Revelation 1:1 (NIV) reads:

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.

So this is the image I get: Sometime before an angel sent by Jesus gave John the revelation, Jesus was given the revelation from God. I first wonder when Jesus was given the revelation: before his birth (assuming the validity of the Trinity doctrine), during his life, after his death but before his resurrection, after his resurrection but before his ascension, after his ascension. Then I obviously wonder how Jesus, being God fully, would not know the nature of the things spelled out in Revelation.

So, how do classic Trinitarians answer this question? Why does it appear that Jesus at some time did not know what God knew concerning the little details of the last days?

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    I'm afraid that I don't really see something which needs answering here. If we take this as Christ is given that gift eternally (just as he is eternally begotten), then the question answers itself. Sep 30, 2013 at 5:06
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    Is 'classic Trinitarian' meant to mean anything other than 'Trinitarian'? Sep 30, 2013 at 14:43
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    Maybe this falls under the "mysterious paradox" category of questions that can't be answered or understood...kinda like "How can Jesus be fully God and fully man?" or "Did Jesus know that he created the universe right after his birth?"
    – user5286
    Sep 30, 2013 at 16:17
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    @fredsbend Maybe you could explain further why "it appears that Jesus at some time did not know what God knew". Also are you intending any comparison with Matthew 24:36/Mark 13:32 like some of the answers are making?
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 9, 2014 at 1:01
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    "Classical Trinitarianism" excludes stuff like economic Trinitarianism. Also oneness groups who dress up Unitarianism with words like "three manifestations" or something. Dec 18, 2015 at 3:27

8 Answers 8


Actually the answer is very simple. The confusion lays in the meaning of the word "revelation". It can be taken as "disclosure of earlier not known truths" which was to John for sure BUT it can by understood as "portion of facts and doctrines" which God the Father decided to reveal to humanity and passed it on through Jesus to John. In that sense it was NOT revelation for Jesus at all; he knew that (He was with His Father in their glory - John 17:5).

In a similar way Jude is using word "faith" to describe a set of doctrines pertaining salvation of man: Jud 1:3 Having made all haste to write to you about the common salvation, beloved, I had need to write to you to exhort you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. I hope it helps. Blessings in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit Stanislaw Sylwestrowicz MATS, Gdansk, Poland

  • Thank you for your answer and welcome to the site. Here's a +1. That is certainly one way to look at it. I hope to see you post again soon.
    – user3961
    Nov 8, 2014 at 17:23
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    Can you provide a source for your claim that the Greek word ἀποκάλυψις means "a portion of facts and doctrines", and that this is how the word was used in Jewish-Christian circles in the late first century AD? It seems to be a very specific definition for the word, and I've never encountered it before. Dec 19, 2015 at 22:04

Trinitarians deal with this text in two ways:

  • The source of the revelation is God the Father, and Jesus is the mediator of that revelation to man. Some particularly emphasize the human nature of Jesus in this respect.
  • That the "him" actually refers to John, the author of the book, not Jesus

Jesus as Mediator

The vast majority of trinitarians who comment on this verse and deal with this issue do so by emphasizing the mediatorial office of Christ, as the one who mediates between God and man. Thus, the Orthodox Study Bible says:

God Himself is the ultimate source of all revelation, but it is the Son, Jesus Christ [...] who mediates this unveiling.

Matthew Henry emphasizes the deity of Christ and writes similarly:

Though Christ is himself God, and as such has light and life in himself, yet, as he sustains the office of Mediator between God and man, he receives his instructions from the Father. (source)

Some emphasize the humanity of Christ in this mediation of God's revelation, like Augustin Calmet:

He received [the revelation] not as God; because in this quality he possesses every thing, and knows every thing; but he received it as man, who as such received from God all light and all grace in the moment of the hypostatical union of the Word with the human nature. (source)

Similarly, John Wesley emphasizes Christ's role as prophet:

According to his holy, glorified humanity, as the great Prophet of the church. (source)

Matthew Poole writes that this shows the workings of the Trinity:

Which God gave unto him, as he was Mediator: by God, here, is to be understood the Father, not exclusively to the Son, as if he were not God, but to show the order of working in the Holy Trinity. (source)

"Him" refers to John

Interestingly, I found one interpreter, Beatus of Liébana, who believes that "him" here refers not to Christ but to the author of the book, John:

‘“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him” — that is, to the most blessed Apostle John, “to make known to His servants”, so that what he says may unlock, and what he explains may be made plain. (source)

There's no indication that Beatus takes this approach to avoid concerns related to the deity of Christ, however.


Protestants, Roman Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox all agree that Jesus is the mediator between God and man. They nearly unanimously interpret this verse in that light. Jesus, though divine, acts as the mediator between God and man, and in that capacity, he receives the revelation from God the Father and passes it on to man.

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    Great answer, as usual. One interesting thing is it seems that Poole says that "gave" merely indicates the procession within the trinity (so that the revelation was given in "eternity past," as theologians like to say), whereas Calmet says that God gave Jesus the man the revelation at some point in time. Wesley, Henry, and the Orthodox Study Bible seem ambiguous on that point. Dec 17, 2015 at 23:44
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    @Mr.Bultitude That's what I'm getting at with the the emphasis in Wesley and Calmet on the humanity of Christ... Wesley isn't as explicit as Calmet but by focusing on Christ's humanity he does seem to emphasize this being incarnational revelation. Matthew Henry's treatment is similar to Wesley's. You are right, Poole's approach is distinct among these, and perhaps this warrants additional emphasis. Dec 17, 2015 at 23:53
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    Still, Poole's next sentence is "Christ in his state of humiliation is said to learn of the Father; in his state of exaltation, to receive from the Father," and I would normally understand the state of exaltation as the state following that of humiliation... I don't know if he would apply it to the state prior to humiliation. Dec 17, 2015 at 23:56
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    Actually, I'm not sure how I took ambiguity from Wesley and Henry. Good point on Poole too. I'm really surprised though that more interpreters didn't go the route it appeared Poole did (the one that Ben Mordecai takes in his own answer here). Dec 18, 2015 at 0:00
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    @fredsbend I've asked that question on BH.SE. Dec 18, 2015 at 11:47

It's actually a pretty simple explanation within ontological Trinitarianism, understanding two basic facts about Trinitarianism:

  1. "God" undifferentiated in scripture typically refers to the Father, as the head of the Trinity.
  2. The person of the Father is the hypostasis associated with the origination of the divine will.

Jesus, as the divine Logos and Son within the Godhead is responsible for shepherding the flock of God. The Father gives the Son the sheep, the Son saves, guards, and feeds the sheep for the Father and his glory. God, within his very essence, is a spiritual bond of love, and the unity of the essence does not nullify the distinctions between the persons. It is entirely normal to say that the will of God originates within the Father and is given to the Son. Rather than being a challenge to Trinitarianism, it is a basic understanding of Trinitarianism.

Because of the historical conflicts over Arianism and its several manifestations, Trinitarians have shied away from emphasizing any distinctions in person lest it imply that the Son is somehow not of the same essence or substance as the Father, but it is very much a standard part of classic ontological Trinitarianism.

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    This makes some sense. A few quotes and verses would make this better.
    – user3961
    Dec 18, 2015 at 3:24

One of the key things about the Trinity is that God is three persons of one essence. They have the same action, will, and power. They are all equals and eternal but the key is that they are not the same person. They interact with each other and with humanity in different ways. It's difficult to understand, even for systematic theologians (which I am not). It is something that we all accept by faith and trust in the teachers that have come before us.

There are a lot of ways this could have played out. Trinitarians are still very diverse in their beliefs on the exact nature of God and how He operates. Discussing when Jesus knew and what he knew could last a lifetime. However, given that the Revelation was written sometime between AD 70 and AD 90 (well after Jesus' ascension around AD 30), the generally accepted answer is that Jesus was with God in Heaven and thus was fully divine at the time he told John about the future.

It's not a question I've ever heard before, and it's a good one. The short version of the answer is that it gets glossed over in favor of talking about the actual revelation and not the details of how the message got to John.

  • See that is what the question is. If Jesus was fully divine at the time he received the revelation then we have a paradox. Jesus is fully divine and fully God, yet the Father held information that Jesus did not. Then the Father gave the information to Jesus, which He in turn gave to John through an angel. There is no doubt in my mind that Revelation as a whole supports the trinity, however, this one verse seems to confuse the doctrine we were all taught in Sunday school. All this to say, thanks for answering but I feel like the problem still exists.
    – user3961
    Sep 30, 2013 at 18:28
  • Explaining the Trinity is a lot like explaining time travel. Any analogy I could use is flawed. But at the heart of the doctrine is that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate people that all are God. Being three separate people, they don't necessarily have to know the same things at the same exact time. But that doesn't stop them from all being God. Why that is an excellent question for a systematic theologian. The best I an do as an aspiring seminary student and part time Sunday school teacher is say that it's about faith. Sep 30, 2013 at 18:52
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    My thought is that the three are always in communication and communion. So the father will speak to the son, but does that mean the son didn't know something "before" the father took him? No! There is no before or after in their union, but that doesn't mean they didn't communicate. He has always known, because the father told him.
    – Joshua
    Dec 18, 2015 at 12:41

Matthew 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

We do know that Jesus did not have all of the knowledge of the Father.

Philippians 2:6-7 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

The word "robbery" throws a lot of people. The word is "harpagmos" in the Greek meaning plunder. The idea conveyed is that Jesus did not consider his equality with the Father as something to be held on to as tightly as a thief holds onto that which he has stolen.

Jesus made himself of a lower order. In some way we do not and maybe cannot understand, he set aside things so that he could be born and live among men. If Jesus had not set aside some things, he could not have lived among us.

Exodus 3:6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

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    I gave you a +1 for bringing some new thought to the question, but I still feel like the question has not been answered.
    – user3961
    Nov 8, 2014 at 18:55

What Revelation 1:1 describes is God the Father giving God the Son His permission to now reveal to us what is to come. It does not mean that Jesus did not know what these events were.

This is the nature of the Godhead, the Son rejoices to do the will of the Father, though He is equal with the Father (Philippians 2:6). Similarly, the Holy Spirit does not speak on His own authority but does the will of the Father (John 16:13), yet He is also equal. This unselfish love among the Godhead is a relationship men find difficult to comprehend.

Linguistically, it depends on the interpretation of what exactly "God gave unto Him". Did God the Father give unto Jesus the mission to reveal what is to come to His servants, or the actual information contained in the revelation? Both can be read into "the Revelation of Jesus Christ". However, since the omniscience of God is clearly demonstrated elsewhere in the Bible, it is then more appropriate to understand "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him" as a mission / action that God has given Jesus to carry out.


Why does it appear that Jesus at some time did not know what God knew concerning the little details of the last days?

I don't see how this verse could be read as implying this: nothing in it suggests that Jesus didn't know the revelation that God (the father) gave him before he was given it. I'd interpret this verse as saying that the revelations that follow were assigned to Jesus to then reveal to John, rather than being assigned to angels or directly revealed through dreams or visions.


Mark 13:32

However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

The basic understanding, coming from an Trinitarian perspective, is that Jesus was fully God and fully man, both. Yet, all that He did on the Earth, He did as a man, and not "as" God.

That is, because He was the Son of God, He could have turned the stones to bread, being all powerful. Yet, He chose to operate and identify himself strictly as the Son of Man, hence wilfully limiting his power. Thus, the temptation there would appear to be that he was tempted to operate outside of the boundaries of being human, thus invalidating His ministry.

In the verse above, then, we see that the Son (of Man) was lacking in knowledge, by his own admission, that the Father possessed. This is then interpreted that, in His humanity, He did not know, because He operated out of His ability as a man (anointed by the Holy Spirit), but had He accessed His divine right, which was available but not He did not use, He knows all things.

This circumvents the premise that for Jesus to be given information or revelation from the Father would make Him less than God. It undercuts the argument, because it neither denies that He is God, and one with Him, knowing all things, nor does it deny him being and living as 100% human. Remember, Paul wrote that for those with the Spirit, the Spirit searches, even to the deep things of God, yet this still does not include Mark 13:32 -- see 1 Corinthians 2.

The same would then go for the Revelation, where indicated. It isn't that Jesus isn't God--it's that in His humanity, He purposefully did not act as God, either in deed or in knowledge and understanding. In the same way, Jesus Christ is still both fully man and fully God today. He was dead for approximately three days (depending on your counting), and is alive today, firstborn from the dead.

Thus, because He is both still Son of God and Son of Man, He is still capable of being given revelation from the Father, because He is the Son of Man. Yet at the same time, in His divinity, He would know all things.

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