Commentary on Revelation


Grace and Peace -- Rev 1:3-7

Blessed is the one

Rev 1:3

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it, and take to heart what is written in it -- because the time is near.

This is a three-fold blessing.

A blessing is pronounced upon 'the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy.'  In the first century, books were few, so a leader in the congregation would read aloud while the congregation listened.  Sharing in this way can be of immense service to others, so that they too may appreciate the message of revelation.

A blessing is pronounced upon 'those who hear it.'  The act of hearing it for ourselves can benefit us greatly as we get to know what is written in it.

And thirdly, a blessing is pronounced upon 'those who take its message to heart.'  The first two blessings provide a good starting point.  But, to truly achieve our goal, these blessings must flow through to the final one -- we must 'take it to heart.'

The message comes from Jesus Christ.  While it is from Jesus, equally importantly, it is also about Jesus.

Not every Christian sees Revelation in a positive light.

I have received feedback from friends who reject the importance of the book of Revelation.  They see in it nothing of value.  They just want to hear the simple story of the gospel.  In part, this is understandable -- for so much rubbish has been thrust into the narrative of Revelation that 'what the book actually says' has been buried under hundreds of years of misinformation and confusion.  To a large degree, its message has been buried.

This is not to deny that there are now, and always have been, many serious and devoted students of revelation.  Men and women from around the world, and from every age have helped to open our eyes to important truths in this book.  Many devout scholars have diligently instructed us on Revelation.

But, let us pause for just a moment, and let us be truly honest -- all of us struggle with some aspects of this book.  It is not the easiest book to understand.  So, we need to approach this study carefully and with humble hearts.  And we need to let God guide us if we want to increase our understanding and genuinely grow in appreciation of its message.

While a three-fold blessing is pronounced at the beginning of the book, a two-fold curse is pronounced at the end.  Let us take a careful -- and sober look.

Rev 22:18-19

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.

And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

We are warned.  Do not wilfully add messages and interpretations which have no right to be there.  God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.  If we dare to take away any part of the message, this is our fate -- God will take away from such a person any share in the tree of life, and any share in the Holy City.  Within these bounds which God has set, let us receive the blessing.  The final facet of the three-fold blessing is to 'take to heart what is written in the revelation.'  It is, after all, not only a revelation from Jesus, it is a revelation about Jesus.

There are seven blessings in all.  Here is where each is found -- Rev 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 22:14.

The time is near (Rev 1:3)

John reveals to us that the time is near.

Naturally, we look at life through the aspect of the average human lifespan.  Therefore, a period of 2,000 years seems such a long time.  This is the time from when John received and wrote the revelation until today.  It is a long time.  How can we possibly say, at any given time, that the glorious coming of Jesus Christ is 'near?'

2 Pet 3:4, 8-9

They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised?  Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." 

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

My mother passed away last year at the age of 97 years.  Among other things, it made me realise that just 20 people living to her age, with one dying while another was being born -- the lives of 20 such people would span the entire time since Revelation was written until today.  Two thousand years is not such a long time.  In the eyes of an eternal God, it would even appear much shorter.  He wants no-one to perish, he is working to bring salvation to all.  He desires the best outcome for each of us.

Because it is only for a few brief years that we have the privilege to live here on earth, time is actually short -- the end of time for each of us is near.  If we continually put off making a firm and steadfast decision to follow Jesus, our life will be done, and we will not be saved.  Do not procrastinate, do not delay.  Learn what God offers in his Word, and in his Revelation.  See if it is something which you can embrace with your whole heart and soul?  The time is near.  Inspect the revelation, scrutinise its promises, consider your options, and then make your decision.

Rev 1:4

John to the seven churches

Rev 1:4


To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

John addresses seven churches in the province of Asia.  They are named in Rev 1:11.  The churches receive individual messages from Jesus in chapters two and three.  (Shortly, we will consider the churches in detail.)

Grace and Peace from God

Rev 1:4

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come.

We have now arrived at the 'difficult' symbolic language which is extensively used in Revelation.  Instead of simply saying 'the Lord God,' or 'the Almighty' (terms which are used in Rev 1:8 to refer to God), here God is described in a symbolic manner -- 'Him who is, and who was, and who is to come.'

Although, this particular expression is straightforward and easy to understand, we encounter a lot of 'complex symbolism' throughout the book.  We will often need to slow down and be careful as we read -- or we will become entangled in our own false interpretations.  I do not claim to know everything about Revelation.  Let us humbly move forward together and see what we can learn.

The expression, 'Him who is, and who was, and who is to come,' is a reference to God's eternal nature.  The term 'who is' means 'the one who exists right now,' 'who was,' means 'the one who has always existed -- forever in the past,' and 'who is to come,' means 'the one who will always exist -- for all of eternity.'

This account symbolically describes the eternal nature of God.  The symbolism found all the way through is rich in meaning.  It describes each of the characters (in this case, God) in terms of the characteristics which truly define them.  God is defined by his eternal nature and his continual existence.

How is it that so few words can be so rich in meaning?  This example highlights the beauty which is found abundantly in revelation.

Grace and peace -- 1:4

John proclaims God's goodwill to his readers in the expressions of 'grace' and 'peace.'  Revelation is often seen as 'nothing more than' a book of severe judgements, and indeed, it does depict some dreadful scenes.  Oftentimes, the glorious scenes of victory, deliverance, and salvation are overlooked by commentators in their effort to emphasise terrible judgements.  God's desire is to bestow grace upon everyone who reads the book.

Within the book two camps are depicted -- (1) those who live on the side of the devil, and (2) those who live on the side of God.  God is not going to bring this sorry, sin-filled world to an end without first giving us the opportunity to follow him.  He constantly calls us to come over to his side -- because his is the better side to be on.  We may wonder if 'any hope' exists at all when we look at the troubles around us.  But there is an answer.  And God has that answer which he gives right here in Revelation.

A particularly important aspect of revelation is that of winners and losers.  Who will achieve the 'ultimate and eternal victory' is a central part of the narrative.  Although Satan may appear to be winning at present, God is at work bringing us to repentance, delivering us from sin, and working to bring us home.  He wants to bring us to his glorious home -- a home which is indeed so glorious that many believe it is only a dream.

God states emphatically, "These words are trustworthy and true."  God is not in any doubt as to the outcome.  'He will win.'  At great cost, Jesus himself paid the penalty of man's sin, now he will come again to bring salvation to all who believe in him.

Rev 21:5

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"  Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

Heb 9:28

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

To bring his people home to his eternal and glorious kingdom is the vision which God reveals in revelation.  God has a 'kingdom of grace,' and a future 'kingdom of glory.'  The kingdom of grace is here now (at this very moment).  God is now offering his grace to sinners.  Graciously, he is freely giving forgiveness and salvation.  One day he will return in splendour and glory as the judge of all mankind, and his coming will usher in his kingdom of glory.

He is earnestly and constantly calling the reader (and the hearer) to come over to his side.

Rev 18:4

"Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes."

Rev 3:21

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

God offers 'grace' to you.  God's grace is unmerited and undeserved favour.  None of us can merit it -- none of us deserve it.  But he can lovingly bestow his grace upon us because of his plan of redemption.

He also offers 'peace.'  Peace is that 'something?' which many of us lack.  We are worried, and troubled -- we want peace.  But in this world, and left to ourselves, we cannot find it.  Let go of that struggle, and let God graciously give it to you.

True grace and peace can only come from the One who is eternal.  He is from everlasting to everlasting.  Accept his gift right now.

Grace and Peace from the Spirit

Rev 1:4

... and from the seven spirits before his throne.

The symbolism of the 'seven spirits' represents the Holy Spirit.

Three persons are mentioned in Revelation 1:4-5.  They are God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ.  The three of them are mentioned together, and each of them grant grace and peace to the readers of revelation.

At this point, I will only briefly mention the Spirit.  For very shortly, he plays a great and significant role in the narrative.  (And then, we will explore his activity in detail.)  Note that 'Jesus himself holds the seven spirits of God' (Rev 3:1), and commands us, "Listen to what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev 3:6).

The activity of the Holy Spirit is significant.

Shortly, we will discuss the 'seven spirits,' and the 'seven churches' together.  The two are intricately linked.

Rev 1:5-7

Grace and Peace from Jesus Christ

Rev 1:5

... and from Jesus Christ.

Jesus brings the identical gift of 'grace and peace' which he gives to you.  Please accept his gift -- hold it close -- and value it.

In revelation, Jesus receives an extensive introduction -- covering three complete verses (verses 5-7).  This large introduction is not surprising as the book is about him -- he is the central subject of the revelation.

Three key attributes about Jesus

Rev 1:5

from Jesus Christ, (1) who is the faithful witness, (2) the firstborn from the dead, and (3) the ruler of the kings of the earth.

Firstly, he is 'the faithful witness' (1:5).

We will initially consider what it means to be 'faithful,' and then consider the meaning of 'witness.'

Jesus -- the One who is Faithful

Jesus was faithful, and he continues to be faithful.

Heb 3:2, 5-6

He (Jesus) was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all of God's house.

"Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house," ... But Christ is faithful as the Son over God's house.

A contrast is made here between Moses and Christ.  It does not say that Moses is bad, and Jesus Christ is good.  It is a comparison that notes that while Moses was a faithful servant, Jesus, as a son is even more faithful.  Jesus Christ is the faithful witness'.

Jesus as a Witness

Jesus came to reveal the Father.  The Father is the central and sole focus of his witness.  Therefore, Jesus prayed the following prayer.

John 25:26

"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

He also made this statement (recorded in John 14:9).

John 14:9

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

So complete and so perfect was his witness, that to see Jesus was to see his father.

The firstborn from the dead

Jesus is 'the firstborn from the dead' (1:5).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the event which makes every other resurrection possible.  He is the only begotten son of the Almighty God.  As such, he is fully capable of bringing salvation to mankind.  His death and resurrection 'guarantee' forgiveness and eternal life to all believers.

In Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Cor 15:20-22

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Ruler of the kings of the earth

Jesus is 'the ruler of the kings of the earth (1:5).

As recorded in the gospels, the Jewish leaders took Jesus before the Roman governor, Pilate.  They did this in order to have him put to death (crucified).  Pilate duly questioned Jesus, asking him what authority he possessed.  Was he the king of the Jews?  (Pilate had earlier been told that Jesus had made this claim.)

From the Gospel of John, I have recorded a portion of the exchange of words between Pilate and Jesus.  At one point, Pilate said to Jesus.  "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"  With this statement Pilate indicated the power and authority he had over Jesus.  And Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above."  Thus, Jesus indicated that he held an authority above and beyond that held by Pilate.

Here is the abbreviated presentation.

John 18:33, 37

Pilate then went back inside the palace.  He summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" ...

"You are a king, then!" said Pilate.

John 19:1-3, 9-11, 14-16, 19

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.  The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.  They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!"  And they slapped his face.

"Where do you come from?" Pilate asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.  "Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said.  "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"

Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.  Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

"Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!"

"Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked.

"We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered.

Finally, Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified ...

And Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross.  It read, 'Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.'

In Revelation, Jesus is revealed as -- 'the King of kings, and Lord of lords.'  He is 'the ruler' of the kings of the earth.

Rev 19:16

On his robe and on his thigh, he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

These are the three key attributes listed about Jesus.  (1) He is the faithful witness, (2) he is the firstborn from the dead, and (3) he is the ruler of the kings of the earth.

John then lists three accomplishments of Jesus Christ.

Three key accomplishments of Jesus

Rev 1:5-7

To him (1) who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and (2) has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father

-- to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

(3) 'Look, he is coming with the clouds,' and 'every eye will see him, even those who pierced him,' and all peoples on earth 'will mourn because of him.'

So shall it be!  Amen.

According to these verses, Jesus Christ has (and will) accomplish three significant actions.

Jesus loves us -- and saved us from sin

Firstly, He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood (1:5).

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to 'save the world through him'.

God has freed us from our sins by the blood of his son, Jesus Christ.

We read in Matthew chapter one that Mary was pregnant and was about to give birth -- when an angel spoke these words to Joseph:

Matt 1:21

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

Jesus, motivated by his great love for us, has accomplished our eternal salvation.

Jesus has made us a kingdom and priests

He has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father (1:6).

We now belong to God's kingdom, and as such, we belong to God.  We are his subjects, and we are his priests.

Peter makes the same point as is made in Revelation.  Peter says:

1 Pet 2:9-10

But you are a chosen people -- a royal priesthood -- a holy nation -- God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

At Mount Sinai, God had previously given the very same promise to the Israelites.  He gave it immediately before he gave them his Ten Commandments.

Exo 19:6

"You will be for me a kingdom of priests -- and a holy nation.  These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."

He then spoke the Ten Commandments (Exo 20:1-17).

To be a member of the kingdom of God is a great privilege.  To be called by God to serve in a 'royal priesthood,' to be accorded the status as a member of a 'holy nation,' to be called 'God's special possession,' is a great honour indeed.  Accept his offer, cherish it, and thank God for it.

Jesus has made us both a 'kingdom' and 'priests' to serve his God and Father.

Glory and power -- Amen

John now proclaims praise to Jesus, which he concludes with his first 'amen.'

He says, 'to him be glory and power for ever and ever!  Amen (1:6).'

Amen is the affirmation meaning 'so shall it be.'

Jesus is coming again

'Look, he is coming with the clouds,' and 'every eye will see him, even those who pierced him,' and all peoples on earth 'will mourn because of him' (1:7).

Jesus has promised that 'he will come again.'

For those who are longing for him to return to this earth, his coming will be great news.  It will be the 'greatest' news.

But this will not be the experience of every-one.  Those who have not accepted the grace of salvation extended to them by God, will find themselves on the wrong side.  They 'will mourn because of him.'

John 14:1-3

"Do not let your hearts be troubled -- You believe in God; believe also in me."

My Father's house has many rooms."  (Therefore, I have plenty of room to accommodate you, and everyone else who will accept my invitation and decide to come.) ...

"Truly, I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, 'I will come back and take you to be with me' -- that you may be united with me in my presence."

God has extended to you his hand of mercy.  He has extended to you 'grace and peace.'  He desires to come back to this earth and take you to be with him in his everlasting kingdom.

Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.

John concludes, 'So shall it be!  Amen (1:7).'

The Prologue

(The 'prologue' is the introductory section of a book containing its opening words.  And the 'epilogue' is the final section of a book containing its closing words.)

Verses 1-7 comprise the prologue of Revelation.  Verses six and seven both conclude with 'amen.'  The second 'amen' (v7) marks the end of the prologue.

Rev 1:6-7

To him be glory and power for ever and ever!  Amen.

"Look, he is coming with the clouds," ... So shall it be!  Amen.

Also, at the end of the book, the Epilogue ends with 'amen' being repeated twice.

Rev 22:20-21

He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people.  Amen.

Sets of threes

The prologue contains numerous sets of threes.

Verse 1a

'God' gave the revelation to 'Jesus Christ' to show his 'servants.'

Verse 1b

'He' made it known by sending his 'messenger' to his 'servant John.'

Verse 2

'His servant John' testifies to the 'word of God' and the testimony of 'Jesus Christ.'

Verse 3

Three blessings are given -- 'to read,' 'to hear,' 'and take to heart.'

Verses 4-5

Grace and peace are given -- 'from God,' 'from the Spirit,' and 'from Jesus Christ.'

Verse 5

Three attributes of Jesus Christ are given.

Verses 5-7

Three accomplishments (three actions) of Jesus Christ are given.

This careful structure of the narrative is not accidental, it is intended -- and a similar deliberate structure is found throughout Revelation.

Please use your own Bible to verify all that I share.

The people of Berea provide a worthy example for us to follow. -- They earnestly examined the Scriptures for themselves.

Acts 17:11

The Jews in Berea were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and 'examined the Scriptures' every day to see if what Paul said was true.

(The town of Berea is in Greece.  Today it is called Veria.)

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Jesus cares for his church.