Introduction and a Vision of Christ: Revelation 1:1-20
The introduction begins with a prologue in Revelation 1:1-3 that stresses the book’s divine authority. It originated from God the Father, was given to Jesus Christ, and was made known through an angel. And as Christ’s prophet, John was an authoritative ambassador that relayed Jesus’ message to his churches.
Verses 4 and 5 contain a greeting, in which John identified himself and his audience. Specifically, he wrote to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia, located in Asia Minor. John also included a greeting: from God the Father, who was described as him who is, who was, and who is to come; from the Holy Spirit, whose fullness or completeness is symbolized as the seven spirits before his throne; and from Jesus Christ, whom John calls the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
In verses 5-8, John offered praise to God, and this praise revealed some of his central concerns for his audience. John praised God for his sovereignty, convinced that God was working all of history for his own glorious purposes. He praised God for redemption in Jesus Christ, because Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension were the basis for every hope John mentioned in his book. And finally, he praised God for the promise that Christ would come again, the great future event when everything God has planned and promised will be fulfilled.
Before describing Jesus, John expressed his unity with his readers by identifying himself as their companion in: suffering, Christ’s kingdom, and patient endurance. Suffering has always been a reality for believers. But John insisted that in the New Testament era, our suffering has special significance. Christ suffered as he stood against sin. And because believers are united to Jesus, we suffer too. Even so, whenever we suffer, we have the consolation that God is present with us, and that he sovereignly rules over our situation. In every circumstance — even martyrdom — we’re obtaining victory over evil and death through the power of Christ.
John also indicated that he received this vision while he was “in the Spirit.” This probably indicates that John was in a state of spiritual ecstasy, even though he wasn’t physically moved to a new location. This is one of the ways God revealed himself to the prophets in the Old Testament, too, as we can see in passages like Ezekiel 3:12.
Finally, John concluded the preface by saying that a voice from heaven commissioned him to write visionary reports to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
John’s actual description of Jesus begins in Revelation 1:12. Jesus appeared as the “son of man” walking among the seven lampstands. These symbolized the churches who brought the light of God in Christ to the world still under the tyranny of darkness. The lampstands also would have reminded John’s readers of the furnishings in the Old Testament tabernacle and in the temple.
And of the fact that Jesus is now in the heavenly tabernacle before the throne of God. Already in chapter 1:4 John drew a symbolic connection between the seven churches of Asia Minor and the seven lights of the lampstand before God. In the tabernacle and later in the temple, God manifested his glorious presence among his people. And just as God once dwelled among his people Israel, Christ now dwells among his church.
Jesus was also dressed in a robe and sash, resembling the high priest in the Jewish temple. His eyes were like flames of fire and feet were like burnished bronze. His Jesus’ voice was powerful, like the rush of many waters, and a double-edged sword came out of his mouth. And his face shone so brightly with his glory that he was like the sun itself. This appearance showed that Jesus was majestic, glorious, and powerful.