The full title of Revelation is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”, NOT “The Revelation of St John the Divine”. In this book Christ is presented to the reader in a variety of guises, each emphasising certain aspects of His character. The book opens with a vision of Christ so glorious that John falls prostrate, unable to look upon the risen Lord. Christ is presented in a full length robe, indicative of His priestly role. He is our exemplar in worshipping God, and He is our intermediary, offering sacrifice on our behalf.
John refers to Him as the Son of Man, a title He used of Himself during His earthly ministry, which is taken from Daniel 7. This title appropriate here because the Danielic vision presents the enthronement of the Son of Man and His judgement of the powers of darkness, a theme with which the Revelation is deeply concerned. The Son of Man is Yahweh Himself, the cloud-rider of the Old Testament, the King of Israel, the Lord of the Divine Council. He is the vice-regent of the Ancient of Days. In John’s vision the Son of Man is merged with the Ancient of Days, underscoring the Trinitarian bedrock of the Revelation.
This glorious figure stands amidst the seven Lampstands, which represent the seven Churches, which in turn are symbolic of the whole Church through the ages. Christ is shown to be with His people, an important message given the harrowing contents of the Revelation. The Devil, the Beast, the False Prophet, and Mystery Babylon are not destroyed until the Final Judgement, when Christ vindicates His faithful followers. Until that time His saints must persevere in the face of terrible trials and temptations, but they can take comfort from the fact that He is with them through it all.
He reassures John that He has conquered death, that He is the master of the grave. The Lord of the Dead was feared throughout the ancient world, so much so that his name was not uttered willingly, but was replaced with euphemisms like “the wealthy one” (Pluto). Hades and the Abyss should be understood almost interchangeably. To be master of the Abyss is to be master of the spirts who live there: Satan, demons, fallen sons of God, etc.
The ministry of casting out demons marked Jesus out as the Messiah, the one who would reverse the rule of darkness over the sons of men. Thus Jesus’ ministry indicated to humanity that they had entered the last days. The powers of darkness were now on a downward trajectory. A helpful analogy for understanding the Church Age as the last days is to compare it to the time between D-Day and VE Day. The crucifixion and resurrection are like D-Day, they spell an end to the war and indicate who the winner is, but the war is not quite over. The return of Jesus and the Last Judgement (Parousia) are equivalent to the capture of Berlin and the surrender of the Nazis.
Jesus as the exalted Messiah in Revelation is thus in control. When demons are released from the Abyss, when the armies of darkness are allowed to damage the earth, they can only do so because Christ allows them to as a judgement on the unbelievers. Christ has sovereignty, He is presented as “King of kings and Lord of lords”, but He is also presented as the Lamb that was slain, and this echoes His claim in John’s Gospel that He has the right to judge humanity on the Last Day because He lived as a human. He is the Son of Man.
Thus the Christology of the Revelation depicts Jesus as the Sovereign Lord, the Son of Man, Yahweh. He sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven and is present among His saints on the earth through the Holy Spirit who is “another Jesus”, represented by the blazing lamps before the throne in heaven and the seven eyes on the Lamb that was slain. The Revelation is a thoroughly Trinitarian work that draws upon Gospel of John and Messianic passages of the Tanakh.
I like the images of Jesus in Revelation. I think the contrast between how he is described in the Old Testament, the Gospels, and then the Apocalypse are quite fascinating.
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The Apocalypse is the crown of synthetic writing in the Bible. The way John weaves things together is fascinating, and the message of the book can be applied to all time periods, not just the end of the age.
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