Study of Revelation 1:4-20

This coming Sunday at Redeemer Church we will be going through Revelation 1:4-20, so take some time and read it through beforehand. In this post you will find commentaries on this passage that will be helpful to your study as well as questions to help you process what this passage is about. Before you begin your time in God’s Word, take a deep breath and pray that the Holy Spirit would guide your understanding and open your heart to meet with King Jesus. We pray this study fills you with increasing hope and joy!

Key Verse

“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and hades.” Revelation 1:17-18

Introduction

John describes the source of the revelation that he is penning to the churches of Asia minor. He sees and is comforted by the risen and glorified Christ, full of majesty and terrifying power. He stresses Christ’s eternality, His sovereignty, and His intimate rule over and care for His church. 

Scholarly Commentary

“’Asia’ was a common designation for the Roman province of western Asia Minor (modern western Turkey), where Christianity was flourishing by the end of the first century. A governor of Bithynia (in northern Turkey) early in the second century even complained to the emperor that the pagan temples were being forsaken because Christians were spreading so quickly. But other strengths of the churches did not exempt them from the need for a message from God, whether warning them of further suffering (2:10) or summoning them to deeper holiness (2:14-16).7

“The preface, or exordium, of a work sets the tone for a work; expansions on any part of the traditional letter introduction, including the blessings, often provide clues to themes in the rest of a letter. That John expounds so fully on Jesus’ roles in 1:5-6 suggests the central place that Christology will play in this book. That God “is, and…was, and…is to come” frames the source of the blessing (1:4, 8), hence is a point that John certainly wishes to underline. Some pagans understood the concept of a supreme deity’s self-existence, but the language here appears to have been a more common ancient Jewish interpretation of God’s claim in Exodus 3:14: “I AM WHO I AM.’”8

“Finally, John confirms once again that all history is in God’s hands – the future as well as the present (1:8); thus, his people need not fear as if something will happen to them apart from God’s plan.”9

“Caesar might rule citizens of an empire in limited ways, but God rules the cosmos; and God, who is the beginning and then end, will guide the course of history long after Caesar’s death and the cremation of his body in Rome.”10

“They symbolize the churches on earth, scattered across western Asia Minor (Rev. 1:19). Jesus, the holy One of God, is present among them and knows their situation more truly than they do. The appearance of the churches as golden lampstands also signals their calling, to reflect the light of God’s heavenly court into the present darkness on earth.”11

“John hears the Lord Jesus Christ Himself speaking to him and saying, ‘I myself am the Alpha and the Omega.’ Alpha and Omega are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet. Thus, Christ here describes Himself as being the complete and perfect and eternal revelation from God. He says, as it were, ‘I am from the very beginning to the very end, that is, the Eternal one. Take courage; your enemy cannot destroy your Christ.’”12

“The image of Jesus in this passage weaves together imagery from three sources in the book of Daniel. The first (the least important) is the angelic revelation in Daniel 10:5-6, but the two most important stem from the same passage: the reigning son of man (7:13-14) and the Ancient of Days (God), before whom the son of man appears (7:9).”13

Questions

  1. What does it mean that we are currently a kingdom and priests to serve God. (Rev. 1:6, 2 Pet. 2:9)
  2. Revelation is a letter for a specific audience, one that is both historical and universal. How does this change the way you read and understand the book?
  3. How does Revelation 1:20 and its explanation of the stars and lampstands help us understand the rest of the book?
  4. What is the significance for us now of the phrase in verse 19, “what is now and what will take place later?”

Take Away

Reflect and meditate on the appearance of Jesus in this passage and the fact that He is in the midst of the suffering churches.

Reflect on John’s response to the sight of Jesus and how you should posture yourself before Christ.

 

Works Cited

7, 8, 9, 10, 13 Keener, Craig S. Revelation.

11 Johnson, Dennis E. Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. 

12 Hendriksen, William. More than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation.

 

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