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3.1 - Revelation 1

3.1.1 - Revelation 1:1 Open Bible at Rev. 1:1 Listen to Rev. 1:1

Up to this point, we have spent considerable time discussing background information in order to better prepare the reader for the verse-by-verse exposition to follow. Having read the background material, the reader should now be equipped to understand the principles behind the method of our exposition and the liabilities we believe attend competing views.

Moving forward, we will place greater emphasis upon exposition than refuting alternate views, although we will continue to make mention of them at key places in the text.1

See the Introduction for a discussion of various background topics related to the book of Revelation.

The Revelation
The first word of this book, Ἀποκάλυψις [Apokalypsis] , should be kept in mind by the reader throughout the book. For it is God’s intention to reveal rather than conceal:

In the New Testament, apokalypsis always has the majestic sense of God’s unveiling of himself to his creatures, an unveiling that we call by its Latin name revelation. . . . It depicts the progressive and immediate unveiling of the otherwise unknown and unknowable God to his church throughout the ages.2

The clearness and lucidity (perspicuity) of the Scriptures is their consistent theme (Deu. 29:29; Pr. 13:13; Isa. 5:24; Isa. 45:19; Mat. 11:25; Mat. 24:15; Luke 10:21, 26; 24:25; 2Ti. 3:16; 2Pe. 1:19). Yet if Scripture is meant to be understood, why do we have such a difficult time understanding it, and especially this book? Our problem is not so much the difficulty of understanding, but our own idolatry and rebellion. We are unwilling to study to know God and to submit in obedience to that which may be known. We are more interested in other pursuits than in seeking God through His revealed words of life (John 6:63, 68). As is often the case where Scripture is concerned, our inability to understand is more a reflection of our lack of zeal than the difficulty which attends the interpretation of God’s Word. When the average person in our country spends multiple hours in front of a television set daily, but “just can’t find the time” to read God’s Word, the issue is not one of time management, but idolatry.

When we come to this last book of Scripture, our lack of preparation is evidenced all the more because what God intends as revelation, we see as mystery. Yet Paul holds that revelation is the antithesis of mystery (Rom. 16:25). This book is not intended to be a veiled document full of mysterious symbols, but an unveiling and clarification of things which have heretofore not been revealed by God.3 In order to grasp the meaning of this revelation, we need a foundation in the rest of Scriptures, and especially the Old Testament. (See The Importance of the Old Testament.)

There are several reasons why we believe that this book is not intended to be enigmatic. First, we believe that a chief purpose of God was the creation of language to communicate with man. If this is so, then the intellect of man and the clarity of language must be sufficient for this task:

If God is the originator of language and if the chief purpose of originating it was to convey His message to humanity, then it must follow that He, being all-wise and all-loving, originated sufficient language to convey all that was in His heart to tell mankind. Furthermore, it must also follow that He would use language and expect people to understand it in its literal, normal, and plain sense.4

Second, we have the pattern established by the rest of Scripture. “It is unthinkable to believe that God would speak with precision and clarity from Genesis to Jude, and then when it comes to the end abandon all precision and clarity.”5 It is not God’s intention to train us how to read and understand 65 books of the Bible and then “throw us a curve” in the 66th book by expecting that we adopt an entirely different approach. (See the discussion regarding The Art and Science of Interpretation.)

So it is our duty here to make sense of this book, based upon what related passages reveal concerning its central themes, while reading the text in the same way as the rest of Scripture.

of Jesus Christ
The central question surrounding this phrase is whether Jesus Christ is the source of the revelation (subjective genitive) or being described by the revelation (objective genitive).

Elsewhere, a very similar Greek phrase ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ [apokalypseōs Iēsou Christou] is used by Paul: “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12).6 It would seem that in Galatians the genitive Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ [Iēsou Christou] is subjective rather than objective, for Paul is discussing the source of his revelatory knowledge. It did not come through man, nor was it taught, but it came through the revelation of Jesus. Jesus was the source of Paul’s revelation, not man.

In favor of the objective genitive (Jesus as the object being revealed), is the oft-expressed longing of the NT writers for His appearing (1Cor. 1:7; 2Th. 1:7; 1Pe. 1:7). In these passages, the appearing of Jesus is referred to as the “revelation of Jesus Christ.” Apart from the glimpses provided within this book and elsewhere in the NT, the true character and glory of Christ is yet hidden. When He appears, His glory will no longer be veiled and all men everywhere will understand that He is God.7

If “context is king” in interpretation, then the next phrase would indicate we are to take this as the subjective genitive: “which God gave Him to show His servants.”8 The emphasis here is on Jesus Christ as the source of the revelation being given to John.

Wallace suggests the possibility that this is a plenary genitive indicating the revelation is both from Christ and about Christ.9 However, as Thomas has observed, such an understanding violates the basic interpretive principle that the original author had only one intended meaning.10

The context favors the subjective genitive (the revelation is from Jesus Christ), but we should be aware that throughout Scripture, Jesus is involved with revelation in at least three ways:
  1. He is the source of revelation (Gal. 1:12; 1Pe. 1:11; Rev. 1:1+).
  2. He is the object of revelation (Luke 24:44; 1Cor. 1:7; 2Th. 1:7; 1Pe. 1:7; Rev. 1:11-18+; 5:6-10+; 19:11-16+). “Many fail to see the centrality of Jesus Christ in this volume. . . . [Some] become preoccupied with the identification of events and persons other than our Lord. Many seem to be more interested in the Antichrist than in Jesus Christ.”11
  3. His incarnation is the revelation of God to man (Isa. 9:1-2; John 1:14, 18; 12:45; 14:8-9; Col. 1:15; 2:9; Heb. 1:2; 1Jn. 1:2).

Paul makes plain that the revelation he received was not the result of teaching he received from men. In other words, biblical revelation is not by human insight or instruction. It is the unveiling of that which was previously unknown and would forever remain unknown if God had not graciously granted us His self-disclosure. This is why the natural world can never be classified as the 67th book of the Bible, for the “revelation” it provides is not biblical revelation. It is subject to the finding out of man and the manner in which it is discerned is subject to the flawed interpretations and theories of fallen men. This alone tells us why Genesis takes precedence over the speculative investigation of prehistory by modern science. Scriptural revelation, the direct revelation of God, has no equal.

It is for these very reasons that biblical revelation is always initiated by God and never by man. It was the Lord who opened Hagar’s eyes so that she saw water nearby (Gen. 21:19). It was the Lord who revealed the Angel of the Lord blocking Balaam’s way (Num. 22:31). The Lord opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant so that he might see the angelic host (2K. 6:17). Moses would have remained a man unknown to history if the Lord had not made His ways known to him (Ps. 103:7). Peter’s declaration of Jesus as “the Christ” would not have occurred without the direct revelation of the Father (Mat. 16:17). The disciples on the road to Emmaus would not have understood Christ in the Scriptures apart from the initiative of God (Luke 24:45). This too is the foundation of prophecy—the revealing of that which is yet future and which no man could ever plumb (Isa. 48:5-8). Hence, it is the unique signature of God alone. This revelation of God is a key ministry of the Holy Spirit Whom Jesus said would “take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14).

Biblical revelation is not confined to the head, but spans the 18 inches of wilderness from the head to the heart. It results not in a cold apprehension of facts, but in a response of faith which births the soul into newness of life. It was the Lord Who opened Lydia’s heart “to heed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14) resulting in the first believer in Thyatira, destined to become the site of a thriving Church addressed directly by our Lord in this book (Rev. 2:18+). The mind of the unbeliever remains without revelation, blinded to the things of God. The veil over his mind is unresponsive to the efforts of man (John 1:13), but is “taken away in Christ” (2Cor. 3:14). No one can know the Father except those to whom “the Son wills to reveal Him (Luke 10:22).

Here we come away with a foundational theme of Scripture: man is wholly dependent upon God. Without God, man has no hope. It is only by God’s gracious revelation that light enters into our depraved darkness. John could write none of the Revelation if it were not for God’s initiative totally apart from John. This fact alone renders many of the discussions concerning “John’s motive for writing” null and void.

which God gave Him
Some have taken this as an indication that Jesus did not know the content of the Revelation which was provided by the Father. When Jesus came in the incarnation, He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Php. 2:7). Between His birth of the virgin Mary and His ascension to the Father, Jesus exhibited traits of His humanity. As a child, He grew in stature and wisdom (Luke 2:40, 52). He learned by the things that He suffered (Heb. 5:8), and when speaking to His disciples concerning His Second Coming, He admitted of limitations to His earthly knowledge: “But of that Day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” [emphasis added] (Mark 13:32).

Yet these characteristics of His humanity were recorded prior to His ascension and glorification (John 16:14; 17:5). It seems unlikely that Jesus, the very Source of “the Spirit of Christ” who “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that would follow” (1Pe. 1:11) and the Agent of what is revealed to John (Rev. 1:10+), would lack the information related in this book. It seems best to understand the revelation as a gift from the Father which recognizes the role distinctions within the Trinity (John 5:20; 1Cor. 15:28).

The members of the Trinity are co-equal, yet occupy different roles within the plan and purposes of God. Here, the Father gives revelation to the Son. To the unfamiliar reader, this might seem to imply an inferior position of Jesus in relation to the Father. Not so. Within the Trinity there is a beautiful harmony of perfect cooperation to affect God’s purpose. The submission of the Son to the Father is that of a perfect voluntary servanthood (Isa. 49:6; 50:10; 52:13; 53:11; Mat. 12:18; John 5:19). It is by this motivation that Jesus delivers His kingdom to God the Father (1Cor. 15:24-28). It was the love of Jesus both for mankind and to fulfill the will of the Father which caused him to make “Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Php. 2:7). This is to be the model of those who follow Him. We submit not because it is required, but out of obedience to His Word and a desire to follow His example.12

to show His servants
The Revelation is not just for John, nor just for the Seven Churches of Asia, but for all saints of all ages. “Here, then, in the Prologue are five links in the chain of authorship: God, Christ, his angel, his servant John, and those servants to whom John addressed his book [the seven churches and the saints of all ages].”13

The revelation is to be shown to His servants (literally, ‘slaves’). These are they who hear His voice (John 10:3, 16, 27; Acts 22:14; Heb. 3:7, 15; 4:7) and respond in faith. Those who lack faith in the Son are unable to comprehend what is shown here:

This is why unbelievers find the book of Revelation incomprehensible; it was not intended for them. It was given by the Father to the Son to show to those who willingly serve Him. Those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord cannot expect to comprehend this book. “A natural man,” explains Paul, “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1Cor. 2:14).14

For more on the spiritual conditions necessary for an understanding of this book and the Scriptures in general, see Hiding or Revealing?.

must
The things which God has prophesied are guaranteed to transpire (Dan. 2:29+, 45+; Mat. 24:6; 26:54; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9) for “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). The things which transpire here are not without Scriptural foundation and this is the very reason they must take place. See Related Passages and Themes.

shortly take place
Shortly is ἐν τάχει [en tachei] . Considerable discussion attends the meaning of this phrase. Three alternatives are before us:
  1. The phrase requires all of the events set forth in the book to have transpired within the lifetimes of John’s initial readers (the preterist interpretation).
  2. The phrase denotes events which may be in the distant future, but which transpire in rapid sequence once they begin.
  3. The phrase denotes closeness in time, but from God’s perspective.

The phrase ἐν τάχει [en tachei] (“shortly”) occurs in the following NT passages:

Of these uses, the majority favor an understanding of “closeness in time.” However, three of the passages utilize this phrase to describing events which are delayed for long time periods (Luke 18:8; Rom. 16:20; Rev. 22:6+). Even moderate preterists, who hold to a future bodily Second Coming of Christ, take the last passage as denoting a time period lasting at least 2,000 years:

Gentry cites Revelation 22:7-9+ as a reference to the yet future second coming. This creates a contradiction within Gentry’s brand of preterism. Since Revelation 22:6+ refers to the whole book of Revelation, it would be impossible to take tachos as a reference to A.D. 70 (as Gentry does) and at the same time hold that Revelation 22:7-9+ teaches the second coming.15

As Mills observes, it is impossible to restrict the sense of en tachei to the lifetime of John’s readers:16

The Greek noun translated ‘shortly’ is used only twice in Revelation, once in Rev. 1:1+ and again in 22:6+, thus effectively bracketing the whole book. The prophecies bracketed by these ‘shortlys’ include letters addressed to churches that existed two millennia ago (chapters 2-3), clear descriptions of Christ’s physical return to this earth (Rev. 1:7+; 19:19-27 [sic]), and a prediction of His reign on earth for one thousand years (Rev. 20:4+). Both uses of this word, then, must be understood as having the same sense and yet embrace, at the absolute minimum, a period of nearly three millennia. Therefore, only two interpretations present themselves: either, when the events start occurring they will proceed rapidly, or that the whole sweep of history is seen from a divine perspective in which one thousand years is as but a day (2Pe. 3:8). [emphasis added]17

The use of this same verb within the LXX also provides evidence for a long delay in fulfillment:

It is significant to note that the Septuagint uses tachos in passages which even by the most conservative estimations could not have fulfillments within hundreds or even thousands of years. For example, Isaiah 13:22 . . . was written around 700 B.C. and foretold the destruction of Babylon, which occurred at the earliest in 539 B.C. Similarly, Isaiah 5:26 speaks of the manner, not the time frame, by which the Assyrian invasion of Israel “will come with speed swiftly.”18

Since en tachei can span long periods of time, the question then becomes one of whether it denotes the manner in which events will transpire (rapidly) or the certainty and imminency attending the events?

It may be that the stress [in Rev. 22:20+] is on the certainty of the coming or on the immediacy of the coming. But one’s view does not hinge on the futuristic present, but on the adverb ταχύ [tachy] . The force of the sentence may then mean, “Whenever I come, I will come quickly,” in which case the stress is on the certainty of the coming (cf. Matt 28:8). Or, it may mean, “I am on my way and I intend to be there very soon.”19

Some understand the primary meaning of en tachei in this passage as denoting the manner in which the events transpire:

tachy does not mean soon but swiftly. It indicates rapidity of action, as is well seen in its accurate use in the medical compound tachycardia (tachy and kardia = the heart), which does not mean that the heart will beat soon, but that it is beating rapidly. Of course, the swift action may take place at the very same time, as in Mat. 28:7-8 . . .—G. H. Lang, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Selected Studies (Miami Springs, FL: Conley & Schoettle Publishing Co., 1945, 1985), 387-88.20

Not only is there a preponderance of lexical support for understanding the tachos family as including the notion of “quickly” or “suddenly,” there is also the further support that all the occurrences in Revelation are adverbs of manner. These terms are not descriptive of when the events will occur and our Lord will come, but rather, descriptive of the manner in which they will take place when they occur.21

Both futurists and nonfuturists . . . agree that the idea of tachos here has to do with swiftness of execution when the prophetic events begin to take place. . . . Both certainty and rapidity of action are involved here. Whatever seeming delay there is, action is certain and it will be swift.22

Although this meaning is possible, it does not seem to be the best understanding of the meaning here because, “To say that the relief will come ‘suddenly’ offers no encouragement, but to say that it will come ‘soon’ does.”23 It seems more likely that en tachei emphasizes the certainty and imminency of the events:24

The presence of en tachei in Rev. 1:1+ shows that for the first time the events predicted by Daniel and foreseen by Christ stood in readiness to be fulfilled. Therefore, John could speak of them as imminent, but earlier prophets could not.25

Either ‘tachus’ means that when the events occur they will be rapid, or the whole sweep of history is seen from a divine perspective where one thousand years is as but a day (2Pe. 3:8). The latter must be preferred as the former leaves unresolved the tension that part of Revelation relates to churches that existed two millennia ago. This understanding readily accepts as completely honest and trustworthy the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ; expressed in human terms, then, ‘tachus’ denotes imminence and not immediacy. The irony of this situation is that those scholars who take ‘tachus’ literally end up allegorizing the text, and those scholars who take the text literally end up seeking an unusual meaning for this word! The only satisfactory position I can see is therefore to regard ‘tachus’ as being used in a technical sense—a sense understood as being within the whole biblical framework of the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ.26

See Imminency.

signified it
Ἐσήμανεν [Esēmanen] . The same root word is used in John 12:33, σημαίνων [sēmainōn] , where Jesus describes His death on the cross by indicating He will be lifted up from the earth in the same way as Moses lifted up the serpent on a pole. Elsewhere, Agabus indicated by the Spirit that there was to be a worldwide famine (Acts 11:28). The appearance of this term does not justify a departure from the Golden Rule of Interpretation when interpreting symbols as some hold. It merely indicates a way of communicating which includes symbol or analogy. Although symbols occur, they reside within a textual framework which is subject to normative interpretation with due recognition of the meaning conveyed by the symbols. “This symbolism . . . in no way gives license for a departure from the normal grammatical-historical system of hermeneutics. To clarify this point Govett proposes that esemanen be translated ‘represent.’ The revelation given to John, symbolic though it be, is to be interpreted just as one would interpret the rest of the Bible.”27 “This term evidently meant a kind of communication that is neither plain statement nor an attempt at concealment. It is figurative, symbolic, or imaginative, and is intended to convey truth by picture rather than by definition.”28

The revelation has already been signified from the perspective of the reader: “John’s use of the aorist emartyresen, then, is best explained by his adoption of the perspective of his readers in regard to his composition of this book. When they received it, his testimony as recorded in its pages would be a thing of the past.”29

See Interpreting Symbols.

angel
An angelic host shows John the Revelation. One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues (Rev. 21:9+). This angel was specifically sent to show John the things which must shortly take place (Rev. 22:6+, 16+). Here, as elsewhere in Scripture, an angel serves as the intermediary by which revelation is given to man:

Angels were used for the revelation of the Law of Moses (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2). They were active in the presenting of the prophetic truth to Daniel (Dan. 7:16-27+; 8:16-26+; 9:20-27+; 10:1+-12:13+) and to Zechariah (Zec. 1:9; 2:3; 4:1, 5; 5:5; 6:4, 5). Angels were used to announce the birth of John to Zacharias (Luke 1:11-20) and the birth of Jesus to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and to Joseph (Mat. 1:20-21).30

Some suggest that the angel actively contributed to the train of visionary events which passed before John:

The office of the angel, as I take it, was, to form the connection between John’s senses or imagination and the things which he was to describe, making to pass in review before him what was only afterwards to take place in fact. How this was done, I cannot say: but as the devil could take Jesus to a high mountain and show him at one view “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,” I am sure that it falls sufficiently within the sphere of angelic natures thus to picture things to man; and that when commissioned of the Lord for the purpose, no good angel is wanting in ability to be the instrument in making John see whatever visions he describes in this book.31

This seems unlikely given that John was said to be “in the Spirit” (Rev. 1:10+)—the Holy Spirit is elsewhere the agent by which such visionary events are presented.

The phrase “And I saw. . .” occurs no less than forty times.32 This indicates John’s primary role as a scribe rather than an author.

3.1.2 - Revelation 1:2 Open Bible at Rev. 1:2 Listen to Rev. 1:2

bore witness
An epistolary aorist, referring to the perspective of the readers of this book once it had been completed.33

who bore witness to the word of God
The phrase word of God is a signature of the Apostle John and occurs in John 1:1; 1Jn. 1:1; 2:14; 5:7 TR; Rev. 1:2+; 19:13+. This is strong evidence that John the Apostle is indeed the author of this work, as tradition holds. There are many parallels between Jesus and God’s revealed word:

Among the parallels between Jesus and Scripture are 1) their eternality; 2) their production by the Holy Spirit; 3) a divine message embodied in earthly form; 4) the accommodation of man’s limited intellect; 5) perfect—without sin; 6) having unique divine authority; 7) rejected by man; 8) victorious over foes; 9) revealed by faith; 10) bearing witness one to another; 11) the sole means of revelation of the Father; 12) called the Word of God.34

In the same way that Jesus was fully human and yet without error (divine), the written word of God was given through human vessels who were superintended by the Holy Spirit so that the result is inerrant.

testimony of Jesus Christ
There are two ways which the testimony of Jesus Christ may be understood:

A survey of various passages concerning the testimony of Jesus Christ indicates that Jesus is both the subject and the object of testimony. Prophetic motivation is from Jesus: “the Spirit of Christ . . . testified” (1Pe. 1:11). It is also about Jesus: “indicating . . . beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1Pe. 1:11). The relationship of the saints to the testimony of Jesus concerns both aspects: (1) we receive the testimony provided by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ; (2) we are charged with delivering the testimony concerning Jesus to others. The ministry of the saints can be found entirely within the phrase: Knowing Him to make Him known. If either part of this “ministry equation” is neglected, our testimony suffers.36

3.1.3 - Revelation 1:3 Open Bible at Rev. 1:3 Listen to Rev. 1:3

Blessed is he
Luther’s comments underscore the need for a consistently literal interpretation of this book: “Even if it were a blessed thing to believe what is contained in it, no man knows what that is.”37 For if different interpretive views render wholly different meanings, then what blessing could be derived and how could the prophecy be kept? How can one keep what one is not sure one has in the first place?

One reason for such blessing is undoubtedly to be found in the close ties between this book and all the rest of Scripture: “The reason is easy to understand. Since so much of this book is based on the Old Testament, a proper study of it will require a study of the Old Testament, resulting in a more comprehensive knowledge of the Bible.”38 This is one of seven unique blessings found in Revelation for:
  1. He who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy (Rev. 1:3+).
  2. The dead who die in the Lord during part of the Tribulation (Rev. 14:13+).
  3. He who watches and keeps his garments (Rev. 16:15+).
  4. Those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9+).
  5. He who has part in the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6+).
  6. He who keeps the words of this prophecy (Rev. 22:7+).
  7. Those who do His commandments (Rev. 22:14+).

See commentary on Revelation 1:1 regarding the perspicuity of Scripture.

he who reads and those who hear
The phrase denotes a single reader who reads the letter out loud in the midst of a congregation of listeners. At the time the book was written, writing materials were expensive and scarce. Nor was there an inexpensive means for producing copies of a written document—tedious copying by hand being the means of replication. Generally, a Christian assembly might only have access to a single copy of a document so written works were often read so that their contents might be accessible to the wider assembly.39

the words
The message of God is not conveyed by some existential and personal encounter. Rather, it is conveyed by words. God has specifically chosen normative language as the mode for communicating what He wants us to know and keep. This is the basis for the Golden Rule of Interpretation discussed in the introduction.

Scripture makes plain that the Word of God is a detailed message conveyed by individual words, not mere concepts (Jos. 8:35; Jer. 26:2; Mat. 5:18; Luke 16:17; John 5:46; John 17:8; Acts 24:14; Rom. 3:2; Rom. 16:26; 1Cor. 14:37; Rev. 22:7+, 18-19+). Jesus Himself said that not one jot or one tittle will “pass from the law till all be fulfilled” (Mat. 5:18). A “jot” refers to the smallest Hebrew character: י, yod. A “tittle” is the fraction of a pen stroke which distinguishes similar Hebrew characters, for example the tiny overhang in the upper right which distinguishes a dalet ( ד ) from a resh ( ר ). This tiny pen stroke distinguishes words which appear almost identical, but with meanings as different as “to stand” ( אָמַד [ʾāmaḏ] ) and “to speak” ( אָמַר [ʾāmar] ).

It has become fashionable to promote the idea that Scripture conveys information primarily at the level of concepts rather than words. But one must appreciate that the building blocks for expressing thoughts are individual words. And without the precision of individual words, both in their meaning and preservation, the thoughts and intent of the original author cannot be reliably determined. This, in part, explains the emphasis of Scripture on the very words themselves as evidenced by the reliance of Jesus on grammatical subtleties in His arguments employing the Scriptures (Mat. 22:31, 42-45; John 10:35; Gal. 3:16).

The importance of the individual words of Scripture is also illustrated by the sober warning which attends those who would add or remove words from this prophecy given to John. This is the heart of the issue as to which translation is best suited for study. It is our view, and that of others knowledgeable on the subject, that the best translation is one which follows a policy of formal equivalence where the very meaning of the individual words is preserved as closely as possible. While it is an undeniable fact that all translations involve interpretation by the translators, some translations involve more interpretation than others. It is these translations, which employ thought-for-thought dynamic equivalence, which are to be avoided:

There is an Italian proverb which says, “Translators are traitors” (Traddutore, traditore; “Translators, traitors”), and it’s true. All translation loses meaning. All translators are traitors to the actual meaning. There is no such thing as a noninterpretive translation. . . . Are you going to translate words [formal equivalence] and be interpretive, or are you going to translate meaning [dynamic equivalence] and be more interpretive? [emphasis added]40

The concept is this: as a disciple of Jesus Christ, we want the minimum distance between the inspired inerrant text and our own understanding. A word-for-word (formal equivalence) translation tends to minimize the interpretive layer which separates us from the original. A thought-for-thought translation (dynamic equivalence) steps in to interpret things for us. What is particularly damaging about the latter is that ambiguity in the text—involving issues that we as students of the Word need to wrestle with and recognize involves ambiguity—is masked by the interpretive decisions of the thought-for-thought translators. In effect, they are performing both translation and interpretation. It is the latter which we seek to minimize:

Translators have to ask themselves, “What am I going to do with ambiguity?” If the Greek or Hebrew isn’t clear, when it can mean several different things, what am I going to do? The KJV, NASB, RSV, and ESV generally answer that question, “Leave it alone. If we can reproduce in English the same ambiguity that is present in the Greek, then we will leave it ambiguous. We will not make up the reader’s mind.” On the other hand, the NIV will not leave any ambiguity. They make up the reader’s mind whenever they feel it is necessary, and the NLT goes to even greater lengths than the NIV.41

One helpful rule of thumb on this matter is as follows: the only reliable translations for detailed study are those which include italicized words. These translations use formal equivalence as evidenced by the italicized words which signify phrases and conjunctions added by the translators for clarity of reading, but for which no corresponding words exist in the original language text. This also helps the careful student to know when he is standing on solid ground (words not in italics) or thin ice (italicized phrases).42

Now it is certainly true that every believer is a “translation” of God’s Word and not necessarily a word-for-word representation. God uses our testimony, even though imperfect, to witness of Christ and the Bible to others around us. This is as it should be. We need not always carry a Bible with us and read from it with precision for people to hear and respond in faith. Yet, when it comes to studying God’s Word where we have a choice of which written text to study and how close we adhere to the original, this is another matter entirely. We should always opt to stay as close to the Words of the Master as possible.

This is illustrated by the popular game where people sit in adjacent positions and a story is told by the person on one end of the row of chairs. Each person in line whispers the story to the next person in line. When the story reaches the opposite end of the line, it is retold to all. It is amazing to observe how the story has changed little-by-little as it goes along until significant differences have occurred between its source and its destination. The student of God’s Word ought to be concerned about how many chairs separate him from the Words of the Master. Some of those chairs might be unavoidable—perhaps the student is unable to learn the original languages of the Bible so he must depend upon a translation into his own tongue. Yet why choose to sit two or three chairs further away from the Master by using a paraphrase which allows His Word to be distorted and misunderstood?43

this prophecy
This book is not merely an allegory or devotional treatise extolling the eventual victory of good over evil. The events described within this book are bona fide prophecy and include the prediction of actual historical events. See Can’t God Prophesy?

and keep those things which are written
Keep is the present active participle τηροῦντες [tērountes] , “while holding fast.” The saints are told to “be continually hanging on to” the things which John writes. This requires focus and energy and implies the need for watchfulness in order to avoid having them taken away.

One aspect of keeping those things which are written involves a proper interpretation of their meaning. For it is possible to keep the words (Rev. 22:7+), but with their incorrect meaning. The result is that the things written herein are not properly kept for they are not properly understood. One example of such corruption of the things written would be amillennialism which holds that there is no future earthly kingdom of a thousand years (Rev. 20:4-6+), but that the kingdom period has already begun. Keeping the words in such a way as to denude them of their meaning is no preservation at all.

Another aspect of keeping those things which are written is the preservation of both the content and proper interpretation of the text and passing it on to each successive generation. Jesus’ haunting words come to mind: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b). This is where an understanding of church history can be a great boon to the saints of any age in that they come to appreciate their position within the stream of biblical history and doctrine which flows from Genesis to the Second Coming of Christ. Without such understanding, it is unlikely that we will keep those things which are written in the way God intended.

The things which are written include both prophetic revelation concerning events in history, but also important exhortations concerning the application of the message within this book. The Psalm writer admonishes the saints to keep God’s precepts (Ps. 119:4). James tells us to be doer’s of the Word and not just hearers only (Jas. 1:22). We are told to watch and keep our garments, lest we “walk naked and they see our shame” (Rev. 16:15+). Christianity is not a passive intellectual exercise, but an active application and promulgation of the message of God (Mat. 24:42-44; 25:13).

We would do well to remember the response of Jesus to the woman who blessed His mother Mary:

And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)

the time is near
The Greek phrase is καιρὸς ἐγγύς [kairos engys] . Kairos is a key eschatological term indicating a coming time of crisis associated with the last times.44

The word used in Revelation 1:3+ . . . is kairos. It does not speak of an era or time span, but signifies “the right time,” “the right moment,” “the opportune time.” It is used in Galatians 4:4 wherein the Bible states, “But when the fulness of the time [kairos] was come, God sent forth His son. . .” Christ came at just the right moment. The time was “ripe” for the coming of God’s Son.45

[Engus] can refer to any event predicted by the prophets, as when Mark indicates that “the time [kairos] is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand [engus]” (Mark 1:15). Something was “at hand” that has to do with kairos time. It was the Kingdom hope and aspiration of every Old Testament Jew who knew the writings of the Hebrew prophets.46

This word for “time” differs from chronos which generally refers to what we would call chronological time:

Καιρός [Kairos] (“time”) frequently has a technical sense in the NT, referring to the end times when the earthly kingdom of Israel will be instituted (cf. Acts 1:7; 3:20; 1Th. 5:1). The events of this book are thus identified with the last of the critical epoch-making periods foreordained of God. From the perspective of prophetic anticipation this period is declared to be ἐγγύς [engys] (“near”).47

Time does not translate chronos, which refers to time on a clock or calendar, but kairos, which refers to seasons, epochs, or eras. The next great era of God’s redemptive history is near.48

James makes an almost identical statement using the same Greek verb concerning the coming of the Lord for believers (not in judgment): “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (ἤγγικεν [ēngiken] )” (Jas. 5:7-8). The meaning in James is that “of approaching in time . . . [and concerns] the Lord’s return.”49 Peter uses the same term: “the end of all things is at hand” (1Pe. 4:7).

As with the previous statement concerning things which must shortly take place (Rev. 1:1+), this perspective of time is that of God and concerns the last times when prophetic predictions would come to pass. “Some interval, however, is presupposed between the vision and its fulfillment, otherwise it would be futile to write the visions down, and to arrange for their circulation throughout the churches. A certain career is anticipated for the book of Revelation.”50

Preterist interpreters generally argue that this phrase must denote fulfillment in the lifetime of John’s readers. Yet they are not consistent on this point when the phrase occurs elsewhere:

This creates a contradiction within [moderate] preterism. Since Rev. 22:6+ is a statement referring to the whole book of Revelation, it would be impossible to take tachos as a reference to A.D. 70 . . . and at the same time hold that Rev. 20:7-9+ teaches the Second Coming. [Moderate preterists] must either adopt a view similar to futurism, or shift to the extreme preterist view that understands the entire book of Revelation as past history, thus eliminating any future Second Coming and resurrection.51

A better way to understand the text, as in verse 1, is denoting the imminency of the events John records. See Imminency.

3.1.4 - Revelation 1:4 Open Bible at Rev. 1:4 Listen to Rev. 1:4

John
This simple statement identifying the writer as “John” is evidence for the traditional view of John the Apostle as author. For what other John would designate himself simply as “John” when “John the Apostle” was the most prominent “John” amongst the Asian churches during this period? If it had been another “John,” he would have clarified so. John was ideally suited to write to these churches because he had been living in Asia Minor and ministering among the churches since approximately A.D. 66.52

seven churches which are in Asia
See Seven Churches of Asia. The names of the seven churches are listed in Revelation 1:11+.

Although the text to follow addresses each church in turn, the book of Revelation is addressed to all seven churches for all seven churches are to benefit from its contents and to learn from those things which are said concerning the other churches (Rev. 2:7+, 11+, 17+, 29+; 3:6+, 13+, 22+).

See Seven: Perfection, Completeness.

from Him who is and who was and who is to come
This is a reference to God the Father as can be seen by the Son being mentioned in the following verse “and from Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:5+).

This unusual grammatical construction is comprised of a present participle (ὁ ω῍ν [ho ōn] , he who is), an imperfect verb (ὁ ἦν [ho ēn] , he was) and another present participle (ὁ ἐρχόμενος [ho erchomenos] , he who is coming). A more literal rendering might be, “the One who is and the He was and the coming One.

Several unusual aspects of this grammatical construction have been noted:

Another rare grammatical phenomenon of this title is the finite verb en doing duty for a participle (Simcox). It is modified by a definite article and is parallel with participles in the first and third members of the expression. The reason for this peculiarity lies in a limitation of the verb εἰμί [eimi] (“I am”), which has no participial form to express continuing action in past time. The writer wanted to describe the Father’s being by including His eternal and continuing existence prior to the present moment. The imperfect indicative was the only linguistic device for doing so.53

Regarding “who is” (nominative) following the preposition “from,” Wallace observes:

This is the first and worst grammatical solecism in Revelation, but many more are to follow. There are two broad options for how to deal with it: Either the author unintentionally erred or he intentionally violated standard syntax. If unintentional, it could be due to a heavily Semitized Greek, or merely represent the level of linguistic skill that a minimally educated man might achieve (as in the vulgar papyri). Either of these is doubtful here because (1) such a flagrant misunderstanding of the rudiments of Greek would almost surely mean that the author simply could not compose in Greek, yet the Apocalypse itself argues against this; (2) nowhere else does the Seer use a nominative immediately after a preposition (in fact, he uses ἀπό [apo] 32 times with a genitive immediately following). If intentional, the question of what the author intends. Few scholars would disagree with Charles’ assessment [R.H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John]: “The Seer has deliberately violated the rules of grammar in order to preserve the divine name inviolate from the change which it would necessarily have undergone if declined. Hence the divine name is here in the nominative.” It would be like one American saying to another, “Do you believe in ‘We the People?’ ” If the question had been, “Do you believe in us the people?” the allusion to the Preamble to the Constitution would have been lost.54

The phrase is to be regarded as an indeclinable proper name55 meant to be familiar to readers of the Greek Old Testament who read of the name which God revealed to Moses at the burning bush, Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὢν [Egō eimi ho ōn] , “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14, LXX).

Although the phrase denotes God’s eternality, it also emphasizes one of the themes of this book: His soon coming. “Such a means of referring to the future also heightens the focus upon the imminence of His coming: He who is already on His way may arrive at any moment.”56

It is difficult to understand how so many should assume without further question that ὁ ἐρχόμενος [ho erchomenos] [the coming one] here is==ὁ ἐσόμενος [ho esomenos] [the one who shall be], and that thus we have the eternity of God expressed here so far as it can be expressed, in forms of time: “He who was, and is, and shall be.” But how ὁ ἐρχόμενος [ho erchomenos] should ever have this significance is hard to perceive. . . . What is the key-note to this whole Book? Surely it is, “I come quickly. The world seems to have all things its own way, to kill my servants; but I come quickly.” With this announcement the Book begins, Rev. 1:7+; with this it ends, Rev. 22:7+, 12+, 20+ and this is a constantly recurring note through it all, Rev. 2:5+, 16+; 3:11+; 6:17+; 11:18+; 14:7+; 16:15+; 18:20+.57

seven spirits
Isaiah provides a list of qualities of the Spirit which shall rest upon the Messiah who shall come from the stem of Jesse (David’s father): “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isa. 11:2).58 In the fourth chapter, John calls our attention to “Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” [emphasis added] (Rev. 4:5+). These Spirits are also said to be “seven eyes, which are the Seven Spirits of God sent out unto all the earth” (Rev. 5:6+). The omniscience of the Holy Spirit is in view and His worldwide ministry, also mentioned by Zechariah (Zec. 4:6-10). One of His worldwide ministries is convicting “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). He provides the breath of life to all the world’s creatures (Gen. 2:7; Job 34:14-15). He strives with all men to restrain sin (Gen. 6:3; 20:6; 2Th. 2:6-7).

Here, the Spirits are specifically said to be Spirits of God making the connection to Isaiah 11:2 more plausible and denoting seven different aspects of the Holy Spirit Who was poured out on the Anointed One (the Mashiach or Christos).

That these spirits are not angels59 is seen from their elevation on a par with the other two members of the Trinity: “The seven Spirits might conceivably refer to a group of angelic beings. But coming between references to the Father and the Son it is more probable that this is an unusual way of designating the Holy Spirit.”60

The number of spirits matches the number of lampstands and would seem to represent the activity of Christ through the Holy Spirit in and to the seven churches (Zec. 4:6). The epistle to each church closes with the admonition, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7+, 11+, 17+, 29+; 3:6+, 13+, 22+).61

See Seven: Perfection, Completeness.

3.1.5 - Revelation 1:5 Open Bible at Rev. 1:5 Listen to Rev. 1:5

and from Jesus Christ
Within this simple greeting can be found a neglected doctrine of paramount importance: the Trinity. The greeting is from each member of the Trinity: from Him who is and who was and who is to come (the Father), from the seven Spirits who are before His throne (the Holy Spirit), and from Jesus Christ (the Son). Before we have even begun to plumb the depths of the amazing statements made concerning Christ in the verses to follow, His divinity is already in plain view before us.

the faithful witness
Among the unique titles of Jesus, He is “called Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11+). Here, we see His character as God, Who cannot lie (Num. 23:19; Rom. 3:4; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Where God is involved, other witnesses are unnecessary, for God bears truthful and reliable witness of Himself (John 8:14). The witness of Christ was faithful in that He finished the work which the Father had given Him (John 17:4), manifesting the Father’s name to His disciples (John 17:6) and resisting the temptation to circumvent the cross (Luke 22:42-44). In His incarnation, Jesus provided a witness of God to man (Isa. 9:1-2; John 1:14, 18; 12:45; 14:8-9; Col. 1:15; 2:9; Heb. 1:2; 1Jn. 1:2).

firstborn from the dead
He is the firstborn from the dead “that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). He thus establishes the pattern for all His brethren who will also rise from the dead (Rom. 8:29).

The term “firstborn” (πρωτότοκος [prōtotokos] ), emphasizes not His generation, but His position (Ps. 89:27) [the LXX uses the same Greek term (Psalm 88:28 in the LXX)].62

The Greek term πρωτότοκο [prōtotoko] could refer either to first in order of time, such as a first born child, or it could refer to one who is preeminent in rank. M. J. Harris, Colossians and Philemon (EGGNT), 43, expresses the meaning of the word well: “The ‘firstborn’ was either the eldest child in a family or a person of preeminent rank. The use of this term to describe the Davidic king in Ps. 88:28 LXX (=Ps 89:27 EVV), ‘I will also appoint him my firstborn (πρωτότοκο [prōtotoko] ), the most exalted of the kings of the earth,’ indicates that it can denote supremacy in rank as well as priority in time. But whether the proto- element in the word denotes time, rank, or both, the significance of the -tokos element as indicating birth or origin (from τίκτω [tiktō] give birth to) has been virtually lost except in reference to literal birth.” In Col. 1:15 the emphasis is on the priority of Jesus’ rank as over and above creation (cf. Col. 1:16 and the ‘for’ clause referring to Jesus as Creator).63

A connection with Psalm 2 is seen in that Christ is here firstborn from the dead (“begotten,” Ps. 2:7 cf. Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; Rom. 1:4) and ruler over the kings of the earth (Ps. 2:8). It was at His resurrection that His divine Sonship was made manifest and attested by the Father (Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:4).64

Although not the first to be raised from the dead, Christ is the first to be resurrected to obtain a glorified body never to die again (1Cor. 15:35-44). “There were resurrections before His in the Old Testament (1K. 17:17-23; 2K. 4:32-36; 13:20-21), and He Himself raised others during His earthly ministry (Mat. 9:23-25; Luke 7:11-15; John 11:30-44).”65 Yet all of these who were resurrected prior to Christ continued to age and eventually died again.66

Christ is indeed “the first begotten of the dead,” notwithstanding that such raisings from the grave as that of the widow’s son, and Jairus’s daughter, and Lazarus, and his who revived at the touch of Elisha’s bones (2K. 13:21), went before. There was for them no repeal of the sentence of death, but a respite only; not to say that even during their period of respite they carried about with them a body of death. Christ first so rose from the dead, that he left death forever behind Him, did not, and could not, die any more (Rom. 6:9); in this respect was “the first-fruits of them that slept” (1Cor. 15:20, 23), the Prince of life (Acts 3:15).67

The resurrection of Christ is unique because He is the first instance of that transformation which the resurrection effects. It is more than a resuscitation of mortal flesh, such as took place in the cases of Jairus’ daughter or of Lazarus, for they underwent no essential change of the body. . . . they were restored to their friends; but there is not a hint that they were made physically immortal, or that death did not overtake them at some later date.68

ruler over the kings of the earth
The rule of Jesus over the kings of the earth is by divine right, not by the willing acceptance of the kings themselves (Ps. 2; Dan. 2:34-35+, 44-45+; 7:11-14+, 24-27+). For the world will reject the reign of God. The arrival of God’s kingdom on earth is a major theme of this prophecy given through John and culminates in the destruction of the armies of the kings of the earth at the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. 19:11-21+).

While it is true that Jesus is the ruler over all men today, most do not realize this to be the case. A time is coming when the knowledge of the Lord will extend over the face of the entire earth and there will no longer be difference of opinion regarding Who is in control (Isa. 2:3; 11:9; Mic. 4:2; Zec. 14:8-11).

who loved us
“Loved,” (Ἀγαπῶντι [Agapōnti] ) is a present participle, He is loving (present tense) us. The love of God for us is demonstrated in many ways, but chiefly, in the way in which He gave His Son on our behalf: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The “so” in this oft-quoted verse is not only speaking of the degree of God’s love, but the way in which it was manifested—by the giving of His Son.69 This is made clear by the context of the passage, and especially the preceding verses: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” [emphasis added] (John 3:14-15).

In his epistle, John also explained the giving of Jesus on the cross as a demonstration of God’s love. “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jn. 4:9-10). This love of God is not restricted to the Father giving the Son, but includes the Son giving Himself (Eph. 5:2). Our love of God is not natural, but in reaction to His first having loved us (1Jn. 4:19).

The degree of God’s love for us is fathomless. Yet God desires our finite minds to attempt to comprehend it as best we are able. The depth of His love is demonstrated by an ongoing study of what is said concerning the relationship between the Father and the Son (John 1:1; 17:5, 25) and the agonizing cost to God in order to redeem us (Mat. 27:46; Mark 15:34). This cost is all the more amazing when our condition as enemies of God is considered (Rom. 5:6-10).

Our inability to worship God correlates with our ignorance of His Word. For it is by His Word that we come to an ever deeper understanding of the intimacy between the Father and the Son and the painful rent in that fabric necessary to secure our undeserved redemption. Emotional worship experiences in and of themselves can never substitute for a response based upon a Scriptural understanding of His love for us, as limited as it may ultimately be.

washed us
NU has “freed” (λύσαντι [lysanti] ) whereas MT has “washed” (λούσαντι [lousanti] ) - a difference of a single Greek letter. Scripture describes both as being true of the believer who has been set free (Mat. 20:28; Gal. 3:13; 4:5; 1Ti. 2:6; Heb. 9:12; 1Pe 1:18; Rev. 5:9+; 14:3-4+) and washed, a picture of spiritual cleansing (Ps. 51:4; Isa. 1:16-18; Eze. 36:25; Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 2:14; 3:5; Heb. 1:3; 9:14; 2Pe. 1:9). The imagery of the immediate passage, in His own blood, argues for the latter as does internal evidence elsewhere in the book (Rev. 7:14+).

Whereas loved us is in the present tense, washed us is in the aorist tense. The provision for our redemption, His death on the cross which washes away all our sin both past and future, is accomplished and its full merits are applied in full the moment we believe. Yet He continually loves us.

in His own blood
A bloodless gospel is an ineffectual gospel. For it is by the spilling of blood that God has chosen to atone for sin (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22).70

Why did God choose blood for this purpose? Ultimately, we may never know, for the “secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deu. 29:29). Scripture reveals that the use of blood for atonement is related to its life-giving qualities (Gen. 9:4). The “life of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11). “Life” in this verse is Hebrew נֶפֶשׁ [nep̄eš] , the same term which is translated “soul” where Scripture records the once-for-all atonement made by Isaiah’s Suffering Servant: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin” [emphasis added] (Isa. 53:10). By His blood atonement, Jesus was prophesied to “sprinkle many nations” (Isa. 52:15), thus fulfilling the many OT types pointing to Him.

It was by blood sacrifice that the first man and woman were covered in response to their sin (Gen. 3:21). It was by blood sacrifice that the first men were to approach God (Gen. 4:4). It was by a blood sacrifice that God established His covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:9-21). It was by blood placed on the door posts and lintel that the Jews were “covered” from the destroyer Who passed over Egypt taking the firstborn of each family (Ex. 12:23). It was by the sprinkling of blood that the Mosaic Law was ratified between God and the Israelites (Ex. 24:8). Ever since the bloodless offering of Cain (Gen. 4:3-5), man has attempted to approach God by some other means than that which God Himself has established. These would try to circumvent the single path which God requires: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” (John 14:6)

This necessity of blood offering is offensive to man, and we believe intentionally so. For it is a messy business and continual reminder of man’s lack of righteousness (Rom. 3:23) and his desperate need of the “righteousness of God,” a righteousness which is freely given rather than earned (Rom. 3:21-26; 2Cor. 5:21; Php. 3:9). Yet many prefer to continue in the way of religion rather than relationship, offering up their own puny works in a vain attempt to justify themselves before a perfect and Holy God (Rom. 10:3). Religion preserves our pride, whereas relationship requires us to cast it aside.

See Hide and Seek.

3.1.6 - Revelation 1:6 Open Bible at Rev. 1:6 Listen to Rev. 1:6

made us kings and priests
In both NU and MT, the Greek has appointed us a kingdom (singular), priests to God. A similar difference occurs in Revelation 5:10+. The singular form (a kingdom) would be in keeping with the original calling of Israel to be “a kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6). Some have noted the Jewish audience of Peter’s epistle and rightly understood 1Peter 2:9 as being a reminder to his readers of the original calling of the Jews (Ex. 19:6). Yet in this book the concept is unmistakably broadened to include all those who trust in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, from among every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:10+). Our priesthood is made possible by our “great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God” (Heb. 4:14), therefore we have complete and full access to the Father. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16).

Whether we are to be “kings and priests” or “a kingdom [of] priests,” it is clear that believers will co-rule with Christ during His coming earthly reign (Rev. 20:4-6+). This future reign will not come to pass until after Antichrist has his time on the world stage and a judgment is made in favor of the saints (Dan. 7:18+, 25-27+).71

Both now and in the future, our function is primarily priestly. That is, we are to minister to God. Here we run into an extremely important distinction which has not been adequately appreciated among many who lead God’s people. Our primary responsibility is to minister to God and not to men. Our focus is to be God-ward rather than man-ward. We are to “offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ” (1Pe. 2:5). As we take care to minister to God, He will minister to men through us.

The focus of our ministry is the New Covenant (2Cor. 3:6), not the Law of Moses, and is characterized by a series of contrasts and seeming contradictions (2Cor. 6:4-10). Our lives should evidence a consistency of living whether with the people of God or with unbelievers: “God intends the eventual abolition of all distinctions between holy and profane, sanctified and common (Zec. 14:20-21).”72

In one sense, there has been and will only ever be a single “kingdom of God.” This is His universal dominion over His entire creation. Yet, in another sense, God has chosen to use men as mediators of His rule during periods of history.73

The progression of the kingdom of God is revealed in stages:

The progression of the “kingdom of God” is gradually revealed. What is this kingdom in principle if it is not the sphere where God reigns? In the Scriptures we can trace for it seven distinct steps: 1. Paradise . . . (Gen. 1:31) 2. The theocracy of Israel . . . 3. The kingdom announced by the prophets . . . (1S. 7:8; Isa. 11:1-16) 4. The kingdom offered and rejected in the gospels . . . (Mat. 4:17; Luke 17:21; Luke 10:9-11) 5. The kingdom hidden in the heart . . . (John 3:3-5; Col. 1:13) 6. The thousand year reign . . . (Rev. 20:1-10+) 7. The eternal kingdom in heaven . . . (2Ti. 4:18; 2Pe. 1:10-11).74

Our rule is not contingent upon our status in the world, but upon our position in Christ:

Let men despise and contemn religion as they may, there is empire connecting with lowly discipleship, royalty with penitence, and prayers, and sublime priesthood with piety. Fishermen and taxgatherers, by listening to Jesus, presently find themselves in apostolic thrones, and ministering as priests and rulers of a dispensation, wide as the world, and lasting as time. Moses, by his faith, rises from Jethro’s sheepfold to be the prince of Israel; and Daniel, from the den of condemnation and death, to the honour and authority of empire; and Luther, from his cell, to dictate to kings and rule the ages. There is not a believer, however obscure or humble, who may not rejoice in princely blood, who does not already wield a power which the potencies of hell cannot withstand, and who is not on the way to possess eternal priesthood and dominion.75

to Him be glory and dominion
The nearest antecedent is the Son to which glory and dominion are given, literally into the ages of the ages (εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων [eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn] ). Yet elsewhere it is said that God will not share His glory with another (Isa. 48:11). Clearly, Jesus is God!

3.1.7 - Revelation 1:7 Open Bible at Rev. 1:7 Listen to Rev. 1:7

He is coming
The OT Scriptures predicted a “coming one” (Deu. 18:15-18; Ps. 2; 22; 118:26; Isa. 9:6; 48:16; 53; 61:1; Jer. 23:5-8; Dan. 9:25+; Mic. 5:2; Zec. 2:8-11; 6:12-15; etc.). This was the expectation of those among whom Jesus ministered (John 1:21; 1:45; 6:14; 7:40). John the Baptist knew of these predictions and sent his disciples to Jesus inquiring, “ ‘Are You the Coming One (ἐρχόμενος [erchomenos] ), or do we look for another?’ ” [emphasis added] (Mat. 11:3; Luke 7:19). Peter and Stephen explained it was Jesus who fulfilled these predictions (Acts 3:22; 7:37).

Yet this Coming One represented a Scriptural enigma. At times, He was said to be victorious king who would reign forever (Num. 24:17; Isa. 9:6-7). But He was also forsaken, despised, rejected, and crushed (Ps. 22; Isa. 53). How could these seeming contradictions be reconciled? Some chose to apply these passages to two different individuals, a “suffering Messiah” (Messiah ben-Joseph) and a “victorious Messiah” (Messiah ben-David).76 Others held that the fulfillments were mutually exclusive and which would eventuate depended upon the obedience of Israel.77

The key which unlocks this mystery is the resurrection of Messiah (Ps. 16:10; Isa. 53:10). He would come once, die for the sins of the world, be resurrected back to life, and come a second time in judgment. His First Coming, death, and resurrection are now past. All that remains is His reappearance as described to John here and elsewhere in the NT. “It has been estimated that one out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament refers to the Second Coming.”78

Jesus came the first time in humiliation; He will return in exaltation. He came the first time to be killed; He will return to kill His enemies. He came the first time to serve; He will return to be served. He came the first time as the suffering servant; He will return as the conquering king. The challenge the book of Revelation makes to every person is to be ready for His return.79

He is coming (present tense) and every eye will see Him (future tense). The grammar places the event on the edge between the present and the future—the futuristic present. It is ‘about to occur.’ It is imminent:

The verb form ἔρχεται [erchetai] is an example of the futuristic use of the present tense, the future connotation being provided by the word’s meaning. The idea is that Christ is already on His way, i.e., He is in the process of coming and hence will arrive. This use of the present tense enhances emphasis on the imminence of that coming (cf. ἔρχομαι [erchomai] , John 14:3).80

This same verb is used directly or indirectly eleven more times in this book in reference to the return of Christ (cf. Rev. 1+;4,8+; 2:5+, 16+; 3:11+; 4:8+; 16:15+; 22:7+, 12+, 20+ [twice]), seven coming from the lips of Christ Himself (Rev. 2:5+, 16+; 3:11+; 16:15+; 22:7+, 12+, 20+). The current verse obviously is the theme verse for the whole book.81

See Imminency.

with clouds
Clouds are often associated with the glory of the Lord. Clouds were often one aspect of the visible manifestation of the Lord’s presence (Ex. 16:10; 19:9, 16; 24:15-16; 34:5; 40:34; Deu. 5:22). Clouds indicated His presence over the mercy seat where He dwelt between the cherubim (Lev. 16:2). During Solomon’s prayer dedicating the Temple, he recognized God’s habitation as the dark cloud (2Chr. 6:1). In response, the glory of the Lord filled the Temple (2Chr. 7:1), no doubt including a manifestation of clouds. The psalmist understood dark clouds to be God’s canopy (Ps. 18:11; Ps. 97:2).

The manifestation of God by clouds indicates His localized presence on the earth, among men:

the Shechinah Glory is the visible manifestation of the presence of God. It is the majestic presence or manifestation of God in which He descends to dwell among men. Whenever the invisible God becomes visible, and whenever the omnipresence of God is localized, this is the Shechinah Glory. The usual title found in Scriptures for the Shechinah Glory is the glory of Jehovah, or the glory of the Lord. The Hebrew form is Kvod Adonai, which means “the glory of Jehovah” and describes what the Shechinah Glory is. The Greek title, Doxa Kurion, is translated as “the glory of the Lord.” Doxa means “brightness,” “brilliance,” or “splendor,” and it depicts how the Shechinah Glory appears. Other titles give it the sense of “dwelling,” which portrays what the Shechinah Glory does. The Hebrew word Shechinah, from the root shachan, means “to dwell.” The Greek word skeinei, which is similar in sound as the Hebrew Shechinah (Greek has no “sh” sound), means “to tabernacle” . . . In the Old Testament, most of these visible manifestations took the form of light, fire, or cloud, or a combination of these. A new form appears in the New Testament: the Incarnate Word.82

The visible manifestation of God indicating the place where he dwelt has been called the “Shekinah” glory from the Hebrew verb שָׁכַן [šāḵan] meaning “dwell, live among, inhabit, abide, stay, remain, camp, i.e., to live or reside in a place, usually for a relatively long amount of time (Gen. 9:27).”83 See The Abiding Presence of God.

The cloud is probably not to be interpreted as a vapor cloud or as a storm cloud, but as a cloud of glory betokening the presence of God. . . . The “cloud,” then, may be the cloud of the Shekinah, which led the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the desert, and which overshadowed the Tabernacle and the Temple (Ex. 13:21-22; 40:34; Num. 9:15-16; 2Chr. 7:2-3).84

When Jesus revealed His glory to Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, the voice of the Father spoke from within a bright cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Mat. 17:5). Jesus explained His appearance with the clouds to be the sign of His coming (Mat. 24:30) and His mention of “coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mat. 26:64) was understood by the high priest as a blasphemous claim (Mat. 26:64-65). He tore his garments in response, a clear indication of his understanding of what Jesus was claiming (Dan. 7:13+).

John’s mention here of Jesus coming with clouds is an allusion from the book of Daniel which records the presentation of the Son to the Father: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.” (Dan. 7:13+). This presentation of the Son is to receive His kingdom (Dan. 7:14+) and does not take place until all of His enemies are made His footstool (Ps. 110:1). This includes His future enemy, Daniel’s “little horn” (Dan. 7:8+, 20-21+). At present, He is seated at the right hand of the Father awaiting that day. The Son began the period of sitting at the right hand and waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool at His ascension (Acts 2:32-35; Heb. 10:11-13). His earthly kingdom did not come at the time of His ascension, but occurs when He rises from His seat beside the Father and descends to take up His Davidic throne on earth (Mat. 25:31; Luke 1:32-33).85

At other times, the Lord is said to ride “on a swift cloud” (Isa. 19:1). It is such a passage which provides the basis for the preterist interpretation which holds that this verse is describing a “cloud coming” in judgment upon a nation. Such a judgment in the OT was not attended by a literally visible manifestation of God. Yet here, we are explicitly told that every eye will see Him. Not just the “clouds of judgment,” but Him! This return of Jesus will be with clouds, bodily, and visible as the angels informed His disciples at the time of His ascension (Acts 1:9-11). His return is the subject of the latter portion of Revelation 19+. If this were a “judgment coming” of Christ in A.D. 70 upon the Jews of Jerusalem as the preterists claim, what relevance would that have to the seven churches of Asia who were hundreds of miles away and virtually unaffected by the event?86

As our discussion regarding the Date the Revelation was written shows, the best evidence supports a late date near the end of Domitian’s reign when John had the vision (A.D. 95-96). That being the case, the “coming” described here cannot refer to the “cloud coming in judgment” to destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as the Preterist Interpretation holds.

every eye will see Him
This phrase would seem to be almost intentionally aimed at undercutting the claims of various cults and aberrations of Christianity which have taught non-visible fulfillments of the coming of Jesus in history past. His future coming will be visible to every eye. This simple fact destroys the claims of preterism that this “cloud coming” occurred spiritually in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem and the ending of the Jewish state.87

While mild preterism is not a cult, it shares this aberrant teaching that the coming of Jesus here is not a visible coming. “The crucifiers would see Him coming in judgment—that is, they would understand that His coming would mean wrath on the land.”88 Notice the preterist sleight of hand. The verse states that every eye will see Him, whereas DeMar states that it is an understanding of His judgment that is being described. These are not the same thing. DeMar realizes the difference and attempts to overcome this liability: “Equating ‘seeing’ with ‘understanding’ is not Scripture twisting. It is a common biblical metaphor.”89 Yet there are fundamental differences between this passage and those DeMar offers in support of the preterist view. Here, the passage states that every eye will see. If the preterist interpretation is correct and the “seeing” is an “understanding of judgment,” then why didn’t the entire nation of Israel “understand” and turn to Christ at the destruction of Jerusalem? Apparently, the vast majority of Jews had no idea of the correlation between the destruction of Jerusalem and the “coming of Jesus” which the preterists maintain and which John states every eye would see. “Seeing” is describing literal visibility by every eye, not an abstract “understanding” by a few Jews.

even they
A subgroup from among every eye, establishing the global nature of the manifestation of Christ.

Both Jews and Gentiles are responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus (Acts 4:27-28). It was Jewish mouths (Mark 15:13; Luke 23:21; John 19:6, 14-16) together with Gentile hands (John 19:23) which crucified Jesus. Ultimately, it was the sin of all mankind which sent Jesus to the cross (Rom. 4:25). Yet this passage refers to the Jews who have a particular responsibility (Acts 3:12-15) because Jesus is their promised national Messiah (Rom. 9:4-5). The Jewish generation which witnessed the crucifixion of Messiah made the fearful mistake of pronouncing a curse upon themselves and their children: “And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood [be] on us and on our children.’ ” (Mat. 27:25). So it is Jews who will specially mourn when they realize their grave error and the historical destruction it has wrought. As Lightner observes: “You don’t put kings on crosses, you put them on thrones!”

even they who pierced Him
“Pierced” is ἐξεκέντησαν [exekentēsan] . John uses this identical Greek word in John 19:37 when quoting Zechariah 12:10. These are the only two places in the entire NT where this particular verb appears—another piece of evidence that the Apostle John was the writer of both books.90

The one who is coming is the one who they pierced—Jesus Christ. Yet Zechariah (Zec. 12:10) tells us that it is God who they pierced (Hebrew דָּקָרוּ [dāqārû] - “drive through, pierce, stab, run through, i.e., make physical impact with a sharp implement”91 ). “The weapon associated with [Hebrew] daqar is usually the sword, though a spear is the instrument in Num. 25:8.”92 Not only were spikes driven through Jesus’ hands and feet, but He was pierced with a spear (John 19:34). Comparing Zechariah 12:10 with this verse, we see once again that Jesus is identified as God! Isaiah prophesied that He would be “wounded” (“pierced,” NASB), Hebrew הָלַל [hālal] .93 “John is the only one of the Evangelists who records the piercing of Christ’s side. This allusion identifies him as the author of the Apocalypse.”94

Some hold that “every eye” describes all Israel whereas “even they that pierced” describes a subgroup from among the Jews who are more directly responsible for the crucifixion. But Zechariah defines those who pierced Him using terms which are synonymous with all Israel:

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. Zec. 12:10 [emphasis added]

Here, Zechariah identifies “they who pierced” (Revelation 1:7+) as being all Israel-not a subset specifically held responsible for the crucifixion of Messiah from among a larger group of Jews.

The recipients of the spiritual blessing [identical with those who mourn] will be (1) “the house of David,” through whom the promise of the Messianic-Davidic Kingdom was made (2S. 7:8-16), and through whom it will be realized (Luke 1:31-33); and (2) “the inhabitants of Jerusalem”—the whole saved remnant of Israel, by metonymy, the capital representing the whole nation (cf. 1K. 20:34, where “Samaria,” the capital, represents the nation).95

The fact that only the inhabitants of Jerusalem are named, and not those of Judah also, is explained correctly by the commentators from the custom of regarding the capital as the representative of the whole nation. And it follows . . . from this, that in v. 8 also the expression “inhabitants of Jerusalem” is simply an individualizing epithet for the whole of the covenant nation. But just as in v. 8 the house of David is mentioned emphatically along with these was the princely family and representative of the ruling class, so is it also in v. 10, for the purpose of expressing the thought that the same salvation is to be enjoyed by the whole nation, in all its ranks, from the first to the last.96

Also, if “they who pierced” is to be understood as a subgroup from among the Jewish nation, how does one establish the precise boundary between all the Jews living at the time of Christ versus those who contributed to His crucifixion? And what does contributing to His crucifixion entail? Direct persuasion, such as manifested by the Jewish religious leaders? Does incitement by the crowd count? What about Jews who were not present at Jerusalem at the crucifixion, but opposed Jesus’ ministry? And how does such a distinction between some Jews and not others square with the generational curse pronounced by and upon the Jews in general (Mat. 27:25)?

all the tribes
In many places, tribes (φυλαι [phylai] ) specifically denotes the Jewish tribes (e.g., Mat. 19:28; Luke 2:36; 22:30; Acts 13:21; Rom. 11:1; Heb. 7:13; Php. 3:5; Jas. 1:1; Rev. 5:5+; 7:4-9+; 21:12+). Elsewhere, especially when appearing in the phrase all the tribes, it has a more global meaning (e.g., Mat. 24:30; Rev. 1:7+) over against the twelve [Jewish] tribes (Mat. 19:28; Luke 22:30; Acts 26:7; Jas. 1:1; Rev. 21:12+). Φυλαι [Phylai] is differentiated from nation (ἔθνος [ethnos] ), people (λαός [laos] ), and tongue (γλῶσσα [glōssa] ) in Rev. 7:9+; 11:9+; 13:7+.

of the earth
The closely-related phrase “all the families of the earth” appears in several places in the OT (Gen. 12:3; 28:14; Amos 3:2; Zec. 14:17). In all of these contexts, the phrase clearly refers to the global community (not just the tribes of Israel).97 It is through Abraham’s seed that “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3; 28:14) will be blessed.98 God says to Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) Whichever “of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King” (Zec. 14:17) during the Millennium will not receive rain. These families include “the family of Egypt” (Zec. 14:18). In each of these OT passages, the Septuagint renders the phrase using the same Greek term (φυλαι [phylai] ) found here.99 100

There is a close connection between this passage and Zechariah 12. Preterists make the same mistake in both passages of trying to limit the scope to Israel and Jerusalem. But the Zechariah passage is clearly describing a time “when all nations of the earth are gathered against [Jerusalem]” (Zec. 12:3). And the outcome of the battle is entirely different than the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70: “In that Day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem. . . I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” (Zec. 12:8-9). But nothing of the kind happened in A.D. 70. In the preterist “fulfillment” of these related passages, a single nation (Rome), unopposed by God, attacked Jerusalem completely destroying both the city and the Temple, resulting in the death of over 1 million Jews.101

[preterists conclude] that “earth” means the land of Israel, as in Zec. 12:12 and that the “tribes” in Rev. 1:7+ must be the literal Israelite tribes, who are being judged in 70 A.D. in fulfillment of the Zechariah 12 prophecy. But there are difficulties with this perspective. First, Zechariah 12 does not prophesy Israel’s judgment but Israel’s redemption. Furthermore, the Zechariah citation is combined with Dan. 7:13+, which also refers to the eschatological deliverance, not judgment of Israel.102

The global context is also evident because John has just said that Jesus is “the ruler over the kings of the earth” [emphasis added] (Rev. 1:5+). The plural kings indicates a wider area than just the land of Israel argued by preterists. There were not multiple kings over the Jews at the time of John’s vision.

The weightiest consideration of all appears to be the worldwide scope of the book. “Those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 3:10+; 6:10+; 8:13+; 11:10+ [twice]; 13:8+, 12+, 14+ [twice]; 17:2+, 8+) are the objects of the wrath that is pictured in its pages, and evidence points to the multi-ethnic nature of this group. The scope of the judgments of the book is also worldwide, not localized (e.g., Rev. 14:6+; 15:4+). Besides this, the people on whom these judgments fall do not respond by repenting.103

Further evidence against the preterist attempt to interpret Revelation as concerning the A.D. 70 judgment of Israel is found in a comparison of Ezekiel 3 with Revelation 10+. Both prophets, Ezekiel and John, are given books to eat. Both books are sweet to the taste, but bitter once digested. Both books contain prophecy. However, one significant difference occurs between what Ezekiel and John ingest: Ezekiel eats a message intended for Israel but John eats a message for all nations. Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the “house of Israel, not to many people of unfamiliar speech” (Eze. 3:6) whereas John “must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (Rev. 10:11+). The message of John is about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. What more could God say to make its global extent clearer? See commentary on Revelation 10:11.104 .

mourn
The word κόψονται [kopsontai] refers to the act of beating one’s breast as an act of mourning.105 Jesus refers to this event when all the tribes of the earth will mourn (κόψονται [kopsontai] , Mat. 24:30). There it is said to be in response to “The sign of the Son of Man” which will “appear in heaven.” This sign appears in heaven—visible worldwide and cannot be restricted to the region of Israel as preterists maintain.

The Jews will mourn because of the awful realization of the truth of the crucifixion of their own Messiah and the subsequent record of history triggered by this most colossal mistake of all history:

Israel must, indeed, be dumb if one asks them today: Tell me, pray: How can it be that the Eternal sent the fathers out of their land into captivity in Babylon for only seventy years, on account of all the abominations and idolatry by which they for centuries defiled the Holy Land:—and now Israel has been dispersed among all peoples for over eighteen hundred years, and Jerusalem, the city of the great King, is trodden down by the nations until this day? What, then, is the great and terrible blood-guiltiness which perpetually prevents you from dwelling in peace in the land of your fathers?—But Israel is not willing to know! And yet it is precisely its sin against its Messiah that is indeed the root of Israel’s misery.106

The Gentiles too will mourn as they realize the truth of Christianity which they have steadfastly rejected, and the inescapable fact of their impending judgment. John records the astonishing hardness of heart of the “earth dwellers” at the time of the end. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence of God’s existence, sovereignty, and power, they will not repent (Rev. 16:9+, 11+, 21+). It is our belief that this is one reason Paul says, “now is the day of salvation” (2Cor. 6:2). For every day, every hour, every minute that a person continues to reject the knowledge of God makes it more likely they will never turn to accept the free offer of salvation.107

Brethren, I do not wonder that worldlings and half-Christians have no love of this doctrine, or that they hate to hear about Christ’s speedy coming. It is the death knell of their gaieties and pleasures—the turning of their confidence to consternation—the conversion of their songs to shrieks of horror and despair. There is a day coming, when “the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of man shall be made low;” [Isa. 2:11, 17]108

3.1.8 - Revelation 1:8 Open Bible at Rev. 1:8 Listen to Rev. 1:8

I am
A trademark of the book of John which records the self-identification of Jesus using this phrase. Jesus said unless you believe “I am” (John 8:24), you will die in your sins. He said that before Abraham “I am” (John 8:58), an intentional reference to the self-existent One of Exodus (Ex. 3:6, 14) for which the Jews attempted to stone Him.109 It was before the power of this declaration of deity that those who came to arrest Jesus fell back: “Now when he said to them “I am,” they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6).

the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End
This complete title is applied both to the Father (Rev. 21:6+) and to the Son (Rev. 22:13+). The phrase is also applied to the Son in two parts (Rev. 1:11+; 2:8+). It is clear that the title can apply to both Father and Son and is therefore yet another clear indication of the deity of the Son.

The use of a very similar phrase by Isaiah underscores the uniqueness of God: “Besides Me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6). Alpha, being the first letter of the Greek alphabet (as our “A”) stands for the “beginning.” Omega, being the last letter of the Greek alphabet (as our “Z”) stands for the “end.” Because God existed from before all time and will exist beyond all time, there is no room for another God (Isa. 43:10). Throughout the Father’s preexistence, the Son was with Him (John 1:1-3; 8:54; Col. 1:17).

the Lord
Designating someone as “Lord,” especially in John’s day, could have serious implications. It was a title which Christians did not use lightly: “ ‘Lord’ (kyrios) means that the bearer was worthy of divine recognition and honor. The apostolic writers and early believers were well aware of this meaning. Polycarp, for example, died as a martyr rather than call Caesar kyrios.”110

who is and who was and who is to come
See commentary on Revelation 1:4. Some see grammatical evidence identifying the speaker here as the Father.111 Yet the switch to the Father here after the Son has just been the subject (Rev. 1:7+) and prior to similar statements by the Son (Rev. 1:11+, 17+) seems too abrupt.112 Elsewhere we discuss the role of the Antichrist, empowered by Satan, as the Master Imitator. Pink notes the correlation between this phrase describing God’s self-existence and the phrase applied to Antichrist: “Christ is referred to as Him ‘which was, and is, and is to come’ (Rev. 4:8+); the Antichrist is referred to as him that ‘was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit’ (Rev. 17:8+).”113

the Almighty
Ὁ παντοκράτωρ [Ho pantokratōr] (“the Almighty”) is derived from ὁ πάντων κρατῶν [ho pantōn kratōn] (“the one who holds all”) and is rendered in the LXX for שַׁדַּי [šadday] in the book of Job and צְבָאוֹת [eḇāʾôṯ] (“hosts”) elsewhere.114 It is a reference to God’s sovereignty and might, His command of powerful force.

3.1.9 - Revelation 1:9 Open Bible at Rev. 1:9 Listen to Rev. 1:9

I, John
John also refers to himself this way in Rev. 21:2+ and 22:8+, perhaps indicating an awareness of his unworthiness and inadequacy in serving as the chosen vessel for such great revelation (Rev. 22:8+). The only other writer to refer to himself in such a way was Daniel (Dan. 7:28+; 9:2+; 10:2+).

brother
Like Peter before him (1Pe. 5:1), John emphasizes his equality with other believers. The leadership hierarchy which now characterizes many church bodies of our day was unknown to John.115 He saw himself as a fellow believer and servant of Christ (Rev. 1:1+).

At the time of the vision, he was the only remaining apostle, and perhaps the only survivor of those with whom Christ had personally conversed. He was therefore the most interesting and exalted Christian then living upon the earth—a most reverend and venerable man. But he was as humble and meek as he was high in place.116

tribulation. . . kingdom. . . patience
Although the earthly kingdom is yet future, those who believe in Jesus have already been “conveyed . . . into the kingdom of the Son” (Col. 1:13). The same triplet occurs in Acts 14:22.

Patience is better rendered “perseverance” (ὑπομονη [hypomonē] ). It is through patience that the believer bears fruit (Luke 8:15). By patience those who are in the midst of tribulation are able to possess their souls (Luke 21:16-19; Rev. 13:10+; 14:9-12+). It is the perspective and position of the believer which enables him to stand through trials and situations which otherwise would be insurmountable. When cancer strikes or an unexpected automobile accident leaves a loved one paralyzed, our eternal perspective based upon the truth of the Scriptures is the remedy for utter hopelessness. When all else fails and our resources are depleted, we can and must stand upon God’s Word, being convinced of our unshakable position in Christ and the perspective that this life is not all there is. It is but a “shadow” and a “vapor” by which we are prepared for eternity to come.

island called Patmos
A small Greek island off the coast of modern-day Turkey.

Patmos near Asia Minor

Patmos near Asia Minor

The island is one of a group of about fifty islands called the Dodecanese. Patmos is located between two other islands named Icaria and Leros. Patmos, shaped like a crescent with its horns facing eastward, was a safe place for vessels to anchor during storms and was therefore important to navigators. It was the last stopping place when traveling from Rome to Ephesus and the first stopping place on a return trip to Rome. Being a rocky and barren place, it was chosen as a penal settlement by the Romans, as were other islands in the group. Early Christian tradition says John was sent here during Domitian’s reign over Rome (A.D. 81-96) and was forced to work in the mines. Another tradition adds that when Domitian died, John was permitted to return to Ephesus.117

The Island of Patmos

The Island of Patmos

118

Less than a year ago I passed that island. It is a mere mass of barren rocks, dark in colour and cheerless in form. It lies out in the open sea, near the coast of Western Asia Minor. It has neither trees nor rivers, nor any land for cultivation, except some little nooks between the ledges of rocks. There is still a dingy grotto remaining, in which the aged Apostle is said to have lived, and in which he is said to have had this vision. A chapel covers it, hung with lamps kept burning by the monks.119

The Church of the Apocalypse

The Church of the Apocalypse

120

It is a frequent pattern within Scripture that great revelation was often given to those close to God while in captivity outside Israel and while Jerusalem lay in ruins. We think of Ezekiel, Daniel, and now John. Often, the greatest revelation from God occurs when least expected and in the most unusual places (e.g., Paul in Arabia, Gal. 1:15-17.)

for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ
Some have suggested the John sought out Patmos on a mission to preach the gospel to its inhabitants. But this seems highly doubtful since many more people lived in the mainland population centers in Asia and we have no record of John initiating any such trip. It is much more likely, as tradition records, that John was banished to Patmos contrary to his own desires. “According to Victorinus, John though aged, was forced to labor in the mines located at Patmos.”121 “Tacitus refers to the use of such small islands for political banishment (Annals 3.68; 4.30; 15.71). Eusebius mentions that John was banished to the island by the emperor Domitian in A.D. 95 and released eighteen months later by Nerva (Ecclesiastical History 3.20. 8-9).”122

It has been sometimes asked, When was that prophecy and promise fulfilled concerning John, that he should drink of his Lord’s cup, and be baptized with his Lord’s baptism (Mat. 20:22)? . . . Origin, however, no doubt gave the right answer long ago. . ., Now—in this his banishment to Patmos; not thereby denying that there must have been a life-long φλῖψις [phlipsis] for such a one as the Apostle John, but only affirming that the words found their most emphatic and crowning fulfilment now.123

Restricted to a small spot on earth, he is permitted to penetrate the wide realms of heaven and its secrets. Thus John drank of Christ’s cup, and was baptized with His baptism (Mat. 20:22).124

Under Domitian, history records the banishment of Christians who were considered “atheists” because they refused to pay homage to Caesar or to Roman gods:

Dio Casius records that Domitian executed the aristocrat Flavious Clemens and banished his wife Flavia Domitilla because of “atheism” (ἀθεότης [atheotēs] ). . . . Dio’s full statement views “atheism” as “a charge on which many others who drifted into Jewish ways were condemned.” A similar but later statement affirms that Domitian’s persecution was explicitly two-pronged, being directed against “maiestas [treason]” or against “adopting the Jewish mode of life.” . . . With particular reference to Flavia Domitilla, inscriptions and Christian tradition affirm that she professed Christianity, which would have made her a prime candidate for a charge of “atheism” by those believing in the deity of the emperor.125

Opposition is to be the expectation for those who truly carry the uncompromising message of the cross. The testimony of Jesus which John was banished for is most naturally understood to be opposition that which he testified about Jesus (objective genitive). “The nominal Christian and the formalist the world cannot hate, for they are of it, and it will love its own; but the Johns and Pauls must go into banishment, or give their necks to the state block.”126 When we are accepted by the world, it is time for serious self-examination. See commentary on Revelation 1:2.

3.1.10 - Revelation 1:10 Open Bible at Rev. 1:10 Listen to Rev. 1:10

in the Spirit
All prophetic revelation has its origin in the Holy Spirit (2Pe. 1:20-21) and never from man (Gal. 1:12-16; 2:2). Mysteries, things which are unknown and unknowable by man, are revealed only by the Spirit (Eph. 3:3). Often, spiritual revelation by the Holy Spirit involves a transporting of the prophet, physically or in a vision, to a different location where information is revealed (Eze. 8:3; 11:24; 37:1; Dan. 8:2+; 2Cor. 12:2; Rev. 4:2+; 17:3+; 21:10+).

Here, John mentions he was in the Spirit indicating that what he is about to describe involves supernatural revelation by means of a vision. This statement puts an end to all speculation as to the motives and initiative of John himself in writing the book of Revelation. For John didn’t write the book, he recorded it!

Revelation from the Spirit is found both in the OT and NT.127 Being ‘in the Spirit’ in the sense John describes is not something initiated by man. It is a sovereign action initiated by God in order to impart divine instruction. As Ezekiel describes it: “the hand of the Lord was upon him” (Eze. 1:3).

Luke describes the similar experience of Peter (Acts 10:10) and Paul (Acts 22:17) as an “ecstasy” (ἔκστασις [ekstasis] ):

A throwing of the mind out of its normal state, alienation of mind, whether such as makes a lunatic or that of a man who by some sudden emotion is transported as it were out of himself, so that in this rapt condition, although he is awake, his mind is drawn off from all surrounding objects and wholly fixed on things divine that he sees nothing but the forms and images lying within, and thinks that he perceives with his bodily eyes and ears realities shown him by God.128

Peter, Paul, and John were passive recipients of that which God initiated. In this sense, the experience is diametrically opposed to the ecstatic frenzies associated with cultish prophets (1K. 18:28) and some modern movements wherein the person actively participates in bringing about an altered state of consciousness.

the Lord’s Day
There are several views concerning the meaning of this passage. One view holds that it refers to Sunday, the first day of the week. The phrase uses the same adjective (“Lord’s”) as does Paul when describing the Lord’s Supper: “Therefore when you come together in one place, is it not to eat the Lord’s Supper (κυριακὸν δεῖπνον [kyriakon deipnon] )” (1Cor. 11:20)?

Deissmann has proven (Bible Studies, p. 217f; Light, etc., p. 357ff) from inscriptions and papyri that the word (Grk: kuriakos, Strongs: G2960) was in common use for the sense “imperial” as imperial finance and imperial treasury and from papyri and ostraca that (Grk: heemera, Strongs: G2250) (Grk: Sebastee, Strongs: G4575) (Augustus Day) was the first day of each month, Emperor’s Day on which money payments were made (cf. 1Cor. 16:1f). It was easy, therefore, for the Christians to take this term, already in use, and apply it to the first day of the week in honor of the Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection on that day (Didache 14, Ignatius Magn. 9).129

Others note that Sunday, which came to be the day of Christian worship, is nowhere else referred to using this phrase, but is described instead as “the first day of the week” (Mat. 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2).

It also appears that John’s use of the phrase predates its use among Christians to designate the day of Christ’s resurrection.130

Another view is that the phrase does not describe the first day of the week, but denotes the eschatological “Day of the Lord”:131

However, such an interpretation is open to the objection that (1) such a meaning has no relevance to the context; (2) the term is never so applied in Scripture, where the day of Christian worship is uniformly called the “first day of the week”; (3) such an interpretation does not agree with the Patristic understanding of the verse; (4) the interpretation is a reading back into the text of a term subsequently applied to Sunday. The term “Lord’s day” is better understood as John’s way of expressing the common Hebrew term “day of the Lord,” in a manner in Greek which places the emphasis upon “Lord’s” (by placing it in an initial position) in the same manner as the Hebrew expression places emphasis upon “Lord” (by placing it in the final position) in “day of the Lord.” Supposing the expression refers to Sunday cannot account for the presence of the Greek article “the” used in the expression. When the article is lacking, there are several possible explanations to account for the fact, but when an interpretation cannot account for the presence of the Greek article, the interpretation stands self-condemned (J. B. Smith, Comm. on Revelation, Appendix 5, p. 320). The expression “on the Lord’s day” would better be translated “in the Lord’s day,” as a reference to this specific prophetic time period. The Greek preposition en is more usually rendered “in,” only once in Revelation is it translated “on,” in the expression “on the earth,” Rev. 5:13+. Everywhere else where en is followed by the word “day” it is rendered “in” (Rev. 2:13+. 9:6+. 10:7+. 11:6+. 18:8+). Understanding this term to refer to the “day of the Lord” emphasizes that the events which transpire in the third division of the book (“things which shall be hereafter”) are events which take place during the “day of the Lord,” a future time which begins at the Great Tribulation and concludes with the judgment of the Great White Throne at the end of the Millennium, and specifically ties in the prophecies of this book with the rest of Scripture relating to this coming day.132

The key that unlocks the door to the understanding of this book is, we believe, that it relates to The Day of the Lord, and not to any tradition which limits the reception of this Vision to a particular day of the week; and that day Sunday. . . . Thus did Abraham also see Christ’s Day. He saw it, and rejoiced, and was glad. It must have been “in Spirit,” whatever meaning we may put upon the expression. There was no other way of his seeing Christ’s Day; and that is the way in which it says John saw “the Lord’s Day.” . . . The majority of people, being accustomed from their infancy to hear the first day of the week called the Lord’s Day, conclude in their own minds that day is thus called in Rev. 1:9+ because that was the name of it. But the contrary is the fact: the day is so called by us because of this verse. In the New Testament this day is always called “the first day of the week.” (See Mat. 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2). Is it not strange that in this one place a different expression is thought to refer to the same day? And yet, so sure are the commentators that it means Sunday, . . . There is no evidence of any kind that “the first day of the week” was ever called “the Lord’s Day” before the Apocalypse was written. That it should be so called afterwards is easily understood, and there can be little doubt that the practice arose from the misinterpretation of these words in Rev. 1:9+.133

A difficulty with this view is the difference in wording when compared with the phrase “Day of the Lord” found elsewhere in the NT: “Some feel that John was transported into the future day of the Lord, the prophetic day of God’s great judgment and the return of Christ . . . The major objection to this is that John does not use the common expression for the eschatological ‘day of the Lord’ (hēmera kyriou).”134 “The Greek phrase translated the Lord’s day (τη κυριακη ἡμερα [tē kyriakē hēmera] ) is different from the one translated ‘the Day of the Lord’ (τη ἡμερεα του κυριου [tē hēmerea tou kyriou] , or ἡμερεα κυριου [hēmerea kyriou] ; cf. 1Cor. 5:5; 1Th. 5:2; 2Th. 2:2; 2Pe. 3:10) and appears only here in the New Testament.”135 Proponents of the eschatological view attempt to explain this difference as one of the Hebraism’s in Revelation.136

A third view is that John is describing neither a day of the week nor the “Day of the Lord,” but is referring to his condition in the Spirit:

It does not refer to a specific day of the week, such as the Sabbath (Saturday) or Sunday. Rather, it was a day in which John was enraptured by prophetic and divine ecstasy and received divine revelation. It was a day in which he fell under the control of the Holy Spirit and was given prophetic inspiration. Thus, for him, it was a “lordy day.”137

as of a trumpet
Much of what John sees or hears is new, different, or unearthly and therefore difficult to describe precisely. John frequently employs simile in which two different, but similar things are compared. Later, this same voice will beckon John to heaven saying, “come up here” (Rev. 4:1+).

Elsewhere in Scripture, trumpets attend events of great importance. A trumpet announced the manifestation of God’s presence upon Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:16; 20:18). The year of jubilee when all debts were forgiven was heralded by the blast of a trumpet (Lev. 25:9). The sounding of trumpets attended the downfall of Jericho (Jos. 6:4-20). A trumpet will attend God’s overthrow of the kingdoms of the earth (Ps. 45:7) and warns that the Day of the Lord is at hand (Joel 2:1). A trumpet signals the gathering of the Church at the Rapture (1Cor. 15:42; 1Th. 4:6) and of the elect prior to the Millennial Kingdom (Mat. 24:31). Trumpets also attend significant events in this book (Rev. 8:2+, 6+, 13+; 9:14+). Here, we do not have a trumpet, but a voice as of a trumpet, signifying its power and the attention it commands.

3.1.11 - Revelation 1:11 Open Bible at Rev. 1:11 Listen to Rev. 1:11

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last
God is said to be “everlasting” (Gen. 21:33). He “inhabits eternity” (Isa. 57:15) and is without beginning and without end: “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 90:2). This appellation is especially reminiscent of that given by Isaiah: “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God’ ” (Isa. 44:6).

Whoever said Jesus never claimed to be God need look no further. For the next verse leaves absolutely no doubt that it is the Son Who is applying to Himself titles which are reserved exclusively for God (Isa. 41:4; 48:12; Rev. 21:6+; 22:13+)! This is consistent with the OT where the promised Son is referred to as “Everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6).

God is the unique “uncaused first cause,” “Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me” (Isa. 43:10). He is self-existent and outside of the limitations of time. This is why He alone can predict the future:

Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. (Isa. 45:21)

God’s existence outside of time is a unique identifying feature of His character which God challenges any other to try and duplicate:

Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come. (Isa. 41:22)

This is but one of many reasons why we choose to trust the text of Genesis over after-the-fact and error-prone interpretation of distant history by modern science.

See commentary on Revelation 1:8.

write what you see
Literally, “what you are seeing [you] write!” The verb “see” (Βλέπεις [Blepeis] ) is in the present tense. John’s contribution will be as a moment-by-moment observer, recording the events and scenes which are brought before him while in the Spirit. This, no doubt, accounts in part for the lack of grammatical polish which has been observed in the Greek text. This is not a carefully crafted literary document containing sophisticated themes originating in John’s own mind. John is continually reminded to “write” as he experiences the various scenes of the Revelation (Rev. 1:11+, 19+; 2:1+, 8+, 12+, 18+; 3:1+, 7+, 12+, 14+; 10:4+; 14:13+; 19:9+; 21:5+). This would seem to support the view that John is making a moment-by-moment record of the scenes which he is being shown. As with other writers of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is superintending the process, but it seems unlikely that John is given the time or luxury of carefully analyzing and crafting that which he records.

to the seven churches
Tradition holds that John left Jerusalem in the late sixties of the first century, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome. He went to Asia where he became the recognized leader of the Asian churches, following in the footsteps of Paul’s earlier missionary work which directly or indirectly founded many of the churches mentioned here.

The epistolary form of address immediately distinguishes this book from all other Jewish apocalyptic works . . . None of the pseudepigraphical works contains such epistolary addresses. John writes to actual, historical churches, addressing them in the same way the NT epistles are addressed.138

(See The Genre of the book of Revelation for more on the literary genre of apocalyptic.)

The seven churches are listed in the same order as their respective letters appear in Revelation 2+ and 3+. It has been suggested that their order indicates the natural route messengers would take to deliver copies of the letter to the seven churches.139

See Seven Churches of Asia.

which are in Asia
This is neither Asia nor even Asia Minor, but what we would today know as the region of western Turkey.

In the New Testament, as generally in the language of men when the New Testament was written, Asia meant not what it now means for us, and had once meant for the Greeks, one namely of the three great continents of the old world. . ., nor yet even that region which geographers about the fourth century of our era began to call “Asia Minor;” but a strip of the western seaboard containing hardly a third portion of this . . . its limits being nearly identical with those of the kingdom which Attalus the Third bequeathed to the Roman people. Take “Asia” in this sense, and there will be little or no exaggeration in the words of the Ephesian silversmith, that “almost throughout all Asia” Paul had turned away much people from the service of idols (Acts 19:26; cf. ver. 10); word which must seem to exceed even the limits of an angry hyperbole to those not acquainted with this restricted use of the term.140

The “Asia” of which the Scriptures speak is not the great continent of Asia, or even of Asia Minor, but only the western part of Asia Minor, directly south of the Black Sea. The whole of it does not include a larger territory than the single state of Pennsylvania.141

3.1.12 - Revelation 1:12 Open Bible at Rev. 1:12 Listen to Rev. 1:12

I turned to see
John is about to enter into the experience of many other prophets who were given a revelation of the glory of the Lord, usually near the beginning of their prophetic ministry. We think of Moses (Ex. 33:22-23; 34:5-6), Ezekiel (Eze. 1), Isaiah (Isa. 6), Daniel (Dan. 10:5-6+), and Paul (Acts 9:3; 22:6). John had been given a previous taste of God’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter and James (Mat. 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:29).142

St. John Beholding the Seven Candelabra

St. John Beholding the Seven Candelabra

143

seven golden lampstands
The symbolism of these lampstands is explained: “the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches” (Rev. 1:20+). The churches bear light, but are not the source of light (Mat. 5:14-16; John 1:4-5, 7-9; 5:32-35; Eph. 5:11-13; Php. 2:15).

The “seven candlesticks” . . . are intended to send us back, to the seven-branched candlestick, or candelabrum, which bears ever the same name of λυχνία [lychnia] in the Septuagint (Ex. 25:31 cf. Heb. 9:2); the six arms of which with the central shaft . . . made up the mystical seven, each with its several lamp (λύχνος [lychnos] , Zec. 4:2).144

See Interpreting Symbols. See symbolic meaning of seven.

3.1.13 - Revelation 1:13 Open Bible at Rev. 1:13 Listen to Rev. 1:13

in the midst
The Levites, who performed the priestly duty of the OT, camped around the glory of the Lord which resided in the Tabernacle (Num. 1:50; 1Chr. 9:27). The glory of the Lord was in the “midst” of the Levitical priests. The lampstands, which represent the churches (Rev. 1:20+), made up of believers who are priests unto God (Rev. 1:6+), also have the glory of the Lord in their midst (Mat. 18:20).145

Unlike other religions of the world, the Christian is not serving a famous mortal man whose body is now long moldering in the grave. Christ’s corpse is unavailable because He is risen and active among His Church as the body of Christ continues to minister on the earth in His absence.

Unlike the glory of God in the OT which departed from the people of God due to their sin (1S. 16:14; Ps. 51:11; Eze. 8:6; 9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-23; Hos. 5:14), each NT believer is indwelt and permanently sealed with the Holy Spirit (John 6:27; 14:16; 2Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30).146 He is in the midst of His Church, and will remain there “for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).

the seven lampstands
In the OT, the Menorah was made of a single central shaft to which six (or eight) branches were joined, the entire assembly being a single affair. Here, we have seven individual lamps, representing the seven typical (and historical) churches which represent the witness of Christ through the church. The central shaft joining these seven lamps and providing the oil for their continued illumination is Christ Himself (John 15:5). Some have seen in the separate lampstands a reference to the dispersion of the Jews.147

Son of Man
In a remarkable passage in the OT “a likeness with the appearance of a man” (Eze. 1:26) is seen high above the throne. His form is clothed in brilliant radiance which Ezekiel describes as “the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (Eze. 1:27). This is the One Who was seen by Stephen just prior to his death (Acts 7:56). Consistent with the description found in Revelation 1:7, this is the One who is presented to the Ancient of Days in the book of Daniel (Dan. 7:13+) and who is to receive dominion and glory, and a kingdom” (Dan. 7:14+). Jesus applied this term to Himself in the gospels (Dan. 7:13+; Mat. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27). Jesus is both the “Son of God” and “Son of Man.” These two titles hint at the mystery of the incarnation, where all the fullness of God dwelt in human form (Col. 2:9). Jesus, as the “Son of God,” is divine and without sin. As the “Son of Man,” he was begotten of Mary in the line from David, Abraham, and Adam (Mat. 1:1, 6; Luke 3:31, 34, 38; Rev. 12:1-5+). His divinity and virgin birth provide the necessary perfection by which His death could atone for the sins of the world (Isa. 53:9; John 8:46; 14:30; 2Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 9:14; 1Pe. 1:19; 2:22; 1Jn. 3:5). Although He is truly a man (Php. 2:7; Heb. 2:17), He is unique from all other men in His sinless perfection (Rom. 8:3).

As the “Son of Man,” His humanity provides for His role as the judge (John 5:27) and kinsman-redeemer (Goel, 1Ti. 2:5)148 of mankind (Rev. 5:4-5+); to taste of death (Heb. 2:14); and to restore the dominion lost by the first man Adam.149

One like the Son of Man appears again in Rev. 14:14+ where He reaps a harvest from the earth.

garment down to the feet
Apparently a reference to His priestly garments. “The long robe is every where in the East the garment of dignity and honour (Gen. 37:3; Mark 13:38 [sic]; Luke 15:22)—the association of dignity with it probably resting originally on the absence of the necessity of labor.”150

girded about the chest
The high priest wore a priestly “sash” around his priestly garment at the height of the breast (Ex. 28:4; 28:39; 39:29; Lev. 8:7; 16:4). But this sash was not made of gold (see below). A garment reaching to the feet was impractical for those who were laborers and came to denote a position of status. The seven angels of Rev. 15:6+ are similarly girded.

The ordinary girding for one actively engaged was at the loins (1K. 2:5; 18:46; Jer. 13:2 cf. Luke 12:35; Eph. 6:14; 1Pe. 1:13); but Josephus expressly tells us that the Levitical priests were girt higher up, about the breast . . . favouring, as this higher cincture did, a calmer, more majestic movement.151

Christ has an unchangeable priesthood because He continues forever (Heb. 7:14). “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:25).

with a golden band
How similar John’s vision is to that of Daniel by the Tigris (Dan. 10:5-6+). Daniel saw “a man . . . whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz” (Dan. 10:6+). His visitor had eyes like torches of fire and feet like burnished bronze and spoke with a voice like the voice of a multitude. Yet it seems that Daniel’s visitor could not have been the Son of Man which John sees here, for how could the prince of Persia (an angelic being influencing the kingdom of Persia) have ever withstood the Lord of Glory (Dan. 10:13+)? And when did God ever require help (Dan. 10:13+)?152

3.1.14 - Revelation 1:14 Open Bible at Rev. 1:14 Listen to Rev. 1:14

like wool, as white as snow
In Daniel’s vision, it is the Ancient of Days (the Father) who’s “hair of His head was like pure wool” (Dan. 7:9+). Here it is that of the Son of Man. John is being shown the glory of the Son, which He had with the Father “before the World was” (John 17:5).

It is evident that His ultimate glory was veiled in order to make possible a ministry to His disciples in scenes on earth. After His ascension into heaven, Christ never appeared again apart from His glory. In Acts 7:56, Stephen saw Christ standing at the right hand of the Father in the midst of the glory of God. In the appearance of Christ to Paul recorded in Acts 9:3-6, the glory of Christ was such that Paul was blinded. A similar experience befell the Apostle John in Revelation 1:12-20+ where John fell at the feet of Christ as one dead when he beheld the glory of Christ in His resurrection.153

Wool and snow also speak of His sinless purity (Isa. 1:18). A hypothetical question which might be asked (on a par with the question whether Adam and Eve had belly buttons) is whether Jesus would have had gray hair if he had not been crucified but lived? Since death is the wages of sin and Jesus knew no sin, we can infer the answer would be “no.” The hair white as wool is not a description of age or wisdom, but the incendiary brightness of His glory:

The white hairs of old age are at once the sign and the consequence of the decay of natural strength, in other words, of death commencing; . . . Being then this, how can the white hairs, the hoary head which is the sign of weakness, decay, and the approach of death, be ascribed to Him who, as He is from everlasting, so also is He to everlasting? . . . How then shall we explain this hair “white like wool”? It is a part of the transfiguration in light of the glorified person of the Redeemer; a transfiguration so complete that it reaches to the extremities, to the very hairs of the head.154

eyes like a flame of fire
His eyes are singled out as being like a flame of fire. This evokes the image of a gaze which instantly pierces the deepest darkness to lay bear all sin. It is a reference to His omniscience, omnipresence, and judgment. There is no evil activity of men which Jesus does not see (Job 28:24; Ps. 90:8; 94:9; 139:23; Pr. 15:3). There is no den of iniquity so dark that Jesus is not there (Job 34:22; Ps. 139:7; Jer. 23:24; Amos 9:2). There is no work of man which will go unjudged by His piercing gaze (1Cor. 3:15; 2Cor. 5:10; Heb. 4:13). Truly, God is an all-consuming fire (Num. 11:1; Deu. 5:25; 9:3; 2K. 1:10; Ps. 50:3; 78:63; Isa. 33:14; Luke 9:54; Heb. 12:29; Rev. 11:5+).

When speaking to the church at Thyatira, after mentioning His “eyes like a flame of fire” (Rev. 2:18+), Jesus continues, “I know your works” (Rev. 2:19+). He says to the same church, “all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works” (Rev. 2:23+).

His piercing eyes are an identifying description in Rev. 19:12+. It is impossible to escape His gaze! “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13).

3.1.15 - Revelation 1:15 Open Bible at Rev. 1:15 Listen to Rev. 1:15

His feet
It would appear that His feet were unshod:

They were no doubt bare; as were the feet of the Levitical priesthood ministering in the sanctuary. We are no where indeed expressly told of these that they ministered barefoot, but every thing leads us to this conclusion. Thus while all the other parts of the priestly investiture are described with the greatest minuteness, and Moses accurately instructed how they should be made, there is no mention of any covering for the feet. Then again the analogy of such passages as Ex. 3:5; Jos. 5:15, and the fact that the moral idea of the shoe is that of defense against the defilements of the earth, of which defilements there could be none in the Holy Place, all this irresistibly points to the same conclusions.155

fine brass, refined in a furnace
The etymology of χαλκολίβανος [chalkolibanos] [fine brass] being uncertain, it may be intended to describe the resulting hardness of brass after the refining process, this being an allusion to the treading or trampling down of those who are unbelieving or unfaithful (Ps. 58:10; 68:23; Isa. 63:3; Rev. 2:18-29+; 19:15+). It is in reality an unknown metal.156

Bochart sees in χαλκολίβανος [chalkolibanos] [fine brass], a hybrid formation, the combination of a Greek word and a Hebrew, χαλκός [chalkos] , and לִבֵּן [libbēn] = “albare,” to make white; brass which in the furnace has attained what we call “white head.” . . . If this be correct, the χαλκολίβανο [chalkolibano] will not be “fine brass” or the “shining,” but the “glowing brass.” This conclusion is very much strengthened by the following phrase, “as if they burned in a furnace;”157

It has often been suggested that our term was familiar to the important local guild of bronze-workers [in Thyatira, Rev. 2:18+] . . . I suggest then that an alloy of copper with metallic zinc was made in Thyatira, the zinc being obtained by distillation. This was a finer and purer brass than the rough and variable coinage-alloy. . . . The product, I suggest, was known there as χαλκολίβανος [chalkolibanos] , which I conjecture to be a ‘copulative compound’, literally rendered ‘copper-zinc’, λίβανος [libanos] being an unrecorded word, perhaps peculiar to the trade, for a metal obtained by distillation, and so derived from the verb λείβω [leibō] .158

Refined is πεπυρωμένης [pepyrōmenēs] : “Make red hot, cause to glow, heat thoroughly . . . By such heating precious metals are tested and refined (Job 22:25; Ps. 11:7; 65:10; Pr. 10:20).”159

voice as the sound of many waters
The phrase sound of many waters is used to describe the sound of a multitude (Isa. 17:12-13; Rev. 19:6+) or noise like the tumult of an army (Eze. 1:24). Here, as in other passages, it is the sound attributed to a single voice. Daniel heard such a voice in his vision by the Tigris (Dan. 10:6+). Ezekiel also heard a similar voice in his vision of the glory of the Lord returning to the east gate of the Millennial Temple (Eze. 43:2). In Ezekiel and in Revelation 1:15+ and 14:2+, it appears to be the voice of God Himself. For reasons mentioned in Revelation 1:13, the voice Daniel heard was most likely that of a mighty angel.160

3.1.16 - Revelation 1:16 Open Bible at Rev. 1:16 Listen to Rev. 1:16

in His right hand seven stars
These stars are the seven angels of the churches as explained in Revelation 1:20. The picture of the stars being within His right hand (the side of favor) is of great comfort to believers for what Christ grasps in His hand cannot be snatched away (John 10:28-29). The angels and the churches they are associated with need not fear any but God Himself.

Christ, we feel sure, could not have placed Himself in the relation which He does to them, as holding in his hand the seven stars, walking among the seven golden candlesticks, these stars being the Angels of the Churches, and the candlesticks the Churches themselves, unless they ideally represented and set forth, in some way or other, the universal Church, militant here upon earth.161

See the discussion of the identity of the angels at Revelation 1:20. See Seven: Perfection, Completeness.

out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword
A heavy broadsword:

It [ῥομφαια [hromphaia] , sword] is properly the long and heavy broadsword . . ., which the Thracians and other barbarous nations used; and as such to be distinguished from the μάχαιρα [machaira] , the sacrificial knife, or short stabbing sword; . . . The word occurring six times in the Apocalypse, only occurs once besides in the New Testament (Luke 2:35).162

Some have obtained fanciful interpretations regarding the two-edged sword, such as representing both “the old and the new law.”163

The sword goes out of His mouth in agreement with all the creative acts of God which were spoken forth by the Word of God (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26; 2Pe. 3:5). It is for this reason that Jesus is the Word (λόγος [logos] ). The speaking forth of God’s will can bring creation or destruction. Isaiah informs us that the mouth of the Messiah is “like a sharp sword” (Isa. 49:2) and with His lips He will slay the wicked” (Isa. 11:4). The Word spoken through the prophets is a weapon in the hand of God (Hos. 6:5). It is the only offensive weapon of the Christian (Eph. 6:17). Its power as a sword is seen in its ability to pierce “even to the division of soul and spirit” and discern “the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). The Word of God has already slain His enemies because it sets forth their impending doom in words “which cannot be broken” (John 10:35). That which is prophecy today, will be accomplished history tomorrow. It is in this sense that Jesus slays His enemies with the sword of His mouth (2Th. 2:8; Rev. 2:12+, 16+; 19:15+). The sword signifies His judicial power which will be in accordance with His Word (Mat. 25:31-32; John 5:22; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom. 2:16; 14:10; 2Cor. 5:10; 2Ti. 4:1; 1Pe. 4:5; Rev. 20:12+).

like the sun
This is now the second time that John has been privileged to see the Savior’s glory shining from His face like the son (Mat. 17:2).. At the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John were given a preview of “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Mat. 16:28). This glorious vision which John beholds is some small indication of what the entire world will behold at the Second Coming of Christ.

I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (1Ti. 6:13-16) [emphasis added]

See Interpreting Symbols.

3.1.17 - Revelation 1:17 Open Bible at Rev. 1:17 Listen to Rev. 1:17

fell at His feet as dead
This is the unrehearsed response of all who have been privileged to see the glory of the Lord (Isa. 6:4; Eze. 1:28; 3:23; 43:3; 44:4; Dan. 8:17+; 10:8+, 16-17+; Mat. 17:6; Acts 9:4). It is as much in recognition of the power and might of God as in a realization of their utter unworthiness (Jdg. 6:22; 13:22; Isa. 6:5, 7). “The beloved disciple, who had handled the Word of life, lain in his Lord’s bosom in the days of his flesh, can as little as any other endure the revelation of his majesty.”164

laid His right hand on me
Daniel experienced a similar loss of all strength at the imposing presence of his visitor by the river Tigris (Dan. 10:8+). He too was told not to be afraid and was touched in a similar act of restoration (Dan. 10:10+). When Ezekiel was overcome by the glory of the Lord (Eze. 1:28), the Holy Spirit restored him to his feet (Eze. 2:1-2). Although years had passed, perhaps this brought to mind John’s previous experience on the Mount of Transfiguration where John had his first glimpse of the glory of Jesus and was similarly restored (Mat. 17:6-7).

do not be afraid
The unavoidable response of those who saw even a glimpse of His glory is that of fear. Yet how cavalier we are today in our attitude toward the Maker of a myriad of galaxies! We, who dare not even touch a 60-watt light bulb without wearing protective gloves, often treat Him as our “Genie on call.”165 We haven’t the slightest notion or appreciation of His holiness, even daring to think that worship is about pleasing us—expressing our dislike if the music is not to our taste or we are unable to drink coffee during the “worship service.” How much we are in need of a glimpse of His glory that we might have a Scriptural fear of the Lord!166 A lack of fear for God is the characteristic of His enemies (Ps. 36:1; Jer. 2:19; 5:24; Rom. 3:18) and “fear” is one of His titles (Gen. 31:42, 53).

Yet the fear that His children are to have is not the cowering response of a creature fearing retribution. It is the healthy, reverent, fear one would have toward a human father of perfect discipline and unconditional love, if one were to exist. Coupled with the recognition of power and great might is a deep comfort in the realization that God is also our Protector. As Paul observed, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31)? When we look into the face of the Judge of the Universe, it is our Savior’s face we will see!

I am the First and the Last
See commentary on Revelation 1:11.

3.1.18 - Revelation 1:18 Open Bible at Rev. 1:18 Listen to Rev. 1:18

I am He who lives
John calls Him ὁ ζῶν [ho zōn] , “the living one” (present, active participle).“Life” is an essential attribute of God Who is consistently described as “the living one” over and against other idols and gods who are lifeless.167

and was dead
Here is the fatal text for those, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who maintain that Jesus Christ is not fully God. For when did God die except for Jesus on the cross? In this verse is a contradiction so profound that it would be the height of nonsense if it were not also the manifestation of the genius of God: that God Himself would take on the form of a man, to come in the flesh, to be oppressed by men, and nailed to a tree! The infinite and omnipotent Creator bound Himself in time and space and stooping to be abused by His finite and puny creatures (Mat. 26:67-68; Luke 22:64). “I the source of all life stooped even to taste of death”168 (Heb. 2:9). Yet such is the depth of God’s love for us that He endured such shame!

The Maker of the universe
As man to man was made a curse;
The claims of law which He had made
Unto the uttermost He paid.

His holy fingers made the bough
That grew the thorns that pierced His brow;
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.

He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung;
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.

The throne on which He now appears
Was His from everlasting years -
But a new crown adorns His brow,
And every knee to Him shall bow.

—F. W. Pitt, Maker of the Universe

How unnatural eternal life seems to us from our current perspective. Yet this was God’s design prior to the entrance of sin:

Christ sets Himself forth here as the overcomer of death natural; which it must always be remembered is rather death unnatural; for man was made for immortality (Gen. 2:17), and death is the denial and reversal of the true law of his creation (Rom. 5:12).169

The work of Jesus makes possible the wonderful promise set forth later in this book which describes the condition of those who place their trust in Him: “There shall be no death” (Rev. 21:4+). Jesus reiterates this fact to encourage the persecuted church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8+).

When confronted with members of any non-Christian religion, here is the central issue at stake: Is Jesus God or is He not? Only orthodox Christianity will assert His full divinity. It is fruitless to engage in lengthy interaction with all such cults who deny His divinity because every other issue pales into insignificance compared to this central issue. This particular verse is of great benefit for it removes all “wiggle room” from those who would try to deny that Jesus Christ is the One here described as “the First and the Last” Who is “alive forevermore” for the same was also “dead!” Until the cult member can answer you, “When did God die?” there is little point in further discussion.

This purpose of revealing the deity of Christ is thus seen to permeate the whole book, and no unbiased reader of Revelation can reach any conclusion other than that Christ is God, with the full endorsement and approval of the Father. He has received His throne from the hand of God, unlike Satan who tried to usurp the office. Jesus Christ’s powers and attributes are all those of deity. Any doubt of His deity must be laid to rest. [emphasis added]170

behold, I am alive forevermore
Literally, Καὶ ὁ ζῶν, καὶ ἐγενόμην νεκρὸς καὶ ἰδοὺ ζῶν εἰμι εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων [Kai ho zōn, kai egenomēn nekros kai idou zōn eimi eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn] , “I am the living one and I was dead and behold living I am into the ages of the ages.”171

The Son has eternal life and has been given authority over all flesh by the Father. For this reason, Jesus is able to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given Him (John 17:2). This is the basis for His amazing statement to Thomas. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” (John 14:6). Jesus is “the life.” He alone, among men, has immortality (1Ti. 6:16) and offers it to those who come to Him. The eternal life which Jesus offers is not some future promise, but is granted the instant a person believes on Him: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ ” (John 11:25-26).

During His earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated that He was “the life,” in numerous ways. The Law of Moses stated that lepers were unclean (Lev. 13:44-45). They were to be separated from others and to cry ‘unclean! unclean!’ in order to warn others of their presence. To touch a leper or any of his clothing made one unclean and also carried the very real risk of infection. It was unthinkable to touch a leper! Yet when lepers approached Jesus for healing, Jesus did the unthinkable, He touched them! But instead of Jesus getting leprosy, the lepers got “Jesus-sy”—they were instantly healed (Mat. 8:3; Mark 1:41; Luke 5:13)! Because Jesus is “the life,” it is impossible that He could be defiled. Instead, His life-giving power went out to others in the performance of healing miracles and the restoration of the dead to life (Mark 5:41-42; Luke 7:14-15; Luke 8:54-55; John 11:43-44).

The primary demonstration that Jesus is “the life” is found in His resurrection from the dead. “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’ ” [emphasis added] (John 2:19); “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again” [emphasis added] (John 10:17). Not only would Jesus rise from the dead, but He Himself would be the agent of His resurrection!172

Then ὁ ζῶν [ho zōn] expresses not so much that he, the Speaker, “lived,” as that He was “the Living One,” the Life (John 1:4; 14:6), αὑτοζωή [hautozōē] , having life in Himself, and the fountain and source of life to others. . . . To Him belongs absolute being (ὄντως εἶναι [ontōs einai] ), as contrasted with the relative being of the creature, with the life which be no life, seeing that it inevitably falls under the dominion of corruption and death, so soon as it is separated from him, the source from which it was derived173

Christ says, “behold,” emphasizing that His demonstration of life beyond the grave is of paramount importance, for Christ’s resurrection bears witness that those who trust in Him will likewise rise from the dead (John 14:19; Rom. 6:8-9). If it were not for the fact of the resurrection—without the “Living One”—Christianity would be meaningless (1Cor. 15:12-17).

keys of Hades and of Death
With rare exception, all who enter this life face the certainty of physical death. In some passages, death and Hades are personified as enemies of the living (Hos. 13:14; Rev. 6:8+), for it is by death that people enter Hades.174

The reference to keys points to many passages in which the entrance to death and Hades is described as being controlled by gates (Job 38:17; Ps. 9:13; 107:18; Isa. 38:10; Mat. 16:18). Those who are held therein, are described as “prisoners” (Isa. 24:22; 1Pe. 3:19). As in real life, keys in Scripture denote the power to lock and unlock, to open and shut (Isa. 22:22; Mat. 16:19; Rev. 3:7+; Rev. 9:1+; 20:1-3+).175 The keys of Hades and of Death unlock the gates of Hades and death so that those who would previously have been held securely by death and Hades are now set free to eternal life. Whereas death holds the bodies of men, Hades holds their souls.176 Jesus’ offer of eternal life to those who accept Him overcomes the power of Hades and death (1Cor. 15:55). In this sense, death and Hades were “raided” by Jesus Who liberated man who was destined to this fate by the curse (Gen. 3:19). Jesus is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1Cor. 15:20) and in His resurrection demonstrated dominion over death. It is because Jesus is the “living One” that He has the keys of Hades and Death. His resurrection “turned the key” in the gates of Hades and death liberating us to eternal life. Our liberation grants us freedom from the bondage of the fear of death (Heb. 2:15).

What millions have gone down beneath [the power of death], and are now held by it! Every acre of the earth is full of them, and the bottom of every sea. I have seen their grim skeletons on mountain summits, eight thousand two hundred feet above the level of the sea; and I have walked upon their ashes more than a thousand feet below that level. And from far deeper depths to still more elevated heights, on all the slopes and hillsides, and in all the fields and valleys of the earth, death’s victims lie in fetters of darkness, silence and dust. Even on the life-powers of the Son of God were these manacles made fast. But by him they were also opened: for he hath the keys of death.177

3.1.19 - Revelation 1:19 Open Bible at Rev. 1:19 Listen to Rev. 1:19

the things which you have seen
This phrase introduces the key verse for interpreting the main sections of the book. The things which you have seen includes those things revealed to John prior to addressing the seven churches (Revelation 1+).178

the things which are
The things that attend John’s present time, which are set forth in the letters to the seven churches found in Revelation 2+ and 3+.179

the things which will take place after this
The things yet future to John’s time, constituting most of the remainder of the book, from Revelation 4+ onward: “Where is the dividing line in Revelation between a symbolic view of the present and a symbolic view of the future? . . . The answer seems to be contained in Rev. 4:1+, where the voice of a trumpet summoned the seer to heaven to see ‘the things which must come to pass hereafter.’ ”180

The conjunction καὶ [kai] can be translated by “and,” “even,” or “both.” The question arises as to whether there are three divisions or only two?

Does Christ give John a chronological outline as a key to the visions in the book? Many think he does. If so, are there three divisions: “seen,” “now,” and “later”? Or are there two: “seen,” i.e., “now” and “later”? In the latter case, where does the chronological break take place in the book?181

The passage may be rendered: “Write the things which thou sawest, both the things which are and the things which shall be hereafter.” Such a rendering is grammatically possible, though it is not favored by the majority of expositors. If correct, it means that Revelation relates only to the present and to the future, not to the past at all.182

The threefold division seems most natural and has been favored by most interpreters:

The advantage of this outline is that it deals in a natural way with the material rather than seizing on incidentals as some expositors have done or avoiding any outline at all, as is true of other expositors. It is not too much to claim that this outline is the only one which allows the book to speak for itself without artificial manipulation and which lays guidelines of sufficient importance so that expositors who follow this approach have been able to establish a system of interpretation of the book of Revelation, namely, the futurist school.183

See the Structural Outline given in our discussion of the Literary Structure of the book.

after this
Literally, μετὰ ταῦτα [meta tauta] , “after these [things],” plural.

3.1.20 - Revelation 1:20 Open Bible at Rev. 1:20 Listen to Rev. 1:20

mystery
As is frequently the case within Scripture, the answers to our questions are “in the back of the book” (in this case, the back of the chapter). Jesus explains the mystery of the seven stars and seven golden lampstands.184

A “mystery” in the constant language of Scripture is something which man is capable of knowing, but only when it has been revealed to him by God (Mat. 18:11; Rom. 11:25; Eph. 6:19; 1Cor. 13:2), and not through any searching of his own.185

Many of the fanciful interpretations offered for this book can be reigned in by the simple process of carefully observing what the book offers in the way of explaining the meaning of symbols: “This verse points up the fact that, when symbols are used in the book of Revelation, they are explained internally, not subject to imaginative suggestions by allegorizing expositors.”186

seven stars
Due to their brightness and location in heaven, angels are often represented as stars (Job 38:7; Isa. 14:13; Rev. 9:1+). See Seven: Perfection, Completeness.

There are seven stars, not twelve. The number of stars is an important aspect for differentiating this group of stars from another group of stars mentioned elsewhere (Gen. 37:9; Rev. 12:1+). These are said to be the churches of Asia Minor. The twelve stars of Revelation 12:1+ represent the twelve tribes of Israel, not the church.

angels of the churches
Here we enter upon perhaps the most difficult interpretive question in this chapter: the identity of these angels? Each of the primary views is attended with some difficulty:

The Identity of the Angels
IdentityForAgainst
Heavenly guardian angels of the churchesThe term “angel” describes heavenly beings elsewhere in the book of Revelation.187 The angels are charged, as individuals, with various sins. Elect angels do not sin.188 The complexity of communication: why would the revelation be given from God to Jesus to a heavenly angel to John (a man) to another heavenly angel (the star) and then to the church?189 Why would elect angels, known for their steadfast service and power, be said to be protected in the right hand of the Son of Man? The awards for the overcomer correspond to those promised to redeemed humans. Angels do not partake of the tree of life (Rev. 2:7+), cannot be imprisoned by men or killed (Rev. 2:10-11+), are not written in the Book of Life (Rev. 3:5+), nor will they reign over the nations (Rev. 2:26-27+; 3:21+). If the angel is a heavenly guardian angel, then almost all that is said of him must be strictly representative of the people within the church he guards.
Human messengers from the churches190 The term “angels” is occasionally used of human messengers.191 Human messengers may have been sent to Patmos for the purpose of meeting with John and carrying a copy of the letter back to each church.192 There are fewer problems attending this view. “The view that takes the angeloi as men who are representatives of the churches, but are without a unique leadership function appears to be the most probable choice, largely because objections to it are easier to answer than objections to the other . . . views.”193 Human messengers are never called “stars” (but see Gen. 37:9 cf. Rev. 12:1+; Dan. 12:3+).194 Why would secondary human messengers be held personally responsible as individuals for the sins of the church?195
A Human leader of the church in each city (elder or bishop)196 The angels are individually responsible for the spiritual welfare of the churches and are protected in the right hand of the Son of Man.197 There is no precedent within Scripture or church history for referring to church leaders as “angels.”198 Even apostles with great authority, such as Peter and John, refer to themselves merely as “elder” (1Pe. 5:1; 2Jn. 1:1; 3Jn. 1:1).199 NT church leadership consists of a plurality of elders.200 The individual leader could not be personally responsible for the character of the entire church.201 Cities such as Ephesus probably had multiple house churches.202
Personifications of the churches203 The close identification between each “angel” and the character of the church. Christ speaks to the churches both in the singular and plural.Lack of scriptural evidence for the personification of congregations of believers. “Stars” or “angels” are not used this way anywhere else. In assigning sin to a personification, ambiguity remains as to who is truly responsible. This view would make the stars and lampstands virtually identical.204

In most cases, the grammar of the letters to each church implicates each individual angel. This is reflected by the preponderance of verb forms in the second-person singular. Yet the things which are said to the angel include aspects which could only be true of the wider church membership. In some cases, the grammar itself reflects a broader application. For example, in the letter to the angel of the church of Smyrna, seven of the Greek words indicate the angel is an individual (second-person singular, you). Yet three words indicate the larger church membership (second-person plural, you all).

To the angel [singular] . . . I know your [singular] works . . . but you [singular] are rich . . . You [singular] do not fear . . . those things which you [singular] are about to suffer . . . the devil is about to throw some of you [plural] into prison . . . that you [plural] may be tested, and you [plural] will have tribulation . . . You [singular] be faithful . . . and I will give you [singular] the crown of life. (Rev. 2:8-10+)

Since a number of individuals are to be thrown into prison to be tested, the promise of the crown of life cannot be strictly for the individual angel, but surely must apply to all those who remain faithful. We should take care not to make too much of the grammatical distinctions between the single angel and the plural congregation.

When all these factors are considered, it would appear that the best solution is one that takes the “angels” as human messengers or leaders of the churches while recognizing that much of what Christ says to the angel as an individual is also meant for the entire church.205

In our commentary on the individual letters to the seven churches, we will interpret the comments directed to each singular angel as being descriptive of the entire congregation.

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Notes

1 As teachers, our primary calling is to make the Scriptures known. “The best defense is a strong offense.”

2 Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989), 371.

3 To be sure, many aspects of this revelation are set forth elsewhere in Scripture, but not in the completeness or sequence shown John.

4 Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), 81.

5 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 1:1.

6 In Galatians, apocalypse appears in the genitive whereas in Revelation 1:1+ it is in the nominative.

7 “Some accept the words as if they were meant to express the revealment of the Revelation. This I take to be a mistake . . . It is not the Apocalypse which is the subject of the disclosure. This book is not the Apocalypse of the Apocalypse, but THE APOCALYPSE OF JESUS CHRIST. . . . If ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ’ meant nothing more than certain communications made known by Christ, I can see no significance or propriety in affixing this title to this book, rather than to any other books of holy Scripture. Are they not all alike the revelation of Jesus Christ, in this sense? Does not Peter say of the inspired writers in general, that they were moved by the Spirit of Christ which was in them? Why then single out this particular book as ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ,’ when it is no more the gift of Jesus than any other inspired book?”—J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 16. “These opening words in the book present two major ideas about Christ. First, this book is an unveiling by or from Him, that is, a revelation of the future that God gave Him to give to us through His servant. Second, the book is an unveiling concerning Jesus Christ, an unveiling in which God makes known to us the future and Christ’s role in it. The second of these seems more prominent. Though this book certainly is a revelation by Jesus Christ, it is foremost a revelation or unveiling of Him.”—Harold D. Foos, “Christology in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 104.

8 So [Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998, 1906)], [M. R. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group, 2002)], and [A. T. Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group, 2003)].

9 “Is the revelation that which comes from Christ or is it about Christ? In Rev. 22:16+ Jesus tells John that his angel was the one proclaiming the message of the book to John. Thus, the book is certainly a revelation from Christ (hence, we may have a subjective genitive in Rev. 1:1+). But the revelation is supremely and ultimately about Christ. Thus, the genitive in Rev. 1:1+ may also be an objective genitive. The question is whether the author intended both in Rev. 1:1+. Since this is the title of his book—intended to describe the whole of the work—it may well be a plenary genitive.”—Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999, 2002), 120.

10 “Wallace has fallen into the same pit as have so many others by his neglect of the basics of hermeneutics. One of his glaring errors violates the principle of single meaning. In his consideration of a category he calls the ‘Plenary Genitive,’ he labors the point that a particular passage’s construction may be at the same time both objective genitive and subjective genitive. . . . Wallace consciously rejects the wisdom of past authorities . . . His volume could have been helpful, but this feature makes it extremely dangerous.”—Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2002), 158.

11 Foos, Christology in the Book of Revelation, 105.

12 This equality among the persons of the Trinity while fulfilling different roles well-illustrates the principle of equality of value, but difference in role so essential to the biblical family unit. The man and the women are absolutely equal in value before God, yet occupy different roles if the harmony and synergy God intended is to come to fruition in the family unit. The man is to be the leader (1Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18) while demonstrating sacrificial love toward his wife (Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:19). This delicate balance within the family unit requires selflessness. It is selfishness which factors large in divorce.

13 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 21.

14 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 1:1.

15 Thomas Ice, “Preterist ‘Time Texts’,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 105.

16 An exception to this statement can be made in the case of full preterism which holds that the entire book of Revelation has already been fulfilled. But this is outside of orthodox Christianity.

17 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), s.v. “Introduction.”

18 Ice, Preterist “Time Texts”, 105.

19 Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 536.

20 The Conservative Theological Journal, vol. 4 no. 13 (Fort Worth, TX: Tyndale Theological Seminary, December 2000), 304-305.

21 Ice, Preterist “Time Texts”, 104.

22 Mal Couch, “The War Over Words,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 295.

23 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 55.

24 “ ‘Soonness’ means imminency in eschatological terms.”—Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 21.

25 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 56.

26 Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 1:1.

27 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 56.

28 Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 186.

29 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 59.

30 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 12.

31 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 20.

32 Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, 34.

33 Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes.

34 Rene Pache, The Inspiration & Authority of Scripture (Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Company, 1969), 35-40.

35 [Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 58-59], [Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes].

36 Most often, we are too eager to make Him known without truly knowing Him (Luke 10:38-42). When we do this, we misrepresent our Lord and present a caricature of God to a skeptical world.

37 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness Of The Kingdom (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), 6.

38 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 13.

39 Contrast this with our own day which enjoys unprecedented ability to duplicate and distribute materials worldwide, but where Christian teaching and worship music suffers at the hands of restrictive copyrights (Mat. 10:8).

40 William D. Mounce, Greek for the Rest of Us (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 30.

41 Ibid.

42 As a case in point, suppose we are studying the Scriptural teaching on Israel? We use a concordance or computer search to find all the occurrences of the word “Israel” in the NT. Using the NIV translation, we find Ephesians 3:6 among the verses listed: “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”. Yet in the Greek below this verse, the word “Israel” (Ισραηλ [Israēl] ) never appears! This may seem like a fine point to some, especially since in this particular verse the idea captured by the NIV would seem correct. But over the long haul it is problematic to rely on a dynamic equivalency translation for study—you simply do not know when you are looking at a detail which is not there in the original. We suppose such translations may be suitable for devotional study—that is, if you don’t mind having flawed devotions.

43 “The Message” is one such paraphrase which distorts God’s Word to such a degree that it undermines the very Message after which it was titled! How close must we come to violating Revelation 22:18-19+ before we realize we are doing a disservice to God’s Word?

44 “One of the chief eschatological terms. ὁ καιρὸς [ho kairos] the time of crisis, the last times”—Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 394.

45 Larry Spargimino, “How Preterists Misuse History to Advance their View of Prophecy,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 142-143.

46 Ibid., 143.

47 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 61.

48 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, s.v. “Time does not translate .”

49 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.

50 Nicoll.

51 Kenneth L. Gentry and Thomas Ice, The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999), 112.

52 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 130.

53 Ibid., 65.

54 Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 62-63.

55 Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 5.

56 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 66.

57 Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 6-7.

58 There is some uncertainty as to whether Isaiah lists seven Spirits, or only six (in this case “Spirit of the LORD” being seen as a summary of the six which follow). It seems likely, given the use of seven throughout Scripture, that Isaiah lists these attributes to indicate the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

59 “Some writers say these verses are speaking of the seven angels who are before the throne of God (Rev. 8:2+).”—Russell L. Penney, “Pneumatology in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 115. “Other interpreters understand the designation as a reference to the seven archangels of Jewish tradition. In 1 Enoch 20:1-8 they are listed as Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraquael, Gabriel, and Remiel (cf. Tobit 12:15; Esd. 4:1; Dan. 10:13+).”—Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 69.

60 Robert P. Lightner, “Theology Proper in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 92.

61 Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 24.

62 “The verb [τικτωο [tiktōo] , Strongs: G5088] which is one of the components of [πρωτότοκος [prōtotokos] ,Strongs: G4416) ‘first-begotten or born,’ is everywhere in the New Testament used in the sense of ‘to bear or to bring forth,’ and has nowhere the meaning ‘beget,’ unless James 1:15 be an exception.”—Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies, s.v. “The verb [.”

63 New Electronic Translation : NET Bible, electronic edition (Dallas, TX: Biblical Studies Press, 1998), Col. 1:15.

64 “I should rather put this passage in connection with Ps. 2:7, ‘Thou art my son; this day have I begotten Thee.’ It will doubtless be remembered that St. Paul (Acts 13:33; cf. Heb. 1:5) claims the fulfillment of these words not in the eternal generation before all time of the Son; still less in his human conception in the Blessed Virgin’s womb; but rather in his resurrection from the dead; ‘declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead’ (Rom. 1:4).”—Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 12.

65 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 1:5.

66 “He was not the first who rose from the dead, but the first who so rose that death was thenceforth impossible for Him (Rom. 6:9).”—Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies, Rev. 1:5. Those who were raptured, such as Enoch (Gen. 5:24) and Elijah (2K. 2:11), did not taste of death.

67 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 11.

68 Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, 118.

69 “The Greek adverb οὕτως [houtōs] can refer (1) to the degree to which God loved the world, that is, to such an extent or so much that he gave his own Son . . . or (2) simply to the manner in which God loved the world, i.e., by sending his own son . . . Though the term more frequently refers to the manner in which something is done, . . . the following clause . . . plus the indicative (which stresses actual, but [usually] unexpected result) emphasizes the greatness of the gift God has given. With this in mind, then, it is likely (3) that John is emphasizing both the degree to which God loved the world as well as the manner in which He chose to express that love. This is in keeping with John’s style of using double entendre or double meaning. Thus, the focus of the Greek construction here is on the nature of God’s love, addressing its mode, intensity, and extent.”—New Electronic Translation : NET Bible, John 3:16.

70 The following verses may be studied for further insight into the atoning characteristics of Christ’s blood: Gen. 9:4; Ex. 12:23; 24:8; Lev. 17:11; Isa. 52:15; Zec. 9:11; Mat. 26:28; 27:4; Luke 22:20; John 19:30; Acts 20:28; Rom. 5:9; 1Cor. 10:16; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Col. 1:14, 20; 2:14-15; Heb. 9:12, 14, 22; 10:19, 29; 11:28; 12:24; 13:12, 20; 1Pe. 1:18-19; 1Jn. 1:7; 5:8; Rev. 1:5+; 5:9+; 7:14+; 12:11+.

71 Israel will have a unique place as “priests of the Lord” (Isa. 61:5-6) during the Millennial Kingdom.

72 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, Rev. 1:6.

73 For more on this topic, see [McClain, The Greatness Of The Kingdom] and [George H. N. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1978, 1884)].

74 Pache, The Inspiration & Authority of Scripture, 106.

75 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 29.

76 “The first messiah, ‘Messiah son of Joseph,’ who suffered in Egypt would come to suffer and die to fulfill the servant passages [Isa. 49:1-26; 53]. The second messiah, ‘Messiah son of David,’ would then come and raise the first Messiah back to life. He would then establish His Kingdom to rule and to reign.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 57.

77 “As described in Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a): ‘Rabbi Joseph the son of Levi objects that it is written in one place “Behold one like the son of man comes with the clouds of heaven,” but in another place it is written “lowly and riding upon an ass.” The solution is, if they be righteous he shall come with the clouds of heaven, but if they not be righteous he shall come lowly riding upon an ass.’ ’ ”—Ibid., 66.

78 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 1:7.

79 Ibid.

80 Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes, s.v. “The verb form .”

81 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 76.

82 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 500.

83 James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), Rev. 1:7.

84 Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, 121.

85 See Revelation 3:11+ which clarifies the distinction between the throne of the Father versus the throne of the Son.

86 Even preterists admit that some cloud coming passages relate to the Second Coming. “Preterists such as Gentry do see some passages that have ‘cloud language’ as referring to the Second Coming (Acts 1:9-11; 1Th. 4:13-17)”—Thomas Ice, “Hermeneutics and Bible Prophecy,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 79. “Another hermeneutical shortcoming of preterism relates to the limiting of the promised coming of Christ in Rev. 1:7+ to Judea [the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD]. What does a localized judgment hundreds of miles away have to do with the seven churches of Asia? John uses two long chapters in addressing those churches regarding the implications of the coming of Christ for them. For instance, the promise to shield the Philadelphian church from judgment (Rev. 3:10-11+) is meaningless if that judgment occurs far beyond the borders of that city.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 225.

87 An awkward reality for preterists is the reestablishment of the Jewish state in the Promised Land. If it were to have been finally destroyed in A.D. 70 by the wrath of God as preterists maintain, evidently God did an incomplete job.

88 Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1994), 162.

89 Ibid.

90 “The choice of ἐκκεντέω [ekkenteō] to render the Hebrew דָּקַר [dāqar] of Zec. 12:10 in John 19:37 and Rev. 1:7+ adds strength to the case that the two books had the same author. Both uses differ from the LXX’s obviously erroneous choice of κατορχέω [katorcheō] to render the same Hebrew word.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 82.

91 Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), Rev. 1:7.

92 Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999, c1980), s.v. “449a.”

93 “In the messianic passage Isa. 53:5, ‘wounded’ (KJV margin ‘tormented’; jb ‘pierced through’) follows the divine smiting (Isa. 53:4). The Poel form used . . . is similar to that in Isa. 51:9; cf. ‘pierced by the sword’ (Pual, Eze. 32:26). The quotation in John 19:12 (‘they shall look on him whom they have pierced’) is from Zec. 12:10 but this Isa. 53:5 uses another verb (דָקַר [ḏāqar] ) ‘pierced through fatally’ (usually in retribution). In Jer. 51:4 and Lam. 4:9 דָקַר [ḏāqar] is used as a synonym of הָלַל [hālal] .”—Ibid., #660.

94 A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 1:7.

95 Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 2040.

96 Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), 10:609.

97 “The problem with interpreting Revelation 1:7+ to refer to the land of Israel is that all the other uses of the exact phrase ‘all the tribes of the earth’ in the original language always has a universal nuance (Gen. 12:3; 28:14; Ps. 72:17; Zec. 14:17).”—Ice, Preterist “Time Texts”, 99.

98 The distinction between Abraham’s seed and all the families of the earth makes plain that the families are a superset beyond the physical seed. Where Gen. 12:3 is cited in Acts 3:25, the word for “families” is πατριαὶ [patriai] .

99 “ ‘all the tribes of the earth’ refers to all nations in every one of its Septuagint occurrences (πα̃σαι αἱ φυλαὶ τῆς γῆς [pasai hai phylai tēs gēs] , Gen. 12:3; 28:14; Ps. 71:17; Zec. 14:17).”—Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 26.

100 Preterists respond to this evidence from the Septuagint by noting that where the Septuagint renders “tribes” as φυλαι [phylai] , the underlying Hebrew is מִשְׁפְּחֹת [mišpeḥōṯ] - a different Hebrew word from the more frequently encountered word for “tribe” which describes Israel: שֵׁבֶת [šēḇeṯ] . They claim that by rendering both שֵׁבֶת [šēḇeṯ] and מִשְׁפְּחֹת [mišpeḥōṯ] as “tribes,” the Septuagint loses the precision of the underlying Hebrew text. We agree, but what does it have to do with the evidence before us? The observation that the Septuagint renders both shebet and מִשְׁפְּחֹת [mišpeḥōṯ] by φυλαι [phylai] (“tribes”) provides further evidence against the preterist contention that φυλαι [phylai] is a technical term which always denotes Israelite tribes. This response of the preterists is simply a smoke screen, which when considered carefully, actually supports the opposite conclusion.

The fact is that the Septuagint, translated by Hebrew rabbinical scholars familiar with the use of Greek in times much nearer to the NT than our own, renders two different Hebrew words-denoting both Jewish tribes and non-Jewish tribes or families-as φυλαι [phylai] This leads us to conclude that φυλαι [phylai] is not a technical term denoting only Jewish tribes. It can have different meanings which are dependent upon the context. This is also obvious from the numerous qualifiers which appear in conjunction with φυλαι [phylai] : “tribes of the earth,” “the twelve tribes,” “every tribe,” etc. Why would these additional qualifiers be necessary if φυλαι [phylai] always referred to Israelite tribes as preterists claim?

101 [Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 638]. If one seeks evidence for how far astray interpretation can go where the meaning of a passage is entirely reversed from its intended meaning, one can do no better than the preterist interpretation of Zechariah 12 through 14.

102 Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 26.

103 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 79.

104 See [Tony Garland, “Revelation 1:7 - Past or Future?,” (n.p. 2004) in The Conservative Theological Journal, vol. 9 no. 27 (Fort Worth, TX: Tyndale Theological Seminary, August 2005)]

105 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.

106 Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1951, c1964), 118-119.

107 Having personally sat with those in their dying days who continue to reject God’s free and gracious offer of salvation when they have nothing to lose and everything to gain, we have gained a genuine appreciation regarding the fearful consequences of the continual rejection of the gospel offer.

108 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 81.

109 It was the Angel of the Lord who met Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2) and who made claims that no ordinary angel dare make (Ex. 3:14). Indeed, it was no ordinary Angel, but the preincarnate Messiah (John 1:14, 18).

110 Foos, Christology in the Book of Revelation, 107.

111 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 11.

112 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), 40.

113 Arthur Walkington Pink, The Antichrist (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1999, 1923), s.v. “Comparisons between Christ and the Antichrist.”

114 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 81.

115 See the discussion of the Nicolaitans for the view that they may have contributed to the development of church hierarchy where none was intended beyond that of elders, deacons, and the flock.

116 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 35.

117 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 87.

118 Copyright © 2003 www.BiblePlaces.com. This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.

119 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 86.

120 Copyright © 2003 www.BiblePlaces.com. This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.

121 Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 41.

122 Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 28.

123 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 19.

124 Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 1:9.

125 Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 6-7,9.

126 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 86.

127 Gen. 26:2, 24; 46:2; Num. 12:6; 1S. 3:15; 1K. 22:19; Job 33:15; Isa. 1:1; 6:1; Eze. 1:3; 8:3; 11:24; Dan. 2:19+; 7:2+; 8:1+, 16+; 9:21+; 10:1+; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17; 9:10-12; 10:3, 11; 11:5; 16:9-10; 18:9; 22:18; 23:11; 26:19; Rev. 1:10+; 4:2+; 9:17+.

128 James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G1611.

129 Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes, Rev. 1:10.

130 “Some have assumed from this passage that ἡμέρα κυριακή [hēmera kyriakē] was a designation of Sunday already familiar among Christians. This however, seems a mistake. The name had probably its origin here.”—Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 23.

131 “Sunday belongs indeed to the Lord, but the Scriptures nowhere call it ‘the Lord’s day.’ None of the Christian writings, for 100 years after Christ, ever call it ‘the Lord’s day.’ . . . I can see no essential difference between ἡ Κυριακη ἡμερα [hē Kyriakē hēmera] —the Lord’s day,— and ἡ ἡμερα Κυριου [hē hēmera Kyriou] —the day of the Lord. They are simply the two forms for signifying the same relations of the same things. . . . And when we come to consider the actual contents of this book, we find them harmonizing exactly with this understanding of its title. It takes as its chief and unmistakable themes what other portions of the Scriptures assign to the great day of the Lord.”—Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 18.

132 Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), s.v. “Not Sunday.”

133 E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), xvi-xvii, 9.

134 Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 29.

135 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 1:10.

136 “Objection has been taken to the interpretation of ‘the Lord’s Day’ here, because we have (in Rev. 1:9+) the adjective ‘Lord’s’ instead of the noun (in regimen), ‘of the Lord,’ as in the Hebrew. But what else could it be called in Hebrew? Such objectors do not seem to be aware of the fact that there is no adjective for ‘Lord’s’ in Hebrew; and therefore the only way of expressing ‘the Lord’s Day’ is by using the two nouns, ‘the day of the Lord’—which means equally ‘the Lord’s Day’ (Jehovah’s day).”—Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 11-12.

137 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 16.

138 Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 23.

139 Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 14.

140 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 4.

141 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 56.

142 Interestingly, John is the only gospel writer who does not record his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration except if John 1:14 be taken as a reference to it.

143 Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528). Image courtesy of the Connecticut College Wetmore Print Collection.

144 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 23.

145 The context of Mat. 18:20 infers that Jesus will be present in any gathering of believers to grant both authority and guidance concerning matters of church discipline.

146 The intended permanence of sealing may be seen in the following examples: (1) the tomb (Mat. 27:66); (2) Jesus’ testimony (John 3:33); (3) Jesus sealed by the Father (John 6:27); (4) witnessed during the Tribulation (Rev. 7:3+); (5) what the seven thunders uttered (Rev. 10:4+); (6) Satan during the Millennium (Rev. 20:3+).

147 “Here, the scattered condition of the nation [of Israel] is just as distinctly indicated by the fact that the seven lamps are no longer united in one lamp-stand. The nation is no longer in the Land, for Jerusalem is not now the centre; but the people are ‘scattered’ in separate communities in various cities in Gentile lands. So that just as the one lamp-stand represents Israel in its unity, the seven lamp-stands represent Israel in its dispersion; and tells us that Jehovah is about to make Jerusalem again the centre of His dealings with the earth.”—Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 72.

148 Goel is a Hebrew term describing the person who is next of kin and his respective duties: to buy back what his poor brother has sold and cannot himself regain (Lev. 25:25-26); to avenge any wrong done to a next of kin, particularly murder (Num. 35:19-27); to purchase land belonging to one deceased who was next of kin and to marry his widow and to raise up children for the deceased (Ru. 2:20; 4:14). Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer of the book of Ruth (Ru. 4) is a type of Christ as our kinsman-redeemer.

149 It is instructive to study the following parallels between Adam and Christ: 1) Adam was created in God’s image, Christ is the manifestation of God in the flesh; 2) Adam’s disobedience brought condemnation leading to death, Christ’s obedience brought justification leading to life; 3) Those who are ‘in Adam’ die, those who are ‘in Christ’ have eternal life (1Cor. 15:22); 4) Adam is the ‘son of God’ (Luke 3:38) as is Christ (both were directly created by God); 5) All men are ‘born once’ in Adam, believers are ‘born again’ in Christ; 6) The first Adam became a living being (Gen. 2:7), the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit (1Cor. 15:45); 7) Adam is from the earth—made of dust (Gen. 2:7), Christ is from heaven; 8) Adam lost dominion, Christ regained it. 9) A tree bore Adam’s downfall, a tree bore Christ’s victory. 10) Adam’s body was animated by the breath of God (Gen. 2:7), the body of Christ is animated by the breath of God (1Cor. 12:13).

150 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 31.

151 Ibid., 32.

152 Some interpreters separate Daniel 10+ into two separate passages, the first part (Daniel 10:1-9+) being a vision of Christ and the second part (Daniel 10:10-21+) involving an angelic being who required assistance (Dan. 10:13+, 21+). We believe several factors favor understanding the same heavenly being as being in view throughout the chapter.

153 John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord (Chicago, IL: Moody Bible Institute, 1969), 204-205.

154 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 33.

155 Ibid., 35.

156 Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes.

157 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 37.

158 Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 111-112,116.

159 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 731.

160 This return of the glory of the Lord to the Millennial Temple ends the most recent departure of God from His Temple which occurred when Jesus departed to the Mount of Olives (Mat. 23:37-39). It is for this reason that His “house” in Jerusalem has been desolate for these long ages. See The Abiding Presence of God.

161 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 27.

162 Ibid., 40.

163 Augustine in [Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia].

164 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 45.

165 The term Genie is derived from the Arabic word for demon: Jin.

166 The fear of God is a major theme of Scripture: Gen. 31:42, 53; Ex. 1:17; 15:11; 20:20; Jos. 4:24; 1K. 18:3; 2Chr. 19:7, 9; Job 9:34; 23:15-16; 25:1; 28:28; Ps. 5:7; 89:7; 111:10; 115:13; 119:38, 120; 128:4; 145:19; Pr. 2:5; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:26; 15:16, 33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17; 24:21; 31:30; Ecc. 5:7; 8:12; 12:13; Isa. 8:13; 11:3; 33:5; 50:10; 57:11; 59:19; Jer. 5:22-24; Hab. 3:16; Luke 12:5; Acts 9:31; 10:2, 35; 2Cor. 5:13; 1Pe. 3:15; Rev. 19:5+.

167 Ex. 3:6; Deu. 5:26; Jos. 3:10; 1S. 17:26, 36; 2K. 19:4, 16; Ps. 42:2; 84:2; Isa. 37:4, 17; Jer. 10:10; 23:36; Dan. 6:20+, 26+; Hos. 1:10; Mat. 16:16; 22:32; 26:63; John 6:69; Acts 14:15; Rom. 9:26; 2Cor. 3:3; 6:16; 1Ti. 3:15; 4:10; 6:17; Heb. 3:12; 9:14; 10:31; 12:22; Rev. 7:2+.

168 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 47.

169 Ibid., 48.

170 Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 1:17.

171And the living, and I became dead, and behold, I am living for evermore.”—Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 47.

172 The resurrection is attributed to all three members of the Trinity. To Jesus: John 2:19; 10:17. To the Father: Acts 4:10; 10:41; Rom. 4:24; 6:4; 8:11. To the Holy Spirit: 1Pe. 3:18.

173 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 42.

174 The word death probably refers to the location of the body, whereas Hades refers to the location of the immaterial part of man—his soul. Israel My Glory, July/August 2001, 22. The former describes the state of the dead whereas the latter describes the location of the dead. [Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 112] “Hades is the unseen world where all who die reside. It includes both Paradise (Luke 23:43) and Gehenna (Luke 12:5)—Abraham’s bosom and the state of torment and anguish (Luke 16:22-28).”—Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), 433.

175 “The Rabbinical proverb said: ‘There are four keys lodged in God’s hand, which He committeth neither to angel nor to seraph: the key of the rain, the key of food, the key of the tombs, and the key of a barren woman.’ ”—Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies, Rev. 1:18.

176 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 48.

177 Ibid., 47.

178 “I favor understanding ‘the things which you have seen’ as linked to Rev. 1:2+, and thus to be the authority to write John’s Gospel . . . , though others see this as indicating chapter 1+. . . . Allowing my understanding of ‘the things which you have seen,’ then, the first chapter becomes very much part of chapters 2+-3+.”—Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 1:19.

179 Some see this phrase as being descriptive of the things John saw in the previous phrase: “Write therefore what things thou sawest and what they are, . . . even what things are about to happen hereafter.”—Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 159.

180 Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, 39.

181 Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 33.

182 Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, 39.

183 Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 48.

184 To study the use of “mystery” in the NT, see Mark 4:11; Rom. 11:25; 16:25; 1Cor. 2:7; 13:2; 15:51; Eph. 1:9; 3:3-4, 9; 5:32; 6:19; Col. 1:26; 2:2; 4:3; 2Th. 2:7; 1Ti. 3:9, 16; Rev. 1:20+; 10:7+; 17:7+.

185 Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 51.

186 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), 45.

187 Variations of the word angel occur 72 times in this book, and unless the references to these angels of the churches be excepted, all mentions are of divine beings. Angels are ministering spirits actively involved in other aspects of God’s plan. “True churches of the Lord have individual angels assigned for their guidance and watch-care. This fact is hardly surprising in view of the innumerable company of angels (Hebrews 12:22) and their assigned function as ministering spirits of those who are heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14). Individual believers have angels assigned to them (Matthew 18:10; Acts 12:15). Angels are present in the assemblies during their services (1 Corinthians 11:10) and are intensely interested in their progress (1 Corinthians 4:9; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 3:16; 5:21; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 1:12).”—Morris, The Revelation Record, 45.

188 “How could holy Angels be charged with such delinquencies as are laid to the charge of some of the Angels here (Rev. 2:4+; 3:1+, 15+)?”—Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 52.

189 “The complexity of the communication process is one thing that raises problems with it. It presumes that Christ is sending a message to heavenly beings through John, an earthly agent, so that it may reach earthly churches through angelic representatives. . . . An even more decisive consideration against the view of guardian angels lies in the sinful conduct of which these angels are accused. Most of the rebukes of [Revelation] chapters 2-3 are second person singular, messages that look first at the individual messengers and presumably through them to the churches they represent.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 117.

190 “This rare and difficult reference should be understood to refer to the heavenly messengers who have been entrusted by Christ with responsibility over the churches and yet who are so closely identified with them that the letters are addressed at the same time to these ‘messengers’ and to the congregation (cf. the plural form in Rev. 2:10+, 13+, 23-24+).”—Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 34.

191 Αγγελος [Angelos] is occasionally used of human messengers. Examples include John the Baptist (Mat. 11:10; Mark 1:2), the messengers sent to Jesus by John the Baptist (Luke 7:24), the spies hidden by Rahab (Jas. 2:25) and possibly the leaders of the seven churches, if these are to be understood as human leaders (Rev. 2:1+, 8+, 12+, 18+; 3:1+, 7+, 14+). “In the Septuagint ἄγγελος [angelos] is used in rare instances of a human messenger of God (Mal. 2:7; 3:1; cf. 1:1, where the LXX so renders the name or title ‘Malachi’ itself). In the New Testament it twice denotes simply an emissary (Luke 9:52; Jas. 2:25). Elsewhere it is always used of a supernatural being. The idea of an angel as the guardian of the nation is found in Dan. 12:1+, as guardian of the individual in . . . Mat. 18:10; Acts 12:15.”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 32.

192 “Some think these men journeyed to Patmos to receive the finished book of Revelation from the hands of John, and that they returned to their respective cities and shared the message.”—Mal Couch, “Ecclesiology in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 128.

193 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 118.

194 “[The idea that the angel is a human messenger] is at first sight attractive, for ‘messenger’ is the primary meaning of ἄγγελος [angelos] , and the book may indeed have been distributed through messengers delegated by each church to tour its district. But . . . usage favours ‘angels’ and the emissary could not be made representative of the community. Nor could he be readily symbolized by the ‘stars’ of Rev. 1:20+.”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 33.

195 “But in answering a letter by a messenger, men write by him, they do not usually write to him; nor is it easy to see where is the correspondency [sic] between such messengers, subordinate officials of the Churches, and stars; or what the ‘mystery’ of the relation between them then would be; or how the Lord should set forth as an eminent prerogative of his, that He held the seven stars, that is, the seven messengers, in his right hand (Rev. 2:1+).”—Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 56-57.

196 “The Angel in each Church is one; but surely none can suppose for an instant that there was only one presbyter, or other minister serving in holy things, for the whole flourishing Church of Ephesus, or of Smyrna; and that we are in this way to account for the single Angel of the several Churches. . . . What can he be but a bishop?”—Ibid., 53-54.

197 “The spiritual significance is that these angels are messengers who are responsible for the spiritual welfare of these seven churches and are in the right hand of the Son of Man, indicating possession, protection, and sovereign control. As the churches were to emit light as a lampstand, the leaders of the churches were to project light as stars.”—Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 45.

198 “In early noncanonical Christian literature no historical person connected with the church is ever called an angelos.”—Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 34. “Who shall authorize us to understand the word ‘angels’ as having any connection with the Church of God? No one ever heard (until quite recent times) of such a title being given to any church officer either in Scripture, in history, or in tradition.”—Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 161.

199 “If ‘angel’ means ‘pastor’ here, it is used with this meaning here and nowhere else. If the Lord Jesus meant the pastors of the churches, why did He not say ‘pastors?’ Or why did He not say ‘elders,’ a term which is used in the New Testament as essentially synonymous with ‘pastors,’ and which is later used twelve times in Revelation?”—Morris, The Revelation Record, 45.

200 Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2-4; 20:17, 28; 21:18; Php. 1:1; 1Th. 5:12; Tit. 1:5; Heb. 13:17; Jas. 5:14; 1Pe. 5:1-5.

201 “The individual could scarcely be held responsible for the character of the church, and there is no unambiguous evidence for the idea of episcopal authority in the churches of the Revelation, though it looms large in Ignatius twenty years later.”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 33.

202 “In a city the size of Ephesus, by this time, there must have been a large number of house-churches meeting separately from one another.”—Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 128.

203 “Personifications of the prevailing spirit.”—Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 86.

204 “This gives the required sense, but raises problems in the usage of symbolism. The ‘stars’ and the ‘lampstands’ of Rev. 1:20+ are made virtually the same thing. Some writers justify this conception by regarding the ‘angel’ as the heavenly counterpart of the earthly church.”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 33.

205 Bullinger suggests an alternate view on the basis that these congregations may have exhibited customs carried over from the Judaism of the synagogue: “The Bible student is at once confronted with an overwhelming difficulty. He has read the Epistles which are addressed to the churches by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul; and, on turning to the Epistles in Rev. 2+ and 3+, he is at once conscious of a striking change. He finds himself suddenly removed from the ground of grace to the ground of works. He meets with church-officers of whom he has never before heard; and with expressions with which he is wholly unfamiliar: and he is bewildered. . . . we do meet with the word Angel in connection with the Synagogue . . . [the] ‘Angel of the Assembly,’ who was the mouthpiece of the congregation. His duty it was to offer up public prayer to God for the whole congregation. Hence his title; because, as the messenger of the assembly, he spoke to God for them. When we have these facts in our hands, why arbitrarily invent the notion that ‘angel’ is equivalent to Bishop, when there is not a particle of historical evidence for it?”—Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation, 63, 66.


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