The book of Revelation is not something that I hear much about from most of the young Christians that I know. The few that I hear talking about it are more interested in making historical connections. While it is a prophetic book, which does require those connections at some point, I’ve been wondering lately, as Jon Paulien, dean of Religion at Loma Linda University, states: “[Adventists] get so absorbed in history that we fail to follow the story of revelation itself” (emphasis mine). This, he goes on, may cause us to miss things that are important in helping us understand the text itself and how it helps us understand history.
In the spirit of this statement, I’ve begun walking through Revelation again. I came down this road several times before. When I first read Revelation, I was driven by an apologetic spirit; seeking out ways to defend the Adventist position. Over the years as my understanding of biblical interpretation, due to constant reading and some theological classes, deepened, I started to notice things that I didn’t see before.
This time around, I don’t want to bog you down by starting with background information, heavy explanations, or theological terminology (even though a big part of me wants to write this in more scholarly form). The reason: most people are more interested in devotional messages than the process that one goes through in order to develop the material for those devotions (smile). That being said, I begin with reflections on the first three verses which some bibles call, “Introduction and Benediction.” It tells us: where Revelation come from; the beings involved in the process to get it to earth in the first century; and why we should read it.
Origin of Revelation
Where does the content of Revelation come from? The value that we put on Revelation is based on a claim that it makes concerning itself: it originated from God (Rev. 1:1). In fact, all of the versions I’ve read explicitly states, “God gave.” Thus, there is no confusion about the origin of the content that is within this document. However, being the curious person that I am, I went on to ask myself about what does it mean when it says God. This question arose because I notice that a difference is made in the verse between “Jesus Christ” and “God.”
As one who believes in the trinity, I thought that If God gave the Revelation to Jesus Christ then the term God must be referring to God the Father, God the Spirit, or both. I don’t have a definitive answer at this point, but I believe that the answer must include God the Father. This is not to say that the Spirit wasn’t aware of the transfer of the communication, or what may have you. I hope I did not perplex you further concerning this already perplexing book. The point is that God is the source. This is the divine origin of the book.
I thought that it would be necessary to mention the human writer in this origin section. John, a writer with four other literary documents in the Bible, is the human being that was, as the apostle Peter puts it, “moved” by God (2 Pet. 1:21 NKJV). This is an example of Peter’s words in action.
The Journey from God to Earth
John could have started the Revelation by simply stating it was given to him by God, but he didn’t. Instead, he decides to list 4 beings: Jesus, God, an angel, and himself. As stated earlier, it begins with God. Revelation unveils a God who took the initiative of sending something that wasn’t asked, but utterly necessary.
Thus, God “gave” it to Jesus, who then gave it to an angel. The Godhead gave an angel the opportunity to participate in the transmission of this communication. This adds to the grandness of the Revelation. Heaven embarked on a great mission to bring something to earth. This mission involved all the big names. The angel enters into the world of mankind and gives the prophet the secret that is to be unveiled.
Why Bother with this Book?
This may seem like a mundane question, but it is one that I’ve heard frequently. Before discussing the reasons, as stated in the first three verses, I would like to present an analysis of the contemporary climate. People are more interested in reading the stories in the Bible that they can easily understand. I reckon that the reason for this, that is to say, for those that are serious, is to find commands and principles that will tell them what to do. This is a good objective because the Bible aims at doing just that, providing guidance. The problem is that in the quest to find what to do some people develop a habit of being content with the quickest answer. Anything that challenges the mind to dig deeper receives a screwed face. It never ceases to shock me when I see college students do this.
But let’s get back to the topic. Other than the fact that it is in the Bible, which, I have noticed, is not a motivator for Christians to read something anymore, Revelation states that its’ readers, hearers, and doers will be blessed (Rev. 1:3). If this is not an incentive to invest time into this book then I don’t know what is. Everywhere you hear the pulpiters (preachers) storming about receiving God’s blessings, but nowhere is this book mentioned. If it is, I haven’t heard it. Here is an opportunity to be blessed, and all you have to do is prayerfully read and study.
There is something to note about this blessing that is being promised. The verse says that blessings will come upon “the one who reads,” and “those who it hear it and take it to heart” (NIV). An idea that may come to the mind of someone reading this is that there are two pre-requisites for this blessing. The first is that if you are a reader of Revelation then you will be blessed. The condition is that you simply read it. The second is that a blessing is reserved for those who don’t read it but heard it. The listeners, they reckon, also have to practice the counsels within.
Jacques B. Doukhan, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at Andrews Theological Seminary, comments that this section of the three verses is a reference to the worship service in which Revelation is to be read. He bases this on the fact that the one who is reading it is stated in singular form, and the hearers are in the plural. So does this mean that we only receive the blessings if we gather somewhere and hear someone speak on Revelation? No. Without going into too much of a discussion on meaning of words, Doukhan states that the word that is being used in reference to hearing also requires the understanding of what is being heard. This will require more than just sitting in church and hearing a sermon.
What about Jesus? Any discussion on Revelation must include Jesus. Not only did he participate in the transmission process of the material, but it is also a revelation about himself (1:1). Perhaps the real issue with understanding this is due to the failure of some to show the church how Jesus is revealed. Jesus’ relationship to the rest of the book is pivotal in understanding it since it is a revelation of him.
Another reason that must come in under this section is Revelation’s claim to contain “what must soon take place” (1:1, 3). I’m sure that what will happen tomorrow, or even for the rest of today for that matter, is of great interest to many. Well, God doesn’t give us all the information about what is going to happen soon, but he does give us something. The only reason why we would deny ourselves this information is if we don’t believe that it is really there. Our belief in whether or not this document contain what it says it does will affect whether we read it or not.
 Jon Paulien, Ph.D., is a Seventh-day Adventist New Testament scholar. He specializes in Johanine literature (especially the book of John and Revelation).
 Jon Paulien, Armageddon at the Door: An Insider’s Guide to the Book of Revelation (Hagerstown, MD: Autumn House Publishing, 2008), pp. 63-64.
 Cf. Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible.
 Cf. ASV; ESV; KJV; NAB; NASB; NET; NIV; NJB; NKJV; NRS; RSV; and YLT.
 The apostle John wrote the Gospel According to John; 1 John; 2 John; and 3 John.
 Jacques B. Doukhan, Secrets of Revelation: The Apocalypse Through Hebrew Eyes (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2002), pp.12-13.