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Buist Fanning: This book is a prophetic revelation from God Almighty through John intended to bless the churches by showing how God’s redemption will be consummated through the imminent coming of Jesus Christ to rule over the whole earth. . .  John’s enigmatic book begins clearly enough with a title that succinctly describes its character, source, and intended audience.

Daniel Akin: Revelation is a unique book because it comprises three different literary genres. It is an apocalypse (v. 1), a prophecy (v. 3), and a letter (v. 4).

John MacArthur: Many people are confused by the book of Revelation, viewing it as a mysterious, bizarre, indecipherable mystery. But nothing could be further from the truth. Far from hiding the truth, the book of Revelation reveals it. This is the last chapter in God’s story of redemption. It tells how it all ends. As the account of the Creation in the beginning was not vague or obscure, but clear, so God has given a detailed and lucid record of the ending. It is unthinkable to believe that God would speak with precision and clarity from Genesis to Jude, and then when it comes to the end abandon all precision and clarity. Yet, many theologians today think Revelation is not the precise record of the end in spite of what it says. They also are convinced that its mysteries are so vague that the end is left in confusion. As we shall see in this commentary, this is a serious error that strips the saga of redemption of its climax as given by God.

Craig Keener: These opening verses declare the ultimate authors of the revelation (God the Father and Jesus), its subject matter (“what must soon take place”), its intended audience (“his servant[s]”) and its messengers (the angel of Christ and John).

Grant Osborne: John is clearly communicating that this is not merely his set of visions, but the visions come directly from God and Christ, mediated by angels. In the crisis being faced by the churches in Asia Minor, God does not remain silent but assures his people that he is still in control. Thus 1:1–3 are at the same time a title, an eschatological summary of the contents of the book, and a prophetic exhortation as to what God’s people are to do with it.

David Aune: Rev 1:1–3 consists of two clearly defined literary forms, with vv 1–2 constituting the title of the book, clearly marked off from v 3, which is a beatitude introduced with the conventional term μακάριος, “blessed, fortunate.”

Rev 1:1–3 consists of [these] elements:

(1) a summary designation of the character of the work itself, “This is a revelation,”

(2) with a subjective genitive indicating its source, “from Jesus Christ,”

(3) and an indication of its ultimate origin, “granted him by God,”

(4) a reference to the addressees, “to show [i.e., ‘to reveal’] to his servants,” and

(5) a summary of the content of the revelation, “what must quickly come to pass.” This is followed by

(6) a statement of how the revelation was transmitted, “He made it known by sending his angel,”

(7) a statement of the recipient of this revelation, “to his servant John,”

(8) confirmation of the accomplishment of this task through the composition of the present book, “who now bears witness to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (i.e., by writing this book), and

(9) the brief mention of how the revelation was received, “even to all that he saw.” Finally,

(10) a beatitude (in the form of an enthymeme) is pronounced on those who read, hear, and keep this revelatory message: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud and those who hear these prophetic words and keep what is written herein, for the time is near.”


A.  Mediator of the Revelation

The Revelation of Jesus Christ,

I prefer the subjective genitive here rather than the objective genitive because the emphasis is on the act of revealing that is taking place rather than the content of the revelation.

Craig Keener: book titles often listed the purported author, as in “the book of the words of Tobit” (lit. trans. of Tobit 1:1); or “the word of the LORD that came to Hosea” (Hos. 1:1).

Grant Osborne: here it means generally “Jesus’ revelation of the imminent future,” that is, “what must soon take place.” The visions of this book are presented as an “uncovering of hidden truths,” namely the hidden reality of God’s sovereign control of the future, of how he is going to bring an end to the seeming success of the forces of evil in the present age.

Robert Mounce: It is an apocalypse or unveiling. Had God not taken the initiative, the human mind could never have understood the real forces at work in the world. Nor could anyone have known how it would all turn out.

Craig Koester: When Paul insisted that the gospel he proclaimed came through “a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12), he referred to an encounter with the risen and glorified Christ. Similarly, when the writer of Revelation calls his book “the revelation of Jesus Christ,” he refers to a message that he understood to come from the glorified Christ, who received it from God and communicated it through an angel (Rev. 1:1–2).

Buist Fanning: The key word of the title, “revelation” (ἀποκάλυψις), denotes an unveiling or disclosure of something hidden, referring to either the action of revealing (Rom 8:19; 1 Cor 1:7; 1 Pet 1:7) or the content that is revealed, as here. This noun and its related verb are used frequently in the New Testament (noun 18x; verb 26x), always of divine disclosure of what is otherwise hidden from humans. They often refer to the “unveiling” that will come in the future consummation of all things, and that is the sense in this verse, as we will see. The English transliteration of the word, “apocalypse,” has come to be used as an alternate title for this book, and also as the name of a genre of ancient literature, apocalypse or apocalyptic literature (see introduction). While the word does not carry the technical sense of a genre of literature here, it aptly describes the book in two ways:

(1) as God’s disclosure of the events that will fulfill his sovereign plan for the destiny of the world (the content of apocalyptic), and

(2) as an unveiling communicated in dramatic, highly symbolic, and often enigmatic ways (the character of apocalyptic). . .

The phrase could carry the sense of an objective genitive, “about Jesus Christ,” since the initial vision (1:9–20) reveals Jesus Christ in all his glory as the one who holds the keys to human destiny. The rest of the book would then simply fill this out in detail: he who is now unseen will soon appear in glory and power to establish God’s rule over all things. Additionally, “the unveiling of Jesus Christ” carries this objective and eschatological sense in other places (1 Cor 1:7; 2 Thess 1:7; 1 Pet 1:7, 13). But the immediate context of 1:1–2 strongly suggests the sense of a subjective or source genitive instead, “revelation given by Jesus Christ” or “revelation from Jesus Christ” (NIV, NLT).  The clarifying clauses of vv. 1b–2 set up a full chain of agents of communication from God to Jesus to God’s angel to John and then to God’s servants. The rest of the book centers on the two final agents in this chain: what Jesus Christ reveals to John about the events that are coming.  Ultimately this comes from God the Father, and sometimes we see angels taking a role in mediating what John sees, while the wider recipients are God’s people. But Jesus Christ is the primary revealer, as the vision of 1:9–20 shows (especially vv. 17–19). This of course underscores the paramount authority of the message contained in this book and thus its value for all who give attention to its message (cf. 1:3).

Robert Thomas: The evidence favoring Christ as the revealer (i.e., subjective genitive) is more impressive. The strongest single consideration on either side of the issue is the plain fact that Christ functions in the role of revealer throughout the book: He addresses the seven churches in chapters 2-3; He opens the scroll of destiny (5:5, 7) and discloses its contents (6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12; 8:1).  His activity in this respect supports viewing Christ as the revealer in Revelation.

G.R. Beasley-Murray: This implies that Jesus Christ himself has torn back the curtain which hides form human eyes the invisible world and the future of this world, and that what is open to view is a vision of reality granted by him.

B.  Source of the Revelation

which God gave Him

Charles Swindoll: Prophecies about the future are only as reliable as the wisdom, knowledge, and insight of their sources. When the source of information is our limited human perspectives on the past and present, the most intelligent “expert” can only offer an educated guess. On the other hand, if the source is the all-knowing sovereign God, we can be certain that what He speaks will surely come to pass.

Before God gives us a glimpse of future events, He reveals the reliable source of this information. The visions of the future do not come to us from the pen of a crazed quack or wild-eyed fanatic. The prophecies of the book of Revelation come from our omniscient, sovereign God, through Jesus Christ Himself. They are therefore a reliable and relevant source concerning the future of the world.

C.  Target Audience of the Revelation

to show to His bond-servants,

D.  Urgency of the Revelation

the things which must shortly take place;

The Pre-Wrath Rapture view does away with the imminency of the specific rapture event itself but maintains the imminency of the overall package of end-time events where the 70th week of Daniel could begin at any moment in time.  The emphasis here and in vs. 3 is that the “time is near.”

Buist Fanning: The content of this disclosure is expressed by the very significant phrase “what must happen soon,” which provides vital insights into the background and central elements of John’s theology in Revelation. The first part of the phrase, “what must happen” (ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι), is an allusion to Daniel 2 where Daniel is given the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling dream. This exact phrase in Revelation 1:1 appears twice in the LXX version of Daniel 2:28–29 (and variations of it occur also in 2:29, 45). Three important theological themes appear in Daniel 2 that are mirrored in John’s prologue and throughout Revelation.

  • First, God is the only one who can reveal the mysteries of the future (Dan 2:18–19, 28–29, 47). This is the point of Revelation 1:1a as we have seen: God is the origin of this revelation from Jesus Christ.
  • Second, God has predetermined all the events of earthly history, and he is the one who “changes times and seasons and deposes some kings and establishes others” (Dan 2:21). This is the significance of the verb translated “must” in this phrase (δεῖ, “it is necessary”). Certain events “must happen” because they are set out by God in his sovereign plan for this world and its inhabitants.  The phrase “must happen” occurs at key places in the literary structure of Revelation to frame the events that are coming in God’s purposes (1:1; 4:1; 22:6). It also appears in Jesus’s eschatological discourse with a similar allusion to Daniel 2 (Matt 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9).
  • Third, the seemingly invincible kingdoms of this world will be swept away by God’s kingdom that will be established forever (Dan 2:44, 47). John alludes to these points in the prologue (Rev 1:5–8), and it is a recurring theme throughout (11:15, 17; 12:10; 19:6, 16; 20:4, 6; 22:5). . .

soon, without delay,” is supported by the expression in 1:3, “the time is near,” as well as by other expressions throughout Revelation (see the use of the adverb “quickly,” ταχύ, in 2:16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20; the use of “be about to,” μέλλω, in 1:19; 3:10; as well as the repetition of “the time is near,” in 22:10). Other New Testament passages speak in similar terms (Luke 21:28; Rom 13:12; 16:20; Phil 4:5; Jas 5:8–9; 1 Pet 4:7). None of these seems to mean “rapid occurrence once started” (view 1).  It is better to understand that these expressions reflect a “soon” occurrence not in the sense of an exact chronology but in a prophetic time frame, describing what is certain to occur and could occur at any time without any delay. The timing, however, is subject to God’s calendar, whose timetable is different from human calculation (cf. Ps 90:4; 2 Pet 3:8–9).

Robert Mounce: The express purpose of God in giving the revelation is to “show his servants what must soon take place.” History is not a haphazard sequence of unrelated events but a divinely decreed ordering of that which must take place. It is a logical and moral necessity arising from the nature of God and the revelation of his purpose in creation and redemption.

Robert Thomas: the view that sees en tachei meaning “soon” and thereby focuses on the imminence of the predicted events is impressive. A major thrust of Revelation is its emphasis upon the shortness of time before the fulfillment. In the midst of persecution God’s people do not have long to wait for relief to come. To say that the relief will come “suddenly” offers no encouragement, but to say that it will come “soon” does. That fulfillment of the divine purpose will come soon is the consistent expectation of prophecy and apocalyptic (cf. 22:6; Deut. 9:3; Ezek. 29:5[LXX]; Luke 18:8; Rom. 16:20). Throughout apocalyptic literature and the NT the Messianic kingdom with its immediate precursors is viewed as near (Charles; Beckwith).

The meaning of nearness assigned to en tachei also derives support from γ αι ς γγ ς (ho gar kairos engys) in 1:3, “for the time is near,” and from the parallel statement of 22:6, “behold, I come soon.” The response of this view to the seeming difficulty raised by the delay of more than nineteen hundred years is not that John was mistaken but that time in the Apocalypse is computed either relatively to the divine apprehension as here and in 22:10 (cf. also 1:3; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20) or absolutely in itself as long or short (cf. 8:1; 20:2). When measuring time, Scripture has a different standard from ours (cf. 1 John 2:18) (Lee). The purpose of en tachei is to teach the imminence of the events foretold, not to set a time limit within which they must occur (Johnson). It must be kept in mind that God is not limited by considerations of time in the same way man is (cf. 2 Pet. 3:8).

The presence of en tachei in 1:1 shows that for the first time the events predicted by Daniel and foreseen by Christ stood in readiness to be fulfilled. Therefore, John could speak of them as imminent, but earlier prophets could not.


Kendell Easley: The line of communication may be simply illustrated:

God→ Jesus → angel→ John→ servants

This verse shows the authority and inspiration of Revelation in the strongest terms. John uses the language of a legal witness called to appear in a courtroom. His role is simply one who reliably testifies to everything he saw. This is John’s way of affirming that the book is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Here also he gives two subtitles to his book: the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Christians call the entire Bible the Word of God; the Book of Revelation self-consciously claims this for itself. The noun testimony is closely related to the verb testifies.

A.  Role of Special Angel

and He sent and communicated it by His angel

John Walvoord: The name of the angel is not given, though Gabriel has been suggested (cf. Dan. 8:16; 9:2, 21–22; Luke 1:26–31).

Craig Feener: That he does not need to qualify which John he is may suggest that he is the most obvious John among the early Christians, namely, John the apostle, son of Zebedee, who had personally known Jesus in the flesh (cf. John 21:22).  Until the mid-third-century writer Dionysius, the external evidence for Revelation among orthodox Christians is unanimous, and even detractors admit that this evidence is some of the best available for any New Testament work.

John MacArthur: The book of Revelation is unique in New Testament literature because it is the only book sent and communicated to its human author by angels. In 22:16 Jesus reaffirmed the truth taught here, declaring, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches.” Angels were involved in the giving of the book of Revelation to John just as they were in the giving of the Law to Moses (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2). Not only were angels involved in transmitting the book of Revelation to John, but they also play a prominent role in the scenes it depicts. Angels appear in every chapter of Revelation except 4 and 13. The words angel or angels are used seventy-one times in the book of Revelation–more than in any other book in the Bible. In fact, one out of every four uses in Scripture of those words is in the book of Revelation. This book, then, is an important source of information on the ministry of angels.

B.  Role of Servant John

  1. Identification of John

to His bond-servant John,

Note how John identifies with Christians in general by using this same descriptive term of bond-servant.

Marvin Rosenthal: Technically, John was the scribe, not the author.  The last book of the Bible is not, as in some versions, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” but rather, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1).  He alone is the author; the beloved apostle John served as the amanuensis, or scribe, of the Revelation.  This fact sets the book of Revelation apart from other New Testament books.  Paul wrote letters; Peter wrote letters; John wrote letters.  They are part of the Bible – inspired by God.  Only the book of Revelation (Greek, apokolipse meaning unveiling) is a direct communication from the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. Testimony of John

a.  Based on What He Heard

                                    1)  Word of God

who bore witness to the word of God

Cf. the prologue to John’s gospel where he identifies the incarnate Jesus as the Word who was with God from the beginning

2)  Testimony of Jesus Christ

and to the testimony of Jesus Christ,

G.R. Beasley-Murray: it conveys a message from God and witness borne by Jesus Christ.

Grant Osborne: Both John and Jesus “witness” to the reality of the imminent events. In Revelation “witness” refers to fearless public proclamation and authentication, usually in the face of tremendous opposition, of divine realities in word and life. After receiving the revelation from God and Jesus via the angel (1:1), John now “testifies” or gives evidence to the church and the world that these visions constitute “the word of God” and “the testimony of Jesus.”

b.  Based on What He Saw

even to all that he saw.


Buist Fanning: This blessedness is rooted in the book’s authority because it comes from God and Jesus Christ (vv. 1–2) as well as its urgency because the events it describes are near at hand (v. 3d).

A.  Value Based on Its Authority

  1. Blessing Derived from Hearing

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy,

G.R. Beasley-Murray: A “revelation” of the end of history is given not for the satisfaction of curiosity, but to inspire living in accordance with the reality unveiled.

Gordon Fee: What makes John a truly Christian prophet is that from his position at the end of the first Christian century he clearly recognizes that the church and state are on a deadly collision course, wherein the church will suffer in the near future, but will know Christ’s triumph at the end (the “real” future). Thus at the outset John uses apocalyptic language that is intended to merge what is seen with what is spoken. That is, for him this was a “seen” word; but to communicate it to the church it had to become a written word, “the testimony” that Jesus Christ gave by way of one vision following another.

  1. Blessing Derived from Obeying

and heed the things which are written in it;

Craig Feener: In biblical idiom, “hearing” also often meant “heeding,” i.e., obedience (e.g., the Hebrew of Gen. 26:5; 27:8), but John allows no ambiguity, adding “take to heart” (lit., “keep”); one used this language for observing commandments. Though Revelation is not a collection of laws, its message provides us demands no less serious (Rev. 12:17; 14:12; 22:7).

William Barclay: The one who keeps these words is blessed. To hear God’s word is a privilege; to obey it is a duty. There is no real Christianity in anyone who hears and forgets or deliberately disregards.

John MacArthur: The three participles translated reads, hear, and heed are in the present tense. Reading, hearing, and obeying the truths taught in the book of Revelation (and in the rest of Scripture) are to be a way of life for believers. The change from the singular he who reads to the plural those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it depicts a first-century church service. It was common practice when the church gathered for one person to read the Scriptures aloud for all to hear (cf. 1 Tim. 4:13). Dr. Robert L. Thomas explains that “because writing materials were expensive and scarce, so were copies of the books that were parts of the biblical canon. As a rule, one copy per Christian assembly was the best that could be hoped for. Public reading was the only means that rank-and-file Christians had for becoming familiar with the contents of these books”(Revelation 1–7: An Exegetical Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1992], 60). Since only Scripture was to be publicly read, John’s “obvious intention that the Apocalypse was to be read publicly argued strongly from the start that it be included among those books that eventually would be recognized as part of the NT canon”(Thomas, Revelation 1–7, 62–63).

B.  Value Based on Its Urgency

for the time is near.

Buist Fanning: The final clause (v. 3d), introduced by “for,” underscores the urgency of heeding the message of Revelation: the culminating events prophesied in this book are close at hand. John refers to the future period of consummation (“the time” [ὁ . . . καιρός]) as a metonymy for the all-important events that will occur in that period.  Just as he did in v. 1 (“what must happen soon”), John asserts that these climactic events are “near” at hand (ἐγγύς; same phrasing in 22:10; cf. also Matt 26:18; Luke 21:31; Rom 13:11; Phil 4:5). This is a statement of imminence: these things can happen at any time, without delay. To know this and live accordingly brings blessing from God.

Craig Feener: Whatever else “the time is near” (1:3) might mean, it probably means that the events of the end will be unexpected and that we should be ready for them at any time (Mark 13:32–37; 1 Thess. 5:2), so that believers should live “every moment as though it were our last.”  A summons to readiness is surely a major part of the phrase’s rhetorical function, which we can apply readily today. As in John’s day, Jesus’ coming remains imminent, intruding on our preoccupied world, standing as a promise to the broken but a threat to Laodicean Christianity too satisfied with the present state of affairs. Jesus’ return will bring the final scene of human rebellion to close—an announcement that is a happy ending to God’s people, but a tragic one for all who chose to reject his way. Because the specific time is unknown and near, no one dare postpone repentance. There is never a good time for Christians to be attached to worldly possessions or allegiances, because there is never a time when testings or the Lord’s literal return may not call us to account for all our choices.

Grant Osborne: The “nearness” of the Lord’s return is used frequently in the NT to call believers to live responsibly toward God (Rom. 13:12; Heb. 10:25; James 5:8; 1 Pet. 4:7, with the cognate ἐγγίζω, engizō, draw near; Mark 13:28–29 par.; Rom. 13:11; Phil. 4:5, with ἐγγύς). Throughout, the focus is not just on eschatology but on ethics. In other words, in light of the fact that “the time is near,” we are called to live decisively and completely for God.