{2}         Prologue (Rev 1:1-20)


Part 1. Prologue (1:1-20)

1.1.      Superscription (1:1-3)

1.2.      Salutation and doxology (1:4-8)

1.3.      Commission to the writer (1:9-20)

        These verses tell how and for what purpose the revelation was given, and then pronounce a blessing on the reader who obeys.

        PICTURE: John sits on top of the hill in Patmos facing the sea. Suddenly, he feels a mystic glow around him. Someone speaks to him from behind. He turns and sees 7 giant lampstands forming a circle. In the middle is Jesus, surrounded by glorious light.


1:1       “Soon take place”: [1] “without delay”; [2] refer to the certainty; [3] applying 2Pe 3:8; [4] it refers to the persecution of the church. [5] imminent in the great light of the final events.

The revelation is a figurative representation, or a sign or a symbol. What the visions portray exists in actuality, but the vision itself is simply the medium used by God to transmit that reality.

1:2       “everything he saw”: The message of God attested by Jesus consists of everything that John saw in his vision.

1:3       A blessing is pronounced on the person who will read this prophecy to the church and upon those who will hear it and obey. As the vast majority of people could not read, the responsibility of some to read it in the church is stressed in the final instructions in 22:18-19.

“Take to heart” indicates that the things written here are to be moral instruction, not simply prediction. In “the time is near”, the Greek for “time” (kairos) was commonly used to indicate a time of crisis or a decisive moment. (Mt 8:29; 1Co 4:5)

1:4       The salutation of grace (Greek) and peace (Hebrew) proceed from a threefold source:

[1]   the one “who is, and who was, and who is to come” which refers to the divine name (YHWH) from Ex 3:14-15—all time is embarced within God’s eternal presence.

[2]   the 7 spirits: 3 possibilities: [a] the one Holy Spirit with a sevenfold or complete manifestation of His being. [b] the 7 archangels of Jewish tradition. [c] a special order of angels.

1:5       The second half of v.5 to v.6 is a doxology honouring Christ who has set us free from sin and made us priests to serve His God and Father.

[3]   Jesus Christ: designated by the threefold title “faithful witness”, “firstborn from the dead” and “ruler of the kings of the earth”. This first doxology is addressed to Christ alone. He is the one “who loves us” (present tense meaning continuous) and “has freed us from our sins” (aorist).

1:6       “Glory” is praise and honour; “dominion” is power and might; “forever and ever” means without end (the Greek takes its greatest term for time, the eon, pluralizes this, and then multiplies it by its own plural, tous aionas); “amen” is the Hebrew word meaning “so let it be”.

1:7       In Dan 7:13, Daniel saw one like a son of man coming “with the clouds of heaven”. He will be openly manifested to all, for “every eye will see Him”. “They will look on the one they have pierced”: including all those of every age (the non-Christian world) whose careless indifference to Jesus is typified in the act of piercing.

“So shall it be! Amen” combines the Greek and Hebrew forms of affirmation, doubling the effect.

1:8       “the Alpha and the Omega”: the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, meaning to include all letters in between, indicating God as the sovereign Lord over everything.

1:9       “Kingdom” refers to the coming period of messianic blessedness; “patience” is the active endurance required of the faithful. The present is a time of suffering; the future is the kingdom of blessedness; during the interim period, believers must exercise patience.

Patmos is a small island in the Aegean Sea. John was on Patmos because of his faith.

1:10     John was “in the Spirit”, a state of spiritual exaltation; it is a kind of ecstasy in which a man is lifted out of himself but is under the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter (Ac 10:10; 11:5; 22:17).

The command to John was given as clear and unmistakable as the sound of a trumpet (Ex 19:16,19).

1:11     The entire scroll including all 7 letters was to be read at each church because of the word “churches” (plural) in the command. The letters are relevant to the universal church.

1:12     The lampstands signify the 7 churches addressed by the letter. The purpose of the church is to bear the light of the divine presence in a darkened world (Mt 5:14-16).

1:13     “Son of man” can mean either “a human being” or “like an angel”. The standing of Christ among His churches indicates His abiding presence when the churches faced persecution.

1:14     The white hair conveyed the idea of wisdom and dignity (Pr 16:31). The eyes “were like blazing fire”, expressing the penetrating insight. John’s allusions are used for their evocative and emotive power, calling forth from his readers of overwhelming and annihilating wonder.

1:15     His feet appeared like “bronze”, indicating strength and stability. His voice is like the awe-inspiring power of a great waterfall, same description of the voice of God in Eze 43:2.

1:16     He holds all the stars in His right hand indicating His sovereign control or His protection over the churches. The double-edged sword from the mouth of Christ symbolizes the irresistible power of divine judgment. The brilliance surrounds His entire person.

1:17     John’s response to the vision was to fall at the feet of Christ as though dead because to stand as an equal would be tantamount to blasphemy. It could even lead to death like in the OT. The laying on of the right hand communicated power and blessing.

1:18     The “living” God is in sharp contrast to the dead or inanimate gods of paganism. Even though He experienced death, He is now alive forever. He possesses “the keys of death and Hades”, meaning power and authority over their domain. Power over these keys belongs to God alone.

1:19     3 division of the message: [1] “what you have seen”: vision of the Christ, [2] “what is now”: the present church in ch.2—3, [3] “what will take place later: visions beginning with ch.4.

1:20     The 7 stars are the angels of the 7 churches. [1] They could be guardian angels. [2] Some take them as the ruling official of the congregation, such as the bishop. [3] However, they could also be a way of personifying the prevailing (impersonal) spirit (spiritual state) of the church.


        Jesus Christ our Lord is walking among His churches. We may not see Him physically but He is here and He observes what we do as He said many times in the 7 letters that follow: “I know your deeds.”

        We are serving Him through our activities at church. He, not the church or anyone in the church, is our object of service. All who read God’s message (the Bible) and obey will be blessed.