Tuesday, January 7, 2014


            This article begins in earnest a study of Revelation.  My plan is to present an overview of the chapter and then present a verse-by-verse study.



            Verses 1:1-3 form a prologue to the book.  Since verse 1:4 is in the style of a salutation to begin an epistle, this book has the style of a book and of an epistle.  The prologue gives explanatory material for the book.  In verses 1:1-2, the source of the book is described as a complex series of agents who each bear some responsibility in the production of the book.  The series begins with God, who gave the revelation to Jesus.  Jesus in turn sent an angel to John, and John testified to what he saw.  The result is a “revelation” or “apocalypse” (derived from the Greek word for “revelation”) of what “must soon take place.”  The recipients of this revelation were intended to be the “servants” of Jesus.  Obviously, His servants would not receive the revelation if they do not read the book or hear the book as it is read.  Therefore, a blessing is pronounced on those who read and those who hear.  The readers of that time would include leaders in the churches whose office it was to read before the congregations, which included people who could not read. (Metzger, 22)


            The style changes abruptly in verse 1:4 to a salutation.  The persons saluted are the seven churches of Asia.  These seven are named in 1:11 and are addressed as individual churches in chapters 2 and 3.  From this greeting and from 1:11, we can surmise that this book was circulated among these seven churches.  The greeting is the common one of “grace and peace.”  This is found in many New Testament epistles.  The salutation is from the Triune God.  It is common in the New Testament for the First Person of the Trinity to represent the entire Godhead and thus be described as “the” God.  So, in this case, the First Person is described as the eternal God—“who is and who was and who is to come.”  The Third Person (traditionally) is mentioned next—in a very odd way—and called the “seven spirits who are before His throne.”  Both the English Standard Version Study Bible notes (ESVSB) and the New International Version Study Bible notes (NIVSB) agree that this is a designation for the Holy Spirit.  Then the Second Person is named as Jesus Christ (1:5).  Though we “impose” our Trinitarian theology on these verses, I believe we are justified, in the entire Biblical context, in doing so.  Note, as a partial defense, that there are three entities listed in parallel as the source of the salutation.  Jesus is described in this verse and throughout the book as victorious and as ruling from heaven.  He is the “firstborn of the dead” and also the “ruler of kings on earth.”

DOXOLOGY (1:5b-8)

            All of these verses are not strictly a doxology.  However, they form a unit in the sense that they evoke a sense of awe—not only awe of the accomplishments of God’s redemption but also awe of the future that God has prepared for us.

            The doxology is in praise of Jesus (1:5b-6).  His motivation is love for us.  That love drove Him to the cross to free us from sin and form us into a kingdom and draw us into a priesthood that serves God and ministers reconciliation to people.  All this was accomplished through the blood of Jesus.  Therefore, He deserves glory and power forever.

            That doxology breaks off as there is interjected the startling news:  He is coming (1:7).  The wording echoes Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10.  The vision in Daniel tells how the “son of man” came with clouds to receive and everlasting kingdom and the prophecy in Zechariah declares that all the clans of Judah will behold the one “whom they pierced.”

            Then, in verse 1:8, the narrative turns again.  This time we hear the voice of the Lord God.  He declares that He is the eternal God—from A to Z.  Moreover, He is the Almighty One.  The revelation comes from God (1:1).  The centerpiece of that revelation is that Jesus is coming.  This will be accomplished through the power of the one who is all powerful.  We will encounter the power of Satan and of his false messiah, the Beast, in this book.  We will see the power of sin and of willful humanity.  But none of these can resist what has been deemed a necessity:  “what must soon take place” (1:1), for this necessity has been set by the Almighty.


            In verses 1:9-20, John begins to relate his vision.  Throughout almost all of the rest of the book, we experience the vision (or visions) through John.  In 4:1 he states:  “After this I looked…”  In 5:1, he states:  “Then I saw…”  And so, again and again, we are reminded that John saw all of these things and is faithfully reporting what he saw (1:2). 

            John asserts his deep partnership with his fellow Christians in the churches to whom he is writing (1:9).  Together they experience the joy and power of the Kingdom and also the tribulation and the endurance that being a part of the Kingdom entails.  As proof of that, he explains that he was—at the time of his vision—in exile on the island of Patmos, which was a Roman penal colony.  Despite that situation, he was able to experience worship and, on a particular Sunday, he was enraptured by the Spirit (1:10).  It was in that spiritual state when he heard a voice commanding him to write the things which he saw.  He was to write these things in a book and send it to the seven churches of Asia (1:11).

            John turned to identify the speaker and beheld an amazing sight (1:12-16).  He saw seven lampstands and one “like a son of man” in the midst of them.  John does not directly identify this person, but the context fully implies that this is none other than the resurrected and glorified Jesus.  He has a long robe and a golden sash.  He holds seven stars in His right hand and a sword protrudes from His mouth.  He has the white hair of wisdom and dignity and penetrating eyes like fire.  His feet are like bronze and His face shines like the sun.

            John fell down to worship Him (1:17).  Jesus did not refuse this worship (as angels do later in the book).  But He did reassure John and encourage Him not to fear (1:17b-18).  John could take courage from the facts of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished.  He is the “First and the Last” and the One who lives.  He was dead, but now He is alive.  He has conquered death and holds the keys of authority over Death and Hades. 

            Jesus then (1:19) added to the command that John had received in 1:11.  He was to write the things he saw.  These visions would encompass both the present and the future.

            Then, Jesus explained two sets of symbolic images.  The seven stars represent the “angels” of the seven churches.  These may have been heavenly beings or human ministers to the churches.  I think the latter is more likely, since each church “angel” is addressed in a letter.  The seven lampstands represent the seven churches.  This fixes in our minds the importance of the local church.  The lampstand conveys the fact that each church has a spiritual significance to Jesus—its own “personality” and its own destiny.  This is made even clearer in the letters to the individual churches in chapters 2 and 3.

            With John’s description of this vision, the background is set for the letters to the churches.  The vision also prepares us for John’s further experiences that are described after the letters.


            Verse 1:1:  The verse—the whole book—begins with “Revelation of Jesus Christ…”  There is no definite article present, but most translations supply “the.”  The first word has become the title of the book.  The word “apocalypse” is sometimes used, since it is derived from the Greek word for “revelation.”  (See my previous article.)  This revelation comes from Jesus.  Ultimately it comes from “God.”  Since we are Trinitarians, we often get nervous when the New Testament seems to ignore the Trinity.  One would want to say:  “Well, Jesus is God, so is this use of ‘God’ referring to the Father?”  Most likely that is the case.  But it also true that Jesus often is portrayed in this book and in other places in the New Testament as a human who is subject to God.  So, Jesus’ role in this transaction is to receive the revelation and to pass it on.

            Jesus was given the revelation to pass on to His servants.  The content of the revelation is “the things that must soon take place.”  The “must” is a very definite expression:  that which is a necessity.  It is pre-determined.  The “soon” is related to the word for “speed,” so it may be translated “speedily.”

            This of course creates an immediate issue in the debate between those who understand this book to be a prophecy about end-time events and those who understand it to be about events in the first century.  I hope to discuss that issue in another article.

            Jesus transmitted the revelation to John, “his servant.”  The agent of transmittal was His angel.  So, we have God, who gives the revelation to Jesus, who sends an angel to John to make it known to him.  This was all done to show this revelation to Jesus’ servants so that they would know what would soon take place.  Though this seems complicated, the verse communicates something to us.  First, we see some of the players involved in this revelation.  It is a revelation that ultimately comes from God.  Since it is necessary that it take place, the necessity has been determined by God.  The revelation was given to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  In His role as

Lord and Savior, He showed it to John.  This revelation is an element in our salvation.  We are reminded that our salvation is a deliverance from perishing and into everlasting life (John 3:16).  The agent by whom John received the revelation is an angel.  A number of angels play roles in the book.  It is not clear whether these are in mind or whether an angel who is not mentioned accompanied John throughout these visions.

            The purpose of this revelation is to “show” what must soon take place.  The word for “show” is a verb closely related to the word for noun “sign,” which is a miracle that demonstrates or shows something concerning God and His plans.  John 12:33 uses the verb “show” as Jesus “showed” what kind of death He would die.  So, the idea in the noun and verb is close to the idea of revelation.  It puts on display God's plans for people.  The revelation of this book will put on display God’s plans for people.

            Verse 1:2:  John bore witness to everything that he saw.  He is assuring us that he did not leave anything out.  What he saw was the “word [or “message”] of God” and the “testimony of Jesus Christ.”  This revelation is a word or message from God that John is transmitting.  It is also a testimony about Jesus Christ.  This revelation gives us additional information about Jesus that we do not find anywhere else in Scripture.  It enhances our understanding of who Jesus is and what He does and what He will do.  In verse 9, John states that he was imprisoned for these very things—the “word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”  This expression seems to be a way that John describes his ministry in general. 

            Verse 1:3:  A blessing is promised to those who read and those who hear the prophecy.  It is my understanding that Scripture was read in the church, especially for the benefit of those who could not read.  The faithful servant who reads will be blessed as well as those who listen to the reading.  They are going to be blessed by hearing the full message of the book.  There are definitely “down” portions of the book that would probably not be deemed a blessing by many.  However, the entire book is a book about victory.  Moreover, we can expect a blessing simply by being willing to read the book or hear it read.

            The blessing is not only on the reading and hearing but on the doing—more precisely, the keeping.  This kind of keeping is to observe and obey.  We are reminded of James 1:22a:  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only…”  The communication of those things that must soon take place carries with it a call to holy living. 

The revelation is called a “prophecy.”  It is not an ecstatic utterance, such as occurred (and does still) in church services as the gift of prophecy is exercised.  Rather, it is a written word of prophecy, part of the written prophets such as Isaiah.  Peter stated that such prophecy comes through the power of the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:20-21).  The church, in careful, prayerful consideration, has made this book a part of the canon of Scripture.  It is to be regarded as one of the prophetic writings.  It is not to be regarded as an apocalypse in the sense that modern scholars have labeled it.  (See my previous article.  See also Ladd, 13, and Morris, 23-25.)

Verse 1:4:  At this point, the style changes from a book form to an epistle.  The first three verses form a prologue.  They are almost like a page slipped into the beginning of a document to explain its content.  From those three verses we gain insight into the origin of the document and its purpose.  Now, we move on to document proper.

John addresses the letter to the seven churches in Asia.  “Asia” is contiguous with modern Turkey.  I grew up calling this Biblical entity “Asia Minor” to distinguish it from the continent.  The seven churches will be addressed individually in chapters 2 and 3.  However, the entire book is to all seven churches.  It is possible that this was a “circular letter” that was carried from church to church and read in each one.  (Metzger, 26) If one follows the order of the letters to the individual churches and observes a map, one finds that the order is a clockwise circuit of the seven churches starting at Ephesus and ending at Laodicea.  This is possible also the order in which the circular letter was carried from church to church. 

The greeting that John gives is “grace and peace.”  Twelve other epistles in the New Testament include this greeting.  Three others use “grace, mercy, and peace.”  John, like some of the other writers, does not simply say this is his wish, but he transmit this “grace and peace” from the Lord.  Revelation is known to have some unusual grammar, and this may be a case of that.  A close to literal translation is:  “grace and peace to you from the one who [or “he who”] is being, and the one who was, and the one who is coming.”  The irregularity is that a past tense verb (“was”) is in a series with two present participles.  More important is the significance of this description.  This is a statement of the eternality of God. 

The greeting also comes from the “seven spirits who are before his throne.”  This expression by itself might be interpreted as seven spiritual beings—like angels—who are before the throne.  However, the uses of seven in other passages (3:1, 4:5, 5:6) are expressions that do not allow such an interpretation.  Rather, those passages simply say “seven spirits of God.”  The NIV Study Bible (NIVSB) believes this could be translated “sevenfold spirit of God,” though I am not sure what the basis for that is.  The ESV Study Bible (ESVSB) simply accepts that Revelation refers to seven spirits of God but also notes that the singular Spirit of God is also referred to in 3:6 and 3:13.  The use of seven in Zechariah (seven lamps) to describe the one Spirit is the closest of all references to the way Revelation refers to the Spirit.  NIVSB, ESVSB, and Morris (48) explain the “seven” to mean perfection.  Ladd (24-25) refers to the “plurality of functions” of the Spirit. 

Verse 1:5:  The greeting is continued.  In 1:4, the source of the greeting is from the eternal God and from the Holy Spirit.  One additional person is listed:  Jesus Christ.  He is given three descriptors.  First, He is the “faithful witness.”  Jesus described one of His roles to be the revealing of the Father to the world.  See John 17:6.  The book of Revelation is described as coming from Jesus (1:1).  So, it is important to remember that Jesus is a faithful witness to truth.  He is also the “firstborn of the dead.”  This book consistently reminds us that Jesus died and rose again.  Here, we are reminded that His resurrection was the beginning of the great Resurrection that is to come.  Finally, He is “the ruler of kings on earth.”  The baby born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger has become the ruler of all.  This, of course, has not been made visible on earth, but it is nevertheless true.  It means that rulers will give an account to Him someday.  Whether they acknowledge Him or not, they are accountable to Him.

In 1:4-5a, we have a reflection of the Trinity.  It is not as nice and clean as we would have it for our textbooks.  Nevertheless, three persons are referred to as giving this greeting. 

The second part of verse 1:5 is not part of the greeting.  Rather it is the beginning of a doxology to Jesus.  He is the one who loves and freed us from our sins by His blood.  In John 3:16, we are told of the Father’s love in giving Jesus.  In this verse we are told how Jesus’ prime motivation in going to the cross was love.  “The blood” is a central expression of Jesus’ death on the cross.  The blood is central to atonement (Leviticus 17:11) for it is central to life.  Jesus’ death was a violent death in which His lifeblood was shed.  That death was a substitutionary payment for our sins.  By suffering our punishment, we have been freed from the guilt of sin and from the punishment for sin.  As that has taken place, the power of sin over us has been broken.  Thus, we have been set free by the blood of Jesus.  The blood of Jesus is an important theme in Revelation.  As we see the power of the devil, the Beast, the world, and sin so dramatically displayed, we also see the power of the blood of Jesus (see 12:11).

Verse 1:6 continues the praise to Jesus.  The atoning death of Jesus set us free from sin and then brought us into a Kingdom.  The same thought is expressed in Colossians 1:13.  We are in this Kingdom to function as priests to God.  God is described as His “God and Father.”  Jesus is understood in His role as human, subservient to God, but also as the Son of God.  Our role as priests is to serve the Father in obedience to the life that we have been called to.  Also, we serve the world in the ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18-21) by being ambassadors for Christ.  This language echoes the vision of God for Israel on Mount Sinai:  “a kingdom of priests and a holy nations” (Exodus 19:6). 

It is this One who has purchased our redemption who is praised.  The praise statement can be translated with the verb “be” or the verb “is.”  The “glory and dominion [NIV:  “power”] “is” to Him or “may it be” to Him.  As we praise Him, we announce what belongs to Him and we also agree that it is rightfully His.  This is to go on forever.  The word “forever” or “eternally” is also the word “ages.”  So, His glory and dominion will go on unto the ages.

Suddenly, in verse 1:7, there is a forceful statement that disrupts our thoughts.  He is coming.  He is coming with the clouds.  This verse echoes Daniel 7:13.  In one of Daniel’s visions he saw “one like a son of man” coming on clouds and receiving a kingdom.  Jesus used the expression, “the Son of Man,” to designate Himself throughout His ministry.  Then, at the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, Jesus declared that they would see the Son of Man coming on clouds (Matthew 27:44).  In the latter part of 1:7 there is reference to Zechariah 12.  In that passage there is mention of “him they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10) and also of mourning, specifically of the clans of the land (Zechariah 12:10-14).  So, notice the emotional content of 
the passage, starting at 1:4 and proceeding through 1:7.  The book is addressed to the seven churches.  To them is given the benign greeting of “grace and peace.”  This greeting comes from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Son, Jesus, is specifically focused on as our redeemer who is worthy of glory and power.  Then, suddenly, the spotlight on Jesus intensifies because that which has been accomplished is now supplanted by that which is to come.  HE IS COMING.  No one is going to miss this coming.  He came first in obscurity in a backwater of the Roman Empire.  This time every eye will see Him.  And some will mourn because they pierced Him. 

Once more the narrative makes a quick change in verse 1:8.  John has been addressing the churches and relaying the greeting and giving praise.  Now, the first person is used and the person who is speaking is God.  He uses the Greek alphabet to describe His eternality:  He is the A to Z.  He explains this in the same expression that was used in verse 1:4:  He is, was, and is to come.  He adds one more expression:  “the Almighty.”  This word is used eight times in the New Testament, and seven of those uses are in Revelation.  There are frequent contrasts in Revelation, implied and explicit, and one of the contrasts is between the power of Satan and the Beast on the one hand and, on the other, the One who holds all power, The Almighty God.

In verse 1:9, John begins a narrative which frames most of the rest of the book.  From this point on, John narrates how he saw and heard various things.  For example, chapters 2 and 3 are letters to the seven churches of Asia.  In each letter, Jesus commands John, “write.”  In chapter 4, John experiences a vision of heaven, and John narrates how he experienced that vision and what he saw by means of it.  This sort of narrative, using “I saw” or “I heard” or “I was given a reed…” or “then I looked,” carries the narrative along in such a way that we are conscious of receiving this revelation through the experiences of John.  In 22:8, is the statement:  “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things.” 

John identifies himself as “your brother and partner.”  He is identifying himself with his readers, who were the Christians in the churches in Asia.  His partnership is in three experiences that are “in Jesus”—“the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance.”  He and his readers share these experiences.  He is experiencing the Kingdom of God (see verse 1:6), which connotes victory, joy, peace, and the presence of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17).  But with the Kingdom comes suffering also (Acts 14:22).  And that suffering calls for patient endurance or perseverance (see Romans 5:1-5).  John explains that he was on the island of Patmos because of “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”  Patmos, both ESVSB and NIVSB state, was a small island where the Romans exiled certain prisoners.  Thus, John was experiencing a very real example of tribulation in Jesus.  John’s crime was that he testified about Jesus in the context of proclaiming the word of God. 

In verse 1:10 John says he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.”  The “Lord’s day” is Sunday.  (Ladd, 31) John’s expression “in the Spirit” is most likely a state of ecstatic rapture that was common in many church services in the first century and still takes place among some.  It is possible that this experience began the entire set of visions that John experienced.  In other words, it could have all taken place on that Sunday.  It is possible that also that John returned to that condition again and again and experienced the visions over a lengthy period of days or weeks.  The implication is that the vision he experienced beginning at this verse continued at least through the seven letters in chapters 2 and 3.  “After this” in verse 4:1 could indicate another vision on the same or another day. 

            When he was in the Spirit, John heard a voice like a trumpet.  Whether “like a trumpet” describes the quality of the voice or the loudness of the voice is not clear, but the wording seems to imply that the voice was loud and it had the quality of a trumpet.  I have a difficult time imagining a voice that sounds like a trumpet, but it must have been an arresting experience.

            Verse 1:11 relates what the voice said:  John is to send a book to the seven churches of Asia, which are named.  He is to tell them what he saw.  Note that the content is to be visual.  Perhaps no other book in the Bible, with the possible exception of Daniel, is filled with images as the book.

            In verse 1:12 John turns to look at the source of the voice.  His first image is of seven golden lampstands.   This image is explained in verse 1:20.

            In verse 1:13 John continues his description to say that he saw a person among the lampstands, whom he describes as being like a “son of man.”  This is wording that echoes Daniel 7:13 and, of course, Jesus used “the Son of Man” to designate Himself.  (See comments on verse 1:7.)  This person was wearing a long robe and a golden sash.  NIVSB considers this to indicate a high priest, but descriptions of the high priest’s clothing in Exodus 28-29 does not match this very well.  ESVSB considers the description to convey royalty and Metzger (27) agrees.  One is simply struck that this is a description of a very awesome person.  John avoids saying it was Jesus, though it is obvious that it is.  I take this as a dramatic way of presenting his vision, surrounding it with an aura of mystery.

            Verses 1:14 and 15 continue the description of Jesus.  The whiteness of his hair perhaps communicates the wisdom of the Ancient of Days who is described in Daniel 7:9. The eyes were flaming fire, perhaps representing their power to penetrate and see all things.  I have always been struck by the feet of burnished bronze, “refined in a furnace.”  I am reminded of that fourth person in the fiery furnace with Daniel’s three compatriots in Daniel 3:24-25.  Was that where Jesus’ feet were bronzed?  The first voice John heard was like a trumpet.  Jesus’ voice was like the roar of water.  If one has ever stood beside a rushing mountain stream, one can sense something of that voice.  

            Verse 1:16 continues the description.  The image now becomes more fantastic.  This “son of man” is holding in one hand seven stars.  These are explained in verse 20.  A sharp sword protrudes from his mouth.  One remembers Hebrew 4:12, which compares the word of God to a sword.  Thus, Jesus’ word is sharp, in the sense that it speaks perfect truth that can bring life or death.  His face was as bright as the sun.  What an awesome sight!  This vision is one that is filled with symbols that each conveys a meaning.  However, we do not want to lose sight of the fact that John saw the resurrected and glorified Jesus.  We need not think of Him as having sword sticking out of His mouth or of holding seven super nova stars in His hand.  What we do realize is that the same Jesus who walked the soil of Galilee is now sitting at the right hand of majesty with great glory and power. 

            John records his reaction in verse 1:17, which was to fall at Jesus’ feet.  Jesus comforted and encouraged John.  Notice that first He placed His right hand on John.  This was the hand that held seven stars.  We need to “get over” worrying about such trivialities.  Obviously, the vision is just that—a vision.  That means it is a visual image intended to convey information, not to convey logical niceties.  The seven stars in Jesus’ right hand are important, but at this moment, Jesus’ right hand (the hand of action and communication) is important as a means to comfort John.  Jesus urges John not to be afraid, because of who He—Jesus—is.  His being, His accomplishments, His victory are sources of encouragement, not of fear and death.

            First of all, Jesus is the “first and the last.”  (Verse 17b)  He was the One who was in the beginning—with God at the creation and, in fact, He was God (John 1:1-4).  And He will be there when it is all over and be the light of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:23).  Just as God is the Alpha and the Omega, Jesus is the First and the Last.”

            Moreover, in verse 1:18, Jesus describes Himself as the “living one.”  This could be translated “the One who lives.”  They put him on a cross and laid him in a tomb, but He is, by definition, the One who lives, and death could not hold Him.  Jesus makes that clear:  He died and “Look!” He is alive—He lives—forevermore.  We cannot read these words without thrilling to their power and victory.  There is a feel to these words—a feel that Jesus is excited.  Do you remember when He appeared to the disciples in the upper room?  There was a joy and excitement to Jesus’ words.  He was so excited to share His victory with His friends!  Now, perhaps more than 60 years later (depending on the dating of Revelation), Jesus was still excited to share with John.  Throughout eternity, that thrill will never leave.  He is alive.

            That victory was His personal victory, but it is also a victory for all who trust in Him.  He has now in His possession the “keys of Death and Hades.”  (Verse 18b)  Those keys represent authority.  He can lock or unlock those places.  No one else can do so.  Jesus has defeated the one who held the power of death—the devil (see Hebrews 2:14).

            In verse 1:19 Jesus gives additional instructions (beyond those in 1:11) to John.  He is to write what he has seen.  (The verb is aorist and should be translated “saw.”)  There are two ways of taking the second part of the sentence, as follows:

·         There are three parts to the command.  The first part is in the first clause:  “The things that you have seen.”  The second part is “those that are.”  The third part is “those that are to take place after this.”  Some believe this is an outline of the book—chapter 1 is the first part; chapter 2 and 3 are the second part; and the remainder is the third part.

·         The first clause is the command and the second and third clauses define the command:  “Write the things you have seen—those that are and those that are to take place after this.”  This would take the use of the word kai, which is before the second and third clauses, to mean “both…and.” This is a valid translation. 

Some people have made a great deal of this verse as an “outline” of the entire book.  They lean on the first interpretation above.  Thus, John is to write what he saw (things of the past) and the things that are going on now and the things that are going to happen. 

I think that one problem with this interpretation is trying to make three elements of the sentence as parallel constructions—(a) “the things that you have seen” in parallel with (b) “those that are” and also with (c) “those that are to take place after this.”  Part (a) does not seem to be a parallel to either (b) or (c).  Therefore I prefer the second interpretation.  It does not necessarily sort into a nice “outline,” but it does preview the contents of the book.  In either case, the use of the verb “to see” reminds us that this book recounts visions experienced by John.

            In verse 1:19 Jesus interprets two elements of John’s vision, the seven stars and the seven golden lampstands.  The stars represent the “angels” (or “messengers”) of the seven churches and the lampstands represent the churches themselves.  Some believe that the “angels” were ministers to the churches while others believe they were angels in our usual sense of the word.  The Greek word that is usually translated “angel” also means “messenger.” (See ESVSB and NIVSB.)  The fact that the “angel” of each of the churches is addressed in each letter (see, for example 2:1) gives credence to the idea that the angels were human ministers.  A third proposal is that the angels were the “essential spirits” of the churches (Morris, 56-57, Ladd, 32 and 35).  This does not appeal to me, because it seems to me that the lampstands play that role.Jesus held the angels in His hand and walked among the seven lampstands that represent churches.  Individual, local churches as entities are of significance to Jesus.  Jesus relates to individuals; we can verify that in many places in Scripture.  Jesus is also designated the Head of the church, which we can consider the entire population of saved individuals.  But we also need to keep in mind that Jesus is very interested in the local church.  Each of these churches has a lampstand “in heaven” so to speak.  That is, each church has a spiritual identity before God.  Such knowledge should cause us to take the church very seriously.   


Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Ladd, G. Eldon.  A Commentary on the Revelation of John.  Grand Rapids:  William B.

            Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1972.

Morris, Leon.  Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.  Vol. 20.  The Revelation of St. John. 

            Gen. ed.  R. V. G. Tasker.  Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1980.

Zondervan NIV Study Bible.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publ., 2002


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