The New Testament book entitled “The Apocalypse (disclosure, manifestation, revelation) of Jesus Christ.” John will record the visions God reveals to him as commanded. These are matters of spiritual and physical significance, but events that “must shortly take place…for the time was near.”
He writes to the seven churches of Asia Minor but does not originate the letter. It is from “The One Who Is and Who Was and Who Is To Come,” from the seven Spirits, and from Jesus Christ. The Godhead is present, and the Godhead has a message for the church.
At the beginning of Revelation, there are a few statements about Christ that matter to the rest of the letter. Faithful witness: His witness is true, and it is reliable in good times and bad. Firstborn from the dead: the one who has been through Death, through Hades (the grave), and is alive again as the victor. Ruler over the kings of the earth: the church is going endure persecution from the kings of this planet, but Jesus is ultimately in charge.
John reassures the Christians he is their companion in trouble, in the Kingdom, and the endurance of Jesus Christ (i.e., cost of faithfulness). He describes the beginning of the vision, the command to write, and the voice coming from inside the midst of the churches (or accurately, their spiritual representation as lampstands).
This moment is opportune to point out that John uses “figures” to represent concepts, people, places, things, etc. in the book of Revelation. Sometimes these figures are easy to understand, sometimes not. Do not fear; often the context will explain plainly enough for us to grasp John’s point.
John beholds Christ, and His representation is genuinely magnificent. His appearance, head, hair, clothing, eyes, feet, voice — everything about Christ impressed John. Jesus is holding seven stars, and He will reveal a mystery about them, they are the messengers (angels) of the churches (the lampstands).
John is so impressed by Christ in the vision, he falls as dead, but Jesus comforts him by saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”
Next week: The sharp double-edged sword comes forth from Jesus’ mouth.