the vision of the glorified christ

Revelation 1

By Andrew E. Courtis

Revelation 1 can be divided into two parts: the Prologue of Revelation (1:1-8) and the Person of Revelation (1:9-20). This opening chapter sets the scene and reminds the reader that no matter what happens in this world, the glorified Christ is sovereign and therefore is in complete control.

1.         THE PROLOGUE OF REVELATION (1:1-8)

The Blessing (1:1-3)

Firstly, we learn that the Person of the Revelation is Jesus Christ (1:1a). The word “revelation” means “to uncover” or “to unveil.” This prophecy contains the uncovering of the authority, rule and victory that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Secondly, the Purpose of the Revelation is so that God’s people will know  “the things that must soon take place” (1:1b). Thirdly, we discover what the Process of the Revelation was (1:1c). This prophecy began with the Father (the originator and Divine author of the Revelation), was given to His Son (the Mediator and Executor of the Revelation), who sent it to His angel (the messenger of the Revelation), who passed it onto John[1] (the human author), who finally delivers it to all of God’s people (the readers of the Revelation). Finally, we are told about the Promise of the Revelation. Though it is true that every book of the Bible is a blessing to read, the book of Revelation promises a unique blessing to those who read, hear and do what it says (1:3). This is the first of the seven beatitudes or blessings found in the book of Revelation (see also: 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14).

The Greeting  (1:4-6)

John addresses this “to the seven churches that are in Asia” (1:4). These were seven actual historical churches (1:11), but John’s use of the number seven (which represents completion and fullness), indicates that these churches are representatives of all churches. So then, this book is addressed to every church of every age. Despite the reign of Domitian, despite the reign of present evil, despite the reign of the coming Antichrist, we need to make way for the true Emperor. John wants his readers to behold the almighty and all-powerful Trinitarian God. No matter how bad things were, are or will be, He is in control and He is ready to execute His fury upon this world. The first greeting is from the Father. He is described as the One who is present (“who is”), past (“who was”), and future (“who is to come”). Such designations stress the reality that God is eternal, and in His eternality He is immutable (Revelation 4:8, 11:17, 16:5). The second greeting is from the Holy Spirit. Here He is referred to as “the seven spirits”. This is not a standard designation of the Holy Spirit, so it needs to be understood in the context of this book. It does not indicate that there are seven Holy Spirits, but rather the number seven here reveals the fullness of the Holy Spirit (cf. Isa. 11:2; Zech. 4:1-10). The final greeting is from the Son. He is described with the three-fold description “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth”. After this John offers up a doxology to the Son of God because this is the revelation of Him (1:5b-6).

The Theme (1:7-8)

John gives the readers the great theme of this book, which is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In these two verses we observe three great truths concerning the Lord’s coming. Firstly, we learn about the certainty of His coming (1:7a). The fact that He will come with clouds means that He will be returning with the blazing and radiant glory of God (cf. Dan. 7:13; Zech. 12:13). Secondly, we learn about the consequences of His coming (1:7b). John makes mention of two groups who are greatly affected; the first group are designated as “those who pierced Him” and the second as “all tribes of the earth.” The first group is a reference to Israel (cf. Zech. 12:10) and the second is unbelievers (Matt. 24:29-30). Finally, we learn about the confirmation of His coming (1:8). Despite the fact that many will deny the certainty of His coming, John reminds us that the One who is eternal, the One who contains all knowledge, the One in whom dwells all power affirms this to be true.

2.         THE PERSON OF REVELATION (1:9-20)

John begins by describing himself as a “brother and partner in the tribulation and kingdom” (1:9a) and then identifies his location. He was banished to the island of Patmos[2] because “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9b). He then goes on to record the experience he had on the Lord’s Day. He “was in the Spirit” (1:10a) indicating that he received a spiritual experience, namely he was transported out of his normal and usual circumstances. He heard a loud voice behind him, and was instructed to write what he sees and send it to the seven churches (1:10b-11).

The Individual of the Vision (1:12-16)

John turns around to see who was speaking to him. He saw seven golden lampstands their midst He saw the glorified Christ (1:12-13). He was “clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash”. In the OT such clothing arrangements were seen on prophets, priests and kings. The idea here is that the supreme Prophet, Priest and King is standing there. John then provides a seven-fold description of the One he saw (1:14-16). This description reveals that this individual is eternal, all knowing, righteous, holy, sovereign, wrathful and glorious.

The Influence of the Vision (1:17-18)

After John saw this sight, it caused him to be filled with fear (1:17). Significantly, this is very different to the many alleged sightings of Jesus today. John’s response was just like those of Moses (Ex. 3:6), Gideon (Jdg. 6:22-23), Isaiah (Isa. 6:5), Paul (Acts 9:4), and Peter, James and John (Matt. 17:5). John was then granted authorized confidence as he was told to “fear not”. The Person of the vision is then described as the eternal, glorified and resurrected Christ (1:17b-18).

The Instruction of the Vision (1:19)

Jesus then instructs John to write down the visions he is going to receive. These visions are spoken of as the things that he “have seen”, “are”, and “that are to take place after this” (1:19). This verse contains an inspired outline of the entire book. This is a reference to relate to the past, present and future. The past is the vision of the glorified Christ (1:9-20), the present is the letters to the seven churches (2:1-3:22), and the future is the visions of great tribulation, Second Coming, judgment and Kingdom (4:1-22:21).

The Interpretation of the Vision (1:20)

After giving this instruction, Jesus now provides John with the interpretation of the vision he just received. John saw seven lampstands (1:13), and in there midst was Jesus holding seven stars in His hand (1:16). Jesus simply said, “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (1:20).

The comfort God’s people are to take from this opening chapter is that no matter what happens in this world, the Church is in Christ hand. He is the Sovereign King and He has a plan for His Church and for this world. Things at times may look bad, but Christ is in control.

[1] The name “John” appears on four separate occasions in this book (1:1, 4, 9; 21:2). This refers to the apostle John who also authored the Gospel of John, and 1, 2, 3 John. When did he receive this from the Lord? According to the early church father Irenaeus, “John received the Revelation almost in our own time, toward the end of the reign of Domitian” (Against Heresies 5.30.3). Domitian’s reign ended in A.D. 96, so most scholars agree that it was received around A.D. 95.

[2] Patmos was a rocky, barren and volcanic island located in the Aegean Sea (which is a part of the Mediterranean Sea that lies between Greece and Turkey).