Introduction to “A Reading of Revelation, the Disclosure from Yeshua Messiah”

A Reading of Revelation, the Disclosure from Yeshua Messiah

Many have been raised in the suspicion that Revelation is a hopelessly complex prophecy of future events.  They despair of analyzing it, figuring either that it is too difficult, or that the key to understanding it lies buried in the future, or, feeling that, given the complexity of their own lives, God will be content if they are faithful to the present.  It seems to me that none of these three conclusions is entirely without merit.  The prophetic outline of Revelation is very complex; much will not be known until it comes to pass; and, however much God wants us to be conscious of our destiny, he wants us to live in the present.

But Revelation is about the present.  It is about the life and faith of the reader, be it in the first century or in the twenty- first century.  Revelation is not meant to create idle scholars of eschatology.  It is meant to create, in the present moment, warriors who know and love their king.  Revelation speaks with the authority of Yeshua that it was never hyperbole when he announced that the kingdom of God is upon us.  For Revelation, the kingdom is here and the Spirit of God rules within his people.  The power of the Spirit is the cement of the kingdom.

At the same time, the kingdom of the world, a kingdom of deception, makes its warring claim upon mankind.  The battle is upon us, and many have paid with their lives.

Over the last two millennia, the words of Revelation have informed us that the time is near, that Yeshua here reveals “what must soon take place.”  Today the skeptic claims that the collision of kingdoms has not “soon” taken place.  The skeptic has never fathomed the transcendence of our royal expectations, and so he has failed to see the field of battle, the damage done, the victories won.    

As we are warned in Revelation and throughout Scripture, the enemy is a liar and a deceiver.  He does not conduct his warfare in his own name, and in collision he is nowhere to be found.   He conspires against God by feigning to assume the interests and purposes of God.  So the foundations of Catholicism, from the outset, were a marvelous exercise in externalizing the patterns of an intimate faith while inserting the authority of an illegitimate hierarchy between the individual and his God. 

That which “must soon take place” has been taking place on a grand scale since the 1st  century.  First the persecutions of the Roman Caesars, then the tyranny of the Roman institution.  The Catholic “church,” hiding the Scriptures of God from the masses, has falsely promoted itself as the Kingdom of God blossoming into the world in riches of stone and stained glass, in the comfort of satin and gold and lands and buildings and majesty.  And the Protestants have followed suit in “hallowed” halls of self-congratulation.  The apostates have encouraged the world to relax in the sacramental arms of the church.  They have relegated the work of Satan to occult rites in dark places, conditioning their flocks to shun any suspicion that Satan and his forces might be running rampant through the world and through the church itself. The church has anesthetized men and women who should have been alert, soldiers in the Battle of the Ages. 

Are we astonished that we have lived two millennia without an “apocalypse?”  If so, it is because we have failed to reckon the epic dimensions of the historic battle.  We imagine that God has forgotten his historical objectives, when in reality the battle is long underway and our readiness to stand openly and without compromise for the truth is of immediate and ultimate importance.

There are wolves in abundance, and out of love for our brothers it is essential that we call out the wolves before more of our brothers are deceived and ravaged.  Nor is this primarily an issue of our own safety.  The wolves pretend to carry the banner of truth.  For the sake of all who honestly seek the truth, we must be faithful in marking the narrow path to Yeshua our Messiah, he who is the living truth of all things.

Liberal Protestants have abandoned the divinity of Yeshua.  Fundamentalist Protestants have turned to the fantasies of Nelson Darby and now deny the kingship of Yeshua.  The Pope stakes out a path which is broad and all-inclusive.  He pretends to act as steward of all the Christian faithful, and the shepherds of the flocks lustily court his bejeweled recognition, beseeching him to cast his spell over them.  Francis even invites reconciliation with the assassins of Islam, claiming that their god is our God.   The Zionists usurp the aegis of the people of God, and the world is too ignorant to laugh at them.  Our own government claims to fight in defense of peace and safety, when in reality it is closing the corral to create the unity of a one world government.  Those who pretend to be the stewards of the earth have become its destroyers.  We have no license to remain silent.

 

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It is my intention here to discuss the text of Revelation.  I had set out to work from a well- known translation, but immediately I found myself so reliant on the Greek that I found it impractical to work from anything but my own translating.  My work seeks to translate, but it does not claim the status of “a translation.”  It would be better described as a transcription of my search for unvarnished meaning in the Greek text.

A translation, as the word suggests, is a passage between two points, one in the past, one in the present.  Words, the vehicle and raw material, do not hold still.  Usage changes over time and through movement from one corner of culture to another.  These changes are like exercises which develop one aspect of the root meaning while leaving to one side certain others.

As a result, certain cultural judgments have to be made about the foreign point in the past and about the familiar point in the present, trying to do justice to the distinct character of the author, and hoping to reach through modern idioms and expectations and retain the unique voice and message of the author.

The translator asks himself, What was the author saying to his ancient audience, and then asks, What would he be saying if he were addressing us in our own tongue today?  The author speaks in a foreign tongue from an ancient time and we look for the meaning of his words in the idioms we speak in this time. 

The question, How do we speak? necessarily receives a culturally conditioned response. Nothing affects our speech so much as church and state.  The Church and the Temporal Powers have been married to each other for most of seventeen centuries.  Consequently, a biblical author, in translation, is easily granted those shades of meaning which arise naturally within our “Christian” culture, employing the accepted terms of the culture and the church, so furnishing us with a comfortably familiar rendering of the words of God. 

There is reason to expect that these translations are called upon to preserve the conventional wisdom of the church — that they have reason to shy away from the force of meaning which might color the message of Yeshua as inimical either to the values of polite society or to the self-interest of the ecclesiastical institution. 

At this moment in history we have reason to find the message of the churches, the message of the synagogues, and the professions of the government totally suspect.  Many find themselves increasingly alienated  from the national culture, firstly because the government abandons and dishonors its foundations, allowing the executive branch to betray our constitution and engage in wars and covert programs which are repulsive to conscience; secondly because the church is so aberrant from the truth of Christ that it can rarely render itself an oasis for those who truly seek God; and, thirdly, because the presence and power of the Spirit of Yeshua in this world establishes nothing so much as it establishes the reality of the most potent kingdom of God in this world, the kingdom of the Messiah of Israel, the true and transcendent Israel of God – and into this kingdom we are called – called out from the kingdom of the world. 

It is not as a scholar but as a subject of this kingdom that I presume to translate and speak of the contents of Revelation, for to me these words are written, and I must work to know the meaning of them.  As a servant of Yeshua I try to share nuances of emphasis which have been opened to me in the course of my own discovery of the love and sovereign power of my king. 

This search through Revelation attempts to allow shades of meaning which are significant but overlooked — in particular the royal rule of our Messiah upon the heavenly throne and our present status as subjects of our king.  This critical frame of reference is much abandoned by mainstream Christianity, but the book of Revelation lays ample witness to it. 

It is of critical importance that we be aware of our place in the heavenly kingdom, that we be conscious of the rule of our king from the Davidic throne, and that we understand that our hope lies on this earth in the expectations of the promises to Abraham.  We are not only individuals apart.  We are a people apart.  The enemy will attempt to isolate and belittle us until we lose faith in our bond to our Lord.  He wants to tell us that we are not a historic people, that we only know God in the privacy of individual salvation or inside the confines of local assemblies. 

Our enemy plans to introduce an environment of temptation and madness, in the hope that he may sever the bond of Spirit and love which ties us to Yeshua.  We must remain deep in the love of our Lord and in fealty to his throne, or we will find ourselves in a shallow abstraction of faith which will wither in the distress of this hostile environment.  We will be well served if we can retain confidence that we are bound by covenant to our king, that we do have a past, that we are heirs to Yahveh’s covenant with Abraham, and that in this covenant lies our future, our promise to know Yahveh as our God forever.  We must remember that we are a people. We are the Israel of God, the historic and eternal people of God, made one by the power of the Spirit of our king.

 

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In Revelation, according to the Greek text, Yeshua refers to us as his “douloi”.  Most translations interpret douloi as “servants.”  This is not illegitimate.   [Lattimore, who is a great translator, even translates it as “slaves.”]  But there is a problem.   Yeshua, in the gospel of John, said the following:

“You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”  John 15.14,15

In this particular context in John’s gospel, the translation of douloi as “servants” seems appropriate because the king-to-subject relationship is not being called upon, and Yeshua is explaining that we are destined for an intimacy far deeper than what is normally appropriate between master and servant.

But in Revelation, although much of the teaching of Yeshua is personal, the overall context is political, and, in addition, by the time of John’s receipt of the vision, our Messiah is risen and seated on the heavenly throne.

“…as I myself have conquered and sat down beside my Father on his throne.”                                 Revelation 3.20

Revelation itself is a work in which Yeshua passes to us, through John, a disclosure from our Father.  This only reinforces the logic of the statement of Yeshua in John, that we are not so much servants as friends.    We are forced then to call upon the truth which centuries of Catholicism have done their best to efface – that the children of Yeshua are a people apart and that our sovereign king is seated directly over us [without need of the intervention of the hierarchical church] on the throne of heaven.  We may then recognize that in any context discussing a king and the loyal population of his kingdom, douloi is appropriately used to denote the subjects of the realm.  To be a subject of the realm is to be owned by the king and to share the glory of the king. As subjects of Yeshua our status is exceptional.  We are so dear to him that he has gone to the cross to redeem us from death.  We are not only friends of the king.  We  love and are loved by our king.

We own all the nobility of wearing the colors of the one kingdom which owns the promise of history.  We are marked gloriously by the nobility of our prince, to whom we owe total fealty and can know only the greatest pride to hear his voice deep within the heart, as we are proud to be given a heart which is enabled to say, Fiat voluntas tua, Thy will be done!

 Lawrence S. Jones

 

On the title

Common titles, The Book of Revelation, Revelation, Apocalypse, and The Revelation of John are all based on the first word of the Greek text, apokalypsis, meaning “a revelation, an unveiling, a disclosure.” Which of these titles speaks most clearly and effectively of what is being presented in the text? 

In the modern, derived understanding of the word “apocalypse,” as in “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” there is the suggestion that the book is primarily about a final devastation.  In my own reading of the text, I see Yeshua more interested in our present faith and our level of preparation for a largely unknowable future.  As Yeshua educates us to the treachery of the Beast Kingdom, he is not merely cautioning us about future events.  He is teaching us the true depth of the divide between the present kingdom of God and the present kingdom of the world so that we may live wisely in the presence of the enemy.

In our culture the “apocalyptic” view of Revelation prevails[1], and thus the simple word “revelation,” — meaning nothing more than “a revealing” – has come to suggest a text about “the apocalypse.”  Of course “revelation” can also mean an epiphany, but that tends to assign the contents of the text to the mind of John, much like “The Revelation of John,” while in fact the contents are specified as given by the Father to Yeshua for his subjects.  John’s contribution is simply to be a faithful witness to what he has seen in the vision. 

“Unveiling” suggests the removal of an obscuring cloth from over an artifact.  But that also is a bit of a misnomer, since John does not in any way take a time machine into the future-as-artifact and witness it for us, as, say, Enoch, who was literally taken up into the heavens and made witness to the workings of the universe.  What John sees is such a mix of icon and symbol together with real persons, angels and landscapes, that I think it is very hard to categorize.   Yeshua reveals to John “a vision of what is and of what is to be hereafter.” 

If we look at the entire first phrase of the text it says,

          “Apokalypsis Iesou Xristou…”

This I would translate as “A Disclosure from Yeshua the Anointed King.”  “Disclosure” seems to me to be the least freighted word, and a word which amply describes what is given in the text.  I would propose then a title such as that above, or, for neatness’ sake, “A Disclosure from Yeshua Messiah.”  Even that of course is unwieldy and unlikely to retain consideration.  Therefore, for practical purposes, I shall continue to refer to the text, usually, as “Revelation.”

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L. Jones

email: lstewartj@sbcglobal.net 

 

[1] There is a common understanding that Revelation describes the advent of a split in the world between the church and the enemies of the church, whereas Revelation, and all of Scripture, presents a split which began in the garden and defines our lives in the present.  By the end of the events of Revelation this wound in the world is healed.

[2] John 17.9

[3] For more on this, please see my essay in the Maggid section of  The Alien’s Haggadah, at jerusalemgraffiti.com

[4] See also Matthew 12.8,32,40; Mt. 16.13,27,28; Mt. 17.9; Mt. 19.28; Mark 2.10; Mk. 8.31

[5] Barbara Aho, Mystery Babylon the Great, Catholic or Jewish