Notes from Revelation 1
Here are my study notes for the first chapter of Revelation.
Verses to look at before diving into the Apocalypse:
2 Peter 1:20-21 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
2 Peter 3:11 “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?”
Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” [“revealeth” is the same word, “apocalypse”]
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
The revelation/apocalypse/unveiling of Jesus Christ. Written to Christ’s servants. So who is this book written to? Servants of Christ – Christians/Believers! It is written to us, therefore we should not neglect it.
The phrase “shortly come to pass” conveys a meaning that these things will happen in a short time span, not necessarily that they’ll happen soon after being written although on God’s timescale “soon” is relative.
“He is said to have ‘signified it’-that is, He made it known by signs or symbols.” - Ironside
2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
3 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.
Here’s the first blessing in the book. The only book of the Bible with a blessing for those who read it, hear it, and keep those things written in it.
4 John 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;
So John is going to write to these seven churches and we’ll see that in the next two chapters. Even though some of these churches are rebuked very strongly, the message to them all is the one we see all over the New Testament: Grace & peace.
God is eternal, the great “I am.” Jesus said, “before Abraham was, I am.”
It only took until verse four of the first chapter to run into something a bit confusing. Who are these seven spirits? Some think this means 7 attributes of one spirit or a seven-fold spirit (the Holy Spirit) like the fourfold gospels are four perspectives of one chain of events. Angels might also be meant (see Revelation 5:6). Seven spirits are mentioned a few more times in the next several chapters of Revelation which we’ll look at as we come to them. One thing we can look at that gives us a clue is Isaiah 11:2 that mentioned 7 aspects of the Holy Spirit.
5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
Colossians 1:13-18. Christ is above all things. He is not the first to die and rise again but the first to die and rise again and never to die again! Christ is over all. The first sentence of this verse is to show us the glory and authority over all things. See Hebrews 1:1-2.
Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Almost every translation besides the KJV has “Kingdom of Priests” here rather than “Kings and Priests.” Written to Christians, 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” This shows how greatly God has elevated us, and this is quoted from Exodus 19:6.
We are priests in that we get to be in service to The Almighty. What did Old Testament priests do? One major thing was to make sacrifices. Do we sacrifice today as Christian? Turn to Romans 12:1-2. We will reign with Christ: Revelation 20:6 & 2 Timothy 2:12
7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
This is a beautiful verse sandwiched between two “Amens” to show its importance. We may not agree on the timeline of Revelation, or when these events will take place, but it is with 100% certainty that Jesus Christ will return in the same way He left.
Let’s look at a few verses starting with Daniel 7:13-14. Daniel saw the Lord coming in the clouds. Jesus talked about this in the Synoptic Gospels. Let’s go to Mark 13:25-27 for one example, then to Acts 1:6-11. The principal verse on the rapture has the same thing: 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
Now back in Revelation we see again that the Second Coming of Jesus with be seen by every eye, including those who pierced him. Let’s look at Zechariah 12:9-10. This is a prophecy with a twofold fulfillment as we sometimes see in Biblical prophecy. It was first fulfilled after Christ’s crucifixion (see John 19:37), and will have another fulfillment at the Second Coming. Who are “they also which pierced Him”? Matthew 27:25 says, “Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” This verse covers Jews, and all people on earth who shall wail because of Him.
How will every eye see Him? I don’t know, but I don’t think we’ll see Him “virtually” such as on TV or social media. I think we’ll actually see Him and that’s why we are told to “look up” (Luke 21:27-28).
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
He is from everlasting to everlasting. Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” And Isaiah 44:6 says, “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” He is the Great “I am” who exists eternally, not bound by time.
9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
So the first 8 verses are essentially an introduction, and now we have the Apostle John who identifies himself as a brother and companion in tribulation. Remember Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” And Paul said that we must “through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
Early church fathers wrote that John was heavily persecuted, and they tried to kill him with poison and by boiling him in oil. Finally, he was exiled to the island of Patmos which is off the coast of Turkey—kind of an Alcatraz—for the “crime” of what? For the “Word of God” he says. The only Apostle to die of old age, persecuted and tortured beyond what most of us could bear because he refused to stop preaching the gospel. We know from extra-Biblical sources that John was pastor at the church in Ephesus before being sent to Patmos.
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
To be “in the Spirit” likely means at least that John was under the heavy influence of the Holy Spirit on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. In Greece today, Sunday is called Κυριακη and the word for lord is Κυριος. He heard a great voice like a trumpet. Not exactly a trumpet but “as a trumpet” he says, and this is the language he uses throughout this book. Things appear “like” something else but not that exact thing.
In the same way back in Exodus, God called out to Moses before giving him the 10 commandments (Exodus 19:16-19).
11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
So John is getting clear instructions from God to write what he sees and send it to the 7 churches in modern day Turkey.
12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
Right away we see imagery and people can get lost here, but many of the signs and symbols in this book are explained to us. Go down to verse 20 for the spoiler and we see that the candlesticks represent the churches.
13 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.
John heard the voice of God, and turns to see Jesus, described as one “like unto the Son of man.” Why? Because Jesus is God. Separate but the same. He is dressed as our High Priest because He is our High Priest right now (Hebrews 4:14-16). He was walking in the midst of the churches. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
Just like the description back in Daniel 7:9. This describes the holy purity and brilliance of our Savior.
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
“Sound of many waters” makes me think of Niagara Falls (see Jeremiah 10:13; Ezekiel 43:2).
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
Spoiler alert: in verse 20 we’re told that the seven stars represent seven angels of the seven churches which we’ll look at when we get there. A sharp twoedged sword out of His mouth represents His word and His justice (see Hebrews 4:12 and Ephesians 6:17). His face was bright and powerful like the sun in the middle of the day in summer. We also saw this on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17:2, “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.”
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
John didn’t slowly bend down to pray, he collapsed at the magnificence before him. This happened several times in Scripture like in Ezekiel 1:28, Matthew 17:6, Daniel 8:17, etc. Jesus comforted him with His eternity. Isaiah 41:4 says, “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he.” Jesus is God.
18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Jesus died for us and rose, never to die again. What does it mean that He has these keys? If I have keys to my car, what does that make my car? It makes it mine, and I have control of when it drives forward and when it goes in reverse. Jesus has power of life and death, power to raise from the dead and power to destroy the living.
19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
Many commentators cite this as a key verse in understanding and dividing Revelation. Chapter 1 includes the things John saw, chapters 2 & 3 describe things that are, and 4-22 describe things that will come in the future.
20 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: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
And verse 20 here clears up any confusion that might have been from what was described above. There is still a difficulty here though with what is meant by the angels of the churches. Most people, including myself, think that this refers to the pastors of those churches. The word for angel just means messenger, and the pastor’s role is to deliver the message of the gospel (αγγελος and ευαγγελιον). We’ll look at that in the next couple chapters.