The first chapter of revelation tells us what the book is, its purpose, who it was written for and who it is from. Verses 1-2 tells us what this epistle is,
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.”
It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. A revelation is the revealing, the disclosure, the uncovering and the making known of something or someone, in this case it is unveiling Jesus Christ which will tell us about things that are to happen soon. Since this book was written somewhere in the years of 80-96 AD we can guess that some of the things revealed in the letter have already happened, but not all of them. Verses 3-6 tell us who the letter is written to and who it is from and one expectation for it.
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
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, 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 kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. .”
John, wrote the letter but he tells the seven churches in Asia at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea (Verse 11) that the grace and peace he wishes for them is also from Jesus and the seven spirits who are before His throne. Who or what are the seven spirits? I personally can’t offer an answer that I can say is absolutely correct. Some scholars say that John is referring to The Holy Spirit in a seven-fold manifestation of His person. Further along in the chapter, (Verses 16 and 19) Jesus holds seven stars in His hand which He explains are the seven angels to the seven churches the letter is written to. I believe that the seven spirits are possibly the angels or the Holy Spirit or some other celestial being bringing the incense of the prayers and worship of the seven churches to God’s throne.
John reveals Jesus as regal but also as the Compassionate One who is not removed from us. He is the Faithful Witness, ever constant in knowing what we go through, what we do, and who we are. He is the Firstborn of the Dead, He experienced life and everything about being human. And He is God, the King of kings who freed us from our sins by His blood. Because Jesus was the firstborn of the dead and the King of kings, and because He lived and died and rose from the dead, we are saved, sin has no hold on us nor power over us. Because Jesus saved us, because Jesus is who He is, we are not just people, we are a kingdom. We follow King Jesus. He is our sovereign King. His authority usurps every earthly authority, government, and monarchy.
Verses 7-8 further reveal Jesus Christ to us.
“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. 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.”
John tells us the point to everything. Creation, history, the Law, the Bible, salvation, suffering, everything is for our eternal hope. And that hope is established and displayed when Jesus comes in the clouds and every eye, believer or non-believer, follower or enemy, child of God or child of wrath will see Him. The cries will be either filled with joy at the culmination of faith or wails of mourning and terror at the realization of rejected truth. Philippians 2:5-11 describe Jesus and refers to that moment as well.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
John then goes on to describe how He received this revelation in verses 9-11.
“I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
John was being punished for Christ’s sake. But he didn’t wallow in pity or let that stop him from worshipping The Lord. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day when he heard that loud voice. He was chosen for this revelation specifically. And he had been chosen for it from the beginning. He was the only Apostle alive at the point this letter was written, every other Apostle had been martyred by now. It is probable that the majority of people who had been alive, seen Jesus, and were old enough to remember Him were dead since Jesus’ ministry had been at least sixty years before this letter was written. John alone was left to receive this vision. And though he was at least in his mid-seventies, he still actively shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ so much that he had been sent to Patmos as punishment. He didn’t let punishment stop him, he was in the Spirit when he received the revelation.
If you want God to use you, if you want God to reveal Himself to you, are you sitting waiting for Him to pluck you up and do it or are you actively serving Him and following Him? God might pick you up from your church pew or your living room couch, but He is more likely to give to those who are already actively demonstrating their faith. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 25:29,
“For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
John describes what he saw in verses 12-16,
“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”
Can you imagine it? Picture who John described. It is not a kindly looking man, it is not Morgan Freeman or George Burns. Jesus is fierce, fiery, shining, and pure. His voice is louder and stronger than a voice could be and His words were a double-edged sword. They had purpose and they cut straight to the heart separating the trash from the treasure. (Hebrews 4:12, Proverbs 25:3-5). And He was not separated and far from the people He had this message for, He was in the midst of them. (Verse 20). Imagine it, how would you react? John, one of Jesus closest friends, the Disciple whom Jesus loved saw Him in all His glory and in His complete unveiled truth, he fell out flat. Verses 17-18 read,
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
John was so awed by the sight of Jesus, The Son of God in all His glory that he fell at His feet like he was dead. But John had nothing to fear, John was freed from sin by Jesus’ blood. Jesus reminded John, by exclaiming who He is. He is the first and the last, the Creator and Completer of our faith. He is alive, even though He died for us, He is alive forever. He overcame death and Hell and freed us from them. There is no condemnation (disapproval, punishment, or death sentence) for those who are in Christ. (Romans 8:1). We have nothing to fear. But the lost do. They will wail in terror when they see Him. And they have reason to fall to their knees in horror at the sight of Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t want them to die. (2 Peter 3:9). So He gave John this vision to reveal Himself, His plan, and His judgement to the churches and to in turn to the world. Verses 19-20 read,
“Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 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.”
The things of Revelation are not meant to be kept secret. This letter, these prophecies, promises, and this revelation of Jesus Christ are meant to be shared, studied, told, and followed. Verse 3 reads,
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”