Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).
1. What is your impression of the Book of Revelation?
At the very end of the Bible there stands a great “mansion” known as the book of Revelation. Some Christians have not dared to approach this great and awesome “mansion,” they have stayed away from it. They have been overwhelmed by the intricate passageways and the strange and imposing pictures that hang on the walls. Fearing that they would lose their way and, being intimidated by the scenes portrayed in the pictures, they have avoided this majestic “mansion” of divine revelation. Other Christians have gone to the opposite extreme: they have exhibited a fascination, even a pre-occupation, with the gallery of exotic pictures, but they have not allowed this book of divine revelation to have a profound and practical impact on their lives.
2. How is the Book of Revelation described in verse 1a (printed below?)
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him in order to show his servants the things that must soon occur. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John (Revelation 1:1)
We must approach this book with great reverence, recognizing that it is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is not only a revelation that comes from Christ to us; it is a revelation that God the Father has given to Christ His beloved Son. In a very unique sense, this book belong to Jesus Christ: this book is “the revelation of Jesus Christ, that God (the Father) gave him.”
3. For what purpose did God the Father give the Revelation to Christ? Note Revelation 1:1 (printed above under question #1)
Not only has God the Father given this revelation to Jesus Christ personally, He has also given it to Christ to share with His people. Here is another example of the great love God the Father has for His children in Christ: the Father has given the revelation to Jesus Christ so that He in turn may share it with His church.
4. According to Revelation 1:1,3 (printed below), when will the events revealed in this book occur? How would you interpret this?
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him in order to show his servants the things that must soon occur. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John… (3) Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who heed it, because the appointed time is near. (Revelation 1:1,3)
Verse one of the Revelation informs us that these things “must soon occur;” and verse three says, “the appointed time is near.” How are we to understand this in light of the fact that approximately two thousand years have passed since our Lord revealed these things to the apostle John? The Greek phrase used in verse one may be better translated, “swiftly,” rather than “soon.” If such is the case, then the meaning of this passage is that Revelation is revealing events that will take place swiftly in their appointed time, rather than soon in the chronological sense of the term. 1 Peter 4:7 (“The end of all things is near.”) sheds light on the meaning of the statement of Revelation 1:3 (“the appointed time is near.”) A more accurate, although more awkward, way of translating these phrases would be: “The end of all things is in the state of approaching;” or, “The end of all things is in the approaching mode.” By way of illustration: we may say that the spacecraft is ready for take off, all systems are go, it is in the launching mode. Another way of expressing the truth of these words would be to say that we have entered the last chapter of world history and all now stands ready for Christ’s return. According to Hebrews 1:2, with the coming of Christ and His finished work of redemption, we have entered into the “last days” of history. Scripture indicates that the only thing that prolongs this last chapter of history is the patience of God (note 2 Peter 3:9).
5. Why do you think the Lord Jesus communicated the Revelation to the church by means of symbolic pictures?
Symbols make the Revelation vivid and fascinating, so as to stir up contemplation and invite study—the use of symbols provokes thoughtful contemplation and prayerful study. At the same time, the use of symbols shrouds the Revelation in mystery; concealing the message from those who lack a spiritual interest in it—it is intended for Christ’s servants, not for the world at large (cp. Luke 8:10). (Note that this is a teaching technique similar to the use of parables.)