God never intended confusion, yet when we look at the world around us, confusion reigns like a mad, headless horseman, galloping through public life and characters as well as personal lives and relationships. Governments struggle to maintain order, people strive for stability and security, all of which typify the kingdom of God. What we learn, we must teach our children as a treasure so that they can listen and live.
The things [the doctrine, the precepts, the admonitions, the sum of my ministry], which you have heard me teach in the presence of many witnesses, entrust [as a treasure] to reliable and faithful men who will also be capable and qualified to teach others.
2 Timothy 2:2
On our walk through the revealed mystery of Revelation, we must first and foremost declare God as multi-faceted and larger than anything we know or hope to know. The explanation that we will study together is a scraping of the surface and a possible analysis. Mostly I have endeavoured to stay away from dispensational interpretations of which there are a number who are all plausible.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things which are revealed and disclosed belong to us and to our children forever, so that we may do all of the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29
We are in the unique position in the universe to have experienced the salvation of God. This treasure is our legacy and distinguishing symbol – the mark on our forehead that will make us known to the angels, who are not saved beings, but created by God as the hosts of heaven. The church carries the great work of Christ in the universe as Paul declares:
… to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. Ephesians 3:10:
What a magnificent and majestic role to play in our time! Gear up Pebble pals – our triumphal parade ground with Christ is far beyond all we can think or dream of. May God equip us in every way, especially with a word in season.
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. Isaiah 50:4.
Reading through the first chapter of Revelation, be quick to recognize the most important principles for studying the book. The Holy Spirit governs everything. His portrays the mind of God. Christ has given everything to the world, now He comes to take account.
Always the attitude is positive. His desire is to bless. Blessing is the purpose of exposure, warning and uncovering. Every step of the way there is encouragement and reward for obedience.
All judgment and condemnation are always meant to clear the way for blessing and God’s approval.
Sin blocks blessing. This is a spiritual principle. (1:1-3) There are seven blessings proclaimed throughout Revelation. Let’s rejoice in it.
- Blessing of the word – to read, hear, keep, obey (1:3)
- Blessing of the Dead (14:13)
- Blessing on those who stay awake (16:15)
- Blessing of the Invited (19:9)
- First resurrection – no touch of death (20:6) Salvation keeps you from death.
- Blessing of the wise (22:7)
- Blessing on those who have washed robes (22:14)
For those of us who have been redeemed by the Cross and therefore have received everlasting life through rebirth, all of the above apply.
The central theme of the whole prophecy is to bring Christ in His supreme fullness into view. Absolutely everything is centered on Christ. John paints a very vivid word picture of Jesus as he sees Him in this chapter.
- Garment – head to foot
- Girdle of gold
- Head and hair – like wool
- Eyes as a flame of fire
- Feet as burnished brass
- Voice as the sound of many waters
- Sword – sharp and two-edged, proceeding out of his mouth
Seven spirits (1:4,5) depict the sevenfold expression of the Holy Spirit. The throne is a symbol of government and authority, which is one of the functions of the Holy Spirit. Describing the throne is a vision of the Trinity in action who demands the features of Christ in the church. [I hope you are now reaching for your Bible to read the first chapter again.]
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. (1:8)
John bends Greek grammar to show his reverence to God. He shows God to be supreme even if language demands otherwise. Alpha is the first letter and Omega the last letter of the Greek alphabet to signify completeness and full inclusion of everything ever.
The beginning and the end is God’s description of Himself – Isaiah 44:6, 48:12.
To call God Almighty is to declare His dominion over all things. The church was failing and scattered at this point in history. It is best described in the words of the English poet Sir William Watson: the panting huddled flock whose crime was Christ.
The encouragement comes strong and clear. Revelation 19:6: The Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Nothing can pluck us away from the hand of the Almighty.
The lamps are torches of fire to reveal, test and determine, a function of the Holy Spirit. The reference to torches of fire reminds us of the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out over the disciples waiting in the upper room. Torches of fire on their heads was one of the signs of the outpouring. (Acts 2:3)
The lamp stand is a familiar image. The candlestick was pure gold in the tabernacle, as was the candlestick in the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 7:49) and the vision of Zechariah (4:2). To reveal sin and to purify our lives are functions of the Holy Spirit. Christ will baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit in the words of John the Baptist. (Matthew 3:11,12)
Important principle: the best way to prepare for the revelation of new truth is to study the revelation, which God has already given. John knew the Old Testament well. We have the revealed will of God in the Word. His specific will for our lives will be revealed when we study that which is given.
Son of man (1:13) is how Jesus calls himself in John 1:51. Man is God’s special creation. The title “Son of man” embraces the original purpose of mankind – lost then redeemed by the divine Son of man. Jesus is God’s model for what He intended in the first place. The lamps reveal truth. The truth is how evident the Son of man is in mankind. We have Christ in us.
Garment covering is full covering, not priestly, but is reminiscent of the priestly garment signifying the opening to the Presence of God. (Daniel 7:13.) Fine linen with a gold girdle was the robe of kings as well as special messengers of the king. Christ stands as divine messenger (prophet) from the Throne. He is priest, prophet and king.
Girdle of gold (1:4,5) is the burning fire of the first love.
It is only with love that we are girded for action. The Pharisees were not girded, only clothed with their own garment – the law. Love makes you worthy. Love will stand the test of fire, never pride and pretense.
Testing of fire is the crisis in our life. 1 Corinthians 3:12,13:
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
Girdle is good for action so that no pretentious clothes get in the way of work (ministry). Gird up your loins is the call for action. Gold always speaks of God. Breast always speaks of love. Love is first then works will follow.
Head and hair – white as wool, like snow
Daniel 7:9 describes the Ancient One and stainless purity. (Isaiah 1:18).
Eyes as a flame of fire
Daniel 10:6: Eyes like flaming torches is a description of eyes that can never be forgotten. The Gospels give the impression that those who looked Jesus in the eye could never forget Him. (Mark 3:34, 10:23, 11:11) His eyes flashed in anger – Mark 3:5, looked in love – Mark 10:21 and sorrow – Luke 22:61.
To study this precious vision is to catch Jesus’ eye. The impression on our life can never be ignored or forgotten. In the words of C.S. Lewis:
“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away?”
Feet like beaten brass – refined by fire in a furnace.
Daniel 10:6 – arms and legs of the divine messenger was like burnished bronze and Ezekiel 1:7 the feet of angelic beings. It brings us under the impression of strength and the shining rays of speed – God is swift to help.
Voice like the sound of many waters
Ezekiel 43:2. For John it might have been amplified by the roar of the waves in the cave on the island. God’s voice is not confined to one description. It can be the still small voice that Elijah heard in 1 Kings 19:12.
Seven stars in His right hand.
God controls the stars, with His outstretched hand. Job 38:31. He alone can tell you not to be afraid.
Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.
The sword described here was the Roman fighting sword – short and tongue-shaped, not the long fencer’s blade. (Isaiah 11:14 & 49:2,
His face was as the sun shining in its strength
Matthew 17:2 describes the transfiguration on the mount and says his face shone like the sun. John was present on that occasion.
In His almost unapproachable glory He says: Don’t be afraid. They were terrified by the divine. (Matthew 17:7)
He declares himself the living one who was dead and alive forever, as identification to John. John himself experienced the empty tomb on that Sunday a few decades before he writes this.
Keys to death and Hades
Christ rules over the gates of death. (Psalm 9:13, 107:18 & Isaiah 38:10)
Christ brought life and immortality. (2 Timothy 1:10) He lives and because He lives, we live (John 14:19) For the saved, the bitterness of death is forever past (1 Corinthians 15).
At the end of the first chapter, it is clear that Revelation feeds on the well-known images and symbols of the entire Scripture as was known at the time John wrote the vision. This was the code according to which he got the message out. Remember always that John called himself the beloved disciple. Jesus did not love him more than the others. John himself had a special revelation of how much Jesus loved him. What a blessing! May we come to the revelation of God’s love for us as the first blessing of the study of this book.
It is impossible for us to get the message out without the code. Our code is LOVE.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2
Pebble pals, you might feel the first excitement of revealed knowledge, a clear view of our loving God and more understanding. I hope so. That is good. BUT…test yourself first and foremost:
Love suffers long and is kind;
love does not envy;
love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
does not behave rudely,
does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
thinks no evil;
does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Next time: The seven churches.