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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Revelation 1

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

Outline Of The Book Of Revelation

Submitted by H A Ironside on Mon, 04/14/2008 - 05:00

* Henry Allen Ironside

* Revelation

I. “The Things Which Thou Hast Seen” (1:1-20)

A. Introduction (1:1-8)

B. The Vision of the Son of Man (1:9-20)

II. “The Things Which Are” (2:1-3:22)

A. The Church of Ephesus (2:1 -7)

B. The Church of Smyrna (2:8-11)

C. The Church of Pergamos (2:12-17)

D. The Church of Thyatira (2:18-29)

E. The Church of Sardis (3:1-6)

F. The Church of Philadelphia (3:7-13)

G. The Church of Laodicea (3:14-22)

III. “The Things Which Shall Be” (4:1-22:21)

A. Israel Regathered in Unbelief (4:1-11:18)

1. The Heavenly Scene (4:1-5:14)

2. The Seven Seals Opened (6:1-8:6)

3. The Seven Trumpets Sounded (8:7-11:18)

B. Emissaries of Good and Evil (11:19-13:18)

C. A Remnant Saved (14:1-18:24)

1. The Harvest and Vintage (14:1-20)

2. The Wrath of God (15:1-16:21)

3. The Judgment of Babylon (17:1-18:24)

D. The King Revealed and the Millennium (19:1-20:6)

E. Reign of the Lamb and His Bride (20:7-22:6)

F. Final Warnings (22:7-21)

 

 


Verses 1-20

Chapter One The First Vision

Turning to verse one of the text, we note that the Revelation of Jesus Christ was given by the Father to the Son, as David revealed to Solomon all his plans in connection with the building of the future temple. God is represented as being in counsel with our Lord Jesus Christ concerning “things which must shortly come to pass.” It is the joy of His heart to communicate this knowledge to His servants. An angel became the messenger to make all known to the beloved apostle John. Note then the order through which the revelation came down to us. God gave it to Jesus Christ, who sent it by His angel to His servant John to show the coming things to His servants.

He is said to have “signified it”-that is, He made it known by signs or symbols. It is important to bear this in mind. Revelation is a book of symbols. But the careful student of the Word need not exercise his own ingenuity in order to think out the meanings of the symbols. It is important to recognize the principle that every symbol used in Revelation is explained or alluded to somewhere else in the Bible. Therefore, he who desires God’s mind as to this portion of His Word must study earnestly with prayerful attention to every other part of holy Scripture. Undoubtedly this is why so great a blessing is in store for those who read and hear the words of this prophecy and keep the things written therein (1:3).

The Salutation (Revelation 1:4-8)

The book is particularly addressed, as a great general epistle, to “the seven churches which are in Asia.” The term Asia does not refer to the continent that now bears that name, nor to Asia Minor. Rather it was a Roman proconsular province distinctively called “Asia.” In John’s day there were many Christian churches already established in that province, and seven of these are selected to be addressed. Some might ask why these seven were selected in preference to others such as the churches in Colosse and Hierapolis, both of which were important churches. My answer is that the geographical position of these churches was in keeping with the vision presented in verses 12-18. They formed a rough circle with Christ in the middle as seen by John. Christ was standing in His priestly garb, taking note of all that was going on.

These churches were also chosen for their prevailing internal conditions. They were suited to portray the state of Christendom in seven distinct periods from the apostolic days to the close of the church’s testimony on earth. Even the very names of the seven cities, when interpreted, help to make this plain. They become keys to the different periods to which they apply. The proof of this will be seen in our study of Revelation 2-3.

Observe how the three persons of the holy trinity are linked together in the salutation. “Him which is, and which was, and which is to come” is Jehovah (4). This is the literal meaning of the mystic name communicated to Moses. Jehovah is a compound formed from three words: the first meaning “He is,” the second, “He was,” the third, “He will be” or “He will come.” Jehovah is the triune God, so the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all called by this name. But in the present passage it is clearly God the Father who is in view. The Spirit comes before us in the next clause: “and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.” If it is hard to understand how the one, eternal Holy Spirit can be so pictured, turn to Isaiah 11:1-2. There we read of the seven Spirits who rest on the Branch of Jehovah, our Lord Jesus Christ. Note the order given:

1. The Spirit of the Lord

2. The Spirit of wisdom

3. The Spirit of understanding

4. The Spirit of counsel

5. The Spirit of might

6. The Spirit of knowledge

7. The Spirit of the fear of the Lord

There you have the one Spirit in the sevenfold plenitude of His power. Seven, mentioned so frequently in the book of Revelation, is the number of perfection and is so used here.

Finally with the Father and the Spirit we have Jesus Christ. He is “the faithful witness” when here on earth, “the first-begotten of the dead” in resurrection glory, and “the prince of the kings of the earth” when He comes again to reign (Revelation 1:5). No wonder an outburst of praise and worship follows at this full revelation of Christ’s glories: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (5-6). John’s heart was full and overflowing. Adoration and praise were the spontaneous result of contemplation of Christ’s person and offices as Prophet, Priest, and King.

Then he heralds the glad news of His coming again (7). He is going to return-not as a baby, born of woman, but the glorified One descending from Heaven. By a stupendous miracle, every eye will see Him, while “all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” I am persuaded this is the true meaning and refers to Zechariah 12:10-14; there all the tribes of restored Israel are seen by the prophet mourning over their past rejection of Christ and lamenting their folly while awaiting His return. John spoke for all the church when he cried with rapture, “Even so, Amen!” Does your heart take up the same glad welcoming shout? Or are you unready to meet Him and would dread His return?

In the 8th verse we read the words of the Son who declared Himself to be Jehovah also, One eternally with the Father. He is the Alpha and Omega-the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet-the beginning and the ending. He created all things; He will wind up all things and bring in the new heavens and the new earth. He is, and was, and is the coming One. He is El Shaddai-the Almighty-who of old appeared to Abraham. May our hearts be occupied with Him and His return be our “blessed Hope!”

The Vision of the Son of Man (Revelation 1:9-20)

In Revelation 1:9 the apostle John wrote that he was a prisoner for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was banished to the isle called Patmos-a little rocky island in the Mediterranean sea. There, shut away from all Christian fellowship, God had a greater mission for him than he had ever known in the past.

The devil really overreached himself when Domitian banished John to the isle of Patmos. If John had remained ministering the Word to the saints and preaching to the unsaved, he might not have been able to write the book of Revelation and we might not have the visions this book gives us. But on that lonely island, shut off from all his service, the veil was rolled back, and he was enabled to give us this wonderful record of the unveiling of Jesus Christ.

John wrote that he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” The Lord’s day is a divinely given designation for the first day of the week. I know there are those who tell us the Lord’s day in this verse is what the Old Testament calls the sabbath of the Lord. They tell us that the Jewish sabbath should still be observed, since it is not done away with in the New Testament. In answer to that, we may notice that nowhere in the New Testament, after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, do we ever have any special honor paid to the seventh day-Israel’s sabbath. On that day, the Lord lay in the tomb. On the morning of the first day of the week, “in the end of the Sabbath” (Matthew 28:1), the Lord rose in triumph from the dead, and that new day became distinctly the Lord’s day.

You find in the Word of God that following His resurrection on the first day of the week the Lord met with His own in the upper room (John 20:19). Also on the first day of the week the disciples gathered to break bread (Acts 20:7). In connection with their gathering thus together, 1 Corinthians 16:2 says, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.” Thus Christian giving and the weekly remembrance of the Lord are linked together. It is safe to say that if Christians everywhere carried this out, there would be no financial problem in the church of God today.

The first day of the week is preeminently the day for Christians. Whenever the earliest Christian writers refer to the term Lord’s day, they speak of it as the first day of the week-the day after the Jewish sabbath-the day we Christians call the Lord’s day. I venture to say that people who lived from fifty to two hundred years after the apostle John were far more likely to know what was meant by the term Lord’s day than people who live today. I know there are some prophetic students who confuse the Lord’s day with the great day of the Lord, but there is a decided difference in the two terms. Lord’s day is not in the possessive case in the original. The word translated “Lord’s” is an adjective. If it were permissible to say “the Lordian day,” we would have the exact meaning. Such an adjective has been formed from the word Christ. We say a Christian spirit, etc. So the Lordian or Lordly day is the day on which the Lord Jesus Christ broke the bonds of death and rose, never more to die. We Christians love to keep this day in memory of Him.

On that day, John says, “I was in the Spirit” (1:10). John was far away from any Christian assembly, but he found his pleasure in the things of God. Some Christians you know go to meeting every Lord’s day when at home, but when on their vacations or away from town the Lord’s day is just like any other day because nobody knows them. But John, shut away from any Christian association, was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” It is good to see a Christian take his Bible with him when on a vacation and have daily intercourse with the Lord, or look up someone who does not know Jesus Christ and seek to make Him known to that needy one. See to it that you are in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.

Being “in the Spirit” on the Lord’s day, John had a glorious vision of the Lord Himself. First he heard a voice, then he saw a form. He heard a voice saying, “ I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, what thou seest, write in a book… And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks” (11-12). If I understand it correctly, these were not like the candlesticks in the temple and in the tabernacle. Those were seven-branched-six side branches and the central shaft. But John saw seven separate lampstands. Christ is represented by the seven-branched candlestick in the holy place, and the Spirit of God is represented by the seven lamps on it. But during His absence-during the time of His priesthood in Heaven-His people are to be lights for Him in this world. So John saw in this first vision not one candlestick with seven branches, but seven distinct lampstands in the form of a circle. In the middle of them he saw One like the Son of man with a golden sash around His chest. It was a vision of the Lord judging in the middle of His assemblies.

Then we learn what these lampstands symbolize. They are the seven churches situated in the Roman proconsular province of Asia. These seven were selected from all the assemblies of God to picture the whole course of the church’s history until the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His absence, the church of God is responsible to keep a light burning in the midst of the darkness. You remember He said while here on earth, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Before He went away He said to His disciples, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:7). He has gone up to the glory and all the members of His church are to shine for Him here. What kind of light are you giving out for Jesus? Do your neighbors appreciate your Christianity? Do the people that you do business with think much of it? I would rather get the testimony of the people you deal with on a daily basis than of those you meet in the public assemblies. When a man is really converted, it changes him through and through.

The church of God and individual assemblies of Christians are in this world to shine for Christ. We are here not merely to enjoy the things of Christ ourselves, but to hold up Christ to the world. Speaking of the Lord’s supper the apostle Paul said, “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The word translated “shew” in that passage is the same word that is used elsewhere for preaching: “you preach the Lord’s death.” The Lord’s supper is a testimony to sinners as well as something for the church to enjoy. The church of God is here to shine for Christ, and we shine for Him as He is exalted in our gatherings and demonstrated in our lives.

“I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man” (Revelation 1:12-13). In many respects He seemed different than how John remembered Him, except when on the mount of transfiguration. But he knew who He was-“One like unto the Son of man.” John had known Him well on earth, and he knew Him the moment He appeared in that glorious vision.

Note how Christ is described, “clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the [breasts] with a golden girdle” (13). He is seen in the long, white garments of the high priest with the golden sash around his chest. The sash or girdle speaks of service. We read of the servant girding himself and waiting on the table (Luke 17:8). In Revelation the girdle represents a high-priestly service. Our blessed Lord is now serving us at God’s right hand. The girdle is a golden one, representing the fact that Christ’s service is in full accord with God’s holy and righteous ways. Looking back to the cross where Jesus hung in sacrifice for us, we rejoice to remember His dying words, “It is finished.” Nothing can be added to and nothing taken away from that completed work. But there is another work He is now carrying on for His people. Although up in glory, He is serving us still. His people need His help all along the way. The moment you belong to the Lord Jesus, you are brought into living union with our great High Priest at God’s right hand. “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). He does not ask you to live in your own strength. Trust Him as Savior, and let Him fill your heart and control your life. He will live His life in you to His praise and glory. We are to come boldly to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find seasonable help.

Notice the 14th verse: “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire.” I said previously that every figure, every symbol found in this book is explained somewhere else in the Bible. In Daniel 7:9-13 we read of the Ancient of days and of the Son of man. Now observe John said that the One in the midst of the seven lampstands was “like unto the Son of man.” He was undoubtedly linking that up with the seventh chapter of Daniel. John described the Son of man as one whose hair is white as snow. He had all the appearance of great age, though the Lord Jesus was cut off at the age of thirty-three. Observe Daniel 7:9, “ And the Ancient of days did sit,… and the hair of his head like the pure wool.” Who is the Ancient of days? In the 7th chapter of Daniel, He is the Jehovah of Israel, and the Son of man comes to Him. But we learn that the Son of man is Himself the Ancient of days. In other words, the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New Testament. Christ is Himself “God manifest in the flesh.”

Another Old Testament Prophet said, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Who is the Savior born in Bethlehem? He is the One “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the Ancient of days. This is one of the truths that Christians are called to contend for in these times of apostasy. Ministers are telling people that we are all sons of God. They deny Christ’s virgin birth and deity and say that He is simply the greatest of all teachers sent from God. But that is not enough for the Christian. Christ is God, or we and those in Heaven are idolaters, for it is Christ who is worshiped there, and here. The Unitarian believes in God the Father, but not in the Son. He says, “Don’t draw the lines too straight-Jesus is only a creature.” If that Unitarian is right, I am an idolater, for I am worshiping Jesus Christ. I worship, not Buddha, not Brahma, but Jesus and own Him as God. Yet some would tell me that it does not make any difference! It makes a tremendous difference, for both time and eternity. It is going to mean all the difference between Heaven and Hell. For the Lord Jesus says, “Whither I go, ye cannot come,.. .for if ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:21, 24). We confess Jesus Christ as God manifest in the flesh, the only-begotten Son of God, the anointed One who came in grace to save lost, guilty sinners. Are you trusting Him as your Savior?

So we see that this One in the midst of the candlesticks is the Son of man, yet God Himself. The Lord Jesus has that double character, and His place is always in the center. No company of believers deserves to be called a Christian company that does not give Him that place. But, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name,” He said, “there am I in the midst” (Matthew 18:20). You remember when He hung on that cross between two thieves, He saved one of them who turned to Him in faith. When HS rose from the dead and His disciples were gathered together in the upper room, “ Then… came Jesus and stood in the midst” (John 20:19). In the 5th chapter of the Revelation, John looked and saw the Lamb “in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, in the midst of the elders.” This is the place that ever belongs to the Lord Jesus-the central place, the preeminent place. God must have Jesus in the midst.

But let us turn back to Revelation 1. “His eyes were as a flame of fire” (14). John did not know Him in that way on earth, except perhaps as He rebuked the Pharisees; but remember that all who do not accept Him now are going to see His eyes like a flame of fire. There will be nothing hidden from those eyes. They will discern everything that you would try to hide. All will be out in the light and brought into judgment. Oh, have everything out with Him now. Do you realize that the first time you meet God, you must meet Him with all your sins on your soul? Have you had a meeting with Him yet? If the first time you meet Him is at the day of judgment, it will be too late. You can have your first meeting with Him in this world. You can meet Him by faith. Do not try to improve or to make yourself better. Come just as you are, without one plea, except that He is the sinner’s Savior and invites you to come. You will find that those eyes, that are as a flame of fire and look into the depths of your soul, will become filled with tenderest love and will draw you to Himself.

But John’s description goes on to say: “His feet like unto fine brass” (15). Brass in the Old Testament is the symbol of judgment. The brazen altar that stood before the tabernacle was that on which the fire of God’s judgment was burning continually. It was overlaid with brass because brass could stand the fire. (The peculiar metal referred to was really a very hard copper alloy, but I use the word brass as employed in the kjv.) You will find throughout Scripture it is a symbol of judgment. And in Revelation the Son of man has feet like brass, for His ways are unyielding in righteousness. The day is coming when He will put His feet on everything contrary to truth and righteousness. Everything unholy will be stamped out in divine judgment.

“His voice [is] as the sound of many waters.” When you stand on the cliff by the seaside and hear the sound of many waters, you are awed by their power. The ship, which looks so large and strong at the docks, is helpless when at sea and the ocean rouses itself in furious anger. His voice is as the sound of the billows of the sea- a voice of power. That power put forth in grace means your salvation; put forth in judgment, it means your eternal damnation! You may pass from death into life by hearing His voice now. He can speak to your poor soul and in a moment create your heart anew. He has said: “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25, italics added). Hearing His voice, believing His Word, you live! Have you heard that voice of power? Soon His people will hear that same mighty voice calling them away from earth. “ For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout,… and the dead in Christ will rise first,” and the living saints will be changed (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Sometimes Christians become discouraged; but when that voice like the sound of many waters says from Heaven, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away,” (Song of Solomon 2:13) we will be caught up in a moment to meet Him in the air.

“He had in his right hand seven stars” (Revelation 1:16). The stars speak of ministry committed to His saints, who are responsible to shine by His light and for Him in this world. “They that turn many to righteousness [shall shine] as the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). He holds the stars in His right hand. “Out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.” It is the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). Men are trifling with that two-edged sword, but they will find out soon that it is powerful and irresistible.

“His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (Revelation 1:16). In Malachi 4:2 we read, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” When Saul of Tarsus was struck down, he saw a light greater than the brightness of the sun. It was the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. It was this that John saw, and he fell at His feet. But He laid His right hand on John and said, “Fear not; I am the First and the Last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and I have the keys of [death and of Hades]” (Revelation 1:18).

What is death? It is the body without the spirit: “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). There is no such thing in the Bible as soul-sleeping. The spirit of the man is not in the grave. The body goes down to the grave, but the spirit is in the unseen world. Hades is the condition of the spirit without the body. Christ has the keys of both death and Hades.

In the 19th verse we get the threefold division of the Book of the Revelation: “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter”-or “after these things.”

“The things which thou hast seen” are the things of chapter one- the first division of the book of the Revelation.

“The things which are” follow in the next two chapters and make the second division, which deals with the present dispensation. The seven churches give us a picture of the whole professing church’s history from the apostolic period to the coming of the Lord Jesus. These two chapters portray the condition of the church on earth in seven distinct periods. The church’s history ends at the rapture, when Jesus comes as the bright and morning Star. That event closes the present dispensation.

“The things which shall be after these things,” are the events described in chapters 4 to the end, and make the third and last division of the book. These are the things which will take place after the church’s history ends-the great tribulation, the kingdom, and the eternal state.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/revelation-1.html. 1914.

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