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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 1

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

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Verses 1-20

Analysis and Annotations



1. The introduction (Revelation 1:1-3 )

2. Greeting and benediction (Revelation 1:4-5 )

3. The praise (Revelation 1:6-7 )

4. The testimony of the Almighty (Revelation 1:8 )

5. John in Patmos (Revelation 1:9-11 )

6. The vision of Christ in glory (Revelation 1:12-16 )

7. The commission (Revelation 1:17-20 )

Revelation 1:1-3 .

The book does not contain “revelations” but it is one great revelation, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The third verse is of much importance. It pronounces a blessing upon all who read and hear the words of this prophecy and who keep the things that are written therein. Here, as already stated, we read that the Revelation is a great prophecy.

Revelation 1:4-5 .

The churches addressed were in the Province of Asia. (See Acts 16:6 ; Acts 19:10 .) The words of greeting “Grace and peace unto you” tell of the two great possessions of the Church. Though the professing Church may fail in her testimony, grace and peace, even in the dark days of apostasy, will never fail. In the greeting here Jehovah-God, the great “I am”--Who is, Who was and Who is to come--stands first. Then follows the Holy Spirit in His own completeness and His diverse activities, spoken of as “the seven Spirits.” And finally the name of our Lord. “He is the faithful witness,” who lived as such in holiness and perfect obedience on earth. “The First-Begotten from the dead” He died that shameful death on the cross and God raised Him from the dead. “The Prince of the kings of the earth.” This is His future title and glory.

Revelation 1:6-7 .

This is a true glory-song. It contains the blessed gospel of grace. What He has done for us; what He has made us; and what we shall be with Him. It is the first doxology in this book. See the swelling praise and worship two-fold, three-fold, four-fold and seven-fold in Revelation 4:11 ; Revelation 5:13 ; Revelation 7:12 . And then for the first time in this book His personal, visible and glorious coming is announced.

Revelation 1:8 .

God, so to speak, puts His seal upon it. The words of the preceding verse, “Even so, Amen,” must be read with this verse. The speaker is Jehovah, the Almighty.

Revelation 1:9-11 .

John was in banishment in the Isle of Patmos. Patmos is a small rocky isle, and about ten miles long and six wide. According to ancient tradition this island was used as a place of exile for offenders who belonged to the better classes. John was exiled on account of his faithful witness to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. He came to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. Does this mean “the day of the Lord,” that is, the day of His visible manifestation, or does it mean He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week? Dr. Bullinger teaches that the Lord’s day means “the day of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:12 ), and says: “John was not in a state of spiritual exaltation on any particular Sunday at Patmos, as the result of which he saw visions and dreamed dreams. But as we are told he found himself by the Spirit in the day of the Lord.” But this view is not correct. It is not the prophetic day of the Lord, but the Lord’s day, the day which the early Church from the beginning celebrated as the day of His resurrection. In Corinthians we read of “the Lord’s Supper” in the same way as “the Lord’s Day” is used here. Nor could John have been projected to the day of the Lord when his first message given to him by the glorified Christ concerned the church and her history on earth.

Revelation 1:12-16 .

A voice had spoken, as of a trumpet telling him to write in a book what he was about to see and to send the message to the seven churches. And as he turned he beheld the greatest vision human eyes have ever seen. He saw seven golden candlesticks (lampstands); these represent the seven churches (Revelation 1:20 ) and are symbolical of the whole Church. “In the midst,” John saw one “like unto a Son of Man.” But He is more than Man, He is the Ancient of Days as well as Son of Man, the Alpha and the Omega, in His humiliation and in His exaltation. He was the Son of Man on earth; He is the Son of Man in glory. When He comes back to earth and receives the kingdom, He will receive it as Son of Man to judge the earth in righteousness. Here we behold Him in His judicial character. The robe down to His feet expresses His dignity as the King-Priest, who is about to enter upon His future work. The golden girdle is symbolical of His divine righteousness. His white head and hair identify Him with the person whom Daniel saw sitting in judgment (Daniel 7:9-12 ). The flaming eyes, the fiery burning feet, the voice like the sound of many waters, the two-edged sword, all are symbolical of His glory and character.

There is one feature of the vision which needs an explanation. What do the seven stars mean, which are in the right hand of the Son of Man? Revelation 1:20 gives the answer, They are the seven angels of the seven churches. Angels and stars are symbolical figures. The application of these terms to church-officers or bishops and pastors is incorrect. Stars are used in scripture to typify true believers. Stars are heavenly bodies which shine during the night; so are true believers in a heavenly position with the responsibility to shine in the night. The lampstands represent the visible, professing Church; the stars represent the true believing element in the Church. They are in the right hand of Himself, held securely there. Furthermore, only true believers have an ear to hear what the Spirit saith. The stars are called angels, because an angel is a messenger and true believers are likewise that.

Revelation 1:17-20 .

John fell at His feet as dead. Compare with Daniel 10:4-11 . The vision was overpowering. But graciously His hand rests upon His prostrated disciple, the same who once leaned upon His bosom, and he hears the blessed words His people know and love so well, “Fear not!” Once more He bears witness as to Himself He is “He that liveth,” the Jehovah, the Self-existing One; He was dead; He died the sinner’s death and won the victory. He is alive forevermore; as the Risen One He has the key of Hades and of death. Then follows the commission which the reader finds fully explained in the Preface and Key to Revelation.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Revelation 1". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/revelation-1.html. 1913-1922.
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