Prologue to the Revelation
Revelation Series: Episode III
In any well written epistle one would expect to be ushered into its body by way of an introduction. John does not disappoint his readers, for in the first eight verses of chapter one he offers up his introduction which includes a prologue, and the greetings with a doxology.
In the very beginning of the manuscript the writer identifies himself as John (see verse 1). From the most earliest of times the church fathers have understood this John to be the son of Zebedee, the beloved disciple of our Lord. The Revelation is addressed to seven churches which existed in the western part of modern Turkey, then called Asia Minor (verse 4). In verses 5,6,7 John gives the reader a view of the whole drama of redemption: in verse 5 the death and resurrection of Christ; in verses 6 the empowering of the Church as kings and priests; and finally, in verse 7 the return (parousia - the coming) of Christ; verse 8 is a summation of the preceding three verses in that Jesus declares Himself to be Sovereign over human history.
♱ 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to shew his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John:
Dear disciple in the opening verse you are informed that before you, nay, in your very hands is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word translated “revelation” is “apocalypse,” which means: the unveiling. Therefore, my fellow disciples, you are told, in these very first strokes of John’s quill that Jesus Christ of Nazareth (who, according to Paul, is the mystery of God the Father [Col 2:1-2]) is about to be un-veiled before you.
The Son of God (i.e. the humanity of Christ) received this “revelation” from the Father (i.e. the Spirit, Jn 4:24) for the benefit of His ‘servants.” The servants mentioned here are, of course, all believers. Notice that the things concerning Jesus which are about to be revealed are to “shortly come to pass.” It is interesting, and important that both here and in the epilogue of this work the disciples are instructed to expect an imminent fulfillment of the Revelation’s predictions.
The Revelation is to be “signified” to John by the angel of Christ. From this word “esēmana” (from sēma) comes our English “sign;” “to give a sign,” or, “to make known.” We may expect, then, for the subsequent revelation to be given in signs or symbol images and languages (see Episode II, Literary Form). The phrase “his angel” may reference any number of possibilities. The word “angel” is the Greek word “angelos” meaning: a messenger, or envoy of God. This word, along with its plural, appears over 70 times in the Revelation. The word may apply to created angelic beings (Ge 28:12, Ps 68:17), or, redeemed saints (see 17:1 cf 19:10; and 21:9 cf 22:9), or more likely, in this case, “his angel” has the “angel of the LORD” in view. This view may be held with confidence because of chapter 22 and verses 6 and 16. In verse 6 John records “...and to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.” This verse is clearly a companion to the verse under consideration here (1:1).
It should be pointed out at this point that Jesus identified this angel of the LORD as His angel (22:16): “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. ...”
A study of the Angel of the LORD (LORD=Yahweh) shows Him to be one and the same as Christ. The same statements made about the nature, character, mission, and activities of the angel of the LORD are also stated of Jesus.
Angel of the LORD Activity or Attribute Jesus
Genesis 16:7,13 Called “LORD” (YHWH) John 20:28
Genesis 48:15-16 Called-God Jude v25
Exodus 48:15-16 “I am” John 8:58
Exodus 13:20-23 Sent from God John 5:30
Joshua 5:13-18 Capt. of the LORD’s Host Isaiah 9:6
Isaiah 63:9 Redeemed His own Ephesians 5:25
♱ 1:2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
Although some, such as Dionysius of North Africa, in the third century, have doubted the authorship of John (the beloved disciple of our Lord) for the Revelation, here is the very first sentence of his book is an interesting evidence to that evangelist’s favor. No, not that he gave his name, for indeed any could have signed a signature. The evidence is of greater import. Namely, the similarity of this first sentence with the first verses of both the Fourth Gospel and the First Epistle which bears the same name:
Gospel of John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
1 John 1:1, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;"
Revelation 1:2, "Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw".
The similarities between these three passages are the brush strokes of the same painter. Dear disciple, dwell for a moment on these three opening sentences for three separate works and tell me truly: Do you not agree that this is evidence of the same author?
Concerning the author recording all that he saw there may need to be a qualification made here; for in chapter 10 verses 4-5 John was not permitted to record the utterances of the “seven thunders.” However, the prohibition was on what he heard and not no what he saw. So even in this account (of the seven thunders) we may be confident that John was a faithful eyewitness.
♱ 1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand .
Verse 3 is the first of seven beatitudes in the Revelation. The other six can be found at: 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14. The beatitudes keep the symmetry of the book with having their number at seven. It would be proper to list all seven of the beatitudes together so the disciples may obtain an overall view of their scope.
The Seven Beatitudes of the Apocalypse (NKJV) 1. (1:3) Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
- (14:13) Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
- (16:15) “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
- (19:9) Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
- (20:6) Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
- (22:7) “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
- (22:14) Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
The word “blessed” (Greek: makarios) means: happy; but, not only that; it indicates the favorable position God has placed one into. One hears the psalmist sing: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, or standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful ...He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That bringeth forth his fruit in his season: His leaf also shall not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so ...” (Ps 1:1ff KJV): blessed, that is. One should consider the beatitudes set forth it the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mt 5:3-12) in order to discover the most propitious position of the disciples of the Way.
In this first beatitude of the Apocalypse the blessing is pronounced upon the reader and the hearer of this wonderful manuscript. We must acknowledge here that the idea conveyed is one of oral reading. This is seen in that the blessing is for the hearer as well as the reader; and it follows that the reading must be oral for there to be a hearer. Both prayer and reading of Scripture are intended to be spoken. There is creative power in the “spoken word.” Notice, that in the beginning God “said,” “Let there be ...!” (see Ge 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,and 24). At His spoken word His world leapt into existence. Because we humans are made in His likeness and image something of spoken creativeness is intrinsic to us. Jesus underlined this truth with His words recorded in Mark 11:23; He taught His disciples to “speak” to their circumstances. However, the blessings pronounced upon the readers and hears of this book is unparalleled in any other biblical treatise. The intent was clearly for the Revelation to be read aloud to the congregations of the seven churches to which the book is addressed (1:4).
The nature of the apocalypse is prophecy (as is stated in verse 3 which we are presently viewing). This, alone, sets it apart from the gospels and epistles; earning for itself a place beside the other apocalyptic books of the Old Testament. Similar to these sister works, and following the true Hebraic nature of apocalyptic material, the Revelation is written in a highly covert style. Because of this and the esoteric knowledge it contains the Revelation experienced a long and ardent fight for its place among the canonical books of the New Testament.
This being said, it must be acknowledged that prophecy consist of “telling forth” as well as "foretelling.” Both forms of prophecy are found here and the reader is admonished to “keep those things which are written in it.” This admonition makes clear that the Revelation provides exhortation for Christian living as well as futuristic prognostication, and both are to be kept in the mind and heart of the disciple.
The need to “keep” these sayings is emphasized by the last statement of verse 3, “for the time is at hand.” The NKJV states: “for the time is near.” The author was obviously under the divine impression that he was writing for the benefit of the believers of his generation. To John, these events were “at the door.” This truth, dear disciple, must be kept before you - for it is the consistent theme of this ancient manuscript (see v1, here, 22:6,7,10,20). One would do well to consider the words written by James, our Lord’s brother (some say as early as A. D. 50): “Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (Ja 5:9). The question must be asked: Were these holy, God inspirited, men mistaken? Or, are you, dear reader, on a journey of discovery during which time you will read prophecy, some of which, has already had a fulfillment that can be ascertained, and thereby give testimony to the sureness and faithfulness of the Holy Scripture? Yes. That surely will be the case. But not only that, for the prophecy is unto the every end of human history: a history that contains both the author who is writing this humble commentary, and you, dear readers, whom have given him the honor of considering it.
♱ J L Hayes