The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. 4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne” (Rev. 1:1-4).
Revelation begins with God the Father, who is the fountain of all truth. Man’s responsibility is to reverently wait for truth. In the fullness of time Truth came, and His name is Jesus. All revelation is understood and opened by Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” In John 12:49 the Lord declared, “For I have not spoken of myself, but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 7:16).
The revelation that has its ultimate source in God, and is opened through Jesus Christ, comes to man in a variety of ways, to include angels. The Bible says that angels gave the law to Moses. Acts 7:53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels and have not kept it. Galatians 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the Law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
As angels spoke to Moses, so angels spoke to John on the isle of Patmos, and gave to him revelation of those things that were to come shortly in his lifetime. Terrible events were “at hand” (Rev. 1:1; 22:10). John is called “the servant of God.” This word is sometimes rendered as “bondservant” but frequently also as “slave” (doulos, Rom 1:1; Titus 1:1). Christians, especially ministers, are not hired servants, but slaves, committed to service to Jesus. A slave does not manage his own life. The person who calls himself a slave of Christ acknowledges that the Savior has power over him.
There is a sense of urgency conveyed in the opening words of this book. There are things which must come to pass, for history is not haphazard. History had a beginning, and history will have an end. Whether time is measured in hundreds, thousands, or millions of years matters little, compared to timeless eternity. Human history, as we know it, will end, for God has planned it that way. There are some things that “must come quickly”, for time is short. If the correct dating of this book is just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and if the events are to be understood in light of that cataclysmic event, then indeed time was very short, for the outpouring of God’s wrath was upon Israel for rejecting His Son.
The destination of the Revelation is declared to be to the seven churches in Asia, a province of the Roman Empire. Why John wrote specifically to the seven churches of Asia is uncertain. It may be that they were the churches under his immediate sphere of apostolic authority. What is certain, is that John was particularly concerned about these seven churches. Because these churches were close to his heart, John desired that they know the grace and peace of God. Grace refers to the unmerited favor of God, freely bestowed upon unworthy sinners. Those who are the recipients of God’s grace enjoy peace with God, for the spiritual battles of hostility have ceased. Grace and peace are available to the believer, because they are the gifts that come from Jesus Christ. He is very God of very God. Deity is ascribed to Him as the “One who is, and which was, and which is to come.”
In these few words, the essence of the doctrine of Christ is summarized. Jesus Christ is alive, declares John. Once He was dead, but now He is alive. One day this Living Lord is coming again. As grace and peace comes from the resurrected Lord, it is also said to come from the “seven Spirits” which are before the throne (cf. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). What do the “seven Spirits” mean?
One explanation, is that the reference is to seven angels which guard the throne of God. According to Jewish teaching, seven angels guard the presence of God (1 Enoch 90:21). The seven spirits are called archangels (Tobit 12:15), and were known: Uriel, Rafael, Raguel, Michael, Gabriel, Saiquael, Jeremiel. These angels took care of the elements of the earth—fire, air, and water, and were the guardians of the Earth.
A second explanation of the seven Spirits, is that the words speak of the seven fold gifts of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 11:2 is cited in support of this understanding. Isaiah 11:2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
A third possibility, is that the reference is to the perfecting gifts of the Holy Spirit being given to the churches, so that no Church is left without the presence, power, and illumination of the Spirit of God. The number is a number of perfection.
Whatever the ultimate interpretation, there is no doubt that for John, faith and the revelation of that faith, rested in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. John believed in the trinity. There is God the Father. Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John. There is God the Son. Revelation 1:2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. There is God the Holy Spirit. Revelation 1:4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.
In Revelation 1: 5 three great facts are noted concerning Jesus Christ. He is called the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. First, Jesus Christ is the faithful witness to the nature of the Father. In John 3:11 Christ said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.” Christ had seen the Father from all eternity. He could testify firsthand to the nature of the Father. It was Christ who revealed that the essence of God was love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Jesus revealed afresh that God is holy. He cannot look upon sin with favor, though He knows about all the dark deeds of the flesh. The Cross of Calvary reveals God’s ultimate hatred of sin, and the fact that His justice must be satisfied. Christ was also a faithful witness to the will of the Father. It was the Father’s will that men should believe in His Son as their Savior. The pleasure the Father, found in Christ, is proven by the fact that Christ was resurrected out from among the dead.
Second, Jesus Christ is the first begotten of the dead. This does not mean that there were no other resurrections, for the Bible records several resurrections. But Jesus occupied the first place (prototokos) of those who have been resurrected. In life or in death, in this world, or in the world to come, Jesus Christ has first place. Certainly the Lord is the first to rise from the dead, and not die again.
Third, Jesus is the Prince (Ruler) of the kings of the Earth. Christ is even now King of kings, and Lord of lords. All power in heaven and in earth has been granted to Christ. The scope of the Lord’s present reign is universal. He rules with wisdom greater than that of Solomon. His splendor includes the majesties of heaven. In His administration of justice there is absolute righteousness. It is a glorious and marvelous Personage that is revealed to John.
This royal reign of Christ is a present reality, for He is even now King of kings and Lord of lords. While some place the royal reign of Christ in the future, there is strong Biblical evidence that the ascended Christ is the reigning Lord of the universe. His reign is a present reality. The early church recognized Christ as king, and wrote of Him “who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15).
The Biblical text of Revelation 1 continues to reveal specific ministries that Christ has done for His own (v. 5). First, He loved them. Second, He loosened His own from sin. Third, He has made the elect kings and priests unto God. First, Christ loved us. The tense of the verb “loved” in the original is not past, but present. “He loves us,” said John. The love of Christ is not only historical; it is personal, and present. Second, Christ has loosened His own from the power and pollution of sin. Before salvation, sin rules like a tyrant. The soul is compelled to obey. When Jesus comes, the dominion of sin is broken as a reigning power. The Christian is taught to reckon himself to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God (Rom. 6:2). Third, the Lord has made His own to be kings and priests unto God. This is a spiritual, and a real truth. It is the fulfillment of prophecy.
The Christian rules and reigns over the deeds of darkness by standing in judgment upon sin. We intercede as priests for others and worship God. This portion of Scripture also reveals three honors that Christ deserves. First, the Lord deserves all glory. The word “glory” primarily signifies an opinion, an estimate, and therefore the honor, resulting from a good opinion. Jesus made the blind to see, and people cried, “Glory!” Jesus made the lame to walk, and people cried, “Glory!” Jesus made the dead to live, and people cried, “Glory!” Second, the Lord possesses all dominion (kratos), or “manifested power.” He alone deserves it. Who else could be trusted with such authority? Third, Christ deserves praise for all eternity. The word “Amen” signifies, “I believe it”, and testifies to the absolute confidence John placed in Christ.
By using the word “Behold!”, in verse seven, the apostle’s attention is drawn to the great theme of the book, that is, the approaching judgment of Christ. The Lord is said to come with clouds. Clouds have frequently been used in the Old Testament and the New Testament, to indicate divine judgment. Psalms 104:3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind. Isaiah 19:1 The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. Mark 13:26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
The text of Revelation 1:7 says that the coming judgment is designed for those who pierced Christ, and that refers to the Jews of the first century. In every detail leading up to the death of Christ, the Jews were responsible. Peter declared that the Jews were guilty of the death of Jesus. Acts 2: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. Steven declared the Jews were guilty of killing Jesus. Acts 7:52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers. Paul said the Jews killed Christ. 1 Thessalonians 2:14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: 15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men. Jesus had warned that Israel would be judged for rejecting Him (Matthew 24:15, 21, 30, 34). What Jesus said would happen, John had a vision of it happening, and history records that what Jesus said, and what John saw, did take place.
In Revelation 1:8-20, the apostle goes on to make certain comments about the personal appearance of Christ. His hand and His hair is declared to be white like wool, as white as snow. The prophet Daniel spoke of such a personage called the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9). The reference is to the eternity of Christ. First, His eyes were as flames of fire. This speaks of the ability of Christ to search the conscience (cf. Dan. 10:6). Second, His feet were liken unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace. This tells us that the Lord walks in righteousness (cf. Ezek. 1:7). Third, His voice was the sound of many waters. There is beauty in the babble of many brooks. There is calm in the surge of the sea. There is much grace in the Person of Christ. Ezekiel 43:2 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory. Fourth, His hand held seven stars, which are the seven churches, and demonstrates the sovereignty of Christ. His mouth opened, and from it came a two edged sword. Justice is found in the mouth of the Lord. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. His whole countenance was as the sun shining in its strength. The Lord is clothed in the glory of holiness.
In this vision of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, in this unveiling of Christ manifesting the attributes of deity, in this vision is Christ as He comes, the conquering hero. John has given to the Church just what the saints need, and that is respect for, honor of, and confidence in Jesus Christ. Whenever the Church has an exalted view of the Lord, she does well, and lives well. Whenever the Church loses her exalted view of the Lord, she declines in spiritual strength, power, and zeal. The imagery set forth in this vision manifesting the work of Christ, and His Divine attributes, will serve as a basis for the message that Christ will speak to the individual churches.
There is no doubt about it. John is in love with Jesus. It is hard for John to say enough about the Lord, but He tries to say something by declaring that Jesus is “the Faithful Witness” (Revelation1:5), “the First Begotten of the Dead” (Revelation1:5), and “the Prince of the Kings of the Earth”. Jesus is therefore worthy of glory and dominion forever and ever (Revelation1:6). Amen.