Revelation (Part 1)
By Don Ruhl
Why does the Book of Revelation fascinate us? It is the word of God telling us about things to come, the authoritative text revealing what shall come. However, it does not reveal those things in plain language, but in signs and symbols it conveys the truth of the future.
The first section we shall consider consists of a group of seven letters to seven churches in what is now modern Turkey.
The Book of Revelation was written to our brethren who had started to undergo intense persecution that would last for centuries. I believe John wrote the Book of Revelation in the mid-90s AD, which would mean Domitian was the emperor of Rome, who wanted to be called “Lord” and “God,” and our brethren refused to comply, bringing on persecution, leading to torture and death.
God wanted to send His people a message during that time and for Christians of later centuries who would also suffer, showing them things that they needed to know. However, that message had to be placed in signs and symbols to protect our brethren from further persecution. If the Romans could not understand the signs and symbols, how could the early Christians?
They would have been, as we should be, already familiar with apocalyptic literature. The Old Testament has plenty of this kind of literature, including the prophets, especially the Books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. The New Testament also has a share of this literature, including Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, First Corinthians 15, and Second Thessalonians 2.
From the opening words we discover the nature of the Book of Revelation,
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw (Rev 1.1, 2).
After some introductory matters, John wrote of what sparked the writing of this Book,
I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea” (Rev 1.9–11).
John had suffered many things as a preacher of the gospel and when he received the Revelation, he was on an island as a forced exile.
When John turned to see the source of the voice, this is what he saw,
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength (Rev 1.12–16).
What do you think of that! Here are two amazing things about this beautiful revelation of the glory of Jesus. We notice first, as First John 3.2 teaches, that we shall be like Jesus! “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1Jo 3.2).
Second, what did Jesus have in His right hand? He had seven stars. Yet, when the 90 something-year-old John saw the vision of Jesus, watch what John did and what Jesus did, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last’” (Rev 1.17).
The Seven Letters
A second time Jesus told John to write what he had seen and would see (1.11, 19). John wrote to seven churches and used a similar formula for all of them:
- The recipient
- The command to write
- The identification of Jesus (from chapter 1)
- A commendation
- A rebuke and guidance
- Application to all
- The reward
- Sermon: Christ in Numbers (grantspasschurchofchrist.com)