The Revelation of Jesus Christ
1 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, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 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.
Did you catch that? John’s opening immediately connects his message and the Gospels. Read the opening again. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants.” Right at the outset, we have John not only anchoring into Jesus but most specifically something that Jesus has already revealed. “And He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.” John then quickly connects the two messages. He essentially says “I’m going to reveal what Jesus has already revealed.” This same message is now being communicated to John by His angel. What was, and is, being communicated are “the things which must soon take place”, and if God’s word is heeded, the church will find life.
John’s message isn’t something new. Jesus has already spoken of these things. Take time now to read the “Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place” in the Gospels: Matthew – Mark – Luke (This is critical. Take the time to read)
We often read the Book of Revelation in ways that rob it of true depth, beauty, and meaning. John has a very specific message to a very specific people about a very real suffering that is coming, and if they do not heed this message the people of God (The Church) will not survive.
“The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”
Eusebius is saying that because of the multitude of common warnings regarding the coming destruction of Jerusalem that Christ followers escaped the destruction of Jerusalem. The warnings were given and heeded, and thus the church lived.
The people of God always flourish when obeying the words of God.
John begins by referencing the reality that Jesus says these are things that must soon take place. To take it a step further, John ends this small opening with “the time is near.” If you read the Gospel accounts above, Jesus constantly says to them “you.” He says, “Do YOU see these buildings.” “See to it that no one misleads YOU.” “They will deliver YOU to the courts.” “But when YOU see the abomination of desolation.” Augustine and Jerome say this regarding the desolation and this “You” language:
Augustine – “Luke, to show that the abomination spoken of by Daniel will take place when Jerusalem is captured, recalls these words of the Lord in the same context: When you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army, then know that the desolation thereof is at hand (xxi. 20). For Luke very clearly bears witness that the prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled when Jerusalem was overthrown.” (vol. 6, p. 170)
Jerome – “it may be understood of the statue of Caesar, which Pilate set up in the temple; or of the equestrian statue of Adrian, which stood to the present time in the very Holy of Holies. For, according to the Old Scripture, an idol is called ‘abomination;’ “of desolation” is added, because the idol was set up in the desolated and deserted temple.”
Josephus, in speaking of the horror that befell Israel –
“Roman Soldiers went in numbers into the lanes of the city, with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook, without mercy, and set fire to the houses whither the Jews were fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is of such as died by the famine; they then stood in horror at this sight, and went out without touching anything. But although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed in that manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many houses was quenched with these men’s blood.” (The Wars Of The Jews, 6:8:5).
Over one million Jews died at the destruction of Jerusalem — another 97,000 were carried away as slaves! Yet not one Christian lay slain in the streets.
If the book of Revelation was intended primarily for our ears, there may have been no Christians left to hear 2000 years later. This isn’t the first time Jerusalem has been destroyed, nor is it the first time God warned His people of the coming destruction. One of the most magnificent differences between the two destructions is that in the later destruction God’s people actually listen and obey the words of their Lord and King. In so doing, they find life, and the church finds life.
Not only is God not who we think He is, we aren’t who we think we are. God is exactly who He says He is, and we are exactly who God says that we are. As difficult as it is for western contemporary sensibilities to wrestle with not being the center of God’s revelation, it is something that we must come to grips with.
Let God’s word be the anchor of life-giving truth it was intended to be. That is where Joy lives. Let us be a people known for cherishing, trusting, and obeying the words of our Lord and King. The words of life that lead to life.
BY JOSHUA WHETSTINE – NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD CITY MISSIONARY FOR MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL.