As we enter our study of the book of Revelation, it will serve us well to remember that the book is the revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. Rev. 1:1+). As the angel tells John later in the book the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy [emphasis added] (Rev. Rev. 19:10+). Jesus made a similar statement when He criticized the Jewish religious leaders, You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me [emphasis added] (John John 5:39). How many commentators, hoping to lead us into a deeper understanding of this book have themselves fallen into the same error as the searchers of Jesus day? But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (John John 5:40). May we not fall into the trap of searching the Scriptures for reasons other than to find our Lord!1
The central theme of the Apocalypse is given in the title to the book. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place (Rev. Rev. 1:1+). Jesus Christ is the central theme of the Revelation. He is the most important key to understanding the book. He is both the author of the Revelation and the subject of it.2When studying the book of Revelation, it is easy to become distracted from this central theme because there is so much going onvisions being seen, seals being opened, trumpets blown, bowls poured forth, judgments taking place, and so on. There can also develop a sense of morbid fascination with the details revealed regarding the two beasts (Rev. Rev. 13:1+). Yet as believers, our primary motivation while awaiting the return of Jesus is to watch for our Lord , not the man of sin (Mtt. Mat. 24:42; Mat. 25:13; Mark Mark 13:33, Mark 13:35, Mark 13:37; Luke Luke 12:36-40; Luke 21:36; 1Cor. 1Cor. 1:7; 1Cor. 16:13; Php. Php. 3:20; 1Th. 1Th. 1:10; 1Th. 5:6; 2Ti. 2Ti. 4:8; Tit. Tit. 2:13; Heb. Heb. 9:28; 2Pe. 2Pe. 3:12; Rev. Rev. 3:2-3+; Rev. 16:15+). As we wait for Him, the book of Revelation provides a greater insight into His status today, no longer a man of sorrows, but the risen and glorified Lord!
The book of Revelation is the only book in the New Testament that presents Jesus Christ as He really is today. The gospels introduce Him as the man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering during his incarnation. Revelation presents Him in His true glory and majesty after His resurrection and ascension into heaven, never again to be reviled, rebuked, and spat upon.3The focus of the book of Revelation upon Christ and His return to institute His perfect, earthly kingdom can be seen in the numerous titles which John records:
The book of Revelation is preeminently the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. Rev. 1:1+). It describes Him by many titles, including the faithful witness (Rev. Rev. 1:5+); the firstborn of the dead (Rev. Rev. 1:5+); the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev. Rev. 1:5+); the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. Rev. 1:8+; Rev. 21:6+); the first and the last (Rev. Rev. 1:17+); the living One (Rev. Rev. 1:18+); the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands (Rev. Rev. 2:1+); the One who has the sharp two-edged sword (Rev. Rev. 2:12+); the Son of God (Rev. Rev. 2:18+); the One who has eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like burnished bronze (Rev. Rev. 2:18+); the One who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars (Rev. Rev. 3:1+); the One who is holy, who is true (Rev. Rev. 3:7+); the holder of the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens (Rev. Rev. 3:7+); the Amen, the faithful and true Witness (Rev. Rev. 3:14+); the Beginning of the creation of God (Rev. Rev. 3:14+); the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah (Rev. Rev. 5:5+); the Root of David (Rev. Rev. 5:5+); the Lamb of God (e.g., Rev. 5:6+; Rev. 6:1+; Rev. 7:9-10+; Rev. 8:1+; Rev. 12:11+; Rev. 13:8+; Rev. 14:1+; Rev. 15:3+; Rev. 17:14+; Rev. 19:7+; Rev. 21:9+; Rev. 22:1+); the Lord, holy and true (Rev. Rev. 6:10+); the One who is called Faithful and True (Rev. Rev. 19:11+); The Word of God (Rev. Rev. 19:13+); the King of kings, and Lord of lords (Rev. Rev. 19:16+); Christ (Messiah), ruling on earth with His glorified saints (Rev. Rev. 20:6+); and Jesus - the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star (Rev. Rev. 22:16+).4The book of Revelation claims to be prophecy (Rev. Rev. 1:3+; Rev. 10:7+, Rev. 10:11+; Rev. 22:7+, Rev. 22:10+, Rev. 22:18+, Rev. 22:19+). But, as the angel explains to John the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. Rev. 19:10+).5
It is with a devotional heart and a longing for our Lord which we should enter into our study of this book rather than an idle or morbid fascination with events to come. Without the proper focus, we risk turning this masterful message of Jesus Christ intended for personal response into a cold documentary of future events. Make no mistake: future events are here foretold, but the purpose of the events and their revelation to us is to glorify Jesus and to draw men to Himself. May it be so!
4 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 2.
5 He is the source of all prophecy, and all prophecy moves toward a fulfillment by Him with a view toward His own glory.Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 351.