An Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Sometime around 90 A.D. (approximately 60 years after the resurrection of Jesus), John…
- one of the 12 original Apostles…
- the author of the Gospel of John, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John…
- who became the Pastor of the church in Ephesus…
was arrested and sent to an island prison named Patmos. Patmos was located in the Aegean Sea, southwest of Ephesus…located between modern Turkey and Greece.
While there…he received a vision from God. He was instructed to write down what he saw in the vision and we have it today in our Bibles. It is called the Book of Revelation. The word “Revelation” is not plural…”Revelations”. It is singular, “Revelation”…not “Revelations”.
When the Apostle John saw this vision, it began with a vision of Jesus. He did not have a camera to take a picture of Jesus, with. So, he did what he could do and he used words, he described verbally the picture that he saw before him. It is a word picture…and its purpose is to help us capture a mental image, a mental picture of Jesus.
The Picture of Jesus
John wrote in…
Revelation 1:12-20 (NASV)
- Then 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 I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 14. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 16. 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. 17. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on 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. “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will 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.
There are three very important matters to keep in mind.
First, notice that in verse 19 John says…
Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.
Do you see the word, “therefore”? It literally means, “based on what you have just seen.” What had he just seen? Jesus! John had just had a vision of Jesus and he was instructed to continue writing based on that vision, with that vision in mind. Had John not had this vision, this revelation of Jesus…the rest of the book would have had no meaning, the revelation of the future would be worthless. Sometimes people get so caught up in…
- what happens during the 7 years of Tribulation,
- and the identity of the Antichrist,
- and the timing of the rapture,
- and identifying who the nations from the north and the east are,
- and the explanation of the seals, and the trumpets, and the bowls…
that they miss the real message of the Book of Revelation. In verse 1, the first five words of the Book say that it is…
The revelation of Jesus Christ…
In Greek there are only three words. Literally it says:
Revelation Jesus Christ…
This book is a book that is primarily about Jesus Christ. It is not just a revelation from Him…but, it is a revelation about Him. Everything else recorded in this book must be evaluated in relationship to Him. He is the theme of the book.
This book is not so much a book of prophecy,
as it is a book about Jesus Christ in the context of prophecy.
Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.
In verse 19, John was just given a three-fold division of the Book of Revelation.
- The things which you have seen…that being the picture of Jesus in chapter 1.
- the things which are…that being the seven churches in chapters 2-3.
- and, the things which will take place after these things…that being those things which will take place in the future, those things that are prophesied in chapters 4-22.
Let me give you an expanded paraphrase of this verse…
Therefore, having this glorious, faith inspiring picture of Jesus in mind, write it down so that we will have it as a foundation on which to base our faith. Then write how His sovereign rule over the seven churches that I am about to show you meets their every need. And finally, write down the prophecy concerning what is going to happen in the future so that when it happens they will trust in His sovereign rule over those times as well, and will be faithful until the very end of time.
It’s all about Jesus. The purpose of the Book of Revelation is to reveal that Jesus Christ is the sovereign, supreme Lord and God of all the universe throughout all of time. By showing that He was totally aware and in absolute control of everything that happened in the lives of the seven churches that currently were in existence…it was the intent of Jesus to instill faith in His followers that He would be totally aware and in absolute control of anything and everything that happened in the future. Chapters 4-22 of Revelation contain the revelation of the darkest, most dreadful, most dangerous days in the history of the world. And Jesus knows that if anyone is to be saved in those coming days…they must have complete faith in Him that He is sovereign, that He is in control. The coming days of Satan’s conquest, man’s rebellion, and God’s judgment will stretch the faith of His people to its very limits. It will appear to be a world out of control. And the only thing that will keep men strong in their faith is the memory of the sovereign control of Jesus found in this book.
The great Bible expositor, Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote:
This is what we are to see in this book. It is not merely the revelation of a prophetic plan, but the revealing of a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Revelation, Donald Grey Barnhouse, p. 14)
If you read this book…and all you are interested in is what will happen in the future, in the last days…you will put it down confused, uncertain, and unfulfilled. But, if you will read this book with the intent to know and understand Jesus Christ…then your mind will be opened to the prophecy about the future. But better yet, your spirit will be opened to the person Who holds the future. In every verse of the Book of Revelation…look for Jesus.
The second matter to keep in mind is that this is the same John who had followed Jesus for three years during His earthly life. He was called ”John the beloved”…because he was perhaps the best earthly friend that Jesus had…his closest companion (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7,20). Imagine John’s memories of Jesus flooding through his mind…their friendship, the times they had laughed together around a camp fire, ministered together, prayed together, eaten together, walked together…and now, John sees Jesus in all of His heavenly glory, in the full revelation of Who He really is…literally all that the human mind can encompass…absolutely stretched to the limits of its comprehension. And what does John do? He falls like a dead man at His feet…it is just too much for him to take in. That is how we should respond to Jesus…to fall like dead men at His feet in worship and praise. But Jesus stretches out His hand and says…
“John, do not be afraid. Don’t be afraid of Me. It’s still Me…Jesus.”
I am reminded of the day when Peter first began to recognize that there was something unique about Jesus. They had been fishing all night long on the Sea of Galilee and had not caught anything. Jesus told them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat. When they did they caught so many fish that their nets began to break and their boats began to sink because of the sheer weight of the fish they were taking on board. The Bible says:
Luke 5:7-8a (NASV)
- But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!" 9. For amazement had seized him…
- Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. "Master, leave. I'm a sinner and can't handle this holiness. Leave me to myself."
John was also on the boat that day. He too, must have been in awe of this man, Jesus. And now, here is an even greater revelation of Who Jesus is. Greater than any human being had ever been given…and John, overcome by the sense of his own sinfulness and overwhelmed by the realization of the glory of Jesus…falls in fear at the feet of Jesus.
Why would John be afraid of Jesus, now…and not before? Perhaps he was afraid that Jesus had changed…that He wasn’t the same as He was when they walked the shores of Galilee together. Have you ever known someone who was given a promotion…and something changed about them? Or, someone who came into a lot of money…and now, they seemed different. Maybe that is what John was afraid of. That now…holy, righteous, exalted, all-powerful…Jesus would be different, than before. That He would strike out and punish him for his sin. But Jesus says:
“17. …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,…”
In other words…
“There is nothing to be afraid of. It’s still Me…the same Jesus. I have been like this throughout all of eternity…you just didn’t see it before.”
There is a third matter to keep in mind. When John describes to us what he saw in this vision, he is using physical attributes to describe spiritual qualities. In other words, when he said (verse 16)…
…out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword
…he did not mean that there was literally a sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus. That would make it hard to carry on a conversation, wouldn’t it! He was using descriptive terms that we are familiar with to communicate something that was true about the character and nature of Jesus. Even in our day we understand that a sword is sharp and pierces all the way to the heart of the matter. So John used the image of something that his readers did understand to communicate something to them about Jesus that they didn’t understand.
On top of that, there were some things that John saw that even John didn’t completely understand. So, between the things that he did understand that he tried to communicate by comparing them to things his readers were familiar with…and things that he didn’t understand completely but he still wanted to communicate what he saw to his readers…John had to do a lot of comparisons. So, one of his most frequently used words was “like”. Depending on what translation you are reading the words “like” and “as” are used around 50 times in the Book of Revelation (NASV-like-45 times; KJV-like-21 times; NIV-like-51 times). In other words…John tells us about something by comparing it to something we are familiar with by saying, “This, is like that.”
The first picture that John gives us is a picture of Jesus. This is important, because the rest of the book is connected to this picture and makes reference to this picture…over, and over, and over, again. Why? Because Jesus is the main theme of the book of Revelation and without an adequate understanding of Him…you will never have an adequate understanding of the rest of the book.
In chapter 1, John gives us a picture of Jesus.
In chapters 2-3, John gives us a picture of seven different churches. Seven churches that existed at that very moment. And what we are going to discover is that each of the seven letters of the churches refer back to this picture of Jesus in chapter 1.
Then, in chapters 4-22, John gives a picture of the future, what would happen at a later date in history, prophecy. And this picture of the future is inseparably connected to the picture of Jesus. Listen closely. Unless you understand the picture of Jesus…you will never fully understand the picture of the future.
We going to place these elements of the picture of Jesus into three different groups and try to give us the big picture…not so much the detail as the panoramic vision that John saw. While the details of the picture are important…at this point I want us to sense the awe, the grandeur, the wonder about Jesus that John felt.
Notice first of all…His Apparel…what He is wearing.
Revelation 1:13 (NASV)
- and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.
The word for “robe” is the word the Greek translation of the Old Testament uses to describe the robe of the High Priest (Exodus 28:4; Leviticus 16:4)…the man who had access to God and opened the way for others to come to God.
But others, beside the High Priest also wore robes that reached down to their feet. Princes and kings wore such a robe. This is a description of the apparel of King Saul. This was a robe of royalty…no longer a criminal crucified on a cross wearing nothing but a simple loin cloth…but a ruler dressed in all of his regalia…glorious and majestic.
But, there is another robe that was worn. In the Old Testament, in the vision of Daniel, the divine figure who came to tell him the truth of God was dressed in a fine linen robe with a belt of gold around it. This was the dress of the messenger of God…the prophet of God. Now, here stands the divine and supreme messenger, the final prophet of God.
The robe tells us that indeed, Jesus Christ is, Priest, King, and Prophet.
From the beginning of Revelation, to the end of Revelation…we find elements of this picture of Jesus repeated…Priest, King, Prophet. From chapter one to chapter 22, we find this same picture of Jesus…Priest, King, Prophet.
As Priest…Jesus is the mediator of the grace and salvation of God.
Revelation 22:12-14,17 (NASV)
- “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
- The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
As King…Jesus is the ruler of the universal Kingdom of God.
Revelation 22:16 (NASV)
- “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
Philippians 2:9-11 (NASV)
- For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10. so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11. and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
As Prophet…Jesus is the final word, the conclusion of the revelation from God.
Revelation 22:18-19 (NASV)
- I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19. and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
Have you begun to have a sense of awe, of wonder and amazement…when you see His Apparel…and recognize Who this is?
Look now at His Appearance…what Jesus, Himself looks like.
His head and hair…
Revelation 1:14 (NASV)
- His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.
This is a direct reference to Daniel 7:9, where God is envisioned as the Ancient of Days…
Daniel 7:9 (NASV)
- "I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool…
Here, John is making a direct connection between Jesus and the Ancient of Days…they are one and the same.
By describing Jesus this way that is what John is communicating to us: “He looks just like His Father.” John is deliberately identifying Jesus with God, the Father. In fact, Jesus once said:
John 14:8-9 (NASV)
- Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9. Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
The Apostle Paul wrote:
Colossians 2:8-10 (NASV)
- See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10. and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
It speaks of His great age…eternal nature and pre-existence
This is the declaration of the eternal, pre-existent nature of Jesus. The One whom Daniel saw is none other than the one that John was now gazing upon. One and the same. Jesus is God…and He has existed eternally. Jesus once spoke of the fact that He existed before Abraham was born…over 2,000 years earlier. The religious leaders were indignant over this claim and said:
John 8:57-58 (NLT)
- The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” 58. Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!”
In other words…Jesus said that He existed before Abraham was even born.
It speaks of His divine purity and sinless
Revelation 1:14 (NASV)
- His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow;
Snow and white wool are emblems of sinlessness and stainless purity. Only God is sinless. All humans have sinned.
This tells us that Jesus is all-knowing (omniscient)
Revelation 1:14 (NASV)
- …and His eyes were like a flame of fire.
One author writes…
When we read the gospel story, we get the impression that he who had once seen the eyes of Jesus could never forget them. Again and again we have the vivid picture of the eyes of Jesus sweeping round the circle of people in the midst of whom He was (Mark 3.34; 10.23; 11.11); sometimes His eyes swept round in anger (Mark 3.5); sometimes they fastened on someone in love (Mark 10.21); and sometimes they had in them all the sorrow of one whose friends had wounded him to the quick (Luke 22.61). Simply to read the gospel story is to see that he who had seen the eyes of Jesus could never forget them.
(The Revelation of John, William Barclay, p. 61)
The flaming eyes of Jesus refer to the fact that He knows everything. There is nothing that escapes His knowledge.
A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse. In the defense's closing statement the lawyer, knowing that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all," the lawyer said as he looked at his watch. "Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom." He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all turned as well looking on eagerly at the door. A minute passed. Nothing happened.
Finally the lawyer said, "Actually, I made up the previous statement. But, you all looked on with anticipation. I therefore put to you that you have a reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty."
The jury, clearly confused, retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty.
"But how?" inquired the lawyer. "You must have had some doubt. I saw all of you stare at the door."
The jury foreman replied, "Oh, we looked, but your client didn't."
No one will ever deceive Jesus…He knows everything.
Revelation 1:15 (NASV)
- His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace…
It may be that we see two things in the picture. The brass itself stands for strength, for the immovable steadfastness of God; and the shining, glittering rays stand for speed, for the swiftness of the feet of God to help His own or to punish sin.
(The Revelation of John, William Barclay, p. 62)
When a metal is burnished in the fire…it means that all of the impurities have been burned off. All that is left is the pure metal itself. That does two things…one, it brings that metal to its highest level of purity; and two, it causes that metal to shine brightly.
How were the feet of Jesus burnished and what does it mean? They were burnished as they passed through the fiery temptations and trials of this life.
Do you think that your life is hard…difficult…problematic? Stop and think for a moment about Jesus. In all of history there has been only One person that could save humanity from the penalty of sin…Jesus. Satan was all too aware of that fact. So he determined to cause Him to sin…to tempt Him with such intensity, such regularity, such measure…that certainly Jesus would sin and all of mankind would be eternally lost.
Recall that at the beginning of His earthly ministry Jesus went into the desert and fasted for 40 days. Afterwards, He was physically and emotionally weak…and at that moment, Satan showed up and tempted Him. He failed in his best efforts to tempt Jesus. But read what the next verse says…
Luke 4:13 (NASV)
When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.
“an opportune time” meant every time Jesus turned around!
I imagine that…
- beneath every footstep Satan placed a stone on which Jesus would stub His toe
- behind every smiling face there was someone trying to trick Him, to trip Him up
- beyond every moment of peace there was a storm of controversy brewing
- between every miracle there were those who criticized Him for not doing more
- before every encounter there was someone who sought to use Him for their own purpose
- beside every difficult act of obedience there was an easier path that could have been taken
- His own family didn’t believe in Him
- His own people mocked and ridiculed Him
- His own followers deserted and even betrayed Him
- His own religious leaders accused Him
- and, His own nation crucified Him.
Through the pressure…through the confrontation…through the resistance…against all that Satan and the world had to use against Him…Jesus remained sinless. And with every brush with temptation…His true nature was burnished, polished, and shined through ever more brightly.
We know nothing of suffering…compared to His. It is no wonder that the author of Hebrews writes:
Hebrews 12:4 (Message)
- In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don't feel sorry for yourselves.
He is saying, “If you think you’ve got it bad…look what Jesus went through!”
Look at His feet…those feet that trod the paths of this earth and were shown to be pure and holy…and which shined all the more brightly in a dark world…and you will sit in wonder, and awe of His majesty.
Revelation 1:15 (NASV)
- …His voice was like the sound of many waters.
The voice of God can thunder its terrifying and majestic rebuke; and the voice of God can croon with the soothing comfort of a mother over her hurt child.
(The Revelation of John, William Barclay, p. 62)
What do we learn about Jesus in His voice? I hear His voice…
- Teaching His followers
- Pronouncing healing
- Comforting the discouraged
- Forgiving the sinful
- Condemning false teachers
- Confronting demons
- Commanding the sea.
And every time we hear His voice…it sounds like a mighty, roaring river. What does that mean? His voice has the strength, the power, the authority of God.
Revelation 1:16 (NASV)
- In His right hand He held seven stars…
That very same hand which holds the stars is placed in soothing comfort on the head and the shoulder of the frightened child. The hand of Christ is strong enough to uphold the heavens and gentle enough to wipe away our tears.
(The Revelation of John, William Barclay, p. 63)
We will find that the “seven stars” are the pastors of the seven churches. These pastors represent the personal nature of the relationship that Jesus has with the churches. He is intimately, personally aware of everything that is going on in each church. And…He holds them in His hand…showing that they are in His control.
Revelation 1:16 (NASV)
- …and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.
Hebrews 4:12 (NASV)
- For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The sword represents the words of Jesus…the truth that He teaches. Jesus is the answer to every question, every problem, every need that we have. His word is truth.
His face shining…
Revelation 1:16 (NASV)
- …and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.
Do you recall the time when Jesus took three of His disciples up on a mountain? While they were there…He was transfigured before them. At that moment when on the mountain three of His disciples caught a momentary, passing glimpse of His glory.
Matthew 17:1-2 (NASV)
- Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.
John was one of those disciples at the transfiguration. For just a moment he had seen the glory of Who Jesus really was peek through His humanity. And now, he again saw the glory of Jesus shining. But now, it was shining and not going away.
Do you have a sense of awe, of wonder and amazement…when you see His Appearance? Are you beginning to get the picture?
His Apparel, His Appearance…now dare to gaze for a moment more at the eternal One and notice one more thing…His Actions.
He Walks among the Churches
Revelation 1:12-13 (NASV)
- …And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; 13. and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man…
Revelation 2:1 (NASV)
- …the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
This speaks of the presence of Jesus with His people…in the midst of their fellowship. It speaks of His nearness and imminence. God is with us. The Old Testament speaks of Him in this manner when it calls Him Immanuel…which means, “God with us”?
Matthew 18:20 (NASV)
20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
He Speaks to the Churches
- When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on 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.
This speaks of His awareness of everything that is going on in His churches. And remember, churches are made up of individual people. So, Jesus is intimately aware of everything that is going on in the life of each and every single member of His church. What does He say?
“Do not be afraid
John had heard those words before.
Matthew 14:25-27 (Message)
24-26. Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o'clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. "A ghost!" they said, crying out in terror. 27. But Jesus was quick to comfort them. "Courage, it's me. Don't be afraid."
So he (John) learns that the vision of the highest is to inspire and not to frighten; it is to reassure and not to crush. Once there was a preacher who made a whole village think new thoughts of God and Christ. Some of them never forgot a night when he was preaching on the awful glory of the son of God. "We think we could never feel at home with him," he said. "But this is the very one who, when we are almost lifeless with the awe of him, bends over us and says 'Fear not.'”
(The Interpreter’s Bible, Exposition, Lynn Harold Hough, p. 377)
He is the first and last…
I am the first and the last,
It is the promise of Jesus that He is there at the beginning and the end. He is there in the moment of birth and at the time of death. He is there when we set out upon the Christian way, and He is there when we finish our course. He is there when we lay our hands to any task for Him, or for men, and He is there when we complete it.
(The Revelation of John, William Barclay, p. 64)
He is the living one…
- and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore,
He has the keys of death and Hades…
and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
Death has its gates…and Christ has the keys to the gates.
It was He Himself with His human air, standing there in the blaze of celestial light. What a rush of memories, what a rapture of awe and surprise would flood his soul, as that truth broke on him! The differences between the form seen and that remembered were startling, indeed, but likeness persisted through them all. Nor is it inexplicable that, when he had taken in all the features of the vision, he should have fallen as one dead; for the truest love would feel awe at the reappearance of the dearest invested with heavenly radiance.
Is this tremendous figure like the Christ on whose bosom John had leaned? Yes; for one chief purpose of this book is to make us feel that the exalted Jesus is the same in all essentials as the lowly Jesus. The heart that beats beneath the golden girdle is the same that melted with pity and overflowed with love here. The hands that bear the seven stars are those that were pierced with nails. The eyes that flash fire are those that dropped tears at a grave and over Jerusalem. The lips from which issues the sharp sword are the same which said, 'I will give you rest.' He has carried all His love, His gentleness, His sympathy, into the blaze of Deity, and in His glory is still our brother.
III. His gracious words to John tell us this and more. Soothingly He laid the hand with the stars in it on the terrified Apostle, and gentle words, which he had heard Him say many a time on earth, came soothingly from the mouth from which the sword proceeded. How the calming graciousness rises into majesty! 'I am the first and the last.' That is a Divine prerogative (Isa. xliv. 6). The glorified Christ claims to have been before all creatures, and to be the end to which all tend.
(Expositions of Holy Scripture, vol. 17, Revelation, Alexander Maclaren, pp. 146, 147-148)
His Apparel, His Appearance, His Actions…John is using our senses to inspire our spirit. Do you have a sense of awe, of wonder and amazement…when you see His Appearance, His Apparel, His Actions? Are you beginning to get the picture?
- His Apparel…identifies Who He is.
- His Appearance…identifies what He can do.
- His Actions…identify who He cares about.
In chapters 2-3, John will take these characteristics of Jesus, and show how He is the answer to every need, every struggle, every problem, every issue that the church will ever face. And in so doing, he is telling you that Jesus is the answer to every need, every struggle, every problem, every issue that you will ever face. Jesus knew how important, how necessary it is for you and for me to know Him…to have Him in our heart…that we would trust Him. So, He gave John this vision of Himself.
Jesus is Sovereign over the Past (Revelation 1)
Revelation 1:1-8 The Introduction of the Vision
Revelation 1:1-2 The Purpose of the Vision
John says that this is the "Revelation of Jesus Christ...to show...the things which must shortly take place". In other words, the rest of the history of the world is centered around the person of Jesus Christ. This book will reveal the person of Jesus Christ to us in the context of His sovereignty over the events of the world that are going to be revealed in it. While Revelation will show us the course that future history will take...it's purpose is to show us that despite whatever happens...Jesus is sovereign over it all. Verses 1-8 establish the sovereignty of God over all the events of history as the theme of the book...by multiple descriptive terms of His nature and activities.
Revelation 1:3 The Blessing of the Vision
God will bless the person who, “reads…hear…head” this book. The reason is that “the time is near”…meaning that its usefulness, its application is at hand. This is not a book to just be studied academically…this is a handbook for action. In verse 1, John says, “the things which must shortly take place”. The word “shortly” does not mean that they will happen soon…that is inferred here in verse 3. But, that when these things do happen, it will take place quickly (cf. Luke 18:8 where the same word is translated as “speedily”-NASV). So it is important that we understand what this book has to say because the need to apply it is already present, and because the matters it discusses will happen at such a fast pace there will not be time to learn as you go.
There are seven blessings given in Revelation…this is the first (14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14).
Revelation 1:4-8 The Source of the Vision
John makes it clear that while he is the writer of this vision he is not the source, the author. He gives that credit to the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son…a reference to the Trinity. Notice the specific aspects of the nature of each member of the Trinity that John mentions. The further we read into Revelation, the more difficult and tragic the scene becomes. So, John begins the book by giving us this description of the triune God in order to establish the fact that no matter what may happen...He is in control. God is sovereign!
- He is Eternal (:4)…”Him who is and who was and who is to come”. (cf. 1:4,8,17; 16:5)
- He is Absolute (:8)…”Alpha and Omega” speaks of the fact that God is all-inclusive, there is nothing that is beyond His reach.
- He is Sovereign (:8)…”the Almighty” refers to His unlimited power.
When you put those three together you have a description of God, whose reign is…infinite in time, comprehensive in extent, and supreme in power.
The Holy Spirit
- The idea of the seven Spirits quotes from the Old Testament. Isaiah 11:2 describes seven aspects of the Holy Spirit: The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. It isn't that there are seven different spirits of God, rather the Spirit of the LORD has these characteristics, and He has them all in fullness and perfection.
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Revelation 1,
1:4 seven. The number 7, 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. Gen. 2:2; Ex. 20:10; Lev. 14:7; Acts 6:3). In the Revelation there are 7 churches and 7 spirits (1:4), 7 lampstands (1:12), 7 stars (1:16), 7 seals on the scroll (5:1), 7 horns and 7 eyes of the Lamb (5:6), 7 angels and 7 trumpets (8:2), 7 thunders (10:3), 7 heads of the dragon (12:3), 7 heads of the beast (13:1), 7 golden bowls (15:7), and 7 kings (17:10). the seven spirits. Many understand this to refer to the Holy Spirit in His perfect fullness (see Isa. 11:2; Rev. 4:5), though some take this as a reference to 7 angels who are before God’s throne.
- He is Reigning (:4)…The “throne” of God is mentioned throughout the book of Revelation, from chapter 1 to 22…45 times in 36 verses. This is a book that emphasizes the reign of God over all of creation.
- He is Trustworthy (:5)…We can totally trust what He has told us.
- He is Risen (:5)…His resurrection is the proof, the substantiation that what He is true.
- He is Ruling (:5)…It may appear at times that the kings of men are in control of the earth, but Jesus is the King of kings and rules over all others.
- He is Salvation (:5)…Jesus didn’t just send, or provide a means for us to be saved. He is the means of salvation, Himself. It was His blood, His life that paid the price for our sins. This is the extravagant expression of His love for us.
- He is Governing (:6)…Jesus is the one who has established the order, and governance of the world. He has determined that those who have accepted Him as Savior will serve in His kingdom as priests.
- He is Praiseworthy (:5-6)…As priests, our primary responsibility is to lead people in praise and worship of Jesus.
- He is Coming Back (:7)…Jesus is not yet through with His work on earth. He will soon return and establish His kingdom here. Every person who has ever lived will recognize Him for Who He is. All of those who had refused to accept Him as their Savior…will mourn over their sinful decision. When He returns at that time…it will be “with the clouds” (Matthew 24:29-30). He will not come to the earth…but will call up all those believers who are currently alive on the earth to join Him in Heaven. This is a reference to what is referred to as the rapture…it will begin the seven years of tribulation.
Revelation 1:9-20 The Setting of the Vision
Revelation 1:9 The Recipient of the Vision
John uses two terms to identify himself…
- your brother…this establishes the cause of their relationship…their common relationship with Jesus Christ
- fellow partaker…this establishes the experience of their relationship…their common struggle with persecution
- in the tribulation…
- and kingdom…
- and perseverance…
Revelation 1:9 The Place of the Vision
- I, John … was on the island that is called Patmos: The island of Patmos was a like an Alcatraz Island in the Roman Empire. It was used as a prison island, and functioned as a prison without walls. The island was rich in marble, and most of the prisoners were forced laborers in marble quarries. Patmos was a rocky, desolate island about 10 miles long, and 6 miles wide.
- "John was at the time in exile, upon a lonely and desolate island. But neither seas, nor Alps, nor ages, can sever the bonds by which Christians are united to each other, or to Christ, their Lord. Less than a year ago I passed that island. It is a mere mass of barren rocks, dark in colour and cheerless in form. It lies out in the open sea, near the coast of Western Asian Minor. It has neither trees nor rivers, nor any land for cultivation, except some little nooks between the ledges of rocks. There is still a dingy grotto remaining, in which the aged Apostle is said to have lived, and in which he is said to have had this vision. A chapel covers it, hung with lamps kept burning by the monks." (Seiss)
- Barnes describes Patmos as "Lonely, desolate, barren, uninhabited, seldom visited, it had all the requisites which could be desired for a place of punishment; and banishment to that place would accomplish all that a persecutor could wish in silencing the apostle, without putting him to death." Praise God that this exile didn't silence the Apostle John!...
- For the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ: Most scholars assume that John was on Patmos because he was arrested and imprisoned in persecution from the Romans. This is probably the case, especially because John says that he is your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. However, it is also possible that John was on Patmos as a missionary to the prisoners there.
- The ancient Christian historian Eusebius says John was imprisoned at Patmos under the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian. (Church History, III.18, 20 - from the Nicean and Post Nicean Fathers Series 2, Volume 1, pages 1480149)
- "According to Victorinus, John, though aged, was forced to labor in the mines located at Patmos. Early sources also indicated that about A.D. 96, at Domitian's death, John was allowed to return to Ephesus when the Emperor Nerva was in power." (Walvoord)
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Revelation 1,
Revelation 1:10a The Time of the Vision
He then describes where he was and what he was doing when he had this vision. "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day...".
This was a unique spiritual experience for John, what some might call an out of body experience - though of course, without the occult or spiritism such experiences are associated with today.
- Walvoord defines in the Spirit like this: "Carried beyond normal sense into a state where God could reveal supernaturally the contents of this book."
- There are four references to John being in the Spirit in the Book of Revelation. First at Patmos (Revelation 1:10), then in heaven (Revelation 4:2), than in the wilderness (Revelation 17:3), and finally on the mountain of God (Revelation 21:10).
- On the Lord's Day: When is the Lord's Day? Among the pagans of the Roman Empire, the first day of each month was called "Emperors Day" in honor of the Roman Emperor. Perhaps Christians proclaimed their allegiance to Jesus by honoring the first day of the week as their own Lord's Day.
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Revelation 1,
Revelation 1:10b-11 The Command of the Vision
He heard a voice that told him to “write in a book” the things that he was about to see and to send it to the seven churches identified in Asia Minor. John is commanded to “write” 12 times in Revelation (1:11,19; 2:1,8,12,18; 3:1,7,14; 14:3, 19:9; 21:5)…and to not “write” one time (10:4).
#1 Book, Bill:
primarily "a small book, a scroll, or any sheet on which something has been written;" hence, in connection with apostasion, "divorce," signifies "a bill of divorcement," Mat 19:7 (AV, "writing"); Mar 10:4.
a diminutive of No. 1, had in Hellenistic Greek almost lost its diminutive force and was ousting biblos in ordinary use; it denotes "a scroll or a small book." It is used in Luk 4:17, 20, of the "book" of Isaiah; in Jhn 20:30, of the Gospel of John; in Gal 3:10; Hbr 10:7, of the whole of the OT; in Hbr 9:19, of the "book" of Exodus; in Rev 1:11; 22:7, 9, 10, 18 (twice), 19, of the Apocalypse; in Jhn 21:25; 2Ti 4:13, of "books" in general; in Rev 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 21:27, of the "Book" of Life (see Note, below); in Rev 20:12, of other "books" to be opened in the Day of Judgment, containing, it would seem, the record of human deeds. In Rev 5:1-9 the "Book" represents the revelation of God's purposes and counsels concerning the world. So with the "little book" in Rev 10:8. In Rev 6:14 it is used of a scroll, the rolling up of which illustrates the removal of the heaven.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,
Revelation 1:12-18 The Person of the Vision
John sees a vision of Jesus (see Introduction above) standing in the middle of seven golden lampstands. The lampstands represent the seven churches in chapters 2-3 (the congregations, members) and the stars in His right hand represent the pastors of those churches (:20). The vision depicts characteristics of His nature and His sovereignty over the churches and all of creation. This picture is the central theme that will run through the rest of the book. In chapters 2-3, each letter to the seven churches will refer back to this picture...and it will be referred to at different times during the rest of the book. There are striking resemblances between the picture of Jesus here and the Ancient of Days described in the book of Daniel.
Revelation 1:19-20 The Progression of the Vision
With this vision of Jesus in mind, John is told to write down…
- the things which you have seen...matters concerning the past (chapter 1),
- the things which are...matters concerning the present…the seven churches (chapters 2-3),
- the things which shall take place after these things...matters the future (chapters 4-22).
Immediately, he is then again reminded of the sovereignty of Jesus over all of history. The meaning of the seven lampstands and seven stars is explained. Jesus has the churches and their pastors firmly in His control...past, present, and future.
Prayer: Lord, thank You that my life is in Your hand! No matter what comes, what happens...I trust You. You are Lord and Sovereign over all of the universe. Help me to live my life in that confidence and strength.