Background of book
Prologue - Revelation 1:1 – 3
Vs. 1: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” – The Greek word for Revelation is “apocalypse” which means unveiling, or more specifically the unveiling of something that was once hidden. Professor Michael J. Gorman writes in his book READING REVELATION RESPONSIBLY, “(This means) it is a revelation about Christ, from Christ, or both.”
“Events that must soon take place.” – History is not a random sequence of unrelated events, but a divinely orchestrated of events that must come to pass. Now, many have an issue with the word, “shortly” or “soon take place”. According to theologian Robert Mounce, “One solution is to understand ‘shortly’ in the sense of suddenly, or without delay once the appointed time comes.” (Mounce p. 65). However, some also believe that John is speaking of the persecution of the church that did, in fact, take place shortly thereafter. And some hold to taking the word in a straightforward sense. This means that in the prophetic view of the word, the end is always impending or imminent.
Vs 3: “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the Church” A blessing is pronounced on those who read this letter. Not only to those who read it but those who read it aloud. Reading scripture aloud publicly was a Jewish practice. At first, someone from the congregation was chosen to read and this person probably had proficiency in the art of reading. The ability to read well was not something that was a common trait. The position of Scripture reader became an official office in the early church.
“the words of this prophecy…” John sees this work as prophetic literature that is on par with the OT prophetic books thus possessing an authority that required the obedient response of all believers.
“And he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says” Not only are those blessed who read it but also those whom both hear (by faith) and keep (obedience) to all that is written in the letter.
The Vision - Revelation 1:4 - 20
Verse 4: The author reveals himself to be John. It is widely held and my personal belief that the author is the Apostle John, and it is from his viewpoint that we will read this letter.
“Seven Churches in the Province of Asia” – The NT refers to Asia as the Roman province known as Asia Minor or modern-day Turkey. It is not exactly clear why Revelation is addressed to these seven churches, but it is suggested that the imperial cult (Roman Caesar worship) was widespread in these seven cities. There were other churches in Asia Minor other than the seven mentioned here and it is assumed they are of equal importance.
One reason it is believed that the letter was written to seven churches is that the number seven represents completeness, thus this is a letter written to the complete or universal Church.
“Grace to you and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come.” Grace and peace come from a threefold source…. “who is, who always was, and who is still to come.” Here, John paraphrases the divine name to remind his readers that God is eternally existent… He has no beginning or end. This reminder is written as it is appropriate at a time when the church was in the shadow of impending persecution. The future of the church is uncertain, so they needed hope in the one who is sovereign over all humanity.
“Seven Spirits…” Some interpret this to represent the complete manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s being. Some see this as a reference to the seven archangels of Jewish Tradition. In the non-canonical book of Enoch 20:1 – 8 these angels are named Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel. However, it is unlikely these are angels since it would be a strange intrusion of Jewish tradition into Christian thought. There is uncertainty as to what or whom these seven angels represent conclusively but we can safely deduce that they are part of a heavenly entourage that has a special ministry in connection to Christ.
Verse 5: Grace and peace proceed from the eternal God, the seven Spirits, and from Jesus Christ who has the threefold title of …
Verse 7: cf. Daniel 7:13 & Zech. 12:10. Jesus will return as the victorious King and when HE returns his sovereignty will be openly displayed “And everyone will see him even those who have pierced.” The wailing will not be the same as in Zech. Instead, it will be wailing that results from impending judgment.
Verse 8: “Alpha and Omega…” The Alpha and omega represent the Hebrew Aleph, and Tau, which are regarded not only as the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet but include every letter in between. God is the sovereign Lord of all human history. As the sovereign Lord he is the “Almighty”. He is the beginning and the end and everything in between.
Verse 9: The Apostle John writes this letter from the island of Patmos. It was a rocky island located in the Aegean Sea. It was an exile island where people were sent who were banished for religious or political reasons. The Apostle John tells us he was exiled to Patmos for preaching the Gospel. Some believe that he was sent to the Island to receive the vision.
Verse 10 - 11: “It was the Lord’s Day and I was worshiping in the Spirit” – It is suggested “In the Spirit” means that John was taken from the Island of Patmos and transferred to the throne room of Heaven (we see this in Chapter 4). Others suggest and probably more rightly that John was in a trance-like state, or he had a holy vision or revelation.
Early Christians recognized Sunday as the day Jesus rose from the dead, so it is believed the Lord’s Day was Sunday. Pagans would also set aside a day to honor the emperor, and in response, Christians chose the first day of the week to honor Christ.
John hears a loud voice telling him to write down what he is told and send it to the seven churches. According to D.A. Carson, “The cities were both postal and administrative centres. It has been reckoned that at the time of John’s writing this area had the greatest concentration of Christians in the world.”
Verse 12 – 16: John turns around to see the person who is speaking to him, and he is not prepared for what he is about to see.
In the next few verses, John gives the reader a vivid description of the risen and glorious savior. These verses are filled with symbols and are a glimpse of our Savior in his full glory in the heavenly places.
Verse 17: John’s response was probably no different than yours or mine if we encountered Jesus in His full glory. He falls at Jesus’ feet as if dead. His response is like the reactions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel when they had visions of Jesus.
Verses 17b – 20: Jesus reassures John, “Don’t be afraid…” Jesus says this repeatedly to comfort his people. John was living in a time of persecution, and it was going to get worse, so Jesus tells him not to be afraid. He comforts John and restores his confidence to hear the words that he was about to speak. Jesus assures him that he is the one who is the beginning and has no end; he has conquered death. He lived, he died, and he rose from the dead. He holds the key to death and Hades which means he has the power over death and Hades. All power belongs to God and God alone.
John is then commanded to write down the things he has seen (the vision of Jesus), the things he is about to hear (the letters to the church), and the things that will take place (the future and heavenly glories).
Although this letter is not specifically written to the church today, it is important to understand that the blessing continues for us today. We are blessed in reading and speaking the words of Revelation. We are also blessed when we take seriously and heed the words of Jesus. My hope and prayer for this series are that we would not only gain a better understanding and knowledge of Revelation, but we would also gain a better understanding of Jesus and His Kingdom which forever changes and transform us into the people that God has called us to be.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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