Revelation (Part 03): Prologue and Epilogue
Revelation’s purpose, as we’ve discussed, is primarily to reveal Jesus, God’s anointed rescuer. Verse 3 of the prologue offers blessing to the one who hears/reads this book, but that blessing is very much associated with the book’s purpose. It is to those who read “and keep what is written in it” who are blessed. The blessing comes from the understanding of the revelation of Jesus through this age that necessarily winds through the sin environment of this world while Christ gathers those of faith for his kingdom. We who have believed and are part of that kingdom must not allow the world in which we live to overwhelm us in our pursuit for and with God. We must remain faithful, and as we do we gain the verse 3 blessing. That verse also urges to be faithful “because the time is near!” The time being near means the time is at hand—now! The need for faithfulness is now. The threats and persecutions and tribulations occur now, and amid that, keeping faith is necessary.
Throughout the prologue descriptions are given for God, for the Spirit, and for Jesus. These descriptions are also associated with the book’s purpose and are meant to give confidence to the believers who must keep faithful. In verse 4, God is called the “One who is, who was, and who is coming.” God orchestrated everything from the beginning. He superintends it all throughout history. He is the one who will conclude it all. That statement is meant to comfort those who may feel awash in a world in which evil seems to rack up its triumphs. No, God says, evil exists, but God’s purpose and control coordinates his plan throughout, and we may rest in that.
The same verse calls the Holy Spirit the seven Spirits (or sevenfold Spirit) before the throne. That number seven intends to convey completeness, giving us the same confidence in the complete controlling Spirit as we got when we just read of God’s overarching control. Verse 5 goes on with the same theme to give us confidence in our Christ. He is the “faithful witness” as we must also be. He is the “firstborn from the dead” as we have been born again in following him. And he is the “ruler of the kings of the earth.” No one holds authority over him. He rules—he controls—all.
But notice also that it is not simply a self-serving ruling and control and faithfulness. Jesus, we are told, did and is those things because he loves us in setting us free (5b), and he did it to make us a kingdom and priests to his God and Father (6).
Continued words of encouragement are given as we are assured that his glory and dominion are forever and ever and that his coming is certain. In his coming, though, a previous hint is reinforced (as it will be more and more throughout the book). His coming will be both a blessing and a curse—blessing to those who by faith accept him as Lord and curse to those who do not. This is the intentional, specific dividing line for all humanity. Those who love him will rejoice at his coming; those who love self will mourn. God told us of that blessing/cursing dichotomy back in Genesis 12:3 as the blessing and curse was explained to Abraham. We read of the withholding of blessing in Zechariah 14:17 as well as the mourning felt in Zechariah 12:10.
The prologue finishes with Jesus speaking (I think) as he sums up the confident control by claiming a title of God. This could as easily be regarded as God, the Three-in-One, speaking here, claiming again his OT title of Alpha and Omega (start and end – Isaiah 44:6) – the one who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty!
To balance this framework begun here in the prologue, we need to jump all the way to the end of the book now and look at the epilogue. We will find that the epilogue contains most of the elements in the prologue, balancing the thought and giving greater assurance of both the purpose for the book and the actual confidence we may have in God because of it. The epilogue begins in 22:6 and runs to the end.
The first thing we may notice is that the message pattern is the same. God speaks to and through Jesus who is the Word—faithful and true. We even see this exact same reference from 22:6 back in 19:11 as we see Christ coming from heaven on a white horse and are told he is called Faithful and True. The words come to the angel who, in turn, presents them to John, who writes them for the benefit of all God’s people.
John begins to bow before the angel, but the angel quickly redirects his gaze. In emphasis the angel proclaims that the words—the message—are not his, but God’s. And it is to God, for who he is as the true and good and beautiful one, that all worship must be directed. Note here that this is not merely some effrontery to the lofty sensibilities of God should worship not be directed to him. It is that he is truth, goodness, and beauty. And all our lives and rejoicing—our faith, hope, and love—has that essence of God as our purpose, goal, and blessing. We were created to have relationship with him filled with that truth, goodness, and beauty that can come only from him. So we rejoice in that and we worship God for who he is.
We also note that this deliver of God’s message through his (God’s – 22:6) angel is the same message John receives from Jesus through his (Jesus’s – 22:16) angel, showing indeed that Jesus is God. Yet we do not let loose of his humanity. He is, as we’re told in verse 16, the root (Creator, Giver of life) of David as well as the offspring (qualified human king – Romans 15:12) of David.
Verse 17 continues with the connection that we sense in this epilogue. God is to be worshipped as the only one deserving of worship for who he is—all truth, goodness, and beauty. But we cannot forget the emphasis of Scripture: we were created to joy in everlasting love relationship with him. We were not created to cry out how scummy we are, hiding under rocks so that we can make sure God gets all the glory. Remember what glory is. It is the manifesting of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty. We cannot glorify God well while hiding under a rock. We were made to dance in his presence.
And we see that clearly in verse 17 as it is not only God who extends the call, but he wants and expects us to join in with him in pursuing the kingdom. Yes, the Spirit says come, but the bride says come as well. We are the bride. God gives us the message to take to others. And so we join with God in the happy pursuit of his kingdom.
Here in the epilogue we are also struck with the urgency of the message. Again, we read that these things (including and especially the extending of this time of trouble) will take place quickly. Endure! And we are also urged to understand that this is not some concern about the future. The time is near (22:10); it is at hand; it is now. Notice the contrast in the angel’s instruction not to seal this book with the instruction for Daniel and his prophecy (Daniel 12:4). Daniel was to seal up his prophecy because it was intended for a later time. John’s revelation prophecy is for now, and so it remains unsealed.
Jesus is coming! Blessed are those whose robes are washed clean – made righteous (faithful to the covenant) through the faithfulness of Jesus. Outside this group—this kingdom—are those not righteous, not faithful to the covenant. Six descriptors are given for this outside group (22:15). They are liars, murderers, dogs, idolaters, sorcerers, and sexually immoral. Notice that these six categories (all referenced as abominations in the OT and lined up in this sequence) are those things that directly attack the image of God in his Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Faith, Hope, and Love.
But for those inside the kingdom, there is blessing: the blessing of the Bright Morning Star (22:16), the blessing of the water of life (22:17b), the blessing of God’s deliverance (22:20), and the blessing of God’s grace (22:21).