Commentary on Revelation


Sending His Messenger -- Rev 1:1-2

Some 2,000 years ago, a messenger of God came to John and revealed to him 'wonderous things.'  The things revealed are found in the Book of Revelation (The Apocalypse).  Jesus Christ instructed John to write what he saw and send it to the seven churches.  And Jesus gave to each church a message of encouragement, a message of instruction and correction, and a message of hope.  He revealed astounding things.

Now, that some 2,000 years have passed -- Do we still see things in the same way as they saw them in the first century?  Do we still read Revelation in the same light?  Let us take a closer look at this fascinating and captivating book.

The text used in this commentary is based upon the NIV (2011 edition), and the author's own paraphrases.

Use your own Bible as you study.

Clearing up an Ambiguity

Rev 1:1b

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

This verse has a threefold repetition of the pronoun 'he/his.'  (1) 'He,'  (2) 'his' angel,  (3) 'his' servant John.

When removed from its context, this line is ambiguous.  

Two questions arise.  Who is 'he?'  And who is 'his angel?'

Two points are clear

There is a 'three-way transmission' of the message.  (1) He made it known (2) by sending his angel (3) to his servant John.  (He made it known -- through his angel -- to John.)

Secondly, the identity of his servant is clear.  'His servant' is named 'John'.

Two conflicting views

We will investigate two contrasting views.

(1)  The general (traditional) view:

'Jesus' made it known by sending ('his' angel) to 'his' servant John.

(2)  The alternative view:

'God' made it known by sending ('his' messenger -- Jesus) to 'his' servant John.

Who is his angel?

Angel (from the Greek 'aggelos') means messenger.  In Matt 11:10, John the Baptist is called an 'aggelos.'  He is a messenger sent from God.  He was the messenger who (in the first century) proclaimed the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Greek word aggelos is generally applied to a messenger from God -- whether the messenger is a human being or a heavenly being.

When aggelos refers to a human being, it is usually translated as 'messenger.'  Robert Young in his literal translation of the Bible, 'always' translates aggelos as messenger.  See Young's Literal Translation (YLT).  In Revelation chapters two and three, many Bibles have the footnote: 'Or messenger' as an alternative translation for angel (See Rev 2:1 as an example).

Also, the word 'evangelist,' being 'one who proclaims good news' is from a Greek word whose root is 'aggelos.'

The term 'angel' in the Bible is most frequently used regarding the host of heaven.  Heavenly beings (angels) frequently brought messages from God.  The angel Gabriel brought news to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah.

Luke 1:30-31

The angel (Gabriel) said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.

The messenger of Acts 7:38

'God is called an angel' when his role is that of a messenger.

Acts 7:38

He (Moses) was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the 'angel' who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.

Who was the angel who spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai?  It was God Almighty.

God is identified by the Hebrew names 'Yahweh' and 'Elohim' in Exodus chapters 19, 20.  And he is referred to by the Greek term 'aggelos' in Acts 7:38.

See below.

Exo 19:23, 24 and 20:1-2

Moses said to the Lord (Yahweh), "The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, 'Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.'"

The Lord (Yahweh), replied, "Go down and bring Aaron up with you.  But the priests and the people must not force their way through."

And God (Elohim) spoke all these words: "I am the Lord your God..."

God continued to speak.  He proclaimed all Ten Commandments, (of which I have listed five).

First Commandment: "You shall have no other gods before me."

Second: "You shall not make for yourself an image..."

Sixth: "You shall not murder."

Seventh: "You shall not commit adultery."

Eighth: "You shall not steal."

In Acts 7:38, God is called the 'aggelos' (the messenger).

The Messenger, Jesus Christ

In Revelation 1:1, the messenger sent is Jesus Christ.

Rev 1:1b

He (God) made it known by sending his angel (his messenger, Jesus Christ) to his servant John.

This conclusion is verified in three settings

The first setting -- Rev chapter 1

Rev 1:10-13 records that 'Jesus appeared' clothed in heavenly glory and spoke to John.  Their mutual encounter occurs quite early in the book -- immediately after the introductory words of Revelation.

Jesus comes directly to John.  He does not contact John through an unnamed intermediary who is an 'angelic being having a lower status.'  Jesus comes directly to John.  He comes with a message which he instructs John to send to the seven churches.  Jesus is the 'aggelos,' the messenger.

Jesus said:

Rev 1:11

"Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."

The second setting -- Rev chapter 22

Rev 22:6, and 22:16 are two passages which can add confusion to the identity of the angel in chapter one.

There are numerous angels/messengers in Revelation.  Seven angels are connected to the seven churches -- as is seen in chapters two and three.  Seven angels blow seven trumpets, and seven angels pour out the seven last plagues.  In chapter 14, three angels are seen flying in mid-air announcing judgement.  And these are just a sample of the many angels appearing in the book.

The angel of 22:6

Rev 22:6

The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place."

The angel in 22:6 is a different angel to the one in Rev 1:1.  He is, in fact, one of seven angels having the seven last plagues as is revealed in Rev 21:9, 10.

Rev 21:9, 10

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

He (the angel in 22:6) is 'one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues.'  This angel refuses worship from John (Rev 22:8-9).

Also, a little earlier in the book, one of these same seven angels appeared.  He showed John the punishment of the great prostitute.  This angel too, refuses to be worshiped. (See Rev 17:1 and 19:9, 10).

Of the many messengers who do come forward in Revelation to do their individual parts, Jesus Christ is (and remains) the chief of these.  He is the Chief Messenger of Revelation.

The angel of 22:16

Rev 22:16

"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches."

In this verse, it initially might appear that 'Jesus sent his messenger to John.'  But the word 'you' which may appear to refer to John is not singular -- it is plural.  Therefore, a grammatical change from the plural tense to the singular must be made to the text to make it apply to John.

But the grammar is correct, it does not need to be changed.  This is because, without the slightest change of anything in the text, the word 'you' (plural) can refer to the churches (which are plural).

A straightforward application is this.  In Revelation chapter one, God sent his messenger Jesus with a message (the revelation) to John.  Now that John has received and written the message, Jesus in turn instructs John to give it to the churches.  This is consistent (and does not require the text to be altered in any way).  The plural 'you' applies to the churches.  It should be read, "I, Jesus have sent (my messenger John) to give (you, the churches) this testimony."

It is also consistent with the narrative of chapter one -- where John received the following instruction.

Rev 1:11

"Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."

Jesus sent John as his messenger to the churches.

The third setting -- the Chiasm

The third confirmation of the accuracy of this view is the chiasm of Rev 1:1, 2.  Because of its importance, the chiasm receives its own chapter heading.

The Chiasm of Rev 1:1, 2

The chiastic structure is depicted below using the New International Version (2011 edition).

Revelation 1:1-2

A. . . . . . (The revelation) from Jesus Christ,

B. . . . . . which God gave him

C. . . . . . (to show) his servants what must soon take place.

D. . . . . . He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John

C. . . . . . who (his servant John) testifies to (everything he saw)

B. . . . . . -- that is, the word of God

A. . . . . . and (the testimony) of Jesus Christ.

This is a well-structured chiasm.  As is typical of a chiasm, the first line parallels the last, the second line parallels the second-last line, etc.

Here is a line by line comparison --

Reference A.

"The revelation from Jesus Christ" PARALLELS "the testimony of Jesus Christ."

"The revelation" PARALLELS "the testimony."

Reference B.

"Which God gave" PARALLELS "the word of God."

Reference C.

"To show his servants" PARALLELS "everything he (his servant John) saw."

"To show" PARALLELS "everything he saw."

And the central line of the chiasm summarises the entire chiasm.

Reference D.

"He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John"

As is to be expected of a chiasm, the central line provides a summary of the entire chiasm.  Thus 'D.' summarises succinctly what is to be found in the text preceding it, and also in the text which follows it.

A structured relationship

Chiasms are based upon pattern and repetition.  The clues to understanding the central statement (central line) lie in the entire chiasm.  Whatever detail is relevant for understanding this line will be found in the opening part of the chiasm, and repeated again in the concluding part.

And this relationship also operates in the reverse fashion -- the central statement acts like a 'Title' to the whole chiasm.

So it is that (1) the entire chiasm fully explains the title, and (2) the title summarises the chiasm.

The carefully structured chiasm of Rev 1:1-2 indicates that the interpretation is that "GOD made it known by sending JESUS CHRIST to his servant JOHN."  There are no other persons identified within the chiasm from which to choose.  This understanding is the only option if we intend to remain true to the chiastic structure.

If the chiasm is to be followed, the 'chief messenger' of Revelation is none other than Jesus Christ.


The first half of the chiasm deals with its visual aspect.  It was to reveal, it was to 'show' his servants what must soon take place.  It was a revelation.  It was visual.


The second half deals with its audible aspect.  It was the 'word of God,' 'the testimony of Jesus Christ,' and John 'testifies to everything he saw.'  Words being spoken, and a person's testimony are clearly audible characteristics.

Revelation frequently focuses on the visual (that which is seen) and the audible (that which is heard).  John repeatedly says he heard, then he saw.  Rev 1:10 'I 'heard' behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.'  Then in Rev 1:12, he says 'I turned around to 'see' the voice that was speaking to me.  And when I turned, I 'saw...'

There is a consistent 'three-way transmission' of the message.

Rev 1:1a  VISUAL ASPECT  (1) God gave the revelation > (2) to Jesus Christ > (3) to show his servants.

Rev 1:1b  CENTRAL TITLE  (1) God made it known > (2) by sending his messenger > (3) to his servant John.

Rev 1:2  AUDIBLE ASPECT  (1) The word of God > (2) is testified to by Jesus Christ > (3) and testified to by John.

The 'Chief Messenger' of Revelation is Jesus Christ.

God made the revelation known by sending Jesus to his servant John.

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