The heavenly vision

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Prepare

As we launch into Revelation, ask for Jesus to be revealed to you by the Spirit. Ask that the anticipation of his revelation will thrill you deeply and draw you closer to Jesus.


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Bible passage: Revelation 1:1–20


Prologue

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Greetings and Doxology

John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

John’s Vision of Christ

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

17 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. 18 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.

19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.



New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Explore


Promise of blessing
‘John is the writer, but Jesus Christ is the author,’ said Grotius. What was the chain of communication (vs 1–3)? This is the only book in the Bible that promises blessing to those who read and obey it (v 3). It is to be read aloud (v 3) – a great way to experience and relish the daily readings, if possible.  

The whole church
The churches in what is now Turkey (v 4) perhaps represent the whole church, as seven was the number meaning completeness. Look each day for what Jesus is saying to the church.

Ascended, glorified Christ
Where was John when he received this unveiling (vs 9,10)? Not of course, our Sunday, but a time and place of heart where God could call him. The result was a vision of the ascended, glorified Christ (vs 13–16), dressed as a priest, with authority (v 13), yet going through judgement for us (v 15). This is no helpless babe lying in a manger: that was his first coming. Now he comes again in power and glory. This is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. The Almighty! That’s why we need this revelation – so that we can see him as he really is (v 16b). What is John’s reaction to the living Jesus (v 17)? 

Penelope Swithinbank

Respond


How do you respond to Jesus after this first unveiling? Remember that he is kind and tender (v 17).


Introduction to Revelation 1–9


The letter of Revelation is unique and has so much to say, yet many feel an aversion to it. We should understand that it is not John’s revelation but Jesus Christ’s, to his servants (1:1). We will encounter seven churches, seals and trumpets, seven being a repeated number representing perfection and completeness: Jesus’ aim for his church.

The churches in the late first century were being persecuted in varying degrees. Some believers paid with their lives, others were expected to worship Jesus and Caesar or have their businesses destroyed. Then, as now, standing for Christ was costly and we find hope and challenge in these chapters. The church faced internal issues too, not unlike today, and her challenges and victories may inspire us. The church remains in the world and must deal with the enemy’s attacks upon her, while in the heavens there is a spiritual battle.

I have approached Revelation from an eclectic angle, combining elements of different interpretations and finding merits and limitations in each: ‘idealist’, about general principles; ‘futurist’, about the end times; ‘preterist’, about interpreting first-century events. The letter is written to seven specific churches who are to receive a blessing in their obedience. The literal stands out but so does the symbolic: in places it is even explained.1 ‘The visions are to confront us with God’s demands and promises – not to satisfy our curiosity about minute end-time details.’2 Revelation offers hope, as we glimpse heaven’s glories. Jesus said, ‘I will build my church, and the gates of death will not overcome it’ (Matt 16:18, TNIV). These passages challenge complacency. We see how powerful prayer is. Finally, we are left with the humbling thought that, after all we have done, he washes away our sin, gives us undeserved white robes and incorporates us into his redemption plan.

For Further Reading

Eugene Boring, Interpretation – Revelation, John Knox Press, 1989

Robert Wall, New International Biblical Commentary – Revelation, Paternoster Press, 1991

Craig Keener, The NIV Application Commentary – Revelation, Zondervan Press, 2000

1 Eg the lampstands as churches

2 Keener, 2000, p23

Andy Robinson

Deeper Bible study


Are you fed up with emails/adverts telling you what fortunes could be yours if only you replied? Jesus is a faithful witness. What he reveals is not elusive, debatable or questionable, but a certainty of ‘what must soon take place’ (v 1). Jesus was our example on earth, never failing, always pointing to God. He spoke fearlessly of the wonders of the kingdom, regardless of the cost. As churches and disciples, he calls us to be faithful witnesses. What is our testimony as a church? To what have we been witness?

We can take real hope from the fact that Jesus had often stated that he would die and rise again (eg Matt 27:63; Mark 8:31), making him the firstborn from the dead and ruler over all. We read that Jesus is not just the first and the last, but also the one who is and was and is to come – and he is above all things (vs 17,18). No one else can make such a statement. What a comfort, then, as the prostrated John feels Jesus’ hand of reassurance upon his shoulder. This hand, with such powerful capabilities, can gently touch the frightened: the thunderous voice says, ‘Do not be afraid’ (v 17).

Jesus was dead but now lives for ever. He holds the keys to death and to Hades; even our adversaries are under his control. This wonderful greeting and vision of Jesus gives churches the revelation of victory for every believer. Awesome and holy, we must not lose sight of the grace and peace that Jesus sends to his churches, from the one who loves us and freed us from sin (v 5). He has made us ‘to be a kingdom and priests’ (v 6). He is the faithful witness and so we know it has – and will – come to pass.

We have been made ‘a kingdom and priests’. Why? Jesus says, ‘to serve his God and Father’ (v 6). Is that our understanding as his disciple and church, to serve?

Andy Robinson

Background: Revelation


Author
The author is named as ‘John’ four times (1:1,4,9; 22:8) but he does not claim to be John the apostle, and some have suggested another John as the writer, because:

1) The Greek of Revelation is very unusual, quite unlike the Greek of John’s Gospel.

2) In the Gospel, John takes care never to name himself.

3) The characteristic themes of John’s Gospel, love and truth, are almost absent in Revelation.

But these objections are easily answered. The Greek is deliberately odd – note mere bad Greek – in the interests of prophecy.

Secondly, the Gospel was essentially a biography of Jesus, and John would not want to intrude himself into it. But Revelation is a revelation given to a person, and the name of that person gives authenticity to the revelation.  

Thirdly, we would hardly expect love to be the key theme of a book which is talking about judgement!

Recipients
The book includes seven letters to seven churches (more strictly to their ‘angels’) in Asia. There were other churches in Asia, but these seven are selected.

This is because, firstly, the number seven indicates perfection or completeness – the seven represent the entire church in all history. And secondly, because the seven between them typify the whole spectrum of churches through the centuries: from the church of Smyrna, of which nothing bad is said, to the church of Laodicea, of which nothing good is said.

Date
The book is written at a time when the persecution of the church is about to be intensified. Christians have been persecuted, but now they must prepare to resist to death.

The first major persecution took place under the emperor Nero and seems to be reflected in the book – perhaps the mysterious ‘666’ (13:18). There was a second, fiercer, persecution, under Domitian, which lasted from AD 91 to 95 and it is generally accepted that John wrote during this period.

Special features
This book represents a special type of Jewish writing. It is apocalyptic; an unveiling, a revealing, but written in a vivid and poetic way. It is difficult to understand, but this is a very important book for Christians to study if they are to relate properly to the history of our times.

Taken from The Bible in Outline (SU, 1985)

Bible in a year


Read the Bible in a year.

1 Samuel 4–6

Mark 10
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A new light


John’s vision must have been mind blowing – it was a chance to see Jesus in a completely new light.

To try and capture something of what he saw, listen to this guided meditation, written by Penny Boshoff. As you do so, open your mind, engage your imagination and encounter the power and holiness of Jesus, the Light of the world.   

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Audio


Our confidence is in the Lord
Noel & Tricia Richards
Copyright © 1989 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com



No one really knows (God is near)
Rend Collective Experiment
Copyright© 2009 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com




Comments
  • Rachael Hampton | Tuesday, 23 April 2019

    ‘We can hardly expect love to be a key theme in a book about judgement.’ Hmmm. Don’t know about that. God’s judgement is a demonstration of His love, not separate from it. After the horrors of the death accounts, how glorious to see Jesus as He really is. Thank you Pat Goddard for yesterday’s comment. The Holy Spirit’s job description is to bring us peace deep within. Yes! Praying for all in turmoil and pain to know the tenderness and victory of Jesus, the never changing love of the Father, and the peace of the Holy Spirit. Missing you Barbara Sabin. How you doing?

  • Rachael Hampton | Wednesday, 24 April 2019

    You were the Word at the beginning .....What a beautiful Name ...https://youtu.be/nQWFzMvCfLE

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 24 April 2019

    I wonder why Penelope doesn't think Duet 28 and some others fall into the category of promised blessings for obedience. Perhaps I've misunderstood. These words are suffice for me at this moment "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen."

  • Lorna Duffin | Wednesday, 24 April 2019

    Beautiful prayer Rachael.

  • Angela Munday | Wednesday, 24 April 2019

    We recognise Jesus as we hear him say “I am the living one!” We know we are loved and cared for by our God who is only love and that it is stronger than death. God, in asking for obedience, knows He can bring us safely into our inheritance and into a promised land of beauty and sustenance. GILVIN - Thank you for Isaiah 26:3 and knowing that we can possess the perfect peace that trusting in God brings. I agree, “Happy is the one who reads the Scriptures and happy are those who listen and obey.”

  • Ann Boldock | Wednesday, 24 April 2019

    If it is not John the apostle then which John is it?

  • Frank Collins | Wednesday, 24 April 2019

    We see a lot about justice, social and legal justice but not about judgement. Same thing with rights but not responsibilities . Whether it’s New Zealand, Sri Lanka or N Ireland it’s all an atrocious waste. I remember that Jesus said he didn’t bring peace but a sword which as a statement and as a text out of context, is open to many conflicting interpretations. I’m looking forward to this study and feedback.

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