The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Revelation 1

Rev 1:1

REVELATION: Derived from the Greek word "Apokalupsis", meaning "to uncover, or bring to light that which was hidden". Thus the Apocalypse (as the Book of Revelation is often called) is a "disclosure" of things previously hidden. Many call it "The Apocalypse" in order to distinguish it from other parts of the Revelation of Deity. "To speak of it as 'Revelation' is to clash with the fact that there is much other revelation besides, and that the Apocalypse is only a part of Revelation. To speak of it as Apocalypse is to identify a particular part of revelation" (13L). The word is used in other parts of the NT but usually in relation to a special epoch -- the coming manifestation of glory (see Rom 2: 5; 8:19; 2Th 1: 7). The Book of Revelation centers attention upon this glorious consummation; it outlines events leading to the uncovering, bringing to light, or revelation of the Lord Jesus and his brethren in glory.

What is the message of Revelation?

The Book of Revelation is simple enough... Regardless of disasters, despite sufferings, in spite of the seeming victories of the wicked, there is a power in righteousness that will prevail... It is a mistake to search through Revelation (or Daniel, or other prophecies, for that matter) for hints and clues on the exact date of the return of Christ, or even what happens just before, or just after... when the point of the work is not so much the dates and the times... but the urgent need, before it is too late, for everyone to straighten up.

Or, to put it even more simply: in Revelation, there is a long struggle, and a great battle at the end, but when all is said and done... "the good guys" win!

THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST: "Him who spoke from heaven" (Heb 12:25).

WHICH GOD GAVE HIM: Inferior status of Son (Mar 13:32; Act 1:7; Joh 5:20; 7:16; 12:49; 14:10; 17:7,8). Yet all power is given to Christ (Mat 28:18).

The fullness of knowledge of the "times and seasons" was previously hid from Christ (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7), But having "prevailed" (Rev 5:5) and having been raised gloriously from the dead to life eternal, the full Rev of the Father's purpose was given unto him that he might have the preeminence (Col 1:18).

SERVANTS: "Doulos" = bond-slaves. This description emphasizes submission and dependence on their Lord. It is not a technical reference to a specific office, but characterizes their willing service of Christ, their divine Master. The same designation appears in the letters of James, 2Pe, and Jude.

Man's slave becomes free in Christ, and a freeman (like Paul) becomes Christ's slave (1Co 7:22).

The use of the term "slaves" also suggests the "redemptive" work of God in Christ: the Israelites were "slaves" in Egypt, who were "bought" or "redeemed" out of their slavery to become the "purchased possession" of the Father (Exo 15:16). (See Lesson, Redemption.)

WHAT MUST SOON TAKE PLACE: Cp Mat 24:6: a connection with Olivet prophecy.

HE MADE IT KNOWN: "Signified it" (AV) = showed by a sign. Sw Joh 12:33; 18:32; 21:19; Act 11:28; 25:27.

BY SENDING HIS ANGEL: Angels are now subject to Christ (1Pe 3:22). This, a guiding, interpreting angel of the entire Apoc: cp Rev 4:1; 10:4,8,11; 14:3; 17:7; 19:10; 21:5; 22:8,9.

HIS SERVANT JOHN: Cp v 9; Rev 22:8,9 ("I John") with Dan 8:1; 9:2 ("I Daniel"). John = disciple Jesus loved; Daniel is "greatly beloved".

Rev 1:2

WHO TESTIFIES: Joh 1:1; 1Jo 1:1,2; Joh 19:35; 20:30,31; 21:24,25.

TO EVERYTHING HE SAW: This preface (vv 1-3) was prob written last.

THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST: Rev 1:9; 19:10; 20:4.

Rev 1:3

THE ONE WHO READS: Lit, "who reads aloud" (RSV). The public reader -- as in synagogue, and at memorial readings today.

THOSE WHO HEAR: That is, with understanding. Cp Neh 8:8: Did inspired bre interpret at the same time? Cp Mat 24:15: "Let the reader understand."

Is the saint who reads the prophecies of Revelation and understands only a little before, and maybe a bit more as it happens, not "blessed" (Rev 1:3)? Suppose he (or she) understands that Revelation is God's final promise that, one day, the kingdom of men will become the Kingdom of God and His Son? Suppose he understands that Christ will return, the elect will be gathered together to him, and given immortality, and will reign with him over the earth for 1,000 years and beyond? Suppose he understands (though he doesn't need Rev at all to understand this -- many other passages tell him plainly) that there are corrupt systems in the world today -- political, religious, materialistic -- that he should have nothing to do with, because their "fellowship" is inconsistent with the "fellowship" of the Father and the Son? Suppose he then waits faithfully for a future coming, the details of which he is still not sure of, nor the order of coming events? Suppose he dies in this faith, not having seen or appreciated the detailed fulfillment of many steps of the divine plan, but having seen its final consummation "afar off"? Is he not "blessed" simply because he might have understood more or better?

Now perhaps he (or she) would be somewhat better off if he understood more perfectly every step God takes in preparing the world and all its nations for that final consummation. But to the extent he spends more and more time trying to understand every last detail, to that extent he might probably run afoul of other prophecy students who have their own ideas -- which would inevitably clash with his. This "search" might require more and more time, and the point might be reached where the time expended in the search for prophetic details, and in listening to every new theory, and in defending his own theory, and in reworking and modifying his own theory, might take valuable time away from other "pursuits" which would fit him more, on a spiritual level, to wait and watch and pray and preach and live a Truth-based life.

In short, he might find that "playing the guessing game" was getting in the way of "living the Christian life".

Now, obviously, every individual believer has his or her own "pain threshold" in dealing with uncertain details of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy (which may not be uncertain to some, but are certainly not first principles)... depending on: (1) personal preference, (2) academic attainments, (3) intellectual inclination and ability, (4) health, (5) work, (6) family concerns, and (7) other obligations in the Truth. It's not right that others should be made to feel guilty if they can't or don't "master" Revelation.

There are probably many in the Brotherhood who would say, "I have no head for prophecy." To them we would reply, "Perhaps not, but do you have a heart for Christ? Surely if you love Christ, you will love his appearing although you think you have no capacity for prophetic exercises." An affectionate wife may have no head for her husband's business affairs, but she has a heart for his return from the office each evening. His appointment book or his notes about business affairs may baffle her, but she knows his footstep and recognizes his voice. The saint who feels lost in the realm of Revelation should not take pride in his ignorance, of course. But neither should he be unduly discouraged. If only he has affection for his Lord and Master, and a firm resolve to keep his commandments, even the novice may entertain the most fervent desire to see him. The paramount hope of each of us is to be accepted by Christ when he comes, not to guess correctly what will happen before he arrives.

Rev 1:4

SEVEN CHURCHES: Why 7? Each was the leading ecclesia in a particular district? Paul also wrote to 7 ecclesias (WRev 9).

WHO IS TO COME: Christ "the coming one" (Rev 21:3). A title of Messiah (Joh 1:15,27; Mat 11:3).

SEVEN SPIRITS: 7 archangels (Rev 4:5; 5:6; Zec 3:9; 4:10; Eze 1:18,20). Note 7-fold Spirit in Isa 11:2; 1Co 12:29,30. The perfection of HSp manifested thru the angels (Rev 5:6; 8:2).

Rev 1:5

THE FAITHFUL WITNESS: Witness to the truth of God's covenants of promise (Psa 89:37,28). Christ was faithful witness, before Pilate, of the truth (Joh 18:37; 1Ti 6:12,13). The rainbow = God's covenant-witness also (Gen 9:12-17; Eze 1:27,28). Christ as witness: Joh 5:31-39.

Examples of faithfulness in service: Samuel (1Sa 3:20); David (1Sa 22:14); the temple overseers (2Ki 12:15); the workers (2Ch 34:12); Hananiah (Neh 7:2); Abraham (Neh 9:8); the treasurers (Neh 13:13); Daniel (Dan 6:4); Timothy (1Co 4:17); Epaphras (Col 1:7); Tychicus (Col 4:7); Onesimus (Col 4:9); Paul (1Ti 1:12); Moses (Heb 3:2,5); Gaius (3Jo 1:5); Jesus Christ (Rev 1:5); Antipas (Rev 2:13).

Cp Luk 16:10; 2Ch 31:12.

THE FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD: Cited from Psa 89:27; cp Col 1:15,18; Act 13:33; Heb 1:4,5; 5:5.

FREED: Textual problems exist as to whether "lusanti" ("freed") or "lousanti" ("washed") is correct. The AV has "washed". Cp Rev 7:14; Lev 8:6. Cit Exo 19:6. Cp Mat 21:43; 1Pe 2:9,10. (If "loosed," see Isa 40:2.)

Rev 1:6

KINGDOM AND PRIESTS: God's design for Israel: cit Exo 19:6. Cp Mat 21:43; 1Pe 2:9,10.

TO HIM BE GLORY AND POWER... : Doxology response to "Grace and peace" (v 4).

Doxologies in the Apocalypse: 2-fold (Rev 1:6); 3-fold (Rev 4:9-11); 4-fold (Rev 5:13); 7-fold (Rev 7:12).

Rev 1:7

See Lesson: Rev, theme verse.

CLOUDS: The Divine glory revealed in Israel as cloud (Exo 13:21,22; 14:19,20,24; 16:10; 19:16-19; 20:18; 24:15-19; 33:18-21 with Exo 34:4-7; 40:34-38; Num 10:34; 12:5,10; 14:9,10,14,21,22; Deu 31:14,15; Psa 105:39; 1Co 10:1,2). The same Shekinah glory appeared to Abraham (Gen 15:17; Act 7:2), David (Psa 18:6-15), Ezekiel (Eze 1:4; 10:4); Elijah (1Ki 19:11-13), Job (Job 38:1), apostles (Luk 9:34,35). Judgments of God in last days are manifest in this cloud (Dan 7:13; Joe 2:2; Zep 1:15; Eze 30:3; Isa 19:1; 25:5). Jesus will so come from heaven (Act 1:9,11; Luk 21:27; Mat 26:64).

EVERY EYE... SEE... THOSE WHO PIERCED... : Cit Zec 12:10-12 re repentant Israel. Most likely, in Rev, "ge" = Land (ie, of Israel).

EARTH: The Greek word "ge" may sig either "earth" (eg, the globe as a whole) or "land" (eg, a country or territory, in a more restricted sense). As such, "ge" reproduces in the Greek the same ambiguity found in the Heb "eretz" -- most familiar to us, perhaps, in the phrase "Eretz Israel" (the Land of Israel). Here, "land" and not "(the whole) earth" is intended because... (1) The equivalent passages in Eze deal with the "ge", or -- in those cases -- the "land" of Israel. The context makes this plain. (2) Specific instances of "ge" in Revelation, in places where the context is determinative, point to the same conclusion: (a) "All kindreds of the earth" (Rev 1:7) is explained as "land" by the OT source in Zec 12:10 -- Zec 13:1, where the ref is to the tribes of Israel. (b) Likewise, the "four corners of the earth" (Rev 7:1,2) is equivalent to the "four corners of the land (of Israel)" (Eze 7:2). (c) Locusts upon the "earth" (Rev 9:3) are clearly the same as the locust invasion of Israel in Joel. (d) The harvest of the "earth" (Rev 14:15) causes blood to flow over a distance of 200 miles (Rev 14:16-20), which is precisely the distance from the north to the south of Israel.

Rev 1:8

ALPHA... OMEGA: First and last (v 17): sacrifice (v 5) and king (v 6). Cit Isa 41:4. Cp Isa 44:6-8; 48:12-16. Also in Rev 21:6; 22:13: "Beginning" and "End". Only Rev refs the "Alpha and the Omega."

Rev 1:9

Vv 9-11: John's commission. Cp Isa 6:8; Jer 1:4; Eze 1:3.


AND KINGDOM: Kingdom not even established until Rev 11:15. Those in kingdom will no longer suffer tribulation. Paul was already in the "church" when he said, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Act 14:22).

PATIENT ENDURANCE: Heb 10:32,36; 12:1,2,3,7; 2Ti 2:10.

BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF GOD AND THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS: "For" (AV) = because of. Either: (a) retirement to solitude in order to receive the word of God: cp Elijah (1Ki 19:8) and Paul (Gal 1: 7; 2Co 12:1,2; Phi 1: 23), or -- more likely -- (b) because of preaching Christ (2Ti 1:8). Cp heading of Syriac Version: "in the island of Patmos to which he was, banished by Nero the Emperor": Mat 20:22.

Rev 1:10

ON THE LORD'S DAY: First day of week (cp 1Co 11:20; anniversary of Christ's resur (v 18); beginning of new creation (v 5; cit Psa 118:24,17-18,22,26).

IN THE SPIRIT: A trance, seeing visions: Rev 4:2; 17:3; 21:10; Act 10:10; 11:5; 22:17; Eze 1:1,3; 37:1; 2Co 12:1-4.

I HEARD BEHIND ME: "A word behind me, This is the way, walk in it" (Isa 30:21). That is, turn around, repent: message of letters to 7 churches (v 11; Rev 2;3) (WRev 8n).

TRUMPET: Voice of God (Exo 19:13,16,19; Jos 6:9,10,13); summons to God's people (Num 10:2,8; 1Th 4:17; Mat 24:31), or a warning (Isa 58:1; Eze 33:3-6).

Rev 1:11

The words "I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" found in KJV have very little ms support, though the expression is represented in v 8 [an angel representing God Himself] and v 17 [First and Last: title of Christ].

WRITE ON A SCROLL: Or "in a book". That is, one book/scroll, not 7! (The messages of Rev 2;3 were to all!)


Rev 1:12

THE VOICE: "The voice of God", a title! (A lit voice cannot be seen!)

LAMPSTANDS: See Exo 25:31-40n. Cit Zec 4; 1Ki 7:49. there are 7 lampstands because there are 7 ecclesias.

Rev 1:13

AMONG THE LAMPSTANDS: Jesus in the midst of: (1) thieves: Joh 19:18; (2) his disciples: Joh 20:19; (3) the teachers of the Law: Luk 2:46; (4) two or three: Mat 18:20; (5) the lampstands: Rev 1:13; (6) the throne: Rev 5:6.

'LIKE A SON OF MAN': One who IS the son of man = Christ: Rom 5:14; 8:3; Phi 2:7; 2Co 2:17; Mat 14:5. Not the multitudinous Christ. Cp details: vv 13-17 with Dan 10:5-14. "For all its symbolic characteristics, John recognized him as looking like Jesus, his Lord" (NRev 17).

A ROBE REACHING DOWN TO HIS FEET: A linen garment of righteousness, showing Christ as priest (Exo 28:4,31).

A GOLDEN SASH AROUND HIS CHEST: Lev 8:7: one of 2 girdles of High Priest. Cp 2 girdles in Isa 11:5 (Christ as a priest/king!). "A girdle, for Jesus never was ungirt while upon earth, but stood always ready for service, and now before the eternal throne he stays not his holy ministry, but as a priest is girt about with 'the curious girdle of the ephod.' Well it is for us that he has not ceased to fulfil his offices of love for us, since this is one of our choicest safeguards that he ever liveth to make intercession for us. Jesus is never an idler; his garments are never loose as though his offices were ended; He diligently carries on the cause of his people. A golden girdle, to manifest the superiority of his service, the royalty of his person, the dignity of his state, the glory of his reward. No longer does he cry out of the dust, but he pleads with authority, a King as well as a Priest. Safe enough is our cause in the hands of our enthroned Melchisedek" (CHS).

Rev 1:14

HAIR... WHITE: Sig wisdom: Lev 19:32; Pro 16:31.

WHITE LIKE WOOL: Christ sharing glory of Father (Luk 9:29; Dan 7:9; Mat 16:27). Wool ref lamb of God, forgiveness of sins (Isa 1:18; Joh 1:29).

HIS EYES WERE LIKE BLAZING FIRE: Piercing glance. To discern between good and evil (Heb 4:12,13; Psa 11:4; 33:18; 94:7,9; Pro 15:3; Eze 1:18-20). Fire = judgment of ungodly (Rev 19:12; 2Th 1:8).

Rev 1:15

BRONZE: Sym strength (Rev 10:1; Dan 10:6; Jer 15:20; Job 6:12; 40:18; 1Sa 17:5,6; Mic 4:13).

VOICE... RUSHING WATERS: The voice of God, mighty and authoritative (Joh 12:28-30; Eze 1:24; Psa 29; 68:33; 93:4; Jer 51:16; Exo 19:16,19). Angels under his authority.

Rev 1:16

IN HIS RIGHT HAND... SEVEN STARS: Precious stones (diamonds?) in the High Priest's crown: a conjecture based on Isa 62:3; Zec 9:16; Exo 28:36-38.

TWO-EDGED: OT and NT; condemning and converting.

SWORD: Sword of Spirit; word of God (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12,13; cit Isa 49:2; cp Psa 149:6).

THE SUN SHINING... : The transfiguration (Mat 17:2) prefigured his coming in glory (Mal 4:2; Psa 19:4), the saints with him (Jdg 5:31; Mat 13:43).

Rev 1:17

I FELL AT HIS FEET AS THOUGH DEAD: Death and resur are necessary prerequisites for man to truly know God: Exo 33:20; Lev 16:13; Dan 8:18; 10:9-11; Gen 15:12; Num 16:42-47; Jer 31:26; Job 42:5,6; Eze 1:28; 2:1,2; Luk 9:32; Act 9:4-8; Luk 21:36.

RIGHT: Approval and blessing (Gen 48:13,14; Mat 25:34). The right hand held the diadem (v 16).

DO NOT BE AFRAID: "Fear not." "This consoling imperative is many times associated with the Glory. An explicit instruction (to the worthy) that the divine presence need not be feared by the pure in heart; Dan 10:7-11, 17-19; Luke 1:13,20; 2:10; 9:34,35; John 12:15 (though guilty Jerusalem might well fear at the approach of its King); Mat 28:5; Mal 4:1,2; Isa 41:5,10,13,14; 44:1,2; 35:4; Rev 21:8; Mat 25:25; 5:8. In the Day of Judgement the disciple will pronounce judgement on himself by the way in which he meets his Lord in fear or in confidence -- confidence not in himself or his own achievements, but in the love and mercy of Christ: 1Jo 3:21; 4:17,18.

"In the Transfiguration when Jesus came and touched the disciples, saying: 'Be not afraid, they then saw no man, save Jesus only' -- and he now divested of the Glory. Is that what happened in this instance also?" (WRev).

Rev 1:18

I AM THE LIVING ONE: The Living One = another title (cp Rev 4:19).

I AM ALIVE FOR EVER AND EVER: Joh 5:26,21; 14:6,19. Cit Dan 12:7.

KEYS OF DEATH AND HADES: Gen 22:17; Zec 9:11,12; Rev 20:3,13,14.

Rev 1:19

"Did John obey this instruction and write the meaning of his vision? Yes -- by the way in which he reported everything in terms of OT prophecy! And the Apostle's key has been mostly left untried" (WRev).

Rev 1:20


SEVEN GOLDEN LAMPSTANDS: V 12n. " 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit.' John was told that seven spirits were before the very throne of God. This particular lamp may be put out, that one may shine on, but standing behind the menorah of truth is the Lord of Glory, and every lamp that is glowing is fed from His inner fires. This lampstand, seven-branched to signify perfect completion -- the little pinpricks of light across the world's face -- must burn on as the shadow of human might and power come over, to preserve the light of life and love, to shed spiritual radiance, and to illumine the dread darkness which veils so many, many human hearts" (AE, Xdn 114:128).

ANGELS: Heb "elohim" sig both angels and elders: ie, Exo 22:8,28; 23:20,29; Psa 82:1,6; Joh 10:34; cp Psa 8:5. Or, "messengers" = synagogue officials, responsible for organization (cp Rec Bros).

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