STUDY ONE: THE GENESIS CONNECTION

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015

In this and the next four studies the intention is to try to see Revelation in the ‘big picture’ – its place in the whole of Scripture, its relationship to the whole of Scripture. Many of the concepts introduced in these four studies will be discussed more fully in later studies when we look at them in context.

Revelation is the last book of the Bible. The final word – the resolution of the ‘story’. It is interesting, therefore, and potentially instructive, that as we study this book, we find many references here to truths introduced in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. The first word – the beginning of the ‘story’.  If we looked at the Bible as one massive sermon or lecture, then Genesis constitutes the Introduction and Revelation the Conclusion. [Like any good conclusion, Revelation pulls together, sums up, restates, and puts the finishing touch to the whole.] The whole of the Scripture, from its beginning in Genesis, has been moving towards this end. To study Revelation without first understanding Genesis is to rob Revelation of much of its meaning and its power, for it is impossible to understand many of its key perspectives apart from the Genesis narrative.

A. GOD AS THE SOURCE AND GOAL OF ALL THINGS
In Genesis we read of significant beginnings. In Revelation we read of significant endings. It is not at all surprising then that in Revelation both God and Jesus Christ are designated as the beginning and the end:

Questions for you:
[1] What is God called in Revelation 1:8?

 

[2] What is Jesus Christ called in Revelation 1:17 and 22:13?

 

In these verses God, and Jesus Christ, are described in three almost identical ways:

The Alpha and the Omega
The First and the Last
The Beginning and the End.

These descriptions, first of all, take us right back to Genesis 1:1 – to the beginning of all things, where we read that God is the Creator, and therefore the source, of ‘the heavens and the earth’. Similarly, everything that exists was created ‘by’ Jesus Christ [Colossians 1:16].  As John expresses it in his Gospel ‘Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made’ [John 1:3].

They then tell us that God [and Jesus Christ] is the goal of all things. Just as it is God [and Jesus Christ] who is the origin of all things, so God [and Jesus Christ] is the consummation of all. In and from Jesus Christ everything has its significance, so in and through Jesus Christ everything is brought to its intended telos – its completion, its goal and its fulfilment. This is one of the more important truths that Revelation teaches us.

In these statements we are given an insight into a great mystery – not the supposed mystery of whether or not there is a God, but the deeper and more puzzling mystery of how and, in particular, why we and the universe exist: We exist because of God, and we find our meaning and our completion in God. We exist because of Jesus Christ, and we find our meaning and completion in Jesus Christ. We, and the universe. Genesis records the beginning. Revelation records the consummation. Revelation also explains how this consummation is achieved.

[Perhaps this is why the numbers ‘seven’ and ‘ten’ [perfection and completion] are used so frequently in Revelation – it speaks of the ultimate completion and perfection established by the One who is the beginning and the end.]

As a corollary of this: if Jesus Christ is the source and the goal, if he is our origin and our fulfilment, then all points in between are, of necessity within the boundary of his control. It is this, in particular, that was of key importance for the first readers of Revelation; it should also be so for us. Here, within this boundary, within this beginning and this consummation, we are to understand the seemingly inexplicable co-existence of our suffering and God’s sovereignty.


B. THE TREE OF LIFE
In Genesis and Revelation we read of the Tree of Life. Genesis does not say much about this Tree of Life, but we are told that when sin entered the world in Genesis 3 human access to the Tree of Life was banned. In Revelation we are taught of restored access to the Tree of Life.

What do you learn from these verses?
Genesis 2:9
Genesis 3:22-24

Revelation 2:7
Revelation 22:1,2
Revelation 22:14

What became impossible from Genesis 3 onwards is here once more possible. What was there banned by God’s decree, is here freely accessible. The interruption caused by sin, this intrusive hiatus, is removed forever. Man once again lives.

Before we leave the tree of life, let us note the presence of the cherubim who ban our access to the tree. We will meet them again in the next study, and also as we study Revelation.

B.1 The river
Genesis 2:10-14 speaks of a river that watered the garden and flowed out from Eden. Revelation 22:1,2 also speaks of a river: ‘the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb’. This life-giving eschatological river also features in Ezekiel 47:1ff and Joel 3:18b.

C. SIN AND SUFFERING
As already pre-empted in the previous point, Genesis 3 records the beginning of sin and suffering. There the perfection of the universe, and of all that was in it, was lost. When man, the centre and the pinnacle of God’s creation, rebelled against God, rejecting his dependence on God and God’s Word, and reaching for a life without God (reaching for an impossibility), sin entered the world. And with it separation (‘death’) entered the world – separation between man and himself; separation between man and man; separation between man and the created world; and separation between man and God. Suffering also entered the world: emotional/mental, relational, physical and spiritual. Death began to reign [Romans 5:12-21].

From Genesis 3 onwards the human history recorded in the Bible is set in the context of sin, separation and suffering. This is the context in which God revealed himself. This is the world to which God has spoken. This is the way things are. In Revelation we find ourselves repeatedly in the midst of horrific sin, separation and suffering. But from the very first chapter we also find that there is One who has overcome the sin, the separation and the suffering: Jesus Christ – ‘the firstborn from the dead’ [1:5]; Jesus Christ, who ‘has freed us from our sins’ [1:5]; Jesus Christ, who ‘was dead’ but now is ‘alive for ever and ever’ [1:18]. Death is conquered.

Again and again Revelation relates the triumph of Jesus Christ, with ever increasing force and conviction until we read in chapters 20 to 22 the final statement, the final vision, of the final end of everything, absolutely everything, that began in Genesis 3 as the result of our human rejection of God: no more sin, no more separation, no more suffering. No more death.

All that God said ‘No’ to in the Genesis 2:17 prohibition [‘you will surely die’], and that we humans rebelliously grasped for in our ancestor Adam in Genesis 3:6 – all the sin, all the separation, all the suffering – is here in Revelation brought to a permanent end. It is no more. The interim that began in Genesis 3, this period of human time in which human sinners question the existence and the integrity of God, and challenge and reject his authority, is over.

There is a new heaven and a new earth in which there is no sin and no suffering. No death.

D. THE SAVIOUR
Immediately sin entered the world in Genesis 3 there also was God’s promise of the Saviour.

Questions:
[1] What promise of the Saviour is made in Genesis 3:15?

[2] What symbols of salvation are found in Genesis 3:21?

[3] What anticipation of salvation is hidden in Genesis 3:23-24?

Genesis in this way introduces us to the Saviour. Revelation takes up these same concepts.
Revelation speaks of the son born to a woman [12:1-5]. Revelation speaks of a Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the earth [13:8] and of a countless multitude of people clothed in white robes provided by God [7:9]. Revelation speaks, as we have already seen, of the Tree of Life [see above]. God did not destroy it in Genesis 3; he denied access to it until the Saviour would come and demolish the prohibitive barrier and re-establish human access to eternal life.

In Genesis this Saviour is later identified in terms of the ‘seed’ of Abraham [Genesis 22:18] through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed, and the eternal King to whom the sceptre of Judah belongs [Genesis 49:8-12]. In Revelation he is the One by whose blood people from every tribe and language and nation are purchased for God [Revelation 5:9,10] and clothed with the white robes of salvation [Revelation 7:9,10]; he is also the One introduced as the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah’ [5:5] and is called the King of kings and Lord of lords [17:14 and 19:16].
Indeed, the Saviour, Jesus Christ, first spoken of in Genesis, is the key character in Revelation.

D.1 The Lamb
Genesis, in a very unobtrusive way, introduces us to the specific concept of ‘the Lamb’ and his sacrificial death. It is inferred in Genesis 3:21, where the death of an animal provided a covering. It is symbolised prophetically in God’s provision of a ram as a substitute sacrifice in Genesis 22:9-14.
Of all the titles used to refer to Jesus Christ in Revelation ‘the Lamb’ is the most frequent. It is used twenty-eight times, compared to the next most frequent ‘Jesus Christ’ which is used only seven times. We will study these references to ‘the Lamb’ in context.


E. THE ENEMY
Genesis 3 introduces us to God’s enemy, Satan, under the guise of a serpent. Revelation records his defeat, effectively at the first coming of Jesus Christ, and finally at the second coming.  The enemy was not there in Genesis 1 and 2 on the newly created ‘heavens and earth’ – the universe; he is not there in the ‘new heaven and the new earth’ described in Revelation 21 and 22.

Question: what do these verses teach about Satan?
Genesis 3:1-4

Revelation 2:9,10

Revelation 12:9,14,15; 20:2

Revelation 12:10b

In both Genesis and Revelation Satan, the ‘serpent’, is depicted as:

The deceiver.
Viciously opposed to God.
Seeking to corrupt or destroy anyone or anything loved by God.
The accuser of God and of those who belong to God.

In Genesis 3 Satan entered the scene abruptly and intrusively. How many of our human questions focus on this unexpected, out-of-place, interruption! He simply does not ‘fit’ in the scene portrayed in Genesis 1 and 2. But even then his final end, his removal, is known, the end seen by John in his vision recorded in Revelation 20:10.

F. THE CONCEPT OF GOD’S JUDGMENT
The concept of God’s judgment is everywhere evident in Revelation. But it did not start there. Nor did it start with the giving of the Law on Sinai. It is there in Genesis, and it is only because judgment is there in Genesis that judgment is brought to its final expression, and thereby brought to its end, in Revelation.

In Genesis we learn of God’s judgment:

By inference in Genesis 2:17.
Expressed directly to the individuals concerned in Genesis 3 and 4.
Executed globally in Genesis 3 & 4, and 6 to 9.
Executed again with global impact in Genesis 11.

The comprehensiveness of the judgment against evil wrought in Revelation comes as no surprise to anyone acquainted with Genesis. Rather, it is expected, it is necessary. Genesis makes that clear. Indeed, God in strict justice could have brought on the final judgment with its removal of evil, immediately when we first sinned. That he did not, that he withheld the final judgment, is evidence not of any powerlessness or lack of justice on God’s part, but rather of his grace [read 2Peter 3].

There is another fact about God’s judgment that we need to note here: in Genesis, the judgment of God upon human sin impacted the physical world [Genesis 3:17; 4:12; 5:29; 6-9]. Revelation speaks repeatedly of God’s judgments in terms of physical events. It speaks of alarming physical manifestations that accompany God’s judgments. It also speaks of the ‘new heaven and the new earth’ – in which all those physical conditions resulting from God’s judgment on human sin are forever removed from the universe. For this restoration/renewal/liberation the whole created world is eagerly waiting [read Romans 8:18-27].

G. THE PEOPLE CALLED BY GOD’S NAME
[Read Section B.3 in this study on Genesis 4 and 5. ].

From Genesis 4 onwards a significant division appears among humans: there are those who seek to honour God [as Abel did] and there are those who do not [like Cain]. From the time of Adam’s son, Seth, onwards there were people who were identified by God’s name [Genesis 4:26]. This was many generations before God specifically called and appointed Abram as the man whose descendents would, as a nation, become known as the people of God.

Study these verses:
Genesis 12:1-3
Genesis 18:18
Genesis 22:18

The fulfilment of this promise through Jesus Christ is gloriously described in Revelation:
Revelation 5:5
Revelation 7:9
Revelation 14:6

These are the people identified by God’s name:
Revelation 3:12
Revelation 14:1
Revelation 22:4

From this Genesis information there are two important points to keep in mind as we study Revelation:

[1] That the people identified by God’s name, like Abel, have, from the very beginning, incurred the hatred of those who do not seek to honour God. This hatred of believers is very much in focus in Revelation. It is depicted with extreme intensity in Revelation. And it is brought to its final end in Revelation. [In the visions of the two witnesses and of the woman and her child in Revelation 11 and 12 this hatred, and its source, is seen acutely, but it is present right through the book.]

[2] That the people identified by God’s name cannot be limited to the nation of Israel. God’s people existed prior to Israel in Genesis 1 to 11. And God’s people are far broader than Israel in Revelation. Rather than being the exclusive people of God, Abraham’s descendents, and in particular Abraham’s one descendent, as we have already noted, had a worldwide purpose: to bring the message and the blessing of God to all the nations of the earth. The inclusion of numerous people from every tribe and language and nation has always been God’s plan. [Read Ephesians 3:2-11.]

H. SEVEN AND ‘THE SEVENTH’ …
The number seven indicates ‘perfection’. It repeatedly confronts us as we read through Revelation. We simply cannot ignore it. Just as there is progressive day by day structure in God’s creation of the world  (six days of creation and then a seventh day of completeness, perfection, rest and holiness), so there is structure in Revelation which is deliberately put before us again and again in terms of the number ‘seven’. Revelation, in a word, is very much interested in ‘perfection’.

Here we find:

That the Lord Jesus walks among ‘seven golden lampstands’ with ‘seven stars’ in his right hand [1:12,16].

That letters are dictated to seven churches [1:4,11; and chapters 2 and 3].

Reference is made to the ‘seven spirits of God’ [1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6]

There are ‘seven lamps’ before the throne [4:5].

There are ‘seven seals’ on the scroll [5:1, and multiple references].

The Lamb that was slain has ‘seven horns’ and ‘seven eyes’ [5:6].

There are ‘seven angels’ with ‘seven trumpets’ [8:2,6].

When a mighty angel speaks the voices of ‘seven thunders’ spoke [10:3].

Surprisingly, even the ‘dragon’ has ‘seven heads’ and ‘seven crowns’ [12:3], and in two visions there is a ‘beast’ with ‘seven heads’ [13:1; 17:3].

Seven angels dispense the ‘seven last plagues’ from the ‘seven bowls of God’s wrath’ [15:1,6,7].

Reference is also made to ‘seven mountains’ and ‘seven kings’ [17:9,10].

We will look into the meaning of these references in later studies.

In addition to these references to ‘seven’ we need also to note the concept of the ‘seventh’. Genesis records that on the seventh day God rested from his work of creation: it was finished. It was perfect. God ‘blessed the seventh day and made it holy …’ [Genesis 2:2,3].

So also in Revelation we find that the ‘seventh’ of a sequence has particular significance. We find that in several series of events, the ‘seventh’ of each series introduces in the next series of seven. We also find:

That when the ‘seventh seal’ was opened ‘there was silence in heaven for about half an hour’ [8:1]. After that, judgment falls upon the earth.
When the ‘seventh angel’ is about to sound his trumpet ‘the mystery of God will be accomplished’ [10:7].
That the seventh trumpet ushers in the eternal and universal kingdom of God and of his Christ [11:15-19].
That when the seventh bowl is poured out a voice from the throne says ‘It is done’ [16:17].

Each of these speaks, in varying ways, of the perfect completion and consummation of the purpose of God. By the final judgment in which all that is anti-God is removed, reported in Revelation multiple times, perfection is restored. Just as the seventh day of creation signified perfection, rest and holiness, so repeatedly the ‘seventh’ in Revelation brings in rest, perfection and holiness.

CONCLUDING QUESTIONS:
[1] Describe the connection between Revelation and Genesis.

 

[2] How does this connection prepare you to understand Revelation?