This is a sample of what I have been learning at Johnson University. This assignment was on “Revelation.” This will take you through what I’ve learned about the first five chapters.
A Simple Foundation for a Complicated Structure (1:1–8).
Revelation is notoriously misinterpreted and attested to be difficult to interpret by even the best of NT Scholars. That is why it seems good to investigate the introduction of this book, thoroughly. “The revelation of Jesus Christ,” in v. 1, could mean it was made by, about, or belonging toJesus Christ.Leon Morris says: “In some way, all of these are true,” but that it probably refers to the “revelation” belonging to God.Jesus then made this revelation known by sending his messanger to his slave, John. This John is already so famous for his testimony of the word of God and of Jesus the Christ (v. 2) that he didn’t need to further identify himself as the apostle in v. 1. Morris makes a good point that John sees this book as scripture as it will be read aloud in church, and that the word prophecy should be viewed as referring to the words divine origin and not as prediction.So those who study it, preach it, hear it and keep it in their lives are blessed. Interesting that when one follows the chain of communication, the message comes from the heart of YHWH and is to be manifest in our own hearts. That sounds like something John (the apostle) would say. After explaining the chain of communication of the message, John switches to an epistolary greeting in v. 4. It is God who wishes the entire church “grace and peace,” and the “seven spirits before his throne” as well. This probably refers to the completeness—or perfection—of the Holy Spirit.This is supported because John mentions “the spirit” elsewhere in the book, the title is followed by “Jesus Christ,” who is obviously the third person of the God Head.This is probably seminal doctrine of the Holy Spirit. John then describes Jesus the Christ as the one who suffered faithfully, raised himself from the dead, and now is supreme ruler over all the authorities of the earth. Jesus “loves us, … frees us from our sins, … [and] made us to be a kingdom [of] priests, serving his God and Father (v. 5–6). First John shows us the complete chain of the message (from creator, to receiver/reproducer), and now he shows us the complete chain of transformation that this message produces; not concluding with service, but with worship (v. 5–6). V. 7 is an example of that worship. The first thing declared to John is that “the Lord God” is supreme, almighty (v. 8). This is probably to separate YHWH from other Greco-Roman gods and/or Pantheism. The communication chain of the divine message, and the description of the transformation process it causes in the “saint,” center around—and are permeated with—Jesus being the Christ. The events of his life, death, and resurrection are the message. That is why John said: “He is the Word” (John 1). All of this ends with the worship of Jesus and the declaration that YHWH is all-powerful and more.
Christ as Source and Center (1:9–20).
John is the brother of his audience and shares persecution with them in Jesus (v. 9). Notice how john uses the word “in (ἐνἐν)Jesus” and not, “because ofJesus.” He is their brother in the family of God and “shares, with the church, in Jesus” This means that they are unified, and that unity takes place in Christ. Christ envelops us, going in front of, and coming behind (Ps. 139). John was either in a state of worship/prayer, or in a type of trance (v. 10). It is likely that there isn’t a clear line separating the two, and John may not have even known which of the two he was in. Paul didn’t (2 Cor 12:2–3). More detail here would really provide more reassurance for interpreting the rest of the book, but I suppose the main thing to take away is that his heart was with—and prostrated before—God. A loud voice denotes power, and a trumpet, a magisterial announcement (v. 10). Jesus commands John to communicate his revelation to the churches (v. 11). There He is, reaching out again, to the seven churches listed—and to the entire church that these churches represent (v. 11). The first thing John sees are the seven lampstands that represent the seven churches (v. 12; c.f. v. 20). Then among those churches he sees “one like the son of man” (Jesus), who was finely dressed (possibly priestly), with a head resembling that of aged maturity, eyes that betrayed burning energy inside, feet that portrayed firmness and steadfastness, and a voice—though previously described as similar to a trumpet—is now assimilated to Ezekiel’s description of “the God of Israel” (vv. 13–15 c.f. Eze. 43:2).Jesus had “seven stars in his hands—seven angels to the churches under his authority (v. 16 c.f. v. 20). Were the lampstands lit? Were the stars (angels) supposed to light them up? Morris notes the fact that the stars are in Jesus’s right hand, symbolizes favor and protection, and that the double edged sword—rebuke.So, even though Jesus has a stern message to give to the lampstands—to light them up, the message comes fourth with his favor and blessing. Shining with the force of the sun is meant to communicate a omnipotent strength and probably not beauty, though maybe both (v. 16).Morris makes a powerful argument for the symbolism of this vision when noting that Jesus put his right hand on Joh—that he would have killed him if he was holding “seven stars” in it(v. 17).At any rate, John is so amazed that he isn’t just prostrated at Jesus’s feet, but all of the strength is taken out of him because of the vision. Why shouldn’t it have been? YHWH tells Moses he can’t see God and live, and John is confirming that Jesus is God in this same verse. For Jesus is also “the first (alpha) and the last (omega) (v. 17; c.f. v. 8). Jesus says he was dead, but is alive again, and has authority even over death and hades (v. 18). Then Jesus tells John to communicate this vision to the churches, and to communicate the visions that will follow (v. 19). Then Jesus explains the symbols he saw and commands him to write specific letters to each church (v. 20). So, Jesus explains that the stars are messages to the churches, and then begins delineating these “messages” in chapter 2. All in all, it seems that after establishing that Jesus Christ is in God, John wanted to establish that Jesus Christ was God. Finally, the Holy Spirit should, possibly, be seen as the seven spirits before the throne of God, and the seven stars in the right hand of Jesus.
Entire Church, Entire Age (2:1–3:22).
After the vision of the message to the churches, John saw a door (entrance) standing open. The first voice that he heard speaking to him like a trumpet invited him up. This voice must be the voice of the angel (1:1), because it is not the second voice that sounded like “many waters” in (1:15). The angel is introducing him into the vision again. The voice invites John to enter heaven and see what must take place “after this” appears twice in the verse. So, after the vision John was invited into heaven to see what must take place after the vision. We know that the seven churches represent the entire church simply from the use of “seven.” It is also important to note how in each—individual—letter to a church, Jesus wanted the churches (plural) to hear. Further, being that the seven individual letters were recorded in a single scroll—instead of seven individual scrolls—also supports that the seven churches represent the entire church. That the cities of these churches were centers for communications, also betrays John’s desire for these seven individual letters, in one scroll, to be copied and sent to the farthest reaches of the church.
“After this” in 4:1 could refer to the speaking of the letters, the transformation that should take place as a result of the letters, or the entire age of the struggles of the letters. We must consider the last chronological points of each of the letters to determine after whatexactly it is that John is soon to be informed in 4:1. The endpoints of the letters are: “permission to eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God” (2:7), “be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. … [You] will not be harmed by a second death” (2:10–11), “to the one who conquers … hidden manna … white stone … new name” (2:17), “hold fast … until I come … in the end” (2:25–26), “walk[ing] with [Jesus] … if [they] conquer … [Jesus] will confess their name before [his] Father]” (3:5–6), “[Jesus] is coming soon … [church kept] from hour of trial… [Jesus] come[s] soon … conquer … ma[de] pillar in temple … never [leaving] … write on them name of [Jesus’s] God … new Jerusalem … comes down out of heaven from [Jesus’s] God” (3:10–12), “place with [Jesus] on [his] throne. Just as [he] conquered and sat down with [his] Father on his throne” (3:21), It is important to realize that “to the end” in 2:26 is used as a synonym for “until I come”in 2:25. Thus “conquering” is used with respect to “the end” when “Jesus comes”. Verse 21 of chapter 3 says that “[Jesus] conquered.” It must be referring to the way Jesus endured until the end, just as he commands the churches to do. So, he conquered by enduring until the end of his life, and was then raised up. We must then conclude that the letters, and this entire book, are written to the entire church, about conquering our flesh until the end—when Jesus will return—so that we may be with him in what comes after death.
After Death (4:1–11).
Therefore, after John recorded Jesus’s message to endure until death, he looked, and the first voice—probably of the angel—told John that he would show John what must take place after death. Morris says that “after this” refers to only John’s present.These things could mean our present and John’s present, the enduring until the end. For most of the church, the things that “must happen after this” will occur after their death, and for the last, these things may occur after their death—or shortly before it—if they are to die at all. This is unclear. Then this vision is about the end itself or what comes after it. At once John was in the Spirit. This is a contrast of being in the flesh, and resembles the way Jesus talked about the inside of the cup being more important than the outside. Whether being in the Spirit is a type of trance or a state of prayerful worship, it seems that the point is that his heart was open to perceive things as God perceives them. John’s heart was open to the truth, as he himself would put it in his Gospel and letters. After this, he could see in heaven. I overlooked the importance of John’s use of throne. This probably wouldn’t have happened if he would have said: “and there was one seated in a great oval office.”The One on the throne looked like the first and last precious stones of the breastplate of the high priest (Exo. 28:17–21).The rainbow around the throne shouldn’t be viewed as something keeping us from God, because the vail was torn, and the spirit was living in the saints. So, it was an incomprehensible beauty that may echo the eternalness of the new covenant, from an older one after the flood (Gen. 9:16).Around this throne were other thrones with great godly beings—who were adorned by God—sitting on them (4:4). Then the heart of God was shared (v. 5a). In front of the throne was the Holy Spirit (v. 5b). In front of the throne is a symbol of God’s holiness and the holy order it creates when through the Holy Spirit (v. 6). This makes sense because clear glass would have been very expensive, if not still legendary at this time.And the sea is seen throughout the Bible and in this book as a place from which comes chaos and evil. “Eye” can connotate spirit, and these four creatures resemble the mightiest of all creation and are covered in eyes.So it could be that the spirit of all of creation was worshiping the Lord day and night. That certainly would fit well with the rest of Scripture (v. 7–8). The worshiping of all of creation causes the twenty-four great beings, also, to worship the Lord and to remember that it was He that gave these beings their adornments (vv. 9–11). So, John has only seen the magisterial setting of the throne room of heaven, which is already bearing it’s first fruits in the saints, but will come to completion after Jesus comes back.
God Is Incarnate in Jesus, and Alone is Worthy and Mighty Enough to Make a New Covenant to Change the Story of the Earth (5:1–14).
For the first time John actually mentions the One on the throne, but only to describe what was in his possession (5:1). I agree with Morris that the scroll must refer to the history and destiny of the world.It being in/onYHWH’s right hand seems to indicate God’s sovereignty, that it was in his right hand may allude to his favor towards the scroll, the lamb who took it from Him, or both. Only Christ was able to break the seals and open the scroll (v. 5). Being able to open the scroll and break the seals must symbolize the Lamb’s atoning for all the sins of the saints which was Him fulfilling the law so that he was a “conquer[or]” and had the ability to open it. Why was John so distraught that nobody could open the history and destiny of the world (v. 5)? Maybe it was because the One who has the power to open the scroll has the power to save people from the end they would have met. Jesus has the authority to open this scroll. Morris makes a good point that “the cross is essential;” what makes Jesus worthy.He is the living embodiment of sacrificial love (God is love) who leads the saints through the second exodus. He was the “Lamb” because he sacrificed himself for us, and the “Lion” because he prevailed over death (v. 5–6). Jesus’s position at John’s first sight of Him—in the throne room—seems to be symbolic of its mediating effects for restoring our relationship with YHWH, seated on the throne (v. 6). The Lamb was one with the almighty (“seven horns”) and was one with the Holy Spirit (“seven eyes”) (v. 6). Morris disagrees, arguing that the “seven spirits of God” refers to omniscience.But elsewhere “the seven spirits” are equated with the Holy Spirit (e.g.; 4:5). “Sent out into the earth” seems to connote God’s affection for humanity—and his desire to save it (v. 6; c.f. John 3:16). Once Jesus exercises his authority to open the scroll, and takes it from the hand of YHWH, the entire throne room worships Him (vv. 8–10). Verses 9–10 are explicitly praising Jesus because of the new covenant. This supports my previous observation that having the authority and power to open the scroll must have some correlation with the changing of the destination of the saints through the new covenant. Then John tells us that “myriads of myriads” of angels worshiped the Lamb (vv. 11–12). Then every creature in worshiped Christ and YHWH (v. 13). The “four living creatures” being the ones to say: “Amen” supports my previous observation that they symbolize the spirit/heart of all of creation. It seems that John repeats the four living creatures and elders—worshiping—at the end of the passage to show that this process is ongoing/repetitive.
Leon Morris, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 51.
D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 712.