Understanding Revelation chapter 1 is central to understanding the Revelation as a whole. What John sets forth in this opening chapter actually sets the stage for everything the follows in Revelation 2-22. In this chapter we will look at Revelation 1:4-9, covering some major themes of Revelation chapter one such as the proof of authorship and greeting; the six-fold Revelation of Jesus Christ; Jesus’ visible appearing in the sky and John the End-Time father.
Proof of Authorship and Greeting (Revelation 1:4)
Continuing on from where I left off in week 5 (Revelation 1:1-3), we will now look at Revelation 1:4 which says John, to the seven Churches which are in Asia; Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne. As I have stated before, some of the commentaries and historical books that I have read leave you with a divided answer as to who wrote the Revelation. Some say that it’s John the Beloved and others say there’s no way he could have written this book because of the difference between his other writings (the Gospel of John, 1st,2nd and 3rd John); but just because it’s different shouldn’t lead us to believe it’s not John the Beloved.
I believe the writer to be John the beloved, and this is one of many proofs from which I make this statement. John was so confident that these Churches would know who it was that was writing them, that he needed only to identify himself as John. No other identifying words are used to clear up who is writing them. This is because John the Beloved was so well known to these Churches, he didn’t have to say anything other than simply, John. John who had labored with them in the Gospel and for the Gospel was well known to the Churches.
In John’s greeting he also uses what might look like a reference to seven separate Spirits of God but this isn’t all that John was alluding to. In John’s initial greeting the Churches he is actually greeting them in the name of the Godhead or what we call the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When John says …from Him who is and who was and who is to come and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne… he is making a reference to the Godhead. The One who is, is God the Father, the One who was and who is to come, is Jesus Christ and the reference to the seven Spirits is a reference to the Holy Spirit. This phrase regarding the Holy Spirit is better read as the seven-fold Spirit of God.
The idea of the seven-fold Spirit or the complete Person, power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit was spoken of this way by Isaiah in Isaiah 11:2. Isaiah said of Jesus Christ who would later come that The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. Here are each of those seven facets of the Holy Spirit broken down: 1) The Spirit of the Lord; 2) The Spirit of wisdom; 3) The Spirit of understanding; 4) The Spirit of counsel; 5) the Spirit of might; 6) The Spirit of knowledge; 7)The Spirit of the fear of the Lord. This is the seven-fold Spirit of God. Now, in a devotional mode, it’s life-giving to meditate on each of those seven realities, asking for the Holy Spirit to increase each of those realities within us.
Part of John’s greeting to the seven Churches is an admonition that they would be filled with …grace and peace… But if we only look at the Revelation in bits and pieces, we lose sight of the larger storyline of why John would say such a thing to these Churches in his greeting to them. What is about to follow Revelation 1:4 is a powerful six-fold revelation of Jesus Christ. And even in light of what is yet to unfold for the reader in the following 21 chapters of the Revelation, John is confident that both the seven Churches which this letter is being addressed to and those throughout world history that would read it can have …grace and peace… John is basing his exhortation to these Churches on the declaration of Jesus that he is about to give in the following two verses.
The Six-Fold Revelation of Jesus Christ
Within these two verses there is a universe of information to be captured for the hungry heart. John continues in Revelation 1:5-6 by saying …and from Jesus Christ, the Faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. This is what John was predicating our grace and peace upon. It’s these 6 realities of Jesus Christ, that when we touch them and are filled with them we are also empowered to enter into a restful spirit as we encounter the fullness of the Revelation. This is a real blessing for many. As people start reading the Revelation they often close it because of the great unfolding drama and God’s dealing with the nations of the earth. It’s scary to many, but for those that encounter these 6 facets of Jesus Christ we are confident in peace (rest).
Let’s look at the first facet of this six-fold revelation. John says …and from Jesus Christ, the Faithful witness… There are many reasons why Jesus is titled by the Holy Spirit as the Faithful witness and among them is the reality that Jesus held out the word of His Father as being more important than His own life. Jesus was more concerned with honoring His own Father than seeing after His own life. When He was seated before Pilate which was the greatest religious/political leader of Jesus’ day, He was asked by him in Luke 24:3 …are You the King of the Jews? Jesus answered and said, it is as you say. Whatever Jesus answered was going to determine what took place with His life. If He said no, then He might have been beaten and freed, but if He says yes then He will most likely be tried because of the passion of the crowd.
It’s under this severe pressure that Jesus stays faithful to who He is and refuses to back down from the truth of who His Father said He was. Something else that’s powerful about this short phrase is the word witness used here actually comes from the Greek word Martyr. When Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come upon them in Acts 1:6 and that they would be witnesses, it’s the same word used there. It’s also the same word that’s used in Revelation 20:4 speaking about those witnesses (martyrs) who were beheaded for the Gospel’s sake. So you could actually call Jesus the Faithful Martyr, or the One who stayed faithful even to the place of death.
Secondly John says …grace and peace…from the firstborn from the dead… The Scriptures make it clear that Jesus isn’t the firstborn but that He was the first Person to conquer death, hell and the grave. This means that until the Resurrection of the righteous (The Rapture of the Church) nobody but Jesus has a resurrected body yet. Every person that has ever lived is in a disembodied state, either present with the Lord or awaiting judgment and eternal separation based on their decision to love Jesus or reject Him during their lives. That would include all the Old Testament prophets and saints and every other living person throughout world history. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. We must remember that every person who has been raised from the dead, still died including Lazarus from John 11.
Paul, who might have had more personal revelation on the doctrine of the Resurrection, said in Romans 6:5, speaking about water baptism, For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. This means that when we are buried in the water we are symbolizing Jesus’ death and when we come out of the water we are symbolizing His resurrection, which is spiritual for us now, but physical when He returns for us. Paul also said in 1st Corinthians 15:23 But each one in his own order; Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. This means that Jesus is currently the prototype of what we will become. That’s why He is called the first fruits of the resurrection. It’s Jesus first and then at His return. We shall also be made like Him. Right now in death, you don’t need a body to relate to God, but you will when He returns because are you aren’t going away to stay in heaven forever. In fact, at the resurrection of the righteous which is Jesus second advent, heaven and earth will be joined together for 1,000 years and it’s for this that you will need a physical, material body. Our grace and peace in this age to face that which is yet ahead is dynamically connected to the reality that though our bodies die in here on earth, they will be resurrected in the age which is yet to come and we will live forever. O the peace that this revelation of Jesus brings us.
Thirdly, John says …grace and peace to you…from the Ruler over the kings of the earth… Listening to political talk radio for any more than five minutes will leave you with a major headache. The reason is because nobody has a good answer for the crisis that we are in. With rulers emerging in the land that hate God and His Christ, we will lose our grace and peace if we don’t connect our hearts to the Ruler over the kings of the earth.
Psalm 2 speaks about God appointing His Son to Rule over the nations of the earth. Jesus is the Ruler over the kings of the earth, because He alone as a Human conquered death, hell and the grave. And although Jesus isn’t openly exercising His Rulership over the earth right now, it’s clear from the Scriptures that He is fully and solely in control (Revelation 4). What’s also clear is that there is coming a day when Jesus will openly and very publically begin to exert His rightful Rulership over the nations of the earth. Hebrews 12:25-27 says See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For If they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from Heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven. Now this, yet once more, indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
That passage in Hebrews is a promise not of a past shaking of the earth only, but of a future shaking of both the heavens (skies/galaxies) and the earth itself. The question becomes, how do we have grace and peace in the midst of a globe that’s reeling under the judgments of God? And the answer that John is giving us is the confidence that He who is shaking all things is He who is the Ruler over the Kings of the earth.
Something else that’s noteworthy about this statement is that it also had natural implications regarding the Church’s present situation when John was writing this letter. During this time, Romans who had led the Empire, who had passed away, were being labeled as divine such as: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Claudius, Vespasian and Titus. And during this specific time in which John was under the earthly rulership of Domitian, he had requested to be addressed as Lord and Savior. So John was also wanting the seven Churches to know that though this earthly ruler is assuming the place of God, and oppressing the people of God, there is one who is …the Ruler over the kings of the earth…
Fourthly John says that their …grace and peace…is…to Him who loved us… It’s clear that no other apostle had more revelation about the love of God than John the Beloved. John’s writings, including his Gospel and his Epistles were mainly filled with conversation about God’s love for us and our love for both God and others. John also named himself in his Gospel as the one whom God loved. This was a title that John felt and ran with in a way that no other New Testament writer did.
It was this same John who wrote the Revelation that reminds us in 1st John 4:19 that We love Him because He first loved us. John is making it clear that our love for Jesus never originates in us, but always comes from Him and is a response to His great love for us. Our grace and peace in the midst of the rest of the Revelation is because God first loved us.
Fifthly, John says …grace and peace…from Him who washed us from our sins in His own blood… Though sin had left a crimson stain, as the song says, He made it white as snow. The Cross of Jesus Christ and the bloodshed from Jesus were for us, not for Him. Paul reminds us in 2nd Corinthians 5:21 that God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us. And although John was chained up on the island of Patmos, his heart is fetter free because of Jesus’ blood. John was chained in the natural but totally unchained in the supernatural. We have grace and peace through Him that washed us in His own blood. What a Savior.
And last, but surely not least, John appeals to us that we might have …grace and peace…from Him who has made us kings and priests to His God and Father… Do feel the implications of this statement. Beloved, Jesus doesn’t just want you as window dressing in His eternal harem. He’s actually looking for an equally yoked partner so that He can share the vast expanse of His Father’s kingdom with us.
This promise about our leadership with Jesus’ Father is two-fold. First, we are called to do the work of kings and priests in this present evil age leading His body into righteousness (Kingship) and petitioning before Him (Priestly) about the great in-breaking of His power into the earth. And secondly, in the age which is yet to come, He is going to give us leadership over the nations of the earth so that we can lead alongside Him. This promise is two-fold.
This is a huge reinforcement of God’s purpose to include humans not only in this age, but also in the age which is yet to come. The God who has all things is making His creation something and looking for their partnership. Who is this Man? I know that in my own life I often go along with the Bible, sometimes not feeling the weight of what God is actually saying to me. These words leave me staggering when I start to grasp them at just an introductory level.
Jesus’ Visible Appearing and His Sovereignty (Revelation 1:7-8)
John is now going to shift His conversation about Jesus in His historical and present appearance to His future visible appearing in the sky. He says Behold, He’s is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End says the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. What John says here is in very close connection to what Matthew wrote in Matthew 24 speaking of Jesus’ visible return at the close of the great tribulation. We will look at Mathew’s statements later in this chapter.
At Jesus’ first coming He was born in a humble manger because there was no room for Him in the INN. But at Jesus’ second coming things will be much different. Instead of it being at night like His first advent, it will be during the day. Instead of a few shepherd boys from a lowly occupation finding the Messiah wrapped in swaddling clothes, He will be visible by every eye (Revelation 1:7-8). Instead of being confined to one geographical location, Jesus’ Second Advent will be seen worldwide, globally. And instead of a fairly dim eastern star leading people to His birth, His second advent will be joined together with an immeasurable amount of brightness.
Speaking of the brightness of the Second Advent, Jesus says this in Matthew 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give it’s light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. What a powerful picture that Jesus is seeding our minds with, regarding the moment of His return. It’s my belief that the sun, moon and stars are going diminish in brightness solely based on the superior brightness of Jesus Christ. What I mean is that everything that currently shines is going to pale in comparison to the brightness of Jesus Christ.
Some of the passages in the Bible that help me come to this conclusion are there. 2nd Thessalonians 2:8 says Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and then destroy with the brightness of His appearing. John in Revelation 1:16-17 has a powerful encounter with this Man and this is what he writes of it, He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell as His feed as dead… And again, as John is near the tail end of His encounter with Jesus in the Revelation, in Revelation 21:21, he sees new order taking place within the New Jerusalem and says The city (the New Jerusalem) had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is it’s light. Beloved, let me break this down for you. The New Jerusalem as John states prior to this verse in Revelation 21:17 is a giant cube, that’s approximately 1,580 miles in every direction. It’s this very city that is going to be lit by Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus alone is going to light up this entire city. To get a handle on the gravity of this, outer space begins at about 800 miles above the earth. This is unthinkable. Jesus is so bright, that upon His return and His appearing He will make all things pale in comparison to His brightness.
Jesus’ return/appearing in the sky is going to be long enough that every eye will see Him. Some have assumed that this will be through technology because of our advancements in modern life. But what we must understand is that God hasn’t left the unveiling of His Son to technology, but globally through natural elements that will draw attention to the beauty, majesty and worth of His Son. God knows how to put on a grand finale. But Jesus’ appearing will also be slow enough that those who see Him will have a deep heart response to Him. John says in this passage …that the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. Jesus’ appearing and the season of His return will also include a massive revival of Jews that have previously rejected Messiah.
I have heard many Christians falsely state that natural Jews don’t have to repent and give their lives to Jesus to enter into eternity. They state that because of their position of privilege to God being His chosen nation that they are automatically in. It is true that God has chosen the Jews to be standard bearers in the earth and that they hold a position of privilege in God’s heart, but they still must repent of their sins and give their lives to God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Though the majority of this nation currently hates Jesus, this will change drastically in the season of Jesus’ return. I believe that those who hate Him the most right now will love Him the most in the days ahead. For more information about the time of revival for the Jews you can look at Zechariah 12:10-14; 13:1-6. These two chapters hold so much promise for the future of the nation of city of Jerusalem, the nation of Israel and Jews in general. And it’s unto this end that we labor and pray.
John the End Time Father (Revelation 1:9)
To close this chapter I want to look lastly at Revelation 1:9. The passage says I, John both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos, for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I love the heart of John as he is writing this letter to Churches that were very dead to him. He reminds me a lot of Daniel as he was wrote in Daniel chapter 12. I am grateful that God has given us these books to help strengthen us and empower us to keep moving and working to hasten the Day of Jesus’ return.
Within this short passage I can see several things, including more proof authorship. Because John is so well known to the Churches he is able to again refer to himself solely as John, their brother. John the beloved was so well known by the Churches that he needed only to give his first name. It’s also interesting to note that Patmos is only 65 miles from Ephesus, in the Aegean Sea.
And though John could have addressed himself to these churches as their Apostle, their Pastor, their Shepherd, their Bishop, the Prophet or the Revelator, he chooses to address himself as their brother and fellow companion in the tribulation with them. It’s through this title that I believe John wanted the Churches to know that he was together with them in both their present and still future tribulation. Just like Daniel, John also actually suffered for the Gospel but he also witnessed much trouble coming to fellow countrymen (Jews) other Christians and the earth in general. What John saw as far as the trouble goes in the Revelation must have terrified him just as it did Daniel in Daniel 9. John was saying to them, Brethren, don’t worry about the current troubles you face or that which is yet ahead. Be strong, I have seen Him who is leading human history and though we die, we shall live with Him forever and ever. Be strong, and never forget, I am in this trouble together with you.
At the time John was writing the Revelation he had complete clarity that all the other apostles had died of Martyrdom and that he was the last remaining Apostle from the Apostolic Era. History tells us that by the time John wrote the Revelation, Andrew had died on an X shaped Cross in Patras. Bartholomew (Nathaniel) was flayed alive and James the brother of John was beheaded by Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem. James the son of Celopas and Mary were thrown from the temple and stoned, while Jude (Thaddeus was shot with arrows. Matthew was slain by the sword in Parthia, Peter was crucified upside down in Rome and Phillip was hung on a pillar. Simon the zealot, was crucified in Persia, Thomas was slain with a spear in India. Mathias was stoned and beheaded and Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, was also said to have been beheaded.John was all too aware of what it meant to follow Jesus. This is why he appeals to them as …their brother and companion in the tribulation and Kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ… John wants them to know that he is writing this letter to them from a place of present suffering, but it’s better to suffer with patience than to change your mind concerning Christ. He’s appealing to them to stay strong. John also doesn’t have any idea that He will be the only apostle who doesn’t die from martyrdom but from old age. John is well aware that his life is on the same course as the other apostles and from this vantage point he is writing these words. It’s worth giving our lives to Jesus, even if things don’t pan out for us in this age, we are promised more than just this age, but also the age which is yet to come.