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Revelation 1

Section Introduction

J.B. Phillips, a highly respected Biblical scholar and translator, wrote in his introduction to his English language translation of Revelation that he nearly decided to not translate it at all. He observed that the Greek is “sloppy”, something that challenged his self-identified preference for order and precision, which he had happily found in the rest of the Books. While he fasted and prayed and studied the Lord God opened his eyes to a truth which we all must recognize – John was in an ecstatic state, he was viewing things never before seen by human eyes, he was interpreting them for the purpose of description based on his limited life experience (and the limitations of human language), he was recording that which he was instructed (by the angel) to record, and he was refraining from recording what he was told not to record. Once the apostle John returned to his normal state how could he choose what to edit or not without the fear that he may alter something important? Thus John did not edit his notes. This leaves the reader with the best-effort of the translator (or translation team) to make the text both faithful to the original (from ancient Greek to modern English) as well as readable. As with all of the Word of God it is only with the assistance of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are able to rightly-discern what is His purpose for us to learn from the Book of Revelation.

This is the first of eight-weeks of daily studies through the book of Revelation. We will follow the divisions found in Constable’s Notes and also used by Daniel B. Wallace, a fellow contributor to the online Bible study resources hosted at bible.org. The divisions are as follows: 1:1-20, 2:1-3:22, 4:1-5:15, 6:1-8:1, 8:2-14:20, 15:1-18:24, 19:1-22:5, 22:6-21.

Sunday (Revelation 1:1-3)

The Prologue

1:1 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, 1:2 who then testified to everything that he saw concerning the word of God and the testimony about Jesus Christ. 1:3 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!

Prayer

Lord, You blessed the apostle John with an amazing and unique experience, and You sent an angel to serve as his Heavenly “tour guide”. May I be as surrendered to guidance of the Holy Spirit, as I read the Word of God, as was John to his angelic guide.

Summary & Commentary

“1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ,”

For the purposes of humankind the entire Bible is a revelation about Jesus Christ, certainly insofar as He was the One Who “created” and “all of the law and prophet/prophesy” from Genesis 3 on were about Him and His work of redemption; the Word is as well as a revelation given by Him of the necessary detail of the entirety of the history of the created cosmos and the Lord God’s interaction with it.

“... which God gave him to show his servants what must happen very soon.”

In this case the reference is specifically to Jesus as the Lord God partially-incarnate (no created thing may, of course, contain the Lord God) during His ministry in-the-flesh on earth, and later through the ministry of the Holy Spirit as He guided the Biblical authors and He illuminates the Word to every believer.

“He made it clear by sending his angel to his servant John,”

“it” refers to “what must happen very soon” and as the events recorded in Revelation unfolded almost immediately following John's revelation the angel was communicating the Lord God's plan (the elements of which were necessary for believers to know) to them (us).

“1:2 who then testified to everything that he saw concerning the word of God and the testimony about Jesus Christ.”

John was not only present while Jesus walked the earth, he was relationally-close to Him, and he was then treated to an angelic tour of Heaven together with a time-breaching multimedia presentation.

“1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud,”

One is blessed merely to have the words of John as they are a record of his unique experience in Heaven, blessed to have an opportunity to read them aloud – sharing them with others, and blessed to have the Holy Spirit illuminate them as they are read and heard.

“… and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it,

The NET Translator's notes observe that an alternate rendering of this text might well include the following: “to continue to obey orders or commandments – ‘to obey, to keep commandments, obedience.’”

“… because the time is near!”

As already noted the events prophesied in Revelation began immediately after they were revealed to John and continue to this very day; indeed, they will continue until the end of created time itself, as they conclude with “a new heaven and a new earth”.

Interaction

Consider

The circumstances of John were unique. Pray that the Holy Spirit will find you a willing partner in exploring His Word – not allowing yourself to be distracted by the word-pictures; rather, hungry for the Lord God's embedded message.

Discuss

What are some practical ways to disciple believers to value the teaching of the Bible so that it is genuinely-authoritative in their lives?

Reflect

The amazing experience of John is all the more amazing due to his incredible humility - that once returned that he did not attempt to draw attention to himself but only to the Lord God.

Share

In your fellowship, when they read from the Word of God, is there is a genuine sense of awe and power and a desire to be edified so that they may “obey”.

Faith in Action

Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to impress upon you the proper awe and respect of His Word.

Action:

Today I am choosing to read the text of Revelation several times, perhaps in more than one translation, over the next eight weeks. If there is something that I feel He wants me to share from that experience I will prayerfully seek a fellow believer with whom to share.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Monday (Revelation 1:4-6)

“1:4 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,

1:5 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

1:6 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.”

Prayer

Lord, You are eternal, You set us free, and You have chosen to allow us to serve You here on earth. May I be in constant-praise so that I never forget Who I serve and why.

Summary & Commentary

“1:4 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, 1:5 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 1:6 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. “

John’s prayer of greeting was addressed to the Churches (gatherings of local believers) in the Roman province of Asia (not Asia proper).

He quoted an old testament text and a new testament prophesy; God “He Who Is” (Psalm 24:10), and “Who Is still to come” (Matthew 24:27.

John reminded his readers that Jesus was, of course, the first to be re-born from among humans who were dead in their sins.

He also reminded them that it was the sins of humankind which He took upon Himself, though He was without sin.

John used the phrase “... from the seven spirits” and the following discussion is among the best that I have read:

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“Question: “What are the seven spirits of God?”

“Answer: The "seven spirits of God" are mentioned in Revelation 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; and 5:6. The seven spirits of God are not specifically identified, so it’s impossible to be dogmatic. Revelation 1:4 mentions that the seven spirits are before God's throne. Revelation 3:1 indicates that Jesus Christ "holds" the seven spirits of God. Revelation 4:5 links the seven spirits of God with seven burning lamps that are before God's throne. Revelation 5:6 identifies the seven spirits with the "seven eyes" of the Lamb and states that they are "sent out into all the earth."

“There are at least three possible interpretations of the seven spirits of God. The first is that the seven spirits of God are symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The Bible, and especially the Book of Revelation, uses the number seven to refer to perfection and completion. If that is the meaning of the seven in the “seven spirits” then it is not referring to seven different spirits of God, but rather the perfect and complete Holy Spirit. The second view is that the seven spirits of God refer to seven angelic beings, possibly the seraphim, the cherubim. This would fit with the numerous others angelic beings that are described in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 4:6-9; 5:6-14; 19:4-5).

“A third possibility is based on Isaiah 11:2 which says, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” This could possibly explain the seven spirits of God…(1) Spirit of the LORD, (2) Spirit of wisdom, (3) Spirit of understanding, (4) Spirit of counsel, (5) Spirit of power, (6) Spirit of knowledge, (7) Spirit of the fear of the Lord. The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically who/what the seven spirits are, but the first interpretation that they are the Holy Spirit seems the most likely. ”

http://www.gotquestions.org/seven-spirits-God.html

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Interaction

Consider

For His own reasons the Lord God has chosen to make us instruments of His great plan.

Discuss

What are some practical ways to explain the “He Who Is” (Psalm 24:10) description of the Lord God to someone unfamiliar with the Bible?

Reflect

The Lord God repeats the story of Jesus, God incarnate, Who died in His flesh then was raised – the first of such under the new covenant created via the Cross.

Share

What does your fellowship use as illustrations to teach about the sinless nature of Jesus and how His sacrifice could be for us?

Faith in Action

Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you an opportunity to improve one way that you, or perhaps your fellowship, places the Lord God first.

Action:

Today I will humbly and prayerfully pursue the opportunity identified by the Holy Spirit so that He may be lifted-up.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Tuesday (Revelation 1:7-8)

“1:7 (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.)”

“1:8 “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!”

Prayer

Lord, You are, You have always been, and You will always be. I am, I was nothing before I belonged to You, and I look forward to what You will do in and with and through me.

Summary & Commentary

“1:7 (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.)”

John provided a checklist of details for the return of Jesus:

He is returning,

He is returning with the clouds (or perhaps upon the clouds),

every eye (faithful or not) will see Him,

even those who were hateful when He walked the earth will see him,

and all of the non-faithful “tribes” will mourn because they are of the world and not of Christ Whose “children” are not of this world.

“1:8 “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!”

“Alpha” means beginning and “Omega” means end.

“... the one Who is” means that He is alive and is the “I Am that I Am” of the old testament (Exodus 3:14)

“... and Who was” means that He has always existed, before Adam and Eve, Abraham or Moses, even before He created time itself.

“... and Who is still to come” means not only the He will return but that He will remain present even after created-time is no longer necessary and eternity without time is shared with His children in Heaven.

“... the All-Powerful” is a reminder that no one and no thing may alter any of what He has declared.

Interaction

Consider

When Jesus returns everyone will see Him, no one need worry that they will miss seeing Him, no one may imagine they might avoid or ignore Him.

Discuss

Other than Exodus 3:14, what old testament text(s) come to mind where the Lord God described His attributes, especially His eternal existence and His limitless power?

Reflect

For the scoffers and the rebels the return of Jesus will be sudden accountability – too late.

Share

How does your fellowship help people to understand the reality of tine finality of the return of Jesus?

Faith in Action

Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you an opportunity to share this text with someone who needs to hear and to understand its meaning for them.

Action:

Today I will humbly and patiently share this text, encouraging questions (some of which I may need to ask for time to get answers for them, some of which I will be able to answer), and graciously accepting doubt and uncertainty from a teachable person who needs time to process what they have heard.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Wednesday (Revelation 1:9-11)

1:9 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.

1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,

1:11 saying: “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches – to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”

Prayer

Lord, You said earlier in his life that You had special plans for John; taking him up to Heaven to reveal additional detail of Your plans was far beyond anything he could have anticipated, and what he saw a challenge for any human to fully-comprehend. May I be in awe of You Lord, Your ways are not our ways, and You are – in Your fullness – not like us.

Summary & Commentary

John wanted his readers to remember that he was their peer in faith and in challenges to his well-being because of his faith.

He acknowledged his ecstatic state – his spiritual self carried by the Holy Spirit to receive the Lord God’s message. It was a Biblically-unique event, none but John have visited Heaven and returned to tell about it.

John’s very first statement “a loud voice like a trumpet” illustrated what would be an ongoing challenge; how would he relate his experience when much of it was outside of his prior experience and outside of human verbiage.

His next report was of the instruction that he was to “Write in a book what you see ...”, a daunting task as he would have been terribly distracted and overwhelmed by his environment.

John’s final instruction, from the angel of the Lord, was to “... send it to the seven churches” - so that as he listened and watched he was to write what he was expected to then distribute.

Interaction

Consider

John remained very humble, describing himself as a peer-believer, never presuming himself a superior as he (or at least his mother) has attempted while Jesus lived.

Discuss

Imagine yourself in John’s shoes, how would you react?

Reflect

John, once returned to awareness on the island of Patmos, needed to explain to his readers what had happened before they began reading the content.

Share

When have you been in a very “foreign” environment? How did that impact your clarity of thought?

Faith in Action

Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of a time in praise and worship, and/or Bible study, where you were so moved in the Spirit that you were almost out-of-body – like John.

Action:

Today I will spend some time in the Biblical text that most reminds me of the glory of the presence of the Lord, perhaps enhanced by praise and worship music that does the same. As I do so I will prayerfully prepare myself to be led through the book of Revelation by the Holy Spirit.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Thursday (Revelation 1:12-16)

1:12 I turned to see whose voice was speaking to me, and when I did so, I saw seven golden lampstands,

1:13 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.

1:14 His head and hair were as white as wool, even as white as snow, and his eyes were like a fiery flame.

1:15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.

1:16 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.

Prayer

Lord, You are the Holy One, and You are the final power in the long battle (since the Fall) for humankind and for good and evil itself. May I, like John, be utterly-humbled as I ponder Your magnificence and stand awestruck.

Summary & Commentary

As we observe John’s desperate effort to translate what he was seeing without any world-bound point of reference – he does his best to describe the indescribable.

The phrase “like a son of man” referred to a being who appeared to John in a humanoid form – more than that the text does not immediately specify.

Interaction

Consider

The “lampstands” imagery of the “Church” (the family/body of believers) may also be translated as candlesticks which may be thought of in light of one of their key purposes – to be an instrument of the beacon/light of the Lord God's truth in a dark world.

Discuss

How might your fellowship become a more-effective beacon/light of the Lord God's truth in your community?

Reflect

The priests of the old testaments were a mere shadow of the Son.

Share

When have you observed a local fellowship using the Lord God's truth to stand against cons, cults, and corrupting influences in a community?

Faith in Action

Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you an opportunity to stimulate your fellowship, or perhaps something He wants you to do individually, to stand against cons, cults, and/or corrupting influences in a community or in a smaller context.

Action:

Today I will ask a fellow believer to be my accountability and my prayer-partner as I stand for the Lord against those who may be misleading people, misrepresenting the Word, and/or promoting destructive beliefs and actions.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Friday (Revelation 1:17-19)

1:17 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,

1:18 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!

“1:19 Therefore write what you saw, what is, and what will be after these things.”

Prayer

Lord, You have shared with us Your power and Your grace, even despite our imperfection. May I be confident that You are both my accountability and my protector.

Summary & Commentary

In verse 1:17 John made it clear that it was Jesus the Christ, in the fullness of the Son, with His glory returned in Whose presence he stood (in the his spiritual-state).

He reported that Jesus holds the keys to death-itself - His victory beyond the Cross.

John learned that our Lord also holds the keys to Hades/Sheol – the resting place of the unrighteous dead – further evidence of His power. [Note: He would later delegate those keys to an angel to secure the enemy for a time.]

Constables Notes observe that the “person” image among the symbolic lampstands is drawn from priestly images of Exod. 25:31-40, Zech. 4:2, 10, and Matt. 18:20 and the seven lampstands represent seven churches, drawn from Zech. 4:2-6 and was later clarified in Rev. 1:20.

Jesus directed John to record what he was seeing, later an angelic being would also instruct John what to leave out.

Interaction

Consider

Do we have a right-sized sense of awe for the Lord God?

Discuss

Knowing your own imperfections, and viewing His magnificence and perfection, can you imagine reacting any differently that John – falling down as dead?

Reflect

One who holds this kind of power, and Who is this magnificent, voluntarily humbled Himself in order to purchase eternal freedom for His creation.

Share

When have you paused to consider the incredible power of Satan, a fallen archangel, together with his legions of fallen angels – and then contemplated the power necessary to overwhelm them?

Faith in Action

Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you something about the Lord God which will impact you in a new and awe-provoking way.

Action:

Today I will share what the Holy Spirit has shared, using the Word as a reference, and together will with praise and worship Him in prayer and testimony, and perhaps song.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

Saturday (Revelation 1:20)

1:20 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.

Prayer

Lord, many things about You are a mystery to humankind, but nothing of what we need to know and to understand to be saved, rightly-discipled, or to walk in-obedience. May I trust You to share with me what is needed and to keep from me what I cannot bear and/or cannot comprehend in this fallen flesh.

Summary & Commentary

We have started this study slowly so as to build a careful foundation upon which to build our understanding of some very-challenging texts to follow. As we complete the first week of our eight-week study we continue to clarify some terms. Such will continue to be necessary, from time to time, as we work our way through the book.

There is “mystery” in the Bible, generally because fallen humankind simply lacks the capacity to comprehend certain heavenly-realities (often it’s our inadequacy before our awesome God), but there is never anything “magic” as that term is Biblically-reserved for activities associated with witchcraft.

Sometimes mysteries are revealed, as in the message of the Gospel prior to Jesus completing His work on the cross and afterwards, and now here as to the lampstands and the stars. The meaning here is not obvious to John, or to us, until explained by our Lord God.

The NET uses a group of similar words in NT to correctly express the result of their Greek-to-English translation in the context of the passage and as they anticipate the reader's comprehension of the English language (the numbers represent the frequency of usage of each term):

“church 71, churches 36, assembly 3, congregation 2, a church 1, of assembly 1”

“Definition: 1) a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly 1a) an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating 1b) the assembly of the Israelites 1c) any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously 1d) in a Christian sense 1d1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting 1d2) a company of Christians, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order's sake 1d3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body 1d4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth 1d5) the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven Synonym : See Definition 5897 from a compound of 1537 and a derivative of 2564; a calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both):-assembly, church.”

“angels 72, angel 63, an angel 18, of angels 4, angel's 3, messenger 3, messengers 3, An angel 2, Angels 1, a angel 1, a messenger 1, by angels 1, to angels 1, of an angel 1, informed 1, with angels 1”

“Definition: 1) a messenger, envoy, one who is sent, an angel, a messenger from God from aggello (probably derived from (to bring tidings); a messenger; especially an "angel"; by implication, a pastor:-angel, messenger.”

John wanted his readers to understand that there were angels assigned to each of the seven gatherings of believers. (Seven names will later be given to these gatherings.)

He wanted them to understand that “church” was not a building nor a human-formulated religious system, but rather any gathering of believers gathered for a God-honoring purpose.

Interaction

Consider

Our Lord God will remain a partial mystery to us until we are make-new and in Heaven with Him.

Discuss

In this first chapter of Revelation have you noticed how John used OT quotes, from his past knowledge, as “hook” for context and understanding of what he was seeing (and trying to describe to others) for the very first time?

Reflect

Our Lord God has chosen not only to group His children into gatherings of seven, less so geographical (perhaps) and more-so according to predispositions toward certain sins and certain areas of righteousness (more on that as we proceed).

Share

What is an example of God’s Word either clearly affirming the righteous conduct of a local fellowship or clearly chastising it for drifting away?

Faith in Action

Prayer:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you an opportunity to share the difference between “church” as is commonly used and “Church” as the Bible uses it.

Action:

Today I will respectfully share what I have learned so that others may turn their eyes first to our Lord God rather than to mere fellow-fallen humankind (and the religious institutions they have created). Not to disrespect or distance, necessarily, but to recognize that it is only our Lord Who is our “first love” and Who deserves our first loyalty.

Be Specific ______________________________________________________

All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated - http://bible.org

Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.

Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.

Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.

Copyright © 2012 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study “Revelation – Section 1 of 8” – prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in May of 2012. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.

Related Topics: Curriculum