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 his introduction, John states that the Revelation came from Jesus Christ and was made know to him by an angel, making John the author of the Revelation. John goes on to describe himself as someone who testifies to the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ, which is a reference to how John witnessed everything that Jesus Christ did in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures and how he testified to these facts. Accordingly, John’s eyewitness account of the Lord’s life, death, and resurrection, as recorded in the Gospels serves as the foundation of our faith.
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 above verse implies that we are to understand the Revelation, which corresponds with vs. 1 which tells us that the Revelation was written to show us what must soon take place. In this way, the Revelation is to be taken as a literal account of what will take place.
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.
The Revelation was written to the Seven Churches, which were located in the province of Asia (Modern-day Turkey), and that existed at the time of John. This would mean that John’s earlier reference to the events that must soon take place refers to the events that the Seven Churches would experience during John’s own lifetime.
“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.”
The above is a description of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. When we read that those who pierced Him will see Him it tells us that when the Lord returns, the dead will be resurrected to be judged. In addition, we read that those who are on earth will mourn. This tells us that when the Lord returns, God’s people will be caught up to meet Him in the air, leaving only the unrepentant on earth who will be destroyed by fire at the Return of Christ. Accordingly, when the Lord Returns, the dead will be raised, the living will be caught up, and the earth and everything in it will be destroyed by fire.
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. 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. 1:9-11
The Seven Churches that are mentioned by city were all located in what is now modern-day Turkey.
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… 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 God, and not from John himself. We will be given the meaning of the seven lampstands and seven stars in subsequent verses.
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 is where the righteous and unrighteous dead were kept separate from one another prior to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Lk. 16:19-31). 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 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).
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. “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; John’s testimony concerning his witness of Christ (what you have seen), the seven letters to the seven churches (what is now), and the events that would take place in the future (what will take place later).
“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 golden stars, which John saw when the Lord appeared to him. The example of John being given the meaning of the seven stars and seven lampstands, within the Revelation itself, provides us with the method by which we are to interpret the rest of the Book. That is, we are to use the Scriptures to interpret the Scriptures. In this way, the Revelation will explain itself.