Towards Understanding Revelation

1/25/23 REVELATION 1:1a, PART 8

Today we are moving from the turbulent 1910’s, through the roaring 20’s, and into the jaded and rough decade of the 30’s. 

Let’s start with this one:

“’The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him .’ This is the first sentence with which this last book in God’s Word begins. The best title therefore is, ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ.’ Our Lord received, according to this opening statement, a revelation from God. This must be understood in connection with Himself as the Son of Man. As the Only Begotten He had no need of a revelation; in His Deity He is acquainted with all the eternal purposes. One with God He knows the end from the beginning. But He, who is very God, took on in incarnation the form of a servant, and thus being in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself (Phil. ii:7-8). And as the Man who had passed through death, whom God raised from the dead and exalted at His own right hand, God gave Him this revelation concerning the judgment of the earth and the glory of Himself. ‘God raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory’ (1 Peter i:21). What this Glory is which He received from God is fully and blessedly revealed in this book. It is the revelation of His acquired Glory and how this Glory is to be manifested in connection with the earth.”

I need to interrupt to point out more of this idea that Jesus wasn’t quite God-like in nature while on earth. This quote isn’t too bad regarding this, but it’s walking the line. So, let’s take a minute to look at this concept more closely.  I think we can all agree that Jesus was denied (or denied Himself) certain knowledge while on earth, as evidenced by Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24: 36:

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32; KJV)

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.  (Matthew 24:36; KJV)

But Jesus repeatedly said things to indicate that He was, indeed, God:

61But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? 62And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14: 61-2; KJV)

I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. (John 8:24; KJV)

Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. (John 8:28; KJV)

58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. 59Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. (John 8:58-9; KJV)

5They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. 6As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. (John 18:5-6; KJV)

So, really the question is: how much did Jesus not know? As far as I know, the timing of the great and terrible Day of the Lord was the only thing Jesus did not know. He knew the rest of the future, He knew what people were thinking, He knew their pasts without being told. He had control over life and death (raising people from the dead), over nature (controlling the weather, walking on water), and over the material world (creating bread and fish, producing fish in Simon Peter’s nets, turning water to wine, etc). His Apostles were ordinary men, yet He was able to transfer some of His power to them. 

Truly His Apostles were having a very hard time understanding and/or coping with some of the things that Jesus was trying to tell them. What He told them of the future was rather vague and general, mainly, I think, because they could not handle more than that, and the most important thing He needed them to understand about the future during His ministry was that He knew He was going to be scourged and crucified. I suspect that Jesus found in John someone who, eventually, could look at this terrible future of the Day of the Lord and be able to cope with writing it down. And that is, perhaps, why John was not martyred and was able to live such a long life.

Of course, if you don’t believe that John the Apostle wrote Revelation, and/or you believe that the events depicted in Revelation are past events, or mere allegories, then my speculations are probably just annoying you.

Let’s go on with the quote: 

“The Revelation is pre-eminently His revelation; the revelation of His person and His Glory.   ‘In the volume of the Book it is written of Me . . .’ (Heb. x:7). Martin Luther asked, ‘What Book and what Person?’ and answered, ‘There is only one Book the Bible; and only one Person Jesus Christ.’ The whole Book, the Word of God, bears witness of Him, Who is the living Word. He is the center, the sum total and the substance of the Holy Scriptures. The prayerful reader of the Bible will never read in vain if he approaches the blessed Book with the one desire to know Christ and His Glory. His blessed face is seen on every page and the infallible Guide, the Holy Spirit, never fails to satisfy the longing of the believer’s heart to know more of Christ. Inasmuch as this last Bible book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, an ‘Unveiling’ of Himself, we find in it the completest revelation of His Person and His Glory.”  [from THE REVELATION: AN ANALYSIS AND EXPOSITION OF THE LAST BOOK OF THE BIBLE, by Arno C. Gaebelein, 1915]

I like the rest of this quote. It describes the reality I find in reading the Bible.

On to the next quote:

The ‘Title’ of the Book describes its character. It is not ‘The Revelation of St. John the Divine,’ as the heading in our Bibles would have us believe, but it is ‘THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.’ 

“The word ‘Revelation’ in the Greek is ‘APOCALUPSIS.’ Hence the title ‘THE APOCALYPSE,’ by which it is often called. It is from the verb ‘APOCALUPTO,’ to unveil; from ‘APO,’ away from; and ‘KALUMMA,’ a veil. Hence ‘Apocalupsis’ means a taking away of a veil, as when a statue is unveiled, that what is behind the veil may be seen.…While the Apostle John is the writer of the Book he is not the author or composer. The Author was the Lord Jesus Himself. The Apostle was only a ‘scribe’ or ‘amanuensis.’” [from THE BOOK OF REVELATION, by Charles Larkin, 1919]

This does not seem like a very inspired or inspiring quote, but Mr. Larkin is a well-known author from this period and I expect that future quotes will be very worthwhile. For now, he’s simply agreeing with some others who have gone before him.

The next quote:

“The revelation (apocalypse) of Jesus Christ. The Greek word apocalupsis signifies a revelation; a making known. It also means the revealing of one’s self, a coming. Both meanings are appropriate here. It is a revelation which Christ has made concerning His Coming in power and majesty. It is also a prophecy of events leading up to this second coming.” [from THE APOCALYPSE OF ST JOHN, by E. Sylvester Berry, 1921]

Now is as good a time as any to talk a bit about the sources. It may look like everyone was in agreement about Revelation during this time. That’s not exactly true. I have skipped some sources that were post-millennial in nature, not because I didn’t agree with them, but because they were not verse by verse expositions. Postmillennialists seem to satisfy themselves with writing books that avoid quoting directly from Revelation, so in order to include them I must read the entire book and try to find which citations from Revelation matches to which idea they express. I have done this with at least one of the books (from the 1990’s), and it was a real chore. He didn’t succeed in convincing me, quite the opposite: I developed a real aversion to Postmillennialism.  I will try to do a couple more of their books as we go on, because I really do want to include other points of view…it’s a big reason for doing this.

The next quote:

“The Title used in the Authorized Version of our English Scriptures, and retained by the English Revisers, is ‘The Revelation of St. John the Divine,’ a name given to the book by the early church, though many of the older manuscripts omit ‘the Divine’. Our American Revisers read, ‘The Revelation of John;’ but the more correct title is the one that is commonly used, and that is printed in the upper margin of the text, simply ‘The Revelation,’ i. e. the unveiling, or uncovering [viz. of the mystery of the divine purpose and method in human life and history]—the opening words of the book itself—or, if preferred, the original Greek name, ‘The Apocalypse’,which perhaps should have been retained without translation as in the Douay Version, but of which ‘The Revelation’ is the exact equivalent. The phrase ‘of St. John’, or ‘of John’, may properly be omitted because of its ambiguity; for the book is declared in its opening sentence to be ‘the Revelation of Jesus Christ’, i.e. a revelation of or from Jesus Christ, and it is only in a secondary sense ‘the Revelation of John’, i.e. a revelation made to and recorded by John. The occasion for the use of this title, ‘The Revelation of St. John’, in the first centuries was in order to distinguish the canonical Apocalypse from many others then in circulation, but this necessity has long since ceased to exist. For us it stands alone, it is the Apocalypse, the Revelation.” [from STUDIES IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION, by Stephen Alexander Hunter, 1921]

A solid quote, and a well written explanation of the title.

The next quote is something different. It is truly off topic, but when I read it I couldn’t help but share it:

“We think that temples and thrones and trades are the greatest things in the world. But the Virgin Mary could tell John how as a boy Our Lord needed but a day or two to look at these things. On the throne of Herod, He would not waste a glance, and an hour was enough for His discovery of the money-changers in the sanctuary. What occupied Our Lord for a quarter of a century of His short life was the wonder and mystery of an average home. Mary was the Matron who managed that home, and such was her influence over John that he learnt to tell of world events in words of one syllable. He employed not one symbol which a child could fail to understand. A lamp on a lamp-stand, a crown, a sword, a cloud, a key, horses, stars, trumpets, serpents, robes, rivers, a bride, streets, gates, walls, a lake—every one of these is common form in the nursery and in the fairy tale. That is why workmen in the middle ages, who could not read or write one word, were yet able to emblazon the Vision in the mosaics of their Cathedrals or carve the Last Judgment on the portals thereof. Instinctively John wrote as if you cannot enter the kingdom of prophecy except as a little child. We talk about eschatology and psychical research and post-millenarianism and then we wonder why miners and milliners will not sit through our sermons. Important matters should be put in simple terms Stop, Look, Listen, for instance, at a railway crossing—for they mean Life or Death.”  [from THE VISION WE FORGET, by Philip Whitwell Wilson, 1921]

I found this entirely captivating. I had never thought about John in this way, but I entirely agree. I’ve commented previously that John was most likely seeing things that he did not have sufficient words for…so he used the simple words he did have: I just hadn’t thought about how simple those words were. I especially like Mr. Wilson’s conclusions. ‘Eschatology’, ‘psychical research’, and ‘post-millenarianism’ (an older name for postmillennialism) are modern, multi-syllabic, man-made names meant to keep those men in their ivory towers, and to keep the ‘miners and milliners’ from understanding what’s really going on. It’s really similar to what the Pharisees were doing. Knowledge is a fine thing, but when it is used to keep things to oneself and to keep others in the dark, then it becomes evil. This is an important truth to remember.

This next quote gives me the bad kind of shivers:

“APOCALYPSE is a difficult subject in any circumstances; but in connection with a series of volumes under the general heading of the Humanism of the Bible, it presents peculiar difficulty.”

I have to break in right away. Seriously, “a series of volumes under the general heading of the Humanism of the Bible”? I don’t know if this is the actual first book trying to infiltrate Bible studies by suggesting that it includes “humanistic” topics, but it’s the earliest one I’ve seen. Let me use an analogy here: looking for humanism in the Bible is akin to looking for Christianity in a triple-x video with women removing nun costumes. The only reason one would do either is to try to pull the wool over the eyes of someone else.

So let’s see what else this wolf has to say:

“For the interest of the present series is not mainly in the dogmatic contents of Scripture, or in its teaching as to the nature of God and His relation to the world and to men.”

Got to break in again. So, in high brow language (meant to deceive, as discussed above), the author is telling us, plain as day, that his book is not about actual Scripture or God, even though the topic is the Bible. Very wolfish of him. Let’s go on:

“Its aim is rather to show how closely the successive books of Scripture were related to the thought and life of the period in which each of them was produced…”

Mid-sentence interruption.  The author realized that his last sentence may not have been high-brow enough to go over everyone’s head, so he’s saying here: ‘really, this is going to be about the history and culture of the Bible…how intelligent of you to dig deeper into the Bible!’ The howling is getting louder. Let’s proceed:

“…and to point out how, being the product and the expression of the spiritual and moral aspirations of men, they can still foster and deepen these aspirations.” 

Ahhh, maybe this is high-brow enough (or maybe not). What he’s saying here is that the Bible was written by men to “express” their moral and spiritual thoughts and ideas. More than that, they can keep working on developing those thoughts and ideas because they wrote them down. If these things were true, that would, indeed, be humanism. But they are not true. On with the howling:

“Now it cannot but be felt that the two books of Scripture which are here chosen [Daniel and Revelation] as typical of the apocalyptic attitude accept ultimately a view of God’s relation to the world, and therefore expect direct intervention of God in the world, about which many Christian men today feel more or less clearly that it is not their own. So far as they occupy this position, the books do not seem to relate themselves to the mind of the Church at all, but to embody a conception from which the Church has definitely passed.”  [from VISIONS OF THE END: A STUDY IN DANIEL, AND REVELATION, by Adam C. Welch, 1922]

Here he is saying that ‘of course we are seeing an attitude of expecting God to act in they lives, because that is how apocalyptic literature was written.’ And then he goes on to say that ‘modern’ Christian men really don’t expect God to act in their lives, and that the apocalyptic books don’t really relate to modern life, without realizing that he is describing the apostasy of the Church…and is indeed furthering it.

Let’s leave the howling wolf (in sheep’s clothing) behind for now and do one more ‘normal’ quote:

“St. John gives the title of his book as the Apocalypse of Jesus Messiah; it is not therefore the Revelation of St. John the Divine. Revelations were not given by writers now living on earth, but by holy men of old, Enoch, Ezra, or Baruch…The prophets had received inspiration from heaven and given a living message to living men. The authors of apocalypses were not so bold; they concealed their identity and put their messages into the mouths of ancient worthies whose names would carry more weight. The Revelation differs in being attributed to one who had lived and died not long before; it differs also in disclosing the name of its author.  The revelation by the supernatural person is combined with the inspiration of a prophet now living, known and named: it is therefore double in character and can be regarded as 1. The Revelation of Jesus Messiah, 2. The Prophecies of John his servant.” [from THE MEANING OF THE REVELATION, by Philip Carrington, 1931]

This is a nice, compact summation of what many men have said previously. I like that he points out the differences between usual apocalyptic literature and Revelation.

We’ve got time for one short rabbit hole: The U.S. Sun is reporting that the Saudi Arabian desert around Media and Mecca is covered in grass and has had flooding due to the large amount of rain they’ve had recently. The locals are saying it’s a clear sign that the Day of Judgement is coming. Apparently Muhammad said 1400 years ago that “the last hour will not come till…the land of Arabia turns into meadows and rivers.” The article reports that this is not a terribly unique event in the area. 

I find this interesting on several levels. First, I haven’t seen The Sun quoting Revelation in regards to a number of recent news events. Second, there are a number of people who connect Revelation with the end-times prophecies of Islam….some Christians and Muslims seem to each think the other will supply the ‘man of lawlessness’ for the end times. Third, while the quote from Muhammad sounds pretty specific, the article indicates that this type of thing has happened a number of times before…so not really a great end times sign.

That’s it for today. Next time we are going to indulge a much bigger rabbit hole. D. H. Lawrence wrote a book ostensibly about Revelation, but seems to be more about why he hates the Bible. We will look at a long quote and see what we can make of it.

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