Revelation 1:1-20, Revelation 2:1-29

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Revelation 1

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

2Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

3Blessed 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.

4John 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;

5And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

6And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

7Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

8I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

9I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

11Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

12And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;

13And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

14His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

15And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

16And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

17And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

18I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

19Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

20The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Revelation 2

1Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;

2I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

3And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

4Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

5Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

6But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.

7He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

8And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

9I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

10Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

11He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

12And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

13I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

14But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

15So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.

16Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

18And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

19I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

20Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

21And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

22Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

23And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

24But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.

25But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

26And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

27And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

28And I will give him the morning star.

29He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The book of Revelation has always appealed to people. There is something about a good mystery that stirs the heart and Revelation is certainly mysterious. The reason is that the book is full of vivid images, but with little explanation as to what the images mean. It is as if the author assumes the reader of the book is familiar with the interpretation of these symbols, so no explanation is needed.

The result has been that the book of Revelation has become the proof text for many false doctrines. After all, if I say that the images mean “X,” how can you possibly disagree? And therein lies the difficulty for Christians. Most of us recognize that the book is difficult because of its heavy use of symbols, so we put off studying it. However, our unfamiliarity with the book causes us to let many erroneous statements to go unchallenged.

I doubt that I can explain everything that the book of Revelation discusses. Many great scholars have stated their confusion over different sections of the text. I doubt I can do any better. However, I think enough of Revelation is clear that we can understand its message. One rule that any student of the Bible must always keep in mind is that God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33). The Bible has one source (God) and that source does not contradict itself. Anything we glean from the pages of Revelation must agree with the rest of the Bible. If it contradicts what the rest of the Bible states, then we must have misunderstood the symbolism of Revelation.

Who wrote the book?

The book is often called the Revelation of John, but notice the statement in verse 1. The source of the book is Jesus Christ himself. The words were given to an angel who in turn gave them to John. John simply wrote down the things that were revealed to him (Revelation 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8).

There is no doubt that the Apostle John (as opposed to some other John) is the writer of Revelation – the same author of John, I John, II John, and III John. Early Christians stated that the Apostle John was the author in their own writings. But we also have the book’s own testimony. In Revelation 1:2, the author calls himself a witness. It is the same type of designation that John makes in I John 1:1-4. One of the prime duties of an apostle was to serve as a witness (Luke 24:48, I Corinthians 9:1). We can be confident that the Apostle John gave his testimony in the book of Revelation.

When was the book written?

There are usually two dates ascribed to the book. The first is between AD 64 and AD 68, during the reign of Nero. The second date is between AD 91 and AD 96 during the reign of Domitian. Both eras were times of persecution against the church. Nero’s persecution of Christians was limited to those who lived in Rome. However, those who ascribe to the earlier date believe that the persecutions mentioned in Revelation were those conducted by the Jews. Those who ascribe to the earlier date also believe that the city prophesied to be destroyed was the city of Jerusalem. The emperor Domitian had the greater reign of terror that lasted many years and was conducted across the entire Roman empire. Those who ascribe to the later date believe the city prophesied to be destroyed was Rome.

The weight of evidence favors the later date. In fact, some of the early Christian’s writings state that the book was written during Domitian’s reign. As I studied the book, I found that the imagery does not fit well with the destruction of Jerusalem, so I lean toward the later date.

What is being revealed?

Regardless of when the book was written, we can understand the purpose for writing the book. One of the greatest errors people make in regards to understanding Revelation is to ignore several statements in the book that the things described in the book would shortly take place (Revelation 1:1,3; 22:6,10). Any view that does not give meaning to the symbols in Revelation as occurring in the first or second century is wrong. In other words, the Mormon’s claim that parts of Revelation predict the book of Mormon is wrong. 1800 years later is not near to the time of John’s writing. Something that happens 1800 years later is not something that would take place shortly. Popular claims by the Prophecy Club that Revelation talks about one world order, the destruction of the world by Russia or the Middle East, or any similar claim is also wrong. We do not live in a time near to John’s. Events in our future will not occur shortly after John recorded Revelation.

Now, this does not mean that everything recorded in Revelation deals with events in the first and second century. There can be, and I believe there are, events discussed which deals with the second coming of Jesus Christ, especially Revelation 20:11 to 22:5. But any view that states the bulk of the book is about the second coming of Jesus cannot be correct because John said very clearly that the events would come soon after he wrote them.

The purpose of Revelation is to given encouragement to Christians (Revelation 1:3). Throughout the book there is a portrayal of great tribulations which are overcome by God. (In fact, the word “overcome” is used 17 times in the book of Revelation – see Revelation 12:11 and 21:7 for examples). Wars are conducted, but victory is assured. Full triumph over the enemies of God will be had. We see throughout the book that God is in control even when things look bleak. It echos the same theme Paul makes in I Corinthians 15:54-57.

Like other books of the New Testament, the book of Revelation is written to the Christians who lived at the time of its writing, but what it teaches is applicable to all Christians who learn from its principles.

How was the message revealed?

John stated that the message given to him was “signified” (Revelation 1:1). This just means that the message was written down in signs or symbols. A quick reading of the book shows that is obvious, but why use symbols instead of plain text? First, the use of symbols limits who can understand its meaning. Like Jesus’ use of parables, the symbols would have meaning to Christians and would be gibberish to those not inclined to follow God (Matthew 13:10-17). Notice that John said the book was written to show God’s servants the things that would shortly take place (Revelation 1:1). The use of symbols limits that revelation to only God’s servants. Second, the use of symbols give greater illustration. Great pageantry and glory is described with vivid symbols. Things too great and marvelous to understand are compared to familiar ideas. For example, heaven is described as having streets paved with gold. Yet heaven is a spiritual realm and gold is physical. Are the streets actually gold lined, or is the author describing a place so beautiful and valuable that the most precious metal in our world is considered cheap paving material in heaven? Finally, the use of symbols dramatizes the events. The scenes are so vividly portrayed that they are locked into our memory. Readers of Revelation do not quickly forget its message.

To whom is the book written?

Revelation 1:4 says the book was written to the seven churches in Asia. The area then known as Asia is now called Asia Minor. Chapters two and three list the names of the churches, but why was the book written to these particular churches? We know that there were more than seven churches in Asia from a reading of the New Testament. For example, there was a church in Colosse (Colossians 1:2), Hieracpolis (Colossians 4:13), Troas (Acts 20:5), and Miletus (Acts 20:17). This apparent conflict gives us a hint that the seven churches are not literal but figurative.

Seven is regarded in Hebrew literature as the perfect number. For example, when Solomon described the perfection of his new wife, he listed seven attributes of her features (Song of Solomon 4:1-7). The number seven is used 54 times in the book of Revelation, giving credence that it is not a literal value but a representation of an idea. The seven churches in Asia is a perfect representation of the Lord’s church as a whole. The seven churches were selected because their attributes represent the attitudes and conditions of all churches.

From whom does the book come?

John tells us in Revelation 1:4-5 that the words come from the eternal God (“Him who is, and who was, and who is to come”). This echos God’s statement in Exodus 3:14 that his name is “I Am.” God is eternal. He has always existed, he continues to exist, and he will always exist. (See also Isaiah 43:12-13).

The book is also from the Seven Spirits. Again we have an apparent conflict. Paul said in Ephesians 4:4-6 that there is only one Spirit. Since Paul’s writing is plain and John’s revelation is in symbols we understand that once again the number seven is a representation of perfection. This is the complete and perfect Spirit, the Holy Spirit. It is possible that John is alluding to Zechariah 4:10 which mentions the seven eyes of the Lord. The Spirit of God sees all things perfectly. Nothing is hidden from his sight.

And finally, the book is from Jesus Christ, of which John has much to say so I will save that for another article.

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This last book of the Bible identifies itself as “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” and its author is designated “his servant John” who was exiled to he Greek island of Patmos because of his faith. Traditionally, John is identified with the author of the Fourth Gospel. Addressed to seven historical churches in Asia Minor, the Book of Revelation was written to warn against spiritual indifference and to elicit courage under persecution. Because of the extensive use of symbolism and picturesque imagery, its interpretation has posed many problems for the student of the Bible. While recognizing the historical situation (Roman persecution) that elicited this writing, many interpreters look upon it as a prophecy depicting events that were to take place at the end of the age. The ultimate victory of Christ is the dominant theme of his book.