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Revelation 1:1

The (1) Revelation (2) of Jesus Christ, which (3) God gave (4) Him to show to His (5) bond-servants, the things which must (6) shortly take place; and He sent and communicated {it} (7) by His angel to His bond-servant (8) John,

1. The word revelation comes from the Greek word apokalupsis, which means "revelation" or "uncovering." Jesus Christ is being "uncovered." The sense in which the Lord is being uncovered is that of eschatological Judge. The judgeship of Jesus Christ was stipulated in John 5:27, 30, Acts 10:42 and 17:31. The book of Revelation is the fullest statement on the Lord’s judgeship. The book answers why and how Jesus will judge Israel, the church, the wicked and Satan.

2. Of = indicates that this "uncovering" or "revelation" is from Jesus Christ.

3. God = the Father.

4. Him = The Father gives the revelation to the Son (Jesus Christ). The reason the Father gives the Son the revelation is so it can be shown to His bondservants.

5. Bondservants = Revelation is written to bondservants (7 churches of chapter 2 and 3).

The Greek term for bondservant is doulos. The term is used 14 times in the book of Revelation. Three times, it is used literally (6:15; 13:16 and 19:18). Eleven times, it is used metaphorically. Believers are not literally slaves. It is a title of honor. A doulos often functioned as the agent of his master, possessing a representative authority. Therefore, a bondservant of the most High God is one who subordinates himself to God and lives obediently before God in full dependency on God.

6. Things which must shortly take place = is a Greek clause, literally=what (it) is necessary to happen in short (soon).

This Greek clause is often used by pretribulationists to support their argument of imminency, but is this really the case? En tachei is the debated phrase. The phrase can have two possible meanings: (1) that the events depicted will happen in rapid-fire fashion. That is, once the events begin to happen, they will occur very quickly; or (2) that the events depicted can happen soon. That is, the time of fulfillment will not extend beyond the normal, natural, customary sense of soon.

The basic question is this: Is John describing how the events will happen or when the events will happen?

Those arguing that John intends when the events will happen must overcome a logical and theological problem. Given that 1900 years have passed since John penned these words, soon would lose any historical impact or meaning. There is only one biblical sense in which soon could be used to represent 1900 years, and that’s viewing "time" from God’s so-called vantage point. However, nothing in the text indicates that this is the case. Logically then, this conclusion is weak at best.

Theologically, for John to state that the events depicted in the Revelation will happen soon, with reference to time, contradicts Matthew 24:36. Matthew 24:36 states, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." Therefore, John could not say how soon the Lord might return or how soon the events connected with His return might transpire unless God gave him direct revelation.

The only logical and theologically correct conclusion is to understand en tachei as indicating how the events will occur. The events connected with the Lord’s return will happen quickly. Matthew 24 indicates that they will happen in less than a three and a half-year period.

7. By His angel = Literally, the Greek says, "by the angel of Him." By the use of the definite article, John indicates that this is a very specific angel. This is the first angelic figure mentioned in the Revelation. We are not given his name. By designating, this angel as the angel in the Greek, John’s audience must have known the identity of this angel. The particular Greek construction demands this conclusion. Revelation 22:6 restates the fact that the Lord’s angel communicated the Revelation to John. It is important to understand that the chain of communication is not broken. The Father gave the revelation to His Son, who gave it to His angel, who gave it to John who wrote it down for the bondservants.

8. John = the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23, 19:26), writer of the Gospel of John and three epistles.

Revelation 1:2

(1) who bore witness to (2a) the word of God and to (2b) the testimony of Jesus Christ, {even} (3) to all that he saw.

1. Who bore witness = John (the apostle whom Jesus loved), bore witness. The Greek verb "to witness" is only used here and in Rev. 22:16, 18, 20. However, it is one of the New Testament’s favorite verbs for the proclamation of the Gospel (Acts 10:42, 18:5, 20:21, and Ephesians 4:17). John identifies himself by the two messages he proclaimed.

2a. To the word of God = occurs five times in the Revelation (1:2, 9; 6:9; 19:13; 20:4). The word of God is either the name of Jesus (Rev. 19:13) or the cause of persecution for the righteous (1:9; 6:9; 20:4). The word of God is the direct prophetic communication from God. Thus, John is stating that what follows in the book of Revelation came straight from God the Father.

2b. To the testimony of Jesus = occurs five times (1:2, 9; 12:17; 19:10; 20:4). The Greek language uses the word and with the meaning of "even." Here John indicates that he proclaimed the word of God, even "the testimony by Jesus." By this second phrase (the testimony of Jesus), John further defines "the word of God." In order words, what John proclaims is what God the Father gave Jesus Christ to show to His bondservants. John writes what God said and Jesus proclaimed through His angel.

3. To all that he saw = In the New American Standard Bible, the word "even" appears. It appears in Italics because it does not appear in the Greek manuscripts. The translators, placing it as a commentary insert in the translation, help the reader understand that the phrase "to all that he saw" further explains "the testimony of Jesus." John declares that he saw all that Jesus revealed, which He (Jesus) received from the Father. What John does in verse 2 is state for the record that what is recorded in the Revelation is exactly what God the Father wanted to the last word.

Revelation 1:3

(1) Blessed is he who reads and (2) those who hear the words of the (3) prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is (4) near.

1. Blessed…reads = This is the first of seven beatitudes in the Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). John first indicates that the person who reads the book aloud is blessed. The seven churches would have used this format when they first received the letter from John. There would be one copy, which the synagogue leader would read. Scripture commands the public reading of the word of God (1 Tim 4:13).

2. Those…hear…heed = Not only is the public reader blessed, but so is the hearer and doer. The original Greek indicates that one must be both a hearer and a doer in order to be blessed.
Because Jesus Christ comes as Judge of all the earth, those who hear and heed the message will be blessed. But those who do not hear and heed will suffer. The only exception is the one third part of Israel that suffers, but survives Daniel’s 70th Week and is then saved and goes into the millennial kingdom on earth (Dan. 9:24; Romans 11:25-26).

3. Prophecy = While the Revelation is apocalyptic in nature, it is primarily prophetic. This is John’s designation for the Revelation by Jesus Christ—prophecy. The reader at this point must make a hermeneutical decision concerning the interpretation of God’s revelation of His Son. The apocalyptic nature of the book must not over shadow the fact that this is a prophecy. The highly figurative nature of the book does not mean that the literal referent cannot be known. Neither are we free to guess the literal referent. Daniel 7 provides the hermeneutical example for how the book is to be interpreted. We will look at this matter later.

4. Near = eggus (Greek adverb) It can describe time or space. The fact that eggus is used with kairos (time), a technical eschatological term that refers to that time when the kingdom will come, means John is using eggus in a spatial sense. John does not indicate that he has personal knowledge of the exact date of the arrival of the kingdom. Therefore, he could not state whether the kingdom was soon to come or not. Rather, the kingdom is the next event on the agenda of God for the faithful believer. How much time will elapse before the kingdom comes is not known? John uses the uncertainty to motivate his audience to hear and heed the prophecy.

Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost indicated that the coming of the Holy Spirit is a mark of the "last days." We are presently living in the "last days." Thus, the literal physical reign (kingdom) of God is the next event on the agenda of God. It is near.

Revelation 1:4

(1) John to the (2) seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from (3) Him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the (4) seven Spirits who are before His throne;

1. John = Like most NT letters, Revelation opens with a prescript with three components. Who the author is comes first, in this case John (the apostle whom Jesus loved).

2. Seven churches = the second component of the prescript is the recipient. Asia had more than seven churches, but these provide an overview of the condition of the church both during the time of John and in the end times.
The number seven is a favorite of the Revelation. There are 19 explicit groups of seven and several implied groupings:

Explicit Groups:
a. Churches (1:4, 11, 20)
b. Spirits (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6)
c. Candlesticks (1:12, 13, 20: 2:1)
d. Stars (1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1)
e. Lamps (4:5)
f. Seals (5:1; 5:5)
g. Horns (5:6)
h. Eyes (5:6)
i. Angels who stand before God (8:2, 6)
j. Trumpets (8:2, 6)
k. Thunders (10:3, 4)
l. Thousand (seven thousand people killed) (11:13)
m. Heads (12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7, 9)
n. Crowns (12:3)
o. Angels (15:1, 6, 7, 8; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9)
p. Plagues (15:1, 6, 8; 21:9)
q. Vials (15:7; 17:1; 21:9)
r. Mountains (17:9)
s. Kings (17:10, 11)

Implied Groups:
a. Beatitudes (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14)
b. Antichrist’s contract (11:3; 12:6, 14; 13:5)
c. "I am’s" of Christ (1:8, 11, 18; 21:6; 22:13, 16)
d. Doxologies in heaven (4:9-11; 5:8-13; 7:9-12; 11:16-18; 14:2, 3; 15:2-4; 19:1-6)
e. Every tribe, and tongue, and people and nation (5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:5)
f. The Lord God Almighty (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 19:6; 21:22)
g. The One who sits on the throne (5:1, 7, 13; 6:16; 7:15; 21:5)
h. The Alpha and the Omega (1:8, 17; 21:6; 22:13)
i. Prophecy (1:3; 11:6; 19:10; 22:7, 10, 18, 19)

The obvious question is this: what is the significance of the number seven in the book of Revelation. First, clearly, the number seven is a structural indicator in the Revelation. Seven seals, trumpets and vials set forth a sequential structure to the book. Second, "the frequent repetition of the numbers underscore the notion that nothing is random or coincidental." (Aune, The Book of Revelation, 63) Given the past, present, and a future reality, to which the number seven refers, God has sovereignly overseen the complete process. Third, seven is the number of completion "as we gather from countless passages of the Old Testament." (Swete, Commentary on Revelation, cxxxvi) Sevens mark the life of a Jewish person. The Sabbath, the feasts, the Sabbath year, days of the week, the days of creation and days to cleanse oneself and much more marked the Jewish way of life.

3. Him…seven Spirits = the third component of the prescript is the salutation. It contains a well-wish and the source of the well-wish. This well-wish is the most distinctive well-wish in all of Scripture.

Him who is and who was and who is to come = God the Father (Isaiah 41:4; Heb. 13:8; Rev. 1:8, 17; 4:8; 16:5).

4. Seven Spirits who are before His throne = There is significant debate concerning whether the Holy Spirit or angels is intended by John.

Those who support Holy Spirit as the seven spirits argue:
(1) Isaiah 11:2-3 describes seven benefits of the Spirit in the Septuagint (LXX).
(2) Revelation 1:4 seems to be focusing on a trinitarian representation of the Godhead.
(3) Zechariah 4 indicates that seven lamps represent the "eyes of the Lord" throughout the earth. This is connected with the Spirit (Zech. 4:6).
(4) "Seven spirits" expresses the Spirit’s perfection. This idea is derived from the symbolic use of the number seven to denote completeness.
(5) Angelic beings would not be included among the Divine greeters.
(6) Christ holds the seven spirits, which follows the defined relationship of the Holy Spirit to God the Father and the Son in the New Testament (Rom. 8:9, John 15:26).

Those who support an angelic reference:
(1) The term spirit is used in the New Testament to refer to angels.
(2) The seven spirits are before the throne of God, which suggests a position of subordination, which would be inappropriate for the Holy Spirit.
(3) Angels are given a very prominent place in the Revelation throughout.
(4) Luke 9:26 and 1 Tim. 5:21 place angelic beings in positions of honor equal to that of the Father and the Son.
(5) Jesus Christ is never mentioned in trinitarian type passages following the Holy Spirit. The order is always God the father, God the Son and God the Spirit.

There is not enough evidence to be dogmatic either way. However, we support angelic beings because there is not one example of the Holy Spirit greeting believers as a part of a salutation in all of the New Testament.

Revelation 1:5A

and from (1) Jesus Christ, (2) the faithful witness, (3) the first-born of the dead, and the (4) ruler of the kings of the earth.

1. Jesus Christ = the third well-wisher indicated by John and described with three important phrases.

2. The faithful witness = the one who has shown his testimony through death. Therefore, Jesus is faithful in His communication of the Revelation.

3. The first-born of the dead = Jesus is the first member of a new people who have triumphed over death, (1 Cor. 15:23).

4. Ruler of the kings of the earth = depicts the Lord’s universal sovereignty.
John presents Jesus as the One whose death, resurrection and exaltation is sure.

Revelation 1:5b-6

(1) To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, and He has made (2) us {to be} (3) a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him {be} the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1. To Him = Revelation 5b-6 is a doxology to Jesus Christ. A doxology is a short Christian poem that ascribes glory to God the Father. Here, Jesus is ascribed glory because of His salvific deeds for the elect of God.

2. Us = those who follow the Lord, His elect, both Jew and Gentile (John 10:1b and Gal. 3:29). Since John identified himself as a bond-servant, the "us" is a reference to all bond-servants.

3. A kingdom = Parallel Scripture confirms that we (the elect of God) are a kingdom. We are now a kingdom, not going to be a kingdom (Rev. 5:9-10; Acts 26:18; John 18:36; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9 (aliens); Col. 1:13).

This doxology expresses a great truth: because Jesus loved us, he freed us, which enabled Him to make us a kingdom.

Revelation 1:7

Behold, He is (1) coming with the (2) clouds, and (3) every eye will see Him, (4) even those who pierced Him; and (5) all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen.

1. The first explicit prophecy of the book = coming (verb=erchomai); coming from one point to another. No explicit reference is given concerning what the Lord’s destination is.

2. Clouds = associated with the Lord’s return in Acts 1:9-11, I Thessalonians 4:17, and Matthew 24:30. This is the first indirect reference to the book of Daniel in the Revelation. Daniel 7:13-14 provides the backdrop for the return of the Son of Man. The Revelation presents a detailed exposition of Daniel 7. We shall discuss this in detail later.

3. Every eye = universalistic (both Jews and Gentiles as indicated by the phrase "those who pierced Him.")

4. Those who pierced Him = Israel and Romans - Acts 7:51-52; John 19:31, 37; ca. Zechariah 12:10

5. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him = refers to mourning out of despair at the return of Christ by the wicked. This is the sense of Matthew 24:30.

While some would argue that Revelation 1:7 is a reference to the Lord’s return at Armageddon, a closer examination supports the parousia of Christ. This is when He gathers His church to heaven and begins to punish the wicked on earth with His Day of the Lord’s wrath. John uses the future tense to refer to the mourning of the wicked, i.e. they will mourn. John indicates that the wicked begin to mourn when the Lord is seen coming with the clouds and not before. Question: wouldn’t the wicked have already experienced God’s wrath in the form of the trumpets and bowl judgments if this were an Armageddon return? It is inconceivable that the wicked have experienced the wrath of God before the Lord’s return at Armageddon, but have not mourned. The only indication in the book of Revelation of the wicked mourning occurs in Revelation 6:15-17, which depicts the beginning of the Day of the Lord. (See later discussion on Revelation 6:12-17.) John indicates that the response of the wicked to the trumpet and bowl judgments is either a lack of repentance or men blasphemed God, but no mourning.

Revelation 1:8

(1) "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

1. The use of the phrase, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty" has led to a debate. Is God the Father or God the Son referred to in verse 8? In the parallel passages of Rev. 1:17; 21:6; 22:1, Christ is equated with Almighty God. Yet, the Father is consistently identified with the same titles. Trying to decide which member of the Godhead is identified in verse 8 is impossible. It is as if both members are speaking at the same time. This may be closer to the truth John intends. This prophecy stands as the unanimous consent of God the Father and God the Son.

Revelation 1:9

I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the (1) tribulation and (2) kingdom and (3) perseverance {which are} in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because (4) of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

1. Tribulation (thlipsis) = same Greek word used in the phrase "great tribulation" - Matt. 24:21; (John 16:33; Matt. 24:29; Acts 14:22; Rev. 2:22, 7:14.) Interestingly, the definite article is used. In other words, the tribulation is John’s focus. Not the great tribulation, but the tribulation that is consistently connected with Jesus Christ (Col. 1:24).

2. Kingdom = the millennial kingdom spoken of in Revelation 20. See Luke 12:32, 22:29; 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 2 Thessalonians 1:5; James 2:5.

3. Perseverance (pierasmos) - putting to a test, ca. Rev. 3:10; 13:10; 14:11-12 (2:2-3). Perseverance is the true mark of a believer in the face of tribulation (Matt. 13:21). As Jesus persevered, we too follow Him.

4. Because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus = John explains the reason he came to be on the island of Patmos. See Revelation 1:2 above.

Revelation 1:10

I was (1) in the Spirit (2) on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a (3) loud voice (4) like {the sound} of a trumpet,

1. In the Spirit = This phrase occurs four times in the Revelation (1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10). This phrase "is an idiom that refers to the fact that John’s revelatory experience took place not "in the body" but rather "in the spirit," i.e., in a vision trance…" (Aune, Revelation 1-5, p. 83)

2. On the Lord’s day = Sunday

3. A loud voice = This noun phrase is used twenty-two times in Revelation and is compared to the blast of a trumpet, the sound of thunder, and sound of roaring water. In each case, a divine being or angelic being is delivering a significant message. Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

4. Like a trumpet = is a figure of speech (simile). It is used to compare two things in a specific way. The voice and the blast of a trumpet are alike. The emphasis is on the loudness of the voice. Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

Revelation 1:11

saying, (1) "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."

1. The loud voice instructs John to write what he sees in a book.

Revelation 1:12 – 13a

And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands (1) one like a son of man,

1. One like a son of man = This phrase also appears in Daniel 7:13 and 10:16. The description that follows and that appears in Daniel 10:5-6 would suggest that the same person is represented—the Messiah.

The phrase "Son of Man" is Jesus’ favorite self-designation. All agree that it is taken from Daniel 7:13-14. However, there is little agreement concerning its precise meaning and significance. Like a son of man is unique to the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. The phrase Son of Man appears 80 plus times in the New Testament. In the gospel of John, Son of Man occurs 10 times. In John’s gospel, Morris indicates four plus issues of concern (Morris, The Gospel According to John, p. 172-173):

A. Jesus used the term because of its lack of political complications.
B. Jesus used the term because of its divinity overtones.
C. Jesus used the term because of its connections with a future kingdom.
D. Jesus used the term because of its human undertones.

Morris adds, "Here [in John’s Gospel] the term is always associated either with Christ’s heavenly glory or with the salvation He came to bring (Morris, John, p. 173)." As the go-between heaven and earth, Jesus is the unique one invested with authority. That John uses it to describe what he sees is important. John’s understanding of the term is informed by both Daniel 7:13-14 and the Lord’s usage while on earth. Jesus states in John 5:27, "and He [God the Father] gave Him [Jesus] authority to execute judgment, because He is [a] Son of Man." Luke 5:24 states, "But, so that you [Scribes and Pharisees] may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…" The Son of Man is one with authority: (1) to forgive sins, or (2) to judge sins.

As a son of man (human), the Lord is clearly able to judge humanity. Any argument that God’s judgments are unfair because He cannot understand the impact of sin on man’s ability to chose righteousness is silenced. Christ became a man, experienced "every" aspect of sin, but sinned not. He is an experientially qualified judge.

Having heard the voice behind him, John turns and immediately designates the person speaking as one like a son of man. All that Scriptures indicates about this person is to inform our understanding at this point.

Revelation 1:13b-16

…clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle. And His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire; 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. 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.

Notice the similarities between Revelation 1:13b-16 and Daniel 10:5-6:

Revelation 1:13b-16
Robe reached down to His feet
Chest girded with a golden sash
Head and hair white like wool, snow
Eyes like flame of fire
Feet like burnished bronze
Voice like many waters
Mouth give words like sword
Face like sun shining in its strength
Daniel 10:5-6
Dressed in linen
Waist girded with pure gold of Uphaz
Face like lightning
Eyes like flaming torches
Arms and feet like polished bronze
Words sound like roaring
Body like beryl

That same person who appeared to Daniel is the same person who appeared to John in the context of an angelic being, communicating prophetic truth about the end times, is confirmed. In both cases, He is called One like a son of man. This forms an important connection between the book of Daniel and the Revelation.

The heavenly being that appears in Daniel 10:2-9 and speaks words is not the same heavenly being that appears in Daniel 10:10-18. The pre-incarnate Christ is the first heavenly being described. However, the vision and words of the first speaker ends at Daniel 10:9.

The second heavenly being is most likely a "strong angel." The second heavenly being states in Daniel 10:13 that Michael is a chief prince of which there are others. Daniel 10:21 indicates that this heavenly being "stands firmly." This is the key to his identity. The Hebrew says literal, "shows himself strong." The word literally means "to be/become strong." This heavenly being and Michael are "strong angels." In the Revelation, strong angels are encountered again in their primary function, which is the proclamation of revelation (Rev 5:2; 10:1; 18:21).

Revelation 1:17

And when I saw Him, (1) 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,

1. I fell at His feet as a dead man = John’s response at encountering the Son of God is similar to that of Daniel (10:9).

Revelation 1:18

and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Revelation 1:19

"Write therefore (1) the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things.

1. A possible key to understanding the composition of the book of Revelation.

The things...have seen => Christ the revelator in chapter one.
The things...are => seven churches in chapter two and three.
The things...shall take place...=> in chapters 4-22

However, this outline is overly simplistic and has very little exegetical support. This is particularly the case when one realizes that there is no time difference between the vision of Christ in chapter one of the Revelation and the events of chapters two and three.

2. One must be careful at this point not to push the significance of this outline too far. The significance of the relationship of the church to Revelation 4-22 cannot be determined simply by recognizing the absence of the term church from these critical chapters. The absence of the term church from the Old Testament certainly does not mean that there is no applicable value for the church in the Old Testament.

Revelation 1:20

As for the (1) 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.

1. Mystery = Musterion occurs four times in the Revelation (1:20; 10:7; 17:5,7). Anything spoken of as a mystery in the Bible requires divine insight. The correct interpretation necessitated help from God.

2. Great care should be given to the text of Scripture at this point. Hermeneutically, the Bible offers insight into how meaning is discovered in the text. Clearly, the correct interpretation of the text is not far-fetched. As stars represent angels and lampstands represent churches allegorically, we see an unsophisticated method. That the text explains the meaning of the stars and lampstands suggests that when no explanation is given the solution will be simple and uncomplicated. We shall speak to this issue repeatedly thoroughout this commentary.


Next Section: Chapter Two - The Seven Churches, Part 1
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