The Apostle John had been banished to the Isle of Patmos by the Roman emperor Domitian, who had been carrying out persecution of the Jews. According to history, Domitian was murdered in 96 A.D., the same year the book of Revelation was written. John tells us the reason for his banishment. He was banished “for the word of God” and “for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” It is obvious from this statement that Domitian did not like John preaching the Gospel and teaching the Word of God, especially in light of the fact that Domitian considered himself a god.
John, as a fellow believer to those to whom he was writing, acknowledged the fact that he had also suffered tribulation with them. John also encouraged these believers by reminding them that he was a brother in Christ, a companion in tribulation and the kingdom of God and in the patience of Jesus Christ. The Greek word for patience is “hupomone” and means an abiding under. What John was saying was that he understood the trials and tribulation that his fellow believers were experiencing because he too was experiencing them. However, he was abiding in (fellowship with) Christ, waiting for His return, which would deliver them from this persecution.
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” (I Peter 4:1a) Jesus Christ fully understood the Father’s plan for Him. This plan involved intense suffering, both physical and mental. Knowing this, He was still willing to fulfill the plan. (Matthew 26:39)
In order to orient to suffering, the believer must exhibit the same mental attitude that Jesus Christ exhibited when He suffered in His humanity. What was His mental attitude? It was peace, joy, stability, single-mindedness, humility and obedience to the plan of God. (Isaiah 26:3-4; Hebrews 12:2; II Timothy 1:7; II Corinthians 13:11; II Corinthians 10:5-6; Philippians 2:5-8)
We are given a command to arm ourselves with the same mental attitude as Christ had. This is a command, not a request. This command is a military term referring to a fully-armed soldier. What is the believer’s equipment? We have studied this equipment before in Ephesians 6. The one offensive weapon mentioned in Ephesians 6 is the Word of God. In this verse we are commanded to arm ourselves with the same mind as Christ. You will recall that the Word of God is the mind of Christ. In other words, there will be no orientation to suffering apart from Divine Viewpoint Thinking.
John then tells us that he was “in the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day and heard a great voice behind him like a trumpet. The Greek word for spirit is “pneuma” and can refer to the Holy Spirit or the spirit of man. Normally, but not always, when an article like “the” appears before spirit it is a reference to the Holy Spirit. There is no article here before spirit. Therefore, the context must be the final determining factor to whom “spirit” refers. In Revelation 1:10 it is a reference to the Holy Spirit. This agrees with the translators of the King James Bible who normally capitalize the word spirit when it is a reference to the Holy Spirit. John was in fellowship with and being guided by (filled with) the Holy Spirit when he saw this vision of end-times events.
We learn in Revelation 1:12 the voice that John heard was the Lord Jesus Christ’s. The Lord then gave John specific instructions regarding what to do with the vision. John was to write it down and distribute it to the churches in Asia Minor over which John as an apostle had charge. The vision was full of symbolic word pictures, such as, seals, trumpets, vials, candlesticks, horses, etc. Jesus Christ used these symbols to illustrate what would take place in the future.
The candlesticks that John saw were representative of the seven churches. (Revelation 1:20) In the midst of the churches was Jesus Christ. This makes perfect sense because Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and the Church is called the body of Christ. (Ephesians 5:21-33) The messages that were delivered to these churches had local application to the individual churches, application to churches in the Church Age and personal application to all believers of the Church Age.
We can also learn things about the Lord Jesus Christ, now exalted at the right hand of God, by the symbolism used to describe Him in Revelation 1:13-18. These descriptions are of the Lord Jesus Christ as High Priest and Judge. Jesus is no longer the suffering Savior Who came to pay the penalty for sin. John saw Jesus clothed in high-priestly attire, a robe reaching to the ground and a breastplate of gold. (Ezekiel 28:15) Revelation 1:14-15 describes the attire of a judge: the white hair, His eyes were like fire, His feet of brass and His voice is like one with authority. (Daniel 7:9-14, 10:5-6)
As the Church’s High Priest, Jesus Christ is the Mediator between God and man. He is now at the right hand of God always making intercession for us. He has also returned to His rightful place as Judge of all of creation, including angelic beings and human beings. When He returns to earth the second time, after the Tribulation, it will be as the supreme Judge of the world. The white hair that John saw is symbolic of the head dressing worn by judges in court. The eyes of fire symbolize His omniscience in knowing all and therefore a perfect Judge. His feet of brass symbolize the purifying nature of His judgment. The voice speaks of His authority as Judge to pronounce discipline on the Church in chapters 2 and 3.
He will also judge righteously those who oppose Him during the Tribulation (the Antichrist, the Beast and all unbelievers).
In the hand of Jesus Christ were the seven stars representing the messengers (perhaps pastors) of the seven churches who are being protected by Him. The sharp two-edged sword that proceeds from His mouth is the Word of God. It is the Word of God that is the basis for future judgment of the nations. (Isaiah 49:2; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12-13; Revelation 19:15)
“His countenance as the sun shines in its strength” refers to Jesus Christ in His glorified state. Jesus Christ is said to be the Light of the World and we are to reflect that light to the world. The word light in Greek is “phos” and metaphorically means to make evident or to make to appear. Jesus Christ, as the Light of the World, makes God evident and makes Him “appear.” Light, when used to describe God’s nature, denotes the highest quality of character and the absence of any impurity.
With this definition of light and its usage in Scripture, when “light” is used in reference to God it encompasses the entire character of God (His nature and impartiality) and His work in the life of the believer (His favor, illumination and guidance). It is God’s “light” that is being reproduced in the life of the advancing believer as the character of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 5:14-16; Galatians 5:22-23)
When John saw Christ in all His glory, he could only fall at Christ’s feet. Jesus told John that he had nothing to fear because it was the glorified Messiah, Jesus Christ that he had seen. Jesus went on to explain Who He is by His statements that He is the First (no one before Him) and the Last (no one after Him) – He is eternal. He also explains that He is the Resurrected One and remains alive for evermore. As a result of His death, burial and resurrection Jesus Christ holds the keys to death and hell. What does a key do? It locks or unlocks something. In the case of death and hell, only by believing in Jesus Christ as Savior will the “door” of salvation open to you. Rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior means that the “door” of hell will be opened to you. (John 14:1-6)
Once again, John is merely the stenographer of the things he has seen as revealed to him by Jesus Christ and he is commanded to write these things down. “The things which you have seen” refers to the glorified person of Jesus Christ. Revelation 1:9-18) “The things which are” refers to the Church on earth. (Revelation 2-3) And “the things which shall be hereafter” refers to the church in Heaven, the Tribulation, the Millennium and the Eternal State. (Revelation 4-21)
In Revelation 1:20 we have an explanation of the seven stars and the seven candlesticks. The stars represent the messengers to the churches and the candlesticks are the seven churches to whom John was to write. The King James Bible uses the word angels as represented by the stars. The Greek word for angel is derived from the word “angello” meaning to deliver a message. The Greek word for mystery is “musterion” and means to reveal something previously hidden. There seems to be solid evidence here to believe that the messengers are the pastors of the seven churches and the candlesticks are clearly the seven local churches (as part of the Church Age, the local church was a mystery in the Old Testament). The messages that will be delivered will to be addressed to the pastor of the local church.
The spiritual gift of pastor-teacher is the ability to study, learn and teach Bible doctrine accurately in a systematic way because of his interest in his congregation understanding truth and growing spiritually. He also shepherds the local church, which means he protects them against apostasy and heresy through accurate interpretation and teaching. (Ephesians 4:11)
The entire concept of the Church was revealed to Jesus’ disciples according to Matthew 16:13-18. In this passage Jesus had taken His disciples to the coast and had begun questioning them as to who people were saying He was. Jesus then asked them who his disciples say He was. Peter answered and said correctly, “you are the Christ (Messiah) the Son of the living God.”
Jesus then mentioned the Church for the first time. Jesus actually used a play- on-words to describe how the Church would be built. The word for Peter in Greek is “petros” meaning a small stone or a small fragment of a rock. The rock upon which the Church would be built is the Greek word “petra” meaning a large mass of stone or a rock. The rock upon which the Church would be built was not Peter - it was the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:5-12; I Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20-22)
The Church as prophesied by Jesus is the universal church of all believers in the Church Age. The local church is a group of believers in a specific geographic area. The Greek word for church is “ecclesia” and means a called-out assembly. It is the seven local churches in Asia to whom the book of Revelation was written, though it has broader application, as noted earlier.