1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.
While the apostle John, the same John who wrote the Gospel of John and the three epistles of John, was exiled on the island of Patmos on account of his faith in Christ (v. 9), he received from God a vision concerning the final days. He said that the centerpiece of the revelation is Jesus Christ, for the final days are really about Him coming back to judge the world. First, He came as a suffering servant, but in the final days He will return as a conquering King. God gave John this revelation concerning the final days so that believers would have it available to them. God gives His own what they need to know so that they can have hope in the future and not be deceived concerning the last days. This revelation was given to John by an angel of God commissioned by Christ Himself. This is a claim of John to the inspiration of the Book of Revelation. Those who read this book, listen to it, and respond in faith to what they learn will be blessed. Revelation cannot be dismissed as an unnecessary add-on, a distant myth, or irrelevant symbolism, but God promises a blessing for those who read it, hear it, and change their lives accordingly. Those who reject the truth of God’s revelation will suffer for eternity (Revelation 22:18-19). John says that the time of Christ’s return was relatively near even two thousand years ago. It is not some distant, imaginary event that might take place millions or billions of years from now. Human history is relatively short, and Jesus’ return is nearer now than it has ever been. People need to pay attention and respond accordingly.
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
John wrote by inspiration of the Spirit to seven actual churches that were in Asia minor to commend them where they could be commended and to correct them where they needed to be corrected. Interestingly, the things that the seven churches were dealing with are representative of the same issues that the church of Jesus Christ has had to wrestle with and battle since its inception. The applications are thus very true even for today. John wrote clearly implying the authenticity and inspiration of his writings as being of the Holy Spirit and from God Almighty. God is revealed as the One Who was, Who is, and Who is to come, signifying His eternality and permanence (see also v. 8). The seven spirits who are before His throne signify the Person and work of the Holy Spirit of God Who desires to lead, fill, and empower the believers at each of His seven churches. Seven is a number that reflects God’s completeness and perfection as compared to six, which is a number of a man (Revelation 13:18). In addition to writing on behalf of God the Father and the Holy Spirit, John also writes from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, for all that Jesus said in the past was true. Thus, all that He said to John in the revelation is also true. Jesus is the firstborn of the dead, meaning that He was the first to rise from the dead, and He was able to make a way for His children to conquer death and have eternal life as well. Jesus is also the ruler of the kings of the earth, for not the powers of the world in John’s time or the powers of the world today are any match for Him. This will be clearly seen as the future events unfold in this book, for only Jesus is able to open the seal for the coming judgments of God (Revelation 5:5). Furthermore, it will be Jesus Who returns to lay waste to the kings and armies of the earth in Revelation 19:11-21. Only Jesus is the King of kings. John rejoiced in the fact that Jesus has saved those who believe in Him on account of His love for them, even dying for them so that they could be saved from the power of sin and death. He has established His true church which consists of all true believers as a kingdom which will keep expanding and growing as more people come to know Him. The redeemed are adopted into His kingdom promises to serve as priests (Genesis 12:1-3, 1 Peter 2:9, Romans 11:17-24) to the Father, and they are His to honor His name in this life and in the next. The Lord will have dominion forever and ever, including during Jesus’ millennial rule on earth (Revelation 20:4-6), and He deserves to be praised accordingly. Believers will have the honor of reigning with Him (Matthew 19:28; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 4:4, 11:15, 20:4, 20:6). “Amen” is an affirmation or agreement with what was just said and could be translated as “may it be.” Jesus will return on the clouds, and every eye will see Him, (Matthew 24:26-30, Mark 13:26), even those who pierced Him the first time He came. This is a reference to His second coming and subsequent judgment during which those who refuse to believe in Him will have to face Christ Himself and be condemned (Hebrews 9:27, Philippians 2:5-10, Revelation 20:11-15). Believers, on the other hand, will reign with Christ forever and be rewarded for their faithfulness on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Revelation 20:4-6). All unbelievers will mourn when they see Jesus (Revelation 6:16-17), for they do not love Him (Revelation 11:10). They loathe that He has won and that they must face His wrath, for they loved their sin and wished to continue in their evil ways.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
The Lord God Almighty is the sovereign of the world, and He will have to be reckoned with at the last days. Every man will have to face the judgment, and those who do not love Christ will suffer for eternity. God is the beginning and the end, the first and the last, and the One Who was and Who is to come (see also v. 4). He is permanent, eternal, all-powerful, sovereign, and stronger than any man, any king, any army, and any spiritual force of darkness. Only He is the Almighty, and only He has the name “I am,” inferring eternality (Exodus 3:14).
9 I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, 11 saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
The early church was persecuted severely (Hebrews 10:34, 1 Peter 4:12), even from the outset in the Book of Acts. John, suffering exile on the island of Patmos, was no exception to the tribulation and persecution sweeping the early church. As 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” John understood what the rest of the church was going through because he was being persecuted also. But there was reason to have hope and to persevere because of the kingdom that belongs to Jesus. The end is good even though the present world has many trials and much persecution (John 16:33). Believers can know that they are blessed to suffer on account of their faith in the Word of God and because of their adherence to the testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel (Matthew 5:10). Holding tightly to His Word and to the one way to God in Christ will anger the world which hates Jesus. Because the world hates Jesus, they will hate His followers also. But in this book of the revelation of the end, believers can have great hope because Jesus will return to right all wrongs and to judge the wicked. John said that the revelation concerning the churches began on the Lord’s Day, likely a reference to the first day of the week which the early church celebrated by gathering together for worship (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2). A voice like the sound of a trumpet instructed John to write down everything that he was about to see and to send it to the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Of course, by writing it down, it was preserved as part of God’s Word for all time so that the present day church could also benefit by the revelation and instruction to these churches (Revelation 2:7).
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; 13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.
John turned to see the voice which was speaking to him. He saw seven golden lampstands, signifying the seven churches (v. 20). In the middle of the lampstands was one who looked like a human (Jesus Himself- see v. 17-18), clothed in a robe reaching to His feet and having a golden sash along His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, like snow, and His eyes were like a flame of fire. This was obviously an intimidating Figure because of the fiery eyes and perfectly white head and hair. This image just proclaims holiness, purity, power, and glory. The Figure’s feet were like burnished bronze when it has been made to glow in a furnace, so even His feet were bright, shining, and glowing. He was holy from head to toe. His voice was like the sound of many waters, powerful and strong. That the Lord Jesus was seen in the midst of the lampstands highlights the fact that God is present in His true church (1 Corinthians 6:19). In His right hand He held seven stars, which are the angels of the seven churches (v. 20). Hebrews 1:14 says concerning angels, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” The angelic protectors and servants of the churches (Gabriel, for example, was a protector and encourager of Darius in Daniel 11:1) are seen as being under God’s command and protected ultimately by Him. Thus, the church is ultimately protected and encouraged by God Himself because He is the Savior and Lord of the church (Matthew 16:18). He will make sure that His message gets to His people, His church (Daniel 10:12-14). Out of Jesus’ mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, for the Word of God is indeed the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), able to cut to the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). What Jesus has spoken is true, perfect, and enduring forever. His face was like the sun shining in its strength, so looking at Jesus was like looking into the sun. This is a foretaste of the new heaven and earth in which Jesus is the illumination. As Revelation 22:5 says, “And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” This was foretold in Isaiah 60:1 which says, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” (see also Ephesians 5:14)
17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. 19 Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
Seeing Jesus in His full glory, splendor, and heavenly majesty caused John to fall at His feet like a dead man in great fear and dread. But Jesus placed His hand on him, not in harshness but in gentleness, and told him not to be afraid. He reminded John Who He was, Jesus Christ, the first and the last, the living One. It was Jesus, the Son of God, the One Who had conquered the grave and the One Whose chest John had reclined upon (John 13:23). It was Jesus Who lives forever and Who alone has authority to cast into hell (Luke 12:5). There is nothing to fear when the One Who is more powerful than any other loves His own and has promised that they are seated with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Jesus commanded John to write the things that He had seen so far, what He was presently seeing, and what He would soon see concerning future events. God sends His angels to look after believers, and ultimately believers are upheld by His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). This is symbolized beautifully by the seven stars in His right hand, representing the seven angels of the churches. That Jesus is in the midst of the seven lampstands (Revelation 1:13, 2:1) points out that He is near to His own (James 4:8).