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Revelation 1

Keathley's Commentary on RevelationKeathley on Revelation

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Verses 1-8

Revelation 1:1-8 (See the Book Comments for the Introductory chapters and Appendices)

Lesson 3: The Prologue ( Rev 1:1-8 )

The Superscription ( Rev 1:1-3 )

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servantJohn 2:1-25; John 2:1-25 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

Title and Theme of the Book (Revelation 1:1 a)

The title of the book is "The Apokalupsis of Jesus Christ." "Revelation" is the translation of the Greek noun, apokalupsis , meaning "a disclosure, an unveiling." The term "revelation" itself is derived from the Latin revelatio (from revelare , "to reveal or unveil that which has previously been hidden").

This was the title assigned to the book in the Latin Vulgate. The Greek title is Apocalypse , taken directly from the first word in the Greek text, apokalupsi . In this noun form the word is not found anywhere else in Greek literature, but as a verb it is continually used in the Gospels and the Epistles, in many different ways, especially in reference to some form of divine revelation to man (as of the Son of Man, in Luk 17:30 ). It is used by Paul in referring to the same coming event ( Rom 8:18 ; 1Co 1:7 ; 2Th 1:7 ), and frequently in I Peter ( 1Pe 1:7 ; 1Pe 1:13 ; 1Pe 4:13 ; 1Pe 5:1 ). In the Greek text of Daniel this word is often found referring to the uncovering of secrets, or the interpretation of dreams, or the revelation of God (seeDaniel 2:19; Daniel 2:19 ; Daniel 2:22 ; Daniel 2:28-30 ; Daniel 2:47 ; Daniel 10:1 ; Dan 11:35 ). [Note: Everett F. Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament, Chicago: Moody Press, 1962, electronic media.]

Apokalupsis means "to expose to full view what was before unknown, hidden, and secret." In its first appearance in the New Testament ( Luk 2:32 ), it is used of Simeon who, taking the baby Jesus in his arms, blessed Him and spoke of Him as "a light to lighten the Gentiles" (KJV). It reminds us that God intends for this book to bring light and to be understood by its readers. This opening clause is a mark of distinction which gives us not only the title, but the theme. Notice that it is not the revelation of John, but of Jesus Christ which was given to John. The common title sometimes used for the book, "The Revelation to John," merely identifies John as the human author. But how are we to understand the phrase, "of Jesus Christ"?

Grammatically, the words "of Jesus Christ" can be either a genitive of object meaning a revelation "about Jesus Christ," or a genitive of subject meaning a revelation "from Jesus Christ." "From Jesus Christ" would point to Christ as the author who gave this to John through His angel (cf. Rev 22:16 ). Writers differ with some arguing for one or the other of these views. Some would argue that as Rev 22:16 shows, it is from Christ and that the subject is about "things which must shortly come to pass" (Revelation 1:1 b). Others say, no, it is a revelation of and about the person of Christ. But grammatically it is likely that "of Jesus Christ" is what grammarians call a plenary genitive and includes both ideas. [Note: A plenary genitive is when the noun in the genitive functions both as a subjective and an objective genitive due to context. ] It is a revelation about and from the Lord Jesus. It is a revelation, a disclosure about the Christ Himself. It reveals His present work in the church, and discloses future events, but the events concern the person of Christ Himself and His return and activities associated with His second coming. In support, note the following verses:

· Revelation 1:5 -- "and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness."

· Revelation 1:7 -- "Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him," so we have an unveiling.

· Revelation 1:13 f -- Reveals Christ’s ministry in the middle of the lampstands.

· Revelation 5:5-6 -- Reveals Jesus Christ as the Lion and the Lamb.

· Revelation 6:14 f -- Reveals the unveiling of the Lamb on the throne and His wrath.

· Revelation 19:10 -- Reveals the return of the Lord as King of kings.

The Communication of the Book (Revelation 1:1-2; Revelation 1:1-2 )

The Chain of Communication

In keeping with the teaching of the New Testament regarding the procession of the ministries of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we see the headship of the Father who initiates this revelation through the Son (cf. 1Co 11:3 ). First, it proceeds from the Father to the Son --"which God gave to Him." For other Scriptures supporting the doctrine of procession see John 3:34-35 ; John 5:20-24 ; John 7:16 ; John 14:10 ; John 14:24 ; Joh 16:15 ).

Second, the communication proceeds from the Son through an angel , "and He sent and communicated it by His angel." The term angel, angelos , is found 175 times in 171 verses of the New Testament. Though some verses refer to men, the vast majority refer to angelic beings. This prominence shows the importance of angels in the worship of God, in the communication of revelation to man, and in the execution of God’s purposes and judg-ments.

Angels were often God’s instruments of communication or his messengers which is the basic meaning of the word, "angel" (Hebrews 2:2 ; Act 7:53 ). They will again be used as God’s special messengers in the time described inRevelation 6:1-17; Revelation 6:1-17 ; Revelation 7:1-17 ; Revelation 8:1-13 ; Revelation 9:1-21 ; Revelation 10:1-11 ; Revelation 11:1-19 ; Revelation 12:1-17 ; Revelation 13:1-18 ; Revelation 14:1-20 ; Revelation 15:1-8 ; Revelation 16:1-21 ; Revelation 17:1-18 ; Revelation 18:1-24 ; Revelation 19:1-21 . Angelos is used seven times of the angel or messenger to the seven churches in chapters 2-3, though in these chapters, it refers most likely to a human messenger, someone responsible for communicating the Word in each of the seven churches. The prominent idea is a messenger, an instrument of communication used by God.

There is a great deal of interest today in angels. Numerous books have been written about angels and so-called angelic encounters. Little figures of what angels are supposed to look like are a very popular item in the stores and not just around Christmas time. But we need to be careful about this interest in angels since Satan, who disguises himself as an angel of light, surely has fallen angels under his command who do the same and pose as instruments of good, even claiming revelation from God ( 2Co 11:14-15 ). One of the largest cults in the world today claims it was begun because of an encounter with an angel; and shortly after the time of Paul, a false system of religion arose called gnosticism in which there was an intricate belief system in angels. Paul seems to warn about this system in its incipient form inColossians 2:18-19; Colossians 2:18-19 .

An extremely interesting statement and a very timely one for any generation, but especially for our society, is found inGalatians 1:8; Galatians 1:8 . "But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed." Since the fall of Satan, no true angel from heaven would ever preach a false gospel, but hypothetically speaking, should one do so, Paul says he is to be accursed, devoted to destruction as are all the fallen angels or demonic beings ( Mat 25:41 ). The good angels are servants who do many tasks for God, but above all, they are messengers, as the name implies, who are responsible to witness truthfully to the person of the Lord Jesus. Three characteristics of angels: (a) they will agree with and bear testimony to the message of the Bible regarding the person and work of Christ (Revelation 1:1-2 ; Rev 19:10 ), (b) they will always honor God and never seek honor for themselves ( Rev 19:10 ), and (c) they act on God’s behalf to do His will and often for the sake of Israel and the church as is so evident in the book of Daniel (Daniel 10:13 f; Dan 12:1 ) and Revelation (see alsoHebrews 1:7; Hebrews 1:7 ; Hebrews 1:14 ; Psa 103:20 ).

Third, the communication comes from the angel as the Lord’s messenger to John who is called His bond-servant ( Rev 1:1 ) (cf. Revelation 17:1 ; Revelation 19:9 f; Revelation 21:9 ; Revelation 22:6 ,Revelation 22:8 ,Revelation 22:16 ).

Finally, the communication of the book is from John to the body of Christ. This is seen in the words, "to show to his bond servants" ( Rev 1:1 ), and in the words, "to the seven churches…" in Revelation 1:4 . "Bondservants" is the Greek word, doulos , a significant term especially when applied to the people of God. The bondservant was one who was owned by his master lock, stock, and barrel. He was totally under the authority and power of his master and dependent on him for everything--his responsibilities, his daily food, housing, and supplies, and his purpose in life. Ironically, however, it is in this servitude to Christ that we experience true freedom--freedom from bondage to sin, self, Satan, and the religion of the world. But it is not just a freedom from something. It is also a freedom to be something, a freedom to know, serve, and walk with God in the peace and righteousness of Christ choosing to serve Him rather than sin.

Perhaps the use of the terms "angel" (messenger) and "bondservant" should remind us of two key areas of truth that are related as root to fruit. They remind us of what both angels and men should be, especially the body of Christ which has been left on earth to represent the Lord Jesus as His messengers. We are to be instruments of light as portrayed in the symbol of the lampstand. This means we are messengers of Christ and servants of God, but our willingness and ability to be effective as messengers of the message of the Savior as was John is greatly dependent on truly living as bondservants of the Savior. We see this truth in the first verse of Paul’s message to the Romans where he identifies himself as "a bondservant of Jesus Christ" and then as one "called to be an apostle" ( Rom 1:1 ). The secret of Paul’s ministry to the nations as a preacher and an apostle and a teacher ( 2Ti 1:11 ) is indicated in the order of these words of identification inRomans 1:1; Romans 1:1 . He was first and foremost a bondslave, one utterly surrendered to the ascended Christ, and then he was an apostle, one sent with the message as a preacher and a teacher.

One of the vital principles of the Christian life is that the way up is down, and the way to life is death--death to self and its control. The Lord Jesus is the perfect example of this, who, though being God of very God, took on the form of a bondslave in the form of true humanity and humbled Himself to die in our place that we might have life ( Php 2:6-8 ). He, as a servant, came not to be ministered to, but to minister and give His life for our redemption ( Mar 10:45 ). He taught us that becoming a productive servant begins with dying to ourselves as a grain of wheat. He said:

Joh 12:24-26 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

General Eisenhower once rebuked one of his generals for referring to a soldier as "just a private." He reminded him that the army could function better without its generals than it could without its foot soldiers. "If this war is won," he said, "it will be won by privates." In the same way, it is the common, servant-like believer who becomes the very backbone of the body of Christ. We are often overly impressed by our great evangelists and superstar Bible teachers and leaders who stand before large crowds, but if the glorious message of the person and work of Christ is to reach the world, it will be done by a church that functions as bondslaves of the Savior (cf. Luke 12:15 ; Luk 12:32 ; 2 Peter 2:19 ; 1Jn 3:17 ).

One man tells this story of his experience with hummingbirds:

Recently we put up a hummingbird feeder with four feeding stations. Almost immediately it became popular with the hummingbirds that live in our area. Two, three, or even four birds would feed at one time. We refilled the feeder at least once a day. Suddenly the usage decreased to almost nothing. The feeder needed filling only about once a week. The reason for the decreased usage soon became apparent. A male bird had taken over the feeder as his property. He is now the only hummingbird who uses our feeder. He feeds and then sits in a nearby tree, rising to attack any bird that approaches his feeder. Guard duty occupies his every waking hour. He is an effective guard. The only time another bird gets to use the feeder is when the self-appointed owner is momentarily gone to chase away an intruder.

We soon realized that the hummingbird was teaching us a valuable lesson. By choosing to assume ownership of the feeder, he is forfeiting his freedom. He is no longer free to come and go as he wishes. He is tied to the work of guarding his feeder. He is possessed by his possession. His freedom of action is as circumscribed as if he were in a cage. He is caged by a situation he has created. [Note: W. L. Barnes, Free As a Bird.]

Someone has said, "The true test of a servant’s heart is whether or not I am willing to act like one when I am treated like one."

The Aim and Purpose of the Communication

"Show" is deiknumi , "to exhibit, disclose, point out." Again we see an emphasis on disclosing the message of Revelation. God intends for this book to be communicated to His people.

"Shortly" is the Greek en tachei which can mean either of two things. It can mean soon as in the immediate future or in prophetic terms, it can mean imminent, i.e., they could occur at any time or in our day. One must remember the truth of 2 Peter 3:8 , that one day is as a thousand years and vice versa from God’s viewpoint. It may also mean "rapidly, quickly, speedily."

The point is, by comparison to the rest of history, once these things begin to unfold they will occur rapidly (cf.Luke 18:8; Luke 18:8 ; Acts 12:7 ; Acts 22:18 ; Acts 25:4 ; Rom 16:20 ). There will be no more delays in the plan of God and in His long suffering (cf. Mat 24:22 ). A similar word, tachus , is translated six times in Revelation meaning "quickly" which may illustrate the concept (cf. Revelation 2:16 ; Revelation 3:11 ; Revelation 11:14 ; Revelation 22:7 ; Revelation 22:12 ; Rev 22:20 ). In view of the words "the time is near" inRevelation 1:3; Revelation 1:3 (cf. Rev 22:10 ), it may be best to take en tachei as "soon" and understand it to refer to the imminent return of the Lord. Imminent means "ready to take place, impending." "The church in every age has always lived with the expectancy of the consummation of all things in its day. Imminency describes an event possible any day, impossible no day." [Note: Alan Johnson, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, Frank E. Gaebelein, general editor, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1981, p. 417.] (See Appendix 1 e-Sword Book Comments for reasons in support of imminency.)

The Manner of the Communication

"Communicated" is se„maino„ , meaning "to show, signify, reveal by signs or symbols" as is often the case in this book. But it can also mean to reveal by words without the use of signs or symbols. John was communicated to by both the spoken word and by visions in which he saw things that were full of symbolic meaning as in 1:10-12, but these symbols are designed to be understood according to the normal meaning of the symbols.

The Things Communicated

That which is communicated is first of all defined as the "witness" of John. This is martureo„ , "to be a witness, act as a witness, testify or bear witness." It carries the idea of "attes-tation, verification, validation" and stresses that John was bearing testimony as a witness of what he received. That witness is defined and described in a three-fold way which shows it importance and why we need to pay attention to it message:

(1) "The Word of God"--This book with its visions is called the Word of God and is part of the whole canon of Scripture. It stands in harmony with the rest of Scripture and provides us with the culmination and conclusion. This description stresses its authority and importance to the church. It brings out the concepts of inspiration, canonicity, preser-va-tion, and illumination (cf.Revelation 1:9; Revelation 1:9 ; Revelation 3:8 ; Revelation 3:10 ; Revelation 6:9 ; Revelation 12:11 ; Revelation 17:17 ; Revelation 19:9 ; Rev 20:4 ).

(2) "The testimony of Jesus Christ"--The word "testimony," marturia , a noun form of the above martureo„ , also carries the idea of "attestation, verification, validation." This could mean "the testimony about Jesus Christ," an objective genitive, or "the testimony from Jesus Christ," a subjective genitive. The latter is preferable because of the phrase, "the Word of (from) God," and the context. The point is John testifies to both the Word of God and to the validation of his message from Jesus himself." [Note: Johnson, p. 417.]

(3) "And of all the things which he saw"--The first two defined and described his testimony from the standpoint of its nature or character and source. This calls attention to the many details and areas that he saw and that will be found in the book--the great events and personages which precede and surround Christ’s coming, His kingdom, and His eternal glory.

The Promise, Plan, and Value of the Book ( Rev 1:3 )

The Promise--Blessing

"Blessed" is makairos , "happy, blessed" (cf. Mat 5:3 ). This is a promise of the happiness, spiritual blessing, and joy that will come from knowing and responding to the truth of the book. There are seven beatitudes, the word "blessed" appearing 7 times in the book of Revelation.

Lehman Strauss defines them as: The Blessed Challenge ( Rev 1:3 ), The Blessed Comfort ( Rev 14:13 ), The Blessed Cautiousness ( Rev 16:15 ), The Blessed Calling ( Rev 19:9 ), The Blessed Conquest ( Rev 20:6 ), The Blessed Cherishing ( Rev 22:7 ), The Blessed Conformity ( Rev 22:14 ). [Note: Lehman Strauss, The Book of Revelation, Loizeaux Brothers: Neptune, NJ, 1964, p. 23.]

The Plan--Exposition and Application

"He who reads." Note that this is singular while the next clause, "those who hear," is plural. This reflects the early form of worship and one of God’s primary plans for taking in the Word. The Scrip-ture was publicly read to the congregation. The early church didn’t have a large number of copies of the Scripture nor any books of the New Testament when they were received, so they would be read and undoubtedly also, expounded on by the pastor and teachers given to the body.

"And those who hear." In this we see the responsibility of the flock to hear and respond. It is these who are blessed. "Hear" is akouo„, "to hear, listen, attend, perceive by hearing, comprehend by hearing." It includes concentration and learning, and of course, to hear, one must be present when the Word is taught ( Heb 10:25 ).

"And heed the things…" "Heed" is te„reo„ , "to guard, watch over, preserve" or "observe, apply, obey." In this context, the main idea is that of personal application with obedience.

"The words of this prophecy" and "the things which are written." Note that "words" and "things" are plural. They point us to the content of the book, but include the various categories and truths that make up the content of Revelation--the person of Christ, the church, the saints, the Tribulation, witnessing, faithfulness, overcoming, the angelic warfare, Israel, Satan, demons, judgments, the millennium, the resurrection, the eternal state, etc.

"Of this prophecy." In addition to being called the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, it is called "prophecy." Prophecy involves not only future events, but also moral and spiritual things that train, exhort, and comfort. It particularly refers to truth received by direct revelation from God ( 1Co 14:30 ).

"Which are written in it." "Written" is in the perfect tense and means "stands written." The perfect tense stresses the permanence of the record and perhaps its availability. God has made His Word available to us and preserved it in the Canon of Scripture. In the New Testament, the concept of the Word which stands written is found over sixty times.

The Value--Its Timeliness

"For the time is as hand." "Time" is kairos and refers to a definite season or period of time, but one that is marked out by its contents or characteristics. The time in mind is the time of Christ’s return marked out by all that will happen just before, during, and after ( Rev 1:19 ).

"Is near" is engus which includes: (1) near as to place, close by, like the car near the garage, and (2), near as to time, soon. The idea is "near from the standpoint of prophetic revelation, i.e., next." Again we see God’s reckoning of time ( 2Pe 3:8-9 ). The next phase of God’s program for the earth will be the events of this Revelation. The world is ever coming closer to this awesome time. The value of this book is that it provides orientation to the times, motivation to ministry and godliness, comfort, and instruction.

The Salutation ( Rev 1:4-8 )

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; 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen. 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 Writer (Revelation 1:4 a)

"John." The human author is John the apostle (Revelation 1:4 a). "The Hebrew idioms in the book, the authority of the author in relation to the churches, the use of distinctively Johannine terms like logos and "Lamb of God," and the corroboration of Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian and Clement all affirm that the apostle John was the author of this book." [Note: Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation, Moody Press: Chicago, 1968, p.14.] Every New Testament book was written by an apostle or by one who was closely associated with an apostle, i.e., like Luke who was a companion of the apostle Paul. This was one of the marks of inspiration and necessary for recognition of a book into the canon of Scripture.

The Recipients (Revelation 1:4 a)

"To the seven churches in Asia" (Revelation 1:4 b). The whole book is addressed to seven historical churches in the province of Asia Minor. This fact should prevent anyone from saying that Revelation is nothing more than a piece of poetic idealism. [Note: Ryrie, Revelation, p. 14.] As will be discussed later, these seven in their historical situation are representative of the church at any particular point in history. Chapters two and three contain specific letters to these seven churches with special warnings, exhortations, commendations, and instructions.

The Greeting (Revelation 1:4 b)

"Grace to you and peace." First, we should note the order of God’s blessings: Grace, then peace. Peace is always the product of knowing and appropriating the grace of God in Christ. This order can never be changed. Ignore the grace of God and you forfeit the peace of God (cf. Heb 12:14 with Heb 12:15 ). Peace is the product of grace (2 Peter 1:2-4 ; 1Pe 3:18 ). Peter exhorts us, "but grow in the grace and knowledge of…" The more we experience the grace of God, the more capacity we have to experience the variegated aspects of God’s peace. Though the message of Revelation is primarily one of judgment, this benediction of grace and peace is notable. God here seeks to comfort and strengthen His people. Knowing this book brings a greater capacity to understand God’s grace in his patience during this age and even in the events of the future for God does not wish for any to perish, but to come to repentance ( 2Pe 3:9 ). Having a grasp of God’s program for the future also gives peace.

For an overview of the nature of grace and peace, see Appendix 2 (in the e-Sword Book Comments for Revelation.)

The Source of the Divine Blessings ( Rev 1:4 d-8)

Note that the preposition, "from," is used three times in Revelation 1:4-5 . This points us to three distinct and separate ministries found in the distinct ministries of the trinity.

From the Timeless and Eternal One

We should note in passing that this designation of God corresponds to the division of the book given in Revelation 1:19 , the things past, the things present, and the things to come. It reminds us that He is the God of history. This should comfort and strength-en as we study about all that has, is, and will happen in the future. Behind it all is the eternal and sovereign God of the Bible.

"Who is" is literally "the one who is." It ascribes the fact and quality of continual existence as a distinctive and emphatic quality of God’s being and essence. He is the "I Am" of the Old Testament.

"And who was." "Was" is the imperfect of the verb "to be" and refers to God’s continual existence in past time. It stresses the Father has always been.

"And is to come" is literally "the one coming" or "the coming one." The Greek construction again describes a fact and quality that charac-terizes God. It speaks of the future coming of God to take control of all things in a world that has been in open rebellion. He is coming to put down His enemies and establish His reign through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (see 1Co 15:20-28 ).

From the Seven Spirits

Ryrie comments,

The number seven, occurring 54 times in the book, appears more frequently than any other number. In the Bible it is associated with completion, fulfillment, and perfection (cf.Genesis 2:2; Genesis 2:2 ; Exodus 20:10 ; Leviticus 14:7 ; Act 6:3 ). In Revelation there are seven churches and seven spirits ( Rev 1:4 ), seven lampstands ( Rev 1:12 ), seven stars ( Rev 1:16 ), seven seals on the scroll ( Rev 5:1 ), seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb ( Rev 5:6 ), seven angels and seven trumpets ( Rev 8:2 ), seven thunders ( Rev 10:3 ), seven heads of the dragon ( Rev 12:3 ), seven heads of the beast ( Rev 13:1 ), seven golden bowls ( Rev 15:7 ), and seven kings ( Rev 17:10 ). [Note: Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition, p. 2013.]

"The seven Spirits." Some take this to refer to the seven angels who are before the throne, but it seems best to understand this as a reference to the Holy Spirit and the perfection or fullness of His actions and the manifold nature of His ministry. This fits both the context and the analogy of Scripture.

The book is presented as coming from three sources who seem to be presented as equal with one another. The last of these is clearly defined as Jesus Christ, the third member of the trinity. If the first is the Father, and the third is the Son, the second would in all probability be the Holy Spirit rather than seven angels. First, because only the Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son, and second, though angels are involved in the visions of the revelation, only one angel was really involved in specific communication of the book to John (cf. Rev 1:1 ).

There is an obvious parallel to the seven-fold ministries portrayed in Isaiah 11:2 . Why is the Holy Spirit referred to as seven spirits? There is only one Holy Spirit ( Eph 4:4 ), but in the Bible, seven is consistently associated with perfection, fulfillment, and completeness. Evidently, because Revelation is the final book of the Bible, the culmination, the fulfillment, and climax of the ages. The number seven becomes prominent to demonstrate this.

From Jesus Christ, the God-man Savior

In Revelation 1:5-7 (5a-7) there is a three-fold emphasis on Christ’s person and work to draw attention to who He is, what He has done, and will do.

Appellatives (titles) of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5 a)

(1) Our Prophet--the faithful witness. The Greek text is very emphatic. Literally it reads, "the witness, the faithful One." This stresses the character of His witness as faithful. The Lord Jesus is the logos , the very revelation of God to man (cf. John 1:1 ; John 1:14 ; Joh 1:18 ). He answers man’s need of the ideal prophet or spokesman and revelation from and for God ( Deu 18:15-22 ).

(2) Our Priest--the firstborn of the dead. First, since He could not be the firstborn from among the dead without dying, this statement must first look back to Christ’s substitutionary death for the sin of the world (Hebrews 5:1-10 ; Hebrews 9:11-14 ; Heb 10:14 ). Second, the firstborn from the dead is also an obvious reference to the fact of the resurrection. By the resurrection God the Father verified His acceptance of Christ’s offering of Himself by raising Him to prove our justification (Acts 2:23-24 ; Acts 2:31-32 ; Act 4:25 ), prove to the world that He is God’s Son ( Rom 1:4 ), and prove that this Jesus will judge the world ( Rom 17:31 ). Third, the mention of the firstborn points to Him as our forerunner in resurrection. The first one brought forth from the dead in a glorified body is a promise that more will follow. The Lord Jesus is God’s guarantee of our resurrection and glorification ( Joh 11:24-26 ).

(3) Our King--the ruler of the kings of the earth. "The ruler" is literally "the one who rules…" or "the ruling one…" It ascribes the quality of rule to Him and characterizes Him as the one who rules, the ruler (cf. Rev 19:16 ). It is a rule that is going on now and it is a rule over all governments even though the world lies in rebellion and unbelief. Nations, kings, and govern-ments rise and fall by His sovereign authority and power (cf. Mat 28:18 ). Compare Daniel 2:20-21 ; Daniel 4:17 ; Daniel 5:18 .

So Christ is now seated at God’s right hand, having spoiled Satan and Satan’s demonic hosts by His death and resurrection. But one day He will rise from His seat and begin to take the reigns of control through the events of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 2:44 ; Revelation 4:1-11 ; Revelation 5:1-14 ; Rev 11:15-17 ).

Accolades (praise) to Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5-7; Revelation 1:5-7 )

(1) For His present ministry-- " who loves us. " The Greek text uses one article with two adjectival participles which descriptively portray the person, work, and ministry of the Lord. Literally--"the one who loves,…and who released us,…" The construction of the Greek text ascribes Christ’s love for us as a constant quality and characteristic. It speaks of His constant care and ministry on our behalf.

(2) For His past ministry-- " who released us…and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father. " "Released" looks at a past historic fact. It looks at this as an accomplished fact, as something that does not need repeating and Scripture strongly stresses this in the truth of the finished work of Christ. Again, it is a descriptive participle only now in the aorist tense. It is descriptive, classifying Christ as the Releaser, the one and only one who has accomplished what is necessary to release men from the penalty and power of sin.

The object of the releasing is "us," a reference to believers in Christ, but it is available to any who will put their trust in the Savior ( Joh 3:16 ).

The verb is luo„ , "to untie, set free, release." It stresses that man, apart from Jesus Christ and His work on the cross is in bondage, chained to his sin problem: both its penalty (physical, spiritual, and eternal death) and its power (weakness and domination by a sinful nature). Some MSS have "washed us" from louo„ , "to wash."

"From" is the Greek word ek , a preposition meaning "from, out of, away from." It is a preposition of separation.

"Our sins" stresses two things: First, that the problem facing man is sin, imputed sin, inherent sin, and individual. Man’s problem is not the lack of a great society. Man is a fallen creature and this has caused both man’s separation from a holy God and the corruption of society. In himself, mankind does not have what it needs to rectify its problems. Only Christ, the sin releaser can do that. Second, it stresses that the sin problem is personal. Every person is up against the eight ball of sin and needs the saving grace of God ( Rom 3:23 ).

"By His blood" is a metonymy for the work of the Christ on the cross, His substitutionary death by which He dealt with the sin problem. Compare for instance, "the pen (a symbol of literary power) is mightier than the sword" (a symbol of military power).

As we think about this, we should be reminded of the total effects of what we have been separated from by His death in our place. The separation includes: (a) the PLACE from which separation takes place-- Satan’s Kingdom ( Col 1:13 ), (b) the COMPANY from which separation takes place-- Satan’s World System ( Joh 17:15-17 ), (c) the CIRCUMSTANCES out of which one is brought-- the Penalty and Power of sin and death --(Romans 6:1 f; Ephesians 2:1 f; Heb 2:14-15 ), and (d) the PERSONS with whom a connection is severed-- the Son’s of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2 f; Ephesians 5:6 f).

"And He has made us a kingdom…" "Kingdom" is singular. Not kings, but a kingdom. It is collective and stresses our relation-ship to each other as believers and to Christ as our king. A kingdom is a place of rule. We are a kingdom, a people in whom God is to rule and who will one day reign with Christ, but because of the word "priests," that’s not the focus here.

"Priests" is plural. Here we see our individual position, respon-sibility, and the purpose of this kingdom. We are a kingdom of priests to God who are to represent Him to the world. We have a collective priesthood, but every believer is a ministering priest before God. This is a far cry from what we so often see in churches today where the pastor is viewed as the minister and the people see themselves only as laymen or lay people.

"To Him be glory and dominion…" Before John turns to His future ministry and the keynote of the book--Christ’s coming again--there is a doxology of praise which both concludes what has been said and introduces what is about to be said regarding Christ’s return.

"To Him" is what we can call a dative of possession. It points us to that which rightly belongs to Christ. In this we see the great purpose of our lives.

"Be the glory." This is the Greek doxa and refers to that which should accrue to Christ, the praise, the adoration, the rule, the respect and worship because of who He is and what He has done.

"And the dominion." This is the Greek kratos . It means (a) power, might, and (b) rule, sovereignty.

"For ever and ever." Man’s rule as given to him by God was lost in the garden of Eden, but never again once the Lord, the God-Man Savior, assumes His reign on earth at His second coming.

(3) For His future ministry-- " Behold, He is coming with the clouds… "

"Behold" is designed to arrest our attention and get us to focus on this as the great theme of Revelation. He is coming for us ( 1Th 4:13-18 ) and then with us to earth ( Rev 19:11-16 ), but in between, He is coming to judge the world for its rebellion ( Rev 19:10 ).

"Is coming" is the present tense of the verb, erchomai, "to come, go." This is a future present used to denote an event which has not yet occurred, but which is regarded as so certain that in thought it is viewed as already occurring or accomplished.

"With the clouds" reminds us of Acts 1:9 f and the promise of the angels at the ascension of the Lord Jesus. This may have been the Shekinah glory of God and it could be so here. There will be clouds, but clouds of the glory of God manifesting the coming glory of the Lord to rule and take up the reigns of government over the earth in a visible way (cf. Mat 24:30 ).

"Every eye" simply points out that all mankind will see this in contrast to the ascension which was seen only by the disciples.

"Those who pierced Him." In the light of Zechariah 12:10 , this refers primarily to the Jews who asked for His death, but it could also refer to the Romans who carried out the sentence. In essence we all caused His death because of our sin.

"And all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him." Literally "and they shall wail over Him" ( Mat 24:30 ). The Greek word is kopto„ and means literally "to beat the breast in wailing and mourning." For some it will be the mourning of repentance. For others it will be the mourning over the judgments that He will pour out on the earth and sinners.

The Benediction to the Greeting ( Rev 1:7-8 )

The benediction begins with the words of Revelation 1:7 , "even so, amen." This confirms what has been said and introduces what is to follow.

"Even so" is the Greek nai , a particle of affirmation. It confirms the sure return of the Lord and the statements made about Him.

"Amen" means "to be firm, sure, true." It is a further affirmation of the promise of the verse.

There is some disagreement about who is here speaking. Ryrie thinks this verse refers to the Father and is His affirmation of the Son. Others as Walvoord, believe it speaks of the Son.

Reasons in favor of this as a reference to the Son are: (a) He is the central person of the first chapter, and (b) in Rev 1:17 Christ uses a similar expression of Himself when he says, "I am the first and the last." (c) Finally, toward the close of the book two expressions are united and applied by Christ to Himself which seems to identify Him as the one speaking here (cf. Revelation 22:6 ; Revelation 22:13 , and Isa 44:6 ). This authenti-cates who He is--God Almighty.

However, since this follows the salutation which comes from the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, perhaps it could be from the Godhead itself.

"I Am the Alpha and Omega." Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It is equivalent to our A and Z. This does not relate so much to time but to truth. It expressed the extent of God’s knowledge and wisdom ( Col 2:3 ). It stresses Christ’s or the Godhead’s omniscience or infinite knowledge and wisdom. This stands then as a strong authentication of the book of Revelation because it comes from the Alpha ( a ) and Omega ( w ).

"The Almighty" is the Greek pantokrato„r from pas , "all" and kratos , "might, power." It stresses God’s omnipotence, but also God’s sovereign supremacy over all things. It declares God’s supremacy over all the universe. The word was used in secular literature to describe the attributes of the gods and John is probably using it here in contrast to the Roman emperor’s self-designation as the autokrator . [Note: Fritz Rienecker, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, edited by Cleon L. Rogers, Jr., Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1980, p. 812.]

Walvoord has an excellent summary of these opening verses.

Jesus Christ is the central figure of the opening eight verses of Revelation. As the Source of revelation He is presented inRevelation 1:1; Revelation 1:1 . As the Channel of the word and testimony of God He is cited inRevelation 1:2; Revelation 1:2 . His blessings through His revealed word are promised inRevelation 1:3; Revelation 1:3 . In Rev 1:5 He is the faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He is revealed to be the source of all grace who loves us and cleanses us from our sins through His shed blood. He is the source of our royal priesthood who has the right to gather in Himself all glory and dominion forever. He is promised to come with clouds, attended with great display of power and glory, and every eye shall see the One who died for men. He is the Almighty One of eternity past and eternity future. If no more had been written than that contained in this introductory portion of chapter 1, it would have constituted a tremendous restatement of the person and work of Christ such as found in no comparable section of Scripture. [Note: John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Moody Press: Chicago, 1966, p. 40.]

Application Questions:

(1) How well does my life exhibit the character of a bondslave?

(2) Am I a careful messenger who accurately bears testimony to the person and work of Jesus Christ?

(3) Am I involved in ministry as a believer priest or am I more of a spectator?

(4) Am I living as a sojourner who looks with great anticipation for the Lord’s return, or have I become more of an earth dweller whose primary goals are in this world?

Verses 9-20

Revelation 1:9-20 (See the Book Comments for the Introductory chapters and Appendices)

Lesson 4: The Things Past ( Rev 1:9-20 )

Revelation can obviously be outlined or divided in a number of ways, but most commentators see 1:19 as a divinely-given outline. Walvoord writes:

The advantage of this outline is that it deals in a natural way with the material rather than seizing on incidentals as some expositors have done or avoiding any outline at all, as it true of other expositors. It is not too much to claim that this outline is the only one which allows the book to speak for itself without artificial manipulation… [Note: Walvoord, p. 48.]

The point is that this God-given outline supports and demonstrates the futuristic approach of the book. Rev 1:19 becomes a key to how we should interpret the book. Rev 1:19 gives a three-part division: Following the prologue or introduction, we have what John calls "the things which you have seen," i.e., the things past . This is followed by "the things which are," the things present , and then "the things which will take place after these things," the things future . Based on this breakdown, Revelation falls into the following three divisions:

(1) The things past are the things which John had seen from Rev 1:9-19 including Rev 1:20 which is an explanation of part of this vision, the vision of the glorified Christ ( Rev 1:9-20 ).

(2) The things present are "the things which are." This deals with the messages to the seven churches and the state of the church or the church age (Revelation 2:1-29 ; Rev 3:1-22 ).

(3) The things future refer to "the things which shall take place after these things." This takes us the reader into the future or things to come, and deals with the things that will occur after the church: the tribulation, the millennium, and the eternal state (Revelation 4:1-11 ; Revelation 5:1-14 ; Revelation 6:1-17 ; Revelation 7:1-17 ; Revelation 8:1-13 ; Revelation 9:1-21 ; Revelation 10:1-11 ; Revelation 11:1-19 ; Revelation 12:1-17 ; Revelation 13:1-18 ; Revelation 14:1-20 ; Revelation 15:1-8 ; Revelation 16:1-21 ; Revelation 17:1-18 ; Revelation 18:1-24 ; Revelation 19:1-21 ; Revelation 20:1-15 ; Revelation 21:1-27 ; Rev 22:1-21 ).

Remember that,

If one follows the plain, literal or normal principle of interpretation he concludes that most of the book is yet in the future. No judgments in history have ever equaled those described in chapters 6, 8, 9, and 16. The resurrections and judgment described in chapter 20 have not yet occurred. There has been no visible return of Christ as portrayed in chapter 19. [Note: Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation, Moody Press: Chicago, 1968, p. 9.]

Circumstances of the Vision ( Rev 1:9-11 )

9 I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, 11 saying, "Write in a book what you see, 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."

In Rev 1:9-11 John provides us with those facts which are pertinent to the nature of the book and how John came to write it.

The Receiver of the Vision (Revelation 1:9 a)

"I John, your brother and fellow partaker in the…" John, of course, was well known among the churches of Asia Minor. He refers to himself as simply John in 1:1, 1:4, but twice he says, "I John" (Revelation 1:9 ; Rev 22:8 ) which seems to add emphasis for the purpose of authen-ticating his witness.

In his epistles John described himself as an elder ( 2Jn 1:1 ; 3Jn 1:1 ), but here he simply calls himself "a brother and fellow partaker…"

"Brother" is the Greek adelphos , a word often used as a technical term for believers in Christ because we are all born again into God’s family. It stresses the close relationship we all have regardless of our position or gifts in the church or in society. We are still brothers under the authority and care of the Father and our older Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Fellow partaker" is the Greek sunkoino„nos , "to share jointly, to have in common with others." It reminds us of the doctrine of koino„nia or fellowship and how we, as believers in Christ, share many things in common--a common hope, common blessings, common sufferings, and common responsibilities.

"In Jesus" is the uniting factor and the basis of our brotherhood or fellowship ( 1Co 1:9 ). It calls to mind our union or position in Christ or the co-identification that we share together in Him. Note, three things are mentioned that he had in common with the seven churches.

First, John speaks of himself as "a fellow partaker in tribulation." "Tribulation" is the Greek thlipsis from thlibo„ , "to crush, press hard." Thlipsis means "trouble, affliction, distress." The Greek has the article with the word "tribulation," but it goes with all three nouns linking them together as three related things that often come simultaneously to believers in Christ. Literally, "the affliction, kingdom, and endurance in Jesus." It does not refer to "the tribulation" to come as though it had already begun. Specifically, "tribulation" in this verse refers to the persecutions and distress that John was facing on the isle of Patmos and that much of the church was experiencing for their faith in Jesus Christ because of the persecutions of the Roman emperor, Domitian.

Second, John then spoke of a "kingdom": Though we may experience tribulation, we also share in a kingdom that enables us to become overcomers in affliction. This refers to Christ’s kingdom and rule. There are three aspects of this in which all believers in Christ share:

(1) There is the present mystery form, the kingdom of God within you which includes God’s sovereign provision, control, and deliverance: Compare Col 1:12-13 with the mystery parables of the kingdom in Mat 13:1-58 which describes the present mystery form between Christ’s first and second comings.

(2) There is the predicted millennial reign on earth in which all believers will take part with varying degrees of responsibility and rewards depending on their faithfulness to walk with the Lord (cf. Rom 8:17 ; 1 Corinthians 3:12 f; Revelation 2:26 ; Revelation 3:12 ; Revelation 3:21 ; Rev 20:4 ).

(3) There is the eternal form of the kingdom, the eternal state ( Rev 22:1-5 ).

However, not only do we share in tribulation, but as sharers in Christ’s kingdom and rule, we can also share in the endurance that comes to us in Christ. So…

Third, John referred to "perseverance" as further common thing we share in Jesus. This is hupomone„ from hupo, "under" and mone„ , "to abide." It means endurance, the ability to abide under pressure regardless of the intensity or length of time. This is a joint ability that all believers have in Christ if they will walk in faith and keep their eyes on the Savior (cf. Colossians 1:9 ; Heb 12:1-2 ). This is especially true when we fix our gaze on the future glory and the blessings to come (cf. the close of each message to the seven churches).

The Place of the Vision (Revelation 1:9 b)

John was on an island called "Patmos." Patmos was a small, bleak, and rocky island about ten miles long and six miles wide. It was a place where prisoners and undesirables were banished and forced to work in the mines. According to early church fathers like Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Eusebius, John was sent here and forced to work in the mines though way up in years. This points to the source of his affliction and endurance as a partaker of Christ’s rule and reign in his life.

"Because of the Word of God" points us to the cause or reason for John’s banishment as an undesirable--his unswerving faithfulness to proclaim the Word and share Jesus Christ with men. Please note, though men could circumscribe his human activities, they could not bind the Spirit of God nor the testimony of Jesus Christ nor the power of the Word of God ( 2Ti 2:9 ).

Moses wrote the Pentateuch in the wilderness. David wrote many psalms while being pursued by Saul. Isaiah lived in difficult days and died a martyr’s death. Ezekiel wrote in exile. Jeremiah’s life was one of trial and persecution. Peter wrote his two letters shortly before martyrdom. Thus in the will of God the final written revelation was given to John while suffering for Christ and the gospel. [Note: Walvoord, p. 41.]

The Spiritual Circumstances ( Rev 1:10-11 )

"And I was in the Spirit." The tense, the verb used, and the fact of this statement pointing us to the reason for the visions of this book all suggests this refers to something unusual instead of the normal experience of the Spirit controlled walk.

Such visions as depicted in this book are never stated to be one of the products or promises of the Spirit filled walk (Galatians 5:22 f). Rather, it refers to a state where God could supernaturally reveal the special contents of this book. The verb here can be classified as an ingressive aorist describing an entrance into a condition. The verb is ginomai , "to come to be, become." Literally, "I came to be in the Spirit." It refers to an entrance into an unusual state. "Such was the experience of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:2 ; Ezekiel 3:12 ; Ezekiel 3:14 ; etc.), Peter (Acts 10:10-11 ; Act 11:5 ), and Paul ( Act 22:17-18 )." [Note: Walvoord, p. 42.]

The Time of the Vision

"On the Lord’s day" is taken by interpreters in two different ways: (a) the Lord’s day as the first day of the week or Sunday, or (b) as a reference to the Day of the Lord, the Tribulation.

"Lord" is the Greek kuriakos , an adjective meaning "belonging to the Lord, lordian, imperial." And though the Day of the Lord in other places is always written differently ( he„mera kuriou ), due to the unique emphasis of this book, a number of writers as Walvoord, Ryrie, and Pentecost and others believe this word does not refer to Sunday, but rather to the Day of the Lord of the Old Testament, an extended period of time when God will deal in judgment and sovereign rule over the earth. [Note: Taken from Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 42; Ryrie, Revelation, p. 17; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, and class notes taken at Dallas Theological Seminary, 1965.]

John, through this spiritual state, was projected into the Day of the Lord, that imperial day and time when the Lord would return in His kingly glory and take the reins of earthly government via the events and conditions of chapters 4-22. Support for this is as follows:

(1) Unless this is the exception, the expression, "the Lord’s day," as a reference to Sunday is nowhere else used in the Bible. This word, kuriakos is used only here and in 1Co 11:20 where it is used of the Lord’s supper, but not a day. Outside the New Testament it meant "imperial."

(2) The day that the early church regularly met, the day of Christ’s resurrec-tion, was consistently called "the first day of the week," and never "the Lord’s day" (cf.Matthew 28:1; Matthew 28:1 ; Mark 16:2 ; Mark 16:9 ; Luke 24:1 ; John 20:1 ; John 20:19 ; Acts 20:7 ; 1Co 16:2 ).

(3) Walvoord adds, "it is questionable in any case whether the amazing revelation given in the entire book could have been conveyed to John in one twenty-four-hour day, and it is more probable that it consisted of a series of revelations." [Note: Walvoord, p. 42.]

(4) "And I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet" calls attention to the awesome nature of what John was about to see, a vision of the glorified Christ. Trumpets are used in the Bible to announce important occasions and to assemble God’s people for some kind of preparation. The important occasion here is the vision of Christ which is preparatory to all that follows.

The Command to Record the Vision

"Write in a book what you see" is one of twelve times John was told to write in the book what he saw. This indicates John was to write after seeing each vision. In 10:4, John was told not to write, but seal up what was spoken.

"And send it to the seven churches" shows us again that God’s intends for the church to have and know the contents of the book of Revelation. The entire book along with the individual messages were to be written for and sent to the seven churches.

Content of the Vision ( Rev 1:12-16 )

12 And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; 13 and in the middle of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle. 14 And His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire; 15 and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been caused to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 And in His right hand He held seven stars; and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

The Position of the Lord (Revelation 1:12-13 a)

Having turned to see the voice, a figure for the one who was speaking to John, he was then given and recorded the vision of the seven golden lampstands and the glorified Christ seen in the very center of the vision. The Position of the Lord in the middle of the seven golden lampstands (Revelation 1:12-13 a), is of course, the most striking feature of this vision. It draws our attention not only to His glorious appearance, but to the central place He has and deserves in the life of the church.

The meaning of the seven golden lampstands with Christ in the center:

(1) The vision is for the seven churches of Asia Minor ( Rev 1:20 ) who represent the church at large throughout the ages. Its truth is for our comfort, encouragement, challenge, and instruction.

(2) In the Old Testament, the lampstands of the tabernacle and the temple consisted of a seven-branched lampstand, a single stand with one center lamp and three on each side. Here, however, we have seven separate lampstands arranged in a circle with Christ standing in the center.

(3) The lampstands are made of gold, a symbol of the deity of Christ who gives beauty to the church when it exhibits His character. He is the reason for our value. In ourselves, we are only clay vessels.

(4) The lampstands are filled with olive oil, a symbol of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and they are responsible to give out light, their principle function, in the power of the indwelling Spirit.

(5) But the key note is the circle of lamps with Christ in the center pointing emphatically to the centrality and priority of Christ. He is the center, the hub, and the heart of the church at large and of each individual local church. Note that the Lord has a direct relationship with each church. He is in our midst to minister to us, to search us, and to enable us and we are in the world to give off light to point men to Christ.

The Description of the Lord (Revelation 1:13-16; Revelation 1:13-16 )

The description which follows symbolically represents the attributes and traits of Christ which demonstrate His relationship to the events of the book of Revelation and His qualifications to carry out and accom-plish all that will follow. But before the description of His glory or deity begins, note how He is defined: as "one like a son of man." This title points to his true humanity and Messianic character. Though portrayed in all the glory of His deity in the similes that follow, He is still the Son of Man, one made like His brethren that He might be a faithful high priest and reclaim what Adam lost in the fall (cf.Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 2:9 f). Note also, as the Son of Man, He is seen "clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle."

This vision is introductory to Revelation 2:1-29 ; Revelation 3:1-22 , the letters to the churches, and the events that follow dealing with the judgments of the Tribulation. This portrays Him in His role as the Son of Man who is also a priest and judge. His role as priest and judge is a somber and significant note as He stands in the midst of the seven churches because it calls our attention to just exactly who He is.

(1) His head and hair (Revelation 1:14 a)-- "were white like wool, like snow." This corresponds and is designed to remind us of the vision in Daniel of "the Ancient of Days" ( Dan 7:9 ). This represents (a) His eternal wisdom, the wisdom of age as the one whose "goings forth are from old, from everlasting" ( Mic 5:2 ), and (b) His complete purity or holiness symbolized in the white wool and snow.

(2) His eyes (Revelation 1:14 b)-- "were like a flame of fire." This speaks of His penetrating vision, searching righteousness, and judgment into the affairs of the church and mankind as a whole. Perhaps there is in this a connection with the Bema, the judgment seat of Christ for believers, and the Great White Throne Judgment (GWTJ) for unbelievers. The fire which will try men’s works at the Bema and prove the condition of their heart at the GWTJ will be the penetrating and holy gaze of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:12 f; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 ; Rev 20:11-12 and Romans 3:23 ; Rom 4:2 ).

(3) His feet (Revelation 1:15 a)-- "were like burnished bronze." Literally, the Greek says, "his feet like fine brass (or refined bronze) as when it has been burned (refined--the perfect tense of completed action) in the furnace or oven." "The idea may be ‘glowing’ and it would indicate that the metal is not only the finest and brightest, but it is aglow as if still in the crucible." [Note: Fritz Rienecker, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, edited by Cleon L. Rogers, Jr., Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1980, p. 814 quoting Henry Barclay Swete in The Apocalypse of St. John, Macmillan: London, 1907.]

In Scripture both brass and fire stand for divine judgment as seen in the Old Testa-ment types of the brazen altar and other items of brass used in connection with sacrifice for sin ( Exo 38:30 ). [Note: Walvoord, p. 44.]

Christ is able to stand in the midst of the church as priest and judge and will be able to execute the world wide judgments that follow on the basis of the divine judgments He Himself endured through His life and sufferings on earth as the Lamb of God without spot or blemish.

(4) His voice ( Rev 1:15 c)-- "was like the sound of many waters." His voice as John heard it was like a mighty waterfall. As the water of Niagara Falls is so loud that it silences all voices around, so this portrays Jesus Christ as the absolute voice of authority to which all human authority must bow.

(5) His right hand (Revelation 1:16 a)-- "And in His right hand He held seven stars." Rev 1:20 will explain the mystery of the seven stars in the right hand of the Savior. For now, it is enough to recognize that the right hand is a symbol of strength, power, and honor. The stars, the angels or messengers, are in a place of honor, but they are also under His authority, strength and protection.

(6) His sword (Revelation 1:16 b)-- "and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword." Sword is mentioned a total of nine times in Revelation. Here, it is the Greek rhomphaia, mentioned five times in Revelation. Another Greek word for sword, makaira , the short Roman two-edged sword, is mentioned four times.

The rhomphaia was the long and heavy broad sword of the Thracians and other barbarous nations who often marched as God’s instruments of judgment over one country after another. It symbolizes the irresistible authority and devastating force of our Lord’s judgment (cf. Rev 19:15 ). Heb 4:12 speaks of the Word of God as "quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword." In Hebrews 4:12 , however, the Greek word is machaira which speaks of the penetrating power of God’s Word to uncover our inner lives and to get to the root of our needs.

However, it is this same word which, proceeding out of His mouth, will be the basis of Christ’s judgment of men (cf. Joh 12:48 ). So, this may also be in view since this sword comes out of the mouth of Christ. It is thus, an instrument of judgment, of war, of death and destruction.

(7) His countenance or face ( Rev 1:16 c)-- "and His face was like the sun shining in its strength." This is undoubtedly a reference or symbol of the brilliance of the divine glory of Christ portraying His holiness and deity. It was this that blinded Paul on the Damascus road and which here caused John to fall at Christ’s feet as a dead man ( Rev 1:17 ). Here is the Sun shining in the midst of the church. He and He alone is our source of light and righteousness. Paul describes us as heavenly luminaries in Philippians 2:15 . The Greek word there is pho„ste„r which can refer to the sun, but also to the moon or planets that get their light from their sun. He is to us what our sun is to the moon. He is our light, our holiness, and our means of becoming light to the world. Do we take His holiness for granted or do we fall prostrate before Him in humble submission and adoration? This naturally brings us to our next point:

Consequences of the Vision ( Rev 1:17-20 )

17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. 19 Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which 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."

The Word of Comfort ( Rev 1:17-18 )

On several occasions when men have had a glimpse of the glory of God, they rightly fell on their face in humble submission and reverence or responded in some way that showed the effect on man the creature when faced with the awesomeness of the Creator’s glory. But when they did this, God spoke or touched them or both (cf. Daniel 10:8-10 ; Daniel 10:15-16 ; Mat 17:6-7 ). And so here, the Lord Jesus placed His right hand upon John and spoke words of comfort.

Why did the Lord do this? Because the sovereignty and holiness of God that becomes terror and judgment to the unbelieving world becomes a source of comfort and protection to the believer in Christ because He stands cleansed and purified in the merit and love of Christ ( Isa 6:1-8 ).

The basis for having no fear -- " I am the first and the last. " This is similar to 1:8 and both of these statements are applied to Christ later in the book (Revelation 21:6 ; Revelation 22:13 ; Rev 2:8 ). But we need to ask why does the Lord describe Himself as the first and the last? A couple of Old Testament passages point us to the meaning and significance of this.

Isaiah 41:4 ; Isaiah 48:12-13 "Who has performed and accomplished it, Calling forth the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’"… 12 "Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. 13 Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together."

By the context we can see that this description stands for God’s independent, self-existence, and self-sufficiency as the transcendent and sovereign God of the universe. He stands outside and independent of all creation. This same designation is used in Rev 2:8 to comfort a church in affliction because it stands for Christ’s deity and sovereignty over all our affairs. Christ, our Savior and Lord, is God, the origin and goal, the self-existent one who sees the beginning from the end, in whom all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge abide, and who is in total control.

"And the living One; and I became dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore." In these words we see His assurance of eternal life and resur-rection. He is the one who, as the eternal God, became man and died, but who conquered death by His death for sin and by His resurrection.

"And I have the keys of death and of Hades." As the one who conquered death, He has the keys of death and Hades. "Keys" means authority and power. In Scripture a key is a sign of authority and power. While going through seminary in Dallas, Texas, I worked in the Dallas Juvenile Detention Home and carried a large key that was attached to my belt with a chain that was used to unlock and lock juvenile inmates. It was a sign of authority. So, the Lord Jesus has control over both death and hades. What does this mean?

(1) He is the Lord over physical death which terminates life in this world. By His death for sin and His resurrection, Christ has wrenched from Satan’s hands any authority the devil had over death (cf. Heb 2:14-15 ). This means "no man can die apart from divine permission even though afflicted by Satan and in trial or trouble" [Note: Walvoord, p. 47.] (cf. Psa 68:19-20 ).

(2) He is the sovereign over hell or life after death. "Hell" (KJV) and "Hades" (NASB) is the Greek hades . The Greek word hades , commonly translated "hell," refers to the intermediate state and is to be distinguished from the lake of fire or Gehenna, which refers to the eternal state. To avoid confusion it is better to transliterate the word hades (as does the NASB) and to use the word "hell" as referring to the eternal state only. [Note: Walvoord, p. 47.]

As the one who has the keys over death and hades , Christ is sovereign over death in this life and over the life to come.

Please refer to the Glossary in Appendix 7 (in the e-Sword Book Comments for Revelation) for definitions of hell and related terms.

The Word of Command ( Rev 1:19-20 )

Now the apostle is commanded to write the things which he had seen and would see in the visions to follow. As pointed out previously, this gives us God’s outline for the book and shows us we should have a futuristic approach to the great majority of the book of Revelation.

Rev 1:20 explains the mystery of the seven golden lampstands and seven stars. In Scripture, "mystery" refers to what was before unknown but is then revealed by revelation from God. It is not something mysterious, but previously unknown. The lampstands are the churches portraying their function and purpose in the world and the stars are the angels or messengers of the seven churches.

But, how do we take the word "angels"? "Angels" is the Greek angelos which means "messenger." In scripture, it is used of both men (Luke 7:27 ; Luke 9:52 ; Jam 2:25 ) and angelic beings. So, is this a reference to angelic beings who function somewhat like guardian angels? Or do we take this as a reference to human messengers who either carry the message of these letters or who are leaders of the seven churches? Much more will be said on this in the next chapter, but Walvoord has a good summary:

It is possible that these messengers had come actually to the Isle of Patmos, but it is more probable that they refer to the leaders in these churches to whom the messages primarily are addressed. The spiritual significance is that these angels are messengers who are responsible for the spiritual welfare of these seven churches and are in the right hand of the Son of Man, indicating possession, protection, and sovereign control. As the churches were to emit light as a lampstand, the leaders of the churches were to project light as stars. [Note: Walvoord, p. 45.]

Bibliographical Information
Keathley, J. Hampton. "Commentary on Revelation 1". "Keathley's Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hkr/revelation-1.html.
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