NT Prophecy – Revelation 1

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

  • Revelation 1:1-20

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Revelation 1:1 ‘Revelation raises questions.’: “The Revelation is a great book because it is the revelation of Jesus Christ! It is not, as some suppose, a book just for theologians, scholars, and historians. Although the book presents a complex message, it was written for ordinary people like us.
“We have choices as to what we will do with the Revelation. l warn you that it is entirely possible to turn the Revelation into a source of blight to your soul. On the other hand, it is possible to find in this Revelation a great source of light and blessing.
“As far as l am concerned, we are dealing in the Revelation with the Word of God. To try to plumb divine mysteries and to learn divine truth without sorrow in our hearts and tears in our eyes is vanity and futility ten times multiplied.
“Revelation raises questions that none of us can answer. There are many details in God’s plan for the end of this age that we do not know. Admittedly, some preachers seem able to preach wonderful sermons about things they do not know, but l refuse to be placed in that category. …
“We need not decipher and decode mysterious symbols to determine the outcome of this conflict of the ages. There is a plain and radiant theme from the beginning to the end of the Revelation: Jesus is Victor!”

  • A. W. Tozer, Jesus is Victor!

Revelation 1:3 ‘The Book of Revelation as Prophecy’: “The book or Revelation is not only the closing portion of Scripture, but its message is a summary of the entire Word of God. Because of this, ‘blessed’ (Greek, makarios) is the person who reads or hears these words and takes heed to live by them. Prophecy should act as a cleansing element in the life of the believer. John writes this in relation to the rapture of the church: ‘We know that, when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure’ (1 John 3:2-3).
“When John says ‘the time is near’ (Revelation 1:3), he is identifying what is described in the book as the last great epochs of history that have been prophesied by the Lord. ‘Time’ (Greek,
kairos) is not simply about chronology but about the ‘seasons, epochs, significant periods’ of events that mark earth’s history. Henry Morris states:
“The exhortation to recognize the imminence of the ‘time’ is explicitly repeated at the end of the book (22:10). If it was urgent for Christians in John’s time to study this book of prophecy, how much more urgent it is for those of us who are 1900 years closer to the time when it will all be actually taking place (The Revelation Record p. 36).
“The heart of the book of Revelation describes the Tribulation period on earth. ‘Is near’ (Greek,
engys) is related to the Greek word egnos, which can be translated ‘it is certain, guaranteed, sure to take place.’ These things are going to happen! The believer who lives by God’s divine time line is blessed and understands that what we now know is not all there is. There is coming an end to the sinful story of the human race. And that story is described in Revelation, which concludes with the advent of a new heaven and a new earth. Sin will be eradicated and eternal blessings will follow for those who are saved in Christ.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Revelation 1:3 ‘practical application’: “The aim of the book of Revelation is not to lead us into speculation but is meant for practical purposes. Things written concerning the future are not intended so much to gratify our curiosity as to stimulate our watchfulness. The main objective is to keep us constantly on the lookout.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Revelation 1:5 ‘Jesus stooped low in love’: “He loved us condescendingly. The poverty of our resources compels us to put up with defiled and broken things and make them better. But God is so full of power that, if a thing is broken, it is never worth his while to mend it. He could make another race of creatures and leave sinful people to die. When Christ gives his hands and feet to be sacred fountains of blood and we are cleansed through his death and agony—this is compassion like a God. This is a sight the likes of which heaven and earth have never seen. What love must he have for sinful people that he should stoop as low as this?”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Revelation 1:5 ‘Christ’s net of Tolerance’: “When we love with expectations, we say, ‘I love you. But I’ll love you even more if …’
Christ’s love had none of this. No strings, no expectations, no hidden agendas, no secrets.
“His love for us was, and is, up front and clear. ‘I love you,’ he says. ‘Even if you let me down. I love you in spite of your failures.’
“One step behind the expectations of Christ come his forgiveness and tenderness. Tumble off the tightrope of what our Master expects and you land safely in his net of tolerance.”

  • Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior

Revelation 1:5, 7 ‘Jesus Christ: Ruler of the Kings of the Earth’: “These two verses testify to the first and the second comings of the Lord Jesus. He is the ‘faithful witness’ of God’s plan of redemption (verse 5). Scott points out that ‘the whole life of our Lord from the manger to the Cross is embraced in this comprehensive title. The epithet “the faithful” is in marked contrast to all preceding witnesses for God’ (Exposition of the Revelation, p. 25). The expression ‘the ruler of the kings of the earth’ is an allusion to Psalm 89:35-37, which speaks of the establishment of the throne of David in terms of the moon, which is a faithful witness in the sky. It is to this end that the book of Revelation is headed.
“The Lord Jesus will someday reign and rule in Jerusalem over the people of Israel and worldwide over the nations of earth. Christ also guarantees resurrection from the dead and new life for those who trust Him. He is the ‘firstborn’ (Greek,
prototokos), the preeminent one who makes possible the resurrected eternal life. Christ is the promised seed who will sit on David’s throne as ‘the firstborn from the dead [ones]’ (Revelation 1:5; cf. Acts 2:29-32). Though He is presently the promised King, He is not yet reigning in the earthly historical sense over ‘the kings of the earth.’ Someday He will be ‘the ruler’ before whom all sovereigns and peoples will bow (see Revelation 19:11-16). He is also the One who ‘loves us’ and releases us from our sins ‘by His blood.’
“Christ’s second coming is brought into focus in 1:7. His coming ‘with the clouds’ will be seen by every eye and is a dominant picture in Scripture. This prophecy is first mentioned to the Jews in Zechariah 12:10-14. The Scriptures point out that they are those ‘who pierced Him.’ The Lord repeats this prophecy of His coming in the clouds before His disciples (Matthew 24:30) and at His trial before Caiaphas and the Jewish Sanhedrin (26:64). Both the Jews and ‘all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him’ when He returns (Revelation 1:7). This glorious but tragic scene is mentioned again in Luke 23:28 and John 19:37.
“Because Christ’s prophesied return is such an important doctrine in Scripture, particularly in the book of Revelation, John closes Revelation 1:7 with the benediction, ‘So it is to be. Amen’ (NKJV).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Revelation 1:5-7 ‘Jesus singled out for praise’: “In verses 5b-7 Jesus is singled out for praise, extolling his redemptive love, which expressed itself in his death (see Rom. 5:6; Gal. 2:20). This gives a clue to the Christian readers as to what they might expect. If God the Son shed his blood, might not they shed theirs? The believers constituted a kingdom and a priesthood to serve God. The type of rule (kingdom) and intercession (priesthood) by which the believers are to serve God are defined by the example of Christ who died. ‘Glory and power’ (v. 6) are ascribed to Christ in the first of several doxologies (4:11; 5:12-13; 7:12; 11:17-18). Such expressions in the Scriptures are reserved for God alone. That the Son shares glory points to the essential deity of the Son. John concludes his reference to the Son by pointing to his coming again, pulling together references from Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10. Here ‘every eye will see him’ (Rev. 1:7), rather than being limited to Israel as in Zechariah’s vision. They mourn either because they foresee their coming judgment, or because they see the error of their ways and shed tears of remorse.
“God, who is both the beginning and end (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet emphasize this), ratifies that all of which John speaks will come true (v. 8). The same affirmation occurs again in 21:5-6. Jesus calls himself the Alpha and Omega as he promises his return to earth again (22:12-13).”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 1:9-20 ‘Introduction to the Seven Churches’: “John identifies himself as a fellow partaker of the suffering being experienced by all believers for the sake of the kingdom. He had been exiled to the island of Patmos by the Roman emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96) ‘because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus’ (verse 9). John’s exile can be clearly dated to the closing years of Domitian’s reign (see Hitchcock, Date of Revelation). Patmos sits in the Aegean Sea, about 40 miles from Ephesus. John was given this last great prophetic vision while ‘in the Spirit on the Lord’s day’ (verse 10). The ‘Lord’s day’ refers to Sunday (the resurrection day). It could also be translated ‘a lordy kind of a day,’ meaning a day centered on the Lord, when the Spirit would give John a special message, the Lord’s message to him.
“The apostle is told to write ‘what you see’ and send it to the seven churches that were in the province of Asia—fairly close to the Aegean coast and near Patmos (verse 11). The vision is audible in that John hears ‘a loud voice’ (verse 10). Later we read of a voice that says, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things’ (4:1), or the things that follow the age of the churches. So this vision was not only heard, but seen.
“John then sees ‘seven golden lampstands’ (1:12) with one in the middle like ‘a son of man’ clothed in royal garments (see verse 13), a reference to Christ as seen in Daniel 7:13-14. John is given a dramatic presentation of Christ in glory reflecting the splendid attributes of authority and divinity (verses 14-16). The exalted Lord Jesus speaks to him: ‘I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades’ (verses 17-18).
“The command is then given for John to record ‘the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things’ (verse 19). The ‘things which you have seen’ refer to the glorified Lord Jesus in heaven (verses 12-18); ‘the things which are’ have to do with the seven churches in chapters 2-3; and ‘after these things’ refers to the future, or Revelation chapters 4-22.
“The ‘seven golden lampstands’ (1:12) are the seven churches to which John will write, and the ‘seven stars’ (1:16) are the angels (or messengers) of these churches. Before John can write about the future, he must address the current problems within the seven churches.
“There is some difference of opinion as to the identity of the ‘overcomers’ (Greek,
nikao, ‘to be victorious’) mentioned at the end of the letters to the seven churches. Some assume they are Christians who have triumphed over sin. But it is possible John is addressing members of the congregations who need to become victorious over the tug of the world and remain faithful to Christ the Savior. This fits with what the apostle says in 1 John 5:4-5: ‘For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ ”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Revelation 1:9 ‘tribulation and kingdom and patience’: “There are four characteristics that John and his believing readers share: (1) persecution for their faith; (2) membership in the redeemed community over which Christ serves as Lord and King; (3) eager anticipation of the glory of His coming millennial reign on earth; and (4) endurance and perseverance in spite of difficult times. island … called Patmos. Located in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and part of a group of about fifty islands, Patmos was a barren, rocky, crescent-shaped island in John’s day that is about ten miles long and less than six miles wide at its widest point. It served as a Roman penal colony. According to early Christian historian, Eusebius, the emperor Nerva (A.D. 96—98) released John from Patmos.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 1:10 ‘in the Spirit’: “This was not a dream. John was supernaturally transported out of the material world awake—not sleeping—to an experience beyond the normal senses. The Holy Spirit empowered his senses to perceive revelation from God (cf. Acts 10:11). Lord’s Day. This phrase appears in many early Christian writings and refers to Sunday, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection. Some have suggested this phrase refers to the Day of the Lord (see note on 1 Thess. 5:2), but the context doesn’t support that interpretation, and the grammatical form of the word Lord is adjectival, thus ‘the Lord’s day.’ Loud voice. Throughout Revelation, a loud sound or voice indicates the solemnity of what God is about to reveal.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 1:11 ‘the seven churches’: “These are each separate and distinct, independent churches, though they are one in Christ Jesus. Each church is, in itself, complete if it is ordered according to the mind of the Holy Spirit.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Revelation 1:17 ‘’: “ ‘Fear not’ (KJV) is a plant that grows plentifully in God’s garden. If we look through the lily beds of Scripture, we will continually find the sweet ‘fear nots’ peering out from doctrines and precepts, even as violets look up from among green leaves. Seeing his Savior in glorious array, John falls at his feet in deepest reverence. John‘s dread, occasioned by the majesty of the Lord Jesus, is followed by a command not to be afraid. Although he loves to see our holy awe, our Lord would not have that reverence freeze into a cold reserve or a slavish trembling. Though he is divine, he invites us to approach him without dread. Great as he is, we may dare to be free with him. Let our Lord be glorious to us, but still let him be near us.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Revelation 1:18 ‘’: “The central point of the atonement was death. There must be life to atone for sin. Therefore, Christ’s work was ended and done. There is nothing more to be done for his people’s redemption. As he himself said before he gave up his spirit, ‘It is finished.’ The expression ‘was dead’ comes like the sound of a peal of bells tolling the death of death and ringing in the jubilee of all who believe in Jesus. Yet although he was dead, he is dead no longer. If, when he died, he had never risen again but had left his cause in our puny hands, it would soon have failed. Yet there is a guarantee of victory in the fact that Christ is now alive.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Revelation 1:19 ‘now and later’: The framework for the book is given in 1:19, where John records what the Lord told him: ‘Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.’ The book falls into these three divisions: (1) the things John saw—chapter 1; (2) ‘what is now,’ current conditions as expressed in the seven letters to the seven churches-chapters 2 and 3; and (3) ‘what will take place later’-future events as described in chapters 4-22.
“l believe that the phrase ‘What will take place later’ refers to the events following the departure of the church. While chapters 2 and 3 cover the entire present age (from John’s time to our own), all of the chapters that follow concern the culmination of human events. Elsewhere in the Bible this startling event is called the great tribulation, or the time of the end, or Daniel’s Seventieth Week.  All the frightening turbulence of our own day is moving toward this event, and in this chapter we will
[see] briefly on some of the highlights of this unfolding of God’s plan.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible

Revelation 1 ‘Reflection’: “God is always first, and God will surely be last. To say this is not to draw God downward into the stream of time and involve Him in the flux and flow of the world. He stands above His own creation and outside of time; but for the convenience of His creatures, who are children of time, He makes free use of time-words when referring to Himself. So He says that He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last.
“Man in the plan of God has been granted considerable say; but never is he permitted to utter the first word nor the last. That is the prerogative of the Deity, and one which He will never surrender to His creatures.
“Man has no say about the time or the place of his birth; God determines that without consulting the man himself. One day the little man finds himself in consciousness and accepts the fact that he is. There his volitional life begins. Before that he had nothing to say about anything. After that he struts and boasts and utters his defiant proclamations of individual freedom, and encouraged by the sound of his own voice he may declare his independence of God and call himself an ‘atheist’ or an ‘agnostic.’ Have your fun, little man; you are only chattering in the interim between first and last; you had no voice at the first and you will have none at the last. God reserves the right to take up at the last where He began at the first, and you are in the hands of God whether you will or not.
“This knowledge should humble us and encourage us, too. It should humble us when we remember how frail we are, how utterly dependent upon God; and it should encourage us to know that when everything else has passed we may still have God no less surely than before.
“Adam became a living soul, but that becoming was not of his own volition. it was God who willed it and who executed His will in making Adam a living man. God was there first. And when Adam sinned and wrecked his whole life God was there still. Adam did not know it perhaps, but his whole future peace lay in this—that God was there after he had sinned. The God who was there at Adam’s beginning remained there at his ending. God was there last.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous

Rev. David Robertson, the wee flea (theweeflea.com), has recently started a series of videos on a Bible Study of the Revelation and what it means to us today.  I will copy links to his episodes.  Although his videos are 5-10 minutes (trying to stay at five minutes), he is carefully covering a few verses each episode.  With me only covering one or two chapters once per week, I may still move forward.

Coffee and Revelation – Introduction
Coffee and Revelation – Parts 2 & 3, Revelation 1:4-6  – Two videos.
Coffee and Revelation – Part 4, Revelation 1:7
Coffee and Revelation – Part 5, Revelation 1:8
Coffee and Revelation – Part 6, Revelation 1:9
Coffee and Revelation – Part 7, Revelation 1:10
Coffee and Revelation – Part 8, Revelation 1:11-13
Coffee and Revelation – Part 9, Revelation 1:14
Coffee and Revelation – Part 10, Revelation 1:15
Coffee and Revelation – Part 11, Revelation 1:16
Coffee and Revelation – Part 12, Revelation 1:1-16
Coffee and Revelation – Part 13, Revelation 1:17-18
Coffee and Revelation – Part 14, Revelation 1:19-20

My Thoughts

A few administrative comments first.  I chose Revelation, not because I am an expert, but because I am not.  I had studied Ezekiel, Daniel, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.  I felt a need to return to the New Testament for a few months, and since I had just done some of the Old Testament history, I did not wish to go into Acts immediately after Ruth.  And frankly, I learn a lot in putting these lessons together.  I am only covering the first chapter this week, so that if I can cover two chapters next week, I can cover the seven letters to the churches, but since I have not started writing it, I may go with one chapter at a time for a while.

This chapter almost feels like an introduction to the casual reader, but it gives a description, that may sound familiar.  Daniel 10 had similar details.

But first, the Apostle John hears the voice before he sees the person who is speaking.  John is commissioned to write a letter to each of seven churches, all not far away, but all on the mainland while John is exiled to Patmos.  And John is to write what he sees, a prophecy.

Then when John sees Jesus in His glorified state, he falls face down as if dead.  I have often thought that would be my reaction when I see Jesus in that state, but Jesus reaches down and places His hand on John, reassuring him.  Jesus identifies Himself as the Alpha and Omega, and other first/last combinations.  God can only make that claim, but oddly God is infinite.  Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last.  But God being infinite, God is before the beginning, and He is after the end.  But as I have mentioned before, none of us can fully grasp infinity, even those that studied it in school.

As for Jesus Himself, the Daniel 10 description is a little different, but the eyes of fire and the glowing bronze legs and feet are a match.  Probably words are impossible to describe the sight.  As such, I doubt if anyone could seriously quibble when Daniel says the face was like lightning while John says the face was like the sun.  Too bright to gaze upon or it would make you go blind kind of covers both of those.

The imagery is interesting.  There are seven stars representing the angels of the churches and seven lampstands representing the churches themselves.

And blessed is the person reading the prophecy and blessed are those who hear it and take it to heart.

What is being said there is that this revelation (singular) is a promise of things to come.  The word “soon” is used, but since God is outside time and space and we cannot grasp eternity and infinity very well, a couple of thousands of years will seem like less than a snap of the finger when we are on the other side.  But in considering it “soon” and taking heed of what the prophecy means, we will live a life as if prepared to go … any day now.  It is not a delusion.  I was a Boy Scout, an Eagle Scout.  We were taught to be prepared, but we were never told what to be prepared for.  The book of the Revelation tells us what to be prepared for.

And as we get into the imagery in later chapters, I may refer back to the Charles Spurgeon quote for Revelation 1:3, rather than speculation, we should be prepared and constantly on the lookout.  Jesus may come very soon.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

Revelation 1: 1. If asked to share three facts about Jesus that are especially significant to you, what would you say? Why are these facts so important to you?
“2. How will you personalize and pass along the blessing of verse 3?
Revelation 1: 1. Using the analogy of a lighting fixture to describe the spiritual condition of your church, what kind fits your situation (a chandelier, a nightlight, etc.)? In what condition is it?
“2. Are you right now ‘on Patmos’ (suffering) or ‘in the Spirit’ (reigning)? Why? Can both happen at once?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There are two sets of questions for this chapter.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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