The book of Revelation is an “unveiling,” an unveiling of Jesus Christ, who is both Revealer and revealed. Jesus Christ is both the One who reveals in the book of Revelation as well as the One who is revealed in the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation, then, is supernatural revelation spoken from heaven above to earth beneath to draw us to heaven above.
The opening verses set before us the chain of revelation: from God to Christ, from Christ to His angel, and from His angel to John. The Apostle John, is the recipient of the revelation, and the Spirit-inspired author of The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
In The Gospel according to John, John writes of the intrusion of heaven to earth in the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-18). In the Epistles of John, John lays down the ordering of the Christian’s life in this world, calling the Christian to live in this world as one born of God, who by faith has overcome the world (I John 5:4). In The Revelation of Jesus Christ, John describes the heavenly reality of things as the world is increasingly stripped away, and the world to come is brought into clearer view.
Come and See
The opening verses of Revelation read much like the opening verses of the Old Testament prophets. Think of Isaiah, ushered in to the very council chambers of God – surrounded by the seraphim - there to see and hear the deliberations of the living God (Isaiah 6)! Think of Ezekiel, ushered in to the very council chambers of God – surrounded by the cherubim - there to see and hear the deliberations of the living God (Ezekiel 1-2)! God summons the prophets up into His own deliberative chambers, that the prophet might not only see what is going on in heaven, but that he might also hear the articulation of God’s redemptive plan. So it is with John. He is ushered in to the very council chambers of God – surrounded by the four living creatures, the twenty four elders, and the whole host of heaven – there to see and hear the deliberations of the living God. John not only sees what is going on in heaven, but he hears the articulation of God’s redemptive plan.
John is shown “the things which must shortly take place.” In other words, John is shown the history of the Church as she lives in the world, from the time of Christ’s first coming to the time of Christ’s return. “The things which must shortly take place” are not to be limited to those events which occurred just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, as though that is what the book of Revelation is describing (thereby rendering much of the book irrelevant to the Church today, forcing us to put our hope in some “golden age”).
Nor are “the things which must shortly take place” to be limited to those events immediately preceding the return of Christ, as though that is what the book of Revelation is describing (thereby rendering much of the book irrelevant to the Church today, forcing us to put our hope in some pre-tribulation rapture). “The things which must shortly take place” refers to the entire time period between Christ’s first coming and His return (thereby rendering the entire book of the utmost relevance for the Church today, leading us to place our hope in the only place it can be found: Jesus Christ!). John is shown a comprehensive history of the Church!
Go and Tell
In the Old Testament, the prophets were ushered in to the presence of God, and then commissioned to go forth with the message of that which they had seen and heard. So it is with John. Having seen and heard the divine deliberations of God in heaven – even the history of the Church itself as she lives in the world between Christ’s first coming and His return – John is now summoned to bring that message to the Church. John will bear “witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw” (v. 2).
Those visions which John beheld are now given to the Church. As we hear, read, and keep the words of Revelation, we have the inestimable privilege of looking above into the very throne room of God Himself.
Heaven is opened to us. The world above is unveiled for us, and we learn that our life is found there. We are given the comprehensive history of the Church! Again I remind you, this story is our story. This history is our history. We are not spectators sitting in the arena, watching the events unfold before our eyes; we are participants in the arena! Our life is being set before us.
Such an experience for John was life-altering. He had been summoned into the very throne room of God Himself. He had heard and seen God’s redemptive plan for the Church. Heaven itself was opened before him, and there he beheld the glory of the risen and exalted Christ (cf. 1:10–20). In seeing the glory of heaven, John saw his own end, his own victory in Jesus Christ, and John was transformed. He could never be the same again. Why do you think he prays at the end of the book: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20)?!
Such an experience ought to be life-altering for us as well. Revelation summons us to look above, and in looking above, we see that Christ is on the throne. It is to Him we belong, for our lives are hid with Christ in God. This world is not our home, nor was it ever intended to be. Our home is in heaven. Our life is in Christ. In seeing the glories of heaven, we behold, as it were, our own end, our own victory in Jesus Christ, and we are transformed. We can never be the same again. Our prayers, then, reflect the prayers of the saints of all ages, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
The Revelation of Jesus Christ must not be shut up; it must not be silenced; it must not be rendered irrelevant. The Revelation of Jesus Christ must bread; it must be heard; it must be lived. For all those who read it, who hear it, and who keep it, there is blessing: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (v. 3).
Rev. Brian Vos is the Pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church in Caledonia, Michigan. He is also the President of the Board of Reformed Fellowship.