Key verse 3: Read, Hear, Heed
1-3 The Revelation of Jesus Christ
4-8 A Message to the Churches from God the Son
9-17 A Vision of Jesus Christ
As this study of the book of Revelation begins, I want to point out a few things to keep in mind. This is what I see in the Scriptures and not necessarily the “right” belief. I want to encourage you to do your own study and your own research from historical sources. I want you to believe what YOU think God is saying here. If it differs from what I have said here, that’s great! I’m not claiming to be an authority of the book. I am claiming to be someone that wants to know the Truth, specifically the Truth as it is in Jesus, and my views may be changed if you have a compelling enough presentation. Beware of guys like me that have opinions – because they are just that – opinions – but based on my best ability to research the topics.
There seems to be some current debate as to the author of the book. The classical view is that the Apostle John wrote his three letters to the churches (1 John), to quite possibly Mary and her children (the mother and siblings of Jesus) (2 John), and to Gaius (3 John), the book of Revelation, and the Gospel of John, in that order. There are some today that dispute that the Apostle John wrote Revelation, calling this author John of Patmos to distinguish him from the Apostle. Personally, I think this is what the Bible calls “vain strivings,” because they have no great spiritual implication for our lives – the book was written by a man named John. (Personally, I think it was the Apostle. The proponents of the theory offer little more than hand-waving and purposeless explanations that do not make a difference in my spiritual life. Yes, that is my opinion. You are entitled to yours.)
The book itself was written while John was in exile on the island penal colony of Patmos. He was sent there by Domitian, the third-to-last Caesar in the Flavian dynasty for uttering prophecy. There were a number of offences that fell into the same category, such as the practices of magic or astrology, or mysticism in general, whether Pagan, Jewish, or Christian. Prophecy with political implications like Revelation was especially frowned upon, because it would have been perceived as a threat to Roman authority and order.
As you read through the book, you begin to get a feeling that there is a very specific agenda for the book itself because of the promise of blessing that one has for simply reading, hearing, and heeding the words of the book. This is the only book in scripture that comes with its own strong encouragement to read it! All scripture is equally important, of course – but this book still says, “read me, I’m special.” I think this has to do with the real purpose of the book.
There is a line of scripture in this book (19:10) that says, “For the Testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” In as much as what is contained here is fascinating, please do not lose sight that the primary goal of the Christian in studying Scripture is to learn to follow Jesus more closely. That has the important implication that all prophecy is to reveal or explain some aspect of Jesus’ work or personality or principles or the like. This book is the culmination of all prophecy in Scripture, and as such should be regarded as a work where we can see and know more of Him and His Truth, His Way, and His Life – for it is about what we will become also: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2)
Then it says something very important: “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3) If we are reading this book to know Him, His Way, His Truth, His Life, better, then we should be moved in the direction of holiness in our own lives. Because when He appears, WE will be LIKE HIM. This places on us a critical pursuit, found here in Verse 3 of this chapter – to READ His word – to know what it says to the best of our ability with the tools He has given us, to HEAR His word – to know what it means, specifically to us, so that we might know how to HEED His word – that is, to practically apply it in our lives as we walk with Him. With that said, let us take a look at what is in the chapter, verse by verse.
1 – The first thing we notice is the title of the book. Notice it is the REVELATION (singular, as in only one). Sometimes, I hear people call it “Revelations (plural), and it usually tells me that the individual has not read the book or that they are not a careful reader of Scripture, which we need to be if we are to Read, Hear, and Heed as verse 3 tells us. I also sometimes hear “Revelation of John” or some variation of that theme, indicating the same thing. Rather, it is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” Notice also that it says God gave this revelation to Him – that is Jesus Christ – so that He (Jesus) could show his followers things that will take place quickly, which is one of the meanings of “tachos,” the Greek word here. (We get our word tachometer from this word, and it refers not so much to when it will occur but the speed of occurrence.) He communicated, or “signified,” or “sign-ified” these things to His servant John through his “aggelos,” or “angel,” the most common word usage.
2 – John bore witness (testified) to the word of God (logos, the divine expression used in John 1) and the testimony or “witness” of Jesus Christ, and to everything that he saw whether he explained it or not (and he does not always explain or reveal what he saw for whatever reason).
3 – This book is unique in that it pronounces a blessing on those that will read it, hear it, and heed (guard, watch over) it, which implies obedience of action to the instructions given.
4 – John is greeting the seven churches that are identified later that are located in the Roman province of Asia Minor, and he does so according to what I see is a clear outline of the book. Him who is (present), who was (past), and who is to come (future), or if you like, God the Father. An interesting point here is that according to Jewish tradition, prophecy is not so much announcement and happening, but in the pattern of the prophecy. This could be seen as the Lord confirming the prophetic value of this book, for what that is worth. He also gives greetings from the “seven Spirits of God,” which according to Isaiah 11:2, is an expression of the Holy Spirit (some translations actually say the sevenfold Spirit of God),
5 – and from Jesus Christ, clearly identified in his office of faithful witness, firstborn of the dead (speaking of resurrection power I believe), and the ruler of the kings of the earth (King of Kings). Why this threefold greeting? To indicate the Trinity, if nothing else. In fact John begins an expression of worship for the fact that this Jesus loves (agapeo) us, and has released (luo, to dissolve or put an end to) us from sin (hamartia, wrongdoing, failure to measure up) by his blood. John here acknowledges what Jesus did for us on the Cross.
6 – This is interesting. Jesus has made us to be literally “kings and priests” to God the Father. There are only three references to this in Scripture – to Melchizedek, to Jesus, and to the Church.
7 – This is a reference to Daniel 7:13. No one will miss the return of Yeshua Ha-Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
8 – God seals this again with a reference to Who is, and who was, and who is to come, which references again the prophetic pattern of the book.
9 – John was on Patmos, which was a prison colony. He was exiled there by the Roman Caesar Domitian for giving witness of Jesus, and His works.
10 – John tells us that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, or perhaps “the Day of the Lord.” This may be a reference to Sunday, or it may give reference to something else more apocalyptic in nature. I’m not sure at this point, and I’m personally flagging this for a little more research.
11 – He is instructed here to write a letter to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Pay attention here, the order that the churches are given in may be significant. There will be more about this as this study continues.
12 – The Seven Lamp stands – more in v. 20
13 – A Son of Man – more in vv. 17, 18
14 – Head and Hair white like wool or snow – speaks of holiness, among other things; eyes like flame or fire – speaks of judgement throughout scriptures;
15 – feet like bronze – a metal that endures fire, by association one that can render judgement; voice – like many waters, or LOUD, if you have ever heard the sea crash against the cliffs, perhaps speaking of His authority.
16 – seven stars in His hand – more in v. 20; out of His mouth, a sharp two-edged sword, Heb. 4:12 – the Word of God; face like the shining of the sun. It is possible that Jesus in His heavenly body may be clothed in light.
17 – I would likely fall down like a dead man too. The Voice identifies Himself as “The First and the Last.” This is a reference from Isaiah 41:4 where God identifies Himself by this name.
18 – “The Living One” is a name given to the risen Christ at the tomb on resurrection morning to the women that had gone to anoint the body of the Lord for burial. He further identifies Himself from here. “I was dead, and I am alive forevermore” is a reference to His own resurrection. “I have the key of death and Hades” speaks of his overcoming death and the grave after the cross. (e.g., Eph 4:8)
19 – Here is where the Lord gives John the outline of the book, by telling him to write “The things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things,” or past, present, and future. Chapter 1 will become the immediate things which John has seen in the next verse.
20 – The Lord explains what John saw earlier – the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the lamp stands are the seven churches.
That is the first chapter of Revelation. There is nothing particularly controversial in its wording or message yet. That begins in Chapter two. I intend to break chapters 2 and 3 into 7 or maybe 8 portions to get at all the fine detail in the letters to the seven churches contained therein, and as an introduction, show some important concepts to keep in the forefront of your mind as we study those letters.
As always, your questions and comments are appreciated, and in fact, invited. I have some rules about that, and I will keep mentioning this. First, keep the questions based in civility. I will not answer stupidity or insults. (I will use the delete and ban feature of Facebook if you show you cannot play nicely.) Second, no legitimate question is dumb. The only dumb legitimate question out there is the one you DO NOT ask. Third, I don’t expect everyone to agree with my views. I’m not trying to “convert” you. Please don’t try to do that with me or the other readers. No one appreciates aggressiveness, especially in this kind of “basic belief” context. If we can agree to disagree agreeably, we’ll do just fine – none of us have the corner of the Truth. Finally, have fun! If we can agree to those things, we will all enjoy studying the Scriptures together!
Gerry @ The Berean Nation