Description
This chapter introduces the Book of Revelation as a revelation of Jesus, witnessed by John, to pass on the seven churches of Asia. Jesus appears to John in his guise as the Angel of the Lord.
Commentary
The Prologue
In verse 1, John introduces the book not as 'the revelation of John', but as 'the revelation of Jesus Christ'. He explains that God gave this revelation to Jesus to show his servants what must happen very soon. God 'made it clear by sending his angel to his servant John'. 'His angel' is a reference to the Angel of the Lord, a guise by which God often revealed himself to people during Old Testament times. Here, however, verses 12 to 20 reveal that this Angel of the Lord is in fact Jesus himself, who was dead but is now alive (v18). His description in these verses correlates closely with his description in Daniel 10:5-6. Understanding that Jesus is the eternally pre-existent Son of God, it is reasonable to understand the Old Testament's Angel of the Lord to be the pre-incarnate Word of God (John 1:1), whose origins are from ancient times (Micah 5:2). John testifies as an eye-witness of this Revelation of Jesus (v2).

In verse 4, John acts as God's ambassador, addressing the seven churches of Asia, who would be the initial recipients of this revelation. He passes on grace and peace from 'he who is, and who was, and who is still to come' (seemingly a reference to Jehovah without actually saying his most holy name), 'and from the seven spirits who are before his throne' (the Holy Spirit in all his fullness), 'and from Jesus Christ'. So this is a revelation from God in all his trinitarian fullness. John says three things about Jesus. 1) He is the faithful witness (Greek 'martos' which also means 'martyr'). 2) He is the firstborn from among the dead (implying his resurrection is the prototype for our resurrection). 3) He is the ruler over the kings of the earth. This third statement implies that from heaven's perspective, Jesus is already seated at the right hand of God, waiting for his enemies to be made his footstool (Psalm 110:1 and Ephesians 1:20-22), even though he waits for his kingdom to be visibly extended over the nations and kings of the earth (Psalm 110:2, Daniel 7:13-14, Revelation 11:15).

In verses 5 to 6, John pronounces a doxology of praise concerning Jesus, "the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood and has appointed us as a kingdom, as priests serving his God and Father – to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! " Although this statement seems like it is directed to the whole Church, Revelation 20:4-6 limits the scope of those who will act as priests and reign with Christ for a thousand years.

In verse 7, 'Look! He is returning with the clouds' refers to the coronation scene of Daniel 7:13-14. The clouds are literal in the sense that Jesus is crowned in the sky, and it is for this reason that we are caught up to meet him in the air at the resurrection and rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Clouds may also be understood metaphorically (as in Hebrews 12:1) to describe the multitudes of believers who will be present to worship him at this event. This statement may also refer to his appearing at the battle of Armageddon, in which he is accompanied by heavenly armies of believers (Psalm 97:2, Matthew 24:30 and Revelation 19:14). The statement, "and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him and all the tribes on the earth will mourn because of him" agrees with Psalm 97:6, Isaiah 18:3, 40:5, 52:8, Zechariah 12:10-12, Matthew 24:30 and Luke 3:6. Why do the nations mourn? Even before the battle of Armageddon, at least half the world's population will have perished in the seal and trumpet judgments (Revelation 6:8 and 8:18), followed by an unknown number in the bowl judgments (Revelation 16). When the survivors see Jesus coming on the clouds, they will realise that they have supported the wrong side, and have lost the war. They will bitterly mourn their losses as a defeated foe. This is the kind of anguish Germans must have felt as they mourned their losses at the end of the two world wars.

In verse 8, "I am the Alpha and the Omega – the one who is, and who was, and who is still to come – the All-Powerful!" is a statement of Jehovah Almighty as revealed in many Old Testament scriptures.

In verse 9, having introduced Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the author of this revelation, John introduces himself as the conveyor of the message. He is their brother who shares with them 'in the persecution, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus'. In other words, John shared in the same kind of suffering that the seven churches had experienced. He was on the Island of Patmos 'because of the word of God and the testimony about Jesus'. According to writings of the early church fathers, the Apostle John was exiled there during the reign of Emperor Domitian. After Domitian's death in 96 AD, John was allowed to return to Ephesus, where he had previously ministered. John was an old man, probably in his eighties, when he received this revelation.

In verse 10, despite his suffering, he was 'in the Spirit on the Lord's Day'. This suggests he was engaged in intimate worship, when he heard behind him a loud voice like a trumpet. The voice told him to write what he saw in a book and send it to the seven churches which were all in the Roman province of Asia, in what is today south-western Turkey. Patmos was an island in the Aegean, located close to Ephesus and the rest of the seven churches.

In verse 12, John turned to see who was speaking to him. He 'saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands was one like a son of man'. The expression 'one like a son of man' implies this person appeared human, but at the same it implies this is Jesus, who liked to refer to himself as 'the Son of Man'. It identifies him as the kingly son of man from Daniel 7:13. John's description of him in verses 13 to 16 identifies him as the same Angel of the Lord who appears in Daniel 10:5-6. Common features between these two passages include his robe, his gold belt, his shining face, his flaming eyes, his feet like polished bronze, and his thunderous voice. John adds that his head and hair were white as wool. Like Daniel, John felt faint before him. Unlike in Daniel, this Angel of the Lord reveals himself to be Jesus, who was dead but is now alive forever and ever (v18). He is the first and the last (v17), implying that he is the same as Jehovah who is the alpha and the omega (v8). Jesus declares that he holds the keys to death and Hades (v18). This means he has the authority to release the dead who dwell there, in order that they may face judgment. At the end of the vision, in Revelation 20:14, death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. This implies that the dead are judged, and death and Hades no longer exist after the Millennium. Jesus stands in the midst of seven lampstands (v13), holds seven stars, and a sharp double-edged sword extends out of his mouth (v16). In verse 20, he explains that the seven lampstands represent the seven churches, and the seven stars represent their angels or messengers. The implication seems to be that each church has an angel assigned to watch over it. The double-edged sword implies that Jesus is ready to act as judge. Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart". Jesus is ready to judge both believers (Revelation 2:16) and non-believers (Revelation 19:15). Various end-time prophecies portray Messiah using his voice or a sword as a weapon of judgment when he comes to deliver Israel in the end times (Psalm 29:3-9, 45:3, Isaiah 11:4, 27:1, 30:30, 31:8, 66:16, Amos 1:2, Nahum 1:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Revelation 19:15). In chapters 2 to 3 when Jesus addresses each of the seven churches in turn, he identifies himself with John's descriptions in these verses.

John's vision of Jesus also has some similarities to Zechariah's first vision, in which he saw a man sitting on a horse between some myrtle trees (Zechariah 1:8). The similarities to Daniel's and Zechariah's visions imply that Jesus is about to reveal end-time events.
Tags
Places: Asia, Turkey, Patmos, Aegean
Symbols: Seven stars, Seven lampstands, Clouds
Tags: Jesus as the Angel of the Lord, God as Trinity, Jesus comes on the clouds, Every eye will see him, Jesus as the King of kings, Nations mourn, Jesus as the alpha and omega, Seven, Sword of Jesus, Voice of Jesus, Weapons of Jesus
The Prologue
1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must happen very soon. He made it clear by sending his angel to his servant John,
2 who then testified to everything that he saw concerning the word of God and the testimony about Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near!
4 From John, to the seven churches that are in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from “he who is,” and who was, and who is still to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,
5 and from Jesus Christ – the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood
6 and has appointed us as a kingdom, as priests serving his God and Father – to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! Amen.
7 (Look! He is returning with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes on the earth will mourn because of him. This will certainly come to pass! Amen.)
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God – the one who is, and who was, and who is still to come – the All-Powerful!
9 I, John, your brother and the one who shares with you in the persecution, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony about Jesus.
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,
11 saying: “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches – to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”
12 I turned to see whose voice was speaking to me, and when I did so, I saw seven golden lampstands,
13 and in the midst of the lampstands was one like a son of man. He was dressed in a robe extending down to his feet and he wore a wide golden belt around his chest.
14 His head and hair were as white as wool, even as white as snow, and his eyes were like a fiery flame.
15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.
16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp double-edged sword extended out of his mouth. His face shone like the sun shining at full strength.
17 When I saw him I fell down at his feet as though I were dead, but he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid! I am the first and the last,
18 and the one who lives! I was dead, but look, now I am alive – forever and ever – and I hold the keys of death and of Hades!
19 Therefore write what you saw, what is, and what will be after these things.
20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
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