Revelation 1:17-20 – 2024 Feb 08

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a vision of Christ?  All of the false teachers in the great Evangellyfish today are telling us about how when THEY went to Heaven and saw Jeeezuzzz that He did things, gave things, said things, which I’m pretty sure that the real Jesus, God the Son, did not do, say, or give.  It leaves the young believer wondering what is wrong with them and their faith because this kind of thing isn’t happening to them.  That’s one of the ways we can know it’s bunk.  However, another way is to read the account of a man who actually WAS taken to heaven from the Scriptures, the only reliable source we have of that kind of information.  We have such a story, and it is this book, The Revelation of Jesus Christ.  How do we know?  All the believers in John’s day knew it.  Others had also been taken to heaven, though they did not write of it, notably Paul.  Also, this matches other such apocalyptic literature detail for detail in Old Testament books like Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, or some of the minor prophets, like that.

John had a vision of Christ while he was in a cave on the Island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, and was commanded by Christ Himself to write it down for we who came behind him.  Tonight’s study focuses on a small window where we see John and his own response to all of this.  John was like us, a sinner saved by grace in Christ alone by faith in Him.  John also in this text gives us the theme of what he will be writing about in the book, and we will cover that in some detail when we get there.  We will just jump right in here.

I broke the text into thought units as follows:

KV19:  The Vision of Christ and Theme

19:  Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.

17-18:  The Response to the Vision of Christ

19:  The Command of the Christ in the Vision

20:  The Vision of Christ Explained to John

All of these things are in the text, and there are even more things that can speak to you at different times.  What the Lord revealed to me from the text this time is that John saw Christ, and he had a VERY specific response to Him, and He is not the one that has had this response to heavenly beings.   The Lord also gave John a specific task and specific things to write about, and when John did not understand, the Lord Jesus explained them, or some agent of His that was near at hand did.  With all of that said, let’s have a look at the text.

KV19:  The Vision of Christ and Theme

19:  Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.

I took verse 19 as my key verse here because it is the actual command the Lord gives to John.  We will even spend some time establishing the Lord’s identity and authority to give this kind of directive to His servant John.  It is the verse immediately after John’s response to seeing the risen Christ, and Christ’s response to John’s response if you will.  Let’s look at the text.

17-18:  The Response to the Vision of Christ

Let me remind you that John knows who this is, even if he does not recognize him for all the fireworks, and I think he did recognize Jesus.  That is surprising, but not surprising.  John had seen this kind of thing before.  Let’s read.

17:  When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,

  • John falls down like a dead man.  As I said, this is not John’s first rodeo, so to speak, either!  Remember the Transfiguration of Christ?  John was there with James his brother, and Peter.  This is such an important event, it occurs in all three synoptic Gospels!  For your reference, Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9 all contain this historical event, and you can look all of those up on your own time.  For our purposes, we will look at Matthew 17:1-8–“Six days later Jesus *took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and *led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.”  I should add that it was the Christ who also steadied them and restored them to normal function again at that time also.  Hold on to that idea, because this is also not the only person this happened to.
  • Daniel 8:17.  “So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.””  Daniel had this same experience with the angel Gabriel.  Gideon saw “the angel of the Lord,” and he was afraid.  How about Isaiah?  He feared he was about to be unmade because He saw the Lord, high and lifted up!  As a side note, I think that people today do not understand the beings that we call angels.  We picture them as babies with cute little wings, and sometimes a bow with heart-tipped arrows and name them Cupid.  Or they appear as beautiful women in long, white gowns, with wings, and beautiful singing voices.  Somehow, I think that’s a complete misunderstanding because all of these manly men fell down in terror at the revealing of them as heavenly beings.  But like I said, that’s a marginal observation.
  • Christ restored John to functionality.  The first thing Jesus did was lay his right hand on John.  It’s a gesture of concern in polite society, and one that expresses care for the one being touched.  John was the disciple whom Christ loved in John’s Gospel, and this is the Lord showing His concern for a loved one among other things.  Some men I know have suggested that John died and this was Jesus touching him to raise him to new life, but I think the text would have said that if that happened.  I think it was the touch of His Lord and friend that comforted John, as well as the words, “Do not be afraid.”  the Lord gave assurance to John, and I think He would do the same for us here this evening.  Whatever trial or trouble you are going through, the Lord is with you right through the trial, supplying His grace so that you can endure it.
  • Then the Lord identifies Himself to John and us, and if that source of comfort does little or nothing for you, you need to repent.  The Lord takes to Himself a very ancient name for God:  “The first and the last.”  Isaiah 41:4 reads, “Who has performed and accomplished it, Calling forth the generations from the beginning?  ‘I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’”  What does that mean?  Well, the Hebrew word used for “LORD” here is in your Bible all caps.  That means by convention of English translation, that it is the four letters in Hebrew known as the Tetragrammaton.  The Hebrew letters are yod, hey, vav, hey, and that is THE name of God in the Old Testament.  Some, like Tyndale, have pronounced that “Jehovah,” and it isn’t wrong.  Other linguists take it as “Yahweh” for ancient Hebrew grammatical reasons.  It doesn’t actually matter, because we KNOW that it is referring to GOD.  Which God?  THE God.  John 1:1.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and that God was the Word.”  THAT GOD.  The Great I AM, also used here in Isaiah 41.  He calls Himself the First and the Last.  Isaiah 46:6 also uses that arrangement of words for God when God speaks of Himself.  “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:  ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.’”  Isaiah 48:12 reads, “Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last.”  This takes on significance when the title is used in Revelation 1:17 and 2:8, where he uses the title and then further refines his identity in v.18 as the one who died and then rose again.  Beloved, there is only one person that can be–our Lord Jesus Christ!  Last time we talked about all the different names we find in the Old Testament that form a couplet, starting with the word Jehovah.  We named two:  Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide.  I like the Rotherham translation here.  “So Abraham called the name of that place, Yahweh-yireh,–as to which it is still said to-day, In the mountain of Yahweh, will provision be made.”  Provision will be made.  What you NEED, not your every sinful whim, as I think Alex brought out in our Friday Book study last time.  We also talked about Jehovah Tsidkenu, or the Lord our Righteousness.  And who is this here in Revelation 1:17?  None other than Yahweh YeSHUah, or Jehovah Jesus.  The God-Man Himself.  That would give ME comfort!  See verse 18!

18:  and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

  • See?  There He is!  He is the LIVING ONE!  Not the dead one!  He WAS dead!  Past tense!  Not anymore!  Now, as He says here, He is alive forevermore!!!  Jehovah Jesus!  Who else could it be?  Now, I am aware that I may have said something offensive to the folks who call themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”  I am sorry you are offended and wrong.  Jesus is Jehovah.  And if you believe that already, what are you doing following Charles Taze Russell?  Get out of there and into a church that teaches from an actual Bible translation, not that horrible rewritten thing from 1950 they call the New World “Translation,” which according to an EU court decision in 1987 is not an actual translation of the Bible, it is a rewritten narrative to break the scriptures and introduce false doctrines.  In 2017, Russia actually banned it from their country.  Their own “translation board” kept their names ultra-secret, and in a 1954 court appearance, the main (probably only) translator said he would never reveal them.  In that same court case, he was given a verse of Hebrew from Genesis (1:1 I believe, but I could be wrong), and he failed to translate it.  Out of the six people who “translated” it, only one had any training in translation from classical Greek.  He had 21 unit-hours of instruction from the University of Cincinnati, and partially completed a survey course in Biblical Greek, which is NOT classical Greek.  He also was self-taught Hebrew, Aramaic, and Spanish of all things.  He also knew some Latin.  That was Franz Frederick.  The only other guy who even KNEW Greek at all was George Gangas, and he was Turkish and knew MODERN Greek, a far cry from Koine Greek.  The rest of their translation team consisted of Milton Henschel, Karl Klein, Nathan Knorr, and Albert Schroeder, none of whom had any training in Biblical languages.  But enough of that.  It is clear to me that Jesus is God.  In fact, we saw all the way through all of the epistles to this point that there are three persons that make up the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  All three are spoken of in some detail, particularly by Paul.  This is the Jesus who is comforting John.  And there is more good news for John and all followers of Jesus, God the Son.
  • He has the keys of hell and death.  I pause here to put a question to you all.  In a normal world, who has the keys to something?  Anyone?  How about, “the owner?”  Jesus owns death and the grave, having conquered them like the general of a mighty army!  He now uses them to His own ends, not the ends that they were used for in the past.  No real believer needs to fear death and Hades, the place of the dead (Hebrew: Sheol).  That’s the good news of Jesus and the implications of His atoning work on the cross right there!

So John reacted!  He fainted away and fell to the ground like a dead man.  I don’t think he died because he still had some situational awareness, but I am speculating, and I don’t want to do a lot of that.  Our Lord Jesus responded to John’s fainting with compassion and understanding, and thank God for that.  Call that a mini-application, to always treat others with compassion, understanding, kindness, patience, you know, the fruit of the Spirit. 

Christ raised John back to his feet and then gave command to Him, our very next thought unit.

19:  The Command of the Christ in the Vision

I keep calling this a “vision” like John was having a dream.  The fact is, I don’t know what happened to John.  Was he really in all these places?  Was he just dreaming?  Personally, I think John was taken to all of these places as opposed to the more nebulous dream state that it might have been, and I have no reason not to think that.  To go beyond this at this point is speculation until we get to chapter 4, and I’ll leave this discussion until then.  One thing that is certain in any way you look at this, either way you look at it, Christ gave John a command.

19:  Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.

  • Read this in the context of the previous verse.  “Because I am the Living One, the First and the Last, the One that has the keys of death and Hades, I want you to do this.”  That word “therefore” is a word that reaches conclusion.  My Grade 10 History teacher taught me a lesson about this that translated into all my other classes.  It goes like this.  “When you see the word ‘therefore,’ you need to see what it’s there for!”  This concluding statement is the order that Jesus gave to John:  WRITE.”
  • What was John supposed to write?  Well, this book.  Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself gave John the outline for the book here.  Write the things that you HAVE SEEN [already, shown by the past perfect, actions that were completed in the past and are still completed, largely chapter 1], the things which are [the now stuff, chapters 2 and 3, the seven letters to the seven churches], and the things which take place after [future events].  Jesus Himself has arranged this book into past, present, and future events, and John wrote it down faithfully.
  • There is a bit of a language trick here that I will make you aware of, one that until recently, I don’t think I understood.  The things which take place “after these things” is represented by the Greek word metatauta, meaning hereafter or after these things.  When John uses that word again, it indicates one set of sequential events has ended and a new sequence is beginning.  This word is used in this way eight times in Revelation.  The next of these is in 4:1, and that begins in my thinking the things which will happen metatauta, after these things. 
  • Here is a little of my reasoning for those of you who are trying to figure out my eschatology.  I will tell you upfront, I am not amillennial, and I am not postmillennial.  I am premillennial, and I don’t think I am dispensational, but I am at least dispensational-adjacent, and I’m not even sure that there is a nuance here that makes a real difference.  This matters a bit to me, because it tells me that there is going to be a change in the world of some kind that was not seen in the Old Testament at all.  This has been called by some “the Church Age.”  Is it a set amount of time? Who cares?  That is what is now, the things that are.  At some point, that will end somehow (and yes, I think we have at least a hint at how), and then the events from chapter 4 on will begin, and lead into six more eschatological sequences, for a total of seven.  Someone last time mentioned that Revelation was written in a heptadic structure, and here is some of it.  In fact, if you know anything about the numerical structure of the Scriptures, you will know that there are eight mentions and not seven, but the first is definitional, and eight in Scripture is the number of new beginnings, so I’m not all that surprised.  This ushers out the remainder of history and ushers in the eternal kingdom where all believers will live with Christ forever and serve Him.  The other seven instances of metatauta are functional, not definitional, and there is your heptadic structure.  Seven functional changes into a future set of events, all ending in the eternal state in the new heavens and new earth.  That is what the Lord is telling to John and writing down for us.

I know that was some heavy-duty logic there, but I think you will agree a necessary starting place for us, especially in the light of the next verse, which begins to explain things to John about the things that are.  If you have questions, please comment below, or contact us, and we would be happy to have a civil discussion about why we hold these things.

20:  The Vision of Christ Explained to John

I will again take a moment to state that we know that the interpretation of this is the correct one, because the source of the interpretation is the word of Christ Himself as He speaks to John.  He is plain in His language, leaving it so simple that a child like me can follow it.

20:  As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

  • The mystery of the seven stars in the right hand of Christ is revealed, as is the meaning of the seven golden lampstands.  The mustērion that is perhaps initially hidden from John is revealed by the Master Himself.  He is very plain in His explanation, and I will not obfuscate it, because that would be moronic.  The seven stars are the “angels” of the seven churches.  The Greek word here is aggeloi, the plural of aggelos, the Greek word commonly translated into English as “angel.”  The most common meaning of the word is a supernatural being, and in this context, is a servant of God, that somehow watches or aids the particular named church.  We have no biblical evidence of any kind of organization or class of angels here, and students of angelology will tell you that there is not much direct instruction on angels in Scripture.  One of the theologians we respect here in the Berean Nation is John Calvin, and even he was cautious in discussing details here.  The reason this is worth mentioning is because we will see them again.  What we do see in Scripture is that the mention of angels is always with reference to something else.  The original meaning of the word is “messenger” or “one who delivers a message,” and that is certainly a pattern seen in Scripture.  In the New Testament, angels are mentioned 746 times with 49 of those being in the book of Revelation, our current study.  It is a common reference in Scripture, in other words, and that means the Sadducees were wrong.  Angels do exist and serve at the pleasure of the King of the universe.  However, and here is the problem, the word is not used in Scripture to refer to ONLY the supernatural beings that serve our King.  The term is also used of human messengers delivering a human message to another human (Luke 7:24; Jam. 2:25), a human messenger delivering a message from God (Hag. 1:13; Gal. 4:14), and for an impersonal agent such as Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7).  In this reference and in chapters 2 and 3, it may mean the pastor of the individual named church.  You can find more information on this at, where I got some of this.  I love the internet and an unbiased search engine.  These stars were in the hand of the Lord Jesus, and that means whatever they were, and my own thought is that it was the pastors or elders of those churches (see Rev. 2:1 for example), they were His own dedicated servants.  Jesus communicated His will to them through His servants the Apostles whom He personally chose and in writing, which has been passed down to us through a long and difficult road.
  • This second symbology is more straightforward.  The seven lampstands are the seven churches that the Lord Jesus named in the letter (v.11).  We can glean some things from the symbolism that John saw.  First, they were lampstands [luchnia].  The word means a stand from which light emanates.  The KJV translates it as “candlestick,” though I think these are bigger than a basic tabletop candle.  This is used to symbolize the church, which means WE as the church (not the building or even the location) are to not only hold but display the light of Christ.  It is a stand that holds the light higher so that it can be shed further, and that ALSO should reflect that we are to make serious effort to shine the light of Christ into a dark world.  Lamps in those days were lit with a flame, which could represent the Holy Spirit within the church, which again is made of living stones, that is us, the people that make up the members, not the building or even the location.  If it was the building, the building would burn down.  It is not the location because of the language used: “the church AT [wherever, based on geographical location].”  We are the light that emanates from the flame that lights the world.  The stand itself could be seen as the place where the light meets, and I have no issue with that kind of ecclesiology.  Also, it is made of gold, which speaks of its value to the maker, and the flame implies the purity of the church.
  • Jesus was walking in their midst, meaning that He associated closely with them, instructing His servants, caring for each flock in each location, and knowing those who are His own.  He gave them direction, they obeyed the King in their midst, and this picture shows that they were in direct accountability to Him, not to a denomination or some board of deacons like the Apostles, even the capital-A Apostles.  They are also parts or members of the body, His church, and HE is the sovereign head of it all.  I find it interesting that our denomination (CBOQ) is at least on paper organized this way, and every member church functions with local autonomy to our Living Head, the Lord Jesus.  Some do this faithfully, some not so much, but that’s for our next bunch of studies.

I’m not sure when I realized that I bit off way more than I could chew with this study, but Here is where I decided to try to draw this to a conclusion.  Obviously, there will be a lot more symbology in future studies, and we may have to break this into smaller chunks for study than I thought, but I’m okay with that. 

With that purpose in mind, I have a suggestion to make your study of this book, and indeed all of Scripture, much easier to keep track of and remember.  Find an office software package and use it.  I have used Microsoft Office for years, really since about 2011 for myself, and before that unofficially, but there is an expense that goes with this software package.  It costs me $89 USD every year for their Microsoft 365 subscription.  I’m okay with that expense because I get all of the Office applications and also 1 TB of cloud data storage with that, and I periodically make offline backups of that.  Word (word processor) is great for when I have to print stuff out, Excel (spreadsheet) is great if I want to keep track of multiple categories at once, Access (database) has applications, PowerPoint (slides) makes all my slides that I use, and OneNote (the old Binder) is what I initially do all of my research in and make all my notes in, and it also stores documents of all the other types that I can collect, and includes PDF capability in all of it.  Also, it ports seamlessly between my PC and my Mac, so I really appreciate that.  But that’s me.  Not everyone wants to spend that kind of money on this kind of stuff, and I thought long and hard before I did. 

I did a little research, and the next best thing I can suggest, and it’s pretty good, is Google Office.  It has a word processor, a spreadsheet, a slide editor, note functions, and a bunch of other stuff like Google Mail, also known as Gmail, which is mostly pretty good.  I find it less functional in my own case, but I have used MS Office since 1995, so maybe I don’t know it as well.  It also ports between Mac and PC seamlessly and gives you up to I think 15 GB of storage for free, and I pay $3.79 a month for 100 GB of storage.  This has one big advantage over MSO; it is free.  My only concern is that Word docs and Google Docs don’t talk to each other well, probably by design, so that can mess up your document formatting. 

Sun has a free product also, it is a full suite also, and it runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux if you’re a masochist who is into that kind of thing.  I used to be, and discovered I don’t really have time for that anymore.  However, I don’t remember what it is called, but it is all free.  The only issue is that you have to either pay for your own cloud storage or make offline copies of everything.  I like the online function because I can do my work from literally anywhere.

My recommendation is to get a package that you are personally happy with and use it.  Now I want to talk about online bible software.  The king of those is Logos Bible software, and if you can afford it or don’t have to pay for it yourself, then you have the best in the business.  I think the basic subscription is $200 a year, and that gives you the ESV translation (a good translation) and some search tools, and it integrates with the software that we use to produce our slides for Sunday worship here as part of that subscription I think. 

A better free one is Olive Tree Bible Software, and that’s the one I use.  It has in-app purchases, and you can buy any translation you like or use the multiple free ones, like the KJV, ESV, YLT, DBY, or any number of other more obscure ones.  If you’ve seen the livestreams from us, you have seen the display.  We have paid for the NASB1995 and the new LSB for that software, and I’ve bought a few more add-ons like Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the WCF, the LBC, several Bible dictionaries, and my next purchase will be the BDAG Lexicon for Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.  It’s a cool thing because it fits on my phone, and it means I’m carrying a large theological library in my pocket. 

One that is parallel to that in every way is Accord Bible software.  There is Acclaim Bible Software (I think Chris Rosebrough uses one of those).  Again, these have in-app purchases.

Then there is YouVersion.  I like it, in that every English translation is free to read.  My problem is that it comes from Craig Groeschel’s LifeChurch, and he is a Charismaniac of the highest order.  Still, if all you do is read or listen to the Scriptures, you’ll be fine.  Just don’t get into the “tools” they have for “prayer” and “fellowship.”  That’s code for “let us indoctrinate you” and “send us your money so you can get rich,” respectively.  I use it to track my daily Scripture reading. 

The reason I suggest any electronic aid you can use is for the convenience, I admit, but it really saves time.  If you need to look something up, all you need to do is open an app on your cell phone and you’re good to go.  I deal with this every week, and I don’t think I could go into the detail I do if I didn’t have these tools available.  Given that I am still learning Koine Greek, the interlinear capabilities this brings are of high value to me, as is the ability to click a word and get the definition from Vine’s and the usage of the word from BDAG, hopefully for next week, but we’ll see.  If it saves me time, I can sustain my efforts in studying longer, and so therefore can you.  I don’t do this just so I can learn this and fill my head with this stuff, I do it so that I can edify you, so I ask your prayers for me in that respect.

That’s what I saw in the text this time and a few handfuls on purpose.

Next time, our text will be  Rev. 2:1-7, the Letter to Ephesus, and hopefully a short introduction, though that will be time permitting.  I can remember a lecture from Bible teacher Chuck Missler on just this letter alone was over an hour because of all the material he had.  I want to avoid that as much as possible.

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