Revelation 1:1-3 Part 3

Last Lord’s Day we heard from Revelation of Jesus Christ that God the Father had given Jesus the Revelation. And He, in turn (through His messenger), was to show the Revelation to His servants. John, the inspired apostle of Jesus, wrote all that he saw and heard, and sent it to Jesus’ other servants in the Churches. And we noticed that John writes that he was a servant of Jesus Christ like unto all His other servants.

We also learned that John had received the entirety of the Revelation. And he received it, in its entirety, all at the same time (the tense of the verb “to show” requiring that understanding).

We also looked at the name “Jesus Christ”, and we learned how God the Son received the name. And then we were apprised of the fact that, by no means is the material in John’s Revelation unique to this letter! Because what John saw and heard is also found in many other portions of God’s Word.

This morning we’re going to spend much of our time with two phrases. One of them occurs in the middle of verse one. As you see in your printed text, it says, “that which is necessary to be done in quickness”. The second phrase comes at the end of verse three. It says “for the time is near”.

John has written that Revelation of Jesus Christ was given to Jesus by God, for Him to show to His servants that which is necessary to be done in quickness.

Let me just read for you, just for your own information, some of the other translations of this phrase. (I promised that I would do this on occasion.) I’ll do a little bit with the technicalities as we go; but I’m not going to weigh you down with it.

Here’s the King James version: ”… show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” 

There are several problems with this translation, not the least of which is the translation “shortly”, which we’ll get to in a little bit. But “come to pass” doesn’t, by any means, translate the aorist passive infinitive in the text (to be done). After all, it is an infinitive; and infinitives are translated to do, or to feel, or to say, or (in this case) the passive infinitive which requires something to be done to the subject! These things “are to be done”. They are not (as KJV says) “coming to pass”.

Another problem comes from the translation “must” (as in “must come to pass”. The writer clearly writes “that which is necessary to be done”. The writer writes it much stronger than the translater translates it! And let me remind you of Matthew sixteen verse twenty one, which says: “…but from then Jesus began to show to His disciples that it was necessary for Him to go into Jerusalem and to suffer many things from the elders and priests and scribes, and to be killed and on the third day to be raised.” Without getting too involved here, I’m sure you will understand that, when this Greek term is used, it is a necessity that it be done!

Here’s the New International Version (NIV): “to show his servants what must soon take place”.

All three of my comments about the King James Version also hold true for the NIV. But this is even worse. No passive infinitive; no necessity……. and the word which KJV translates “shortly”, the NIV translates “soon”. Well, “soon” has left it wide open (in the minds of many) for an indeterminate period. And, for some, that “indeterminate period” has now lasted over two thousand years!

Here is the translation called “The Message”: “to make plain to his servants what is about to happen”. Believe it or not, that’s a little bit better! It’s still not a passive infinitive; and it’s still not a necessity. But “to make plain” does reflect the goal of Revelation, which is to “uncover” (as we learned last Lord’s Day). (Still not very good).

Let’s see what the Amplified Bible says (this ought to be good): “God gave it to Him to disclose and make known to His bond servants certain things which must shortly and speedily come to pass in their entirety”. Well, I must say that the “amplification” in the amplified Bible does get some extra words in there. “Shortly and speedily” sets the tone; but it doesn’t translate the text. And this translation completely misses the aorist passive infinitive “to be done”, just like the others do. And it misses the “necessity” as the others do.

Now, here’s the phrase at the end of verse three. “…the time is near”. The word at the end is an adverb, and the literal translation is “near”. “Time” is the subject; “is” is the verb (in the present tense); and “near” is an adverb connected to, and descriptive of, the subject.

The King James version translates: …”the time is at hand”. That’s not bad; but it’s not the literal translation of the word.

The New International Version translates: …”because the time is near”. That’s very good.

The New American Standard version has it exactly the way your printed translation reads.

The Amplified Bible reads: …”for the time for them to be fulfilled is near”. The words are translated correctly, but the insertion of additional information is just what this version claims; it’s amplification.

The version called “The Message” says: …“The time is just about up”. The best we can say about that is they got the “gist” of the meaning; but the words aren’t translated.

As we’ve said before, the “dynamic equivalence” sometimes gets it right; but it is certainly not always the case. On many occasions the meaning of the text is distorted in one way or another by searching for the way we might say it in contemporary language. What we would rather do is translate the text; and then we can explain what the text says in its own context.

The fact that we don’t have any extant originals doesn’t worry us one bit. God has used His people through the centuries to give us excellent copies (including the Received Text, from which comes KJV); and God has given us language by which He can communicate with us…..and us with Him! He has preserved His Word revealed to His prophets and apostles. And we can rest secure in that preservation.

People speaking in Dutch can study the language and the context in which the Word of God was written, and then find the very best Dutch word as a translation. People who speak Swahili can do the same thing. And Chinese; and Arabic; and, of course, English. That’s the job of the preacher. We are to preserve the Word of God intact; and then preach it. sorted out satisfactorily. It gives me great confidence that God has

It’s been said, and I can confirm it from my own experience, that less than one percent of the totality of God’s preserved Word has difficulties that affect written doctrinal issues. And that, with good, sound exegetical study, a vast majority of those incidents can be sorted out satisfactorily. It gives me great confidence that God has preserved His Word; and that our forefathers have taken great pains with it to keep it free from corruption.

Now, let’s see what these two words mean: 1) ….”that which is necessary to be done in quickness”, and 2) ….”for the time is near”.

And permit me to say right at the front end here, that any translation that doesn’t have the preposition “in” in the translation (in quickness) has indicated that the preposition was considered unimportant while translating the text into some “equivalency”. The Greek text, indisputably, has the preposition.

So, the question then is, why do the translations leave it out?  And the answer has to be (because there’s not another one) that the words they wanted to use just don’t go with a preposition!

How would it sound (or how would it read) to say, “that which is necessary to be done in soon”? Or, “that which is in about to happen”? Or, “that which must in shortly come to pass”?

Well, as you can hear, those just don’t work. So, in order to come up with something that reads well, or sounds good, they just eliminate the preposition. And the problem with that, in my mind, is that the preposition is in the text! And when there’s a preposition, there needs be an object of a preposition. A noun; not an adverb. And not an adverbial phrase.

And the way to translate it properly is to find the word that translates the one in the text; and to use the preposition with it: In quickness! The Greek word translated “quickness” is Taxei; and that translation has plenty of support in other portions of Scripture.

This apostle uses the word in his Gospel; Paul uses it; and it always means “with all speed”, or “quickly”. I’ll just give you one text here from the American Standard version. It’s from Mark chapter nine: “But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man who shall do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me.”

So, there are numbers of places in the New Testament Greek text that translate our word here as “quickly” or, in our text, “in quickness”.

As far as our second word is concerned, it’s easy. The Greek word is eggus, and the translation is “near”. Many times it’s translated “at hand”. But there’s only one word here; not two. In Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse (chapter 21) the NIV has this: “Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” So the apostle John is using the word which comes from the mouth of our Lord as He’s explaining the things to his disciples that are about to happen.

The word is “near”; and it refers to time, not distance.

Now. “In quickness”, and “near” directly refer to that which is necessary to be done. And God gave Revelation of Jesus Christ to Jesus to show to Jesus’ servants that which is necessary to be done in quickness.

What we’re going to do with the remainder of our time this morning is ask some pertinent questions; and make some obvious observations. I say “obvious” because, 1) much of what we’ve learned from Matthew (especially chapters twenty-four and twenty-five), and The Acts of the Apostles (chapters one through twelve) bear directly on our text and, 2) the clear translation of the text here in the first three verses makes the obvious mandatory.

Then, during our time next Lord’s Day, we will note some of the internal evidence relating to the dating of the Revelation. Once we’re secure with when this letter was written, then we can proceed confidently with the preaching and hearing of Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The first question we need to ask ourselves is, “where did these Churches come from?” The apostle Paul wrote thirteen letters – seven of them to Churches in the nations. One of his letters was sent to the Church at Ephesus (where this letter from John was sent). The letter to the Hebrews was a general epistle to Jewish Christians in dispersion in the nations. James, Peter, John and Jude wrote seven letters; all of them circular letters to the Churches. Peter’s two letters especially are directed to the “refugees” from Israel in the nations.

These are congregations of worshippers of Jesus Christ, many of whom are those having been displaced from Israel. We learned from Matthew twenty three and twenty four that Jesus commanded that every last one of His Father’s people in the twelve tribes were to be found (the search continuing into the time after the resurrection).

And they were to be told what was to occur in this generation. And they were to get all of His people out of Israel before the Abomination of Desolation. Not one of them was to be lost.

In the first chapters of The Acts of the Apostles, we find the Church in Jerusalem receiving the money from the sale of all personal and real properties in order that the apostles and deacons could extricate the poor followers of Christ from their homeland into the nations. They were following the direct orders of Jesus in Matthew twenty four.

So thousands from every tribe (twelve of them) were found and told that the Kingdom was near. They followed Jesus and were sent out of Israel by the apostles as immigrants and refugees in the nations. They then formed congregations (that’s what the Ecclesia is) of believers worshipping Jesus Christ in the nations. The apostles then visited those Churches, preached the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles, and wrote them inspired letters. And, as we’ve mentioned previously, they were letters of comfort and correction. And they were circulated among many congregations. All of this occurred within the span of about thirty-five years – within that generation!

So the Churches were filled with “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, and also converts from the Gentile nations.

The only other obvious question (with an obvious answer) that we have time for this morning is, “what was the general situation in the nations like for the Churches?”

This question, and the one before it, has great bearing on this letter – the reason it was revealed and sent, and when it was revealed and sent. It should be apparent to all of us that it was a formidable task getting thousands of God’s elect from every tribe out of Israel and into the nations. But even more onerous was the task of getting these many families settled into an unknown location.

Leaving tribal properties and homes – allotted them by Joshua more than a thousand years before (at least the ones who hadn’t been defrauded by judaistic leadership); getting people places to live and a way to make a living; leaving Israel forever, and the hopes and dreams of a return to Solomonic prominence; settling into places filled by pagan people with completely different world-views, religions and languages – all of this had to be oppressive and severe. And the congregations in the nations had to deal with all of this. The refugees just kept coming. The apostles urged that these Churches contribute anything they could, because the Church in Jerusalem had to continue to do what it could. The conditions were so severe during this time that Paul even recommended that young men not marry, but remain single and celibate.

The Roman empire was in political chaos; and while Rome existed in intrigue, murder and general pandemonium, the armies were out trying to put down insurrections and revolts. There were wars and rumors of wars everywhere. So there was harsh treatment in many places. Later on, in the late fifties and early sixties, the situation deteriorated even further as Jews and Christians came under intense suffering. Israel itself revolted against Rome in the mid-sixties.

And that wasn’t the worst of it! You remember, in Matthew 24, that Jesus warned His disciples that they and the whole Christian Church would come under fierce and violent persecution from judaizers. We have explicit Revelation in the letters of the apostles as to the fulfillment of these words of our Lord. And the letters also indicate that judaizers were invading all the individual congregations with false and demonic doctrine, trying to subvert the Churches from the inside.

And then, the most difficult of all: Jesus had warned of the destruction of the temple, the city of Jerusalem, and the slaughter of the nation in the abomination of desolation. Luke, in his account of Jesus’ warnings, specifically names the Roman armies as the source of that desolation.

For these Jewish Christians in dispersion in the nations, the final destruction of all they had ever known would seem to them like the world was coming to an end in a final conflagration.

These are the reasons why the letters of the apostles are full of correction and comfort for the Churches. As John writes, the time is near; and it was necessary that it be done in quickness.

And, too, these are the reasons why we can nail down the time during which John wrote Revelation of Jesus Christ. When we can see the whole – in context – then it becomes very easy. And we’ll do that next time.