John's Vision of the Glorified Christ

Revelation 1:9-20

Introduction

The Apostle John was privileged to walk with the Lord Jesus while he was a young man. Originally one of the disciples of John the Baptist, he heard the Baptizer mention, Behold the Lamb of God! (cf. John:1:35-40) and went with Andrew to investigate. That began at least 3 years of intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus. As a young man John saw Jesus turn water into wine, perform the miracle of the loaves, walk on water, and travel about healing. He was with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, leaned on Jesus' breast at the last supper, called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved, watched the Lord die on Calvary and met the resurrected Christ several times before Christ ascended to heaven.

But none of this could prepare him for the vision of the glorified Christ that John recorded as his first vision! Regardless of his familiarity with Jesus, regardless of serving him for these 60 years, following the vision here John tells us…

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and and of death. (cf. Rev. 1:17-18).

The aged Apostle was devastated, frightened almost to death and frozen in terror at this glimpse of the glorified Christ of God, who examines the churches and is coming again to judge the living and dead. This vision of Christ is how the Lord is now manifested in the work He carries out! This paragraph can be divided into three main parts, providing the concluding introduction to the contents of the book: 1.) John's commission to write the Revelation, 2.) John's vision of the glorified Christ, 3.) John's outline of the Revelation.

John's Commission to Write

I John, who also am your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last; and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia and unto Laodicea. (vss. 9-11)

The Apostle speaks in amazement, as a witness to these events, with an unusual humility, bearing witness to what he sees: I John your brother and companion. The emphatic pronoun draws attention to his humble attitude, as he omits any title such as apostle, elder or even pastor. As brother (Greek, adelphos ) he identifies himself as on the same level as his readers, which was the usual practice of the apostles and Jerusalem elders. Although they understood their authoritative office, they sought to identify with those they ministered to on an equal basis. (cf. Acts 15:23)

John also is a companion in tribulation and kingdom and patience; (1) that is, a joint participation in three areas: tribulation, the kingdom and endurance of the saints, with the other believers of the seven churches in Asia Minor. Here he identifies with those suffering tribulation for the cause of Christ.

Afflictions are not the only thing that Christians have in common of course…but fellowship in suffering is one of the most frequent, if not the most frequent, among the stock of primitive Christian ideas. This is an indispensable element of Christian discipleship and following the example of Jesus. (2)

Question: which tribulation does John share with the other believers? Some suggest this is the special Tribulation period recorded in the Revelation, i.e., chapters 6-19, but perhaps it is better to see this as the more common general tribulation spoken about in Acts 14:22.

Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.(3)

When the book of the Revelation was written, Polycarp was pastor at Symrna and Polycarp was burned at the stake. When the book of the Hebrews was written, Ignatius was pastor of the church at Antioch. He was condemned to die. He was taken to Rome and there torn by wild beasts, the first Christian to die in the Roman Colosseum which had just been completed. This is the story of the people of our Lord through all the generations and through all the centuries.(4)

The specific persecution under Domitian was terrible as the depraved emperor was known for cruelty. According to tradition, John was taken from Ephesus to Rome…

…where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos…The emperor Domitian, who was naturally inclined to cruelty, first slew his brother, and then raised the second persecution against the Christians.(5)

Further he identifies his suffering as on the island of Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Patmos belongs to a group of 50 islands, 10 miles long and 5 miles wide. In the Aegean Sea this would be a common form of Roman punishment. Because Rome would consider John a criminal, he would be on a chain gang, perhaps breaking rocks and living in a cave at night.

[ banishment would be…] preceded by scourging , marked by perpetual fetters, scanty clothing, insufficient food, sleep on the bare ground, a dark prison, work under the lash or the military overseer.(William Ramsey)

The Apostle further identifies the occasion as to why he was on Patmos: he had preached the Word of God and proclaimed the testimony of Christ. (6) According to Irenaeus (A.D. 170), John was exiled during the reign of Domitian who ruled from 81-96. History records that banishment was one of the favorite forms of the Emperor's punishments. Historian Suetonius records that Domitian became obsessed with power and demanded he be addressed as "Our Lord and our God" and was the first Roman emperor who demanded his image be set up throughout the Empire and worship be made to him. cf. Domitian, C. 13. Hence, it would be easy to see why John the Apostle would be exiled during Domitian's reign.

What does John mean, I was in the Spirit? Evidently, he was transcended out of human sense into some divine vision. It was a bringing by the Holy Spirit into a special exalted experience although awake. And the time this happened was the Lord's day. There are two views as to this term:
1.) the time was the future day of the Lord or judgment day. That is, John's vision extended down through time to the Day of the Lord, i.e., the tribulation. John F. Walvoord explains this view:

The word Lord in this passage is actually an adjective, used in the sense of lordian. Though today the expression is used commonly of the first day of the week, it is nowhere so used in the Bible. The day of Christ's resurrection is consistently referred to as the first day of the week and never as the Lord's day (Matt. 28:1; 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 9; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2). It is true that the same adjective (Gr. kyriakos) is found in I Corinthians 11:20 referring to the Lord's Supper characteristically observed by the early church on the first day of the week. Moulton and Milligan also call attention to the fact that the word is frequently used outside the Bible in the sense of imperial and cite Deissman: "that the distinctive title 'Lord's Day' may have been connected with the conscious feelings of protest against the cult of the Emperor with its Emperor's Day." There is no solid evidence, however, that the expression used by John was ever intended to refer to the first day of the week. It is rather a reference to the day of the Lord of the Old Testament, an extended period of time in which God deals in judgment and sovereign rule over the earth…The New Testament term is therefore the equivalent to the Old Testament expression the day of the Lord.(7)

2.) The time was the Lord's day or Sunday. This evidently was the view of the early church, for by the second century the day of the Lord was the common reference to Sunday, when Christ rose from the dead and believers gathered to worship. Three early quotes from the church fathers confirm this Sunday meaning: "On the Lord's Day we meet and break bread," The Didache, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles ; Ignatius of Antioch describes Christians as "no longer living for the Sabbath, but for the Lord's Day. There is no need to choose between these two views, as both offer good sense to the passage. John in his vision did see the future and the time of the vision was perhaps Sunday. But the weight of evidence points to John's vision on Sunday, because of the early quotes above come from the area of Asia Minor.

John heard a voice, as of a trumpet. Often when God's voice is heard as a sovereign solemn pronouncement, it sounds like a trumpet.

And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud: so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke therof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice…(cf. Exod. 19:16-25; compare with Rev. 4:1)

The voice commanded, 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. The KJV is somewhat expanded here, adding the prefaced identification, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, but lacks good manuscript evidence and is implied from vs. 17.

The writing is to be in a book ( Greek, biblios ) or on parchment scroll, to send to seven churches that make up a special postal route in the Asia Minor area. Twelve times John is told on Patmos to write (cf. Rev. 1:19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5) and once not to write (cf. Rev. 10:4). This would suggest wide distribution for the Revelation was expected by John.

John's Vision of the Glorified Christ

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two- edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. (vss. 12-16)

The Apostle John turns to see the source of the voice and explains what he saw from the general to the specific: the seven candlesticks, the Son of man, the clothing of the Son of man and the personal characteristics of the Son of man.

A. The Seven Golden Candlesticks. The first thing to capture John's attention was the seven golden candlesticks. No doubt the image is borrowed from the seven-branched golden lampstand of the tabernacle and later the temple (cf. Exod. 25:31-40) and the seven lamps mentioned in Zechariah 4:2. Both were symbolic of the witness that God's people were to be to the surrounding Gentile nations. However, there seems to be a slight difference as Walvoord points out…

In the Tabernacle and in the Temple one of the items of equipment was a seven-branched lampstand, a single stand with three lamps on each side and one lamp in the center forming the central shaft. It would seem from the description here that instead of one lampstand with seven separate lampstands each made of gold and arranged in a circle. (p. 43)

The seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches, according to verse twenty, which are to set forth the light of God's glory and will in the dark world.

The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches (cf. Rev. 1:20)

The number seven in Biblical numerology represents completion and perfection, i.e., the complete witness for God in the world, either in the testimony of the nation of Israel or the Church.

Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (cf. Exod. 19:5-6)

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (cf. I Peter2:9)

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blamelsee and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain neither laboured in vain. (cf. Phil. 2:14-16)

B. One Like Unto the Son of Man. John recognized something of a resemblance to the Son of man, but there were nine obvious differences, which he will describe next. The term Son of man has its origin from Daniel's prophesy, which Jesus Christ attributed to Himself.

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. (cf. Dan. 7:13)

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. (cf. Mark 13:26)

The title Son of man is used only twice in the Revelation (cf. 14:14), but no doubt is used of John to relate to His messianic character connecting the Lord Jesus to Daniel's prophesy.

C. The Clothing of the Son of Man. John gives a general description of the Son of man's clothing to the more specific description of His person. (8) Two identifying aspects of His clothing are mentioned.

1.) Clothed with a garment down to the foot. This speaks of a garment of a high priest who would function also as a judge in OT responsibility. This garment down to the foot speaks of various priestly garments: the breastplate (cf. Exod. 25:6-7); the ephod (cf. Exod. 28:27); and the robe of the ephod (cf. Exod. 28:4). Christ is seen here in His high priestly ministry moving among His church, making intercession, correcting us, empowering us and judging us. Hence, the persecuted church is immediately encouraged by the present priestly ministry of the Lord. (9)

And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office. (Exod. 28:4)

And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuked thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. (cf. Zech. 3:1-7)

2.) Girdled about the breasts with a golden girdle. The priestly garment was girded higher on the body than usual. To be girded about the loins is indicative of service; to be girded about the breasts is indicative of privilege and dignity. Josephus points out a twofold reason: it speaks of dignity and majesty; it allows for greater freedom of movement.

And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod: (cf. Exod. 29:5) And they made coats of fine linen of fine linen of woven work for Aaron, and for his sons, And a mitre of fine linen, and goodly bonnets of fine linen, and linen breeches of fine twined linen, And a girdle of fine twined linen, and blue, an purple, and scarlet, of needlework; as the LORD commanded Moses. And they made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing, like to the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. (cf. Exod. 39:27-31)

D. The Person of the Son of Man. Moving from the general to the specific, John is captivated by the personal appearance of the Lord and describes seven distinctive things about what he saw.

1.) His head and hair were white as wool. The emblem here is borrowed from Daniel's prophesy, which is interesting for the Ancient of Days represents there the Father with the Son of man representative of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus shares the same glorious attributes and majesty of power as God the Father!

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool; his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire…I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (cf. Dan. 7:9-14)

The white head and hair, according to the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7, speaks of His eternal pre-existence, and longevity. Others suggest it speaks of His sinlessness or unchangeableness in contrast to decay. (Walvoord, p.44)

2.) His eyes were like a flame of fire. This speaks of the searching righteousness of divine judgment on all that is impure; it speaks of burning all-penetrating intelligence, with the power to bring hidden secrets to light. The Lord Jesus is seen with the penetrating gaze of omniscience, where He knows the church and each member thoroughly!

His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. (cf. Dan. 10:6)

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (cf. Heb. 4:11-13)

3.) His feet were like fine bronze in a furnace. Also speaking of the movement of divine judgment, the bronze of brass recalls the brazen altar of the OT, where sacrifice of sin was made. (cf. Exodus 39:30). Here Christ is seen walking in the midst of the churches, executing judgment and righteous sentence. Movement is involved, as the feet often symbolize such. (cf. Luke 1:79; Acts 5:9; Rom. 3:15; 10:15; Heb. 12:13.)

The glory of this metal, in such a state, is almost insufferable to the human gaze. It presents an image of pureness which is terrible. And it is upon these feet of dreadful holiness that our Lord walks among the Churches, and shall tread down all abominations, and crush Antichrist, and Satan, and all who unhappily set aside his authority and his claims. Beautiful are those feet to them that love him, but terrible and consuming to those who shall be trodden by them. (10)

4.) His voice was like many waters. No doubt John was constantly reminded of this deafening sound, as the waves would continually beat on the rocky shore of the Isle of Patmos. This speaks of authority and power! This is similar to the voice sounding like a trumpet (vs. 10). Especially when God speaks in terrible judgment, His voice is loud and deafening.

Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. (cf. Jer. 25:30-32)

5.) His right hand carried seven stars. As these are further identified as the angels of the seven churches or messengers (vs. 20) of the churches, Christ is seen as holding or controlling the pastors' ministry. Joseph A. Seiss comments:

The democratic idea of Church organization, which make all power proceed from the members, and makes the ministerial position nothing more than what inheres in every Christian, is thus scattered to the winds. Ministers have relations to Christ and to the Church, which ordinary Church members have not. They partake directly of Christ's authority, and are responsible directly to him, and are upheld by his right hand, beyond, the power of men and angels to displace them. What a lesson for ministers, as to the holiness of their office, the solemnity of their responsibilities, the necessity of unswerving fidelity, and the exercise of every confidence in their sacred functions. They are in Christ's hand. If they are unfaithful none can deliver them out of that hand; but if true to their position, none can touch them, or quench their light. They shall shine as the stars forever and ever. What a lesson for all as to the Divine majesty and glory of our Lord!. The Pauls, and Johns, and Husses, the Luthers, and Cranmers, and Knoxes, and Westleys, and all the hosts of those who have been teaching and guiding the Churches for these 1800 years, are no more than rings upon his fingers. But they are jewels to him. He holds them as precious. Disregarded as they may be of men, they are dear to him. He holds them, as a man holds what he most esteems. He holds them for service now, and for judgment when he cometh. He holds them, for success against the hosts of evil, for glorious honour if they are faithful, and for eternal disgrace if they are not. (p. 41)

6.) His mouth sent forth a sharp two-edged sword. This is a large sword (Greek, pomphaia ) which is long and heavy, used primarily to kill instead of wound. This is Jesus Christ in His protective ministry of the church, where He wars in judgment against all those who try to destroy or hurt His church!

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (cf. I Cor. 3:16-17)

To the messenger of the church of Pergamum was given the warning of impending judgment, unless the church repents. Here we learn that with the sharp sword with two edges, Christ will war against those who hold to the doctrine of Balaam in the local church!

And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works…Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (cf. Rev. 2:12-27)

7.) His countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength. Similar to what John saw on the Mount of Transfiguration, the Lord's face was as the sun at it's blazing height. Robert L. Thomas gives a helpful summary of this nine-fold description.

This first vision of John, then, included an indication of Jesus' Messianic office with its associated functions: judgment of the unrighteous and comfort of the suffering righteous, His high rank that fits Him as an agent of imposing divine wrath, His activity in imposing that wrath, His preexistence along with God the Father, His penetrating intelligence that enables Him to perform righteous judgment, His movement among the churches to enforce standards of moral purity, His identification with the Father in the power of His utterance, His authority over the seven messengers and the churches they represent, His power to overcome His enemies and pronounce judgment upon them, and His return to earth to implement judgment upon mankind. (EC:Rev. 1-7, p.105)

John's Reaction and
Recommission to Write

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead: and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. (vss. 17-20)

The aged Apostle John was shocked or terrorized by the vision of the glory of Jesus Christ, falling down in fear. (11) John was viewing unveiled Deity, unlike during the incarnation. John was suddenly struck with his own frailty, finiteness and insignificance, before the majesty and glory of the Lord God in the form of Jesus Christ. John's response is similar to Daniel's, when he saw the vision of the Son of man.

Therefore I was left alone and saw a great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground.(12)

Prostration to the ground is a frequent response to men in the Bible who receive a supernatural manifestation from God. (cf. Ezek.1:28; 3:23; 9:8; 11:13; 43:3; 44:4; Dan. 2:46; 8:17; 10:9: Matt. 17:6; Luke 5:8; Acts 26:14, etc.). Similar to the comforting of Daniel (cf. Dan.10: 10-12, 18) and the comforting following the Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:7), the Lord puts His right hand upon John and affirms him with the words, Fear not, I am the first and the last…the keys of hell and of death. Significant especially are the first several words, i.e., I am, which claim to be Jehovah of the OT, acting no doubt as a great encouragement to the terrified Apostle on Patmos. (13)

The Lord continued to encourage John by the reminder of His eternality (i.e., I am the first and the last, cf. vs. 8), His death and resurrection and the fact that He holds the keys of hell and death. This is a way of claiming that He gives life or consigns to death. Keys symbolize authority as they open gates…

Have mercy on me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death. (cf. Ps. 9:13) Fools, because of their rebellious way, And because of their iniquities, were afflicted. Their soul abhorred all kinds of food; And they drew near to the gates of death. (cf. Ps. 107:17-18; NASB) I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave; I am deprived of the residue of my years. (cf. Isaiah 38:10) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (cf. Matt. 16:18)

All these manifestations and claims of the Lord were made to encourage John to write three specific things, giving a general outline of the Revelation:

1.) the things which thou hast seen, i.e., the vision of the glorified Christ (vss. 1:11-20). This would be in the past experience of John.

2.) The things which are, i.e., the Lord's evaluation and message to the seven churches, that illustrate conditions in all churches throughout all the ages (2:1-3:22). This would be in the present experience of John.

3.) The things which shall be hereafter, i.e., the events of the tribulation and coming of Christ (4:1-22:21). This would include the future from John's perspective on Patmos.

The Lord then pauses to identify for John the seven lampstands and the seven stars, which provide a needed key to understand chapters 2-3. A more detailed description of the seven messengers will be given in the notes on Revelation 2:1.

Conclusion and Application

This is how John, the aged Apostle and criminal of the state of Rome on Patmos, was commissioned to write the Revelation. It was directly commanded by the unveiled, glorified Son of man, who ministers to the churches and controls the messengers of those churches. Although John's immediate response was terror, he was encouraged by the gentle touch, affirming words and reminder of whom he had just seen, repeating the commission to John to write the things of the past, the present condition of the churches and the coming future events leading up to the Second Coming of Christ.

We must also realize that the glimpses we are given of the Lord and the events predicted in the Revelation should humanly frighten us. They will, in fact, terrify those unbelievers who experience the seal, trumpet and vial judgments, as well they should. And yet the same comforting retreat is available for us today as for John: reflection on the sovereign glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in remembrance of His substitutionary deity and resurrection for us. It is He and He alone who holds the keys of death and hell. And If God be for us, who can be against us and What shall separate us from the love of Christ? (cf. Rom. 8:31-39).

 

Footnotes:

1. This Greek construction is a hendiatris, i. e., three nouns governed by one article, where there is a use of three words with only one thought intended. The central issue is tribulation, which is what the kingdom involves and endurance is hence needed.

2. Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1992), p. 85. cf. I Thess. 1:6; 1 Pet. 2:21; 4:13; 2 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 1:10; 1 Pet. 5:1.

3. John was already drinking of the cup of suffering that Jesus had predicted according to Matt. 20:22-23. This cup had already brought the death of John's brother James (Acts 12:2) and was evidenced in the lives of many others (cf. Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17; 2 Tim. 2:12). This more general meaning of the term better parallels other uses of the word (John 16:33; Acts 14:22) and related word in the NT (e.g., 2 Tim. 3:12). Ibid., pp. 86-87.

4. W. A. Criswell, Expository Sermons on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1962), pp. 128-129. Polycarp's martyrdom was later recorded by his disciple Iranaeus who also informs us that "Polycarp was instructed by the apostles, and was brought into contact with many who had seen Christ." cf. Against Heresies, iii. 3; Eusebius Hist. Eccl., iv.14. Polycarp was the disciple of John the Apostle and perhaps the angel l(i.e. messenger) of the church of Smyrna to whom Jesus Christ said, Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. cf. Rev. 2:8-11. Irenaeus wrote: "I could describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp sat and taught; his going out and coming in; the whole tenor of his life; his personal appearance; how he would speak of the conversations he held with John and with others who had seen the Lord. How did he make mention of their words and of whatever he had heard from them respecting the Lord." However, Polycarp perhaps died during the persecution under Emperor Marcus Aurelius (A. D. 162) and not under Domitian. cf. Foxe's Book of Martyrs (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishers, 1975), pp. 8-12.

5. cf. Foxes Book of Martyrs, p. 6. "Domitian was extremely over-sexed, describing his continual copulation as bed-wrestling. He was said to enjoy bathing with prostitutes, and his many adulteries were contrasted with the strict legislation he initiated against loose morals in others. He was also very much addicted to watching gladiatorial fights between women and dwarfs-and he enjoyed pulling the wings off flies and seeing them suffer." cf. Michael Grant, The Twelve Caesars (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1975), p.244.

6. Others see the reason as an evangelistic mission at Patmos, but it is unlikely that John would leave the populated Ephesus for the sparsely populated Island of Patmos. Others see the word of God as a reference to writing Revelation, as if John retired there to record his visions and then publish Revelation. But early church tradition has John imprisoned on Patmos because of his preaching ministry. cf. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome, etc.

7. John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), p. 42. This is a minority view, also held by Joseph A. Seiss, Apocalypse (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1957), pp. 20-22; and E. W. Bullinger, The Apocalypse (London: Eyre & Spottiswoodm 1902) pp..9-15.

8. The descriptive titles of the glorified Christ are found in six of the seven messages to the churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Only the message to Laodicea lacks one of these titles and in one case a title is repeated in two messages (cf. 2:1 and 3:1).

9. Others see this garment as signifying rank or dignity, finding its origin in the prophets. cf. Ezek. 9:2-3, 11; Dan. 10:5; Rev. 7:2-3; 9:4; Robert L. Thomas, An Exegetical Commentary on Revelation 1-7 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), p. 99; R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Revelation of St. John (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1985), p. 27-28.

10. Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1987), pp. 40-41.

11. Some suggest this same response happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, but actually it wasn't the manifestation of Christ but the voice of God from heaven, that terrified John, Peter and James. cf. Matthew 17:2-6.

12. Daniel was responding to the vision similar to the one John saw: "Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude."( cf. Daniel 10:2-9)

13. Robert L. Thomas provides an interesting comment on this: "John must have had some recollection of the first two words, ego eimi [i.e., I am], from earlier days when Jesus calmed the stormy sea. In fact, he along with Mark and Luke included these very words in conjunction with Jesus' word of reassurance at that time: ego eimi, me phobeisthe, I am, stop fearing ( Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20). The title I am has a rich OT background, being traceable to the origination of the tetragammaton (YHWH, the Lord or Yahweh), the OT personal name for God in Exo. 3:14. An OT link of this title with Ex. 3:14 is Isa. 48:12 where the Hebrew text 'ani hu, I am He, gives the self-identification of God and is represented in the LXX rendering of the verse by ego eimi. In that OT passage the full statement closely represents the same statement as here in Rev. 1:17, I am the first and the last. This is a divine title applied by the Lord to Himself frequently in the gospels, a notable example of which is I John 8:58: Before Abraham came to be, I am (ego eimi). The title undoubtedly struck this familiar note in the ear of the prophet in his awe-stricken state and provided immediate encouragement. He was once again in the presence of the God-man with whom he had spent those precious years some six decades earlier." cf. An Exegetical Commentary: Revelation 1-7 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), p. 110.