Prologue to Revelation

SYNOPSIS - The Prologue presents the basic themes of the book and declares that the season of fulfillment has arrived – Revelation 1:1-3

Ancient Corinth - Photo by Constantinos Kollias on Unsplash.com
Corinth, Constantinos Kollias
The first paragraph of the book of Revelation introduces its key subjects and characters, and it tells the reader how it communicates. It identifies the purpose of the book (to reveal) and its protagonists (God, Jesus, angel, John), in addition to its nature (prophecy), source (God), target audience (God’s servants), contents (what things must come to pass), chronological perspective (soon), method of communication (signified), and it provides an example of how Revelation applies Old Testament scriptures.

The book is a single document addressed in its entirety to the same audience. It is comprised of a prologue, a series of visions, and an epilogue. The book is a “revelation” or apokalypsis, a Greek term that denotes “revelation, disclosure, an unveiling” (Strong’s - #G602). The intent of Revelation is to disclose, not to conceal.
  • (Revelation 1:1-3) – “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to point out unto his servants the things which must needs come to pass with speed,— and he shewed them by signssending through his messenger unto his servant John; who bare witness as to the word of God, and the witness of Jesus Christ,— whatsoever things he saw. Happy! he that readeth, and they who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things |thereinwritten; for the season is near” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Revelation” is not the title of the book but a designation for what it is. This first word is singular. The book is not a collection of loosely connected visions but a singular disclosure - A revelation “of Jesus Christ.” The genitive construction of this last clause can mean it is an unveiling about Jesus, or, one that belongs to him, or both.

The book does reveal information about the identity and role of Jesus and, therefore both senses may be intended. God “gave” it to Jesus who, in turn, “gave” it to his angel to “show his servants” imminent events. The stress in the clause falls on his possession of the “revelation.” Events in the subsequent visions unfold as Jesus unveils them to his servant, John. However, this includes a great deal of information about Jesus and HOW he is implementing his reign.

The contents of the book are labeled the “word of God” and the “testimony of Jesus.” The latter term is repeated several times in the book to stress the faithful “testimony” given by Jesus in his sacrificial death. Likewise, “testimony” is also applied to the “saints” who remain faithful in persecution and tribulation, even when violent death is inevitable - (Revelation 1:4, 1:11, 1:20, 13:7-10).

The objective of the book is “to show” God’s servants - “WHAT THINGS MUST COME TO PASS soon.” This phrase summarizes the contents of Revelation. The events disclosed are imminent.

Soon” translates a prepositional phrase - en tachei - Literally, “with speed.” The same clause is used elsewhere for something imminent - (Luke 18:8, Acts 12:7, 22:18, 25:4, Romans 16:20, 1 Timothy 3:14).

The first verse of the book uses several terms from the book of Daniel. Verse 1 provides the first example of how John applies an Old Testament passage. However, he employs no citation formula, no “even as it is written.” Instead, the book uses verbal allusions to fold Old Testament passages into its narrative.

When John does allude to the Old Testament, he uses the Greek Septuagint version, not the original Hebrew text. Note the first verse of Revelation compared to a passage from the book of Daniel:
  • (Revelation 1:1) - “REVELATION (apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants WHAT THINGS MUST COME TO PASS (ha dei genesthai) soon.”
  • (Daniel 2:28) - “There is a God in heaven that REVEALS mysteries and made known to the king Nebuchadnezzar WHAT THINGS MUST COME TO PASS (ha dei genesthai) in later days.”
This is to say, that what for the prophet Daniel would not occur until “latter days” is to occur “soon” for the first readers of the book of Revelation. The book is also called “the prophecy,” again applying a singular noun to the entire book. It unveils what was previously veiled. It is also called “the prophecy of this book, also in the singular number - (Revelation 22:7).

Autumn forest - Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash
Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash

The unveiling by Jesus is necessary because the “season is near.” Imminence will be reiterated in the book’s conclusion. The phrase is another allusion to Daniel, and it is used in the same way as the first instance. Note the comparison:
  • (Revelation 1:3) - “Blessed is he that reads and they that hear the words of the prophecy and keep the things that are written in it, for the SEASON (kairos) IS AT HAND."
  • (Daniel 12:4) - “Shut up the words and seal the book, even until the SEASON (kairouOF THE END.”
The same point is made as previously - What was for Daniel “in later days” is now imminent – The “season is at hand.” The prophet Daniel was told to “seal the book until the season of the end,” whereas, Jesus declares a blessing on all who read and heed this book, for the “season is at hand.” This understanding is confirmed in the epilogue where the allusion to Daniel is clear:
  • (Revelation 22:7) - “SEAL NOT the words of the prophecy of this book, FOR THE SEASON IS AT HAND” (compare Daniel 12:4).
Jesus “signified” to his servants. This verb translates a Greek term, sémainō, which is related to the noun used for “sign” - semeion - (Strong’s - #G4591). It means to “indicate, show by sign, to signify.” In warfare, it referred to “signals” used to order an advance, retreat, or an attack. This points to the symbolic nature of the visions - They communicate by means of symbols - (Revelation 12:1-3, 13:13, 15:1, 16:14).

The first audience of the book was comprised of “servants” of Jesus - (doulos, “slave, servant”), a term applied to Christians elsewhere - (Luke 12:37, Acts 2:18, 4:29, 1 Peter 2:16, Revelation 2:20, 7:3).

Blessed is the one who reads and they who hear.” This reflects a real-life situation. Books were expensive and commoners were often illiterate. The common practice was to have a document read aloud to the assembly by a designated reader, thus here, “one who reads” and “they who hear.”
The book of Revelation discloses how the kingdom of God will achieve final victory, the role of the servants of Jesus in the process, and what all this means for the marginalized churches of Asia.
What the book of Daniel anticipated in a remote future and in a veiled form is now disclosed and put into motion by Jesus on behalf of his saints - The time of fulfillment has arrived!

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