1 This is the unveiling of Jesus Christ,[a] which God gave him to share with his loving servants[b] what must occur swiftly.[c] He clearly made it known[d] by sending his angel[e] to his loving servant John.[f] 2 I, John, bore witness to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 A joyous blessing[g] rests upon the one who reads this message and upon those who hear and embrace the words of this prophecy, for the appointed time is in your hands.[h]
4 From John to the seven churches[i] in western Turkey:[j] May the kindness of God’s grace and peace overflow to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come,[k] and from the seven spirits[l] who are in front of his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the Faithful Witness,[m] the Firstborn from among the dead[n] and the ruling King, who rules over the kings of the earth![o]
Now to the one who constantly loves us and has loosed us from our sins[p] by his own blood,[q] 6 and to the one who has made us to rule as a kingly priesthood[r] to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and dominion throughout the eternity of eternities! Amen!
7 Behold! He appears[s] within the clouds,[t] and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.[u] And all the people groups of the earth will weep with sorrow because of him. And so it is to be! Amen.
8 “I am the Aleph and the Tav,”[v] says the Lord God, “who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
9 I, John, am your brother and companion in tribulation,[w] the kingdom,[x] and the patience that are found in Jesus.[y] I was exiled on the island of Patmos[z] because of the ministry of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the spirit realm[aa] on the Lord’s day,[ab] and I heard behind[ac] me a loud voice sounding like a trumpet,[ad] 11 saying to me:
Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches:[ae] to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.
12 When I turned[af] to see the voice that was speaking to me, I saw seven golden lampstands.[ag] 13 And walking among the lampstands, I saw someone like a son of man,[ah] wearing a full-length robe[ai] with a golden sash over his chest.[aj] 14 His head and his hair were white like wool—white as glistening snow.[ak] And his eyes were like flames of fire![al] 15 His feet were gleaming like bright metal,[am] as though they were glowing in a fire,[an] and his voice was like the roar of many rushing waters.[ao] 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword.[ap] And his face was shining like the brightness of the blinding sun![aq] 17 When I saw him, I fell down at his feet as good as dead,[ar] but he laid his right hand on me[as] and I heard his reassuring voice saying:
Don’t yield to fear. I am the Beginning and I am the End, 18 the Living One! I was dead, but now look—I am alive forever and ever. And I hold the keys[at] that unlock death and the unseen world.[au] 19 Now I want you to write what you have seen, what is, and what will be after the things that I reveal to you. 20 The mystery of the lampstands[av] and the seven stars is this: the seven lampstands are the seven churches, and the seven stars in my right hand are the seven messengers[aw] of the seven churches.[ax]
- Revelation 1:1 The Greek noun apokalypsis is a compound word found eighteen times in the New Testament. It combines apo (to lift) with lypsis (veil, covering), and so could be translated “the lifting of the veil” or “the unveiling.” The implication could be stated as simply, “Here he is!” It is not primarily lifting the veil off coming events, but the unveiling of Jesus.
- Revelation 1:1 This is the Greek word doulos, which means “bond servant,” a slave who willingly remains with his master even after being given his freedom.
- Revelation 1:1 This does not necessarily mean “soon” from the writer’s perspective, but that once the time comes it will quickly happen. The Greek phrase en tachos (similar to “tachometer”) means that once something starts, it will take place swiftly.
- Revelation 1:1 The Greek is “signified” or “miracle-sign.” The word for miracle-sign is the Greek verb sēmainō, which means “to give a sign.” The noun form is sēmeion and is the word used most often (seventy-seven times) in the New Testament for “miracle.” In the Septuagint of Dan. 2:45 the word sēmainō is used, which indicates the meaning of “to symbolize.” The Aramaic likewise can be translated “symbolized.” The book of Revelation is a book full of symbols.
- Revelation 1:1 Angels were instrumental in imparting divine revelation to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, the judges, the prophets, the kings, and the apostles of Jesus. This angel sent from Jesus was on a mission to give John insights into the meaning of the visions within the book of Revelation (22:6, 8, 16).
- Revelation 1:1 Notice the chain of communication: (1) God gave the revelation directly to Jesus. (2) Jesus gave it to an angel. (3) The angel explained it to John. (4) John gives it to us (v. 2), God’s servants. Many don’t realize that the book of Revelation came from a direct encounter with an angel sent by Jesus to give the contents to John.
- Revelation 1:3 Or “happiness to one who reads.” The book of Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a rich blessing to those who read and obey what it states. The word blessing can mean “happiness.” There are six other “blessings” found in Revelation (14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:5; 22:7, 14).
- Revelation 1:3 Or “at hand.” The Greek adverb eggus is taken from a primary verb agcho, which means “to squeeze” (in your hands) or “to hold the reigns” (or “throttle” in your hands). There is a sense in which the full understanding of the book of Revelation is ready to be unveiled when the reader is ready to receive it. The time for this revelation is now, not the past nor the distant future. See also 1 Peter 1:5.
- Revelation 1:4 The seven churches become a representation of all the churches, for the number seven denotes completeness, fullness, wholeness, and perfection.
- Revelation 1:4 Or “Asia” (Minor), which is modern-day western Turkey.
- Revelation 1:4 The God who dwells in these three realms (present, past, and future) is described by John as “who is, who was, and who is to come.”
- Revelation 1:4 Or “the seven-fold Spirit”; that is, the Holy Spirit. If God is three in one, the Holy Spirit can be seven in one. See Isa. 11:2-3; Zech. 4:1-10; Rev. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6.
- Revelation 1:5 Jesus was a Faithful Witness to the truth while on earth (John 18:37) and is now a Faithful Witness to all that he revealed to John in this book.
- Revelation 1:5 Or “the First Begotten from the dead.” He is the Firstborn who conquers death.
- Revelation 1:5 As the Prophet, Jesus is the Faithful Witness who only speaks the Father’s words. As the High Priest, Jesus is the Firstborn from the dead, and as the King, Jesus is the Ruler of the kings of the earth.
- Revelation 1:5 Or “washed us from our sins.”
- Revelation 1:5 Or “in his own blood.”
- Revelation 1:6 Or “a kingdom of priests” or “kings and priests.” We have the nature of both a king and a priest embedded within us in Christ. Christ is the one who “made us” into this holy order and union. It is already done. See also Rev. 5:10.
- Revelation 1:7 Or “comes.” The Greek verb tense of erchomai (“appears” or “comes”) is in the third-person singular, present indicative, which is a present-tense reality, not a distant one. It can be translated “He is now coming” or “He is in the act of coming and continues to come.”
- Revelation 1:7 Or “He will appear [be surrounded] with [Gr. meta] clouds,” or “He appears by means of clouds” or “with clouds” or “between clouds.” See also Isa. 60:8; Dan. 7:13-14; Heb. 12:1. The cloud of glory is now plural—clouds, a company of clouds (Dan. 7:13-14; Matt. 26:64; 1 Thess. 4:17).
- Revelation 1:7 Every one of us has “pierced” his side with the spear of our unbelief and sin.
- Revelation 1:8 As translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic. The Greek is “the Alpha and Omega,” Alpha being the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega the last letter. Jesus affirms that he has all knowledge and is the sum of all truth.
- Revelation 1:9 Or “persecution.” The Greek word for tribulation is thlipsis and means “great pressure.” It refers to the pressure (tribulation) that all believers experience.
- Revelation 1:9 As a fellow companion in the kingdom, John verifies that the kingdom of God formally began after Christ was raised from the dead and continues to expand until now (Isa. 9:7). John was on Patmos but in the kingdom. See Acts 14:22.
- Revelation 1:9 Or “the one who co-shares [joint partner] with you in Jesus.”
- Revelation 1:9 Patmos was a small, rocky island in the Aegean Sea roughly ten miles long and five miles wide, believed to be a Roman penal colony. This vision came to John while he was an exile on Patmos, which means “my crushing” or “my killing.” But we must remember, our “killing” took place on the cross (Gal. 2:20).
- Revelation 1:10 Or “I came to be in [with] spirit” or “I became in union with the Spirit.” This was John’s “rapture,” most likely a trance. The realm of the Spirit was John’s vantage point. The same Spirit that inspired this book must interpret it, for it is what the Spirit is saying to the churches. See Job 32:8.
- Revelation 1:10 This was not Sunday, nor a twenty-four-hour day, but “the Lord’s day.” Nowhere in Scripture is Sunday called “the Lord’s day.” The Aramaic can be translated “on the lordly [majestic] day.”
- Revelation 1:10 A voice “behind” us can be that which speaks about our past—about all that God has already done for us.
- Revelation 1:10 Or “shofar.” The trumpet sound always carries a message (1 Cor. 14:8). The voice sounding like a trumpet blast would point us to a fresh proclamation heralding a new message to us today.
- Revelation 1:11 The number seven is the number of God and his perfection. The seven churches make up one perfect and complete church in his eyes. These seven churches speak of completeness or fullness; just like the seven Spirits are full and complete so the church is full and complete in Christ. We are the “seven in one” bride, just as the Holy Spirit is “seven in one.”
- Revelation 1:12 John was in the spirit. This was more than a physical turning, but an inward turning to withdraw from the natural and see into the spiritual. The same Greek word is used for “converted” in Acts 3:19.
- Revelation 1:12 These seven golden lampstands represent seven churches (Rev. 1:20). The “lampstand” (or menorah) becomes a symbol of the burning presence of Christ. They are golden, for Christ has purified and made holy his church.
- Revelation 1:13 See Dan. 7:13. This is the ascended Christ appearing as King and High Priest. Part of the priestly duties involved tending the lampstands, filling them with fresh oil.
- Revelation 1:13 The Aramaic can be translated “the robe of the ephod” (priest’s robe).
- Revelation 1:13 The Greek word used here is mastos and is used exclusively for a woman’s breasts. Over the heart of the glorified Jesus is a golden sash of compassionate love for his bride. The Aramaic can be translated “between his breasts a golden harness.” It was made of pure gold, for the divine nature holds everything together in divine order.
- Revelation 1:14 The head (or headship) speaks of Christ’s authority. White speaks of the righteousness of God and an emblem of his wisdom, omniscience, justice, and leadership. This is similar to Dan. 7:9, which would equate Jesus with the Ancient of Days.
- Revelation 1:14 See Dan. 10:6.
- Revelation 1:15 Or “burnished [fine] brass.” However, the Greek is somewhat confusing with a feminine noun and genitive case. The Aramaic can be translated “the brass of Lebanon.” Lebanon was known for the quality of its fine brass. Brass is a biblical symbol of passing through judgment. Jesus went through judgment for our sins, and with feet on fire he is now kindling fires wherever he walks.
- Revelation 1:15 See Ezek. 1:27; Dan. 3:25.
- Revelation 1:15 See Ps. 29:3; Ezek. 1:24; 43:2. Waters are emblematic of “multitudes of people” (Rev. 17:15). It is not simply a voice of “waters,” but the voices of many sons coming into his likeness (Rev. 14:1-3).
- Revelation 1:16 The sword from his mouth is a metaphor for the Word of God (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12). The message of Revelation comes as a sword from the mouth of Jesus. The Aramaic can be translated “a fervent spirit came from his mouth.”
- Revelation 1:16 See Ps. 84:11; Matt. 17:1-2; John 8:12.
- Revelation 1:17 John had walked with Jesus for nearly three years and even leaned upon his chest. Now he sees Jesus not as he was, but as he is, and seeing him in his glory John fell at his feet “as good as dead.”
- Revelation 1:17 In v. 16 Jesus holds the seven stars in his right hand, and now he lays his right hand upon John. The right hand speaks of power, authority, and blessing (Pss. 16:11; 118:15–16; Isa. 41:10; Col. 3:1).
- Revelation 1:18 Through the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection he now holds the keys of death and the unseen world. There is nothing to fear, for he holds all authority (keys).
- Revelation 1:18 Or “Hades.” Originally used in Greek as the god of the underworld, Hades became identified simply with “the unseen world” (Aramaic for Hades) or “the place of the dead.” See A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed.
- Revelation 1:20 The lampstand becomes a powerful metaphor of the churches of Jesus. They burn, bringing light and illumination to the city as a witness of God’s glory (Matt. 5:14-16). It stood in the Holy Place, giving light for the priests to minister. Even with their problems these seven churches were “golden” (v. 12) in God’s eyes.
- Revelation 1:20 It is likely that these “messengers” represent the human leadership of the churches, who would be accountable to God to ensure that this message was presented to the churches. Heavenly angels would have no need for letters as a form of communication, nor would the reprimands in these letters apply to angels. See Beasley-Murray, Revelation, 69; Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1–7 Exegetical Commentary and Revelation 8–22 Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 1995; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation, 1963.
- Revelation 1:20 The messages to the seven churches from Jesus Christ found in chs. 2–3 have at least four applications: (1) a local application to the specific cities and believers in the church; (2) to all the churches of all generations; (3) a prophetic application unveiling seven distinct phases of church history from the days of the apostle John until today; (4) a personal application to individual believers who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.
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