Session 3

Revelation Study –Session 3



            If an unsuspecting person turned to the book of Revelation thinking that it’s an ordinary book, by time would have read through passage we’ll deal with in this session that person would realize his mistake.  This is no ordinary book.  The vision of Jesus Christ that John relates in Rev. 1:9-20 makes that abundantly clear. 

  • We began our study of this mysterious book by looking at the first three verses that form sort of a subtitle to Revelation.  Saw that the book is
    • an unveiling or uncovering or apocalypse
    • given by and about Jesus Christ
    • in symbolic language
    • about things which must shortly take place.
  • Last week from the second paragraph (vv. 4-8) which is the salutation to the letter we saw that
    • the writer is John
    • the recipients seven churches in Asia Minor
    • the greeting is grace and peace
    • from God the Father/Holy Spirit/and Son. 

In that paragraph encountered first symbol of the book in the phrase “the seven Spirits who are before His throne.”  And we talked about the symbolic significance of numbers in apocalyptic literature.


Now, in 1:9-20 we are ready to deal with the first vision of the book.  This first vision sets the tone and stage for rest of the book.  Several comments need to be made about verses 9 - 11 by way of introduction before we begin an in-depth look at the vision itself. 

·         This is the third time in nine verses John identifies himself as the writer.

o   V.1 - The first time he was John, the recipient of the message. 

o   V.4 - The second time he was John, the writer to the seven churches. 

o   V.9 - And now he is “John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus...” They are partners in the tribulation, in the kingdom of God, and in the strength that God provides for his people.  John is not merely cheering them on from the sidelines.  He is involved in the very same struggle in which they are involved.  Dr. Summers points out that all three of these things in which John and the 1st century Christians have in common are presented as present realities, not something to be experienced later.  The word for “tribulation” was used to describe the grinding of wheat in the mill or the crushing of grapes in the wine press.  It is outside pressure that appears at first to crush and ruin and destroy, but in reality in results it a greater good, transforming grain to flower and grapes to wine.  What an encouraging thought for the 1st century Christians!  The terrible pressure they were facing from Rome was preparing them for more effective, useful service to God.  Ultimately it would result in greater good!

  • John was writing from the island called Patmos.  Banishment to a remote island was a common form of Roman punishment, and it was the unanimous tradition of the church that John the Apostle was banished to Patmos during the reign of Domitian in the later part of the 1st century A.D.  Patmos is a small (10 miles long X 5 miles wide), rocky island about 40 miles off the coast of Asia Minor.  There are magnificent views of the sea from Patmos, and that is reflected throughout the book of Revelation.  No less than 25 times is the Greek work for sea used in the 22 chapters of this book. 
  • John was on Patmos “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”  In other words he was there because of his loyalty to God’s word and because of his testimony concerning Jesus Christ. He was exiled because he refused to yield to the demands of emperor worship, the very demands being made of his readers.  He could speak to them with credibility because he had been where they are and did not crumble under the pressure. 
  • The vision about which John is preparing to tell us came to him when he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.”  The phrase “in the Spirit” probably refers to some deep worship experience through which John was lifted beyond the things of this world to the things of the spiritual world.  While there are multiple theories about the meaning of the phrase “the Lord’s Day,” I believe it is a reference to the day of Christian worship – Sunday – the day that the resurrection was celebrated.  After the Christians were no longer welcome in the Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath (our Saturday), they began to gather on the first day of the week, resurrection day.  This is the earliest reference in any literature to a Christian Lord’s Day.” 
  • John heard “...a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet...”  That phrase probably refers to the unmistakable clarity of the voice.  It was penetrating, strong, demanding attention.  If someone walks up behind you and blasts away on a trumpet, you can’t help but notice it!
  • The voice instructed John to “Write in a book (literally scroll) what you see...”  We are not told whether John wrote as the visions appeared to him or at a latter time.  Notice John is not told to interpret what he saw but simply to record it.  The interpretation is left to the reader. 
  • John was told to send the book to “the seven churches.”  There has been much speculation as to why these seven were chosen and others not included.  There were obviously other churches in Asia Minor at this time.  For example, the church at Colossae was located not far from Laodicea.  In Paul’s letter to Colossae, no doubt written before Revelation, he instructs them to share that letter with the Christians in Laodicea and to read the letter he had sent to them.  It is possible these seven cities were chosen because they represented major distributions centers for mail in Asia Minor.  If you begin with Ephesus, it is logical sequence to proceed to Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.  We’ll look more carefully at the seven churches next week.


The actual vision begins in verse 12.  As we work through this vision, I want to attempt to answer three questions:  What is the purpose of the vision?  What do the various symbols mean?  What is the message to God’s people?


WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE VISION?    I think there is a twofold purpose for this vision appearing in the very first chapter of the book.

1.   The vision prepares the reader for the symbolic nature of what is to follow in this book

            This vision of Christ is obviously symbolic in every respect.  To my knowledge none of the interpreters of Revelation contend that John is giving us a literal picture of Jesus Christ here.  But what he is doing is preparing his readers of the symbolic nature of his message.  It’s as if he’s saying, “I am about to talk to you in the form of figures and symbols.  Please be on the lookout for these symbols and watch closely for the clues as to their significance.”

1)      You’ll remember that one of the characteristics of apocalyptic literature is to camouflage the real message in symbols known to the recipients but a mystery to the enemies.  Where it’s safe to do so, where doing so would not arouse the suspicion of the Romans, the book of Revelation interprets its own symbols.  We’ll see in a few minutes that Jesus interpreted for the reader the meaning of some of the symbols in this vision such as the “seven lampstands” and the “seven stars.”

2)      However, other symbols in this passage are left un-interpreted.  And they are left un-interpreted for a very good reason.  They have to do with the authority and power and majesty of the Lord Jesus.  To interpret those symbols would have enraged the Romans who insisted that Caesar was lord as opposed to saying Jesus is Lord.  And so to understand the meaning of symbols like “a robe reaching to the feet” or “a golden girdle” across His breast or “head and hair white like wool” or “eyes like a flame of fire”  or “feet like burnished bronze” or “voice like the sound of many waters” or “a sharp two-edged sword” coming from His mouth or “a face like the sun” we have to turn to other apocalyptic literature, especially in the Old Testament.  That we will do in a moment.

The point I’m making at this time is that this introductory vision sets the stage for the symbolic nature of the entire book.


2.   To give the discouraged Christians of Asia Minor a clear picture of the One from who the message of Revelation was coming.  The name of Jesus is mentioned nowhere in this vision, however it is obvious that it is a description of Him.  The One being presented is described as “ like a son of man.”  That was Jesus’ favorite way of referring to Himself.  In the gospels Jesus described Himself with the phrase “...son of man...” more than 8 times.  By the latter part of the 1st century the term was a well-known way of referring to the Messiah.  It is based on Daniel 7:13.  And we’ll see as we proceed through this vision, many of the images are taken from the book of Daniel.  That phrase would have immediately communicated to the suffering Christians in Asia Minor that they were about to receive a message from Jesus, Himself.  And when we overview the specific messages Jesus directed to the seven churches, we will see to reinforce the idea that this message was coming from Him, Jesus began each letter with one of the symbols about Him from this vision.



The imagery of this vision is taken primarily from Daniel:

1)      Daniel 10:5-6 that contains a vision of an angel.  In using the features of the Daniel’s angel to describe Jesus, John is not reducing Jesus to an angelic level.  He is simply illustrating the glory of Jesus.

2)      Daniel 7:9-14 where God is portrayed as “the Ancient of Days” before whom the “son of man” appears in glory and triumph

But there are images in this description of Jesus in Revelation 1 drawn from other parts of the OT as well, especially Ezekiel and Exodus.  I want to run quickly through these symbols to give you their primary meaning.  Even though going to look at each individual piece, visions such as this are designed to be seen as a whole.  We shouldn’t get bogged down in any specific part.  They are kind of like a parable in which you don’t look for meaning in every little detail but instead look at the big picture or main point.

·         “seven golden lampstands” – Jesus interprets this vision for us in v.20 as representing the seven churches to whom He is sending this message.  In Exodus 25 there is a description of the seven lamps that stood in the Temple.  In the Mediterranean world the image of the seven-branched lampstand (or menorah) is a symbol of Israel and Judaism.  Since Christians are the light of the world, very fitting symbol. 

  • Robe to his feet and golden girdle – According to Exodus this is the garb of the high priest.  By using this symbol John is saying that Jesus is the complete, ultimate High Priest.  This one symbol actually summarizes the entire book of Hebrews.  No longer is there a need for a succession of earthly priests.  Jesus ahs filled that role perfectly and forever.  In Daniel 10 the angel Daniel described is also dressed in this way.
  • Hair as white as wool and snow - The Ancient of Days (a title for God in Daniel) is described this way in Daniel 7:9.  An amazing thought.  This symbol declares the divinity of Jesus and Jesus’ oneness with the Father.
  •  Eyes like a flame of fire – This image is used to describe Jesus in Revelation 19:12 when He returns to the earth in triumph and glory.  Taken from Daniel 10:6 it probably symbolizes His omniscience, a piercing gaze that sees all.
  • Feet like burnished bronze – Also from Daniel 10:6 as well as Ezekiel 1:7, this is a symbol of strength. This was the strongest known metal known at the time.  Was a picture of Jesus’ ability to crush under His feet those who oppose His people.  Some see in the statement about the bronze being “...caused to glow in the furnace...” a reference to Jesus passing through the fire of suffering and death and through His resurrection coming out of the experience stronger.
  • Voice like the sound of many waters – In Ezekiel 43 the returning of God to Israel was described as “like the sound of many waters.”  A symbol of God’s authority over people and nations.  Maybe had special significance to John since he probably wrote this word while hearing the sea break along the seashore.
  • In His right hand He held seven stars – The right hand is a symbol of power and protection.  Jesus interprets the “seven stars” to be “the angels of the seven churches.”  While not unanimous agreement among scholars about this, many hold that the word “angels” (which means messenger in Greek) refers to the pastors, God’s messengers to the churches.  Others take the phrase to refer to a literal angel, kind of like a guardian angel, assigned to each church.
  • Two-edged sword from His mouth – In Isaiah 11 this symbol is used to describe the judgment and authority of God’s word.  Jesus is the ultimate Word of God (John 1) and has the authority to judge.  In Hebrews 4:12 the word of God is described as being “sharper than a two-edged sword.” 

·         Face like the sun – Also taken from Daniel 10, it is symbolic of His glory and majesty.  Reminiscent of how Peter, James, and John saw Him in the transfiguration experience.

Notice John’s response to all this in v.17.  Can hardly fault him for that reaction.  I think if I would have seen what John saw – a man whose hair is long and white, wearing a robe down to his feet girdled by a golden band, feet made of brass, eyes glowing balls of fire, a sword coming out of his mouth, a voice like a giant waterfall, and his face shining brightly like the sun – I would have done exactly what John did. Fall down at His feet as if I were dead! And you would as well.



  • Christ is alive – He appeared to John with all the characteristics of life. When John fell at the Lord’s feet the first thing the Lord said was, “do not be afraid: I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore and I have the keys of death and Hades.”  Death and Hades are personifications of our greatest enemy – death.  In chapter 6 we will see this personification again.  But the good news is that Jesus is not just the Lord of life, He is also the Lord of death. He is alive! Death did not defeat Him.
  • Christ is triumphantly alive – He does not merely exist; He exists in triumph and power.  This vision is from beginning to end one of the Risen Lord who is triumphantly alive.
  • Christ is triumphantly alive in our midst – In this vision Christ is seen as walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands – the seven churches. He is holding the messengers of these churches in His right hand. In other words He has not abandoned us; He has not left us alone and defenseless; He is not gone away to some remote spot. He is with His people and He is protecting them with his victorious right hand.


I need to say brief word about v.19.  Been said, and I think correctly so, that Revelation is only book which outlines itself for us.  Three definite parts:  the things you have seen, the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things.  How interpret those parts dependent on how approach book as a whole.




Historical Background

“ have seen”

Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“which are”

Chapters 2-3  Entire church age (Resurrection to rapture or second coming)

Chapters 2-3  Description of actual churches in 1st century

“after these things”

Chapters 4-22  Most of which applies to the 7 year period just before Second Coming

Chapters 4-22  Most of which was fulfilled in 1st century but with lessons for every age



      This vision of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1 is both timely and timeless. Whenever the people of God face hardship and persecution, the victorious, triumphant, and living God is there with them.  And while some people may have doubts about the outcome of the battle between good and evil, there was never any doubt in the mind of the One who gave this revelation to John. Christ, the redeeming lamb, is the victor in every sense of the word. And this great truth John reveals to us in the very first chapter of the book. He is saying, “No matter what else follows, no matter how bad things look, I want you to know up-front that the battle belongs to the Lord.”

      And I believe that the Lord is still saying to us today, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)