The Revelation of Jesus Christ
How do we get to know Jesus Christ for who He really is? In our relationships with others, we usually get to know them gradually. As we talk and do things together we find out each other's likes and dislikes, where we're coming from and what we'd like to do. Some call this process "self-disclosure." Another word is revelation. We gradually reveal personal things to others as we trust them. The more we value and trust them, the more we reveal.
When it comes to knowing Jesus, our growing relationship with Him also follows a gradual process of self-disclosure and maturation. Since God loves us and wants us to know Him as He knows us, He takes the lead in revealing Himself to us gradually in the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation and in His creation and providential work in our lives (Psalm 19; Romans 1:18-20; 8:28). To build our faith and trust in Him He reveals Himself most profoundly in Jesus.
He begins the Gospels by telling us about Jesus' family and birth. Luke tells us of Jesus' adolescence. Jesus discloses that He is the Son of God in whom God reveals His great love for us (John 3:16). Each gospel tells of Jesus' ministry and His most important work of dying on the cross for us. God reveals His power over death by raising Jesus. Acts reveals how Christ, ascended to heaven, sends His Spirit, guides His people and saves those responding to the good news of His death, burial and resurrection by faith, repentance, confession, immersion and faithful living.
The New Testament letters reveal more about Jesus, expanding on what John wrote in his gospel, "He was in the beginning with God" and "All things came into being by Him" (John 1:2-3a). Paul tells us that not only did Christ create everything, "in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). We learn that Christ is everywhere (Ephesians 4:10).
The New Testament helps us see Jesus in the Old Testament. In Corinthians we learn that Christ is "the spiritual rock" that followed and cared for Israel (1 Corinthians 10:4). We now understand that when in Genesis God is referred to by the plural name Elohim and said "Let us make man in our own image" that Christ was there (Genesis 1:26). He is the One the Old Testament Law, prophets and Psalms speak of as the coming Messiah and Suffering Servant (Luke 24:44; Daniel 9; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53).
Revelation discloses even more about who Jesus is and what He does. Jesus says near the opening and ending, "I am the Alpha and the Omega* . . . the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Revelation 1:8; 22:13; i.e. *A-Z in English). He is "the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth" (1:5). John unites Jesus' person and actions in the word He very frequently uses for Him, "the Lamb" (about 31 of 39 New Testament occurrences) saturating Revelation with the essence of the gospel. Jesus, the Lamb, is the perfect sacrifice and so is worthy to act and to receive honour: "And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation….Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing'" (5:9, 12). Through Revelation Jesus speaks to His people, opens the sealed book, breaks the seals, stands on Mount Zion, rules over nations, judges, punishes the enemies of God, oversees the consummation of history and with God receives the thunderous praise of multitudes: "as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder" (19:6).
Suprisingly to people like us living in a visual culture, the Scriptures from Genesis to Jude tell us much about Jesus but say little about what He looks like. Isaiah says that "He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him" (53:2). To strengthen the faith of early Christians living in cultures saturated with alluring visual images of idols and temptation, God gives a powerful vision of Jesus in Revelation as the victorious Lord of heaven and earth. For first-century Christians familiar with Roman military rule Revelation gives them a head-to toe vision, with sound, of the all-powerful victorious Christ who has ultimate rule and victory over all who threaten His people: "one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength….And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, 'KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS'" (Revelation 1:13-16; 19:11-16). The first and most fitting responses to these awe-inspiring visions is worship and obedience (please recall our June 2008 article, "Revelation Worship").
Revelation is the climax of God's self-disclosure over thousands of years of history and in the writing of Scripture. Looking over the wide span of the Bible, we learn that Jesus is the Spiritual Rock of the Old Testament, the invisible caring Creator. In the Gospels Christ comes in the flesh, incarnate and compassionate, crucified and risen. In Acts and the letters we see Jesus the risen cosmic Lord. In Revelation we see Christ the ruling victor, Lord of lords, King of kings, "the bright morning star" (22:16) and eternal light of His people.
Our life with God is often called a walk. God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:9). Faithful people like Enoch and Noah "walked with God," (Genesis 5:22, 24; 6:9). Jesus takes the first step of self-disclosure in our walk with Him, showing us what He thinks and through doing God's will. He encourages us to do the same, promising we will know His teaching for certain as we do: "If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself" (John 7:17). John is a spiritual writer yet also very practical. He says "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth" (3 John 4). Revelation promises blessings to those who walk in its truth: "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it" (1:3; recall our February 2008 article, "Revelation Blessings (Beatitudes)").
God cares enough to reveal Him self and His Son to us. Through His awesome revelation, we catch a vision of Him, hear Him, trust Him, and know Him better each day as we walk with Him in His wonderful creation and do His will. We look forward to His ultimate revelation of Himself when we shall see our victorious Lord in all His glory!
Paul Birston ©