Jesus and the Book of Revelation
Even the quickest reading of the New Testament reveals an important truth: the New Testament is tied directly to the Old. Time and time again the Gospels and the Epistles refer either to events in the Old Testament or quote directly or indirectly from it. In addition, when referring to Himself and His ministry, how often did Jesus talk about how the “Scriptures” need to be “fulfilled” (see Matt. 26:54, 56; Mark 14:49; John 13:18; 17:12)?
The same thing can be said for the book of Revelation. Indeed, it’s all but impossible to make sense of the book of Revelation apart from the Old Testament, especially the book of Daniel. This is one reason why we often study both books together.
A crucial aspect of those Old Testament references in Revelation is that, taken together with the rest of the book, they reveal Jesus. Revelation is all about Jesus, about who He is, about what He has done for His people, and about what He will do for us at the end of time. Any focus on last-day events must keep Jesus front and center out of necessity, which is exactly what the book of Revelation does. This week’s lesson looks at Jesus in the book of Revelation.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 21.
The Structure of Revelation Among the many things that Daniel and Revelation have in common are their two basic divisions: historical and eschatological (dealing with end-time events). Both these concepts are linked intricately in each book. We may view the historical events as precursors or examples (even if on a smaller scale) of grand and global events in the last days. That is, by studying what happened in Old Testament history, we can have insights for what will happen in our days and beyond. This principle, however, is not limited only to Daniel and Revelation.
As we found last week, some of the stories in Daniel (Dan. 3:6, 15, 27; and 6:6–9, 21, 22) were localized historical incidents that reflect, somewhat, the end-time events depicted in Revelation. By studying these stories, we can get glimpses and insights into some of the things that God’s people will face on a broader scale in the end. Perhaps, though, the most important point is that, regardless of our immediate situation here, we are assured of ultimate deliverance. Whatever else Revelation teaches, it assures the faithful of victory.
Although there are some exceptions, the historical portion of Revelation is chapters 1–11, followed by the end-time chapters 13–22.
As we can see, this chapter belongs to both categories. Why? Because it talks about historical conflicts—the expulsion of Satan from heaven (Rev. 12:7–9), Satan’s attack on Baby Jesus (Rev. 12:4), and the persecution of the church in subsequent church history (Rev. 12:14–16)—followed by a depiction of the devil’s attack on the end-time remnant (Rev. 12:17).
These are only a few of the many texts in Revelation that depict Jesus in various roles and functions. He is the Lamb, which points to His first coming, in which He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7). He was also the One who “was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:18), a clear reference to His death and resurrection from the dead. “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:46, ASV). Finally, in Revelation 19:11–15, He is depicted in His role at the Second Coming, when He will return to the earth in power and glory and judgment. “ ‘For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works’ ” (Matt. 16:27, NKJV).
Besides being historical and eschatological, Revelation also has another structural layer, one built around the Hebrew sanctuary. This sanctuary motif is not confined to either of the two major divisions but goes through them both.
In the earthly sanctuary one begins in the courtyard, at the altar of burnt offering, where the animals were slain. After the death of the animal, symbolic of the Cross, the priest would enter into the first apartment of the sanctuary, which was a model of what Jesus did in the heavenly sanctuary after His ascension. This is represented by Jesus’ walking among the lampstands (Rev 1:13).
Soon after His ascension, Christ was inaugurated in the Holy Place of the heavenly temple, through this first open door. When Christ first appears in the book of Revelation, He is standing before the lampstands of the first apartment in the heavenly sanctuary (see Rev. 1:10–18).
The image of the ark of the covenant in the heavenly sanctuary is an indisputable reference to the Most Holy Place, or second apartment. In the book of Revelation, we can see not just Jesus’ two-apartment ministry but the crucial and comforting fact that events in heaven and earth are linked. Even amid the trials of history and the last days as depicted in the book of Revelation, we can have the assurance that “all heaven is engaged in the work of preparing a people to stand in the day of the Lord’s preparation. The connection of heaven with earth seems very close.”—Ellen G. White, My Life Today, p. 307.
Everything in Revelation, from the structure to the content, has one purpose: to reveal Jesus Christ.
That’s why the opening words of the book are, “The revelation of Jesus Christ” (Apocalypsis Iesou Christou). This generally is understood as (1) “the revelation from Jesus Christ”or (2) “the revelation about Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:2). The fact that it is a “revelation” argues against those who believe Revelation is too hard to understand. Why would the Lord have included the book in the Bible if He hadn’t meant for it to be understood by those who read it?
In Revelation, Christ is introduced as “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5, NIV), and near the end of the book He is described as “King Of Kings” (Rev. 19:16). The great news here is that amid all the chaos and confusion on earth, we can have the assurance that our loving Lord and Savior has ultimate control.
In Revelation 1:5, we have been given a clear reference to Christ as the Redeemer. “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (NKJV). This text points to His atoning death on the cross. He has not only justified us but sanctified us, as well (1 Cor. 6:11). It is in texts such as this one that we can find assurance of salvation because they show us that Jesus is the One who washes away our sins. We certainly can’t do it ourselves.
Central to the whole Christian faith is the promise of Christ’s return “with the clouds.” Jesus will come again, a literal return in an event that the whole world will witness—an event that once and for all ends the suffering, chaos, and ruin of this world and ushers in all the promises of eternity.
When Jesus appears in these verses, He is standing in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. The revelation of Him in this role was so great that John fell at His feet in fear. Jesus, ever comforting, tells him not to be afraid and points to Himself as “the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last” (Rev. 1:11, NKJV)—references to His eternal existence as God. Later He talks about His death and resurrection and the hope that His resurrection brings. Jesus also has the keys of “Hades and of Death” (NKJV). In other words, Jesus here is saying to John what He said to Martha at the death of her brother, words that John also recorded: “ ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ ” (John 11:25, 26, NKJV).
With Martha and now with John, Jesus points us to the hope of the resurrection, the culmination and climax of the Christian faith. Without this particular hope, what hope is there?
“Christ Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Genesis of the Old Testament, and the Revelation of the New. Both meet together in Christ. Adam and God are reconciled by the obedience of the second Adam, who accomplished the work of overcoming the temptations of Satan and redeeming Adam’s disgraceful failure and fall.”—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, pp. 1092, 1093. Yes, Jesus is the beginning and the end. He created us in the beginning, and He will re-create us in the end.
From start to finish, as it teaches us about not only history but about end-time events, the book of Revelation is still the Apocalypsis Iesou Christou, the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Again, whatever else we may study about final events, Jesus Christ must be the center of it all.
Further Thought: “In the Revelation are portrayed the deep things of God. The very name given to its inspired pages, ‘the Revelation,’ contradicts the statement that this is a sealed book. A revelation is something revealed. The Lord Himself revealed to His servant the mysteries contained in this book, and He designs that they shall be open to the study of all. Its truths are addressed to those living in the last days of this earth’s history, as well as to those living in the days of John. Some of the scenes depicted in this prophecy are in the past, some are now taking place; some bring to view the close of the great conflict between the powers of darkness and the Prince of heaven, and some reveal the triumphs and joys of the redeemed in the earth made new.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 584.
The texts we looked at this week, in both the beginning and the end of the book, show just how much of Revelation is about Jesus. Even with all the Old Testament references to historical events, the book of Revelation teaches us more about our Lord Jesus. See Revelation 3:14; 5:5, 6; 7:14; and 19:11–16 for even more texts in Revelation about Him. When we put these texts together, we can get a powerful representation of Jesus and what He should mean to us as those who claim to be His followers.