TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 1-3
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” (Revelation 1.1)
The book of Revelation is also known as the Apocalypse. This alternative title for the book derives from the very first Greek word in the book, apokalypsis. But, the name Apocalypse either has contributed to the confusion in understanding the book or is a sign of our misunderstanding of the book.
When you hear the word apocalypse, what comes to your mind?
Odds are the word apocalypse conjures up thoughts of devastation and destruction. Indeed, one of the meanings of the English noun apocalypse is a great disaster. And the adjective, apocalyptic, can mean foreboding imminent disaster or final doom or wildly unrestrained. Clearly, these meanings come from the extremely dramatic symbolic imagery in the book of Revelation.
But, none of these English meanings of apocalypse or apocalyptic have anything to do with the meaning of the Greek word apokalypsis. The Greek word simply means a revelation, an uncovering, a disclosure, an unveiling.
Somehow we have come to believe that “the revelation of Jesus Christ” in the book of Revelation is entirely different than the Jesus Christ is revealed in the other 26 books of the New Testament. Somehow we have come to believe that the book of Revelation says that Jesus is coming back to violently slaughter and kill millions of people, plunging them into an eternal lake of burning fire, even though that revelation would completely contradict the revelation from the other 26 books of the New Testament.
Further, the revelation of Jesus Christ as one who would violently slaughter and kill millions of people would completely contradict the revelation of Jesus Christ in the other four books of the New Testament written by John. John’s gospel is dominated by the words light, love, and life. The book of 1 John is also dominated by these same three words. And, we know the full meaning of these words through the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. All of this points to Jesus Christ as the revelation of a God who suffers and dies for you to bring you life.
The phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” appears three other times in the New Testament.
Galatians 1.11-12 says, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
What is man’s gospel?
The gospel, or good news, was a term used of Caesar, the Roman emperor, returning from a successful battle in which he had militarily conquered and killed his enemies. The word gospel was used of a victorious king returning back to his capital city. But, this was not the gospel that Paul received from any man.
What was the gospel that Paul received through a “revelation of Jesus Christ?”
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15.1-4)
Unlike man’s gospel that had a conquering king that killed, Paul’s gospel had a Christ, a messiah, a king, that died and was buried. In Paul’s gospel, the king died of instead of killing. Therefore, Paul said in Romans 1.16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Doesn’t it make sense that Paul would say those words to the Roman church given what their mind would think of when they heard the word gospel?
The phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” also appears twice in 1 Peter.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1.6-7)
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” (1 Peter 1.13-15)
Peter is preparing the hearers of his letter for suffering for the followers of Jesus Christ will suffer as he suffered. But, this suffering will result in praise, glory, and honor. They have a living hope because of the resurrection of Jesus after his suffering. The revelation of Jesus Christ will bring them grace.
The other three uses of the phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” have to do with the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These other uses do not involved Jesus killing anyone.
The same is true for the book of Revelation, which begins with the phrase “the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The first time the noun apokalypsis is used in the New Testament is Luke 2.32. In fact, this is the only time the noun is found in any of the four gospels. This first and single use is from the Simeon’s blessing spoken over the baby Jesus.
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2.29-32)
Jesus is a light for revelation to the Gentiles in order to bring them to God. Therefore, the revelation that Jesus would bring was inclusive. It was meant to draw all nations and all peoples to God. It was not a revelation that Jesus would kill millions of people.
We can say exactly the same thing of the book of Revelation. If we read the book correctly, we will see that “the revelation of Jesus Christ” says “for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5.9)
Also, there is a very important use of the verb apokalypto in the gospels.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed [apokalypto] this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16.13-17)
The Father revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ.
Now read again the start of the book of Revelation.
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants.”
The same thing that the Father revealed to Peter is being revealed in the book of Revelation.
What is the significance of the revelation that Jesus, the son of man, is the Christ?
“And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Jesus said it was necessary for the Christ to suffer.
It was necessary for the Christ to suffer.
The Christ, the messiah, the king of kings, suffers.
Jesus does not cause suffering.
He does not kill.
Not only does every one of the 26 books of the New Testament not Revelation testify to this. But, Jesus says everything written in the entire Old Testament, from Moses to the prophets, says the same thing.
It was necessary for the Christ to suffer.
And, you think that the book of Revelation contradicts the other 65 books in the Bible?
Why was it necessary that the Christ suffer?
“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'” (Luke 24.45-47)
It was necessary that the Christ suffer for repentance and forgiveness of sins.
This is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus said that all scripture says this one thing.
This is the sum total, the revelation, of everything we need to understand when reading scripture.
The last book of the Bible, Revelation, does not suddenly trump the revelation that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer. The book of Revelation does not change this necessary fact.
The Christ suffers.
He does not cause suffering.
In Galatians 1.13, Paul said, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.” Paul was a murderer. He sought to kill, to persecute, to violently destroy, those that were following Jesus. He thought he was serving God by doing this.
What changed Paul?
God “was pleased to reveal [apokalypto] his Son to me.”
Paul received the revelation that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer for repentance and forgiveness of sins. Therefore, Paul went throughout the whole Roman empire preaching this gospel. He suffered and died as a result of preaching this revelation from God.
Yet, we want to think that the book of Revelation says something different. We want to think that the book of Revelation says that Jesus is going to return to violently slaughter and kill millions of people, sending them for eternity to a burning lake of fire.
That is not the revelation God gave to Jesus.
That is not the revelation Jesus gave to his disciples.
That is not the revelation of his son God was pleased to reveal in Paul.
That is not the revelation Paul preached to the Gentiles.
That is not the revelation of every single scripture.
That is not the revelation of the book of Revelation.
Every word God has spoken, every word and deed of Jesus, every scripture ever written says one and only one thing.
It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead three days laters for repentance and forgiveness of sins for all nations.
Read the book of Revelation with this one thing in mind and it will no longer be a mystery to you.