Commentary on Revelation Chapter 01
Revelation is the crown jewel of the 66 books of the bible. It provides the clearest portrait of ultimate reality, God's ultimate will, and the ultimate reason He created us. If we want to mature in our loyalty to Jesus and more accurately discern good and evil, this will be a very helpful book to read and understand.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2, NASB)
The word revelation means "uncovering" or "revealing." God is revealing certain truths to us in this book that previously weren't clear to us. And if he wants us to know, then it shouldn't be hard for us to figure out. The book of Revelation is just as much the word of God as any other book of the bible, and God wants us to understand it, so we can have confidence that if we recognize the narrative structure of this book and keep things simple we can figure out what Jesus wants us to know about the end of age.
What we are going to read is a revelation of Jesus that was given to Him by God so that He may share it with us. This revelation is all about Jesus and concerns the things which must soon take place. This is an important time-marker, which indicates that the majority of events described in this book will be future tense from the time it was written in the late first century. So an angel or "messenger" has been sent to John in order to bring us this message concerning the future. The word angel or "messenger" most often refers to two-winged cherubim, but in the book of Revelation, we will see in later chapters that this is not always the case.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heeds the things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3, NASB)
The book of Revelation is the only book of the bible that promises a blessing upon those who read it. No other book of the bible has the same promise. That means that this book is very important.
John to the seven church that 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, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth, to Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood — and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father — to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:4-6, NASB)
John writes this revelation to seven churches in Asia. He extends them grace and peace from God, who is described as the one "who is, who was and who is to come." That means that He has always been around and always will be around, something that only God can be. We humans can't be around forever, because we didn't exist before we were born and God has the power to cancel our existence. This phrase used to describe God will be interesting to remember when we contrast it in a later chapter with a phrase that is used to describe the Antichrist.
Now there are seven living Spirits before God's throne.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2, NASB)The first spirit is the Spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit. The last six of the spirits are living attributes, such as wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. These six spirits before the throne are personifications of very strong elements of God's character. God can actually take elements of his own nature and personify them into spiritual beings. And these spiritual beings operate and perform functions according to his will. Each one has a character and nature that is uniquely theirs and they all contribute to God by serving him and interacting with him.
John then equally extends to the seven churches peace and grace from Jesus Christ, who is described in quite a perfect way. He was the one who released us from our offenses by receiving our judgment on the cross two-thousand years ago, and He is the one who has made us to be a kingdom. We can't simply join the kingdom or add people to the kingdom. That is Jesus' job.
Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. (Revelation 1:7, NASB)
This is one of two very important verses in the first chapter regarding the return of Jesus. Remember this verse. The next time Jesus returns to this earth, He will be seen in the sky coming through the clouds or with clouds surrounding Him and everyone will see Him. Therefore, if you ever happen to come across a man who says he is Jesus or the coming messiah, if he wasn't seen by everyone on the earth arriving through the clouds in the sky, he isn't Jesus. It doesn't matter if he wears sandals and raises people from the dead, if he didn't arrive through the clouds in the sky, he's probably a servant of Satan. Remember that, because if you actually do happen to live into the tribulation, you'll see a lot of false messiahs running around claiming to be Jesus, as we see even now.
'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.' (Revelation 1:8, NASB)
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all of these things always. God is the one and only Almighty. And notice that now God Himself also tells us that He is, He was, and He is to come.
I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 1:9, NASB)
Patmos is a small island of 13 square miles that sits in the Mediterranean sea just southwest of Turkey. John happened to be on that Island at that particular time while he was serving the Lord.
I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, 'Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and the Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.' (Revelation 1:10-11, NASB)
John found himself in spirit, which means that he was operating in the spiritual realm. He was most likely transported spiritually to a place of audience with Jesus, and it happened to be the Lord's day which refers to the day that Jesus had resurrected. When the voice behind John said to be like the sound of a trumpet, this means that the voice was not literally a trumpet, but instead sounded like a trumpet.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands 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. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 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. 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. (Revelation 1:12-16, NASB)
This is the second important passage regarding the return of Jesus, because this is what Jesus truly looks like. First, He is wearing a robe that reaches to His feet. This is quite literal, because nowhere is there any indication that it ought to be interpreted symbolically. Jesus also wears a golden belt and has super white hair. Jesus does not have brown hair, so any painting that tries to portray Jesus returning with brown hair is wrong. In his true spiritual form, as the resurrected Lord and Mighty King, Jesus' hair is white. Additionally, his eyes are like a flame of fire, which means that He most likely has fierce and fiery eyes, probably red or orange or yellow or all of the above. No, Jesus does not have blue or brown eyes. Also, Jesus' feet are glowing red, similar to when metal is heated. His voice is pretty fierce too, because it sounds like many waters. His face is also brilliant and bright, probably exactly as Peter, James and John saw it when Jesus was transfigured before them on the high mountain.
Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. (Matthew 17:1-2, NASB)
Lastly, a sharp two-edged sword comes out of His mouth. However, is it an actual sword? There are a few other verses that might help us understand if this is a literal sword that comes out of Jesus' mouth. When Jesus is waging a war on the Earth, a sharp sword comes out of His mouth and He uses it to strike down the nations.
From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. (Revelation 19:15, NASB)So this sword has the power to kill and is used to kill the nations at the end of the tribulation. However, the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.
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. (Hebrews 4:12, NASB)
Additionally, Isaiah — concerning the same event — confirms that the weapon Jesus uses to fight the war on earth is the breath or power that proceeds from His mouth.
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11:4, NASB)
The connection between Jesus' breath and His power is mentioned on occasion in the scriptures.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. (Psalm 33:6, NASB)
By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of His anger they come to an end. (Job 4:9, NASB)
So, is this deadly and powerful sword that comes out of Jesus' mouth a literal sword or is it a metaphor for the very words of his mouth, that his very breath and words are so powerful that they are like a double-edged sword? It would seem to be the latter. In any matter, this is what Jesus, the Son of Man, the messiah, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace really looks like. So remember this, because if you ever run across a guy who says that he's the Christ and he doesn't look like this, then he's not Jesus.
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, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.' (Revelation 1:17-18, NASB)
This is definitely Jesus that is standing before John. Jesus had died on the cross but was resurrected in full glory and is alive forevermore. Now notice how John responds to Jesus here. This is how we might all naturally respond if we had any reverence for our fierce and mighty Lord. Notice also how Jesus has the keys of death and of Hades. He is the one who chooses who goes down there, not us. And He is also the only one who has the power and authority to release and resurrect those down their to be present before His throne at their appointed time of judgment.
Therefore, write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. (Revelation 1:19, NASB)
The Book of Revelation is the one of the most linear and chronological books of the bible, which is made evident by a very important series of time markers. Time markers are very crucial in the Book of Revelation, because they reveal to us when certain events are to occur. Here Jesus first tells John to write the things which he has seen. This means that Jesus is telling John to write the first chapter of Revelation, all of the things John has just seen. Next, Jesus tells John to write the things which are. This means that the next couple chapters will focus on this present age. Finally, Jesus tells John to write the things which will take place after these things. This means that after John writes about this present age, he will also have to write everything he sees about the ages to come.
As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lamp stands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:20, NASB)
When Jesus wants us to know that something is to be interpreted symbolically or metaphorically, He will definitely let us know. Otherwise, else as scripture interprets scripture, we should read everything quite literally. Here Jesus tells us that the seven stars from verse 16 are symbolic for the angels that govern or oversee the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands from verse 12 are symbolic for the seven churches that Jesus wants John to distribute the revelation to. However, these lamp stands might also be more than just a symbol. They might be actual spiritual implements or objects that have their counterpart in reality. This physical reality is being held together by Jesus as a construct that interacts with the spiritual reality. Therefore, there are often elements of the physical world that may mirror or affect the spiritual world, and there are elements of the spiritual world that may affect the physical world. This would be important to consider when we discuss later chapters.Back