Revelations 1:1-3

Revelation 1:1-3 – 19 Feb 2006

Rev 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants – things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,

Rev 1: 2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.

Rev 1:3 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.

I have been studying the Book of Revelation.

It is a book that I had read several times before, but could never understand.

I recently had a little more time to study the scriptures.

And I was truly refreshed by studying the book of revelation.

It has added a further dimension to my appreciation of the scriptures.

And I hope to share some of these things with you whenever I get to preach.

Today, we shall give attention to the first 3 verses of the book of revelation.

We shall attempt to answer the following questions:

Question 1: Why should we study the book of revelation?

Question 2: How should we understand the Book of Revelation today?

Question 3: What is the key message of Revelation?

Question 1: Why Should we study the book of revelation?

There are many good reasons to do so, but verses 1 to 3 of Revelation 1 provide us with 3 reasons.

Reason # 1: Because it is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The book of revelation begins with the phrase – “The revelation of Jesus Christ,..”

This is not a revelation of John.

It is also not a revelation of the US president.

It is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

And Jesus is God.

So, the source of this revelation is not from any man, but from God Himself.

If we would give attention to any important man making a speech, we must all the more give attention when God speaks.

Hence, we study the book of revelation because it is the revelation of our God, Jesus Christ.

And we must give attention to this book just as we give attention to the other books in the bible.

Reason # 2: Because this revelation shows us what must soon take place.

Revelation is the unveiling of God’s plan for the history of the world, especially for the Church.

And according to verse 1, this plan “must shortly take place”.

So, revelation is not something that will happen only in the future as part of world war 3, as some would believe.

It had taken place from the time after John received this revelation.

And it will be taking place between the time Jesus ascended to heaven and the time He would return to take us to heaven.

And it is still taking place now.

Therefore, revelation has great relevance to you and me in our everyday life.

If it has great relevance, then we must study and be familiar with the book.

If not, we will be missing out in what God has to say to us.

Reason # 3: There is blessing installed for those who read, hear and keep what is written in this revelation.

Verse 3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads…this prophesy..”

Some versions have it as “Blessed are those who read aloud the words of this prophesy…”.

Now, this does not mean you cannot read it quietly on your own.

During John’s time, not everyone has a bible of his own.

And not everyone knows how to read.

So, the scriptures were read aloud in every Church gathering.

Just as in Ezra’s time.

Just as in Nehemiah’s time.

The scriptures were read aloud and explained to the people gathered.

We thank God that most of us have our own bibles today.

The question is: “Have we fully employed this blessing in reading and studying the bible on our own?”

Or have we taken it for granted and abused it?

Let us examine ourselves.

“Blessed are those who hear…”

There will always be those who are not able to read.

But they can hear what is read and preached to them.

And they are teachable and willing to listen.

And being teachable and willing to listen to the scriptures is important if you want to be blessed.

But most importantly, “blessed are those who keep those things which are written therein.”

In other words, blessed are the doers.

Blessed are those who obey and follow what God says in His revelation.

When I was a teenager, I had a lot of energy.

I participated in almost every Church activity.

But this (pointing to my head) was a hollow vessel.

I was not saved; there was no real obedience to God’s word.

So, you can come to Church and hear God’s word.

You can come and be involved in any form of service.

But unless you take heed to God’s word, it does you no good.

And this point will come up even much stronger throughout the book of revelation.

And you will understand what I mean.

So, why should we study the book of revelation?

1) Because it is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2) Because it shows us what must shortly take place.

3) Because there is blessing installed for those who read, hear and keep what is written in this revelation

Question 2: How should we understand the Book of Revelation today?

Just as I struggled with this book, I believe many of you may have read the book but do not know how to interpret it.

Some of you would have heard of the number 666 that signified the beast.

Some of you may have heard of the number 144,000 and wonder if that is all the Christians that will make it to heaven.

Some of you may even have read that the ASCII numbers of Bill Gates’ name sum up to 666.

And you wonder whether you should be supporting Microsoft.

All these have to do with how you would interpret the book of revelation.

Generally speaking, there are 4 schools of interpretation and these are:

i. The preterist

ii. The historicist

iii. The futurist

iv. The idealist

Let me now summarise for you how each of these school of interpretations view the book of revelation.

And this is important to how we will understand the book.

First, the preterist.

The preterist believes that revelation only describes the events of John’s time.

In other words, all that is described in revelation are over by the time of Emperor Constantine in 300AD.

So, it is like an epistle, for example, that Paul sends to the Church at Corinth.

He deals with issues in the Church such as tongues.

This issue may be over us now.

But God preserved the epistle for the Church so that we can apply the same principles when dealing with similar issues pertaining to, say, orderliness in worship.

So, the preterist believes that John used symbolic images to describe the Roman empire at that time.

And these principles can be applied to subsequent tyrannies down through the centuries.

So, to the preterist, the value of this book is not its revelation of what is in the future.

Rather, it is the assurance that just as God has dealt with the Church’s enemies in the past, He will deal with our enemies throughout history.

That is the Preterist view.

Next, let’s look at the Historicist view.

The Historicist views revelation as a forecast of human history from the first coming of Christ to His second.

And they attempt to map sections of revelation to specific historical events.

For example, the beast described in Revelation is identified as the Roman Catholic pope in the time of the reformation.

While this view has provided comfort to Christians during the reformation, the problem is that it is too Europe-centric.

It would also mean that it would not provide much encouragement to Christians who were persecuted during John’s time.

And it would be difficult to be dogmatic about which historical event actually mapped to which section of revelation.

And where would Asia be in this book?

Anyway, that is the Historicist view.

Thirdly, we have the Futurist view, which is by far the most popular.

The futurist views revelation largely as a prophesy of events that will happen about 7 years before the 2nd coming of Christ.

This is the typical interpretation of someone reading revelation for the first time because of the way images are described.

Most people perceive John as a 1st century man trying to describe the 20th century equipment such as helicopters and other gadgets that we have today.

And there is a lot coming confusion in this view.

Some think that the Church would be raptured before a great tribulation.

Some think that there is reference to the physical nation of Israel.

Some think that the Church will go through the tribulation, while others consider that as a heresy.

A lot of the BP Churches in Singapore hold the Futurist view.

I remember hearing sermons preached in 1992 asking everyone to watch the events of the Gulf War taking place at that time.

They believed that it signaled the end times and the unveiling of the anti-Christ.

More than 10 years later, a second Gulf War took place.

Yet there was no Armageddon; there was no rapture.

Yet some of these Churches are still holding on to that view.

In fact, a lot of American foreign policy towards the middle east is influenced by the Futurist view.

There is a simple problem we have with this view and it is this:

Unless you live near the last 7 years before the 2nd coming of Christ, much of the book of Revelation has no meaning to you.

You will just be spending time trying to map events in the world to sections of revelation.

And it certainly had no meaning to John and the Christians in the first century who were experiencing persecution.

So, this certainly contradicts what we read in verse 1 that says “..things which must shortly take place.”

Hence, we come to the 4th school of interpretation, the Idea-ist’s view.

The Idea-ist views revelation not as specific events but as principles.

The Idea-ist views revelation as principles and spiritual realities that are always operative and true between the 1st and 2nd coming of Chirst.

And they believe that the visions in Revelation are 7 parallel cycles of imageries to used convey this.

So, for example, there is the beast being referred to Rev 13.

The way the beast behaved, the way he seduces and the way he controls represents how the enemies of the Church will act.

In John’s days, this may be the Roman empire.

For some Christians living early last century, it may have been Communist China.

Each generation will have to know who their “beast” is.

Each generation will have to realize that at the end of the day, God is in control and the beast will be defeated.

Now, I am not sure if I have already confused and lost some of you.

And I don’t claim to be an expert in interpreting Revelation.

But I believe we will know which view to take when we are able to answer our next question.

Question 3: What is the key message of the book of Revelation?

The purpose of the book of revelation is to encourage Christians who are in difficult times.

John wrote this when he was in prison on the island of Patmos.

The Roman emperor at that time was Nero and he was persecuting the Christians.

Revelation showed them that the physical persecution they were facing was like the spiritual war which John saw in his vision.

What they could not see in their physical persecutions was the fact God was in control.

But this was very clear in the vision that John saw.

Revelation showed that God was seated on the throne ruling over all that happened (Rev 4).

He is the one who is in ultimate control.

So, even if we may not understand the earthly events taking place, the message of Revelation is that God is sovereign from the beginning to the end.

We are therefore reminded about His kingship & His sovereignty.

And Revelation is meant to comfort the church (on earth) in its struggle against the forces of evil.

It shows Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

It shows him defeating his enemies with the armies of heaven (Rev19:14).

It gives us the assurance that God sees our tears in our struggles (Rev 7:17, 21:4)

It shows us that our prayers are influential in world affairs (Rev 8:3,4)

It tells us that our final victory is assured (Rev 15:2-4)

It assures us that our blood will be avenged (Rev 19:2)

It reminds us that our Lord lives and reigns for ever and ever, governing the world in our interest (Rev 5:7,8)

Most of all, it encourages us that Jesus is coming for us again (Rev 22:20)

Friends, the book of revelation is to encourage Christians who are in difficult times.

Christians, as we study it, you will be able to associate with some of the imageries in Revelation against situations you may be facing in your life.

And the Christians who are struggling with sin may also associate with some of the imageries in Revelation of how God may deal with them.

But if you are not a Christian, there is no comfort that you can derive from this at all.

“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.”

Friends, here is the gospel call again.

Are you going to be one of those who will “keep those things which are written” in this book of revelation?

If you have been coming to Church for some time now but have not professed faith, I urged you to please talk to one of the Church leaders so that we can help you.

I am not trying to give you any pressure and it doesn’t work that way.

But because we are told that “…the time is near”, there must be a sense of urgency for salvation.

It is certainly nearer today than yesterday, now than when we started our worship service.

Friends, this is for real; let’s take heed of the word of God.

Let me conclude by re-iterating our key points for today.

Why should we study the book of revelation?

1) Because it is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2) Because it shows us what must shortly take place.

3) Because there is blessing installed for those who read, hear and keep what is written in this revelation

How should we understand the Book of Revelation today?

The 4 common views of interpreting Revelation are:

i. The preterist

ii. The historicist

iii. The futurist

iv. The idealist

We are inclined to the idealist view.

What is the key message of Revelation?

The purpose of the book of revelation is to encourage Christians who are in difficult times.

Revelation shows us that God is in control and is seated on the throne in heaven.

That is great comfort for us as Christians.

Let us pray.

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