Commentary on Revelation
The High Priest and the Church -- Rev 1:8-19
The Lord God speaks (v8)
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is,
and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
The speaker is 'the Lord God,' 'the Almighty,' he 'who is, and who was, and who is to come. Regarding himself, he says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega."
After God speaks, Jesus Christ says, "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches" (Rev 1: 10-13).
They both speak again at the end of the book
(1) 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."
(2) He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
(3) To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
(4) But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars -- they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death."
(1) "Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.
(2) I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
(3) Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.
(4) Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."
These are parallel passages. Both passages can be divided into 'four parts.'
(1) They indicate 'what they will do'
God says, "I am making everything new!"
Jesus says, "Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me."
(2) They indicate their 'eternal authority'
God says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End."
Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
(3) They indicate 'the blessings they will bring'
God says, "To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
Jesus says, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city."
(4) They indicate 'who will miss out'
God says, "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars -- they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death."
Jesus says, "Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."
The Alpha and the Omega (v8)
"I am the Alpha and the Omega."
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the
Beginning and the End."
Three closely related expressions occur in revelation. They are 'the Alpha and the Omega,' 'the First and the Last,' 'the Beginning and the End.' Each expression has a similar meaning. Each signifies 'having an eternal nature.' Both God and Jesus Christ have eternal existence.
There cannot be two Firsts (with one following the other), and there cannot be two Lasts (with one following the other). There cannot be two Alphas. Neither can there be two Beginnings (with one following the other -- the first Beginning is the Beginning, the second is simply second). Only the first to occur is the true beginning. It is only because the Almighty and Jesus are truly God eternal, that they can both be called the 'Beginning and the End.' Both God and Jesus Christ 'have eternal existence.' Check out the following verses.
God says that he is 'the Alpha and the Omega' (Rev 1:8 and 21:6). And Jesus says that he is 'the Alpha and the Omega' (Rev 22:13).
Jesus says that he is 'the First and the Last' (Rev 1:17 and 22:13). And Jesus is called 'the First and the Last' (Rev 2:8).
God says that he is 'the Beginning and the End' (Rev 21:6). And Jesus says that he is 'the Beginning and the End' (Rev 22:13).
Both the Almighty and Jesus are truly God.
In Rev 1:8, it is the Lord God, the Almighty who speaks. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God.
God has spoken on previous occasions
God has spoken at notable and important points in history. At Jesus' baptism, God said:
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
At Mount Sinai, God spoke the Ten Commandments.
"I am the Lord your God.... You shall have no other gods before me ... (etc)."
Three-fold description of the Almighty
In Rev 1:8, God identifies himself as, He "who is, and who was, and who is to come." The same identification of God is used in Rev 1:4. and 4:8.
In Rev 11:17, this term is modified slightly. He is called 'the One who is, and who was.' Here it is applied to the time when God 'had' come. Because he had come, the final portion, 'who is to come' is missing.
"We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the 'One who
is,' and 'who was,' because you have taken your great power and have
begun to reign."
Three-fold description of Jesus Christ
A similar three-fold term is used in respect to Jesus Christ. The term, however, is unique and distinct. Jesus said:
"I am 'the Living One;' I 'was dead,' and now look, I 'am alive for ever and ever!'"
Jesus is the Living One, who became a man -- and becoming a man -- he took possession of human mortality. He died for the sins of all mankind. He paid the price for our sins with his death on the cross. Through his death, he redeemed mankind, bringing our death-destined bodies 'back from the prospect of death and punishment' -- to give us immortal life. In doing this, death did not have the power to hold him. He rose from the grave, and as the Living One he lives for ever and ever.
Three-fold description of Satan
Satan, the great adversary 'who is opposed to all that is good,' also receives a three-fold identification in Revelation.
The beast (Satan), which you saw, 'once was,' 'now is not,' and yet 'will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction.'
Satan (1) once was, (2) now is not, (3) and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction.
The controversy throughout revelation is between these three key protagonists. God and Jesus are on the side of love, goodness, and right-living. They offer eternal life to all who will come. While Satan is on the side of evil. With selfish motives, he exalts himself, and seeks that worship be directed to him. He is self-centred, self-seeking, and self-serving.
People worshiped the dragon (Satan) because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against him?"
John in Revelation describes this controversy in great detail.
God is described as: He '(1) who is, and (2) who was, and (3) who is to come.'
Jesus describes himself this way: "(1) I am the Living One; (2) I was dead, and now look, (3) I am alive for ever and ever!"
And Satan is described as: the one who '(1) once was, (2) now is not, and (3) yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction.'
In Rev 1:8, it is God who speaks. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord
God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
I am John your brother and companion in the suffering and
kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus. I was on the island of
Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord's Day
I was in the Spirit.
'I am John' ... I was on the island of Patmos because of the 'word of God' and the 'testimony of Jesus' (v9).
The Island of Patmos is a small island off the coast of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). It is generally believed John was exiled here by the Roman authorities because of his witness for Christ. He, himself, says he was here 'because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.'
There is a parallel between verse 9 and Rev 1:2.
Rev 1:2 says, '(John) testifies' to everything he saw -- that is, the 'word of God' and the 'testimony of Jesus Christ.' In verses 2 and 9, we see these same three points: (1) John testifies, (2) the word of God, and (3) the testimony of Jesus Christ.
John described the relationship he had with his fellow believers. He says, "I am John your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus." John saw himself as a brother and companion to his friends in Christ. He identified with them; he was united with them as one. They were brothers and sisters, and shared so much in common. They had these shared experiences because of their connection with Jesus.
He explicitly mentions three things: "Suffering, kingdom,
and patient endurance." He says, "These things are ours in Jesus."
To be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ is not without suffering. The extent of the suffering will depend on the nature of the culture in which we live. Some Christians are simply misunderstood and quietly ridiculed by those around them. Some are deprived of better work opportunities and this form of abandonment may continue throughout their life. Some suffer insults and beatings; others suffer imprisonment and death. Jesus suffered at the hands of sinful men. And in one way or another, his followers will suffer too.
Revelation reveals that our real reward is not now -- the
Christian's true, full, and eternal reward comes to each one of us 'when Jesus
Christ comes in glory.'
"Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done."
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.... Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you a crown of life.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed, and on the third day be raised to life.
We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. If we do
indeed share in his suffering -- it is in order that we may also share in his
glory. I (Paul) consider that our present suffering is not worth comparing with
the glory that will be revealed in us.
Christ's kingdom is 'not' of this world -- and because we are God's children, our kingdom is not here either.
"My kingdom is not of this world... my kingdom comes from another place -- it comes from above."
Our ultimate reward is not a temporal and limited reward in a sinful, dying world. Ours is a glorious, and eternal reward. We -- will -- live forever in eternal peace, in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Revelation is firmly focused on the establishment of the kingdom of God. (This is a major theme of the book.) We will see abundant detail about his coming kingdom as we progress through the book.
"Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (He will wipe every tear from their eyes.) There will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. The old order of things has now passed away."
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he added, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the City of God."
1 Cor 2:9
No eye has ever seen, nor has any ear ever heard, neither has any
person ever conceived or imagined -- the glorious things which God has prepared
for those who love him.
Patient endurance (v9)
John refers to the virtue of 'patient endurance' three times.
The first reference is Rev 1:9.
The second reference is Rev 13:10.
'Revelation chapter 13' describes the opposition Satan brings against the people of God. Rev 12:17 says, 'Satan was 'enraged' and 'went off to make war' against those who keep God's commandments, and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. To fully engage in battle, Satan enlists the power of two 'beasts.' The first beast comes out of the 'sea,' and the second beast comes out of the 'earth.' These beasts engage the people of God in a fierce battle.
Inserted into the text 'precisely between the descriptions of the two beasts,' are these words regarding 'patient endurance,' (and 'faithfulness'):
"If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed."
This calls for 'patient endurance' and 'faithfulness' on the part of God's people.
In this hostile environment, we need positive encouragement to keep going.
The third reference is Rev 14:12.
This calls for 'patient endurance' on the part of the
people of God -- those who keep his commandments, and remain faithful to Jesus.
Paul also speaks of 'patient endurance.'
2 Cor 1:5-6, 8-9
Just as we share in the sufferings of Christ, so also, our 'comfort' comes through Christ ...
This produces in us 'patient endurance'...
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia.
We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure... But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but that we should rely on God.
The reward we desire is still future.
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. -- Rejoice and be glad, because 'great is your reward in heaven.'
John says, "On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit."
On the Lord's Day
John is quite specific regarding the day on which he received the revelation. It occurred on the 'Lord's Day.' (But the expression 'the Lord's Day,' is fairly ambiguous -- because it is used only once in the whole of the New Testament.)
The nearest association of this term appears in the gospels --
where Jesus proclaims himself 'Lord of the Sabbath.'
"The Son of Man is 'Lord of the Sabbath.'"
"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, the Son of Man is 'Lord even of the Sabbath.'"
Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is 'Lord of the Sabbath.'"
Because Jesus says, "He is Lord of the Sabbath," some associate 'the Lord's Day' with 'the Sabbath Day.'
I will refer to 'the Lord's Day' again when we examine
chapters 12 to 14, as we will encounter some relevant verses at this stage.
In the Spirit (v10)
John says, "On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit."
We ask the question. How was John 'in the Spirit?'
On this particular day, John was either in worship, in prayer, meditating on spiritual things, or otherwise close to God. He received the revelation while he was thus occupied in worship.
John uses the term 'I was in the Spirit,' 'twice' in revelation.
Its first usage (1:10) comes as 'part of the introduction' to the 'first' vision which John received. In this vision John sees things which are here on earth -- that is, he sees Jesus ministering to the seven churches. He sees things specifically on 'earth.'
'I was in the Spirit' is used again in (4:2) as 'part of the
introduction' to his 'second' vision. In this vision John sees things
which are in heaven -- that is, he sees God's throne in heaven and the worship
that is given in this setting. He sees things specifically in 'heaven.'
John continues to speak (v10, 11)
Rev 1:10, 11
"... and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet."
John says he heard a voice behind him. He heard Jesus
Jesus speaks (v10, 11)
Rev 1:10, 11
"John heard ... a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."
John described Jesus' voice as 'loud -- like a trumpet.' Later in verse 15, he adds that his 'voice was like the sound of rushing waters.' It was clearly a voice that commanded attention. His voice had volume. It was like a trumpet. When Jesus spoke, his words could not be missed.
Also, his voice was melodious. It was like the sound of rushing waters. Rushing water, whether the sound of rapids of a fast-moving river, or a mighty thunderous waterfall, or waves breaking along an extensive coastline -- all rushing water produces a pleasant, beautiful, and relaxing sound. Very few people have a voice which commands attention. Jesus' voice does.
Regarding Jesus' return in glory, Paul says:
1 Thess 4:16
The Lord Jesus will come down from heaven, with a 'loud command,' with the 'voice of the archangel,' and with the 'trumpet call of God.'
With his own majestic voice, Jesus will call his loved ones home.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20).
Three persons speak (v8-11)
In verse 8, God speaks.
In verses 9-10, John speaks.
In verses 10-11, Jesus speaks.
Why did John not respond to the voice of God (v8)? (After all, John responded to the words which Jesus spoke.)
The narrative of revelation is carefully correlated all the way through -- It follows a strictly organised structure.
In verse 1, we are told that the revelation came from God, who gave it to Jesus Christ, who in turn gave it to John.
The revelation originates from God. It was for Jesus to hear, and receive from God. And, then it was for Jesus to pass it on to John. And this correlates with the pattern which occurs in verses 8-11 -- God speaks, Jesus speaks, and John responds to the voice of Jesus.
Jesus says to John, "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."
We will consider these seven churches in detail when we get
to chapters 2 and 3.
John's vision of Christ (v12-16)
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was
someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with
a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as
white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze
glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In
his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp,
double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
John first hears, then he sees
John heard behind him a 'loud voice' like a trumpet (v10). He then turned around to see who was speaking to him (v12). It was Jesus. He first heard Jesus' voice -- and when he turned, he saw Jesus.
Many times, John will hear something, then he will see it. This hearing/seeing aspect is an important part of the structure. When it occurs, we must assign the 'hearing' and 'seeing' aspect to the same entity. They are identical.
Here are two more examples.
In Rev 5:5-6 -- John is firstly 'told' about a Lion. -- Then he 'sees' a Lamb. Both the Lion and the Lamb represent Jesus.
In Rev 7:4, 9 -- John is 'told' about the ones sealed for
redemption. -- He then 'sees' the redeemed ones in heaven. They are the same
group -- firstly they are on earth, then he sees them in heaven.
The vision (v12-16)
When I turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man (12-13).
John sees 'someone like a son of man.'
Jesus used the title 'son of man' when referring to himself. Matthew in his gospel, records its usage 29 times. Jesus used the title so
frequently, it appears to be a favourite with him. I will give one example.
"The 'Son of Man' is Lord of the Sabbath."
The title 'Son of Man' is used again in Revelation.
I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a 'son of man' with a crown of gold on his head.
Daniel chapter seven is a passage of Scripture from which Revelation draws repeatedly. In the book of Daniel, the 'one like a son of man' is given a highly exalted position. Daniel says:
"In my vision at night, I looked, and there before me was 'one like a son of man,' coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.
He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all
nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting
dominion that will never pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be
Jesus was undoubtedly aware of this reference in Daniel when he chose to use this title for himself.
Jesus applied every exalted aspect of Dan 7: 13-14 to himself. This is clearly Jesus' teaching (both in the gospels, and in Revelation). Jesus saw himself as being the 'one like the son of man' that Daniel speaks of in Dan 7:13. -- It is Jesus who 'approaches the Ancient of Days and is led into God's presence.' It is Jesus who 'is given authority, glory, and sovereign power. All nations and peoples of every language worship him.' It is his 'dominion which is an everlasting dominion that will never pass away.' And it is his 'kingdom that will never be destroyed.'
We will look further at this passage when we get to Rev chapter 5. -- 'Rev 5, and Dan 7:13-14' complement one another perfectly.
The 'one like a son of man' of Dan7:13 is the same person as 'someone like a son of man' of Rev 1:13. In both cases, the title refers to Jesus.
John saw seven golden lampstands (v12)
In Rev 1:20, we are told that 'the seven lampstands are the seven churches.'
We will leave further discussion of the seven churches until
verse 20, because there is more to say at that point.
The description of Jesus (1:13-16)
Jesus is gloriously described as:
- someone like a son of man
- dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet
- with a golden sash around his chest
- the hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow
- his eyes were like blazing fire
- his feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace
- his voice was like the sound of rushing waters
- his face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
This is an impressive description of Jesus. He is glorified. He is the son of man, yet he is also the Divine Son of God.
'The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow.' Some two-thousand years ago, Jesus was born into the tribe of Judah being a descendant of King David (Rev 5:5). With this linage, he was unlikely to have had 'hair as white as snow.' It probably would have been quite dark. Is his white hair due to its natural, glorified colour, or due to the dazzling brightness which enveloped him? I do not know. But this is Jesus Christ in the glory which God has bestowed on him following his resurrection.
His body glowed a bright, golden bronze colour. 'His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, his eyes were like blazing fire, and his face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
He was 'dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet, and he had a golden sash around his chest.'
'His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.'
Matthew chapter 17 describes Jesus being glorified before three of his disciples.
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
There he was transfigured before them. 'His face shone like the sun,' and 'his clothes became as white as the light.'
Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters -- one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
When the disciples heard this, they fell face-down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid."
When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
Note the similarities between the account in Matthew 17, and the account in Revelation. 'Jesus face shone like the sun.' He was clothed in absolute glory. At the time, a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
Jesus is seen by them in great majesty and glory -- and meanwhile God speaks and identifies Jesus as his Son.
This is the 'resurrected Christ' whom we serve. We can fully
trust in him, for he will watch over us, take care of us, and deliver us into
What John 'sees Jesus doing' (v13, 16)
(1) He stands among seven golden lampstands.
(2) He holds seven stars in his right hand.
(3) A sharp, double-edged sword comes out of his mouth.
He stands among seven golden lampstands (v13)
This is the first of many images in Revelation which have reference to a 'temple' like that of the Old Testament.
Other temple scenes are these: John sees a messenger offering incense with a golden censor at the altar (8:3). John is told to measure the temple of God and the altar (11:1). John sees God's temple in heaven, -- and within the temple he sees the ark of the covenant (11:19).
God gave Moses the following instructions.
Exo 25:37, 39-40
"Make the 'seven lamps' and set them up -- 'so that they light-up the area in front of them.'"
"A talent of pure gold is to be used for the 'lampstand' and all the accessories."
"See that you 'make them according
to the pattern shown you' on the mountain."
Moses was given precise instructions to 'make them according to the pattern shown to him on the mountain' (on Mount Sinai).
The imagery of revelation presents Jesus as a High Priest tending 'seven golden lampstands' to keep them burning and shining brightly -- to spread their light around them.
Likewise, the Book of Hebrews presents Jesus as a high priest.
Therefore, since we have a 'great high priest' who
has ascended into heaven -- 'Jesus the Son of God.' Let us hold firmly to
the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to
empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every
way, just as we are -- yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of
grace with confidence, 'so that we may receive mercy and find grace' -- to help us in our time of need.
Jesus is the high priest tending the seven lamps. He is doing (in New Covenant times) what Aaron and his sons did (in the Sanctuary of the Old Covenant.)
God told Moses:
"Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning... Aaron and his sons are to 'keep the lamps burning' before the Lord from evening till morning."
There is a big difference between the ministry of Jesus and
the ministry of Aaron. Jesus did not tend seven actual lamps to keep them
alight and burning -- as Aaron did. Jesus tended to his seven churches (his growing,
universal church) to keep it alive and alight so it would cast its light within
each congregation, and to the broader community.
A dilemma, and a controversy for some
Some commentators believe that the Book of Revelation presents a distinct division between God's plan of salvation for his church, and his plan of salvation for the Jews.
There are various views, but generally, it is taught that Rev chapters 1-3, highlight the role of the Christian church in God's plan of salvation, and that Rev chapters 4-20 highlight the role of the Jewish people in a short period just prior to Christ's second coming.
They believe Christians are removed from earth in a 'secret rapture,' and the way is then opened for the salvation of the Jewish nation. In chapters 1-3, we are given God's instruction to the church. And in chapters 4-20, we are given an outline of God's salvation for the Jews. This interpretation produces consequences -- such as the following: Christians do not need to know how to identify the 'mark of the beast' -- because it cannot affect them, for they will be 'raptured into heaven' before it is received.
I wonder (in arriving at this view) have we adequately
considered the temple scenes of Rev 1:10-20, Rev 8:3-5, Rev 11:1-4, 19, and Rev 15:5 to 16:1?
Temple Imagery in Revelation
The 'high priest' tending the 'seven lampstands' in chapter one is as much a temple scene as any temple scene in revelation. Should this temple scene be applied to the Christian church, while all the other temple scenes are applied to the Jews?
On the other hand, if 'all temple scenes' do apply to the Jews, then all of the chapters 1-20 ought to apply to the Jews.
An important aspect of the message of Revelation, like the message of Hebrews, is to draw both Jewish believers, and gentile believers together. -- It is not the intent of these Scriptures to divide them into separate and distinct camps.
The message of the New Testament calls for all of God's
people to unite into one group for the duration of the Christian era. It is not
the teaching of Scripture for the church to be saved first, then taken-away in a
'secret rapture,' leaving the Jews to do the great, and final work of God for
mankind. The unity (which Jesus spoke about) is not to be realised 'in some far
off, distant time' only in the kingdom of glory. Unity for Christian believers
is intended now.
"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."
'The message of Jesus Christ' went 'to the Jews first.' This is their church -- first. The other sheep that Jesus said he would bring into it are the gentiles -- all those who do not have Abraham as their literal ancestor. God seeks unity.
'UNITY NOW' is the call of Scripture.
Luke 24:45, 47-48
Then he (Jesus) opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Repentance for sin, and the forgiveness of sin will be
preached in his name to all nations, 'beginning at Jerusalem.' You are
witnesses of these things.
"My prayer is not for them alone (the Jewish believers of the early church). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 'that all of them may be one,' Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one -- I in them and you in me -- so that they may be brought to 'complete unity.'
God's aim is for complete unity now, here on earth.
Not all Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah (the Christ), and neither do all gentiles.
The church of Jesus Christ was to begin in Jerusalem, and gentile believers would be welcomed, and brought into it -- creating complete unity. This is the unity of believers which God is seeking.
Any disunity we have today should not be -- Jewish Christians
verses gentile Christians. The only disunity spoken about in revelation is -- 'the
non-believer in the world' verses 'the believer.'
The inhabitants of the earth (referring to non-believers) will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
The 'prophets' tormented those who live on the earth. All those who do not believe, and are steadfastly set in their ways, are tormented by the Christian's witness.
We are individuals. We either believe in Jesus Christ, or we do not. We all have the power of choice. Make your own decision. -- It is the only decision that counts.
He holds seven stars in his right hand (v16)
We will wait until verse 20, before we discuss further the
seven stars that Jesus holds in his right hand.
A sharp, double-edged sword comes out of his mouth (v16)
Out of Jesus mouth comes a sharp, double-edged sword. Jesus' words are powerful. His words either bring repentance, or they bring death.
The Book of Hebrews also uses this same phrase.
For the word of God is alive and active. 'Sharper than any double-edged sword,' it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit -- joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
The imagery of -- the sword coming from Jesus' mouth -- is
figurative. It is not literal. It represents 'the power of his words.' The
words of Jesus either bring a great blessing of assurance, or they bring
condemnation from him. Which one they bring will depend on our response to him. The word of God is truly alive and active. Everything is uncovered and laid
bare before God.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead (v17)
John's response is not overly surprising. To see Jesus Christ in his glory and majesty is undoubtedly a scene to bring anyone to their knees. No-one in this situation, can simply stand their ground and casually say "hello" as if such an encounter were of little importance. Jesus Christ is not only the 'son of man,' he is also the 'divine Son of God.' The resurrected Christ has now been glorified by the eternal God.
Three of Jesus' closest disciples (Peter, James, and John)
had earlier experienced Jesus clothed in glory.
Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light...
Peter spoke ... and while Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them.
And a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Do not be afraid."
On this earlier occasion, they all fell facedown to the ground. They were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Do not be afraid."
John, now on the island of Patmos, experiences the sight of the glorified Christ again. John says, "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!"
For John, this experience was an immense privilege. While it
was overwhelming and awesome -- it was his experience to share.
Jesus said, "I hold the keys of death and Hades." (v18)
Hades (from the Greek word 'hadou') means 'the grave.' Jesus holds the keys to 'death' and 'the grave.' What do these words mean? Simply this, Jesus can open the grave, and call the deceased back to life. What is more, he will open all graves and call everyone who has ever lived, back to life. Some will rise to life; others will rise to be condemned.
For those who do not believe in God and the one he has appointed, it is inconceivable to them that anyone could hold such power -- to restore all those who have died -- back to life.
Many believe that death simply marks the end of existence. After death, comes oblivion. After death, they believe, we all experience uninterrupted non-consciousness, which will extend forever into the future. Beyond death, we will know absolutely nothing. The non-believer does not consider the prospect of a future resurrection where God will reward those who have done what is right, and condemn those who have done evil.
1 Pet 3:10-12
Whoever would love life and see good days; they must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
Peter quoted Psalm 34:
Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and
do good; seek peace and pursue it. The 'eyes of the Lord are on the
righteous,' -- and his ears are attentive to their cry. But the 'face of
the Lord is against those who do evil,' -- to blot out their name from the
Paul confessed before Felix, the governor, that he believed in a resurrection of both the 'righteous' and the 'wicked.'
I have the same hope in God as these men have, that -- there will be a resurrection of both the 'righteous' and the 'wicked.'
Again, several days later, Paul had another opportunity to speak to Felix.
Paul talked about 'righteousness,' 'self-control,'
and the 'judgment to come,' and Felix was afraid and said, "That's
enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you."
The Three-fold aspect of Revelation
"Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later."
Jesus instructed John to write the revelation. The narrative is divided into three sections. (1) what you have seen, (2) what is now, and (3) what will take place later. This three-fold formula divides Revelation into three parts.
The first part encompasses the messages to the seven churches in chapters 1 to 3 (what you have seen). Previously (in verse eleven) John was told, 'Write on a scroll what you see, and send it to the seven churches. This is -- what John had already seen.
The second part is chapters 4 to 16, where John is invited into the heavenly realm, and is shown things as seen from a heavenly perspective (what is now). He witnesses the controversy that is unfolding at this very moment -- yet its detail is hidden from human eyes -- except as it is being revealed to us in the Scriptures. He witnesses the struggle between good and evil. He witnesses Jesus Christ seeking to save mankind, and he views Satan seeking to devour and destroy as many as he can. This is -- what is now.
The third part is chapters 17 to 22, where John is shown future
events (what will take place later). This part divides into two parallel
portions. Firstly, he is shown the 'punishment of the great
prostitute' -- Babylon the great (Rev 17:1 to 20:10). Secondly, he is shown
the 'glorification of the bride' -- the New Jerusalem (Rev 20:11
to the end of the book). This is -- what will take place later.
The Mystery of the 'Seven Stars' and the 'Seven Lamp-stands.'