“The revelation of Jesus Christ.” That’s how St. John begins the last and most difficult book in the Bible. But too often, we approach St. John’s Revelation as if it were St. John’s Obfuscation. I can hear it now: “The first lesson is taken from the twenty-first chapter of The Obfuscation of St. John.” And all the people said, “Huh?!”
I’ll say right at the beginning of my devotionals on John’s Revelation that I don’t believe that John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write a book that no one could understand until the end of time. I don’t believe God would inspire such a book and then carefully place it (as He moved the Church in its process of canonization) as the punctuation mark, the crescendo and finale, of Holy Scripture, unless He intended for us to read, understand, and apply it in our lives.
Don’t get me wrong: I do believe there is a future component to St. John’s Revelation, but I definitely believe it is the most difficult book of the Bible (which is why I always recommend that Christians read it only after they have read and studied the rest of the Bible, especially the Old Testament prophets). I also believe that it was written for our edification. But if it is only meant for Christians in the future and it hasn’t applied to us yet, then I think the book may have done more bad than good. If it is only written with future Christians in mind, then the Church has not profited by it very much for 2000 years now, and it would be a very strange and even perverse thing for the Word of God to be such a tease.
But the book is a revelation of Jesus Christ. St. John’s purpose (which is really the purpose of the Holy Spirit who revealed these things to him) is to make Jesus Christ known: initially to the 7 churches of Asia Minor, progressively to the Church of all ages, and finally to the glorified Church. Initial, progressive, final. Remember that: it will help you understand how Revelation can actually be a revelation of Jesus Christ in your life.
John makes it clear to an unbiased mind that what He is writing about things that he expects his readers to understand and which will happen in their lifetime. He makes this clear in the very first verse: these are not things that John is told are far off but are instead “things which must shortly take place.” Again, in verse 3, John gives us a clear marker of time when he says, “for the time is near.”
In chapter 1, John also writes to 7 churches that existed in the first century. Speaking to his contemporary audience, John says, “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (verse 9). John expects that his contemporary audience will be able to calculate the number of the beast: he doesn’t shut it up for a later generation.
John encloses his entire revelation with a reminder of the nearness of the time: In both the first and the last chapters John tells us the things that have been revealed to him must happen soon. In chapter 22, Jesus Himself, the Revealed One, says, “Behold, I am coming quickly” (verse 12) and “Surely I am coming quickly” (verse 20). John’s original audience is 1st century Christians who are being persecuted and need to be reminded that Jesus Christ has indeed ascended into heaven where He truly reigns.
But this is good news! for our Lord has been revealed to men. We don’t have to wait until the end of time to see Him or to see Him ruling from His throne!
Jesus Christ is and was and is to come, and so is His revelation. He inhabits and now rules over all time, including our own age, and so He is able to dispense to us, as He did to John’s first century audience, His grace and peace. He is, John says (and if it was true in the first century then it’s true today), the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. Jesus faithfully witnesses to the Father and His holy will, today as He did in John’s day. He is today, as He was by John’s day, the ruler over the kings of the earth, for He ascended to the right hand of the Father and sat down on His throne when He ascended.
This King, who is also our High Priest, has prophesied through the mouth of John that we have been made kings and priests to His God and Father. Yes, we will not find our final and glorified role as kings and priests until heaven, but John believes and teaches that those Christians in the first century were already kings and priests. How can this be? Because Jesus, the King of kings and our High Priest loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood. And because He continues to plead that Blood and its work before the Father for us in heaven. Our High Priest brings us before God and through the Holy Spirit reveals and brings God to us.
This work of Jesus as Prophet and Priest and King was initially begun in the earthly ministry of Jesus but is continued progressively through His Church, His Body throughout history. And one day it will find its completion in heaven and its glory. He is the beginning and the end of this process of our being made fit to enter heaven and dwell with God. He is the firstborn of the dead, the first human to enter heaven, and not just a human but humanity, for the Son did not take on the person of a particular human but instead took human nature into the divinity.
Therefore, as we proceed through the Revelation, empowered by the ruler over the kings of the earth, we should begin to rule our lives and the world we touch through the power of the King of kings. We should offer ourselves, our souls and bodies, to God as living sacrifices, even as the Son offered and continues to offer Himself for us to the Father.
We should begin today having our minds renewed, our bodies invigorated, and our souls refreshed through Jesus Christ who comes to us today and reveals Himself to us.
To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen!
Prayer: Holy, holy holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!
You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. What difference would it make in my life if I truly believed Jesus Christ was on the throne and ruler over the kings of the earth?
2. How does remembering Jesus as King and Priest empower you today to act as king and priest?
Resolution: I resolve to give praise throughout the day to the One who is Almighty and who is and was and is to come.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
David Miles Throne in Heaven
Category: Give Us This Day