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Revelation 1:1-8 - The Unveiling

Unveiled Hope: The Reigning Christ of Revelation  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:24
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When Jesus is revealed to you, you can hold together in a world that is falling apart.

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Introduction

Many years ago, during one of my stays in India, I was going on visitation rounds to homes in a small village near the town where I lived. The town I lived in, Paratwada, was originally laid out by the British as a military encampment, and many of the original buildings built by them were still in use decades later. The village I was visiting that evening had sprung up among the ruins of the old British encampment outside of town. As I sat there listening to the pastor talking with the family, I noticed that the washboard they used for cleaning their clothes was a very white, perfectly rectangular slab—on closer inspection, I realized that they had scavenged a grave marker from the British military cemetery to use for washing clothes!
It feels inappropriate to take a marker that was meant to honor a soldier who died in service to his country and use it for your own purposes to wash your dirty clothes, doesn’t it? But that is precisely how far too many people treat the Book of Revelation. More than any other book of the Bible, the message of this book is routinely set aside, twisted or outright ignored in pursuit of some other purpose. If you want to pack out your Bible conference, just announce that you’re going to be doing a “prophecy conference” on Revelation! Want to sell a million copies of your book? Write a book all about how you’ve discovered the real secret to Revelation, and how you can foretell the future by reading it! Want to drive traffic to your blog? Post daily updates of news headlines and tie them to some dramatic imagery or verses from Revelation.
And in times like these, when it seems like the whole world is falling apart around us, people are especially interested in this book. People want to read Revelation because they believe it has some kind of secret code or hidden knowledge about the future, and knowing these things will help them survive in the tumult of these days. We want to make sense of all of this, and so we read these chapters looking for warnings about a “One World Government” and biometric tattoos and the AntiChrist being Mikhail Gorbachev or Ronald Reagan or George Soros or Bill Gates or Elon Musk. But when that is the reason we read Revelation, we are doing with this book what those Indian villagers were doing with the British grave marker—ignoring its original purpose in order to accomplish our own desires.
Because if you are reading Revelation to get “proof” that George Soros is the AntiChrist, you are ignoring the stated purpose of the book. Because Revelation was not written to give you reasons to hate and fear George Soros; Revelation was written to give you reasons to love and worship and trust Jesus Christ!
The Book of Revelation does offer you guidance and assurance and stability in a world that is going mad—by revealing Jesus Christ! What I want you to understand this morning from these verses is that
When Jesus is revealed to you, you can hold together in a world that is falling apart.
This book is about Jesus Christ and His victory over all of the evil of this world. Whatever else we learn from these verses, the first thing we must always remember that this book is about

I. The Revelation of Jesus (vv. 1-3)

Look at verses 1-3:
Revelation 1:1–3 ESV
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
The Greek word translated “Revelation” is “Apokalupsis”, where we get our word “Apocalypse”. In our common usage of the word, the “Apocalypse” is a synonym for the end of the world. The actual meaning of “apocalypse” is literally an “uncovering” (Apo-meaning from or away, and “kalupsis” meaning “covered”). So this book is literally an “uncovering” or “unveiling”. One of the first things this shows us is that Revelation was written to uncover things, not make them more obscure! So we should be suspicious of any scheme of interpretation that makes the book more difficult to understand!
The second thing to always keep at the forefront as we read this book is that it is meant to be a revelation of Jesus Christ—who He is, what He has done, and what He is going to do. Again—any reading of this book that obscures Jesus or downplays Him or spends more time looking for descriptions of the Trilateral Commission or the United Nations rather than looking for Jesus should be regarded with suspicion as well.
You see, you and I need to have Jesus “uncovered” or “unveiled” to us, because in our natural state we are blind to Him—the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2 that
1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
So the first thing that we see about the revelation of Jesus is that
It is a gracious unveiling
isn’t it? God didn’t have to "show His servants the things that must soon take place”, did He? We see here that God sent this revelation of Jesus “by sending His angel to His servant John”—John would have had no way of knowing these things unless God gave it to him, would he? And so it is with us, isn’t it? God revealed Himself to you when you had no way of knowing Him on your own—you could never have known who Jesus was, what He did, or what He was going to do in your life unless God sent you His messenger (that’s what the word “angel” literally means).
God graciously reveals Jesus Christ to us in our salvation, and He also reveals Jesus to us as we stand on the brink of a world falling apart. It is a gracious unveiling, and
It is a timely unveiling
as well. In verse 1 we are told that this revelation of what Jesus is going to do concerns “things that must soon take place”. And in verse 3 we are told that “the time is near”. And the same thing is stated elsewhere in the book—in Rev. 22, Jesus says “I am coming soon (vv. 7, 12) and in verse 18 the angel tells John not to seal up the book, “for the time is near”.
Now one of the most important rules of Bible study is that you must always understand any given passage in its original context. You want to find out (through the use of historical references, commentaries, and so on) what a given passage meant to the first people who read it. And after you understand their context, you can apply it to your own situation.
But for some reason people tend to skip over whatever John was communicating to his original audience and figure out how this passage applies to our current events. So, just like any other passage of Scripture, we have to remember that this book was written to deal with events that were happening in the lives of the people who first received this letter.
That’s not to say that this letter is not immensely and thoroughly relevant to us today (any more than any other passage that we first seek to understand through the eyes of the people who first read it). But it means that in order to get the the way this book speaks to us in our world, we need to understand how it spoke to the seven churches of Asia Minor in their world. God told John that these things would be happening soon, and so we will take Him at his word.
And there is great comfort to be drawn from the repeated reminders that these things were going to take place “soon”—the fact that God’s Word to us in trouble is always timely, isn’t it? He doesn’t look down on His children who are about to suffer horrible, deadly, murderous persecution at the hands of an evil emperor and say, “I’m going to send you a letter that will someday help Christians two thousand years from now!” He speaks to us in a timely way, doesn’t He?
How often have you experienced that in your own life? God brings a particular Scripture passage to your attention and two days later that same verse brings you immense comfort and strength in a difficulty you didn’t even know was coming? Or you hear a particular sermon on Sunday, that uniquely prepares and strengthens you for an unexpected disaster that lands on you on Tuesday?
God’s revelation of Jesus to us is a timely unveiling—and
It is a blessed unveiling
Look at verse 3 again:
Revelation 1:3 ESV
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
It’s important for us to note that the book of Revelation is the only book in the Bible that specifically promises a blessing for reading, hearing and obeying (“keeping”). (It is also the only book that includes specific curses for anyone who adds to or takes away from its revelation of Jesus!) Note especially that there is a blessing promised for the one who reads this prophecy aloud—in other words, the blessing doesn’t just come from reading this book to yourself in the quiet of your own personal thoughts. The blessing comes when you read it aloud—in other words, when you read it so that other people can hear it! We will unpack this more at the end of the passage, but here we can note that God promises blessing when we unveil Jesus to the world by our proclaiming Him, by our honoring Him, and by our obeying Him!
When Jesus is unveiled to you, you can hold together in a world that is falling apart. God graciously reveals Jesus to us at just the right time when we are on the brink of persecution, and He promises to bless us when we proclaim and honor and obey Him. And as we move through the next couple of verses here in Revelation 1 that we are strengthened by

II. Seeing what Jesus has done (vv. 4-6)

Look at verses 4-5:
Revelation 1:4–5 ESV
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
John expands the usual greeting that we read in the beginning of a letter, giving mention to Father (“from Him who was, and is, and is to come”) and the Son (“Jesus Christ...”) and from “the seven spirits who are before His throne” (also translated “the sevenfold Spirit); either way, this is a reference to the Holy Spirit. And in his description of Jesus, John shows us three things about Jesus that are meant to strengthen a people who are about to undergo the depths of persecution and tribulation.
First, John describes Jesus as being “the faithful witness”—a reminder that
He lived under persecution
John describes Jesus’ faithful witness in his Gospel account, in John 12:49-50, where Jesus says
John 12:49–50 ESV
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
He was faithful to speak what God the Father gave Him to speak, and he suffered for it. But He was faithful. And as His people prepare to enter persecution, they are strengthened to know that He suffered the same way, and will not fail to uphold them.
John also goes on to say about Jesus, that He is “the firstborn of the dead”—that is to say that
He survived persecution
In His faithful witness, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). And as we will see in the Book of Revelation, His people will suffer (and do suffer) persecution and trials and hatred “even to the point of death”. And so God sets forth Jesus, the One who conquered death and the grave, to strengthen and encourage His people not to “fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do” (Luke 12:4). This book was not written to tell people that they would avoid persecution; it was written to strengthen them to endure deadly persecution by looking to the One Who conquered death for them!
And the third description of Jesus here in verse 4 is that He is “the ruler of kings on earth”--
He reigns over all persecution
As the Christians in the first century were about to suffer the hideousness of the wrath of Emperor Nero, God reveals Jesus to them to remind them that He reigns over all of the kings of the earth. He reigns over Nero, He reigns over Domitian, He reigns over Hitler and Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot and Idi Amin and Nicolae Ceaucescu and Kim Jung Un —there is no evil or repression or persecution or imprisonment or torture that any Christian can ever suffer that is not restrained and bounded and utterly governed by the sovereign Hand of the Risen and Reigning Christ!
Beloved, there can be no question that our nation is gearing up for a level of persecution against Christians that has never before been seen in our history—the stage has already been set to blame churches for the spread of coronavirus because they continue to meet (Mayer DiBlasio threatening to permanently revoke church building permits), the press has already laid the groundwork for “blaming evangelicals” for electing Donald Trump, and if he wins re-election in November there will be an all-out backlash against churches (and if Biden wins the way will be opened for an all-out campaign to revoke churches’ 501 c3 status, which many are already calling for.) No matter what happens in the next several months, this nation is preparing to rise up against faithful Christians—and God’s timely, gracious and strengthening word to you today is Jesus Christ reigns over all of it!
You can hold together in a world that is falling apart Christian, because no matter how bad the persecution gets, we know that
He loves you—persecution cannot separate you from Him (Romans 8:38-39)
Romans 8:38–39 ESV
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You can hold together, Christian, because you know that
He has freed you by His blood—your sins cannot separate you from Him (Ephesians 1:7)
Ephesians 1:7 ESV
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
You cannot be separated from Him by any trauma, tragedy or tribulation—you cannot be separated from Him by any transgression or sin of your past—you belong to Him, a beloved member of His Kingdom, standing before Him like a priest in the Temple, clothed in the pure white robes of His own righteousness!
Christian, when Jesus is revealed to you, you can hold together in a world that is falling apart—seeing what Jesus has done, and

III. Knowing what Jesus will do (vv. 7-8)

Look at verses 7-8:
Revelation 1:7–8 ESV
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Christian, you can have peace in a world that is falling apart, because you know that Jesus Christ will someday
Reveal Himself as King (cp. Dan. 7:13-14)
The phrase “coming with the clouds” is a reference to the Old Testament Book of Daniel, where “the Son of Man” comes “with the clouds of heaven”, and
Daniel 7:14 ESV
And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Jesus received that authority from His Father on the day He ascended into the clouds (Acts 1:9), and when He returns, He will come with the clouds of that dominion and authority visible to all.
And verse 7 says that He will be seen as the one who was pierced—He will
Reveal Himself as Savior (cp. Isa 53:5)
Isaiah 53:5 tells us that
Isaiah 53:5 ESV
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
When He reveals Himself, it won’t just be as the King, but also as the Savior—and there will be no more argument, no more question that “there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” than the Name of Jesus Christ!
He reveals Himself as King, He reveals Himself as Savior, and
He reveals Himself as judge (Acts 2:37)
When Jesus reveals Himself, He will demonstrate once and for all His right to judge the earth. “All the tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him”—all peoples everywhere will weep and mourn as their eyes are opened to the depth of their rebellion against the Sovereign and Almighty King of the Universe. When He is “revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels,
2 Thessalonians 1:8–9 ESV
in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
Christian—hold together in a world that is falling apart by fixing your eyes on the revelation of Jesus Christ! John wrote to the churches that the time of that revealing was near—and in fact, Jesus did say that He would reveal Himself to Jerusalem—to the very ones who had pierced Him—in this very way. In Matthew 24:30 He said
Matthew 24:30 ESV
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
He appeared in power and glory and authority over Jerusalem as it fell in A.D. 70, and the day will come in the future when He will once again appear in power and great glory, as King and Savior and Judge before the whole world. And every eye will see Him, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord and King, to the glory of God the Father! So Christian strengthen yourself with that sure and blessed hope of what Jesus Christ will do someday in this world!
Jesus has revealed Himself as King and Savior and Judge, someday He will ultimately reveal Himself as King and Savior and Judge, but never forget that He reveals Himself as King and Savior and Judge every time we proclaim the Gospel!
When we preach this Gospel, when we “read aloud” this prophecy and hear it and keep it, we are proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When we break the bread and take the cup of the Lord’s Table we proclaim His death until He comes—we proclaim that He was “pierced for our transgressions” and proclaim that our sins are forgiven in Him. When we proclaim this Gospel (as Peter did at Pentecost) and people are “cut to the heart” (“pierced to the heart”) and say, “What must we do to be saved?” (cp. Acts 2:37)—this is how Jesus Christ is revealed to a world that is falling apart! And this is how we hold together—by proclaiming Him as the King, by trusting in Him as Savior, by fearing and obeying Him as the almighty Judge to whom we will someday give account.
Friend, if you are here this morning and you look around and see the world falling apart and you know that you are falling apart with it, if you have heard the words of this prophecy read aloud and it has caused you to tremble and mourn at the sight of the One Who was pierced for your sins and now reigns as King and Judge over you, won’t you make this the day that you turn away from your sin and self-will, confess the depth of your sin before Him, and cry out to Him for forgiveness and salvation?
You don’t know—nobody knows!—what tomorrow will hold. The world really is falling apart all around you, and the only way you can hold together is if you hold on to the revelation of the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of the Kings of this world! Come and talk to one of us after the service so that we can help you know for sure that you have eternal life, that you are holding together in a world that is falling apart because you are being held by the One who holds all things together—the Alpha and Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty—your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Revelation 1:5–6 ESV
and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

What are some of the ways you have heard the Book of Revelation used in the past? Who does this passage say Revelation is about? How can you make sure you are reading Revelation the way God intends for it to be read?
Read over the descriptions of Jesus in verse 5. Which of those descriptions, “faithful witness”, “firstborn of the dead”, “ruler of kings on earth”, is most precious to you? How can thinking of Jesus this way help you “hold together” when the world is falling apart?
Verse 7 describes the day when Jesus Christ will return, when every eye will see Him, and all people will wail on account of Him. How does the preaching of the Gospel reveal Jesus as King, as Savior, and as Judge? Who do you know in your life that needs to have Jesus revealed to them through the Gospel?
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