The purpose of this study is not to disprove any specific false doctrines or all of them combined. It is an affirmative case that, if substantiated, automatically negates all those paradigms which conflict with it no matter who teaches it. The attempt is being made herein to use only the Bible and the universe itself (Rom. 1:20 – e.g. geography) to interpret the scriptures. No reference will be made to external historical sources by uninspired writers.
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:
A. The Revelation of Jesus Christ...Edit
The word “revelation” comes from the Greek word ‘apokalupsis’. In general the term refers to the giving of information from God to humans that humans could never have learned on their own. In the more specific sense, in this context, it is the revealing of the full glory of Christ as He fulfills the last of the Old Testament. This specific revelation is referred to a number of times in scripture. I suggest reading these passages which relate directly to this letter and specifically to the intent of this phrase. (Luke 17:30; Romans 1:17; Romans 1:18; Romans 2:5; Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 3:13; Galatians 1:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:1) This revelation was not only about providing new information to mankind, it was a prophecy specifically to reveal the coming of Christ to execute judgment and protect the church. This is the beginning of the salutation by God.
B. which God gave unto him...Edit
The revelation of Christ was given to Christ by God the Father, who is the ultimate source of authority for all, even His Son.
C. to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass…Edit
This prophecy was exclusively for Christians. The nature of this prophecy is of imminent events. Any interpretation of this book of prophecy outside of this understanding, outside of this time frame (which we will see is within five years – Ezekiel 12), is willfully ignorant and must be dismissed.
D. and he sent and signified it by his angel…Edit
The he here is Jesus Christ. It was sent by a celestial messenger (angel). This message was “signified”, meaning it was given in signs or symbols. Therefore an interpretation of the message given by the angel as if it were literal concepts being seen and heard is not a reasonable interpretation.
E. unto his servant John…Edit
There is no doubt in my mind that this is the Apostle. His gospel account, written in a time well after the events prophesied in this book, contains nothing of the Olivet Discourse or similar language anywhere in it. Part of the reason for that is that John received an entire book dedicated to it, which by the time he wrote his other inspired works, had no more need to be written about. From an internal inspired perspective only, there are only two men ever spoken of simply as John in the simple way he is identified here without need of further identification. The first is John the Immerser who died before Christ, and the second is John the Apostle. Any other author requires external evidence to outweigh what we know from scripture about “John” and therefore I reject those hypotheses.
2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
Further identification of John as the Apostle is in this verse. John bare record of the word of God. He was not only an inspired writer, but a first hand witness of the things spoken and done by Jesus while here on Earth. This verse is not about what is contained within this book of prophecy, but of identifying John as a first hand witness to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is a reference to John’s previous preaching before this letter was written.
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.
A. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy …Edit
Often the phrase “he that hath an ear let him hear” is interpreted as a miraculous ability to interpret this book and disseminate its message to the rest of the church. I believe that interpretation has led a vast host of Christians to come to the conclusion that we cannot interpret the book today because men do not perform miracles today. But studying this verse and those like it in Revelation in comparison to so many in other books of the Bible, both Old and New Testament, has helped me understand that this is not the meaning at all. Read: Isaiah 1:2, 10, Jeremiah 13:15; Jeremiah 17:23; Jeremiah 25:4; Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9-18; Matthew 13:43.
The real meaning of these phrases is that those who heard need to be willing to receive the message unlike the Jews who rejected the prophecies of the Old Testament. They needed to look back to those types, those old prophecies and understand from them what was going to be taught in this new one.
B. and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand…Edit
It was important for those who chose to listen to act on the warnings to repent contained within John’s book. The reason for this was that the time was imminent. When Jesus preached the that kingdom of heaven (the church) was “at hand” (Matthew 3:2) He was not referring to centuries or millennia down the road. When Jesus made the claim that His time (to be crucified) was “at hand” (Matthew 26:45), we are not to conclude that He is still walking around on Earth today waiting to be crucified. Ezekiel 12 defines “at hand” to be within five years.
It is patently absurd to interpret this verse to mean anything other than what John wrote would happen within a few short years of the writing. When we get to the end of the book of Revelation, and we are still reading of the things John saw and heard, this will still hold true.
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;
A. John to the seven churches which are in Asia:…Edit
John the Apostle is writing to the seven churches in the western-most area of what is now the nation of Turkey. This province was called Asia and sat within the larger province of Asia Minor, which is geographically the same as the whole of Turkey. These seven churches are identified in verse 11 and in chapters 2-3 of Revelation. This begins John’s introduction and salutation.
The question arises, though, that if this book is about the fall of Jerusalem, why is John writing to these seven congregations so far removed from Jerusalem? Why is he not writing to Jerusalem to warn the Christians there? The answer is that this is not a book of warning to Jerusalem about its impending fall. It is a book of comfort and hope to the rest of the church telling them to hold on for just a bit longer because vengeance is about to be had against their number one persecutors. Jerusalem already had its warning. Jesus warned of Jerusalem's destruction while He was still on Earth (Olivet Discourse among other places). The reason these seven churches are written to was 1) because of their proximity to John's location on Patmos when he receive the vision, and 2) because they were in a central location within the Roman empire and the letters sent to these seven congregations would quickly disseminate throughout the rest of the Roman empire from them.
B. Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come;…Edit
John calls for general favor and peace from the eternal I AM, Jehovah God. This verse is not talking about Jesus for two reasons:
- The next verse says “And from Jesus Christ…” identifying “him” as someone distinct from Jesus.
- The seven spirits are before “his” throne, which we will see in chapter 4 is the throne of God the Father, in which vision Jesus is pictured as the Lamb.
C. and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;…Edit
- “Spirits” is capitalized here for no good reason. Its plural for one thing, so its not a reference to the Holy Spirit who is singular. Contextually this is a reference to something attached to the seven churches of Asia, not to Divinity.
- From chapters 2-3 we see the spirits speaking to the churches, so these then are the faithful messengers of each congregation that bring John's letter to the churches.
5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
A. And from Jesus Christ…Edit
In addition to favor and peace coming from God and the seven spirits of the churches to whom this letter is written, they also come from Jesus.
B. who is the faithful witness…Edit
C. and the first begotten of the dead…Edit
Christ was the first man to die, to be resurrected to die no more (1 Corinthians 15:20). Others were resurrected, but they died again. Only Christ was resurrected and ascended into Heaven.
D. and the prince of the kings of the earth…Edit
This phrase is an absolutely essential one to understand correctly. It is an identifier of Christ that has a very specific meaning.
- In Daniel 10 the one chief or head of princes is Michael. Jesus is also called “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
- From Old Testament books of prophecy (e.g. Isaiah 24), the kings of the earth are the rulers of Judah from which Jesus is descended (Jesus is of the kings of the earth). Jesus is not nor ever was of the kings of the whole planet in any sense. Within the book of Revelation, then, the kings of the earth are thus identified. More on this in chapters 16-19.
E. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,…Edit
This phrase actually belongs with verse 6 and begins that sentence. John is saying that unto Christ, Jesus who loves us so much that He shed His blood on our behalf, be glory and dominion for all time. See verse 6.
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
A. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father;…Edit
- Jesus, who is still the subject of the sentence from verse 5 (washed us in His own blood), hath made “us” (John is referring reflexively to himself and to all other Christians) basileus princes. That is as the prince, as the firstborn among many brethren, those who become part of His family by being washed in His own blood, are royalty. Christians are now princes and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) of the inheritance from God the Father.
- The priesthood was also changed (Hebrews 7:12-14) and now Christ is high priest. By virtue of our relationship to Christ through His blood, Christians are also priests, capable of petitioning God without recourse to other humans as our mediator. Only Christ, as high priest, is the mediator now.
B. to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen…Edit
To Jesus be glory and rule for all time. As covered in a number of Old Testament passages, for ever is a temporal term. When there is no more time, temporal things cease. We see in 1 Cor. 15:24 that at the end of the kosmos (space and time) that Christ delivers up the kingdom to God the Father, abdicating His throne in favor of the ultimate source of all authority, all Creation, and everything. This ends John’s introductory salutation.
7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
A. Behold, he cometh with clouds;…Edit
Jesus is coming in the clouds. Read: Isaiah 19:1; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27. The “coming” of the Lord in the clouds is always associated with a judgment against Judah. In each of the NT passages listed above, Jesus is speaking of His coming in the lifetime of those He is talking to. Caiaphas in Matthew 26:64 and Mark 14:62 for example would see Jesus coming in these clouds of power.
B. and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him:…Edit
This coming would be an event known abroad to the whole world. Special mention is made here, though, of those who pierced Jesus. This sin was laid squarely at the feet of the Jews (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; Acts 2:23).
C. and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen….Edit
The word “kindreds” here is phule which means “tribes”. The tribes of the earth are the Jews. This verse is a quotation of Jesus words on Olivet (Matthew 24:30). Only the Jews are ever spoken of in terms of “tribes” in scripture and it is prolific throughout scripture beginning with Genesis. The wailing is a wailing of grief due to loss. It is akin to the howling we see in the Old Testament prophets at the time of Judgments against Judah and Israel (Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 14:31; Isaiah 65:14; Jeremiah 4:8; Jeremiah 25:34; Jeremiah 47:2; Ezekiel 21:12; Ezekiel 30:2; Zechariah 11:2). It is a wailing at the ultimate end of the Jewish system of things, a desolation like none other that they have faced, the end of the Jewish age (Jer. 9:10-20; Amos 5:16-17; Matthew 13:42; Matthew 13:50).
The coming of Christ in judgment against the Jews is defined in this passage, setting the context for the rest of the entire book. It must be interpreted in this light or the book can (and has been made to) mean anything anyone desires.
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
God, the great I AM, the omnipotent Creator (and Ender) is the speaker here. The Bible identifies this speaker as God by using the same terminology as verse 4. We will see shortly that this will also identify Jesus Christ as God. In particular the moniker of Alpha and Omega, the beginning and ending of all things, is applied to the Jewish state which God began and which He will now end by the power of His Son.
This ends the introduction and salutation by God, who is the originator of the message.
9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
A. I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…Edit
John further identifies himself here as he begins the narrative of all that he heard and saw in the visions revealed to him by the messenger from God.
- He is the brother to those to whom he writes, a fellow Christian along with the churches of Asia.
- He is sharing in the tribulation they suffer. A tribulation predicted by Christ on Olivet (Matt. 24:21-22, 29-31) that the Christians would endure before His coming in judgment against Jerusalem. Using only internal evidence, the date of the writing of the book is therefore set before the destruction of Jerusalem which to this point is all that matters.
- John is also in the kingdom, the church. He could not be in the kingdom if the kingdom did not exist or had not already come yet. Given that Jesus preached that the kingdom of God/Heaven/etc. was at hand while He was on earth, and John says he is in it with those of the churches of Asia, we again define “at hand” and like terms as within a few short years.
- John says that he is “in the…patience of Jesus Christ”. This phrase is actually a reference to the patience that the Christians were supposed to have waiting for Christ to return in judgment against their primary tormentors during the establishment period of the church, the Jews.
B. was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.Edit
The time period already established (during the tribulation) John then gives his location, and the reasons for it.
- He is on the island called Patmos which is just off the west coast of Asia Minor, right near the province of Asia whose seven congregations he was writing to.
- He is there because of the word of God, that is, his reason for being on Patmos was related to preaching the gospel. There is no indication within scripture that John was imprisoned on Patmos or even banished here. It is also possible that he had been led by the Holy Spirit to Patmos voluntarily to preach the gospel (and to receive the Revelation) there.
- He is there for the testimony of Jesus Christ, that is, he was there specifically because he was a witness to all that Jesus Christ had said and done and was bearing that witness to any and all humans.
10 I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
A. I was in the spirit on the Lord's day…Edit
There is no indication here that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit. Read: Micah 2:11; Luke 1:17; John 11:33; Acts 18:5; Acts 18:25; Acts 19:21; Acts 20:22; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 14:2; Galatians 3:3; Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 2:5; 1 Peter 4:6. I believe that the preponderance of evidence in scripture indicates that John was simply meditating on God’s Word on Sunday.
B. and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,…Edit
Read: Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 27:13; Jeremiah 4:19; Ezekiel 33:3-6; Hosea 8:1; Joel 2:1; Zechariah 9:14; Matthew 24:31. The voice is a great voice like the one heard by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:24). It is a voice of great power and compared to a trumpet, which symbolizes warning, a call to battle, and/or heralding of great events (the end of the kosmos will be heralded by a trumpet - 1 Corinthians 15:52). A great announcement, a call to battle, a warning is about to be given. John must needs pay attention.
11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, 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.
A. Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:…Edit
The voice compared to a trumpet identifies itself as God (see verse 8 above).
B. and, What thou seest, write in a book,…Edit
John was to write down the vision he is about to have in a book, a scroll, an epistle. He was to write the book of Revelation.
C. 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.Edit
Whatever other reasons man may devise, or even that the Bible itself may give us for why John wrote specifically to these seven congregations, the number one reason he did so was because God commanded it.
If we look at the geography of these congregations, though, we note that they are close to where John receives the revelation, that they are in order of how he would likely travel (Ephesus is closest to Patmos, then Smyrna and Pergamos up the coast by boat, then inland to Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and finally Laodicea (near Colosse and Hieropolis).
12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
John turns around to see the voice which came from behind him which was speaking to him. When he turns, he sees his first symbol, that of seven golden lamp stands. The lamp stands are an important symbol because of their connection to the Temple of God. Read: Exodus 25:37; Exodus 37:23; Numbers 8:2; Zechariah 4:2. These lamps are parallel to the lamps that were in the Tabernacle and later the Temple. They represented the light by which priests were to do their work in the temple.
They are identified below.
13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
A. And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one…Edit
In the middle of these seven golden lamp stands, John finally sees the one who owns the voice who spoke to him from behind.
B. like unto the Son of man,…Edit
Read Ezekiel 2:1 (and indeed throughout Ezekiel); Daniel 7:13; Daniel 8:17; Matthew 8:20; Matthew 9:6; Matthew 24:27 (and the whole chapter); Luke 7:34; John 3:13-14; Acts 7:56. The title “Son of man” was given to various prophets throughout scripture, but Christ was the last to claim that as a title.
C. clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle...Edit
John then sees and writes a description that identifies this person AS the Son of man, as Jesus Christ. The description is one those familiar with the Old Testament prophets would recognize. The raiment is that of the priesthood. Read Exodus 28.
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
A. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow;...Edit
Read Daniel 7:9. The white hair compared to wool and snow is a symbol of purity. The head represents authority. So this is the purity of Christ's authority.
B. and his eyes were as a flame of fire;...Edit
Read Daniel 10:6. In the description of the Heavenly messenger that speaks with Daniel, and who is helped by Michael, the archangel, we see this symbol. The fire represents judgment as always throughout prophetic scripture. That the fire is in the eyes of Jesus, symbolizes that He has sees everything and all will be brought into judgment.
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
A. And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace;...Edit
Again like Daniel 10:6 as well as Ezekiel 1:7; Ezekiel 40:3 we see the image of feet of fine brass, shiny and in this case glowing as if in a furnace. All through Exodus, brass is used as a stronger metal than gold or silver to serve as support for the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) and the objects within it. In Job 40:18; Daniel 7:19; Micah 4:13 we see brass related to strength as well.
The feet represent the ability to travel and preparation (Eph. 6:15). Jesus was prepared to bring judgment throughout the land.
B. and his voice as the sound of many waters...Edit
Read Ezekiel 1:24; Ezekiel 43:2. This is the voice of God Almighty and Jesus is the one who speaks. Throughout this book not only do we see Jesus in many roles, but we see John identifying Him as God as well.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
A. And he had in his right hand seven stars:...Edit
- The right hand is a symbol of being in the correct relationship with God. Matthew 22:44; Matthew 25:33-34; Matthew 26:64; Acts 2:33; Acts 5:31; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:13; 1 Peter 3:22.
- The seven stars are defined in verse 20. Remember, stars are a sign of lesser leadership within a nation.
B. and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword:...Edit
This is without any doubt the gospel of Christ (Hebrews 4:12).
C. and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.Edit
The comparison of Christ to the sun will be repeated several times in the book of Revelation. It is the symbol of light, truth, and kingly authority and is used consistently this way throughout scripture, even of wicked kings who are said to be darkened sun with they cease to lead the people properly and are cast out of power.
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
When John sees this awesome figure, he falls over as if he were dead. Jesus put His right hand on John and tells him not to fear. Remember, John saw Jesus when He walked the earth. He saw Him on the cross, saw the empty tomb, saw the Savior walking among the living, and saw Him ascend into Heaven. John sees Jesus, his absolute best friend, teacher, and Savior in this form. Then Jesus places His right hand on John, the hand of fellowship (Gal. 2:9), the hand that represents being in good standing, and says to him, don’t be afraid. I am God, just like I told you while I was on earth.
18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hades and of death.
Jesus continues to comfort John by saying essentially that He is still Jesus, John’s friend, the one that lived with John, died in front of John, and was resurrected never to die again. There is even less reason to fear because no Jesus has the “keys” to hades and death itself. Not only can death not do anything permanent to Jesus, but Jesus is telling John and those who read John’s prophecy that nothing permanent can happen to them, either.
19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
Jesus then tells John to write down the things that John has seen (which we just read), the things that are (the events taking place at the time John was writing the book), and the things that would take place after he wrote the book, essentially the coming judgment and all that the book prophesies will come to place in the few years ahead.
20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
As an introduction to the direct message to each specific congregation, Jesus explains the symbols of the lamp stands and the stars in his right hands.
- Stars = messengers of the seven congregations. These are those who would deliver the message from John to each congregation. They are in Christ’s right hand to indicate that they would be faithful in their duty to deliver the message from John who is in exile. Given that stars represent lesser leaders within a nation, these are likely also the elders of these congregations bringing the message from John from Patmos -- either physically are representatively -- to these congregations.
- Seven lamp stands = the congregations themselves.
I await any discussion on any point made herein. I hope we will have a thorough and fruitful study of this thoroughly profound book.
In Truth and Love.