Resources » The IVP New Testament Commentary Series » Revelation » The Title (1:1-3) » The Revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1)

The Revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1)

The word revelation never occurs again in the book that has come to bear that name. Every other time the book refers to itself, it is as a prophecy (v. 3; compare 22:7, 10, 18) or a "book of prophecy" (22:19). Revelation should therefore be understood in much the same sense as in 1 Corinthians 14:6, 26, where Paul lists "a revelation" among the things prophets in early Christian congregations received from God in the Spirit—along with knowledge, prophecy, teaching (v. 6), a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, an interpretation (v. 26).

Paul uses the phrase "revelation of Jesus Christ" in Galatians 1:12 (NRSV) to refer to the divine message he had received, and by virtue of which he became apostle to the Gentiles. Both in Galatians and here in Revelation the phrase "revelation of Jesus Christ" tells us primarily where the revelation comes from, not what it is about. It is a revelation given by Jesus Christ from heaven, now that God has raised him from the dead. Much of it, of course, will also be about Jesus, but above all the title is saying that the book is from Jesus.

If Jesus is the immediate source of the revelation, God is its ultimate source. God gave the revelation to Jesus Christ to show it in turn to his servants. The point is much the same as in John's Gospel, where Jesus insists again and again that the words he speaks are not his own words, but the words of "him who sent me" (for example, Jn 7:16-17, 28; 8:28; 12:49-50). The decisive fact that Jesus has been raised from the dead does not mean that his role as God's Agent or Revealer is over. Quite the contrary! He has a great deal more to say to his followers (compare Jn 16:12), but now he will say it through his servants, and in particular through his servant John.

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