Revelation Part 1: Jesus Which Is & Which Was & Which Is to Come

I’d like to write 7 brief articles in an attempt to give everyday Christians a quick framework to understand the book of Revelation. My intention is to use the below outline:

  • Jesus: He Which Is, Which Was & Which Is to Come
  • 7 Scroll Seals: Jesus Comes to Unseal History & Reveal Its Meaning
  • 7 Army Trumpets: Jesus Comes with an Army of Witnesses
  • 7 Drink Offering Bowls: Jesus Comes as a Poured Out Offering
  • 7 of the New Creation! The Holy City Comes from God
  • 7 Calls for Jesus to Come

 

JESUS: He which Is, and which Was, and which Is to Come

Introduction

There are two items in the introduction that are immediately emphasized about the revelation: It’s for now (1:1) and It must be obeyed (1:3). This is not merely a story about the future, but a commandment for now. It’s a communication that does not allow the audience to be passively uninvolved.

The book bolts out of the gate with a dense mixing of the heard and the seen. The Word of God (Theos Logos), the Witness of Jesus (Martyria Christos) and “all things that he saw” (1:2).  Notice show (1:1), word, witness, saw (1:2), read, hear words, & written (1:3). We will see this alternating between the word that is heard and the images that are viewed throughout the whole revelation.

Him Which Is, Which Was & Which Is to Come

John’s greeting to the 7 churches begins with what we will consider to be the theme of part 1 of the revealing of Jesus Christ: “Him which is, and which was, and which is to come” (1:4). Like all the other parts of Revelation, there appears to be a 7-fold nature of this characteristic of “is coming”, “was come” & “which is to come” as noted in the below verses.

  1. him which is, and which was, and which is to come (1:4)
  2. The first begotten…and the prince of Kings (1:5)
  3. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending (1:8a)
  4. the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (1:8b)
  5. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last (1:11)
  6. Fear not; I am the first and the last (1:17)
  7. I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; (1:18)

Jesus is the Faithful Witness, Dead & Resurrected & Prince of Kings

Jesus Christ is the Faithful Witness, the First Born of the dead[1] and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Throughout the revelation Witness, Exodus and Messianic War will be recurring ways the Christian story is framed.[2] Witness, Resurrection and the Battle of the slain Lamb with His Word are the ways of overcoming and victory.

We hardly get a chance to start wondering over whom Jesus is Prince, before we are told we are loved[3] and we are “washed from our sins in his own blood” and “they” are us: Jesus has made us kings and priests unto God. (1:6)

We already are seeing this is a dynamic vision which people cannot stand apart from. It is for now. It must be obeyed. It pulls is into participation as a people who are loved and who are made into kings. A mere introduction to the one to be revealed, the I AM, the one at the center of history, whether present, past or future, has such a magnetic pull that we cannot just stand by as listeners, but we are already caught up into the story and into the glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen!

Jesus Is “Coming with the Clouds”

John started his introduction before the throne. (1:4) Now John starts again where he left off near the throne.[4] Jesus is presently at the right hand of God, the Prince of Kings, reigning with glory and dominion and “coming with clouds”.  Not merely will come, but cometh. John is giving a very typical OT[5] and NT view of the location & state of God, namely, among the clouds. These clouds are elsewhere described as the hosts of heaven[6], the great cloud of witnesses, thousands of ministering angels[7] or those of every tribe, tongue and nation that surround the throne. At his trial Jesus told Pilate he was a King and that “…Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven”[8] and John seems to be faithfully recording this present, past and ongoing reality: Jesus is now glorified above all which is shown by His sitting at the right hand of God and “coming with clouds” in that he is among His saints. If this is the case, then Jesus among the churches is yet another repetition of this idea.

Who are those who mourn? When are they mourning? It is often assumed this is the wicked at the “end of the world”. But Psalm 22:16 & John 19:37 alert us that we should not jump to conclusions as to when the Zachariah 12:10 event occurs: Both Psalms and John tell us the “piercing & mourning” occurs when Jesus is crucified. Zachariah 12:10 itself says that it is those “upon whom a spirit of grace and prayer is poured out on” that will mourn and not the wicked. Perhaps the “kindreds of the earth” and the transformed are not as clearly delineated in Revelation as we first thought? Perhaps those who pierced (crucified) Jesus and those with “the spirit of grace and prayer” and not two different groups of people, but a repentant version of the first group? In Acts 2 those who Peter said wickedly crucified Jesus later were filled with sorrowful repentance and joined the cloud of those to whom Jesus has come.

Jesus is the Glorified Son of Man Among His Churches

Jesus is “The First” but he not only washes his disciples’ feet with water but washes away His followers’ sins with his own life blood. Jesus is the Alpha & Omega and the Almighty, but the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is one of Patience. He has a great voice like a trumpet, but when you look to see the source of the great booming sound, what you first see is… the churches. And then that Jesus has come to be right there in the middle of those churches. Churches that we will soon see are troubled, “weak” & very human churches. The Son of Man’s appearance is so overwhelming that John fell at his feet “as dead”, but Jesus immediately lays his hand on John and repeats what Jesus has always been saying in these cases: “Fear Not”. And this is placed directly beside “I AM” creating the jarring juxtaposition we are seeing repeatedly emphasized in part one: “Fear not” and “I AM the First and Last…”. Transcendent power & glory and “God with Us”.

Summary

The sweep of part 1 (Chapter 1) of the revealing of Jesus seems to closely follow the flow of Daniel 7. The kingdom, dominion & glory (1:5-6) comes from Daniel 7:14 “And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”; The Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven (1:7) comes from Daniel 7:13 “…behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven…” and the description of the appearance of Jesus comes from Daniel 7:9 “…whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.”. We even have the bodily failures of the prophet and a little interpretation to round out the nod to Daniel 7.

The entire first part of Revelation is guiding our eyes to the reality that Jesus is the I AM & He is among us. Like the famous photo of President John F. Kennedy with Jr under his desk, there is power and presence. Perhaps the most powerful man on earth and yet near enough to place a gentle hand on his child. This seems one thing the first part of Revelation wants to reveal about Jesus. All three sections of part 1, Jesus as First Witness/Risen/King, Jesus Coming with Clouds or Jesus as the glorified Son of Man, are saying that Jesus is glorified, was glorified, will be glorified. Jesus is come, was come and will come. Jesus is at the center of the universe and He is here.

Part 1 (Rev 1:1-27) of the Revelation of Jesus Christ rivets in our minds that Jesus is both exalted above every name that is named, and he is with the lowly, washing their feet and washing away their sins.  Jesus is, was & is to Come, that is, He is the I AM, and yet, among the churches. Jesus has Come and immediately draws us into his action and glory. Jesus is the faithful witness, raised from the dead and King and he fully intends that we will be drawn to also be faithful witnesses, raised from the dead and sit on His throne with Him as kings!

[1] Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

[2] This come from Richard Buchaum (will add source)

[3] This phrasing is very close to the apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

[4] John is following Daniel 7:13-14 and keeping them in close proximity. Jesus now has glory and dominion and is therefore also now “coming with clouds of heaven”.

[5] Isaiah 19:1 …Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud…

[6] 1 Kings 22:19 I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.

[7] Daniel 7:10 …thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; Heb 12:22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels…

[8] Matthew 26:64 “Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

According to Fundamentalists: Will the World Be Destroyed at Jesus’ Return?

I’ve been reading the The Fundamentals, the essays that form the backbone of the fundamentalist movement, (incidentally at the same time as I read the Complete Writings of Menno Simons for some interesting contrast) and was surprised to read the answer to question: Will the World Be Destroyed at Jesus’ Return? The short answer: No. A bit longer reason why not? Because the millennial reign requires an earth. Read the quotes below from essay 85 on “The Return of Christ” by Charles R. Erdman, D. D. (Princeton Theological Seminary): He first outlines the problem:

The great objection to the Pre-Millennial position is the apparent prediction of 2 Peter 3, that at the coming of Christ, in “the day of the Lord,” the earth will be destroyed; there could then be no place for a millennium. 18212

Notice that pre-millennial Erdman notes that “the earth shall be burned with fervent heat” is not literal:

The predictions of fiery judgments and consequent “new heavens and new earth” must be read in connection with Isaiah 65 and 66, from which Peter is quoting. It will then be seen that these expressions are in-so-far figurative that the earth still continues with its life, its nations, its progress, after these judgments are over. Terrific convulsions, and governmental, social and cosmic changes, only introduce a new and better age. 18218

Other passages indicate the world is still here, the Nile is flowing, etc.

So, too, “the day of the Lord” is a familiar phrase, and as we read Zechariah 14 we see that while, in that day, the Lord comes amidst appalling portents, His coming and the day itself are followed by a scene of great blessedness on this same earth; the Nile is still flowing in its course and the nations are going up to Jerusalem to worship. (Note also that in 2Pe 3:10 the most ancient manuscripts do not read “burned up” but “discovered.”) 18221

And this one is quoteable:

According to our Lord Himself His return is to bring “the regeneration,” not the destruction of the world (Mat 19:28; Luk 22:28-30). 18231

According to Peter, “seasons of refreshing” and “the restitution of all things,” not annihilation of the globe, will come with the return of Christ (Act 3:19-21). 18233

Even so Come, Lord Jesus!