REVELATION - CHAPTER 1
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
1:1. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:”
Revelation is the detailed continuation of the prophecy of Daniel. It begins by declaring that it is the revelation given by the Father to the Lord Jesus Christ, so that He might “shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass.” Having been given that revelation by the Father, the Lord then “sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John,” who in turn committed it to writing, that writing existing now as the Revelation which concludes the canon of Scripture.
Inasmuch as the Lord communicated the message to John by an angel, rather than directly, reminds us that the Lord here presented is the Judge rather than the Savior, the Lion rather than the Lamb, the King rather than the Servant. The contrast between what He was on earth, and what He is here, is emphasized in that on earth John leaned on His bosom; here, the Apostle, in revential awe, falls at His feet as dead.
The fact that He “signified” it, i.e., made it known by the use of signs, tells us that if we are to understand the revelation we must have an understanding of the Bible’s symbolic language. Since that same language is used throughout the Scriptures, it becomes evident that familiarity with those Scriptures is essential to an understanding of this book which concludes those writings, for even a cursory reading reveals that it abounds with symbols.
Its being given in symbolic language would also remind us that the Lord doesn’t share His counsels with the disobedient. The obedient believer, illumined by an ungrieved, unquenched Holy Spirit, will understand His Lord’s words, while the carnal and the unbeliever will, as it were, hear with their ears and see with their eyes, but will not comprehend.
1:2. “Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.”
That the writer is the same John who wrote the fourth Gospel is declared here in verse 2, where he describes himself as he, “Who bare record of the Word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” That record is the Gospel of John, which introduces the Lord Jesus Christ with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
1:3. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
The blessing promised is upon the public as well as the private reading of this book, and its being referred to as a prophecy declares its nature - it is a prophecy: it declares the mind and will of God, for we must note that prophecy is not confined simply to the foretelling of the future, but is the forth telling of the mind and will of God. (The blessing promised upon the public reading of this book is in addition to that which attends also the private reading of it; and relative to public reading, it is to be noted that Paul instructed Timothy to give attendance to such public reading of Scripture, see 1 Tim 4:13).
Those who “hear” are they who hear believingly, and those who “keep those things which are written therein,” are they who live obediently in the light of the imminence of the foretold events. If we really believed that these events were near, we would display a different attitude to the things of this world.
“... for the time is at hand,” has puzzled many. How could fulfillment have been “at hand,” when two thousand years have passed and fulfillment still hasn’t come? To be understood correctly, the Revelation, and all the rest of Scripture, must be viewed from the perspective of Him with Whom “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pe 3:8). What to human view are two millennia, are but two days in the sight of God.
1:4. John to the seven churches which are in Asia (literally, Asia Minor): Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne:”
Since there were more than seven churches in Asia, it is evident that God was being selective. But why? Others have pointed out that the characteristics of these seven were representative, not only of all the churches existing at that time, but of any local church at any time and place throughout the whole Church age, i.e., between Pentecost and the Rapture.
Since however, a local church consists of individuals, it is easy to discern in the state of those seven churches conditions that may be found in the life of any individual believer in the course of his Christian life, so that the commendations and rebukes have a personal application as well as a local and a universal.
And finally, looking back over almost two thousand years of Church history, it is easy to see that each of those original seven churches portrays one of the seven stages through which the Church universal has passed in the course of her earthly experience, it being very evident that she is now in the seventh and final stage represented by the condition of Laodicea. Thus the letters are also prophetic, as we shall see in our study of each.
Asia means slime, mire, so that the area in which those seven churches were located is an appropriate symbol of the moral state of that world in which every local church is to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ until that soon-coming day when He will return to rapture His Church home to heaven.
It is the eternal God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - “Him which is, and which was, and which is to come,” Who bequeaths grace (unmerited blessing), and peace, upon His own, assuring them that no matter what trial they may be called upon to pass through, they will never lack His all-sufficient grace (2 Co 12:9), nor, if they walk obediently, will they ever be deprived of His peace “which passeth understanding” (Php 4:7).
“The seven Spirits which are before His throne,” are generally understood to refer, not to seven separate Spirits, but to the sevenfold fullness of the one Holy Spirit as described in Isa 11:2, “And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord....”
1:5. “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,”
The reference to the Lord Jesus Christ as “the faithful witness,” reminds us that His faithfulness was “unto death,” and included not only the declaration of man’s ruined state, but also the love of God Whose righteousness required Him to punish sin, but Whose love was so great that He was willing to inflict that punishment upon His guiltless Son, so that men might be saved.
The righteousness and love which required the death of Christ when He became man’s Substitute, were accompanied also by the power to raise Him again from death, so that He is now presented as “the first begotten of the dead.” Others of course had been raised from death, but to die again. Christ is the first to rise out of that dread realm to stand eternally beyond its power. But His being the first begotten or firstborn reminds us that He is also first in rank of all who have passed from death to life through faith in Him as Savior and Lord.
“...the Prince of the kings of the earth,” declares that he is “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Re 19:16).
Many other translations render the latter part of this verse as “loves us” rather than “loved us” of the KJ version; and “loosed us ... by” rather than “washed
us ... in His own blood.”
1:6. “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
The believer’s high calling is declared here. It is to be noted incidentally that many translations render this “And hath made us a kingdom of priests ...” rather than “kings and priests ....”
This initial announcement evoked the grateful, joyous, reverential paean of those who had been redeemed by that precious blood shed at Calvary, “Unto him that loves us, and loosed us from our sins by his own blood, and hath made us a kingdom of priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen,” and every saint will add his own fervent Amen.
1:7. “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.”
This language is almost identical with that of Mt 24:30, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” and Daniel, referring to the same event, wrote, “I saw in the night, visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven....” (Dan 7:13). Mt 24:29 identifies the time as being “immediately after the tribulation,” assuring us that this coming will be the Lord’s return to end the Tribulation, judge the nations, and establish His Millennial kingdom.
His coming “with clouds” indicates that it will be to judge, not to save, since clouds are used frequently in Scripture in connection with Divine judgment, see, e.g., Joel 2:1-2, “... for the day of the Lord cometh ... a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness....” Nor should we forget that when “He was taken up (into heaven); and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Ac 1:9), the assurance of the angel to the disciples was, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner (i.e., in the clouds) as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Ac 1:11).
“... they also which pierced Him” cannot refer to the guilty individuals resurrected, since they won’t be raised until after the Millennium. Thus the reference may be to Israel, or to the people of the revived Roman Empire, though the former alone seems more probable, since it is Israel which is charged in Scripture with Christ’s death.
The wailing “kindreds of the earth” can be none other than those living, but unbelieving, survivors of the terrible Tribulation judgments. Numbered amongst them will be some from this present Church age, who because of refusal to believe the Gospel, will have been left behind at the Rapture. They, and their unbelieving fellows of the Tribulation era, will wail as they behold Him Who would have saved them, now returning to banish them into hell to await the resurrection of death, and final consignment into the eternal torment of the lake of fire. That wail that will begin as they witness the return of the Lord in power and glory, will continue eternally.
Very different will be the response of the believers who will witness that return. They will rejoice, for He Who came once to redeem them by dying for them at Calvary, will now have returned to deliver them from further suffering, and to bring them into the enjoyment of the Millennial kingdom, and after that, into the bliss of the eternal kingdom.
1:8. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, The Almighty.”
The identification of the Son as God, is revealed in this verse, these two letters, the first and last of the Greek alphabet, denoting not only His eternal existence, but also the truth that all things are comprehended in Him.
Newell, however, draws attention to an even deeper significance. The corresponding letters in the Hebrew alphabet represent an ox and a cross respectively, and since the ox is the Biblical symbol of patient service, we are being reminded that He Who will return in power and glory to reign, is He Who came once in the guise of a servant to make atonement for sin by giving His life on Calvary’s cross.
1:9. “I John, who also am your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
John describes himself as “brother and companion in tribulation” of the believers addressed, but since it is clear that the letters are addressed also to all believers, we too are included. All believers are “in the kingdom,” but the allusion to tribulation and patience reminds us that that age was one of particular persecution and suffering for those who owned their allegiance to Christ. (It is to be noted that the tribulation spoken of here is not the coming seven-year era still future, but that general tribulation which is the portion of every believer throughout the whole Church age). The reference to his being “in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ,” is generally understood to refer to his having been banished there to work in the marble quarries because of his faithful witness for his Lord.
1:10. “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,”
Commentators disagree as to whether John’s experience was similar to that of Paul described in 2 Co 12:2-3, where he says that he was uncertain whether he had entered paradise bodily, or whether his spirit alone had gone there. Since, in the present instance, the reference is to the Holy Spirit, it seems more likely that John is describing himself as being completely under the guiding influence of that same Holy Spirit.
It is significant that this revelation of events to occur during that period designated as “the day of the Lord,” was given to him on the Lord’s day, the first day of the week, on which believers are to eat the Lord’s supper, thereby not only remembering His death, but anticipating His return. Circumstances were very likely to have caused John to dwell more perhaps on the Lord’s sufferings than on His coming glorious reign. The revelation about to be given him would set things in proper perspective. This may explain the words, “I ... heard behind me a great voice....” If he was, figuratively speaking, turned back surveying the past, the “great voice” of Christ may have been calling him to turn around and survey the future.
The description of the voice as being like the sound of a trumpet may be to intimate that this revelation is not just for the ears of a select few: it is to be trumpeted to the ends of the earth. We who enjoy the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit in understanding the contents of this book, have an obligation to make its message known to all men.
It should be noted, incidentally, that the “Lord’s day,” and the “day of the Lord” are not synonymous. The former is the first day of the week; the latter, that period that will begin immediately after the Rapture of the Church, and that will continue till the end of the Millennium, when a new heavens and new earth will replace those now existing.
1:11. “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia: unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”
It is generally agreed that the words “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last” have been wrongly added here.
As has been noted already, these seven churches were selected from among others, and commentators in general have drawn attention to the fact that each one represents a stage in the earthly experience of the Church universal, a fact which is in keeping with the character of completeness attached to the number seven in Scripture. The analogy between the condition of each church, and a corresponding stage in the history of the Church as a whole, is found, not only in the conditions themselves, but in the meanings of the names of the individual churches.
According to Jackson’s Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names, Ephesus means full purposed: a throwing at, though some understand it to mean beloved. Smyrna means myrrh; Pergamos much marriage, and other sources give it as bad marriage; Thyatira, odor of affliction, and other sources, continual sacrifice. The meaning of Sardis is uncertain, but Jackson suggests that it may mean red ones; other sources suggest escaping remnant. Philadelphia means brotherly love; and Laodicea, the peoples’ rights, or according to others, the will of the people.
We will examine these in more detail when we come to examine the individual letters; but for now we might note that Ephesus is taken by many to represent the early Apostolic Church “full purposed” in the zeal of first love for Christ; while Smyrna takes us historically to the next stage of the Church’s experience - the period of bitter persecution from 167 A.D. to 316 A.D. Pergamos carries us symbolically from 316 A.D. to c.500 A.D., the period that began with the end of Rome’s persecution of the Church following the alleged conversion of the Emperor Constantine. It was the period that saw the development of Roman Catholicism.
Thyatira portrays the time from c.500 A.D. to c.1500 A.D. when Roman Catholicism ruled supreme, and with an iron fist. Sardis foreshadows the period from c.1500 A.D. to c.1700 A.D., the time of the Reformation and the beginning of Protestantism, when enlightened men began to escape from Rome’s bondage. Philadelphia portrays the period from c.1700 A.D. to 1900 A.D. which saw the development of the great missionary work of the Church. And Laodicea very clearly foreshadows the years from c.1900 A.D. to the present, an era marked by worldliness in the Church, and lack of love for Christ.
1:12. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;”
We might be tempted to think that the Holy Spirit had erred in His choice of verbs, for one doesn’t “see” a voice, but there is no mistake. This John is he who wrote the fourth Gospel, and significantly that Gospel introduces Christ as “the Word,” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). He Who was about to reveal the future to John was He Who is still what He had been on earth: the Voice or Word of the Father, as He Himself asserted, “I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it” (Jn 17:26).
As he turned to look at the Speaker, John “saw seven golden candlesticks (lampstands),” and we are left in no doubt as to what these lampstands represent, for verse 20 informs us that “the seven candlesticks ... are the seven churches.” God’s choice of seven golden lampstands to be symbols of the seven churches is most appropriate, for those golden lampstands declare also something of the character, not only of those particular churches, but of any local church, and of the Church universal. As spiritual lampstands, individual churches are responsible to be lights amid the world’s spiritual darkness, a fact which obviously implies a similar responsibility on the part of the individuals comprising those churches. As the combined light of the lampstands shone upon the Christ Who stood in their midst, so is the combined testimony of the churches, at any time and place, to be to focus attention upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
Their being of gold - the Scriptural symbol of glory - links together witnessing and glory, reminding us that God is glorified by the faithful testimony of believers, both individually and corporately; and in a soon-coming day those same faithful witnesses will also be glorified, their faithfulness contributing in no small measure to the degree of their glorification.
The fact that they were seven (number of perfection, completeness) declares the truth that the Church is the instrument ordained of God to be His perfect witness on the earth during this present dispensation of grace (from Pentecost till the Rapture). This may be a fact difficult to comprehend, confronted as we are with much failure and weakness both individual and corporate, but the fact remains that eternity will reveal the wisdom of God in having committed to believers the privilege and responsibility of being His witnesses. Paul emphasizes this truth in his Ephesian letter, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by (through) the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph 3:8-10).
1:13. “And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.”
John’s gaze was not to remain on the golden lampstands, but on the Lord Himself. Their function, like that of John, and of everyone and everything else, was to direct attention to Him.
“... clothed with a garment down to the foot.” The length of the robe is stressed: it wasn’t the short garment of the worker, but the long robe of the ruler or judge. In the days of His earthly ministry the Lord, metaphorically speaking, had worn the short
garment of the servant, but that ended with the triumphant words that marked the end of His suffering, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). He Who came once as the Lamb, to die, will return as the Lion, to rule.
“... and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.” Others have drawn attention to the fact that since the breasts are symbolic of love and affection, their being encircled with this golden girdle seems to speak of love restrained, and to declare that John was then looking upon Christ, no longer as the sinner’s Savior, but as earth’s Judge.
1:14. “His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;”
Dr. Tatford, in his book Prophecy’s Last Word writes, “White hairs are, of course, a sign of maturity. Christ’s here were not the white hairs of senility or decay, but of the absolute holiness and wisdom of the Judge (cf. also the Ancient of Days in Dan. 7:9). The glittering splendor of His head indicated His dignity and majesty.”
What contrast is found between the Lord’s head as seen here by John, and that same head as surveyed by the multitude around the cross! There it was matted with His blood, and the spittle of his enemies!
“... and His eyes were as a flame of fire.” Those eyes had run with tears at the grave of Lazarus, as they had also when the Lord, looking out over Jerusalem about to fall under Divine judgment because of her rejection of her King, lamented, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Lk 19:42). John was being given a sight of the Christ Whose demeanor was appropriate to His office.
The aged apostle was looking upon Him Who was Judge rather than Savior. Judgmental fire flashed from the eyes that had once been wet with tears of pity. The day of grace is speeding to its close, bringing nearer that day when the invitation of mercy will give place to the awful pronouncements of judgment. “It is a fearful thing to fall (unsaved) into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).
1:15. “And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.”
Brass is the Biblical symbol of judgment, as fire is of Divine holiness and of the Holy Spirit. “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). Only that which is holy can survive the testing of that fire, all else will be consumed. The feet that had walked the earth to bring men God’s gift of life, had been nailed to Calvary’s cross, but those feet seen by John in his vision as being like burning brass, declared that the day of the Lamb had given place to that of the Lion.
“... and his voice as the sound of many waters.” The restless troubled sea is declared by the prophet to be symbolic of the restless rebellious sea of humanity estranged from God, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest” (Isa 57:20). “Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing (thistledown) before the whirlwind” (Isa 17:12-13). When He was on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the words of the prophet, “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street” (Isa 42:2). During His earthly ministry He spoke with what was a “still small voice” as compared to the roar of the rebel masses, but in the day foreseen by John the position is reversed: under the thunder of “His voice as the sound of many waters,” the voice of rebel humanity will be silenced.
1:16. “And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged word: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.”
In verse 20 the seven stars are declared to be “the angels of the seven churches,” but that explanation has proved as enigmatic as the symbol itself. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, however, sheds considerable light on the matter, for the author of that work notes that in addition to the more common meaning of “messenger,” angel “is also used of a guardian or representative in Rev 1:20.” We must note also that angels are frequently found in the role of guardian, e.g., the guardian cherubim wielding the flaming sword on the east side of Eden, following the expulsion of Adam. In the light of that knowledge therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that it is the elders who are designated as “the angels of the seven churches.” No small part of the elders’ work is to guard the sheep entrusted to their care, the principal form of that guardianship being teaching, for the well-taught flock is the best-guarded: it will not easily fall prey to Satan’s wolves. (It should be noted incidentally, that contrary to what is being taught in many quarters today, the elders are not to function as administrators, but as teachers, see, for example, Ac 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed (teach) the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” and 1 Tim 3:2, “A bishop (overseer, elder) then must be blameless ... apt to teach (feed).”
Inasmuch as the right hand is the symbol of strength and power, the position of the stars “in His right hand” declares the truth that elders rule as the representatives of the Lord of the churches. They are to be obeyed, for it is through elders who are obedient to Him that He governs the assemblies of His people.
There is significance also connected with their being portrayed as stars, for in Scripture the sun is the symbol of Christ; the moon, of corporate witness; and the stars, of individual testimony. Elders, in common with all other believers, are responsible to bear a competent witness for Christ. As it was a star that led the wise men to the Savior, so is it by the testimony of individuals, shining as guiding stars, that men are led to Him today. “They that be wise shall shine ... and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan 12:3).
“... and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword.” The meaning of the sword is announced in Heb 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword....”, and the propriety of the symbol is the more apparent when we remember that John was beholding the Lord Jesus Christ in His role as Judge. It was that same Christ, Who in the days of His earthly ministry, declared, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (Jn 12:48).
“... and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” Again, Dr. Tatford is worth quoting here, “Once that blessed face was marred and spat upon. Now it shone in the resplendent glory which earth had once seen on the Transfiguration Mount. The Eastern churches, to whom this message was sent, had formerly known the worship of the sun-god. To them the reference was plain. Here was One Whose radiant glory outshone the splendor of all the false gods of the East. Their brightness paled into nothing before His incomparable glory.”
1:17. “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:”
The reverence portrayed in John’s falling “at his feet as dead” rebukes the irreverence so prevalent today, not only in the world, but in the professing church.
His words, “fear not” are spoken also to all who know Him as Savior, for through the shedding of His precious blood at Calvary, all their sins are blotted out for ever from the eye of God, the assurance of heaven being, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8:1).
As noted already, His claim, “I am the first and the last,” is simply another way of saying, “I am God.”
1:18. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”
Having submitted Himself to death on man’s behalf, and having emerged from that dread domain in the power of an endless life, He stands revealed as Lord of both life and death. But as Dr. J. A. Seiss pointed out over a century ago, this “refers not to mere manifested life, but to life inherent and underived. The words do not relate simply to the fact of Christ’s having lived in the flesh, but to his possession of a deeper and self-existing life, of which that was only one manifestation. The life here claimed by Christ ... had an eternal subsistence with the Father before the world was ... the same eternal life which was with the Father.”
Relative to this, Seiss, quoting Irving, says also, “So God, in order to prove that Christ, and he alone, is The Living One, doth permit the many to come under the dominion of death; and having thus proved that no man is The Living One, he then bringeth Christ into the same controversy with death, who, by overcoming it, doth prove himself the Prince of Life, and the Master of Death; so that he could say, ‘I am the resurrection and the Life.’ By being the Resurrection, he is proved to be the Life. He is not the Life in consequence of the resurrection, but in antecedence of it. The resurrection proves him to be that being in whom it had pleased God that it should reside as in an invincible fortress, which was tried and proved to be death-proof.”
1:19. “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;”
While commentators disagree as to the meaning of this verse, it seems reasonable to assume that “the things which thou hast seen” refers to the vision of Christ which John had just beheld; and “the things which are,” to the seven churches; while there can scarcely be any doubt that “the things which shall be hereafter” refers to the revelation of the future about to be given John.
1:20. “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
Since we have already discussed the meaning of the seven stars and the seven candlesticks, there is no need to elaborate further here, except to note the significance of the word mystery. Vine states that here in Re 1:20, “It denotes, not the mysterious ... but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation ... and to those only who are illumined by His Spirit.” In this respect the Revelation is like all of Scripture: it is beyond the comprehension of the natural man, and for the most part also beyond that of the carnal believer, for the Holy Spirit, grieved and quenched, is denied the opportunity to give enlightenment.