By Dr. David Reagan, Lamb and Lion Ministries
When studying the book of Revelation, most people seem to get bogged down in the details. And, tragically, they often focus on the Antichrist rather than Jesus Christ. In the process, they miss the big picture and the fundamental message. So, let’s go for the big picture and let’s seek the central Biblical message. Let’s engage in a sweeping overview of the book chapter by chapter.
As we begin with chapter one, let’s consider the name of the book. It is not the “Book of Revelations” plural. There are many revelations in it, but that’s not its name. If you have a copy of the Authorized King James Version, you will note that the title is stated as “The Revelation of John.” Well, that title is also incorrect. The proper title is the one contained in modern translations, “The Revelation to John.” It is not John’s revelation, it is the revelation or unveiling of Jesus Christ that was given to John by God the Father through Jesus. John refers to it in chapter one verse nine as “The testimony of Jesus.”
Now, who was this John? He does not clearly identify himself, but the testimony of all the early Church Fathers is that this was the Apostle John. All he says about himself is that he is a brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus.
It is interesting that John says he was a prisoner on the Island of Patmos. His imprisonment there is one of the clues to the dating of the book around 95 A.D., because that was when the Roman Empire turned against the Church. This happened because the Empire declared Caesar to be God. And, every person in the Empire was required once a year to go before a Roman magistrate and declare, “Caesar is Lord.” Well, no Christian could do that, and therefore Christians were considered enemies of the Empire. The result is that they became the target of terrible persecution.
John tells us something very important in verse ten here, he states that he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” Now, I don’t think John is referring to Sunday here. I think he was referring to what the Hebrew prophets called “The Day of the Lord,” which was a term for the end times. So, I believe John is telling us that “in the spirit” he was catapulted forward to the Day of the Lord — to the end times — and given a preview of what will happen when the Church Age comes to a close.
John was about 95 years old when this book was written. He was the only Apostle left alive. The thing that you need to keep in mind is that by the time this book was written, the persecution of Christians had become so terrible that it is evident from the Book of Revelation that many were wondering if the Church would really continue to exist. They were beginning to have second thoughts, wondering if Jesus really was who He said He was, wondering if Jesus really cared for them, wondering if He really meant it when He said, “Upon this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
The Church needed encouragement, and that’s really one of the main purposes of the book. It is designed to give encouragement and comfort to those who are suffering terribly. For that reason, the book of Revelation has always been a book that has given tremendous comfort to anyone going through persecution or suffering, whether it be individual, family, or national in nature.
The book begins therefore with a tremendous vision of Jesus Christ the Glorified One. He is victorious over death, and the heavenly glory which He surrendered when He came to earth has been restored. John sees Jesus resurrected and glorified. Keep in mind that this is 65 years after the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. Jesus has returned to give the Church a second touch, a touch of encouragement. He has returned to say, “Yes, I care. Yes, I love you. I know what’s going on. I’m walking among you.”
John proceeds to describe Jesus in His glorified form. He sees Jesus dressed as a Priest because that’s what Jesus is now. He is our High Priest before the throne of God, our Mediator before God. John sees Jesus with white hair, which indicates His purity and wisdom. His eyes, feet and voice are all presented as symbols of judgment because all judgment has been given to Him by the Father. He has stars in his right hand, which are the angels, or messengers of the churches, showing that He cares for those churches and their pastors. He’s walking among seven golden candlesticks, which we’re told in verse 20 represent churches. They represent all of the churches, and through this image the Lord is trying to give to John and the church the message that He is walking among them, that He cares about them, and that He loves them. He is not some distant and impersonal God who is aloof and uncaring.
John is so overcome by this glorious vision of His resurrected and glorified Lord that he falls at Jesus’ feet as if dead. Jesus responds with one of the most comforting statements in all the Word of God: “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the living one. I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Jesus is saying, “I am the beginning of history, the end of history, and the meaning of history. I am in control of history and I have power over life and death.” Again, Jesus’ appearance and words are intended to reassure a church that’s under severe persecution. The hearts of first Century Christians, including John’s, must have been greatly encouraged even as Christians today are encouraged by these words.
Lamb & Lion Ministries is a Bible prophecy ministry proclaiming the soon return of Jesus Christ and exists to serve the Church in its effort to win souls for Christ and to disciple those who accept the Lord.