The Prologue of Revelation (1:1–8)
At the beginning of Revelation, the apostle John revealed much information about the sender, the writer, the recipients, and the subject matter. He concluded by announcing the second coming of Christ in His glory and the glory of His Father (Luke 9:26). His goal is glorifying God for His mighty works.
1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,
The word “apocalypses” appears eighteen times in
the New Testament. However, only one of those times is in the Book of Revelation
(Rev. 1:1). The Bible often uses it about the Second Coming of Christ or the
judgment at the end (Rom. 2:5;
1 Cor. 1:7; 2 Thess. 1:7). It also refers to a revelation from the Lord Christ (2 Cor. 12:1; Gal. 1:12). The expression “Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ” refers to His unveiling in the glory of God, in Christ, at His Second Coming (1 Pet. 1:7, 4:13).
In each case, the word “revelation” means revealing a hidden something or someone. For example, when Daniel had finished writing his prophecy, the angel instructed him to “seal up the book until the end of time” (Dan. 12:4, NASU). However, the apostle St. John, the writer of Revelation, was told to do just the opposite: “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Rev. 22:10, NASU). The command of not sealing the Book is because God has fulfilled and revealed His hidden purposes in the world. The time of manifesting the kingdom of God is at hand (Rev. 1:3; 22:10).
In (Rev. 1:1), the word “signified” is crucial to understanding the style of the Book. It means “to show by a sign.” Revelation used the same word to refer to “sign” (Rev. 15:1), “wonder” (Rev. 12:1,3), and “miracle” (Rev. 19:20). It is the same word used in the gospel of John to refer to the miracles the Lord Jesus Christ did (John 4:48; 12:33; 21:19). All these meanings refer to events that carry a more profound spiritual message than simply displaying power.
Revelation has a great deal of symbolism, which serves as a kind of “spiritual code.” Much of its symbolism is related to the Old Testament. Biblical symbols are consistent with the whole of biblical revelation. So, we must be careful not to let our imaginations run wild by letting our thinking go astray outside the biblical context.
The Book of Revelation is a masterpiece of rich spiritual art drawn by the Holy Spirit, using numbers and colors as a background for the text. Looking at the text without understanding the figures and colors is like looking at the outlines of a great portrait without seeing its colors, lights, and shades. We need to understand the meaning behind each number and color in the Book of Revelation.
Some symbols in Revelation are self-explained and can be understood just by reading the Book itself (Rev. 1:20; 4:5; 5:8). At the same time, we can comprehend other symbols by examining what they mean in the Old Testament, such as the four living creatures (Rev. 4:17) and “the tree of Life” (Rev. 2:17). Still, some symbols, such as the “white stone,” in (Rev. 2:17), are not explained at all. However, the Father unveils His mysteries and His kingdom to the true believers by His Spirit (Luke 8:10).
The Apocalyptic Language
Revelation uses apocalyptic biblical language, which derives its roots from the Hebrew Scriptures, and contains nearly 300 Old Testament references. Apart from its Hebrew roots, reading the Book of Revelation is like reading text in a language without knowing its alphabet. To understand the Book, we must know its biblical background and anchor our interpretations in what God has already revealed.
Revelation is a prophetic book, but not just for telling future events. Prophecy in the Bible also reveals the mind of the Lord God, helping people discern what God’s will is and what is good and acceptable perfect in His eyes (Rom. 12:2). Thus, prophecy corrects errors and disciplines the believers (2 Tim. 3:16). Therefore, reading the Book of Revelation only to discover what will happen in the future will produce an incomplete experience.
The language of the statement “to show His servants, things which must shortly take place” emphasizes the importance of the messages of Revelation. It also expresses the urgency of knowing them because the kingdom of God is at hand (Matt. 4:17) and “the time is near” (Rev. 1:3).
The Revelation was probably part of the joy set before Christ, in His flesh, while He endured the cross, despising its shame (Heb. 12:2). After Christ’s ascension, He went back to the glory that he had with the Father before the foundation of the world (John 17:5).
The Lord God inspired all Scriptures, including the Book of Revelation, by His Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16). The phrase “which God gave Him” means the Lord God gave the Revelation to the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1). John emphatically stated that “God” is the source of the Revelation. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 2:3).
In a short phrase, John ascribed the Book of Revelation to the Lord Jesus Christ: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1). It is also the Revelation of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. The same way of ascription happened in the Old Testament. For example, “the Law” is called “the Law of Moses” (2 Chron. 30:16, Luke 24:44), but in fact, it is the Law of God through Moses.
While Moses was the mediator in the Old Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant because of His death (Heb. 9:15). The Lord Jesus Christ has become “the guarantee of a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22, NIV). Because Christ’s mission would be to reveal the Father, Malachi called Him “the Angel of the Covenant,” which means the Messenger of the Covenant” (Mal. 3:1).
We should not take verses such as (Rev. 1:1) to make less of the divinity of Christ. Such verses are said about Christ, “according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:5). For our salvation, Christ took a human body. He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).
In the Bible, there are numerous verses as evidence of Christ’s divinity. He is the eternal Word of God,” and He was God [Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος] from the beginning (John 1:1), and St Paul said, “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead [Θεότητος] bodily” (Col. 2:9). All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Col. 2:3).
Christ, “according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:5), “received from God the Father honor and glory” (2 Peter 1:17-20). The Father has spoken to us through His Son (Heb. 1:1–2). Christ stated this truth when He said, “the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:24).
We have the ultimate revelation of the Father in the Lord Jesus Christ because of the special divine relationship between them. Christ is “the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). Therefore, Christ said, “no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27, NLT).
1:2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.
The Apostle St. John
The apostle John is the writer of the Book of Revelation. He refers to himself three times in the first nine verses as the eyewitness and the writer (Rev. 1:1,4). As an apostle, John was a member of the inner circle of the twelve disciples, along with Peter and James. He is the writer of the gospel of John and his three epistles, inspired by the Holy Spirit. However, he humbly identifies himself simply as a “brother” of his readers (Rev. 1:9).
The Lord Jesus Christ commissioned St. John to write the Book of Revelation and send it to the churches. Christ spoke about St. John as His angel, His messenger who carried the messages of Revelation to the churches (Rev. 22:16).
The Ways of Communication
Christ used various means of communication to send these visions to John. Sometimes, Christ, Himself conveyed the Revelation directly (Rev. 1:10). Other times, Christ sent them through an elder, a priest (Rev. 7:13), an angel (Rev. 17:1, 19:9–10), or a “voice from heaven” (Rev. 10:4).
The Lord God sent the Revelation to “His servants” (Rev. 1:1), His special servants. The Greek word for “servant” or “slave,” in (Rev. 1:1), is the word δούλος doulos. It means “a bondservant,” a slave who willingly remains with his master even after being given his freedom (Ex. 21:2–6).
The recipients of Revelation are the faithful servants. They loved their Lord and chose to remain with Him with a commitment to serve Him (John 8:35). So, Revelation is for the people of God, in Christ, who have genuine fellowship with Him.
It has been the Father’s pleasure to reveal to us His hidden plans and works in His beloved Son (John 5:20). God also intended to send the Revelation to His faithful servants.
God gave the Book of Revelation to His bondservants (the church), so they might know “things which must shortly take place” (Rev. 1:1). Indeed, the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants, the prophets (Amos 3:7).
1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
The Book of Revelation has initially been sent to seven local churches in Asia Minor to be read aloud in the assemblies of these churches. However, any believer may read and profit from it (Rev. 1:3).
There is a blessing to those who read, hear and keep the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:3). Therefore, the Coptic Orthodox Church reads the entire Book before the liturgy of the Bright Saturday that follows the Good Friday. The church calls the Bright Saturday “the Night of Apocalypse.” Reading the Book of Revelation on such a night reveals the spiritual meaning of celebrating the passion of Christ. It also helps to uplift the hearts toward the fellowship of worship with heavenly hosts.
The Book of Revelation contains seven “beatitudes” (Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14); seven seals (Rev. 5:1); seven trumpets (Rev. 8:6); seven vials (Rev. 16:1); seven stars (Rev. 1:16); and seven lampstands (Rev. 1:12, 20). Other “sevens” in this book will be discussed as we study.
The number seven signifies fullness and completion. In Revelation, God tells us how He will complete His great work of blessing to all humanity as He ushers in His eternal kingdom.
1:4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,
John sent his greetings “grace to you and peace,” from the Lord God, the seven Spirits, and from the Lord Jesus Christ to “the seven churches which are in Asia” (Rev. 1:4).
Grace and Peace
The greeting “grace to you and peace” (Rev. 1:4) is a benediction often used in the opening of the epistles (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 1:2; 2 John 1:3). It is also a benediction in the liturgical services of the traditional churches.
“Grace and peace” are the common need of all people. Without the grace of God, we would perish. Without peace, we would not have peace with God, with others, or in our hearts.
From the Lord God
John describes the Lord God as the One “who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. 1:4, 1:8; 4:8). The Lord God is Yahweh, the eternal God who lives forever. He is with His people all the time to save and bless them as they face fiery trials and sufferings.
God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the source of grace and peace, who has blessed us with all the divine blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
God is also “who is to come,” in the sense that He will manifest His glory at the second coming of Christ. So, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matt. 16:27).
From the Seven Spirits
John also sent his benediction from the seven Spirits before His throne. These seven Spirits represent the fullness of the Holy Spirit described in the sevenfold expressions in Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:20, NIV).
Some commentators also see the seven Spirits as the seven angels mentioned in the Book of Revelation at least nine times.
Psalm 104 makes a direct reference to the angels as “spirits.” David declared that the Lord God “makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire” (Ps. 104:4). Angels give blessings to the people of God by serving them according to the will of God. They “all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14).
1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.
From the Lord Jesus Christ
John also sent benediction from the Lord Jesus Christ. All the spiritual blessings are from the Father to us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). He grants us as believers the royal gifts of grace and peace through His Son, who is “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5).
First: Christ is “the faithful Witness” of God’s nature (Rev. 3:14). He is the perfect image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person (Heb. 1:3).
Second: Christ is “the firstborn of the dead.” The Greek word “Πρωτότοκος Prototokos” in Greek does not mean “firstborn” in time sequence, but the first preeminence. Christ is the premier one. The Lord God declared that declared the Messiah is His “firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27).
The description of Christ as “the firstborn of the dead” does not mean He was chronologically the first to be raised from the dead. There were resurrections in the Old Testament. In addition, Christ Himself raised others during His earthly ministry.
Those who were raised, like Lazarus, died again. But Jesus is “the firstborn of the dead,” in the sense that He lives forever. St Paul said, “knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him” (Rom. 6:9). Christ said, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18).
Third: St. John described Christ with His title, “the ruler of the kings of the earth,” depicts Christ as the sovereign King of the earth. Again, he is the Lord, having the name above every name, “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11).
1:5b To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
All the heavenly blessings are from the Lord God, including grace and peace, in Christ, who “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5). There is no greater love than the love of God, who gave us His Son (John 3:16), and the love of Christ, who offered Himself for us (John 15:13).
1:6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The Lord God called Israel a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:1–6), but the Israelites failed God, and He took away the kingdom from their leaders (Matt. 21:43). Christ “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father” (Rev. 1:6).
Now, we as believers in Christ’s name have become to God “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” (1 Pet. 2:9). Therefore, we have the special spiritual authority to serve God in this life and the coming ages.
John offered glorification to God: “To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 1:6). In Revelation, we find all the earthly and heavenly creatures offering the same doxology: “To Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever” (Rev. 5:13). Through Christ, we offer to God “the sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15).
1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
In (Rev. 1:7), John describes the way of the second coming of Christ. The phrase, “Behold, He is coming,” affirms Christ’s return. “To those who eagerly wait for Him, He [Christ] will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Heb. 9:28, NKJV). He promised His disciples that He would come again: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).
The Lord Jesus Christ went to heaven, and He will return in the clouds. Forty days after His resurrection, Christ ascended to heaven. A cloud received Him out of the sight of His disciples. The angels told them, “This same the Lord Jesus Christ, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9–11).
When the Lord Jesus Christ returns, He “will come in the glory of His Father with His angels” (Matt. 16:27). His return will not be a secret. Everyone will see Him “coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27), and “every eye will see Him.” Everyone will know who He is, and “all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.” (Rev. 1:7). They will realize that they were blind to the truth when they rejected Him. Believers, however, will see the Second Coming of Christ as “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
The Lord God will manifest Christ's appearing in His own time (1 Tim. 6:14–15). No one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, the day of Christ’s second coming, but the Father only (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32).
With the second coming of Christ, God’s plan for redemption reaches its climax. When Christ returns, God will deliver the creation from “the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Therefore, we “eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20).
The second coming of Christ is not just a distant event in the future; it is a present reality in the hearts of believers. The Greek verb “ἔρχεται erchotai,” which means “appears” or “comes,” is in the third person, singular present indicative, it means “He is coming.” Therefore, we can translate it as “He is now appearing” or “He is in the act of appearing and continues to appear.” Christ appears and comes continually by His dwelling in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17).
Christ’s second coming should motivate Christians to obedience and consecration at all times.
1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
In (Rev. 1:8), John wrote God’s proclamation. John also heard a loud voice behind him, like a trumpet, proclaiming, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (Rev. 1:11).
God is “the Alpha and the Omega,” “the Beginning and the End,” and “the First and the Last,” and “who is and who was and who is to come.”
The “Ἄλφα Alpha” and “Ὦ Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. They, along with the other expressions, depict the eternal reality of God and the presence of His glory (Rev. 1:4).
God is the beginning and the end of all things, “for whom are all things and by whom are all things” (Heb. 2:10) and “of Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). He is the “Almighty,” who can do anything to work out His divine purposes in human history.
Christ also uses these titles in the first person singular, with the pronoun “I,” which affirms His divinity and oneness with the Father (Rev. 1:11; 22:13). He and His Father are one (John 10:30), and in the Lord Jesus Christ dwells “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).
The Father, who dwells in the Lord Jesus Christ, has spoken through Him (John 10:30; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:2). The Father declares the presence of His glory through His Son, saying: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (Rev. 1:11).
 Rev. 8:2; 8:6; 15:1; 15:6; 15:7; 15:8; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9
 1 Kings 17:17–23; 2 Kings 4:32–36; 13:20–21
 Matt. 9:23–25; Luke 7:11–15; John 11:30–44
 Rev. 19:16; Ps. 2:6–8; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 9:9; Matt. 2:2, 21:5; Luke 19:38, 23:3; John 1:49
 Rev. 1:3,7; 2:5,25; 3:3,11; 22:7,12,20; 1 John 1:1–3
 Rev. 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7,14; 19:6,15; 21:22