In many of our Bibles, the book of Revelation is given the title "The Revelation of St. John the Divine." And yet the first verse clearly states, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ." We need to remember that these titles are not part of scripture but were merely added to identify the different books of the Bible and to also identify the human writer whom God used to pen His Word.
The word "revelation" comes from the Greek word "apokalupsis" or "apocalypse" and means to uncover or unveil. It is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. Through the book of Revelation we will see the unveiling of Jesus Christ, His return to this earth and His reign on this earth for a thousand years, also know as the Day of the Lord.
Rev. 1:1 "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:"
The revelation was given from God to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ then sends it to John via His (Christ's) angel. Notice that it is "signified" by the angel to John. In other words it is given in symbols. Now, I've always believed and taught that the Bible should be taken literally. For example, when the Bible states "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." in Romans 3:23, we can take God's Word literally. It says "for all." This literally means all or everyone. And when it says "sin", well that literally means sin. "Come short of the glory of God" will literally mean that when mankind sins, we fall short of God's glory. It's just that simple. I take the Bible literally. Now when the Bible uses symbols or signs, I believe there is still a literal interpretation for those symbols or signs. God has a literal interpretation, and sometimes we humans get it right and unfortunately we often get it wrong. Although the book of Revelation was given to John in symbols or signs, we can still receive a literal interpretation from these signs.
Rev. 1:2 "Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw."
The "who" in verse two is referring to the Apostle John. John had been exiled to the island of Patmos for his testimony of Jesus Christ during the reign of Domitian sometime between A.D. 91 and 96. It was during this time that John penned the book of Revelation. Here we are told that John bare record of the Word of God or the scriptures. John also bare record of the testimony of Jesus Christ. Just what is the testimony of Jesus Christ? This question is answered in chapter 19 and verse 10, where we read "And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The book of Revelation is a prophetic book. Chapters four through twenty-two all deal with future events. Lastly, we see that John bare record of all things that he saw. This is past tense and does not refer to the book of Revelation but to the life of Jesus Christ, His death and His resurrection. John bare record of Christ and was exiled for doing so.
Rev. 1:3 "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand."
The book of Revelation begins with a blessing and will end with a curse, see Rev. 22:18-19. God promises a special blessing for all those who read and to those who hear the words from the book of Revelation. Also a blessing to those who will "keep those things which are written therein." I believe this means to memorize and meditate on those things written in the book of Revelation. You will notice that it doesn't say anything about understanding the book. God promises a blessing for all those who will read, hear, and keep on the things written in the book of Revelation without necessarily understanding all that is written within. Don't let the fact that you don't understand the book keep you from reading it. Satan doesn't want us to read the book. Satan doesn't want us to see his final judgement. God wants you to read this book. Every time you read it you'll receive a new gold nugget. You're going to find doctrine in the book of Revelation, you'll find answers to questions asked from the time of creation. Read it and receive a blessing from God!
Rev. 1:4 "John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;"
The number seven in scripture means completeness and we are going to see it used throughout the book of Revelation. John addresses his letter to the "seven churches which are in Asia." Although there were at least ten churches in Asia during John's time, the letter is addressed to only seven. We are going to see when we get to chapters two and three that these seven churches represent and share certain characteristics of the seven periods of church history. We will talk more about these seven periods of church history, the church age and Daniel's seventy weeks when we get to chapter two of Revelation.
John uses a greeting that is common in the New Testament and was often used by the Apostle Paul, "grace and peace." Grace was the greeting used by the Greeks and Peace was that used by the Jews. The early churches were often made up of both Jews and Greeks. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:27-28 "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." When we are baptized (immersed) into Christ, we become new creatures, we become the body of Christ.
"The seven Spirits which are before his throne," refers to the Holy Spirit aka Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit is one. The "seven Spirits" refer to seven characteristics of the Holy Spirit as given in Isaiah 11:2. I will talk more about the seven Spirits when we get to verse twelve.
"From him which is, and which was, and which is to come," refers to God the Father. Although it may appear to refer to Jesus Christ, it would not make much since as we see in the very next verse "And from Jesus Christ." It wouldn't make sense to say in verses 4&5, "Greetings from Jesus and from the Holy Spirit and from Jesus." It would though make since to read it "Greetings from the Father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus." "Him which is, and which was, and which is to come," signifies the past, present and future, the eternal being of God.
Rev. 1:5-6 "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
Although John has penned the letter, it becomes obvious that it is from the Godhead: the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Now within verses five through six we see seven descriptions or references to Jesus Christ.
- "The faithful witness." Since the book of Revelation is the unveiling of Jesus Christ, who better to testify of those things. Christ is our faithful witness. In the gospels we saw Christ in his humanity, we saw Christ as the Lamb of God, we saw His sacrifice for our sins. In the book of Revelation we will see Christ as judge and as king. Christ's testimony is faithful and true.
- "The first begotten of the dead." Christ certainly wasn't the first person to be raised from the dead. Christ resurrected Lazarus from the dead as well as Jairus' daughter and the widow's son. Christ is the first to rise from the dead not to ever die again. The first to rise in an incorruptible, immortal body.
- "Prince of the kings of the earth." In verse six we see that Christ has made "us" kings. We are also told that we will reign with Christ on this earth Rev. 5:10, 20:6, 22:5. This is a literal earthly kingdom as we will see as we further study the book of Revelation.
- "Unto him that loved us." Christ loves "us" and this is why He was faithful to death on the cross. Since Christ loves "us" there should be no reason to be frightened when we read the book of Revelation. When speaking about the rapture, the return of Christ and the Day of Christ, Paul tells us to "comfort one another with these words," 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and "That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled by our gathering together unto him." 2 Thessalonians 2:2. Unto him that loved "us." When we read that little word "us" in Revelation as well as in first and second Thessalonians, it refers to the church, the body of Christ. Christ loves his Church and this is why Paul can tell us in 1 Thessalonians 5:9b "For God hath not appointed us to wrath..." Click HERE to read about having confidence in Christ's return, and click HERE to read about the day of the Lord.
- "Washed us from our sins in his own blood." Notice that little word "us" again. Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ? Have you been washed in the blood? The blood of Christ has washed (separated) us from our sins! You see that there is spiritual circumcision (separation) that takes place when we accept Christ as our personal saviour. Colossians 2:11 "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:" Although I will carry around this body of sin until I die, I have been circumcised (separated) from it through Christ. It's the blood of Jesus Christ that has washed (separated) us from our sins.
- "Hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father." In the Old Testament tabernacle and temple worship, only the priest was aloud entry into the most holy place, and only with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, goat or ram. "Us" the church, have been made priests and as priests, we can enter into the holy place or the Throne of Grace boldly. See Hebrews 4:16. Again in Rev. 5:10 "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." This ought to excite the child of God. We are going to reign as kings and priests (in our glorified bodies) on this earth!
- "To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." All the kingdoms and dominions of this earth are temporary, but the dominion of Christ will be forever. Christ will reign on this earth for a thousand years and then Satan will be loosed from his prison to deceive the nations once again. Revelation 20:10 tells us "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." The last two chapters of Revelation tells us that there will be a new heaven and a "new earth" as this earth will pass away and that we will reign with Christ forever.
In concluding this article, I would like to take this opportunity to say that this is not intended to be a super in-depth study on the book of Revelation. We on the contrary will just do some "water skiing" through the book or Revelation. I hope and pray that each article will be a blessing to the reader.
This is part one in a series. Stay tuned for part 2.