Prologue, 1-3

Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

The revelation of Jesus Christ – ‘Revelation’ = apocalypse.

How are we to understand this expression?  Grammatically, it could mean:

(a) the revelation from Jesus Christ.  Michaels favours this interpretation.  Ian Paul suggests that the second half of the verse supports it, given that the revelation was made known to John by an angel from Jesus.  Mounce agrees: ‘The work is a revelation mediated by Jesus Christ rather than a revelation of Christ himself.’

(b) the revelation about, or concerning, Jesus Christ.  Ian Paul finds this supported by the wider context: John actually sees a revelation of Jesus.

(c) the revelation belonging to Jesus Christ.  This is favoured by Morris, who notes the words immediately following; ‘which God gave him.’

Ian Paul thinks that both (a) and (b) might be intended: ‘John might be intending us to understand both; the revelation that Jesus offers is a renewed vision of who he is and what it means to follow him. He is both the sender and the centre of the message we need to hear.’

Eternal Submission of the Son?
This verse is of some relevance to the debate about the Eternal Submission of the Son.  ‘This revelation did not originate with the second person of the Trinity, but belonged to God the Father. God had original possession of this revelation and gave (ἔδωκεν) it to Jesus.’ (Routley, Jonathan J. Eternal Submission: A Biblical and Theological Examination (p. 53).)

But this passage demonstrates unity, as well as distinction, regarding the divine Persons.  According to v2, the revelation (‘everything that John saw’) is at the same time ‘the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.’

God’s purpose in giving the revelation to his Son was that the Son might ‘show his servants what must soon take place.’  So, in the words of Grudem, ‘Jesus did not initiate the book of Revelation on his own, but he was given this revelation by the Father and authorized by the Father to deliver it to the church.’

There is a clear progression: the Father possess this revelation and gives it to his Son.  The Son communicates it by sending and angel to John.

Routley concludes:

Revelation 1:1–2 is a passage that those who reject ESS must explain. If Jesus is only submissive to the Father in terms of his humanity, how should we understand the ordering of authority demonstrated in this passage which takes place after the resurrection at a point when many would argue the Son no longer submits to his Father, but in his glorified eternal state possesses coequality with the Father in terms of authority? This passage displays one divine authority when viewed through the lens of the divine essence, and yet also displays multiplicity of authority (the Father gave the revelation to the Son, and yet the revelation is the possession of the Son) when viewed through the lens of the divine persons.

His servant John – ‘The author tells us that his name was John, and he describes himself as God’s ‘servant’, (Rev 1:1) as one of the ‘prophets’ (Rev 22:9) and as ‘your brother’. (Rev 1:9) Tradition has affirmed this John to be identical with John the apostle, and further, that he was the author of the Fourth Gospel and of the three Johannine Epistles. The view that the author was John the apostle goes back to Justin Martyr (c. AD 140), and is supported by Irenaeus and many others. The principal objection is the style of Revelation. The Greek is in many respects unlike that of the other Johannine writings. It is so unusual and sometimes shows such scant respect for the rules of Gk. grammar that it is felt that it cannot come from the same pen as do the Gospel and the Epistles. (Charles speaks of it as ‘unlike any Greek that was ever penned by mortal man’.)…Whereas most scholars today deny the apostolic authorship, there are some who find it best to think of all five Johannine writings as from one author, and that author the apostle John (e.g. E. Stauffer).’ (NBD)

Rev 1:2 who testifies to everything he saw-that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Greetings and Doxology, 4-8

Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Rev 1:4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,

Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,

Rev 1:6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father-to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

A kingdom and priests...and therefore teetotal?
Ben Sinclair notes that ‘the immediate context of Proverbs 31 forbids kings and their children from drinking “wine” or “strong drink.” Priests were also forbidden from drinking “wine” and “strong drink” when serving the Lord (Leviticus 10:9). In the New Testament, the children of God are made kings and priests when Jesus washes them with His blood (Revelation 1:6). Therefore, all New Testament saints are kings and priests in God’s eyes. I believe that New Testament Christian kings and priests should not drink alcoholic wine for the same reasons offered in Proverbs 31 and Leviticus 10.’  (Should Christians Drink Wine and Alcohol? Kindle Edition).  We think that such a gratuitous interpretation could only come from a mind already made up in favour of teetotalism.

Rev 1:7 Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.

‘Faith sees already the dawning light, the first streaks of day, on the tops of the eastern hills. Faith, not fancy, sees the Lord just on the point of leaving the right hand of the Father; and she raises her unheeded voice amid the sleeping, dreaming virgins, “Behold, he cometh with clouds!”‘ (J.H. Hewitson)

Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

“I am the Alpha and the Omega” – ‘This’, says Thomas Watson, ‘interprets the word Jehovah; (which is) he subsists of himself, having a pure and independent being; (which was) God only was before time; there is no searching into the records of eternity; (which is to come) his kingdom has no end; his crown has no successors, Heb 1:8′ (A Body of Divinity, 61)

One Like a Son of Man, 9-20

Rev 1:9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Patmos – one of a cluster of small islands off the coast of modern-day Turkey. The island is hilly, and measures just eight miles by four. It was here that John spent his final days, and here that, one Sunday, he received the prophecy that rounds off our Bible.

Rev 1:10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,

‘Most Christians…believe that the sabbath commandment was a part of the ceremonial law of Israel and therefore not applicable to the church. This seems to have been the position of the early church. No hint of cessation from work on Sundays is found until Tertullian. While various factors, including Scripture, (Ps 92:2) may have led to an early morning and late evening meeting schedule, one likely explanation was the need to assemble at times that would not conflict with the workday.’ (D.K. Lowery, art. ‘Lord’s Day’, EDT.)

Rev 1:11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

Rev 1:12 I turned round to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,

Rev 1:13 and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round his chest.

Son of man – A term with ‘both overtones of divinity and undertones of humanity’ (Bewes)

Rev 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.”

I fell at his feet as though dead – ‘Should the Lord Jesus appear now to any of us in his majesty and glory, it would not be to our edification nor consolation. For we are not meet nor able, by the power of any light or grace that we have received, or can receive, to bear the immediate appearance and representation of them. His beloved apostle John had leaned on his bosom probably many a time in his life, in the intimate familiarities of love; but when he afterward appeared to him in his glory, “he fell at his feet as dead.”‘ (John Owen)

Rev 1:18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

“I am alive for ever and ever!” – ‘The Jesus who was born into our world, and who lived and died in first-century Palestine, also rose from the dead, is now alive for ever, and is available and accessible to his people. Jesus Christ is not to be relegated, like other religious leaders, to history and the history books. He is not dead and gone, finished or fosslized. He is alive and active. He calls us to follow him, and he offers himself to us as our indwelling and transforming Saviour.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 66)

“I hold the keys of death and Hades” – ‘The world of the dead is pictured as having gates which are normally kept locked so that once departed spirits have passed through they have no way back to the land of the living. Jesus, however, inspires hope by letting us know that he holds the keys to those gates. He alone can unlock death’s gates, release departed spirits out of Hades and rejoin them with a physical body.’ (David Lawrence, Heaven – It’s Not The End Of The World, p 85)

Rev 1:19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.

Rev 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

The angels of the seven churches – These are often taken to be either guardian angels or human leaders of the churches.  But it is unlikely that an angel can share responsibility for the sins of a church, and the alternative explanation is contrary to the usage of the time.  Hemer (NBD) tentatively suggests that ‘the ‘angel’ is perhaps something like a heavenly counterpart of the church. In practice we may visualize this as amounting to a personification of the church, even if this does less than justice to the connotations of the original concept.’