by Douglas Connelly, adapted from The Book of Revelation Made Clear: A User-Friendly Look at the Bible’s Most Complicated Book.
Sometimes you can find important clues about a book in the parts most people skip. Some people are so anxious to get to the prophecy part of Revelation that they just skim through the opening verses. They miss some important clues about the book and why it was written:
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3)
The first thing we discover in verse 1 is that this book is a “revelation.” That’s where the title comes from, but it is also a description of the book itself. The word means “unwrapping” or “unveiling.” In Greek, the word “revelation” is apokalypsis, so sometimes the book is called “the Apocalypse.” That word in English has come to mean the end of the world, but in Greek it means opening — like opening a present on Christmas morning. The book of Revelation is not a secret book; it’s a book that unwraps secrets. God doesn’t want its contents sealed up; he wants to tell everyone what he plans to do.
The book is not an unveiling of everything in God’s mind. It’s a revelation that focuses on Jesus Christ. The subject of this book is not the Antichrist or the War of Armageddon, but Jesus in his majesty and glory. God tears back the curtain and we see Jesus emerge as the Sovereign King of history and eternity. If all you see as you read Revelation are beasts and wars and pounding judgments, you have missed Jesus.
Another insight these opening verses give us is how the book came into existence in the first place. Revelation is not just an old man’s hallucinations. The revelation came from God the Father — who gave it to Jesus — who sent it by an angel to John — and John stands as a witness to us that the message is true. The point is that the contents of this book came from God to us through a chain of reliable witnesses, and it wasn’t corrupted anywhere along the way. The book is the accurate record of what John saw as he was guided by an angel who received direction from Jesus who got it from the Father. God’s goal all along was to get this message to us. He wants us to know what will soon take place.
Another crucial insight into the nature of this book comes from one phrase in verse 3 where Revelation is called “the words of this prophecy.” The book focuses on future events. God’s program for our world will come to a powerful conclusion in Jesus’ return to earth in majesty and glory. The events leading up to and following the second coming of Christ are spelled out for us in detail. Nowhere else in the Bible do we find such a complete picture of what the future holds.
What we learn in these opening verses helps us keep our bearings all the way through the book:
- It’s a book that reveals, not a book that hides.
- It’s a book that focuses on Jesus.
- The book’s perspective is the future.
God wants us to understand this book. He will bless those who read it and the Holy Spirit will give us understanding if we open our minds and hearts to God’s truth revealed in his Word.
How to Use This Book
The Book of Revelation Made Clear gives you a highly accessible, chapter-by-chapter explanation of Revelation. This book would be helpful for Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, and pastors who are fielding tough questions about Revelation. It would also make a useful addition to every church library.