Chapter 1

 

The Object of the Book. v1 - 3.

 

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

 

The word "Revelation" means a "disclosure of truth, an instruction concerning things unknown before". The contents of this last book of the Bible were revealed to John so that he could pass them on to the Church in writing. Until this time God had shared only with His Son the knowledge of what would soon come to pass in His purposes. Now Christ reveals these things to John by the medium of an angel and the use of signs and symbols (signified).

 

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

 

John became a messenger to the Church by recording all that he saw and heard so that we might have an accurate record of all that God said and of the confirmation given to it by Jesus Christ.

 

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

 

Blessed, happy and well off are those who read this book, (to read publicly is meant) as well as those who hear and keep it - that is, those who take it to heart with vigorous care, who watch over these words to obey them.

 

Greetings to the Seven Churches . v4 - 8.

 

4 - 5. "John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ.."

 

John communicated the Revelation first of all, as per Christ instructed, to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Vine points out that although the number seven was regarded by the Hebrews as a sacred number having symbolic meaning in both the Old and New Testaments (e.g. Lev. 4:17 and seven beatitudes); and although throughout the book of Revelation numbers are frequently used as symbols; this verse serves only to literally convey greetings to the seven churches in Asia Minor. The usual apostolic greeting of grace (the merciful kindness of God) and peace (the tranquil state of a soul assured of salvation through Christ) is given in the name of God the everlasting Father, the seven Spirits before His throne, and from Jesus Christ. Here the 'seven Spirits' is better rendered "the sevenfold Holy Spirit." The number seven refers to the perfection of His diverse manifestations (Vine and Trench). John is clearly attesting to the Trinity of the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

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

 

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, who always did the will of His Father and gave faithful testimony of all God's will for man. As the first to rise from the dead with immortal resurrection-life He imparts that life to all who receive Him as Saviour. As ruler over all the kings of the earth He will one day come again to earth to take his throne (Phil. 2:9; Rev. 17:14) He will ever be, for those He has redeemed, the one who loves us and delivered us (better rendering than "washed us") from our sins through His own blood.

 

6. "And has made us kings and priests (or a kingdom of priests) to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

 

Though they have nothing of themselves to offer him, He has made the whole body of the redeemed collectively to be priests, (a kingdom of priests) to do service for His God and Father (1 Pet. 2:5). To Him is the glory and dominion for ever. Amen.

 

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

 

The second coming of Christ to earth and the events that surround it are the main subject of the book of Revelation. Christ will come in clouds of glory, in a similar manner to His ascension (Acts 1:9 - 11) and will be seen in His glory by all who dwell on earth. The verse suggests more than a reference to Jews "who pierced him" and the Gentile "tribes of earth" alive at His coming. The verse should be understood literally as referring to all who are dead in hell and to all who live on earth, for the whole universe shall witness Christ's coming again in glory.

 

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

 

Several times in the book of Revelation the Lord Jesus Christ adds His personal authority to what is written. Christ, the "Alpha and Omega" is the all in all. He is not the A and Z. He is the A to Z, the self sufficient One. He is the self - existent one, "who is, who was and is to come", and the all powerful one "the Almighty". The reader can be assured that what Christ declares to do, He is able to perform.

 

The Vision of Christ. v9 - 20.

 

9, 10. "I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,"

 

John identifies himself with the Christians he is writing to. In these days of persecution he describes himself as a brother in Christ who is suffering with them for Christ's sake. He had been exiled to the island of Patmos - a barren rock in the Aegean sea - for preaching the Gospel.  It was on a Sunday (kept as the Lord's Day in the early Church) that, being full of the Holy Spirit, he became lost in the Spirit - completely unconscious of everything around him. While in this state he heard a voice behind him which sounded like a war trumpet.

 

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

 

The owner of the voice identifies Himself as Jesus Christ. It is at this point that He instructs John to write down all that he is about to see and send the letter to the seven churches here named.

 

12, 13. "Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band."

 

As one might expect, John turned to see who was speaking to him. Having turned, he saw seven golden lampstands (representing the seven churches v20) and standing among them was the Lord Jesus Christ. He was wearing a garment that covered him from the neck to the ankles. "This long robe is a garment of dignity and honour. It may be either royal, or priestly, or both." W. E. Vine. Around His chest He wore a golden sash, which is the symbol of power and authority (Dan. 10:5; Matt. 28:18).

 

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

 

Christ's head and hair shone brilliant white, like wool or snow, gleaming with His glory, majesty and power. White hair signifies the respect and authority given to those who, because of age, are considered venerable. The vision corresponds to Daniel's vision of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9. His eyes were flaming like fire. The word used, "phlego", means to flash or to flame and is an expression of Divine anger. The thought conveyed is of Christ's penetrating sight - His knowledge of all that is in men's hearts (Heb. 4:13).

 

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

 

His feet are like brilliantly polished white brass. Being strong and powerful they are able to tread His enemies underfoot and make them His footstool (Heb. 10:13). His voice is like the sound of many rivers falling as a cataract. Christ's voice has an inherent power and authority that must be heard by all.

 

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

 

"He held in His right hand seven stars." These are the seven angels of the seven churches (see v20). That He held them in His hand signifies that they were at his command to do His bidding. "A sharp double edged sword" speaks of the penetrating power of the Word of God. His face shone like the sun, shining in its noonday strength, which denotes His character as the Righteous One.  Malachi 4:2

 

17, 18. "And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death."

 

This vision of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory has a drastic effect on the apostle. He falls at Christ's feet, with no use in his body, as if he were dead. But the Lord reaches out His right hand to raise Him up and gives Him the assurance that he had no need to be afraid for "I am the First and the Last". "Christ is first because all things are from Him, and He is last, because all things are made for Him." (Richard of St. Vincent). He was dead once, but now lives and is alive for ever more. When Christ died He entered into Hades, the place of departed spirits, but neither Hades or Death could hold Him there. He broke their chains and wrested the keys of Death and Hell from Satan, rising from the dead as victor, holding those keys in His hand.

 

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

 

The Lord instructs John to write the things which he has seen, things relating to the present time. Most commentators agree that this refers to the condition of the seven churches. Later in the book, he is to write of the things that are to happen at a future time, bearing in mind that this book was written in about AD 96.

 

20 "The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches."

 

In the final verse of chapter one, the Lord makes known to John the meaning of the seven stars in his right hand (the place of honour and authority - Tatford) - the seven angels of the seven churches. There have been many theories as to who these "angels" are, ranging from their being literal angels to their being archbishops or pastors.

 

Whoever or whatever is meant it is clear that the Lord has authority over them and they are responsible to Him. All who are entrusted by Christ with authority over His Church are responsible to Him and should give careful heed to these words, as should church members themselves, for ultimately, each of us will give account of ourselves to God. Rom. 14:12

 

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