1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
- On a macro scale, Revelation consists of a prologue, found in 1.1-8 and four visions: 1.9-3.22; 4-16; 17-21.8; 21.9-22.7
- “revelation” – to uncover or take out of hiding.
- “of Jesus Christ” – from, about and belonging to Jesus.
- This revelation was given to John via an angel with the purpose of revealing what would “soon take place.”
- APP: God has a plan for his creation. The world has not run amuck as it often seems, nor has Jesus withdrew his plan and presence from all that He has made. No person or power can overthrow the purposes and plans of God.
- “servants” – literally, bond-servants. An unpopular term in our society, but used quite often in scripture as a designation for believers.
- Unlike his gospel, the aged John claims authorship and provides personal evidence of such in the upcoming verses.
2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
- John seeks to be a truthful messenger of the revelation that was given him.
- APP: It is our job to do the same. We don’t have to add to, modify, or omit any of God’s Word to us. As Spurgeon said, the Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion, it will defend itself.
3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
- The blessing of reading and heading.
- Notice the progression: read…hear…keep (take it to heart). For a lesson on hearing the Word of God, see Mark 4.1-20.
- “prophecy” – carries the idea of speaking on God’s will and the future.
Greeting to the Seven Churches
- verses 4-8 provide an umbrella greeting to the seven churches individually addressed in 2-3.
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,
- “Grace…peace” – very much had become a standard Christian greeting at this time. Often we are in danger of overlooking the meaning because we read them together at the beginning of many of the epistles.
- “grace” – is both unconditional and undeserved. The word is used only 2x in the book of Revelation. here and in final verse. Thus it is the bread that holds this sandwich together.
- “peace” – meaning wholeness and well-being. Both are only achieved when peace is given from Jesus
- “who is and was and who is to come” – God is eternal, He operates outside of the confinements of time. This phrase is most likely meant to remind the reader of God’s designation of himself in Exodus 3.14, where he says to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”.
- “from the seven spirits who are before his throne” – some claim this is a reference to angels, but this is most likely a reference to the fullness or perfection of the Holy Spirit. Angels are seen no where else in scripture as bestowers of spiritual blessings like grace and peace. Instead, they are seen as messengers with divine tasks.
5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood
- Notice the trinitarian reference in v. 4-5. The eternal God the Father, the fullness/perfection of the Holy Spirit, and now in this verse the faithful Jesus.
- John thus paints a picture of God as eternal, perfect, and faithful.
- In verses 5-6 we see the person and purpose of Jesus.
- “the faithful witness” – as we see in John 1.5-ff, there is nothing wrong with the witness of Jesus, it is perfect, however, there is often something wrong in the way men receive it.
- “the firstborn of the dead” – Jesus is our resurrection leader. See 1 Cor. 15.20-23. He makes our resurrection possible and guaranteed.
- “the ruler of kings on earth” –The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will. – Pvb. 21.1. See also Psalm 2.
- “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” – What a gospel summary! God’s love (Rom. 5.8; John 3.16) is the driving force which led to our being freed from the bondage of sin. This occurred only through the substitutionary, sacrificial death of Jesus for us.
6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- Jesus’ death has made all believers part of his “kingdom” and qualified us to serve as “priests” before him. The reference of kingdom and priests is described of Israel in Ex. 19.6, John uses it here as a description of all the redeemed.
7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
- A summary verse for the entire book of Revelation. Jesus is, in fact, coming back and his second return will be quite different from his first. In his first, he came to be a sacrifice for sin, in his second, he will rule the nations. His first appearance was one of lowliness and humility, his second will be one of authority and judgment. His first was clothed in meekness, his second will be clothed in might.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
- “the Alpha and the Omega” – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, literally the A and the Z. He controls all of time from the beginning to the end – the eternal, powerful God.
Vision of the Son of Man
9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
- John identifies himself again
- “brother and partner” – note the non-elevated approach of John’s self-designation. As believers, we are to be family who depend upon one another.
- “in the tribulation and the kingdom” – unlike some modern theologies suggest, we CAN both be under tribulation and suffering and members of God’s Kingdom simultaneously.
- “patient endurance” – Our default mode is to end tribulation and suffering as quickly as possible. However, patient endurance seems to be a more biblical response. This does not mean that we are to be gluttons for punishments.
- Whereas the other apostles were martyred for preaching of the gospel, John finds himself exiled on a prison island. What the Roman Emperor Domitian meant for evil, God, once again, used for good.
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet
- “the Lord’s day” – meaning Sunday, in honor of Jesus’ resurrection.
- “in the Spirit” – a queen for the other 3 visions in Revelation as well. We should take this to mean that the vision was inspired directly by the Spirit of God.
11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,
- “lampstands” – identified in verse 20 as the churches mentioned above. In Zechariah 4.2 Israel is identified as a lampstand, here the designation is applied to the church.
13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.
- “in the midst of the lampstands” – We see Jesus keeping his promise of Matthew 18.20.
- “clothed with a long robe” – perhaps a reference to Jesus clothed in priestly attire as he represents and mediates for his people before God the Father.
14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,
- “hairs of his head were white” – representing his wisdom and omniscience. Jesus is worthy of respect.
- “eyes were like a flame” – representing his omnipresence. meaning Jesus sees all.
15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.
- a picture of his power, with a voice that cannot be ignored. Contrasted with John 1.
16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
- “he held seven stars” – identified as the angels (literally, messengers) of the seven churches. Some see this as guardian angels for each church, this, however, is not taught in the rest of scripture. Others see these as the pastors of these churches, which are sovereignly cared for by Jesus’ mighty hand.
- On a side note, most of the imagery throughout Revelation is identified within the reading itself.
- “a sharp two-edged sword” – Jesus has authority and power to judge the nations
- “face was like the sun shining” – representing his diety.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,
- Wouldn’t this be your reaction as well?
- Note the response of Jesus. Even though He has divine power to judge, to his own he says, “Fear not.”
18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
- Jesus emphasizes that he is alive and has power over death and hell. That’s why he can look at John and say, “Fear not.”
19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.