A. Summary of Revelation
- An Introduction to the Book of Revelation
- John’s Introduction and Greeting to the Seven Churches (Rev 1:1-8)
B. Text of Revelation 1:9-20
9I, John—your brother and partner in oppression, royal reign, and expectation of Jesus—was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and testimony of Jesus. 10I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day and I heard a great noise behind me like a trumpet sound 11saying: “Write into a book what you see. Then, send it to the seven churches. Send it to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” 12I turned to see the voice which was speaking to me, and when I turned I saw seven gold lampstands. 13In the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man clothed in a robe, wearing a gold belt around his chest. 14His head and hair were white like wool and snow. His eyes were like flames of fire. 15His feet were like fine bronze as if they had been refined in a furnace. His voice was like the sound of lots of water. 16He was holding seven stars in his right hand, a sharp double-edged sword was coming out of his mouth, and his outward appearance was shining like the sun in his glory. 17When I saw him I fell at his feet like I was dead, but he put his right hand on me saying, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One. I was dead—but look—now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys of death and Hades! 19Then, write what you have seen, both what is happening and what is about to happen after this. 20This is the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Rev 1:9-20)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own[/ref]
Bamberg Apocalypse: “The Son of Man and the Seven Lampstands” (1000 AD)
II. A VOICE TELLS JOHN TO WRITE REVELATION (1:9-11)
A. The Identity and Location of John (v. 9)
“I, John—your brother and partner in oppression, royal reign, and expectation of Jesus—was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” ( Rev 1:9)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own[/ref]
John claiming to be exiled to Patmos matches what we know about first century life. Additionally, the islands of Pontia, Gyara, and Seriphus were places that people were exiled to (Charles, Revelation of St. John, 21). Furthermore, the island of Patmos was one of three populated islands (Leros, Lipsos, and Patmos). In other words, Patmos was not a “Gilligan’s Island” type of deal. It had people, a culture, and a ruler.
LEADERSHIP MOMENT – Punishment for Godliness
As an apostle in the early church John was a key leader helping to spread the Gospel message in Asian Minor (modern day turkey). However, during the reign of Domitian John was “punished” for spreading the good news about Jesus Christ. His punishment was banishment to the island of Patmos. The island of Patmos was not an “alacatraz” type of island. It was a well populated island that was inhabited by hundreds (if not thousands) of people. The Emperor of Rome, Domitian, banished John to Patmos in order to prevent him further spreading the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. In our lives, we too might experience punishment because of the work we do for God. Maybe our Christian values and integrity will cause a boss to punish us because we don’t “cook the books” as he wants. Whatever might happen it is important that we maintain Godliness and do what we can to live out our faith even if it means punishment from someone with authority above us.
B. Worship and a Loud Voice (v. 10)
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and I heard a great noise behind me like a trumpet sound.” (Rev 1:10)
1. The Day of the Lord or The Lord’s Day?
This was simply the first day of the week—Sunday—the Lord’s day. Some commentators take an alternative view and believe that John was “in the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day which equals the “Day of the Lord.” In other words, John was empowered by the Holy Spirit to see a prophetic vision beyond the church age to the “day of the Lord” (Lahaye, Revelation Unveiled, 34).
2. It was “like”
The adjective “like” is a translation from the Greek word, ὡς. In his commentary Charles calls this Greek particle the most difficult particle in John’s vocabulary. The word gets used approximately 70 times in the book of Revelation.
3. Who Made the Noise?
Most commentators say that this noise behind John is the Son of Man—Jesus (Charles, Revelation of St. John, 24; Osborne, Revelation, 84). However, some say it is simply the voice of an angel.
C. The Commission to Write to the Seven Churches (v. 11)
“saying: ‘Write into a book what you see. Then, send it to the seven churches. Send it to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.’” (Rev 1:11)
1. The Location of the Seven Churches
These churches were seven postal districts in Asia Minor. Each city was thirty to forty-five miles away from each other in a circle (Charles, Revelation of St. John, 24-25).
2. Four Applications of the Seven Churches
Throughout the years several different interpretations and applications for these seven churches have been proposed. Here are four of the most popular.
- Seven Literal Churches: These were seven churches in Asia Minor where John had spent time ministering.
- Seven Divisions of Church History: Some have advocated that these seven churches serve as a prophesy for the seven divisions of church history. Ephesus describes the apostolic church (A.D. 30-100). Smyrna predicts the persecuted church (A.D. 100-313). Pergamos predicts the state church (A.D. 313-590). Thyatira predicts the papal church (A.D. 590-1517). Sardis predicts the reformed church (A.D. 1517-1790). Philadelphia predicts the missionary church (A.D. 1730-1900). Laodicea describes the apostate church (A.D. 1900-). (The seven churches as seven divisions of church history was originally found in Lahaye, Revelation Unveiled, 36 but is based on Gary Cohen’s work, Understanding Revelation [Chicago: Moody, 1978], 53-54).
- Seven Types of Churches that Exist Today: This view sees the struggles that churches dealt with in the first century as continuing until now.
- The Seven Characteristics that Can Exist in Any Church: In this view there is a practical application of the message to these churches to resist evil in the world.
While I differ with Robert Mulholland on many of his interpretations of the book of Revelation, I do believe he is right on target saying: “How are we to understand the identity of the seven churches? The primary understanding, of course, must be the seven historical churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor in John’s day. The historical grounding in the culture of their Roman cities is basic for our understanding of the messages they received from Jesus. At another level, however, each letter to an individual church is to be heard by all the churches (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). In some sense, therefore, the letters are to all the churches (Mulholland, Revelation , 434).
III. A DESCRIPTION OF THE VOICE (1:12-16)
A. Seven Gold Lampstands (v. 12)
“I turned to see the voice which was speaking to me, and when I turned I saw seven gold lampstands.” (Rev 1:12)
1. Lampstands in the Old Testament
Is there any connection of lampstands to the Old Testament? Lampstands are mentioned in Exod 25:31-40 where Moses is told to make a lampstand of pure gold. In 1 Kings 7:48-49 King Solomon put ten lampstands in the Holy Place of the temple. In Zechariah there is a vision of a bowl with seven lamps (Zech 4:2) in which the seven lamps represent the eyes of the Lord (Zech 4:10). This last reference in Zechariah is probably the most likely connection to the seven lampstands described in Revelation 1-3.
2. The Identity of the Seven Lampstands
Thankfully, Rev 1:20 tells us that the seven gold lampstands are the seven churches.
3. Lampstands as a Picture of the Church
The church is meant to be a light for the world (Matt 5:14) just as the nation of Israel was meant to be a holy and unique nation (Exod 19:3-9). Osborne writes, “the churches are depicted as shining lights for God in the midst of a hostile world” (Osborne, Revelation, 87).
A lampstand gives light, yet it does not create it. It simply magnifies the light from the oil or electricity that is burning. In our context, Christ is the oil and electricity and the church is meant to magnify that light.
B. The Son of Man in the Middle of the Lampstands (v. 13a)
“In the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man.” (Rev 1:13a)
1. The Son of Man in Daniel
Most conservative scholars agree that the “Son of Man” described in Daniel 7:13 refers to Jesus, “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence” (Dan 7:13, NLT).
2. The Son of Man in the Gospels
Jesus’s description of himself as the “Son of Man” appears to have been his favorite way to describe himself while on earth. He used the term seventy-nine times (Matt 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:17; 12:8, 32, 40; 13:37, 41; 16:13, 27, 28; 17:9, 12, 22; Mark 2:10, 28; 8:31, 38, 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33, 45; 13:26; 13:34; 14:21, 41, 62; 15:39; Luke 5:24; 6:5, 22, 7:34; 9:22, 26, 44, 58, 11:30; 12:8, 10, 40; 17:22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30; 18:8, 31; 19:9, 10; 21:27, 36; 22:22, 48, 69; 24:7; John 1:47, 51; 3:13, 14; 4:51; 5:27; 6:27, 53, 62; 7:23; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23, 34; 13:31).
3. The Identity of the Son of Man
When examining the “son of man” throughout Scripture there are two main views about who he is:
- Jesus (Mulholland, Revelation , 428; Walvoord, Revelation, 45-46; Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 97-98; Osborne, Revelation, 88).
- An angel (Charles, Revelation of St. John, 27-28).
My view is that this is Jesus.
C. The Description of the Son of Man (vv. 13b-16)
1. A Long Robe (v. 13b)
“clothed in a robe” (Rev 1:13b)
M. Robert Mulholland (Revelation, , 428) provides some great Old Testament references for Jesus’s description here. The term that John uses for “robe” is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (known as the Septuagint or LXX) almost exclusively for the garment of the high priest (Exod 25:7; 28:4, 31; 29:5; 35:9; Zech 3:4). An exception to this term is the man dressed in linen in Ezek 9:2-3, 11.
2. Gold Sash/Belt around His Chest (13c)
“wearing a gold belt around his chest” (Rev 1:13c)
The gold sash symbolizes authority and strength in the ancient world. While the term for “sash” or “girdle” is slightly more common in its use in the Old Testament, it is also used to describe the sash of high priests (Exod 28:4, 39-40; 29:9; 39:29 [36:36 in LXX]) (Mulholland, Revelation , 428). Daniel sees a man wearing pure gold around his waist (Dan 10:6). Daniel sees a man wearing pure gold around his waist (Dan 10:6).
3. White Hair Like Wool (v. 14a)
“His head and hair were white like wool and snow.” (Rev 1:14a)
Jesus’s white hair symbolizes his eternality (Dan 7:9, 13, 22).
4. Eyes Like Flames of Fire (v. 14b)
“His eyes were like flames of fire” (Rev 1:14b)
Jesus is described in the same way later in the book: “His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself” (Rev 19:12, NLT). Jesus’s eyes symbolize him seeing everything (Heb 4:12).
5. Feet Like Polished Bronze (v. 15a)
“His feet were like fine bronze as if they had been refined in a furnace.” ( Rev 1:15a)
Christ’s feet being “fine bronze” that had been refired in a furnace show that he is sure footed. He is firm in in stance as savior of the world. The book of Ezekiel sheds light on this:
- “As I looked, I saw a great storm coming from the north, driving before it a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone with brilliant light. There was fire inside the cloud, and in the middle of the fire glowed something like gleaming amber.” (Ezekiel 1:4, NLT)
- “From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor.” (Ezekiel 1:27, NLT)
- “I saw a figure that appeared to be a man. From what appeared to be his waist down, he looked like a burning flame. From the waist up he looked like gleaming amber.” (Ezekiel 8:2, NLT)
6. Voice that Thundered Like Mighty Ocean Waves (v. 15b)
“His voice was like the sound of lots of water.” (Rev 1:15b)
This voice of the Son of Man is the same as the voice of God that is described in Ezek 43:2; Dan 10:6; Rev 14:2; 19:6. Warren Wiersbe believes this voice that sounds like lots of water could have two meanings. (1) Christ gathers “all the streams of revelation” and the Father’s “last word” to man (Heb 1:1-3) or (2) Christ speaks with power and authority and must be heard (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 [Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996], 569).
7. Seven Stars in His Right Hand (v. 16a)
“He was holding seven stars in his right hand.” (Rev 1:16a)
When taking my first Hebrew language course in seminary I remember learning the word יד, which means “hand, power.” In the Old Testament, the right hand “denotes the action or the fulfillment of the purpose of the person whose hand it is (Exod 15:6, 12; Judg 5:25; Job 40:14; Pss 16:8, 11; 20:6; 60:5; 77:10; 118:15-16; 138:7; Isa 45:1)” (Mulholland, Revelation , 428). Likewise, this usage continues into the New Testament (Matt 5:30; Acts 3:7) with Jesus at the right hand of God (Matt 26:64; Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:13). These descriptions serve as an indication that Jesus is the one acting on behalf of God in the world; therefore Christ is in complete control (Mulholland, Revelation , 428).
8. Sharp Two-Edged Sword from His Mouth (v. 16b)
“a sharp double-edged sword was coming out of his mouth” (Rev 1:16b)
Within the book of Revelation the picture of a sharp double-edged sword is only used to describe Jesus (1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21).
This is perhaps an allusion to Isa 11:4; 49:2. and is also described in the New Testament: “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Heb 4:12, NLT).
9. Face Like the Sun (v. 16c)
“and his outward appearance was shining like the sun in his glory” (Rev 1:16c).
IV. THE VOICE IS JESUS CHRIST (1:17-20)
A. John’s Response to Jesus (v. 17a)
“When I saw him I fell at his feet like I was dead.” (Rev 1:17a)
This shows how amazed and taken aback John was because of what saw. As a result, Jesus responds to John in 1:17b in a way that was common in the Bible when people saw amazing visions.
B. Jesus’s Response to John (vv. 17b-20)
1. Jesus Is the First and the Last (v. 17b)
“But he put his right hand on me saying, ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.’” (Rev 1:17b)
- You Should Be Scared, but Don’t. In bizarre visions the heavenly being appearing to a human often says, “Do not be afraid” as a way to calm the person seeing such a unique vision. Other examples are Luke 1:30; 2:10; 8:50; John 6:20; Acts 18:9; 27:24.
- “I Am.” This phrase, “I am,” is featured five times in Revelation (1:8, 17; 2:23; 21:6; 22:16). This phrase is said exclusively by God and Jesus and is an allusion to the Old Testament formula for “I am He” or “I am that I am” in Exod 3:14.
- The First and the Last Is Jesus. The phrase, “I am the First and the Last” makes the identity of this person clear because this phrase is always used as a designation for Christ (Rev 2:8; 22:13), which is derived from Isa 41:4; 44:6; 48:12.
2. Jesus Is the Living One (18)
“I am the Living One. I was dead—but look—now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys of death and Hades!” (Rev 1:18)
There are two options for this phrase, “the keys of death and Hades.”
- As an objective genitive, it would describe the keys that lock or unlock death and Hades, thus “the keys to death and Hades.” According to Aune, if this is an objective genitive death and Hades must be understood “spatially” as in Rev 20:13 (Aune, Revelation 1-5, 103).
- As a possessive genitive they are keys held by death and Hades, that is “the keys belonging to death and Hades.” According to Aune, if this is genitive understood as a possessive then death and Hades must be understood as personifications as in Rev 6:8 (Aune, Revelation 1-5, 103).
Preference is given to the objective genitive because death is never described in ancient texts to possess keys. Furthermore, very few ancient texts attribute keys to Hades (Aune, Revelation 1-5, 103). These keys were purchased by Jesus with his own blood (Heb 2:14-15).
3. Jesus’s Outline for the Book of Revelation (v. 19)
“Then, write what you have seen, both what is happening and what is about to happen after this.” (Rev 1:19)
The first verb, γράψον, is an imperative and likely focuses as a “command” (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 485-486). As an aorist imperative this focuses on the action as a whole but not necessarily focusing on its duration, repetition, etc.
The infinitive, γενέσθαι, is likely a complementary (supplementary) infinitive. This is a “helper” verb that completes the thought (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 598-599).
Wallace takes ταῦτα as a regular use demonstrative pronoun used to describe “proximity” (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 325-327)
a) Common Views on This Verse
- Three Time Frames. Some commentators take this verse with three distinct sections. Each of these sections labels a section in the book of Revelation. This view sees γράψον οὖν ἃ εἶδες / “write the things you have seen” as chapter one, καὶ ἃ εἰσὶν / “and the things which are happening” as chapters two through three, and καὶ ἃ μέλλει γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα / “what is about to happen after this” as chapters four through twenty-two. Some people who take this view are H. A. Ironside, Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 32; Charles, Revelation of St. John, 33; Osborne, Revelation, 97; Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 115; Chafer, Must We Dismiss the Millennium?, 1)
- Two Time Frames. Some commentators take this verse with only two distinct sections. In this view scholars see the εἶδες / “what you have seen” as encompassing both what now exists and what was about to exist in the future. This view is held by Metzger, Breaking the Code, 28; Mulholland, Revelation (1990), 88-89.
- Rejection of the Outline. Meanwhile, some commentators clearly reject this verse as an outline of the book (Aune, Revelation 1-5, 105). According to these commentators this verse “reveals nothing of the structure of the extensive section in chaps. 4-22, it does not appreciate the fact that some of the ensuing visions in chaps. 4-22 deal with the past (e.g., Rev 12)” (Aune, Revelation 1-5, 105). Aune believes that this verse was a modification by John (Aune, Revelation 1-5, 105).
b) Other Translations
- 1901 ASV | Re 1:19 Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter;
- AV 1873 | Re 1:19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
- D-R | Re 1:19 Write therefore the things which thou hast seen: and which are: and which must be done hereafter.
- ESV | Re 1:19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
- GNB | Re 1:19 Write, then, the things you see, both the things that are now and the things that will happen afterwards.
- HCSB | Re 1:19 Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.
- KJV 1900 | Re 1:19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
- LEB | Re 1:19 Therefore, write the things which you saw, and the things which are, and the things which are about to take place after these things.
- The Message | Re 1:19 Now write down everything you see: things that are, things about to be.
- NET | Re 1:19 Therefore write what you saw, what is, and what will be after these things.
- NASB95 | Re 1:19 “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.
- NCV | Re 1:19 So write the things you see, what is now and what will happen later.
- NIV | Re 1:19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.
- NKJV | Re 1:19 Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.
- NLT | Re 1:19 “Write down what you have seen—both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen.
- NRSV | Re 1:19 Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this.
- RSV | Re 1:19 Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter.
- YLT | Re 1:19 ‘Write the things that thou hast seen, and the things that are, and the things that are about to come after these things;
c) Other Outlines for the Book of Revelation
(1) Fourfold Structure Based on “In the Spirit” Experiences
I. In the Spirit on the Island of Patmos (1:9-10)
II. In the Spirit in Heaven (4:1-2)
III. In the Spirit in a Desert (17:3)
IV. In the Spirit on a Mountain (21:10)
(2) Chiastic Structure
A Prologue and Greeting (1:1-8)
B Seven Churches (1:4-4:2)
C Seven Seals (3:21-8:5)
D Seven Trumpets-Angels-Two Witnesses (8:2-11:19)
E Woman, Dragon, Child (12:1-17)
D` Two Beasts-Angels-Seven Bowls (13:1-16:21)
C` Destruction of Babylon (16:18-19:10)
B` New Jerusalem, the Bride (19:6-22:9)
A` Closing and Epilogue (22:6-21)
(3) Sevenfold Drama Structure
Act 1 The Seven Gold Lampstands (1:9-3:22)
Act 2 The Seven Seals (4:1-8:4)
Act 3 The Seven Trumpets (8:5-11:18)
Act 4 The Seven Tableaux (11:19-15:4)
Act 5 The Seven Bowls of Wrath (15:5-16:21)
Act 6 The Seven Judgments (17:1-20:3)
Act 7 The Seven Great Promises (20:4-22:5)
Epilogue (22:6-21) (These three outlines have been based on Mark Wilson, Charts on the Book of Revelation, 31).
4. The Mystery of the Seven Stars and Seven Lampstands (v. 20).
“This is the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Rev 1:20)
a) Divine Interpretation
At certain points in the book John is given a divine interpretation of what he sees and hears. The careful Bible student will pay close attention to these divine interpretations as they should be the main key used to interpret the book. Other examples of this are Rev 7:13-14; 14:4-5; 17:7-18; 19:8; 21:9-14; 22:6.
b) Angels or Human Messengers?
Debates often occur about the identity of the “messengers” or “angels” that are described here and then mentioned as overseers of the seven churches (2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14).
The most likely view (which I hold) is that these are angels. Specifically, they are guardian angels of the seven churches. I believe support for this view is strongest, as follows.
- First, the idea of angels having geographical or personal responsibility is not a new idea. In the Old Testament angels were given authority and responsibility over regions of people (Deut 32:8; Dan 10:13, 20, 21; 11:1; 12:1). Additionally, the New Testament teaches that believers have guardian angels (Matt 28:10; Acts 12:15).
- Second, angels are described as “stars” two other times in the Bible (Job 38:7; Isa 14:12).
- Third, the Greek word, αγγελος occurs seventy-nine times in the Book of Revelation. All other times this word is translated as “angel.”
(2) Human Messengers
One view sees these as human beings that serve as messengers who either carry the actual letter or who serve in some level of authority over the church in the area. There is some support for this view.
- First, the Greek word, αγγελος, can be used in the New Testament to refer to human messengers (Luke 7:24; James 2:25).
- Second, the messages to the seven churches in Rev 2-3 seems to include the angels as recipients. Therefore, the angels are seen as guilty of the same sins as the churches. (Yet, angels do not sin.)
- Third, human messengers continue the chain of transmission that was given from God, to Jesus, to an angel, then to John, and for the seven churches. If John is writing to seven angels, then he is communicating back up the chain of command, which seems perplexing.
V. CONCLUSION & APPLICATION
A. Believers Illuminate Light
Earlier in the lesson I explained the symbolism of the “lampstands” and how Jesus reveals the churches as lampstands (1:12, 20). In the same way that those lampstands were supposed to shed light into a dark world, I believe that we too—as believers—are to shed light into our dark world.
B. Angels Watch Over and Care for Us
In this lesson we saw how the Old Testament taught that angels have geographical areas that they are responsible for. Furthermore, we were reminded that the New Testament teaches that believers have guardian angels. Admist a broken and fallen world where bad things happen, we can take comfort in the idea that angels watch over and care for us.