Day 343

Unlocking Revelation

Wisdom Psalm 140:1–5
New Testament Revelation 1:1–20
Old Testament Zechariah 9:1–11:17

Introduction

It stars Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando. Set in the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now is a 1979 epic war film. The use of the word ‘apocalypse’ is based on the popular misunderstanding of the word as ‘destruction’.

The Greek word apokalupsis, translated ‘revelation’ (Revelation 1:1), is made up of two Greek words – apo (out of) and kalupsis (‘hiding’). The word actually means ‘disclosure’. In the book of Revelation, the veil is taken off. The mystery is unlocked.

‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ (v.1) has a double meaning. First, it is the revelation that is given by Jesus. Second, it is the revealing of Jesus, who lies hidden in the Old Testament and is revealed in the New Testament. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is further unveiled. We get a clearer disclosure of his great love for us, and his victory over evil.

Wisdom

Psalm 140:1–5

Psalm 140

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

  1 Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
   protect me from the violent,
  2 who devise evil plans in their hearts
   and stir up war every day.
  3 They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
   the poison of vipers is on their lips.

  4 Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
   protect me from the violent,
   who devise ways to trip my feet.
  5 The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
   they have spread out the cords of their net
   and have set traps for me along my path.

Commentary

Revelation of the righteousness of God

David prays to be rescued from evil people. He speaks of evil thoughts (v.2a), evil words (v.3) and evil deeds (v.4).

Evil is not just about other people. It is about me. All of us have had bad thoughts, said hurtful things and done wrong. All of us have failed to be righteous.

The apostle Paul writes, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’ (Romans 3:10), and then goes on to illustrate his point using a verse from our psalm – ‘the poison of vipers is on their lips’ (Psalm 140:3 and Romans 3:13).

But Paul explains that now a righteousness from God has been ‘revealed’ (Romans 3:21, GNB). This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’ (v.22).

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the revelation of your righteousness that comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ.

New Testament

Revelation 1:1–20

Prologue

1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Greetings and Doxology

4 John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father —to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

  7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
   and “every eye will see him,
  even those who pierced him”;
   and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
    So shall it be! Amen.

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

John’s Vision of Christ

9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Commentary

Revelation of Jesus Christ

This book is a record of the apostle John’s revelation of Jesus, which came to him as he was worshipping. Eugene Peterson writes that ‘we are enlisted as participants in a multidimensional act of Christian worship’. John ‘has worship on his mind and is pre-eminently concerned with worship’. God speaks to John as he is worshipping and Jesus is revealed.

The book of Revelation was written to seven churches in Asia minor (v.11), which were pastored by the apostle John who was in exile on the island of Patmos ‘because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus’ (v.9). John sees ‘seven golden lampstands’ (v.12), which he tells us represent the ‘seven churches’ (v.20).

Seven in the Bible is the number of completeness and perfection. So, this can be taken to mean the whole church. It is written for you and me. Jesus calls John to write down what he sees. He begins to unlock the ‘mystery’: ‘The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches’ (v.20). This suggests that every church, including yours, has its own angel. Jesus holds all the churches in his hands.

John, in revealing the nature of spiritual reality, uses poetry, songs, metaphors, visions, symbols and pictures. Parts of the book of Revelation are extremely difficult to understand. But it is worth persevering. This is the only book in the Bible where we are specifically told that those who read it will be blessed: ‘How blessed the reader! How blessed the hearers and keepers of these oracle words’ (v.3, MSG).

It seems that the early Christians had already changed their day of rest and worship from Saturday (the Sabbath) to Sunday. The revelation began ‘On the Lord’s Day…’ (v.10) – the day the Lord was resurrected, in other words, Sunday.

The book of Revelation, like the Bible as a whole, centres on Jesus: ‘Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth’ (v.5). It is very easy to get bogged down in the details of Revelation, but the key is to remain focused on Jesus. The general message of the book is clear – Jesus wins!

Jesus is the one ‘who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father’ (vv.5b–6). Through Jesus you are loved, loosed from your chains and lifted up.

Your sense of worth is not based on what you do or look like, nor on what others think about you. You are of great value and worth because Jesus loves you so much that he shed his blood for you.

Jesus is going to come again. It will not happen secretly. Everyone will see it: ‘Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’ (v.7). You are on the winning team. Jesus is coming back and you will enjoy eternity with him.

John sees ‘someone “like a son of man”’ (v.13). This was Jesus’ favourite way of referring to himself. He sees Jesus in all his majesty and glory, ‘dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round his chest’ (v.13). He sees him in all his purity and timelessness: ‘His head and hair were... as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters’ (vv.14–15).

He sees the total splendour of his appearance: ‘In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance’ (v.16). Sometimes, when people spend time in the presence of Jesus, their faces seem to shine. This gives us a taste of what Jesus himself looks like.

John’s response to the revelation of Jesus is worship: to fall ‘at his feet as though dead’ (v.17). Jesus places his hand on him saying, ‘Don’t fear: I am First, I am Last, I’m Alive. I died, but I came to life, and my life is now forever. See these keys in my hand? They open and lock Death’s doors, they open and lock Hell’s gates’ (vv.17–18, MSG).

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, I want to fall at your feet and worship you today. I give you my fears today. Thank you that, ultimately, I am safe in your hands.

Old Testament

Zechariah 9:1–11:17

Judgment on Israel’s Enemies

9 A prophecy:

  The word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrak
   and will come to rest on Damascus —
  for the eyes of all people and all the tribes of Israel
   are on the Lord—
  2 and on Hamath too, which borders on it,
   and on Tyre and Sidon, though they are very skillful.
  3 Tyre has built herself a stronghold;
   she has heaped up silver like dust,
   and gold like the dirt of the streets.
  4 But the Lord will take away her possessions
   and destroy her power on the sea,
   and she will be consumed by fire.
  5 Ashkelon will see it and fear;
   Gaza will writhe in agony,
   and Ekron too, for her hope will wither.
  Gaza will lose her king
   and Ashkelon will be deserted.
  6 A mongrel people will occupy Ashdod,
   and I will put an end to the pride of the Philistines.
  7 I will take the blood from their mouths,
   the forbidden food from between their teeth.
  Those who are left will belong to our God
   and become a clan in Judah,
   and Ekron will be like the Jebusites.
  8 But I will encamp at my temple
   to guard it against marauding forces.
  Never again will an oppressor overrun my people,
   for now I am keeping watch.

The Coming of Zion’s King

  9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
   Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
  See, your king comes to you,
   righteous and victorious,
  lowly and riding on a donkey,
   on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
  10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
   and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
   and the battle bow will be broken.
  He will proclaim peace to the nations.
   His rule will extend from sea to sea
   and from the River to the ends of the earth.
  11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
   I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
  12 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
   even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
  13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow
   and fill it with Ephraim.
  I will rouse your sons, Zion,
   against your sons, Greece,
   and make you like a warrior’s sword.

The Lord Will Appear

  14 Then the Lord will appear over them;
   his arrow will flash like lightning.
  The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet;
   he will march in the storms of the south,
   15 and the Lord Almighty will shield them.
  They will destroy
   and overcome with slingstones.
  They will drink and roar as with wine;
   they will be full like a bowl
   used for sprinkling the corners of the altar.
  16 The Lord their God will save his people on that day
   as a shepherd saves his flock.
  They will sparkle in his land
   like jewels in a crown.
  17 How attractive and beautiful they will be!
   Grain will make the young men thrive,
   and new wine the young women.

The Lord Will Care for Judah

  10 Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime;
   it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.
  He gives showers of rain to all people,
   and plants of the field to everyone.
  2 The idols speak deceitfully,
   diviners see visions that lie;
  they tell dreams that are false,
   they give comfort in vain.
  Therefore the people wander like sheep
   oppressed for lack of a shepherd.

  3 “My anger burns against the shepherds,
   and I will punish the leaders;
  for the Lord Almighty will care
   for his flock, the people of Judah,
   and make them like a proud horse in battle.
  4 From Judah will come the cornerstone,
   from him the tent peg,
  from him the battle bow,
   from him every ruler.
  5 Together they will be like warriors in battle
   trampling their enemy into the mud of the streets.
  They will fight because the Lord is with them,
   and they will put the enemy horsemen to shame.

  6 “I will strengthen Judah
   and save the tribes of Joseph.
  I will restore them
   because I have compassion on them.
  They will be as though
   I had not rejected them,
  for I am the Lord their God
   and I will answer them.
  7 The Ephraimites will become like warriors,
   and their hearts will be glad as with wine.
  Their children will see it and be joyful;
   their hearts will rejoice in the Lord.
  8 I will signal for them
   and gather them in.
  Surely I will redeem them;
   they will be as numerous as before.
  9 Though I scatter them among the peoples,
   yet in distant lands they will remember me.
  They and their children will survive,
   and they will return.
  10 I will bring them back from Egypt
   and gather them from Assyria.
  I will bring them to Gilead and Lebanon,
   and there will not be room enough for them.
  11 They will pass through the sea of trouble;
   the surging sea will be subdued
   and all the depths of the Nile will dry up.
  Assyria’s pride will be brought down
   and Egypt’s scepter will pass away.
  12 I will strengthen them in the Lord
   and in his name they will live securely, ”
    declares the Lord.

  11 Open your doors, Lebanon,
   so that fire may devour your cedars!
  2 Wail, you juniper, for the cedar has fallen;
   the stately trees are ruined!
  Wail, oaks of Bashan;
   the dense forest has been cut down!
  3 Listen to the wail of the shepherds;
   their rich pastures are destroyed!
  Listen to the roar of the lions;
   the lush thicket of the Jordan is ruined!

Two Shepherds

4 This is what the Lord my God says: “Shepherd the flock marked for slaughter. 5 Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who sell them say, ‘Praise the Lord, I am rich!’ Their own shepherds do not spare them. 6 For I will no longer have pity on the people of the land,” declares the Lord. “I will give everyone into the hands of their neighbours and their king. They will devastate the land, and I will not rescue anyone from their hands.”

7 So I shepherded the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock. Then I took two staffs and called one Favour and the other Union, and I shepherded the flock. 8 In one month I got rid of the three shepherds.

The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them 9 and said, “I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another’s flesh.”

10 Then I took my staff called Favour and broke it, revoking the covenant I had made with all the nations. 11 It was revoked on that day, and so the oppressed of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the Lord.

12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.

13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.

14 Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the family bond between Judah and Israel.

15 Then the Lord said to me, “Take again the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 16 For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hooves.

  17 “Woe to the worthless shepherd,
   who deserts the flock!
  May the sword strike his arm and his right eye!
   May his arm be completely withered,
   his right eye totally blinded!”

Commentary

Revelation of the Saviour

Why are some people so relentlessly positive? It all stems from a little word: ‘hope’. Jesus, as revealed in this passage, sets the prisoners free from ‘their hopeless cells’ (9:11, MSG).

Jesus fills you with hope. However bad your current situation, never give up hope. We are ‘prisoners of hope’ (v.12). Joyce Meyer writes, ‘Real hope is a constant positive attitude that no matter what is happening currently, things will change for the better.’

The words of Zechariah have several levels of fulfilment. Far greater than the historical fulfilment of chapter 9 (through Alexander the Great and the Maccabees), was the fulfilment revealed in Jesus.

‘See, your king comes to you righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey’ (v.9). These words were fulfilled on the first Palm Sunday, as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:1–5; Mark 11:1–11).

Zechariah foresees that a humble, righteous king will come bringing salvation. He is meek, humble and externally poor. His kingdom would not come by traditional methods of battle. He is not a military king (Zechariah 9:10).

He will bring peace to Jews and Gentiles (v.10, see also Ephesians 2:17). His rule will extend from sea to sea (Zechariah 9:10). You will experience great blessings ‘because of the blood of my covenant with you’ (v.11).

He brings freedom for the prisoners (v.11; see also Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18). He brings you security: ‘Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope’ (Zechariah 9:12). He brings you great blessing: ‘I will restore twice as much to you’ (v.12). He is invincible ‘like a warrior's sword’ (v.13; see Revelation 1:16). He brings you salvation (Zechariah 9:16; see also Luke 12:32; John 10:1–16).

There are many other wonderful promises in these prophecies of Zechariah including Jesus as ‘the cornerstone’ (Zechariah 10:4) and the ‘Good Shepherd’ who will pastor the flock with ‘Favour’ and ‘Union’ (11:7). In sharp contrast to the ‘foolish’ shepherd described here (v.15), you are called to ‘care for the lost’, ‘seek the young’, ‘heal the injured’ and ‘feed the healthy’ (v.16).

We also see in this passage a foreshadowing of the betrayal of Judas. The ‘thirty pieces of silver’ (v.12) is the price that was put on Jesus’ head (see Matthew 26:15).

Almost every detail of Jesus’ life, character, mission, death, resurrection and victory was foreshadowed in some way in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament.

Prayer

Father, thank you for the revelation of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.

Pippa adds

Revelation 1:13–17

On seeing Jesus, John writes, ‘When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.’

It is easy to think of Jesus as the gentle teacher who walked around Galilee doing good. But here we see him risen, in all his majesty and glory, where the only appropriate response is to fall face down before him.

Verse of the Day

Revelation 1:17–18

‘Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last, I am the living one, I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!’

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References

Joyce Meyer, Everyday Life Bible (Faithwords, 2018), p.1459.

Eugene Peterson, The Message, ‘Introduction to Revelation’ (NavPress, 1996), p.1674.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Bible in One Year

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