Revelation 1

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Rev. 1:1-2

In the opening verse, we are told that the Revelation was written to show us the events that must soon take place. From this introduction, we are given the purpose of the Revelation, which is to show us future events. The Revelation was not written to give us a symbolic impression of the battle between good and evil, or to assure us that God wins in the end, etc. Instead, the Revelation was written to show us the specific events that will take place in the Last Days, beginning with the events that would soon take place.

In the above introduction we are also introduced to the author of the book, the Apostle John, who describes himself as someone who testifies everything he saw. As a faithful witness of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, John was given the additional task of making known to God’s servants the events that must soon take place and that were revealed to him by an angel.

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. Rev. 1:3

The blessing that comes to those who read aloud the words of the prophecy refers to the public reading of the Revelation to those who hear and who are also blessed if they take to heart the words of the prophecy. In the original, the word that is translated as, “take to heart”, is is the word tereso (Strong’s number 5083), which means to keep or to guard. When we examine the use of this same word in the rest of the Scriptures, we find that to keep the words of the prophecy means to observe the words of the prophecy.

To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
Rev. 1:4-6

The Revelation was originally written to the Seven Churches, which were located in the province of Asia (Modern-day Turkey) and that existed at the time of John. Accordingly, John’s earlier reference to the events that must soon take place refers to the events that would soon take place amongst these churches. However, as we will discover upon reading the Seven Letters, the events experienced by the Seven Churches are the same events and circumstances facing the world-wide Church today and, thus, continue to fit the description of what must soon take place. In this way, the instructions found in the Letters to the Seven Churches still apply to anyone today who has ears to hear what the Lord is saying to the churches.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Rev. 1:7-8

When we read that those who pierced Him will see Him, it tells us that the above passages are a description of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ when the dead will be raised. This is confirmed in the following passages, which also describe how the living and the dead will be joined with the Lord in the air at His coming.

According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever 1 Thess. 4:15-17

When the dead in Christ are raised at His coming, the unrepentant dead will also be raised, including those who pierced Him and who will mourn when they see Him.

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Dan. 12:2-3

We will read more about the Return of Christ and the Resurrection of the Dead in future chapters.

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Rev. 1:9

In these verses the word “suffering” is the word thlipsis (Strong’s 2347), which means affliction and is elsewhere translated in the Revelation as tribulation.

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation (thlipsis Strong’s 2347); they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Rev. 7:13-14

John’s example of someone who suffered affliction due to the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus is repeated in the description of the Martyrs in Heaven, who will be killed for the same reason.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. Rev. 6:9-11

As we will read in future chapters, when the Martyrs in Heaven cry out for judgment and revenge, it will trigger the final events of the Last Days.

On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” Rev. 1:10-11

As mentioned earlier, the Seven Churches listed above were all located in what is now modern-day Turkey. We will read the content of these letters in Chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation.

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars,
and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. Rev. 1:12-16

The voice of the Lord commanding John to, “Write down what you see”, and the vision of the Christ among the seven golden lampstands forms the testimony of John concerning the origin of the Revelation, which came from Jesus Christ and was made known to John by the angel. The sharp double-edged sword is a reference to the Word of God, which flows from the mouth of the Lord.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Eph. 6:17

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any doubleedged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Heb. 4:12

In the Revelation, the sword is also used to describe war, including the war that will be waged by the Lord against the nations. The meaning of the seven lampstands and the seven stars will be given to John in the concluding passage of this chapter.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Rev. 1:17-18

In the Scriptures, Hades (or Sheol in the Old Testament) is described as being in the lower regions of the earth and sea and is where the righteous and unrighteous dead were kept separate from one another prior to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.[1] Following His crucifixion, Christ, also, descended to the lower regions (Hades), where He released His people from captivity and ascended with them to Heaven.

This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) Eph. 4:8-10

Today, Hades remains the place where the unrepentant dead still descend to when they die to await judgment; while those who die in Christ ascend to Heaven where they rest in Paradise as seen in the account of the Thief on the cross.

Then he (the Thief on the cross) said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Lk. 23:42-43

On the Day of Judgment, the unrepentant dead will be expelled from Hades to be cast into the Lake of Fire (Hell).

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Rev. 20.19

From the above, we learn that Hades is where the unrepentant dead are held until the Day of Judgment when they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Hell), which is the Second Death. In this way, Hades is a separate location from Hell.

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. Rev. 1:19

The above command divides the Book of the Revelation into three sections, two of which we have already discussed as follows; (1) John’s testimony concerning his witness of Christ among the seven lampstands (what you have seen), (2) the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches (what is now), and (3) the events that would take place in the future (what will take place later). As mentioned earlier, the events described in the Letters to the Seven Churches still apply to us today, which places us in the events known as what is now and that have been occurring since the Revelation was written. At the conclusion of the period known as what is now, the world will face the events that will take place later, which is a description of the final events of the Last Days, whose description is the subject of the majority of the Revelation.

“The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” Rev. 1:20

This chapter ends with John being given the meaning of the seven golden lampstands and the seven stars, which he saw when the Lord first appeared to Him. As this passage states, the seven lampstands represent the Seven Churches, and the seven stars are the angels of the Seven Churches. The example of John being given the meaning of the seven stars and seven lampstands in the Revelation itself, sets the precedent for how we are to interpret the words of the prophecy, that is, we are to use the Scriptures to interpret the Scriptures. In this way, the Revelation will explain itself.


[1] Lk. 16:19-31