Jesus Christ the Great Communicator with His church
The following study on Jesus Christ in the apocalypse, the Revelation, will be done in seven parts.
Part I: Jesus Christ the Great Communicator with His church, chs.1-3
Part II: Jesus Christ opens a sealed book. Chs.4-8:2
Part III: Jesus Christ the Righteous Judge, Chs.8-11
Part IV: Jesus Christ in the Great Controversy, ch.12
Part V: Jesus Christ and His counterfeit opponent, chs.13-18
Part VI: Jesus Christ in His glorious and victorious return, chs.19-20
Part VII: Jesus Christ in His glorious Kingdom and restored paradise, chs.21, 22
In the Revelation all the books of the Bible meet and end. Here is the complement of the book of Daniel. One is a prophecy; the other a revelation. (Ellen G.White in her book The Acts of the Apostles, p.585, EGW)
We will follow this statement and from time to time refer to Old Testament (OT) scriptures, in particular to the book of Daniel.
This study gives comments and notes by the book of Revelation.
EGW in her book “Testimonies to Ministers”(TM) writes on page 114: “When the books of Daniel and Revelation are better understood, believers will have an entirely different religious experience”. We wish that this will be the case of the readers of this study.
The name of the book indicates clearly that it is set to reveal, not to hide or to seal. Also what is sealed will be opened and made known.Deut.29:29; Rev.6:1. As said before in particularly it will reveal Jesus Christ.Rev.1:1-3. That must be the aim of the reader to discover more about Jesus Christ. At the same time the book also reveals the defeated opponents of Jesus Christ, this knowledge will make Him even more outstanding.
It is not the revelation of John, as is wrongly stated in some Bibles, but the revelation of Jesus Christ as we will notice when we start with Rev.1:1.
We will make use of what other people have written about this Bible book to put more light on what is being discussed. The KJV is used and in case of a different translation it will be so indicated.
From Rev.1:1 we learn that this Bible book has been given to John in stages.
- It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. We must look for Jesus when reading this Bible book.
b. which God gave unto him, that is to Jesus Christ. Uriah Smith in his Daniel and
Revelation Book vol.2, p.339 (D/R/ U.Smith) writes as follows “It is not only the Revelation of Jesus Christ, but it is the Revelation which God gave unto Him. It comes first from the great Fountain of all wisdom and truth, God the Father, by him it was communicated to Jesus Christ, the Son.”
c The next step is that an angel has been used to send and signify it to John the
. servant of God Rev.1:1.
d. The purpose is to show His servants things which must shortly come to pass.
In Rev.1:2 we read further that John is the one who bare record:
a of the word of God
b of the testimony of Jesus (Rev.19:10)
c of all the things that he saw
God is the giver, Jesus is the receiver what is being revealed about Him, an angel is used to pass it on to John and finally John records it all in a book.
Going through this book we will notice that several times John is directed to “write down”. Rev.1:11, 19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5
Faithfully John has followed these instructions. We notice that he not only records the word of God but also the Testimony of Jesus Christ. This expression we meet 4 times.
Rev.1:2, 9; 12:17; 19:10. The last reference is most important because it gives the definition of the Testimony of Jesus, being the Spirit of Prophecy.
(For a detailed study on this topic go to “The testimony of Jesus” study in this section of this website).
John was on the Isle of Patmos because of his faithfulness to the word of God and to the Testimony of Jesus Christ. 1:9 God’s remnant last day people will be in a war situation with the dragon, Satan, because they have the Testimony of Jesus, Rev.12:17
Rev.1:3 Here we find a blessing attached to the reading or hearing of this book and when we keep those things which are written therein. We need these instructions for our spiritual well being, and which we have to keep.
To keep, Greek tereo, means to watch over, take care of, keep our eyes upon, observe attentively (from a critical lexicon and concordance to the English and Greek New Testament by Dr.E.W.Bullinger [Bullinger] )
The apostle James wrote in James 1:22 “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves”.
It means that here in Revelation it is not an insignificant add on statement but an important part of the book to be noticed to follow up on.
This first blessing is followed by some more in Rev.14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14
We will comment on them as we reach them in our study.
This first blessing is an encouragement to carry on with our study of the Revelation. With such a blessing the book is not a mystery but an open book, revealing something of great importance.
Dr.MacArthur, a Bible commentator, writes “This is the only biblical book that comes with a blessing for the one who listens to it being read and explained and then responds in obedience”. (From Nelson’s Ultimate Bible Reference, NUBR)
A reason is added for the time is at hand or near. This connects with what is stated in vs.1
“To show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass”.
These things are the events which will take place before the return of Christ. He will return one day and fulfil His promise as we have it in John 14:1-3 In order to be ready for that great and glorious event we must know Him. To know him means eternal life to us, John 17:3; 1John 5:11, 12, 13
The word time in Rev.1:3 are from the Greek kairos which is different from chronos. “Kairos” relates to events and ”chronos” to exact time. We will not know the exact time, day or the hour, but we are informed regarding events which will take place before Christ will return in glory. Mark 13:28-32; Luke 17:26-33; 21:28-31
In human thinking it may not always look like that the time is “nigh at hand or near,” but in God’s mind who lives in eternity the event is near, at the door. Remember the book of Revelation comes from God. We are reading God’s mind in human language.
The church has always been anxious regarding the coming of Christ in glory. While Christ was still on earth His disciples were anxious to know when it all would take place. Matth.24:1, 2 Jesus did not respond in saying, you don’t need to know. To the contrary He listed a whole series of events which were going to take place. These events need time to occur, to come to pass, to develop.
The apostle Paul had to restrain the early Christians in his day from believing that the day of Christ is at hand Read 2 Thess.2:1-3. He agreed with them that the return of Christ would happen, but not before certain events had taken place. These events relate to what we will discover in the book of Revelation and what was already written down by Daniel in his book, as we will see later.
I would like to add that no one has ever waited for the coming of Christ in glory longer than his or her lifetime. When we die in Jesus, the death of sleep, the next moment we will wake up and see Jesus in Glory. In death as in sleep there is no awareness of the passing of time.
In Rev.1:4, 11 we notice that John is instructed to write what he sees in a book and send it to the seven churches in minor Asia. The names of these churches are stated.
Are we dealing here with literal churches as they existed in that time? We quote from
NUBR “The seven churches were mentioned in verse 4, but they are now named in verse 11. There were at least three other churches in Asia at this time, but the number here may have been limited to seven because of the symbolic value of that number. Seven being the
number of completeness, could suggest that the message to the seven churches is applicable to the total church throughout the world.”
The late Dr.Mervyn Maxwll in his book GOD CARES Vol.II (GC II) agrees with this statement. After discussing at length 6 arguments in favour of this view he concludes: “Taken together, the considerations viewed here encourage us to view the letters to the seven churches as symbolic, like so many other features in Daniel and Revelation. They persuade us to see them like the prophecies of Daniel and the Olivet Discourse of Jesus Christ, as covering the sweep of history from the prophet’s time till the end of the world.”
(GC II p.144)
The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (SDABC) agrees here also. “Accordingly, they may be said to have universal application in successive periods. A Christian writer about AD 200 wrote that ‘John writes to the seven churches, yet he speaks to all.”
(SDABC vol.7, p.737/8)
Ellen G.White in Acts of Apostles confirms the same. “The names of the seven churches are symbolic of the churches in different periods of the Christian Era. The number 7 indicates completeness and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time, while the symbols used reveal the condition of the church at different periods in the history of the church”.(EGW AA p.585)
With these thoughts in mind we will later discuss the seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3.
In the rest of Revelation 1 we find alternatively John speaking and Jesus Christ Himself. In Rev.1:4-7 John as the writer of this book speaks to the seven churches in terms of a lengthy introductory greeting.
He starts to wish them grace and peace. This is common practice to start a pastoral letter to fellow believers. Paul did the same, see Rom.1:7; 1Cor.1:3; 2Cor.1:2; Gal.1:3;Eph.1:2; Phil.1:2;Col.1:2; 1Thess.1:1; 2Thess.1:2;1Tim.1:2; 2Tim.1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3; we find this also by Peter in 1Pet.1:2; 2Pet.1:2 and John does the same in 2John 3.
John in the Revelation writes that this grace and peace comes from God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. Rev.1:4, 5. This reveals the heavenly divine trio of God.
God is called the “eternal One”, “him which is, and which was, and which is to come.” It” opens to the world what has been, which is and what is to come.”(EGW in RH Aug.31, 1897)
The seven spirits are before the throne of God. The word ‘throne’ is from the Greek
Thronos, throne as the emblem of regal authority. (Bullinger) This word is used throughout the Revelation.
The seven spirits are later seen as seven lamps before the throne, Rev.4:5. We find the names of these seven spirits in Isa.11:2. Isaiah is describing the coming of the Messiah and that “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 fear of the Lord.”
Christ the Messiah is called by Isaiah in Isa.9:6 “wonderful, counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the prince of Peace”.
In Isa.61:1 we learn in reference to the Messiah “the spirit of the Lord is upon me”.
When Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, Luke 3:22. Then in Luke 4:1 “and Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit returned from Jordan……” Further in Luke 4:16-21 Jesus going to the synagogue on the Sabbath day read from Isaiah 61 and said in verse 21 “this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”.
Jesus was filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Thus John could address the seven churches on behalf of Jesus Christ as he does in Rev.1:5
As we have mentioned before most introductions of pastoral letters are introduced on behalf of God and Jesus Christ. John includes also the Holy Spirit thus completing the heavenly trio Father, Son and Holy Spirit.Rev.1:4 “and from the seven Spirits” This is in harmony with the baptism formula of Matthew 28:19 “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”.
What follows next in Rev.1:5 and 6 gives praise to Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness
“The word witness is from the Greek martyr “one who has information or knowledge of a thing, and can therefore give information concerning, bring to light or confirm anything”. (Bullinger)
Jesus Christ declared His faithfulness in John 17:4 “I have glorified thee, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do”.
ib.6 “I have manifested thy name unto the men”
ib.8 “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me”.
Ib.14”I have given them thy word”
Ib.26 “I have declared unto them thy name”
If there was ever one born from a woman who could make such statements, it was Jesus Christ our Lord. John who also wrote John chapter 17 knew what he wrote in Rev.1:5 about Jesus Christ, the faithful witness. Guided by the Holy Spirit who else could have given a better record of Christ’s prayer as written in John 17?
The followers of Christ also must be found faithful as He was. 1Cor.4:2 “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful”.
In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 Christ explains what the reward will be for the faithful steward, vs.21 and 23.
In 1Cor.1:9 we read that God is faithful. The epistle to the Ephesians is addressed to the faithful in Christ Jesus, Eph.1:1
What John writes next in Rev.1:5 about Jesus Christ are some what complex. Jesus Christ is the first begotten of the dead. The Greek word reads “prototokos”, “first-born” which we also have in other scripture places.
In Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:7 “first born” is given as a translation, while the Greek reads differently she (Mary) bore a son, gave birth to a son.
“Prototokos” we find in the following places in the scriptures:
Rom.8:29 “first born among many brethren”
Col.1:15 “first born of every creature”
Col.1:18 “first born of the dead”
This does not relate to His beginning as having been created. Some of it relates to his death and resurrection. Dr.MacArthur comments as follows: “Of all who have been or will be raised from the dead, He is the pre-eminent one, the only one who is the rightful heir”. (NUBR)
Vernon McGee comments: “He is the first to rise from the dead never to die again” (NUBR)
Dr.Mervyn Maxwell comments: “Jesus is the first born of the dead because He is supremely the most significant person ever to have died and come back to life”(GC II p.79)
Daniel wrote about the coming Messiah as the Prince, Dan.9:25 Jesus Christ is the rightful ruler and Prince over all. One day they will all bow before Him, Phil.2:9-11
When He will be seen coming in glory it will be written on His vesture, “King of kings and Lord of lords” Rev.19:16
Then John writes in Rev.1:5 “Unto Him that loved us”.
Christ loved us because He gave His life for us. He still loves us as the Father loves us and He abides in that love, John 15:10. The same is expected from Christ’s followers that we love Him and keep His commandments John 14:15
In John 15:9 we are admonished to continue in that love. John must here also have remembered those words when he wrote unto Him that loved us.
Now follows the action of love. “Unto Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His blood”. Rev.1:5; Isa.1:18
We will read more about this when we move deeper into this book the Revelation.
In the OT blood contaminates. It was forbidden to eat, like fat was forbidden to eat.
Lev.3:17. Blood contaminates, but it cleanses at the same time, 1John 1:9; Eph.1:7 and Col. 1:14
Blood also stood for atonement as a gift from God. Lev.17:11 Right from the beginning a blood sacrifice was acceptable with God. Gen.4:3-5 Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and Cain’s was rejected. For the New Testament believer we read in Hebr.9:22 without the shedding of blood is no remission Referring to Jesus Christ Paul writes in Eph.1:7 “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace”.
Not only that Christ has washed us from our sins, but also we have been elevated “and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father”, a reference to Ex.19:6
We should put our former life behind us and accept the challenge of which the apostle Peter writes in 1Pet.2:9, 10 we are now “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people”. From being ’not my people’ we will be God’s people and He our God, Hosea 2:23; 2Cor.6:16.
No wonder John terminates this section with the words: “to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever Amen”. Rev.1:6
From the cross where Christ’s blood was shed for us in an atoning sacrifice, John goes directly to Christ’s second coming in glory “behold He cometh with the clouds”
As Christ was taken up in a cloud so He will come back with the clouds. Acts 1:9, 11
It will be a visible event as His ascension into heaven was visible “and every eye shall see Him”. Read 1Thess.4:17
But something gets extra attention” they also which pierced Him”. This can only mean that such people who had a direct connection with the crucifixion of Christ will witness His return in glory. This can be through a special resurrection for these people, see here below Dan.12:1, 2
We read in Matt.26:64 that Christ speaks to Caiaphas as follows: “here after you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heave” (RSV)
We may ask ‘how can that be?’ We read in Daniel 12:1, 2 that at the time of Michael, the Great Prince, which is Christ, there will be a resurrection. In that resurrection there will be people being resurrected for eternal life and others for shame and everlasting contempt.
It seems good to us to believe that in the day of Christ’s return in glory not only all the righteous, his elect, (Matth.24:31) will be resurrected but some other people as well, those who pierced Him, who directly are related to His crucifixion. The other unrighteous people will be resurrected after the millennium. Rev.20:1-6. We will say more about this when we reach that point in our walk through the Revelation.
According to Rev.1:7 there is also “wailing, because of Him”. Wailing relates to an unpleasant state of mind. We may believe they will be the people described in Jer.8:20 “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved”. Not being saved when Christ appears in glory will be sufficient reason to wail about Him. Rev.6:16, 17
The others who are not wailing but who are ready are described in Isa.25:9 “and it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him, and he will save us, this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation”.
One group wailing when they see Christ coming in His glory, the other being glad and rejoicing. Can we say with John “Even so, Amen?”
Now the Lord takes over and speaks, introducing Himself: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end”. The expression ‘I am’ reminds us of Moses who asked for God’s name, see Exod.3:14
In John 9:58 Jesus declared ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.’
He is the eternal and the almighty one. See Isa.9:6
John now explains who he is, a fellow brother and companion. He is one of the believers. Like so many other believers he also suffers martyrdom. That’s the reason why he is on that rocky and barren isle of Patmos, “For the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ”. Many today are suffering for the same reason of confessing and preaching Christ.
“I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day”. We can believe for sure that John recognized as Lord, Jesus Christ of whom Peter declared in Acts 2:36 “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”.
That is the Lord for whose reason he was exiled on that Isle of Patmos. John does not talk about a day dedicated to the Roman emperor or Caesar.
We have reasons to believe that this was not the eschatological Day of Judgment as some do believe. Bullinger explains the Greek word ‘hemera’ indicating the time from one sunset to another, which is a 24 hour period.
Does Jesus Christ have a day of which He claims to be Lord? Yes, we find this in Mark 2:28; Matt.12:8 and in Luke 6:5 “The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” In the fourth commandment we find also the expression that the “seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God”. Exod.20:10. In Isa. 58:13 it is called ‘My holy day’.
Ellen G.White writes in her book “Acts of the Apostles” p.581/2 “It was on the Sabbath that the Lord of Glory appeared to the exiled apostle. The Sabbath was as sacredly observed by John on Patmos as when he was preaching to the people in the towns and cities of Judea”.
It was not the final Day of Judgment or the first day of week known today as Sunday. Those who do believe that it was Sunday do so based on selected outside Biblical sources. It is known in church history that soon after the apostles were laid to rest in the second century certain Christian groups started to pay attention to the first day of the week, the resurrection day of Jesus Christ. Sunday observance was introduced along side Sabbath observance on the seventh day of the week. (For more information regarding this matter
read in the book THE SABBATH IN SCRIPTURE AND HISTORY,chapter 7 THE RISE OF SUNDAY OBSERVANCE IN EARLY CHISTIANITY, available from Adventist Book Centre))
But we like to draw attention to certain apostolic warnings regarding the introduction of erroneous teachings and habits. See.Acts.20:28-30; 2Tim.4:3, 4
It reads that on the Lord’s Day he was ‘in the spirit’. We read similar statements in the book of Ezekiel and in Daniel, 7:2; 8:2 It means that the prophet is in vision taken to a certain place. Physically they remain where they are, but in the spirit they are in another place.
While in that position John hears a voice behind him ‘as of a trumpet’. The apostle Paul connects trumpet sound with Jesus Christ in 1Thess.4:16 “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God”. (NASB)
The voice repeats what is said before in 1:8 and then the voice directs John to write in a book what he sees and send it to the seven churches in Minor Asia as mentioned by name and John has done as stated in 1:4
These seven churches are a selection of more churches existing in Minor Asia at that time. They have been selected for certain characteristics of these churches and to illustrate church situations in later history.
“There were at least three other churches in Asia at this time, but the number may have been limited to seven because of the symbolic value of that number. Seven being the number of completeness, could suggest, that the message to the seven churches is applicable to the total church throughout the world”. (NUBR)
(Regarding numbers in Revelation see in this section Revelation Made Simple and also the study Christ and the Seven Churches)
John turns around to see who is speaking and sees the seven candlesticks. These golden candlesticks remind us of the OT sanctuary first apartment, holy place.
John is given a vision of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, according to Hebr.8:1, 2 Christ is High Priest in heaven “a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle”.
Moving through the Revelation we will meet more sanctuary scenes. Rev.4 & 5; 8:2, 3;
11:19. Comments will be given when we get there.
What follows next in Rev.1:13-16 is a clear description by John of the One standing in the midst of the candlesticks, Jesus Christ our Lord. The position of the candlesticks is different from the Menorah in the OT sanctuary. They are arranged as in a circle and Christ in the centre. The scene is described as follows:
- One like unto the Son of Man
- Clothed with a garment down to the foot.
- A golden girdle
- Head and hairs white as wool and snow
- Eyes as a flame of fire
- Feet like fine brass
- Voice as of many waters
- Seven stars in right hand
- Out of His mouth a sharp two-edged sword
- Countenance shining as the sun
The picture is very familiar with what Daniel saw and described in Dan.10:5-12
John sees no crown on the head that will come in Rev.19:12 when Christ appears in glory. John sees Christ as priest ministering unto His church. The church not being brick and mortar but flesh and blood, people set to be the light of the world, Matth.5:14; Eph.5:8
But who enlightens the church? We read in John 8:12 that Christ says “I am the Light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”
John 9:5; 12:35, following Jesus as our Saviour and Lord give us light to shine. Isa.60:1 ‘Arise and shine’.
There is another source which gives us light to shine. The Holy Spirit as illustrated in Zech.4:2-6 Also a vision of the candle sticks.
The word of God is also a source of light, Ps.119:105 and Christ is the Word made flesh, John 1:1-3, 14
The Church of Christ must constantly receive the golden oil of the Holy Spirit and the word of God to follow and live by.
The colour of head and hairs is white. Most likely His garments were also seen as white, priestly garments. White stands for purity and holiness, Christ’s righteousness.
EGW writes in Christ object Lesson (COL) “Only the covering which Christ Himself has provided can make us meet to appear in God’s presence. This covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul” (COL p.310)
The golden girdle, see also Dan.10:5, is explained in Eph.6:14 as standing for truth. Christ is the Truth, John 14:6. The word of God is truth, John 17:17 Again Christ is the word made flesh, “full of grace and truth”. John 1:14
His feet are like fine brass, burned in the furnace, Rev.1:15 He knows what it means to suffer and to be tempted, He learned obedience that way. Hebr.4:15; 5:2, 8
His eyes like a flame of fire, strongly penetrating and He has a mighty voice because of a two-edged sword that comes forth, Rev.1:14, 16.
Hebr.4:12 tell us that this sword is the word of God, again Christ the Word. He will be seen later in Rev.19:11-13 as having that Word as His name and judging the world. More about that when we reach Rev.19
Then in Rev.1:16 His countenance shines as the sun, according to Mal.4:2 He is the Sun of Righteousness. In his powerful right hand He holds the seven stars, the angels of the seven churches, see vs.20. Each candlestick or church has an angel. In that manner the church is not left alone but guided by a heavenly minister. Hebr.1:14. But they are in the mighty hand of Christ who is the Head of the church. Eph.5:23; Col.1:18
In this section Christ takes over again. But first we find that John is so overwhelmed because of what he sees that he falls down as dead He is aware of finding himself in the presence of Almighty God. Moses was in a similar situation.Ex.3:5
Daniel the same in Dan.10:8 “there remained no strength in me”. Isaiah exclaims after seeing God in vision “woe is me” …”for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts”. (Isa.6:5)
Also Joshua’s experience in Josh.5:13-15 he was standing on holy ground and fell on his face in an act of worship.
The right hand of Jesus is laid on John’s shoulder. This is the hand of strength, of power and protection. Ps.16:11; 17:7; 18:35 20:6; 48:10; Isa.41:13; 48:13, and other scripture passages.
The divine voice speaks to John saying: fear not. Do not be afraid. In the presence of Jesus there no is reason to be afraid. We read the same in Isa.41:10, 13; 43:1, 5; 44:8; 54:4.The one who spoke to Isaiah now speaks to John and declares for the third time “I am the first and the last”. In Rev.1:8, 11 He is the eternal one and ‘everlasting Father’ (Isa.9:6) Again is repeated what was said to Isaiah I am He, I am the first, I also am the last Isa.48:12
John receives a vision of the God of Israel, the God of the Old Testament who is also the God of the New Testament. Hebr.13:8
Jesus is the living one, He was dead from Friday, crucifixion day until Sunday morning resurrection day. “Behold I am alive for evermore, Amen” He has gained the keys of hell and death. In Isa. 22:22 we read regarding the Messiah that the key of the house of David will be upon His shoulder to open and no one can shut and to shut and no one will open. See also Rev.3:7, more when we reach that point.
Because of Christ’s death and resurrection experience He now has the power over death and hell or Hades (NASB) the grave. Death has no power anymore to keep people in its darkness. 1Cor.15:54 states Death is swallowed up in victory.
In the course of time all graves will be opened. 1Cor.15:22, 23 says “In Adam we all die, in Christ all be made alive, every man in his own order”. John 5:29 reveals “they that have done good unto resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation”.
For the second time after 1:11, John is told to write what he sees, “the things which are” that is about the present and “which shall be here after”, that’s about the future. We will meet this more when we continue our journey through the Revelation that John is told to write what he sees and hears.
John may have wondered why in vs.16 he saw seven stars in the right hand, and the seven candle sticks of verse 13. He is now told that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. God’s messengers or ministers to these churches. As we have noticed before the candlesticks are the churches themselves representing the church of God at large of which Christ is the Head.
This ends the mighty and glorious introduction of this beautiful Bible book The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
REVELATION 2 and 3
We turn now to the letters John wrote and its contents. John sent the letters but the content was spoken by Jesus Christ. For some extra information the reader is advised to go to the same section of this website and take notice of the study “Christ and His Seven Churches”
We will use the historicist school for our interpretation method in this study. There are two other schools for prophetic interpretation, futurism and preterism. The futurist looks mainly forward and the preterist looks backward. Historicism follows a continuous line from beginning to end throughout history.
For instance in Daniel 2 the dream of the metallic image. It starts with Babylon and continues through history till the end of times. The following chapters of Dan.7, 8, and 11 supply further detail over the same period. The early church fathers followed this
line of thinking in dealing with the Revelation. The letters to the seven churches, the seven seals and the seven trumpets do cover the same period in history, only viewing it from different situations.
Using the historicist school the church fathers saw in the Church of Rome the anti-Christ as foretold by the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation. This was proclaimed louder and louder and more and more convincing.
The leaders of the Vatican in Rome gave orders that other methods of interpretation be invented to turn the attention away from Rome. This happened during the so-called Counter Reformation. Two Jesuits responded to the challenge. Ribeira developed the school of futurism declaring that all prophecies had a main fulfilment in the end of times. Most unfortunately in the late 18th century and during the 19th century Protestantism in general did except this method of interpretation and are using it up to this day.
Another Jesuit by the name of Alcazar invented the school of preterism and declared that Bible prophecy is mainly fulfilled in the past, the time of Nero. This school did not gain much ground as did futurism. Footnotes in Bible translations authorised by the Church of Rome are using preterism and referring to the time of the Roman Empire.
Seventh-day Adventist are still faithful to the school of historicism in dealing with the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation
A great deal of excellent information can be obtained from “Google” via your computer, ask for the origin of futurism/preterism. You will get all the historical evidence and documentation regarding these two schools of interpretation. In addition Google will also supply information regarding the school of historicism. We will not use more time and space on this subject. In further dealings with the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation we will use the school of historicism
Here is an important statement from Dr.MacArthur (NUBR) “Although these 7 churches were actual, historical churches in Asia Minor, they represent the types of church that
perennially exist throughout the church age. What Christ says to these churches is relevant in all times.”
“The names of the seven churches are symbolic of the church in different periods of the Christian era. The number seven indicates completeness, and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time, while the symbols used reveal the condition of the church at different periods in the history of the world.” (EGW in AA p.585)
Revelation 2:1-7 Ephesus
The first letter is to the church of Ephesus. Jesus Christ who is revealed in this last Bible book writes this letter as He does the following ones. The seven stars are in His right hand and He is standing in the midst of the candlesticks. As in Rev.1:13, 16 one thing is different He is seen walking. By way of walking He can communicate with each church individually.
Matthew Henry observes: “This intimates his relation to his churches….Christ is in an intimate manner present and conversant with his churches; he knows and observes their state; he takes pleasure in them, as a man does walk in his garden. Though Christ is in heaven, he walks in the midst of his churches on earth, observing what is amiss in them and what is that they want. This is a great encouragement to those who have care of the churches, that the Lord Jesus has graven them upon the palms of his hand”.
(MH vol.VI, p.1123)
Christ knows all: their works, labours, patience and that they can’t stand the hypocrites. Also Christ has noticed all they have done for His sake and, they did not get weak; they did not faint or ‘grow weary’. (NASB)
The Ephesus church represents the infant church of the first century. We have to read through the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible to get clearer picture of this period in church history. The church was active, full of divine energy, and on the move to get the Gospel known into the entire world. Paul wrote to the Colossian church in Col.1:23 that the Gospel “was preached to every creature which is under heaven”.
Ellen G.White affirms this as follows: “Before the fall of Jerusalem, Paul writing by the Holy Spirit, declared that the gospel was preached to ‘every creature which is under heaven”. (EGW DA 633)This could only have been accomplished through the golden oil of the Holy Spirit.
More good things are told of the Ephesus church. They have been in battle with false apostles and have found them to be liars. They also hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which Christ also hate.(Rev.2:6)
Who were these Nicolaitanes. Matthew Henry explains them as follows: “The Nicolaitanes were a loose sect who sheltered themselves under the name of Christianity. They held hateful doctrines, and they were guilty of hateful deeds, hateful to Christ and to all true Christians” (MH vol.VI 1124)
Dr..Mervyn Maxwell explains them as follows: “But who were the Nicolaitanes? Irenaeus, a second –century minister who grew up near Ephesus, referred to them in one of his writings. The Nicolaitanes claimed to be Christians, but they considered it matter of indifference to practice adultery and to eat things sacrificed to idols. It appears then that the Nicolaitanes were Christians who felt that faith in Jesus released them from obedience to some of the Ten Commandments”. (GC II p.99)
The apostle Paul in his last personal visit with the elders of the church of Ephesus had given warning against infiltration of false brethren teaching false doctrines. Acts 20:29, 30.Christ does commend the church for being against the Nicolaitanes.
This contains something negative. They have lost their first love. They have to repent from it, do the first works or else the candlestick will be removed from them. They are under threat of loosing the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Any type of apostasy starts with loosing first love as in marriage relationships which goes wrong. Jesus spoke in Matth.24:12 that as a sign of the end, “the love of many shall wax cold”.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we meet the word love 14 times. Was Paul aware of the fact that there is danger in losing one’s first love in our spiritual experience?
The love Paul admonishes to walk in (Eph.5:2) is the same love which the Ephesians had lost in Rev.2:4
They are commended favourable for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans. They stood firm against false teachings and apostasy, for which they had been warned by the apostle Paul, Acts 20:28-30. Which we will find changed in later years.
The encouragement the Ephesian church receives from Christ is that if they overcome, to turn away from leaving the first love, re-establish their first love, then they will eat from the tree of life.
The second letter is to the church of Smyrna. In our historical sequence this covers from the second through to the fourth century. Jesus Christ introduces himself as the one which was dead but is alive. This was an encouragement to the Christians of that time who suffered much from severe persecution. Christ had died but rose again, so will they who have died, being persecuted for their faith in Christ, be resurrected again.
The apostle Paul makes this crystal clear in 1 Corinthians 15. The Smyrna Christians suffered much loss of their worldly goods. We read about this in Hebrews 10:34. Joyfully they took the spoiling of their goods knowing they had something better in heaven.
We read about a time of tribulation for the Smyrna church. Uriah Smith applies this to the period of 303-313 AD under Diocletian who very severely persecuted Christians. (D/R p.369) Dr.Adam Clarke in his commentary makes the same application.
The Smyrna Christians are known for their works and in particularly for having among them hypocrites. People who say they are Jews, believers in God, but in reality they belong to the synagogue of Satan
They are encouraged to remain faithful unto death and they will receive the crown of life.
People may take their life here, but God has in store for them eternal life, Rev.2:10, 11 this is not only for them but for all who remain faithful till the end. (1Thess 4:14; John 3:16.)
Revelation 2:12-17 Pergamos
The content of this letter is of a different nature. It covers the historical period of the 4th century into the 6th. From attacking people the Devil starts now to attack the Word. It is the Pergamos period. Christ introduces himself as the one “which has the sharp sword with two edges”, 2:12. See also Hebr.4:12 and Rev.1:16
Rev.2:13: The Lord knows their work and where they dwell, but also that Satan is present. Satan has managed to penetrate the church. What the Ephesians had rejected, 2:6, is now accepted, 2:15. The doctrine of the Nicolaitanes
They also have accepted the doctrine of Balaam who made the children of Israel stumble. Numb.24:14; 25:1; 31:16. It is the time where the church started to compromise Accepting customs from the world or culture around them and making them look like to be Christian.
They are told to repent from this wrong doing and that He will fight with the sword of His mouth. The church is slowly going down into apostasy, the spiritual dark ages, Paul had written about it in 2Thess.2:3, 4
This apostasy would be met with the Word of God, the word or sword out of the mouth of Christ. This may point to the coming of the reformation. A time where people like the Waldenses and men like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli approached apostasy strongly with the word of God
The call is again for repentance and if they overcome, overcoming compromise, they will eat from the hidden manna and receive a white stone with a new name (2:1) Yes, they are in need of renewal, which the Lord will provide upon repentance This promise is for all of us if we repent, we receive a new name, a name of victory in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Revelation 2:18-29 Thyatira
This is the Thyatira period in Church history. Instead of repenting it takes us deeper into the apostasy. Historically it covers the time of the dark ages, from the 6th century till 16th
The Son of Man in Rev.1:13 is now the Son of God in Rev.2:18, penetrating the church with eyes like the flame of fire and feet like fine brass. The church is in need of such a powerful approach.
Christ knows their works that good is still being done among them. Even in such darkness some good is still being performed. Such good deeds are not the basis for salvation but the fruit of faith which is also mentioned. See Matth.25:31-48
It gives a very dark picture of Thyatira’s spiritual behaviour. The church has not accepted the divine challenge to repent, 2:5; 16 but has gone deeper into apostasy. The church has allowed the woman Jezebel to enter which has taken the church further away from Christ her Head Eph.5:23. See 1Kings 16:31 Ahab married Jezebel as his wife and she introduced the Baal worship into Israel. It ruined Israel spiritually. Now Jezebel is used as a symbol for the deep apostasy of the medieval church. Non biblical doctrines have been introduced along with worship which is in opposition to true Biblical worship.
(In the section General Studies of this website the reader will find a list of doctrines introduced by the church at that time. Also go to the Daniel section and read The Sanctuary Obscured and Restored.) As Jezebel had full sway over Israel in king Ahab’s time, so the church of the dark ages had full sway over the people.
God in his grace and mercy grands the church a time to repent, but she repented not. The time of reformation of the 15th and 16th century did not reform the church.
Revelation: 22, 23:
Something else will take place to shake the church. What is described here may well have been fulfilled by the French Revolution, of which Rev.13:3 says that a deadly wound was inflicted upon the church, more about this when we reach that point in our journey through the Revelation.
Revelation 2:24, 25:
We are Encouraged that there is a remnant also in the Thyatira church. Jesus Christ does recognize them. Elijah in Jezebel’s time thought that he was left alone, but the Lord tells him that there is a remnant of 7000, 1Kings 19:14-19
We find that remnant also in Thyatira church. The Albigenses, Waldenses, the men from Scotland, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, John Huss and many more, were the ones which did not go along with the doctrine of Jezebel. They and we are encouraged to hold fast till Jesus comes. The first glimpse of the promised Advent is breaking through
Those who overcome the doctrines of the Thyatira church, while they have been severely oppressed will receive power to rule with Christ, the Morning Star. Rev.22:16;
Revelation 3:1-6 Sardis
The fifth church era is the one of Sardis. Historically the dark ages of the Thyatira church were followed by stormy days of the protestant reformation, the 16th -18th century.
The tendances to compromise started by the Pergamos church era, would be counteracted by the One “which has the sharp sword with two edges (Rev.2:12) This One, Jesus Christ said I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev.2:16)
In these two church periods the Bible became more and more a forbidden book. But in spite of that situation faithful believers wrote the Bible or portions of the scriptures by hand and distributed them among the people.
In the 15th century Gutenberg invented printing by movable type. The first book he printed was the Bible. This became a strong tool in the fight against apostasy in the church. The sword with two edges became active. Translations were made into English, German, French, Dutch and other European languages Men like Wycliffe, Knox, Luther, Calvin and John Huss made strong use of the scriptures in print. The protestant movement caused the medieval church much headache but could not be stopped, eradicated or compromised.
However, as it happened before, the movement lost its enthusiasm and momentum, grew weary and fell asleep. The Ephesus church lost its first love, (Rev.2:4) the Sardis church became dead.” I know thy works that thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead Rev.3:1 in name they were alive, in reality they were dead.
Dr.Vernon McGee applies the Sardis church to the Protestant church” As we have seen Sardis represents the protestant Church (NUBR) He writes also In the panorama of church history Sardis represents the Protestant church during the period between 1517 and approximately 1800”. (NUBR)
The counsel to the Sardis church is
a. to be watchful
b. to strengthen which remain. There was a remnant also in the Sardis church
c. remember how you have received it, remember your past.
Israel was often told not to forget their past history, Deut.8:2 And Ellen G.White wrote:”We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teachings in our past history” (LS 196)
d. if you don’t watch I come like a thief, when you are unaware of it. Rev.16:15
This idea coming as a thief is found in other scripture passage as well, Matt.24:42, 43 and Paul in 1 Thess.5:2, 3 and in 2 Peter 3:10. It will be a visible event Rev.1:7, but like a thief at night who does not give the time or hour of his coming.
Pastor Taylor Bunch in his book the “Seven Epistles of Christ” writes on p.190:”As an incentive to watchfulness Christ said to the Sardians, ‘you will certainly not know the hour at which I will come to judge you (Weymouth) The Sardian period reaches to the time of judgment and the coming of Christ. The secret coming of judgment ‘in such an hour as ye think not’ and as the visit of a thief in the night is referred to in Matt.24; 40-44; Luke 21:34-36; 1 Thess.5:3-5.
Just as the over confident and self-satisfied citizens of Sardis were suddenly surprised and overtaken by judgments, so the religious world in general will be caught in an overwhelming surprise because of the failure to watch”. This is good counsel for all of us who live in another church era Read also 1Thess.5:3
Dr.Edwin Thiele quotes W.H.Fitchett as follows “The fatal thing in the religion of that age was that it had ceased to be a life, or to touch life. It was exhausted of its dynamic elements – the vision of a Redeeming Christ; the message of a present and personal forgiveness”. (Thiele p.59 from Wesley and his Century, pp. 11-15)
Again there is a reference to the remnant, those who have not defiled their garments. They will walk with Christ in white because they are worthy Dr.Thiele in his commentary on Revelation makes mention of names like Pietists, Spanner, Francke, Moravians, Count Zinzendorf, Quakers, Methodism, Wesley, Whitefield (p.59)
This was during the late 18th century revival movement of Wesley in England and the Moravians in Europe
He who overcomes, overcoming the tendency to fall asleep, like the disciples when they were with Christ in Gethsemane, Matt.26:38, 40, and 43 (Mark.13:33-37; Luke12:40; 21:34-36) their name will remain in the book of life. See 1 John 2:1
The disciples were told in Luke 10:20 to rejoice over the fact that their name was written in heaven. No one can rejoice or boast over one’s own works not even works of righteousness, Isa.64:6; Jer.9:23, 24
Revelation 3:7-13 Philadelphia
The Sardis era is followed by Philadelphia. Historically we apply this to the time from the late 18th century till the midst of the 19th century. The great Advent Awakening.
The late 18th century is known by the strong upheaval of the French Revolution. The damage done to the Bible by the medieval church was made worse by the French Revolution. But fortunately it was short lived. Soon a time of unprecedented freedom was ushered in, Freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of communication.
Christ introduces Himself as the One who is holy and true. Holiness and truth had been severely maligned but not any longer. Christ has the key of David. (Isa.22:22)
A time has been opened as was never before. Freedom to read, disseminate and practice the Bible message as never before. Bible Societies and Mission organisations sprang up all around and went the world all over. We will learn later from Rev.13:3 that the medieval church had received a deadly wound and all its power taken away.
This is the second church with no negative remarks regarding their works. Smyrna was the first church with no negative remarks. The door opened to this church no man can shut. They are found true and faithful in spite of having little strength and have been found to have kept the word of His patience, now they are promised protection in the hour of temptation which comes upon the entire world. This promise is not only for them but for the faithful believers who will live in that time of temptation that will come upon the whole world.
Revelation.3:8. They are still being troubled by hypocrites as in Rev.2:9. This will not go away until Christ comes and separates sheep from the goats, Matt. 25:31-46 (ib.7:22-23)
Christ tells the church ‘I come quickly’. In Rev.2:25 the church was told “till I come” then in 3:3 “I will come as a thief” now He says “Behold I come quickly”.3:11
In this church era the big signs of the times in sun, moon and stars and a big earthquake took place of which we will learn more when we come to the 6th seal. Christ has opened also the door to the end time.
More is opened, a door in heaven. When Christ ascended into heaven He became priest in the heavenly sanctuary, Hebr.8:1, 2. In harmony with the OT tabernacle service He started His work and ministry in the first apartment, the holy place. At the end of the yearly sanctuary cycle a special service took place in the Most Holy place, the service of the great Day of Atonement, a day of judgment. During the time of Philadelphia Christ entered upon His ministry in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. We will learn more about this when we reach Rev.14:6, 7.
(Read in the Daniel section of this website the study “Sanctuary Obscured and Restored)
The blessing to them is in relation to their little strength, 3:8. They are promised to be made a pillar in the temple of God. They also will be given the name of God and of the city of God, the New Jerusalem, which comes out of Heaven, see Rev.20.
According to Paul, in faith we have come to that heavenly city now already, Hebr.12:22
Revelation 3:14-22 Laodicea.
After the beautiful and encouraging letter from Jesus Christ to the church of Philadelphia we enter the last NT church era of the church called Laodicea. The word means “people’s judgment” or “a people adjudged” In other words the church has reached the time of the end or the time or the hour of judgment.Rev.14:7
The Sardis church was told “I will come on thee as a thief and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee”. Rev.3:3.To the Philadelphian I will come quickly or speedily with haste.
It was under the Philadelphia church period that the world wide Advent awakening took place. The so-called Millerite movement and their date setting of October 22, 1844 which turned out to became a very deep and emotional disappointment. They were correct regarding that the time of the end had arrived, the hour of judgment. The date of October 22, 1844 also was correct according to the prophecy of Dan.8:14. But they were wrong regarding the event which would take place at that time. Not the coming of Christ in glory to this earth, but Christ moving from the holy place in the heavenly sanctuary to the most holy place. They overlooked the fact thou shalt not know what hour I will come Rev.3:3; Mark 13:32, 36 (see in Daniel section study on 1844)
Now to the Laodiceans Jesus writes ‘Behold I stand at the door’ Rev.3:20 but we will notice the church has not continued in being alert for the return of Christ. Dr.Mervyn
Maxwell writes:” The beauty of brotherly love is replaced by lukewarmness and conceit. During the Philadelphia period Jesus stated ‘I am coming soon ‘Rev.3:11 Jesus is coming soon; but in spite of this promise, His church turns away” (GC II p.131)
We have moved with the church from Jerusalem through Asia Minor then through the dark ages in Europe and now we stand in the end times and find the church not ready. What was gained by the reformation during the Sardis period and the awakening which took place during Philadelphia seems to have faded away. The church is under severe divine accusations.
I know thy works:
- neither cold nor hot, I wish you would be cold or hot
- thou art lukewarm, not cold not hot
- I will spue thee out of my mouth; this is a threat, not done yet.
- thou sayest I am rich, in need of nothing
- thou knowest not that thou art wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked
These are very serious allegations from Christ in heaven to His church on earth. These accusations are said by the One who calls himself the Amen, the faithful and true witness. Rev.3:14 Thus we trust and accept these words as being true. Christ is also to the Laodiceans the beginning of the creation of God Rev.3:14 or The origin of God’s Creation (Dr.William F.Beck) This does not mean that Christ himself is a created being. As man He was born from a human, a woman. As God He has been always. John 1:1-3. Jesus Christ is the Creator Himself in that manner He is the origin of creation, because He created all things.Col.1:16; Eph.3:9; Hebr.1:2
Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary states “In fact the Greek phrase in this verse can be translated in a more active sense ‘the one who begins the creation of God” (NUBR)
This was told to the Laodiceans in a time where evolution is being taught everywhere and by all means and manners even in the Christian church. The Christian church shows clearly signs of being lukewarm and being influenced by the philosophies and culture of the day. Theistic evolution, higher criticism of the scriptures and using futurism for prophetic interpretation is clearly noticeable. The church instead of influencing the world is being influenced by the world. Rom.12:2 is ignored where Paul writes “be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”.
The renewing of the mind will take place when the church in the Laodicea period accepts the counsel given “to buy gold tried in the fire, white raiment and anoint thine eyes with eye salve”. (Rev.3:18)
Laodicean Christians living in the end time must remember that it is judgment time, investigative judgment, not yet the executive judgment of condemnation. This takes place by the One who said of himself “I am he which searches the reins and the hearts and I will give unto every one of you according to your work” Rev.2:23; 22:12
The Greek word for “search” is ‘ereuna’ and has the character of investigating (Bullinger)
No reward can be given before a proper investigation takes place. That has to be done before the executive judgment. Those who are being found to be in Christ will not come under condemnation. Rom.8:1 (Read study in Revelation section of this website “Gospel and Judgment”)
While this investigative judgment takes place the Lord says as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent.
He also stands at the door and knocks. The key to open the door is on the inside and needs to be opened by the one who hears that knocking on the door of his heart. Let’s open our hearts and do what Prov.23:26 say’ My son’ (my daughter also) ‘give me thine heart and let thine eyes observe my way’.
The Laodiceans are being told that if they overcome, overcoming their lukewarmness, they will sit in His throne. He overcame while He was on earth in our human nature and He sits now with His Father in His throne. Christ showed in His life on earth that it is possible to overcome. Jesus depended on His Father. From His own self He could do nothing.( John 5:19, 30).So we are depended on God as well and even more,. Phil.4:13
Finally as all letters have the same ending he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Rev.2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.
Pastor Jan T.Knopper,
Edited September 2010
Revisited September 2013