Revelation 1

Revelation 1  •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 7
“THE Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw." (Rev. 1:1, 21The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. (Revelation 1:1‑2).)
This wonderful book, or prophetic utterance as it may be called, speaking broadly (see verse 3), is the "revelation of Jesus Christ. It was given to that blessed holy Man by God Himself in orator that He might show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass. We must bear in mind that many centuries have elapsed since the revelation was given, so that part of it, as we shall see more clearly further on, has been already fulfilled.
Those qualified to understand it are the servants of Jesus Christ. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, etc. (1 Cor. 2:1414But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14).)
But the servants are believers on Him, who have received the gift of the Spirit, and hence they are qualified to receive and understand spiritually the things which their Lord shows them, things which must shortly come to pass. They are communications from God, who foreknows all.
Jesus Christ does not communicate them to His servants direct. This blessed Man, Jesus, the Christ of God, is Lord and Head of all. Angels as well as men are made subject to Him. An angel and a man are both employed by Him as the means 'of communication with His servants. It is His angel, although the name is withheld. The man is His servant John, the beloved disciple, who pillowed his head upon the bosom of his Master, and who wrote the marvelous gospel concerning Him. Re who down here was Himself the sent One of God, sent His angel later on and signified it to His servant John on earth. And he bare a threefold record, first, of the word of God, secondly, of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and thirdly, of all things that he saw. Now the word of God abideth forever, and is living in itself and in all its effects. The testimony of Jesus Christ is His, and in Him all that God has spoken will be fulfilled. And all things which he saw are things which either circle around Jesus Christ, the Center of God's ways, or will be fulfilled by or through Him in blessing or in judgment.
The introduction to the book closes with a threefold blessing. "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." (Ver. 3.) First, the blessing of God rests upon the individual who reads. Secondly, upon those, the company of individuals, that hear (i.e., not who simply hear with the outward ear, but who hearken to) the words of the prophecy. The servants of Jesus Christ are to live by, every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God. ‘Thirdly, upon those who keep the things which are written therein. The three are intimately bound up; together —reading, hearkening, keeping. How sad in the light of this graciously proffered blessing that any should treat this wonderful book carelessly, as hard to be understood, and containing little or no profit. Satan is well pleased when men treat the word of God with lightness and indifference. Does our reader desire this blessing of God? Then let him read, hearken to, and keep the things written therein. For the time is at hand (or near) for the fulfillment of all that God has spoken.
The message of Jesus Christ in verse 4 comes through John. He addresses himself to the seven churches (or assemblies) which are in Asia, in that day a province of what we call Asia Minor, now under the dominion of the Turk'. The cities in which these assemblies of Christians were found are named in verse 11 and in chapters 2., 3. The prophet commences with a threefold greeting. First, "Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, which was, and which is to come." That is, from Him who is Jehovah, the great "I am," who is from all eternity, without beginning, and who lives to all eternity, without end, the omnipresent God. Secondly, "from the seven Spirits which are before his throne." Need we say that there is only one Holy Spirit; but no less than four times, in keeping with the character of the book, which contains many things presented in a sevenfold way, He is also presented in His sevenfold perfection as seven Spirits, Le., as the divine agency to carry out the whole will of God in relation to the church' and to the world. (Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:64John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; (Revelation 1:4)
1And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. (Revelation 3:1)
5And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. (Revelation 4:5)
6And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. (Revelation 5:6)
.) Thirdly, "from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the! prince of the kings of the earth." (Ver. 5.) That is, from Him whose revelation it is and who is immediately spoken of in a threefold character in relation to the past, the present, and the future. God has raised up many witnesses for Himself on earth, but Jesus Christ alone is the faithful Witness. And faithful even to the awful death of the cross, He lives now forever as the Firstborn from the 'dead. And shortly He shall come forth as the PrinceאGod's Prince—the Prince of princes (Dan. 8:2525And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. (Daniel 8:25)), the Prince of the kings of the earth, in that glorious world to come, which has such a prominent place in this wonderful prophecy.
The moment John has occasion to speak of this blessed One, his heart wells over in praise. To His love and work, he and all believers owe their all. Hence he bursts forth in an ascription of praise, etc., saying, " Unto him that loved [or loves] us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings [or a kingdom] and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. "As he is about to testify to all the wondrous things signified to him, his soul doubtless filled with the great solemnity of all the accompaniments of Christ's glory, he becomes deeply sensible of the love of Christ to His people, of the grace which led to the shedding of His precious blood to wash them from their sins, of the glorious character of the kingdom into which they had been brought, and of their wondrous position as priests to the God and Father of Jesus Christ." To him "therefore, he breaks forth," be the glory and the might to the ages of ages. Amen." It was the love of Christ shown in His death and blood-shedding that absorbed John's heart (as it surely, should that of every true-hearted believer to-day), and made him happy in tribulation in the isle of Patmos, banishing all fear, in spite of the awful judgments coming upon the earth, which he was about to depict.
The next verse stands as it were by itself. It speaks of the manner of the return of Jesus Christ, of its public character, and of its effects upon the whole nation of Israel, especially upon Judah and Benjamin, which took the lead in His rejection, etc. " Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth (or tribes of the land) shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." (Ver. 7.)
The word, "Behold," in scripture, generally calls our attention to a truth of moment. "Behold, he cometh with clouds." Most surely, "He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry." (Heb. 10:3737For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. (Hebrews 10:37).)
He who came in lowly bondsman's guise, and was rejected, will reappear with clouds in power and great glory. In that day every eye shall see the Man of God's choice, the One whom He delighteth to honor; those too which have pierced Him, and all the tribes of the land of Israel shall wail because of Him. Yea. Even so. These things must surely come to pass. Amen.
This is followed by a remarkable threefold presentation of the glory of His person. "I am [the] Alpha and [the] Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." (Ver. 8.) The words "the beginning and the ending" are not in the original. They appear to have been added to explain the statement of the Speaker, the Lord (God); that He, the great "I am," is the A and the Z of all things. And He is the eternally existing One. He is, He was, He ever will be. And He is the Almighty. Strong indeed is He who executeth His word.
Next John speaks of the wonderful vision which he was privileged to see in the isle of Patmos, in the Ægean sea. "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience [or endurance] of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Ver. 9.) Being the Lord's chosen vessel for the transmission of a wondrous message to the churches, John identifies himself with the saints as their brother and companion in trial in relation to the kingdom, being banished on account of that which was referred to in verse 2, namely, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Christ is omitted both times in verse 9 in the original when it speaks of Jesus. "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet." (Ver. 10.) John himself needed a preparation for this service, which could only be produced by the Holy Ghost. He became in the Spirit. It was on the Lord's day, the first of the new week, the day on which it was manifest through the resurrection of the faithful Witness, that He indeed was the Lord of all. (Rom. 14:8, 98For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. 9For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. (Romans 14:8‑9); 1 Cor. 6:1414And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. (1 Corinthians 6:14).) He heard a great voice, sounding to his ears as that of a trumpet, saying, "What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches [which are in Asia]; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea." (Ver. 11.) John is instructed to record that which he was about to see, and to send it to the seven assemblies. Seven here is the perfect spiritual number, and the seven assemblies addressed, and which are here called by the names of the cities in which they were gathered, are representative in one sense of the whole church of God at that moment upon the earth, and in another as we shall see in chapters 2. and 3., of the various successive phases of its history during the absence of Christ.
“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." (Ver. 12-16.)
Arrested by this mighty trumpet-like voice, John turned back to see. A marvelous sight meets his vision. First, he beholds seven golden candlesticks (or lamp stands). But, more wonderful still, he sees one like unto the Son of man, and that in a special character. He is clothed in priestly garments, and has priestly discrimination. John has to learn (and to transmit to us) that Christ is in the midst of His people in priestly holiness. He is Son over God's house, as we learn elsewhere. But here He is viewed like a (or the) Son Of man, in priestly character, as the One who scrutinizes and judges everything that is unsuited to God in the assemblies, according to that holiness which becomes His house. Let us take earnest heed to the characteristics of God's great priestly Administrator. He is clothed with a suited priestly garment reaching down to the feet; and His affections and compassions seem to be held in here with divine righteousness. There is a certain measure of reserve. He is girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow. "It is impossible for any Christian acquainted with Old Testament scripture to read this without his thoughts running to the presentation of the Ancient of days in Dan. 7:9-149I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. 12As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. 13I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:9‑14). The Son of man is the Ancient of days. Spotless purity characterizes the One to whom all judgment is committed. All His thoughts are holy and pure. He is the true Nazarite." His eyes were as a flame of fire. "Intense perception and penetrating judicial discernment characterize His all-searching gaze. Nothing can escape His scrutiny. We may lack transparency before men; but we are perfectly transparent to Him. He discerns every motive of our heart. He sees us through and through." His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace. "Brass is said to be the most unyielding of metals. He treads beneath His feet in the most unyielding and inexorable way, consuming in holy judgment everything that would work or lift up itself against God." His voice as the sound of many waters. "A voice of majesty and power which carries with it authority and commands obedience among all those who compose His church, gathered out from all nations." And he had in his right hand seven stars. "With the right hand of His might He held the seven lights in the midst of the darkness of the surrounding world, the secret meaning of which we shall see shortly." And out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword." His word goes forth from His lips in living, operative power, with a sharpness which penetrates between soul and spirit, and which is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:1212For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12).) "And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." The supreme power and authority of Him who is light is exercised in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands. He walks up and down in His official glory, the rays of the light of His presence penetrating everywhere.
“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead." Overwhelmed with the majesty and glory of the presence of Him whom he beheld, John fell at His feet. All strength left him and he was as one dead before Him. But He laid His right hand upon him, saying unto him, "Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the living one: and I became dead, and behold, I am living to the ages of ages, and have the keys of death and of hades." (Verses 17, 18.) This rendering of the original is more exact. (See J. N. D.'s Translation.) Putting His right hand of power and grace upon His prostrate servant, the Son of man enjoins upon him not to fear. And presenting Himself to him as the first and the last, the living One, for He is the source and author of life, He reminds His servant how He became dead-for He it is who went into death to overcome it for the glory of God. "And behold," He continues (a word constantly employed in scripture to call attention to something of deep moment) "I am living to the ages of ages." Neither could death hold, nor the guarded cave retain Him, nor was it possible that God's Holy One should see corruption. Come forth triumphant in life, He lives forever. To the ages of ages, which have no end, He is the glorious Man out of death, the living One, filling the sphere where death is unknown. "And have the keys of death and of hades." This is the One who, having overcome him `who had the power of death, now holds the keys of these two spheres, into which the bodies and souls of sinners enter, etc., and which will be finally, cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:1414And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:14).)
The living One commands His servant to write. "Write the things which thou has seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." (Ver. 19.)
This verse is the chief key to the right division of the Book of the Revelation. It divides it into three parts. First, that which John had seen, the vision of the One who walked in the midst of the seven lamp stands; secondly, "the things which are," that is, the things which were present at the moment that he wrote, and which are depicted in chapters 2. and 2., namely, the representative assemblies of God's church on earth; thirdly, "the things which shall be hereafter," or, after these, that is, after the things which are. "Hereafter" is indefinite, but the force of the original shows that the third clause of the verse refers to things which follow at once. Hence in chapter 4 you find the same words repeated at the commencement and at the close of the first verse. "After this, I looked" followed by an invitation to John to come up to heaven, and he would be shown things which must be hereafter, or after these.
In verse 20, the close of chapter 1., we find an explanation of the seven stars, and of the seven lamp stands. "The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches." The word "mystery" in scripture signifies "secret." When Christ ascended to glory, and the Holy Ghost came here below, the secrets were revealed. Hence we have an explanation of the meaning of the stars and lamp-stands. The seven stars are (the) angels of the seven assemblies. We often find "angels" spoken of as representative of God's people on earth. (Matt. 18:1010Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 18:10); Acts 12:1515And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. (Acts 12:15).) So here, in the aspect in which the assemblies are presented, we do not get the thought of nearness, intimacy and love as in several other scriptures. (Eph. 2:13; 5:2513But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)
25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25)
.) A certain distance and reserve are maintained. Generally speaking, there is more or less in the assemblies that which fails to correspond with the holiness of the One who is in the midst of them, and whose words John was to write. Hence He does not speak directly to the assemblies as such, but to the angels, who represent them. He holds the seven stars in His right hand—heavenly lights. These seven stars are angels of the seven assemblies. Christ holds them in His right hand. (Chapter 1:20; 2:1.) In grace He maintains them at first by His power, though later on they are no longer seen in His right hand. In chapter 3. I, where the seven stars are mentioned, the words "in his right hand" are omitted.
The seven lamp stands are golden. (Verses 12, 20.) They are the seven assemblies already referred to. Gold sets forth the righteousness of God. The priestly, One in their midst is girt with a golden girdle. All His ways are in righteousness. The saints compose the assemblies. God founded the assembly here in righteousness. Hence the assemblies are golden lamp stands in the sight of God. And Christ acts in government in the midst of them, so that their practical condition may correspond with what they are in Him.
The number seven in relation to both the stars and the lamp stands 'denotes heavenly completeness.