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05 April 2019

Revelation: An Opened Book

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          Some voices claim the correct understanding of Bible prophecy will not be disclosed fully until the “last generation.” Passages from the books of Daniel and Revelation are cited to validate this. Apparently, hidden information will only be decoded in history's last few years before Jesus returns.
          This idea is derived from Daniel 12:4. Daniel was ordered by an angel "to seal the book until the time of the end.” The assumption is that Daniel’s visions will not be understood fully until the end. Since Revelation makes extensive use of Daniel, this assumption likewise is made about its visions.
          This interpretation is contrary to the stated purpose of Revelation (1:1-3) and ignores the New Testament understanding of the “last days.” Moreover, it overlooks the command to John NOT “to seal the prophecy of this book” (22:10), a passage using language from Daniel 12:4.
  • (Daniel 12:4) - “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book to the time of the end.”
  • (Revelation 22:10) - “And he said to me, ‘Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand’.”

        In the book of Revelation’s first verse, it is identified as a revelation or apokaluypsis (αποκαλυψις), that is, a “disclosure, an unveiling, an uncovering.” The book unveils things previously hidden. Its images, language, and audible phenomena are intended to disclose, not to mystify or conceal.
       The book’s purpose is to “show God’s servants the things that must come to pass shortly” (1:1). The servants addressed are seven churches of Asia (1:4, 1:11). “Shortly” to them would not have meant two millennia in the future. Those who read and “hear” the words of the prophecy, and keep it, are declared “blessed” (1:3). The ability to “keep” necessitates the ability to understand. The imminence of events is reiterated in Revelation 1:3, “the season is at hand,” as well as in the book’s epilogue (22:10).
         The preceding does not mean all Revelation’s predictions found their fulfillment in the first century, but it certainly means the process of fulfillment began at that time.
         The book of Revelation itself often interprets its symbolism. The “seven golden lampstands” among which Christ walks represent the seven churches (1:20). The Two Witnesses are “are two lampstands” (11:4). The book’s visions are intended to reveal and communicate information, not conceal it.
        Daniel was commanded to seal the book until the “time of the end” (Daniel 12:4). In the New Testament, the “last days” began with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. God gave partial revelation “long ago to the fathers in the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us in a Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
         God’s promise to pour out His Spirit on all flesh was actualized “in the last days” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17). God sent Jesus in “the fullness of time to redeem those under the Law” (Galatians 4:4). God’s “mysteries” hidden in past generations are now revealed in Jesus (Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 2:1; Ephesians 1:9; 6:19; Colossians 1:26; 4:7).
Thus, the promised time of fulfillment, the “last days,” began with the first advent of Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).

         There is a sealed book in Revelation, the scroll sealed with seven seals (5:1-4). Only the Lamb sacrificed to redeem men and women from all nations was found worthy to open it (5:5-12). This image portrays Christ’s victory on Calvary and his subsequent elevation to God’s right hand, the basis for which he is authorized to open the scroll (Acts 2:33, Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2, 1 Peter 3:22; Revelation 3:21, 6:16, 7:9-17, 12:5, 14:3, 22:1-3).
         Jesus established his right to open the scroll in his past Death and Resurrection. The Lamb in this scene immediately takes the scroll and begins to open it. What follows is the disclosure of the contents of the seals (6:1-8:1) and the scroll (from 11:1 forward). The scroll is seen fully opened for the first time in chapter 10.
         Revelation concludes by reiterating themes from its prologue (22:6-10). The Risen Christ sent his angel “to show to his servants the things that must come to pass shortly.” He reiterates promises of blessing to “them who keep the words of the prophecy.” The angel repeats the pronouncement: “the season is near.” 
        The commandment for Daniel to seal the book provides the wording for Revelation 22:9. Daniel was “to seal up the book until the time of the end.” But John was commanded, “not to seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, for the season is near.” The book of Revelation’s visions revealed to the churches of Asia what was to be hidden from Daniel and others until the time of the end. With the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, that time has arrived.
        The unveiling of God’s mysteries is found in the Death, Resurrection, and Exaltation of Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation was sent to seven churches in the late first-century to communicate information about “things that must soon come to pass.” Its purpose was to reveal information vital to the spiritual well being of the churches, not to mystify them or otherwise conceal hidden truth.
      Christians do not need to wait until History’s final years to understand Revelation’s message. God did not intend Revelation only to be “decoded” by the “last generation.” The correct interpretation of its imagery was intended to be understood by the seven churches of Asia; its message was applicable to their real-life situation.

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