1The 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,
1The 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,
V11The 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,. The first word of the book, “revelation”, indicates that something is about to be unveiled. There is something to be made known which formerly was hidden. It is therefore remarkable that many Christians find this book incomprehensible and mysterious. I certainly do not claim that everything is easily explained, but I do say that the events in this book are not obscure, but on the contrary are made even clear. The veil over the future is taken away. You will indeed have to make efforts to figure out in which way the future is being clarified here. Many symbols for instance are being used. But your attempts in order to understand this portion of God’s Word as well will be truly rewarded when you continually remind yourself that God found it the best way to inform you about His thoughts concerning the future.
If you only read this first verse carefully for a moment and allow that to sink in, you will see that it is full of instructions for understanding the contents of this book. It says that it is the revelation “of Jesus Christ”. That means that Jesus Christ is the One, Who reveals or makes known (cf. Gal 1:1212For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but [I received it] through a revelation of Jesus Christ.). He acts. At the same time it is of course also true that the revelation refers to Him, which means that He is the One Who is being revealed. He is both the Center and the Executor of God’s counsels.
Then you read that “God gave Him” that revelation. That means that the Lord Jesus is seen here as Man, Who has taken a place of dependence. He receives everything out of the hands of God. He is so truly Man, that it is written of Him that He as Man does not know when the fulfillments of the things will be taking place (Mk 13:3232But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father [alone].). Here you stand before an inconceivable mystery of God and Man in one Person.
Then John writes about the purpose of the revelation and that is “to show His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place”. The bond-servants here are in the first place the prophets (Rev 10:77but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.; 11:1818And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time [came] for the dead to be judged, and [the time] to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”), but they also represent the believers in a general sense (Rev 7:33saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”; 19:55And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.”; 22:33There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him;; Rom 6:19-2219I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in [further] lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.21Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.22But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.). In order to be able to see the things to come and to take them in, you need to have the mind of a bond-servant. Contrariwise it will, if you know the things to come, make you a better servant. You will be serving with insight in accordance to the great plans of God, with a view to the church, Christianity, Israel and the world.
The word “show” actually plays an important role in the Revelation. Now God continually ‘shows’ things to John and John in his turn passes on what has been ‘shown’ to him. The aim of this book is to show that the judgment is coming. It will “soon” take place or ‘in a hurry’, which is rapidly, quickly.
You may say that it is not that bad, for it is nearly two thousand years ago that this has been written down and it still has not happened. But don’t be mistaken. This word remains in force, for time doesn’t count for God and for the faith (Psa 90:44For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or [as] a watch in the night.
; 2Pet 3:88But do not let this one [fact] escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.). And it “must” happen. You may say that there is mention here of a Divine must. God is not only the omniscient God Who tells what is going to happen, He is also the omnipotent God Who makes things happen the way He wants it.
In order to reveal His plans with the world and most of all to reveal His Son, He has used angels. Angels have actually been used more often by God as mediators (Acts 7:3838This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and [who was] with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.; Gal 3:1919Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.). That God uses angels indicates that there is a distance between Him and John to whom He gives His messages. This goes even more for those to whom John in his turn has to pass on those messages.
Formerly John received messages from the Lord while he was lying on His bosom (Jn 13:23-2623There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.24So Simon Peter *gestured to him, and *said to him, “Tell [us] who it is of whom He is speaking.”25He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, *said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”26Jesus then *answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He *took and *gave it to Judas, [the son] of Simon Iscariot.). That indicates confidentiality. However, John is not the apostle here, but the prophet. Prophets speak to God’s people when decay takes place. They warn for running the risk of judgment. John is the last one in the chain of five links through which the revelation of God reaches His bond-servants:
1. the revelation comes from God;
2. is of Jesus Christ;
3. by His angel;
4. to John;
5. to His bond-servants.
The revelation “was communicated” or “was signified” (NKJV) to John. This expression is typical for this book. It is derived from the word ‘sign’. John often receives the messages on the things to come by the means of signs or symbols, through which he gets to see what must take place. Something like that we see in Matthew 13 where the Lord makes use of parables. He uses them to teach. He tells His disciples why He does that and says that through His explanation they will be able to understand the deeper meaning of these parables, while it will remain hidden for the mass of people (Mt 13:10-17,34-3510And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”11Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.12For whoever has, to him [more] shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.13Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.14In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;
15FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES,
OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’
16But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.17For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see [it], and to hear what you hear, and did not hear [it].34All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable.35[This was] to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES;
I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.”
In this book you will see that the symbols which are used especially are borrowed from nature: the celestial bodies (the sun, the moon, the stars), the natural phenomena (e.g. the wind, lightning), the world of plants (e.g. trees, grass), the world of animals (e.g. the lamb, the grasshopper), the world of men (e.g. the mother and the child, the harlot and the bride), the world of culture (musical instruments, agricultural tools). Also the many numbers that appear in Revelation are often symbolic (two, three, three and a half, four, five, six, seven, eight, ten, twelve, twenty-four, forty-two, one hundred and forty four, six hundred and sixty six, one thousand, twelve hundred and sixty, sixteen hundred).
The explanation of it does not leave you to your imagination. The symbols are explained
1. by the book itself,
2. by the context of the book and
3. by the use of it in the Old Testament.
That does not mean that there is always one unambiguous explanation for each symbol. It also happens that certain matters or events are no symbols, but that they are to be taken literally.
All in all, by opening this book to read it we stand at the beginning of an exciting discovery journey. Let us do that with the humble mind of people who are aware that the omnipotent God wants to share His plans with us. Let us at the same time pray that what He reveals to us will have the effect that we put our life at His disposal.
Now read Revelation 1:1 again.
Reflection: Thank the Lord that He wants you to be involved with His future plans and ask Him to help you to live in accordance to that.
2who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, [even] to all that he saw. 3Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. 4John to the seven churches 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, 5and 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— 6and 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.
V22who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, [even] to all that he saw.. The revelation of which John is a witness and wherein he involves you, is no fabrication of himself. It comes to you with all the authority of the Word spoken by God. What John bore witness to about the coming events, comes from the mouth of God. As an extra emphasis it is added that what God has said is completely covered by “the testimony of Jesus Christ”. The Lord Jesus testifies of what God has spoken.
“All that he saw” is the contents of this whole book. Everything that John has seen and what he has written in this book is therefore the Word of God, while the testimony of Jesus Christ indicates the prophetic nature of it. After all it is about the revelation, the process of Him becoming visible in the world.
V33Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.. There is a special blessing attached to the reading and the reading to others of this book and to the hearing of the contents of it: you are counted to be “blessed”. No one can ‘read’ it and ‘hear’ it without being blessed. What you read and hear are messages about future events that are inspired word for word.
Beside reading and hearing it is also important to “heed the things which are written in it”. “To heed” means that you treasure these things in your heart, so that they may have an influence in the practice of your life too. After all your life is being guided out of your heart (Pro 4:2323Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it [flow] the springs of life.
). The call to keep returns one more time at the end of the book (Rev 22:77“And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”). What is written in this book is therefore stuck between these two calls.
As a matter of fact, that it is “written”, means that it is of lasting value. It is always possible to be read in order to see what must yet take place and it can also be read to check on what is happening around you. You therefore have a perfect manual of the future in your hands. I would like to advise you to often consult it for “the time” that everything will be brought to a decision “is near”. The Lord Jesus is about to appear and to judge.
V44John to the seven churches 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,. John is the one to write this book. The Lord Jesus said of him that he would remain concerning his ministry, till He comes (Jn 21:2222Jesus *said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what [is that] to you? You follow Me!”). That means that John also has a ministry regarding the future. He already achieves that ministry in a sense when he speaks in his first letter about the antichrist and the return of Christ and the decay that was already showing up. But the full achievement of it we find in this Bible book Revelation.
He writes the book “to the seven churches that are in Asia”. The mention of the number “seven” is not insignificant. The number seven represents perfection. The seven churches represent the whole church. Still there are seven different churches. You will see it better when we will be studying the chapters 2 and 3. That means that the whole church has manifested itself in different ways on earth.
You must have noticed in the letters which Paul has written to various churches that local churches are different from each other. That variety is not only to be seen in the different local churches, but also in the various periods of the existence of the church on earth. You recognize that directly when you only think of how the church was at the beginning and how the church is today. In that way there are more differences in the development of the church.
All those different churches may learn a lot from one another and we also can learn a lot from it. That’s why it is so wonderful that in God’s Word we have this writing of John to them.
It is also lovely to see that the blessing of “grace” and “peace”, which you can remember from the letters of Paul, is also wished by John here to the seven churches. “Grace” is the source of all blessing, it is the unmerited favor of God, which you receive just on the basis of Who He is. If you realize that God deals with you in grace, the result will be that you will go your way with “peace” in your heart, whatever the circumstances.
Still it differs from the letters of Paul when it is about the question from Whom you get the blessing. In those letters the blessing comes from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Here it is “from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne”. That is totally fitting with this Bible book. Here you find God as He is presented in the Old Testament: as Jahweh, the God of the covenant, the God of faithfulness to His covenant. Then what is said next is not firstly ‘Who was’, but “Who is”. That means that He is seen as the “I AM WHOM I AM” (Exo 3:1414God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”). But He is also the One “Who was”. That is the God of the past, Who has always taken care of His people and the whole earth. He is also the One “Who is to come”, for He is also the God of the future.
Then in the blessing “the seven Spirits” are mentioned. This is the Holy Spirit, but as the Spirit of power through Whom God will execute the judgments from His throne. The number seven refers to the variety and the perfection with which the Lord Jesus will execute the judgments in the power of this Spirit at His return (cf. Isa 11:22The 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.
). Therefore the attention is drawn to the “throne” of God, which emphasizes that it is about reigning and the exercise of power.
V55and 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—. Finally grace and peace are wished “from Jesus Christ”. Just like with the seven Spirits, to Whom is added “Who are before His throne”, also something is added to the name of Jesus Christ. You can actually say that three titles of Him are mentioned which all are in relation with the earth.
“the faithful witness” to God in the past on earth (1Tim 6:1313I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate,), from the womb to the cross (Jn 18:3737Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say [correctly] that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”). He has always been faithful. The church was also meant to be like that, but she failed and still fails to do so.
He is also
“the firstborn of the dead”. He is that in the present time, since His death and resurrection (Acts 26:2323that the Christ was to suffer, [and] that by reason of [His] resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the [Jewish] people and to the Gentiles.”; Col 1:1818He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.). ‘Firstborn’ means that He is the highest in the order of rank in the realm of the resurrection.
Thirdly He is
“the ruler of the kings of the earth”. He is that also now, but He will be that openly in the future; that’s how He will be revealed (Psa 89:27).
When He is presented like that, the church spontaneously responds to that. That will be your response too. The heart of each who loves Him agrees to it that He “loves us”. He has loved and still loves us. Isn’t it great that He, Who is emphatically presented as the Judge in this book, is the One Who loves you? His love has been especially expressed in the way that He “released us from our sins by His blood”. That meant to Him that He had to enter into death, for only His blood could redeem you from your sins. To you it means that all future judgments will pass you by completely, for He has redeemed you once and for all. Isn’t that a reason to praise Him?
V66and 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.. But He has done more than everything He did regarding the past, which was necessary to liberate us from the judgment. He has taken our sins away in order to make us to be something. He namely “has made us [to be] a kingdom, priests to His God and Father”. What you have become is what He has made you to be. There is absolutely no achievement from your side. You owe everything to Him. It is nothing more than great grace that you may partake of His government. As a redeemed person you receive, together with all believers, a royal dignity together with Christ, “the ruler of the kings of the earth”, so that you also are exalted above the kings of the earth (1Pet 2:99But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;; Exo 19:66and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”).
Thereby you are also made a priest before His God and Father. Everything that the Lord Jesus did He did with a view to the honor of His God and Father. You are made a person who is allowed to praise and worship in God’s presence (Rev 4:1010the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,; 5:99And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood [men] from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.; Heb 13:1515Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.; 1Pet 2:55you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.). You can do that now already. When the Lord Jesus will take over His royal majesty, you will be allowed to be a means of blessing for those who are enduring hardships on earth and who go to God with their suffering. You then can bring ‘prayers of saints’ before God (Rev 5:88When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.).
To Him be the glory for everything that He has done for you. Everything you have become reflects His glory. While man always did all things for his own glory and in his own strength, the Lord Jesus did everything to the glory of God from Whom He drew all power as a Man. As a Man He lived from all the words that came from the mouth of God (Mt 4:44But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”). What characterized Him as a Man and what He has achieved, will be seen and rejoiced in forever. There is nothing more left for you to do than to wholeheartedly agree with the “amen” with which this praise ends.
Now read Revelation 1:2-6 again.
Reflection: What do you learn here about the Word of God and about the Lord Jesus?
7Behold, 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. 8“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” 9I, 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. 10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like [the sound] of a trumpet, 11saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send [it] to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” 12Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;
V77Behold, 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.. With a “behold” John draws the attention to Him Who will appear in person. This is a great event to which the whole book works towards. It is told in a way that we not only shortly, but now already have to be looking forward to it. You may call it the ‘prophetic present tense’. It indicates how real and close the events are, not only for John in those days, but also for you today.
The Lord Jesus will appear “with the clouds of heaven” (Dan 7:1313“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
) and also “on the clouds of heaven” (Mt 24:3030And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.) that as it were will form His throne. So it is not about His coming to take up the church, which you may call His first coming, for that will take place “in the clouds of heaven”, and will not be visible for everyone (1Thes 4:1717Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.; cf. Acts 1:99And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.; Lk 21:2727Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory.). That will surely be the case at His second coming. Everyone will be brought face to face with Him, without exception.
Of all those people John mentions a certain category, namely “those who pierced Him”. This primarily refers to the Jews (Zec 12:1010“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.), but it also refers to the Gentiles, for a Roman soldier pierced Him (Jn 19:3434But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.). They who committed this deed of contempt will be full of fear when they behold Him. It will cause an enormous mourning among the Jews (Zec 12:10-1410“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.11In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.12The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves;13the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves;14all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves.), which will be the beginning of their conversion. This is the way it shall happen, “so it is to be. Amen”. ‘So it is to be’ or ‘yes’ is the Greek confirmation and ‘amen’ the Hebrew version of it, through which for both Gentiles and Jews it is indicated that God’s Word is determined.
V88“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”. Then the One Who will come, makes Himself to be heard. He says Who He is: “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” The alpha and the omega are the first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet. In these two letters all the other letters are embedded. In this name you also see that He is ‘the Word of God’. What He has started as the Alpha He will accomplish as the Omega. He Who shall come and is speaking here is the Lord Jesus. He is ‘the first and the last’ (Rev 1:1717When 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,; 2:88“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:; 22:1313I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”). That is also what Jahweh, the name of God in the Old Testament, says of Himself (Isa 41:44“Who has performed and accomplished [it],
Calling forth the generations from the beginning?
‘I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’”
; 44:66“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
‘I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me.
; 48:1212“Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called;
I am He, I am the first, I am also the last.
), which is again another proof that the Lord Jesus is Jahweh.
He Who is speaking is ‘Jahweh Elohim’ or “the Lord God”, which is the Lord Jesus. He is the One “who is”, the eternal Being One. He “was” and will always be. He is also the One “who is to come”. He is the Almighty Who will realize all His promises and plans. He Who was pierced, when He as the weak of God was hanging on the cross, is Jahweh Himself, “the Almighty” Who has all power in the universe and Who is about to accept that power. This is a comfort for His people, because He carries and supports them with His omnipotence. At the same time it is a threat for His enemies, because He will judge them and repay everyone according to his works.
V99I, 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.. No one else than John addresses his readers. He doesn’t present himself as an apostle, but as a “brother” among the brethren (in his gospel he calls himself a “disciple”, Jn 21:2424This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true., and in his letters an “elder”, 2Jn 1:11The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth,; 3Jn 1:11The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.). He also calls himself “fellow partaker in the tribulation” from which we derive that he shares the same fate as his fellow believers who also had to endure suffering under the emperor of Rome. Tribulation goes together with faith. It is the path along which you must go to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:2222strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and [saying], “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”).
The time to reign has not come yet. You still have to persevere, right through all kinds of tribulations and tests, till the moment comes to reign. When the Lord Jesus returns, it will be the moment. While considering that you may also bear in mind that the Lord Jesus is also waiting for the establishment of the kingdom.
John speaks about “Jesus” here, which is the Name of His humiliation and a reminder of His sojourn on earth. When He was on earth He also showed that perseverance. His testimony towards Pilate, when he asks Him whether He is the King of the Jews, sounds as follows: “But as it is, My kingdom is not from this realm” (Jn 18:3636Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”). Pay attention to the words ‘but as it is’. It shows that during His presence on earth He did not established His kingdom. That was and is still now also, to come.
John testified from God’s Word of that kingdom. The Roman ruler saw that as a threat for his own kingdom and position and did not approve of it (cf. Acts 17:77and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”) and therefore expelled him to “the island called Patmos”. John did not speak what men loved to hear, otherwise he would not have been in captivity now. He was ‘illiterate’ (Acts 4:1313Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and [began] to recognize them as having been with Jesus.), but he spoke the Word of God with power and authority. In his preaching he testified of Jesus, Who is the center of all God’s thoughts and plans.
V1010I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like [the sound] of a trumpet,. There John was sitting, isolated and lonesome on an island. He is not voluntarily there, to have a break, but as a captive. He was exiled to that place, without any prospect of release. It doesn’t look like that he could expect a visit from time to time. But it doesn’t mean that the Lord was not with him and that the Spirit could not use him. On the day of the Lord (literally: the day pertaining to the Lord, the Sunday, cf. 1Cor 11:2020Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper,) he was caught up in a vision through the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 10:1010But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance;; 22:1717“It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance,). The day of the Lord is the first day of the week, the day of His resurrection (Jn 20:1,191Now on the first [day] of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone [already] taken away from the tomb.19So when it was evening on that day, the first [day] of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace [be] with you.”, Acts 20:77On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul [began] talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.; 1Cor 16:22On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.). On this day John receives all information and visions that are written in this book.
But before he sees something, he hears something behind him. It is as if he is standing with his back to the churches, while he is looking at the kingdom in the expectation that it will come. But the Lord has not finished yet with His church on earth. He has to deal with it first. He calls John to look, so that he has to turn and must pay attention to what the Lord is paying attention to.
What he hears is “a loud voice like [the sound] of a trumpet”. It is not the voice of the good Shepherd, Who calls His sheep by name. He heard that voice when he walked with the Lord Jesus through Israel (Jn 10:11,1411“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.14I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,). But now he hears the voice of an ominous Judge, of Someone Who speaks out and executes the judgment.
V1111saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send [it] to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”. The voice of the Judge commands John to write down in a book everything that he sees. That implies that he must sharply observe and take in. Then he has to record all of his observations in writings, so that they will be preserved for the next generations. However, the book is not only meaningful for the next generations, but also for the seven churches, mentioned by name in Asia Minor, in the western part of present Turkey.
There were still more churches in Asia Minor. But the Holy Spirit of God has elected these seven because they are, as a matter of fact, a reflection of the church in its whole through the ages. That’s why you read “the” seven churches. It is the seven certain churches to which this book is to be sent. That there are seven, shows that it is about something complete. It is about the complete history of the church on earth. Also the order is not random, but of certain importance. You will see that when we will take a closer look at these seven churches in the next two chapters (Rev 2-3). At the same time each church is also mentioned separately, which you can derive from the word “to” which stands before the name of each church.
V1212Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;. When John heard the voice and what it has said, he turns. He wants to see the voice that spoke with him. Of course you cannot see a voice, but the voice is of a person. That Person is the Lord Jesus. He is the Word. When John turns he first sees “seven golden lampstands” and then only he sees the Son of Man. Isn’t it like how it happens today, that we first see the believers and then only, as it were through them, the Lord Jesus?
John notices that the lampstands are of gold. Gold represents the glory of God. A lampstand is meant to be spreading light. Therefore, the fact that the churches are compared with golden lampstands means that it is the intention of local churches to be spreading Divine light.
Each local church ought to display in her environment Who God is. She can only do that by taking His Word into consideration. By listening to the truth of God’s Word and obeying it, the light will be spread in the darkness. Darkness rules everywhere in the world and it covers more and more places in Christianity. You will see how it happened that the light of the lampstand is getting weaker and weaker and that even a situation can arise that a lampstand is taken away.
Now read Revelation 1:7-12 again.
Reflection: What is the reason for John being on Patmos?
13and 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. 14His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15His 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. 16In 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. 17When 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, 18and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. 19Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. 20As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
V1313and 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.. After having seen the golden lampstands, John sees that One is standing in the middle of them. John recognizes Him as no one else than the “Son of Man”, that is the Lord Jesus (cf. Dan 7:9-139“I kept looking
Until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took [His] seat;
His vesture [was] like white snow
And the hair of His head like pure wool.
His throne [was] ablaze with flames,
Its wheels [were] a burning fire.
10“A river of fire was flowing
And coming out from before Him;
Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;
The court sat,
And the books were opened.
11Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.13“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
). He is standing here – figuratively – in the middle of the churches, in order to judge them. That is to be derived from the features that are then being observed by John. You find those features also in Daniel 7, but then as visions of the Ancient of days, that is God Himself. That proves once more that the Lord Jesus is God. The wearied Man at the well at Sychar (Jn 4:66and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.) and the Creator Who ”does not become weary or tired” (Isa 40:2828Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
) is the same Person.
The first characteristic of the Son of Man is that He is “clothed in a robe reaching to the feet”. He is not the Servant here Who lays down His garments to serve His disciples as a humble servant (Jn 13:44*got up from supper, and *laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.; cf. Lk 12:3535“Be dressed in readiness, and [keep] your lamps lit.). It is the garment of the Judge. The Lord Jesus judges the church in relation to her responsibility which she has as a testimony on earth (cf. 1Pet 4:1717For [it is] time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what [will be] the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?).
The second characteristic is that He is “girded across His chest with a golden sash”. His “chest” speaks of love. ‘Gold’ speaks of Divine glory. The “sash” speaks of serving. From this you can derive that He also as a Judge serves in love.
V1414His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.. He carries out His service as a Judge honorably and with wisdom and in accordance with the purity of heaven. That is what the next characteristic refers to: “His head and His hair were white like white wool” (Pro 16:3131A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness.
; 20:2929The glory of young men is their strength,
And the honor of old men is their gray hair.).
The following characteristic, “His eyes were like a flame of fire”, indicates that He sees through everything and tests everything that is not in accordance with His holiness. Nothing can remain hidden from this flame of fire. This is how He tests the entire Christianity of which the seven churches are an image.
V1515His 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.. That “His feet [were] like burnished bronze” means that the standard of His judgment is His own walk. What He can expect of the spiritual condition of the church is that she measures up to what He has shown on earth in His walk and devotion towards God. “Bronze” is an image of a righteousness that can stand the fire of God’s judgment (Num 16:37-3937“Say to Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, that he shall take up the censers out of the midst of the blaze, for they are holy; and you scatter the burning coals abroad.38As for the censers of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, let them be made into hammered sheets for a plating of the altar, since they did present them before the LORD and they are holy; and they shall be for a sign to the sons of Israel.”39So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers which the men who were burned had offered, and they hammered them out as a plating for the altar,), because there is nothing that should be consumed by the fire. Everything is in accordance with God.
While He exposes Himself like that “His voice [was] like the sound of many waters” (Eze 43:22and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory.; Psa 93:44More than the sounds of many waters,
[Than] the mighty breakers of the sea,
The LORD on high is mighty.
). Therein the power of His word is being revealed, with which He will speak out the verdict. The power of His voice will prevent any possible reply. Nobody will dare to dispute His verdict.
V1616In 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.. He also has “in His right hand … seven stars”. What the seven stars mean is explained in verse 2020As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.. They are the seven angels, which means the responsible ones in each of the seven churches. The Lord Jesus has them in His right hand, which is the hand of His power. That indicates that He has the control over them.
The “sharp two-edged sword” that came “out of His mouth” (Isa 11:44But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
; Rev 2:1212“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:, 16; 19:1515From 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., 21), is an image of the Word of God (Heb 4:1212For 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.; Eph 6:1717And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.). Christ judges the churches on the ground of this Word, which they have known, but have ignored in so many ways. The Divinely revealed Word is the standard according to which everyone will be judged (Jn 12:4848He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.). It will have to be acknowledged by everyone.
The description of His Person is concluded with a description of “His face”. That is “like the sun shining in its strength” (Mt 17:22And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.; Acts 26:1313at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.; Mal 4:22“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.). The sun places everything in the light, nothing remains hidden. His countenance is the same countenance, at which people have been spitting (Mt 26:6767Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him,).
V1717When 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,. When John has seen Him in His full majesty, he fells “at His feet like a dead man”. The sight is such a horrible sight, that he almost dies. When the Lord was on earth John knew the familiar relation with Him and was reclining on His bosom (Jn 13:23-2523There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.24So Simon Peter *gestured to him, and *said to him, “Tell [us] who it is of whom He is speaking.”25He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, *said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”). But now he sees the Lord as he has never seen Him before.
Then the Lord “placed His right hand” on him. That expression doesn’t only mean that the Lord touches him and in that way comforts and encourages him. The touch of the hand has life giving power. To John it is a remembrance that this Judge is His Redeemer. To you it implies the encouragement that you have nothing to fear of Him, Who will judge Christianity, if you know Him and love Him.
That is also said by the Lord. The words “do not be afraid” from His mouth have been a great comfort and encouragement for the believers through all ages. He points to Himself as “the first and the last”. As “the first” He is before everything and above everything and the origin of all things; everything comes forth from Him. As “the last” He will have the last word. Why should you fear? He is the rock of strength for the wearied feet and for the heaviest burdens of life.
V1818and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.. He is also “the living One”. This is the large distinction between the true God and all false gods. He has life in Himself. He is able to give it to others too (Jn 5:21,24-2621For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.24“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.25Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.26For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself;). In order to be able to do that He has been into death. Therefore John did not need to become as a dead. Death could not hold Him, for in His death He took away everything through which death had power.
Death has lost its power and right and will never ever be able to have any control over Him. He is “alive forevermore”. The victory is complete and eternal. Through His victory He also has full power over “death and … Hades”, which is demonstrated in the possession of “the keys”. The Lord Jesus can dispose of death and hades as He sees fit (Heb 2:1414Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,; Rev 20:1414Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.).
He had not been left in the grave and His body was not allowed to see corruption (Acts 2:27-2827BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES,
NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.
28‘YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE;
YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.’
). The glory of the Father has raised Him out of it (Rom 6:44Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.), because the Father was glorified by Christ and His work and in that way all God’s holy demands were fulfilled. Therefore, on that ground death and hades have no power anymore over everyone who believes (Mt 16:1818I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.).
V1919Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.. After the encouraging words of the Lord, John receives the order to write down some things. It is an order in three parts. In these three parts you have the basic division of the book at the same time. He had to write down the things which he has seen and the things which are and the things which will take place after these things.
1. “The things which you have seen”, you already read in the previous verses: the Lord Jesus as a Judge in the middle of the seven lampstands.
2. “The things which are”, refers to the chapters 2 and 3. There the situation is described of the seven churches in Asia which are mentioned in verse 1111saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send [it] to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”. That was the present time for John. In the broader sense it is the whole period of time of the church that began on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and which will stop at the rapture of the church.
3. “The things which will take place after these things”, starts with chapter 4 (Rev 4:11After these things I looked, and behold, a door [standing] open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like [the sound] of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”) and ends with the last verse of the book. This third part totally lies in the future. Those are things that are to be taking place after the things that we still experience in the present dispensation.
V2020As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.. Before the Lord Jesus addresses the seven churches He first gives an explanation of “the seven stars” and of “the seven golden lampstands”. This is necessary, for it refers to a “mystery”. A ‘mystery’ is something that is a secret and is hidden until it is revealed. The mystery is now revealed by the Lord Jesus.
The stars are in His right hand here, as they are in verse 1616In 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.. He supports them with His power and shows them as it were in their open relationship with Him. Stars shine in the night. They are a symbol for the angels of the seven churches. The word ‘angel’ literally means ‘messenger’ or ‘representative’. You can also use it in a broader way to represent people. The angels are not cherubs or other spiritual creatures here, but people who are representatives of the churches.
Just like stars lampstands are also intended to spread light in the darkness. The lampstands are a symbol of the whole of each local church, while stars are more a symbol of the individual, out of which the churches exist. You also see that both the individual and the whole are held responsible for spreading the light. In the two following chapters you will see the judgment of this task by the Lord Jesus.
Now read Revelation 1:13-20 again.
Reflection: What impression does the description of the Lord Jesus have on you?