1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who bore witness 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.
The title of the book is “The Apokalupsis of Jesus Christ.” “Revelation” is the translation of the Greek noun, apokalupsis, meaning “a disclosure, an unveiling.” The term “revelation” itself is derived from the Latin revelatio (from revelare, “to reveal or unveil that which has previously been hidden”).
This was the title assigned to the book in the Latin Vulgate. The Greek title is Apocalypse, taken directly from the first word in the Greek text, apokalupsi. In this noun form the word is not found anywhere else in Greek literature, but as a verb it is continually used in the Gospels and the Epistles, in many different ways, especially in reference to some form of divine revelation to man (as of the Son of Man, in Lk 17:30). It is used by Paul in referring to the same coming event (Rom 8:18; I Cor 1:7; II Thess 1:7), and frequently in I Peter (1:7, 13; 4:13; 5:1). In the Greek text of Daniel this word is often found referring to the uncovering of secrets, or the interpretation of dreams, or the revelation of God (see Dan 2:19, 22, 28, 29, 30, 47; 10:1; 11:35).14
Apokalupsis means “to expose to full view what was before unknown, hidden, and secret.” In its first appearance in the New Testament (Luke 2:32), it is used of Simeon who, taking the baby Jesus in his arms, blessed Him and spoke of Him as “a light to lighten the Gentiles” (KJV). It reminds us that God intends for this book to bring light and to be understood by its readers. This opening clause is a mark of distinction which gives us not only the title, but the theme. Notice that it is not the revelation of John, but of Jesus Christ which was given to John. The common title sometimes used for the book, “The Revelation to John,” merely identifies John as the human author. But how are we to understand the phrase, “of Jesus Christ”?
Grammatically, the words “of Jesus Christ” can be either a genitive of object meaning a revelation “about Jesus Christ,” or a genitive of subject meaning a revelation “from Jesus Christ.” “From Jesus Christ” would point to Christ as the author who gave this to John through His angel (cf. 22:16). Writers differ with some arguing for one or the other of these views. Some would argue that as 22:16 shows, it is from Christ and that the subject is about “things which must shortly come to pass” (vs. 1b). Others say, no, it is a revelation of and about the person of Christ. But grammatically it is likely that “of Jesus Christ” is what grammarians call a plenary genitive and includes both ideas.15 It is a revelation about and from the Lord Jesus. It is a revelation, a disclosure about the Christ Himself. It reveals His present work in the church, and discloses future events, but the events concern the person of Christ Himself and His return and activities associated with His second coming. In support, note the following verses:
In keeping with the teaching of the New Testament regarding the procession of the ministries of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we see the headship of the Father who initiates this revelation through the Son (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3). First, it proceeds from the Father to the Son—“which God gave to Him.” For other Scriptures supporting the doctrine of procession see John 3:34, 35; 5:20-24; 7:16; 14:10, 24; 16:15).
Second, the communication proceeds from the Son through an angel, “and He sent and communicated it by His angel.” The term angel, angelos, is found 175 times in 171 verses of the New Testament. Though some verses refer to men, the vast majority refer to angelic beings. This prominence shows the importance of angels in the worship of God, in the communication of revelation to man, and in the execution of God’s purposes and judgments.
Angels were often God’s instruments of communication or his messengers which is the basic meaning of the word, “angel” (Heb. 2:2; Acts 7:53). They will again be used as God’s special messengers in the time described in Revelation 6-19. Angelos is used seven times of the angel or messenger to the seven churches in chapters 2-3, though in these chapters, it refers most likely to a human messenger, someone responsible for communicating the Word in each of the seven churches. The prominent idea is a messenger, an instrument of communication used by God.
There is a great deal of interest today in angels. Numerous books have been written about angels and so-called angelic encounters. Little figures of what angels are supposed to look like are a very popular item in the stores and not just around Christmas time. But we need to be careful about this interest in angels since Satan, who disguises himself as an angel of light, surely has fallen angels under his command who do the same and pose as instruments of good, even claiming revelation from God (2 Cor. 11:14-15). One of the largest cults in the world today claims it was begun because of an encounter with an angel; and shortly after the time of Paul, a false system of religion arose called gnosticism in which there was an intricate belief system in angels. Paul seems to warn about this system in its incipient form in Colossians 2:18-19.
An extremely interesting statement and a very timely one for any generation, but especially for our society, is found in Galatians 1:8. “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Since the fall of Satan, no true angel from heaven would ever preach a false gospel, but hypothetically speaking, should one do so, Paul says he is to be accursed, devoted to destruction as are all the fallen angels or demonic beings (Matt. 25:41). The good angels are servants who do many tasks for God, but above all, they are messengers, as the name implies, who are responsible to witness truthfully to the person of the Lord Jesus. Three characteristics of angels: (a) they will agree with and bear testimony to the message of the Bible regarding the person and work of Christ (Rev. 1:1-2; 19:10), (b) they will always honor God and never seek honor for themselves (Rev. 19:10), and (c) they act on God’s behalf to do His will and often for the sake of Israel and the church as is so evident in the book of Daniel (10:13f; 12:1) and Revelation (see also Heb. 1:7, 14; Ps. 103:20).
Third, the communication comes from the angel as the Lord’s messenger to John who is called His bond-servant (vs. 1) (cf. Rev. 17:1; 19:9f; 21:9; 22:6,8,16).
Finally, the communication of the book is from John to the body of Christ. This is seen in the words, “to show to his bond servants” (vs. 1), and in the words, “to the seven churches …” in verse 4. “Bondservants” is the Greek word, doulos, a significant term especially when applied to the people of God. The bondservant was one who was owned by his master lock, stock, and barrel. He was totally under the authority and power of his master and dependent on him for everything—his responsibilities, his daily food, housing, and supplies, and his purpose in life. Ironically, however, it is in this servitude to Christ that we experience true freedom—freedom from bondage to sin, self, Satan, and the religion of the world. But it is not just a freedom from something. It is also a freedom to be something, a freedom to know, serve, and walk with God in the peace and righteousness of Christ choosing to serve Him rather than sin.
Perhaps the use of the terms “angel” (messenger) and “bond-servant” should remind us of two key areas of truth that are related as root to fruit. They remind us of what both angels and men should be, especially the body of Christ which has been left on earth to represent the Lord Jesus as His messengers. We are to be instruments of light as portrayed in the symbol of the lampstand. This means we are messengers of Christ and servants of God, but our willingness and ability to be effective as messengers of the message of the Savior as was John is greatly dependent on truly living as bondservants of the Savior. We see this truth in the first verse of Paul’s message to the Romans where he identifies himself as “a bondservant of Jesus Christ” and then as one “called to be an apostle” (Rom. 1:1). The secret of Paul’s ministry to the nations as a preacher and an apostle and a teacher (2 Tim. 1:11) is indicated in the order of these words of identification in Romans 1:1. He was first and foremost a bondslave, one utterly surrendered to the ascended Christ, and then he was an apostle, one sent with the message as a preacher and a teacher.
One of the vital principles of the Christian life is that the way up is down, and the way to life is death—death to self and its control. The Lord Jesus is the perfect example of this, who, though being God of very God, took on the form of a bondslave in the form of true humanity and humbled Himself to die in our place that we might have life (Phil. 2:6-8). He, as a servant, came not to be ministered to, but to minister and give His life for our redemption (Mark 10:45). He taught us that becoming a productive servant begins with dying to ourselves as a grain of wheat. He said:
John 12:24-26 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
General Eisenhower once rebuked one of his generals for referring to a soldier as “just a private.” He reminded him that the army could function better without its generals than it could without its foot soldiers. “If this war is won,” he said, “it will be won by privates.” In the same way, it is the common, servant-like believer who becomes the very backbone of the body of Christ. We are often overly impressed by our great evangelists and superstar Bible teachers and leaders who stand before large crowds, but if the glorious message of the person and work of Christ is to reach the world, it will be done by a church that functions as bondslaves of the Savior (cf. Luke 12:15; 12:32; 2 Pet. 2:19; 1 John 3:17).
One man tells this story of his experience with hummingbirds:
Recently we put up a hummingbird feeder with four feeding stations. Almost immediately it became popular with the hummingbirds that live in our area. Two, three, or even four birds would feed at one time. We refilled the feeder at least once a day. Suddenly the usage decreased to almost nothing. The feeder needed filling only about once a week. The reason for the decreased usage soon became apparent. A male bird had taken over the feeder as his property. He is now the only hummingbird who uses our feeder. He feeds and then sits in a nearby tree, rising to attack any bird that approaches his feeder. Guard duty occupies his every waking hour. He is an effective guard. The only time another bird gets to use the feeder is when the self-appointed owner is momentarily gone to chase away an intruder.
We soon realized that the hummingbird was teaching us a valuable lesson. By choosing to assume ownership of the feeder, he is forfeiting his freedom. He is no longer free to come and go as he wishes. He is tied to the work of guarding his feeder. He is possessed by his possession. His freedom of action is as circumscribed as if he were in a cage. He is caged by a situation he has created.16
Someone has said, “The true test of a servant’s heart is whether or not I am willing to act like one when I am treated like one.”
“Show” is deiknumi, “to exhibit, disclose, point out.” Again we see an emphasis on disclosing the message of Revelation. God intends for this book to be communicated to His people.
“Shortly” is the Greek en tacei which can mean either of two things. It can mean soon as in the immediate future or in prophetic terms, it can mean imminent, i.e., they could occur at any time or in our day. One must remember the truth of 2 Peter 3:8, that one day is as a thousand years and vice versa from God’s viewpoint. It may also mean “rapidly, quickly, speedily.”
The point is, by comparison to the rest of history, once these things begin to unfold they will occur rapidly (cf. Luke 18:8; Acts 12:7; 22:18; 25:4; Rom. 16:20). There will be no more delays in the plan of God and in His long suffering (cf. Matt. 24:22). A similar word, tacus, is translated six times in Revelation meaning “quickly” which may illustrate the concept (cf. 2:16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7,12,20). In view of the words “the time is near” in verse 3 (cf. 22:10), it may be best to take en tacei as “soon” and understand it to refer to the imminent return of the Lord. Imminent means “ready to take place, impending.” “The church in every age has always lived with the expectancy of the consummation of all things in its day. Imminency describes an event possible any day, impossible no day.”17 (See Appendix 1 for reasons in support of imminency.)
“Communicated” is shmainw, meaning “to show, signify, reveal by signs or symbols” as is often the case in this book. But it can also mean to reveal by words without the use of signs or symbols. John was communicated to by both the spoken word and by visions in which he saw things that were full of symbolic meaning as in 1:10-12, but these symbols are designed to be understood according to the normal meaning of the symbols.
That which is communicated is first of all defined as the “witness” of John. This is marturew, “to be a witness, act as a witness, testify or bear witness.” It carries the idea of “attestation, verification, validation” and stresses that John was bearing testimony as a witness of what he received. That witness is defined and described in a three-fold way which shows it importance and why we need to pay attention to it message:
(1) “The Word of God”—This book with its visions is called the Word of God and is part of the whole canon of Scripture. It stands in harmony with the rest of Scripture and provides us with the culmination and conclusion. This description stresses its authority and importance to the church. It brings out the concepts of inspiration, canonicity, preservation, and illumination (cf. 1:9; 3:8, 10; 6:9; 12:11; 17:17; 19:9; 20:4).
(2) “The testimony of Jesus Christ”—The word “testimony,” marturia, a noun form of the above marturew, also carries the idea of “attestation, verification, validation.” This could mean “the testimony about Jesus Christ,” an objective genitive, or “the testimony from Jesus Christ,” a subjective genitive. The latter is preferable because of the phrase, “the Word of (from) God,” and the context. The point is John testifies to both the Word of God and to the validation of his message from Jesus himself.”18
(3) “And of all the things which he saw”—The first two defined and described his testimony from the standpoint of its nature or character and source. This calls attention to the many details and areas that he saw and that will be found in the book—the great events and personages which precede and surround Christ’s coming, His kingdom, and His eternal glory.
“Blessed” is makairos, “happy, blessed” (cf. Matt. 5:3). This is a promise of the happiness, spiritual blessing, and joy that will come from knowing and responding to the truth of the book. There are seven beatitudes, the word “blessed” appearing 7 times in the book of Revelation.
Lehman Strauss defines them as: The Blessed Challenge (1:3), The Blessed Comfort (14:13), The Blessed Cautiousness (16:15), The Blessed Calling (19:9), The Blessed Conquest (20:6), The Blessed Cherishing (22:7), The Blessed Conformity (22:14).19
“He who reads.” Note that this is singular while the next clause, “those who hear,” is plural. This reflects the early form of worship and one of God’s primary plans for taking in the Word. The Scripture was publicly read to the congregation. The early church didn’t have a large number of copies of the Scripture nor any books of the New Testament when they were received, so they would be read and undoubtedly also, expounded on by the pastor and teachers given to the body.
“And those who hear.” In this we see the responsibility of the flock to hear and respond. It is these who are blessed. “Hear” is akouw, “to hear, listen, attend, perceive by hearing, comprehend by hearing.” It includes concentration and learning, and of course, to hear, one must be present when the Word is taught (Heb. 10:25).
“And heed the things …” “Heed” is threw, “to guard, watch over, preserve” or “observe, apply, obey.” In this context, the main idea is that of personal application with obedience.
“The words of this prophecy” and “the things which are written.” Note that “words” and “things” are plural. They point us to the content of the book, but include the various categories and truths that make up the content of Revelation—the person of Christ, the church, the saints, the Tribulation, witnessing, faithfulness, overcoming, the angelic warfare, Israel, Satan, demons, judgments, the millennium, the resurrection, the eternal state, etc.
“Of this prophecy.” In addition to being called the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, it is called “prophecy.” Prophecy involves not only future events, but also moral and spiritual things that train, exhort, and comfort. It particularly refers to truth received by direct revelation from God (1 Cor. 14:30).
“Which are written in it.” “Written” is in the perfect tense and means “stands written.” The perfect tense stresses the permanence of the record and perhaps its availability. God has made His Word available to us and preserved it in the Canon of Scripture. In the New Testament, the concept of the Word which stands written is found over sixty times.
“For the time is as hand.” “Time” is kairos and refers to a definite season or period of time, but one that is marked out by its contents or characteristics. The time in mind is the time of Christ’s return marked out by all that will happen just before, during, and after (1:19).
“Is near” is engus which includes: (1) near as to place, close by, like the car near the garage, and (2), near as to time, soon. The idea is “near from the standpoint of prophetic revelation, i.e., next.” Again we see God’s reckoning of time (2 Pet. 3:8-9). The next phase of God’s program for the earth will be the events of this Revelation. The world is ever coming closer to this awesome time. The value of this book is that it provides orientation to the times, motivation to ministry and godliness, comfort, and instruction.
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 first-born 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. Even so. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
“John.” The human author is John the Apostle (1:4a). “The Hebrew idioms in the book, the authority of the author in relation to the churches, the use of distinctively Johannine terms like logos and “Lamb of God,” and the corroboration of Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian and Clement all affirm that the Apostle John was the author of this book.”20 Every New Testament book was written by an apostle or by one who was closely associated with an apostle, i.e., like Luke who was a companion of the Apostle Paul. This was one of the marks of inspiration and necessary for recognition of a book into the canon of Scripture.
“To the seven churches in Asia” (1:4b). The whole book is addressed to seven historical churches in the province of Asia Minor. This fact should prevent anyone from saying that Revelation is nothing more than a piece of poetic idealism.21 As will be discussed later, these seven in their historical situation are representative of the church at any particular point in history. Chapters two and three contain specific letters to these seven churches with special warnings, exhortations, commendations, and instructions.
“Grace to you and peace.” First, we should note the order of God’s blessings: Grace, then peace. Peace is always the product of knowing and appropriating the grace of God in Christ. This order can never be changed. Ignore the grace of God and you forfeit the peace of God (cf. Heb. 12:14 with vs. 15). Peace is the product of grace (2 Pet. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 3:18). Peter exhorts us, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of …” The more we experience the grace of God, the more capacity we have to experience the variegated aspects of God’s peace. Though the message of Revelation is primarily one of judgment, this benediction of grace and peace is notable. God here seeks to comfort and strengthen His people. Knowing this book brings a greater capacity to understand God’s grace in his patience during this age and even in the events of the future for God does not wish for any to perish, but to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Having a grasp of God’s program for the future also gives peace.
For an overview of the nature of grace and peace, see Appendix 2.
Note that the preposition, “from,” is used three times in verses 4 and 5. This points us to three distinct and separate ministries found in the distinct ministries of the trinity.
We should note in passing that this designation of God corresponds to the division of the book given in Revelation 1:19, the things past, the things present, and the things to come. It reminds us that He is the God of history. This should comfort and strengthen as we study about all that has, is, and will happen in the future. Behind it all is the eternal and sovereign God of the Bible.
“Who is” is literally “the one who is.” It ascribes the fact and quality of continual existence as a distinctive and emphatic quality of God’s being and essence. He is the “I Am” of the Old Testament.
“And who was.” “Was” is the imperfect of the verb “to be” and refers to God’s continual existence in past time. It stresses the Father has always been.
“And is to come” is literally “the one coming” or “the coming one.” The Greek construction again describes a fact and quality that characterizes God. It speaks of the future coming of God to take control of all things in a world that has been in open rebellion. He is coming to put down His enemies and establish His reign through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor. 15:20-28).
The number seven, occurring 54 times in the book, appears more frequently than any other number. In the Bible it is associated with completion, fulfillment, and perfection (cf. Gen. 2:2; Ex. 20:10; Lev. 14:7; Acts 6:3). In Revelation there are seven churches and seven spirits (1:4), seven lampstands (1:12), seven stars (1:16), seven seals on the scroll (5:1), seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb (5:6), seven angels and seven trumpets (8:2), seven thunders (10:3), seven heads of the dragon (12:3), seven heads of the beast (13:1), seven golden bowls (15:7), and seven kings (17:10).22
“The seven Spirits.” To whom or what does this refer? Some take this to refer to the seven angels who are before the throne, but it seems best to understand this as a reference to the Holy Spirit and the perfection or fullness of His actions and the manifold nature of His ministry. This fits both the context and the analogy of Scripture as demonstrated below:
(1) The book is presented as coming from three sources who seem to be presented as equal with one another. The last of these is clearly defined as Jesus Christ, the third member of the trinity. If the first is the Father, and the third is the Son, the second would in all probability be the Holy Spirit rather than seven angels. First, because only the Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son, and second, though angels are involved in the visions of the revelation, only one angel was really involved in specific communication of the book to John (cf. 1:1).
(2) Because the obvious parallel to the seven-fold ministries portrayed in Isaiah 11:2.
Why then is the Holy Spirit referred to as seven spirits? There is only one Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:4), but in the Bible, seven is consistently associated with perfection, fulfillment, and completeness. Evidently, because Revelation is the final book of the Bible, the culmination, the fulfillment, and climax of the ages. The number seven becomes prominent to demonstrate this.
In verses 5a-7 there is a three-fold emphasis on Christ’s person and work to draw attention to who He is, what He has done, and will do.
(1) Our Prophet—the faithful witness. The Greek text is very emphatic. Literally it reads, “the witness, the faithful One.” This stresses the character of His witness as faithful. The Lord Jesus is the logos, the very revelation of God to man (cf. John 1:1, 14, 18). He answers man’s need of the ideal prophet or spokesman and revelation from and for God (Deut. 18:15-22).
(2) Our Priest—the firstborn of the dead. First, since He could not be the firstborn from among the dead without dying, this statement must first look back to Christ’s substitutionary death for the sin of the world (Heb. 5:1-10; 9:11-14; 10:14). Second, the firstborn from the dead is also an obvious reference to the fact of the resurrection. By the resurrection God the Father verified His acceptance of Christ’s offering of Himself by raising Him to prove our justification (Acts 2:23-24, 31-32; 4:25), prove to the world that He is God’s Son (Rom. 1:4), and prove that this Jesus will judge the world (Rom. 17:31). Third, the mention of the firstborn points to Him as our forerunner in resurrection. The first one brought forth from the dead in a glorified body is a promise that more will follow. The Lord Jesus is God’s guarantee of our resurrection and glorification (John 11:24-26).
(3) Our King—the ruler of the kings of the earth. “The ruler” is literally “the one who rules …” or “the ruling one …” It ascribes the quality of rule to Him and characterizes Him as the one who rules, the ruler (cf. 19:16). It is a rule that is going on now and it is a rule over all governments even though the world lies in rebellion and unbelief. Nations, kings, and governments rise and fall by His sovereign authority and power (cf. Matt. 28:18). Compare Daniel 2:20,21; 4:17; 5:18.
So Christ is now seated at God’s right hand, having spoiled Satan and Satan’s demonic hosts by His death and resurrection. But one day He will rise from His seat and begin to take the reigns of control through the events of the Tribulation (cf. Dan. 2:44; Rev. 4; 5; 11:15-17).
(1) For His present ministry—“who loves us.” The Greek text uses one article with two adjectival participles which descriptively portray the person, work, and ministry of the Lord. Literally—“the one who loves, … and who released us, …” The construction of the Greek text ascribes Christ’s love for us as a constant quality and characteristic. It speaks of His constant care and ministry on our behalf.
(2) For His past ministry—“who released us … and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.” “Released” looks at a past historic fact. It looks at this as an accomplished fact, as something that does not need repeating and Scripture strongly stresses this in the truth of the finished work of Christ. Again, it is a descriptive participle only now in the aorist tense. It is descriptive, classifying Christ as the Releaser, the one and only one who has accomplished what is necessary to release men from the penalty and power of sin.
The object of the releasing is “us,” a reference to believers in Christ, but it is available to any who will put their trust in the Savior (John 3:16).
The verb is luw, “to untie, set free, release.” It stresses that man, apart from Jesus Christ and His work on the cross is in bondage, chained to his sin problem: both its penalty (physical, spiritual, and eternal death) and its power (weakness and domination by a sinful nature). Some MSS have “washed us” from louw, “to wash.”
“From” is the Greek word ek, a preposition meaning “from, out of, away from.” It is a preposition of separation.
“Our sins” stresses two things: First, that the problem facing man is sin, imputed sin, inherent sin, and individual. Man’s problem is not the lack of a great society. Man is a fallen creature and this has caused both man’s separation from a holy God and the corruption of society. In himself, mankind does not have what it needs to rectify its problems. Only Christ, the sin releaser can do that. Second, it stresses that the sin problem is personal. Every person is up against the eight ball of sin and needs the saving grace of God (Rom. 3:23).
“By His blood” is a metonymy for the work of the Christ on the cross, His substitutionary death by which He dealt with the sin problem. Compare for instance, “the pen (a symbol of literary power) is mightier than the sword” (a symbol of military power).
As we think about this, we should be reminded of the total effects of what we have been separated from by His death in our place. The separation includes: (a) the PLACE from which separation takes place—Satan’s Kingdom (Col. 1:13), (b) the COMPANY from which separation takes place—Satan’s World System (John 17:15-17), (c) the CIRCUMSTANCES out of which one is brought—the Penalty and Power of sin and death—(Rom. 6:1f; Eph. 2:1f; Heb. 2:14, 15), and (d) the PERSONS with whom a connection is severed—the Son’s of disobedience (Eph. 2:2f; 5:6f).
“And He has made us a kingdom …” “Kingdom” is singular. Not kings, but a kingdom. It is collective and stresses our relationship to each other as believers and to Christ as our king. A kingdom is a place of rule. We are a kingdom, a people in whom God is to rule and who will one day reign with Christ, but because of the word “priests,” that’s not the focus here.
“Priests” is plural. Here we see our individual position, responsibility, and the purpose of this kingdom. We are a kingdom of priests to God who are to represent Him to the world. We have a collective priesthood, but every believer is a ministering priest before God. This is a far cry from what we so often see in churches today where the pastor is viewed as the minister and the people see themselves only as laymen or lay people.
“To Him be glory and dominion …” Before John turns to His future ministry and the keynote of the book—Christ’s coming again—there is a doxology of praise which both concludes what has been said and introduces what is about to be said regarding Christ’s return.
“To Him” is what we can call a dative of possession. It points us to that which rightly belongs to Christ. In this we see the great purpose of our lives.
“Be the glory.” This is the Greek doxa and refers to that which should accrue to Christ, the praise, the adoration, the rule, the respect and worship because of who He is and what He has done.
“And the dominion.” This is the Greek kratos. It means (a) power, might, and (b) rule, sovereignty.
“For ever and ever.” Man’s rule as given to him by God was lost in the garden of Eden, but never again once the Lord, the God-Man Savior, assumes His reign on earth at His second coming.
(3) For His future ministry—“Behold, He is coming with the clouds …”
“Behold” is designed to arrest our attention and get us to focus on this as the great theme of Revelation. He is coming for us (1 Thess. 4:13-18) and then with us to earth (Rev. 19:11-16), but in between, He is coming to judge the world for its rebellion (Rev. 6-19:10).
“Is coming” is the present tense of the verb, ercomai, “to come, go.” This is a future present used to denote an event which has not yet occurred, but which is regarded as so certain that in thought it is viewed as already occurring or accomplished.
“With the clouds” reminds us of Acts 1:9f and the promise of the angels at the ascension of the Lord Jesus. This may have been the Shekinah glory of God and it could be so here. There will be clouds, but clouds of the glory of God manifesting the coming glory of the Lord to rule and take up the reigns of government over the earth in a visible way (cf. Matt. 24:30).
“Every eye” simply points out that all mankind will see this in contrast to the ascension which was seen only by the disciples.
“Those who pierced Him.” In the light of Zechariah 12:10, this refers primarily to the Jews who asked for His death, but it could also refer to the Romans who carried out the sentence. In essence we all caused His death because of our sin.
“And all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.” Literally “and they shall wail over Him” (Matt. 24:30). The Greek word is koptw and means literally “to beat the breast in wailing and mourning.” For some it will be the mourning of repentance. For others it will be the mourning over the judgments that He will pour out on the earth and sinners.
The benediction begins with the words of verse 7, “even so, amen.” This confirms what has been said and introduces what is to follow.
“Even so” is the Greek nai, a particle of affirmation. It confirms the sure return of the Lord and the statements made about Him.
“Amen” means “to be firm, sure, true.” It is a further affirmation of the promise of the verse.
There is some disagreement about who is here speaking. Ryrie thinks this verse refers to the Father and is His affirmation of the Son. Others as Walvoord, believe it speaks of the Son.
Reasons in favor of this as a reference to the Son are: (a) He is the central person of the first chapter, and (b) in verse 17 Christ uses a similar expression of Himself when he says, “I am the first and the last.” (c) Finally, toward the close of the book two expressions are united and applied by Christ to Himself which seems to identify Him as the one speaking here (cf. 22:6, 22:13, and Isa. 44:6). This authenticates who He is—God Almighty.
However, since this follows the salutation which comes from the trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, perhaps it could be from the Godhead itself.
“I Am the Alpha and Omega.” These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It is equivalent to our A and Z. This does not relate so much to time but to truth. It expressed the extent of God’s knowledge and wisdom (Col. 2:3). It stresses Christ’s or the Godhead’s omniscience or infinite knowledge and wisdom. This stands then as a strong authentication of the book of Revelation because it comes from the Alpha (a) and Omega (w).
“The Almighty” is the Greek pantokratwr from pas, “all” and kratos, “might, power.” It stresses God’s omnipotence, but also God’s sovereign supremacy over all things. It declares God’s supremacy over all the universe. The word was used in secular literature to describe the attributes of the gods and John is probably using it here in contrast to the Roman emperor’s self-designation as the autokrator.23
Walvoord has an excellent summary of these opening verses.
Jesus Christ is the central figure of the opening eight verses of Revelation. As the Source of revelation He is presented in verse 1. As the Channel of the word and testimony of God He is cited in verse 2. His blessings through His revealed word are promised in verse 3. In verse 5 He is the faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He is revealed to be the source of all grace who loves us and cleanses us from our sins through His shed blood. He is the source of our royal priesthood who has the right to gather in Himself all glory and dominion forever. He is promised to come with clouds, attended with great display of power and glory, and every eye shall see the One who died for men. He is the Almighty One of eternity past and eternity future. If no more had been written than that contained in this introductory portion of chapter 1, it would have constituted a tremendous restatement of the person and work of Christ such as found in no comparable section of Scripture.24
1. How well does my life exhibit the character of a bondslave?
2. Am I a careful messenger who accurately bears testimony to the person and work of Jesus Christ?
3. Am I involved in ministry as a believer priest or am I more of a spectator?
4. Am I living as a sojourner who looks with great anticipation for the Lord’s return, or have I become more of an earth dweller whose primary goals are in this world?