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April 17, 2005
An Exegesis of the Book of Revelation: Chapter 1: 1-3 (Continued)
Filed in: Biblical Studies, Current Affairs, The Revelation of Jesus Christ


My comments to Chapter 1: verses 1-3:

Apokalupsis Iesous Christos is the transliterated Greek for the opening of this prophetic Book. The Greek word Apokalupsis is used just this once in the Book - and used a total of twelve times in the whole New Testament.

We derive the English word Apocalypse from Apokalupsis and it carries significant meaning that is worth brief examination. This word has three meanings in the KOINE Greek of the New Testament: 1. Laying bear - even: making naked, 2. A disclosure of truth or instruction - concerning things before unknown or used of events by which things or states or persons hitherto withdrawn from view are made visible to all, and 3. Manifestation, appearance.

Since aspects of all of these definitions are contained in the previous New Testament references and this is the first word in this epochal Book it isn't a stretch to amplify the beginning of verse one to something like: "The full explanation, the naked truth, the revealed mystery, the unveiling of what has been hidden, and the manifestation and appearance of Jesus Christ."

This initial word defines the very epochal nature of the Book.

Since the Greek leaves ambiguity as to whether Jesus is the subject or object of the Apokalupsis, I take the position that it should be both. This revelation, manifestation, unfolding is in some parts delivered by Jesus and in some parts is about Jesus - and the implications to history that the 'about' parts engender.

At the time of the writing of the Book or sometime before this Apokalupsis was delivered by God the Father to his Son Jesus and it was for the purpose of communicating to his servants - the church at least and perhaps servants that are other than the church.

The invocation of an angel has significant portend. There are thousands of references to angels in the scriptures and their presence signifies action or intervention by God in history. We take the view that God inhabits a place that is outside the space-time that we live in and that his mechanism for acting in human history is through these agents of his creation. We don't always know exactly what the presence of angels mean - but we do know this: the infinite free agent of the universe is going to do something.

It's clear that John had a very visual experience - "what he saw" - and that was the word of God - the Logos - the creative power - and the things told to him by Jesus.

The invitation to read is certainly remarkable - it is the only place in all of scripture that extends this invitation. And there is no qualification to the invitation - no matter one's point of view - there is a blessing promised for reading this Book.

But we can't stop there - the blessing is two-fold. Readers are blessed - certainly. There is an additional blessing promised to those that 'hear it' and 'take to heart what is written in it'. This hearing recalls the many times that Jesus talked about having 'ears to hear' which for us means a clear attentiveness and openness to the Book. 'Tak[ing] it to heart' refers to meditation - the act of consumption of the Book - making it a part of one's self.

It is appropriate to address the references to 'must soon take place' and 'the time is near'. There is a certain sense of imminence and that certainly carries from the time of John's writing forward - we've not reached any demarcations in the book so far so there's no need to set out a timeline at this point. It is certainly fair to recall 2 Peter 3:

3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

   8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Since the earth has not yet been consumed by fire, we can assume that the final judgment has not yet occurred. We must understand that God is not bound by the arrow of time in the way that we are. Elsewhere the scriptures say (1 John 1:5) that "God is light". This can be taken as meaning spiritual enlightenment - but it also in some way characterizes his being. We know from the theory of relativity - now just a hundred years old or so - that light speed is the fixed maximum speed in the universe - the one constant by which everything else is measured. We also know that no clock can tick that's on a light beam (this should require some discussion of 4 dimensional space-time but that will be some other time and place). In one context it means that every photon in the universe is the same age as it was at the inception of the universe - that is 0 - but it also has implications for consciousness in the electromagnetic spectrum. We don't have the tools to understand this at this point in our physics - but we can certainly conceive of consciousness that has never aged and is outside of the temporal arrow of time that we experience. This is what Peter is telling us - we don't have the same perception of time that God has.

Does that mean that somehow that time has no meaning? No - time is a real characteristic of the universe we live in. Our clocks tick (in reference from other observers) because we are moving in some amount space and in some amount time - that is something lower than light speed (or you could think of it as everything/everyone proceeds at net light speed - but as the sum of two vectors - some in space and some in time. We humans mostly proceed through time.) We cannot escape time's arrow in this life. It inexorably ages us and slows us and hopefully wizens us. How does that compare to a Being who sees everything in the eternal 'now' like a tableau?

We live in an age where the antrhopic principle has elevated the ideas of man once again to placing himself at the center of the universe. Going forward, it is appropriate to grasp that we did not create the universe - in some way it was made for us. But bound by the arrow of time - we cannot say what is 'soon' and what is 'near'.

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People Pulling

Just a note on the blessing. The "reader" in a first century context would most likely be a congrational leader, or one called on to read for him. Jesus did this in Nazareth when he announced his mission. The hearers, of course, would be the congregation who listens to the readers message. Reader and hearer alike should take the message to heart.

EMCEE: Henry, what you say about the early church is true. It is also the case that the Book was meant for more than the first cenury "reader" and the first century "hearer". Nothing in John's words proscribes a 21st century person that does not hold the Christian point of view to receive this blessing. Such a blessing might be faith. Who knows what the blessings of God might entail?

Posted by: Henry Martin at Apr 18, 2005 7:22:55 PM

The principal of Reader and Hearer does not change with time. All assemblies are to have their "messengers" that expound the Word of God. It is proper for a blessing to be on them. Likewise, the hearer, who understands and applies the message, will receive a blessing -- no matter the century. This is not to cave to a "spiritualist" view of the text, nor a preterist, but to remind us to LISTEN for the voice of God in His word. The word of God, when presented, "will not return void." The purpose of God will be served be it in faith or rejection. To God be the glory!

EMCEE: Ah, but it could be construed from what you are saying, dear Henry, that those poor souls who only have the scripture itself are void of the Word's effect. They have no messenger to read to them. And unable to expound themselves, they cannot 'read' on their own. And since there is no 'reader' present - they certainly cannot hear it. I think the Logos is more efficacious than that - and so is the promise.

Posted by: Henry Martin at Apr 20, 2005 9:11:56 PM

The word of God is IN ITSELF sharper than any two edged sword (Heb. 4:12). It does in deed work on those who are exposed to it -- whether they read it personally or publically. However, based on the fact that these revelations were sent out to the seven churches, by way of their "messengers," adds strength to the context of the promise. The blessing on the "reader" is in context with an oral reading of the text in the presense of hearers -- and, hopefully, doers.

The word for "reader" is ANAGINOSKO. According to Strong's this means:

1) to distinguish between, to recognise, to know accurately, to acknowledge

2) to read

The primary meaning, then, has to do with gaining knowledge in a way to distinquish the truth. It is not the "reading" (seeing the words) that bestows a blessing. It is reading with the Spirit's moving in the believer toward understnding.

EMCEE: Thanks Henry! You are adding immeasurably to the discussion.

Posted by: Henry Martin at Apr 21, 2005 8:33:06 PM

You are certainly welcome. I only hope others will join in soon. My site,, is essensially a commentary on the Revelation. In the six years it has been up, it has seen over seven thousand hits. You'd think I'd finish the last chapter, huh? I wish the author of this study similar success.

Posted by: Henry Martin at Apr 22, 2005 5:30:34 PM

Hi Henry, This is an important News Update for you, please read and pass it along. God has made contact. The message is about Revelation. The message is from God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost respectively. It was sent in the Spring of 2006. It is about the meaning of First is Last and Last is First . The message is this: In the morning I go to Heaven. In the afternoon I live my life. In the evening I die, death. What does this mean? In other words this means Birth is Last and Last is Birth. To understand this don’t think from point A to point B. Think of this as a continous circle of life. Birth is First, Life, Death, Birth is Last, completing the circle. God also said that Judgment will be before Birth in Heaven. As birth on Earth is painful so will birth in Heaven. It is possible that this message was delivered by one of God’s Angels in the Spring of 2006. Yes, God has made contact and he sent a messenger. Spread this message along, just like a chain letter. Tell two people. OH, one more thing of interest. Did you know that Mike Douglas died on his birthday. Melanie Stephan

Posted by: Melanie Stephan at Jul 14, 2007 5:16:46 PM

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