"The revelation of Jesus Christ..." This first phrase of the chapter immediately changes the title of the book from A Revelation of St. John, to The Revelation of Jesus Christ the Lord. The words "revelation" and "apocalypse" come from the same Greek word which means to unveil, uncover, reveal or present. It is important from the beginning to understand that the central figure of this book is Jesus Christ and the central theme is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
"... which God gave him..." It is important to note that God the Father is the source of this revelation to God the Son.
"... to show unto his servants the things that must soon take place..." It seems obvious that this revelation is intended for the servants of God. God has never given us any portion of Scripture that was not for our edification. A "servant" in Scripture pertains to the position of bondservant. One who has been redeemed and set free, but chooses a life of obedience to the one who set him free. The word, "things," speaks of all the events that will accompany the rapture of the church. The word "soon" means speedily, surely or suddenly and in its entirety. This was not saying it would happen in John's lifetime, but putting forth the idea that when these events begin to take place, they will not stop until all of this revelation comes to pass."... He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John," Jerry Falwell writes:
This communication is said to be signified (sign-i-fied) or revealed through signs or symbols. Thus one who reads this writing should expect the use, but not abuse, of symbolic representations.
Now concerning the interpretation of Scripture, always use the literal approach. The only exception to this rule comes when, within the passage itself, it is obvious that it should be interpreted symbolically. The Bible does use figures of speech. God gives this revelation to Jesus, who gives it to an angel, who communicates it to John, who writes it down for Christians throughout the ages. The angel mentioned may have been an Old Testament prophet. The word angel doesn't always refer to a spiritual being it can actually mean "messenger." On two other occasions (Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9) the angel continues sharing with John. However, John on those occasions makes the mistake of bowing before the angel and receives a sharp rebuke in return. The angel identifies himself as being one of the brethren, and in Revelation 22:9 as being one of the prophets. There is no other account of an angel of heaven speaking of himself with such description. John is identified as the writer of the book in verse one. One of the Twelve Apostles, he wrote the Gospel of John, First, Second, and Third John as well as this book. The date of this writing is around A.D. 96, while he was in exile on the Isle of Patmos. It is most certainly the last book written in the canon of the New Testament.
"... who bore witness to the word of God..." The letter "w" in the "word of God" should be capitalized because it is a reference to the Lord Jesus. In the Amplified New Testament it appears capitalized and in the King James translation in John 1:1, 14; I John 1:1; and in I John 5:7 "Word" is capitalized. So should it be in this verse in Revelation where John is bearing witness to the Word, or person, of God.
"... and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw." John is the right choice to pen these words, to bear record of the Word of God. He knows that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the promised One, as he walked with Him for over three years. Therefore, he can easily bear testimony concerning the character of Christ. It seems fitting that he is the one to write this final epilogue.
"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy..." This is the first of a series of seven beatitudes that are found in the Book of Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14). "Blessed," as found here, is the same word that is used in Matthew (5:3-11) in the Sermon on the Mount. The word means happy, holy, or content.
"... andblessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near."
This first beatitude in Revelation says blessed, happy, holy, or content is the one who reads, hears and keeps the things that are written in this book. Some might use the words, "cranky" or "critical" to describe those who read through this book. However, God says if you read this book, if you listen to this book, and if you keep or guard the truth that is revealed in this book, you are following the pathway of divine blessing. Take note of the fact that Revelation is a prophetic book. It is the last prophecy given by God to man. In the book of Revelation we find a compilation of all other prophecies in the word of God. Prophecies that are not previously fulfilled are consummated in the book of Revelation. There is no more God given, written revelation to man after John wrote Revelation.
"John to the seven churches that are in Asia..." Revelation is a letter addressed to seven churches located in Asia Minor John lists the seven churches in verse 11. Later, in chapters two and three, he gives a brief synopsis of each of them. However, there were at least ten churches in Asia Minor at that time. So it appears that the Holy Spirit specifically chose these seven churches, otherwise it would be addressed to all of the churches of the region. Clarence Larkin expounds:
Neither do these Seven Churches mean that there were only seven churches in that district, for there were at least three other churches, that of Colosse, Col. 1:2; Hierapolis, Col. 4:13; and Troas, Acts 20:6-7.
That the seven churches are listed in a chronological order is also significant. The distinct characteristics of each church correspond directly to the characteristics of a particular time-line in the 2000 years of church history. It is also helpful to understand Jewish numerology in order to understand much of the symbolism in Revelation. The abbreviated list below will serve as an easy reference through this study. In biblical numerology:
Halley's Bible Handbook describes the symbolism of the number seven like this:
Used as often as it is, in the way it is, it must have some significance over and above its numerical value. Symbolically, it is thought to stand for Completeness, a Unit, Fullness, Totality.
So with these things in mind it is easy to see that the seven churches constitute a "complete" picture of over 2000 years of church history. Don't forget that there were seven actual congregations but there is also a clear overview of all of the years of church history represented here.
"... Grace to you, and peace..." You will always find grace and peace in this order in the Scripture. Peace is always second; you cannot have the peace of God, until you experience the grace of God. The Liberty Bible Commentary says:
Today the world is seeking peace, but it is not seeking grace. We are being continually asked to pray for peace, but we are not admonished to first ask for grace. The world sees its need of peace. It feels its need of peace but it does not realize its need of grace.
"... from him who is, and who was, and who is to come..." In the salutation we find a clear reference to the Trinity, beginning with God the Father. John speaks of the Eternal One, the Self-Existent One, and the True Source of all things. The one true God who has always existed; He has no beginning and no ending. He is perpetually at work in the eternal present.
"... and from the seven spirits who are before his throne "..." The word "spirits" should be capitalized as it refers to the seven-fold or complete ministry of the Holy Spirit. There is, of course, but one Holy Spirit: yet He is spoken of as seven-fold; for He is the executive person of the Godhead, and acting in Revelation in a purely governmental way. In this character His place is before the throne of God in heaven as is recorded in Revelation 4:5: "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne which are the seven Spirits of God." William R. Newell explains:
Now if we turn to Isaiah 11, we find that upon our Lord's return as King, upon the throne of David, the Spirit rests upon Him in His governmental offices in exactly a seven-fold way: first, as to His Deity—"the Spirit of Jehovah"; second, of wisdom; third, of understanding; fourth, counsel; fifth, might; sixth, knowledge; seventh, "the fear of Jehovah" (begetting that fear).
So once again we see that the number seven symbolically denotes what is complete and perfect. This time it denotes the complete and perfect ministry of the Holy Spirit.
"... And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth." In the presentation of the Trinity, we find Jesus last in the order, because the real focus of attention is upon Him. This verse identifies the threefold ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is revealed as prophet, priest and king. As the "faithful witness" He is a Prophet; as the "first born of the dead" Jesus entered into the heavenlies with His own blood and offered it as a sacrifice and atonement for the sins of mankind, and as such He was functioning as a priest; He is the King of Kings. He is Prophet, He is Priest, and He is King. As a Prophet He is God's Word with a capital "W;" as Priest He is God's Lamb with a capital "L;" as King He is God's Lion (of the tribe of Judah) with a capital "L."
"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to God and his Father..." There are three things that Jesus does for us. First, He loves us. He did not love us only in the past; he loves us unconditionally, right now. You cannot explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ without incorporating the love of God. The Cross is an act of pure love. Divine love came up with a divine plan; this plan is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Second, Jesus washes us from our sins. The Bible says "... without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin." (Hebrews 9:22). The Bible also says, "... it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11). There are many other references concerning the atonement of Christ. Removing the blood from the gospel could be compared to taking the heart out of a man and expecting him to go on living. Third, "and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father." The ESV also translates Revelation 5:10 using the word "kingdom" instead of "kings," which appears in the KJV. Both of these passages refer to the millennial reign of Christ mentioned in chapter 20. In the model prayer Christ taught the disciples to pray "your kingdom come. Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). One day soon that kingdom will become a reality. According to the Bible we are a part of a royal family, a royal priesthood. You literally function as a priest. You do not need another person to intercede for you. You are a priest. You can go directly to the throne of God through your high priest who is Jesus. Jesus loves us; He has washed us; He has redeemed us; He has given us a position of royalty. Anytime we desire we can enter into God's presence through the Lord Jesus Christ. To this John adds a benediction: "To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
"... Behold he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen." Next to the plan of salvation and man's responsibility to live for the glory of God, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is the most important teaching in the Bible. Jesus is coming. The coming of Christ will be in two stages. His first coming would be better called His appearing. He will appear in the clouds, in a moment in a twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52); like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2). It will happen with such great rapidity that many will not know what has happened. Only the saved will honestly understand and experience that miraculous event. This is the next event in prophecy to occur. Jesus is going to come and get His church, His bride, and every true believer, who knows the Lord Jesus Christ, will be taken from the earth. After this (the rapture), there will be a period of seven years of tribulation. At the close of that seven year period of time, Jesus will come back again. Revelation 19:11-21 gives a picture of that occasion which will be discussed in that context. Revelation 1:7 pertains to the second stage of His Second Coming, because the verse says "that every eye shall see him." When he appears the first time this would not be a valid statement, as every eye will not see Him. But when he comes at the close of the tribulation every eye shall see him and every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess (Romans 14:11). At His Second Coming the Jews and all those who inhabit the earth will realize what they did to Him on the Cross and they will wail because of this knowledge. John says it will be a terrible time for many people; "even so," he says, "let it be."
"I am the Alpha and Omega, says the Lord God..." Christ is the Alpha and Omega, everything from A to Z and everything in between for He is all inclusive. Everything finds its answer in Him "who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things and by him all things consist" (Colossians 1:15-17).
"Who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." This parallels the statement in verse 4. However, verse 4 is referring to God the Father while this verse refers to God the Son, the point being that the characteristics that are true of Christ are true of the Father. The attributes we find in the Father we find in the Son also. The absolute sovereignty of God is expressed in the single word "Almighty." He is omnipotent. The word "Almighty" appears a total of nine times in the book of Revelation (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22).