Many of us have the feeling that the meaning of Revelation is hidden, and that this book of the Bible is one book that we will never understand. Some of us are so put off by the arguments that erupt whenever Revelation is discussed that we want nothing to do with it. The first three verses of Revelation outlaw both of these both of these reactions.

Its purpose
The very word ‘revelation’ [translating the Greek apocalupsis] is the opposite of ‘hidden’. It refers to an uncovering, a disclosure, a revealing of what was hidden. God is not seeking to hide the truth, but to disclose, uncover, reveal the truth. Here in Revelation God reveals the truth about the space between Christ’s defeat of Satan on the cross and his final termination of Satan when he returns in glory, and what happens when he comes. Yes it is in symbols. But, so that we can understand, this truth is put before us repeatedly, again and again, in many different symbols.

Its source
It is no ordinary ‘revelation’. 1:1 tells us it is ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him … he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John …’ It comes from God. It comes from Jesus Christ and is about Jesus Christ.

Its reliability
This book is utterly trustworthy because of its divine source. In Revelation 22:6 the angel confirms this divine origin ‘The Lord, the God of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.’ This divine origin guarantees that ‘these words are trustworthy and true.’ In 19:9 the angel again confirms this – ‘These are the true words of God.’ In 21:5 God himself attests ‘… these words are trustworthy and true’. In 1:5 Jesus, who gave the Revelation to John, is called ‘the faithful witness’, and ‘the faithful and true witness’ in 3:14. Jesus himself testifies ‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches’ [22:16]. John tells us that everything he saw is ‘the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ’ [1:2].

Its nature
Both Jesus and John call this book a ‘prophecy’ [1:3; 22:7]. The term ‘prophecy’ ‘signifies the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God’ [W.E. Vine]. John and Jesus thus both indicate that Revelation is the word of God that affirms the truth already revealed by God in the past, and applies that truth to the situation of John and his readers. Its references to things still in the future are an essential part of the encouragement of the saints in their current situation. Here in this book is what God gave to John to say to Christians suffering intense persecution and pressure at the hands of the Satan and those aligned with him.

The blessedness of those who treasure it
At the beginning of Revelation we read ‘Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it …’ [1:3]. At the end Jesus says ‘Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book’ [22:7]. Three conditions are applied to this blessedness – hearing, taking to heart, and keeping the words of Revelation.

Hearing requires us to read Revelation and understand what it says. Taking it to heart and keeping both refer to the value we place on Revelation: to regard it so highly, to esteem it so greatly that we hold and guard it as we would a treasure of immense and immeasurable worth. Revelation is not something to be despised, disused, discarded. Nor is it something to be abused, argued about, or augmented by human theories or abridged by human ignorance. [Hence the warnings in 22:18,19]. It is to be treasured; its truth is to be kept safe from all interference. We are to live with deep joy in the truth that it reveals.

Blessed are those who so hear, so love and so treasure the words of Revelation – a book worth reading.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015