Sermon: Opening the Great Book Revelation 1:1-3

Opening the Great Book

Revelation 1:1-3

 

Introduction

Last week we looked at a very brief intro to the Book of Revelation. Much more could be said but we are now jumping off into the deep ocean of God’s prophetic Word. John Calvin refused to write a commentary on the Book, claiming he didn’t know enough to do so. We may, at times, feel a little like Calvin as we work through the Book verse by verse.
D A Carson has written a very helpful book surveying various NT commentaries and when he gets to the section on commentaries written on Revelation, here’s what he writes,
On the writing of books on Revelation there is no end: most generations produce far too many. It is a little known fact that the Puritans, for instance, produced far more commentaries on Revelation than any other book, most of them eminently forgettable and mercifully forgotten.[1]

As you may be aware the Church over the centuries has been flooded with various views and approaches to reading and interpreting this book. As we’ve learned last week, it is not a book revealing end times dates or even times themselves per se. If you’re expecting this sermon series to help pinpoint when Christ will return then I’m afraid, you will be greatly disappointed. It is not written to reveal deep secrets concerning end times, it is, however, written to reveal Jesus Christ, hence the very first word in the Greek is apokalypsis.

The Book of Revelation finds the Apostle John banished by Emperor Domitian to the Island of Patmos. This island and a few others were part of the Roman prison system and used as a place of banishment. Patmos is about 13 square miles in land area, made up of mostly rocky and rough terrain. It is located about 100 miles off the coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). It was on this island that the Apostle John was exiled because of his testimony of Jesus Christ.

 

John was old and worn out now. He could only remember through the fog of many years the face of his Lord. It was hard now as he sat on the rocky shore thinking about so long ago when he was younger. He was by himself now, all the others had already died. Peter, and James were gone, so was Barnabas and the others. Even the Apostle Paul was gone…only John remained. What would happen to the churches and to his faithful little flock in which he was the overseer? Abandoned on this godforsaken rocky tomb waiting his own death, John often reflected on Jesus’ words and wondered if they were ever going to come to pass. Would John die on this island or would he remain alive until Jesus returned? All John knew was to remain faithful and worship his Lord even in this lonely desert place.

If we are to understand this Book then we must practice

Proper biblical interpretation

I remember a teacher of this Book once who took images and made them represent modern day jet planes, ships, Russia etc. My question was back then, if the locusts in chapter nine represent Iraqi jet fighters then how was Revelation a comfort to the church in the first century? You see it is written, first and foremost to them. It was to circulate as an epistle to the churches in John’s day. So, we must be careful and practice good biblical interpretation.
First, it is in the category of Apocalyptic literature…
Here’s one of the church’s biggest struggles with the Book of Revelation. Apocalyptic literature is not meant to be interpreted literally, it is figurative language and highly symbolic. It is a heightened form of biblical prophecy. Now to say this may be confusing in itself. I’m not saying it isn’t God’s Word, nor am I saying that it isn’t true. It just is not to be interpreted in a strict literal sense. It was not intended to be.

Second, it is meant to reveal a fuller picture of Jesus Christ. In this book, we do not see Jesus as a babe in a manger, that’s not who Jesus is. He is a mighty warrior King who triumphs over His enemies and rescues His subjects.
Third, it uses many OT themes, and visions showing that what was previously hidden is now being brought to light in Jesus Christ.

Along the way, my prayer is, that we will be blessed as the Book tells us we will be. There will also, no doubt be things which might challenge us and cause us to perhaps even rethink what we’ve assumed concerning Christ and His return. This is always good. Lets get ready and enter the world of apocalyptic literature. May our Lord be exalted in this Book!

The Book of Daniel should be brought into focus here as we begin. Daniel, the servant of God was given a vision of God’s Kingdom in the latter days. He did not fully understand this vision. At the beginning of Daniel he writes,
Daniel 2:28-29 (ESV)
28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:
29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.

The phrase Daniel uses is very important if we’re to see the Book of Revelation accurately. Daniel writes that these mysteries are to be understood as latter days fulfillments.

The Book of Daniel was written about 700 years before the book of Revelation. We’ll see that what was distant future for Daniel has now arrived largely to be present for John.
Daniel 12:1-13 (ESV)
1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.
2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
4 But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and behold, two others stood, one on this bank of the stream and one on that bank of the stream.
6 And someone said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?”
7 And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished.
8 I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?”
9 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.
10 Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.
11 And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days.
12 Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days.
13 But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

There is more to come later from this text, but for now what I want you to see is that the scroll is sealed in Daniel’s day. This is the scroll that in John’s day will be opened by Jesus Christ the Worthy One.

Notice as we read the first three verses of Revelation 1 how John understands that he is living in the latter days that Daniel wrote about and how the events are in fact being fulfilled.

TT- The Apostle John is witnessing the opening of the book Daniel had to keep closed.

Human need met by text

If we consider John’s situation, banished by the Emperor, alone on Patmos, elderly, and still waiting on Jesus. We should be encouraged to wait as well. Revelation is God’s epistle to the church in the post-apostolic age. It’s His letter to us. Can we wait faithfully for the promises of God? Can we worship while we wait?
God the Father gave this book as a gift for His future Bride. It is the difference between a stagnant faith and a vibrant faith. We can, like John, gaze into heaven and see enough to keep us going while we wait for our Lord.

Revelation-1:1-3 (ESV)
1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

  1. Daniel’s Closed Book is John’s Opened Book

1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
Daniel 2:28b what will be in the latter days.

Daniel expected the fulfillment to be in the distant future…the Latter Days. John expects it to begin in his own generation. Indeed, it has already started to happen, as the references to beginning fulfillment of OT prophecy in chapter 1 bear out.[2]

The very first word in the original language is Apokalypsis. The very first word indicates that the book is one to be interpreted not literally but in the way it was intended by God, Jesus, the angel, and John, namely symbolically.

Many today have formulated various end-times charts, which have ten-horned-beasts and a woman actually sitting on top the beast etc. Their great mistake is viewing these symbols literally.

Please understand what I mean…there are some portions of Scripture intended by the author to be interpreted various ways. For example…

Epistles are for the most part to be seen as literal. God’s commands are literal. Jesus’ teaching is mostly literal except where context demands other wise. That is the general rule. Always interpret literally unless context clearly indicates a different interpretation.
Luke 6:41 (ESV)
41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
It’s easy to realize that this saying of Jesus is hyperbole or an exaggeration to make a point. We do not interpret this literally because Jesus did not mean it literally.
Don’t think that in saying this I’m telling you that the Bible is not true and trustworthy because it is. What I saying is that we must interpret it based on Historical Grammatical Hermeneutics, in other words, we must interpret it according to what the author meant for us to understand when he wrote it.

Daniel 2:28b what will be in the latter days. Is to be viewed as corresponding to John’s things that must soon take place. Here in these two verses, we have very similar language. It is not hard, the plain meaning here is to be taken in light of Daniel’s sealed scroll, which becomes John’s opened scroll.
Revealed to Jesus to the Angel to John and to Jesus’ Servants (Us).
This is the letter, which is to bring the most comfort to persecuted believers. In the first century the Brothers and Sisters were up against the likes of Nero and Domitian. Nero, if you remember lit his garden dinner parties by burning Christians high up in the air in metal cages. Domitian was famous for killing Christians by the thousands. Listen, this was great persecution and tribulation. However, the Bible also speaks of a great tribulation in the future as well. How could these first century believers who were running for their lives be comforted? By knowing who wins the great cosmic battle. They may die but they will not be forgotten or forsaken. Christ’s servants are to be the beneficiaries of this book. It’s not intended for the world but for the church.
A.       We are in the Latter Days
It seems within the church there has been a debate when or if the latter days, last days, time of the end will come. I’d like to put this debate to rest, because if we can pinpoint this, we can really get to the meaning of this Book.
The Apostle Peter has done that for us…
Acts 2:17-23 (ESV)
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Jesus brought in the last days when He began His public ministry. The last days are marked with sign and wonders which Jesus and His Apostles did. The Spirit being poured out which took place at Pentecost marks them. They are marked by visions dreams and prophecies. Peter tells us that the last days started with Jesus.
So, we should also understand that when John speaks of the last days, he realizes that they have already started. Listen, we have been in the last days for 2000 years. They started in John’s generation and continue until Christ’s return.

  1. Revelation is a gift to the Bride
    We must also not read over this first verse too quickly. The vision John sees is a gift given by the Father to the Son… which God gave him to show to his servants.
    Jesus is waiting for the Father to declare…it’s time! It’s time to go and get Your Bride. It’s time to go and put the final nail in Satan’s coffin. It’s time to free those who are enslaved because of the testimony. It’s time for go and claim Your kingdom. Until that day, the Father has given this gift to the Son so Jesus can give us a gift. This is the preview to the main attraction. This is to keep us faithful until our Lord arrives. The Book of Revelation is the gift that the Father gave the Son to give to His bride. It’s the box of chocolates and the roses that say I love you always remember that.
    2. John Tells Us What He Saw

Revelation 1:2 (ESV)
2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
When John sees all these visions, the very experience of seeing what he saw is what he shares. His heavenly visions are accurate and true. When he relays the account to us we must realize that John is seeing things in heaven that have happened and will happen as if they are present tense. He is seeing heavenly activities from God’s perspective. These visions are about Jesus Christ. They show John the true picture not only of heaven but most significantly, Jesus.

The Apocalypse was revealed so that believers would be blessed by having a heavenly perspective on redemptive history and consequently obeying the commands of the Lord of history[3]

Here in verse two, John is relaying the fact that what God has called him to do is to be seen much like an OT prophet who saw visions and then relayed them to God’s people. Most of the time a prophet heard from God and then gave the people warning as he spoke for God. Here, John is not telling us what God said to him but telling us what he saw. The visions in the heavenly realm were given to John to share with the church.
It is interesting that two OT prophets report that their prophecies were what they saw. We know there were others who saw visions but here are two who wrote what they saw…
Amos 1:1 (ESV)
1 The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel
Habakkuk 1:1 (ESV)
1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.

John sees many amazing things, things beyond the scope of words. He sees with eyes of faith and emotion. What he sees moves him to tears at times and other times the visions cause anger and excitement and fear.
Can you imagine looking through the keyhole into heaven? Can you imagine having the shades pulled back so you can see into the heavenly realm where angels move from place to place with lightning speed, where light shines in different colors? Where the multitude of believers that cannot be counted are worshiping King Jesus in unison?
These are just a few of the sights John saw in his vision of the Apocalypse.

  1. Jesus’ Blessing to His Church

3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

Do you see how precious this great writing is? Can we begin to see its value to the Bride of Christ? This is a gift counted appropriate and fitting for His Son to give to His betrothed especially as the church is suffering while waiting for her King to return.

Matthew 16:18-19 (ESV)
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

The vision is of Satan and his army fighting against the Church and things look very grim for the Bride. The Bride has promises of sure victory yet it doesn’t seem sure…
We are blessed as we read of King Jesus returning on the White Horse with His bow in His hand and the crown on His head just in the nick of time.

Revelation 6:2 (ESV)
2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

This book is of great priceless value for the church.

We are given three action words, verbs to show who is to be blessed. We must see clearly that the lost will not be blessed by this book. For those who are frietend by this book, you may want to examine yourself. Not everyone will be blessed. It is meant to be a blessing to God’s people and them only.
The point in verse three is this wonderful Book is no longer closed but it is opened. Because what had been closed for centuries and is now opened, we must read it, hear it, and obey it. In times past God could not say that because the book was closed. Now comes the times of great responsibilities and great blessings.
Promised Blessing if we read
Promised Blessing if we hear
Promised Blessing if we obey

Then John tells us why it is vital that we obey the words of this Book…The time is near or literally, the time is at hand.
The latter days have been unfolding from John’s generation and they are still unfolding and will continue until our Lord returns. We should obey because the book is now open. The book is Jesus’ gift to His Bride. The book will make all the difference in times of trouble.

Beloved, read it, hear it, and obey it for your good and God’s glory!
[1] D A Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker 2001) 127

[2] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, The New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker 2007) 1088

[3] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation from NIGTC Series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1999) 184

 

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