Part 1 - Introduction

Seven Churches Index  

In this series of articles, my intention is to study only the first three chapters of the book of Revelations to John and to see the prophecy in a wider angle. Essentially my focus is on the letters to the seven churches. But to get the picture in focus we need to look into the first chapter which is the prelude and gives the circumstances of the vision.

Rev 1:1

The revelation of Jesus Christ, ......

The definite article ‘The’ is not in the original usage. The indefinite article "A" is more appropriate here because there were other revelations of Jesus Christ before and after those received by John. Since the Apostolic era ended with John around 100 A.D. the Apostolic revelation naturally ended there. This would mean that the direct verbal revelation of Jesus Christ handed down by word of mouth ended with John. All revelation finds its ultimate realization in Jesus. Jesus is the revelation. Though the disciples were not able to gather and coordinate what had been revealed, their personal experience with the living person of Jesus on the earth is the foundation of our faith. This is indicated in the last sermon of Jesus to his disciples.

John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Num 12:6 he said, "Listen to my words: "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.

The function of the Holy Spirit was to remind the disciples of what Jesus had already taught. The function of the Holy Spirit is still the same. Holy Spirit does not bring any new revelation except that has already been given to the disciples. In this sense the revelation is closed. Hence Paul’s admonition is a serious one.

Gal 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

Today if someone receives a message that is contrary the message found in the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, they are brought in by the evil ones. There is a risk in receiving revelations and prophecy on a day to day basis. It is riddled with risk and the chances of misjudging - by taking the truth as false and the false as truth is very large. It is in this context Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the tares. Mat 13:24 Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

Mat 13:25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.

Mat 13:26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

Mat 13:27 "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

Mat 13:28 "'An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

Mat 13:29 "'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.

Mat 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'"

New teachings will come everyday, trying to coax people away from the true gospel. This will be with astonishing miracles and hypnotism. Because of this deception it will even attract the elect. Mostly these are associated with emotional involvement without the dimensions of intellect and body. The body and mind are subjugated to the spiritual dimensions and then people enter into alter states of mind and experiences bodily changes. However much these may look to be from a higher power, we need to look into the real source of these. The best way of testing is simply the scripture itself. The authentic Christian experience is not based on emotional experience alone. It is based on the solid reality of Jesus and his words also.

1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  

Even from the times of Moses a standard was set to distinguish between true and false prophets.

Deu 18:20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death."

Deu 18:21 You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?"

Deu 18:22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously.

Every prophecy must contain something that has to happen immediately, even if it was for a long term term prophecy. The immediate one will take place confirming the prophet’s integrity and authenticity. In those days to be a prophet in Israel was a risky affair. If his prophecy failed, he will be stoned to death.

This test is still valid. If any one of the prophecy fails, the entire prophecy may be rejected.

The other extreme is that scripture is closed, the prophesy is closed; and revelations are closed - knowledge about God has ceased. What has to be known about God is already known to man. Nothing new is to be expected. This is a nice comfortable proposition. If you have a problem, you look into the Bible to get the answer. That is it. I wish it was that simple. But the Bible is not written in that form. Bible does not give pat answers to every human problem. Yet the Bible do give answers to every human problem in its root. It is not a contextual direct answer which can be "cut and paste" to every situation. It is an unfolding of God through history. God is at work in every historical moment, in every culture. Even though the actions and recommendations were different in different situations, underlying them all is the ultimate revelation of God’s character and nature.

Heb 1:1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,

Heb 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  

And when the time was ripe God revealed himself through his son Jesus Christ. And that was through an incarnation. Incarnation is a limitation - self imposed by God. How can an infinite being reveal his infiniteness to a finite being. The finiteness lies in limitations of the receiver of the revelation. God has revealed his fullness in Jesus, yet this fullness is beyond comprehension of man. As such God still continue to reveal the fullness of Our Lord Jesus as an ongoing process. Jesus knew that this was necessary and he had made the provision for it.

John 15:26 "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.

John 15:27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

John 16:1 "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray.

Notice here that the function of the Holy Spirit is to continue with the testimony of Jesus. But Holy Spirit is not the only testimony - it was also the disciples. This is the written word of God. Thus we have for a certainty two testaments. One of the Spirit and the other of the Written word. One cannot contradict the other. In this sense the revelation is closed but is progressive. The final revelation is found in Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour. But unfolding of Jesus in the hearts and minds and bodies of people is an ongoing process. Jesus is born everyday in the hearts of men and transforms them. Jesus reveals himself to his children in special ways. No. The revelation is eternal. Revelation is continuous.

Here in the book of revelations, John received a revelation. But we should know that it is not a new revelation. It was simply a detailed presentation of what was already explained by Jesus himself during his period of residence on earth.

John 5:27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

John 5:28 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice

John 5:29 and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

John 12:47 "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.

John 12:48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

Jesus was talking about the last day. This is implied in his manifesto which was delivered early in his ministry.

Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,

Luke 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

This is a quotation from Isaiah. However the full text of the portion is:

Isa 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

Isa 61:2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor ......

and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,

Isa 61:3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

The underlined portion was not delivered by Jesus at that time, because that was not his ministry during his first advent. This ministry is for the second advent. It is this that John saw in his visions. He set it down in terms he understood. His ability to comprehend things, events, phenomena were all limited by his time and space and he presented it as best as he could.

Rev 1:1 ........ which God gave him to show his servants

In the Book of Daniel when the vision was given to Daniel he was puzzled.

Dan 12:8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, "My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?"

Dan 12:9 He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.

The meaning and details of the end times were sealed to the end of the age.

After the resurrection of Jesus the disciples had a question.

Acts 1:6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

Acts 1:7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

Now, this revelation was given by God and was given to show his servants. In the progression of revelation this was the time to give the final revelation regarding Jesus.

After many years John was given this vision where God the Father has given the Church the times and the seasons of this event.

Rev 1:1 ..... what must soon take place.

The purpose was to show what must soon take place. It is prediction of the coming event. The evident meaning is that the vision concerns the period starting from the end of Apostolic age. This is the Church age. It is in this context the first three chapters finds its importance.

Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

Rev 1:2 who testifies to everything he saw--that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Having certified the vision on apostolic authority John goes on to give a blessing emphasizing the need for hearing this prophecy. In those days only a few copies of the scriptures and letters were available for the churches and these were read aloud to the congregation. John simply exhorts them to study this because the matter is urgent.

Rev 1:3 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.