Revelation 1 - Outline of Revelation (Book Notes menu page)
1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ,
Note, the title is not:
--"The Revelation of St. John the Divine" -although John is the scribe.
--"The Revelations" -the word is singular, the entire book is one story, although revealed to John through several visions.
The title is: "A Revelation of Jesus Christ" -
Note that there is no definite article in the original text. This book is a prophetic preview of the ultimate revelation of Christ, when He will return in power and great glory.
'revelation'=Gk. apokalupsis, lit. apo- 'away from'; kalupsis - 'covering'; thus: uncovering, unveiling.
(The Eng. apocalypse, is often misused as a synonym for 'cataclysm' or 'catastrophe.' While cataclysm characterizes the judgments of this book, it is not the meaning of its title.)
'of' can mean 'about', 'of', or 'by' Jesus Christ. So, the book is:
An Unveiling/Uncovering: (all apply)
-about Him -previously unknown things about Him. cp. Eph 1:17
-of Him -at His future coming as King of Kings in His glory. 2The 1:7; 1Cor 1:7; 1Pet 1:7,13; 1Joh 3:2
-by Him -It is Christ who reveals the things written in this book.
which God gave unto him,
cp. Mat 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:6,7; Joh 12:49
to shew unto his servants
The book is not a riddle to be solved, but a revelation revealed by Christ.
Therefore, the reader should pray for spiritual discernment.
'His servants' are they that wait upon the Lord. Eph 1:17,18
'to show' means to make known.
His purpose is to open prophetic truth that has been previously hidden... to open the 'sealed' book: cp. Dan 12:4-9; Rev 5:1-4
things which must shortly come to pass;
must -of necessity, with certainty
shortly -quickly, suddenly when the time is right, speedily.
Cp. the first occurrence of this word in NT: Luk 18:7-8
and he sent and signified [it] by his angel unto his servant John:
signified -Some have emphasized the 'sign' in this word, to say
that the visions are symbolic signs, not real events. But elsewhere, the word means 'to convey meaning via words.' Cp. Joh 12:33; 18:32; 21:19
Where there are symbols, compare the words of scripture with scripture to find the meaning.
Why 'by his angel' and not directly?
In the NT, Christ mediates directly with the Church. But in the OT, God often dealt with Israel through angels. Much of Revelation relates to the fulfillment of OT prophecy made to Israel.
John -the apostle, author of the Gospel of John & the three epistles of John.
-the 'beloved disciple.' cp. Daniel 'greatly beloved.' Both John and Daniel write on the same themes. Joh 13:23; Dan 9:23; 10:11,19
1:2 Who {ie., John} bare record of the word of God,
{ie., even} of the testimony of Jesus Christ,
{ie., even} of all things that he saw.
-these 3 descriptions of John's message are equivalent to one another.
1:3 Blessed [is] he that readeth,
-Cf. (contrast) the curse for miss-handling, which applies to those who miss-read, miss-apply, edit, or simply disregard this book as unimportant to doctrine and practice. Rev 22:18,19
and they that hear the words of this prophecy,
and keep those things which are written therein:
'keep' has 2 senses: to obey, and to treasure (as Mary, re: the things of Christ, cp. Luk 2:19)
for the time [is] at hand.
{There is no revealed prophetic event which must precede these things.}
The Four Common Interpretive Views of the "time" described in Revelation:
  1. Preterist- relating to the past tense (preteritive tense). John was describing the tribulations of the saints prior to his writing. The visions of cataclysm are symbolic of persecutions under Nero & Domitian.
  2. Historically continuous- The symbols apply to specific events of church history as it unfolds. Among those who hold this view, there is considerable disagreement as to which events are represented by which symbols.
  3. Spiritualized- The symbols apply to the spiritual forces engaged in the ages long battle between good & evil.
  4. Futurist- The events described are real, and will take place at a specific future time.
    Symbolic language is used here (as in Jesus' parables, Mat 13:10-13,34,35) to
    1. Conceal the message from unbelievers, and to
    2. Reveal it to the saints.
    The symbols are made clear by comparing scripture with scripture. 2Pet 1:20
We will follow 'view 4' (above) for the following reasons:
A. Views 1-3 share a common lack of scriptural keys for interpretation of symbols.
Without scriptural anchors, interpretation is arbitrary and imaginative.
(See the use of the word 'signify' at v. 1. Jesus' purpose is to declare the meaning of future events through the words of this book, in the light of the whole Bible.)
B. The introductory verses (vs.1-3) emphasize the future and the prophetic:
  • things which MUST SHORTLY come to pass.
  • things which John SAW. - A seer is a prophet, like Daniel.
    The many visions of the book open with 'And I saw...' or 'I beheld...'
  • the words of this PROPHECY. - This is the only Bible book so called.
    It contains approx. 400 refs. to other prophetic books (eg. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc.)
  • the time is AT HAND. - What time? The time of trouble & ultimate judgment. Dan 12:1-4
C. The outline which Christ gave of His Revelation to John (in Rev 1:18,19): "Write:
  • the things which thou hast seen
    ... (ch 1- The Person of Christ in glory)
  • the things which are
    ... (ch 2,3- The Possession of Christ, the Church in the world)
  • the things which shall be hereafter (lit. 'after these things')
    ... (ch 4-22- The Program of Christ beyond the Church Age)
A basic diagram of this outline (also see the Book Outline):
Things You Have Seen,ch 1    ch 4-5                  ch 19                Great White
Christ in glory the Church in glory Christ returns Throne 20:11-15
_|_ / | | (with the saints) | New Heaven
| / the Church on earth | The Tribulation | Millennial Kingdom | and Earth
| / (unknown length) | ( 7 years) | ( 1000 years) | (Eternity)
the ch 2-3 ch 6-18 ch 20 | ch 21-22
Cross | Lake of Fire
Things which Are | Things which Shall Be After These Things
ch 2-3 | ch 4-22
1:4 {from} John to the seven churches which are in Asia:
seven- Speaks of that which is complete.
There were other churches in Asia (ie., Asia Minor, the western portion of modern Turkey). Some were more prominent. Why weren't they mentioned?
Christ chose these 7 churches as representative of the whole Church (at any point in time, and down through the ages). He will address specific needs of individual congregations (ch 2-3), yet the Book is for 'the churches' inclusively (Rev 22:16).
Grace [be] unto you, and peace,
grace (Gk), peace (Hb)- both the greek & hebrew form of greeting is used.
The order is meaningful: Grace is the source of all blessing including peace.
The fearful sights of Revelation will not overwhelm one who is secured by the grace of the One who eternally is.
from him which is, and which was, and which is to come;
The Great "I Am." His name, Jehovah, is rooted in the verb 'to be.'
Note other phrases with this meaning:
-- v.8 Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
-- v.11 The First and the Last.
and from the seven spirits which are before his throne;
Some see the 7 spirits as representative of the Holy Spirit (citing Isa 11:2).
Others see the 7 spirits as the 7 angels before the throne (ch 8:2), noting:
  1. Isa 11:2 describes 7 graces of Messiah's spirit, not aspects of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Angels are referred to as spirits elsewhere. Heb 1:14
  3. The position of the spirits 'before his throne' suggests inferiority to the One on the throne.
    (Whereas, the Holy Spirit IS God.)
  4. At the end of the age, Christ will 'send forth His angels.' Mat 13:41
  5. The 7 spirits are mentioned frequently prior to ch. 8. But after the 7 angels are sent forth (ch 8:2), there is no further mention of the '7 spirits,' although the 7 angels are very active until the end.
  6. The message is from God the Father & Son to the Church. We would not expect greetings from the Holy Spirit, since He indwells believers. Joh 14:16-17
However, there is no essential conflict between these views, since the 7 angels are totally given to performing the purposes of God's Spirit.
1:5 And from Jesus Christ,
[who is] the faithful witness,
cp. Joh 17:25,26; 18:37; 1Tim 6:13; Psa 40:6-10
[and] the first begotten of {from} the dead,
firstbegotten- Gk=prototokos- connotes priority & sovereignty.
He is 'first born' in the order of resurrection, and first in His pre-eminence.
Christ existed before creation & is sovereign over it, and over the church. Col 1:15-18
{from} the dead- All 'of' the dead will eventually be raised,
but not all will be raised 'from' the dead. 1Cor 15:42-57; Rev 20:13-15
and the prince of the kings of the earth.
Before Him, every knee shall bow. Php 2:9-11; see also Eph 1:20,21
Unto him that loved us,
Gal 2:20
and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
He is called 'the Lamb' 28 times in Revelation, emphasizing the sacrificial character of His death in our behalf.
1:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and {ie., even} his Father;
There is a present aspect to our role as priests (1Pet 2:9).
But our reign with Him is yet future (Rev 5:9-10; Mat 19:28).
It is stated here as accomplished fact.
His Father- Christ has a distinct and eternal relationship with the Father,
namely, His position in the Trinity. As a member of the Godhead, He is set apart from, and above us, who are made sons of God by His blood.
to him [be] glory and dominion for ever and ever.
Note the shift from 'from Him' (v.4,5a) to 'unto Him' (v.5b,6)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the author and also the subject and object of the book.
All things are by Him and for Him. Col 1:16,17; Dan 7:14
'glory'- His exalted state (cp. Joh 17:5).
'dominion'- His absolute sovereignty.
This is a Hebrew word (derived from a root meaning 'to believe')
'Amen' means: "This is the truth," "So be it," or "So it should be."
1:7 Behold,
ie., 'Look for yourself'- John writes what he saw. But what does it mean to you?
he cometh with clouds;
This is a key verse, setting the subject of the book, which
announces Christ's coming as present reality before the fact.
He is not to be confused with false christs.
- His coming will be personal and bodily. Acts1:9-11
- He will come in the air for His Church. 1The 4:16-17
- He will come to the earth to judge & to reign. Mat 24:23-30
and every eye shall see him,
including those who look for Him for salvation... and those who don't. Heb 9:28; Php 2:9-11
and they [also] which pierced him:
This applies first to the nation of Israel, but also to all individuals involved in His crucifixion.
     [In 1990, archaeologists discovered, in a cave on the outskirts of Jerusalem, an ossuary (a casket for bones) engraved with the name of Caiaphas (the high priest who presided over the trial of Jesus). In November of 2008, archaeologists reported evidence that they had discovered the family tomb of King Herod, including the fragments of one ornately engraved sarcophagus. It is as though the Lord has brought these men out, for a good view of His return.] Acts 4:27; Mat 26:63,64
and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.
or, all tribes of the land...- Israel will recognize and receive Him.
shall wail= beat their breasts. They will bewail Him. Zech 12:10; Mat 24:29-30
Even so, Amen.
'even so'= Gk. affirmative, similar in meaning to Heb. 'Amen.'
The double affirmative is emphatic. What He says, He will do! Num 23:19; 2Cor 1:20
In response & confirmation of v.7, the Lord Jesus speaks:
1:8 I am Alpha and Omega,
The first & last letter of Gk. alphabet.
In some MSS, Alpha is spelled out and Omega is a single letter. Some say this suggests that the whole story is complete in Him from A to Z, but the closing chapters have yet to be written in history.
the beginning and the ending,
What He started, He will bring to conclusion.
saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
These terms which apply to the Father in v.4,
are applied to the Son, here, and in almost all remaining occurrences in Revelation. (cp. Joh 17:5)
Additional significance of these terms regarding the God-man:
"who is" - He is not dead, but lives.
"who was & is to come" - His first and second coming are both in view.
"the Almighty" - He is able to fulfill His promises & purposes.
1:9 I John, who also am your brother,
'your' (Gk word is in the plural form)- includes all believers.
and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,
companion= fellow partaker
patience= continuing faithful & waiting until Christ comes, even through persecution.
(See Luk 21:12-19; Heb 10:35-39; 13:10; 14:12)
was in the isle that is called Patmos,
for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
John's exile (under Nero or Domitian), because of his active work in furthering the gospel message, was intended to punish & silence him. But the Lord used it to further His program.
1:10 I was {became} in the Spirit
ie., in a state of being carried away by the Holy Spirit. cp. Rev 17:3; 21:10; Eze 2:2; 3:12,14
The meaning is similar to the GK word 'ekstasis,' meaning 'ecstasy,' which is translated "in a trance" in Acts 10:10,11; 11:5
on the Lord's day,
This may refer to the time of the vision: on the Christian Sabbath.
However, the first day of the week is not referred to as ''the Lord's day'' elsewhere.
It may instead refer to the focus of John's prayerful meditation:
ie., 'I was in the Spirit concerning the Day of the Lord.' -- Numerous OT & NT passages speak of the "the Day of the Lord", in which He will exercise final judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth (eg. Jer 46:10; 1The 5:2; 2Pet 3:10). The Gk. form here emphasizes that this is "the Lord's day," as opposed to man's day. Daniel's visions were given to him as he prayed for understanding of prophecy concerning the Lord's judgment of Israel & the world (Dan 9:2,3). It is likely that John was similarly engaged in Spirit directed prayer, on this subject.
and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
This is the voice of Christ, as described also in Rev 4:1 and 1The 4:16.
1:11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:
and, What thou seest, write in a book,
'book' refers to the entire contents of Revelation. See: Rev 1:2; 22:7,8
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.
These churches were near Patmos. John was an elder at Ephesus
and would have had a burden for and a familiarity with this and the surrounding churches. The churches listed are not the most prominent. Only Ephesus & Laodicea are mentioned elsewhere in the NT.
Note how the revelation unfolds as does a flower: growing as it blossoms.
What is at first only briefly mentioned, is touched on again in greater detail which grows with each succeeding mention. This is a pattern to watch for, and an aid to interpretation of the book. For example:
The addressees:
  • v.1, to His servants.
  • v.4, to the 7 churches in Asia.
  • v.11, to the 7 churches, identified by name.
  • ch. 2-3, to the 7 churches individually & in detail.
The Author:
  • v.1, Jesus Christ.
  • v.5-8, Him who...
  • v.9-18, His Person fills the page... overwhelms the writer (as it should the reader).
1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me.
And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
We are not left to guess what these signify. He explains in v.20
John expects to see Christ, but he sees Him in the Church.
1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks
Mat 18:20
[one] like unto the Son of man,
John recognized Jesus, but He had changed.
Though he had once known Him after the flesh... no more. 2Cor 5:16
"The son of man" was Jesus' favorite title for himself.
It encompasses His incarnation, but it goes beyond Bethlehem. As the son of man, His is the right to redeem His people (as their kinsman redeemer), and His is the right to judge all mankind. cp. Heb 2:14-16; Joh 5:22,27; Acts 17:31
clothed with a garment down to the foot,
and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
In Bethlehem, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, weak & vulnerable.
At Calvary, He was stripped, exposed, humiliated, and mutilated. (cp. Psa 22:17)
But now, He stands inviolable and in royal dignity.
He wears the garment of the High Priest of Heaven, vested with power to save or to destroy, to lift up or to cast down, to defend or to condemn. Heb 7:24,25; 1Joh 1:9; 2:1,2
His breastplate is that of judgment. Ex 28:15
1:14 His head and [his] hairs [were] white like wool, as white as snow;
White hair speaks of age, wisdom, the right to judge.
White as snow speaks of purity.
Many people marvel at the newness & innocence of the Babe in the manger.
He is not only new, but old, the Ancient of Days.
He is not only innocent of all wrong, but the Standard of all that is right. Mic 5:2; Dan 7:9
and his eyes [were] as a flame of fire;
Penetrating, all seeing, testing all in the heat of His holiness. Psa 11:4; 90:7,8; Heb 4:13
1:15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace;
Brass speaks of judgment.
The sin offering was consumed upon the brazen altar of sacrifice. He was that offering. He endured the fire of wrath. There was found no dross in Him. All, who are in Him, walk with Him through the consuming fire of God's holiness and have no hurt. (cp. Dan 3:24-28)
But His feet will trample God's wrath upon all that stand against Him. Mal 3:2; Isa 63:3,4
and his voice as the sound of many waters.
This is the voice of the God of Israel.
-- His voice, to the redeemed, is the fountain of living waters. Eze 43:2
-- But for those who would attempt to stand against Him: Who can raise their voice over the roar of Niagara Falls? Every drop of evidence pours forth relentlessly. None can stand against the flood that carries all away in judgment. Psa 29:3-5
1:16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: {explained in v.20}
and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword:
The Word of God divides between soul & spirit, and discerns the thoughts & intents of the heart. His judgment is just, accurate, swift, with Truth & severity. Isa 49:1,2; Heb 4:12
and his countenance [was] as the sun shineth in his strength. (cp. Psa 19:4-6)
Scripture does not suggest that baby Jesus had a visible halo or glow.
But when He returns, darkness will flee before His Holiness and Glory.
Men love darkness, but where can one hide from Him?
In the blaze of His presence, we melt like maggots in the heat of the sun. Joh 3:19-21; Acts 26:13-15; 1Joh 1:5
1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.
"I" = John, the beloved disciple, who leaned on Jesus' bosom.
cp. the experience of Abraham (Gen 17:3), Isaiah (Isa 6:5), Daniel (Dan 10:8,9,15).
If His friends tremble, what of His enemies? Heb 10:31
And he laid his right hand upon me,
Before Him all men are dead in their trespasses & sins.
Only He can make us live. Eph 2:1
     Yet, we, who have received eternal life through faith in Him, have little comprehension of His Glory. When we see Him, we, too, will be overwhelmed, until He enables us to stand in His Presence. cp. Isa 6:7; Dan 10:10,16
saying unto me, Fear not;
This fear, these words, and this touch were not totally new to John.
cp. his experience at Christ's Transfiguration (Mat 17:6,7).
I am the first and the last:
(ie., there is none before Him, and none will follow Him. Isa 43:10,11 )
1:18 I [am] he that liveth, and was dead;
and, behold, I am alive for evermore,
literal translation [JBSmith]:
"Fear not: I am the first and the last and the living One, and I came to be dead and behold! Living I Am, unto the ages of ages."
(This statement briefly summarizes John's Gospel.)
This word both affirms what has gone before, and also serves as a title of the One so identified (cp. 3:14).
and have the keys of hell {hades} and of death.
keys- suggest authority (cp. Mat 16:19).
Christ's authority over death and hades has been demonstrated. Acts 2:24
1:19 Write
Christ Himself gives the outline of the book:
the things which thou hast seen,
I. The Person of the Lord Jesus Christ
-- revealed in His Glory (ch. 1)
-- ready to judge.
and the things which are,
II. The Present Church age - the letters to the 7 churches (ch. 2,3).
and the things which shall be hereafter; {hereafter= lit., "after these things"}
III. The Prophecy of what follows the end of the Church age. (ch. 4-22)
Note: -- The Church is addressed on earth often in ch. 1-3.
-- The church is seen in heaven in ch. 4,5.
-- The church is not mentioned again until ch. 19.
1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand,
and the seven golden candlesticks.
A mystery in scripture= something previously unknown and unknowable by finite minds,
but which is now revealed by God. [JBSmith]
Note that these symbols (first seen in v.12,16) are interpreted for us by the Lord.
This pattern continues throughout the book of Revelation. If the symbol is not immediately explained in the context, the Lord explains it elsewhere in scripture.
The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches:
and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
Recall: John's first glimpse of Christ (v.12):
"..I turned to see the voice that spake with me... I saw seven golden candlesticks {ie., lampstands}..."
     John saw Christ "in the midst of" the Church, represented by seven golden lampstands {GK=luchnia, lamp}. [In both the OT & NT, 'lamps' are always fueled by oil, picturing dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Wax candles, which consume fuel from within themselves, are unknown in Scripture (other than in the English KJV, which renders 'luchnia' as 'candlestick,' in several places).]
     Today, Christ reveals Himself through the Church. He is the light of the world who desires to shine through us. The Lord of the Church walks among us, trimming our wicks and supplying the oil of His Spirit. He has power to enhance our lamps, or, to remove them. (ch. 2,3)
     Christ begins His judgment at the house of God. 1Pet 4:17
'Stars', which are heavenly lights, refer to angels (spiritual beings).
'Lampstands', which rest on the earth, refer to the church (made up of earthbound men).
The letters to the 7 churches (ch. 2,3) are "to the angel of the church at..."
Two views are suggested: Christ is addressing either-
  1. a human messenger (pastor/elder) or
  2. a spirit being related to each church.
Since the letters rebuke and exhort the earthly churches, view #1 makes sense. But consider-
  1. In each case "angel" is singular. The pattern of NT and early church history is a plural leadership in each local church (elders/bishops, pastors, teachers...). Acts 20:17; Eph 4:11
  2. If 'angel' in ch. 2,3 refers to human messengers, this is contrary to the word usage in the rest of Revelation.
  3. In the letter to Sardis (3:1) the "angel of the church" (who is one of the 'seven stars', v.20), and the seven Spirits of God (which we identified as heavenly angels {see notes at v.4}) appear to be on the same level. There is no distinguishing word (such as GK 'heteros', 'other of a different kind') to set the angel(s) of the church(es) apart from heavenly angels.
  4. Scripture often uses the word "star" to refer to spiritual beings (good or evil), but not to refer to mere humans. (v.20) Job 38:7; Isa 14:12,13; Rev 2:28; 9:1,11; 22:16; 12:4,7,9; 2Pet 1:19
But, Why would the letters to the churches be addressed to heavenly angels?
  1. Angels have a keen interest in God's Word and Work. They communicate, look into, learn from and keep His Word. 1Pet 1:11,12; Eph 3:8-10; Rev 1:1; 22:6
  2. Angels are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." We actually know very little about their role. But they may provide both physical and spiritual protection, and they observe church order. Heb 1:14; Psa 34:7; 91:11; Mat 18:10; 1Cor 11:10
By addressing each letter to an angel (whose ministry relates to a specific local church), Christ does not shift responsibility for obedience from the church. Note that at the end of each letter, we are warned to hear "what the Spirit says unto the churches." If anything, our sense of responsibility should be intensified, by increased awareness of the "cloud of witnesses" consisting of saints and angels, and much more so, by the vision of our Lord's watchful Presence among us. (Heb 12:1,2)

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