The Four Main Views of Revelation 1: 9-20

What does this passage mean to me?

In the Upper Room, John reclined with Jesus for His last Supper and leaned on Him to show his devotion and love (John 13:32). Now, he falls at his feet. Jesus shows John His love by helping him stand. The lesson for us is we must understand the importance of reverence. We come before a holy God. He is not just a pal or friend or guide -He is our Savior and our Lord (2 Cor. 5:16). He has the keys in His hand; we have no need to fear our future when He is our Light, Guide, and Lord!

The views simplified, as we go into the text more, additional information on these views will be drawn out.

The Preterist view sees this passage as meaning what will come about soon in their generation (as by 70AD) and has been fulfilled by the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, or the fall of Domitian, or the Roman Empire. They believe Christ has already come back in vengeance by destroying the Temple through the Romans. Partial Preterits believe He is still to come.

The Futurist view believes that John was literally carried into the future to see these events. They see this passage as being fulfilled at the end of the age, in the future just before the Second Coming.

The Idealist view sees this passage as symbolic with no specific reference to place or time, rather giving hope to the suffering and portraying that God is sovereign. They believe Christ is coming back continually and figuratively in judgment over history.

The Historicist view sees this passage as an enfolding fulfillment, as a template to the entire church age and many events to come that will be repeated until the Second Coming.

Questions to Ponder:

1. At this point, what would you say is the purpose of Revelation? Of the four main views on how to interpret Revelation, does any one of them appeal to you more than another?

2. How would you react if Christ appeared to you as He did with John in this passage? What can this attitude do to help you be more reverent to Christ in your daily life?

3. What is the image of Christ to you in this passage? How does this give you more information so you can have a better, healthier concept of who God is? How can this translate into your daily life?

4. What is your understanding of verse 19? Do you think it may set a tone for the meaning of Revelation? If so, how so?

5. What is the condition of your church? Does Jesus control your church or do you or others think they do? How is your light shining before others? Our Light is Christ and we are called to show Him in our lives and in our Church! How can you do this better?

© 1992-2009, R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org

Exegetical look into Revelation 1: 17-20

· Fell at his feet is an attitude and posture of great respect and awe. This can also mean the terror that was felt until the Angel touched and relieved them (Gen. 15:12; Deut. 3:2; Josh. 8:1; Jer. 1:8; Ezek. 1:28; 11:13; Dan. 8:18; 10:10; John 6:35; Rev. 4:10; 5:8; 7:11; 19:10; 22:8).

· I am the First and the Last is the same as the Alpha and Omega in verse eight. Christ is eternal and fully God in all areas, attributes, power, character, and sovereignty (Isa. 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 2:8; 22:13¾see last study).

· Living One refers to the resurrection and the triumphant Christ as the living God who gives us life, and then new life, renewal, and reason, and how He will renew the entire world. This is a contrast to paganism and the “gods” of wood and metal who are lifeless, careless, petty, and meaningless; our God is living and involved (Jos. 3:10; Psalm 42:2; 84:2; Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 2:8; 5:9; 20:4-5; 22:1-2).

· Keys of death and Hades indicates that Christ is in absolute control over all domains and also points to His future role. Hades is the general realm of the dead; thus, Christ’s power is all encompassing. Keys were a symbol of power and influence. The one who held the keys was the authority and the one in control. It is very encouraging to those who are facing death to know that Christ is there and in control, and can open those gates at any time, including at the last days (Psalm 9:13; Isa. 22:21-22; Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:27-31; Rev. 20:14).

· What is now and what will take place later indicates past, present, and future, and refers to what is in Revelation references. It is for the present and future as well as rooted in the past, but not completed as of this writing. This can also refer to Revelation being divided into three parts: past in chapter 1:12-16, present in chapters 2-3, and future in chapters 4-22. However, each section contains content of all three “then, now, and later,” and does not necessarily refer to the entire structure of the Revelation (John 19:35).

· The mystery does not mean something not understandable or hidden; rather, it is something known to God that He reveals to us in His good time. We cannot guess what we do not know; however, Christ does know. Here, John plainly tells us the meaning, just as Jesus did with the parable of the sower (1 Cor. 2:7; 2 Thess. 2:7).

· Angels, meaning “messengers,” can mean people used by God to convey His message, such as pastors, or heavenly beings who live and work in Heaven. The context seems to indicate the latter. Or, it can mean the significance of the churches in Heaven, that they are spiritual entities. This can also mean the prevailing characterization of the theme and “spirit” of each church or a “guardian angel.” In all practicality, it could refer to the seven different messengers John is sending with copies of his Epistle (Dan. 10:10-21; Matt. 18: 10; Luke 7:24; 9:52; Rev. 1:11; 10:1; 22:6).

Exegetical look into Revelation 1: 12-16

· Lampstands. The image that God is Light refers to the Church as the body of believers and whose duty it is to be a light as a witness for Christ. His character is the Light we follow and proclaim. Christ is the Priest, Head, Lord, and Prime Shepherd of the Church. He is the Object and Reason why we meet and function. This refers to the O.T. account of how God’s Glory descended into the Tabernacle. Now, our purpose is to point to His glory, as the Church is the light of the world. Christ is the destiny and pattern we follow and emulate. Proclaiming the Church as a lamp stand is saying the Church is significant as the true place of reverence to God, and Christianity is the true practice of Judaism (Gen. 1:3; Ex. 25:31-40; 1 Kings 7:49; Zech. 4:2; Matt. 5:14-16; 18:20; 28:20; John 1:4-5; 8:12; 14:18; Acts 26:13; Eph. 1:10; 5:8-13; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 1:4-5; Rev. 2:9; 3:9).

· Like a son of man refers to His supremacy and role as Lord Ruler and Love for the believer (Dan. 7:9-13; 10:5-6; Ezek. 1:25-28; Mark 8:31; Col. 1:16-17).

· Robe means distinction. Christ appears in overwhelming brilliance and glory that was extremely difficult to put into words, as the world cannot contain His essence. The high priest was dressed in expensive, decorative, full-length girdles and robes. This alludes to Ezekiel and Daniel and portrays Christ as Judge and Ruler over all, especially the Church in which we think we rule (Ex. 28:4; 29:5; Ezek. 1:13, 25-28; Dan. 7:9-10; 10:5-6; Rev. 2:27; 3:21).

· Golden sash was a woven sash worn by priests. It refers to His Glory, Deity, and the victory and conquest over sin, and His guarantee of the final victory in the last days. It also refers to Christ being our High Priest. In context, this is also powerful Trinitarian imagery (Ex, 29:29; Rev. 1:17-18; 15:6; 17:14; 19:11-16).

· Like wool refers to age, wisdom, honor, respect, and dignity (Lev. 19:32; Prov. 16:31; Dan 7:9; Isa. 1:18).

· Blazing fire means God’s penetrating insight and strength, His Sovereignty as Warrior, and His role as victor in the final battle to come. It also refers to the great victories of battle in the O.T. This points to the Transfiguration (Ex. 15:3; Duet. 32: 41-42; Judges 5:31; Isa. 59:17-18; Zech. 14:3; Dan. 10:6; Matt. 13:43; 17:2; Rev. 4:6; 19:11-21).

· Bronze…feet means bearers of God’s throne, and that God is irresistible and firm (Ezek. 1:7; Dan. 10:6)

· Seven stars. Jewish texts often display angels as stars. In contrast, pagans saw stars as the rulers of their destiny when, in fact, God, who is LORD is that ruler.

· Double-edged sword refers to the Roman “Thracian” sword that a small double edge dagger used as an offensive weapon, it is referring to the power of His Word and the testimony of our Lord. It symbolizes His divine judgment and decisive action (Isa. 4:12; 11:4; 49:2; Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12; Rev. 2:12, 16; 6:8; 19:15, 21)

· Sun. Angels are sometimes described as shining like the sun (Isa. 60:1-3, 19-20; Dan. 10:6; Rev. 21:22).

Exegetical look into Revelation 1: 9-11

· Brother and companion. John is addressing all Christians¾not just the seven churches, because the seven means “completeness” and represents us all. John is making it personal and caring, yet forceful in function.

· Suffering is a prevailing theme in Revelation (Rev. 2:9-10, 22; 7:14)!

· Endurance is a call to remain faithful and keep our trust in Christ no matter what comes our way in sufferings or temptations. We are to focus on His Way, even in persecution and stress. This theme is prominent in Revelation (Rev. 2:2-3, 13, 19; 3:10; 6:11; 13:10; 14:12; 16:15; 18:4; 20:4; 22:7, 11, 14).

· Patmos is a small, rocky island, eight-by-four miles, in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey, then called Asia Minor. It was a Roman penal colony where inmates who were dangerous were sent and left there. John’s exile here could also been clemency by the governor because he could have been executed. Church tradition states they tried to execute John several times but failed. This also puts John in the position to perhaps denounce Rome, calling them “Babylon (chaps 17-18).” Eusebius, a “Church Father” and early historian (A.D. 265-340), states that John was released from Patmos under the rein of the emperor Nerva (96-98). This gives further credence for a late date.

· The Lord’s Day was a covert term to mean when the Early Church met for worship. It refers to the day of worship, Sunday, where Christ’s resurrection, victory, and Last Supper were celebrated. Many Christians were Jews and still participated in the Sabbath observances, too (John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 19:1-10).

· In the Spirit means “spiritual exaltation,” possibly as in charismatic worship. However, John did not solicit this vision; God gave it to him. The Holy Spirit provided John the visions and took him to places he could actually see. Thus, he is recording authentic images he saw in reality; this was no dream (1 Chron. 25:1-6; Ezek. 2:2; 3:12-14, 24; 8:3; 11:1, 24; Acts 10:10; Rev. 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).

· Loud voice refers to the power of Christ and our duty to reverence Him (Job 37:5-6; Ezek. 1:24; 43:2; Dan. 10:6).

· Trumpet means God is preparing to give a command or the pronouncement of His Word (Ex. 19:16).

· Scroll means a piece of papyrus or parchment that is usually bound or sown together and rolled on a wood spindle, which codex’s in the second century (books) replaced. It refers to the power and eminence of His Word.

· Send it to the seven churches, as the text says, at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. They were 30 to 40 miles apart in a circular placement and this was also the most efficient order a messenger would literally take. This would disprove that the churches were merely symbolic!

· Seven churches. These are not allegories, but rather real, actual churches in Asia Minor whose tangible problems are the representation of ones we still have with us today. There were many more churches in Asia Minor at that time, as seven is symbolic for completeness, and thus applies to all churches in all times (See last week’s study and Background Article for more info).

This passage also points us that it is God’s power that leads¾not our ways or trends. The essential framework to build a healthy church is to understand that its prime purpose is to glorify Christ, not to please our comforts or ideas. We are to shine before Him by holding His truth, and shine for the Lord, making Him known in a dark world!

Revelation 1: 9-20

Introduction

“The Vision of Christ”

The first vision! Jesus is proclaimed as the Priest, Judge, King, and Ruler of the Church. This is not theory, rather, reality with which we must connect. John is getting his people ready for his visions. To do so, John is demonstrating humility, making a connection to his people so they can have hope and endurance by the sharing of his sufferings and experiences and they will know he is still with them in spirit and in understanding. John was not living the good life while his people were being persecuted; he was in the frontlines of it all. He was a leader who led by example by going first to the destination to which he was leading others. Now that he has set a tone, he tells them of his incredible vision of Christ and His call to the leadership of the Seven Churches. Jesus is speaking to him in vivid imagery, commanding him to write it all down so it can be shared and used to further the Kingdom.

The image of Christ is breathtaking. It is not that of the humble servant, Son of man; now it is the immeasurable Sovereign of the universe standing in the heavens, holding the stars. He was blazing as radiantly as the sun with a voice that thundered as He held the Churches in His grip. John’s only response was to fall face down as dead in total reverence and humility to Christ’s Lordship. Christ, with His full mercy and grace, allows John to stand, gives him comfort, and gives him the important task of recoding His precepts. Verse 19 is interesting; it may set a tone for the meaning of Revelation, not necessary literally, but as imageries that have a meaning for a purpose that is for us now and will still be so in its culmination.

Context

In the Old Testament Tabernacle that Moses built and where the Jews first worshiped God, there was one lampstand with seven branches (in practice some Jews use six to nine branches, so not to duplicate anything that was in the Temple). This is now called the “menorah,” a prime symbol of Judaism today and used in “Chanukah.” This Menorah had seven branches that symbolized the assembly of believers and how God’s light shines to us (Ex. 25:31-40; Isaiah 42:6; Zech. 4:1-6; Matt. 5:16; Phil. 2:14-16).

This passage displays God’s splendor in the best symbolic words and imagery available following the theme of Daniel chapter seven, where mere words are insufficient to convey who He is (Rev. 5:6; 14:14; 19:11-13). Obviously, this is a figurative, not a literal description of our Lord! Christ is shown as Supreme, and Head over the Church. He controls the Church. Does He control yours, or do you think you do (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:13-15; 5:23; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9)?

What does Revelation 1: 1-8 mean to me and you?

Our call is to be blessed so the character qualities we receive from the Spirit come from the inward love we have for our Lord and we will desire to spill them upon others around us (Psalm 1).

John begins His book by reminding his readers of whom and what Christ is, His supremacy, and His role of Redeemer and Judge. He then gives us a glimpse of end-time events. We must never forget who we are in Christ. If we do, we will quickly fall to pride and apostasy, buying lies and living in our depravity. God is beyond time and space, and beyond our comprehension other that what He has clearly revealed to us. He has a plan; let’s face Him, not our fears or our doubts or other’s misgivings. Let us swim in His living waters (Jer. 2:13; 17:13; John 4:10-11; 7:38; Rev. 7:17). God may seem to be slow, taking His time, but He does this for good reason. Life is about learning and growing, about becoming faithful, infused with His Spirit, spiritually responsible and character-driven. It is not about how we feel or what we want.

Questions to Ponder:

1. One of the main themes of Revelation is the call for us to stand firm and grow further in our faith. Does this surprise you? What did you expect to find from Revelation?

2. Why do you suppose most people see Revelation as an ominous apocalypse of chaos and catastrophe? How do you see it?

3. What is your take on the word and theme of soon? Does it mean the sudden nature of the Christian era and the unexpected return of Christ, or is it a time reference? This has been the crux of the debate for theologians since the 1840’s. How would this affect how you view Revelation?

4. Most people see Revelation as only about future events. What does it mean to you that it is actually more about how we should conduct ourselves in times of distress and the strength of faith to endure and learn from those times?

5. What needs to take place to better connect your relationship with Christ more firmly? How would this help you receive hope and encouragement?

Exegetical look into Revelation 1: 4-8

John is proclaiming an important fact we must all agree upon, that God is Sovereign and in control! He gave us grace that we did not deserve and a precious plan that will unfold. We have hope both now and in the future.

Grace and peace is an ancient greeting, as John sends his blessings.

· Seven churches. The principle theme is the seven churches which all were real, actual churches in Asia Minor with real, actual problems. These are not allegories; rather, they are relevant to your church now and symbolize the various ages of the Church in history and also represent how each individual church is, through all times and places, in its operation and faith (Phil. 2:15; Matt. 5:14-16; Rev. 1:1-3; 2:1-3:22; 22:7-21).

· Him who is, and who was, and who is to come. The Lord’s Supremacy echoes the words of God given to Moses in the burning bush. This is a Divine Name of Christ meaning Eternal Deity and Authority (Ex. 3:14-16).

· Seven spirits. The word, seven, means its importance is compounded. This is a name for the Holy Spirit referring to His Fullness, not a split personality. Some believe this is referring to the seven celestial beings (Rev. 8:2). However, context and word meaning attest of the Holy Spirit and His various roles as Counselor, bearer of Wisdom, Fruit… (Isa. 11:2) etc., just as this passage gives several titles for Christ. It also testifies to the profundity (depth and reality) of the Trinity (Zech. 4:2-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:1-2; Rev. 4:5; 5:14).

· Faithful witness, the firstborn… ruler means reliable. It sets Jesus as Divine and Lord over all the living and the dead. This also refers to the roles of Christ in His Church. As He is faithful to us, we are called to be faithful to Him, too (Psalm 2:7; 89:27; Prov. 14:5, 25; Isa. 8:2; Acts 13:33; Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:15-18; 1 Tim. 6:13; Rev. 2:10-13; 3:14).

· Him be glory…To him. Christ is the quintessential subject and prominent theme of Revelation. This is a doxology of praise, used to wholeheartedly worship and praise Christ as exalted and worthy because of His Sovereignty and the redemption He gives us. Praise is also our frontline weapon against spiritual warfare (Rev. 4:8, 11; 5:9-14; 7:12; 11:15-17; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 19:1-8).

· Kingdom and priests in the O.T. meant that all God’s people were holy to Him. Under law, there were specific roles in the priesthood that people were called and ordained to fill. Priests were to be bridges from God to man. Now, through Christ, we have direct, intimate access to Him, and in the future, each of us will reign with Him. Each of us is a royal priest as a representative of Christ (doctrine of the priesthood of all believers) on earth, and as ministers, we model His character and thus have no need for a Temple. God’s Kingdom is now; those who say the Temple must be reconstructed before Christ returns do not get this vital point (Ex. 19:1-6; 20:6; Lev. 10:10-11; Isa. 66:20; Matt. 21:43; 28:19-20; Rom. 15:16; 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 2:1-10; Heb. 7; 10:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:1-10; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:9-10; 20:4-6).

· He is coming is one of the main themes of this epistle, the announcement that Christ is coming back. This is comfort for the suffering Christians and chastisement for those who are evil and reject Him (Deut. 33:2; Isa. 19:1; Zech. 1:16; Mal. 3:1-2; Matt. 10:23; Rev. 2:5; 3:20).

· The clouds means a spectacular event, such as numbers of angels testifying to God’s glory. It could also mean an extraordinary storm of clouds. This also means judgment (Ezek. 30:3; Dan. 7:13; Zech. 12:10; Matt. 16:28; 24:30, 34; 26:64).

· Peoples of the earth. This means Jesus loves us and has washed our sins away from God’s presence. Not just the Israelites, but also all people in Him are those elected ones and have courage, comfort, and faith in Christ. He rules over all (Prov. 21:1; Dan. 2:21; 4:17; Zech. 12:12).

· Mourn points to the distress of Christ’s Second Coming. Those who refuse Him will be judged. The realization will come that our will is not in control and our desires and sin have gotten us a raw deal. What comfort to those in persecution at the hands of such people to know that they will get what is coming (Zech. 12:10)!

· I am refers to God the Father testifying that the Son, Christ, is God (Heb. 13:8).

· Alpha and the Omega means God is eternal and rules over all places and time. He is omnipotent, all-powerful. Referring to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet meaning His Sovereignty, Christ is all in all; He is LORD of all that is past, present, and is to come. His will and purpose will come true, and ours will not; so, to grow, we must surrender to Him (Isa. 41:4; 44:6; Rom. 8:18-25; Gal. 2:20-21; Rev. 22:12-16).

· Who is to come. Christ is coming and all will consummate His will and purpose. Justice and His Kingdom will be fulfilled, and every knee will bow (Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10; Rev. 21:1-22:5)!