Towards Understanding Revelation

4/1/23 REVELATION 1:1a, PART 13

We’ll start today with a quote from Tim LaHaye, a well-known expositor of the late 20th century:

The word ‘revelation’ is a translation of the Greek word apokalypsis, which means ‘an unveiling.’ It is not a new word in the New Testament, for it occurs eighteen times (Luke 2:32; Gal. 1:12; 2 Thess. 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7; etc.).

A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:32; NKJV)

For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:12; NASB)

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (2 Thessalonians 1:7; KJV)

so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7; NASB)

   “…This book, then, is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. But not just Jesus Christ, for John has already presented Him very clearly as the divine Son of God in the gospel that bears his name. Further on in the verse we find that this is the Revelation of Jesus Christ ‘to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.’ Again we see that the emphasis of the book is on future events.”   [From REVELATION: ILLUSTRATED AND MADE PLAIN;  by Tim LaHaye; 1973]

Tim LaHaye handled the theology, while Jerry Jenkins (father of Dallas Jenkins, creator of The Chosen) did the writing for the Left Behind series. If you have read that series then you probably have an idea of what Mr. LaHaye’s exposition of Revelation is like. The original series takes place in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, with no look forward towards technological advances, so it’s a bit dated at this point, but the eschatology is very similar to premillennial dispensationalism of today.

On to the next quote:

“John’s introduction to his book is brief. The first paragraph states the origin of the work, and virtually serves as a title to the whole. The second paragraph conveys a greeting from the writer to his readers, with a doxology and two prophetic sayings.

“Short as they are, these paragraphs are deeply significant. They indicate the standpoint from which the book is written. Just as the prologue to the Fourth Gospel puts the reader in a position to understand the story of Jesus which follows, so the prologue to the Revelation supplies a vantage point from which the reader may view with understanding the vision of history which follows.

“The term revelation is capable of expressing a variety of meanings. It can signify the act of unveiling, or the object which is uncovered. The former meaning makes possible the application of the term to the coming of Christ — the occasion when the curtain is torn aside and the Lord is seen by human eyes (e.g., 1 C. 1:7). 

so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Corinthians 1:7; NASB)

“The latter meaning relates to the content of God’s disclosure of himself, his ways, and his will — matters which hitherto were hidden from the gaze of man (e.g., Eph. 1:17). 

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (Ephesians 1:17; NKJV)

John gives to the word a specialized application. For him revelation describes the process of unveiling and the truth unveiled concerning the the issues of history. John may well have been the first to use the term to describe a book of this order, but he must have been fully aware that in issuing a book of visions of the end of history he joined the company of many who similarly wrote on this theme. His work in fact has provided the other comparable writing with their genre name — ‘revelation’, or ‘apocalypse’ (Greek apokalypsis).

“If John’s title links his work with others written in a style similar to his, it yet makes a claim which sets his book apart from all others of its class. It is not, as many of our early manuscripts describe it, ‘the revelation of John’, but the revelation of Jesus Christ. This implies that Jesus Christ himself has torn back the curtain which hides from human eyes the invisible world and the future of this world, and that what is open to view is a vision of reality granted by him…” [From THE NEW CENTURY BIBLE COMMENTARY: THE BOOK OF REVELATION; by G. R. Beasley-Murray; 1974]

A good quote; Mr. Beasley-Murray has been able to put a slightly different spin on it, focusing on Jesus Christ as the author. Also, he points out the revelation of God, rather than of Jesus Christ, which I think is very relevant. Jesus Christ is not revealed in His humanity in Revelation, but rather in His Godhead…and Jesus frequently said that in seeing Him, you saw the Father; so the revelation of God is truly more to the point.

Proceeding to the next quote:

“The book is said to be ‘a revelation,’ an unveiling. Some years ago, the city of Chicago was given an original by Pablo Picasso to adorn the plaza outside the new city hall. For months, as this statue was being erected, it was heavily screened from the curious gaze of the passersby. When it was finished, it stood in the plaza thickly veiled. The day came when Mayor Daley unveiled the statue to the astonished gaze of Chicago and the world. There it stood in all its glory, the latest offering at the altar of art, Chicago’s own gigantic Picasso.  What Mayor Daley did for Chicago when he unveiled the statue, the book of Revelation does for us. It draws aside the veil.”

This is definitely a rabbit hole! I was curious, so I looked up this statue. I found that Mayor Daley had wooed Picasso for months, even going to France to meet with him, to talk him into doing a statue for Chicago. The statue is untitled. Some people say it’s a girl with a high ponytail, others see the skull of a bull. Take a look and see what you think…

The first, and only, thing that I saw was a vulture! A hungry one with protruding ribs! I think Picasso was telling them exactly what he thought of them!

Anyway, back to the quote:

“John tells us that this book is ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him.’ When He came to earth the first time, it was in meekness with His glory veiled. He came to be ‘obedient unto death, even the death of the cross’ (Phil. 2:8). 

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8; NASB)

“He was God manifest in flesh, and He showed it in a thousand ways that only the eye of faith could recognize. James, for example, brought up in the same Nazareth home with Jesus, failed to recognize Him as the Son of God. He was perfect in character, perfect in conduct, in conversation, deity in humanity, yet unknown as such to the boys and girls who shared that Nazareth home! His chosen disciples themselves only half believed on Him. The world at large was so blind to who He was that it offered Him a cattle shed for His birth and a cross for His death.

“One day, however, He is coming back with His glory all unveiled to smash the opposition of the world and to wield a scepter of iron. He is coming back in pomp and power to reign, backed by the hosts of heaven. His deity, manifest even now to the eye of faith, will blaze forth like flaming lightening then. In the book of Revelation, the Person of Christ is unveiled and we are given a view of that glorious Man who fills all heaven with His praise.”  [From EXPLORING REVELATION; by John Phillips; 1974]

I love the bit about the “Nazareth home”!  I love that “the eye of faith” can see His deity now, but that all will see it when He returns! And I look forward to the “scepter of iron” as this world devolves more and more.

The first quote by J. Vernon McGee was from his book REVELING IN REVELATION from 1962. Today we have a quote from his outline series that is basically the transcript of his radio broadcast:

“In the first division of this book we see the person of Christ. We see Christ in His glory and position as the Great High Priest who is in charge of His church. We see Him in absolute control. In the Gospels we find Him meek, lowly, humble, and dying upon a cross. He made Himself subject to His enemies on earth. He is not like that in the Book of Revelation. He is in control. He is still the Lamb of God, but we see the wrath of the Lamb that terrifies the earth.”  [From REVELATION: CHAPTERS 1-5; by J. Vernon McGee; 1975]

Mr. McGee just told it like he saw it. My favorite line: “He is in control.” This is the main truth, the rest is all observation.

The next quote:

“The earliest manuscripts of Revelation carried the simple title, ‘The Apocalypse of John.’ Later manuscripts modified and expanded the title in various ways. The Textus Receptus has, ‘The Apocalypse of John the theologian’ [the Textus Receptus (received text) refers to all printed editions of the Greek New Testament from Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum omne in 1516 to the 1633 Elzevir edition] There is no compelling reason to believe that the prologue is the work of some later redactor. It was written by the author himself, probably after having completed the rest of the book.

“The work designates itself as ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ It is an apocalypse or unveiling. Had God not taken the initiative, the human mind could never have understood the real forces at work in the world. Nor could anyone have known how it would all turn out. The term ‘revelation’ (as used here) is not a literary classification but an indication of the nature and purpose of the book. Modern scholarship has appropriated the term ‘apocalyptic’ to describe a specific body of literature widely diffused in Judaism from about 200 BC until AD 100 or a bit later. This literature is pseudonymous, pseudo-predictive (the writer placed himself at some point in the past and by means of symbols rewrote history under the guise of prophecy), and pessimistic. It deals with the final catastrophic period of world history when God, after mortal combat with the powers of evil, emerges victorious. It is clear that Revelation has much in common with such Jewish apocalypses as I Enoch and 2 Esdras. However, that it is not apocalyptic as opposed to prophetic is established by v. 3, which promises a blessing to those who hear ‘the words of this prophecy’…

“The work is a revelation mediated by Jesus Christ rather than a revelation of Christ himself. The following clauses in v. 1 indicate that God gave it to him for the purpose of showing to his servants ‘what must soon take place.’ Although Hort [Fenton J.A. Hort, 1828-1892] argues that in the NT both verb and noun are used for ‘the unveiling of the hidden Christ to man,’ he goes on to say that ‘the revealing of Jesus Christ would be at the same time and for that reason a revealing of things shortly come to pass.’ Christ is the revealer, not in the sense that he accompanies John on his visionary experiences (angels play this role), but because he alone is worthy to open the scroll of destiny (Rev 5:5,7) and disclose its contents (Rev 6:1,3,5,7,9,12; 8:1).

“The full designation, ‘Jesus Christ,’ is found three times in Rev. 1:1-5 but nowhere else in the book. It is appropriate in the elevated style of the prologue.  Throughout the rest of the book the simple name ‘Jesus’ is used (11 times).”  [From THE BOOK OF REVELATION; by Robert H. Mounce; 1977]    

Robert Mounce was the father of William Mounce, the scholar of New Testament Greek who writes the books on learning Biblical Greek. Robert was a New Testament scholar and president of Whitworth University in Spokane, WA.

This is a concise and scholarly quote; I like how he, without prevaricating, lays to rest the idea that Revelation is merely an apocalypse in the literal sense. I don’t agree that Christ is merely the Revealer, but he presents his point of view in his straight-forward fashion, and, presents us with a new thought at the same time: “Christ is the revealer…because he alone is worthy to open the scroll of destiny…and disclose its contents.” I agree with this thought and with his reasoning, however I am also still captivated by Mr. Beasley-Murray’s idea of God being revealed in Revelation.

Forward to the next quote:

“‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ…’ Although the primary meaning of this phrase regards the source of the prophecy as having come from God through Jesus Christ, it is also true in the extended sense of being a revelation of the Son of God in his capacity as the judge appointed by the Almighty God himself and divinely commissioned to ‘execute judgement’ (John 5:27). 

and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. (John 5:27; NKJV)

“The word ‘Revelation,’ capitalized in the text, was so rendered in order to indicate the word as the title of the prophecy. It is translated from a Greek word ‘apokalypsis,’ from which also comes the similar English word given to the book and also applied to a whole field of similar writings. It means ‘an unveiling.’” [From REVELATION; by James B. Coffman; 1979]

Mr. Coffman, who, in his life, received 3 different honorary advanced degrees above the one he earned, has given us an even more concise quote than Mr. Mounce. And while he has written this in his own voice, as well as adding the concept of Jesus as judge, his reliance on Mr. Mounce and Mr. Beasley-Murray are both evident, as are their names in the bibliography of his book. I enjoy following ideas through the works of different people, though it’s hard to keep them all straight. I appreciate when the ideas can be seen at close range like this.

The next quote:

“‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ’ is the title that John gives to his book. Revelation, a translation of apokalupsis, means an unveiling, removing the cover from something. Although the word appears eighteen times in the rest of the New Testament, where it is used to describe divine things hitherto unknown, but now being revealed by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:10), 

9But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10; NKJV)

“and to describe the understanding by saints (Eph. 1:17), 

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. (Ephesians 1:17; NKJV)

“it occurs only here in the Book of Revelation.”  [From REVELATION: AN INTRODUCTION AND COMMENTARY; by Homer Hailey; 1979]

Doesn’t this sound like the quotes from a decade earlier, just talking about what the word means? Mr. Hailey didn’t have Mr. Mounce or Mr. Beasley-Murray in his bibliography. 

Let’s keep going to the next quote:

“Before the normal epistolary opening comes a title reminiscent of OT prophetic books, a description of the work as a whole after it has been completed…The Greek word for revelation (apokalupsis) means ‘unveiling,’ the disclosure of what is hidden from human minds because it belongs to the heavenly sphere, and it gives its name to the Jewish literary genre called ‘apocalyptic.’ These heavenly things will usually belong to the future, but the prophet may equally be required to disclose the significance of things past and present: in heaven past, present, and future are in being together.”  [From REVELATION; by John P. M. Sweet; 1979]

This author is hinting at a possible preteristic take on Revelation, though I haven’t seen anything else so far that supports that conclusion. He mentions apocalyptic literature, but takes no stand on whether Revelation is actually apocalyptic in nature or not. He doesn’t have Mr. Mounce or Mr. Beasley-Murray in his bibliography, though he mentions Mr. Mounce’s thought that the title may have been composed after the book was completed (although both of them may have taken that idea from an earlier source).

Going on:

“More than the unveiling of future events, Revelation is about the unveiling of a Person. The opening words declare, ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ’. The preposition ‘of’ in Greek means that Revelation is about and from Jesus. When Jesus came to earth the first time, His deity was veiled by human flesh. But when He comes again, the veil will be removed, and we will see Him in all His glory as the King of kings and Lord of lords.”   [From THE BOOK OF REVELATION; by Bertrand L. Comparet; 1983]   

Mr. Comparet’s ‘book’ is a series of lectures transcribed from a recording, so there is no bibliography and few footnotes. I like his thought about Jesus being “veiled by human flesh,” and that veil being removed. It’s a great image.

The last quote for today:

Jesus, in His earthly ministry, foresaw the future church aggressively entering Satan’s domain to set its captives free. He promised that ‘the gates of Hades will not overcome’ that marching body (Matthew 16:18).

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18; NKJV)

“The purpose of the further ‘revelation of Jesus Christ’ is to record the fall of the devil and all his kingdom. Truth is stronger than error. The light will dispel the darkness. God’s army will see the rout of evil .”  [From THE BOOK OF REVELATION  IN MISSIONARY PERSPECTIVE; by Alger M. Fitch; 1986]

This is a rather uplifting book as it is written to encourage missionaries. It’s not done as a verse-by-verse commentary so I’m having to go through the whole thing (it’s pretty short) to pick out the specific verses that he speaks to, but it’s not too onerous because it is just so uplifting.

I had one more quote ready for today, but it’s a really big preterist who gets into all this detail about covenants. I decided that the uplifting missionary quote would be a better place to end today. We’ll dig into the covenant details as the first quote for the next post.

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