It has been over a year since I posted anything from my study of Revelation, but here is the next installment in that series that began in October, 2008 with a series on the Messages to the Seven Churches found in chapters 2 & 3. After I finished that study I just continued on with studies in chapters 4 & 5 and then I decided that I needed to go back and pick up chapter 1 before going any further, but I never did the final post in chapter one, so here is that post, and a list of all of the other posts in the series so far for those of you who may have missed some or want to go back and re-read any of them:
From here I will jump to chapter 6 and then continue the series from there.
So after almost 16 months here is Revelation Chapter 1, Part 3 - John's Vision of Jesus
John’s Vision of Jesus (Verses 9-20)
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 trumpetRevelation 1:9-10
This section begins with John reminding us that he has undergone persecution along with his readers. During this time in history Christians were a hated group, and they were widely persecuted by the Roman government. John was himself, at the time he was writing this, a prisoner on the island of Patmos, a 4 x 8 mile island off the coast of modern Turkey. Earl F. Palmer tells us:
Scholars of the first-century period have found evidences that the Roman government maintained rock quarries on Patmos to which prisoners and banished troublemakers were sent to live out their lives. 1
John was viewed as a troublemaker by the authorities and was exiled to this rocky island. But he tells us that the reason for his banishment was “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” He was not being persecuted because of disobedience; he was being persecuted because he was being faithful to God. This should be a lesson to all of us – as a Christian if you are not being persecuted you need to see where in your life you are compromising. Jesus tells us that the world will hate us (Matthew 10:22) and Paul adds that:
In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.2 Timothy 3:12 (HCSB)
The phrase that John uses here, “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” shows us that these two things are linked; the word of God is the testimony of Jesus Christ. John’s only crime was his faithfulness to the word of God. John MacArthur adds:
John suffered exile for his faithful, unequivocal, uncompromising preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.2
Next, John tells us that he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” I want to take a few minutes here to look at each of these separately as there has been a disagreement as to the meaning of each of these.
First John said that he was “in the Spirit.” Many today have taken this to mean that John was slain in the Spirit, a practice that is common in some denominations. But please note that every time John used this phrase in the book of Revelation he is taken somewhere by the Spirit of God and shown a vision (Rev 4:2, 17:3, 21:10). We can also see this same thing in the visions of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:2, 3:12, 14). John was fully conscious during these visions and was communicating with Jesus and/or His angel while witnessing them.
Second, he uses the phrase “on the Lord’s day.” This phrase has been translated by many to mean Sunday, the first day of the week, and by others to mean the “Day of the Lord”, the day that God pours out His wrath on the world. On the one hand, there is no indication in the New Testament of the early Christians ever calling Sunday the Lord’s day, and on the other hand the Greek phrase for the Day of the Lord is quite different than the phrase that John uses here. I personally believe that John was referring to the Day of the Lord and not Sunday, as I will show as we move through the rest of the book, but I am not dogmatic on this point.
Now John tells us what he saw and what he heard; he says “I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, ‘Write in a book what you see, 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.’” So John is on the island of Patmos, and while he is in the Spirit he hears a voice behind him, and the voice is loud, like the sound of a trumpet. John tells us further on in the chapter that this voice he heard was the voice of Jesus, but all he tells us here is that is was a voice like the sound of a trumpet.
There is significance to a trumpet in the Bible; it is often associated with the presence of God, and this is no exception. We see the first mention of a trumpet in Exodus where it is connected with the giving of the law. The Israelites were instructed:
“When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”Exodus 19:13
Then we see in chapter 20
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far offExodus 20:18
As we can see from these verses, the sound of the trumpet is connected to the appearance of God.
The Prophet Joel connects the trumpet with the Day of the Lord:
Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,Joel 2:1
The prophet Zechariah connects the trumpet with the coming of the Lord:
Then the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord God will sound the trumpet and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south.Zechariah 9:14
As does Paul:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.1 Corinthians 15:51-52
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.1 Thessalonians 4:14
So, John hears a loud voice, a voice like the sound of a trumpet, and the voice said, “Write in a book what you see, 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.” This is the first of twelve times in the book of Revelation that John is instructed to write what he sees. Here he is told to write in a book, or scroll, what he sees and to send it to seven specific churches. We will look at each of these churches individually when we get to chapters two and three, so we will not take the time to do that here. Just take note that these were specific instructions and that this was to be circulated to specific locations.
Next John tells us what he saw:
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 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. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 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.Revelation 1:12-16
John turned to see the voice that as speaking to him, and he saw the Risen Christ. John tells us that he saw seven golden lampstands and in the middle of the lampstand he saw one like the son of man. Here we see the first symbolism in the book – the seven golden lampstands. If we keep reading we will find out in verse 20 that these lampstands represent the seven churches that John has been instructed to write to. Here we see the key to understanding the book of Revelation; when symbols are used we need to check the passage for an explanation of that symbol. Quit often we will discover the explanation right in the text; other times we will need to look throughout the rest of the Bible to see where else it may have been mentioned, but we should not interject meaning for the symbolism that is not consistent with the use of that word or picture throughout the rest of Scripture.
John tells us that as he turned he saw seven golden lampstands, and he saw “one like the son of man” in the middle of them. The phrase “son of man” is a phrase that we first encounter in the vision of Daniel:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him."Daniel 7:13
This is a title that the Lord Jesus used most often of Himself (81 times in the gospels), and as we will see as we move through this vision that is exactly who John is encountering here, the Risen and Glorified Lord Jesus Christ. We will look at the similarities between this vision of John and the vision of Daniel chapter seven as we move through these verses.
The first thing John tells us in this description of what he saw is that the He was wearing a robe that reached to His feet and that there was a golden sash across His chest. This represents the priestly garments worn by the high priest in the Old Testament. John MacArthur says:
Most occurrences of this word [garment, the Greek word podé̄rēs in the Septuagint refer to the garment of the High-Priest. The golden sash across His chest completes the picture of Christ serving in His priestly role.3
Dr Zodhiates says that this word used of “a long robe worn by people of rank as a mark of distinction.”4 This is a common description of God; notice what Isaiah said when he had a vision of God:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.Isaiah 6:1
In ancient times the length of a persons robe indicated their rank, and is Isaiah’s vision he saw God sitting on a throne and His robe filled the temple. Here is John’s vision he sees Christ wearing a robe that reached to His feet. This robe could also signify Jesus’ role as the judge of the world, or in this case, of the church. William MacDonald says that the robe "was the long robe of a judge” and that the sash around His chest “symbolizes the righteousness and faithfulness with which He judges.”5 Isaiah tells us, speaking of the Messiah:
“Righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist”
John then tells us that His head and hair were white, like wool or snow, and that His eyes were like a flame of fire. The first description here, the white head and hair, is a direct reference to the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9 & 10:5, and in this passage John is ascribing to Jesus the same attributes of deity as God the Father. The Greek word that is translated here as white is the word leukós, which means bright, blazing or brilliant, and the use of this word depicts the eternality of Jesus as well as His holiness, His truthfulness, and His glory.
That His eyes were like a flame of fire speaks to His ability to judge with “perfect knowledge, infallible insight, and inescapable scrutiny.”6 This again is a direct reference to Daniels vision (Daniel 10:6) and again John is ascribing the attributes of deity to Jesus making Him equal with God the Father. Warren Wiersbe tells us that His eyes being flames of fire teach us that:
His eyes see all, and they judge what they see. In the midst of the churches, Christ sees what is going on, and He judges.7
Now moving into verse fifteen John tells us that His feet were like burnished bronze and His voice was like the sound of many waters. Bronze in the Bible always represents the judgment of sin. In the Tabernacle of the Old Testament the brazen (or bronze) alter was the place where sin was judged, and in the wilderness when the children of Israel rebelled against God and He sent the serpents to chasten them it was a bronze serpent that Moses was instructed to erect for their healing (Numbers 21:9). John MacArthur tells us:
Glowing hot, brass feet are a clear reference to divine judgment. Jesus Christ with feet of judgment is moving through His church to exercise His chastening authority upon sin.8
The voice like the sound of many waters tells us that when He speaks it is with authority. This description shows us the power of His words; Psalm 29 says:
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”Psalm 29:3-9
Verse sixteen tells us that in His right hand were seven stars, that out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and that His face shown like the sun. The seven stars will be explained in verse twenty, so we will look at them there. John tells us that coming out of the mouth of Jesus was a sharp two-edged sword. This is the picture of a broadsword that is sharp on both sides, and what this is telling us that Jesus will judge sin by the word of His mouth. Look at the description of the word of God given in the letter to the Hebrews:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.Hebrews 4:12-13
Notice that in these verses we are told that the word of God is living and active and that it is sharper than a two-edged sword; that it is able to discern the thoughts and the intentions of our heart; and that we are all naked and exposed before the eyes of God to whom we each must give account. This is the picture that John is painting here; when he saw Jesus in all of his glory he saw One that will judges, and he saw that the judgment comes from His mouth – the very word of God.
Lastly, John says that His face shown like the sun shining in all of its strength. This again is a picture of the glory of Jesus. Jesus in no longer a baby in Bethlehem, He is no longer the suffering servant; John now sees Him as the risen King of kings and Lord of lords, and He sees Him in all of His glory.
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, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 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.Revelation 1:17-20
Here in verse seventeen we see John’s response to seeing this vision of the glorified Christ; he fell at His feet as a dead man. This is the only response to anyone who has genuinely encountered the Risen Christ. When you see Him you will not stand, you will not carry on a conversation, you will not even hesitate. You will fall at His feet like a dead man. This is the common reaction throughout the Bible when someone has had a vision of God. Let’s look at a few of these:
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”Isaiah 6:5
Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.Ezekiel 1:28
Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple, and I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord. And I fell on my face.Ezekiel 44:4
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.Matthew 17:1, 2, 5, and 6
John MacArthur points out that this Biblical reaction to seeing God is:
In stark contrast to the silly, frivolous, false, and boastful claims of many in our own day who claim to have seen God.” He continues “the reaction of those in Scripture who genuinely saw God was inevitably one of fear. Those brought face-to-face with the blazing, holy glory of the Lord Jesus Christ are terrified, realizing their sinful unworthiness to be in His holy presence.9
This was the reaction of John here in Revelation 1:17. When he saw Jesus he fell at His feet as a dead man. But notice what happened next; John tells us that Jesus laid His hand on him and said, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”
It was Jesus who reached out to John to calm his fear. Jesus then tells John four things to comfort him: first he says that He is the first and the last. This is a reference to Isaiah 44:6, “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.” This speaks to the eternality of God and tells us that in Him we have nothing to fear because He was before all things and He will be after all things.
Second Jesus says that He is the living One; this is tied with the next title He uses where He reminds us that He was dead and is alive forevermore. This tells us that we need not fear death because the living One, who is alive forevermore, has defeated our greatest enemy – death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
And last He tells us that He holds in His hands the keys to death and Hades. John MacArthur says of this statement:
[These] terms are essentially synonymous, with death being the condition and Hades the place. Hades is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament term Sheol and refers to the place of the dead. Keys denote access and authority. Jesus Christ has the authority to decide who dies and who lives; He controls life and death. And John, like all the redeemed, had nothing to fear, since Christ had already delivered him from death and Hades by His own death.10
Now in the last two verses of this chapter Jesus gives instructions to John and explains some of the symbolism that he has just encountered. First Jesus repeats the command that He gave John in verse eleven and He tells him to write the things that he has seen, the things that are, and the things that shall take place after these things. This is the basic outline for the book of Revelation; the things that you have seen cover chapter one, the things that are covers chapters two and three, and the things that will take place after these things covers chapters four through twenty-two.
Robert Van Kampen tells us that we:
Must be careful at this point not to push the significance of this outline too far. The significance of the relationship of the church to Revelation 4-22 cannot be determined simply by recognizing the absence of the term church from these critical chapters. The absence of the term church from the Old Testament certainly does not mean that there is no applicable value for the church in the Old Testament.11
With that in mind here is another possible interpretation of the outline in verse nineteen.
More likely, Jesus is telling John to write not only the visions he will see but whatever explanations may accompany them so as to shed light on the future: “Write, therefore, the things you have seen, and what they are, and [consequently] the things that are going to take place after this.” As if to illustrate this, Jesus immediately provides just such an explanation of two details in John’s first vision: the seven stars in his right hand and the seven golden lampstands that first caught John’s eye when he turned around. 12
Either of these explanations makes sense and there is truth in both of them, so as we move through the rest of the book keep these two thoughts in mind and we will not have any trouble seeing what the Holy Spirit wants us to see.
Then in verse twenty Jesus explains the mystery of the lampstands and the stars that were in His hand. First He tells us that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. The word translated angels here is the Greek word ággelos, which can be interpreted as “A messenger, one who is sent in order to announce, teach, perform.” Or it can mean, “An angel, a celestial messenger, a being superior to man.”13 For this reason there is some disagreement among scholars as to whether this is referring to the actual angels, or to the pastors of these specific churches. Jesus then tells us that the seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches to whom John has been instructed to write. We saw these churches in verse eleven; they are: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Whatever is the correct interpretation of the word angels in this verse there are two things that we know for sure: first that Jesus is in the midst of His church and He is aware of what is going on there, and second that He is hold the messengers of His church in His hand.
As we move into chapters two and three we will look at the specific messages that Jesus has for each of these seven churches, and we will see that the vision that John has just had of Jesus are the very descriptions that Jesus uses for Himself as He confronts these churches with either praise or condemnation.
1 Palmer, E. F., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Vol. 35: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 35: 1, 2 & 3 John / Revelation. Formerly The Communicator's Commentary. The Preacher's Commentary series (115). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.
2 MacArthur, J. (1999). Revelation 1-11 (41). Chicago: Moody Press.
3 MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Re 1:13). Nashville: Word Pub.
4 Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.) (G4158). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
5 MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Re 1:13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
6 MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Re 1:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
7Wiersbe, W. W. (1997, c1992). Wiersbe's expository outlines on the New Testament (797). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
8 MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Re 1:15). Nashville: Word Pub.
9 MacArthur, J. (1999). Revelation 1-11 (50). Chicago: Moody Press.
10 MacArthur, J. (1999). Revelation 1-11 (51). Chicago: Moody Press.
11 Robert Van Kampen. Revelation Commentary Ch1 Pg8 (© www.revelationcommentry.org). Orlando Fl.: Sola Scriptura
12 Michaels, J. R. (1997). Vol. 20: Revelation. The IVP New Testament commentary series (Re 1:17). Downers Grove, Ill., USA: InterVarsity Press.
13 Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.) (G32). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.Print This Post