To many people the book of Revelation is a big mystery. This is sad because the title of the book actually means to expose in full view what was formerly hidden, veiled, or secret. The book is being written to uncover truth so that we can hear it and obey it (Revelation 1:3). The book is about Jesus and from Jesus (1:1). When it comes to deciding when John wrote this letter, scholars are divided. The predominant view of the last 100 years is that the book was written around 96 A.D. Yet 100 years before that most scholars believed that the book had been written around 65-69 A.D.
Since this book is an uncovering, so the book is not some sort of secret code that only the elite can decipher. "The things which must soon take place" (1:1); "For the time is near" (1:3). "Therefore, the book of Revelation is not about the rise of the Roman Catholic church. The book of Revelation is not about Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The book of Revelation is not about the European Union. The book of Revelation is not a book about current events. We must not read the newspapers and try to plug what is happening today as the fulfillment of the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation was relevant to the first century Christians who heard its message. Notice in verse 3 that those Christians in the first century who read, heard, and kept what is written in it would be blessed" (Brent Kercheville). The end of the book places the same emphasis on the nearness of the events mentioned in the book (22:6; 10). Compare this last verse to what God told Daniel (8:26;10:14; 12:4,9). When Daniel spoke, he was speaking about the end of the Old Testament era, and he was told to seal up the words of his prophecy. Daniel predicted events that were 600 years in the future (2:44). If John is told the opposite then obviously John is not writing about events that were 2000 years in the future, but rather events that were “near”.
"And communicated": The side reference here says, "signified", thus John is telling us what sort of communication this is – it is a communication given through signs and symbols. "When Jesus started talking about planks and logs in our eyes, we know that Jesus is speaking figuratively, using imagery to teach a principle. With the book of Revelation, the preface has told us to reverse our method. The book has been put into symbols and signs. Therefore we should read the book as symbols unless something in the text demands otherwise" (Kercheville).
John is writing to seven specific congregations in Asia Minor (1:4). There were more than seven congregations in Asia, including Troas, Colossae, and Hierapolis. This letter, for various reasons, may have only included detailed information on seven (chapters 2-3), or God may have felt that these seven summed up the conditions that were found in the others and that the seven stand as examples to any congregation.
The Real Authors
The Eternal Father (1:4), and the Holy Spirit ("seven Spirits who are before His throne"), inspired what the apostle John penned. The Old Testament spoke of the "seven eyes of the Lord" (Zechariah 4:10), which seem to point to the all-knowing and all-pervasive work of the Spirit. The book then focuses on Jesus (1:5):
The Faithful Witness
Jesus had come into the world to give a faithful presentation or witness of the truth (John 18:37; 8:14). "He is called the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth. These three descriptions are found in Psalm 89. Psalm 89:37 describes the Messianic offspring of David as a faithful witness. In Psalm 89:27 the Messianic offspring of David is described as the firstborn and the highest of the kings of the earth. All three images reveal Jesus as the Davidic king who rules on the throne. As the faithful witness, Jesus' rule will endure forever as the sun (Psalm 89:36-37). Jesus is the first-fruits of the resurrection. His resurrection proves His authority and proves He is ruling from His throne. Ruler of the kings of the earth shows Jesus’ absolute power over all rulers, kings, and kingdoms. Revelation refers to Psalm 89 to show the fulfillment of the promises made to David regarding the eternal kingdom. Jesus is on that throne" (Kercheville).
What Jesus Has Already Done for Us: 1:5-6
What motivated Jesus to come and die for us was His great love for us. We cannot question His power or whether or not He rules, for He has already demonstrated His great power by releasing us from the bondage of sin. In doing so He has equally brought us into a new relationship, citizens in the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13-14). The kingdom predicted in the Old Testament is now a reality in the New Testament (Mark 1:15; 9:1; Revelation 1:9; 5:10). If Jesus has delivered in the past, He will certainly powerfully deliver in the future as well. Observe that Satan could not stop Jesus from bringing His kingdom and releasing us from our sins. We are not merely forgiven, we are actually priests (1:6).
He is Coming with the Clouds: 1:7
Jesus will eventually come at the Final Judgment (1 Thessalonians 4:16), yet there are many times that God has come in judgment upon a nation, in which the same language was used. For example: Jeremiah 4:13; Matthew 24:30; 64. "Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him": Those who pierced Him are the people who were responsible for His death. Obviously there will be mourning at the Final Judgment because so many will be unprepared (Matthew 7:13-14), yet this passage seems to be an allusion to Zechariah 12:10 "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 over Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly". One of the purposes of the book and the events mentioned in the book is the attempt not only to deliver God's people but to offer repentance to the enemies of God's people (Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9-11). "These pictures set the table for what is coming in the book. Judgments have come with the intention to bring repentance. The repentance does not come as God desired. Therefore the nations must be fully judged for its rejection of Jesus as King of Kings. The paragraph concludes with a description of the Lord God as the Alpha and Omega. Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last letter in the Greek alphabet. Jesus is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, and everything in between. Jesus is ruling. Jesus is in control. He is the “I AM.” He is the Lord Almighty. Despite all that is going on in the world, God maintains control and authority over all the earthly powers and forces. Jesus declares that He is the Almighty Lord of armies, the unchangeable God. He will accomplish all His will, fulfill all His word, and execute all His judgments" (Kercheville).
The writer is actually suffering with these Christians; he is going through what they are experiencing or would experience in the near future (1:9). He is also speaking by inspiration ("in the Spirit"). "On the Lord's Day": From at least the late first or early second century Sunday was known as the Lord’s day. It was the day on which Jesus was raised from the dead (Luke 24:1,13,21,46). The day on which the Spirit came on Pentecost (Acts 2:1; Leviticus 23:15-16). The early church met on the first day of the week to partake of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). John was also specifically commissioned to write this book and send it to the seven churches (1:11).
Jesus in the Midst of the Lampstands: 1:12-20
- We need to see Jesus as He is described in this chapter. He is in the midst of His churches, holding the people of God in His hand, and bringing judgment of those who harm His people. It is a visual reminder that if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
- We also need to see Jesus for His power, glory, and might. At the sight of Jesus in this vision, John falls down as dead. We must not lose that awe and respect for who Jesus is. While this picture of Jesus is a comfort, it is also a reminder how great He is and how little we are.
- “When we see Jesus as the one who has the keys of death and Hades, we will have nothing to fear in this life. We will not fear tribulation or persecution because Jesus is in control. Jesus died and rose from the dead. If we die for the cause of Christ, we also will be raised from the dead. Do not fear your enemies for Christ is with you and will raise you up if anything happens to you” (Kercheville).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017