When a master artist paints a masterpiece they work hard to establish a focal point. This is the area of the painting where the painter wants the observer to focus. The artist will often place this point at a strategic location on the canvas and make the strongest contrast between light and dark part of this space. The artist will also create other composition features to direct the eye of the onlooker to the focal point of the painting. The focal point is the artist’s purpose for creating the painting.
Rembrandt had a special way of lighting his portraits in order to create a dramatic feel and enhance the features of the person he was painting. Cecil B. DeMille in his movie, The Warren’s of Virginia filmed in 1915, experimented with lighting in order to make the shadows in his movies appear as they would in nature. When one of his partners saw that only half of the actor’s face was able to be seen he protested that the patrons would only pay half of the admission cost. DeMille told him it was “Rembrandt lighting” and his partner became ecstatic believing now they would pay double to see the movie.
For a writer the introduction casts a guiding light that will define his purpose and create the desired focus point. As God led the hand of John the Beloved, through the work of the Holy Spirit, he directs our attention to the revelation he desired to make, the unveiling of the Messiah. His purpose is summarized in the first few words of the opening sentence, “The revelation of Jesus Christ,” Revelation as defined by Webster’s Dictionary: “The act of disclosing or discovering to others what was before unknown to them; appropriately, the disclosure or communication of truth to men by God himself, or by his authorized agents, the prophets and apostles.” Christ is being unveiled, revealed, made manifest more completely.
In verse two we find Christ referenced twice, once with the title John used to introduce him in his gospel, the Word of God, John 1:1. Paul expands this truth about Christ as the Word with his instruction in Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Hebrews 2:3-4 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
Christ communicates to us today as a merciful loving savior. He is shown in the gospels to be the light, the bread of life, the way, the living water. He is the one who came as a humble servant, as the sacrificial lamb to communicate salvation to his lost love destined for certain destruction. Paul tells us that if the message of the prophets and the angels were validated by God how much more certain is the message of his son, the Word of God, going to be validated by its fulfillment?
Christ is God’s communication to man, to his loved, but disobedient, fallen, lost creation. In the gospels Jesus told those who followed him that he was the manifestation or communication of the heavenly Father to man. John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. John 14:9-10 Jesus saith unto him, … he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. John 8:19 Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.
Beginning in verse five and running through verse eight we see an in-depth description of Jesus the Christ. He is presented as: the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, the prince of the kings of the earth, (who loved us and washed us, from our sins, in his own blood), and the one who commissioned us as priests in his kingdom (a kingdom of priests), the one who comes in the clouds, the one who all the tribes of the earth will bewail, the Alpha and the Omega, the almighty.
Helen Howarth Lemmel in a hymn she composed titled Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, reflects Johns focal point when she penned the chorus. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.”
John shines a light on Jesus to illuminate his features and direct our attention to him. All he presents in the book is meant to define him and reveal the fullness of his being to those who read it. The focal point, whether reflected on the churches of Asia minor, or diffused through the judgment of the tribulation, or gloriously radiated from his eternal throne, is Jesus the Christ.