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Revelation: Chapter 1

Setting

The book of Revelation is an exciting and dynamic book.  As you read through its pages a tremendous amount of information is presented.  It is best to have a firm foundation of the whole Bible to more fully comprehend the information in this book.  Additional material in this web site attempts to provide the reader with some basic understanding to equip that person to better grasp all that is being presented.  Other books of the Bible that have been examined and are presented in this site are the books of Daniel, selected chapters in Ezekiel, and the Olivet Discourse as recorded by Mark and Matthew, and related passages in Luke.  The 15th chapter of 1Corinthians, and 1st and 2nd Thessalonians are also presented. These books and their associated timelines can be found and navigated through the pressing of the purple tab above titled "Scriptures."  The reader can also access further information on the structure of Revelation by accessing the link:  basic structure of revelation .

The Apostle John's viewpoint changes frequently as he observes and chronicles all that he is shown and what he hears.  It may be helpful to know the vantage point that John has as he records everything he experiences in this book.  There is a section on this web site that has a graphical representation of John's reference point of observation, which is found by clicking on this link, chronology of Revelation.  In Revelation 1, John is viewing the events of this chapter from the perspective of earth, and is receiving and writing the letters from Christ to the seven churches.  

At the very beginning of this book, John records that he had been exiled to the isle of Patmos because of the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.  It was on the Lord's day that John was worshiping, when suddenly he heard a sound, instructing John to record all that he saw.  Turning he saw the Lord.  

This chapter is the first of three sections that was revealed to John in Revelation 1:19.  Each section represents a different and sequential time period.  The first are those things that "were", which was the Lord's first earthly ministry that ended with His death, burial, and resurrection.  John was then told to write the things that "are", which represented the church age.  Finally, he was told to write those things that "shall be", which represents all those things that will follow the church age, which occur after the rapture of the church.  

Revelation 1, Revelation 2 and Revelation 3 form a group of chapters that relate to the Lord's relationship with the church and describe the church age before the rapture of the church.  The rapture is a future event at the time of this writing, but is an eminent event.  The events in this chapter describe characteristics and activities of  the glorified Lord as he ministers among His seven churches.  Here, John observes the Lord in His glory and in His priestly clothing.  This chapter concludes with the dictation to John of letters from the Lord to each of the seven churches.

Outline of this chapter

Verses Topic
1-3 The revelation of Jesus Christ
4-8 The letter to the seven churches
9-11 The initial setting
12-16 Description of the Lord in His glory
17-18 John's response
19 John's commission
20 Interpretation of the symbols

The revelation of Jesus Christ     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 1:1-3, is the beginning of the apocalypse – the unveiling of the Lord.  Several persons are introduced to make known to His servants what events are eminent and will happen suddenly with rapid succession when they occur.  The persons revealed in the first verse are and will be referred to several times in this book:

  • The Father – The Father gave the revelation to Jesus Christ, Matthew 24:36
  • Jesus Christ – He made this revelation known to His servants by sending His angel
  • The Angel – He was sent to John to make known to him the revelation
  • John – He is the one who testified to all that he saw, which is the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, 1John 1:1-4.

In Revelation 1:3, there is a special promise of blessings to the reader of this book that is unique to the rest of scripture. There are three parts in this blessing:

  • Blessed is the one who reads this prophecy
  • Blessed are those who hear it
  • Blessed are those who hear and keep, or guard, observe or heeds the words of the book

These are the first of seven blessings that appear through the book of Revelation.  It is important to note now the role that numbers play in this book, particularly the number seven.  That number alone is prominent throughout this book.  In general the following list may be of help in understanding the numbers used in the book of Revelation.  These are listed in a general sense; where the context the number is used in, brings to focus the spiritual meaning of the number.  For more information see the book written by E.W Bullinger, “Number in Scripture”.

  • 1   Unity
  • 2   Division
  • 3   Trinity, divine perfection
  • 4   Earth, creation
  • 5   Grace
  • 6   Man
  • 7   Completion, spiritual perfection
  • 8   New beginning, resurrection or regeneration
  • 9   The end, or conclusion of a matter
  • 10  Perfection of divine order
  • 11  Imperfection
  • 12  Perfection of government

  The mention and content of the seven blessings in this book are shown in the following table:

 

Verse in Revelation

Blessing
1
Blessed are those who read, hear, and do what is written in this prophecy
2
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on
3
Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes on him
4
Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb
5
Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection
6
Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book
7
Blessed are those who wash their robes that they may have the right to the tree of life and go through the gates into the city

The letter to the seven churches     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 1:4-5, John addresses this book to the seven churches in Asia. Although there were many other churches in existence within the same region in the Roman empire, the Lord uses these churches to reveal Himself to all of the churches during John’s day as well as to all churches throughout the church age, until the Lord raptures the church to Himself. The Lord’s words provide several important points that are almost consistently applied to all seven churches. There are few exceptions to the five points addressed to each church. The purpose of these letters is to show how the Lord relates Himself to a church with a specific set of characteristics. He provides His judgment, commendation, condemnation, and His encouragement to those who have an ear to hear. These words to each church are applicable to the churches today. It is a meaningful exercise to study and consider the characteristics of the seven churches that the Lord reveals, and evaluate how each of the churches, local and denominational, compare. As one associates a congregation today to one of the seven churches, the words of commendation, condemnation, and words of correction and encouragement will come to life. John is sharing to the entire church body through time until the rapture, the word and things he was witnessed. It is not an overstatement to say that the information that was addressed to the seven churches is indeed applicable to the churches today. In these opening passages in this book, John is also acknowledging the Trinity. He shows that the salutation of this book is coming from:

In Revelation 1:5-6, the work of Christ is outlined, that He is:

It is only through the work of Jesus Christ that we are made blameless by the blood that He shed on the cross, Hebrews 9:11-14. John continues to write to the church, and shows that we are made as kings and priests to serve the Lord, 1Peter 2:4-5, 9-10, Daniel 7:22, 26-27. Though the King James Version (KJV) interprets the word in Greek as kings, other translations such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB) or the New International Version (NIV) have written the word “kingdom”. Regardless of which translation used, the scriptural sense is that we will be like Him, Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20-21, 1John 3:1-3.  In like manner, the Lord Jesus Christ was made after the order of Melchizedek, as a king and priest, Hebrews 7:1-17, Psalms 110. One of the important functions Christians will fulfill is that of kings and priests which will occur during the millennium and in the new Jerusalem and new earth, 1Peter 2:5, 1Peter 2:9.  The roles and responsibilities each of us will enjoy who return with Christ are determined by our service to him during our physical lives.  As an example, in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus spoke a parable concerning a man traveling to a far country, leaving with his three servants three different sums of money to care for while he was away, Matthew 25:14-30.  As shown in the parable, the first two servants were faithful, and provided increase to the service of the Lord, and were rewarded for their service with being made ruler over much. In contrast, the one servant who had exercised no faith in the Lord, was judged as unworthy, and was separated from the faithful servants.

In Revelation 1:6-7, John writes that all of the glory and power is God’s, forever and ever, Revelation 4:9-11!  John writes what is a continuing theme in the major portion of Revelation, all the way through chapter 19, which describes the time when the Lord Jesus Christ returns with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, Matthew 24:30, Acts 1:9-11.  In this chapter, and again in Revelation 21 and Revelation 22, Christ refers to himself as the Alpha and Omega. He also describes himself as the beginning and the ending, who was, who is to come, and the Almighty, such as in John 1:1-4.  As will be revealed throughout the book of Revelation, Jesus will return to the earth as the King of kings, and finish what he started as written in the gospel according to John.  The Apostle John identified himself with those in the church as a brother and companion in suffering, in the kingdom and in patient endurance that are the Christians in Jesus.  The Lord on the night He was betrayed said that the world would hate those who follow the Lord because the world first hated him, John 15:18-23.  During the church age there are many who suffer tribulation for the word of God and for their faith in the Lord, just as John suffered from the rule of Rome. This will be the same experience for those who will go through the seven years of tribulation period except the horrors the tribulation saints will face will be much greater, which are yet to occur at the time of this writing.

The Lord's return in the clouds is not to be confused with the rapture of the church.  Christians during the church age are to wait for His glorious appearing, Titus 2:12-13, 1John 3:1-3.  More concerning this subject is found on this site on the web page discussing the rapture.  In the book of Revelation, John is referencing the events as they will unfold in Revelation 19, which is the second advent of Christ when He returns as King, Daniel 7:13, Mark 13:23-26, Revelation 19. At that time every eye shall see Him, Luke 17:22-24. It is then that those are of the house of Israel, whose ancestors pierced the Lord Jesus Christ, will have their relationship with the Lord renewed; they will morn when they look on Him who they pierced and they will morn greatly, Zechariah 12:10-11. All peoples will likewise mourn because of Him, Revelation 6:15-17. Finally, the Lord is identified with the Father with the statement, is, was, and is to come, the Almighty, and the Alpha and Omega, John 14: 9-11, 19-21.

The initial setting     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 1:9, John identifies himself in three distinct ways being in Jesus and being associated with the Christians at the seven churches to whom he was instructed to send his writings to:

As mentioned earlier on this page, John was exiled to the island of Patmos by a Roman Emperor, because of the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. These will be the same reasons for the suffering and killing of the tribulation saints.

In Revelation 1:10-11, John writes that he was in the spirit on the Lord's day, Sunday, which is the day after the Sabbath, Acts 20:7, 1Corinthians 16:1-2. Some time during his worship of God, he heard a loud voice, like a trumpet, 1Corinthians 15:50-54. Imagine John being startled at hearing the sound, then receiving his commission from the Lord to write everything that he saw and send it to the seven churches, 2Timothy 3:16-17.

Description of the Lord in His glory     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 1:12-16, John turned to see seven lamp stands and the Son of Man among them, Daniel 3:25-26, Daniel 7:13. Next John reveals all that he observed concerning the glorified Christ and His activities among His churches. The description of the Lord is repeated in parts as the Lord is described to each of the seven churches. This shows the intimate involvement with the churches then, as well as with all of the churches, congregations, and individual believers today. What John observed was the Lord who appeared with:

  • A robe reaching down to His feet
  • A golden sash around His chest
  • Head and hair that were white like wool and white as snow
  • Eyes that were like blazing fire
  • Feet like bronze glowing in the furnace
  • A voice like the sound of rushing waters
  • His right hand holding seven stars
  • A doubled edged sword that came from His mouth
  • A face like the sun shinning in all its brightness

The following table lists these characteristics with likely meanings, and related scriptural references.

Characteristic

Meaning

Scriptural Reference

Robe reaching down to His feet

Majesty and Priestly Office

Isaiah 6:1, Exodus 28:4, 31-32, Hebrews 7:14-17

A golden sash around His chest

Righteous and Faithful

Isaiah 11:5

Head and hair white like wool and white as snow

Pure, Ancient of Days, and judgment

Isaiah 1:18, Daniel 7:9, Revelation 20:11-12

Eyes were like blazing fire

Penetrating judgment

Hebrews 4:13

Feet like bronze glowing in the furnace

Sin is judged and atonement made

Exodus 29:36-46

Voice like the sound of rushing waters

Power and judgment

Jeremiah 25:30-31, Joel 3:16-17

Right hand held seven stars

Honor, power, and comfort

Genesis 48:13-14, Exodus 15:11-2, Psalms 139:7-10

A doubled edged sword came from His mouth

Judgment of the heart and soul

Hebrews 4:12, Isaiah 49:1-3

Face like the sun shinning in all its brightness

Glory, honor and majesty

John 17:5, Matthew 17:1-8, 2Peter 1:16-18

John's response     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 1:17-18, John responds to this vision of the glorified Christ, and falls to the ground. It is a spontaneous response upon seeing the Lord, which is just the beginning of what is yet ahead in this great prophetic book. Other great men and women of God who witnessed similar visions, such as Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Abraham, Mary Magdalene reacted similarly. On two other occasions John falls before an angel after many visions are given him, but he is rebuked immediately for it. However, the response is correct in this case because it is before the Lord, who then placed His right hand on John to comfort and strengthen him. The Lord again affirmed His eternal nature to John. The Lord told John that He is the “I AM,” the First and Last. He also shows that He holds the keys of death and Hades, indicating that He has the authority over them. Death and Hades will be the last two entities thrown into the lake of fire, which will occur after the great throne judgment, Revelation 20:14.

Hades or Sheol

Hades and Sheol are the same word, the former being in Greek and the latter in Hebrew. Both words describe the same place. Since the fall of man through Adam, until the resurrection of Jesus Christ, all who died were sent to Hades. The Lord described the state and condition of Hades in His response to the scoffing of the Pharisees toward Him and His teaching. The Lord used this occasion to describe the plight of the rich man and Lazarus after their deaths, Luke 16:19-31. The point of this discourse was not to describe Hades, but to warn the Pharisees against their love for money, and justification before man rather than God. Nevertheless, there are many interesting details in this discourse to draw upon in understanding this place. Both the righteous and the unrighteous occupied Hades, but they were separated into two areas by a great chasm. The righteous were well provided for; it was paradise, Luke 23:41. The term paradise was used to describe both the area the righteous occupied in Hades prior to Christ’s resurrection, and the third heaven as Paul describes in 2Corinthians 12:4. Unlike the church today that have the promise of being with Christ in heaven when absent from the body, 2Corthinians 5:8, the old testament saints looked downward to be in paradise after their death.  This state of the Old Testament saints persisted until the resurrection of Jesus, Matthew 27:52-53.  The unrighteous suffered in the side of Hades that they occupied.  Examples of the Old Testament saints in Sheol are found in the discourse between Job with his friends wishing he had died at birth and in the ground, Job 3:11-19, then that Sheol would be his home, Job 17:12-16, then Job spoke of his resurrection, Job 19:25-27, David wrote in the Psalms prophetically concerning the resurrection, Psalms 16:9-11, and of the anguish of going to Sheol, Psalms 116:3-4, the silent prayer by King Hezekiah for lengthening his life, Isaiah 38:17-19, and Jonah from inside the whale, Jonah 2:2, just to name a few instances that are recorded in scripture.  

The Lord Jesus Christ is the firstborn from the dead, as seen in Revelation 1:5, Matthew 27:50-53. Upon His resurrection, paradise (the side that was occupied by the righteous) was emptied of the Old Testament saints. Upon His death on the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ first descended to Paradise with the thief on the other cross, and then ascended to be with the Father taking all the righteous with Him, Ephesians 4:7-10. Throughout the church age and during the tribulation period, all who die in Christ will be present with the Lord. Paul had written to the Corinthians that to be absent in the body is to be present in the Lord, 2Corinthians 5:1-9. So now everyone who believes on the name of Jesus Christ and call upon His name and dies in this life, are now present with the Lord who sits on the right hand of the Father, Acts 7:54-56.

The two resurrections

Scriptures show that there are two resurrections, the first for the righteous to everlasting life, and the second for the unrighteous unto eternal damnation, John 5:24-30. The first resurrection has three parts:

Paul was the apostle to whom the Lord had revealed many mysteries, Ephesians 3:3-9, concerning the church such as the resurrection of the believers in Christ and the rapture of those still alive. Just as the Lord left this earth in the clouds, the disciples were told that He would return in like manner, Acts 1:9-11. This was directed to the church age. For Christ will appear in the clouds to call up his church to be resurrected unto Him, and to be with Him forever more, 1Corinthians 15:51-58, 1Thessalonians 4:13-18.

In the book of Daniel, the Lord revealed to him that there would be a time of great trouble, that the world would have never known until then. This is when Michael will stand up for the children of Israel, and they will be delivered to the end of the tribulation. At the conclusion of the tribulation, and after the Lord's return, the Old Testament Saints will be in resurrected bodies and claim the promises that God had made to them as a people and nation concerning the land and the kingdom of David. Those whose names are written in the book (of life) will be resurrected, whereas those whose name is not written in the book will be reserved for judgment at the second resurrection, Daniel 12:1-3.

There are many who believe that the tribulation saints will not be resurrected until the end of the seven years of tribulation, when the Lord returns. However, there is an argument to be made that the tribulation saints will be resurrected upon their martyrdom, as their numbers will continually increase through the tribulation, and they are seen before the throne of God in their robes of righteousness. They are also assured to always be before the throne of God, Revelation 6:9-11, Revelation 7:9-17, Revelation 20:4-6.

The second resurrection is for the unrighteous. They are the ones who at present occupy the unrighteous portion of Hades. They will be awaiting the second resurrection, after which they will appear before God on the Great White Throne of Judgment, Revelation 20:10-15. These will be consist of everyone since Adam until the end of Satan’s final rebellion, who did not believe nor accept the gift of God, so their names do not appear within the book of life. Those whose names are not found in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire. This is a place that was never prepared for mankind, but was prepared for Satan and the fallen angels, Matthew 25:41-46. God never intended for man to be judged like this, since he provided to mankind salvation from sin through His Son, Jesus Christ, John 3:14-21. At the conclusion of the judgment before the great white throne, Hades and death will also be thrown into the lake of fire, since there will be no more sin in God’s creation, and therefore no need for these in eternity future, Revelation 20:14.  Also, since death is destroyed in the lake of fire, there is no death, or hope of annihilation for those in the lake of fire.  They will suffer eternal separation from God, and suffer eternal punishment, Mark 9:43-48Revelation 20:10

John's commission     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 1:19, John’s commission to write to the seven churches is reconfirmed. He is instructed to write:

  • What was
    • John was one of the many witnesses of the first advent of Christ, and of the church which was born and matured on and after the day of Pentecost
    • John described this in the early passages of this chapter
  • What is
    • This is the church age, represented by the seven churches to whom John is instructed to write to
  • What will be
    • All the events depicted from Revelation chapter four to the end of the book

Interpretation of the symbols     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 1:20, John is given the interpretation of what he has observed so far concerning the mystery of the seven stars and seven lamp stands. He is told that the stars are the angels over each of the churches. This is very similar to the record in Daniel where angels were associated with kingdoms, Daniel 10, Daniel 11:1, and Daniel 12:1. John is also told that the lamp stands are the seven churches to whom this book is being written.


Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, 2014, J.E. Huntley.  All rights reserved.
last edited August 2014

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