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the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Revelation 1

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants-things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,

A. This is a single “Revelation”, not multiple revelations. Most books of prophecy describe multiple scenes, visions, or dreams. This book is one revelation. It contains one motion picture in living color.

B. John does not claim this work to be original with him. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus does the unveiling. John gives the “chain of authority” - - God - Jesus Christ - his angel - John - written form.

C. Purpose is given clearly. To show things that will happen shortly. There is much division on the word “shortly”. It could mean in the next months or years. It could mean shortly as God counts time.

D. The word “must” is an important word. These things are not a guess. They are sure. These are things that must happen. The Greek word here is an impersonal verb that indicates that a moral necessity is involved. God has issued the decree. God does not lie. These things will happen.

Verse 2

2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.

A. John is well known in Asia Minor. Before he was banished to Patmos, he lived and taught in Ephesus and the surrounding area. He, since the day of Pentecost, more than 60 years ago, has been one who testified as a witness to the resurrection of Christ.

B. This book is the record of what he saw. This is a revelation, a parting of the curtain, where John is allowed to see things yet in the future.

Verse 3

3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

A. A triple blessing is pronounced here.

1. He that reads - A blessing is upon those who give an oral or public reading of this book in the church assembly. Many church assemblies of the first century included a public reading of a section of scripture.

2 They that hear - those who listen to the words being read are also blessed. Listening implies more than just receiving an audible sound. Listening includes understanding, heeding, and obeying the message they heard.

3. Keep those things - The real blessing comes when we follow the commands, heed the warnings and believe the promises.

B. John repeats what was said in verse one. These things will happen shortly. They are seen as “at hand” or within reach. They are close enough that one could reach out and touch them. There would be no encouragement to say, “Here are some things that will happen in a couple of thousand years.”

Verse 4

5 John, to the seven churches which 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,

A. The common manner of beginning a letter in the first century was to identify the author, then express a greeting to those who were the intended recipients.

B. John, the son of Zebedee is the author. See full discussion in the introduction where the authorship is explained in detail.

C. To the seven churches - We know there were more than 7 churches is this area. The letter to the Colossians was also to be read at the nearby city of Laodicia. ( Col_4:15-16 )

D. Grace and peace - was a common greeting. While these words have theological connections, they mean nothing more here than when we say, “Hello. How are you?” It is a common greeting.

E. Which was - Jesus WAS here on earth. He lived, taught, performed miracles, and had many converts. He was killed, buried and raised from the dead on the third day.

F. Is to come - He promised a 2 nd coming. ( Joh_14:3 ) We do not worship a dead savior. We serve a living, resurrected Lord. He is alive and coming again.

H. Seven - Seven is an important number throughout the book of Revelation. It must be understood to be symbolic of completeness, perfection, and wholeness. There were 7 churches, 7 angels, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls of wrath, 7 candlesticks, 7 stars, etc. We know that there were more than 7 churches in this area. So, the 7 churches are understood to represent the whole, complete body of Christ.

I. Spirits before the throne - Who are these spirits? Several possibilities - martyrs, angels ready to deliver letters in chapters 2 and 3, the perfect spirit of God, the Holy Spirit.

Verse 5

6 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,

A. From Jesus Christ - This book is called “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”. Many Bibles title this book “The Revelation of Saint John”. The latter is incorrect. John is not seeking the gain, fame or glory for this work. It is from Jesus Christ.

B. Faithful witness - Jesus was faithful in teaching the will of His Father. He was faithful to the law of God. He was faithful to His mission. He willingly died for the sins of the world.

C. First begotten from the dead - While not the first to be raised from the dead, Jesus is the first to be raised from the dead to immortality. There were several raised from the dead in the Old Testament. Jesus and his apostles raised many. But all of these resurrections were temporary. They later faced physical death again. Jesus is the first to overcome death.

D. Ruler of the kings of the earth - Jesus is King over all kings, Lord over all lords. In our day, we think of the king as supreme. Not so in the Roman Empire. Judea had a king who was subject to the emperor and all his princes. A Roman prince was over a Judean king.

E. Unto him that loved us - Jesus loved us and died for us. ( Rom_5:6-8 )

F. Washed us from our sins - Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. ( Heb_9:22 ) Jesus shed his blood for the remission of sins. ( Mat_26:28 )

G. In his own blood - The blood of an animal sacrifice could not take away sin. ( Heb_10:4 ) The forgiveness of sins required a perfect sacrifice, the sinless Son of God.

Verse 6

6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

A. Made us kings - Christians, as fellow citizens in the Kingdom of Christ, are also kings.

B. Priests unto God - Christ is our King of kings and our High Priest. We are kings and priests, participants in the spiritual kingdom of our Lord. We are a royal priesthood. ( 1Pe_2:5 ) We do not go to a priest. We are the priests. We are a priesthood of believers.

C. Glory and dominion - All praise, honor and glory belong to Jesus. He is the ruler. He has all authority. ( Mat_28:18 ) He is our King forever.

D. Amen - Just as we end our prayers with this word, it is often used to denote the end of a section. This verse ends the opening greeting. What follows is the heart of the message.

Verse 7

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

A. Comes with clouds - An angel said that Jesus would return in the same manner as he went from the earth.

B. Every eye shall see him - This passage teaches a general resurrection of all men who have ever lived. All will be made alive and alert as Jesus comes.

C. They that pierced him - The Roman soldier who thrust the spear in his side will see his triumphant return. The soldiers who drove the nails in his hands and feet will witness the second coming of Christ.

D. Wail because of him - The wicked, unbelievers, atheists, and agnostics will see him and moan, groan, and wail because the proof is now before them, but too late.

E. Even so, Amen - A short prayer that simply said, “I am ready for it to happen. The sooner the better. Let Jesus come now.” The revelation ends with a similar prayer, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

Verse 8

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

A. Alpha and Omega - These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. We have phrases like, “From soup to nuts” or “Everything from A to Z.” Jesus is our all in all. He is everything from the first letter in the dictionary to the last word in the dictionary.

B. Beginning - Jesus was before the beginning. ( Joh_1:1 ) Jesus was involved in all parts of creation. ( Col_1:16-17 ) Jesus was involved in the formation of all things. Nothing exists apart from Jesus’ creative powers.

C. Ending - He will bring this world to its fiery end. He is eternal - both eternal in the past - without beginning - and in the future - without end. Just as he participated in the creations of all things, he will be involved in the end of all things.

D. Is, was, and is to come - God is the great I AM. God is always in the present tense. You may speak of a deed that God did in the past, but God is always present tense. God is. The same is true of Jesus. He is. He was here on earth in human form. But he is in the eternal present. There is a sense in which Jesus WAS on earth in human form. There is a sense in which Jesus IS TO COME, when he comes to redeem the faithful bride. But Jesus always IS.

E. Almighty - The most common attribute ascribed to deity in the Bible is his power. God is all-powerful. Nothing is impossible with God. He is the Almighty God.

Verse 9

9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

A. Brother - As a member of the church, we are in the family of God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family. We share a common faith, love and hope.

B. Companion in tribulation - John understands their hardship and persecution. He, too, is suffering persecution. He has been sent to a prison island called Patmos.

C. In the kingdom - The church is the kingdom of God. ( Mat_16:18-19 ) This verse is one of three in the New Testament that speaks of the kingdom in the present tense. The kingdom was already in existence in the first century. ( Col_1:13 ; Heb_12:28 )

D. Patience - Here is the heart of the message of this book. God is aware of the suffering of His people. He will deal with this evil, in His time. We must be patient to wait for God.

E. Patmos - This small island in the Aegean Sea was used to exile prisoners. There were no other islands near by. The only escape was to be taken by boat. Most of the prisoners lived here in caves, grew small gardens and struggled to survive.

F. For the word of God - The reason John is here is not because he committed a felony or was guilty of some terrible crime against humanity. He is here because he preached the word of God.

G. For the testimony of Jesus Christ - The Roman government saw the rapid spread of Christianity as a real threat. It had to be stopped.

Verse 10

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,

A. In the Spirit - John was in tune with the Spirit of God. The message was being delivered but John had to be aware of its message, importance and willing to record the vision. Some believe John was in a trance like Peter was in Act_10:10-11 . Others think John was in a spiritual frame of mind on this Lord’s Day.

B. Lord’s Day - Sunday, the first day of the week, was called the Lord’s Day by many in the first and second centuries. Many of the church fathers used this term to tell when the church would worship together and partake of communion. Remember - It was on Sunday (Lord’s Day) that Jesus was raised from the dead. He appeared to the men on the road to Emmaus. He met with 10 apostles on a Sunday.

C. He met with 11 apostles , including Thomas, the following Sunday. The day of Pentecost, when the church began, was on a Sunday. The early church assembled to partake of communion on Sunday. The church was to give as part of their assembly each Sunday.

D. Great voice, trumpet - Here, the drama starts. John does not just hear a voice. He hears a great voice. Then he describes that voice. It was like a trumpet in his ear.

Verse 11

11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

A. Write what you see - John is instructed to record the events as they are revealed to him.

B. Send it to the seven churches - This was not to be a private journal for John to keep. It was to be copied, read, studied, distributed, and obeyed.

C. List of the seven churches - We will introduce each church as we come to them in chapters 2 and 3.

D. The order of the churches listed here follows the location of the churches in a circular motion.

Verse 12

12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,

A. I turned - John wanted to see who was speaking. He turned toward the trumpeting voice.

B. Seven golden candlesticks - John does not see the source of the voice. Instead, he sees the ultimate recipients of his writings.

Verse 13

13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.

A. In the middle - Walking around among these candlesticks (churches) John sees the Son of man.

B. Son of man - One of the terms used to describe Jesus was the Son of man. Jesus often used this term. While “Son of God” described his relation to the Father, “Son of man” referenced his relationship to the human race.

C. Long garment, golden girdle - John is describing the Son of man. The golden girdle was a part of the garments worn by a Jewish High Priest.

Verse 14

14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;

A. Hair - white like wool - Generally, white is a symbol of purity. Here it may just be part of the drama he is about to tell you. White hair was also a symbol of wisdom and maturity of mind.

B. Eyes - flame of fire - Most do not take this in a literal sense. Flaming eyes would bring to mind a sense of his power, authority and fear.

Verse 15

15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;

A. Feet - fine brass - His feet had been burned in a furnace. They had been through all types of torture. They were not the soft feet of a king who sat on a throne. These were the calloused feet of one who walked dusty roads all the way to Calvary.

B. Voice - sound of many waters - Earlier, his voice was described as a trumpet. Here the tone is softer, gentler, and kinder. It is the sound of a babbling brook. It is the sound of water cascading down a mountainside. His voice is authoritative.

Verse 16

16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

A. Seven stars in right hand - The stars are the angels (messengers) to the seven churches. Each of these stars was given a copy of this revelation. Each star was to deliver the book to the various churches.

B. Mouth - sharp sword - Jesus speaks with a two edged sword. The Word of God cuts both ways - coming and going, like it or not, in season or out of season. The Roman soldiers carried double-edged swords. ( Eph_6:17 ; Heb_4:12 )

C. Countenance - sunshine - His strength was glistening in the brightness of the sun. The whole appearance was a glow, brilliance, and brightness.

Verse 17

17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

A. Fell as dead - How would you react? It was clear that John was in the presence of deity. He was filled with fear and awe. All he knew to do was to fall down at the feet of Jesus.

B. Right hand - Jesus extends his hand to offer assurance and comfort.

C. Fear not - Jesus used these words when the apostles thought they were going to die in the storm on Galilee. The word “fear” in this passage refers to being afraid. Jesus was offering comfort. There is no reason to have any fear of harm.

D. First and last - This is a parallel phrase to those in verse 11.

Verse 18

18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

A. He that lives - Jesus begins to describe himself. He is the one that lives. He has always lived. He is now alive. He will be alive forever.

B. Was dead - As the Son of man, Jesus lived on earth, suffered and died a physical death.

C. Alive forever - Jesus is still the eternal one.

D. Keys of Hades - “Hades,” the grave, the world of the unseen. It may be that Jesus is saying, “I can open the graves.” It may be that Jesus meant, “I am in control of all the departed spirits.” Either way, Jesus is assuring John that those who died are in his care and control. He is aware and is with them. He has the power to resurrect.

E. Of death - Jesus was the first to be raised to immortality. He has the key to overcome death. He can raise us from the dead.

Verse 19

19 Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.

A. Write - John will record what he sees and hears. He will write under the inspiration and direction of Jesus.

B. The things which are - Jesus is going to show John the current situation. Remember, John is isolated in exile. He will learn what is happening back in Ephesus and the other cities.

C. Things which shall be - Jesus will show John what is going to happen shortly. This is a clear statement that this work is prophecy. It has a predictive element.

Verse 20

20 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 which you saw are the seven churches.

A. Mystery - This book is full of symbols. Some of them are explained. Some of them we can figure out by the context. Some of them we may not know. Some of the imagery was not intended to be symbolic, just for dramatic effect.

B. Stars - The stars represent the messengers who will deliver the book to the various churches in Asia Minor.

C. Candlesticks - The candlesticks, stands of shining light in a dark world, are the churches to whom this book is addressed.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Revelation 1". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/revelation-1.html. 2021.
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