Many people shy from studying the book of Revelation, thinking it’s way too hard to understand, or that whatever the future holds, we don’t need to concern ourselves with learning about it. Perhaps the propelling of these thoughts is Satan himself, because we read in 1:3:
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein:”
Read. Hear. Keep. These verbs are present tense, implying the thought of continuing to read, hear, and keep. This blessing is the 1st of 7 promised in this book (see 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7 & 14). You’ll notice the number 7 often in studying Revelation. It’s the number of perfection, or completion.
This book contains the revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelation in Greek means “unveiling” or “uncovering.” Much like an artist who spends time painting a beautiful portrait and then finally unveils it for all to see, so too Revelation is an unveiling of God’s masterpiece – His dear Son for all to behold His glory and beauty. Revelation conveys the thought of spiritual illumination, not intellectual finding. It is the only book portraying Jesus as the risen, victorious, glorified Christ! (In contrast, the Gospel’s portray Jesus mainly as the suffering Man of sorrows).
vs. 1 This revelation was given to Jesus by God, His Father. Jesus then made it known to the Apostle John by His angel. For what purpose?
“To show His servants things which must shortly come to pass.” 1:1
The phrase, “must shortly come to pass,” could also be read, “What must speedily happen,” referring to the fact that once these things begin, they will happen very quickly. Note that God wants to show His servants. This includes all believers willing to devote themselves to a study of His Word.
vs. 2-3 The word “servant” means “a willing bond slave.” John, a willing bond slave, duly recorded what he heard and saw. When he instructed the believers to read and keep this testimony, he explains with the statement “the time is at hand.” Revelation begins and ends with this (note 22:10). This is in direct contrast to God’s instruction to Daniel to
“shut up the words and seal the book even to the time of the end.” – Daniel 12:4,9
Daniel received visions and revelations many years before the coming of Jesus – John’s revelation was given after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Since that time, God desires His people to understand what is going to happen prior to, and following, the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ.
vs. 4 John addresses the words of this prophecy to the seven churches in Asia. Now there were several churches, much more than seven, established during the time John wrote this book. So…why these churches? They were divinely chosen by God to receive these letters because He knew they were a perfect representation of the whole church of God, from the time of Jesus’ resurrection until His return for the rapture. Don’t forget – 7 is the number of completion.
If you are a believer today, then you are a part of the church, or body, of Christ. Therefore, these letters are addressed to you as well. So it’s kinda important you understand what Jesus is saying in the letters, His last words written to His people. They are the only words spoken directly by Him to the church.
John’s salutation is “grace and peace.” It is only because of the might grace of God, His bestowing upon us unmerited blessing and favor, that we not only have peace with God, but the peace of God fills our hearts in every circumstance of life. These blessings are from the 3 persons of the God-head: the eternal God (described as the One which is, which was, and which is to come); the Holy Spirit (represented by the 7 spirits before His throne); and Jesus Christ.
To better understand these analogies, we refer to the Old Testament. In Ezra 7:14, and Esther 1:14, we learn ancient kings often kept 7 counselors near them to give advice, wisdom, and do their bidding. This is a picture of the office of the Holy Spirit, which can be seen in Isaiah 11:2
vs. 5-6 The description of Jesus is as the “faithful witness” (prophet), “first begotten of the dead” (priest), and “prince of the kings of the earth” (king). Note Psalms 89:27. The word “loved” is in present tense – His love is always present, and the proof of that love is He washed our sins in His own blood. “Washed” means to cleanse and purify. As often said, our salvation is free, but not cheap! Jesus shed His blood that we might be made a kingdom of priests unto God and His Father. One day, we will reign as kings with Him, but right now, we are to enter into a priestly ministry by serving Him and interceding in prayer for others. No wonder John exclaimed,
“To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1:6
vs. 7 This verse moves forward to Jesus’ appearing when the entire world will behold Him and acknowledge He is truly the Son of God. This coming was prophesied in Psalms 86:9, Zechariah 12:10, Matthew 24:27, Philippians 2:10-11, and Revelation 19:11-16.
vs. 8 Jesus Himself declares He is the All-inclusive One- alpha and omega being the 1st and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Every book ever written, every word of instruction, comfort, knowledge, direction, or information is given by utilizing only a few letters of the alphabet. Even so, in Jesus dwells all fullness of God, and we are complete in Him. He is all we need! He is also the Eternal One-
“which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty (Omnipotent).” 1:8
vs. 9 When John received this revelation, he was around his nineties. No doubt he was the oldest living disciple of the original twelve disciples of Jesus, yet he doesn’t hold himself up as greater than his fellow believers. Instead, he addressed himself as their brother and companion in tribulation. This refers to the suffering John endured and continued to endure for the testimony of Jesus. Patmos was a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, approx. 10 by 6 miles. It consisted of mainly rocky volcanic hills. History indicates John was exiled to this barren place and forced to work in the mines. (For more historical information, check Pre-Trib Research Center.)
vs. 10 It was during this time of hard toil and suffering John was given this revelation of Jesus. He was transported in spirit to the Lord’s Day. This does not refer to Sunday, when Christians today meet to worship the Lord, or the Sabbath. Instead, it refers to the “Day of the Lord,” which is mentioned both in Old and New Testament as being the 7 years’ tribulation, including the 1,000 years reign of peace.
vs. 11. John hears a voice behind him saying,
“I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:” 1:11
The words in red is Jesus Himself speaking. He is giving John instruction to write what he saw in a book and send it to the 7 churches in Asia, which He names. The Lord is specific and complete in all He does.
vs. 12 While John was in spirit on this day, he heard a voice behind him. It is significant John did not see the lamp stands until he turned to look behind him. Remember, the Lord’s Day will begin at the end of the dispensation of grace, which we live in now. This grace age, sometimes called the church age, began at Jesus’ resurrection and will last until the beginning of Tribulation. Why all the fuss over this? Because the vision of the 7 candlesticks has to do with events of this grace age. Us today.
The 7 lamp stands represent the 7 churches (see vs. 20). These, in turn, represent the whole church, or body of Christ. Notice these are lamp stands – that which holds light, but is not the light itself. Jesus is the Light, and each individual church or assembly is responsible to shine forth the light of Jesus to all. Also, each lamp stand is separate from the other – each is to hear from the Lord as He speaks directly to them.
vs. 13 In the midst of the churches is Jesus. Our first description of Him is “One like unto the Son of man.” This reminds us of His becoming a man that He could give Himself as sacrifice for our sins. In John 5:27, we read God has given Jesus authority to execute judgement because He is the Son of man. Because He took our judgement upon Himself, He now has authority to execute judgement – in this manner we see Him in the midst of the church. Clothed with a garment down to the foot was typical clothing of the high priests as they ministered to God. Jesus is our High Priest, and as such, always in our midst. Remember He is seen here as the resurrected Christ. The golden girdle about His breast speaks of His divine authority.
vs. 14 His head and hair, white as snow, show wisdom, glory, and purity (see Proverbs 16:31). His eyes as a flame show His ability to pierce into the hearts of men, thus judge righteously.
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” Proverbs 15:3
vs. 15 Brass in scripture represents judgment, as seen by the brazen altar. Jesus’ feet like brass shows that He stands in the righteous judgment of God. When you read of His voice like the sound of many waters, think of the mighty roar of Niagara Falls. The majestic, awesome power of the voice that stilled a stormy sea, and raised Lazarus from the dead, is the same gentle voice whispering to our hearts, changing the course of our lives, directing us in His will. This is who Jesus is.
vs. 16 Jesus told John the 7 stars in His right hand are the angels of the 7 churches. Angel means “messenger.” This same word is used in scripture of both heavenly and human beings. Some have understood these in reference to be heavenly beings the Lord has put over each of His churches to guide and help. However, John is giving these letters to the angels of the churches, and nowhere in scripture do we read God giving a human a message for a heavenly being. Also, we don’t read in scripture God placing certain heavenly angels over individual churches. Further, there seems to be no distinction in the message given between the angel and the church itself – what is said to the church is for the angel to heed also.
Therefore, these letters must be addressed to the leaders, or pastors, of the church. This shows how important it is for pastors to hear from God, as well their responsibility to relate God’s Word to the church. Jesus holds and guides these messengers, which shows the congregation’s responsibility to receive the Word which a true shepherd brings them from the Lord.
vs. 17 On the Mount of Transfiguration, John saw Jesus’ face shining as the sun, along with Peter and James. Once again John sees Jesus’ countenance as the sun, shining in his strength. The whole world around us can be in total darkness, when suddenly, the sun breaks forth in glorious beauty and power as it rises over the horizon, illuminating the entire sky – and the darkness is gone! This is our Lord. No surprise when John saw Him, he fell at His feet as dead. But Jesus touched him saying, “Fear not.”
vs. 18 Once more Jesus proclaims Himself as the first and the last, the all-inclusive One. So there would be no question Who He was, He told John He was the One Who lived as a man, died, and now alive forevermore. He also now holds the keys of hell and death – He has authority over man’s death and over his life thereafter.
vs. 19 This gives the divine outline of the book of Revelation. “The things which thou hast seen,” speaks of what John saw in chapter 1. “The things which are,” speaks of chapter 2-3, which occurs during the church age. “The things which shall be,” is given in chapter 4-22.
vs. 20 The 7 stars and 7 lamps are called a mystery, showing they are not to be understood as literal stars and lamps, but a representation of other things. Jesus proceeds with the explanation in the following chapters.