Notes on Revelation

Chapter 1

by Jeff Smelser



REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST    This is a subjective genitive, i.e., the revelation which Christ gave, rather than the revelation about Christ, or Christ revealed, for this is a revelation which Christ received from God and in turn, showed to "his servants."

HIS SERVANTS,    i.e., God's servants. Cf. 22:6.

SIGNIFIED IT    Cf. Jn. 12:32-33, 21:18-19, Ac. 11:27-28, 25:24-27. ἐσήμανεν = "indicated". It does not imply figurative language.

SHORTLY COME TO PASS    The following is a complete list of the passages containing the noun which, with the preceding preposition, is here translated "shortly": Lk. 18:8, Ac. 12:7, 22:18, 25:4, Ro. 16:20, 1 Tim. 3:14, Rev. 1:1, 22:6. Without exception, the construction is identical to that found in Rev. 1:1, namely, the preposition ἐν followed by the dative singular noun τάχει.


  1. On the basis of the passages listed above, what is the meaning of the phrase translated "shortly"?
  2. Is "quickly", or "shortly", a relative term?
  3. Is it impossible to view events far removed from a perspective which would allow them to be thought of as coming quickly, or shortly? (Note Rom. 16:20.)
  4. Does the use of the word "shortly"...
    • conclusively disprove the dispensational premillennial interpretation of Revelation, or
    • is it rather one argument which by itself, tends to contradict dispensational premillennialism, and which, when considered in the context of the rest of the book, adds considerable weight to the case against dispensational premillennialism?


THE TIME IS AT HAND    The following is a complete list of the New Testament occurrences of the adjective (in the positive degree) which is translated "at hand" in Rev. 1:3, with the passages where the adjective is used with reference to time shown in bold type (an asterisk indicates some uncertainty as to whether the adjective has reference to time or to space): Mt. 24:32,33*, 26:18, Mk. 13:28,29*, Lk. 19:11, 21:30,31, Jn. 2:13, 3:23, 6:4,19,23, 7:2, 11:18,54,55, 19:20,42, Ac. 1:12, 9:38, 27:8, Ho. 10:8, Eph. 2:13,17, Phil. 4:5, Hb. 6:8, 8:13, Rev. 1:3, 22:10.


  1. What is the significance of the word that is translated "at hand" in Phil. 4:5? Does it denote proximity of space or of time?
  2. Does the phrase "at hand" in 2:3 suggest anything about the significance of "shortly" in 2:2?


THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA    It is unlikely that this is intended to mean that there were no churches in proconsular Asia other than these seven. See Acts 20:5-7, Col. 1:2, and 4:13, where churches in Troas, Colossae, and Hierapolis are mentioned. The number seven occurs repeatedly throughout the Book of Revelation. (If I counted correctly, it occurs 55 times; however Homer Hailey states in his commentary that it occurs 54 times.) In addition to the references to the seven churches, it occurs in the following passages: 1:4, 1:12, 1:16, 1:20(4x), 2:l(2x), 3:l(2x), 4:5(2x), 5:1, 5:5, 5:6(3x), 6:1, 8:2(2x), 8:6(2x), 10:3, 10:4(2x), 11:13, 12:3(2x), 13:1, 15:1(2x), 15:6(2x), 15:7(2x), 15:8(2x), 16:l(2x), 17:1(2x), 17:3, 17:7, 17:9(2x), 17:10, 17:11, 21:9(3x). The four references to the seven churches are in 1:4, 1:11, and 1:20(2x).


  1. Is the Book of Revelation an epistle?
  2. Why do you think the letter is addressed to seven churches, and why these particular seven?

HIM WHO IS AND WHO WAS AND WHO IS TO COME     (See also 1:8, 4:8, 11:17, 16:5.) Cf. Ex. 3:14.

THE SEVEN SPIRITS THAT ARE BEFORE HIS THRONE    (See also 3:1, 4:5, and 5:6.) In Zech. 4, when Zechariah saw the "lampstand all of gold...and its seven lamps" and asked, "What are these my lord?" the first response was "`Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts" (Zech. 4:6 NASB). Then in verse 10, Zechariah is told, "But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel - these are the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth." (Cf. the seven eyes on the stone in Zech. 3:9.) Notice that the idea of all-seeing eyes is found in Zech., in 2 Chron. 16:9, and in Ezek. 1:17-20 where the eyes are on the rims of the wheels which could move in any of the four directions without turning. Notice also that the seven spirits in Rev. 1:4 are "before his throne", and similarly, the wheels in Ezek. pertain to the four living creatures above which Jehovah is enthroned (Ezek. 1:24-28). In Ezekiel, the wheels are identified with the spirit of the four living creatures (1:20-21). The omnipresent eyes of 1 Chron. 16:9, and Ezek. 1:18, the seven eyes which went to and fro throughout the earth (Zech. 3:9, 4:10), and the seven spirits of Revelation 1:4 all seen to denote the same thing, namely, the omnipresent, all-seeing Spirit of God. Cf. Ps. 139:7-12.

Notice that with this interpretation, Rev. 1:4-5 is parallel to such passages as Mt. 28:19 and 2 Cor. 13:14.

Also notice that with this interpretation, the number seven can represent something that is one, and that "seven" has a symbolic significance rather than a numerical significance.


FAITHFUL WITNESS    Cf. Jn. 1:18, Hb. 3:1-2.

FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD     Cf. 1 Cor. 15:20-23 and Col. 1:18. "Firstborn" has as much to do with preeminence as with chronological order. Cf. Ps. 89:27, Ex. 4:22.

RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH    Again see Ps. 89. All three appellations in verse 5 hark back to Ps. 89 (verses 27 & 37). The Christ is seen as the antitype of David.

UNTO HIM...    The sense of the passage would suggest that these words begin a new verse which would conclude with" the glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Cf. Dan. 7:14.)


MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM    The reading "Kings and priests" found in the KJV and the NKJB is based upon inferior manuscript evidence.


  1. Who is it that are said to be priests?
  2. The Roman Catholics believe some of the saved are priests while the majority are not. How do verses 5 and 6 contradict this?
  3. The "Jehovah's Witness" teach that not all of the saved are in the kingdom. They say only a literal 144,000 people are in the kingdom, while there are others who will be saved but not in the kingdom. Now do verses 5 and 6 contradict this?
  4. Unto whom is the glory and dominion for ever?


BEHOLD HE COMETH WITH THE CLOUDS    Cf. Dan. 7:13, Mt 24:30, and Acts 1:9-10. The use of clouds as a symbol is characteristic of the descriptions of God's presence and particularly of his coming in judgment. See Ex. 13:21, 19:16, Lev. 16:2, Ps. 18:9-12, Ezek. 1:4, and Joel 2:1-2.


  1. Do the passages in Daniel, Matthew, and Acts cited above all refer to the same coming of the Lord, or to different comings?
  2. Does Rev. 1:7 refer to the Lord's coming at the end of time, or to some other coming? If the coming at the end of time, why? If some other coming, what coming?
  3. Does Rev. 1:7 refer to the same coming of the Lord as any of the passages cited above? If so, which?

AND THEY THAT PIERCED HIM    Cf. Zech. 12:12 and Jn. 19:37.



THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA    These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. For the significance of the expression, cf. Rev. 21:6, 22:13, Is. 41:4, 43:10, 44:6, 48:12.


IN THE SPIRIT    Cf. Acts 22:17f and possibly 2 Cor. 12:1f for similar experiences described in different language. See also Rev. 4:2 and 21:10, and Ezek. 3:12,14, & 37:1.

ON THE LORD'S DAY    This is not the same expression as "the Day of the Lord" which is found in the Old and New Testaments. The word translated "Lord's" is not used in the LXX and is found only here and at 1 Cor. 11:20 in the New Testament. The latter passage speaks of the Lord's Supper and this strengthens the argument for understanding "the Lord's day" to mean the first day of the week, for the Lord's Supper and the first day of the week are connected in Acts 20:7. Thus, the "Lord's Supper" is identified with the "Lord's Day". That the first day of the week should be so designated is not surprising. It was on the first day of the week that the Lord was raised from the dead. Furthermore, it was the common practice of New Testament churches to meet on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:1-2). This is the day in which Jesus "despoiled the principalities and the powers" (Col 1:15), by bringing "to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb 2:14). Jesus' victory over death was his victory over Satan and in behalf of mankind. Hence, the day which especially can be said to belong to Him who refers to Himself saying,

I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades

is the first day of the week.


SEVEN GOLDEN CANDLESTICKS    The Lord himself identifies these as the seven churches (vs. 20). In Zech. 4, the Spirit of the Lord was associated with the seven lamps of the golden lampstand, and it is the church that servos as a temple for the Spirit of God (Eph. 2:21-22, 1 Cor. 3:16-17). We read of Christ being anointed with the Holy Spirit (Ac. 10:33). Thus, thinking of the oil as representing the Spirit in Zechariah's vision, we can see a parallel: The oil in the seven lamps of the golden lampstand just as the Spirit is in the church. Only here in Revelation 1:12 seven particular churches, representative of the body of Christ, are symbolized by the seven golden candlesticks.


SON OF MAN    The phrase meant simply, a man, i.e., a human being. One born to man is man*. So in Ps. 8:4, the parallelism is synonymous: "What is man that thou art mindful of him" = "And the son of man, that thou visitest him." Ezekiel was called a son of man (2:1, 3, 6,8, 3:1, etc.). The phrase is first used of the Christ in Dan. 7:13 when he comes before the throne of the Ancient of Days to receive dominion, glory, and a kingdom. In the N.T., the phrase becomes a common name for Jesus. Often it is used to emphasize his manhood (e.g., in Mt. 8:20, 9:6, 11:19, 12:32, Jn. 5:27, etc.), but often it seems to be virtually a proper noun for the Christ. It is used a total of 124 times in the N.T. (including 23 times in John) always with reference to Jesus (Heb. 2:6 excepted, although even in this passage, the particular "son of man" through whom all things are subjected to all sons of men is Jesus - see vs. 9). Therefore by the time of the writing of Revelation in which the phrase is used twice (1:13 & 14:14), the phrase would naturally cause the reader to understand that the Christ is meant. It is not simply saying that God appeared to John in human form, rather it is saying the Son of man, the risen Lord, spoke to John. However, the description that follows clearly identifies him as deity.


HIS HEAD AND HIS HAIR WERE WHITE AS WHITE WOOL, WHITE AS SNOW    Cf. Dan. 7:9. Snow and wool were the epitome of white (Ps. 51:7, Is. 1:18) and white hair would suggest not only purity, but also the veneration due one who is "ancient of days."

HIS EYES WERE AS A FLAME OF FIRE    Cf. Ps. 11:4. It is fire that tries metals, and such trying is used as a symbol of God's righteous judgment (cf. Ps. 17:3).



HIS VOICE AS THE VOICE OF MANY WATERS    Cf. Ezek. 1:24. Each of the last four noted phrases would, in the mind of one familiar with the O.T., be associated with Jehovah. Thus the one who appears to John is clearly deity, and just as clearly he is Jesus who walked as man upon the earth.


IN HIS RIGHT HAND    The right hand is a symbol of honor (Gen. 48:13-19, 1 Kings 2:19, Ps. 45:9, Eccl. 10:2, Mt. 25:33, Gal. 2:9) and power (Ps. 60:5, 63:8, 108:6, 118:15-16).

SEVEN STARS    The Lord himself states, "the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches" (Rev. 1:20).

OUT OF HIS MOUTH PROCEEDED A SHARP TWO EDGED SWORD    It is the word of God that proceeds out of his mouth (Dt. 8:3, Mt. 4:4) and is described as sharper than any two edged sword (Heb. 4:12).


I HAVE THE KEYS OF DEATH AND OF HADES virtue of having overcome death. Cf. Heb. 2:14 and Mt. 16:18.


THE SEVEN STARS ARE THE ANGELS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES    i.e. the angels addressed in 2:lff, 2:8ff, 2:12ff, 2:l8ff, 3:lff, 3:7ff, & 3:l4ff. On the significance of the word "angel" in these passages, see the note on Rev. 2:1.

THE SEVEN CANDLESTICKS ARE SEVEN CHURCHES    Remembering the close relationship between the lampstand of Zech. 4 and the Spirit of God, and noting that God's spirit dwells in the church (Eph. 2:22, 1 Cor. 3:16-17), we see how this figure is suggestive of God's spirit in the church just as the oil is in the lampstand.

*Different Hebrew words are translated "man" in the 0.T. Sometimes, these different words suggested different classes of men. For example the "mean man" of Is. 5:15 was adam and the "great man" of the same verse was ish). The same contrast is found in Ps. 49:2 ("low and high" = adam and ish) and 62:9. Thus in Ps. 4:2, "sons of men" (sons of adam) is used probably to humble Ezekiel, countering the tendency to exalt oneself upon seeing such visions as Ezekiel saw.



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