We are studying the Book of Revelation, and thus far we haven’t answered an important question, namely, what was John’s purpose in writing the book? There are a lot of people who would say that the purpose is obvious: It was a book that was written to tell people who read it what’s going to happen in the future. Of course it does do that in part. Other people would say, “Well, no, it’s more important than that.” I would agree with this to a greater degree: they would say it’s written to encourage people – those to whom John is writing, and perhaps people like ourselves as well, to bear up and be comforted in difficult circumstances. Certainly, that’s part of it. But I want to suggest that the real purpose of Revelation is more profound even than that. As I see it, the primary purpose of Revelation is to enable Christians from every age and in every possible circumstance to view what is happening in history from God’s point of view, rather than from man’s, and to be comforted and strengthened by it in order to live for Jesus Christ and his glory at all times.
I would say that this explains the pattern of the book. It isn’t so much this recurring series of sevens, which strikes us the first time we read it – seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls of wrath, and so on – but instead a pattern in which John passes from a scene on earth to a scene in heaven. For example, in chapters 1 to 3 we have letters written to particular earthly churches. We understand that very well. That’s the kind of world in which we live. But then, in chapters 4 and 5, our eyes are lifted up to what is going on in heaven. In chapter 6 through the first half of 7, we see God’s judgment being poured out on the earth. In the last half of chapter 7, the scene goes back to heaven, where we see the felicity of God and the worship of God by the saints. Chapters 8 through the first half of chapter 11 show us more earthly judgments, and then in the last half of chapter 11 we’re back in heaven again, and throughout the book, until you get to that final scene in which we’re back on earth once again and the people of God are looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ, and they’re calling, “Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus.” He’s given them the promise that he will.
So let me say it again. The purpose of Revelation is to get Christians from all periods of history and in all circumstances to look at things from God’s perspective rather than from man’s and to begin to draw comfort and strength from that perspective. Now that’s the reason for verse 8 in chapter 1. What’s remarkable about verse 8 is that here God the Father himself is speaking. He does that in one other place in Revelation: in chapter 21, verses 5 through 8. In all other places the Word of God comes to us in a mediated way – through that chain of revelation that John introduces at the very beginning of the letter: This is the revelation of God the Father through Jesus Christ, imparted by an angel, or angels, to John, who records it and then conveys it to those in the churches, by those who read the letter, and finally to those who hear it.