Towards Understanding Revelation

1/13/23 REVELATION 1:1a, PART 6

We’ll start today with a simple observation:

“The Revelation…The word, according to Jerome on Gal. i.11,12, is peculiar to the Scriptures, and is not used by Greek classical writers.” [from THE CAMBRIDGE BIBLE FOR SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES: THE REVELATION OF S. JOHN THE DIVINE WITH NOTES AND INTRODUCTION, by William Henry Simcox, 1891]

But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12; KJV) 

I found this thought a bit peculiar…that the word apokalupsis would only be found in Scripture. I think that this is not entirely true. Quora online has an answer written by a Greek person who has a BA in Classics and MA in Byzantine History:

“Originally, apokalupto and apokalupsis were used for mundane things, specifically the uncovering of one’s head. Gradually, they acquired metaphorical meanings, such as the uncovering of secrets. That extended to divine mysteries, hence the New Testament Apocalypse, aka Revelation.”

A secular source to be sure, but appropriate when trying to determine the secular use of the word apokalupsis. A word meaning the ‘mundane’ uncovering of various things is probably not a word needed very often in ‘mundane’ writings, thus, a reader of mostly Scriptural Greek probably wouldn’t run into it much as a ‘mundane’ word.

The next quote:

“Earnest thinkers will not allow the wild utterances of alarmists, or the vagaries of prophecy-mongers, to divert them from an inquiry at once so solemn and so reasonable. It is only the infidel who doubts that there is a destined limit to the course of ‘this present evil world.’ That God will one day put forth His power to ensure the triumph of the good, is in some sense a matter of course. The mystery of revelation is not that He will do this, but that He delays to do it. Judged by the public facts around us, He is an indifferent spectator of the unequal struggle between good and evil upon earth.”  [from THE COMING PRINCE: THE MARVELOUS PROPHECY OF DANIEL’S SEVENTY WEEKS CONCERNING THE ANTICHRIST (Trumpet Press, Kindle Edition), by Sir Robert Anderson, originally published 1894]

Wow: “The mystery of revelation is not that He will do this, but that He delays to do it.” And then “… He is an indifferent spectator of the unequal struggle between good and evil upon earth.” Mr. Anderson says that it is only the “infidel” who doesn’t realize that God will eventually decide He’s had enough of evil, but I submit that there is some ‘infidelity’ at work here in questioning why God “delays” and in referring to Him as “an indifferent spectator.”  We cannot know why God’s timing is as it is, yet we know that it is always perfect.  We are given clues regarding the reason for the timing, two of these clues are in 2 Peter 3:9 and Matthew 25:1-13:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9; NKJV)

1Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  2Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise answered saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.  11Afterwards the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord open to us!’  12But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”  (Matthew 25:1-13; NKJV)

These are like two sides of one coin. The 2 Peter verse tells us that God will wait until He has received every possible person into repentance and salvation. And there are plenty of implications in the New Testament that the already-saved are supposed to be helping with this harvest. Does this mean that those not saved at the time of the Rapture are all doomed? Not at all. The flock being saved at the Rapture are of the Bride of Christ. Those saved during the Tribulation are the Tribulation saints, and they appear to hold a place similar to those who followed God before the first coming of the Christ. Just as those who came before Christ’s first coming, there will be no one infused with the Holy Spirit in quite the same way as those of the Bride are, to help them see the truth. They will have a harder time coming to the truth, but I suspect they will have more leeway from God than we do during this comparatively more easy time.

Matthew tells one of Jesus’ stories relating the other side of the coin: the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. The Galilean marriage (see the video “Before the Wrath”) at Jesus’ time involved the bride and groom and their families making a covenant to marry, which meant that they were committed to each other in the way that a marriage ceremony today commits them. But, then the bride went home to prepare, and the groom went home to build a room on his father’s house for his bride. Building this room could take up to a year to complete, and it was not considered ‘complete’ until the groom’s father deemed it so. Once his father pronounced it complete, and this was often in the middle of the night, the groom gathered his groomsmen and they went to the bride’s house, awakened the bride and her bridesmaids (who had been sleeping in the same room in their wedding clothes during this time) and carried the bride on a chair through the village to the groom’s house for the feast. The people of the village, upon hearing the noise, quickly arose, dressed, and entered into the feast. Once the feast started the doors were closed and no one was allowed to enter or leave until the feast was done, which took 7 days. This is why, at the feast at Cana, they couldn’t just send out for more wine.

The Foolish Virgins were in the chamber waiting with the Wise Virgins, and they knew their Lord was coming at some point to claim them. They thought that they were ready, and they had their lamps to find their way, yet they neglected to fully prepare by bringing extra oil. When their Lord came, they ran off trying to get more oil, but on their return it was too late to enter the bridal feast. This time that we are waiting through is not just about gathering in those of the Bride not yet gathered, it is also to weed out the ‘foolish,’ who, perhaps, have not really been gathered; or to provide time for the ‘foolish’ to ‘get prepared’. Fortunately for the Foolish Virgins, the Lord will return to gather the followers who find Him in the Tribulation. They are not the Bride, yet they can still be followers if they prepare.

We have to remember that Christ knows our hearts and not just our outer actions. If we are waiting with the Wise Virgins, but we are not preparing, it will be too late when the Groom arrives.

Another quote:

“’Jesus Christ’s revelation’ emphasizes the book before us, as what is from the Lord Himself in a peculiar way, of special importance and value where all is of value; and it is received by Him from God, as One who all through takes the place of Man, and as such is exalted of God, never exalts Himself. True pattern for His servants! He asks them to walk in no other path than He has trodden, and where they may have fellowship with Him.” [from THE REVELATION OF CHRIST TO HIS SERVANTS, by Frederick Grant, 1894]

Jesus is indeed the One who takes the place of man in God’s judgment, “and as such is exalted of God.”   And, not only doesn’t exalt Himself, but teaches us that ‘the first is last, and the last is first’ in His Kingdom. Definitely a pattern for His servants, as is following in His path.                                                                                                                                                             

On to the next quote:

“The essay which follows is based upon a conviction that the closing book of the canon of the New Testament, known as the Revelation of Saint John, presents the thoughts of that holy man and inspired apostle upon the subject of the kingdom of Christ, as derived by him from the Old Testament Scriptures and from the teachings of Christ or as drawn from direct revelation made to himself. The book presents a single theme and has a well-preserved unity.” [from REVELATION OF ST JOHN THE DIVINE: AN INTERPRETATION, by A. H. Ames, 1897]

Despite John stating precisely where the information from Revelation comes from, Mr. Ames calls it “the thoughts of that holy man…derived by him…” Yes, there is much correlation with the Old Testament, but that is because Revelation was derived from the same source as the Old Testament prophecies. I’m sure that John recognized the correlation, but that does not mean that he provided it. Truly, this is a rather cynical take on Revelation. 

The next quote:

“A Revelation is something revealed or made known, not something hidden and concealed. Moses tells that ‘the secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.’ Deuteronomy 29: 29.”  [from DANIEL AND THE REVELATION, by Uriah Smith, 1897]

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29; KJV)

It seems to me that not only does the revealed material belong to us, we are also responsible to know about it.

Moving on:

“The sacred writers did not title their respective books, and all the titles of the sacred books in our Bibles, save one or two, are destitute of divine authority. The title given to the Apocalypse in the Authorized Version and retained in the Revision of 1881 is faulty and misleading. 

It is not ‘The Revelation of St. John,’but as in the text, ‘THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.’ Whether the epithet, ‘the Divine,’ was added as an expression of the writer’s supposed superlative sanctity, and to distinguish him from John the Apostle, are matters of unimportant controversy. We are at perfect liberty to reject the title as a whole…’The Revelation of Jesus Christ.’ Here Jesus Christ is viewed as Man, not in essential Deity as in John 1:1-2.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2; KJV)

I agree with the author’s statements regarding the title of the book. I’m not quite on board with the idea that “Here Jesus Christ is viewed as Man.” At the time of Revelation, no matter which time you subscribe to, Jesus was already in Heaven. Yes, He had been man as well as God, and that does imply a difference from Christ as “the Word…in the beginning,” so I can see why the author says this. I just wish he had worded it differently, because how he says it implies Christ as Man rather than Deity.

We’ll continue the quote:

“The divine and human natures of our Lord, both absolutely perfect, are distinguished in office and action, but must not be separated. There is but one Savior and one Mediator, Who is very God and very Man, and on this fundamental truth reposes the whole system of Christianity. Faith believes and grasps it firmly, while not pretending to solve the mystery of the Godhead. Our own complex being is a mystery, much more so the Being of our adorable Lord.”

This paragraph is very clear, and I appreciate that. Let’s continue: 

“The Revelation is embodied in the visions beheld by the Seer of Patmos. The word ‘Revelation’ gives unity to the many and diversified communications, whether in word or vision, contained in the book. Revelations there were, but these form one compact whole, and this belongs to Jesus Christ. Not only, however, is the Revelation Jesus Christ’s as given Him by God, but He is the central object in these as in all prophecy. The rays of the prophetic lamp are directed onward to the millennial glory of Christ, no matter whether the lamp be held in the hands of Isaiah the Grand or John the Beloved.”  [from EXPOSITION OF THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST, by Walter Biggar Scott, 1900]

Some commentators become incensed when the book is called ‘Revelations,’ while others see it like Mr. Scott: that the book is made up of multiple revelations. Truly we do not know if John received the visions in one day or over a series of days.

The next quote is the first one from the 20th century:

“The usual title, ‘The Revelation of St. John, the Divine ‘ is misleading, as the opening words of the book will show, which read, ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God / gave Him to show unto His servants’…There must be some deep significance in this introductory pronouncement, and because of the difficulty of interpretation, the Church has no right to neglect her Master’s last message…The book of Revelation is not primarily a book of Church truth. It is a book of judgment in the broadest sense of that word, judgment, that is, as the method and government of God. It reveals the consummation of the world’s history, and gives a panorama of God’s final dealings with the earth. We find ourselves largely back in the realm of Old Testament truth…

“The outlook of Revelation is larger than the Church of Christ. It deals, not with the relation of God as Father to the company of saved in the Church, but to His larger relation as King and Governor of the whole earth. There has been a great deal of cloudy thinking and teaching on these subjects. Many seem to imagine that the Church and the Kingdom of God are one and the same thing. The fact is that the Kingdom of God is infinitely larger than the Church, and includes that whole realm over which God is King, and in which that Kingship will finally be established. Today the Church recognizes and submits to that Kingship. The time will come when all nations shall recognize and submit. The Church is an instrument to that end. And yet she is a complete entity within herself, having her specific vocation in future ages.” [from A FIRST CENTURY MESSAGE TO TWENTIETH CENTURY CHRISTIANS, by G. Campbell Morgan, 1902]

I really like this quote. I love that he says “The fact is that the Kingdom of God is infinitely larger than the Church, and includes that whole realm over which God is King” because this point has been missed or glossed over by a lot of commentators up to now. The only thing I could question is his statement about the Church being “an instrument” to the recognition and submission of the nations to Christ as King. The Church has seemed to be the instrument by which His Bride was gathered, at least until recently, but I’m not sure that it will be having a strong effect by the time of the Second Coming, if indeed it is even in existence. I think that all nations will bow to Christ the King because they will recognize His Kingship as soon as they see Him.

 The last quote of the day:

“A REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST. —This revelation is not merely, as some have supposed, His appearing in ‘the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,’ although this is a part of it, and will come before us in the nineteenth chapter. It is a revelation of Himself, as the source and substance, without whom no revelation whatsoever could be made. It is specifically a revelation of Jesus Christ. These two titles, Jesus, the Savior, and Christ, the Messiah, are quite distinct. The significance of both may be seen in the name given by Pharaoh to Joseph. Zaphnath-paaneah is interpreted by the rabbins, ‘Revealer of Secrets’; and there is no reason for arbitrarily dismissing this if it can be reasonable shown to have that meaning in Hebrew. As an Egyptian word, it is rendered by Jerome, ‘The Savious of the World.’

“Joseph, exalted over Egypt, and finally bringing relief to his brethren, is the Old Testament picture of Christ in Revelation. Through Him God is lifting the veil from the face of the future, that we may know more fully ‘the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself, for the administration of the fulness of times, to head up all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth’ (Eph. 1:9-10 Gr.).

9Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him (Ephesians 1:9-10; KJV)

“…A revelation does not mean something hidden, or concealed, or even difficult to understand. The title itself is a rebuke to them that speak of the book as an insoluble enigma. If God has made a revelation, who shall charge Him with putting it before us in an obscure and unintelligible way? Let us be assured that God has ability to make plain what He designs to reveal. If He does not speak in the plain language of man, it is because the revelation was not made to man in common. Man, as man naturally, cannot have any perception of its meaning. ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor. 2:14).

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14; KJV)

“In this respect the book of Revelation does not differ from other books of Scripture…Surely the Bible was not written to gratify idle curiosity. In the book of Revelation God has not taken down the veil that men may peer idly into the future. Here, as elsewhere, Scripture is true to its own purpose, and our lack of perception may be due to our inability to measure up to the standard required of ‘the man of God.’” [from THE UNFOLDING OF THE AGES IN THE REVELATION OF JOHN, by Ford C. Ottman, 1905]

A pretty solid quote. Let’s look at “…God has ability to make plain what He designs to reveal. If He does not speak in the plain language of man, it is because the revelation was not made to man in common.” In other words, not all men throughout time were meant to fully understand it. I tend to agree with this, and I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this idea as we get further into Revelation.

And then the other reason it’s not easily understood: “Man, as man naturally, cannot have any perception of its meaning.” The Holy Spirit is necessary to fully understand any Scripture, it’s just that much of the Scriptures can be understood in a superficial way without the Spirit. Much of Revelation, beyond the letters to the Seven Churches, is very difficult to assign a superficial meaning to that makes any sense, so it is often overlooked.

Lastly, I agree that the Bible, including Revelation, was not written to gratify “idle curiosity.” The Scriptures as a whole are very complex and can be understood on multiple levels. I know that I haven’t come close to plumbing the depths, but I also know that I’m at least somewhat beyond “idle curiosity,” and that if you are reading this, then you probably are too.

Next time we will move deeper into the 20th century.

2 responses to “1/13/23 REVELATION 1:1a, PART 6”

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