Revelation Chapter 1

Rev 1:1 "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:"

This first verse is critical to our understanding of what is being taught in the book of Revelation.  There are generally three different approaches to the study of Revelation, which are contrary to what is taught in verse 1 and therefore should be rejected as a means to study revelation.  The first approach is that the book is a record of events that will transpire sometime in the future near the end of time or just prior to what some say is the millennial reign of Christ.  This is known as the futurist view of revelation.  The phrase, "must shortly come to pass," negates such a view of revelation.  The second view is that the book is a record of events that will gradually unfold over the history of mankind on earth.  This view is also negated in the word "shortly."  The third view is that everything in revelation was fulfilled by the events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem around 70 A.D.  However, this is the revelation of Jesus Christ, and there are many things that are taught in the bible and in the book of revelation about Jesus Christ that point to the eternal salvation and resurrection of God's people which, of course, has not yet transpired in time. 

The key to our understanding of revelation is found in the word "signified" which means to show by signs.  In other words, the book of Revelation is written in sign language.  The Lord demonstrated the use of this sign language in the first chapter of Revelation in that he gave us a sign and then gave us the meaning of the sign.  He gave us the sign of seven golden candlesticks and seven stars.  He then told us that the seven candlesticks are the seven churches of Asia and the seven stars are the angels (messengers) of the seven churches.  We are not left to look at carnal history for an understanding of the signs (a mistake that many have made), but God himself gives us the meaning of the signs in the scriptures.  Our task is to search the scripture for the sign and its meaning. 

This book is the "revelation" of Jesus Christ.  The word revelation means to disclose and manifest.  This is exactly what this book does.  It discloses and manifests Jesus Christ.  The author of the content of this book is often said to be John.  However, God himself is the author of the content of this book.  Christ sent an angel (messenger) unto John to show unto his servant, John, things which must shortly come to pass.  John is not the revelator, God is the revelator.  John is the messenger of the message that was sent to him.  John's task was to deliver that message as it was delivered unto him.  Thus, as with all the scripture, the book of revelation is God's message to his servants.  It is not intended to everyone, but only to those who are his servants.  Today if we are to benefit from the book of Revelation or from the scriptures in general, then we must be the servants of Jesus Christ.  A servant is one who is under the rule and direction of his master.  He is not free to do his own will, but the will of his master.  A servant must be humble and submissive.  A servant must also be diligent to accomplish the task that is assigned to him by his master. 

A casual reading of Revelation will not give one much understanding of the book.  The task at hand is to dig out the signs and their meanings in the word of God.  This, however, cannot be accomplished by intellect alone.  In John chapters 14 thru 16 we read of a Holy Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, who will guide us unto all truth.  The Holy Spirit is to be our guide and only thru the guidance of the Holy Spirit are we able to come to an understanding of the signs and their meanings and thus learn more about what God has uncovered and manifest to us about our Lord Jesus Christ.  I pray that God will bless this work that if anyone gets anything beneficial out of it that He may receive all the praise.

Our approach to this study will be to first look at the signs in each chapter and their meanings and then, if necessary, to take a narrative overview of the contextual lessons of that chapter.  I am sure that I will hardly scratch the surface of the depths of teaching contained therein.  May God bless his people with understanding and knowledge and wisdom to know more about his word.

Rev. 1:2, 3  "Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand."

A record of something is evidence of that thing and to "bear record" is to give testimony or witness of something. John gave record of three things. He bare record of the word of God. Lest anyone think that the book of Revelation is just fanciful writing of fictitious things, this is just as much the word of God as the book of Matthew. There is nothing fanciful or fictitious about it. John also gave record of the testimony of Jesus Christ. Jesus is called the faithful witness. As we will see a faithful witness is one that will not lie. According to the scriptures it is impossible for God to lie. John's record is his testimony of what Jesus Christ testified to him. John also gave record of all things that he saw. This certainly teaches us that John did not leave anything out of what God showed unto him, but told us everything that God told him. This does not mean that John necessarily understood all of it, but it certainly assures us that we got the complete testimony of both what Jesus said and what he showed to John.

There is a blessing pronounced in v. 3. Some have said that it is a blessing just to read the book of Revelations. However, this is not what that verse say. There are three things that are necessary before one receives the blessing. One, they must read the book, two, they must hear (understand) what is written therein and, three, they must keep the things that are written therein. Then as they have accomplished those three things they receive the promised blessing. Also, the time of the blessing was said to be at hand, thus, teaching us that everything that was necessary for reading, understanding, and doing was present at the time that this book was written of John. There weren't future events necessary to come to pass before a servant of Jesus Christ could read the book, understand what was written therein and do what was written therein.

I find way too many people say that they can't understand what is written in the book of Revelation and that it is too difficult to understand. God has promised a blessing to us and we as his servants should give a diligent effort to understand and do the things contained in the book of Revelation. Surely it takes an effort, just as it takes an effort to understand the rest of the scriptures. As God's servants we need to put forth that effort to understand and pray to God for wisdom and understanding. There is a promised blessing in it for all of us.

Rev. 1:4, 5  "John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; 5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth."

The book of Revelation is written in the form of a letter.  John is the writer of the letter and the seven churches of Asia are the recipients of the letter.  The salutation is the rest of the above.  This as well as the rest of the scriptures is not written directly to us today, it is written for us.  It is written directly to the seven churches, but it has application to us today.  

Seven is the bible number of completion.  While there were actually and literally seven churches of Asia to which John wrote, yet its application is complete to all the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ for all the gospel age.  Paul in all the letters he wrote to churches began his salutation with the mention of God's grace and peace to each church.  He went on to mention where that grace and peace came from: it came from God, the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.  God's grace was the grand theme of Paul's writings as he mentioned God's grace in the salutation and closing of every letter that he wrote, except to the Hebrew's where he only mentioned God's grace at the closing.  Grace is defined as the unmerited favor of God.  As we will see in our study of Revelation God's grace is often manifest throughout these writings.  Grace is directed to a specific people (God's people).  Peace is one of the end products of God's grace.  Just as God is the source of grace, God is also the source of peace.  Peace comes from God.  Without the finished work of Jesus Christ there would be no peace between God and his people.  Without that finished work, we could find no inner peace in the knowledge of salvation from our sins. 

That grace and peace is said to come "from him which is, and which was, and which is to come."  This phrase speaks to us of an eternal God and an unchanging God.  Heb. 8: 8 also tells us "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." The eternal, unchangeable attributes of God are illustrated in these passages of scripture.  Another phrase used in the scriptures that illustrates God's eternal, unchangeable attributes is the phrase for God, I AM.  Of course this phrase was often found in John's writings in the book of John.  Seven times Jesus said, "I amů"  This gives us great comfort to know that God's grace and its resulting end products such as peace are founded in one who never changes and is eternal. 

This grace and peace is said also to come "from the seven Spirits which are before his throne."  Some have concluded that there are seven Holy Spirits, but this is not what is being taught.  There are seven manifestations of the one Holy Spirit.  These seven manifestations are found in Is.11: 2 "And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD," and in Is. 28: 6 "And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate."  Thus the seven manifestations of the Holy Spirit mentioned above are wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear of the Lord, and judgment."  All seven of these manifestations of the Holy Spirit were present in giving us grace and peace. 

That grace and peace is also said to come from Jesus Christ.  While there are many words used to describe the Son of God, each one is significant and is placed in its proper place throughout the scriptures.  Here we have two words used to describe the Son of God.  The first word is Jesus, which means Saviour.  It was said of the angel to Joseph to "fear not to take unto thee Mary, thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost and she shall bring forth a son and thou shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins."  Grace and peace to God's elect is dependant on the work of Jesus in saving his people from their sins.  The word, "Christ," means "anointed one."  There were two groups of people who were anointed in the Old Testament: kings and high priests.  God has anointed Christ to be both the King of kings and the High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.  Christ in his kingly office rules in his kingdom and rules over all creation.  In his high priestly office he is the one who made the atoning sacrifice for his people.  Without that atoning sacrifice there would be no peace or grace.           

Next, Jesus Christ is said to be the faithful witness.  Prov. 14: 5 tells us, "A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies." We read also in Ps. 116: 11 "I said in my haste, All men are liars."  Thus the only true "faithful witness" is Jesus Christ" for he has as a characteristic the total inability to lie.  Thus his testimony is totally reliable and complete.  

Jesus Christ is also said to be the "first begotten from the dead."  Acts 13: 33 also tells us, "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee."  The term, "first begotten," speaks to us of priority in that there were others who were raised from the dead, such as Lazarus, the young maiden, the widow woman's son, Tabitha, the young man who fell out of the loft, etc.  However, all of these were raised back to mortal lives and later fell on death again.  Jesus was resurrected to never die again.  In his resurrection our hope rest that we will one day be resurrected as well.         

Jesus is also said to be the "prince of the kings of the earth."  Who those kings are is stated for us in verse 6.  We will have more to say about that when we get to verse 6.  The fact that he is called the prince speaks to us about his role as the representative of his people.  In the Old Testament there were 12 princes of the twelve tribes of Israel and they each represented one of the tribes.  What they did was on behalf of the tribe they represented.  Jesus represented us on the cross.  His death on the cross was as our representative representing us in God's judgment of our sins.  His sufferings and death was accomplished as our representative.