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John Introduces the Vision of the Last Days
John introduces the Book of Revelation to the Church. We are given the vision's origin, told of the "built-in" blessing it contains for the reader, and then reminded of His Coming.
v.1-2 "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, and to all things he saw."
John presents five truths about the origin and dispatch of the Revelation in this opening statement.
- It is the "Revelation" (Gr. apokalupsis, "unveiling") of Jesus Christ.
- It is that "which God gave Him."
- It was given so Jesus would in turn "show His servants."
- It was "signified" to John by the angel of Jesus.
- John himself "bore witness" to the Revelation.
God the Father gave God the Son the Revelation for Him in turn to show it to His servants (doulous, i.e., "bond slaves"). So He might make known to those whom He regards as His friends, His purposes and yet-future intentions for the consummation of our age (John 15:14,15).
Moreover, so that the Church would have a written record of these things, and the servants of Christ in every generation would be blessed in knowing what must "shortly take place" (or happen rapidly upon God's execution), Jesus sent His angel to escort John into the future to bear witness of it and to record it.
As a result, John the Apostle, from his first encounter with Jesus and entirely through his subsequent journey into the future and back again to Patmos, arduously recorded every word of God, every testimony of Jesus Christ, and every word picture and symbol (the meaning of the word "signified") just as he heard it and saw it.
v.3 "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near."
This should encourage those who haven't wanted to study Revelation because they consider it too complex, or fearful. Because the day approaches, and the "time is near", the Holy Spirit, desirous that we know the Revelation, includes a "guarantee" that both reader and hearer (those taught by hearing) will be blessed. So get ready to discover a blessing, dear ones, it's been promised.
"Your words were found, and I ate them And your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" (Jer.15:16)
"I rejoice at your word as one who finds great treasure" (Ps.119:62)
v.4-6 "John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen"
These seven churches in Asia were real congregations that existed at the time of John.
Throughout Scripture, however, the number "seven" is also taken to signify that which is "complete" and "whole". Seven days, for instance, make a complete week; seven colors create a complete rainbow; and seven notes make up a complete musical scale. Therefore, at the same time that this book was intended to instruct seven historical congregations, it is also meant to instruct the Church as a whole. So it is as relevant for you and me today as it was for those in the first century.
In this opening greeting, John introduces himself simply by name.
Then he goes on and categorically and wonderfully identifies the triune God: He is God the Father ("who is and who was and who is to come"), God the Holy Spirit ("the seven Spirits who are before His throne"), and God the Son ("Jesus Christ").
Okay, but let's consider why John alludes to the Holy Spirit as "the seven Spirits" when the Bible emphatically teaches the oneness of the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:7).
The best explanation seems to surround the following prophecy Isaiah gave concerning Jesus, and the seven-fold manifestation of the Holy Spirit that rested upon Him during His time on earth. See if you agree. (The brackets are included for emphasis only and are not part of the original text).
"The [Spirit of] the Lord shall rest upon Him, The [Spirit of] wisdom and [the Spirit of] understanding, The [Spirit of] counsel and [the Spirit of] might, The [Spirit of] knowledge and [the Spirit] of the fear of the Lord" (Isa.11:2)
v.7-8 "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord, 'who is and who was and is to come, the Almighty.' "
John concludes his greeting by drawing attention to our Lord's Second Coming. This speaks of our Savior's glorious Return to this planet to establish His Kingdom on earth, however, and not the rapture of the Church.
The rapture will be a covert event.
Jesus will reach into this world's kingdom sight unseen and remove His Church "as a thief in the night." In the same way a homeowner is first made aware that a thief has come and gone when things are found missing from the home, the world will know nothing more of Rapture until after it discovers the Church's disappearance.
The Second Coming on the other hand will be an event as visible and dramatic as an invasion.
The whole world shall see Him (Rev.19:11). And as John points out, all of the tribes of earth will mourn because of Him, meaning that the nation Israel will mourn because of Him (see Zech.12:10).
It's time to get ready, dear ones. "Behold, He is coming...!"
The seventh from Adam prophesied it (Jude 14), Jesus openly qualified it (Matt.24:30), the angels declared it (Acts 1:11), and again here in Revelation it's not just reiterated, but affirmed with an arousing heavenly cry "Even so, Amen."
About the Author
James Kobzeff is an evangelical born-again Christian who has long had a passion for the Church to know the Revelation. His commentary is the result of having studied and taught the Book many times over the past thirty years and is considered a continual work-in-process.
You can read more at his blog Learn the Revelation
Bible Study Resources
- Revelation 1 (9-20): Jesus Appears to John and Calls Him to Write the Vision
John see Jesus and provides the only description of Him in the New Testament, describes his call to write the vision, and then reveals the outline given by Jesus for the Revelation.