Towards Understanding Revelation

4/14/23 REVELATION 1:1a, PART 15

This is going to be a long post as we work to finish up the 21st century. First we’ll hear from a current, really well-known radio preacher:

Revelation: This word comes from the Greek word apocalypses and means ‘an uncovering,’ ‘an unveiling,’ or ‘a disclosure.’ In the New Testament, this word describes the unveiling of spiritual truth (Rom. 16:25; Gal. 1:12; Eph. 1:17, 3:3), 

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, (Romans 16:25; NASB)

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)

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; NASB)

that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before briefly.  (Ephesians 3:3; NASB)

“the revealing of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19), 

For the eagerly awaiting creation waits for the revealing of the sons and daughters of God.  (Romans 8:19; NASB)

“Christ’s incarnation (Luke 2:32), 

A light for revelation for the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.  (Luke 2:32; NASB)

“and His glorious appearing at His second coming (2 Thess. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:7). 

and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us, when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels          (2 Thessalonians 1:7; NASB)

 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)

“In all its uses, ‘revelation’ refers to something or someone once hidden, becoming visible. What this book reveals or unveils is Jesus Christ in glory. Truths about Jesus and His final victory become clearly visible through this revelation… The Gospels unveil Christ’s coming in humiliation; the book of Revelation reveals Him in His exaltation.”  [From REVELATION: THE ULTIMATE VICTORY; by John MacArthur; 2007]

Truths about Jesus and His final victory” becoming visible in Revelation speaks to the objective genitive rather than the subjective. I like the last part of Mr. MacArthur’s quote the best. 

On to the next quote:

“Titles were not a part of the original texts of books of the NT, and so they were not considered an important and unchangeable part of the text. In antiquity a title would be a strip or tag attached on the back of a roll; the title was also written inside the roll at the end of the text. Before such tags were attached, the first words of a document itself would have indicated its contents. The earliest manuscripts of Revelation have the title ‘apocalypse/revelation of John,’ taken from 1:1. As time went on, this title was sometimes expanded, such as ‘apocalypse/revelation of John the theologian and evangelist.’

“Within the original text, the first words, ‘the revelatory unveiling of Jesus Christ,’ serve as a title for the whole book. The rest of the introduction (1:1-3) then serves as a brief commentary on the title.” [From CONCORDIA COMMENTARY ON REVELATION; by Louis Brighton; 2009]

Interesting quote, but I beg to differ on the title “revelation of John” being “taken from 1:1,” because 1:1 identifies ‘Jesus Christ’ as the Revelator.  And, “ ‘the revelatory unveiling of Jesus Christ’ ” are not the first words of any translation that I can find.  Otherwise, I liked the information about how scrolls were handled.

Moving on:

“Titles of works are important, for they anticipate what the reader will encounter in a work. In this instance, a new point of view from above is embedded in the meaning of the word ‘revelation.’ The title of this book is ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1:1). The word ‘apocalypse’ derives from the Greek word for ‘revelation’ and means ‘uncovering’ or ‘unveiling’ of something previously hidden. The reader/hearer of Revelation should expect an unveiling of things that can be seen only from a heavenly or above point of view. The above point of view cannot be seen unless the veil of heaven is rolled back. The genitive ‘of Jesus Christ’ can mean that the revelation is ‘about Jesus Christ’ (an objective genitive) or is ‘from Jesus Christ’ (a subjective genitive). If it is about Jesus Christ then the uncovering concerns the meaning and significance of Jesus’ life, death, and final appearance for history. Yet most commentators argue that the genitive ‘of Jesus Christ’ is a subjective genitive that announces the source of the revelation: Jesus. The first verse establishes a chain of transmission: God-Jesus-angel-John-slaves. The apocalypse is ‘a revelation from Jesus Christ.’ It is a revelation that God gave to Jesus and Jesus gives to John through his angel. Yet the objective/subjective distinction is perhaps artificial here. Is not any revelation that comes from Jesus Christ also about Jesus Christ? Jesus is the source of the revelation that God gave to him, but the revelation is also about Jesus. The Apocalypse is the last of our gospels that tells the story in vivid pictures of Jesus and his testimony. It is good news, not bad news, hopeful, not despairing.  [From THE REVELATION OF JOHN: A NARRATIVE COMMENTARY; by James L. Resseguie; 2009]

On the whole, a good quote. I have a slight quibble with the statement: “If it is about Jesus Christ then the uncovering concerns the meaning and significance of Jesus’ life, death, and final appearance for history.” This implies that these are the only things about Jesus that we could hope to learn. I disagree. I think that in Revelation we also learn about His character, His mission and goals, His strength, His steadfastness, etc. 

The next quote:

The ancient Roman historian Suetonius writes of the emperor Domitian (A.D. 51-96), ‘after making free with the wives of many men, he went so far as to marry Domitia Longina, who was the wife of Aelius Lamia.’ Suetonius also relates that when his brother Titus ‘was seized with a dangerous illness,’ Domitian ‘ordered that he be left for dead, before he had actually drawn his last breath.’ When Cornelia, the chief vestal virgin, was found guilty of having a lover, Domitian had her ‘buried alive; and her lovers were beaten to death with rods.’ Domitian ‘slew Aleius Lamia for joking remarks, which were reflections on him, it is true, but made long before and harmless.’ He seduced his niece, who was married, and eventually ‘became the cause of her death by compelling her to get rid of child of his by abortion.’

“Domitian was a moral catastrophe of a man, and he was also physically unimpressive. There is an account of him vigorously scratching a festered wart on his forehead and drawing blood. He is described as being ‘sensitive about his baldness’ and as having ‘a protruding belly, and spindling legs.’ This weak and wicked Caesar insisted on being addressed as ‘Lord and God’ (Dominus et deus).  And we complain about our government!

“…The opening words of the book of Revelation tell us what this book is. It is ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1:1). The term ‘revelation’ is sometimes rendered ‘apocalypse.’ This book unveils Jesus. It reveals him, telling us how things really are. The book of Revelation shows us the cataclysmic events at the end of history when good will finally triumph over evil.

“This phrase, ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1:1), also has wider implications. Some people today prefer to describe the Bible as a ‘record of God’s revelation.’ This locates God’s revelation in the events that Scripture records. According to this way of looking at things, the record of the event in the Bible is not the revelation, the event is. This is one of the ways that people who think that the Bible has errors nevertheless claim that God’s revelation is true. But this way of looking at things does not describe the Bible the way the Bible describes itself.

“Notice what John tells us about his book in that first phrase: ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ,’ John claims that his book is the revelation of Jesus. John does not say that his book is a record of the revelation of Jesus, but that his book is a revelation of Jesus. John writes this book and sends it to the churches so that the churches will be blessed by what he has written to them (see 1:3), not so that they will try to get behind the book to the visionary experiences that John had. John wants the churches to read and hear his book. He does not want them to set the events the book records against his inspired description of those events in the book itself. Let me encourage you to trust the words of the Bible. Insofar as a particular translation accurately renders the original, it is the very word of God.”   [From REVELATION: THE SPIRIT SPEAKS TO THE CHURCHES; by James L. Hamilton; 2012]

I’m not sure about his idea of separating the book from the events that it describes in identifying what the revelation is. Personally, I think that both the book is a revelation, and that which it reveals is a revelation, i.e., the events that are revealed. I’m worried that in making this distinction, Mr. Hamilton is going to tell us later on that the events are all just symbols and don’t represent anything of a futuristic nature, and I can’t agree with that.

Let’s go on to the next quote:

“‘Revelation of Jesus Christ’ can mean either revelation that comes from Christ or revelation that is about Him. Both senses are probably intended in this verse.”  [From 40 DAYS THROUGH REVELATION: UNCOVERING THE MYSTERY OF END TIMES; by Ron Rhodes; 2013]

Short and to the point. Mr. Rhodes is well known in the premillennial, dispensationalist crowd. I tend to agree with much of what he says, but we have a few differences that I’m sure we will run into as we move forward. But this is a quote I can get behind.

Let’s look at the next quote:

“In these introductory verses, John states right at the beginning that the purpose of this writing is to reveal the person of Jesus the Messiah…the word Revelation is translated from the Greek word apokalypsis, which means a disclosure or unveiling of something previously hidden. It is the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah.”  [From THE OVERCOMERS: UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF REVELATION SERIES, VOL1; by Richard Booker; 2013]

Mr. Booker leaves the subjective genitive right out of it, side-stepping the controversy. I prefer that we are given all the information so that we can make up our own minds.

Moving on:

“…many people shy away from reading and studying the book of Revelation because they don’t think it’s understandable, or they imagine it to be far too complex to get a handle on.

“I beg to differ.

“The very title of the book promises that those who seek understanding will find it. Revelation means an ‘unveiling.’ Taken as a whole, the book reveals more than it conceals.

“The book of Revelation shows, or uncovers, what is to come in our world and in the Heavens. It reminds me of a car show, where they have a new model under a covering. And then, as the lights and music come up, they pull that piece of fabric away and everyone gets their first look at that carefully designed car.

“What does Revelation uncover or unveil? Actually, many things. But it certainly reveals pictures of the spirit world, the realm of angels and demons. We also learn about great cataclysmic events in store for the planet, including the Great Tribulation period and the Battle of Armageddon. Within the pages of this book, we learn about the coming Antichrist and his henchmen. 

“But the primary objective of this last book in the New Testament isn’t to reveal the Antichrist, it is to reveal the Christ.

“It is the unveiling of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus is the star of the book, and the main theme.”    [From REVELATION: THE NEXT DIMENSION; by Greg Laurie; 2014]

Mr. Laurie also ducks the subjective genitive question, but as his style is definitely not technical, it’s less of a problem. Mr. Laurie is another of the radio commentators and has a very recognizable delivery style. He is best known for explaining things at a level that helps the new believer, and we can see how that fits his rather modern lingo, choppy delivery style (as opposed to Mr. MacArthur’s professorial style). I heard an interview Mr. Laurie did with Glen Beck recently, and he did a good job of getting to the heart of what they discussed with an obviously deep thought process, and without the ‘style.’ I listened to him a lot as a new believer and appreciated his basic and funny explanations; but as I’ve matured in the faith, that interview was a side of him I’d like to hear more of.

The next quote:

The revelation of Jesus Christ could mean ‘the revelation by (or from) Jesus Christ’ or ‘the revelation about Jesus Christ,’ or both may be included. The word revelation (or ‘apocalypse,’ Greek apokalypsis) expresses the subject and nature of the book. The book is a heightened form of prophecy, which can be referred to as ‘apocalyptic,’ as apparent from the use of ‘revelation’ and ‘prophecy’ in vv. 1-3 and in 22:7.”  [From REVELATION: A SHORTER COMMENTARY; Gregory K. Beale; 2015]

A solid explanation that includes all the relevant information. The only criticism I can make is that Mr. Beale is very careful to not betray what he thinks about it; but maybe that’s okay.


“The book begins with ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ.’ The word revelation is the title of the book and translates the Greek word apokalupsis, which means ‘to reveal, unveil, uncover, or disclose.’ This is the only time the word appears in the entire book. It tells us God is pulling back the curtain in order to show us something previously hidden and unknown. He is letting us catch a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes in the realm of spiritual conflict. That the book is an apocalypse tells us it is highly metaphorical and symbolic. The images and symbols represent real truths and real things, but we err if we interpret them in an overly literal sense. Symbols are meant to be symbols.

“This is a revelation of, from, and about Jesus Christ. Three times John uses the phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ in 1:1-5 but never again in the rest of the book.”  [From EXALTING JESUS IN REVELATION; by Daniel L. Akin; 2016]

This quote brings the ‘apocalypse’ as literature idea back in, but with a specific purpose: to set us up for the ‘symbolism’ he intends to present. I agree that we are given “a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes in the realm of spiritual conflict,” and I even agree that there is some symbolism in the book and that “symbols are meant to be symbols,” but John is very careful to either point to the symbols or to make them very obvious. The warning to not “interpret [the book] in an overly literal sense” becomes, rather, a warning of over-symbolizing the book.

And on to the next quote:

“Many people think of the book of Revelation as an enigma, a mystery, a puzzle to solve — or a puzzle that can’t be solved! But the word revelation is a translation of the Greek word apokalupsis, which means ‘to reveal, to disclose, to uncover.’

“The purpose of Revelation is not to conceal but to reveal. The message in the book of Revelation seeks to more fully reveal Jesus Christ to us, to show us who He truly is, in all His glory. The book of Revelation is written both about Jesus and by Jesus. It tells us that He is coming again, how He is coming, and what conditions the world will be in when He comes. It unveils the Lord Jesus Christ as the sovereign King, ruler over all the earth.

“It also describes the unfolding of history and the end of the world as we know it. There have always been stories, prophecies, rumors, and questions about ‘the end.’ Revelation give us the answers.”    [From WHEN CHRIST APPEARS: AN INSPIRATIONAL EXPERIENCE THROUGH REVELATION; by David Jeremiah; 2017]

Mr. Jeremiah is another of the radio preachers, and one that I especially enjoy. He has a soft, understated, yet insistent delivery style that is usually working to build a case…and usually a very good case.  One could suppose that he has a lot of people who help him put his messages together, but he certainly appears to have a deep understanding of what he talks about.

The next quote:

“’The Revelation of Jesus Christ’ (Re. 1:1). This describes the nature of the the book. It is a revelation. The English word ‘revelation’ is translated from the Greek ‘apokalupsis,’ which is elsewhere translated ‘lighten’ (Lu. 2:32), 

A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:32; KJV)

A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel. (Luke 2:21; NKJV)

“ ‘manifestation’ (Ro. 8:19), 

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19; KJV)

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19; NKJV)

“and ‘appearing’ (1 Pe. 1:7). 

 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7; KJV)

that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7; NKJV)

“It is a revelation, not a hiding. It is intended to be understood by men.

“It also describes the theme of the book. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. The name ‘Jesus Christ’ appears four times in chapter 1 (verses 1, 2, 5, 9). Jesus is His birth name, meaning Savior (Mt. 1:21). 

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21; KJV)

“It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning ‘God is salvation.’ Christ is His prophetic name, meaning ‘the anointed one’ (Ps. 2:2; 132:17; Isa. 61:1). 

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, (Psalm 2:2; KJV)

There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed.  (Psalm 132:17; KJV)

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;  (Isaiah 61:1; KJV)

“Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah (Joh. 1:41). 

He first finds his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. (John 1:41; KJV)

He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). (John 1:41; KJV)

“Christ is the central figure of Old Testament prophecy. He is the Seed of David, the inheritor of David’s eternal throne. He is the center of God’s eternal plan (Eph. 1:10). 

That in the dispensation of the fulness 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 1:10; KJV)

“The name ‘Jesus Christ’ destroys the heresy that separates Jesus from Christ, as the gnostics taught. Jesus is not a Christ; He is Christ; He is the only Christ; and Christ is Jesus. Jesus is Christ, and Christ is Jesus. Everything prophesied about the Messiah is fulfilled in the person of Jesus. He was Christ at His birth, and He is Christ forever. He did not become Christ at His baptism and cease to be Christ at His death as some early heretics taught.”  [From WAY OF LIFE COMMENTARY SERIES: REVELATION; David Cloud; 2019]

A solid, well-written quote. Mr. Cloud doesn’t appear to be into languages though, as he avoids the Greek controversy we’ve been following, and he transliterates the Hebrew word ‘Mashiach’ as ‘Messiah,’ and the Greek word ‘Christos’ as ‘Christ,’ and ‘Yeshua’ as ‘Joshua.’ It’s fine to say ‘Messiah,’Christ,’ and ‘Joshua,’ but they are the English equivalents based on Hebrew and Greek, not the Hebrew and Greek equivalents themselves. I know it’s a picky point, but it’s the kind of picky point that reveals something about the writer.

Here’s another radio preacher:

“Jesus is not whoever you want Him to be. He’s not a wimpy rabbi who roamed the hillsides of Israel saying nice things to people. He is not a good teacher who accepts everyone and judges no one. In Revelation 1, John got a glimpse of the real Jesus — the Jesus who is coming back to reward the righteous and punish the unrighteous.

“Revelation 1:1 introduces us to the subject of: ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ…” This book is not about mysterious future events; it’s about what those events are leading to — the return of Jesus Christ, when He is unveiled and people see Him as He really is, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. This will come about through a series of cataclysmic events. From John’s standpoint and ours, these events are in the future, making Revelation a prophetic book. But in time, it will read like a history book.”   [From FINAL CONQUEST: A VERSE BY VERSE STUDY OF REVELATION; by Robert Jeffress; 2020]

I’ve talked about the styles of the radio preachers we’ve seen so far today, so I’ll mention Mr. Jeffress’ style. His is a folksy, down-to-earth kind of style, reminiscent of J. Vernon McGee, but not quite all the way there. You get the feeling that Mr. Jeffress is hiding a very shrewd business man under the folksy demeanor, where Mr. McGee doesn’t give that impression. Despite that, I find Mr. Jeffress well-studied and agree with much of his teachings. I suspect I will find some differences of opinion as we get further into Revelation, but we’ll see.

Here’s a quote from a different camp:

“This is an apokalypsis, that is, a revelation of something otherwise unknown that comes from God via an angelic mediator to a human prophetic messenger called simply John (v. 1), who testifies to what he says and heard (v.2). The whole book may be called a testimony, a category familiar to modern Pentecostals. The original audience might be familiar with ‘revelation’ as a form of spiritual gift known to happen in congregational gatherings (1 Cor 14:6,26; 2 Cor 12:1,7; Gal 2:2). 

 6But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? …26How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.  (1 Corinthians 14:6,26; NKJV)

1It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord…7And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.  (2 Corinthians 12:1,7; NKJV)

And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.  (Galatians 2:2; NKJV)

“They would also know that revelation is a central feature of God’s relationship with human beings, a key perspective of the Old Testament and particularly of Daniel (see Dan 2:28-30,45,47).

28But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these: 29As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be.  30But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart…45Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold — the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure…47The king answered Daniel, and said, “Truly your god is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.”   (Daniel 2:28-30,45,47; NKJV)

“This revelation is ‘of Jesus Christ’ (v.1), either ‘from Jesus Christ’ as its origin or ‘about Jesus Christ’ as its subject, depending on how the genitive is understood. Perhaps the origin alternative fits the immediate context better, but the subject alternative might have appealed to those in the audience who knew Paul’s more theological use of ‘revelation’ to describe the gospel (Rom 16:25-26; Gal 1:12; Eph 3:3-5). 

25Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26but not made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith (Romans 16:25-26; NKJV)

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

how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets  (Ephesians 3:3-5; NKJV)

“This objective alternative also sums up much of what readers encounter throughout the text and helps interpret it. Revelation is very much a revelation of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished.”   [From A PENTECOSTAL COMMENTARY ON REVELATION; by Jon K. Newton; 2021]

Not being a Pentecostal, I don’t feel the need to prove through Scripture that “‘revelation’ [is] a form of spiritual gift known to happen in congregational gatherings,” yet I believe that what Paul said is true. All in all, a good quote.

The last quote is from a video personality and world-wide speaker:

“Revelation! The revealing of something that was previously unseen or unknown. Interestingly, the Greek word used here is apokalypsis, from which we get the word apocalypse. Think of those two words — revelation and apocalypse. They each give off very different emotions. Revelation is a happy, exciting word that envisions opening a gift or discovering if the confetti is pink or blue at the gender reveal party. But apocalypse is very different. It feels like it should have its own ‘dom-dom-dommmm’ sound effect every time that it is mentioned. Sadly, this is likely a product of popular books and Hollywood. Apocalyptic literature is its own genre and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is about as far from that celebratory gender reveal party as you can get.

“This understanding of apocalypse is a modern interpretation. Back when the pastor read the first line of John’s letter to his congregation, the people didn’t scream, ‘Apocalypse?’ and dive under their seats. There would have been excitement because a mystery was about to be revealed. That which was hidden was preparing to be unveiled…

“I was tempted to call this first chapter ‘The Jesus Letter.’ The reason is because…Jesus is the central figure in Revelation. Yes, John the apostle is the writer of the letter, but he wrote only what the Lord directed him to write. This letter is from Jesus, and from front to back it is about Him.

“It is easy to forget that this is a letter. First, because we often call it the book of Revelation, and second, it is longer than any other New Testament letter. However, it also doesn’t look like a letter — at least not in any modern form. Our letters today usually begin with ‘Dear Mr. Smith.’ We first address the person to whom we are writing, and end the letter with our name as the sender. However, in biblical days, the reverse was true…

“The opening of Revelation is even more confusing to today’s letter readers because it includes the subject of the missive even before it gets to the greetings…John made it clear from the beginning that the ultimate author is Jesus Christ. A great early twentieth-century blues classic sings of ‘John the Revelator,’ but there is no John the Revelator. Jesus is the Revelator. John is just the guy with the pen.

“The word ‘of’ in the first phrase of the letter leads to a question. Is this a revelation about Jesus or from Jesus? Is He the Revealed or the Revealer? The answer is both. Again, He is the Revelator. He is the One who dictates to John chapters 2-3 of the letter, and He is the superintendent of the revelation of the events in the rest of the chapters.”  [From REVEALING REVELATION; by Amir Tsarfati; 2022]

Mr. Tsarfati is an Israeli Messianic Jew who appears frequently on videos of certain ministries. He attempts to be folksy, but I think it works better for him orally than in writing. He’s pretty knowledgeable; but his main attractions are being Israeli and Jewish so that he can add a lot of insight to Scripture.

Mr. Tsarfati brings up the point about the whole of Revelation being a letter again. I’m still not totally convinced. I certainly wouldn’t expect to see the same format as we use today being used in a first century letter. And I’m sure the scroll of his visions made the rounds to all the churches, first in Asia Minor and then expanding outwards as copies were made. But the decimation of the scroll would not make it a letter necessarily. If Mr. Tsarfati, or anyone else, would list out what points tell them it’s a letter, I would appreciate it.

That’s pretty much it. I found a 2023 book called ARMAGEDDON: WHAT THE BIBLE REALLY SAYS ABOUT THE END by Bart D. Ehrman, that was  just published 3/21/23. But it’s not a verse by verse, and the author debunks all the current and past ways of interpreting Revelation, coming up with his own take on it, which seems to be: it doesn’t belong in the Bible. Most of the book is taken up with a review of how Revelation was seen through history, and then a review of how people-expecting-Armageddon has damaged the modern world. What really turned me off of the book though was a line in the Amazon sample about how we need to compare Revelation to the Gospels because Jesus would not have “accepted John’s celebration of violence, quest for vengeance, passion for glory, and hope for world domination.” Jesus, of course, urged his followers “to pursue love, non-retaliation, poverty, and service.” He also says that “the saved are God’s minions who do what he demands. The love of God — for anyone or anything — is never mentioned in the book of Revelation, not once.” Mr. Ehrman is not reading the same Bible I am.

Let’s start with the last accusation first: that the love of God is not in Revelation. I beg to differ. Here is a great quote from

While a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates might symbolize love for some, we here at The Animated Word see an even greater example of love every time we open our Bible.

The story of Jesus’ work on the cross is the greatest example of love there has ever been. But God’s love shines throughout the Bible, even in unexpected places…It’s easy to be distracted by the passages [in Revelation] that are had to swallow, the scary depictions of the end times. However, the book of Revelation echoes and amplifies Christ’s love.

“Through Revelation, we see God’s faithfulness. From the beginning of creation to the end of time, God is with us, and beyond that because He wants us to spend eternity with Him…God promises to hold us close. He is not an absent, distant God, but a comforting, loving Father. ‘for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shepherds them, and leads them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

There is more, but you get the picture. Mr. Ehrman sees Jesus the way many people at this time do: as only loving and giving of love, with love being His only message. Meanwhile in the Gospels, Jesus spoke of, among many other things, Hell far more than Heaven, and made it very clear that He was the only path to Eternal Life and that anyone not following Him was going to Hell. There is love in that idea, but not so much for those who turn their back on Him. 

As for the rest of Mr. Ehrman’s complaints, let’s start with violence: John did not celebrate it, he seemed terrified of it in my reading of Revelation. Regarding the “quest for vengeance,” God claimed the right to vengeance in the Old Testament, and He promised that He would seek it against those who would harm and kill us, His children. There are many references in the Bible where God seeks to display His glory to us, so yes, He has a “passion for glory.” And as for “world domination,” Jesus does not need to seek the domination of the world, it is His, and in Revelation He receives the title to the earth. I can’t think of any form of government that I would enjoy more than “domination” by Jesus Christ.

And lastly, Mr. Ehrman speaks of being God’s minions like it’s a bad thing. Does he expect to go to heaven and be equal with God? Or worse, does he expect to run the place? As for doing what God “demands,” Mr. Ehrman doesn’t seem to realize that we will be doing what we want to do, because what we want to do will be in total alignment with what God wants us to do. Christians here on earth are striving to do what God wants them to do, but it’s difficult to do it with sin rampant in the world…in heaven it will be easy to do.

So, here we finish the first phrase of Revelation. For this first phrase, I looked at every book I had, and used every quote about the first phrase that I found; I did this mostly to give you a sense of how much material is out there. From now on, I will continue to look at every book, but I won’t be using every quote I find. Instead, I will only use quotes that add at least one new idea, or that provide an interesting aside. This means that there are some books we may not hear from again because they are so derivative, but that’s a small price to pay for being able to speed this process up a bit. Next time we will look at “which God gave Him to show His bond-servants.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: