I have started to tackle the book of Revelation again, in preparation for a Revelation seminar I will be presenting in the fall. This is a book that I have not spent a great deal of time grappling with. I have made attempts in the past but have not gotten very far. In looking through previous notes on my studies in Revelation, I came across these notes that I was keeping almost two years ago. I think there is something pretty good stuff in there.
Wade through it if you’d like. There’s quite a bit. It’s all mostly based on word studies.
1. Verse 1
a. “Revelation of Jesus Christ”
i. apokaluyewj ihsou cristou
ii. Phrase also used, though in a different case, in Gal 1:12 (genitive) and 1 Peter 1:7, 13 (dative)
iii. Cf. Romans 8:19 where it says that creation is waiting for the “revealing/revelation of the sons of God”
b. Things which must “shortly” take place
i. Greek: taxei
1. Quickly, swiftly
2. It seems to signify more of the speed in which they will occur, rather than when they will occur
a. OT uses taxei in this context mostly (Exo 32:7; Deut 7:22; etc.)
3. Most versions interpret it in the sense of whenthe things will happen, however—meaning “soon”
2. Verse 2
3. Verse 3
a. “For the time is near”
i. Eggus: near, close to, on the verge of
4. Verse 4
a. “To the seven churches which are in Asia”
i. The beginning of this book seems to be like any other NT epistle. It has the formula of an epistle. John gives his credentials, and then he greets his audience
ii. What constituted “Asia”? It was a region in southwest Turkey
iii. But were there only “seven” churches in Asia?
iv. Interestingly, Ephesus was the closest church to Patmos. Thus, to write to Ephesus first, as he does in the letter, would make the most sense because they would have received the letter first. The order of the churches in John’s letter is determined by their physical location—this is typical of a circular letter, no doubt as it was a matter of convenience to go in such an order
v. It doesn’t seem very typical—at least in the Bible—that a person would write a letter that is sent to multiple churches but have specific and unique messages for each of those churches
1. But John probably does this here because a) he was more than likely limited in his time/ability to send individual letters to all the churches b) he wanted all the churches to get the bulk of the vision, which is 19 out of the 22 chapters.
b. “Grace to you”
i. This is, again, the typical formula to begin an epistle. Paul starts 10 of his epistles this way (Rom; 1 Cor; 2 Cor; Gal; Eph; Phil; Col; 1 Thess; 2 Thess; Phm—this excludes Timothy and Titus) and Peter begins both of his this ways also. Surprisingly, none of John’s other three letters begin this way
ii. For anyone who does not believe that Revelation contains the gospel, the very beginning of the book establishes grace and peace as the foundation
c. “From Him who is and who was and who is to come”
i. This is one of three places that this phrase is used in Revelation. The other two places are in 1:8 and 11:17. This is very clearly in reference to God, the Father, and the phrase obviously refers to His eternal nature
d. “And from the seven Spirits who are before His throne”
i. Used 4x in Revelation. Here, and 3:1; 4:5; 5:6. This seems to be a reference to the Holy Spirit. What other Spirits could extend grace and peace? Seven is also the number of perfection and completeness.
ii. There is in interesting contrast between the seven Spirits in Revelation and seven unclean spirits/demons mentioned by Christ in the Gospels (Matt 12:45; Luke 8:2; 11:26)
iii. The number 7 is used 55x in Revelation, by the way—second only to Genesis
e. “Before His throne”
i. The phrase “before the throne” (without His) is used 10x in Revelation (and nowhere else)
1. 4:5 says that there were “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne,” which are the seven Spirits
2. 4:6 says there was a “sea of glass”
3. 4:10 says that the 24 elders throw their crowns “before the throne”
4. 7:9 says that the “great multitude” stood “before the throne”
5. 7:11 says that the angels, the elders and the four beasts fell on their faces “before the throne”
6. 7:15 says, once again, that the great multitude are “before the throne”
7. 8:3 says that the “golden altar” was “before the throne”
8. 14:3 says that the 144,000 were “before the throne”
9. 14:5 has the phrase in the TR but not in the BGT and says, once again, that the 144,000 are blameless “before the throne”
10. 20:12 says that the dead, “small and great” were “standing before the throne”
5. Verse 5
a. “the faithful witness”
i. The Greek is ho martus ho pistos. It could literally be translated “the faithful martyr”
ii. Interestingly, Psalm 89:37 describes the moon as “the faithful witness”
1. This is clearly because the moon is simply reflecting the light from the sun—it faithfully witnesses to the light from the sun
iii. Proverbs 14:5 says that a “faithful witness will not lie”
iv. Proverbs 14:25 says that a “A truthful/faithful witness saves lives”
v. And, of course, Revelation 3:14 says that Jesus is “the faithful and true witness.”
b. “the firstborn from the dead”
i. Greek: prototokos(from whence we get the word “prototype”)
1. Luke 2:7 uses the word to say that Christ was Mary’s “firstborn”
2. Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus is the “firstborn of every creature.”
3. Colossians 1:18 uses the exact same phrase, saying that Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead,” though it adds the word ek(from) after prototokos, whereas Revelation does not.
c. “the ruler over the kings of the earth”
i. 1 Kings 5:14 says that all the “kings of the earth” came to see Solomon and hear his wisdom
ii. Revelation 17:18 says that the “woman,” or the “great city” (ie., Babylon) is the city which rules/reigns “over the kings of the earth.”
1. Thus, this woman sets herself up against Christ. She is the antithesis to Christ, trying to have rulership over what He, alone, has authority over
2. This power is the Antichrist and it is a religio-political power since it tries to take the power that Christ alone possesses
d. “To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood”
i. Most translations say “to Him who . . . freed/loosed us from our sins”
1. This is following the NU where it has the word luo(“to loose”). However, the TR has the word louo(“to bathe, wash”) instead. The latter word seems more likely, fitting the context better (since we are “washed . . . in His own blood”). The presence of the Greek en, before “his blood,” makes this likely.
2. Then again, the word is followed by ek(“from”) and this seems to make more sense if it is “freed” (“freed from” rather than “washed from”)
3. The word itself, either way, is a participle—so this is not a one-time deal. He didn’t simply free/wash us sometime in the past and then stop doing it. Being washed/freed by Him is a continuous experience
6. Verse 6
7. Verse 7
a. “Behold, He is coming with clouds”
i. This concept definitely has Danielic overtones
1. Daniel 7:13, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.”
ii. It is also very similar to what Jesus says in Matthew 24:30, “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.”
iii. In fact, the “all the tribes of the earth will mourn” is exactly the same—though it is different in the Greek. Matt 24:30 says “and then will mourn all the tribes of the earth,” (tote koyontai pasai ai fulai thj ghj) whereas Rev 1:7 says that “mourn because of him shall all the tribes of the land” (ai. ko,yontai evpV auvto.n pa/sai ai` fulai. th/j gh/j).
b. “Even they who pierced Him”
i. This is an echo of John 19:37, which said that, “And again another Scripture says, ‘THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED.’ ” And this is a quotation from Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”
ii. Thus, Revelation seems to be saying that those who crucified Christ will actually see Him coming in the clouds.
8. Verse 8
a. “I am”
i. In the Greek it is ego eimi. This is the Great “I AM”
b. “the alpha and omega”
i. The only two other places where it means “alpha and omega” is in Revelation 21:6 and 22:13. In these two places, however, it actually does add “the beginning and the end.” 1:8 doesn’t really have this in the Greek. It is merely supplied. 22:13 also adds “the first and the last.”
ii. This phrase, of course, indicates completeness and totality—akin to someone saying, “From A to Z” in our modern vernacular.
iii. The question is whether this statement is made by/about God, the Father, or Jesus. On the one hand, it seems to be about Jesus, since, intertextually (especially within the writings of John), Jesus often referred to Himself as the “I Am,” (cf., John 8:12; 10:7; etc.). Though the case is a bit weaker, there are two other examples of Jesus using the term “I Am,” and also being called “Lord” in the same instance. These are both in Paul’s conversion experience, recorded in two separate places, in Acts 9:5 and 26:15.
iv. But the evidence may point to the Father, as we will notice below
c. “Who is and who was and who is to come”
i. Used two other times in Revelation (and the whole Bible), 1:4 and 11:17—the former of which clearly identifies Him as the Father, since it goes on to say in v. 5, “And from Jesus Christ,” clearly distinguishing Jesus Christ from the one “who is and who was and who is to come.”
d. “The Almighty”
i. Greek: pantokrator
ii. Used in LXX usually as the Greek version of tsavaot (hosts)
iii. Used 9x in NT aside from this instance (only once outside Revelation in 2 Cor 6:18). 2 Corinthians very clearly is in reference to the Father, where, quoting the OT, Paul speaks of God saying, “I will be a Father to you.”
1. Interestingly, Revelation 16:7 talks quotes God’s people as saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” Yet, Jesus very clearly states in John 5:22 that “the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.”
2. However, Revelation 21:22, once again, seems to distinguish between the Father and the Son, attributing the “Almightiness” to the Father: “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”
a. The way the Greek is constructed in this verse, however, makes me wonder if it could be translated this way: “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, is its temple and its Lamb.” I am not flawless in my Greek and I forget the rules of constructs when it comes to two nouns going together, so it may not work. But it does say naos autes estin kai to arnion.
e. Suffice it to say, this verse does speak about God, the Father, but there seems to be enough ambiguity to perhaps allow for the idea that it may also be referring to Christ as well.
1. V. 1
a. The seal, sphragis
i. A seal was used to signify ownership and that the book was not to be opened by anyone but who the book/scroll was intended for
b. The “four living creatures,” tessaron zoon
i. This is a direct quotation from Ezekiel 1:5 where they are in the midst of a whirlwind. It says their appearance was the “likeness of a man.”
ii. Ezekiel goes on to explain that each of them had “four faces,” and each had “four wings.” Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze.
c. The voice/sound of thunder, phone bronte
i. Psalm 77:18, in reference to God
ii. Psalm 104:7 is in reference to God as well
iii. Elsewhere, in Revelation 10, it talks about the voice of “seven thunders.” John was going to write down what they said, but he was forbidden from doing so
iv. Revelation 14:2 talks about a sound from heaven being like the “sound” of loud thunder
v. Revelation 19:6 also speaks of this sound of loud thunder coming from heaven, praising God for His glory and splendor and majesty
vi. Mark 3:17 talks about James and John being the “sons” of thunder
vii. John 12:29 relates an event where Jesus speaks, and people claimed that it thundered
d. “Come” (erchou—imperative)
i. This seems to be a favorite of John’s, also recorded in John 1:46 and John 11:34
2. Verse. 2
a. “White horse” (hippos leukos)
i. Used elsewhere in Revelation 19:11 with Jesus riding on it
ii. This whole chapter seems to be playing off the imagery set forth in Zechariah and his vision of the horses
iii. “These are the ones whom the Lord has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth” (Zechariah 1:10).
1. So these four horses in Revelation 6 (white, red, black, pale) are simply “they who are sent forth to roam/patrol/walk the earth”
iv. Again, Revelation 19:14 says that the “armies” in heaven, who are clothed in fine linen, follow Christ on “white horses”
b. “White” (leukos)
i. Seems to signify purity (Revelation 3:18, 4:4, etc.)
i. This is present with “horse” in Jeremiah 6:23, where it says that a “people comes from the north country” will come and have no mercy. The north country is where Zechariah 6:6 says that those on “white horses” will follow the “black horses”
1. Where/what is the “north country”?
2. It seems to be the location where God’s people are (Jeremiah 31:8). It is only used in this passage in Jeremiah, as well as Jer 6:23 and Zechariah 6:6, 8.
3. Psalm 48 mentions how Mount Zion is in the north, where the city of the great king is located
4. Isaiah 14:13 also talks about Lucifer wanting to set his throne on the house of the north/zaphon
5. Jeremiah talks a lot about people from the north coming to bring destruction (1:14). It is also where Israel is located, of course (3:12)—a place where God instruct Jeremiah to go and tell Israel to “return” to God
6. Jeremiah 50:9 may be particularly relevant to this “white horse” that is conquering and going forth to conquer in Revelation 6:2
d. “Crown” (stephanos)
i. A crown always seems to indicate victory—given to those who overcome
1. Cf. Revelation 2:10; 3:11, etc.
2. So being given a crown is a good thing!
e. “Conquering and to conquer”
i. Greek, nikao—“to overcome” or gain the victory over
1. It is the same word that is used for all seven of the churches when Jesus says, “To him who overcomes or conquers”
2. It is almost always used in a positive way (Romans 3:4, 1 John 5:5, etc.)
3. Elsewhere used in Revelation 5:5 about the Lamb overcoming, God’s people overcoming by the word of their “testimony” (12:11)
4. Used negatively about the beast in Revelation 11:7 who overcomes the two witnesses; also 13:7 about the first beast
f. Question for future entertainment: why are there only four “living creatures” and four “horses” in Revelation 6?
i. These four living creatures must, obviously, be assigned to these four different horses
ii. But why don’t the last three seals have horses and living creatures?
3. V. 3
4. V. 4
a. These first two horses were “given” something. The first was “given” a crown, the second one was “given” the right to take peace from the earth
b. “Red” (purros)
i. In Rev 12:3 it talks about the devil being a “red” dragon
c. “Slay/kill” (sphazo)
i. Used mostly in OT in Levitical sense—that of slaughtering sheep, oxen, Isaac (Genesis 22:10),
ii. Elijah “slays” the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:40
iii. In Jeremiah 52:10, the “King of Babylon” slays the children of Zedekiah
iv. 1 John 3:12, John says that Cain “slayed” Abel
v. Thus, it almost seems like the righteous are always the ones being “slain.” But perhaps I am reading into it!
vi. In Revelation 5:6, 9, 12, it is the Lamb who is “slain.”
vii. But in 6:9 it now talks about those who have been “slain” for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held. Is this the same group?
viii. See also Rev 18:24
ix. The only challenge with this is that it says that they were able to “slay” one another—as if both groups are engaged in killing
d. Slay/kill with “sword” (machaira)
i. Genesis 22:10 Abraham is about to slay Isaac with a sword
e. “Great sword” (machairo mega)
i. Jeremiah 25:38 seems to be the only place that talks about a “mega” sword, and it is in the hand of God—this is only seen in the LXX
ii. This sword is being used against all the nations, as well as “Israel,” and, in fact, v. 33 talks about the “slain” of the earth being from one end of the earth to the other. It is NOT the same Greek word for “slain” however, though the word “earth” (geh) is present
f. “Peace” and “sword”
i. There are 6 other places that couple “peace” and “sword”: Esther 3:13, Jer 4:10; 12:12 (“For a sword of the LORD is devouring From one end of the land even to the other; There is no peace for anyone); 14:13 (where false prophets say there shall be peace and no swords); Ezek 38:8 (where Gog comes up against Israel, who is dwelling safely, on horses and takes peace from them); Matt 10:34 (where Jesus announces that he did not come to bring “peace” but a “sword”)
5. V. 5