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March 24, 2005
An Exegesis of the Book of Revelation: Chapter 1: 1-3
Filed in: Biblical Studies, Current Affairs, The Revelation of Jesus Christ


Revelation 1


   1The 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, 2who testifies to everything he saw–that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3Blessed 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. (NIV)

The Views:

Thankfully, there are not many things that the key interpreters of this Book are in disagreement on in roughly the first three chapters. Unfortunately, there are many things that are left out by most scholars' commentary and there are seeds of disagreement.

There is some argument from diverse scholars (not consistent with the three major views) about whether the "revelation of Jesus Christ" means that Jesus is the object of the revelation or if he is the revealer. The original Greek allows ambiguity in interpreting this.

"Must soon take place" contains the seed of disagreement for scholars of the Historicist, (certainly the Preterist), and Futurist Views. The Historicist position holds that within John's lifetime the prophecies of the Book began to be fulfilled and that the fulfillment still continues. The Futurist position acknowledges (in most cases) that the subsequent letters to the churches represent initial fulfillment but that the bulk of the prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. For the most part the Futurist position relies on "A thousand years is as a day, and a day is as a thousand years". Spiritual (Idealist) interpreters, because they assert no direct fulfillment by any certain event have little to say about what is "soon".

Some scholars suggest that since these initial verses address the apostle John in the third person that they were written by members of his community - his disciples or perhaps other custodians of the Book. Such interpreters are mostly of the Spiritual school. Most Historicists and Futurists believe that John wrote the entire Book himself.

Fortunately, there is universal agreement on the fact that a blessing is promised to those who read the Book. It is often pointed out that this is the first of seven beatitudes - blessings - in the Book. This is also the first place that the Book claims itself to be a prophecy. Less often it is surmised that there is a second blessing as well - for those that hear it and take to heart what is written in it - which is a bit different than just reading it.

There are more seeds of disagreement in "because the time is near" - of the same nature as "soon" above.

References to scripture:

There's no direct allusion to a particular Old Testament passage. A visitation by an angel alludes to a considerable number of events in both the Old and the New Testament in terms of the imparting of prophetic information. Some knowledge of angelic visitation will assist us in understanding something about what the process is and will confirm the validity of John's experience. As we go on we will look at some of those prior instances.

Call for unity:

Generally, Christians of all views can be inclusive without significant compromise to their individual views of this passage. Historicists who maintain 'early fulfillment' points of view - will still acknowledge that fulfillment of the prophecies in this book are in some way still occurring - on a different timeline than other views - but still occurring. Futurists who maintain 'early fulfillment' points of view - will still acknowledge that at least the letters to the seven churches have a contemporary fulfillment beginning at the time of John's writing. In either case, it is a scriptural basis to talk about "a thousand years are as a day, and a day is as a thousand years" because both the Psalms and Peter reference that concept (more on this in my comments section). This parallels one of our significant assumptions in entering this study: God is not bound by space-time. His view of history is more likely akin to a tableau of 'now' across what we perceive as a spectrum of time. We must allow that our perception of time is not that of God. So, at least for the beginning, we can agree together.

My thoughts:

I'll venture my comments on this passage in the next post.

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