Revelation 1 (NRSV)
Revelation! The book is full of visions, symbols, angels, monsters, and numerology. It has been described as an inspired picture-book, which, on account of its magnificent poetic imagery, makes a powerful appeal to the reader’s imagination. It presents the consummation of time and history toward which the entire Biblical narrative is focused. I do not begin to think that we can exhaust its riches in this study. But for the next 22 days, we will look at each chapter and listen to the Holy Spirit to point us to Christ, the One who is, and who was, and who is to come.
Introduction and Salutation
The revelation of Jesus Christ,
The ancient Greek word translated Revelation is apokalupsis (apocalypse). The word simply means “a revealing, an unveiling.” The Book of Revelation is the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the sense that it belongs to Him, He is the one doing the revealing. It is also Jesus’ Revelation in the sense that He is the object revealed; Jesus is the person revealed by the book.
which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.
This is the first of seven beatitudes of Revelation. The Book of Revelation offers a particular and unique blessing to those who read and hear and keep the message of this book. The solemn words, the time is near, provide a motive for obedience.
James 1:22-25 (NIV)
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
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,
John’s readers, many of whom were, like him, Jewish Christians, would recognize this immediately as a reference to Exodus 3:14, where God is revealed to Moses as I AM WHO I AM, or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.
and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us
He loves us continually . . .
and freed us from our sins by his blood,
. . . and he has freed us once for all.
6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. 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.
1) Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (like our “A to Z”); hence, the beginning and end of all things.
Isaiah 44:6 (NRSV)
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
2) This great word Almighty is used ten times in the New Testament, and nine of the ten times are in the Book of Revelation.
A Vision of Christ
Inaugural Vision and Seven Messages:
9 I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
The island of Patmos, in the Aegean, was like an Alcatraz Island in the Roman Empire. It was used as a prison island and functioned as a jail without bars. The island was rich in marble, and most of the prisoners were forced laborers in marble quarries. Patmos was a rocky, desolate island about 10 miles long and 6 miles wide.
The ancient Christian historian Eusebius says John was imprisoned at Patmos under the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96).
10 I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters.
from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
THE RISEN LORD
At times it is tempting to conclude, “If only I could have walked with Jesus, as the twelve disciples did, it would be so much easier to live the Christian life!” This thought reveals that we do not comprehend the greatness of the risen Christ we serve today. The Jesus of the Gospels is often portrayed as One who walked along the seashore, loving children and gently forgiving sinner. Yet the image of Jesus that we see at the close of the New Testament is far more dramatic! He stands in awesome power as He rules all creation. His appearance is so magnificent that when John, His beloved disciple, sees Him, he falls to the ground as though he were dead (Rev. 1:17).
We grossly underestimate the God we serve! To ignore God’s word or to disobey a direct command from Him is to ignore the magnificent nature of Christ. Our fear of other people proves that we do not understand the awesome Lord who walks with us. He is vastly more awesome and powerful than the gentle rabbi we often imagine.
If you struggle with your obedience to Christ, take a closer look at how He is portrayed in the Book of Revelation. If you are succumbing to temptation, call upon the powerful One who dwells in you. If you have forgotten how great and mighty the Lord is, meet Him through the vision of the beloved disciple. The encounter will dramatically affect the way you live!
16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.
Hebrews 4:12 (NRSV)
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades. 19 Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this.
The Book of Revelation is arranged in this three-part structure.
- The things which you have seen: Revelation chapter 1
- The things which are: Revelation chapters 2 and 3
- The things which will take place after this: Revelation 4 through 22
20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
HERE is a song based in part on verse 7 — “Lo, He Comes with Cloud Descending.”
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
The words are by Charles Wesley; the piece is arranged by John Rutter and performed by Kings College Choir. Lots of pomp and trumpets for the last coming! Complete lyrics follow:
Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
God appears on earth to reign.
Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.
Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! Come away!
Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
See the day of God appear!
Answer Thine own bride and Spirit,
Hasten, Lord, the general doom!
The new Heav’n and earth t’inherit,
Take Thy pining exiles home:
All creation, all creation,
Travails! groans! and bids Thee come!
The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!
Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!