The book of Revelation (the revealing) was written by John to the churches in the provinces of Asia. It is full of images and symbols which are not easy to understand, but John writes in chapter 1 verse 3;
Happy is the one who reads this book, and happy are those who listen to the words of this prophetic message and obey what is written in this book! For the time is near when all these things will happen.
One of the first things I have noticed is in verse 1. We often have a tendency to refer to this book as the Revelation of John, but that is not what it says; it says that this is the revelation of Jesus Christ that was given to him by God to show his servants (John) what will happen. The Good News Bible does actually heads this as The Revelation TO John. Jesus Christ made these things known to John by sending an angel and then John wrote down what he was shown.
In our study of Hebrews, we saw that Jesus was the High Priest and the perfect sacrifice. The structure and layout of the Tabernacle had been shown to Moses as a copy of heaven. The High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies through the curtain, out of sight to meet with God, but was not allowed to see him. We saw that when Jesus was crucified, the curtain in the temple was torn in two showing that the Old Covenant had been torn in two. Christ then ascended into heaven through the clouds into the Heavenly Holy Place to sit at God’s right hand until the time came for him to be revealed in all his glory. The image people have of the book of Revelation is of the Apocalypse which many films have attempted to dramatise as being war and disaster, but the original Greek word Apocalypse means: Revelation, the revealing or uncovering. So this is all about the revealing of Jesus Christ as the victor over sin and death.
Look, he is coming on the clouds! Everyone will see him, including those who pierced him.(v7)
John begins with a greeting from “him who is, and who was, and who is to come”, the seven spirits and from Jesus Christ.
In chapter 1 we start to see that the number seven is significant. There is mention of;
- Seven Spirits – there are several interpretations to what these are. Some say that they are 7 distinct spirits referring to the senior angels of which we know Michael is one. Others say that this refers to seven attributes of the Holy Spirit such as wisdom, might, counsel or the seven graces listed in Romans 12 v 6-8 (Prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, compassion). Others say that the seven refers to completeness and perfection of the spirit – The Holy Spirit. Having thought about it a little; I would perhaps lean towards the final view as this would show the greeting and message as being from the fullness of the Godhead trinity – The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit, why would one part of the Trinity be left out?
- Seven Churches – listed in verse 12, and later receiving specific instructions, these were situated in what is now Western Turkey and their locations were about 50 miles apart and formed a circle.
- Seven Gold Lamp stands – which represents the Angels of the seven Churches (see verse 20)
- Seven Stars – which represents the seven churches.
The number seven is regarded as the number of completeness and appears frequently throughout the book.
We see in verse 8 the declaration by the Lord God Almighty;
I AM the first and the last (alpha and omega)..who is, who was, and who is to come.
He is the beginning and the end, he rules over all history – he is constant. When Moses asked who God was he referred to himself as “I AM” – he does not change. We have changed and our standards change, but God does not.
John is then allowed to see a vision of Christ:
- a voice that sounded like a trumpet then a roaring waterfall
- he looked like a human being (remember that we are made in God’s image)
- a full length robe (the High Priests wore long robes)
- a gold belt
- hair white as snow (signifying wisdom and authority)
- eyes that blazed like fire
- feet that shone like brass
- face as bright as the midday sun
- holding 7 stars in his right hand
- a sharp two edged sword comes from his mouth
I am the living one, I was dead, but now I am alive for ever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead. (v 18)
In verse 19 John is instructed to write down what he has seen, what is now, and what will take place later. Some people interpret this to mean the three sections of the book; the initial vision, then the letters to the churches, then the vision which follows. Others simply say that this means an instruction to write down what he is about to see, both now and later. I just think it interesting that it follows the pattern of “Who is, and was, and is to come – the permanency of God.
All quotes from The Good News Bible.