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Revelation | Part 1 | Sermon

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Sermon series on Revelation for St Edward’s Church / Part 1 /

Readings: Revelation 1:1-20 & John 1:12-20

This morning we are starting a 4 part series in the Book of Revelation. I told someone we were going to look at Revelation recently and they said: well that’s brave! But I have taught on this before and the last module of my MA was on Revelation so I feel well equipped… 

And I want to start by encouraging you to open your minds. Revelation at first glance is quite a mind trip: crazy visions, violence, a new Jerusalem – if you read it without a commentary, you are likely to just close the book and think: never again. But I promise you it is not nearly as complicated as we often think. It is full of metaphor and symbolism and when we get our heads around some of that, it makes a big difference. 

Now we won’t be able to cover the whole thing in 4 weeks, it is 22 chapters but what I hope is to give you an overview of some of the key themes so that when you look at it in future you think, ok I can understand it – or at least some of it!Do bring your bibles so you can refer to them – really important as we will dot around a bt not just the passage we are looking at.

Essentially this is a month long sermon!

And firstly let me say, it is Revelation – singular. Not Revelations. It is one Revelation of JC. I often hear people, including clergy call it Revelations, but that is just plain wrong!


Now one question we need to ask first of all when we read the Bible, as I have talked about before is what type of writing is this? In our Lent group we looked at this and came up with a very long list of types of writing in the Bible like: poetry? Narrative? Biography? Worship? Etc Revelation is largely what we call: apocalyptic. The first verse in our translation reads: the Revelation of JC but the word is: apocalypse.

Apocalyptic literature was a style used in that era, it was revelatory, often with visions, and we see some of this in the bible in the OT – for example Daniel 7-12, Ezekiel, some of Isaiah, and there are striking similarities to some of these as we will see in Revelation. But to be fair there are also other types of literature mixed in to Revelation – as we will see, for example Prophecy – v3 says: blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy. And also letters as we will see later on.

So this is John’s vision given to him by God, of Jesus (see v1)

And who is John? Who is the author? Is it John the apostle? John who wrote 1,2,3 John? We don’t know. as with much theology there is a lot of arguing about it! Personally I think there is some evidence to say it might have been the same John but that is widely refuted these days. And if I’m honest I don’t think it matters in terms of what we learn from it.

When was it written? This can be helpful to know so that we can interpret what we are reading in relation to the culture and context. Again it is debated but essentially we are looking at late 1st C AD

The main themes we are going to see in Revelation:

Firstly – Christology – or simply it’s about ChristJohn says in v1 this is a Revelation of JC so we know that what we are going to read should tell us about Jesus, should reveal who he is.

Secondly – But there is also something in there about the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and it is thought this is the earliest writing in relation to what we now call the Trinity.

Just in these first few verses we have John talking of a Revelation of JC – the Son; – given by God – ie the Father; and later being in the Spirit v9

Eschatology – ie what happens in the end – what does God have in store for eternity

And finally, the key purpose for all that John writes is to encourage people to live as mature disciples of Christ, in faithful witness to who he is, even in the face of opposition. He notes himself he is in exile on Patmos, sharing in persecution because of his faith in Christ.

Now one of the biggest reasons people find Revelation hard is because it is full of symbolism and metaphor. Over the years some have tried to interpret this to be relevant to contemporary events but this is not helpful and not what John intended. The symbolism more likely relates to events of the day and to a spiritual meaning, as we know it is a revelation of JC.


So for example, there is a lot of numerology = ie use of numbers as symbols.

we will see the number 7 used regularly and 7 = a number of completeness in Jewish culture. For example: 7 scrolls, lampstands, trumpets etc Also maths and multiples of numbers if you want to really get into it!


Time is not linear in Revelation. What I mean by that, is one thing happening after another. Revelation is not linear, things don’t happen in sequence, it is cyclical, so we see something happen and then we focus on something else in that scene that is likely happening at the same time. Like CCTV screens of diff cameras.

Rome / Imperial Cult – John was writing in a time when the Roman Empire was very strong. Emperors were seen as Gods with divine power, veneration was given to them. This was obviously problematic for Christians. The culture meant that those who refused to take part were excluded from business and other dealings. Rome is represented as an enemy throughout Revelation including as Babylon and as a harlot/whore (Ch’s 17-18).

There is also a lot of allusions to OT imagery/passages Eg: Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah.

In fact one author claims that there are 676 allusions to the OT in just 405 verses apparently – so look for them! And mostly these are used to point to Christ – placing him at the centre of Jewish scripture and at the centre of what John is saying here.

In this Chapter 1 for example, we see v 13:

I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 

If we look at Dan 10:5-6 we read:

I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude. 7

Very similar.  

So now we know, we are reading something that is highly symbolic, in order to understand we have to know the codes as it were.

We know that it is all about Jesus Christ, so we look for the clues, what is Revelation telling us about Jesus?

We know that it is written to help the faithful stay focused on being disciples of Christ

And we know that is rooted in Jewish scripture.

The Letters

I’m going to give just a couple of mins on the letters – Ch’s 2/3 – I encourage you to read them at home.

After the intro we get the letters. Ch’s 2&3. 7!! Letters.  Written to different churches in Asia – in the same sort of area, although it is likely this might all have been read together so each church would have read it all.

And in these letters we see a pattern:

Each letter starts with these are the words of: (Jesus) and a description – ie him who holds the 7 stars.. or the first and the last, the one who has the 2 edged sword – we just heard that didn’t we, Son of God and so on

And images people would understand,

remember this is a revelation of JC, so these are all diff descriptions of Jesus

Then we get a positive statement – you know when something bad is coming when the good comes first! In all cases except 1 – church at laodecia, who are just lukewarm!

So we get something good – eg; I know your works, your patient endurance

Then we get the negative – this is what you need to brush up on

Eg: you abandoned your first love, 2:4

Or you hold to wrong teaching 2:14

Then an instruction – eg: repent, be faithful etc

And finally a line about those who conquer:

Eg: 2:7

To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.

These will all make sense later on, but essentially are pointing to the future, in eternity.

So each letter to a church is both a call to repentence, to change their ways but also a reminder of who Jesus is and a promise of the future.

Remember Revelation is partly about calling people to live as faithful disciples

There are some specific examples in the letters which readers would have recognised as themselves or their church or home but the core message is the same throughout.

 For those that heard this, if they were facing persecution it would have been a real rally cry – come on remember who Jesus is. Don’t forget to live faithful lives, yes I know it might be tough at times but there is an amazing future for you far better than what is here.

And for us – it reminds us of that same call to remain faithful. A reminder of who Jesus is and what he offers for us.

Listen to these:


To the one who conquers, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.



To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne

What amazing promises are there in store for us too!

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