When John Saw JesusRevelation 1:9-20Theme: The glorified Christ.This week’s lessons teach us who Jesus is and why he is to be worshiped. LessonI want to look at verse 19, particularly, because that’s difficult. Many people regard verse 19 as the key to understanding the whole of the prophecy and there’s a sense in which it may be. At any rate, however you look at the prophecy, it’s going to affect how you look at this verse. There are four main views of verse 19. Verse 19 talks about “he who is”: “Write therefore what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later.”
The first view is that verse 19 provides a three-part chronological sequence. At first glance, that really seems to be the best way to take those words. “What you have seen” would be the vision of Christ among the lampstands, in chapter 1; “what is now” would be the state of the seven churches, which you find in chapters 2 and 3; and then what will take place later would be the bulk of Revelation, that is, chapters 4 through 22:5, and then it changes a bit at the end. The problem with this view is that chapters 2 and 3 together are one section, and the bulk of what comes later refers to things not only in the present or the future but past, present, and future; in other words, it’s all mixed together. There doesn’t seem to be a real historical sequence at all. And the phrase from Daniel 2:28, “what will take place later,” in Daniel should mean not just a distant future, but the final days in which the Messiah comes. And since John is picking that up from Daniel, he seems to be saying that those final days inwhich the Messiah comes are now. In other words, that’s what he’s talking about.
The second view is that this is a two-part sequence. In other words, this view understands “what you have seen” as referring to the entire vision, and then that’s broken down into two parts: what exists right now and what is yet to come in the future. That’s a better treatment because it links “what you have seen” to verse 11, which says, “Write on a scroll what you see.” But again, it doesn’t tell us anything about the historical sequence.
The third view is that the words refer to history as a whole. Earlier on in this introductory material I tried to point out different ways of looking at Revelation. One of them is called an idealist view. It simply means that it regards everything as merely a description of history the way it is, without any real suggestion of what is to come. And I suggested that while there is some truth in that, it is describing what life is like and what history is like. The weakness is that it doesn’t give us any real information about the future.
I think verse 19 really is referring to things that exist now but at the same time are not yet entirely fulfilled. This fourth view recognizes that the words “what will take place later” are a deliberate reference to Daniel. They indicate that what he was prophesying for the latter days is here and is happening now because Jesus Christ has come; he died on the cross, he rose from the dead, and he’s now ruling the churches, although at the same time, everything that we can say about Jesus Christ has not yet happened. He’s come once, but he is also coming again. So there’s an anticipation of what’s going to take place in the very, very last days. Nearly everything in Revelation is now because it does describe the nature and the repeated cycles of history – this corrupt age in which we live; but it also points forward to a literal future coming of Jesus Christ in glory.
John was still on Patmos when he had this vision. But he says that he had it in the Spirit. Because he was in the Spirit, he was able to see beyond Patmos and his imprisonment to a larger heavenly reality. That’s the reality that we’re to see as well. We are often bogged down with mere trivia. Our life is filled with trivia of many different types. But John, and God himself, wants us to see beyond the here and now, beyond the details of our lives to that which is eternal, to see that city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is the Lord.
According to Dr. Boice, what does Revelation 1:19 really refer to?
How does John want us to view life?
ReflectionAre you bogged down in life’s trivia? The only way to cultivate an eternal focus is to seek God in his Word.