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1. The Setting

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Editor's Note: a lightly edited transcription of the attached audio file will be found at the end of this originally written daily study guide. Appreciation for this transcription work goes to Marilyn Fine.

Many of us tend to shy away from the book of Revelation – partly because it’s hard to understand, and partly because it can be a bit frightening if one is not sure of his salvation. However, the book of Revelation is filled with bright hope for the future for those who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In this study we are only going to look at the first three chapters of this book. My prayer is that these chapters would whet your appetite for the rest of the book and that you would not quit reading at the end of Chapter 3.

This week we will look at the setting and lay the foundation for what lies ahead in the seven letters. I have enclosed a map at the beginning for you to refer back to each week so that you will have a picture of where each church is in relation to the others. I have also included a chart that you may find helpful to fill in each day as you study a section of the letter. There are times I will ask you to compare or contrast letters and the chart will be helpful for you to refer back to.

Don’t get discouraged if the passages are hard to understand. We will take each section verse by verse and look at various interpretations. Focus on what God wants to teach you through His Word. Together, let’s rekindle the fire in our hearts for Christ as we study these letters to the seven churches.

DAY 1: THE INTRODUCTION

I. Looking to God’s Word

Read Revelation 1:1-3

1. The author identifies himself four times in the book of Revelation. Who wrote this book (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8)?

2. List the five personages in verses 1-4 in the “chain of communication” of this revelation; i.e., God the Father to …

3. What do we know about the author from these passages?

Matthew 4:18-22

Matthew 17:1-2

Mark 10:35-37

Mark 14:32-33

John 19:26-27

4. What was the purpose of this revelation?

5. What should be the readers’ (and our) response to this revelation and why (v. 3)?

II. Looking Upward

6. “Blessed is he who reads… hears… heeds” these things (v. 3). What is the difference in reading, hearing, and heeding? Which is most difficult for you and why?

7. The angel told John in 1:3 that “the time is near,” and yet we are still waiting today to see this prophecy in the book of Revelation fulfilled. How do you explain that to someone who is skeptical, and what Scripture would you use to support your answer?

8. If you knew Jesus were to return tomorrow, how would you spend your remaining time on this earth? Are there any relationships to reconcile, wrongs to right, people to share Christ with?

III. Looking Deeper

Revelation 1:3 is the first of seven beatitudes in the book, beginning with the word, “Blessed.” It means much more than happy. The word, “blessed” describes the favorable circumstance God has put a person in.1

List the other beatitudes.

Revelation 14:13

Revelation 16:15

Revelation 19:9

Revelation 20:6

Revelation 22:7

Revelation 22:14

How would you summarize who is blessed and why?

IV. Looking Reflectively

We don’t know the exact day Jesus will return, but we know He will. Live every day as if He’s coming tomorrow.

Are you ready for His return? If not, what do you need to do to be ready?

DAY 2: THE SALUTATION

I. Looking to God’s Word

Read Revelation 1:4-8

1. To whom did John write this letter? List them. (Revelation 1:4, 11)

2. What three titles are ascribed to Jesus Christ in verse 5a and what is the significance of each title? (Also look at John 18:37, Colossians 1:17-18, and Revelation 19:16).

3. What three “things” describe His relationship with us in verses 5b-6?

4. What does it mean that “He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God”? (See also 1 Peter 2:5, 9 and Rev. 5:10.)

II. Looking Upward

5. Verse 7 is considered by many to be the key verse of this book. What is it referring to and why would it be the key verse?

6. Which attributes of God are evident in this passage? Which attribute most encourages you today and why?

III. Looking Deeper

Jesus referred to Himself in verse 8 as “the Alpha and Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Why are these names and descriptions especially appropriate for the theme of this book?

According to Isaiah 11:2, what is one possibility of whom or what the “seven Spirits” mentioned in Revelation 1:4 refer to? (You may also want to look at a commentary or Study Bible.)

IV. Looking Reflectively

There are two hundred and fifty-six names given in the Bible for the Lord Jesus Christ, and I suppose this was because He was infinitely beyond all that any one name could express.”2

He alone is worthy to be praised.

Take some time to praise Him for who He is and for what He has done, using today’s verses to guide you.

DAY 3: THE PATMOS VISION

I. Looking to God’s Word

Read Revelation 1:9-16

1. Where was John when he received this revelation and why was he there?

2. In what three areas was John a fellow-partaker? What does it mean to be a partaker in these things?

3. Describe what John saw and heard when he turned to see the voice that was speaking to him.

4. Which attributes of God does John’s description of Christ emphasize?

II. Looking Upward

5. In what ways have you shared in “the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance” of Christ?

6. How would you describe Jesus Christ to a non-believer?

III. Looking Deeper

How does the description of Christ in Revelation 1:12-16 depict Him as both a priest and a judge? (See also Leviticus 16:1-4 and Hebrews 4:12-13.)

IV. Looking Reflectively

It is hard to adequately describe Jesus Christ in all His glory.

Fall on your knees and worship Him in light of these verses.

 

DAY 4: THE RESPONSE

I. Looking to God’s Word

Read Revelation 1:17-20

1. What are some possible reasons why John fell at His feet like a dead man when he saw Him?

2. Which attributes of God does Jesus’ description of Himself point to?

3. What does it mean that Jesus has the “keys of death and of Hades” (v. 18)?

4. What do the seven lampstands and the seven stars represent (v. 20)? Who are the angels of the seven churches?

II. Looking Upward

5. What causes you to fear God or to fall before His feet?

6. How does the fact that He is the first and the last, the living One, alive forevermore, holding the keys of death and Hades impact your life personally?

III. Looking Deeper

The number “seven” occurs 54 times in the book of Revelation. In the Bible, it is associated with completion, fulfillment, and perfection.3 How do these verses support that association?

Genesis 2:2

Exodus 20:8-11

Leviticus 14:7

Acts 6:3

IV. Looking Reflectively

Help us believe the intensity, the eternity of the love that has found us. Then love will cast out fear; and our troubled hearts will be at peace, trusting not in what we are but in what Thou hast declared Thyself to be.”4 – A.W. Tozer

When we realize all that God is, we should respond with a reverential awe and worship Him.

Take some time to reflect on your own view of God and your response to Him. Do you have a reverential awe for God? If not, why?

DAY 5: THE DOCTRINE

I. Looking to God’s Word

Re-read Revelation 1

1. There is quite a bit of doctrine in Revelation 1. What do you see concerning each doctrine in these verses?

A. Soteriology – the doctrine of salvation (vv. 5-6)

B. Christology – the doctrine of Christ (vv. 5, 8, 17-18)

C. Eschatology – the doctrine of end times (vv. 1, 3, 7)

D. Trinitarianism – the doctrine of the Trinity (vv. 4-5)

II. Looking Upward

2. What are some lessons for life or personal application that you can draw from this chapter?

3. What made the biggest impact on your life from Revelation 1?

III. Looking Deeper

Read: 2 Peter 3:8-15

Describe the coming day of the Lord.

What is Peter’s exhortation to his readers concerning the return of the Lord?

What similarities do you see between the messages in this passage and Revelation 1?

IV. Looking Reflectively

It is good to understand and recognize doctrine, but if we don’t apply it personally, it is just head knowledge, not heart knowledge.

It will be vain to become occupied with 'sevens,' 'hundred-forty-four-thousands,' 'six-sixty-sixes,' the restoration of the Roman Empire, the person of the antichrist, the two wild beasts, the 'millennium,' or even the new Jerusalem; unless, along with God the Father, who has subjected all things unto Him, Christ is ever before our eyes!5

That is why we have spent much of this week worshipping Jesus Christ. Is your focus on Him more than anything else?


Introduction to the message for Lesson 1: The Setting [Begin Transcription]

Good morning! Do you ever think about what your response will be the first time you see Jesus face to face, when you see Him in all His glory? Have you ever thought about how you are going to respond? Well, I love the song that came out a few years ago called, “I Can Only Imagine.” I thought about singing it, but it is a little hard to sing with the CDs. The words go,

I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face is before me.
I can only imagine.
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.

We can only imagine what that day is going to be like when we see Him face to face.

Today, as we begin our study on the seven churches of Revelation, we look at a chapter that gives us a glimpse of what He will look like. I do not know the impact that this chapter had on your life this week as your studied it. I will tell you though, that every time I have looked at this chapter—whether it was this summer as I wrote this study or as I looked at it rewriting the study, or whether it was when I was going through the lesson a few weeks ago or even this weekend preparing the lecture—I had the same response every time I read this chapter. It caused me to just want to worship Him, to just fall on my face before Him and say, “God, I just praise you. I worship you.” So, today as we look at this chapter, I want to point out four reasons why we should worship Him.

First reason: Worship Him because of His revelation

We see this in verses 1 to 5. We begin this book, chapter 1, verse 1, “The revelation of Jesus Christ.” This word “revelation” comes from the Greek word from which we get our English word “apocalypse.” It literally means “an uncovering, an unveiling.” This book is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. It is the uncovering of Jesus Christ. As He is uncovered, as He is unveiled, it should move us to want to worship this king, this Lord.

The name of the book is called, “The Revelation to John.” That is what my Bible says. Many people have called it by the wrong name. They will say it is the revelation of John. It is not. It is not about John. It is not from John, even though John is the one who penned the words. He is not really the one it is from or about. It is about Jesus Christ. This is the revelation of Jesus Christ, the unveiling of him. Another mistake people often make is they will say, “We are studying the book of Revelations.” No, it is not plural. It is not Revelations. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

So, I want to just look at four things about the revelation in these five verses. The first thing is the process. In verses 1-4, we see the process of how this revelation came down. You did this in your study this week. God the father is the source of it. He passed it down to Jesus Christ. Then, Jesus communicated it by His angel to John and then John communicated to the seven churches and, ultimately, to you and me, to all believers. That is the process of this revelation. God is the divine author; John is the one who penned it, but there was definitely a series of steps.

The purpose of the revelation I want to look at next. We talked about this briefly last week. In chapter 1:1, the purpose of this revelation is to show the things which must soon take place. I am interpreting this book, this lesson, this study, from the viewpoint of the futurist view. As we talked about the different viewpoints of interpreting Revelation last week, the futurist viewpoint is the view that all the events in Revelation 4-22 are future. None of them have happened. So, what God wants here is for His people to know what is going to happen in the end times when Jesus comes back.

But, in what sense can we understand that these events will happen “soon”? Generations have lived and died reading these same words and going, “What! It is ‘soon’? But why is it not happening in my lifetime?” Well, the Greek word for “soon,” or “shortly” as some translations read it, can mean either of two things: It can mean either in the immediate future, i.e. it is imminent. It can happen at any time. We talked about that last week. I do believe that the coming of Jesus Christ is imminent and that nothing else has to happen before He comes back. So, that is one meaning, one translation, of how we can understand that word “soon.” It can mean that it can happen at any time.

A second meaning of this word it can mean rapidly, quickly, speedily. Once these events begin to unfold, they will happen very quickly. Many scholars take this view that that is what this means when it says, “soon take place.” I believe there is validity in both meanings. I think both are true.

We also have to keep in mind that our timetable is not God’s timetable. What is soon to us is not necessarily soon to God, because He says in II Peter 3:8,

“One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

So, to the Lord, a thousand years is an instant in light of eternity. You know, I will tell you. I hope that I will be alive when He comes back. I would love it to be in our lifetime, but I do not know if it will be. My mom has said that this is her next milestone in life. She has lived through her 90th birthday. She has lived through the year 2000 and now her next milestone is that she would just like to be alive when Jesus comes back. I would too, but I do not know if it will happen.

Well, the third things is the promise of the revelation. In verse 3, He gives a promise. He says,

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.

This verse reflects the early form of worship where a reader would stand before the congregation and he would take the written word and read the letter from beginning to end. So, John would give this letter of revelation to a carrier who would take it to the church. The pastor or leader of the church would start in Revelation 1 and read to Revelation 22 to the congregation. “Blessed is he who reads.” He also says to those who hear. These are the people in the congregation who listen to the reading. They are responsible to hear and to respond what is being read.

Then, the third blessing is to those who heed the things that are written in it. That word “heed” literally means “to apply, to obey.” In this context, it is the idea of personal application and obedience. You know, it does us no good if all we do is read the book of Revelation or if you just hear me speak on the lecture about Revelation. So “heeding” has been my prayer for you and for me. It is so easy to get caught up in all the things about the book of Revelation. Oh, yes, it is fascinating. I want to think about the numbers, the 7’s, all the symbolism. Ladies, that is not going to do us any good if that is where we stop. What are we going to do with this study? What are you going to let God do in your life personally? We have got to take it to that third step. How are we going to apply the Word of God?

Well, that is the promise of blessing, and He says at the end of that verse, “For the time is near.” Again, the time is at hand. The time he is referring to is the return of Jesus Christ. It could happen at any time. It could happen today. Are you ready? Are you prepared? Are you excited? Are you kind of not so sure?

Let’s look next at the preface of the revelation. As a letter is begun, most of the writers will give a little preface to it. This is usually a kind of laying out the author, the recipient, and greetings. That is what he does here. He starts out in verse 4 with the author, John. Now, I will tell you that there have been some arguments about if this is really John, the apostle, John, the disciple. Most scholars agree this is John, the disciple of Jesus Christ, and that is the view that I take. John is the human author.

Then, he lays out the recipient of this letter, the seven churches that are in Asia. We know by looking at verse 11 who the seven churches are. That is what we are going to be studying for the next seven weeks. We will take one church a week. But, the question is, why did John address only seven churches? There were more than seven churches in existence at this time. Why only seven, and why these particular seven churches? We really do not know, but many commentators see these churches as representative of churches in every age. There is something about each of these churches that every church can identify with – their sins, their struggles, their strengths, and their persecutions. So, they see these seven churches as representing what every church throughout the ages deals with. We have a lot to learn from these. Other people see these seven churches as representative of the seven stages of church history, with Ephesus starting as representing the apostolic age. In Laodicea then, the last church, we find representation of the church age, the age that we are in today before Jesus Christ returns. There are different views. Whatever your view, what matters is that there is a lot we need to learn and apply from these churches. There is something in every letter that we can take to heart and that we can apply personally to not only our church but to our lives.

Also, there is the comment in your notes about the order of the churches listed. So at the beginning of your notebook, I put a map in there. If you see Ephesus and go through the churches to Laodicea, it makes a half moon, sort of a semicircle. So, it made it an easy journey to travel from church to church to church to church. The seven churches. You will see this number 7 come up a lot in the book of Revelation.

Well, the next thing under the preface is the divine author and this is God. God is really the source of this book. If we read verses 4-5, we get a beautiful picture of the Trinity involved in this letter. He begins with the Father in verse 4,

Grace to you and peace from Him Who is and Who was and Who is to come.

That is referring to the Father, not Jesus Christ, even though later we see that also as a reference to Jesus Christ, but here it is the Father because two phrases it says, “And from Jesus Christ.” So, this is referring to God the Father. This description He “is and Who was and Who is to come stresses that the same God is eternally present with His people. Throughout the ages, the same God who led the Israelites out of Israel, out of bondage, is the same God Who leads us today. He is eternal. He is everlasting.

The second part of the Trinity which is mentioned here is the Holy Spirit. He says, “And from the seven spirits who are before His throne. Now, there has been some discrepancy about who these seven spirits are. Some believe that they are seven angels, but I agree with the scholars who in looking at the context believe that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit. That number seven, which if you did your looking deeper this week you will have already seen, is representative of completeness. So, this is a reference to the Holy Spirit – the sevenfold characteristics that make up the fullness of the Holy Spirit, according to Isaiah 11:1-2. If you did the looking deeper and you looked at those verses and the seven characteristics of the Holy Spirit. That is what I believe this is referring to because of the context of the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit being mentioned in the middle.

In the third part this is said to be from Jesus Christ. He becomes the focus. Normally, He is not mentioned last in the Trinity, but because this whole book is about Him, He is put last so that the rest of the book can expound on who is Jesus Christ. He is the focus of this letter.

Second reason: Worship Him because of His identity

So, we should first be moved to worship Him because of the revelation. But secondly, we should worship Him because of His identity. We see that beginning in verse 5. It says, “From Jesus Christ the first thing that is mentioned is the faithful witness.” Witness is the Greek word for martyr. A witness is someone who witnesses for and who testifies without concern for his life. He speaks the truth and “if I lose my life then so be it!” That is what it means to be a faithful witness and Jesus Christ was. The question for us is, are you a faithful witness? Are you willing to witness for the truth to testify for the truth, regardless of what it means for you? Whether it is in your work, or in your family, are you willing to be a faithful witness? The second part of this identity that is mentioned is that He is the firstborn of the dead in verse 5. He is the first to be resurrected and never to die again. He will never die again. He has been resurrected and that gives us hope because although we are all going to die we will be raised again as we follow him. Then, the third part of His identity. He is the ruler of the kings of the earth. He is the authority; He is in control; He is sovereign. Verse 6 John says, To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.” He is the focus of this book. He is to be worshipped. He is to be praised.

Third reason: Worship Him because of His actions

Because of His revelation, we worship. Because of His identity we worship, and thirdly, we worship because of His actions. Again, we see His actions in verses 5-6 and three things that He has done for us: first, He loves us…

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately the extant recording for this lesson and the previous one end incomplete. Thankfully the following messages were better preserved.


1 Ken Barker, Zondervan NASB Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 1849.

2 Billy Sunday, in a sermon, “Wonderful,” quoted in The Real Billy Sunday.

3 Charles Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 2013.

4 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: Harper, 1961), 104.

5 William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), 31.

Related Topics: Curriculum, Revelation