This multiple-part study, which will for the most part reference the Book of Revelation, will cover what it is that Messiah/Yeshua has done as the Author and Finisher of our Faith. Because this study primarily goes overseas to the underground Church in the Mideast and because Bibles are always in short supply, all of the Scriptures are printed out in full.
The book of Revelation, for the most part, is avoided by many people, even born-again Christians. Yet, the very third verse of the first chapter gives us this encouragement:
“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.”
We aren’t told, “blessed are those who understand…” It says, “ Blessed are those who read.” Then it adds, “and keep those things written in it.” Needless to say, unless we “read” the words, we won’t know what it is that we are expected to “keep.” Then we are given the reason that we are to read and keep by the Holy Spirit Himself, “for the time is near.” The time was already near when John was given this Revelation because the Church Age was even then considered “the last days.” Here we are, 2,000 years later, and we are at the very last of the “last days.”
Let’s now go back and look at the wording of the first two verses of chapter one:
(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, (2) who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.
The last book of the Bible is often misnamed, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine.” This is totally incorrect. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ the Messiah. This unique “revelation” begins by authenticating who Jesus really is, and that is also how the book ends. Between chapters 1 and 22 we are given continuously unfolding revelations of Jesus Christ.
The revelation depicted in this book is first given by the Almighty Father to the Son, the Messiah, who in turn then presents it to His beloved Apostle John. Among the disciples, John was part of the inner circle of three along with Peter and James. Of the three, John was the one that seemed to find the greatest spiritual intimacy with the Master. Now here is John, a very, very old man, but by God’s design, still alive…to whom this great revelation is given from the Master Himself.
It is important to realize the circumstance of the Church at the time when God made this revelation available. The Church was going through brutal persecution. All of the apostles had already been murdered by this time, with the exception of John. Peter had been crucified upside down (by his own choice), and James had been beheaded. The Apostle Paul had also been beheaded. Others were killed in barbaric ways.
The Roman Emperors were some of the worst offenders. All of the Caesars demanded to be worshipped by their subjects. The Christians however refused and so were made to pay the ultimate price. Caesar Nero was one of the worst. Nero’s biography tells how he murdered his own mother, at least two of his wives, and countless others who crossed him. Nero is reported to have been responsible for the great fire in Rome that burned most of the city. He then blamed the Christians for the fire. During his time as emperor, at least three million Christians were martyred. One of his methods was to put Christians into a vat of hot wax. They were then mounted on poles and lit as human candles to light his palace grounds. Between Nero and Emperor Caligula, many millions of Christians were murdered.
It was during the reign of Emperor Caligula that failed attempts had been made on the Apostle John’s life. In one of these attempts, John had been forced to drink poison, but it didn’t kill him. The Emperor Caligula, who had made it a point to go after the leaders of the Christian church had the Apostle John apprehended and in a show of his power, John was put into a pot of boiling oil while the crowds at the coliseum cheered. When the boiling oil didn’t affect him and he kept preaching to all that could hear, he was removed from the pot and eventually confined to the penal isle of Patmos. This of course is exactly where God wanted him.
After John had been on the island for about two years, Caligula died and the emperor who took his place had him freed. John, who was greatly beloved by the Church, was received with great respect wherever he went. The message that John, now about 100 years old, proclaimed was “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The Church, in the midst of persecution, did not understand all of the prophetic insights given in the prophecy, but the revelation of their Messiah and the message that He has all things under His sovereign control spoke to their hearts. The Church knew John was the last of the Apostles who had actually walked with Jesus and they looked to him for encouragement. The greatest encouragement he could give was provided by the risen Messiah Himself. And, this is what John passed on to them. For the most part, the full understanding of the prophecies in the Revelation was not to come until the approach of the end of the age…which our generation will see.
As John went from church to church, he was able to bring encouragement to the believers. He was especially known for his deep love for the family of God. Even when he was so old he couldn’t walk anymore, he would be carried to share a word with the people. He would always say, “Children, love one another!”
We find John passing on a very special greeting in verses 4-8:
(4) Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, (5) and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, (6) and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (7) Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. (8) “I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
In this special greeting, we find statements confirming the relationship between Jesus Christ and the heavenly Father, and also Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, which in this scene is depicted as the Sevenfold Spirit of God.
John then goes on to firmly establish that Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, is the firstborn from the dead. Because He was the ultimate Sacrifice for sin and because He defeated sin and death for us, He is the firstfruits of the great harvest of souls that has continued ever since. Even though He has not taken His throne on Earth, He is already KING of Kings and LORD of Lords. The earth, which had been under Lucifer since Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden, has been legally repossessed. It will be physically returned to Christ’s control at the time of God’s choosing.
Because Jesus has triumphed, we have been made kings and priests in His Kingdom. It is not our own worthiness that has warranted this position in His Kingdom, but His worthiness and righteousness with which He has clothed us.The Apostle Paul said it like this:
But of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
In Hebrews, we are told:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. Hebrews 12:1-3
The witnesses to whom the writer to the Hebrews is referring are all those who have gone before us, including the millions of martyrs that are now in the presence of the Lord. Are these witnesses really aware of what is happening on this earth? The Bible doesn’t really tell us, but this passage seems to give us the hint that they may have at least some limited knowledge.
The writer is encouraging his readers not to be distracted by anything that would impede their walk with Christ. We only live this physical life one time and then we go into eternity. Only what is done in fulfillment of Christ’s plan for our lives has eternal value. The Apostle several times in his writings describes this life as a race and if we are truly in a race, then we need to run it with the Master as our lead. It is He that is the author and finisher of our faith. Remembering that helps to keep us from becoming discouraged and overly weary.
In verse seven of Revelation 1, we are reminded that our Messiah is returning. This is a an encouragement which the first century church very much needed. And, so do we today. This time, the Messiah is coming as the KING of Kings, not as the suffering Messiah who the disciple John watched be murdered. He is coming back with all power and might. All eyes will see Him, and the unbelieving world will mourn because of what their unbelief will cost them.
Jesus goes on to make a declaration that has offended much of humanity for the last 2,000 years. He declared Himself GOD! There is no other way to understand His claim of being the “Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.” For those that may not know, these are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He makes His claim even stronger–if that’s possible–by confirming that He is The Timeless Eternal Almighty.
Throughout history, it has been offensive to many that Jesus would dare to claim He is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life! Who has the right to make such a claim?? Only GOD! And we can accept it….or lose our eternal soul.
Our world’s philosophers and spiritual thinkers deceive the masses by telling them there are many ways to God; many ways to Heaven. But Jesus warned many times, telling the world, “Do Not Be Deceived!” The truth is, there is only one GOD, only one Creator, only one that is All Powerful, and it is Messiah Jesus who came to take on the flesh of a man to demonstrate GOD to the world. Jesus, born from the egg of a human woman, was all man, but, because the Holy Spirit supernaturally fertilized the egg of the woman, bypassing the need for human male seed, Jesus was also All God. There is not a human that has ever lived who can make this claim. We find these words in Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:8-10
Another passage that not only speaks to His true identity as the Creator of all—even though humbling Himself in the flesh—but also His preeminence as Head of the Church, is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of man. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, in the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11
The Messiah is the complete embodiment of the good news of the Gospel. The story of the salvation starts in Genesis, and it comes full circle at the end of Revelation. Paradise lost, paradise gained. Mankind lost his position in God’s Kingdom in Genesis and he regains it in Revelation. What has bridged the gap is the Messiah, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. And, as the disciples were told when He ascended to His heavenly throne, He is coming back just as He left, and to the very same mount–the Mount of Olives! For all of the prophecies foretelling the first coming of the Messiah, there are at least eight times as many foretelling His second coming, and our generation is now on the very precipice of this great, literal, earth-shaking event.
Continued in Part Two… as we examine the description of the Apostle John’s vision of the risen Christ.