Exegesis Of Rev. 1:1-20 Essay, Research Paper
Revelation as a whole is often viewed as a very hard book to understand. However, if taken in small sections and really studied closely, the meaning of the text can come through. The first step to understand the book is to understand when it was written and the occasion and purpose for which it was written.
Revelation was written at a point when Christians were under great persecution by Rome. Most scholars believe it was written somewhere around A.D. 95 by the apostle John. The book was written to encourage the new Christians at the seven churches to hold fast and not give in the emperor worship that was beginning to be enforced. John had already been exiled to the island of Patmos (1:9) and others were coming under great persecution. John writes this letter to encourage the believers that Christ?s return is imminent and that they should not be dispirited by the persecution they are going through now. Instead, he echoes Matthew 5:10, that ?Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.?
There are many interesting things about Revelation 1. The first verse itself is somewhat interesting. It reads, ?The revelation of Jesus Christ?? This is intriguing in that we?re not quite sure what is meant by a revelation of Jesus. The Greek word for revelation is apokalupsis, which means ?used of events by which things or states or persons hitherto withdrawn from view are made visible to all.? (Strongs Concordance) The strange thing about the use of this word is that in the context of the verse, it is not made clear whether John means that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ, or about Jesus Christ, or both.
As we move on in the chapter, we come to verse 3, where it is written, ?Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy…? This verse is worthy of note because of it is the first beatitude of the seven that are contained in Revelation. By saying that the person who reads this book is blessed, John is saying that the reader is much more than happy, but he is favored by God. As the verse continues, we read that ?the time is near.? This is a reference to Christ?s return and the judgment that will come with it. This is a theme that is echoed by almost all of the New Testament, as in James 5:9, which says, ??The Judge is standing at the door!?
Revelation 1:4 provides yet another intriguing aspect of the book in general. ?John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia?from the seven spirits before his throne.? This demonstrates one of the distinctive features of Revelation, the repetitive use of the number seven. In totality, it is used 52 times throughout the entire book. There are seven churches (1:4), seven spirits (1:4), seven golden lampstands (1:12), seven stars (1:16), and many others.
Verse 1:7 produces a bit of a conundrum. It states, ?all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.? Jesus is of course the ?him? being referred to here. However, the problem at first glance is that all people ?will mourn.? Christians believe that Christ?s second coming will be a time of great celebration and a time eagerly awaited. Yet this verse says that it will be a time of mourning. Upon closer inspection however, and good cross-referencing, we find that it does not mean we will mourn him coming. Instead, it can mean one of two things. First of all, it could mean that all humanity will mourn what was done to Jesus on the cross. Secondly, there could be a limitation on ?all.? In Revelation 13:8 it says, ?And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life.? This states that all means all who are not saved. This could also be what 1:7 means when it says all, instead of meaning all people on earth.
Eventually, we come to find out how John had this revelation. It says that ?On the Lords Day I was in the Spirit?? (1:10) This terminology is somewhat interesting. As Christians today, we automatically associate the ?Lords Day? with Sunday, but this is the first mention of that term in the Bible, although there are definitely other references to meetings on the first day of the week, notably Acts 20:7, ?On the first day of the week we came together to break bread,? and 1 Corinthians 16:2. The term ?in the Spirit? is also significant. On first glance, it may be a little confusing as to what John is referring to. If you are Pentecostal, you may think that he has been ?slain in the spirit.? If you are Baptist, you may think he is simply in prayer. However, the Jamieson, Fausett, and Brown commentary on the Bible state that it means John was ?in a state of ecstasy; the outer world being shut out.? This made possible ?an immediate connection with the invisible world.?
In Revelation 1:12-16 we read a description of a grand figure we find out is Jesus. There are many distinctive and important characteristics of his attire and how he is described. According to John, he was wearing a full-length robe ?with a golden sash around his chest.? This is significant because this was also the attire of the high priest. All throughout the description, articles that combine priesthood and royalty appear and show an allusion to Christ being our great high priest-king, or a priest in the order of Melchizedek. These verses are also significant, because they themselves quote other scripture and so solidify their reliability. In verse 13, John quotes Daniel 7:13 when he describes Jesus as being ?like a son of man.?
Verse 1:18 tells us that Jesus holds ?the keys of death and Hades.? This means that Jesus has control over Hades or Hell, which makes it possible for him to make the statement in Matthew 16:18 to Peter which says that ?on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.? Jesus knows that the gates of Hades will not overcome it because he has the keys to Hades. This also suggests that Jesus has control over Hades final demise, as described in Revelation 20:14, ?Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.?
Finally, at the end of the first chapter of Revelation we come to the revealing of the symbols that Jesus holds in his hands. The stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the lampstands are the seven churches. What John means by the angels of the churches is not particularly clear. He could have meant either heavenly messengers, earthly messengers/ministers, or personifications of the spirit of that particular church. Personally, I believe it was referring to the minister of that church. This view is supported by the greetings at the beginning of all the letters when it is written ?to the angel of the church of ??
Now that we have gone through and looked at almost all of the verses in the first chapter of Revelation, how does one apply this to one?s life? First of all, we learn that we are blessed by reading the Bible (1:3) and that we should read more. Furthermore, we learn that we should ?take to heart? what is in the Bible because the ?time is near? and we never know when Jesus might be coming back. We also learn that when Christ comes back, it will not be a nice, happy time for all humanity. Instead, it will be a time when ?all the peoples of the earth will mourn? (1:7) and that Jesus will judge the people with a ?sharp double-edged sword.? (1:16) Because of this, we should be ready at all times for his coming and also keep on witnessing to others, so that they will not have to go through that terrible judgment. Finally, we discover that Christ holds ?the keys of death and Hades? so that we will not have to be afraid and we can be encouraged that ?whosoever believeth shall not perish, but have eternal life? (John 3:16) because of Jesus? mastery over death and Hades. In summary, Revelation 1 is mostly warning for the unbeliever and encouragement for the believer.
The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871) ? available online at www.blueletter.org
Section on Revelation 1:1-20
John Brown Commentary on Revelation ? available online at www.blueletter.org
Section on Revelation 1:1-20
The NIV Study Bible ? Copyright 1985 by The Zondervan Corporation
Introduction to Revelation
Cross-References were also obtained from this source
Strongs Concordance ? available online at www.blueletter.org
Section on Revelation 1:1, 1:18