Revelation 1: 9 - 20
REVELATION -- Introduction to the study.
I. WHAT IS "REVELATION?"
1. "The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ - Revelation" was a much-used title of this book for centuries. Reduced to simply "Revelation," the meaning remains the same: "Disclosure, unveiling, revealing." Notice from verse one the course of this "making known, disclosure, unveiling, revealing." 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.
a. Hebrews 1:1 -2
b. To make know Jesus Christ by the will of God is to make known His body, bride, kingdom -- His church! All three descriptions of the church find inclusion in this book.
c. Luke 12: 1 - 12
2. Apocalyptic literature is "signified language with a purpose." Books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zephaniah all contain "apocryphal" language. Yet, many of the symbols receive definition from the Spirit, in which cases we need not speculate as to the meaning of the symbol.
3. The MESSAGE of the book of Revelation is JESUS CHRIST. Its purpose is of the following encouragements:
a. A BOOK OF VICTORY
b. A BOOK OF PROMISE
c. A BOOK OF HOPE
d. A BOOK OF GLORY
4. Revelation was written 96 c.e. in that it reveals the continued persecution of Christians throughout the world. No government after the time of Christ's death employed its activeness toward "emperor worship" in a worldwide fashion until the time of the later Roman emperors; even those AFTER Nero. The rise of several others proclaiming themselves as "God" arose even after the Roman Empire fell. (See 2 Thessalonians 2) Therefore, this book of VICTORY, PROMISE, HOPE, and GLORY brought great comfort to those young in the faith and avenged the blood of those who died in the process of seeing the gospel go into all the world, take hold in the hearts of the hearers, and establish their faith in the Greatest of Power -- Romans 1:16 - 17. Note these passages:
a. Rom 16:25 - 27 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
b. Ephesians 3: 1 - 7
5. That the book has also to do with the COMING OF JESUS TO JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, examine the following:
a. Romans 2: 1 - 11
b. Romans 8:18 - 25
c. 2 Thessalonians 1: 7 - 9
II. THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK
1. Undoubtedly, John the son of Zebedee. (See verses 1, 4, 9)
2. Though "third person" in his biography of Jesus, and nameless in his three epistles, the character of his description of Jesus remains evident -- including his identity within the above-stated verses.
3. John 21:20 -25
SYMBOLS AND THEIR MEANINGS
Inasmuch as Revelation 1:1 verifies the symbolic nature of the language within this marvelous book, it is vital to a righteous understanding to know the meaning of these symbols. While many have accepted the descriptions of commentators, (many without scriptural proof) the ideal manner of determining the right meaning of symbols is to examine their use within other passages. If used in some other scripture using “symbolic language,” the meaning of that symbol often finds definition within the text. Once defined, a symbol does not alter its meaning. It must be further noted that a literal interpretation of a symbol is never possible. A symbol stands for something other than itself, therefore cannot be a type of itself. Likewise, every explanation or interpretation must be subjected to the test of scripture.
The following symbols and their meanings are only offered as a help in your study of the book of Revelation. Wherein it is felt needful to verify, scriptures have been included to verify the use of the symbol as defined. Many symbols have more than one meaning and therefore require the reading and understanding of the context in which the word appears. As any good Bible study must always do, examine the context carefully before declaring the meaning of the symbol.
AIR – kingdom of Satan, Eph. 2:2 Vial poured upon the air, his destruction.
ALPHA AND OMEGA – The first and the last – beginning and end, Rev. 1:8; etc.
ANGEL – any messenger, divine or human, which God employs. Satan also has angels.
ARK – Symbol of God’s presence – Ex. 25: 21 – 22; Rev. 11:19
ASCENSION – Place of dignity and honor, Rev. 11:12
BABYLON – Anciently held captive God’s people: spiritual Babylon hold “spiritual Israel” captive and is called “The Great City Babylon” – Rev. 18:21
BALANCES – Emblem of justice and scarcity – Daniel 5
BLASPHEMY – Denoted idolatry – Isa. 65:7
BLOOD – War, slaughter, Ezk. 14:19; To avenge, 2 Kings 9:7
BOOK – Sealed, its meaning hidden. Opened, contents to be revealed.
BOTTOMLESS PIT – the inability to hold the substance of value as in “cistern,” depicted as the source of Satan’s lies
BOW – symbol of peace, Gen. 9:13. Can be a weapon of war, Rev. 6:2
BEAST – (as opposed to “living creatures/beasts” of chapter 4) – a tyrannical power, a succession of lawless men either civil or religious. A cruel kingdom, Dan. 2:40
BINDING – Denotes restraining from action.
BRIMSTONE – Torment, destruction, Job 18:15; Rev. 14:10
CANDLESTICK – the holder of light. Connected with “seven” is the complete light.
CHAIN – bondage, Lam. 3:7
CITY – Corporate body, Holy City, the New Jerusalem, Rev. 21:2, the Great City, Babylon, Rev. 18:21 – usually denotes a centralized power over a centralized citizenry of people, either civil or religious.
CLOUD – If bearing a rider, to rule or conquer. Matt. 24:30; Rev. 1:7
CROWN – (various types of crowns) Power, dignity, Crown of life, eternal life. Rev. 2:10
CUP – blessing, Ps. 23:5; wrath, Isa. 51:17; Rev. 16:19
DARKNESS – affliction, confusion, distress, Gen. 15:12; Jude 13
DAY – a measure of time, Ezk. 4:6; Rev. 11:3; etc.
DEATH – Change of condition, separation from life (physical or spiritual) Can also mean slavery, Deut. 30:15, Rev. 11:8
OPEN DOOR – opportunity, 2 Cor. 2:12; Rev. 3:8
DRAGON – evil power, Rev. 20
EARTH – solid earth, a compact state, (sea, a loose agitated state, political or ecclesiastical) determined by connection, Isa. 13:13; Rev. 13:1; 11
EARTHQUAKE – change of government or change in moral soundness, upheaval, Hag. 2:21 – 22; Rev. 6:12
EGYPT – mystical name for wickedness or slavery
ELDERS – leaders with experience and maturity
EATING FLESH – consuming the riches of this world, Rev. 17:16; Eccl. 4:5
FIRE – terrible destruction, Isa. 42:25; Rev. 17:16
FLOOD – persecution, judgment or desolation, Dan. 9:26; Rev. 12:15 – 16
FOREHEAD – mark in forehead open confession, Ex. 28:38
FORNICATION – idolatry, departure from love to passionate engagement of lust/self will, Ezk. 6:9
FROGS – imperfection, seeking favor among the lowest
HAIL – destruction, Isa. 28:2; Rev. 16:21
HARLOT – idolatrous community, engagers of idolatry, apostate church, Jer. 3:8, etc. Rev. 17:5
HEAD – government where supreme power resides, Col. 1:18
HEAVEN – in symbol, the highest place in government, Hag. 2:21 – 23. Also depicts the Church of Christ … the throne of the King, Lamb, the seat of His power
HORNS – power, well-known symbol of king or kingdom
INCENSE – prayers of saints, Rev. 8:3
HORSES – symbol of war and/or conquest
IMAGE OF THE BEAST – the face of evil
JERUSALEM – The true church of Christ in symbolism, Gal. 4:25 – 26
LAMB -- symbol of Jesus Christ, mentioned 26 times in Revelation. The false lamb (false church) is held in contrast (Rev. 13:11)
LEOPARD – emblem of cruelty, Jer. 5:6
LOCUSTS – destroying army, Nahum 3:15 – 17
LIGHT – knowledge, 2 Cor. 4:4
LION – king of beasts, emblem of kingly power, Gen. 49:8 – 10
MERCHANTS – those who traffic in religion
MOUNTAINS, HILLS – governments, Isa. 2: 1- 5; church, idolatrous government, Jer. 51:25. A great mountain cast into the sea is the Roman empire, Rev. 8:8
MOON – reflection of the sun, lesser light of the sun, thus dependent on the light of the sun (often considered Christians)
MYSTERY – Rev. 10:7. never before made plain – Rom. 16:25 – 26
NAKED – unclothed, sinful state, without Christ, Ex. 32:25
OLIVE TREES – symbolic of men, Ps. 1:3; Zech. 4:4
RAINBOW – covenant of peace, Gen. 9:9 – 17
RESURRECTION – deliverance from persecution or bondage, Ezk. 37:6 – 10; recovery of lost rights, Lk. 15:32
RIGHT HAND – protection, support, Ps. 18:35
RIVERS – drying up portends death, sorrow, affliction, Ezk. 29:3; also used to describe blessings and fruitfulness, Ps. 1:3
ROBES – white – righteousness; scarlet – royalty; exceeding sinful
ROD – power, rule; instrument for measuring
SEA --- large body, gathered together; multitude of people
SERPENT – see dragon
SEAL – marking off a period of time, concealing ownership.
SMOKE – to obscure; false doctrine; sign of punishment
SODOM – apostate or backslidden state, Isa. 1:10 – 15
SUN, MOON, STARS, -- high authority, each giving light either reflected or of its own source. Usually of the church, can also be of civil government
SWORD – symbol of slaughter, 1 Chron. 21:12 – 14; judgment, Ezk. 28:23; persecution, Jer. 29:18; also means WORD OF GOD – Heb. 4:12, Eph. 6:17
TAIL – falsehood, Isa. 9: 15; degradation, Deut. 28:44
TEMPLE – place of God’s throne, the church of Christ, 2 Cor. 6:16
TEETH – cruelty, Prov. 30:14
TRAVAIL – anguish, anxiety, Jer. 4:31, Gal. 4:19
TREES – great men, Zech. 4:10 – 12
TRUMPET – instrument to increase sound. Used by Moses to assemble Israel, Num. 10. For yearly feast, Lev. 23; to warn against invaders, Amos 3:6, to sound alarm
THRONE --- kingdom, government, power, authority. God’s throne supreme power. Throne of beast, his authority.
THUNDER -- symbol of judgment, Isa. 29:6; a revelation about to be made, Ex. 19
TIME -- a day, one revolution of the earth on its axis
A year, one revolution of the earth around the sun of 365 days.
1. time, a year. Times, two years, half time, one-half time = 42 months
2. a day for year
3. forty-two months = 1260 days or symbolic years
4. one hour, a very short time
VIALS – symbol of God’s wrath
WATERS --- afflictions, multitudes, Isa. 8:7-8; peoples
WILDERNESS – desert, waste, Deut. 32:10; afflicted state, Deut. 8:15
WITNESSES – symbolically, pleaders for God. The two olive trees, same as the two candlesticks.
WIND – destruction, Jer. 51:1
WINGS – protection, Ps. 17:8
WINEPRESS – slaughter, Isa. 63:3 - 6
The writer declares this to be THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST. It is thus the unveiling of no other being or individual. When credited to John, it is a mistake. It is indeed his blessed pleasure to find himself so honored as to write this revelation (note the singular REVELATION and therefore the mistake made when the book is spoken of as a plurality of "revelations"), but the subject matter is not of John. Further, the author relates carefully the "informational channel" of this revelation: "which God (the Father) gave to Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He (God the Father) sent and signified it by His angel (the Holy Spirit) to His servant John." Within this one verse, we find the three of the godhead and the object of their combined attention. John is the servant receiving this message. He must assure its delivery to the other servants of the Lord, for it is for their profit --- note again, "to show unto His servant ..." As to the phrase, "things which must shortly come to pass" we say only that these matters contained in these chapters required a MINIMAL amount of time rather than several decades to come to fruition. Inasmuch as the book is a BOOK OF VICTORY, PROMISE, HOPE, and GLORY, these brethren needed the encouragement granted from the contents of this revelation. As stated in the introduction, the dating is circa 96 A.D. and coincides with the worst of Rome's dominance and command for emperor worship. Such is the subject matter throughout this volume. Therefore, in order to afford the brethren hope and encouragement to face the trials confronting them now and IN THE NEAR FUTURE, this letter is quite applicable.
Verse two helps us confirm the identity of the author. Compare this with John's words regarding his writings of the life of Christ (John 20 and 21, closing verses) and 1 John 1.
Verse three grants the first promise of this letter: BLESSED IS HE THAT READETH, AND THEY THAT HEAR THE WORDS OF THIS PROPHESY AND KEEP THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN THEREIN: FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND. Both reader and hearer benefit equally from these contents. This permits the student a better appreciation for "he that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit sayeth to the churches."
The letter entire has its address to the church of Asia. In part, if not the whole, the reason has to do with the central focus of conflict against the Lord's servants. This would be Asia. Jerusalem had separated and gone into all the world preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Some sixty-three years after its beginning with man the church is facing its harshest conflicts worldwide instead of localized as generally seen in the other epistles. While the promise of such onslaught exists (ex. 2 Thess. 2) the book of Revelation focuses sharply on the cause and effects and the victory gained by the faithful. This promise comes with grace and peace from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come (certainly Jesus Christ) and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne (certainly indicating the completeness of service from all under his control! (Compare 1 Corinthians 15:24 - 28; Eph. 1:22 - 23; Col. 1:18)
The message is from Jesus Christ. The beginning word "and" is a continuation of His accreditation. Jesus is known as God (but never God the Father), and is prophesied as "the everlasting Father" (Isa. 9:6). It is a description of Him meaning "the beginning" descriptive of His involvement in creation and all its functions. Included in this glorious description is the fact, "and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father;" We are the rulers of our own bodies (the limitation of our kingdom) and the priest of our soul (the limitation of our control spiritually). Yet we are all subject to the KING OF KINGS and THE HIGH PRIEST -- Jesus Christ being the identity of both!
Inasmuch as this is a book of VICTORY, it should not be a strange thing for us to see the notice of His glorious return and how it shall appear. "He cometh with clouds" is the same as Acts 1 when the angel told this to the apostles. "Every eye shall see Him, they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him" agrees completely with Paul's account at Philippians 2:5 - 12.
He identifies Himself as Alpha and Omega which simply means "the beginning and the end." He is, he was, and He will return -- He is the Almighty!
John, our spiritual brother and companion in tribulation, and a part of the kingdom (church) and patience (endurance) of Jesus Christ was in the isle called Patmos, because of his preaching Christ and Him crucified. Only the place of confinement has changed. He had frequently suffered imprisonment for such sound preaching and living for the word of God. "In the Spirit on the Lord's Day" means only his inspiration thrived on this day. He had been one of the very first to investigate the empty tomb on "the Lord's Day" and obviously held this occasion sacred for obvious reasons! He heard the voice identifying the "Dictator" of this message -- Jesus Christ. Again, the IMMEDIATE RECIPIENTS OF THE LETTER are listed. We need to go no farther to understand the "things which much shortly come to pass: these are the churches of Christ which would be IMMEDIATELY affected and therefore need this encouragement. The incidents of these happenings can, have, and will reoccur.
Turning to see the voice, John sees seven golden lampstands (holders of the light), and in their midst, one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a long robe, and adorned with a golden girdle. His head and hairs were white (indication of wisdom) and his eyes as a flame of fire (penetrating and emphatic.) His feet were like fine brass burned in a furnace (tempered to endure much work) and his voice as the sound of many waters (thunderous and uncompromising). In his right hand were seven stars (lights, but a complete number of them) and from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword (see Heb. 4:12). His countenance was as the sun shining in its brightness (compare Matt. 17:1 - 5). Obviously, this is a figure of Jesus.
When John saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. The sight humbled John greatly and filled him with awe. He did as John had seen several years before, "He laid his right hand upon me and said, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that lives and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore." Having the keys of hell and death means Jesus controls the power even of body and soul (Matt. 10:28). Therefore, the importance is to heed the contents of this book, else the body and the soul would suffer the consequences!
John was to write these things he has seen, the things he presently sees, and the things which he will see. Then he receives the unquestioned meaning of the seven stars in the right hand and the seven lampstands: they are the angels (messengers) of the seven churches (named earlier) and the churches themselves.