1. Prologue, 1:1–8
1) Superscription, 1–3
Verse 1a gives the epistle’s theme, “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” “Revelation” here refers to truths man does not and cannot know until God reveals them (Rom 16:25–26). These truths come from the Father, to Jesus Christ, and then through an angel to John. The truths Jesus gives “must soon take place” (Dan 2:28), meaning there is nothing remaining to be fulfilled before these events take place—imminency.
John tells us in v. 2 that “he saw” these things, referring to prophetic visions. God will bless those who hear and obey this Word, strengthening their faith in their present circumstances and giving assurance of eternal life. “The time is near” stress the urgency and imminency of the events of this prophecy.
2) Introduction, 4–8
These verses focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ. The writer and readers are addressed and greeted (v. 4–5a). The Father is eternal and sovereign (v. 4b). The Spirit knows all things (v. 4c). The Son is true and trustworthy, preeminent over all, the Messiah (v. 5a).
Jesus is praised because through him sinners are forgiven (v. 5b), made heirs of his coming millennial kingdom (v. 6a), and have direct access to the Father (v. 6b).
Jesus deserves everlasting rule and authority (v. 7, quoting Dan 7:13; Zech 12:10). He is sovereign and all–powerful (“Alpha and Omega,” Creator and end of everything) and eternal (v. 8b).
2. The Revelation of Jesus Christ Concerning the Things Which Are, 1:9–3:22
Here Jesus gives his message to the circumstances and spiritual needs of the seven churches.
1) John’s Vision of Christ, 1:9–20
- The Setting of the Vision, 9–11
Like the recipients John was persecuted for his faith (“tribulation”) and was a co–heir of Christ’s coming kingdom and eternal salvation (v. 9a). He was imprisoned on the island of Patmos for preaching (v. 9b).
One Sunday the Holy Spirit caused John to see this vision(“in the spirit,” v. 10; cf. 2 Pet 1:20–21) and instructed him to write down what he saw and send it to the seven churches (v. 11). The “book” wasn’t like our books—John wrote on papyrus sewn together and rolled on a spindle.
- The Description of Christ, 12–16
John saw “one like a son of man,” a title describing the Messiah from Daniel 7:13–14 (cf. Mark 13:26). The “lampstands” refer to the churches(v. 20). John saw Jesus wearing a robe, similar to that of OT priests, and also describing Jesus as judge (cf. Ezek 9:2; Zech 3;4; Dan 7:9–14).
The various aspects of Jesus’ glorious appearance (vv. 14–16) are interpreted different ways. Unless the Bible specifically defines them, we don’t know for sure what their significance is. Because of this, it is best not to worry about that unless the nearer or larger contexts tell us.
This description of Jesus is just like OT visible appearances of God (theophany, Ezek 1:13, 27; Dan 7:9; 10:5–6). This shows that Jesus is fully God.
The “seven stars” (v. 16) refer to the angels of the seven churches (v. 20). The sword emphasizes his absolute authority(cf. Isa 49:2; Heb 4:12). Everyone must heed what Jesus says “or else.” 🙂
- The Commands Given to John, 17–20
Though John is at first frightened, Jesus encourages him using titles that stress his power and authority (vv. 17–18).
As “the first and the last” Jesus is both God and King because he is creator, ruler, and goal of creation. By holding “the keys of death and of Hades” (v. 18) Jesus has absolute, final authority over eternal life and punishment. If you heed Jesus’ words, you have eternal life. If you reject his words, you will suffer eternal punishment.
Jesus interprets the symbols so that we can understand what he told John (v. 20). The “stars” are in Jesus’ right hand because he has control over them. The “lampstands” bear the light of God’s truth. Jesus is among the churches with full knowledge of their condition and spiritual needs.