The Voice and the Vision, Revelation Chapter 1 Verse 9-20 (NASB)


     I, John, your BROTHER and FELLOW PARTAKER in the

John could have claimed full rank and authority as the last apostle of the original twelve, but he humbly says that he is one of us, a brother.

     a)  tribulation and

Just because we are Christians and have the full power of God behind us doesn't mean we won't face tough times. Christ says we will have tribulations - John 16:33 ; Paul, after being stoned, could say we would pass through many tribulations on our way into the kingdom of God - Acts 14:19-23 ; Paul felt closer (more complete) to Christ if he could share His sufferings - Colossians 1:24-29 ; and just living the Christian life will bring persecution - 2 Timothy 3:12-15 .

     b)  kingdom and

We all receive this kingdom when we are washed in the blood of Christ - Revelation 1:6 . But there is another kingdom of which we are a part - Revelation 20:4-6 and Revelation 22:5 .

     c)  perseverance which are IN JESUS,

It is this perseverance or endurance which makes the tribulation bearable as we wait for the final kingdom. One of the best indicators if a person truly is a believer is if he/she has perseverance. It is an important attribute for the "Church Age". To the church at Ephesus, `I know ... your toil and perseverance.' - Revelation 2:2 . To the church at Thyatira, `I know ... [your] perseverance - Revelation 2:19 . To the church at Philadelphia, ` ... you have kept the word of My perseverance.' - Revelation 3:10 . To those with their name written in the book of life of the Lamb (true believers), they can face captivity and/or death `... with perseverance and faith.' - Revelation 13:10 . To those who refuse the mark of the beast by keeping the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus, they `... have perseverance.' - Revelation 14:12 .

Suffering tests and purifies the loyalty of a true believer. Furthermore, Christ's power is perfected in our weaknesses - 2 Corinthians 12:9 .

     was on the island called Patmos because of
       1) the Word of God and
       2) the testimony of Jesus.

The compelling need of John to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior got him exiled to the island of Patmos. Patmos is a small volcanic and rocky island about 25 square miles located some 35 miles westsouthwest of Miletus in the Mediterranean Sea. Emperor Domitian sent John there in AD 95 and Emperor Nerva released him some 18 months later according to Eusebius, the historian. These two reasons show one of the characteristics common to the "Church Age", i.e. the time from Christ's ascension until the 'rapture' of the Church (still to come). This characteristic is one of individual witnessing to the power of God's Word and to the acquisition of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

     I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day

John is saying that he was in that special state when one is entirely engulfed by the Spirit. This Spirit is the same one Jesus said He would send back to Help or Comfort us after He returned to heaven - John 16:7-11 . And as Jesus promised, this Helper would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. All three are main themes of Revelation.

This "in the Spirit" state also allows movement throughout the spiritual realm. John refers to being transported in this state - Revelation 4:2 , Revelation 17:3 , and Revelation 21:10 . So, too, Paul is transported to the third heaven as he describes it in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 .

This "Spirit state" also appears to be the only way to receive visions. Paul describes one of his experiences in Acts 22:17-21 where he was given a warning to get out of Jerusalem.

This "Spirit state" is not limited to the New Testament; Ezekiel describes similar transport as it happened to him - Ezekiel 3:12-15 and Ezekiel 37:1-2 .

There are several views as to what "the Lord's day" may mean. They are listed here.

        1)  The first day of the week, that is, Sunday for us.
        2)  The resurrection day or Easter Sunday.
        3)  The "day of the Lord" or when the final judgment occurs.
As Paul points out, the day is the Lord's day if you live it for Him - Romans 14:1-8 . The important point is that on this day, John was "in the Spirit". And in this state he says

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

It is not an actual trumpet, but a voice that sounds like one. It must grab your attention because John heard this same voice in Revelation 4:1 , and yet this same voice takes on the qualities of "many waters" in Revelation 1:15 . Note: there are "real" trumpets, seven to be exact, which are used in Revelation to summon a group of judgments upon the earth - Revelation 8:2 .

        "Write in a book what you see

The trumpet-like voice behind John tells him to "Write a book (this Revelation) of what he sees. He includes throughout what he hears; but it should not be mistaken that this is coming from John's imagination. It isn't. He actually saw it while in the Spirit.

At the end of Revelation, John testifies/verifies that he did as told - Revelation 22:18-19 .

On a philosophic note: This book concludes the existence of mankind not unlike Moses' book, Genesis, is a book of the beginning of mankind -

     and send it to the seven churches:

These churches really existed in John's day. They are located on the mainland to the northeast of the isle of Patmos. John apparently had ministered to each of them, perhaps in the order given here. It is interesting to note that the first three chapters of Revelation and verse 4:1 apply to the Church Age. Study each church in the following chapters for their shortcomings and successes. Do each of these typify a type of church today?

     to Ephesus and
     to Smyrna and
     to Pergamum and
     to Thyatira and
     to Sardis and
     to Philadelphia and
     to Laodicea."

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

John, amazed at the sound of the voice, turned to see who was talking with him. How come the voice was behind John? Is it symbolic of our fleshly desire to go in a different direction than what God wants us to go? To get with God, we need to hear His voice, turn around (and leave our earthly selfish desires behind), and SEE the Lord - Psalm 34:8-14 .

     And having turned I saw seven GOLDEN LAMPSTANDS;

These lampstands are clearly identified in Revelation 1:20 as the seven churches. With seven denoting completeness and golden the symbol of the indwelling of God, this view shows seven distinct churches whose believers are filled with God - 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 . At first glance, John may have thought of the Menorah of the Old Testament tabernacle - Exodus 25:31-39 , but the Menorah has seven branches on one stand. Symbolically, the Menorah is equivalent to Israel and the single stand, the tribe of Levi as priests for the whole nation. In John's vision, he sees individual lampstands with Christ in their midst (next verse) . The lampstand is only the holder of the light source...the source is none other than God Himself - Matthew 5:14-16 . And with the presence of Christ in the midst the light should be growing brighter every passing moment - Proverbs 4:18 .

     and in the middle of the lampstands one like a Son of Man,

The `Son of Man' was Jesus' favorite expression in referring to Himself. Paul describes how humbling this must have been for One to come from heaven's glory to assume the form of man as Jesus did - Philippians 2:3-8 .

Now John sees Jesus 'like' the Son of Man...he still had a recognizable human form but somehow he was different. Perhaps that is why we get a description of the clothing of this Son of Man.

John uses this same expression for the One sitting on the cloud ready to harvest (pass judgment on) the earth - Revelation 14:14 .

Note the location of this Son of Man. It is in the middle of His churches. He still is among His churches today not so much in the role of supplier of the church's needs but as the disciplinarian and judge. He is testing and trying the loyalty of His followers. See the comments this Son of Man makes about His churches in the next two chapters of Revelation.

     clothed in a robe to his feet,

The first article of clothing is His robe. Being fully clothed indicates absolute righteousness; recall that the one time His garments were taken from Him was when He was made naked for the cross - Matthew 27:27-36 . He took the sins of the world upon Himself during that nakedness. This is why He could reprimand Laodicean members about their nakedness - Revelation 3:18 .

Furthermore, this fully robed Son of Man looks like the High Priest of Moses' time. See Exodus 28:2-5 . Jesus Christ now is at the right hand of God, the Father, (Acts 7:51-60) standing there in absolute righteousness just as the High Priest was to do in performing his ceremonies.

This fully clothed Son of Man also speaks to the fact that the true inner nature of Jesus still is hidden. Jesus did not talk much of His role as Judge while He was on the earth...perhaps that is why this book is called the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is appropriate that we see Him thusly clothed at the beginning of this book.

     and girded across His breast with a GOLDEN GIRDLE.

There are two views (both supported by Scripture) as to what this symbolizes. First, in ancient times, the girdle was the symbol of strength and authority. Commoners wore tunics of loose-fitting clothing, but ones in authority wore the girdles. See the judgment carried out in Ezekiel 9 . The other view is that the girdle represents His righteousness and faithfulness (Isaiah 11:1-5) in carrying out judgment. This is exactly how the breastpiece of the High Priest is described - Exodus 28:15-21 . The golden color denotes kingly judgment.

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

The first thing that catches John's eye is the white head and hair of the One standing in the middle of the lampstands. This parallels the vision Daniel saw of the Ancient of Days - Daniel 7:9 .

Sadly, our youth-oriented market-driven society would wish to see a brown-haired pleasant-eyed `Head of Christ'....BUT that is NOT what Jesus looks like today. Nowhere in the New Testament is the physical appearance of Jesus given. We only see Him as He was transfigured (Matthew 17:1-3) and as John describes Him here. Perhaps, well-meaning churches are deceiving the congregation when they hang a portrait of the "Head of Christ" in their sanctuary and it doesn't look like what John is describing here.

The whiteness denotes purity....the only kind of purity which can change scarlet sins to white - Isaiah 1:18 . Praise the Lord!

In many cultures, white hair denotes wisdom and is an honor to have. Solomon indicates such in Proverbs 16:31 and Proverbs 20:29 . Thus this image fits 'the Ancient of Days' - Christ.

     and His eyes were like a Flame of Fire.

When polling the class I taught on Revelation, this feature was the one most impressionable. What is it with the eyes? In oriental films, when deep emotion is to be expressed, a tight shot of the eyes is put on the screen. Psychologically, we humans judge most quickly a person's character by their eyes. We use the expression 'he has wild eyes' or 'he has big eyes' for a person's demeanor.

Nathaniel was so impressed that Jesus "saw" him under the fig tree, that he became a disciple (John 1:44-51).

Here, the import of these eyes is that they are very penetrating like as if His eyes shot fire. This is not surprising, particularly in light of what is going on in the model churches (next two chapters). In fact, this description is included in the 'who's speaking' part of the church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18). Its these same eyes which are triumphant in battle (Revelation 19:12).

Daniel doesn't mention the eyes in his initial vision in chapter 7, but in his later vision (Daniel 10:6) the eyes are like flaming torches. It's the fire which is so penetrating. All things are laid bare before the EYES of the Lord - Hebrews 4:13 . See also Job 31:1-4 . It checks for good and evil in our lives: 1 Peter 1:7 , 1 Corinthians 3:13 ; and the light in 1 Corinthians 4:5 .

But let's not despair. These same eyes also look for the GOOD. Hanani told King Asa that 'the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may STRONGLY SUPPORT those whose HEART is completely His'. - 2 Chronicles 16:9 . See also Proverbs 15:3 and Zechariah 4:10 .

When these EYES look at you, what do they see? Is it dark and dirty inside or white like snow? You can have those eyes see a person cleansed from sin !!!!!

     and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been caused to glow in a furnace,

His feet:
  1. Ran and played as a child.
  2. Carried Him at age twelve to the temple where He was listening and questioning the teachers - Luke 2:41-51.
  3. Were wetted by the sinful woman's tears and dried by her hair all in the quest for forgiveness - Luke 7:36-50.
  4. Walked up Calvary's hill where they received the crucifixion nails - Luke 24:39-40.
  5. Are foretold that they will trample His enemies - Psalm 110:1 and Isaiah 63:3.
  6. Will someday stand on the Mount of Olives as triumphant Ruler - Zechariah 14:4.
  7. In their bronze color denote judgment.  See also Daniel 10:6.
The church at Thyatira was to be judged (Revelation 2:18) for its immorality. The white hot glow typifies the indeterrable glory of God; nothing can withstand it - 1 Corinthians 3:12-17 .

     and His voice like the sound of MANY WATERS.

At times large bodies of water can be perfectly still. Perhaps this is why we don't hear God's voice today as described here. God wants us "to be still and know that He is God" (Psalm 46:10 KJV) because He is in His holy temple (Habakkuk 2:20).

BUT when it is time for judgment (as Revelation will tell us) then His voice becomes like MANY WATERS. That is the way voices are in heaven - Revelation 14:2 and Revelation 19:6 . His voice is powerful and majestic - Psalm 29:3-9 . His voice is mightier than the breakers of the sea - Psalm 93:3-5 . In that day the loud, booming sound of Satan's "Rock'n'Roll" will be TOTALLY drowned out by His voice.

We all will listen to Him, like it or not!!!

     And in His right hand He held seven stars;

The right hand is the hand of authority. We know from Revelation 1:20 that the seven stars are the angels Revelation 2:12 or messengers to the churches. Thus, this symbol indicates that all true believer congregations have a messenger from God to guide and protect them. The congregation may make choices of their own, but when the members choose to work with God on spiritual tasks, this messenger is there to help.

This type of support and guidance is not unusual. Job indicates that the "morning stars sang together" (Job 38:7) as a praise support. Daniel says those who are faithful witnesses to God will shine brightly like the stars - Daniel 12:3 .

It is important in Revelation to realize this angelic support. To the church at Ephesus, the "who's speaking" restates that the One who holds the stars is the One who walks in the midst of the lampstands - Revelation 2:1 . To the Sardis church in Revelation 3:1 , the seven Spirits are combined with the seven stars. This indicates support also from the Holy Spirit for God's churches.

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

The "who's speaking" to Pergamum (Revelation 2:12), emphasizes that while they have trouble distinguishing between the Truth and the false teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitians, the Word of God (or the sword) would separate the falsehoods from the truth. The Word of God is indeed a sword, Ephesians 6:17 gives the sword to the Spirit; Hebrews 4:12 uses the sword to get to our inner most thoughts and intentions.

Consider the strength of God's spoken word. No less than ten times in Genesis 1, God spoke and the universe, the sun, the earth and all contained therein were created. John clearly says the Word took on human form in the man called Jesus - John 1:14 . This Jesus spoke and demons fled (Luke 8:26-34), diseases were healed (John 4:46-54), and death reversed (John 11:38-44).

Now in the Revelation, we see that ultimately this same Word (in the form of the sword) will put the nations to submission (Revelation 19:15) and will kill the armies of the beast (Revelation 19:21).

With such a POWERFUL Word supporting us, why is it so difficult for Christians to SPEAK of their faith?

     And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a DEAD MAN.

Everyone who has had a close encounter with Jesus Christ has fallen at His feet in total submission of self. Man is so unclean, so sinful, so unloving that when held to the vision of Christ as John saw Him, one can only fall as dead at His feet. See what others felt after their encounter: Job in Job 42:5-6 ; Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1-5 ; Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:28 ; and Daniel in Daniel 10:2-9 .

All express some form of insignificance before God!

If this is true for the righteous prophets, what is it going to be like for those who reject Christ? They won't inherit the kingdom of God - Galatians 5:19-21 ; they won't even see the kingdom of God, Jesus said so - John 3:3 . They will try to hide but can't - Revelation 6:16 ; and they will be totally gripped with fear - Luke 21:26 .

     And He laid His right hand upon me, saying,

Here we (with John) are at Jesus' feet - totally overpowered by His glory, and He comes and gently touches us with His right hand of authority (including the stars: angels of the churches) and speaks to John. Remember John knew Jesus as a beloved (John 13:23) friend, so this touch felt very familiar!

     "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last, and

The first "Don't be afraid" in the Bible (Genesis 15:1) was followed by an "I am" promise - the covenant with Abraham to make his seed a mighty nation. In fact, Jesus himself physically was part of that covenant.

The life of a Christian is not one of fear or is of power, love, and discipline - (2 Timothy 1:7). John saw the power; he felt the touch; and he knew he was going to discipline himself to write this book, no matter what he was about to see or hear!!!

The fact that Christ says I am the First and the Last confirms His authority as God. This is one of the titles given to God as Isaiah points out in Isaiah 41:4 , Isaiah 48:12 , and Isaiah 44:6  The rest of the "I AM" follows in the next verse.

     and the LIVING ONE;

Christ, in using this expression, indicates He is the same as the LIVING God.

Who is the LIVING GOD?
  • He led Israel under Joshua's guidance into the Promised Land - Joshua 3:10
  • He led the armies of Israel against Goliath and the Philistines - 1 Samuel 17:26
  • He is the One the Psalmist thirsted after - Psalm 42:2
  • He gave His seal to an angel to seal the 144,000 from destruction - Revelation 7:2
It is this LIVING GOD who is speaking here!

     and I was dead, and behold, I AM ALIVE FOREVERMORE, and

This expression parallels the `first and last' idea of the previous verse, but here it specifically refers to Christ the Messiah. It was He who died on the cross and rose again to be ALIVE FOREVERMORE.

This becomes a central theme throughout Revelation. See how many times the words "blood" and "Lamb" are used. This is fundamental to our living forevermore too. We have been bought with a price - 1 Corinthians 6:20 and we have the hope of glory because He was raised from the dead - 1 Peter 1:18-20 .

Paul clearly explains that Christ's death was a onetime event. He doesn't have to die annually to make atonement for sins like the High Priests of Old Testament times made atonement - Hebrews 9:23-28 .

     I have the keys of death and Hades.

Whoever has the keys to anything controls access to and from the area. Here Christ says He has the keys to both death, our end of the physical body, and Hades, the destiny of our souls. Hades of the New Testament is the same as Sheol of the Old Testament.

They refer to "the nether region" or, as some say, the center of the earth. During the time that Christ was "dead" physically, Ephesians 4:7-10 says he descended into the lower parts of the earth. But God would not abandon Him there according to the prophesy given in Psalm 16:10 , but He ascended from there leading the ones who were held captive up to His high mountain - Psalm 68:18 .

So what is this place, Hades? It is located in the heart of the earth - Matthew 12:40 and Numbers 16:30-33 . It is divided into two compartments or areas separated by a large gulf - Luke 16:19-31 . One compartment is for non believing departed souls and the other for believing or righteous souls to rest.

There are gates or doors to these two compartments. Formerly, the keys to the gates were in satan's hand (Hebrews 2:14 and Matthew 16:18). But Christ when he descended into Hades took the keys away from satan - Acts 2:22-24 ; He conquered death (Romans 6:9) forever and when we now die, as believers, we are with Him (Philippians 1:23).

The nonbelievers remain in Hades until judgment time (Revelation 20:13). Hades (Sheol) is like a wide open and ever widening mouth devouring these souls - Isaiah 5:13-17 .

     "WRITE therefore

        1) the things which you have seen, and

This refers to the vision of Jesus Christ just given here in chapter one. John has just seen his beloved Savior in all His majesty, power, and glory. This is a visual interpretation of Christ's attributes. Later in Revelation, we will see these attributes in action.

        2) the things which are, and

Most Revelation experts agree that this refers to the present condition of the churches exemplified by the seven churches of Asia given in chapters two and three .

        3) the things which shall take place after these things.

This same expression is used in Revelation 4:1 . So it is logical to assume this refers to the Judgment portion of Revelation, that is, chapters four through nineteen. One could argue that this verse is just a general way of saying to write about all things, past, present and future. If so, then the important word is "WRITE", which is exactly what John did!

"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.

A mystery is something formerly held out of view but now is revealed or identified. John uses this term referring back to when the STARS and LAMPSTANDS were previously given in this chapter (Revelation 1:12 and Revelation 1:16 ). John also uses it in Revelation 10:7 as the mystery of God and in Revelation 17:7 with respect to the mystery of the woman and the beast. As with all "mysteries" of Revelation, they are explained either in Revelation itself or elsewhere in the Bible.

If one takes this verse literally, it is implied that each church has an angel assigned to it. Some believe that this is the pastor or elder, but the verse says an angel, so an angel it must be. This is supported by Scripture which indicates that this notion was accepted by Paul and Peter. See 1 Corinthians 11:10 , 1 Corinthians 4:9 , Ephesians 3:10 , 1 Timothy 3:16 , 1 Timothy 5:21 , and 1 Peter 1:12 .

"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 Used by permission."

References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only.