Revelation commentary: chapter 1 - John receives the vision

by Don Koenig

 

The first Chapter of Revelation is so profound it supports many of the foundational truths of Christian theology in just the first ten verses.

 

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

God (the Father) gives the revelation to Jesus Christ.  If God and Jesus are the same person as those in Oneness Theology claim, this passage would not make sense. He would be giving a revelation to Himself! The purpose of this revelation is to show His servants things that must soon come to pass. Some make a big deal out of the word here translated as "signified" and say it proves the book is a book of signs and symbols. Actually, the Greek word in context in today's English means to make known or to indicate. Thus, Jesus sent the angel to John to point out or make known the things that must come shortly come to pass.

Jesus sent the Revelation by His angel to John. The apostle John was one of the twelve of the inner circle with Jesus that He chose to witness His ministry on the earth. John was the only apostle that was still living when John wrote this book and sent it to the churches.

The Son of God in His humility and obedience to living the life of a human being, limited Himself to His human brain and what the Father revealed to Him. Jesus did not know all things while on earth in the flesh. Jesus spent much time in prayer talking with the Father for that reason. When God's Son entered the world as an embryo, He did not take all wisdom and knowledge with Him. The scriptures say Jesus increased in wisdom and learned obedience (Luk 2:52, Heb 5:8).

The Son of God came as a man with bloodlines that descended from Adam. Unlike the first Adam, Jesus obeyed God even to death on the cross. In His death, He even gained more authority. By Jesus taking our sin and dying for us and going to Hades, He took power and authority over the underworld where all imprisoned by sin and death and separated from God since the fall of Adam were confined (1 Pet 3:19)

To help you understand all this I will further explain:

Jesus, the creator of the universe, became cursed on the cross for us (cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree - Gal 3:13, De 21:23). He died as a sinner so that He could go to the place where all souls were imprisoned by sin and death. While there He proclaimed the good news of liberty to those who had ears to hear and by faith believed Him. Death and creation simply could not hold the Creator of the universe. The Creator simply created a new spiritual creation where death and all the satanic angelic powers over the fallen universe have no authority. He proved this by rising from the dead and beginning a new spiritual creation called the Body of Christ. Jesus is now redeeming the souls given to Him by the Father out of the old creation into this new spiritual creation. The way that is ordained to redeem all those bound in darkness and under bondage to the corrupted spiritual hierarchy of the fallen angels is through the "law of faith" (Rom 3:27).

After Jesus completes the first phase of this assignment of redemption by completing the Church (assembly) of first fruits given to Him, He must then come again in power with these saints to rule. (These are the replacements for the fallen rulers of this world.) The Church will rule and reign on earth with Jesus until all the enemies of God are defeated and the world is handed over to the Father in the state it was in before the fall of man. This is the prime reason for the thousand-year reign on earth.

 

1Co 15:24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

 

Finally, the corrupted powers of darkness and the wicked forces in high places (Eph 6:12) that were ruling over the old creation will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire and the universe corrupted by the fall of Satan and his angels will be restored to perfection.

 

After Jesus conquered sin and death by rising from the dead to a new creation, the revelation recorded in this book was given to Jesus by the Father about things that must shortly come to pass. Most likely when the revelation from the Father occurs, Jesus is no longer limited and becomes omniscient (all knowing) as He was before He submitted Himself to the limitations of a body of flesh.

We can look around and see that all power and authority has not yet been put down, so the execution of the Lord's authority on earth did not fully happen when Jesus ascended to sit at the right hand of His Father two thousand years ago, as most in Christianity claim. Jesus does now have all power and authority but having the power and authority to put down other powers and authorities does not come about until Jesus actually executes it.

This is a great responsibility, because if Jesus uses His authority to destroy the works of the Devil before He saves all the Father has given Him out of the corrupted creation some will be eternally lost. This is the mystery for the delay in Jesus having the authority but waiting on the Father's timing to execute that authority. Most of this book is about all the events that will occur on earth until Jesus puts down all rule, power and authority in the old creation and all things redeemable are redeemed.

 

The first scripture verse in Revelation states that the purpose of this book is to show his servants what must shortly come to pass. Those who say this book is not about real future events have not even understood the first verse of this book. If the book is to show His servants future events, then it is relevant to the servants and cannot be about a mystical war between good and evil (amillennial idealist theology on Revelation).

 

2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

John bore record of the word of God and the ministry of Jesus Christ and this is why he was in exile. John saw Jesus after He rose from the dead, handled Him and saw Him ascend to heaven. All the things that Jesus received in the revelation were given to John. This is what John had to say about Jesus (the Word of God) in his gospel about Jesus:

 

Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 2 The same was in the beginning with God.

 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John

 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father,) full of grace and truth.

3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

It says the person who reads, hears and keeps the things written in the book will be happy or blessed. Some say this promises a special blessing for those who read the book. I think it is more likely to mean, blessed are those who read the statements and follow the instructions, or blessed are those who hold on to the truths within the book because they will nourish their soul. Contrary to what some think, just reading the words in the book gives no special grace.

Rev 22:7 says, blessed are those that keep the sayings of this book.  If we read and tell people about the message to the churches and the end plan for His faithful servants (chapter 21 and 22 of this book), it will give them and us inner joy.

This verse also says the time is at hand or is imminent. The time certainly was at hand during the life of John because what was told to him started with the work of the Holy Spirit within the new covenant Church. The letters to the seven churches in Revelation actually begin where the book of Acts leaves off. The seven letters to the churches in Revelation could have the subtitle, "Acts II - The Works of the Assemblies Identified With My Name Until I Come."

 

4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

The book was written to seven churches in Asia. There were many more churches than just these seven in the world and in Asia. The churches picked were not even the most prominent churches of John's time. These seven churches were picked because they had specific traits that Jesus wanted to address. Those seven churches represent the seven types of assemblies and the individuals within them that identify with Christianity throughout the entire new covenant Church age on earth. This age is from Pentecost until the marriage in heaven.

John announces grace to the Church and peace from Him which is, which was and which is to come. This person giving the greeting is not Jesus because Jesus is seen separately in the next verse. It can only be Father God giving the greeting and what is said there can be equated to saying that He is the one that exists, He Has always existed and He will always exist.

There are seven Spirits before his throne. The names of the seven aspects of the Holy Spirit are given in the book of Isaiah.

Isa 11:2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

 

5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

Notice it says, "and from Jesus Christ"; John sees Jesus as a distinct person from the one on the throne that just gave the greeting with a seven-fold Spirit before Him. The doctrine of the trinity is supported here and in other places in this book as it also is throughout scripture. The Father, the seven-fold Holy Spirit and the Son of God are identified in verse 4 and 5 of this first chapter of Revelation.

Jesus is the faithful witness and the first begotten of the dead. He also is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Verse five also gives us the doctrine of salvation. We must accept the sacrifice that Jesus fulfilled and have our sins washed away by his blood.

The verse also says that He saved us because He loved us and this implies that He loved us while we were still sinners.

Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

 

Under the law given to Israel it took a spotless lamb to atone for the sins of the nation once each year. This was looking forward to the spotless Lamb of God (Jesus) that would be our sacrifice once for all time. All are clean who accept this free sacrifice given by God for our sins. The fifth verse in Revelation disproves any theology that claims a limited atonement for sin. If the blood of the Lamb of God has cleansed us, then we are clean.

Heb 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God;

 

6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

John is talking about himself and all other believers. He says that Jesus has already made us kings and priests unto God by washing us in His blood. This is the destiny of the faithful Church. He does not say to become kings and priests we first must do all the requirements our denomination lays on us. John does not say we will become kings and priests if we live holy lives or persevere until we die. John says we are kings and priests because we were washed in His blood. In the tense John wrote this, all believers already have been born into a nation of kings and priests who will rule and reign with Christ.

The word dominion in this verse is not a good translation choice of words. Better choices from the Greek are "power" or "strength". The end of this verse should read, "to Him be glory and power forever".

 

7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

 

When Jesus comes, He will come with the clouds of heaven. From the earth, they will look like clouds but perhaps they are what angels use for transport. When Jesus left, He was taken up into a cloud. A cloud by day that looked like a pillar of fire at night led Israel in the wilderness for forty years. The scripture says this cloud was an angel. There are scriptures that say the Lord descended in a cloud and rideth upon a swift cloud. Most say the clouds are the saints who come with Him riding on white horses (Rev 19:14). Whatever the makeup of these clouds, when Jesus comes with these clouds the Lords appearance will be glorious.

When Jesus comes with clouds, everyone on earth will see Him including those that pierced Him. Those that pierced Him are dead, so it is certain that even the dead in Hades will see the second coming. The incorrect doctrine of soul sleep is disputed by this verse. God will have no problem converting the visual of the second coming to the eye of the soul so that all will see Him. Actually, this verse is fulfilling what Jesus said:

 

Mat 26:64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

 

This verse also indicates that Jesus will have physical form at His coming. He will not come as a mystical spirit to indwell the people or a person. The Holy Spirit indwells people but Jesus will come back physically and every eye will see Him.

 

At His coming, all tribes of the earth will be in fear and trembling.

Rev 6:16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

 

8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

In verse four, the one which is, which was and which is to come was the Father but in verse eight in the context of verses 5 through 8 it applies to Jesus. This is verified in verses 11-18 where we see the person speaking is clearly Jesus. This verse also implies that the Son of God always exists in the three names by which we know or will know Him. The name, "which was", is the pre-incarnate Son of God known as "YHWH" (literally "I am who I am" ). The name, "which is", has to be the Son of God incarnated, the Savior who entered the world and died for our sins. His name in Hebrew is "Yeshua" (Joshua or Jesus in the Greek - and His name literally means, "YHWH is salvation"). The name of the Son of God, "which is to come", has a name no man yet knows when He returns in glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is the name we will know Him by for eternity.

Rev 19:12  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

 

Verse 8 along with 11-18 and many others indicates that Jesus is also Almighty God. Jesus is the only express or exact image of the Father. This is why God will not endure any other image but Jesus to represent Himself.

Heb 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Isa 9:6  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

 

 

9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

John tells us where he was located and says those he is writing to are brothers in the kingdom. That includes all believers. John was exiled to an island called Patmos. Some think they tried to kill John and could not, so they exiled him to this island. (There are a few hints of this in ancient writings).

Certainly, God would not have allowed John to die before this book was written. John says he was imprisoned there for teaching the scriptures and giving the testimony about Jesus Christ. He was not the only one in tribulation during that period. All the apostles had been killed at this point and the Jews were actively persecuting the Church. In this verse, John talks about the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. Jesus has been very patient for about two-thousand years now so that the bride given to Him by the Father would be complete.

 

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.

After giving us the purpose of the book and the greetings, John tells us that he was in the Spirit on the Lord's day.  It might refer to Saturday or Sunday but it could have deeper implications about being taken forward in time to the Day of the Lord. John hears behind him a great voice that sounded like a trumpet but before we go on to read what John saw and heard let us review the truths revealed in just the first 10 verses of Revelation chapter one.

 

Some of the fundamental Christian truths found in just the first 10 verses of Revelation

·       Verse one tells us that the book is a prophecy about future events.

·       Verse one also tells us that Jesus was given this Revelation by the Father, He thus was not all knowing as a man of flesh because He limited Himself to His brain of flesh and what the Father revealed to Him. Therefore, Jesus and Father God could not be the same person.

·       Verse two says John bore record of the Word of God and John in his gospel tells us the Word he bore record of was God and that this God dwelt among us in the body of Jesus.

·       Verse three teaches that the prophecy in Revelation is ongoing in the Church.

·       Verse four says that God always exists.

·       Verse four also tells us that God's Holy Spirit has seven characteristics.

·       Verse four and five make it clear that God is a triune being consisting of three divine persons, the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit (seen through seven characteristics of the Spirit).

·       Verse five tells us that Jesus is a distinct person from Father God.

·       Verse five also tells us that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead that would not die again.

·       Verse five in addition teaches us salvation comes from the shed blood of Jesus alone.

·       Verse five further indicates a full atonement for sin by the shed blood of Jesus.

·       Verse six says believers will become kings and priests unto God by the work Jesus did and not by our own merits.

·       Verse six also tells us that Jesus has a Father so Jesus is not the Father.

·       Verse seven says that Jesus is physically coming back again.

·       Verse seven also implies that there will be judgment at His coming.

·       Verse seven further indicates that dead people are aware and that disputes the doctrine of soul sleep.

·       Verse eight tells us that Jesus is God Almighty and the beginner and ender of all things.

·       Verse nine implies that all Christians will be in tribulation while in this world.

·       Verse nine also says that all Christians are brothers and companions in the kingdom. 

·       Verse nine further tells why the Kingdom is not yet on earth; Jesus is patient not willing that any should perish (2 Pe 3:9).

·       Verse ten says there is a day called the Lord's day or Day of the Lord .

 

11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

John in the spirit heard a voice that sounded like a trumpet tell him that, "He was the Alpha and Omega" (the First and the Last). He tells John to write what he sees in a book and to send it to seven specific churches in Asia-Minor. He did indeed do that and that is why we have this book today.

 

12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks

John in the Spirit turns to see the voice. When John turned, he saw seven golden candlesticks.

 

13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

The Son of Man was in the midst of the candlesticks. The Son of Man was a name Jesus used for Himself. The name literally means, "Son of Adam". Those who put a picture of a Norwegian on a wall and call him Jesus might consider changing their picture to one that portrays the glorified Son of Man given in these verses. This is what the Savior looks like now. His head and hair are blindingly white; He has eyes like fire and feet like brass glowing in a furnace. Jesus looks nothing like a Norwegian and I sincerely doubt if he ever did in the flesh either. I point this out because putting an Anglo-Saxon on your church wall does not foster good relations with your brothers of different features or skin hues. Jesus was a Jew and most likely He had Jewish features in the flesh but now He is no longer known after the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16).

The clothing and golden girdle indicate that this person is a high priest.

The voice of Jesus is not like our natural voices. When He speaks, He roars like Niagara Falls in John's ears.

 

16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

The being John saw was controlling seven stars in His right hand. We will later be told that the stars are angels or messengers. Out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword. This indicates that He spoke the word of God. (Heb 4:12). This being not only had a white head but it was blinding like the sun. When John looked at Him, he fell at His feet as dead.

I think it would be wise to assume that John's spirit was actually there with this being in person since he was actually touched by the being and raised up. Obviously, John did not know whom he was seeing; John was so afraid that he became like a dead man. This being then lays His right hand on John, tells him not to fear and apparently, John gets up. This should make it clear that the glorified Son of God does not look anything like the Jesus that John knew in the flesh.

The being then tells John that He is the first and the last. This name only applies to God Almighty. Yet, He tells John that He lived, died and is alive forever. Only Jesus qualifies - Father God certainly did not die. The person seen here is the Son of God the Lord Jesus Christ. This passage is one of many that prove that Jesus is God. Jesus is the only visible image of the Father. He is the beginner and the ender of all things.

Jesus kept John alive into very old age to give him this Revelation. The fact that this Revelation was given to His most beloved disciple John also tells us that this being is the risen Jesus. Those who make Jesus less than Almighty God need to read what these and other scriptures actually say about Him instead of believing what some fallible person told them about Him.

Many Christians think that just asking for forgiveness of sins that already have been paid for by Jesus is all they need to do and then they wonder why they have no victory over the flesh. We must go in and possess the land to get victory over the giants. We must deny the lusts of the flesh and live in the Spirit to get victory over the flesh. It is not in asking for forgiveness that Christians get victory over the flesh. It is in doing the will of God in our lives that we get the victory.

 

19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

This is a key verse because it sets the parameters for the entire bookJohn is the representative chosen to become a time traveler and see Jesus revealed in his Church through time through the working of His Holy Spirit in the Church. John will actually go through the same experiences the Church does through time. The inference in the Gospel of John that many thought John would not die until he experienced the coming of the kingdom makes a little more sense if the disciples were led to believe through the teaching of Jesus that John would experience it in his lifetime.

Joh 21:22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

 

Jesus told John:

Write what thou saw - Chapter one of this book - John sees the glorified Son of God. John also sees the candlesticks in verse 20 that have Jesus in their midst. The candlesticks we are told in verse 20 represent the Church. John in verse 17 then acts out what each person must do to become part of this assembly that will be with Jesus. He dies at the feet of Jesus and is resurrected by the right hand of God and raised to new life by the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit.

Write what things are - Chapters two and three of this book - John as a member of the Church describes what is going on in the entire age of the new covenant Church on earth and what the specific message of Jesus is to each member identified with one of these seven church types or church ages. These seven churches represent the primary attributes and the works to be found in the Church through time during the New Covenant Church age on earth. John is going forward in time to the day when Jesus comes for His Church so the message and the works in the seven letters are sequential in time.

Write what will be hereafter - Chapter four through the rest of the book - John goes to heaven with the faithful Church at the great snatching away of this Church (known as the rapture). John sees the events that happen in heaven and on earth after the church age on earth. Any prophecies in this book that start with events prior to the rapture of chapter four have John looking back in time from the Rapture.

 

20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Jesus tells us that the seven stars that He totally controls with His right hand are seven angels of the seven churches (literally messengers). It appears that each church, church type or church age has a special angel empowered by God to carry out His will. Some say these messengers are pastors but nothing in the text would suggest that they are anything other than angels. Pastors or Church leaders are not ever described as stars in scripture but in several places, angels are implied when the word star or stars is used.

The verse clearly says that the seven candlesticks are the seven churches. Since Jesus is in the midst of the candlesticks in verse 13 it should be clear that Jesus is in the midst of His Church. In the next two chapters, John will write the words of Jesus to the seven churches, church types and church ages that are on earth during the Church age.

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