My Notes on Revelation: Chapter 1, Verses 9-11
Worship Before The Throne of God
John identifies himself as a brother of the believers in the churches unto whom he writes. God has adopted as His children everyone who believes in Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13), and from that point of view we are all spiritual brothers and sisters. Thus, John identifies himself as a member of God's family.
John also tells the believers that he is their companion, or co-sharer, in tribulation. Christians have been persecuted for their faith since the days of Christ (for Christ himself became a martyr); they are persecuted today throughout the world; and they shall be persecuted until the Lord returns to Earth to rule over it.
Moreover, John identifies himself as a co-sharer of the believers in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is where Jesus rules: it begins in heaven and extends to Earth, where it will finally be established; (Matthew 4:17; Acts 1:6). The patience of Jesus Christ is the Lord's willingness to endure suffering and death for the sake of the kingdom that he would receive (Hebrews 2:10).
Thus, just as all believers in Christ are children of God, all believers in Christ also endure tribulation (though in different degrees); all believers in Christ are also promised a place in Christ's kingdom; and all believers in Christ must endure tribulation for the sake of this kingdom.
Next, John tells the believers he was in Patmos, an island in the north of Greece's Dodecanese island group, where Rome would exile convicts. According to John, he was in Patmos for preaching the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. That John has just spoken about the tribulation and patience of Christian believers supports the view that John had been exiled to Patmos for his preaching ministry.
Because John refers to his exile to Patmos in the past tense, it appears that John saw the visions in Patmos, but was no longer in Patmos when he wrote the book of Revelation. Revelation 10:11 lends support to this view, for the angel tells John that he still has to prophesy before many people groups and nations. It appears, therefore, that John did not die in Patmos.
John states that on the Lord's day he was in the Spirit. The Lord's day is most likely a reference to the Sabbath, which is the biblical day of worship (Exodus 20:8), and which the Lord Jesus Christ himself undoubtedly observed (Luke 4:16). Wherever there were Jewish communities, the Sabbath was the official day of worship (Acts 15:21), and the very first church did not seek to separate itself from the activities of Jewish life, as is evidenced by their worship and proselytizing in the temple (Acts 2:46, 3:1).
However, we must remember that the Sabbath did not encompass only a period of 24 hours, but the evening of the sixth day together with all of the seventh day until the sun had risen on the first day of the week (Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, Matthew 28:1). It is possible that John calls the first day the Lord's day because on it the Lord first appeared resurrected (Matthew 28:9).
The expression in the Spirit is interesting here. Does John indeed refer to the Holy Spirit, or does he speak of his own spirit? While Ezekiel was enabled by the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) to see visions (and John's visions are remarkably similar to Ezekiel's), Ezekiel does not tell us that he was in the Spirit, but that the Spirit entered into him and took him from one place to another (Ezekiel 2:2, 3:12, 3:14, and 3:24). Nevertheless, John does not say that the Spirit came into Him and carried him from one place to another, rather he says that he was moved from one place to another in the spirit (Revelation 4:2, 17:3, and 21:10). This is more similar to Paul's mention of a possible out of body experience in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. Personally, I do not think that John is telling us that he was in a state of communion with the Holy Spirit (though doubtlessly, he was) as much as he is telling us that the location shifts that he was experiencing were not physical but spiritual (in other words, John's physical body remained in Patmos when he saw the visions, but his spirit did ascend to heaven).
Revelation 1:10-11, The Lord Speaks to John
John was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and behind him he heard a great voice like a trumpet. John's experience is similar to Ezekiel's: the Holy Spirit spoke to Ezekiel from behind, and the sound of His voice was like a great rushing (Ezekiel 3:12). In the case of John's experience, however, the voice is like a trumpet, and it is not the Holy Spirit who is speaking to him, but the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:18).
The one speaking (Jesus) identifies himself as the Alpha (the first letter of the Greek alphabet) and the Omega (the last letter of the Greek alphabet). Both letters represent vowel sounds, and that Jesus identifies Himself with them may represent the idea that he is the spoken Word of God (logos).
The Lord also adds that he is The First and The Last. This title further explains the meaning of The Alpha and The Omega. By Alpha and Omega, Jesus does not merely mean the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, but the eternal one. We know this because The First and the Last is the same title that God the Father (Hashem, Jehovah) gives Himself in Isaiah (Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, 48:12).
When the Father calls Himself The First and The Last in Isaiah 41:4, He means that He is the one who can determine the future. When He calls Himself The First and The Last in Isaiah 44:6, God's sovereignty is still in view, but God's uniqueness is also in view: He is the only God. Then, in Isaiah 48:12, God uses the title The First and The Last to mean that He is the eternal and time-transcendent Creator.
God alone is The Frist and The Last because He created all things and nothing can exist without Him. But here, in Revelation, Jesus calls himself The First and The Last. Why does he do that? He does that because Jesus is one being with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. As the Word of God, Jesus proceeds from God to reveal God and do His will, but then He returns to God (Isaiah 55:11; John 16:27). In other words, Jesus is God: not the same person as the Father, not the same person as the Hoy Spirit, but definite one being with the Father and the Spirit.
The Lord instructs John to write what he sees. Throughout the book of Revelation, John describes what he saw and heard while he was in the spirit, but more so what he saw. The book appeals particularly to our sense of sight by describing colors and images, such as those we see when we dream (but this is no dream, John is awake and in the spirit).
The Lord also instructs John to deliver what he writes to the church in Roman Asia, on the western side of what is now Turkey. He then identifies each church by the cities where they live: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Why does the Lord address these churches? These churches were found outside of Israel, in the land of gentiles. Although the Gospel was first preached in Israel to the Jews (Acts 1:8, 2:14), it was soon carried out to the gentile world (Acts 11:19), and almost exclusively to the gentiles (Acts 13:46-48). Moreover, as we shall see later in this series, the names of these churches often represent an attribute to which the Lord makes reference, either to commend it or to critique it.
Questions for Reflection
- Are you aware that many Christians throughout the world are being persecuted for their faith? How do your own personal sufferings reflect this truth?
- What brings these Christians comfort in their sufferings? What brings you comfort in yours?
- Why do Jews worship on the Sabbath? Why do Christians worship on Sunday?
- Are John's experiences as he describes them in this book unique to him? Can Christians today receive revelations like John?
- What do you know about the doctrine of the Trinity? In light of what the Bible teaches, do you agree with it?
- How should we respond to Jesus if he is indeed the First and the Last?
Thank God because Jesus was willing to suffer and to die so that he could obtain the kingdom of heaven, and purchase a place for us in it. Pray for the Christian believers who are all over the world suffering for the word of God and the gospel of Jesus: may the Lord give us grace, peace, and patience. Recognize that, although we do not understand how it is impossible, Jesus is one with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. Worship him!
© 2018 Marcelo Carcach