During the Advent Season, we’re going to be in the book of Revelation each Sunday. This is probably the most fascinating and intimidating book in the Bible, and it will do several things for us as we study it. In relation to Advent, we’ll be reminded of how profoundly awesome it was that Jesus came in the first place. It’ll also help us to remember and get prepared for His return.
Revelation was written to churches most likely under the apostle John’s care. These churches seem similar to us. They were experiencing pressure from all around that was threatening to distract them from following Christ and erode their faith. There were tensions among themselves, like many churches have today. There was also increasing persecution. Revelation was sent to these churches to remind them that they were part of a different kingdom from the world – they would experience suffering, but they could endure because Jesus was coming back.
This is the same message to us. As we look at Revelation 1:1-8, we’ll see what the book is all about and what to expect.
Introduction to the Book of Revelation
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.– v. 1a
To start, we learn that (not surprisingly) Revelation is a revelation. The word “revelation” means the uncovering of something that was previously hidden. God has revealed much to us through His Word, but not everything. And this book makes us feel like we’re on the border of what God has revealed to us, looking out over what He has yet to uncover. Parts of it will be exciting as we come up against mysteries and unanswerable questions.
It’s not just any revelation, though – it’s the “revelation of Jesus Christ.” Often we come to church services wanting the Scripture to be mainly about us and our situation. However, Christ is the main character of the story and this revelation pertains to Him.
This revelation of Christ was one that “God gave him to show to his servants.” What Jesus reveals to his servants is what God gave Him to reveal. Interestingly, these were things for Him to show not to say. This is a very visual book full of vivid and sometimes bizarre imagery.
What is the content of Revelation? The “things that must soon take place.” Revelation is a book that points us to the future to anticipate what’s to come. Like the Israelites were anticipating the Messiah’s birth, we now anticipate His return.
As we jump into Revelation, you may think, “Yes! We’re finally going to crack the code of dates, times, signs and signals.” You might be disappointed, though. This book isn’t really about cracking codes – it’s about preparation. The main purpose isn’t to try to solve mysteries but to prepare us for the future in practical ways right now.
Some Background to the Book of Revelation
Verses 1b-2 give us a sense of how Revelation came to be:
[The Lord] made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
A lot of what we’re going to read about will be things that signify something else. One of the trickiest parts of Revelation is figuring out what’s literal and what’s symbolic. Much of what we see will not actually be literal in itself but will point to something that is literal.
The Lord sent an angel to John (most likely Jesus’ disciple and the writer of the Gospel of John and three letters in the New Testament), who views himself as a servant and witness. John is just bearing witness to what he saw and heard – it didn’t come from his own imagination.
Revelation might seem like some bizarre dream, but it is more than just a dream. It is God’s purposeful revelation that includes clear truths in each passage.
Reading, Hearing & Keeping God’s Word
At this point, you might think that Revelation is too difficult to even bother paying attention to it. However, we need to listen. We need to pay attention to it, and we’ll be blessed if we do.
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.– v. 3
We have a lot of decisions to make every day, and we want to take the paths that lead to happiness and blessedness. Here it’s laid out clearly: if you read the Word, hear the Word and keep the Word, you will be blessed. Revelation isn’t about wondering after the things we can’t see so much as it is grabbing hold of the things we can see. It’s more important to act on what we do understand than to puzzle over what we don’t understand.
During the Christmas season, decorating, buying gifts, cooking and planning get-togethers will consume all our non-Christian neighbors. As Christians, though, we have an opportunity to apply ourselves not just to those things (they’re fine as long as they don’t swallow us up) but to receiving the revelation of Jesus Christ. Let’s not just appreciate His first arrival but anticipate His second arrival, “for the time is near.”
From our passage today, the application is pretty clear. We should read the Bible, hear it and keep it. So don’t just stay at home – instead come to be with your church. More than that, don’t just come and coast through the service, hearing Revelation only to leave it behind. If we can leave holding tight to what we hear, we’ll be blessed.
- What are some important things to know about Revelation?
- What is Revelation’s purpose?
- Why is it good to know that some parts of Revelation are literal while others are symbolic?
- How will we be blessed by reading, hearing and keeping God’s Word?
- How can you live in anticipation of Christ’s second coming?