December 27, 2020

Jesus Christ is the Beginning and the End

"By conveying the Bible to people . . . we certainly do them a most interesting act of kindness. We thereby enable them to learn that man was originally created and placed in a state of happiness, but, becoming disobedient, was subjected to the degradation and evils which he and his posterity have since experienced. The Bible will also inform them that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed - that this Redeemer has made atonement "for the sins of the whole world," and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy, has opened a way for our redemption and salvation; and that these inestimable benefits are of the free gift and grace of God, not of our deserving, nor in our power to deserve. The Bible will also [encourage] them with many explicit and consoling assurances of the Divine mercy to our fallen race, and with repeated invitations to accept the offers of pardon and reconciliation. . . . They, therefore, who enlist in His service, have the highest encouragement to fulfill the du¬ties assigned to their respective stations; for most certain it is, that those of His followers who [participate in] His conquests will also participate in the tran¬scendent glories and blessings of His Triumph."[1]
Daily Reading : REV. 1 - 8
TEXT : Rev 1:1  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Rev 1:2  Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Rev 1:3  Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. Rev 1:4  John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; Rev 1:5  And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, Rev 1:6  And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Rev 1:7  Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Rev 1:8  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the LORD, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Introduction to Revelation
As regards Peter and Paul, we have scriptural authority for regarding them as the apostles respectively of the circumcision and of the uncircumcision. Peter and the twelve remained at Jerusalem when the disciples were scattered, and, continuing (though God was careful to maintain unity) the work of Christ in the remnant of Israel, gathered into an assembly on earth the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Paul, having received the ministry of the assembly, as of the gospel to every creature under heaven (Colossians 1), as a wise master-builder, lays the foundation. Peter sets us off as pilgrims on our journey to follow Christ risen towards the inheritance above. Paul, in the full development of his doctrine (though owning this, as in Philippians 3), shews us the saints sitting in heavenly places in Christ, heirs of all which He is heir of. All this was dispensational, and it is full of instruction. But John holds a different place. He does not enter on dispensation; nor, though once or twice stating the fact (as Joh_13:1; Joh_14:1; Joh_17:24; Joh_20:17), does He take the saint, nor even the LORD Himself, up to heaven. Jesus, for him, is a divine Person, the Word made flesh manifesting God and His Father, eternal life come down to earth. The Epistle of John treats the question of our partaking of this life, and its characters.
But at the close of the Gospel, after stating the sending of the Comforter on His going away, Christ opens to the disciples (though in a mysterious way) the continuation of God's dealings with the earth, of which John ministerially is the representative, linking the manifestation of Christ on earth at His first coming with His manifestation at His second; Christ's Person, and eternal life in Him, being the abiding security and living seed of God, when dispensationally all was corrupted, and in confusion and decay. If all were in disorder outwardly, eternal life was the same.
The destruction of Jerusalem formed a momentous epoch as to these things, because the Jewish assembly, formed as such at Pentecost, had ceased (nay, it had even before); only the judicial act was then accomplished. Christians had been warned to leave the camp. The breach of Christianity with Judaism was consummated. Christ could no longer take up the assembly, established in the remnant of the Jews, as His own seat of earthly authority. [See Note #1] But alas! the assembly, as Paul had established it too, had already fallen from its first estate — could in no sense take up the fallen inheritance of Israel. All seek their own, says Paul, not the things of Jesus Christ. All they of Asia-Ephesus, the beloved scene where all Asia had heard the word of God — had forsaken him. They who had been specially brought with full intelligence into the assembly's place could not hold it in the power of faith. Indeed, the mystery of iniquity was at work before this, and was to go on and grow until the hindrance to the final apostacy were removed.
Here, in this state of universal declension and ruin John's ministry comes in. Stability was in the Person of Christ, for eternal life first, but for the ways of God upon earth too. If the assembly was spued out of His mouth, He was the faithful witness, the beginning of the creation of God. Let us trace the lines of this in his gospel. In John 20, as else where noticed in detail, we have a picture of God's ways from the resurrection of Christ till we come to the remnant of Israel in the latter days, represented by Thomas's look on the pierced One and believing by seeing. In chapter 21 we have, besides the remnant, the full millennial gathering. Then at the close of the chapter, the special ministry of Peter and John is pointed out, though mysteriously. The sheep of Jesus of the circumcision are confided to Peter; but this ministry was to close like Christ's. The assembly would not be established on this ground, any more than Israel. There was no tarrying here till Christ came, [See Note #2] Peter's ministry in fact was closed, and the circumcision assembly left shepherdless, before the destruction of Jerusalem put an end to all such connection for ever. Peter then asks as to John. The LORD answers, confessedly mysteriously, but putting off, as that which did not concern Peter who was to follow Him, the closing of John's ministry, prolonging it in possibility till Christ came. Now, in fact, the Bridegroom tarried; but the service and ministry of John by the word (which was all that was to remain, and no apostle in personal care) did go on to the return of Christ.
John was no master-builder like Paul — had no dispensation committed to him. He was connected with the assembly in its earthly structure like Peter, not in the Ephesus or heavenly one; He was not the minister of the circumcision, but carried on the earthly system among the Gentiles, only holding fast the Person of Christ. His special place was testimony to the Person of Christ come to earth with divine title over it — power over all flesh. This did not break the links with Israel, as Paul's ministry did, but raised the power which held all together in the Person of Christ to a height which carried it through any hidden time, or hidden power, on to its establishment over the world at the end; it did not exclude Israel as such, but enlarged the scene of the exercise of Christ's power so as to set it over the world, and did not establish it in Israel as its source, though it might establish Israel itself in its own place from a heavenly source of power.
What place does the assembly then hold in this ministry of John, found as it is in the Book of Revelation? None in its Pauline character, save in one phrase, coming in after the Revelation is closed where its true place in Christ's absence is indicated. (Rev_22:17) We have the saints at the time, in their own conscious relationship to Christ, in reference, too, to the royal and priestly place to His God and Father, in which they are associated with Himself. But John's ministerial testimony, as to the assembly, views it as the outward assembly on earth [See Note #3] in its state of decay — Christ judging this — and the true assembly, the capital city and seat of God's government over the world, at the end, but in glory and grace. It is an abode, and where God dwells and the Lamb. All this facilitates our intelligence of the objects and bearing of the book. The assembly has failed; the Gentiles, grafted in by faith, have not continued in God's goodness. The Ephesian assembly, the intelligent vessel, and expression of what the assembly of God was, had left its first estate, and unless it repented, the candlestick was to be removed. The Ephesus of Paul becomes the witness on earth of decay and of removal out of God's sight, even as Israel had been removed. God's patience would be shewn towards the assembly as it had been towards Israel; but the assembly would not maintain God's testimony in the world any more than Israel had. John does maintain this testimony, ministerially judging the assemblies by Christ's word, [See Note #4] and then the world from the throne, till Christ comes and takes to Himself His great power and reigns. During this transition — dealing of the throne — the heavenly saints are seen on high. When Christ comes, they come with Him.
The first part, then, of the Epistles of John is the continuation, so to speak, of the Gospel before the last two dispensational chapters; the Revelation, that of these last two chapters (20-21), where, Christ being risen and no ascension given, the dispensational dealings of God are largely intimated in the circumstances which occur; while it is shewn at the same time that He could not personally set up the kingdom then. He must ascend first. The two short epistles shew us that truth (truth as to His Person) was the test of true love, and to be held fast when what was anti-christian came in; and the free liberty of the ministration of the truth to be held fast against assumed ecclesiastical or clerical authority, as contrasted with the assembly. The apostle had written to the assembly. Diotrephes rejected free ministry.  (John Darby)[2]
The book of the Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a blessing on those that read, hear, and keep, the contents of the book.  Although it is understood that whoever reads, hears, and keeps those things that are written in the other 65 books the Bible are likewise blessed, it is still a peculiar principle of the book of Revelation.  It is further amazing when you realize that the 22 chapters of this book written by Saint John covers a period of only seven years.  Namely, it is the Day Of The LORD, also known as The Great Tribulation.  This is the subject of the book of Revelation.  It is about the seven years of God's judgment on the earth, and the Second Coming of the LORD Jesus Christ to judge the living and the dead.
Many new Christians want to go immediately to the book of Revelation of Jesus Christ and read it.  However, many pastors discourage this desire of the new, uninitiated Christian.  Most times, they are directed to the gospel according to Saint John, or some other "simpler" aspect of the Bible or the New Testament.  Anyone who has studied the book of Revelation will no doubt agree that it can be a difficult book to understand.  Still, there is a specific blessing pronounced by God himself on those that read, hear, and keep those things that are written therein.  Perhaps this is the reason why a so many new or young Christians have an innate desire to read the book of the Revelation.  It may be a God given ambition.
Once again, the book of the Revelation is by no means the easiest book in the Bible.  Somewhat like the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, it can be difficult and confusing to ascertain the meaning of specific verses of these books.  Most books of the Bible are straightforward.  However, when you come to the book of Revelation (similar to Ezekiel) you have many challenges of interpretation in the way of symbolism, historical considerations (that is, a knowledge of world history is essential to a proper interpretation of the book of Revelation), and admittedly strange apparitions of grotesque creatures and other anomalies of nature and creation.  Thus, although the book of Revelation promises a blessing (and of course God will keep all his promises), it also poses is a challenge to the student of the Holy Scriptures. 
Here is a word of caution to those who enjoy the subject of eschatology (the study of "last things").  Far too many teachers of Bible prophecy claim to have the market on "the true interpretation of Bible prophecy." In addition, there are the perennial date setters.  It is unfortunate that throughout the years many men and women have made the subject of eschatology distasteful due to their - "knowing" the date of Christ's return.  Jesus made it plain when he said - "no man knows the day or the hour." So, beware of the date setters and those who claim to have "secret knowledge" of Bible prophecy. These men and women have been the ruination of the legitimate subject of eschatology. 
Notice in Revelation 1:8 that Jesus announces he is - "the Alpha and the Omega." Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and omega is the last.  Clearly, Jesus here refers to himself as the beginning and the end.  The Apostle John records that Jesus is the Creator of all things in his gospel.  In the first chapter the gospel of John, the Apostle John explains that all things were made by Jesus Christ.  Now, in this reference from Jesus himself, he confirms his deity, since only God can create something out of nothing.  When you read of the creation of all things in the book of Genesis chapter one, you are reading of Jesus Christ as Creator God.
It is interesting to note that the book of Genesis (which means "beginnings" in Hebrew) records the start of all things, and that the book of the Revelation records the end of all things.  That is, the end of time and history as we know it.  Yet, in another sense the book of the Revelation is a book of beginnings, since it tells of Christ creating "new heavens and a new earth." Thus, the book of Genesis and the book of the Revelation have much in common.  Primarily, the common ground is found in that they are opposites with the exception to the reference to the new heavens and a new earth.
As stated, if you find yourself attracted to the book of Revelation, it might be because God has pronounced his blessing on it.  This is the reason why you will read in the 22nd chapter that there is a curse placed on the person who either adds to the words of the prophecy, or takes away from them.  By the way, this reference to adding or subtracting to the words of the Bible are found in other places of the Holy Scriptures as well.  Still, the fact this solemn warning occurs and that it is recorded in the last words of the book of Revelation is significant.  It tells you of the solemnity of the theme and subject of the book of Revelation.
As you read, read prayerfully.  Once again, the book of Revelation is not an easy book to interpret.  However, just like many books of the Bible, you can glean the main ideas contained in it as you read.  Most importantly, you want to be found walking rightly with God.  Throughout the Bible, the main thought is man's relation to God.  This theme continues in the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible.  As you read, you may be astonished to discover how many people will curse God for his judging the sinfulness of man.  As Jesus said, during the judgment when men and women are put in that place called Hell there will be - "weeping and gnashing of teeth." This is a reference not only to grief and sorrow (weeping), but also to the hatred of man for the One True God.
You will see this hatred of God in the book of Revelation.  Further, it is the reason God is judging man in the first place.  Namely, man by his nature hates God's nature.  It is perplexing.  Yet, it is true.  Thus, as you read the book of Revelation you find there are two classes of people on the earth.  There are those that are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, and those who will - "not have this man to rule over us."
Still, Jesus is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.  It was prophesied in the past that he, the Messiah, would come. He came, and will certainly be coming again.  Even so, come LORD Jesus.

  • [1] John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, 1794-1826, Henry P. Johnston, editor (New York: Burt Franklin, 1890), Vol. IV, pp. 494, 498, from his "Address at the Annual Meeting of the American Bible Society," May 13, 1824
  • [2] Darby, John. Synopsis of the Old and New Testaments. Public Domain, [1800 - 1882].
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