This guest post comes from Straight to the heart of Revelation:
THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST (1:1)
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place…that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:1-2)
The book of Revelation is about Jesus Christ. I know that some people will tell you that it’s all about beasts, barcodes, timelines, trumpets and judgments, but they’ve missed the point. It’s much more than an encrypted account of the last days of Planet Earth. It’s a book about Jesus, and John starts it with words intended to clear that up once and for all. He entitles his book very simply, “the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
On one level John is telling us that this is the revelation which belongs to Jesus because the Father has given it to him. That’s true, but it’s not all that John is saying here. He is also telling us that this is “the revelation about Jesus Christ,” and that makes a massive difference. It prevents us from majoring on minors, fascinated but confused, and it turns Revelation into a book which can really change our lives.
Before John ever arrived on Patmos, he knew all about Jesus the baby and Jesus the child. He had read Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels, and he even counted Jesus’ half-brothers amongst his friends. Jesus had asked him to take his mother Mary into his home and to look after her as if she were his own mother, so no one alive knew more about Jesus the baby and Jesus the child than John.
John also knew more about Jesus the man than anyone else on earth. He had been one of the first people to follow Jesus, chosen to be one of his twelve disciples, and later to be one of his inner circle of three. He knew so much about Jesus’ adult life that he even wrote the last of the four gospels about him, a gospel in which Jesus gets excited, tired, thirsty and so sad that he weeps. No one knew more about Jesus’ humanity than John, yet Jesus knew that he needed more than this if he were to live the Christian life to the full.
John also knew first-hand Jesus crucified and raised to life. He was the only one of the twelve disciples who had watched Jesus’ trials and who had stood at the foot of the cross to watch his crucifixion. Later that same weekend, he had raced with Peter to find Jesus’ tomb empty except for his grave-clothes. Jesus had appeared to him, risen from the dead, twice in a locked room, once at Lake Galilee with a miraculous catch of fish, once on a mountain in Galilee, and once on the Mount of Olives where he ascended to heaven. No one alive knew more about Jesus crucified and raised to life than John did – and yet Jesus still knew that he needed more.
Something was missing from John’s view of Jesus, and we need it ourselves if we are to live as Christ-followers today. Knowing Jesus the baby, Jesus the man, Jesus the suffering sacrifice and Jesus the risen Son of God is essential – that’s why he is revealed in such detail in the four gospels – but our view of him is too small unless we also see him ascended and in heavenly glory. Without this view, John reclined happily on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper. When he saw Jesus in his post-ascension glory, however, he tells us in 1:17 that “I fell at his feet as though dead.”
We need to grasp that Revelation is as much a book about Jesus as the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Although “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever,” he appeared humbly as a man at his incarnation and received glory and power at his ascension. There is a real danger that unless we see Jesus in the pages of Revelation then we will worship him as he walked on the earth yesterday, and not as he reigns in heaven today. That’s the great tragedy when Christians treat this book like a fantasy novel or a secret code for someone other than themselves. They have missed the point as much as a person who watches the movie “Jaws” and thinks it is about the seaside. “Jaws” is about a movie about a shark. “Revelation” is a book about Jesus Christ, the King of Glory.
We need the book of Revelation to save us from the sin of idolatry – from worshipping Jesus as someone less than he really is. It takes the baby who sleeps in Bethlehem’s manger and reminds us that he has grown up and is coming back to judge the earth in his wrath. It takes the great teacher and healer from Galilee and tells us he is now riding out to victory wearing a robe dipped in blood. It reminds us that Jesus is not just the weak and suffering Saviour depicted on a crucifix, because he is also the one who holds the keys to Death and Hades, and who rules over the whole earth with irresistible strength.
Is your view of Jesus too small? It may well be too small for you to worship without being guilty of idolatry, and too small to sustain you through the ups and downs of AD history. That’s why Jesus appeared to John to give us a complete picture of the real Jesus. That’s why we need “the revelation of Jesus Christ.”