posted on Sep, 5 2010 @ 05:34 PM
"Fear not, O Jacob my servant...I am the first and the last, besides me there is no God"- Isaiah ch44 vv2-6
I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch1, which sets the tone for the rest of the book.
I'm going to be asking the question; what does this chapter say about the purpose of Revelation?
The chapter has to be understood against the background of the troubled state of the church. It's implied in the "tribulation and patient
endurance" mentioned in v9 and in John's apparent exile in Patmos.
So the first key point is that the events to be described are events which must happen and must happen soon- the rescue mission cannot
be prevented or delayed.
(I take the word "soon" to be about the speed of God's response to the relevant crisis; the crisis involving the church of John's time has now
been resolved, while any similar crisis which might involve the future church has not yet begun)
Then John validates the message of hope by spelling out where it comes from.
It was God who gave the revelation to Jesus Christ.
Christ then sent his "angel" (presumably the image seen later in the chapter) to "his servant John".
John saw the vision and gives his testimony, and the blessing extends the line of transmission to those who read the words aloud and those who hear
and absorb them.
John then passes on the offer of "grace and peace"; a standard greeting in Paul's letters, but with deeper implications (and more relevance to the
theme of Revelation) than I would have space to discuss.
The grace and peace come from a three-fold source;
from him who is and was and is to come
To this, in v8, the Lord God adds that he is the Almighty and also the "Alpha and Omega", the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.
So in two different ways the all-embracing present is extended into past and future.
In short, the Eternal One.
from the seven spirits which are before the throne
But the number seven, in Revelation, is really a label meaning "belonging to God". So what we have here is the seven-fold spirit, or the spirit
"belonging to God".
That is, the Holy Spirit.
from Jesus Christ
But Christ himself is then named in three different ways;
Ths name comes, ultimately, from the Cross. In the "court scene" imagery found in John's writings, Christ is our "advocate with the Father" and
stands over against "the accuser of the brethren", the "faithful witness" against Satan's hostile testimony. This is one way of describing the
redemption which is the effect of the Cross.
So, as a name, it carries the promise that our sins will not be held against us.
(Then there's the secondary sense, that he thereby becomes a model for the "faithful witness" of his own followers)
"First-born of the dead"
This name comes, of course, from the Resurrection. "First-born" because he's to be followed by many others.
So, as a name, it holds the promise of our own resurrection from the dead.
"Ruler of the kings of the earth"
This name comes, ultimately, from the Ascension, with which we associate the fact that he can be called "Lord", the name at which "every knee shall
So, as a name, it holds the promise that the oppression of the "kings of earth" can be overruled.
And in these three different ways, from the Eternal One, from the Spirit, and from Jesus Christ, the grace and peace come to us from a source of
But John hasn't finished explaining what Christ does for us. We benefit from;
Glory and dominion belong to him because he loves us and therefore freed us from our sins by his blood- that is by his death on the Cross.
In other words, he's already won a victory for us, and won us freedom from oppression in the area that matters most.
Glory and dominion belong to him because he made us "a kingdom, and priests".
As the Israelites themselves became after the Exodus; "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation"- Exodus ch19 v6
In other words, the church has become the new Israel.
what is to come
In Daniel ch7, the prophet sees "one like a son of man" who is coming "with the clouds of heaven" to be presented with dominion over the nations
of the earth.
And Zechariah predicts that the families of Israel will see, and mourn over "the one whom they had pierced"- Zechariah ch12 v10.
Matthew brings the two themes together and extends them to the tribes of the earth at large, who will mourn when they see the coming of the Son of
But Jesus identified himself as the Son of Man.
So John here combines the two themes in the same way that Matthew does, while spelling out more clearly the fact that the mourners will be the ones
who pierced him.
In other words, his coming in glory implies the defeat of his enemies.
So the church benefits (as before) by freedom from sin, new life, and freedom from oppression.
After this introduction, the visions themselves.
John is experiencing the Spirit "on the Lord's day". A day which began as a celebration of the Resurrection of Christ seems a very appropriate
setting for a lesson about the effects of Resurrection power.
Hearing a voice behind him, he turns round.
He sees seven golden lampstands, and he's later told that these are the "seven churches".
At one level, this means the just-mentioned seven churches of the province of Asia.
At another level, as in the case of the "seven spirits", it means "the seven-fold church"- that is to say, the Church which belongs to God.
So the figure in this vision is one who stands at the very centre of God's Church.
But the seven lampstands also, indirectly, indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
The connecting link is the fact that in Zechariah ch4 v10 the seven lampstands are identified as the "eyes of the Lord which range through the whole
earth", and in Revelation ch5 v6 those eyes are identified with that same seven-fold Spirit.
The figure in the middle is called "one like a son of man", as in the Daniel vision.
But he's also carrying the white head and hair which belong to the "Ancient of days", the other figure in the same vision.
In other words, this figure can be identified with the Son of Man and with the enthroned God at one and the same time.
There's another vision in Daniel ch10, when the prophet sees a great figure clothed in linen and a golden girdle, with eyes like flaming torches,
limbs of burnished bronze, and a voice "like the sound of a multitude".
The figure then gives him an account of the great ruler who makes war on God.
The figure in this vision has similar features, which may forewarn us to expect another account of hostility from a great ruler.
There's a two-edged sword coming out of the figure's mouth.
This points us towards the power of the Word, which is "sharper than a two-edged sword" to discern the intentions of the heart- Hebrews ch4 v12.
Similarly, the Servant in Isaiah was able to say "He has made my mouth like a sharp sword" (Isaiah ch49 v2) and the Branch of Jesse would be able to
"smite the earth with the rod of his mouth" (Isaiah ch11 v4).
These passages are about the power of the Word in dealing with the wicked and restoring God's people in righteousness.
The final detail in the picture is that the figure's face is shining like the sun.
In Malachi ch4, the coming of the Lord's "day" would have a double effect.
It would be "burning like an oven" against the arrogant and the evildoers.
But for those who fear the name of the lord, the sun of righteousness would be rising "with healing in is wings".
All these visual details are presenting the message that the figure at the centre of the Church has the power to restore his people by overcoming the
power of the oppressor.
As in Daniel ch10, John falls to the ground.
As in Daniel ch10, the figure touches him and says "Fear not".
The more obvious and immediate meaning is "Don't be afraid of me".
But the deeper and more important meaning is "Don't be afraid of anything else".
Then he accounts for this instruction by explaining who he is, what he has done, and what he is able to do.
He describes himself in terms which echo what God says about himself elsewhere.
"The first and the last" is an echo of the verse from Isaiah quoted at the beginning of these comments, and it also matches the "Alpha and
"The living one" echoes the frequently used title "the living God".
These two phrases in combination add up to the equivalent of "who is and was and is to come".
But he then, also says, "I died, and behold I am alive".
So this figure who has already identified himself using the names of God also identifies himself as Jesus Christ.
As the one who died and now lives for evermore, he hold "the keys of death and Hades", which is presumably about his ability to unlock the doors of
death and let people out. It is the promise of resurrection life.
The purpose of this explanation is to demonstrate why John (and his church) should not fear.
That is the key message of this chapter, and also what it says about the purpose of Revelation, a book designed for the benefit of a church facing
"I have the power of God, the Resurrection power.
Do not fear the power of sin.
Do not fear the power of oppression.
Do not fear the events which "must take place" in order to overcome the power of oppression.
[edit on 5-9-2010 by DISRAELI]