Revelation (Part 08): Summarizing the Presentation
Although we have now identified the major parts of Revelation, we still need to thread them together. Revelation has often been seen as a disjointed mingling of end time events. It is neither disjointed nor is it only about the end times. As we have discovered, the book is the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Kinsman Redeemer (KR). John uses the scroll—the testament or title of God’s creation (an oft-used symbol of the OT)—to carry the KR plot along. Chapters 4 through 7 identify the KR; chapters 8 through 11 present the opened scroll showing the price paid and the claim of redemption begun; and chapters 20 through 22 provide the accomplished redemption result in the redeemed presented to God, fulfilling the Zion purpose of creation—image bearers and God living together in everlasting love relationship!
Of course, this story does not merely skip along happily on flowery paths of ease. Creation’s redemption requires the selection of those born of God (those who are God-focused) from those who have bought into Satan’s lie of exalting self (those who are human-focused). This conflict is what is revealed to us in Revelation 10 as the sweet yet bitter redemption activity. While the sweetness of relationship with God is of course understood, welcomed, and hoped for by the God-focused, bitterness lies in the necessary fact of the suffering that will ensue as the gathering takes place—suffering both because of the persecution from Satan, his angels, and his deceived earthly followers and because of the heart-rending end for those image bearers who have been deceived and will not repent.
So then, even in this book of the wonders and the glories of realized redemption, much discussion must, in fact, take place regarding what exactly this redemption is from. Chapter 4 of Revelation begins this picture. We are often told that this is merely a picture of the throne room of God. But, as we have already discussed, the images of this scene are intended to show holiness, separation, the gulf that exists between God and his fallen, sin-infused creation. It is the sadness in this picture that leads to the need for redemption.
It may at first appear that the throne room scene with God holding up the scroll, looking for a redeemer, takes place post-crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus does appear as the Lion from the tribe of Judah and as a lamb that appears slaughtered. And yet, in the calling out for someone worthy, chapter 5 very much looks as if a redeemer is still being sought rather than that one has already been found and has already paid the price. I believe that sometimes we get too hung up on the time and sequencing and chronology in general. The picture is not meant to denoted chronology. It is meant to show purpose. There is division from God, a need for a redeemer, the willingness of Jesus, and his qualification in how he would accomplish this redemption. God agrees to the plan by releasing the scroll to him. This scene, then, is not meant imply that God was still and suddenly trying to find a redeemer when Jesus steps up. The whole scene is the whole plan of God that was established since the very beginning. After all Revelation 13:8 even proclaims that the “book belongs to the lamb who was slaughtered before the creation of the world.” So the scene is not meant to indicate a time period of post-resurrection. No time period is intended at all. This merely shows the plan of God, necessary because of the sinful, fallen condition of his creation.
This lamb (Jesus the KR) will open the seals in chapters 6 and 7, further presenting the fallen nature of creation. The mighty angel of chapter 10 (Jesus the KR) will hold the opened title deed, positioning himself to claim in redemption all creation. The angel in chapter 20 from heaven (Jesus the KR), holding the key (recall who holds the Rev 1:18 keys) chains Satan, of course not with an actual physical chain, but based on that imagery, Christ shows his victory over the accusations of unrighteousness that Satan had been spewing out against God’s people and God himself. Christ showed the righteousness (faithfulness to the covenant) of God and God’s people by offering his death to redeem the faithful of creation. Satan is cast down, his arguments defeated. And Christ’s redeemed people reign with him a thousand years.
This picture of victory in Christ, the throw down of Satan, and even Satan then, although thrown down (chained/limited/prevented from continuing his accusing condemnation) turning to attack (like Paul’s description, as a roaring lion) the people born to Christ, is laid out for us in Revelation 12. The woman Israel is ready to give birth to the Messiah (12:1–2). Satan is ready to devour the Messiah as he comes forth (12:4). The child (Jesus) is snatched away (through resurrection) by God (12:5). In defeat, Satan is cast from heaven (12:7–10). And Satan begins his roaring lion pursuit of God’s people (12:17).
So while Revelation is a story of redemption, it is also a story of endurance in suffering. This is the exhortation of chapters 2 and 3 as Christ encourages those who are God-focused. These God-focused redeemed are gathered amid the sin environment of the human-focused, described in Revelation 13 and 14, receiving God’s wrath in 15 and 16, and described in the pain of defeat in 17 through 19.
With this framework structure and the book’s intended message understood, we can now begin a detailed walkthrough of the book.