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John MacArthur: Having described the circumstances in which he received it, John then related the vision itself. This revealing and richly instructive look at the present work of the glorified Son of God discloses seven aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ’s constant ministry to His church: He empowers, intercedes for, purifies, speaks authoritatively to, controls, protects, and reflects His glory through His church.

James Hamilton: In 1:9–20 the risen Christ appears to John to commission him to write this prophecy of Revelation. John sees Jesus in the full splendor of his majesty. John has been exiled to the island of Patmos because of his testimony to Jesus, and he writes to churches facing tribulation and persecution. The message that Jesus communicates through John is that they are to endure faithfully, and that message is made compelling by the glory of the risen Christ.

Robert Thomas: After including God’s emphatic declaration (1:8) that confirms the prophetic theme of the book (1:7), John turns his attention to a description of his first revelatory encounter with Christ on the island of his exile. Initially he tells the circumstances of his first commission to write (1:9-11). Then he furnishes a detailed description of the source of the commission (1:12-16). He closes with words about interaction with the one who gave him the commission and a restatement of the commission which expands the initial command with a more detailed statement of what he was to write (1:17-20).

Richard Phillips: While showing Christ as Lord, this vision makes five key points about the relationship between Christ and his church: the church is under Christ’s rule, receives Christ’s care, is subject to Christ’s judgment, relies on Christ’s power, and has unity in Christ’s presence.

Perhaps the most important thing for us to note about the church as a lampstand is that the light it shines comes not from itself but from Jesus Christ. The Greek word luxnia describes the church not as a light for the world but rather as a stand on which a lamp is set. William Barclay writes: “It is not the churches themselves which produce the light; the giver of light is Jesus Christ; and the churches are only the vessels within which the light shines. The light which Christians possess is always a borrowed light.”

Gordon Fee: If one thinks of the Revelation in terms of a majestic drama, then the function of the first chapter is to introduce the reader to the three primary dramatis personae. Thus verses 1–8, which function very much as the preamble to the whole, at the same time introduce the major “player,” Christ himself. The function of the present paragraph is to situate the second “player,” the author John, in his own context, while at the same time introducing his primary readership, who are the third major “player,” and who will then be elaborated in some detail in chapters 2 and 3. . .

Everything about this vision is intended to describe a theophany, a divine self-revelation. First, there is the careful collage of images that combine the heavenly and earthly Son of Man, and do so with images used only for God. Second, there is the prostrate John, who is reassured with the “right hand” and the “do not be afraid” that he is safe in the Divine Presence. But especially, third, there is the self-disclosure language of verses 17–18, language that deliberately echoes God’s own language in verse 8.

Kendell Easley: The exalted Lord Jesus, who walks spiritually among his churches, gave John a revelation of himself that focuses on his certain glorious return.

Daniel Akin: Even in the midst of suffering and hardship, the church of Christ can look to the risen Savior and receive encouragement to both persevere and worship.

Buist Fanning: Through a vision of Jesus Christ in all his resurrected glory, John is commissioned to write down for Christ’s churches what the Spirit shows him about God’s future for the world.


A.  (:9) Suffering of John the Apostle

  1. The Principle of John’s Suffering = The Pathway to Kingdom Blessing Is Perseverance Thru Present Tribulation

I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom

and perseverance which are in Jesus,

Craig Koester: When the curtain rises on Act I, the audience hears the narrator introduce himself as “I, John, your brother” (1:9). John does not introduce himself in terms of his authority—as a prophet or other figure—but in terms of his relationship with the readers: he is their brother.

John MacArthur: John was astounded that, despite his utter unworthiness, he had the inestimable privilege of receiving this monumental vision. . .  Suffering persecution for the cause of Christ, belonging to His kingdom, and patiently enduring trials are distinctly Christian experiences.

James Hamilton: Unlike the Roman Empire, which promised peace but delivered brutality and fear, the kingdom of God promises tribulation and delivers peace and confidence and eternal salvation to those who patiently endure. Jesus will bring hope and change.

Make no mistake about it: your best life is not now. Your best life will begin when the skies are split by the shout of the archangel. When you patiently endure whatever afflictions you face in your life, you follow in the footsteps of the Old Testament prophets, the Lord Jesus, and his disciples.

Warren Wiersbe: John puts three words together – tribulation, kingdom and steadfast endurance. Tribulation is thlipsis. Originally, thlipsis meant simply pressure and could, for instance, describe the pressure of a great stone on someone’s body. At first it was used quite literally, but in the New Testament it has come to describe the pressure of events which constitutes persecution. Steadfast endurance is hupomonē. Hupomonē does not describe the patience which simply passively submits to the tide of events; it describes the spirit of courage and conquest which leads to gallantry and transforms even suffering into glory. The situation of the Christians was this. They were in thlipsis and, as John saw it, in the midst of the terrible events which preceded the end of the world. They were looking towards basileia, the kingdom, into which they desired to enter and on which they had set their hearts. There was only one way from thlipsis to basileia, from affliction to glory, and that was through hupomonē, conquering endurance. Jesus said: ‘Anyone who endures to the end will be saved’ (Matthew 24:13). Paul told his people: ‘It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22). In 2 Timothy, we read: ‘If we endure, we will also reign with him’ (2 Timothy 2:12).

Robert Thomas: Thlipsei in Rev. 1:9 is linked closely with two other words, basilei and hypomon, which combine with it in constituting the sphere of fellowship. The grammatical signal pointing to this is the governance of all three nouns by a single article t . Yet the nature of the relationship of these three is not easy to define. Many explain that the three are viewed separately with the unusual sequence of their listing accounted for by the following rationale: the present experience of tribulation is that which is bringing in the kingdom (Acts 14:22), but endurance is mentioned to remind the readers that the kingdom in its fullness is not yet here; there is still a struggle before it will be attained.  The appropriateness of this reasoning is obvious. It fits well against a backdrop of a persecuted church awaiting a future kingdom-deliverance. The unusual nonchronological sequence can be accounted for by noting that, added as an afterthought, hypomon is a quality that must be manifest in tribulation as a condition of inheriting the kingdom.  This aligns with Paul’s exhortation that “through many afflictions we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). A severe drawback to this understanding of the three concepts, however, is a grammatical one. It simply does not account adequately for the unity of the three indicated by the single article governing them.

An alternative understanding is to see that John has used a figure of speech called hendiatris, i.e., the use of three words with only one thought intended. The one idea is “affliction” and the other two words characterize that affliction as being not what the world experiences but what is particularly connected with the “kingdom” (Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:6) and one that requires “endurance” or patient waiting (Rev. 2:2, 3, 19; 3:10; 13:10; 14:12).  This view’s elevation of θλίψει (thlipsei, “affliction”) to the prominent role gives due recognition to the grammatical construction (Bullinger) and coincides well with the end of 1:9 where John’s exile comes into view. Such a focus on persecution sets a more appropriate stage for the vision and commission that came to John in 1:10 ff. What Jesus had to reveal to and through him must be seen in the light of his own sufferings and those of other Christians. This second view regarding the relationship of the three nouns is superior to the first and should be accepted.

Charles Swindoll: Today, it’s hard for most Christians to imagine fellowship in the church without three so-called essentials —food, folks, and fun. Yet John demonstrated that fellowship in the early church centered on an altogether different threesome —perseverance through tribulation in light of the coming kingdom.

The Greek word thlipsis [2347], “tribulation,” can refer to the coming Great Tribulation of the end times, leading up to Christ’s physical return (Matt. 24:21, 29). More commonly, though, it refers to general trials and persecutions experienced by Christians of every era (Matt. 13:21; 24:9; John 16:33; Rom. 5:3).

Richard Phillips: Before John’s participation in the kingdom, however, was his partnership “in the tribulation” (Rev. 1:9). John mentions the suffering of believers first because tribulation marks the path that leads us to the kingdom, just as for Jesus the cross preceded the crown. With this in mind, we may find it remarkable that many Christians read the book of Revelation as teaching that the church will be removed from the world’s great tribulation. Nothing could be more contrary to the emphasis of this book, as of the entire New Testament. The great tribulation of the end times will merely intensify the tribulation that is always Christians’ lot. Paul taught that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). John Calvin wrote: “The church of Christ has been so divinely constituted from the beginning that the Cross has been the way to victory, death the way to life.”  As Jesus himself foretold, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). If Christians all come from the same place and are bound to the same destination, it follows that we must all take the same road. Jesus defined it: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Just as there is a kingdom “in Jesus,” together with its blessings and glory, so also there is “tribulation . . . in Jesus” (Rev. 1:9).

Daniel Akin: A study on the book of Revelation may possibly be titled, “The Normal Christian Life: Prosperity Gospelers Need Not Apply.” The apostle John had been faithful both to preach the Word of God and to proclaim the testimony of Jesus Christ (see 1:2). David Platt points out this idea appears three other times in Revelation (6:9; 12:17; 20:4), and every time it refers to Christians who are suffering because they are speaking and witnessing about Jesus (“Danger”). Christians will be attacked, exiled, slaughtered, beheaded. Serving Christ will not be easy. It is costly! John’s reward for being such a faithful witness was imprisonment and being sent away to die alone. There was no health and wealth for this follower of Jesus.

  • there is partnership in suffering for Jesus
  • there is pain in suffering for Jesus
  • there is privilege in suffering for Jesus
  • there is purpose in suffering for Jesus

Grant Osborne: The repetition of ἐν (“in . . . in”) stresses the NT teaching that all Christian suffering was interpreted in the early church as a participation “in Christ” (cf. Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 1:5; 4:10; Phil. 3:10; Col. 1:24; 1 Pet. 4:13). In a very real sense, affliction in the name of Christ was perceived as sharing in his life and glory (1 Pet. 1:11, in which “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” become a model for Christian endurance in the rest of the epistle).

  1. The Place of John’s Suffering = Isolation in Exile on Patmos

was on the island called Patmos,

John MacArthur: When he received this vision, John was in exile on the island called Patmos. Patmos is a barren, volcanic island in the Aegean Sea, at its extremities about ten miles long and five to six miles wide, located some forty miles offshore from Miletus (a city in Asia Minor about thirty miles south of Ephesus; cf. Acts 20:15–17). According to the Roman historian Tacitus, exile to such islands was a common form of punishment in the first century. At about the same time that John was banished to Patmos, Emperor Domitian exiled his own niece, Flavia Domitilla, to another island (F. F. Bruce, New Testament History [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972], 413). Unlike Flavia Domitilla, whose banishment was politically motivated, John was probably sent to Patmos as a criminal (as a Christian, he was a member of an illegal religious sect). If so, the conditions under which he lived would have been harsh. Exhausting labor under the watchful eye (and ready whip) of a Roman overseer, insufficient food and clothing, and having to sleep on the bare ground would have taken their toll on a ninety-year-old man. It was on that bleak, barren island, under those brutal conditions, that John received the most extensive revelation of the future ever given.

Warren Wiersbe: Patmos, a barren, rocky little island belonging to a group of islands called the Sporades, is ten miles long by five miles wide. It is crescent-shaped, with the horns of the crescent pointing to the east. Its shape makes it a good natural harbour. It lies forty miles off the coast of Asia Minor, and it was important because it was the last haven on the voyage from Rome to Ephesus and the first in the reverse direction.

Craig Koester: Given the reference to “affliction,” readers sometimes imagine that Patmos was a penal colony, where John and his fellow prisoners were subjected to hard labor. Yet that was not the case. Patmos was an ordinary island with families living in a small Greek town beside its harbor and herders tending goats on the rocky slopes. There was a fort on the hill above the town, though it was probably not used much in Roman times. A social highlight of the year was the local festival to the goddess Artemis, when sacrifices were made in her honor. Ships would stop at the harbor at Patmos as they made their way from island to island while sailing from Asia Minor to Greece. If John had indeed been banished, he would have lived among the residents of the island. The stipulation was that he could not leave until the authorities said so.

Richard Phillips: There are differing opinions about the nature of John’s imprisonment. On the easy side, exiled prisoners may have received mild treatment and been permitted relative freedom on the island, although they had lost their property and civil rights. More negatively, Sir William Ramsay paints a stark picture, arguing that John’s exile was “preceded by scourging, marked by perpetual fetters, scanty clothing, insufficient food, sleep on the bare ground, a dark prison, work under the lash of the military overseer.” Whatever his actual circumstances, there can be little doubt that most painful to John the pastor was separation from his beloved church across the sea in Ephesus and his inability to proclaim the gospel of his Savior, Jesus.

  1. The Persecution of John’s Suffering – Due to Proclaiming the Gospel

because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Van Parunak: —These two terms, first mentioned in 1:2, summarize the Bible: God’s OT revelation and the teaching of the Lord Jesus, amplified in the NT. Later verses show that these are the cause of persecution (Rev. 6:9; 12:17).

Robert Thomas: The most probable meaning of the words is that John was exiled here because of the preaching of the gospel that he had done in other places (Alford). The closely related use of dia in 6:9 and 20:4 supports the idea of banishment as the cause, because both passages speak of death by persecution. Also, throughout the remainder of the book the expression refers uniformly to the gospel (cf. 6:9; 12:17; 19:10; 20:4) (Beckwith). This is the sense of “the Word of God” elsewhere also (cf. 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:9; 1 John 2:7) (Swete). This too is in agreement with an early and practically unanimous tradition regarding the reason for John’s presence on Patmos.  A final confirmation comes from noting the emphasis on affliction and persecution earlier in the verse. Only this viewpoint follows through with that line of thinking (Alford). One objection is worth mentioning. The claim is that because John had leisure to receive visitors and to write, he could not have been under the penalty of some kind of banishment (Bullinger). This is countered, however, by noting Paul’s situation of house arrest during his earliest imprisonment in Rome. He enjoyed freedom of ministry while a prisoner. There is no reason John could not have been extended the same.

B.  (:10a) Spiritual Orientation of John the Apostle

  1. Controlled by the Holy Spirit

I was in the Spirit

John MacArthur: John received his vision while he was in the Spirit; his experience transcended the bounds of normal human apprehension. Under the Holy Spirit’s control, John was transported to a plane of experience and perception beyond that of the human senses. In that state, God supernaturally revealed things to him. Ezekiel (Ezek. 2:2; 3:12, 14), Peter (Acts 10:9ff.), and Paul (Acts 22:17–21; 2 Cor. 12:1ff.) had similar experiences.

James Hamilton: There are four places in Revelation where John records that he was “in the Spirit”—here in 1:10, in 4:2, in 17:3, and in 21:10. Each marks the beginning of a significant movement in John’s visionary experience. Here in 1:10 John is about to see the risen Christ. In 4:2 John sees the heavenly court. In 17:3 John is carried away in the Spirit at the beginning of his vision of the fall of the harlot Babylon, and in 21:10 John is carried away in the Spirit to see the descent of the bride of the Lamb, the new Jerusalem.

Van Parunak: The Spirit brought him into an altered state of consciousness; compare Acts 22:17, “come to be in a trance,” and Acts 12:11, “come to oneself.” The first circumstance is that God’s Spirit took control of his mind.

  1. Concentrating on Worship

on the Lord’s day,

Van Parunak: Some people seek to identify this with “the day of the Lord,” the day when the Lord returns, and suggest that John is saying that the HS has given him a vision of this great coming day. While he will ultimately have a vision of this event, the language here is not the expression that both the NT and OT use for that coming day, ἡμέρα G2250 κυρίου G2962. Rather, it designates the day with an adjective that marks it as belonging to the Lord. The only other instance of this adjective in the NT is 1 Cor 11:20, “the Lord’s supper.”

John is keeping track of what day of the week it is. It appears that in spite of his exile, he has tried to set apart the first day for a time of meditation and prayer, and it is on such an occasion that the Lord appears to John.

Buist Fanning: John adds a further detail about the circumstances when this vision of Christ came to him by the Spirit: it was “on the Lord’s day” (ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ). This almost certainly refers to Sunday, the first day of the week, when Christians gathered for worship, instruction, and fellowship (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2).  Sundays had become the Lord’s day (the “dominical” day, the day belonging to the Lord), because it was the day of the Lord’s resurrection (Matt 28:1; John 20:1, 19; cf. Did. 14:1).  The relevance of this detail for introducing the vision is that it reinforces the sense of Christ’s glory as the one raised from the dead (cf. Rev 1:18). It may also suggest that the vision arose from John’s experience of worship and reflection, either alone or with a group of Christians gathered there on Patmos with him on that Sunday.

John Walvoord: [Alternate View] Some Bible commentators say the expression “on the Lord’s day” refers to the first day of the week, the day of Christ’s resurrection and Christians’ day of worship, while others believe it is a reference to “the day of the Lord” as used in the Old Testament—an extended period of time in which God deals in judgment and rules over the earth. Although it is common today to refer to Sunday as “the Lord’s day,” it is not used this way in the Bible. The New Testament consistently refers to Christ’s resurrection as occurring on “the first day of the week,” never as “the Lord’s day” (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). Ryrie notes, “[The word] ‘Lord’s’ is an adjective … used only here and in 1 Corinthians 11:20 in the New Testament. Unless this is a reference to Sunday, there is no place in the New Testament where this expression is used for that day, since the usual designation is ‘the first day of the week.’”  So John was projected forward to the future day of the Lord as he received the revelation of the unfolding of the end times.

Robert Thomas: A weakness of this explanation includes the observation that the genitive of the noun, υ ίoυ (kyriou), and not the adjective kyriak is always used elsewhere to name the eschatological day of the Lord (Bullinger; Mounce). Another weakness observes that though the eschatological day of the Lord is prominent in the book elsewhere, it is out of place in this immediate context that portrays Christ in His current role as present with the church on earth (Swete; Beckwith).

C.  (:10b-11) Startling Commission of John the Apostle

  1. The Majesty Delivering the Commission

and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, 11 saying,

William Barclay: In this state of existential openness to the Spirit of God, John hears a loud voice behind him. There is no possibility of misunderstanding the command because the voice is as clear and unmistakable as the sound of a trumpet.  Since Christ’s voice is later said to be “like the sound of rushing waters” (1:15), some have held that the voice in v. 10 must have been that of an angel. In the verses that follow (vv. 17–19), however, it is Christ who commands John to write, and it is therefore natural to assume that it is also he who speaks in vv. 10 and 11.

Sola Scriptura: “a loud voice” – This noun phrase is used twenty-two times in Revelation and is compared to the blast of a trumpet, the sound of thunder, and sound of roaring water. In each case, a divine being or angelic being is delivering a significant message.  Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

  1. The Manuscript Demanded by the Commission

Write in a book what you see,

Kendell Easley: The voice commanded John to write on a scroll, the form in which books existed in those days. Sheets of paper handmade from the papyrus plant (a kind of reed) were glued into strips about a foot wide but as long as thirty feet and then rolled up. The scrolls were handwritten with ink in even columns a few inches wide. Since Revelation was written in Greek, the columns went from left to right. The seven cities—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea (see Col. 4:16)—had been evangelized directly or indirectly through Paul’s ministry.

  1. The Mandate to Fulfil the Commission

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.

Why the targeting of these 7 churches?

  • These were actual churches that existed in John’s day.
  • John had a ministry connection already to these churches so that his message would be received as authoritative.
  • These churches are listed along a geographical circuit.
  • These churches exhibit problems and temptations that apply to all churches down through church history.
  • These churches are in some sense typical of the churches that will exist in the end times as tribulation intensifies.
  • By addressing 7 churches, the number of completeness, John is addressing the church in its totality.

Rejection of alternative views:

  • That these churches represent a progressive view of church history with each church describing the characteristics of that specific period.
  • That these churches are not historical churches but some idealized catalog of churches designed to represent a wide range of spiritual problems.

Gordon Fee: These churches when connected by road make a long, thin horseshoe-shaped semi-circle from Ephesus through Smyrna to Pergamum in the north—still on or close to the Aegean Sea—and then inland in a south-southeasterly direction down to Laodicea, which is about eighty miles east and slightly south of Ephesus.


Warren Wiersbe: It is easy to miss seeing how carefully constructed Revelation is. It is not a book which was flung together in a hurry; it is a closely integrated and artistic literary whole. In this passage, we have a whole series of descriptions of the risen Christ; and the interesting thing is that each of the letters to the seven churches which follow in the next two chapters, with the exception of the letter to Laodicea, opens with a description of the risen Christ taken from this chapter. It is as if this chapter introduced a series of themes which were later to become the texts for the letters to the churches. . .

The second thing to note is that, in this passage, John takes titles which in the Old Testament are descriptions of God and applies them to the risen Christ.

A.  (:12-13a) The Big Picture

And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me.

  1. (:12b)  Seven Golden Lampstands

And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;

Grant Osborne: There have been many interpretations of the lampstand. While it could refer to Yahweh’s presence among his people, most take it as a reference to Israel shining upon the nations with the Holy Spirit (1:6) and the truth of God. There are two differences between Zechariah and Rev. 1:12: in the latter there are seven separate lampstands, and on the basis of 1:20 they refer to the seven churches in chapters 2–3. Nevertheless, the basic thrust is the same: the churches are depicted as shining lights for God in the midst of a hostile world. This witness theme fits the imagery already suggested for 1:6–7 above and will be extended further in the two witnesses of chapter 11, called “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth” in 11:4, a further allusion to Zech. 4:2–3.

Warren Wiersbe: The picture of the seven golden lampstands has three sources.

(1) It comes from the picture of the candlestick of pure gold in the tabernacle. It was to have six branches, three on one side and three on the other, and seven lamps to give light (Exodus 25:31–7).

(2) It comes from the picture of Solomon’s Temple. In it, there were to be five candlesticks of pure gold on the right hand and five on the left (1 Kings 7:49).

(3) It comes from the vision of Zechariah. Zechariah saw ‘a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it’ (Zechariah 4:2).

  1. (:13a) Son of Man

and in the middle of the lampstands one like a son of man,

Van Parunak: So the fundamental picture is of the Lord, as high priest, tending his churches, as the high priest tends the lampstand. The imagery reminds us:

  • of our responsibility to shine as a church, bringing glory to the Lord;
  • of our autonomy, in contrast to the integrated lampstand of the Jewish tabernacle;
  • of our Lord’s care for us, guiding us to ever greater brightness for him

Richard Phillips: The vision of Daniel 7 concluded with God as the “Ancient of Days,” to whom “there came one like a son of man,” riding on the clouds (Dan. 7:13). “Son of man” does not, therefore, denote the mere humanity of Jesus, but rather the fact that this One in the form of man is really God. According to Daniel, the Son of Man is the One worthy to receive “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (7:14). According to Douglas Kelly, the Son of Man is “the sovereign Master of an indestructible kingdom that is going to crush all others.”  Far from signifying Jesus’ humble humanity, “Son of man” makes exactly the opposite point, declaring Jesus in his transcendent majesty and sovereign rule.

Leon Morris: Explanation of use of title “son of man”:

  1. Jesus used the term because of its lack of political complications.
  2. Jesus used the term because of its divinity overtones.
  3. Jesus used the term because of its connections with a future kingdom.
  4. Jesus used the term because of its human undertones.

Grant Osborne: Metzger (1993: 26) captures it better: “When John says he saw Christ in the midst of the lampstands, he wants to let us know that Christ is not an absentee landlord. On the contrary, he is in the midst of his churches supporting them during trials and persecutions.” This begins a progression of images, with Jesus “in the midst of” the lampstands (1:13), then “holding” the seven stars “in his right hand” (1:16; 2:1; 3:1), and finally “walking among the seven golden lampstands” (2:1). All three images depict Christ involved in the lives of his people and sovereignly protecting them. But as Giesen (1997: 87) states, there can also be a warning involved here. Since Christ is lord over the church, he can remove them if they do not turn themselves around (e.g., 2:5).

B.  (:13b-16) The Specific Details

  1. (:13b)  Priestly Robe

clothed in a robe reaching to the feet,

John MacArthur: the word translated robe was used most frequently (in six of its seven occurrences) in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) to describe the robe worn by the high priest. While Christ is biblically presented as prophet and king, and His majesty and dignity emphasized, the robe here pictures Christ in His role as the Great High Priest of His people. That He was girded across His chest with a golden sash reinforces that interpretation, since the high priest in the Old Testament wore such a sash (cf. Ex. 28:4; Lev. 16:4).

Daniel Akin: This is the clothing of the priest in the Old Testament (Exod 28:4). It signifies Jesus as our great high priest and points to His work of atonement and intercession on our behalf (see Heb 7:25).

William Barclay: Some writers hold that in the introductory verses of Revelation Jesus is presented in the threefold office of prophet, priest, and king. As recipient of God’s revelation in v. 1 he is a prophet. As “ruler of the kings of the earth” in v. 5 he is king. And the high-priestly garments of v. 13 present him as priest (cf. Exod 28:4; 29:5).

  1. (:13c)  Royal Girdle

and girded across His breast with a golden girdle.

Grant Osborne: The “golden sash around his chest” could be the sacred ephod of the high priest embroidered with gold thread (Exod. 28:4; 29:5; cf. 39:29), but it is more likely from Dan. 10:5, where Daniel had a vision of a man “dressed in linen, with a belt of finest gold.”

  1. (:14a)  Wisdom of Eternity

And His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow;

John MacArthur: John’s description of Christ’s head and … hair as white like white wool, like snow is an obvious reference to Daniel 7:9, where similar language describes the Ancient of Days (God the Father). The parallel descriptions affirm Christ’s deity; He possesses the same attribute of holy knowledge and wisdom as the Father. White translates leukos, which has the connotation of “bright,” “blazing” or “brilliant.” It symbolizes Christ’s eternal, glorious, holy truthfulness.

Kendell Easley: In the ancient world, white hair symbolized the respect due to the aged for the wisdom of their advanced years (Prov. 16:31). This part of the picture points to Jesus’ wisdom.

In traditional theological language, the “omniscience” of the exalted Jesus may be suggested. He knows what is best for his people, even when they are suffering.

John Piper: This is remarkable, because in that same chapter in Daniel (7) where John gets this picture of “one like a son of man” (vv. 13-14), God the Father is described like this in verse 9: “The Ancient of Days took his seat; his vesture was like white snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool.” In other words John is describing the Son of Man in terms used for God himself. John wants us to see something here about the age of Christ and the wisdom and dignity that come with age—everlasting age!

In American culture today, we respect the process of aging less and less. A person is admired if he can keep looking young, not if he has the dignity of age. The Bible saw it another way. Proverbs 16:31 says, “A white head is a crown of glory,” so much so that in the law God commanded, “You will rise up before the white head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God; I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).

One of the reasons we don’t want to grow old is that we associate age with the fading of powers that make life worth living—the capacity to see and hear and think clearly and move about and not have pain. But all of those things do not belong to aging as aging. They belong to aging in a futile and fallen world of sin. Once God does away with sin and the curse, and establishes the new heavens and the new earth, aging will not have any of these negative connotations. It will only be associated with growing wisdom and insight and maturity. All the strength will still be there. All the mental powers. All the sight and hearing and agility. Nothing that is great about youth will be left behind. There will only be added all the powers and beauties and depth of age.

This is what John saw in Jesus. He was like the Ancient of Days with all the wisdom of eternity and all the maturity and steadiness of age, but he was not weak or weary or faltering in his step. (“Look at Jesus”)


  1. (:14b)  Penetrating Omniscience

and His eyes were like a flame of fire;

John MacArthur: His searching, revealing, infallible gaze penetrates to the very depths of His church, revealing to Him with piercing clarity the reality of everything there is to know. Jesus declared, “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Matt. 10:26). In the words of the author of Hebrews, “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). The omniscient Lord of the church will not fail to recognize and deal with sin in His church.

James Hamilton: When John describes Jesus in 1:14 as one whose “eyes were like a flame of fire” (cf. 19:12; Daniel 10:6), he is declaring the reality that nothing escapes the all-searching, pure gaze of Jesus. This has at least three implications:

1) no sin that we commit will escape his notice,

2) he will see every faithful thing his people do, and

3) he will note every injustice done to his people by their enemies.

  1. (:15a)  Triumphant Omnipotence

and His feet were like burnished bronze,

when it has been caused to glow in a furnace,

Warren Wiersbe: It may be that we are to see two things in the picture. The brass stands for strength, for the steadfastness of God; and the shining rays stand for speed, for the swiftness of the feet of God to help his own or to punish sin.

Kendell Easley: These powerful feet of Jesus point to his ultimate triumph over all the forces of evil, natural and supernatural alike. If his hair symbolizes “omniscience” and his eyes “omnipresence,” then the feet may represent “omnipotence.”

Grant Osborne: philologically, the term must be understood as a metal alloy of copper, bronze, or brass. From this Hemer (1986: 112–17) after an extensive discussion concludes that this was a brass alloy of copper and zinc, used for military purposes (Thyatira was a Roman garrison town or military headquarters) and in coinage. . .  This image of “polished bronze” emphasizes the glory and strength of Christ.

  1. (:15b)  Majestic Voice

and His voice was like the sound of many waters.

  1. (:16a)  Church Sovereignty

And in His right hand He held seven stars;

Grant Osborne: To “have . . . in his hand” occurs often in this book (1:16; 2:1; 3:1 with ἔχων only; 6:5; 10:2; 17:4), and in each case the idea of power over the thing held is present. Therefore the glorified Christ is in complete control. The “seven stars” are identified in verse 20 as the angels of the seven churches addressed in chapters 2 and 3.

  1. (:16b)  Decisive Judgment

and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword;

James Hamilton: This is a colorful way to say that Jesus will speak decisive words of judgment (cf. Isaiah 11:4; 49:2; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 2:12; 19:15, 21).

Kendell Easley: The sword stands for Jesus’ power to judge and conquer his enemies, thus protecting his people.

  1. (:16c)  Shekinah Glory

and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

Daniel Akin: This speaks of His brilliance, holiness, majesty, and awesomeness. John saw Jesus as He, the Son of God, truly is. He is an awesome God, a powerful God, a majestic God. He is a God worthy of our worship, worthy of our service, worthy of all we can give Him. He is a God whose presence gives us assurance. The Lord knows what is happening in His churches, for He is continually among them. Our Lord is an awesome God, sufficient for every need we may have.

Buist Fanning: The final description compares “his face” (ἡ ὄψις αὐτοῦ) to the rays of the sun at their brightest: “Like the sun shining in its full force.” A face radiant as the sunshine seems to speak of heavenly “glory,” as reflected by Moses when he came down from talking to God on Sinai (Exod 34:29) or by Jesus at the transfiguration (Matt 17:2) or the mighty angel coming down from heaven (Rev 10:1)


A.  (:17-18) Confirmation Based on Reassurance of the Authority of Jesus

  1. (:17a) Need for Reassurance

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man.

John Walvoord: The revelation of God and His glory on other occasions in the Bible had a similar stunning effect, as illustrated in the cases of Abraham (Gen. 17:3), Manoah (Judg. 13:20), Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:23; 43:3; 44:4), Daniel (Dan. 8:17; 10:8–9, 15–17), and the disciples at Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:6).

  1. (:17b-18) Nurturing of Reassurance

a.  (:17b)  Pastoral Care

And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid;’

Warren Wiersbe: Lord reassured John by touching him and speaking to him (note Dan. 8:18; 9:21; 10:10, 16, 18). “Fear not!” is a great encouragement for any child of God. We need not fear life, because He is “The Living One.” We need not fear death, because He died and is alive, having conquered death. And we need not fear eternity because He holds the keys of hades (the world of the dead) and of death. The One with the keys is the One who has authority.

At the very beginning of this book, Jesus presented Himself to His people in majestic glory. What the church needs today is a new awareness of Christ and His glory. We need to see Him “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1). There is a dangerous absence of awe and worship in our assemblies today. We are boasting about standing on our own feet, instead of breaking and falling at His feet. For years, Evan Roberts prayed, “Bend me! Bend me!” and when God answered, the great Welsh Revival resulted.

b.  (:17c-18)  Pronouncements of Authority

1)  Authority over Time

I am the first and the last,

Grant Osborne: The “First and the Last” title derives from Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12, where it refers to God as creator of all and sovereign over history. Bauckham (1993a: 27) also says, “God precedes all things, as their Creator, and he will bring all things to eschatological fulfillment. He is the origin and goal of all history. He has the first word, in creation, and the last word, in new creation” (also Kraft 1974: 48). In the context of Rev. 1:17–18, this sovereignty is now extended to Christ.

2)  Authority over Life

and the living One;

and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore,

John MacArthur: Behold introduces a statement of amazement and wonder: I am alive forevermore. Christ lives forever in a union of glorified humanity and deity,” according to the power of an indestructible life” (Heb. 7:16). “Christ, having been raised from the dead,” wrote Paul, “is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him” (Rom. 6:9). That truth provides comfort and assurance, because Jesus “is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). In spite of his sinfulness in the presence of the glorious Lord of heaven, John had nothing to fear because that same Lord had paid by His death the penalty for John’s sins (and those of all who believe in Him) and risen to be his eternal advocate.

3)  Authority over Death and Hades

and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

John MacArthur: Hades is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament term Sheol and refers to the place of the dead. Keys denote access and authority. Jesus Christ has the authority to decide who dies and who lives; He controls life and death. And John, like all the redeemed, had nothing to fear, since Christ had already delivered him from death and Hades by His own death.

Kendell Easley: Keys are for opening or locking doors. Death and Hades—twin monsters—are limited in their power by the keyholder. As the final Judge, Jesus is able to “open the doors of death” and judge all those who have died. He also has the power to send into eternal death (“the lake of fire”) those whose names are not recorded in the Book of Life. The portrait of the last judgment in Revelation 20 expands this theme, especially verses 14–15.

Grant Osborne: Mainly, Christ through his death and resurrection has defeated the powers of evil (the twin forces of “Death and Hades”) and gained control over them (cf. Col. 2:15; 1 Pet. 3:19–20). In the NT, “key” in an eschatological text always has the idea of power or authority over a thing (cf. Matt. 16:19; Rev. 1:18; 3:7; 9:1; 20:1). Thus here he has overcome and gained mastery over the cosmic forces.

B.  (:19) Confirmation Based on Clarification of the Mission

  1. Recording of the Vision

Write therefore the things which you have seen,

Buist Fanning: This commission gives the revelatory paradigm for the whole book of Revelation: John must record what he has seen in his vision and what those things signify, and thus what they reveal about God’s future for the world (cf. 1:1).  The same specific command “write” (γράψον; v. 11) is repeated here followed by further details about what is to be written down. The content is structured in three relative clauses introduced by “what” or “the things that” (ἅ, plural). These three are often regarded as a preview of the outline of the book. What is debated within this view is whether the clauses should be seen as three parallel segments or as one overarching element (“what you have seen”) followed by two subsidiary points that unpack it (“that is, what is [now] and what is destined to take place after these things”).  The conjunction “and” (καί) can mean “that is” (epexegetical use), but the shift in tenses seems to favor the normal sense “and,” which yields three parallel units. Also, the reference to what will “happen after these things” is a clear allusion to 4:1, where according to this view the third section would begin. The main objection to a threefold division is that the different sections (especially chs. 4–22) contain a mixture of past, present, and future events. But the predominant temporal character of the three sections is still clear despite some overlap: chapter 1 is what John has just seen, chapters 2–3 address the current condition of the churches in Asia Minor, and chapters 4–22 portray what is yet to occur, as 4:1 indicates.

A different approach to v. 19 that makes more sense than either of these views is to understand the middle clause as “what they are [i.e., represent, mean, or refer to].” John is to record the details from his present vision and what those details signify particularly in regard to future events in God’s program of redemption.  This is the sense that the verb “are” (εἰσίν) carries in 1:20 (cf. also “you saw,” εἶδες, in both verses). The stars and the lampstands represent the churches, and chapters 2–3 exhort these churches about their present conduct especially in light of God’s judgment and reward that will come in the future. So v. 19 is not intended to provide an outline of the book’s contents but a literary pattern for John to follow in recounting his visions. This pattern (what John has seen, what it means, and what it shows about the future) is the template not only for his most recent vision but for all the visions that will be included in the book. It can be seen (especially the verb “be” as “mean, represent”) in later passages in the book (e.g., Rev 4:5; 5:6, 8; 7:14–17).

  1. Application of the Vision

a.  Application to the Present

and the things which are,

b.  Application to Future End Time Events

and the things which shall take place after these things.

[Alternative Views]

John MacArthur: The astounding vision John saw inspired in him a healthy tension between fear and assurance. But to that was added a reminder of his duty. Christ’s earlier command to write is now expanded, as John is told to record three features. First, the things which you have seen, the vision John had just seen and recorded in verses 10–16. Next, the things which are, a reference to the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3, which describe the present state of the church. Finally, John was to write the things which will take place after these things, the prophetic revelations of future events unfolded in chapters 4–22. This threefold command provides an outline for the book of Revelation, encompassing (from John’s perspective) the past, present, and future.

Van Parunak: —It is common to associate the three clauses of this expression with three sections of the book: what John has already seen (ch. 1), the description of the churches of the first century (ch. 2-3), and the distant future (ch. 4-22). There are a number of difficulties with this view. Most notably, we will find references to future events in ch. 2-3, and descriptions of past and present events in 4-22. It is preferable to understand the first clause in parallel with 1:11, “What thou seest, write in a book,” and 21:5, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” The last two clauses then apply to all of the book throughout, both in ch. 2-3 and 4-22, we will read of things that have already occurred, and of things that still lie in the future.

C.  (:20) Confirmation Based on Interpretation of Major Symbolism

As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Grant Osborne: The concept of “mystery” is a critical apocalyptic concept (cf. 1 Enoch 51.3; 103.2; 2 Esdr. [4 Ezra] 14:5; 1QS 3.21–23; 1QH 15 [7].27) not only for this book but for the early church as a whole (cf. Matt. 13:11; Rom. 11:25; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:3–9; Col. 1:26–27). It refers to hidden secrets kept from the people of the past but now disclosed by God.

G.R. Beasley-Murray: mystery also carries the connotation of unexpected, end-time fulfillment included in the meaning of the stars and lampstands in the present context.

James Hamilton: That Jesus holds the seven stars in his right hand means that he is in control of the churches, and that he is among the lampstands means that he is present with the churches.

Kendell Easley: Both the congregations and their spiritual leaders are symbolized as light-bearing bodies. Both the congregations and their leaders are of special concern for the risen Lord. He will protect his people in spite of all evil that comes their way.

Richard Phillips: it is unlikely that Christ was referring to human messengers here, for the simple reason that elsewhere in Revelation the word angel always describes a supernatural messenger and heavenly servant of God. It is probably best, then, to see Jesus as referring to guardian angels assigned to the churches they represent. This fits the pattern of Daniel’s visions, to which John has repeatedly referred, in which an angel spoke of his combat with enemy spiritual powers and referred to the angel Michael as “your prince” (Dan. 10:21). The idea of heavenly counterparts for God’s earthly people seems to be reflected in the seven stars in Christ’s hand. Lampstands on earth and stars in heaven both shine their light, and it seems that the angels of the churches are so closely identified with the churches themselves that the two can be spoken of as one.

Buist Fanning: The most likely sense is that these “angels . . . of the seven churches” are holy angels, that is, supernatural messengers or instruments of God, who serve as guardians or representatives of the congregations.  This role of angels regarding the churches is not clearly attested elsewhere in the New Testament, but several clues make this the most plausible understanding. Symbolizing an angel as a “star” occurs in 9:1 (also Judg 5:20; Job 38:7 LXX), and in general angels appear frequently in apocalyptic literature and in Revelation itself (readers would more likely expect the term to mean “angel” rather than “messenger”). Angels are viewed as guardians or representatives for individual humans (Matt 18:10; Acts 12:15; cf. Tob 12:15; 2 Macc 11:6) or for earthly nations (Dan 10:13, 20, 21; 12:1; Deut 32:8 LXX; Sir 17:17), and they seem to be attentive to the life of the church (1 Cor 11:10; Eph 3:10). Most interpreters follow this view.  Its weakness is that it is hard to explain why the messages that follow in chapters 2–3 are addressed to such an angelic representative and not to the churches directly.

Van Parunak: “the angels of the seven churches” — The word ἄγγελος is used in the NT to refer to human messengers as well as heavenly ones:

Luke 7:19 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? … 24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

The Lord goes on to call John himself the ἄγγελος promised in Mal 3:1,

Luke 7:27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Later, we read,

Luke 9:51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.

The simplest solution seems to be to consider the seven “messengers” as envoys sent from the churches to visit John in exile. Perhaps they brought material help; they may enquired of his well-being, or sought his counsel on issues, much as we see in the Corinthian correspondence. Now he sends them back with a message for the churches that they represent, and as members of those churches, they share in the praise and criticism that he expresses.

William Barclay: [Possible Views]  Many explanations have been proposed for the angels. If they are human beings (Matt 11:10 and other verses would allow this), they could be prominent officials of the local congregations or delegates sent to Patmos to be entrusted with the letters. The use of “angel” in the book of Revelation (it occurs some 60 times) favors identifying the angels as heavenly beings. They could be guardian angels (cf. Dan 10:13, 20–21; Matt 18:10; Acts 12:15) or perhaps heavenly counterparts that came to be identified with the church. The most satisfactory answer, however, is that the angel of the church was a way of personifying the prevailing spirit of the church. This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that all seven letters are addressed to separate angels, a strange phenomenon if they refer to anything but the church since the contents are obviously intended for the congregation as a whole.