Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Implications for Early Christianity (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

New TestamentOf course, the profusion of Jesus devotion in Revelation is not unique to the Apocalypse alone, but rather stands in continuity with other now–New Testament literature. John’s Christology—especially the implicit recognition of the divinity of Jesus, his identification with Yahweh, and worthiness of devotion—unsurprisingly parallels most closely the Christology of the Fourth Gospel, although Hurtado’s consideration of high Pauline Christology contains numerous similarities to the Christology of the Apocalypse as well.[1]

While Revelation certainly contains its Christological distinctives—especially the emphasis on God as the “one who sits on the throne” in contrast to the blasphemous claims of the Roman imperators—there exist numerous fundamental convictions which were shared with other early Christians. In the words of Hurtado, Revelation’s “ideas that ‘God’ is the true heavenly ruler who trumps all earthly claims of sovereignty and that Jesus holds a uniquely exalted position with ‘God’ in heaven and in Christian devotional practices were hardly innovations of this author or in tension with the beliefs of other believers.”[2] Along with other early Christians and early Christian literature, the author of the Apocalypse was not reticent to speak about Jesus as Messiah, Redeemer, Coming Judge, and Lord within the context of Jewish monotheistic belief.

Holy Spirit TrinityAs alluded to above, this close identification of Jesus with God—the “blurring of the distinction between God and Christ”[3]—has led some scholars to argue that early Christians held a binitarian view of God.[4] In this view, the early Church believed that God revealed himself to be Yahweh and Jesus, together within the bounds of monotheism yet distinctly identified. God still held the overarching and crucial place,[5] but the risen Jesus has been elevated[6] within the Godhead, now occupying a place on the “divine side” of reality. In this way, the decisive claims of early Christianity center on Jesus’ identification with God, in light of whom all Yahweh’s previous revelations find their fulfillment in anticipating.[7]

It is Jesus’ identification with God—unveiled in his names, images, and actions, though not merely because of those characteristics—which ultimately enabled John to include Jesus in his definition of and devotion to God. The Apocalypse’s conception of “Jesus as Lord” who is worthy of worship ultimately accords with an early Christian binitarian understanding of God, identifying Jesus of Nazareth as Yahweh come to earth and coordinating Revelation’s theology with other New Testament High Christological insights.

[1] Hurtado, God, 46. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter, trans. Aidan Nichols (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 201. Witherington, 32. Cx. John 20.28.

[2] Hurtado, God, 97.

[3] Aune, Apocalypticism, 262.

[4] Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, esp. 594.

[5] Hurtado, God, 53, 58.

[6] At least in perception and devotion. Discussions about when this elevation may have occurred obviously occur somewhat later in the development of Christology.

[7] Hurtado, God, 46.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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