About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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My Commentaryh On 
The Book Of Revelation 

This Section - Chapter 1

Next Section - Chapter 2 

ch.1:1-3      ch. 1:4-8       ch. 1:9-20

Prologue (ch.1:1-3)

 

We translate our English word “revelation” from the Greek word “apokalupsis” which in its simplest definition means to “uncover or unveil”. You can see that our English word “apocalypse” comes from this Greek word.  So, what follows in John's account is an uncovering. 

 

A brief glance at this book shows you that what is uncovered are those few brief years prior to the return of Jesus to earth and understood by Prophetic Futurists.  It is my thinking at present that these last few years, or, seven years go be precise, might be considered an age in itself.  That is to say, this period of time is separate and distinct from the present age in which we now live that is known as the Age of Grace. 

 

We tend to view the word "revelation" in terms of being a vision, and that it is int he book of Revelation.  That being siad, in terms of the Greek word "apokalupsis", we should understand the word "revelation" as an unveiling or an uncovering.  Thus, the visions of this book are meant to uncover things about the future that have long since been covered over.  I therefore suggest that since the Lord is uncovering these things for us, we should take advantage of this uncovering and attempt to understand what is being uncovered. I also suggest that if this book is an uncovering we should know that it should be easy to understand.  We shouldn't have to struggle over what is being uncovered. Therefore, I believe we should understand Revelation to be as much a literal account of events as possible.  In my thinking, it makes no sense that Jesus would uncover events by hiding them in symbols or allegories.  

 

The first words of verse 1 are a bit confusing.  It reads: “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him”.  I believe this phrase tells us that God the Father has given the revelation.  I understand the pronoun "him" to refer to Jesus.  Therefore God gave Jesus the revelation.

 

The word "of" isn't in the Greek text.  Some translations read the revelation "from" Jesus, not "of" Jesus.  I prefer the word "of".  In context, it seems to make better sense than the word "from".  

 

This revelation is the “revelation of Jesus Christ”.  First and foremost this revelation shows us who Jesus is, what He has to say, and what He will do.  This is the first important thing to understand about this book, even beyond its prophetic importance. 

 

Some people actually view the prophetic contents of this book as being secondary to what we learn about who Jesus is.   They downplay the prophetic nature of what John writes.  This should not be the case.  Yes, it is the revelation of Jesus Christ, but it is clear that it is the revelation of what Jesus Christ will do just prior to His return to earth in judgment.  You can't ignore that. 

 

Another thing to think about here is that the New Testament is full of the revelation of who Jesus was while He was on earth, that is, the suffering servant who would die for the sins of the world.  The book of Revelation now is the revelation, or, the uncovering, of who Jesus is right now.  He is no longer the suffering servant but the Lord of all there is, and as being Lord, He will accomplish that which we see in these visions.  For this reason we will see that the first vision is the vision of what Jesus looks like.   What we see of Jesus in this first vision shows us very clearly that He is in fact the Lord of all there is.   

 

The picture we have of Jesus in this first chapter is very different than the picture we see of Jesus in the gospel accounts.  So, in one sense of the word, we have an unveiling, or, uncovering, of the Jesus that now is.  It is this picture of Jesus that we must have in our hearts and minds today because this is who Jesus is.  He is no longer the suffering servant.  He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  He has no rivals and no competition.      

 

The Bible speaks about Jesus returning in the clouds at the end of this age.  The coming of Jesus is actually an unveiling or uncovering of Jesus to a world that has not seen Him.  So, when the text states that this book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, understanding the meaning of Revelation to be an unveiling, I believe John's account is the unveiling of the hidden Jesus to the world at the end of this age.  This unveiling is seen in two aspects.  The first aspect is what Jesus does as He enters the affairs of men and nations in judgment.  The second aspect is His actual return to earth.  This book, especially chapter 1, does unveil to us the nature of Jesus, that is to say, who He is, but beyond this unveiling, Revelation is all about the unveiling of Jesus as He returns to earth.  This clearly means that you can't downplay the prophetic nature of this book as some attempt to do.     

 

The last part of the first sentence says that this revelation of Jesus was shown “to His servants what must soon take place”.  The nature of this uncovering of Jesus is concerning His intervention into humanity and the affairs of nations, which would “soon take place”, thus the prophetic nature of the revelation.

 

The word "servants" here is important because those who belong to God and Christ are indeed servants.  That is how we should consider ourselves.  That being said, the word "servants" as it is used here might well refer to Jews on earth during the specific time this book is directed to.  That assumes you believe in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church prior to the events of Revelation.    

 

If you notice, I left out a couple very important words in the quote in the last paragraph.  I did so because most commentators and readers of the book of Revelation do the same thing.  The quote really is worded this way. "The revelation of Jesus Christ who God gave to Him to show to His servants …"  Notice to whom the revelation was given.  It was given to "Him", and in context, "Him" refers to Jesus.  This revelation was first given to Jesus and then Jesus passed it on to His servants.  This might help explain something.  People often can't figure out why Jesus said that not even He knew the day or the hour of His return.  See Matthew 24:36.  I believe He does know that now, even though He didn't know that while He was on earth.  He knows it now because He was given this revelation that He now passes on to the apostle John.     

 

The words “soon take place” are a relative phrase.  What it exactly means is a matter of debate, or so I think.  Some say that the word soon should be seen as “very soon”, as in John’s lifetime.  For these people, they have to look in history past to find the fulfillment of what’s found in this revelation.

 

If  “soon take place” is seen through the eyes of God, then “soon” is almost irrelevant.  “Soon to God” should not be seen as the same as “soon to us”.   So, just when the events of this book take place might be a matter of interpretation, that is, does the word “soon” refer to God’s time or ours.   I believe that soon should be thought of in terms of God's time, but that still might not end the debate. 

 

There is another way to view the word "soon", and this is how I view it at present.  Some Bible translators understand the word "soon" to mean quickly because it is translated from the Greek words "tachos" or "tachy", which means "swift" or "quickly".  Therefore, when Jesus comes, He will come quickly.  The Bible certainly does say that this will be the case.    

 

All of the above being said, I note Zephaniah 1:14.  It speaks of the Day of the Lord, that is, the tribulation period that the book of Revelation is all about.  It reads; "The great day of the Lord is near - near and coming quickly".  Zephaniah wrote these words somewhere around 620 to 610 B C, and here it is 2015 as I write these words.  I don't think we can make a firm case for any position concerning the word "soon" as seen here.   

 

Verse 1 also tells us that this revelation was sent by an “angel”.  The Greek word translated as “angel” can also be translated as “messenger”.  For this reason some suggest that the messenger might even be the Holy Spirit, but I believe the messenger was in fact and angel.  So, it seems to me that the Father told the revelation to Jesus and then Jesus told the angel to pass it on to John           

 

John says that the messenger came “to His servant John”.  John, as well as other first century Christians viewed themselves as “servants”, something that we might want to think about these days.  I think at times we think of ourselves too highly as Christians, when in fact we are merely servants, or slaves of Jesus.  When it comes to New Testament thinking concerning being servants of Jesus we should know that the first generation Christians believed they were what was called a bond servant.  A bond servant was a servant by choice.  We as Christians should thus view ourselves not as servants by force but servants by choice.  We willingly become a servant to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

Those who hold to the position that the whole book of Revelation does not concern Christians but Jews point out that the word "servant" was always associated with Israel in the Old Testament, but not the church in the New Testament.  Yes, John and Paul considered themselves as bond servants, but the church in general was not considered a servant by God, but rather a son.  If you think about this, there is some validity to this point. You might remember Jesus saying that He know longer called His followers servants but friends.  See John 15:14 and 15.  

 

Verse 1 states that the angel made known to John what things were about to soon take place.  The KJV says that the angel signified what would soon take place.  Many Bible teachers have made a big deal over the word "signified" because it suggests that what is to follow in the book of Revelation are a number of signs that should be interpreted as symbols.  Therefore, we should not take the book of Revelation literally.  I grant you that some of the things we see in the book of Revelation are signs or symbols, but not all are to be understood symbolically.  This presents us with the problem of determining what should be interpreted as signs and what should be interpreted as being literal.  The NIV avoids this problem over the word "signified" by not using the word.  I personally believe we should take the book of Revelation as literally as possible.  In other words, if you see a stop sign you know that you should stop.  You don't try to figure out what the stop sign really means.          

 

I believe we should take the word "signified" in the KJV as being road signs that point to something real.  I really don't think we should view the word "signs" or "signified" as being symbolic of something.  Besides, in some instances where the signs are symbols, the symbols are defined.  One example is the beast in chapter 13.               

 

Verse 2 tells us that John testified to everything he saw.  John didn’t leave anything out.  He wrote it all down for us. What did John see and testify to?  He says that he testifies to the “word of God and the testimony of Jesus”.  There are two things here that can almost be seen as one thing.  Jesus gives a testimony to John in this revelation, and the testimony of Jesus is in fact the Word of God as well.  You really can’t separate the two.

 

In verse 3 John tells us that those who read, hear, and take to heart this prophecy will be blessed.   Why does John say this?  He says, “because the time is near”.  If one takes heed to the message of this book he will surely be blessed.  

 

John says that the time is near.  This is one reason why many believe the word "soon" in verse 1 means that the events of Revelation would soon take place after this book was written.   I remind you, the word "soon" in verse 1 can be understood as "quickly", as in, "when Jesus comes, he will come quickly".  If the words "soon" and "near" are in reference to time, it will determines one's thinking concerning the timeline of Revelation.  For this reason, many Prophetic Futurists understand the seven letters of chapters 2 and 3 to be periods of church history that soon took place after John penned his account.  For others, these two words suggest that all of Revelation took place in the first century.  Those holding to this position have to date the writing of Revelation in and around 66 A D and not 95 A D as I tend to believe it was written.   

 

The Book of Revelation is not a book to avoid.  Many often do avoid reading the book because it is hard to understand.  Yet if we read, hear, and take it to heart, the things in the book, we’ll be blessed.  Some avoid the book because of its difficulty, while others avoid it because they place prophecy low on the list of importance of theological issues.  The fact of the matter is that we should take this book to heart. 

 

I understand that prophecy is hard to understand, and how can we not avoid it when we don’t understand it.  The answer is found in something Jesus told His disciples at the last supper.  He told them that what He was presently telling them would not be understood by them until those things took place.  See John 16:33.  When they did take place, they’d remember and believe.  The same should apply to us.  If we have some kind of knowledge of this book even though we have little understanding, when the things are being fulfilled, we’ll understand and believe.  It is thus imperative that we take the book of Revelation seriously. 

 

There is one important thing to know and understand when trying to understand this book, and that is, if you know your Old Testament you will have a better grasp on the book of Revelation.  Many, if not all of the symbols and concepts in Revelation are explained in the Old Testament.  It is said that there are at least 285 quotes or allusions in this book that are taken from the Old Testament.  You can thus certainly see how important it is for us to know our Old Testament.

 

Greetings And Doxology (ch. 1:4-8)

 

In case you missed it in verse 1, it is the Apostle John who wrote the book of Revelation.  He is understood to be the same John that wrote the gospel of John.  If he penned this account in or around 95 A D as is traditionally understood by most Prophetic Futurists.  He outlived the rest of the twelve apostles by twenty to thirty years.    

 

In verse 4 John says "grace and peace from …"   The word "from" tells us that John was acting as Jesus' representative in this letter.  This is what the term "in the name of Jesus" means.  We act on Jesus' behalf as Christians.  We live in accordance with His name.

 

The word "grace" was commonly used among the Romans and Greeks as they began a letter.  The word "peace" was often used by Hebrews as they began their letters.  So, John had both the Jews and the Gentiles covered in his introduction.    

 

John then states that he is writing these verses to seven churches as most of our English translations put it.  I prefer to use the word "assemblies", or the phrase "community", as in, "community of God".  I prefer this because of the definition of the Greek word "ekklesia" that our English texts translates as "church".  This can give one a completely different understanding of chapters 2 and three as I will point out.  These communities are in Asia Minor.  These churches are found in these cities; Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

 

To further my thinking on the Greek word "ekklesia" and the English word "church" I'll say the following.

The word "church" is translated from the Greek word "ekklesia".  The word simply means a gathering of people, and in this case, a gathering of people who belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The problem with translating "ekklesia" as "church" is that it makes us understand what is being talked about here is church as we know it today.  I believe that is a mistake for a few reasons.  One reason is because our modern concept of church does not reflect the New Testament's concept of church as being the Body of Christ, or, the community of those who have handed their lives over to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

The above being said, there is another problem translating "ekklesia"
as "church" and that's we assume those being spoken of here are those
in the New Testament church.  If you translate "ekklesia" here as "community of God's people", and, if you do the same in chapters 2 and 3, it will give a whole different meaning to how to understand these verses.  The community of God's people doesn't necessarily mean the church.  It could well mean the community of Jews living in the time when the visions of this book will take place.  At the moment, I am leanilng to this second view is how I understand the meaning of church here in chapter 1 as well as in chapters 2 and 3.  

 

Because of the false doctrine of Catholicism that has been predominant over the centuries that states Israel and Israelis have no significance in the sight of God and prophetic history, many have come to believe that "ekklesia" can't be in reference to Israel or Jews.  It must be in reference to the Gentile church.  This doctrine is known as Replacement Theology, which I am dogmatically opposed to.  I suggest that you think seriously about how you should understand the word "church" here.  Don't be influenced by Replacement Theology.   

 

You will note the number seven, as in these seven churches, and the seven stars and lampstands.  The number seven in the Bible is seen as the number of completion by most scholars. For example, seven days make a complete week.  Many scholars suggest these seven communites of God represent seven churches of history, seven churches that complete the church age, which ends in the return of Jesus.  This has been the traditional thinking for centuries, maybe as far back as the third century.  That being said, there is no internal evidence to prove this. 

 

There’s controversy over the significance of the messages to these churches, or, the community of God's people.  First of all, if you take things literally, you would have to say that God wanted to say something specific to these particular people who lived when John wrote this book.    

 

There is a secondary significance that most would agree upon, and that is the words of the letters of chapters 2 and 3 can be applied to any Christian of any age.  There are lots of things for us to learn from these letters.  So, for any of us who have an ear to hear, as the text states, we should take serious note of these letters.  

 

In the second half of verse 4 we see that John speaks on the behalf of God, where this revelation originated.  He says, “from Him who is, and was, and is to come”.  Here we see the eternal nature of God.  The Greek word “ion” is translated many times as “eternal” in our English Bible.  It is not used here.  Some suggest, because of the basic meaning of “ion” that eternity is not really eternity, but only an age, because that is what “ion” means.  With this in mind, they say that the Lake of Fire as seen later in Revelation is not eternal.  The problem with this is that “ion” is used in reference to God Himself in many places in the New Testament, and if you say that “ion” is not eternal, but a specific period of time, you have a problem with God concerning “ion”.  Is He only in existence for a period of time?  This verse clearly says otherwise.

 

One important fact to know is that first century Greek had no clear cut word for eternity.  Therefore, the Bible uses "ion upon ion", or, "age upon age", idiomatically to represent eternity.  Knowing this should dispel the heresy that the Lake of Fire is not eternal.    

 

John goes on to say that the following revelation is from the “seven spirits” and Jesus Christ.  The question to be asked is, “who are the seven spirits”.  An alternative reading can be “sevenfold Spirit”.  If you consider the alternative reading as some translations do, then you view these seven spirits as the Holy Spirit who has seven aspects to His nature.  Some suggest that this can be seen in Isaiah 11:2 where there are seven aspects of the Spirit’s nature mentioned.  They are as follows; the Spirit of the Lord, wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear of the Lord.   This is a very common interpretation.

 

If you consider this to be seven distinct spirits, then you believe that there are seven spirits before the thrown of God, and that this reference is not to the Holy Spirit.  I personally believe the translation could easily be “sevenfold” Spirit, which tells me that this is the Holy Spirit.  I don’t believe we see any other Scripture that even suggests that there are seven spirits before the throne, but this in itself is not proof enough.  You can’t defend a point from silence. 

 

Some suggest that these seven spirits are seven angels since angels are spirits as seen in Hebrews 1:7 and elsewhere.  I don't see it that way.     

 

In verse 5 John says that the seven spirits stand before the thrown.  About Jesus he says, that He is a faithful witness, the first born from the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth.  Jesus is the most accurate witness to the things of God in the entire universe, whether it is the physical or spiritual universe.

 

The word “first” does not necessarily mean that Jesus was the first in the sense of being born firrst.  Most commentators believe the Greek idiom for first means “the source”.  Jesus is the source of all things.  That being said, He was also the first one to be raised from the dead into a new glorified body.  We will follow Him at the day of resurrection when we as believers will inherit a glorified body as Jesus presently has.

 

Jesus is also ruler over all the kings of the earth.  This may be hard to understand at this moment, but the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is the final authority in the universe.  Right now, He is over all kings, prime ministers, and presidents, even if these people don’t know it or recognize it.  Jesus is more active than we think in the political affairs of man.  We can certainly say that He will have the final word of authority in the end. 

 

Verses 5 through 7 are what theologians have called a “doxology”.  Doxology comes from a Greek word that means “to give, or to speak glorious things to”.  In this sense the doxology is to God.  Thus John is speaking glorious things about God and Jesus.

 

He says, “to him who has loved us and has freed us from our sins by His blood”.  This is the crux of salvation, that is, God becoming a man.  The man Christ Jesus lived the perfect life on our behalf and died as punishment on account of our sins.  This is the love of Christ Jesus.       

 

We should think about what "freed us from our sins mean".   I think I can safely say that Jesus has freed us from the penalty of our sins, which is eternal damnation.   We should understand also that even though sin is an ever present reality in our life right up to our dying breath, once the Holy Spirit enters our lives, sin no longer is lord of our lives.    

 

In verse 6 John says that He has “made us to be a kingdom and priests.   According to the Greek text this phrase should read that we are a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom and priests.  There is a difference in the two phrases.  God's people are a kingdom, or, a nation, of priests that represent God to the world.    

 

John says that we “are priests”.  We all are priests. In Old Testament days God established priests to represent us to Him and Him to us.  We are now all priests.  We don’t need to have a man set aside as one who represents us to God.  We can come to God on our own.

 

Over the years man has tried many times to go back to Old Testament days and have tried to establish this priesthood in the name of church authority.  The abuse of pastoral leadership by some dictatorial leaders is not right.  No Christian leader can claim that they stand before us and God. We are all priests.  This places Catholicism in error.  As I say this, the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus Himself will be our high priest forever.  We are our own priest, but Jesus will always be our high priest for eternity.  He will always represent us before God.  Just why we will need a high priest in Heaven, I’m not sure.

 

John adds the reason why we are a kingdom of priests, and that is so “we can serve God the Father”.  That is the main purpose of our lives.  As Christians we exist to serve God, not ourselves.

 

When speaking of a kingdom of priests we should understand that this is an Old Testament concept.  Israel was meant to be a kingdom of priest that represented God to the nations of the world. (Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 49:6)  Israel failed to be this kingdom of priests and now the church has become this kingdom of priests who represent Jesus to the world until such time when Jesus returns to earth.  At that time, during the thousand year rule of Christ, which we will see later, Israel will return to be this kingdom of priests that she was meant to be in the first place.  All that being said, those holding to the view that states Revelation is written to and all about Israel will point to the words "kingdom and priests" to prove their point.   Again, we should note that in Exodus 19:6 God called Israel to be a kingdom of priests.  Some suggest that the church was never so designated.  Those who oppose this view point remind us that Peter in his first letter calls those to whom he is writing a kingdom of priests. See 1 Peter 2:9.  The problem here is there is a controversy to whom Peter is writing to.  1 Peter 1:1 tells us that he is writing to the elect who have been scattered.  Some take this to be Jews in the Jewish dispersion.  Others take it to mean Christians, not necessarily Jewish Christians, who are scattered.  How you interpret 1 Peter 1 will determine how you interpret these words here in Revelation.     

 

The last part of verse 6 says, “to Him be glory and power for ever and ever.  Amen”.  Note the words “for ever and ever”.  The RSV Greek Interlinear uses the words “ages of the ages”.  This is probably the best way that the common Greek language of the day could express the concept of eternity.  Glory and power is found in Jesus, and will be for ever and for ever, without ever ending.

 

We see in verse 7 that Jesus is coming in the clouds and that every eye will see Him.  These words should remind us of what the angels told the disciples in Acts 1:11 when they said that “this same Jesus … will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into Heaven”.  Jesus departed from this earth by ascending into the clouds and disappearing.  He will return from the clouds at the appropriate time.  

 

Some of those who like to over symbolize the book of Revelation say that these clouds are not literal clouds but clouds of saints an angels.  They say this because of Hebrews 12:1 that speaks of a great cloud of witnesses.  I suggest that if words mean anything at all, we should understand the word "clouds" here as being real clouds, not people, especially in light of Acts 1:11.   

 

The verse says that every eye will see Him.  This question is often asked, “how can every eye see Jesus return because the earth is round”?  “How can one see His return in North America, if He returns in the Middle East ”?  Luke 17:24 gives us the simple answer.  Luke tells us that as the lightning flashes from one part of the sky to the other part of the sky, so shall the Son of Man return.  Lightning streaks across the sky.  It’s my thinking that Jesus will come back through the sky, streak across and around the world, maybe a number of times.  The sky will be lit and as He streaks across the sky and around the world, everyone on earth will see Him.

 

John says that “even those who “pierced” Jesus will see His return.  How can this be since they will not be living on earth?  It’s simple.  The return of Jesus will be so majestic and all powerful that even the spiritual world, the angels, and the physically dead who presently exist in Hades will see Him return.

 

John then says that “all the people on the earth will mourn” because of Jesus’ return.  I believe all will mourn out of fear and awe.  Many will mourn from great sorrow as well since they’ve rejected Jesus.  Even Christians may mourn at this moment out of great awe and respect, and maybe even a sense of fear.  Imagine a big 747 jet, or a large wide body airplane flying 100 feet above your head.  The noise would be extremely loud and maybe even painful.  The earth beneath your feet would shake and fear might pass through your heart.  This would be nothing in comparison to the return of Jesus.

 

To this point in Revelation John has been speaking, but God Himself speaks in verse 8, or should I say, John writes what God Himself spoke.  Verse 8 says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega…”  Alpha and omega are the first and the last letters in the Greek alphabet.  This suggests that God is the first and the last.   He existed before the beginning and will exist after the end.

 

The verse continues, “says the Lord God”.  It is God the Father who is speaking.  He calls Himself Lord God.  He is God over all things and He is Lord over all things.  Even though this particular verse is speaking of God, Jesus Himself is known by the same words.  

 

We should note that the term "Lord God" is an Old Testament Hebrew designation that Jews will understand during the time when Revelation is being fulfilled.  This is yet another reason why some believe Revelation, including the so-called churches of chapters 2 and 3, refer specifically to Jews.  

 

The verse ends with, “who is, who was, and who is to come”.  Once again we see the eternal nature of God as seen earlier in verse 4. 

 

One Like A Son Of Man (ch. 1:9-20)

 

In verse 9 and 10 we see that John was on the Island of Patmos because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. This island housed a prison camp.  The island is situated just east of modern day  Greece and just west of modern day Turkey, in the Aegean Sea.

 

The general consensus is that John was in prison for the sake of the gospel message he preached.  He says, “I John, your brother and companion for the sufferings…”  John, like many other Christians at the time, was experiencing great persecution because of the gospel of Christ.

 

There are some Bible scholars that say that John was not on this island because he was in prison.  They suggest that the Greek construction of this sentence says that God sent him there to receive the vision.  He wasn't sent their in chains by the Roman authorities.   They compare John being sent to Patmos like Paul was sent to Arabia to receive his visions.

 

John also adds the words, “and the kingdom and patient endurance…” 
John was part of the Kingdom of God which included his brothers in Christ, all of which were enduring much for Jesus.  Being a Christian
in those days meant that your life would not be easy.  The cost of becoming a Christian was great.  As time goes on, even in the western world, Christians will undergo much suffering for the sake of Jesus as John and his friends did back in the first century. Then, because of the time of trials seen in Revelation is called the time of Jacob's trouble in Jeremiah 30:7, those Jews who survive this period and turn to their God will need to patiently endure.   

 

In context we might note that the Kingdom of God that John speaks of here is the coming literal Kingdom of God on earth.  The soon coming Kingdom of God that will replace all kingdoms on earth is what the book of Revelation is about.  In this present age the Kingdom of God is on earth in a spiritual sense, but some day it will be on earth in a literal and physical sense.  The preaching of this material Kingdom of God would be in direct opposition to the Roman Empire of Johns' day, as it is in direct opposition to the nations of the world today.  

 

In verse 10 John says that “on the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit”.  The NIV says, “I was in the Spirit”, but John was in the Spirit because “he came into the Spirit”, which is a more direct translation of the Greek.  John was on the island and maybe while in prayer, or maybe not, “he found himself coming into the Spirit”.  While in the Spirit, he had this revelation.

 

John tells us that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.  These words have been well debated in the past and are still being debated today.  This is the only place in the New Testament that we have the phrase “Lord’s Day” used.  So what does it mean?  If you were a Jewish Christian reading this verse, you might think that it was the Sabbath.  I think we can rule that out.  I believe there is much New Testament thinking that shows us that the Jewish Sabbath was laid aside by Christians, especially Gentile Christians.  This was because New Testament Christians believed that Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law and Sabbath rules no longer applied.

 

The term “Lord’s Day” apparently was used in secular Roman society at the time.  The term referred to the first day of the week when taxes and other obligations were paid to the Emperor and the Roman government.  Was John referring to the Lord’s Day in terms of the Emperor’s Day?  I don't think so.

 

We don’t have a clear picture of when Christians began to celebrate Sunday as being a special day for worship, but by 300 A D we know that Sunday became the Christian special day.  The beginnings of this thinking came into being around 150 A D.  There doesn't appear to be any evidence that Sunday was known as the Lord's Day when John wrote Revelation, whether that was in 95 A D, or especially in 66 A D.  As a matter of fact, the first known mention of the Lord's Day as applied to Sunday wasn't until 175 A D.        

 

We should say something at this point concerning Sunday.  Nowhere in the New Testament does it actually teach that Sunday should be a special day.  You might want to see what Paul says in Romans 14 where he speaks of special days.  He understood that there was some controversy and differences on this point and he told his readers that they needed to be convinced in their own thinking.  It is implied in Romans 14 that Paul believed that every day was equal, that every day was special, that every day was the Lord's Day. 

 

The point I’m making is that the New Testament does not teach or have a doctrine concerning the Lord’s Day.  The present day teaching.  The present Lord's Day teaching in church evolved outside of the pages of the New Testament as a tradition.  So, to make a doctrine out of it to apply to all Christians as the Old Testament teaches about Sabbath is beyond the scope of New Testament thinking, or so I believe.

 

All of the above being said, there is another point that could be made about the Lord's Day and that is it might actually refer to what the Bible calls the Day of the Lord.  The Day of the Lord are those days that exist just prior to the return of Christ to earth, that is, the last days.  Throughout the Old Testament the Day of the Lord is understood to be the days when God pours out His wrath in judgment on the world.  Those who believe this say that John was transported in the Spirit to a future time that the Bible calls the Day of the Lord.  This might well be what is meant here when the text uses the words "on the Lord's day".  This is my present position on this matter.    

 

The Greek word "en" can be translated into English as in, on, by, at, or with.  In Revelation 1:9 and 10 "en" appears 6 times.  How it is translated depends on context and more often than not, one's view of prophecy.   If you read different translations you will note that they differ in how they translate this little Greek word in these two verses.  According to the NIV John was a brother in (en Greek) suffering; in (en) Jesus, on (en) the island, on (en) the Lord's Day, and, in (en) the Spirit.  

 

Concerning the Lord's Day, the NIV says that John was on the island "on the Lord's day.  Some version say "in the Lord's day".  The NLT avoids translating "en" directly by saying; "it was the Lord's Day …"  This is my point, depending on your view of prophecy, you will believe that John was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, which could mean Sunday, the Sabbath. or, "in the Lord's Day of wrath and judgment yet to come" that is spoken of in the Old Testament. 

 

It is also interesting to note the NIV states that John was "on the island" while the NLT states that he was "exiled to the island".   Again, the NLT avoids translating "en" directly, and, it is obvious that there is a presupposition in the translation, which is, John was exiled.  This is the most common reason why John was on the island, but, it's not the only reason people suggest.  Some believe John was on the island to give testimony to the Word of God.  That is to say, he was there sharing the gospel to prisoners.  They say this because of the construction of the phrase, "because of the Word of God.   

 

In verse 10 John says that he heard “a loud voice like a trumpet”.  If you pay attention as you read through Revelation you will note that every time you hear someone speak in heaven, or, every time you hear anything in heaven, what you hear is very loud.  This is the first time in the book we see this take place.  The voice John heard was loud.  I suggest that everything is loud to our frail earthly ears in heaven.  Once we get there, things won't be so loud.  It's just that our earthly ears can't adapt to heaven.  That would be the case with all of our senses.   

 

In verse 11 the loud voice told John to write down on a scroll what he was about to see and send it to the seven churches that are named.   Again, I would suggest the word "churches" be replaced by "the communities, or, the assemblies of God's people".  Then, it would be up to you to determine what assembly of God's people are being talked about here.  It is either the New Testament Church or Israel.  I believe it is Israel.   

 

The word "write" in verse 11 is a Greek Aorist Active Imperative verb.  This means that John must, as in a command, write down what he saw. 

 

In verse 12 and following we note that the voice came from behind John.  He turned to see seven golden lampstands and someone like the “Son of Man” standing among the lampstands.   Verse 20 clearly states that the seven lampstands are the seven churches, or, assemblies of God's people, to which the book is directed to.  The one like the Son of Man is in fact Jesus as seen in verse 18.

 

We need to note the word "lampstand".  This is a clear reference to Old Testament Israel, and especially the tabernacle that God commanded Moses to build.  The lampstand was one of the ornaments in the tabernacle.  For this reason I suggest that these lampstands here are not the New Testament churches in these seven specific cities.  I suggest that they are the community of Jews that live in these cities at the time John was transported into the future.    

 

The description of Jesus is exceedingly majestic to say the least.  He was dressed “in a robe down to His feet and a golden sash around His chest”. Are we to make anything out of the way Jesus was dressed?  Without overly symbolizing His apparel such clothing was worn by dignitaries, and those of importance in John's day.  Of course Jesus is very important.  There are also some similarities between what Jesus wore here and what the high priest would wear in Old Testament days.   The fact of the matter is that in both Jewish and Roman culture of the day, the clothes we see Jesus wearing here suggests authority.

 

In verse 14 we see that Jesus’ head hair wre white as snow.   Scripture does suggest that our sins will be as white as snow.  White as snow suggests complete purity and so Jesus in His appearance is seen as completely pure.  Another thought that might be considered here concerning white hair is that white hair is something that men have as they grow older and more mature.  White hair can be understood as it is applied to Jesus in the sense that He is the eternal wise one.

 

His eyes were like “blazing fire”, as if He could see right through you, and of course He can.  It’s like if Jesus stood in front of you, not as He was on earth, but as He is now, His eyes would pierce and burn their way into your very soul.  That being said, the Greek text suggests that Jesus' eyes were shooting out fire.  Fire is in relation to judgment in the Bible.  It is thus clear that Jesus is very upset about what He is seeing on earth, both in His people Israel and in the nations of the world, thus, the reference to fire coming out of His eyes.                                                  

 

In verse 15 John says that His “feet were like bronze, burning in a furnace”. We stand on our feet.  Our feet take us places.  Our feet help keep us in balance.  Our feet help us to be stable.  The feet of Jesus endured the fire of God’s judgement and He has survived to tell the story.  This is a picture of Jesus standing firm in who He is.  Bronze in the Bible is also symbolic of judgment.  This tells us that when John sees Jesus here, He is ready to judge the world, but before He judges the world we'll see that He judges His people the Jews in the next two chapters. That's assuming you believe chapters 2 and 3 are directed towards Jews and not the church.

 

Also in verse 15 we see that Jesus’ voice is like the “sound of rushing water”.  Niagara Falls would be a good descriptive way to suggest what the sound of His voice was like. Jesus was no wimp.  Again, as I've said earlier, the voice of Jesus is very loud.  It probably hurt John's ears to listen to Jesus sense John was listening with his human earthly ears.

 

In verse 16 we see that a double edged sword came out of his mouth.  It is like His tongue was this sword.  And so we see in the Book of Hebrews that the Word of God is a double edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12)  God’s word cuts into our souls even to the dividing of soul and spirit, so says the same passage.  Again, the sword coming out of Jesus' mouth speaks of judgment.  

 

Isaiah 11:4 speaks of the Messiah.  It speaks of Jesus, and in particular, it speaks of the sword of his mouth and the breath of His lips bringing judgment on the world.  This is just one of many of these characteristics of Jesus that we see the prophets of old prophesy to the Jews about. Pauls repeats this in 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

 

One of the greatest sins we commit as Christians is not taking the Word of God seriously.  Someday when we all stand before Jesus, His words will penetrate our very souls and we will experience the reality of this two-edged sword that cuts on both sides.  His words are from His tongue and are words of judgment.

 

John then says that His face was like the sun.  A brilliant light came from Jesus’ face.  His purity is so pure that it is most likely hard to look at Jesus. 

 

We need to realize that John says that Jesus’ head, hair eyes, feet, and voice “were like”…   It doesn’t mean that Jesus had bronze feet, but his feet were like bronze in a representational way.   That being said, when it comes to the glorified body of Jesus, we're not really sure what it looks like in all of its fine details.  The same would hold true when we have our glorified bodies.  We just don't have enough information on this matter to make a firm determination that what we see here of Jesus is merely symbolic.  I think it's more real than what we think.  We symbolize what we see here because we're not familiar with the eternal heavenly realm, and, because of this, we symbolize what we see.   That may well be a mistake.         

 

Think about this.  It just might be that in our glorified bodies our thoughts are expressed in real visible terms.  Therefore, if Jesus is angry, that anger is visibly seen by a sword coming out of his mouth.  Now I know that sounds too far fetched for many people's liking, but the simple fact is that we do not know or understand the world in which our glorified bodies will exist in.  If you think this is far fetched, then, you must believe the flood in Norah's day is far fetched as well.  That would also apply to Balaam's donkey talking to Balaam, the burning bush before Moses, Jesus walking on the water, the resurrection of Jesus, and numerous other things we see in the Bible.  Really, how we interpret the Bible as a whole should be carried over to how we interpret the book of Revelation.  I attempt to understand the Bible literally as possible.     

 

What we see here in this first vision is the revelation, or, the unveiling or uncovering, of who Jesus presently is.  He is no longer the suffering servant that we see in the gospel accounts.  When thinking of who Jesus is, we must think of him in these terms, not in the terms we read about in the gospel accounts.     

 

In verse 16 we see that in Jesus’ right hand were seven stars.  Verse 20 tells us what these seven stars are.  They are seven angels or messengers of the seven communities of God's people.  Remember, I'm not using the word "churches".  I will comment on this in verse 20. We need to know that angels are compared to stars in the Old Testament.  This is language that the Jews to whom this is written to at the end of this age will understand.  

 

In verse 17 we see John “fall at His feet as if he were dead”.  John experienced the awesome power of Jesus. He could not stand in His presence, and I believe this will be the same for us when we meet Jesus face to face at the end of this age.  Everyone will fall to their knees as Paul puts it. (Philippians 2:10-11)  When John says he fell as if he were dead, this is not a simple falling by choice.  The very presence of Jesus knocked him over.  And it wasn’t like he fainted.  His breath was taken away as if he were dead. It’s like John got hit by a freight train.

 

As powerful as Jesus was, and still is, He is gentle enough to understand what was happening to John.  Jesus touched John with His right hand and told him not to be afraid.  We see the nature of Jesus here.  He is almighty in powerful, yet is sensitive to the human condition and reaches out in love and tenderness.

 

Then Jesus tells John, “… I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One.  I was dead and behold I am alive for ever and ever”.  These words are very similar to the words that God spoke about Himself in verse 8.  As God is eternal in greatest and power, so is Jesus.

 

When Jesus uses the word “first”, that doesn’t mean first as first one to be created.  Jesus was not created.  He has always existed.  He is eternal. The word “first” means “source” in this instance.  Jesus is the source of all things, both in the past and throughout eternity

 

Jesus then said that He “holds the keys to death and Hades”.  At this point we need to distinguish between death and Hades. Death is easy. We know about death.  Death is the door into Hades, the place of the dead.  The English word Hades comes from the Greek word “Haydees”, meaning place of the dead. 

 

Hades in Greek mythology is actually the god of the underworld and thus the whole underworld was seen as Hades.  This is how the first century person understood Hades. 

 

Hades in the Old Testament was the place of both the righteous dead and the wicked dead.  Hades in the New Testament is the place of the wicked dead only.  When Jesus died on the cross He descended into Hades, preached the gospel to the righteous dead and freed them into paradise.  The wicked dead remain in Hades until they are thrown into the Lake of Fire with the devil and his demons.   

 

There is another Greek word that relates to this subject and it is “gehenna” and is translated as hell.   Gehenna was an actual place south of Jerusalem.  It was a dump where garbage was burned.  Thus Gehenna became synonymous with a place of burning. 

 

There is still another word translated into English as hell too and it is “tartaroo”.  This word is used in 2 Peter 2:4. It is a classical Greek word that refers to a place under the ground where the wicked are punished.

 

To sum this up, we should know that hell is the Lake of Fire .  It is not Hades.  The King James Bible has confused many on this subject because of its misuse of the word hell.  I won't comment on that here since I've done that elsewhere.  

 

In verse 19 Jesus tells John to write three things, one, “what you have seen, two, “what is now”, and “what will take place later.  Here is my thinking about this verse at the moment.  How you understand this verse will determine how you understand the rest of the book of Revelation.  There are a number of views on this verse. 

 

Here is a bit of an exegesis of verse 19 from the NIV.  "Write".  The word "write" in Greek is an aorist active imperative verb.  Simply put, John was mandated to sit down and write.  An aorist verb is a one time action.  This writing was not to be a continuous project for John.  He had to get right to the task at hand and get it done, which is the meaning of imperative. 

 

The word "what" in, "what you have seen" is translated from the Greek word "hos" which can mean, "about", "according as". "even", among other things.   The words "you have seen" is an aorist active indicative verb.  An aorist verb when used with the indicative mood is always a one time past event; thus, our phrase "what you have (past tense) seen" in English.     

 

The words "is now" in the phrase "what is now" in the NIV are translated from "eimi", which is a present active indicative verb; thus the present tense word "now" in the NIV, although some believe "eimi" should be translated as "signify" or "to mean" as is the case in many other New Testament passages.  This does change the meaning significantly of this phrase.

 

The words "what will take place later" in the NIV are translated from "gimomai meta houtos".  "Gimomai" is an aorist middle infinitive verb.  An infinitive in Greek is a verb that can be used in a noun in a sentence, but the word that places this phrase into our English future tense is the word "meta" that can be translated into English as "after.  

 

Here's my take on this verse to date.  Jesus tells John to write what he has seen.  What John has seen is the vision that comprises the book of Revelation.  John was transported into the future, saw these visions, and now, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will proceed to write what he saw.   

 

To help explain my last paragraph I refer you back to verse 2 where the text reads; "John, who testifies to everything he saw".  The point here is that John had already seen all of the visions when he penned verse 2.  According to verse 2, he was now going to testify to what he saw.  He would do this in writing since Jesus told him to do so in verses 11 and 19.  Therefore, it appears to me at present that this introductory chapter of the book of Revelation was written after John saw all of the visions he writes about.  Therefore, when the text reads "what you saw" in verse 19, that is in reference to the whole book of Revelation.  

 

One other point that may be debatable that I mentioned earlier in my exegesis of verse 19 is this.  The words "now is" are translated as "to mean" or "to signify".  If you choose this as your translation then that changes the meaning to this verse.  John is simply told to write the visions that he saw, what they mean, and the future aspect to the visions.

 

When it comes to the words "which will take place later", there's not much controversy over those words

 

The most well known view of verse 19 among Prophetic Futurists is that the things which are now, are the things which we see in chapters 1, 2 and 3, which then would refer to the first century churches in their designated cities.  The things that will take place later is obviously in the future.  Thus, those holding to this view divide the book Revelation into past, present, and future.  That may or may not be correct. The book might well be simply futuristic.           

 

All of the above being said, there are a few other verses that we need to consider as well when thinking of when John actually wrote his account.  In Revelation 2:1, as is also the case with each of the seven letters, John was told to write what he heard.  Did John write these letters immediately, or, did he write them later?  The same would apply to Revelation 10:4, 14:13, 19:9, and 21:5.  It's not an easy problem to solve, but in some circles, how you solve this problem determines how you understand the chronology of the book.         

In verse 20 Jesus reveals the mystery of the seven starts and the seven lampstands.  Therefore, the stars and the lampstands are symbols, but these symbols are explained in the text.  He says that the stars are the angels or messengers of the seven communities of God's people, and the seven lampstands are the seven communities.  Remember, I'm replacing the word "churches" with the words "community of God's people".  We should note that a lampstand is not the light but holds the light.  There can be a lampstand with light or without light.  Jesus provides the light of the Spirit to the lampstands, unless He takes the light away. 

 

The Greek word “angelos” is translated as “angel”.  In its simplest form it means a messenger.  In many places in the New Testament it is translated as angel, but it can also be translated as a messenger.  The NIV writers translate “angelos’ as angel.   Some believe the messenger is an angel that has some kind of authority over the church and have some responsibility.  I believe this thinking is problematic in the sense that we don’t see anywhere else in Scripture that each city church has an angel?  Then in today’s fragmented church, does every little group have their own angel.  That being said, since I don't believe we're talking about the New Testament church here, I don't think this text is saying that each city church has an angel, although that might well be the case.  It's just not the topic at hand here. 

 

When thinking of these seven communities of people as being Jews who are alive during the period Revelation speaks of, we should note that each Jewish priest in the Old Testament had a spokesman whoj would speak on his behalf.  This might well be considered to be the messanger or angel we see here.  

 

The individual communities of God's people are seen as “lampstands”. Once again note that they aren’t the light. They hold the light, and so it is with any community of God's people, including the church.  We are to be the stand that holds the light of Jesus.  We have no light in ourselves, and if we neglect the true light then our reason to exist is no more.    

 

We should understand that it is Jesus who gives the light, gives the Holy Spirit to the people of God, whether that be Jews or the church.  It is also Jesus that withdraws the light, the Holy Spirit, from God's people.  Just because a group of people carry the name of God doesn't mean they have the light of the Spirit in their midst.  It doesn't mean they are a true people of God.

 

   

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