Chapter 1: A Letter From the LORD of the Candlesticks
The Greek word apokalupsis is translated as "revelation" or disclosure of the truth of things previously unknown. Our growth "in grace, and in the knowledge of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Peter 3:18) also yields to us-- as a by-product-- knowledge of "things which must shortly come to pass". The Father reveals to the Son, who reveals to His "angel", who reveals to "His servant John", who reveals to God's "servants". This exactly coincides with our LORD's Promise to His disciples. "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all Truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come" (John 16:13).
A faithful witness-- as the Apostle John was-- is merely to recount accurately what he has been told. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the Earth" (Acts 1:8).
A special Promise attends our reading, hearing, and keeping of the Revelation, i.e., acting in faith about what we heard. "But whoso looketh into the Perfect Law of Liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (James 1:25). No man is a fool who acts as though the message of the Revelation concerns us here and now, "for the time is at hand." [See our article, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises" ---New Window , to see how our God has ingeniously designed His Promises to sanctify His people.]
The Revelation is in the form of a letter to the "Seven Churches which are in Asia", i.e., the modern nation of Turkey, which is in Asia Minor. The Apostle John begins with a greeting from the Triune God-- the Father, the Spirit, and the Son. The Father is The Ancient Of Days (Daniel 7:9,13,22)-- "from Him Which Is, and Which Was, and Which Is to Come." The "Seven Spirits" point to the perfection of the Holy Spirit.
Greetings from the Son, "who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession" (1Timothy 6:13). Jesus has the distinction of being the first to rise from the dead. "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1Corinthians 15:17). And, if this "Prince of the Kings of the Earth", who "loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood", arose from the dead, then so also will we. "But every man in his own order: Christ the Firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His Coming" (15:23). [See our article, "He Will Subdue Our Iniquities" ---New Window , for a discussion of how anyone can be worthy and ready to meet God at any time.]
A Kingdom Of Priests was the LORD's original intent for His people Israel, as well. "And ye shall be unto me a Kingdom Of Priests, and An Holy Nation" (Exodus 19:6). Again, our God's desire for His Church is our assumption of the duties of a Kingdom Of Priests. "Ye also, as Lively Stones, are built up a Spiritual House, an Holy Priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1Peter 2:5). And, of course, "God" the Son has "His Father", God "which is [also] in Heaven" (Matthew 23:9).
Our LORD Jesus Christ is the One who "cometh with clouds". No other event in the history of creation will focus more attention on One Person than the Second Coming of the LORD Jesus Christ. "And then shall appear the Sign of the Son of Man in Heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the Earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30). If anyone is able to wonder or question if the LORD Jesus has appeared the Second Time, then it definitely did not happen-- because at His Second Coming "all... shall see Him" (24:30).
Without a doubt, the LORD Jesus Christ claims to be God. "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (Philippians 2:6). The very idea of being "Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending" places Jesus-- the speaker of Revelation 1:8-- in the role of the Eternal ("Which Is, and Which Was, and Which Is to Come") and "Almighty" God. "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and His Redeemer the LORD of Hosts; I am the First, and I am the Last; and beside Me there is no God" (Isaiah 44:6).
The Apostle John, the "disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 21:20), suffered exile to the island of Patmos (which means, "my killing"), a rugged and bare island in the Aegean Sea off the coast of modern Turkey, probably around 95 AD in Domitian's persecution of the Christians. "Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2Timothy 3:12). John was an elder or presbyter in the Church of Ephesus, before and after his stay on Patmos. John suffered "tribulation" like all of our brethren, "for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ". He practiced what the early disciples preached. "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common Salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the Saints" (Jude 3).
The Apostle John's experience parallels that of being Raptured, i.e., hearing "a Great Voice, as of a Trumpet". This reminds us of the Apostle Paul's letter to the Thessalonians. "For the LORD Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1Thessalonians 4:16). Some believe that this indicates a Sunday ("LORD's day") Rapture; however, it could also mean that the Rapture will only occur for those who are walking "in the Spirit", in readiness for the event-- or both. "And to wait for His Son from Heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1:10).
These Seven Churches could be reached by traveling to each in succession, i.e., first Ephesus, then Smyrna, and continuing through the list until arriving at Laodicea. The serial nature of the list of Seven Churches gives rise to comparing them to a serial or chronological list of periods representing the totality of Church History, as well as a chronological list of Tribulation Week Progress. Our LORD is able to lay much truth in store for those who are willing to "search out a matter" (Proverbs 25:2). "But without a parable spake He not unto them: and when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples" (Mark 4:34). [See the "Tribulation Saints' Experience: Revival, Persecution, or Deliverance?" ---New Window section of our article, "Thy Hidden Ones" ---New Window , for a discussion of the Seven Churches representing 7 successive periods of Church History, as well as Tribulation Week Progress.]
The Voice that spoke with John, belonged to the LORD Jesus. The "seven golden candlesticks" allude to the candlesticks of the Sanctuary for the nation of Israel. This seven branched candlestick, known as the menorah, may be seen represented on the Arch of Titus at Rome, taken as the spoils of war (70 AD). "And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it" (Exodus 25:37). Though Israel ultimately failed to hold the "Law [that] is Light" (Proverbs 6:23) up to the world, the Church has received a similar commission to bear the Light-- as "seven golden candlesticks"-- to the world. A candlestick is not the light; however, it does lift up the flame, which gives off the light. And, that Light is Jesus Christ, Who said, "I am the Light of the World" (John 8:12).
The LORD Jesus is here described in the attire of a priest and judge, like Aaron's robe, "for glory and for beauty" (Exodus 28:2). Fastening the garment higher on the body-- "about the paps", i.e., the chest-- than the waist, allowed for greater movement, as well as greater dignity and majesty. "And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins" (Isaiah 11:5).
Again, it is "not robbery" (Philippians 2:6) for the LORD Jesus to consider Himself the equal of the Father, because the Son of God is here described in the same fashion as the Father-- the Ancient of Days. "9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, Whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His Throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire... 13 ...behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of Heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days..." (Daniel 7:9,13).
The LORD Jesus' feet are likened to "fine brass", which symbolize divine judgment. The "brasen altar" (Exodus 38:30) and other articles associated with the sacrifice for sin (27:2-4) were made of brass. The power and majesty of the LORD Jesus' Voice in judgment is compared to the "sound of many waters". "The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea" (Psalm 93:4).
This reminds us of how Christ, the Good Shepherd (John 10:14),
holds His flock eternally secure in His hand. "27 My sheep hear My
Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: 28 And I give unto them Eternal Life; and they shall never
perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand"
(John 10:27-28). Jesus, the Eternal Word, Who "was
made flesh" (John 1:14), here represents His Words like
unto a "sharp twoedged sword"-- an offensive weapon for slaying the enemy. "And
out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations" (Revelation 19:15).
The brilliance of the LORD Jesus' "countenance" was seen also by the unconverted Saul on the Road to Damascus. "13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a Light from Heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a Voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 15 And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And He said, I Am Jesus Whom thou persecutest" (Acts 26:13-15).
Notwithstanding the close relationship of the Apostle John to the LORD Jesus, it was more than meeting an old friend when he recognized the LORD Jesus. John "fell at His feet as dead". Just as the prophet Isaiah was frozen with disdain for himself at the sight of the Holy God, i.e., "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts" (Isaiah 6:5), John had to be comforted by the LORD to even be able to continue the interview.
Unmistakably, this is the very Jesus who was crucified on Calvary. "I Am He that liveth, and was dead." If we can believe that He was dead and now is alive, we have His Word that He is now "alive for evermore". "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him" (Romans 6:9). So thorough is His mastery over death and hell that He possesses their key and control-- because He is the Almighty God. "He that is our God is the God of Salvation; and unto GOD the LORD belong the issues from death" (Psalm 68:20).
John is given an outline for the Revelation, which he is to record. "The things which thou hast seen" refers to chapter 1-- the Glorified Christ. "The things which are" corresponds to chapters 2 and 3-- the History of the Church. And, "the things which shall be hereafter" deal with chapters 4 through 22-- essentially Daniel's 70th Week (Daniel 9:24-27). [See our article, "The Seventy Weeks of Daniel" ---New Window , for a development of the entire 70 Weeks prophecy.]
The Greek word aggelos is primarily translated as "angel", but sometimes it is translated as messenger. That the "seven stars", which are the "angels of the Seven Churches", could be their pastors, may be inferred from the reference of Daniel 12:3 to those who "turn many to righteousness". These who "turn many to righteousness" are compared to the "stars for ever and ever". "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Daniel 12:3). But, the idea that the "seven stars" are angelic beings is just as agreeable, for we know that even small children are given angelic watchcare. "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in Heaven" (Matthew 18:10). Again, the "seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the Seven Churches". See the above remarks concerning Revelation 1:12.
Question: Why should you study this Book?
Answer: "That the God of our LORD Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened;
that ye may know
according to the working of His
Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the Heavenly Places,
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come."
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