Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Daniel, Zechariah, and John

The book of Revelation begins:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must happen very soon. He made it clear by sending his angel to his servant John, who then testified to everything that he saw concerning the word of God and the testimony about Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3, The Net Bible

The first phrase is ambiguous and is, therefore, an apt introduction to this book. In what sense is this "the revelation of Jesus Christ?"

  • Is it a revelation that belongs to Him? In this sense it is the same as saying, "the car of John Doe." God gave Jesus a revelation with instructions to pass it on to His church.
  • Is it a revelation about Him? Is there within the vision more understanding to be gained about who Jesus is?

I think that you will agree that the revelation has elements of both. I think that you will also agree that ambiguity rules in this vision.

The next thing that I want to look at is this carefully crafted summary statement of the book:

(Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes on the earth will mourn because of him. This will certainly come to pass! Amen.) (Revelation 1:7)

John neatly combines to Old Testament prophecies to tell us the subject matter and purpose of his vision. He has not related yet what he has seen. Rather he is introducing it and, therefore, these words begin to set the tone.

He is coming with the clouds. This is a reference to the following passage in Daniel:

I was watching in the night visions, “And with the clouds of the sky there was coming one like a son of man. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is an eternal authority which will not pass away. His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Daniel refers to the ascension of Jesus and His return to His Father, who gives to Him the future Kingdom. The kingdom is universal and eternal. It is over all peoples, nations, and language groups and it is for all time. John's reference to Daniel is again ambiguous, because John now uses it to refer to Jesus' return. Of course, this is consistent with the words of the angels in Acts 1:

As they were still staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

And every eye will see Him. Here is the section from Zechariah:

On that day I will make the leaders of Judah like an igniter among sticks and a burning torch among sheaves, and they will burn up all the surrounding nations right and left. Then the people of Jerusalem will settle once more in their place, the city of Jerusalem. The Lord also will deliver the homes of Judah first, so that the splendor of the kingship of David and of the people of Jerusalem may not exceed that of Judah. On that day the Lord himself will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the weakest among them will be like mighty David, and the dynasty of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord before them. So on that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. I will pour out upon the kingship of David and the population of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look to me, the one they have pierced. They will lament for him as one laments for an only son, and there will be a bitter cry for him like the bitter cry for a firstborn. On that day the lamentation in Jerusalem will be as great as the lamentation at Hadad-Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, clan by clan—the clan of the royal household of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the clan of the family of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the clan of the descendants of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; and the clan of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves— all the clans that remain, each separately with their wives. (Zechariah 12:6-14)

The Zechariah connection tells us several things:

  • There is a day of national salvation for Israel. The looking on the one that they have pierced is not in fear of judgment and retribution, but one of recognition and regret. Some have read John's words and suggest that the tribes of the earth mourn because of the coming wrath. This is not the case
  • There is a future kingdom for Judah. There are a several geographical and tribal references in this passage and it makes little sense to try to map them exclusively to the Church. Later, in chapter 14, Zechariah will reveal that the Lord will also be king over the entire earth.

John, on the basis of Daniel and later sections of Zechariah, universalizes his quote from Zechariah to include all the peoples of the earth. 

So John's vision is about the return of Jesus Christ to reign and bring salvation and repentance as far as it is possible. Those who do not see the One they have pierced and refuse to mourn, are lost.

John includes one more important word in his summary:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God—the one who is, and who was, and who is coming—the All-Powerful! (Revelation 1:8)

Daniel and Revelation speak of the beast who will wage war against the saints and prevail against them (Daniel 7:21 and Revelation 13:7). During such times the saints must have utmost confidence in the sovereign plan and power of God. It is ordained that there is a time of suffering for His people as part of bringing about His rule and reign on the earth. At such times we must trust Him that it is in the plan and not just out of His control.

Thursday: The Vision of the Son of Man

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