when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me,
saying to me, Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives,
and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of
Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which
are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven
stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven
stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you
saw are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:16–20).
perhaps cannot comprehend the physical and emotional stress the Apostle John was
under when he experienced this powerful vision of the Glorified Christ. He had
been used to the “meek and mild” Jesus he experienced in the days of his
youth. He had seen and undoubtedly touched the resurrected Christ but received
no overwhelming shock in doing so.
had labored for about 60 years doing the work of an apostle. He had been given
the responsibility to take care of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We can assume he
did that faithfully and carefully until the day of her death. We have no
reliable record of that history. He probably remained in Judea until the death
of Mary, after which we have no historical record of his whereabouts until he
lived in Ephesus. We can assume that he was not living in Jerusalem at the time
of Paul’s last visit to that city in about 60 a.d. as mentioned in the
twentieth chapter of Acts. There is a legend that John was shipwrecked off the
coast of Ephesus and arrived in the city just in time to counteract the progress
of some heresies that sprang up after the earlier departure of Paul. John
outlived the original Apostles and apparently died a natural death at an
advanced age, possibly in the year 106 a.d.
prior to receiving the Book of Revelation, John had been exiled to the Isle of
Patmos during the persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Domitian in 81
a.d. Being close to 80 years old and living under difficult conditions of the
penal colony, it is not difficult to imagine that John was exhausted, enduring
the aches and pains of advanced age, and mentally and emotionally worn-out.
Faints When He Sees The Glorified Christ
that background we find John in private devotion on the Lord’s Day as he had
undoubtedly done most of his life. With the revere of worship on his heart he
suddenly hears a loud voice behind him like a trumpet blast. He turns to see the
voice and he sees the glorified Christ. With his physical and mental
constitution weakened by age and deprivation, he is overwhelmed. In his own
words, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead” This suggests that
John experienced a sudden shock brought about by the sudden loud sound and the
awesome appearance of the person he saw. John was not the first person to
collapse in the presence of the glorified Christ.
experienced a similar thing in Daniel 8:17, 27, “So he came near where I
stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face . . .
And I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days”.
had a similar experience as recorded in Ezekiel 1:28, “Like the appearance of
a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all
around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So
when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking”.
critics would have us believe that John was merely copying what these ancient
prophets wrote to give himself credibility as having had this similar
supernatural experience. The critics can say what they like, but that does not
make it so. The evidence of his advanced age and situation and the suddenness
and uniqueness of his experience are sufficient evidence, along with what
follows, that John had indeed encountered the Glorified Christ.
reached out and touched John with His right hand. Daniel had another fainting
episode in chapter 10 of the book of Daniel. He describes it as a deep sleep on
his face. What aroused him was the touch of a hand, which made him tremble on
his knees and on the palms of his hands. Following the touch, the Lord said,
“Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong”. And the Voice proceeded to
tell him why He had come to him. John’s experience is similar. The Voice also
says to him, “Do not be afraid”, and then proceeds to tell him why He had
come to him.
must be noticed that Jesus reached out and touched John with His right hand.
This is notable because Jesus was holding seven stars in His right hand. A
moment later Jesus explains that the seven stars are the angels, or the
ministry, of the seven churches. Jesus shows us at the very beginning of the
Revelation that He ministers to people directly through the work of His church.
In John’s experience here we see a symbolic picture of Jesus raising people
from spiritual sleep through the ministry of His church preaching the gospel of
salvation from sin.
First and the Last With Power over Hades and Death
John awakens from his collapse, he hears Christ identify Himself for the third
time: I am the First and the Last. As said earlier, this is a declaration by
Christ the all that is included in the Godhead is included in Him. The same
declaration is found in Isaiah 44:6,
says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the
First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.
being the First, He declares that He is the Creator. Recall what He said in
to Me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the
Last. Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has
stretched out the heavens.
being the Last, He is always the same and He endures for all time and beyond.
The Psalmist captures the essence of Christ’s eternal existence in Psalm
old You laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your
hands. They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a
garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed. But You
are the same, And Your years will have no end.
also asserts His supreme authority over Hades and death. The word Hades appears
in the King James Version as the word hell, which most people associate with the
place of eternal damnation. Hades is the correct rendering of the word as it is
a transliteration of the Greek word, which means the abode of the dead, the
grave. The word death is the Greek word thanatos,
which means death, as in dying or ceasing to live. Does the Glorified Christ
have power over the grave and death? Look at what Jesus said in John 5:28–29,
not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves
will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the
resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of
Christ does have power over the grave! The power of Christ is absolute and
universal as declared in Matthew 28:18, “And Jesus came and spoke to them,
saying, All authority (power) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth”.
Heaven and earth encompass everything that exists and Christ has all power, all
authority, over everything that exists.
all power and authority, Christ will inevitably have the last word in all
things, the final judgment as written by the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:10, “We
shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ . . . So then each of us
shall give account of himself to God”.
reviving John, Christ gives John the mandate to write the Book of Revelation.
The mandate is given in Revelation 1:19, “Write
the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which
will take place after this”. John is to write down three things: what he has
seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. At
this point, the mandate seems to be somewhat ambiguous and needs clarification.
I will call upon several commentators to help us on this point.
Clarke makes a brief comment on the meaning of the mandate:
visions and prophecies are for general instruction, and therefore every
circumstance must be faithfully recorded. What he had seen was to be written;
what he was about to see, relative to the seven Churches, must be also written;
and what he was to see afterwards, concerning other Churches and states, to be
short, what he has seen is the vision of the Glorified Christ. What he was about
to see concerned the seven specific churches of Asia. And, what he was to see
afterward concerns other churches.
Barnes essentially agrees with Clarke but expands on the meaning of that which
will take place after this:
more natural interpretation, however, would seem to be, that it would stretch
far into future years, and that it was designed to give at least an outline of
what would be the character of the future in general.
Smith writes concerning this mandate:
more definite command is given in this verse [verse
19] to John to write the entire Revelation, which would relate chiefly to
things which were then in the future. In some few instances, events that in the
past or then transpiring were referred to; but these references were simply for
the purpose of introducing events to be fulfilled after that time, and so that
no link in the chain might be lacking.
fewer words, he was to write about some events in the past and some things that
were then present as they would impact some future events.
G. Smith perhaps makes a clearer statement about the mandate:
John received a special commission to write the things of the future that were
to be given, the things that were then taking place, and also certain events
which had come under his personal observation during his life-time, and which
were also included in the symbolic visions, thus covering the entire gospel
the clearest statement about the mandate is found in The Revelation with
Gospel and Prophecy by J. F. Lawson, P. D. Turnbow, and D. W. Rogers:
this vision John saw things that happened back at Pentecost, things that were
taking place while he lived, and also the things that would happen in the
summary, we can say that what John was about to see and record would be symbolic
pictures of some events in the Kingdom he personally experienced, such as the
Day of Pentecost; some events that were currently happening at the time he was
living; and, some events that would happen in the future, beyond his life-time.
Stars and Lampstands Defined
then reinforces the symbolic nature of the things John was about to see as He
personally defines two symbols already seen by John. The seven stars in the
right hand of Christ are the angels of the seven churches. The lampstands in the
menorah are the seven churches. Uriah Smith comments concerning the seven
John, looking into the Christian dispensation, saw only seven candlesticks,
representing seven churches, in the midst of which stood the Son of man. The
position of the Son of man in their midst must denote his presence with them,
his watchcare over them, and his searching scrutiny of all their works. But does
he thus take cognizance of only seven individual churches in this dispensation?
May we not rather that this scene represents his position in reference to all
his churches during the gospel age?
the lampstands represent the church was discussed earlier when we looked at
verse 12. There are differences of opinion as to the meaning of the seven
churches. One is to limit the scope of the Revelation only to these seven
churches. Another view as promoted by Uriah Smith along with most of the
teaching of the Church of God on the Revelation is that the seven churches
represent seven church ages throughout the gospel dispensation.
idea that each church represents a prominent condition in each of the seven
church ages is somewhat of an overreach in my opinion. First, in the letters to
the churches, Christ addresses specific conditions that then existed
individually in each of the churches mentioned. Second, any or all of these same
conditions can exist in any individual church or congregation at any given time.
For example, the charge of leaving the first love addressed to the church in
Ephesus not only existed there in the first century, and perhaps in the church
at large in that century, it has shown itself in churches throughout the gospel
dispensation, and we see it ever so prominent in our time.
forward in our study, it is my opinion that all of the conditions represented by
the letters to the seven churches are common conditions the church has had to
battle throughout the church age. It behooves us to learn about these conditions
and where a good condition exists, let us support and encourage it; and, where a
wrong or bad condition exits, let us recognize it, be honest about it and follow
the instruction of the Holy Spirit concerning that condition.