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The Divine Character of Jesus Christ: Evidence from Revelation 1

Lesson ▪ 2010
Tags: Revelation 1:10-18; Jesus Christ; God; Old Testament quotations and allusions
Related Resources: The Deity of Jesus Christ: Three Witnesses


Introduction

Scenario #1: Assume you’ve just met someone who immigrated to the United States from a country where he/she had no knowledge of Christianity. How would you describe Jesus Christ to him/her?

Scenario #2: Assume that a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses have just come to your door. They do not believe that Jesus Christ is co-equal with God the Father. What evidence could you give of Jesus’ divinity?

Many Scripture references lead us to conclude that Jesus was the Son of God—God the Son, co-equal in the Godhead with his Father and the Holy Spirit. However, most of these texts are quite reserved in the way that they attribute deity to Christ. Most don’t say straightforwardly, “Jesus is God.”

Today we’ll look at some evidence of Christ’s deity that is found in the first chapter of Revelation. As you may know, this book was written by the apostle John. Of all the New Testament authors, John was probably the one who spoke most plainly about the divine character of Jesus Christ—in his gospel, in his epistles, and in Revelation.

You may not realize it, but the book of Revelation is filled with allusions to the Old Testament. Using different criteria, scholars have recognized anywhere from 195 to about 1,000 uses of the Old Testament in Revelation (Beale and McDonough 1082). The passage we’re going to study (Rev. 1:10-18) has a strong connection with certain Old Testament texts, so we’ll be looking at the latter.


Body

Read the passage in its entirety. Based on the clues in the text, whom did John see in his vision?
(Answer: Jesus Christ)

Old Testament Connection #1: Jesus’ Self-Description as “the First and the Last” (Rev. 1:17)

  • Let’s focus on v. 17—particularly, Jesus’ self-description as “the first and the last.” This description has an Old Testament precedent in the book of Isaiah (41:4; 44:6; and 48:12).
  • Read the context of each of these texts in Isaiah.
    • Whom does Isaiah describe as the first and the last?
      (Answer: Jehovah God)
    • How else do these passages describe Jehovah?
      (Answer: Lord of creation [40:12; 48:14], sovereign [40:13], all-knowing [40:14], Lord of the nations [40:15ff], majestic [40:21], etc.)
    • According to these passages, is there anyone above or equal to Jehovah?
      (Answer: No! [40:13-14, 18, 25; 44:6, 8; 48:11])
    • What, then, is the significance of Jesus calling himself “the first and the last” in Revelation 1?
      (Answer: It is a clear claim to deity. In referring to himself as “the first and the last,” Jesus is appropriating a title that Jehovah attributed to Himself in the Old Testament. Notably, the LORD used this self-description in passages where He was calling attention to his uniqueness. By attributing the same self-description to Jesus, John is making a strong case for his equality with Jehovah. “The title . . . shows that in John’s Christology Christ is identified with the Deity” [Johnson, notes on 1:17-18].)

Old Testament Connection #2: John’s Vision of “One Like a Son of Man” (Rev. 1:13-16)

  • Now let’s focus on vv. 13-16. The Old Testament background for this vision actually comes from three texts: Dan. 7:9ff; 10:5-6; and Ezek. 43:2. In order to save time, we’ll only look at the first of these today.
  • Read the selections from Daniel 7 provided on the handout.
    • What two personages does Daniel see in his vision?
      (Answer: “the Ancient of Days” and “one like the Son of man”)
    • What similarities are there between the verses we read in Daniel 7 and those we read in Revelation 1?
      (Answer: Daniel 7:13 refers to “one like the Son of man,” and Revelation 1:13 uses this descriptor in reference to Jesus. Daniel 7:9 speaks of “the Ancient of Days” as having white hair, while Revelation 1:14 applies this to Jesus.)
    • What, then, does this passage have to say about the identity of Jesus Christ?
      (Answer: There is an indication that Jesus Christ is divine. “What is significant about the description John gave of the figure is that in Daniel two beings are present—the Ancient of Days and the Son of man—but John blends them together into one figure. The Son of man and the Ancient of Days are one Being. . . . [T]he son is the outward expression of the hidden God” (Elwell 1204).)

 

Conclusion

What is the significance of attributing deity to Jesus? What difference will it make in our lives?

  • His words are absolutely true and faithful. They are the words of God himself.
  • Our salvation is sure because the very Son of God has given his life for us.
  • The Word who became flesh for us is Lord of all, incomparable to anyone or anything. God himself has walked among us and offers us the chance to know him personally.
  • If we believe in Jesus as the Son of God, we will seek to glorify him rather than ourselves. And we will face earthly trials with confidence that God is on our side.

 

Works Cited

Beale, G. K., and Sean M. McDonough. “Revelation.” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Ed. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic; Nottingham, England: Apollos, 2007. 1081-1161.

Elwell, Walter A. “Revelation.” Baker Commentary on the Bible. Ed. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000. 1197-1229.

Johnson, Alan F. “Revelation.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Vol. 12. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981.



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Teacher's notes and handout (5 pages)    80k v. 5 Nov 9, 2011, 8:43 PM Greg Smith
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