A Message from God (Revelation 1:1-2)
I’ve waited for some important messages in my life. I’ve waited with bated breath for the phone to ring with news of a job I desperately wanted. I’ve waited for the doctor to emerge from an operating room to give me news about a loved one’s health. On snowy mornings, I’ve waited to hear that my wife safely arrived at work.
I know that you, too, have waited for important messages. Maybe you’ve waited to hear whether the mass removed in surgery was cancer. Maybe you’ve waited to hear from a child who was serving in the Armed Forces. Maybe you’ve waited to hear whether the company would remain open or shut its doors.
The Christians to whom Revelation was written were greatly struggling, and they were waiting for a message. They were needing to decide whether they should bow down and worship the emperor or remain loyal to God and lose their lives. God needed to send these disciples a clear message that faithfulness to him was worth the cost. The message God sent these Christians is what you and I know as the Book of Revelation. We’ll spend time this evening thinking about that message God sent to his people in the first century.
Transmitter of the Message, v 1
This book is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The term “revelation” occurs 18 times in the New Testament, but only here in Revelation. The term refers to an unveiling or a disclosure. The fact that God is giving this revelation to John demonstrates God wishes to communicate his will to man. God has no desire for man to wander in the darkness, but he wishes to communicate to man the exact nature of his will. Psalm 119:130.
The Revelation to John is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Linguists debate if “of Jesus Christ” is an objective or subjective genitive. If this is an objective genitive, Jesus Christ is the object of the Revelation, i.e. the Revelation is about Jesus Christ. This fits grammatically, but, while Revelation discusses the Lord Jesus at length, this is not an attractive idea. The Revelation isn’t so much about Jesus Christ as it is about the protection of God’s servants and his wrath upon evildoers.
If this is a subject genitive, Jesus is the subject of the term revelation, i.e. Jesus Christ is the one giving the revelation to John (and to his church). Jesus does give John the Revelation. Jesus tells John to write what he sees in a book (Revelation 1:11). Jesus takes the scroll and opens its seven seals (Revelation 5:6-8). God reveals his will to man through Jesus Christ. At the Mount of Transfiguration, a voice came from heaven and said about Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). Hebrews 1:2.
The words of Jesus are so very important. His words give life (John 6:63). The words of Jesus will judge us at the Great Day (John 12:48). We need to be very careful to be hearing the words of Jesus!
Target of the Message, v 1
Jesus gave this message to John so that his servants would know what would soon take place. Yes, servant in a broad context refers to Christian. However, the idea here is really a slave—one who is obligated to carry out the commands of another. We are slaves to carry out the will of God (Romans 6:11, 16-18). Those to whom Revelation was written certainly demonstrated that they were slaves to God.
- John himself is a servant of God. Revelation 1:1. He demonstrated his absolute obedience to Jesus by being exiled to “the island called Patmos” (Revelation 1:9).
- The church in Ephesus was “enduring patiently and bearing up for [Jesus’] name’s sake” (Revelation 2:3).
- The church in Pergamum held even in the face of Antipas’ martyrdom (Revelation 2:13).
- Under the altar were martyrs who had given up their lives for the faith (Revelation 6:9-11). John refers to these martyrs as servants (Revelation 6:11). If anything demonstrates unwavering loyalty and obedience to the Lord Jesus, it’s willingly giving one’s life for his cause!
You and I must be slaves of God. We must love him with everything we have and everything we are (Matthew 22:37). The love demonstrates itself through our obedience (John 14:15). How faithfully are you living as a slave of God?
Timing of the Message, v 1
This Revelation concerned “things that must soon take place.” This verse destroys theories that this book refers to events in our own day or events which are still future. While some attempt to translate the Greek term “soon” to mean quickly—i.e., when these events begin to transpire, they will come with rapid speed—the word really means soon.
Revelation was written to encourage the servants of God. What comfort could have been gained by an understanding that places these events far in the future? The first-century Christians would find comfort in knowing that God would shortly come to their rescue.
Target of the Message, vv 1-2
John received the message from Jesus Christ to send to the servants of God.
God has willed to communicate his will through men. God did so in the Old Testament (Acts 1:16). God did so in the apostolic age. 1 Corinthians 2:13. 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
As we go to Scripture, the words we find, while written through men and in the language of men and in the styles of the individual writers, are the very words of God. 2 Timothy 3:16. 2 Peter 1:21. While many will correctly note that these texts refer specifically to the Old Testament, since the apostles made clear that they spoke for God, the principle applies just as easily to the New Testament.
The opening paragraph of Revelation teaches important truths for modern Christians:
- Jesus Christ is the Source of God’s revelation.
- We must be servants of God.
- Chasing theories which say the events of Revelation are yet future are futile.
- God’s message was transmitted to his people through inspired servants.
Does your life reflect these truths? Are you turning to Jesus and his words as the source of your knowledge of God or are you paying attention to parents or pastors or friends? Does your life reflect a life of service to the Almighty God? Do you rest confidently in the promise of God’s protection as those to whom Revelation was written could as they anticipated events which would shortly take place? Are you trusting Scripture as the inspired word of God?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.