also used of truth that is unveiled or uncovered in the sense that it's made known, it's revealed, it's disclosed. So, the Apostle John says this is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. And as I showed you last time, I think it's appropriate to understand this in two ways. John likes those sort of double meanings at times. This book is the revelation from Jesus Christ (He's the source of it) and this book is the revelation about Jesus Christ (He's its theme) as well. So, it is the revelation of Jesus Christ - from Him and about Him.

Now tonight we begin with a second feature about this book and that is: it's supernatural source. He continues in verse 1: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him..." Now you understand that God is the only one who orders, and therefore knows, and therefore can announce the future. And God makes much of this in a number of places in the Book of Isaiah. I had several in my notes and, in the interest of time, I had to cut, cut, cut... So, I only left one. But Isaiah 45:21, God says, "Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. [Listen to this] Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I [Yahweh], the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me." You don't God is saying? He's saying: you compare Me to the idols of the world, that the nations of the world worship, and I'm the only One who can tell you what's coming, because I'm the only One who is, I'm the only One who orders all things, who directs all things, who controls all things, who knows all things, and therefore who can announce those things to you.

So, it's not a surprise then in light of that, that John tells us here in verse 1 that the Father gave this revelation to the Son. Notice, "which God", and obviously with the contrast here, God the Father gave Him. The Book of Revelation, then (think about this), is a gift. It is a gift from the Father to the Son. Why? As a reward for His obedience. You remember the Book of Philippians? Go back to Philippians. Let me show you this in its context. Philippians 2. Philippians 2:5 refers to Christ Jesus (Messiah Jesus) "who although", verse 6, "He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [held onto at all costs], but [rather He] emptied Himself..." In what way? He took "the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. [And] Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross [as a criminal, as the worst of criminals, as a terrorist in the Roman state, on a cross]. "For this reason also [because of His perfect, willing, sacrificial obedience, because of His willing humiliation], God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [Kurios, He is Lord. There's the name above all names - Kurios], to the glory of God the Father." You see, when you look at what's being said here, the Apostle Paul says that because of our Lord's willing humiliation, because of His perfect service, the Father has given to the Son an incomparable, glorious, indescribable reward. And it is the reward to exalt Him above all things. And God directed His Son to reveal that unfolding of His great reward to us in the Book of Revelation. That's what we're reading. God gave this as a reward to His Son and He gave the revelation of it to His Son to give to us so that we could celebrate with Him. The exaltation of Jesus Christ, that the Father promised Him in Philippians 2, is unfolded in great detail on the pages of the Book of Revelation. So, you get to open the gift that the Father gave the Son.

Third, I want you to consider its intended readers. Verse 1 goes on to say: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave Him to show to [notice the readers] his bondservants..." The Greek word for bondservants is douloi, or doulois in this case. It's the plural of doulas. You've heard that word. It's the Greek word for slave. This is one of the ways that the New Testament describes our relationship to Jesus Christ. It's used, in context, especially that have to do with our service. We are called the slaves of Christ.

Now, I've explained before and I don't have time now to do it in great detail, the radical differences between American slavery - a system built on kidnapping, and incarceration, and humiliation - with 1st century Roman slavery. They are greatly different. Of course, there are were abuses in the 1st century, but largely it was unlike what we knew in America. Most slaves in the 1st century in Rome were either prisoners of war, the children of prisoners of war, or (listen to this) people who sold themselves into slavery. Why would you think about that? Well, if it's American slave, you would never even think about it. But it wasn't because Roman slavery wasn't permanent. Most slaves were freed by the time they were 30 an often didn't serve as slaves more than seven years. It was a temporary situation and because of its temporary nature, there were several reasons that people actually sold themselves into slavery in 1st century Rome. One of them was that it was a common way for non-Romans to receive Roman citizenship. You attached yourself to a rich and powerful person, you served him or her for a number of years, and they, as a gift to you at the end of that servitude, would grant you not only your freedom but they would make sure that you were able to receive your citizenship. It was a way for those who were free but desperately poor to gain a career and financial security. Often slaves in 1st century Rome were not just menial laborers. Instead, they were (you can read the history) they were doctors, and lawyers, and other people with trades. But they attached themselves to someone who was wealthy, who funded their career path and education. It was also a way to pay off personal indebtedness and avoid financial disaster. And so, you could, and many people did, sell themselves into slavery for this period of time in order to accomplish these ends. So, when you understand that, you can understand why this word slave, then, became a perfect metaphor for our service to Jesus Christ; a voluntary connection and submission to and work for someone else - a benefactor. It's used eleven times for believers in this book. One writer says, "As the special representatives of the Lord Christ Himself, this word slave becomes a beautiful title of honor for God's people." You see, it's one thing to be a slave of someone who's low. It's another thing to be a slave of the greatest person in the universe. There's elevation that comes with that.

Who are the slaves of Christ to whom this letter is written? Well, you have, first of all and obviously, when he says this letter was written to these slaves of Christ you have the members of seven small churches in Asia minor in the 1st century. They're getting this letter and they're going to be addressed specifically. But secondly, you also have believers alive during the tribulation. There are several passages where words are directed specifically to those who will be living in the time of these events; to help them, to encourage them, to urge them to endure. And then, these words are also written to all believers throughout history. There are a couple of times where obviously the term doulos is used of believers in all eras, in all times. In fact, look at Revelation 19. Revelation 19:5, "And a voice came from the throne, saying, 'Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.'" And this is the cry in heaven just before the second coming. So, these are believers who gathered from all time, they're there in heaven, and they're called his bondservants. The same thing is true over in chapter 22. In fact, look at this one. [Revelation] 22:3. This is in the new heaven and the new earth. "There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him." That is all believers from all time. So, these are the intended readers. This book, brothers and sisters, it's for us. It's for us.

Fourth, John reveals its singular purpose, its singular purpose. "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants..." God's purpose in giving this revelation to His Son was so that His Son, in turn, would show us. God wanted you to know what He's going to do for His Son. And you know what this tells us? It reminds us that while we are slaves in one sense, we are sons and daughters and another. You remember what Jesus said in John 15? He said, 'I no longer call you slaves because the slave doesn't know what his master's doing; I call you sons and friends because I'm going to tell you what I'm doing.' The Father says, 'Son here is My reward. Here is My gift to You. I want You to pass it on to Your brothers and sisters. I want them to know.'

That brings us then, fifthly, to its central theme, its central theme. What is this book really about? Notice, again, verse 1: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, [watch this, to show] the things which must soon take place..." That phrase, 'the things which must soon take place', is the central theme of this book. And I'm going to walk you through that and we're going to expand it a little bit. And after I'm done, I'm going to give you a stated theme for the Book of Revelation that's going to sort of guide our discussions in the weeks and months ahead. But let's take it step at a time. When he says, "these are the things which must soon take place", he's telling us something about how this book fits into the rest of the New Testament. I mean, think about it, the 1st four books, the gospels, are about the past. They're about what happened in the life, and the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Book of Acts is also about the past. It's about the birth and the growth of the church. The epistles, well they're about the present. They're about the past, in one sense, because they were written to churches that existed in the 1st century. But they had a broader purpose than that. They were to equip the church in the church age. So, the epistles are really about the present, about life in the church age. But when you come to the Book of Revelation, it's different - not at first, because Revelation 1-3 are still about the past. They're about John's vision of Christ on the island of Patmos. They're about the state of 1st century churches in modern Turkey. But Revelation 4-22 is all about the future. That's what this book is about. It's about the future. It's about what must come. Notice that little word "must" - the things which must, the things which it is necessary to take place. Robert Mounce writes, "History is not a half-hazard sequence of unrelated events but a divinely decreed ordering of that which must take place. It is a logical and moral necessity arising from the nature of God and the revelation of His purpose in creation and redemption." We're talking about things that must happen. You don't have to worry about whether God can bring these things to pass. They must happen, and if in God's economy they must happen, they will.

And notice these things must "soon" take place. It's an interesting word, soon. It's used again in chapter 22:6-7 where we read this: "And he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true'; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. 'And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.'" Soon! The word soon - the Greek, it's actually 2 words in the Greek text, but this word can, or this expression can, mean soon in the way we use the English word - like it's about to happen - or it can mean suddenly in the sense of when it happens, it's going to be wow! It's going to happen suddenly and rapidly with speed. It's used both ways in the New Testament. But I think it's important to understand here, as we talk about prophecy, that soon is a relative term that depends on the perspective of the one who uses it. If, when my daughters were young, they asked me for some special event - 'Dad when can we go get ice cream?' I might have responded to them, 'Well, you know what, Sweetheart, we'll do that soon.' Now, when I said the word soon what did I mean? Well, it could mean anything from the next hour to the next three months. Soon right? I mean you understand this as parents - 'Soon, we'll do that!" But when my daughter heard soon, she didn't hear the next three weeks. She heard like in the next hour or maybe the next 3 minutes. So, there is a reference point depending on your perspective. And this is really important because what are we told about God? You know, when we hear "soon" what do we think as frail, little, puny human beings? We think like next week. But 2 Peter 3:8 says, "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day." "Soon", in the divine being of God, is a different thing than my "soon". And it's important to keep that in mind.

But there's also another important nuance of this word, "soon". Understand that it is a term that describes where we are in redemptive history. You see, Scripture is clear that we are in the last days and, in fact, the last days arrived with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:2, "in these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." In fact, it's even now the last hour. 1 John 2:18, written near the end of the 1st century, "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour." Now, what does he mean it's the last hour? Well, again, he's talking about redemptive history. He's talking about where we are on the timetable of God's eternal plan. Think of all that has happened. Think of all that's been fulfilled. Think of the coming of Jesus Christ, the accomplishment of salvation in His life, death, and resurrection. Think of His ascension. It's the last hour. In other words, what these phrases are saying is that the end of all things is imminent. And it's been imminent since the 1st century. For 2000 years, every generation of Christians could rightly claim that Jesus was coming soon. Why? Because all that was necessary for Him to return has already been accomplished. In other words, it's soon in the sense that it is imminent. It could happen before this service is over. It could happen before this day is done. It could happen before this coming week has played out its days. It could happen this month. It could happen in 2021. It is imminent. It is soon. That's the idea.

Now this expression...let me go back to the expression "things which must take place" because to put our little theme together, you need to understand what that is. That expression "things which must take place" has its roots in the Old Testament because a similar expression occurs back in Daniel. Now you see the connection between Daniel and Revelation. Go back with me to Daniel 2. Daniel 2 and look at verse 28. You remember, this chapter is the revelation to Nebuchadnezzar through his dream of the kingdoms of this world and the coming kingdom of our Lord. And so, notice chapter 2:28. Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar, "...there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar [watch this] what will take place in the latter days." Literally, you'll notice the marginal note in your Bible there, "in the end of days", the end of the days. "This was your dream and the visions in your mind while [you slept] on your bed. As for you, O king [verse 29], while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future (literally, after this) and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place." And what exactly does this dream reveal? It reveals successive, earthly empires that are ultimately crushed, destroyed, turned to powder, and blown away with the wind and God's kingdom replaces them. Look at Daniel 2:45. Well let's go back to 44: "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future [after this]; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy."

Now here's what I want you to get. For Daniel in his time, he's looking at the last days (the latter days) and the things which will take place in the latter days include the destruction of the kingdoms of men and the establishment of Christ's eternal kingdom. Now fast forward to the New Testament. Christ uses this same expression in what we call the Olivet Discourse; that famous sermon that He delivers looking over the city of Jerusalem about the future in Matthew 24 and 25. And He uses this same expression in Matthew 24:6. Fast forward to Revelation. Go to Revelation 4:1. As John introduces the events coming in the future, you see this again: "After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven... [and He said], 'Come up here [watch this], and I will show you what must take place after these things.'" Now go to the end of the Book of Revelation. The next time this appears is in chapter 22:6: "And he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true'; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants [here it is again] the things which must soon take place.'" Now think about it. He uses this expression at the beginning of his description of events that are coming. He uses the same expression in Revelation 22:6 at the conclusion of the main body of the book. So, Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5 begins and ends, described as "the things which must happen soon". Folks, this is the focus of the Book of Revelation. And it's attached to even what we see in the Book of Daniel.

Now let me put it all together. Putting it all together, let me give you...But before I do that, let me read a quote to you that I like that pulls together what I've just shared with you. This is from Dr. Robert Thomas in his commentary on Revelation. He says, "The revelation contained in this book is to bring to a climax an expectation that began at least as early as Daniel 2. This is the ultimate detailed account of events that must transpire in the outworking of God's program regarding the institution of the everlasting kingdom, that will replace other earthly temporary kingdoms. That this is the goal, toward which this book moves, is obvious from a casual review of passages such as 11:15. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (from, you know, quoted in Handel's Messiah) and 20:4 (and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years)." You see the connection? The kingdoms of men crushed and destroyed - blown away with the wind - and this stone cut out from the mountain without hands crushes them but then it grows into a huge mountain picturing the coming kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, let me put it all together for you. The central theme, then, of Revelation I would describe like this: it is the unveiling of Jesus Christ and His glorious kingdom resulting in the everlasting destruction of His enemies and the everlasting blessing of His saints. That's the story. That's the theme of the Book of Revelation. And we're going to see that unfold in high definition - the unveiling of Jesus the Messiah and His glorious kingdom resulting in the everlasting destruction of His enemies and the everlasting blessing of His saints. That's the central theme of this book.

That brings us to a sixth feature, that we see in this preface, and that is: its special delivery. This letter gets first class treatment. Notice verse 1: "...He sent [that is He is Christ here. He sent] and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John..." Christ sent and communicated. The Greek word means "to make something known". It actually comes from a noun that is the word "signs" in the New Testament. So, there is a sort of subtle implication in this word "communicated" that he's communicating this to John through signs. Of course, that's appropriate since so much of the book is visions. But notice Christ made it known, first of all, "by His angel". At times we're going to see Christ speak directly with John. Obviously in chapter 1 he speaks directly to John. In chapter 6 we'll see Him speak directly to John again. But most of the time Christ spoke to John in the revealing of these things through an angel. Angels were involved in the revelation of the law at Sinai we're told - in Acts 7:33 in Stephen's sermon, in Galatians 3:19, in Hebrews 2:2. But this is the only New Testament book that claims to have been given to its author by an angel. It's repeated again in chapter 22:16: "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." Jesus said I'm doing this through my angel. And it's interesting because angels are prominent in the various events of this book. They appear in every chapter except chapters 4 and 13. And the words "angel" or "angels" occur 71 times in the Book of Revelation - more than any other biblical book. In fact, 25% of the biblical references to angels in Scripture occur in the Book of Revelation.

So, our Lord sends this book by His angel and then John adds: "to His bond-servant John." The Apostle John, I think, calls himself here a bondservant, a doulos, to identify with the rest of us. With everybody else to whom he writes, he's just a slave of Christ like the rest of us. He's been given this assignment. He's the human instrument that Christ used to transmit this message to the rest of his doulois, his slaves. John - it makes sense for him to do this. I mean, John was an eyewitness of Jesus' first coming. He talks about that in the Gospel of John, and he begins, remember, 1 John talking about - I saw, I saw, and I'm just telling you what I saw. And so, he now has the gracious privilege of being chosen by Christ to witness the second coming as well - not actually in person (he will someday when Christ returns) but in a vision given to him by angels, and ultimately, by the Lord Himself.

Now, notice the chain of communication in what's revealed in this book. It's pretty unusual because you have from God the Father to Christ (He gave it to Him), and then from Christ to His angel, and from the angel to John, and from John to the church. Tells you something about this book and its special character. This is a unique book in so many ways.

Next let's consider its inspired content (verse 2). John says: "[I am the one] who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw." Notice John describes the inspired content of this book in several remarkable ways. First of all, he calls it an eyewitness testimony. He says I am the one who testified. This word means "to give witness, to testify." He said, 'Listen, I'm just telling you. I'm just giving you my testimony. This is what happened. It's eyewitness. I saw it.' But secondly, he calls it the word of God: "[I] testified to the word of God." In other words, these words that you and I will study on the pages of Revelation come from God. They are inspired words. I've told you before that that translation, while we become accustomed to it and it means something to us now, it's a bad translation. It comes from the Latin Vulgate (inspired I'm talking about now). It comes from the Latin Vulgate and it means "to breathe into" which gives an entirely wrong picture about what happens with the Bible. The Greek word in 2 Timothy 3 where it says, 'All Scripture is inspired by God', the Greek word means "to breathe out" not to breathe in. And it means that all Scripture is the product of God's breath (makes huh sound). Just like right now, the words that I'm speaking are the product of my breath, in the same way, the Scripture is the product of the breath of God. These are His words coming out of His mouth. It's the word of God. It's pretty remarkable claim. He goes on to call it the "testimony of Jesus Christ". Now this could mean, again we're kind of in the same conundrum, this could mean the testimony about Jesus and it's used that way later in the book. Or it could mean the testimony from Jesus. I think here, because it's parallel with the word of God and that means the word from God, it's likely that John, here, means the testimony from Jesus. And we just discovered that that's how we're getting it. So, John is saying that these words that we're studying come from God the Father, given to the Son, and that Jesus the Son has given firsthand testimony of those words the Father gave Him to their accuracy, to their truthfulness, to their content. He also describes the content of this book as a revelation of visions. Notice how verse 2 ends. He says: "who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ [the Messiah], even to all that he saw." Notice, and this is an interesting expression, John says, 'I saw the word of God and I saw the testimony of Jesus Christ.' Now why would he say that? What do you mean you saw it? Well, it's certainly appropriate when you consider that the vast majority of this book is the result of divinely given visions. In fact, the Greek verb "see" occurs more than 50 times in this book about what was revealed to John. Again, and again, he says, 'I saw, I saw, I saw, I saw'. Finally, John describes the content of this book in verse 3 as a prophecy. Notice he says: "the words of the prophecy". In other words, every word in this book is called prophecy. Now when you hear the word prophecy, you probably think of prediction. That's the word that pops into most people's mind. Prophecy is prediction. It's a prediction of the future. But that is not the essence of the word prophecy. In fact, if you go back and look at the Old Testament, examine the Old Testament prophets, you discover that the Old Testament prophets did two things: they preached to the people and they predicted the future. They did both. They prophesied the future and they prophesied in the sense of preaching to the people. Both of them were prophecy. You say, 'Well what is prophecy, then?' What makes all of that prophecy is that it was revealed directly by God. That's prophecy. The essence of prophecy is that it comes directly from God, whether it's something that needs to be preached in a sermon or whether it's a prophecy about the future, it's revealed directly from God. That's what John the Apostle is claiming for this book. It's a prophecy. It's revealed directly by God. So, Revelation then, think about this, Revelation is eyewitness testimony by the Apostle John. It is the very word of God, it's the product of the breath of God, it is the testimony of Jesus, and it's what John received in heavenly visions. And he received all of that by direct revelation from Jesus Christ Himself, through His angel. Wow! That's some book!

Eighth, I want you to notice its spiritual blessing; it's spiritual blessing. Notice verse 3 of chapter 1: "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." This is actually the first of seven beatitudes in Revelation. Let me give you the other six. Chapter 14:13: "And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, 'Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.''" Chapter 16:15: "Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame." Chapter 19:9: "Then he said to me, 'Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'' And he said to me, 'These are true words of God.''" Chapter 20:6: "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years." Chapter 22:7: "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." And chapter 22:14: "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city."

But the first blessing is here in chapter 1:3: "Blessed [happy, spiritually blessed] is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it..." Why is it a spiritual blessing to read this book? You ever wondered that? I mean, God promises that it's true. But what makes it a spiritual blessing? Well because of what it reveals. It's not something, you know, hocus pocus. It's because of what you learn as you read this book. Think about it. When you read this book, you see the Lord in all His glory. If you're a Christian, what's better than that? You get to see Him get His rightful place. You get to see Him get what He deserves, the reward of His suffering. You get to see Him take back control of this rebel planet. You get to see Him exalted and every need bow and every tongue confess that He's Lord. You get to see Him route His enemies who refuse to bow the knee. You get to see Him destroy all that's sinful and create a new heaven and a new earth. You could just see all of that. You get a front row seat on watching the reward that the Father gave the Son because of His obedience. That's a blessing. It's also a blessing because in this book you get to see God's redemptive plan in all its certainty. I mean He's told you what's coming. You know we're all tempted as Christians (I'll just be honest with you), we're all tempted as Christians - we pick up the, you know, whatever it is we read the day's news headlines on - we pick that up, it's easy to get swept away by that - as if there is no God, as if He's not on His throne, as if He doesn't have a plan, as if He hasn't written the final story. Folks, here's the final story. And the spiritual blessing of reading this book, is it brings you back to reality. It snatches you out of your news feeds and tells you Christ is King, and His kingdom is coming. He wins! That's a blessing. There's spiritual blessing as well because what Christ gets, we get. You see it's not just about Christ, although that's the main thing, we are in Christ. And because we are in Christ, everything He gets we get. This is our story. So, this book is a spiritual blessing to those who read it because we see in it our personal future in all of its wonder. This is your story, Christian! You get to be with Christ as He unfolds the scroll. You get to be with Christ as He takes back possession of this planet from the rebels who have taken it. You get to be with Christ when He returns. You get to be with Christ when He sets up his kingdom. You get to reign with Him. You get to see His face. You get to live in the new Jerusalem and see a city that is lighted only by the light of the Lamb. This is your story. So, of course, there's spiritual blessing with it.

Number 9: it's practical use; its practical use. Notice: "Blessed [verse 3 says] is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy." Now I think we can read that and misunderstand it. Our English translation actually captures the Greek text very well. Notice "he who reads" is singular. He who reads. And "those who hear" is plural. Although this blessing, I think, can legitimately be applied to every person who picks up this book and reads it, that's not John's point in verse 3. Here is what he says. Listen to it. Let me read it slightly differently so you get it. The one person who reads and the many who hear him read are all blessed. What does that describe? He's describing the public reading of this book in the context of the church; specifically, the seven churches addressed in chapters 2-3. You see the 1st century church, like the Jewish synagogue, centered on the reading of the Scripture and the explaining of the Scripture. Just exactly what I'm doing tonight. You read the Scripture - you know this is what Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4: read the text, explain the text, apply the text. Read the text, explain the text, apply the text. That's what I do and that's what happened in the first century. That's what he's describing here. You remember Paul commanded that his letters be read out loud in churches. 1 Thessalonians 5:27: "I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren." Colossians 4:16: "When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea." Paul says, 'I want you to read these letters out loud in the churches.' Why did Paul order his letters to be read in the church? Because he knew that he wrote under the authority of Jesus Christ as His Apostle and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That is exactly what John is claiming in Revelation 1:3. By demanding that this entire book be read publicly in the churches, John was affirming that this book is Holy Scripture. It's inspired. It's part of the canon. And here's the implication of that: because it is inspired Scripture, it is as helpful and useful as the rest of Scripture. Remember what Paul said in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy 3: "All Scripture is inspired by God and is"? It's profitable, it's useful, it's relevant. By the way, let me just say, don't ever say to me, 'Well that's just not relevant.' What could be more relevant than God's Word - His timeless, eternal Word? Revelation is relevant. It's part of the canon. 'Read it', he says. 'Read it in the churches. If it needs explaining, explain it.' It's very practical in its use.

Number 10: look at its required response. "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and heed the things which are written in it." We're not only called to hear it - hear it read, read it ourselves - but to heed it or obey it. You say, 'Wait a minute I thought it's prophecy like just telling me what's going to happen.' Well, that's true - there's a lot of that. But we're going to see a whole lot of admonition as well. We're going to see it constantly in the first chapters, two and three, to the churches, to us. But we're also going to see it scattered throughout the Book of Revelation. And he says, 'Don't just read it. Don't just tickle your sort of prophecy fancy. Don't just sort of figure out what the 10th toe in the beast is. Obey! Do something with this.'

And then finally, consider its timeless relevance and compelling importance. 'Do this, read it, blessed it are those who read it.' And here's why: "for because the time is near". You remember back in verse 1, John says, this book describes things which must soon take place and here in verse 3 he says the time is near. The book ends the same way. Revelation 22:10: "And he said to me, 'Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.'" What do you mean, "the time is near"? Well, there are two primary Greek words for time. One of them is chronos. You recognize that word; it's the word from which we get chronology or chronological. It refers to chronological time, to what you keep on your clock, to minutes, seconds, minutes, hours, and on to days and so forth. The other word and the one used here is kairos. It doesn't refer to time in seconds, or minutes, or hours but to time in the sense of seasons. We could even define it like this: a decisive moment in history. It's frequently used as a technical sense, in the New Testament, to refer to the end times or to the last times, and the expression that Daniel uses for the events at the end of human history. Paul says this decisive moment, this last day - it's near. The last times are near.

Now obviously 1900 years have passed since he wrote verse 3 and still these things haven't come to pass. So, what do the words soon and near mean? They mean three things, three realities these words describe. Don't forget them because this goes to the heart of what this book is about. First of all, it means all of these things that we're going to read about are certain. It's going to happen. There's no question. God will ensure that it occurs. They are soon, they are near in the sense that you can count on them. Secondly, they are soon or near in the sense of speed or suddenness. Once it starts, it's like a woman in labor - it's coming. That's the point and that's why Jesus, in the Olivet Discourse talking about the end times, describes it like a woman in labor with birth pangs. When it starts, it's coming and that's the point of soon or near. And then finally, and this is the biggest point I think that the Apostle is making, and I've already made this - its eminence; that is, it's soon, it's near in the sense that there's nothing else. It could happen. We are in the last days. It could happen today; it could happen tomorrow. These events could begin to unfold.

Let me ask you, do you believe that? Do you believe that what we're going to study in the Book of Revelation, the things that are the last things in the last times, do you believe they're certain? Do you really believe that when these days begin, they will unfold with speed, with rapidity, quickly? And do you really believe (I'm not asking about what you signed on your creed I'm asking in your heart of hearts) do you believe that all of these things, including our Lord's return, is imminent (it could happen any moment)? That's what the Lord wants you to think. That's how He wants you to respond. Why? Often, the Lord ties how we live to our anticipation and understanding of the imminence of His return, of the imminence of these things. We saw it in Romans 13. Let me just remind you. Romans 13:11-12: "Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." You know what Jesus wants us to do in light of the "soon-ness", the nearness of these things? He wants us to wake up and live like we live in the day and stop living like we live in the night. He wants us to act like Christians. He wants us to live in anticipation of His coming.

All of that in three verses. What a rich journey we have before us. Let's pray together.

Father we have overwhelming gratitude, first of all, that You would reward your Son in this way. That You would give Him this vast reward - of a people, and the kingdom, of a triumph because of His perfect humiliation, His perfect service, His perfect obedience. You have given Him the name above every name - the name, Lord, at which every knee will bow, and every tongue confess. Lord we are so grateful. But we thank You Father that, not only have You given that reward to Your Son, but it overwhelms us to think that You wanted us to know that You loved us so much, that it mattered to You that we would understand what's coming. Lord, You didn't have to tell us any of this. You could have left us entirely in the dark. And yet, even as our Lord said, because we're friends you wanted us to know. Just like you did with Abraham and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, just like You did with Moses, Lord you wanted us to know. We are in awe of Your kindness, Your greatness, Your generosity. Lord we thank You that the day is coming when You will unveil Jesus our Lord and His glorious kingdom resulting in the everlasting destruction of His enemies and those who will not have Him to rule over them, and to the everlasting joy and blessing of His saints. Lord help us to look forward with anticipation to all that we'll learn in the book that You gave to Your Son. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen!


The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3

The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3

Salutation & Dedication

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:4-6

More from this Series



The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3

The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:1-3

Salutation & Dedication

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:4-6

The King is Coming!

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:7-8

A Vision of the Exalted Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:9-20

A Vision of the Exalted Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 1:9-20

Ephesus: Loveless Fidelity

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:1-7

Smyrna: Faithful in Suffering

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:8-11

Pergamum: Undiscerning Tolerance

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:12-17

Thyatira: Extra-Biblical Authority

Tom Pennington Revelation 2:18-29

Sardis: Dead Christianity

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:1-6

Philadelphia: Enduring Faithfulness

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:7-13

Laodicea: A False Gospel

Tom Pennington Revelation 3:14-22

He is Worthy! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

He is Worthy! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

He is Worthy! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

He is Worthy! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-5

The First Six Seals: The Tribulation Begins - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 6:1-17

The First Six Seals: The Tribulation Begins - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 6:1-17

Tribulation Saints - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 7:1-17

Tribulation Saints - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 7:1-17

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 8-9

The Little Book

Tom Pennington Revelation 10:1-11

The Two Witnesses - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 11:1-13

The Two Witnesses - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 11:1-13

The Seventh Trumpet: The Beginning of the End

Tom Pennington Rev. 11:14-19

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

The Woman, her Son, and the Dragon - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 12:1-17

Antichrist - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

Antichrist - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:1-10

The False Prophet

Tom Pennington Revelation 13:11-18

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

A Preview of Jesus' Victory - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 14:1-20

Heaven Prepares for the End

Tom Pennington Revelation 15:1-8

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 16:1-21

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 16:1-21

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 17:1-18:24

Babylon Is Fallen! - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 18

Babylon is Fallen! - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 18

The Rapture of the Church

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

The Future Tribulation

Tom Pennington Revelation 4-18

Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus! - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:1-10

Heaven's Hallelujah Chorus - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:1-10

The Glorious Return of Jesus Christ

Tom Pennington Revelation 19:11-16


Tom Pennington Revelation 19:17-21

The Real Binding of Satan

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-3

The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10

The Millennium: Christ's Future Reign on Earth - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10

The Millennium: Christ’s Future Reign on Earth - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:1-10

The Last Judgment

Tom Pennington Revelation 20:11-15

Our Eternal Home - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:1-8

Our Eternal Home - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:1-8

The Eternal City - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5

The Eternal City - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5

The Eternal City - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 21:9-22:5

How Should We Then Live? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21

How Should We Then Live? - Part 2

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21

How Should We Then Live? - Part 3

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21

How Should We Then Live? - Part 4

Tom Pennington Revelation 22:6-21