Apocalyptic and Epistolary Introduction (Revelation 1:1-3)
The full implications of John’s apocalyptic introduction can only be fully grasped when the reality of his vision begins to become apparent. However, his audiences are, the Jewish Christians and Gentiles socialized to the Jewish-Christian tradition. John indicates that Jesus is the Messiah in whom God is revealing the fulfillment of His purposes for His people. John also indicates that God’s fulfillment, begun in Jesus, continues to be played out according to God’s purposes. Those who participate fully in what God is doing (those who listen and obey) will experience the blessings of becoming God’s people in His fulfilled purposes.
The apocalyptic introduction, as of today, is almost incomprehensible outside the full sweep of John’s vision. The broader vision reveals that God has fulfilled the purposes; He sets forth in His covenant to Abraham (Gen 12:2-3). There, God promised that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Abraham’s descendants. We will see that the people of God are those redeemed from every tribe, nation, tongue, and people (5:9, 7:9). God has also fulfilled the purposes He sets forth in His covenant with Moses: His people would be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). It is clear that in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Messiah has made believers a kingdom of priests (1:6). Gentiles are now called to live their lives in the world as members of God’s Kingdom and as priests of God in such radical obedience to God (having the Word of God) that they may become like Jesus in the world. To live as members of God’s Kingdom is to incarnate the values, perspectives, and relationships of God’s Kingdom into our daily living. “To be priests of God is to be agents of God’s redeeming, healing, liberating, transforming grace to a broken and hurting world” (Note 9)
Epistolary Introduction (Revelation 1:4-8)
For John’s audience, steeped in or well acquainted with the Jewish expectations of the restoration of the Kingdom, the epistolary introduction is a profoundly radical statement. John infers that in Jesus as Messiah, God has fulfilled His promise through the prophets to His people to restore the Kingdom to Israel.
The focal element is that the death of the Messiah has cleansed Israel from her sins and made her God’s Kingdom of priests in fulfillment of the purpose of the Covenant (Exodus 19:6). The authentication of this reality is the resurrection of Jesus, the faithful martyr, the unmistakable sign that the restoration has begun. God’s restoration of the Kingdom extends far beyond Israel’s limitation to Jews only. We Gentiles have also been incorporated into God’s Kingdom as priests. We are now called to live as faithful citizens of God’s new realm of being, looking expectantly for its ultimate consummation in the return of Jesus.
***tomorrow, I will discuss the Seven Churches in Revelation in the Context of 21ST Century Churches