Revelation Intro and Chapter One: This begins a series or chapter by chapter survey of Revelation. When teaching this, I usually go verse by verse and it takes months to cover. However, due to space and time limitations, this will be a concise view. There are many great references and commentaries on this wonderful book. My study includes references from J.Vernon McGee, James W. Knox, Oliver B. Greene, and others. I have gleaned much from them and the Lord has shown me truths through His Spirit in His word. Let me first say, “There are no new revelations outside the revealed Word of God.” I believe the whole counsel of God is before us in the Bible.
Revelation is not a difficult book to understand. Remember, unlike Daniel (Dan.12:9), the book of Revelation was not sealed: (Rev. 22:10) “And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” There are three keys to study of Revelation: 1. Study prayerfully, 2. Rightly divide which includes comparing scripture with scripture, and 3. Remember Revelation is to be taken literal unless the wording indicates symbolic meaning. Revelation is very ordered, in fact, it divides itself in the very first chapter. (Rev. 1:19) “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;” That is the book is divided in past, present, and future.
Chapter One declares immediately that this is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. We see the reason for the truth being revealed in verse 3: “for the time is at hand.” Next in verse 4, we see that the recipient is the church represented by the seven churches in Asia (modern day Turkey). In verses 4-6 we see the triune God. He mentions the seven spirits of God which are described in Isaiah 11:2 “…And the (1)spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the (2)spirit of wisdom and (3)understanding, the (4)spirit of counsel and (5)might, the (6)spirit of knowledge and (7)of the fear of the LORD;”
In verse 5 we see that Jesus is the faithful witness. This is His revelation and we can trust His truth. He is next described as the ‘First begotten of the dead’. Firstborn is the Greek, prototokos , which has to do with resurrection. He is the first to rise from the dead, never to die again. And finally, He is “The prince [ruler] of the kings of the earth.” In Daniel chapter 4, we learn “…the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” In verse 6, we see the mention of God the Father. As you read verse 7, go back and read Zechariah 12:10 and 13:6 as it is a reference to that prophecy.
Now we see that John is on the isle of Patmos and in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. This isn’t the Sabbath which was from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, but rather this is the first day of the Jewish week or Sunday. He was exiled there from about A.D. 86 to 96. This takes place near the end of his long life. It is said that John lived to be 100. Remember when Peter asked Jesus in John chapter 21 what would John do? Jesus said, “…If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?…” And now we see Jesus is about to show up. First John hears a tremendously loud voice saying, “…I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last…” This is Christ.
When John turns to see Him, he sees seven golden candlesticks representative of the seven churches (this is told to us in verse 20): Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. And he sees one like unto the Son of Man walking in the midst. That always makes me think of the moment in Daniel 3 when Nebuchadnezzar looks into the fiery furnace and sees the three Hebrew men and a fourth man like unto the Son of God in their midst, AMEN! John says Jesus is wearing a full length robe and is girded with a golden band. Christ is our great high priest and as such the clothing is fitting of that. His hair is white speaking of His purity and holiness. His eyes were as flames of fire (Hebrews 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.) These are the same eyes that looked at Peter as he denied Him the third time. His feet gleamed like burnished bronze which speaks of Judgment. His voice as the sound of many waters and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. The word of God is described this way in Hebrews 4:12. This is the same word that spoke this universe into existence and with this same word will one conquer the enemies of the world. His face is said to be shining in its full strength. John saw this once before when he beheld Jesus transfigured in Matthew 17:2 “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” Many have wondered what they will do in the presence of the Lord one day when they meet Him. I have a feeling our reaction will be similar to Moses, Daniel, and here with John as we see that John falls down prostrate at His feet as dead. The Lord says, “Fear not; I am the first and the last: 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.” Pay close attention to that as the Lord will reference parts of that description as He introduces Himself to each of the seven churches in the next two chapters.
As I said the seven candlesticks represent the seven churches in Asia and the seven stars represent the angels of those churches. In the bible the word angel literally means messenger. So I think in this instance, it refers to the Pastors or Bishops of those churches because He tells several of these messengers that they must repent. We love to speak of Christ’s present ministry of Intercession where He prays and is an advocate for us. And Intervention where He cleanses us. But He also has a third ministry of Inspection. He judges us. He watches us just as Aaron the high priest inspected the lampstand in the tabernacle. He corrects and prunes so that we might shine better. Christ is watching us Church. You will note in the proceeding chapters 2 and 3, that He tells each church, “I know thy works”. In some cases, He says this in acknowledgment of that church’s ministries. But in other cases, He makes this statement to show that, despite what a church may think of its own accomplishments, He sees all and His tally sheet is different from theirs.