STUDY THREE: REVELATION IN THE BIG PICTURE - THE GOSPEL CONNECTION

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015

Revelation presents the Gospel. In it we are repeatedly confronted with the person of Jesus Christ and his saving work. His first coming – his incarnation, his death, his resurrection and glorification – is everywhere present. It is only on the basis and the impact of this first coming that the events of the second coming occur.

A. THE PERSON OF CHRIST

In the Gospels, in Acts and in the apostolic Letters explaining the Gospel, God teaches us the truth about who Jesus Christ really is. Revelation assumes and reaffirms these truths about Jesus Christ and takes them to their ultimate expression – a final revelation of his power and his glory. Whereas during his incarnation his glory was veiled in his humanity, in Revelation no such hiddenness occurs. Although he is ‘the Lamb who was slain’, there is no doubt that that he is also the Lord of glory.

A.1 The Gospels and Letters speak of the birth of Christ. So does Revelation. And just as the Gospels report the attempt of the devil to destroy the child, so also does Revelation.

Read these verses:
Matthew 21:18-2:23
Galatians 4:4
Revelation 12:1-5

A.2 The Gospels and the Letters teach us that Jesus Christ is the Word of God who revealed God the Father and spoke God’s truth. Revelation does the same – he is ‘the faithful and true witness’, he is ‘the Word of God’:

Read these verses:
Matthew 11:27
John 1:1,18; 12:49; 14:6-9
Colossians 2:3
Hebrews 1:3
Revelation 1:5; 3:14; 19:13

A.3 The Gospels and Letters teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. So also does Revelation. Both Jesus himself, and the writers of the Gospels and Letters emphasise the divine sonship of Jesus Christ. So much so that the Jews understood this claim as blasphemous. As the Son of God, Jesus and the apostles taught his equality with ‘the Father’, because this Father-Son relationship spoke of Jesus having the very nature or essence of God. As such, the Son is worthy of the same honour as the Father. Indeed, acknowledgement of Jesus as God is the bottom line confession of biblical faith. Revelation affirms this equality.

Read these verses:
John 5:16-24; 8:24; 14:6-9
Colossians 1:19; 2:9
Romans 10:9
Revelation 2:27; 3:21; 5:11-14.

A.4 The Gospels teach us that Jesus Christ is ‘the Son of Man’, aligning him with the prophetic visions of one ‘like a son of man’ in Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 1. When Peter, James and John saw Jesus in his divine glory his appearance paralleled these visions [Matthew 17:1-8]. Similarly, Jesus, in radiant glory, confronted Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road [Acts 9]. The first vision of Christ in Revelation is also of someone ‘like a son of man’ [1:12-18]. As Jesus indicated when he spoke of his second coming, it is as ‘the Son of Man’ that he comes in glory and in judgment [Mark 13:26,27]; in Revelation 14:14 John saw in a vision ‘one “like a son of man”’ coming in glory and judgment. Power and glory are his, an authority and glory recognized by the hosts of heaven and by his enemies.

A.5 The Gospels and Letters report the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, affirming its critical significance [Romans 1:4;10:9]. Without it, Christ is nothing and his death is nothing. Nothing more than an ordinary human being; nothing more than an ordinary human death. Without it, the Christian faith is useless [1Corinthians 15:12-19]. When we come to Revelation we find that Jesus is called ‘the firstborn from the dead’ [1:5]. He is ‘the Living One’ who ‘was dead’ and is now ‘alive for ever and ever’ [1:18; 2:8]. The keys of death and Hades are in his hand. Because of this the suffering and death of his witnesses can be viewed in biblical perspective.

A.6 The Gospels and the Letters repeatedly present Jesus Christ as the Lord and the King. Revelation refers to Jesus as ‘the ruler of the kings of the earth’, the ‘Lord of lords’ and the ‘King of kings’. What, in the Gospels, is evident in his miracles and in the authority by which he taught, but to some extent veiled in his humanity, is, in Revelation unveiled, revealed to the full extent of his glory, his power and his authority. The suffering believers to whom it is addressed are thoroughly reassured that the One in whom they have believed and for whose name they are suffering, is indeed all that he claimed to be, and even more so than they have realised.

Read these verses:
John 5:21-27
Matthew 28:19-20
Mark 11:1-10
Revelation 1:5; 3:14; 7;17; 17:14; 19:12,16.

A.7 The Gospels and Letters teach us that Jesus Christ is the Judge. Revelation is dominated by this concept. His first coming is focused on salvation, but not without the element of judgment. His second coming both confirms and brings to completion the already existing salvation of those who believe in him, and also confirms and implements the inevitable judgment of God that has always been the fate of those who reject and oppose God.

Read these verses:
John 5:22,27; 9:39
Acts 10:42; 17:31
Romans 2:16
1Corinthians 15:24-28
2Timothy 4:1,8
Revelation 6:16; 14:14-20; 19:11-21.

A.8 The New Testament letters define Jesus as the source and goal of all that exists. So also does Revelation:

Read these verses:
John 1:1-4
1Corinthians 8:6
Colossians 1:16,17
Revelation 1:18; 2:8; 20:13


B. THE WORK OF CHRIST

Both the Gospels [historical records] and the Letters [explanatory teaching] speak of the saving work of Jesus Christ. They define and describe the salvation that is given to all who believe in Jesus Christ.  Every aspect of this multi-faceted salvation depends on the death of Jesus Christ as a substitutionary, atoning sacrifice: he bore our sins in his body on the cross. All of the condemnation and wrath and judgment that ought to be poured out on us was poured out on him. Because of his death, those who believe in him live. This is the work of Christ. Because of this work the believer now lives in the presence of God, without guilt, without fear, without rejection, without condemnation.

To this multifaceted salvation purchased by the death of Jesus Christ, Revelation bears testimony:

B.1 The Gospels and the Letters teach that the death, or ‘blood’, of Jesus Christ is the key factor in his saving work. So also does Revelation. Without this death, this blood, there can be no salvation.

Read these verses:
Mark 10:45
John 3:14
Romans 3:25; 5:9
1Peter 1:18,19
Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 7:14; 12:11.

B.2 The Gospels and Letters teach that this salvation granted by Jesus Christ includes cleansing from sin(s), that is, forgiveness of sins. So also does Revelation.

Read these verses:
John 15:3
Ephesians 1:7
Colossians 1:14
Hebrews 9:14
1John 1:9
Revelation 1:5; 7:14.

B.3 The Letters teach that those who believe in Christ have been credited with or clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, and are, therefore, holy in God’s sight, without blemish, free from accusation, perfect. Revelation stresses this same truth by use of the image of ‘white’ clothing:

Read these verses:
Romans 3:21
Ephesians 1:4
Colossians 1:22
Hebrews 10:10,14
Revelation 3:4,5; 6:11; 7:9,13,14; 19:7,8.    

B.4 The Gospels and Letters speak of the salvation given by Jesus Christ in terms of ‘life’ or ‘eternal life’. Revelation similarly uses this concept, speaking of ‘life’, access to ‘the tree of life’, the Lamb’s ‘book of life’, and so on.

Read these verses:
John 3:36; 5:24; 8:12; 11:25,26
Romans 5:17,21
1John 5:11
Revelation  2:7,10; 13:8; 21:6,27; 22:1,2,14,17.

B.5 The Gospels and Letters understand the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in terms of the victorious defeat of Satan. Revelation makes repeated reference to this already accomplished victory, sometimes by reference to the resurrection of Christ, and to Christ’s final disposal of Satan and his minions. In addition, Jesus is repeatedly described in Revelation as seated ‘on the throne’ or as wearing a crown of victory.

Read these verses:
Matthew 4:1-11
John 12:31
Colossians 2:15
Hebrews 2:14
1John 3:8
Revelation 1:18; 2:8; 5:5; 11:15; 12:10.

When the Gospels, Acts and Letters speak of the first coming of Jesus Christ and what he accomplished, it does so in terms of multi-faceted and complete salvation. This salvation is already the present possession of those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, there is in the Gospels, in Acts and in the Letters, a clear awareness that a final consummation, a final deliverance, a final renewal has yet to take place. Suffering still exists. Death still exists. Sin still exists, not just in the unrepentant and the godless, but also in believers. The enemy still exists. There is still a clear sense of things that are ‘not yet’ in place. Revelation reaffirms those things that are ‘already’ and speaks definitively of the sure accomplishment of those things that at present are ‘not yet’.

Read these verses:
Romans 8:18-39
1Corinthians 15:54-55
1John 3:1-3
Revelation 7:16,17; 11:15; 21:4;


C. THE CHURCH
In the Gospels and Letters the Church is multi-national. In fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham that his ‘seed’ would bring the blessing of God to all nations, Jesus Christ, the ‘seed’ of Abraham, brings salvation to all nations. That this was always God’s purpose is very clear. The Church is not a Plan B, instigated because of the failure of the Jews to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. Rather it was God’s plan from the beginning, way before Israel existed as a nation. Israel’s existence as the people of God was never an end in itself, but always directed towards this end: that out of Israel the Saviour of the world would come, through whom people from every tribe and nation would be blessed.  

In the Gospels the Jewish presumptions of exclusivism are exposed and rejected:

Matthew 3:9 – Physical descent from Abraham is insignificant. God can ‘raise up children for Abraham’ from stones if he so chose.

Matthew 8:11 – ‘Many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside …’ [See also Luke 13:28-30]

John 8:31-47 – Jesus agreed that the Jews were the physical ‘children’ of Abraham, but pointed out extremely strongly that spiritually they were children of the Devil, not of Abraham, and not of God. Their physical descent from Abraham in no way made them the children of God. Nor did it make them immune from sin and judgment.

John 10:16 – ‘I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.’

In the Acts and the Letters the apostles confirm the eternal and historic intention of God that through Christ, the one descendant of Abraham, not only Jews, but Gentiles also, comprise the people of God, the true, spiritual descendants of Abraham:

Romans 2:28,29 – ‘A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart by the Spirit, not by the written code …’  

Romans  4:16,17 – ‘Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also tho those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”’

Galatians 3:7-9,14: ‘Understand then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. … He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.’

Galatians 3:26-29: ‘You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’

Galatians 6:15,16: ‘Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.’

Ephesians 2: 14-16,18,19 : ‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in his body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility … Through him we both have access to the Father by the one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household …’

Ephesians 3:6: ‘This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.’ [Verse 11 calls this God’s ‘eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.’]
[It is interesting that in this context Paul teaches that God’s intention is ‘that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’ [Ephesians 3:10]. As we read Revelation we find that this divine intention is indeed being accomplished through the church: the cherubim and the angels of God rejoice in the effective work of the Lamb, praising God and the Lamb for what has been accomplished, and working at God’s command for the well-being of the Church; on the other hand, we see the spiritual forces of evil intent on destroying the Church and its witness by which God and the Lamb are glorified. The existence of the Church is the evidence of Christ’s victory and God’s glory: for this the angels praise him; because of this Satan seeks to destroy the Church.]

Philippians 3:1-9: Here Paul describes how he came to realize that his racial identity as an Israelite and his religious inheritance as an Israelite are utterly worthless in terms of spiritual merit. He cast them aside as dung, and clings to Christ’s righteousness alone. Having met Jesus Christ, he now knows that Christ is all that counts.

Colossians 3:11: ‘Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, for Christ is all, and is in all.’

It is very clear in these and other Scriptures that the Church, comprised of believing Jews and believing Gentiles, is God’s eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus. Those who hold to the idea that the Church is a temporary intrusion into a supposedly eternal and physical plan God has for Israel, are obliged to ignore the clear teaching of these Scriptures written in straight-forward prose.

Revelation is addressed to the Church. Its contents give no impression or evidence at all that the Church is a temporary hiatus in God’s work with and plans for Israel. Rather, the Church is presented as something extremely central and permanent. As noted in the previous study, Revelation’s references to Israel are minimal. They are:

Revelation 2:9 and 3:9, where Jesus speaks of those who ‘claim to be Jews but are not’. He describes them as belonging ‘to the synagogue of Satan’.

Revelation 2:14, where there is a reference to an incident in the history of the Israelites.

Revelation 7:14, which some understand to be a reference to those who are redeemed from the actual tribes of the physical Israel, but is much more likely to be a representative symbol of the complete number of the redeemed from all nations, who are included in the spiritual Israel. See notes on this verse in context.

Revelation 21:12, where we read that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are written on the gates of the new Jerusalem. Given that this is a highly symbolic passage, and that we are told that the ‘new Jerusalem’ is actually ‘the Bride of the Lamb’, we cannot here give any exclusive significance to Israel as the people of God apart from their inclusion in the Church.

We will look further at Revelation’s teaching about the Church as we work through the text, and also in an additional study specifically on Revelation’s teaching about the Church.

D. THE KINGDOM

It would be remiss not to address the concept of the Kingdom in this study on the connection between the Gospel and Revelation.

Revelation presents Jesus as ‘the King’. It seats him on a throne. It gives him a crown. It showers him with glory, honour and praise. We need to face the question: is this kingdom of Christ already in existence, or do we have to wait to the ‘end’ for his kingdom to come? The Gospel, as taught by Jesus and the apostles, gives us some insights. It is not possible here to address every reference to ‘the kingdom’, but those given below are sufficient to convey the key aspects.

D.1 The Gospel is ‘the gospel of the kingdom’
It is clear from the Gospels and Acts that the Gospel is ‘the gospel of the kingdom’.

Study the verses below:
These verses summarize the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus as ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God (or heaven) is near’ [it was ‘at hand’, ready to be entered, because the King was right there]:

Matthew 3:2; 4: 17; 10:7
Mark 1:14;

These verses refer to the Gospel as ‘the Gospel of the Kingdom’, indicating that the Gospel is focused on the kingdom. When the Gospel is preached, the Kingdom is proclaimed:

Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 13:19; 24:14
Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2,11,60; 16:16; 21:31
Acts 1:3; 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23,31

D.2 The Kingdom has already arrived
It is clear from the teaching of Jesus and the apostles that the Kingdom has already arrived in the person of Jesus Christ, the King of the Kingdom, and his message:

Study these verses:
These verses speak of the Kingdom as already present, including its disempowerment of those evil powers that previously held humans in bondage:

Matthew 6:13
Matthew 6:33
Matthew 11:11,12
Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20
Luke 10:17,18
Luke 10:9,11
John 12:31
Colossians 2:15

These verses speak of people already in possession of the Kingdom, or already in the Kingdom:

Matthew 5:3,10
Matthew 13:38
Luke 12:32
Luke 16:16
Colossians 1:13

These verses challenge people to give up anything and everything in order to enter the present reality of the Kingdom:

Matthew 13:44-46
Mark 9:42-47
Luke 9:62

D.3 But there is a ‘not yet’ aspect of the Kingdom
It is also clear that there is a ‘not yet’ aspect of the Kingdom, a dimension of the Kingdom that is not yet in place:

We are to pray ‘your kingdom come’ [Matthew 6:10]

The present ‘Kingdom’ is not yet perfect, the ultimate Kingdom is perfect [Matthew 13:41-43,47-50]

There is a future consummation of the Kingdom [Matthew 16:27,28]

The future consummation of the kingdom involves judgment and the removal of all that is contrary to the Kingdom [Matthew 18:22-35; 25:31-46; 2Timothy 4:1]

The ‘kingdom’ comes only after certain events [Luke 21:31]

D.4 There is only one Kingdom
The Kingdom is identified variously, but it is always the one Kingdom, as this identification of the Kingdom is used interchangeably in parallel passages, or variably within particular passages:

It is ‘the kingdom of heaven’ – most of the Matthew references.
It is ‘the kingdom of God’ – most of the Mark and Luke references, but see also Matthew 19:24.
It is simply ‘the kingdom’.
It is Jesus’ kingdom, ‘the kingdom of the Son’.
It is also called ‘life’ or ‘eternal life’.

D.5 There are conditions of entry into the Kingdom
Entry into the Kingdom is not automatic. There are conditions of entry.

Study these verses:
What conditions of entry are identified?
Matthew 5:20
Matthew 7:21; 21:28-32
Matthew 16:24-28
Matthew 18:3,4; 19:14
Matthew 21:43
John 3:3,5

D.6 It is not a physical Kingdom
The Kingdom of which Jesus and the apostles speak is not a physical, political or national kingdom:

It is ‘within you’ – Luke 17:21
It is ‘not of this world’ – John 18:36
It is not inherited by ‘flesh and blood’ – 1Corinthians 15:50.

 


The teaching of Jesus and the apostles about ‘the kingdom’ helps us to understand the Revelation references to the kingdom or the reign of Jesus Christ. When we study Revelation it is important to understand it in a way that is consistent with the clear teaching given to us about the Kingdom by Jesus and the apostles.

In the Gospels it is very clear that the Kingdom is present wherever the King is present.

It was present where the incarnate Jesus was physically present.
It was present as he taught.
It was present in his miracles.
It was present wherever his disciples taught about the King and the Kingdom.

When we study Revelation we will find:

That Jesus, the King, is already present in his Church – the Kingdom has already been inaugurated;

That Jesus, the King, is present in ‘heaven’ – he already reigns;

And that Jesus, the King, will come again, removing all that is contrary to his Kingdom, his reign, and consummating his perfect Kingdom.

CONCLUDING COMMENTS

From this brief overview of the connection between Revelation and the Gospel we see that Revelation presents us with the same Gospel as Jesus Christ and the apostles. We have looked at four major foci of the Gospels and Letters – the Person of Jesus Christ, the saving Work of Christ, the Church and the Kingdom. In each focus there is strong agreement.

Jesus Christ has come and redeemed his people and made them his own. They are his, they are already in his Kingdom, and he is their King. Until he returns he has left the Church on earth with his testimony. As he warned in the Gospels, and as the apostles revealed in their letters, those who are his, and in his kingdom, suffer in this world. Revelation addresses this tension, and reveals its final end and the peace and the glory that will follow.