Prologue (Revelation 1:1-3)
Why is Revelation important today?
Revelation – The title of the book tells us something special is going on. There are things that are mysterious and known only to God. No matter how many degrees we hold or how much divinity we master, God still knows more than we do! Yet, in his infinite grace God is willing to share some of those particulars with his people. In the book of Revelation God doesn’t do this to satisfy idle curiosity or to help us connect a HUGE list of prophesies to every prominent name and event in our day. These words were recorded to make a practical difference in the lives of those who are living out their faith in a world where it is very unpopular to do so.
That is why Revelation is such an important book for us today. We find ourselves in a world removed by 2000 years and yet still beleaguered by many of the same issues and problems. God’s people are still faced with pressure to conform or at least to compromise with the world. The question of “Whose side are you going to be on?” is just as relevant today as it was back then.
Answering the “When question”:
The #2 question in the book of Revelation is “When are these things to take place?” That question is only trumped by the question of “What do these things mean?” John tells us the answer to the when question in the very first sentence,
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.” – Revelation 1:1
It is important that we have the right understanding of what “soon” means because it is quite clear that the world has not yet been judged in the last days and we are certainly not living with God in eternal bliss. We still find ourselves in this troubling and dangerous place called the earth where tears are a plenty, the sea still exists and the sun is still in the sky. In the NICNT Revelation commentary Mounce points out that the word translated “soon” can mean, “Without delay once the appointed time arrives” (Mounce, 65). So the answer to the question of when these events are to take place all depends on God. We don’t get a strict time line laid out for us in the book of Revelation. Instead, we get the idea that God knows exactly how all this is going to turn out. When the times arrives for him to act, you better believe he is going to get the job done. Because we know that is true, believers know these events will happen “soon.” This is repeated again in 1:3, “because the time is near.”
Is all this really true?
If you really want to know something is true you want to know who backs it up. In Revelation 1:1-2 John calls in the big guns to back up the words of Revelation and that gives credibility to what he is going to record in this book. His point is, he is not just making this up. He is not, as nearly 100% of the commentators on the book of Revelation point out, personally drawing upon all sorts of traditions and Old Testament sources. He is recording the content of what God is revealing to him. Those who bear witness to the truth of this testimony include:
- Jesus Christ (1:1)
- his angel (1:1) – angels are very prominent in apocalyptic literature for being the intermediary between God and mankind.
- John, the apostle (1:1)
- God/word of God (1:2)
The point is, this book was not made up or dreamed up. Its contents are verified by these witnesses.
Results of studying Revelation:
Last, John tells us the outcome of what happens if we take the content of this book seriously,
“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and
take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” – Rev 1:3
Revelation contains seven blessings (1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 14) ranging from rest for those who die in the Lord to the pure eating from the tree of life. When you study Revelation it is important to keep coming back to this verse. If we take this book seriously, we will be blessed. That doesn’t mean if you read Revelation a dozen times God will give you cold hard cash for your effort. It does mean that our lives will be enriched and our impact on the world that much greater.
As you study Revelation it is important that you take inventory of whose side you are living on and which areas of your life have potentially been compromised away from the cause of Christ. It is also a call to take God’s judgment and God’s blessing seriously because God is still willing and able to make a difference in this world, even when things are at their darkest. Through all of that we pray for a stronger faith and for the hope that can only come from the great realization that God is moving this world where he wants it to go. We don’t live in a “runaway world” that will ultimately come away victor. We live in a messed up world that has been taken in by God and the redemptive process is already underway!