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Revelation Chapter 1

Before we start looking at Revelation chapter 1 verse by verse let's consider a question some people ask: "why didn't John have an equivalent chapter in his gospel to the apocalyptic chapters (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21) of the other gospel writers?" Well here it is - 22 chapters in the book of Revelation. It is closely tied to those apocalyptic chapters but contains much more detail. Let's take a look:

Revelation is organized in kind of a mirror-like structure. For example (but there is much more):

Prologue (1:1-8)
Epilogue (22:8-17)
1:2 testimony of Jesus 22:16 I Jesus ... testify unto you
1:3 blessed is he who reads 22:7 blessed is he who keeps
1:7 behold He is coming 22:12,20 I am coming soon
1:8 I am the Alpha and the Omega 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega

Let's start our verse-by-verse journey through the book beginning with Revelation chapter 1. Each page (there will be multiple pages for some chapters) will be linked sequentially to the next. May God bless your study.

"The 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: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw." (Rev 1:1-2)

Notice the progression here. God gave to Jesus Who sent by his angel unto his servant John who, of course, wrote what he saw for us. Note that "servants" is plural and that angels and humans are both called servants (Rev 22:8-9).

Revelation chapter 1

The book is the revelation of Jesus in two ways.

It is His revelation, what He was revealed for us so we can know what will shortly come to pass.
It is a revelation of Him; it has much to say about His role in history and in our salvation.

Here are verses that use the same original Greek word "apokalupsis" (Strong's G602) translated as "revelation" - what was hidden that is now revealed:

"How that by revelation (Strong's G602) he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed (Strong's G601) unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;" (Eph 3:3-5)
"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed (Strong's G602) from heaven with his mighty angels," (2 Thess 1:7)

The book of Revelation is all about things that are revealed or shown or made known. It is not a book about things that are hidden. Having said that, there are many symbols used whose meaning may not be immediately obvious. However, here is the key.

The Bible, either in the book of Revelation itself or in other places in the Bible, provides the meaning of the symbols used.

Shortly Come to Pass

This phrase reflects the fact that John and many other Bible writers seemed to live in expectancy of a soon second coming. It is interesting to trace this attitude though the Bible.

The book of Revelation was given to the servants of God. Revelation itself speaks of and defines the servants of God:

"Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." (Rev 7:3-4)

This group is further defined in chapter 14:

"And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." (Rev 14:3-5)

Doesn't it make more sense that Revelation was written primarily for His servants who live at the end of time for whom the things written will be shortly coming to pass?

"His servants"
"Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7)
"The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant." (Psa 25:14)

The messages given by the 144,000 include to "fear God." (Rev 14:7). Surely those giving the message telling others to fear God must fear God themselves.

Is this saying his servants are prophets? A prophet is one gives a message from God or who speaks for God, not necessarily telling the future.

"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Rom 6:16)

It sounds like obedience is a feature of his servants.

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17)

"Signified" is defined as 1) to give a sign, to signify, indicate 2) to make known. This seems to refer to the fact that symbols were assigned to items in Revelation. An example would be: "the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches" (Rev 1:20) which assigns to stars, used as a symbol, the meaning of angels.

"The testimony of Jesus Christ" Does the "testimony of Jesus" mean the testimony about Him or from Him? Note that it reads:

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants -

things which must shortly come to pass"
all about Jesus (however, there is much in there about Him)

That it has to do with things which must shortly come to pass is further supported by:

"And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev 19:10)

This verse links it with prophecy. Prophecy has much to do with future events but it can also have a personal application.

"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." (Rev 1:3)

A blessing is promised to those who read and hear but it is also conditional on obedience to the message given, it seems within the book of Revelation. A person is not blessed if they read and hear but don't keep.

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22)

This is the first of seven blessings in the book of Revelation. The others appear in Rev 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7 and 22:14.

"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;" (Rev 1:4)

The Number Seven

Here we have the number seven which appears quite often in the book of Revelation. The number seven is used with many symbols and seems to be symbolic itself - of perfection or completeness.

John wrote letters to seven churches in Asia Minor (now western Turkey) in the last decade of the first century AD. He had his headquarters at Ephesus and was finally exiled by the emperor Domitian to the nearby Island of Patmos (verse 9) where he wrote the book of Revelation. There were actually more than seven churches in Asia Minor; also mentioned in the Bible were Colossae (Col 1:2) and Hierapolis (Col 4:13) but John was instructed specifically to write messages to the seven that he actually pastored. These messages appear in chapters 2 and 3.

An understanding of these messages known as the Historicist Method sees the churches, the seals and the trumpets as all being fulfilled as successive periods New Testament history. Here is a typical quote:

"'The seven churches,' therefore, are easily understood to mean not merely the seven literal churches of Asia which went by the names mentioned, but seven periods of the Christian church, from the days of the apostles to the close of probation." (Daniel and the Revelation, Uriah Smith p.344)

The Seven Spirits

These may be the seven angels referred to in:

"And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets." (Rev 8:2)

Each of the seven churches may have had an angel associated with it. For example:

"... the angel of the church of Ephesus ..." (Rev 2:1)

Angels are called spirits:

"And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire." (Heb 1:7)

"Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:" (Psa 104:4)

"But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb 1:13-14)
"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. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood," (Rev 1:5)

"First begotten of the dead"

How is he "the first"? Weren't others raised from the dead before Him? First does not always refer to first in time. It can also mean first in position. A good example is David who was counted and treated as the firstborn even though he was the youngest brother in his family.

"Also I will make him (David - v20) my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth." (Psa 89:27)

This, while, in context, speaking of David, is also a Messianic prophecy.

"The prince of the kings of the earth"

We usually understand a prince to be a lower position than a king. However, we need to understand the Biblical use of the word. Prince is from the Greek word "archon" (Strong's G758), from the Greek word "archo" (Strong's G757) which means to rule over and from which we also get archangel" who is the one who rules over the angels. God rules over the kings of the earth:

"And he (God) changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:" (Dan 2:21)

It is interesting that the next verse in Revelation says that we will be kings.

"Washed us from our sins" better "loosed" from penalty of sin

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (Isa 53:5)
"And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Rev 1:6)

"And his Father" can be translated as "even his Father." Many versions translate it with this meaning such as:

"and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Rev 1:6, ASV)

"Kings" - we will be part of His kingdom, have dominion:

"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." (Rev 20:6)
"And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever." (Rev 22:5)


We are called to be priests in the sense that we can petition on behalf of others.

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:" (1 Pet 2:9)
"Behold, 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." (Rev 1:7)

The "clouds" are clouds of angels.

"The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place." (Psa 68:17)
"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." (Matt 24:30)
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:" (Matt 25:31)

The group described as "they also which pierced him" seem to be involved in a special resurrection which is alluded to in Dan 12:13.

"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." (Rev 1:8)

"Alpha and omega" being the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet is another way of saying the beginning and the ending or that He is all-inclusive. He also is closely identifying Himself with His Father from Whom, after His resurrection, He received all power.

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Matt 28:18)

Thus He can use the term "almighty."

"I 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." (Rev 1:9)

John is speaking to the servants of God and has identified himself as a servant (verse 1); thus he uses the terms "brother and companion"

"In Patmos" John was imprisoned "for the word of God" or for His preaching and sharing of it. Also, for the testimony of Jesus Christ which we are told is the spirit of prophecy:

"... the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev 19:10)

Back in verse 2, John said that he "bare record of the word of God and of the testimony of Jesus Christ." He shared what he had been shown and the result was that he was exiled to Patmos for exactly that. This was after, according to history, He was thrown into a pot of boiling oil and emerged unscathed.

"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet," (Rev 1:10)

John now begins to relate what he saw and heard. He describes himself as being in the Spirit or in vision on the Lord's Day. Many people, because of popular use and tradition, understand this to be a reference to Sunday, the first day of the week. But is Sunday actually the Lord's Day of the Bible?

"Saying, 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." (Rev 1:11)

"What thou seest" refers to what John is going to see as recorded in the book of Revelation which, remember from verse 1, is "to shew His servants that which must shortly come to pass." Also, it is being sent to the seven churches. Can we make a connection here? The message of Revelation was to be

  1. shown to God's servants (Rev 1:1)
  2. sent to the seven churches (Rev 1:11)

Since the servants of God are present in an end-time context (Rev 7:3), is this perhaps a suggestion that the seven churches (at least in one meaning) are in an end-of-time context?

The phrase "must shortly come to pass" would seem to indicate that the answer is no. However, remember, even the apostles lived with an expectancy of a within-their-lifetime, soon second coming.

"And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And 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." (Rev 1:12-13)

We are told in v20 that "the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches" and the seven candlesticks ... are the seven churches." So here, the son of man (dressed in the attire of the high priest) is among the candlesticks as though He is ministering to (the people of) the churches.

The "golden girdle" is a reference to the breastplate that held the stones representing the tribes of Israel. Jesus has His people close to His heart.

"And he (Moses) put upon him (Aaron, the high priest) the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith." (Lev 8:7)
"And the curious girdle of his ephod, that was upon it, was of the same, according to the work thereof; of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen; as the LORD commanded Moses." (Exo 39:5)
"His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters." (Rev 1:14-15)

This description sounds similar to some verses in Daniel:

"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days (the Father) 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." (Dan 7:9)
"His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his (the Son) eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude." (Dan 10:6)

From these verses we can get the comparison that "the sound of many waters" is equivalent to "the voice of a multitude." We also see this later in Revelation:

"And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." (Rev 17:15)
"And 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." (Rev 1:16)

We see the symbol (obviously not literal) of a sword from the mouth used elsewhere:

"And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." (Rev 19:15)
"And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." (Rev 19:21)
"And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;" (Isa 49:2)

What normally comes out of the mouth?

"But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matt 4:4)

Of course, it is words and God's word is likened in scripture to a sword:

"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb 4:12)

Its function is described as "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Men will be judged on the basis of God's word.

"And 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:" (Rev 1:17)

This sounds like Daniel's experience:

"For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me." (Dan 10:17)

The "as dead" that John used to describe himself could be a reference to having no breath. Daniel was also touched and told not to fear. (Dan 10:18-19)

"I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." (Rev 1:18)

"I was dead" - that's pretty plain. The Bible teaches, contrary to popular belief, that there is no consciousness in death:

"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." (Eccl 9:5)

Their memory - the memory of the dead people - is forgotten, not the memory of others about them. Others, still living, remember them just fine. They will even say "we are gathered here today to remember our dearly beloved ..." It's the still-living who are remembering, not the dead.

"Keys" Jesus has the keys of hell which is the grave and of death. He is the one who will call forth the dead at the resurrection:

"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:" (1 Thess 4:16)

"Hell" in the Old Testament is always translated from the word "sheol" which is the place were all men go at death. It is translated as:

  1. grave 31 times
  2. hell 31 times
  3. pit 3 times

Righteous Jacob:

"And all his (Jacob's) sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave (sheol) unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him." (Gen 37:35)


"They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit (sheol), and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation." (Num 16:33)

All men:

"What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave (sheol)? Selah." (Psa 89:48)

"Hell" in the New Testament, is always translated from one of three Greek words:

  1. hades 11 times
  2. gehenna 12 times
  3. tartarus 1 time

While Jesus when speaking here in Revelation has the keys, He did not raise Himself from the dead

"No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:18)

The original word for "power" (exousia, Strong's G1849) is often translated as "authority." The word translated as "take" (lambano, Strong's G2983) is most commonly translated as "receive" as it is translated later in the same verse – "received of my Father."

"Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;" (Rev 1:19)

This can be seen as support for the idea of there being applications both in John's time ("things which are") and in the future, possibly at the end of time ("things which shall be hereafter;").

"The 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." (Rev 1:20)

"Stars" are used as a symbol of angels in other places:

"And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born." (Rev 12:4)
There is scriptural evidence that the seven stars (angels) of revelation chapter 1 are the elders of those churches.  

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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
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