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Apocalypse Now - Lesson1

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“Apocalypse Now”

Lesson 1 – “The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Rev. 1

1.    Why some do not study Revelation:

  • It is too difficult/mysterious to understand
    • “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” – Winston Churchill
  • If godly men, who study God’s word cannot figure it out…

Ø  John Calvin, the greatest commentator of the Reformation did not attempt a commentary on Revelation

  • I’m not supposed to know the day or the hour so…
  • One cannot take a firm stand on interpreting Revelation, so why bother trying

2.    Why we should study Revelation?

  1. It is scripture (2 Ti 3:15-16; Psa 119; 2 Pet 1:20-21)
  2. It promises a blessing (Rev 1:3; 22:7)
  3. The author is Jesus himself (Rev 1:1)
  4. It’s purpose is to reveal truth, not hide it (Rev 1:1, Dan 12:5-9)
  5. In Genesis God reveals the beginning of the world; in Revelation He reveals it’s grand conclusion
  6. It reveals truth relative to every important fundamental of Christian theology (Bibliology, Theology Proper, Christology, Pneumatology, Ecclesiology, Anthropology, Hamartiology, Angelology, Soteriology, Israelology)
  7. It was written to encourage those experiencing severe persecution (1Co 15:58)
  8. In it are many fulfillments of O.T. prophecy (Dan 7:13,14; 9:24-27)
  9. It displays the wrath of the God’s judgment upon mankind (Isa 2:12-22)
  10. It declares and describes the demise of Satan
  11. It provides a vivid picture of the eternal state
  12. It’s focus is the 2nd Coming of Christ

“My prayer is that each reader will fully understand what the Holy Spirit is saying through this part of His Word, so that His revelation may lodge in the mind of believers and bring greater obedience and faithfulness—to the glory of our great God.” – John MacArthur

3.    How to approach the study Revelation?

  • In depth, according to the grammatical-historical-literary-theological method
  • In general, it says what it means and it means what is says
  • With humility and respect for others who do not agree with “our” viewpoint

4.    What kind of writing is Revelation?

  • Epistle

Ø  “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come…” (Rev 1:4)

Ø  Why? – “to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place;” (Rev 1:1)

  • Prophecy

Ø  It claims to be prophecy (Rev 1:3; 22:7,10,18,19)

Ø  A message of comfort to the afflicted righteous  A call to repentance and warning to the straying (Rev 22:7,10,18,19)


 

  • Apocalyptic

Ø  Apocalypse = “revelation”

Ø  It is like other apocalyptic literature

§  Angels appear commonly

§  Written during a time of intense persecution

§  Use of vivid images and symbols

§  Use of numbers which convey more than count units

·         (7) churches, angels, seals, trumpets, bowls, thunders, beatitudes

·         Fractions (1/3, ¼)

·         Multiples of 12 (i.e. 12, 24, 144,000)

Ø  It is different than other apocalyptic literature

§  It claims to be inspired by God

§  It identifies the name of its true author

§  It predicts the future

“an epistle in the apocalyptic mode that predicts events of the future under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” – Steve Gregg

5.    When was Revelation written?

  • Two Possibilities

Ø  End of Nero’s reign (54-68 A.D.) – held by preterists and scholars of 19th century

Ø  End of Domitian’s reign (81-96 A.D.) – held by most modern scholars

Ø  Arguments for an early date (Nero)

§  Apparent existence of the temple (Rev 11:1-2)

§  Existence of tension between the church and its Jewish detractors (Rev 2:9; 3:9)

§  John speaks of a sixth king as the current king (Rev 17:10) (Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius and then Nero)

§  The number 666 associates with a Hebrew representation of “Caesar Nero” (Rev 13:18)

Ø  Arguments for a late date (Domitian)

§  Emperor worship fits Domitian better than Nero (Rev 13)

§  “Mortal wound that was healed” alludes to a well-known superstition about Nero’s death (Rev 13:3,12,14).  Domitian was called the “2nd Nero.”

§  Domitian had a much wider reaching persecution of Christians

§  Spiritual decline of the churches in Ephesus and Laodicea would have taken longer

§  Some claim that the church of Smyrna did not exist in Paul’s lifetime (67 A.D.)

§  Iranaeus claims that John’s vision was seen at the end of Domitian’ reign (Iranaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John)

Ø  Conclusion: We can’t conclude for certain, but the later date seems most likely

6.    Who wrote Revelation?

  • Two Possibilities (Rev 1:1,4; 21:2; 22:8)

Ø  John the Apostle (Justin Martyr, Iranaeus, Clement, Tertullian)

Ø  John the presbyter (Dionysius of Alexandria)

Ø  Arguments for John the presbyter

§  Quote from Papias (“4 Views” pg.13)

§  Other writings of John exhibit much better Greek

Ø  Arguments for John the Apostle

§  He only identified himself as “John”

§  Early church fathers held this view

§  Commonalities in words & phrases with his other writings

Ø  Conclusion:  John the Apostle

7.    How is Revelation interpreted?

  • Historical Approach

Ø  God revealed the entire church age (history to us) in advance through the symbolic visions in Revelation.  Specific historical events are aligned with details in Revelation.

Ø  The papacy is the Antichrist

Ø  A day in revelation is equivalent to a year of real time – “year-for-a-day” principle. (Ez 4:4-6)

Ø  Many classic theologians held this view (i.e. Barnes)

  • Preterist Approach

Ø  Most of the events in Revelation were fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem (70 A.D.).  Some see in later chapters, the fall of Rome, and then the 2nd Coming of Christ.

Ø  They link much of Josephus’ writings to details in Revelation

Ø  It has immediate relevance to the early readers, but to us only as other fulfilled O.T. prophecy

Ø  It takes literal the passages that state “must shortly come to pass” and “the time is at hand”.

Ø  A more detailed account of the Olivet discourse (Mark 13, Matt 24, Luke 17, 21)

Ø  Revelation was written during the time of Nero

  • Spiritual (Idealist) Approach

Ø  It does not look for literal fulfillments of the prophecies of revelation, but that the visions only depict symbolically spiritual lessons or principles, which may recur in history.

Ø  Interpretation tends to be non-literal or allegorical

Ø  The meaning can be spiritually understood by believers in any age

Ø  Many who take this approach combine it with one of the other three (i.e. Spiritual-Preterist)

  • Futurist Approach

Ø  The majority of Revelation (6-19) describes a future seven or three and a half year tribulation period, followed by the return of Christ, a thousand-year reign (20), and the new creation (21-22)

Ø  Interpretation tends to be literal and chronological.

Ø  Most popular method of interpretation today. (Includes dispensationalists)

8.    Theme and Outline of Revelation (1:19)

“Therefore write…

  • “the things which you have seen” – Chapter 1
  • “and the things which are” – Chapters 2-4
  • “and the things which will take place after these things.” – Chapters 5-22


Revelation Chapter 1

 

1.    The Prologue (1:1-3)

 “The Revelation”

  • Apokalupsis à a disclosure, to become visible – contrast to Dan 12:7-9
  • Used of a person (Lk 2:32; Rom 8:19)
  • Contains truths which had previously been “concealed”, but are now “revealed”
  • 278 of 404 verses in Rev refer or allude to OT scripture

“of Jesus Christ”

  • meaning the revelation is “from” Jesus Christ
    • best fits the context of the verse
    • Christ is the revealer (5:5,7; 6:1ff)
  • meaning the revelation is “about” Jesus Christ
    • best fits the context of the book
    • Rev tells us so much about Jesus
    • Pictorial representations of Christ in chapters 5,14,19
  • conclusion: both fit well

“which God gave Him”

  • Some think it is explained by Mark 13:32 & Phil 2:6-8.  The Father is revealing something to Jesus that He does not know.
    • Problem 1: Rev does not reveal the day or the hour
    • Problem 2: At the time of Rev, Jesus was in His glorified state, not His limited state
  • A better choice:  A marvelous gift from the Father to the Son
    • Christ has the role of revealing the things of God (Matt 11:27; John 5:19-23; 12:49-50; 17:1-8)

“to show His bond-servants”

  • Doulos à a bond-slave – served out of love and devotion to his master (Ex 21:4-6)
  • A special privilege of understanding God’s plan for the future for believers (Matt 13:10-17)
  • No wonder unbelievers find this book confusing (1Co 2:12-14)
  • This Revelation is a precious gift to You from your Master!

“the things which must soon take place”

  • “must” indicates certainty
  • Tachos à “in a brief time (nearness)” or “quickly”
    • “quickly” – when these things happen they will occur in rapid succession (Walvoord)
    • “nearness” – seems to fit the context best and offers relief to the suffering (1:3; 2:16; 3:11)
      • Preterist – very near, as in, before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD
      • Historicist – beginning shortly after John’s time, but extending through the entire church age.
      • Spiritualist – the time is always near, since the visions may recur in any time period.
      • Futurist – in the prophetic outlook the end (i.e. the 2nd Coming & the Messianic Kingdom) is always imminent (1Jn 2:17-18; Lk 18:8; Rom. 16:20)
  • Motivation for us to live holy lives (2Pe 3:3-14)

“and He sent and communicated it by His angel to his bond-servant John,”

  • Semaino à Communicated or Signified
    • Had usage related to symbolic divine communications with men
    • Sense of indirectness in other scripture (Jn 12:32-33)


 

  • Two Views:
    • Jesus to an angel
      • Many angels in Rev (71 times); every chapter but 4 & 13
    • God to his messenger (Jesus)

“who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.”

  • “word of God” and “testimony of Jesus” are synonymous (1:9; 12:17)
  • John testified to the first coming of Christ (Jn 19:35; 21:24; 1Jn 1:1-2)
  • He now testifies all that he saw concerning the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ

“Blessed”

  • A beatitude – a promise of blessing (Matt 5:3-12)
  • One of seven in Rev (14:13;16:15;19:9;20:6;22:7,14)

“is he who reads, and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it”

  • “At first the reader was probably someone chose from the congregation who had acquired some proficiency in the art.  The ability to read was not widespread in antiquity.  Later the office of reader became an official position in the church.” – Robert Mounce (Neh 8:2-3; Col 4:16)
  • Certainly the blessing extends to those of us in later generations (Lk 11:28)
  • MacArthur believes this refers to an early church service
  • “John viewed his work as prophetic literature on a par with the books of the OT and possessing an authority which required the obedient response of all believers.” – Robert Thomas

 

“for the time is near.”

  • Kairos à refers to seasons, epochs or eras (not day or hour – “Chronos”) (Acts 1:7; Matt 8:29; Mk 13:33; 1Thess 5:1)

2.    The Salutation & Doxology (1:4-8)

“John, to the seven churches that are in Asia:”

  • The author: John; the recipients: seven churches in Asia; Asia = Asia Minor
  • Not the only churches in Asia Minor (i.e. Colossae and others); Why these seven?
    • (a) The number seven is completeness; (b) Churches along the major highway; (c) The churches represented the various spiritual conditions that Jesus wanted to address.
    • Conclusion:  all are conjecture and all are viable answers
  • It is commonly thought that John left Jerusalem in the late 60’s of the 1st century and became the recognized leader of the churches in Asia Minor.

 

“Grace to you and peace,”

  • Common salutation in the NT epistles; 12 other times (Rom 1:5; 1Co 1:3; 2Co 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 1Th 1:2; 1Ti 1:2; 2Ti 1:2; Titus 1:4; Phile 3)
  • It is very appropriate the authors wish for the readers to receive “grace” in order that they might experience “peace”

 


 

“from Him who is and who was and who is to come,”

  • 1st source of “grace” and “peace”
  • A unique grammatical form is used here:
    • Each of the three references to “who” are in the “present” tense, when the expected tenses would be “present”, “past” and “future”.
    • Literary critics claim this is bad and erroneous grammar.  Conservative theologians believe this to be intentional
      • This reference to God is very similar to “YHWH” in Ex 3:14
      • It could be read as “the one who exists in the present, exists in the past and exists in the future”.  In other words, “He IS”
      • John, in the only way he could communicated in the Greek language the eternal nature of God.
      • Robert Thomas claims the Greek has this sense about His coming,

“… that which is coming is not yet here.  Such a means of referring to the future also heightens the focus upon the imminence of his coming:  He who is on his way may arrive at any moment.”

  • Who does this refer to?  Most believe that this refers to the Father since YHWH refers to the Father.  The Jews wanted to kill Jesus when he claimed to be equal to the Father (Jn 8:58). 
  • Four other occurences in Rev (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5)

 

“and from the seven Spirits who are before the throne,”

  • 2nd source of “grace” and “peace”
  • Who are they? There are two prevailing views:
    • They are seven angels that have a special ministry in connection with the Lamb
      • Similar to other passages (Lk 9:26; 1Ti 5:21)
      • “before the throne” signifies subordinate creatures
      • Pneuma à “spirit” is used in the NT to refer to fallen and unfallen angels
    • They refer to the Holy Spirit
      • John may be borrowing from imagery from Zechariah 4:1-10
      • A source of “grace” and “peace” in the context must be equal with God (Heb 10:29; Gal 5:22)
      • The Holy Spirit does proceed from the Father and the Son and Revelation seems to allude to this “sending” (Jn 15:26; Rev 4:5; 5:6)
      • Revelation’s strict prohibition angel worship would make this a strange inclusion (Rev 19:10; 22:9)
      • When angels (other than demons) are referred to in Revelation the word “Pneuma” is not used for them.
      • Some think that Is. 11:2 refers to seven spirits of God as the Holy Spirit.
    • Conclusion:  I think that the Holy Spirit best fits the context, especially when tying in Zech. 4 with Rev 4 & 5.

 

“and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

  • 3rd source of “grace” and “peace”, probably mentioned last because of the fuller description that follows
  • Last time “Jesus Christ” is used until Rev 22:21
  • Jesus was the “faithful witness” in his life and his death
    • As prophecied in the OT (Ps 2:7; Ps 89:7)
    • As told by John in the NT (Jn 3:32; Jn 18:37)
    • It is a continuing theme in Rev (2:13; 11:3; 17:6)
    • He was the model for us (1Ti 6:13; Acts 1:8)
  • Jesus was the “firstborn” from among the dead ones (1Co 15:20-23)
    • As prophesied in the OT (Ps 89:27)
    • John tells us of two other resurrections in Rev 20:5-6 and 20:12-15
    • MacArthur notes that the “firstborn” not only refers to sequence but also to preeminence

  • Jesus is and will be the “ruler of the kings of the earth”
    • As prophesied in the OT (Ps 2; Ps 89:27)
    • In the NT (Phil 2:9-11; Rev 19:16)
    • This speaks of the fulfillment of 2 Sam 7:12-16
    • Satan offered to give Jesus this, but he waits for the proper time (Mt 4:8-10)
  • This profound description of Jesus follows one of the major outlines of Revelation
    • He was the faithful witness in the past. His present ministry as the resurrected Lord & Savior. His future role as the King of kings

 

“To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by his blood--”

  • This is another unique usage of Greek tenses
    • “who loves us” is written in the present tense
    • “released” or “loosed” us from our sins is past tense
    • It shows the present and continuing (Rom 8:35-39) “love” of Christ, which was completed once for all by his blood sacrifice in the past.
    • The Exodus story is the OT depiction of this great work that Jesus did to show His love for us.

 

“and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father--”

  • This is another aspect of Christ’s work in the past just as in the Exodus (Ex 19:5-6; Col 1:13;1 Pet 2:5-9)
    • We are colectively part of a kingdom where Christ is the king.  Although the millenial kingdom is to come later)
    • We are individually priests, which gives us both benefits and responsibilities
      • Benefit à access to God (Heb 10:19-20)
      • Responsibility à Lev 10:10-11; Matt 28:19,20; Rom 15:15-16

 

“to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

  • What is glory? What is dominion?
  • These belong to Jesus and Him alone.  This is the end of the doxology in which we turn all of these that belong to Him over to Him.  For how long?
    • “forever and ever” is another strange Greek phrase
    • It is the largest Greek word that measures time, in its plural form, and then multiplied by itself
    • Literally it is “eons” of “eons”
  • Amen = “So be it”

“Behold, He is coming”

  • Behold à a call to attention
    • The first of two oracles from God in Revelation reflect its importance (Rev 21:5-8)
  • “He is coming”
    • Present tense “is” indicates He is on His way; His coming is imminent
    • Appears 11 times, seven by Jesus (1:4,8; 2:5,16; 3:11; 4:8; 16:15; 22:7,12,20)
  • Is He coming?
    • Not all think so… (2Pe 3:3-4)
    • The Bible refers to His coming in over 500 verses (1 out of 25 in the NT)
    • Jesus repeatedly talked about it (Jn 14:1-3; Lk 19:11-15,27; Acts 1:9-11)
    • OT refers to it from the beginning (Gen 49:10)
  • Is this referring to Christ’s 2nd Coming?
    • John appears to have joined together prophecies from the OT
      • Dan 7:13,14 – the Son of Man’s rule over a worldwide unending kingdom
      • Zech 12:9,10 – Repentance of Israel when Jerusalem is restored to prominence
    • This is the 2nd time John has referred to Zech 12:10 (Jn 19:37)
    • Jesus does the same thing in Matt 24:29-30 & Lk 21:21-28 (cf. Mk 13:26)


 

  • Is this a different coming of Christ?
    • Some Spiritualists or Spiritual/Historicists (Beale) – Rushdooney says “Christ comes continuously in the clouds of judgment over history”
    • Some Preterists (Chilton) believe this is a figurative description of Christ’s coming to destroy Jerusalem through the Roman armies in 70 A.D.  They would argue the following:
      • The “coming” of the Lord does not always refer to the 2nd coming (Rev 2:5; Isa 19:1; Zech 1:16)
      • Coming “with clouds” is used in the OT is associated with historic judgments not the end of the world (Isa 19:1; Ps 104:3; Nah 1:2-8)
      • Jesus promised that some of His contemporaries would see Him coming (Mt 16:28; Mt 24:30,34; Mt 26:64).  This would allow “those who pierced Him” as the generation that crucified Christ.
      • The Zech 12:10 passage refers to the “inhabitants of Jerusalem” as those who would mourn

“with the clouds,”

  • Clouds à refer to God’s presence
    • For the Israelites being led out of Egypt (Ex 13:21-22)
    • While giving the law at Mt Sinai (Ex 19:16-17; 20:21)
    • While meeting with Moses (Ex 33:9)
    • In filling the Tabernacle and the Temple (Ex 40:34-38; 1Ki 8:10-12)
    • Jesus ascended in the clouds (Acts 1:9)

“and every eye will see him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.”

  • Zech 12 definitely refers to the repentant response of Israel, but John expands the scope of the audience by using the explicit clause “every eye”.
  • Who was responsible for piercing Him?  (Jn 19:31-37;  Acts 2:22-23; Zech 12:10)
  • Who are “all the tribes of the earth” and what is the nature of their mourning?  Two views:
    • Refers to all the tribes of the “land” (tribes of Israel), who mourn by way of repentance
      • It matches the meaning of the Zech 12:10 passage
      • “tribes” in Greek often is used in this way to refer to the tribes of Israel
      • Israel’s repentance and national blessing as associated with the 2nd coming are prominent in Revelation
    • Refers to all the nations of the earth, who mourn in despair
      • Jesus refers to the Zech 12:10 passage in Matt 24:30 in this way.  The Greek in Rev 1:7 agrees more in form with Matt 24:30 than Zech 12:10.
      • Mourn à means literally “to cut” (cf. 1Ki 18:28)
      • Mourning later in Rev is shown in this way (Rev 16:9,11,21)
      • “tribes” in Rev. is used in the context of worldwide scope (Rev 5:9; 7:9; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6)
    • Thomas paraphrases in this way, “All the families of the earth will mourn over Him with remorse because of the severity of the punishment inflicted upon them in conjunction with His return.”

 

“So it is to be.  Amen.”

  • “So it is to be” à Greek word of affirmation
  • “Amen” à refers to the Hebrew word of affirmation
  • Two words used in this way emphasize the strength of the words.  We can be absolutely certain that this prophecy will happen as foretold.  Also used in Rev 22:20.
  • Where is the promise of His coming?” – 2Pet.3:4

“ ’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ’who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’ ”

  • As if the stamp of certainty at the end of verse 7 was not enough, John emphatically adds the stamp of God’s signature to the prophecy!
  • The eternal nature of God is pounded home once again:
    • Alpha & Omega à first and last letters of the Greek alphabet
    • “who is” in the present, “who is” in the past, “who is” in the future
    • Thomas – “the boundless life which embraces all while it transcends all”
  • The Almighty
    • Etymologically it reads - “the one who holds all” or “the one who has authority over all”
    • The term focuses on God’s sovereignty – the “All-Ruler”
  • Is this referring to Jesus or God the Father?
    • Support for Jesus as the speaker:
      • Jesus calls himself the Alpha & Omega in Rev 22:10
      • Jesus is the first and the last in Rev 1:17
      • Jesus has been the subject since verse 5
    • Support for the God the Father as the speaker:
      • The Lord God is an OT reference to God the Father
      • Same phrase as in 1:4 which refers to the Father
      • God the Father is referred to as “Alpha and Omega” in Rev 21:6
    • Thomas – “Whichever conclusion is correct, it is clear that a close affinity exist between the Father and the Son in this book.” (cf. Col 2:9)

 

3.    Vision of the Glorified Son (1:9-20)

a.    The Setting and Instructions (9-11)

(9) I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverence which are

in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

·         3rd time John names himself in the first nine verses.  “I John,” common declaration in Ap. Lit. which indicates force.

·         After the grand doxology, it is as if John now speaks directly to his audience (bond-servants of the 7 churches)

·         John associates himself with his audience, instead of claiming authority as an Apostle:

o   Synkoinonos à One who is a part of their fellowship, same word as Paul uses in (Phil 4:14)

o   A fellow brother and member of the kingdom of God

o   One who also suffers and perseveres for Jesus 

·         John associates himself with his audience in a very intimate and common way (Acts 14:19-22).

o   Present suffering associated with the kingdom requires patient waiting “in Jesus” signifies this is a Christian experience

o   Very appropriate considering the state of these churches and their expectation of the future kingdom.

o   “tribulation” in the general sense, in contrast to, the “great tribulation” event (Rev 2:22; Rev 7:14; Jn 16:33)

·         The Island of Patmos

o   Located off the coast of Asia Minor it is crescent shaped and is 10 miles long and five miles wide.  In a group of 50 islands called Dodecanese.  It is a barren and rocky place that was used as a penal settlement by the Romans.

o   Thomas – “Early Christian tradition says John was sent here during Domitian’s reign over Rome and was forced to work in the mines.”


 

·         Why was John there?

o   One view claims that John was there for the purpose of receiving “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev1:2).  The phrase is merely another name for the book of Revelation.

o   The other claims that John was exiled here because he had been preaching the gospel.

§  “was on” is literally translated “I became”, which indicates an involuntary nature of existence.

§  This makes better use of  dia which means “because of”, as opposed to “for the purpose of”.  It also fits better with other uses of the phrase in Rev 6:9; 20:4.

o   “The word of God” even “the testimony of Jesus”.  They refer to the same thing.

 (10) I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a

trumpet,

·         What does it mean that John was in the Spirit?

o   Like in verse 9 it is literally “I became” which indicates something happening to John

o   Pneumati can mean the Holy Spirit or a man’s spirit.  Most likely here it refers to John becoming or being relocated into the state of spirit.

o   Hort – “state in which the ordinary faculties of the flesh are suspended, and the inward senses opened.”

o   Conclusion - Daniel had dreams in which he was asleep, and he had visions in which he appears to be awake.  John may be experiencing visions such as Daniel.

·         When was John in the Spirit?

o   One view claims that John was transported “in spirit” to the scenes of the eschatological Day of the Lord

§  It fits well with a key theme in Revelation (16:14)

§  Sunday is unlikely because it was referred to as “the first day of the week” (Mt 28:1; Acts 20:7; 1Co 16:2)

o   The other view claims that it was merely on Sunday

§  A number of extra-biblical writings from Asia Minor shortly after this time used the “Lord’s day” to refer to Sunday.  It became the customary way for Christians to refer to Sunday by the 2nd century.

§  The usage of the word for “Lord” is as an adjective of “day”.  This use is never seen elsewhere in the “Day of the Lord” where “Lord” is a noun.

§  The message of the vision, in the context of Rev, does not appear to be one of the last days but before then. (Rev 4:1)

·         What did John hear?

o   A loud voice behind him (cf Ez 3:12)

§  Clearly indicates “importance” and “solemnity” throughout Rev. (5:2,12; 6:10; 7:2,10; 8:13; 10:3; 11:12,15; 12:10; 14:2,15,18: 16:1,17; 19:1,17)

o   Like the sound of a trumpet

§  Indicates a clear signal to submit to whatever it commanded

John is Commissioned to Write

(11) Saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

·         What two things was John instructed to do?

o   “Write in a book” (literally a scroll).  Kenyon suggests it would have been about 15 ft. long

o   “what you see” and what you will continue to see (cf v.19)

o   “Send it to the seven churches”

§  Seven centers of postal districts in Asia Minor

§  The order of names given would have been the order they would have received the letter when travelling on major highway through Asia Minor

§  Gregg – “Those who describe Revelation as a drama divisble into seven ‘acts’ of seven ‘scenes’ each, usually see this portion as a sort of opening vision, introductory to the seven scenes in chapters 2 and 3…”

b.    The Vision (12-16)

(12) Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me.  And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;

·         The lampstands represent the seven churches (v.20) and also relate to two OT references to lampstands (Zech 4:2; Ex 25:31-40)

·         Golden lampstands mean they were valuable.  How valuable were the churches to Jesus Christ? (Acts 20:28)

·         The church was to be the light to the world just as Jesus instructed (Mt 5:14; Phil 2:14-15; Eph 5:8-13; Rev 2:5)

The next four verses describe what John sees.  Interestingly, these characterstics of the vision are repeated in the message to the churches (Rev 2-3)

Thomas – “It is apparent that the appearance of Christ in this vision is designed to emphasize the aspects of His

nature that are most relevant to the needs and circumstances of the seven churches…”

(13) and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the

feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.

·         Who is the “one like the son of man”?

o   The answer is found in Rev 1:18 and Dan 7:13 with Mk 13:26

o   The title “son of man” denotes human form, has a messianic connotation and seems to relate to Jesus’ capacity to judge (Jn 5:22,27; Acts 17:31)

·         Why do you think he is in the middle? (Mt 28:20)

·         What is the significance of wearing a “robe reaching to the feet”?

o   Christ as prophet (Ez 9:2-3, Dan 10:5-6)

o   One who is dignified (1 Sam 18:4; 24:5; Ezek 26:16) as of royalty

o   Christ as High Priest (Ex 28:1-4; Lev 16:4; Heb 2:17-18; 7:25)

·         Why does he wear a “golden sash”?

o   Refers to the dress of the High Priest (Ex 28:4; 39:29)

o   Refers to the divine messenger (Dan 10:5)

o   Angels of the seven last plagues in Rev 15:6 bear these same sashes

(14) His head and His hair were white like wool, like snow, and His eyes were like a flame of fire.

·         “white like wool, like snow”

o   Also used in Daniel’s vision (Dan 7:9) to refer to God the Father

o   Could represent the sinless righteous one (Isa 1:18)

·         “eyes were like a flame of fire”

o   MacArthur – “His searching, revealing, infallible gaze penetrates to the very depths of His church, revealing to Him with piercing clarity the reality of everything there is to know.” (Heb 4:13)

o   Same as in Dan 10:6

o   Fire is also used in Dan 7:9, but not of eyes.

(15) His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and his voice was

like the sound of many waters.

·         “feet were like burnished bronze”

o   Same as Dan 10:6

o   Feet in the NT symbolize movement (Rom 3:15; Heb 12:13)

o   The glowing state of the metal may denote purity of refinement

o   May signify Christ’s movement among the churches to refine and purify


 

·         “the sound of many waters”

o   Used to show the awesome power of God (Ps 93:4; Ezek 43:2; Rev 14:2)

o   God speaking through His Son (Heb 1:1-3)

(16) In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and

His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

·         “seven stars”

o   Represent seven messengers (v.20) to the seven churches

o   What kind of messengers are these?

o   In his right hand signifies one of two things

§  Safekeeping of the messengers

§  Control & Authority over the messengers

·          “a sharp two-edged sword”

o   The Word of God coming in judgment (Heb 4:12; Rev 2:16; 19:15,21; Eph 6:17)

o   Signifies Christ coming as a warrior to destroy hisenemies (2 Thess 2:8)

·         “like the sun shining in its strength”

o   The climax which descibes the overwhelming glory of Christ, similar to what John saw on the mount of transfiguration when he was a young man. (Matt 17:2)

o   Moses shined (Ex 34:29-30)

o   We are going to shine (Mt 13:43; 2Co 4:6-10)

c.    The Vision Explained (17-20)

(17) When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man.  And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,

  • Why did John respond in this way?
    • Compare to the same language used in Mk 9:26.
    • Why might it seem strange that John was afraid of Jesus? (Jn 21:20; Jn 19:25-27)
    • He was afraid like Ezekiel was (Eze 1:28), like Job was (Job 42:5-6), like Isaiah was (Isa 6:5), like Daniel was (Dan 10:4-12), like Peter, James and John were (Mat 17:1-6,7), and like Paul was (Acts 9:3-4).
    • It was the correct response (cf Heb 12:28-29)

  • What is the Son’s response to his beloved servant?
    • God is One who casts out fear (Gen 15:1; Josh 1:9; Isa 41:8-10,13-14)
    • He touched him as an expression of comfort and assurance just like the first time (Mat 17:7)
    • What does the right hand usually indicate? (Power & Blessing)
    • John was afraid, and Jesus told him to “stop fearing” (Mt 14:27; Lk 1:12-13, 30; Acts 27:24).
    • Jesus, in a sense, acts out for John a truth he once wrote (1 John 4:7-19)
    • A picture of salvation:  John lowers himself in unworthiness; Jesus accepts him as he is
    • “Nothing compares to the promise we have in Him!”

  • Reason(1) for not being afraid: “I am the first and the last”
    • Ego eimi = I AM (Ex 3:14; Jn 8:58)
    • “I AM, stop fearing” - Mt 14:27; but in Rev 1:17 it is “Stop fearing, I AM”
    • I am the eternal God (Isa 41:4; 44:6; 48:12)


 

(18) and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades.

  • Reason(2) for not being afraid: “and the living One;”
    • A phrase applied to God throughout the OT (Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10; Psa 42:1-2; Jer 10:10)
    • And in the NT (Mt 16:16; Acts 14:15; Rom 9:25-26)
    • Why is this a reason for not being afraid?  God lives and therefore so will we (Jn 14:18-21)

  • Reason(3) for not being afraid: “and I was dead.”
    • Literally “I came to be dead”, which indicates its temporal nature in contrast to “living One” before it and “alive forevermore” after it.
    • He died on our behalf (2 Co 5:14-21)

  • Reason(4) for not being afraid: “and behold, I am alive forevermore,”
    • Literally – “I AM into the eons of eons” (cf 1:6) (Deut 32:39-40; Dan 4:34; Dan 12:7)

  • Reason(5) for not being afraid: “and I have the keys of death and Hades”
    • He holds the keys to death.  What does it mean for someone to have the keys to something?
      • Death & Hades – (Lk 16:19-24; Mt 11:23; Rev 20:11-15).  Hades is almost always joined together with Death.  The Son has control over death (Jn 5:25-29)
      • Why would this be a comfort? (Rev 3:7-9; 1Co 15:51-57,58)

(19) Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.

  • What is John supposed to write?
    • “the things which you have seen”
      • What has John seen?

    • “and the things which are”
      • What things ARE? (Rev 4:1)

    • “and the things which will take place after these things”
      • What are these things that will take place later?  

(20) As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands; the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

  • Jesus interprets the symbolism of His own vision
    • 7 Golden Lampstands à 7 Churches (in Asia Minor)  
    • 7 Stars à 7 Angels/Messengers of the 7 Churches (Four main views)
      • Angelic beings which are the guardian angels of each church (guardian angels Mt 18:10; Dan 10:13,20-21)
      • Personified spirits of the churches that represent the current spiritual state
      • Human beings (messengers) that represented a significant leader of that church (i.e. a paster/elder/etc) (Matt 11:10)
      • Human beings (messengers) who were had no particular prominance, but were simply the messengers of the letter.

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