In our first article, we affirmed that the book of Revelation is more than the last book of the Bible. It claims to be the Revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1), the testimony of Jesus (1:2), and prophecy (1:3). Because of its prophetic nature, it has become a playground for speculators. In this article, we will consider additional answers to our question.
The work of revealing God's truth to mankind was given to the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit completed this work long before John saw the Apocalypse (cf.Acts 20:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-16; 2 Peter 1:3). In fact, the Holy Spirit completely revealed all the truth to the Apostles before any of the New Testament Scriptures were written. (cf. The Development of the New Testament by this author.) If this is true, the book of Revelation contains no revelations of new truth. If all truth was revealed before any of it was written, there was nothing new left to be revealed.
Jesus recognized the completion of the Holy Spirit's work when addressing the seven churches of Asia. While He knew the particular circumstances relating to each church, commending, condemning, and calling for repentance when warranted, He did not reveal His will for right conduct to the churches. He rather instructed each church to "hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). The message of truth was complete. The churches were instructed to appeal to the message revealed by the Spirit as their guide for proper conduct. Some might conclude upon the basis of this premise that a knowledge of the book of Revelation is not essential to salvation. I believe this to be a valid conclusion, but it should not be allowed to obscure our vision of the importance of the Apocalypse. This book contains vital messages for the Christian in every age.
In John's vision of the throne of God, John saw "in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals" (5:1). This is interesting. God had a scroll in His hand that was completely full. It was sealed with seven seals signifying His complete and full approval of the scroll and its content. Jesus Christ, the Lamb found worthy to open the book and loose its seals, came to the right hand of God and received the scroll. All of heaven and earth then bowed before Him in honor and praise of Him.
This is a beautiful picture, but what does it mean? Our understanding of this scene flourishes when viewed in relationship to other scripture. Consider Daniel's vision of the Son of man. "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 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" (Daniel 7:13-14). Ponder what was wrought in Christ when God "raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (Ephesians 1:20-21). It should be apparent that Revelation 5 gives us a visual picture of the inauguration of Christ as king with all authority at God's right hand.
What are the seals upon the book? Consider the words of Jesus on the night of His betrayal. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). Jesus gave His chosen apostles the words of God during His ministry (John 17:8,14), but He had not given them all of it. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus would send from the Father, would complete the revelation of God's word (John 14:16,26; 15:26). Jesus said, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:13-15). Jesus was to receive the entire message from the Father and send the Holy Spirit to complete the task.
This is our picture in Revelation 5. God had the book in His right hand. The book contained the full and complete word of God to man. Jesus received the book from God's right hand and sent the Holy Spirit to reveal it to mankind (5:6). John visualized scriptural teaching taught elsewhere in the Bible (cf.1 Peter 3:22).
Now that we have determined what the book contains, what are the seals upon it? We must keep in mind that seals upon documents are not the documents themselves. A seal upon a document simply identifies and verifies the authority behind the document. The document is here. What proof is there of its authenticity and genuineness? Seals establish the authority behind the document. In this case, the seals upon the scroll certify that the complete and full word of God is authentic and genuine.
God does not think as humans. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). His memorials of memorable events have always been different than man would create. The Passover, the Sabbath, and the Lord's Supper are examples of God's different ways. The seals upon God's word are likewise different. These seals are historical events which had either already happened, were happening, or would happen in the future (1:19). Their fulfillment would place the stamp of God's full and complete approval upon His revealed word as from Him. The historical seals appear in chapters 6-11 of Revelation. They impress upon us that God has sealed His word.
God often used future historical milestones as evidence of the accuracy of His promises. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was to be proof the promised Messiah of the Old Testament scriptures came and accomplished all that God determined (Daniel 9:24-27). Jesus used the same event to establish the fulfillment of all the Old Testament scriptures (Luke 21:22). In this way, fulfillment of the events pictorially portrayed by the seven seals confirm that the full scroll came from God with His complete approval and authority. Again, this is a valid reason for placing the Apocalypse at the end of our scriptures.
The words do not appear in the book and yet comfort, consolation and security permeate the book of Revelation. How comforting to know that blessedness comes to those who study this prophecy, keep the things written within (1:3), and "do his commandments" (22:14). How consoling to know that God invited us to drink freely of the water of life (22:17) and eat of the tree of life (2:7; 22:14). Also, think of the blessings afforded those who overcome. They inherit all things and realize intimate fellowship with God (3:20; 21:7). They have God's promise to be with them (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6; Revelation 13:10; 14:13). God promises that, if fellowship with Him results in the death of His saints, they will be blessed, rest from their labors (14:13), continue to live and reign with Christ (20:4), and the second death will have no power over them (20:6). What greater security could we desire?
In this writer's opinion, the book of Revelation is the greatest piece of literature ever penned. It does not mention Old Testament books or quote from them and yet the entire scheme of redemption veiled in mystery throughout the ages pictorially appears. The New Testament order is mentally cast before our eyes as the fulfillment of the mystery revealed by the prophets. The Apocalypse does not specifically mention the plan of salvation, yet the plan is in operation. This book does not mention the universal church yet it shines in all of its glory. It does not give us the details for acceptable living yet God's people glow in their white robes. What a glorious book! It touches all the bases. Nothing written on the pages of men can compare. It is a masterpiece presentation.
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This page was last updated on Thursday, May 28, 1998.