Introduction to Revelation
Nov 14, 2015
In some ways the book of Revelation could be considered to be the conclusion of the book of Daniel.
Daniel’s prophecy focuses upon the nations who were given the Dominion Mandate after Judah failed to fulfill its terms. These other nations, however, were also doomed to failure, for they were never predestined in the plan of God to lead the world into the righteousness of the Kingdom of God. If Judah, which possessed the law of God, could not fulfill its responsibility, then how might other nations, which lacked its revelation altogether, succeed where Judah failed?
Nonetheless, God saw fit to transfer the Dominion Mandate to other nations for a season, in order to bring judgment upon Judah for its continual violation of the Covenant. When those who are called fail to fulfill their callings, God raises up alternates to do the job, even though these alternates are often worse than the one who was given the calling.
Daniel, then, reveals the succession of empires that were to arise after Jerusalem’s failure. He reveals four main empires, plus an extension of the fourth known as the “little horn.” Daniel’s conclusion is that these empires will fall to the Kingdom of God, pictured as a “stone” carved out of the mountain with invisible Hands. This Kingdom will receive the Dominion Mandate to rule all nations under an unfailing Messiah.
The Scope of Daniel’s Revelation
The revelation given to Daniel was largely limited to the first three empires: Babylon, Persia, and Greece. For the most part, he leaves to John the task of revealing the rise and fall of Rome and its extension, the “little horn.” However, Daniel did receive revelation about the timing of the coming of the Messiah. He linked it to a certain decree that was to be issued by a king of Persia, telling us that the Messiah would come upon the scene after “seventy weeks” (of years).
Other revelations of timing were obscure, and there was hardly any way that anyone in the prophet’s lifetime would be able to decipher these “sealed” revelations of timing. It is only by looking back in history from our modern perspective that we have any chance of unsealing such revelation.
Daniel’s main historical prophecies end rather abruptly at the close of his eleventh chapter with the fall of the king of the Grecian empire, Antiochus Epiphanes. He was not the final king of the divided Grecian empire, but due to his atrocities, the Dominion Mandate was removed from his empire in 163 B.C., giving Judah a measure of liberty for a hundred years. Then in 63 B.C., Pompey, the Roman general, took Jerusalem, as God gave Rome the Dominion Mandate.
The prophetic implications of these events are fully discussed in my commentary on the book of Daniel. [It is nearly ready for publication.]
Apart from the sealed time cycles in Daniel 12, the history that is foretold in Daniel reaches its real climax in the final verses of Daniel 9, where we read of the coming of the Messiah. The prophet also refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, although he says nothing about the cause of those violent days.
Neither does Daniel distinguish between the two comings of the Messiah and the two destructions of Jerusalem. Such details are left for the writers of the New Testament after Jesus made it clear that He would come “a second time” (Hebrews 9:28). It is obvious, then, that the book of Daniel is incomplete without the revelation of the New Testament. John’s book of Revelation brings the story of the Kingdom to its climax at the end of the age.
Qualifying for the Dominion Mandate
As with Daniel, John tells us that the Kingdom will be given to those who are qualified to rule, those who have the character of Christ. Daniel calls these “the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:22, 25), for whom “thrones were set up” (Daniel 7:9). John echoes this, telling us, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them” (Revelation 20:4). He says further that “they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).
In fact, the purpose of the Revelation (“Unveiling”) of Jesus Christ is to qualify us to rule, so that we do not tumble into the same pit into which the kings of Judah fell. Those who are qualified to rule in the Kingdom of God are those in whom Christ has been unveiled. Because of this unveiling within, they are able also to reveal, or unveil, Christ to others. They are able to judge the world by the same mind that is in Christ. When Paul wrote that “the saints will judge the world” (1 Corinthians 6:2), he was referring to the same “saints” that Daniel revealed in his visions.
The Age of Judgment
The rise of the Stone Kingdom will have time to prove its worthiness to receive the Dominion Mandate. It will not fail as its predecessors failed. And when it has proven itself “for a thousand years,” the great summons will be issued from the Great White Throne, calling all of the dead to appear before the Court. This event will then bring in the next phase of earth’s history—the age of divine judgment until the end of time when the final trumpet will sound for Creation’s Jubilee.
The release of Creation “from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21) was revealed clearly to the Apostle Paul as well as to John. John’s vision in Revelation 5:13 also revealed the climax of history:
13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
Hence, the Law of Jubilee mandates a limit, not only for commercial debt, but also for judgment for sin. (Sin is reckoned as a debt in Scripture.) The Jubilee is the Law of Grace. While it does not eliminate divine judgment, it sets parameters of judgment, so that in the end “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
For this reason divine judgment is presented in Scripture to be olam (Hebrew) and aionian (Greek). The Hebrew word, often translated “eternal” or “everlasting,” in reality means “a hidden, unknown, or indefinite period of time.” The word olam comes from the root word alam, which means “to hide, obscure.” The Greek word aionian, is simply the Greek equivalent of olam, and it means “age-abiding,” also an indefinite period of time.
Hence, divine judgment is not “eternal,” but age-abiding. The duration of the age of judgment is obscure and hidden from us, but the divine law itself places limits on all judgment for sin (debt). Hence, divine judgment is limited by the Law of Grace.
Understanding these things ensures that we know that God wins in the end. All creation comes back to Him. All things are put under the feet of Christ, so “that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), leaving “nothing” that is not subjected to Him (Hebrews 2:8).
When we view Daniel and Revelation as a harmonious revelation of the divine plan for creation, our understanding is increased exponentially. Indeed, we ought to view the entire Scriptural record with a holistic mindset, for even though each writer is unique, each contributes his portion of divine revelation to the whole. No single revelation is complete apart from all others, nor can each revelation be understood fully apart from the rest.
Perhaps the most important feature of all is the relationship between Israel and the other nations, and its New Testament counterpart, the relationship between believers and unbelievers. From the start of the written revelation, God has been concerned with all of creation and all nations, not simply a portion of it, such as Israel or the Church. When God called Abraham, the promise to him was not just to save him and his family, but to be a blessing to all others—that is, to all nations (Genesis 12:3). Abraham’s greatness was not about his personal status or character, but about his ability to bless others.
The mind of God has seen fit to call the few to bless the many. Israel was called to bless all nations; the Church was called to bless the unbelievers; God’s friends were called to bless His enemies. In the end, Nineveh is converted (Jonah 3:10, 4:11); Babylon is declared to be under the feet of Christ (Daniel 4:37); Persia is likewise put under the feet of Christ (Daniel 6:26); and in 1 Corinthians 15:27 and again in Hebrews 2:8 Paul confirms the word of David in Psalm 8:6, saying “Thou hast put all things under His feet.” Revelation 11:15 also proclaims, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.”
While many may doubt God’s ability to fulfill His promises, thinking that His will is dependent upon the unruly will of man, those who believe the New Covenant promises of God have come to see that God’s will is not subject to the will of men. No amount of opposition can withstand the will of God once He has purposed to accomplish something.
The Basic Structure of Scripture
The revelation of Scripture has come down to us in a manner structured after the Hebrew literary device known as a chiasm, or Parallelism. The overall structure is as follows:
A. The King and the Kingdom Promised (Old Testament)
B. The King Presented and Rejected (Gospels)
B1. The Kingdom Presented and Rejected (Acts and Epistles)
A1. The King and the Kingdom Unveiled (The Revelation)
Within each of these broad categories, of course, is a multitude of details. The book of Genesis, which is the beginning of the first section, is the “Beginning” that is inseparably linked to the book of Revelation, which is the “End.” The Genesis record presents to us the promised “seed” of the woman (Genesis 3:15), while the book of Revelation unveils who this is and His ascent to the throne of the Kingdom.
It takes a long time to complete the story. Meanwhile, it appears to many that the promises have failed, for they say that “all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Yet Paul tells us to judge nothing before its time (1 Corinthians 4:5 KJV). The promises that God made in the book of Genesis are nothing apart from their fulfillment in the book of Revelation. The course of history often seems to go in the opposite direction of the promises of God, but those who believe God’s word are not discouraged by appearances.
The connection between the Old Testament (“A”) and the book of Revelation (“A1”) is seen in the fact that John quotes the Old Testament 285 times. This is far more often than Matthew’s gospel (92) and even the book of Hebrews (102). This alone should make us realize that the book of Revelation is essentially a Hebrew book expressed in Greek. Although the language is Greek, the concepts are Hebrew. John lived in Ephesus for much of his life and knew the Greek language well, but his concepts and definitions were derived from his origins in Hebrew culture. Therefore, we must be careful not to assume a Greek mindset while studying the book of Revelation.
Much of the book of Revelation is based upon imagery of the temple in Jerusalem. It comes from the perspective of a priest. We know that John was of a priestly family, as I explained in my book, Dr. Luke, Healing the Breaches, Book 8, chapter 9, pages 55, 56. He was familiar with temple protocol and was an eyewitness to priestly activity. John’s advantage, of course, was that he had a revelation of the spiritual meaning of that which had been done carnally in the temple before its destruction in 70 A.D. He understood that the earthly temple was patterned after the spiritual temple in heaven and was meant to express spiritual truths. So we must take on John’s Hebrew mindset (as best we can) in order to understand what he was telling us in Greek.
John’s gospel is constructed from a Parallelism based upon the feasts of the Lord. The feasts are prophetic of the two comings of Christ, which in turn are the subject of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The structure itself, being a Hebrew literary device, shows John’s Hebrew mindset as well as his style of writing.
We know from John’s first epistle (also constructed as a Parallelism) that one of his main concerns was to express the love of God. It is a Book of Origins, for he shows that the character flaws of men and nations originated in the early chapters of Genesis. There he drew upon the imagery of the creation of light and darkness, the serpent and Eve, Cain and Abel, Christ and antichrist, children of God and children of the devil, love of truth and seduction to lawlessness.
These concepts form the foundations upon which the book of Revelation is constructed. John presents us with the ultimate triumph of good over the forces of evil. Creation was created “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Sin entered later and is therefore a temporary delay in the fulfillment of the divine plan for creation. Creation will be set free, and Christ will rule all that He created in the beginning. This is John’s revelation of Christ.
This is part 1 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones