Blaine Robison, M.A.
An Exegetical Commentary
Published 26 March 2011; Revised 6 June 2020
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Scripture quotations may be taken from different versions. Click here for abbreviations of Bible versions.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important early sources include the following:
● Church Fathers: Works by early leaders of Christianity are at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online. Click here for DSS abbreviations.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the definitions of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Vocabulary: To emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
The Vision of the Son of Man, 1:12-15
The Mystery of the Stars and Lampstands, 1:16-20
In this chapter the reader is informed that John the apostle was the recipient of a direct revelation from Yeshua of events that will transpire in the future to conclude the present age and usher in the age to come. The book is addressed to the seven congregations in the Roman province of Asia, an area in which John ministered. John informs the reader that he was worshipping on the Lord's day when he received an incredible vision of Yeshua who instructs him to write letters to the overseers of these congregations. Yeshua also introduces John to the first of several mysteries, which is explained.
The first three verses function as a preface to the book since the author is referred to in the third person and the Revelation narrative is viewed as a historical event. The use of the first person beginning in verse 4 and throughout the remainder of the book suggests that the preface may have been appended by another, but John did consistently refer to himself in the third person in his narrative of Yeshua, most likely as a mark of humility (John 1:35; 18:15; 19:26f; 21:7, 20, 24).
1— The Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah, which God gave to him to show to his servants, the things it behooves to take place in quickness; and he made it known, having sent it by his angel to his servant John,
The revelation: Grk. apokalupsis means an unveiling, revealing or revelation (Rienecker). In Theodotion's Greek version of Daniel the word is used several times of a divine disclosure through the prophet to the king of events that were destined to take place (Ladd). Of interest is its use in 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and 1 Peter 1:7 to refer to the Second Coming.
The true title of the book occurs in the first phrase, although the Greek Bible bears the title "The Revelation to John." The word "revelation" is used three ways in the apostolic writings, the most occurrences related to the Second Coming of Yeshua (Rom 2:5; 8:19; 1Cor 1:7; 2Th 1:7; 1Pet 1:7, 13; 4:13). The second usage of revelation refers to the general disclosure of truth, particularly the Good News (Luke 2:2; Rom 16:25; Gal 1:12; 2:2; Eph 1:17; 3:3). The third usage of revelation pertains to individuals receiving very personal disclosures from God (1Cor 14:6, 26; 2Cor 12:1, 7). The choice of the word to begin this marvelous book seems to incorporate all three elements.
The writer goes on to say simply, but significantly, that God (the Father) provided the information or revelation of the events associated with the end of the age. As a general concept "revelation" represents God opening the door to his secret counsels and explaining his sweeping plan to redeem mankind from the penalty of sin. However, he not only unveiled to his apostles his activity in the past, but he disclosed the events at the end of the age that would accomplish justice for his people, judgment on the wicked and the establishment of the eternal Kingdom of God. And, God did not merely give a list of coming events but produced a pictographic story in living color.
of Messiah: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. The title Mashiach means 'anointed one' or 'poured on.' Mashiach was used in the Tanakh for (1) the patriarchs (1Chr 16:16-22; Ps 105:15); (2) the High Priest, Lev 4:5; (3) the King, 1Sam 12:3; 2Sam 22:51; Isa 45:1; and (4) the Messianic King, Ps 2:2 and Dan 9:25-26. This last usage defined the term among Jews in the first century A.D.
Of interest is that the apostle John transliterates Mashiach with Messias ("Messiah" in English) in two verses, John 1:41 (spoken by Andrew) and John 4:25 (spoken by the Samaritan woman). However, the Jewish Greek of the apostolic writings relies on the LXX for vocabulary and thus Christos is used uniformly instead of Messias. The title of "Anointed One" alludes to a ceremony of pouring olive oil on the head to invest one with the authority of an office (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; Ps 133:2). There was no comparable concept in Greek culture. For an expanded discussion on the Jewish title and Jewish expectations of the Messiah see my commentary on John 1:17. While Jews understood the context of Christos, the Church moved away from this meaning in its effort to separate itself from Judaism. The Church had no use for a Jewish Messiah who would fulfill covenant promises to the Jews, including possession of the Land and the obligation to live by Torah.
Through many centuries of church-sponsored persecution of Jews, the title "Christ" became the name of their oppressor, not their Savior. And, the simple decision by translators to use "Christ" instead of "Messiah" in Christian Bibles contributed to a loss of appreciation for the Jewishness of Yeshua and the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith. The Jewish apostles repeatedly employ the Jewish title of kingship in their writings in order to emphasize that Yeshua is both the present King of the Jews (Matt 2:2; 27:11, 37) and King of the nations (Gen 49:10; Rev 15:3), but will also be the future king reigning from Jerusalem in the age to come (Isa 2:3; 59:20; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Zech 14:3-4, 9, 16-17; Matt 24:30; Rom 11:26; Rev 14:1; 20:6-9).
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y'hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). Yeshua has the same Hebrew root as yoshia, which means "he will save." It is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word yeshu‘ah, which means "salvation" (Stern 4). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). So, the naming of Yeshua was based on what he would do. Gentile believers must never forget that Yeshua was born to a Jewish mother, raised in a Jewish home in a Jewish community situated among the Jewish people in the land God gave to Abraham and his Jewish posterity. By virtue of his incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
The prologue declares that the chain of custody of the revelation recorded in this book proceeds from the Father to Yeshua. From the beginning of Revelation the reader is informed that nothing recorded was the result of invention or imagination, but all was the record of God and the testimony of Yeshua (Henry). which: Grk. hos, relative pron., which, what. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos renders the Hebrew words for God, El, Eloah and Elohim, as well as the tetragrammaton YHVH (DNTT 2:67-70). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos.
The only God in existence is the "God of Israel," an expression that occurs frequently in the Tanakh and twice in the Besekh (Matt 15:31; Luke 1:68). Parallel to this formula is "God of Jacob,” which appears 21 times in Scripture, 13 of which include the longer formula, "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." Every nation had their deity, but only to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then Moses did the true God reveal His name, His election and His commandments. This God may be the God of the Gentiles (Rom 3:29), but only if they accept the revelation that He is the God of Israel and join themselves to Israel. Only the God of Israel saves (Jer 16:19-20). Only Christians and Jews worship the true God.
gave: Grk. didōmi, aor., to give, often with the focus on generosity. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, SH-5414, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). to him: Grk. autos, personal pron. of the second person, here referring to Yeshua. to show: Grk. deiknumi, aor. inf., may mean to show (1) so as to be observed by another, point out, make known; or (2) or so as to be understood by another, explain, demonstrate. Here the verb contains nuances of both meanings. to his: Grk. autos. servants: Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. The plural form of doulos occurs eleven times in Revelation and only twice is the word not used of the Hebrew prophets or disciples of Yeshua.
In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. word ebed, which similarly described someone enslaved after being captured in war or in order to pay a debt, whether voluntarily or involuntarily (cf. Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 44, 47). In addition, ebed identified those who served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593ff). The apostles recognized that their freedom from the bondage of sin implies a duty to live in subjection and obedience to the Lord Yeshua and thus used the same terminology (Rom 6:16; 1Cor 7:22; Eph 6:6; 2Tim 2:24; Rev 22:3).
the things: pl. of Grk. hos. it behooves: Grk. dei, impersonal verb from deō ('lack, stand in need of') and thus conveys the idea of something that's necessary, something that must or needs to happen. to take place: Grk. ginomai, aor. inf., to transfer from one state to another, with the following applications: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; (2) exist through will or effort; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. In the LXX ginomai renders Heb. hayah (SH-1961), to fall out, to come into being, become, come to pass, to be (DNTT 1:181). in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within." quickness: Grk. tachos, from tachus, swiftness, and in the context of Revelation the focus is on time. Many versions translate en tachos as "soon," which has a tendency to obscure its meaning. See the Additional Note below.
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of John's Hebraic writing style.
he made it known: Grk. sēmainō, aor., means to signify and to show by some sort of sign (Rienecker). Because of the verb's derivation from sēmeion ("sign," 12:1), many scholars have interpreted sēmainō to mean that the entirety of Revelation is symbolic (Earle). Thus, Lyons comments that sēmainō means "explained the symbolism" (24). However, BAG indicates that sēmainō means to make known, report or communicate, and its usage in John 12:33; 18:32; 21:19; Acts 11:28; and 25:27 demonstrates that sēmainō means primarily to communicate by word, not by symbol. Yet, in this book the message was communicated by both word and sign.
having sent it: Grk. apostellō, aor. part., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). The verb implies the conclusion of a trip, presumptively from heaven. through: Grk. dia, prep. with the genitive case of the noun following stresses means and therefore is rendered 'through' or 'by means of' (DM 101). The root meaning of dia is two, and so in narrative it points to two persons, the sender and the agent.
his: Grk. autos. angel: Grk. angelos means one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In Greek culture angelos originally referred to an ambassador in human affairs who speaks on behalf of another, including as a messenger of the gods (DNTT 1:101f). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel. The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or human relies primarily on the context. About half of the occurrences in the Tanakh refer to humans, such as to denote a prophet (Eccl 5:6; Isa 42:19; Mal 2:7) and a priest (Hag 1:13; Mal 3:1).
In this verse angelos refers to a divine messenger. Returning to the description of the chain of custody of the revelation, the prologue informs the reader that communication came not by a holographic projection of Yeshua, but by the Messiah’s own personal emissary. "His angel" is probably an angel of the status of an aide-de-camp to a modern commanding general of military forces. The reference to "his angel" occurs only a few times in Scripture so it is possible that this same unnamed angel is the one who led Abraham’s servant to find a bride for Isaac (Gen 24:7, 40), protected the Hebrews in the fire (Dan 3:28), protected Daniel in the lion’s den (Dan 6:22) and rescued Peter from imprisonment (Acts 12:11).
This angel serves as a guide throughout the Revelation experience, and, except where a different angel or the Lord is clearly identified as speaking, is the one intended when the writer says, "he said." The revelation of God's Torah had been given with the assistance of angels (Deut 33:2; Acts 7:53), so it is entirely appropriate that an angel assist in the revelation of the final judgment based on the Torah. Angels figure prominently in Scripture as ministering spirits (Mark 1:13; Heb 1:14) and are far different from the Hollywood depiction and popular assumptions about angels. Angels are not glorified humans that earn status in heaven by doing good works on earth. All individual angels mentioned in Scripture have masculine names or descriptions, contrary to popular art and media, which sometimes depicts them as female. In addition, only a special group of heavenly beings are mentioned in Scripture as having wings (Ex 37:9; Isa 6:2; Ezek 10:5; Rev 4:8), and these beings may not be angels at all.
to his: Grk. autos. servant: Grk. doulos. John is called a "servant" because he was devoted utterly to his Lord. The great Hebrew and Jewish heroes of the faith considered themselves servants of God the King and it was considered a high honor for a person to be called by the honorific, a servant of God. Abraham was the first to use this title (Gen 18:3; 26:24), but the most frequent usage is in relation to Moses (Ex 4:10) and over 40 citations remind Jews of his status, including 18 in the book of Joshua alone. Many other personalities in the Tanakh also bore this title, including Isaac (Gen 24:14), Jacob (Deut 9:27), Job (Job 1:8), Caleb (Num 14:24), Joshua (Josh 24:29), Samson (Jdg 15:18), Samuel (1Sam 3:10), David (2Sam 3:18), Elijah (2Kgs 9:36), Jonah (2Kgs 14:25), Hezekiah (2Chr 32:16), Nehemiah (Neh 1:11), Isaiah (Isa 20:3), Zerubbabel (Hag 2:23), Daniel (Dan 6:20) and all the Hebrew prophets (Jer 25:4).
In his earthly ministry Yeshua was the preeminent servant of the Lord (Php 2:7), but other notable spiritual leaders are named, including Miriam (Luke 1:38), Simeon (Luke 2:29), Apollos (1Cor 3:5), Timothy (Php 1:1), Epaphras (Col 1:7), Tychicus (Col 4:7), Jacob the brother of Yeshua (Jas 1:1), Peter (2Pet 1:1), John (Rev 1:1) and particularly the apostle Paul (Rom 1:1). All of those in Scripture who used this designation possessed authority to speak for God. John: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yochanan, which means "the Lord has been gracious." There were ten prominent men with the Hebrew name Yochanan mentioned in the Tanakh (Barker 193f), three who were priests (1Chron 6:9-10; Ezra 10:6; Neh 12:13, 42) and the rest from other tribes. In all cases the name is transliterated as "Johanan" in standard Christian versions.
In the Besekh there are four other men with the name Iōannēs: (1) the son of Zechariah, John 1:6; (2) the father of Simon Peter, John 1:42; (3) a relative of the high priest, Caiaphas, Acts 4:6; and (4) the relative of Barnabas, Col 4:10. John's father was Zebedee (Matt 4:21) and he and had a brother Jacob (aka "James"). When Yeshua first called John to discipleship, he was engaged in mending fishing nets along with his father and brother (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-19). John and Jacob had a close working relationship with Simon Peter in fishing (Luke 5:10). He may have been younger since he is almost always mentioned second after Jacob, but this is not certain. It is generally thought that Salome was John's mother (cf. Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40). In addition, Salome may have been the sister of Yeshua's mother mentioned in John 19:25, and in that case John would have been a blood cousin of Yeshua.
The numerous allusions to the Temple in the book of John and Revelation suggest that John may have been of priestly lineage or had at least served there. The fact that the family of Zebedee engaged in fishing does not preclude priestly lineage or relations. Consider the fact that Miriam, mother of Yeshua, was a blood relative of Elizabeth (a priest's wife descended from Aaron, Luke 1:5, 36), and thereby John through his mother Salome, sister of Miriam, would have had priestly connections. John was distinguished as a leader among the disciples, although considered "uneducated and untrained" by Sanhedrin members (Acts 4:13). "Uneducated" means lacking in religious education and "untrained" refers to an ordinary person or layman that had not received advanced Rabbinic training common to the Pharisees and Sadducees (Stern 233).
The literary quality of John's book and epistles and the many commands to "write" in Revelation suggest that he had a gift for writing. John possessed a keen intellect and produced perhaps the most theological book in the apostolic writings. It is not difficult to believe that the man who loved Yeshua so much as to stand by him at the crucifixion and take responsibility for Miriam, his mother, a passionate evangelist to Jews and Gentiles alike, and whom Yeshua knew would outlive the other apostles (John 21:20-23), was the man to entrust with the revelation of the future. For more on the background of John see my article Witnesses of the Good News.
Additional Note on Tachos: The content of the Revelation is defined as a report of things that must "quickly" take place. This is a cryptic saying. What are the "things" and what does "quickly" mean in this context?" No elaboration on the "things" is offered here, but the introductory statement probably takes in all the prophetic material of the book of Revelation, including prophecies given in the letters to the seven congregations. The specific prophecies of which John speaks had not occurred by the time he finished his writing, but his first epistle, which probably was written after his departure from Patmos, may reflect a belief that the end of the present age and the return of Yeshua were near at hand (cf. 1Jn 2:17f; 3:2; 4:3).
Yeshua began his public ministry on earth by proclaiming, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15). Yeshua spoke as if the message of the prophets had finally come true. Yet, over three years of proclaiming the good news passed, followed by crucifixion and resurrection and shortly before the Lord's ascension, the apostles were compelled to ask, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore self-rule to Isra'el?" (Acts 1:6 CJB) The hope of Israel that the apostles shared was the promise to be freed from the oppression of the Hasmonean dynasty and Roman empire with the Messiah installed as King (cf. Hag 2:5-9; Matt 24:3; Luke 1:67-74; Acts 15:13-18).
The apostles knew, as did Amos, that "the Lord God does nothing unless he reveals his secret counsel to his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7; cf. Isa 44:7; 46:9-10; Dan 2:28-29). How could Yeshua tell them that almost two thousand years would pass before Israel would be restored to its own sovereignty? Moreover, Yeshua knew they were not ready for such knowledge. Yeshua responded, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by his own authority" (Acts 1:7). It took time for the apostles to understand that the last days began with the first advent (1Cor 10:11; Heb 1:2; 1Pet 1:20) and that the Last Day still lay in the future (John 6:39ff; 12:48).
In the days following the publication of John's Apocalypse, through the second and third centuries and even into the fourth century church leaders and theologians treated Revelation as relevant prophecy for the times. Methodius (3rd century) observed, "John speaks concerning things present and things to come" (Discourse 8 – Thekla, 7). Each generation of church leaders believed they were living in the last days, as Ignatius (30-107) wrote, "The last times are come upon us. Let us therefore be of a reverent spirit, and fear the long-suffering of God, lest we despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance" (The Epistle to the Ephesians, 11). Two centuries later Lactantius could say, "I have already shown above … that the last day of the extreme conclusion is now drawing near" (Divine Institutes, 7:25).
According to patristic writings Yeshua was expected to come suddenly in the sense of without warning. The words of Ignatius, Lactantius and their contemporaries do not exhibit any sense of the any-moment immanence emphasized so much today (cf. 1 Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, 23). The concept of a secret pretribulation, pre-Antichrist, rapture and resurrection of believers was unknown prior to the 19th century. The earliest church fathers not only believed they were living in the last days, but believed the Second Advent and the resurrection of believers would not occur until six thousand years of earth history had first been completed. (See Epistle of Barnabas, 15; Irenaeus, Book 5, 27:3; Africanus, 1; Commodianus, 80; Lactantius, 7:14, 25; Hippolytus, On Daniel, 1:4; Methodius, Discourse IX: Tusiane, 1; Victorinus, 20:3.)
This assumption was based on Peter's assertion, "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2Pet 3:8). Peter's words are set in the context of explaining the seeming delay of the Lord's coming and thus Peter's words must mean that just as there were six days of creation so there would be a thousand years for each creation day, and then the Day of the Lord would usher in the seventh or Sabbath millennium. The Christians of those early centuries generally believed they were living in the sixth millennium and fully expected Yeshua to come back in their lifetime.
Julius Africanus (200-232/245), completed an exhaustive research of historical chronologies of the major civilizations, as well as the biblical genealogies, and came to the conclusion that 5,500 years had been reached by the first advent of Yeshua (Chronography, 1). Hippolytus (170-236) agreed with Africanus and believed he was living in the sixth millennium (On Daniel 1.2). While scholars find flaws in the calculations of Africanus, he made an important contribution to objective historical and biblical scholarship to rebut the evolutionistic assumptions of his pagan contemporaries. However, neither was perturbed with the thought that the Second Coming might not occur for a few more centuries. Lactantius (early 4th century) noted that those who studied chronologies had produced varying estimates of the number of years since creation, but he didn't think more than two hundred years remained until the Lord's coming (Divine Institutes, 7:25).
Peter's historical summary may reflect agreement with the Rabbinic viewpoint later written in the Talmud: "The world will exist for six thousand years, then for one thousand years it will be desolate" (Sanh. 97a). In the same source another Rabbi taught, "The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation; two thousand years the Torah flourished; and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era." Unlike Africanus or Hippolytus not all Jews at that time believed they were living in the sixth millennium. For example, 4th Ezra 10:45f calculates Solomon's dedication of the temple as being 3,000 years after creation and the first advent of Yeshua was not more than a thousand years later.
The current Jewish calendar identifies creation as occurring in 3761 B.C. However, most rabbis condemned attempts to calculate the end, as recorded in the Talmud, "Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the end. For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he [i.e., the Messiah] has not come, he will never come" (Sanh. 97b). The anticipation that six thousand years still awaited completion and the millennium of the Messiah still lay in the future is expressed in Zohar, the central text of Jewish mysticism compiled in the 13th century, which states: "Happy are those left alive at the end of the sixth millennium to enter into (the millennium of) the Shabbat" (Stern 842).
Modern scholars have offered an alternative explanation to the common translation of tachos as "soon" by pointing out that the Greek word speaks of rapidity of execution (Rienecker). Mounce comments that the word tachos refers more to how long events take to be completed once started than how long until they begin, which is entirely consistent with other statements in the apostolic writings that describe the lightning speed of the Lord's return (Matt 24:27; 1Cor 15:52).
Yeshua never said that his glorious Second Coming would occur in a specific number of days, weeks, months, years, decades or centuries following his ascension. Indeed, nowhere in Revelation does God say when the "things" will take place as far as the human calendar is concerned, perhaps indicating that time should be considered from God's perspective, not ours (cf. Ps 90:4; 2Pet 3:8). As the apostle Paul pointed out, God will bring about the appearing of our Lord "at the proper time" (1Tim 6:15), meaning that Yeshua's return did not equal an immediate return. Thus, faithful disciples of Yeshua in every age have received comfort and encouragement from Revelation in their sufferings.
2— who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Yeshua the Messiah, how many things he saw.
who testified: Gr. martureō means to bear witness, be a witness or testify concerning something. In legal usage the term meant that which the witness declares or confirms to be factual. the word: Grk. logos, a vocalized expression of the mind, as communication ranging broadly in extent of content and variety of form; word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar (SH-1697), which has a similar range of meaning: saying, speech, word, message, report, tidings, discourse, story, command, advice, counsel, promise, thing, or matter, whether of men or God (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087).
of God: Grk. theos. See the previous verse. The preface goes on to point out that the Revelation record, indeed all of John's ministry, contains three characteristics. First, John declared the Word of God. The Revelation experience affirmed John's message that Yeshua the Messiah is the Son of God, the Creator of all things, the eternal Word. Identifying Revelation as the word of God is also a simple and significant statement of divine inspiration that classifies John's final book as authoritative and infallible Scripture alongside the other apostolic writings (cf. 2Pet 3:15-16). Even with the strange visions the inclusion of Revelation in the biblical canon was never in doubt.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to the testimony: Gr. marturia means (1) testimony or testifying, especially in legal proceedings, (2) a public judgment by a person on the religious or moral character or conduct of another, (3) and in the apostolic testimony about Yeshua. of Yeshua the Messiah: Second, John declares that his record is the personal testimony of Yeshua. Unlike the apostolic narratives, which contain the words of Yeshua by divinely inspired remembrance (cf. John 14:26), Revelation is the playback of the testimony recorded in the Court of Heaven. Yeshua put himself on the witness stand and John faithfully and accurately recorded the divine testimony. The "testimony of Yeshua," for which John was persecuted (verse 9 below), is also that Yeshua, the one whom John had heard, seen and touched (1Jn 1:1), had come to his people to be Messiah, Savior and Mediator of the New Covenant.
how many things: pl. of Grk. hosos, correlative pron., how much, how many. he saw: Grk. horaō, aor., to perceive with the physical eyes or to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. Third, Revelation is a record based on personal experience. The phrase "how many things he saw" could amplify "the testimony of Yeshua" or allude to the visions John saw. Many times in Revelation John insists, "I saw." Sadly, many scholars do not believe parts of John's narrative, sometimes claiming that John "cut and pasted" portions of the Hebrew prophets to write the book. John insists that he did not invent these visions or experience, but he faithfully recorded what actually transpired in his encounter with Yeshua and his angel. The fact that the books of Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah contain similar visions only points to God's consistency in giving his Word to the prophets.
3— Blessed is the one reading and the ones hearing the words of the prophecy, and keeping the things having been written in it; for the time is near.
Blessed: Grk. makarios means enjoying special advantage, blessed, privileged, fortunate or happy. The Grk. word translates Heb. esher, which means happiness, joyfulness, blessedness and fortunate all at the same time (BDB 81). Esher comes from the root word ashar, which means to go (straight), or to walk. A few versions use the word "happy" but this is inadequate because the root of the English word "happy” is "hap" which means chance. For most people without God happiness comes as a result of good luck. However, the Hebrew viewpoint is that a blessing is a purposeful endowment (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser (DNTT 1:207). Blessedness can never be self-imposed nor come by accident. The only source of blessing is from God.
The announcement of "blessedness" occurs seven times in Revelation (14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, and 22:14) and commends the entire book to the reader and the listener (Robertson). Men may bless others without particular expectation (e.g., Isaac to Jacob, Gen 27:27), but man has to do something in order to receive divine blessings, whether positive or negative (cf. Ps 1:1-2; 112:1; 119:1-2; Prov 16:20; 29:18). Corresponding to the use in Revelation are the blessings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:3-12) in which Yeshua defines those who will receive his Messianic favors.
the one reading: Grk. anaginoskō, pres. part., means to read, to read aloud and referred to a public reader (Rienecker). God promises to bless the reader of Revelation in particular and Scripture in general. This reflects Jewish practice in which blessings are extended to persons, not things as in the Christian custom of "blessing" food. Yeshua was not merely opining "oh how fortunate or lucky is someone who reads Scripture in church;" rather, he is saying that the reader will be personally blessed by his Lord. Indeed, the only source of blessing is from God and for Yeshua to utter a b'rakhah means that he is using his authority to convey grace, power and honor. "he who reads" alludes to the practice in early congregations of reading Scripture in services and meetings, which was adopted from Jewish practice (cf. Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15; 15:21; 2Cor 3:15; Col 4:16; 1Th 5:27) (Ladd). In Judaism any member of the congregation may be called upon to read Scripture, lead in congregational prayer or preach sermons (Wilson 216). Eventually the public reading of Scripture became a function of the clergy (Earle).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the ones hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. part., has a range of meaning, including to hear as a sense perception, to learn, to listen, to follow, or to understand. The verb here is a present participle, which denotes those who actively hear. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). Yeshua promises to bless those that hear. In Hebrew usage to hear implies a readiness, even an eagerness to know and obey God's word, as Samuel cried, "Speak, for Your servant is listening" (1Sam 3:10). God meets man in his word and his word is the primary means by which disciples hear his voice. Reading Scripture is an important part of discipleship and worship and deserves attentive hearers. What a joy to know that a blessing is attached to the one who reads and the one who hears!
the words: pl. of Grk. logos. See the previous verse. of the prophecy: Grk. prophēteia may refer to prophetic activity, the gift of prophecy or prophesying, and the utterance of the prophet or the prophetic word. The book of Revelation is described as "words of prophecy." The singular form of the word "prophecy" stresses that Revelation is one consistent Word of God and one cohesive picture of the future. and keeping: Grk. tēreō, pres. part., may mean (1) to maintain in a secure state with a focus on personal interest or obligation; keep; or (2) to be in compliance in regard to instruction; keep, observe. The second meaning applies here.
the things: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article. having been written: Grk. graphō, perf. part., may refer to the mechanical activity of writing, the content of what is written down, or the literary composition of a work. Rienecker points out that the perfect participle used here stresses the condition and often the authority of a legal document. John probably refers to his finished composition, but also to the constituent events described in the original book of the Lamb that John was shown in heaven (5:1) and which forms the majority of the material in Revelation. But, hearing the book read (or reading it for oneself) is not enough. Do you have ears to hear what the testimony declares? In Messianic and non-Messianic Judaism, learning is supposed to lead to doing (Stern). See Exodus 24:7, Romans 10:14-21, Hebrews 6:4-8, James 1:22-25, and 2 Peter 2:20-21. Are you ready to "heed" or obey the instructions found in this book? Full blessedness comes from reading, hearing and keeping. in: Grk. en, prep. it: Grk. autos.
for: Grk. gar, generally accepted as a contraction of ge and ara = certainly it follows that, conj., a flexible term used here as a connector in an explanatory sense. the time: Grk. kairos refers to a definite and particular time (Robertson). is near: Grk. engus may be used of space or time and mean near, close to or by. The "nearness" may emphasize God's plan for the fulfillment of the those events described in the Book of the Lamb, but the phrase is intended to reinforce the necessity to "heed." "Near" would not have the same meaning as "soon" in verse 1, but points to how long it will be until the commencement of those things prophesied in this book. Since the Greek word for "time" here refers to a definite time, then it may be used in the sense of an appointed date on the calendar (cf. 9:15).
One may well ask how events described as happening many years, indeed centuries into the future could also be described as being near? Perhaps the simple answer is that Revelation was given by the eternal God for whom a thousand years is but a watch in the night (Ps 90:4). Since God is not bound by time, the Messiah's second advent, which brings the "last days" to their close, is always viewed as "at hand" (cf. Php 4:5; Jas 5:9; Heb 10:25, 37). In addition, the phrase could be a Hebrew idiom that refers to the mortality of man whose time for the appointment with death is always near (Heb 9:27). Yeshua used the expression as he anticipated his crucifixion (Matt 26:18; John 7:6) and Paul saw the time for his deliverance from this life, as being near (Rom 13:11).
Human life is no more than the "flower of the field" (Ps 103:15) that arises in the morning and is gone by evening (Ps 90:5-6; Jas 4:13-14). There really is not much time to heed God's Word until the day arrives to stand before Him and give an account. There is one final consideration in defining "near." God forewarned Israel that she would be scattered among the nations (Deut 4:27), but that in the "latter days" she would be restored to her own land (Ezek 38:8, 12). Note the promises of Isaiah 11:11; 43:6; 49:22; 51:11; Jeremiah 16:14-16; 23:3-6; Ezekiel 28:25f; 31:7-8; 36:24-25; 37:12; Amos 9:14; Zechariah 8:7-8. The boundaries of Israel's Land are given in Genesis 15:18-21; Numbers 34:1-15 and Joshua 1:12-15; 9:1; 13:1-12; 15:47.
Beginning in the second century church leaders and theologians began to view the Gentile-dominated Church as the New Israel and concluded that what happened to Jews or the state of Israel was no longer of any consequence in God's plan for his Kingdom. The demise of Israel's political existence in the second century was considered the final proof of God's intention to replace Israel with the Church. The return of the Jews to the holy land, then, was not even considered possible, let alone desirable or necessary. When Israel was taken out of the prophetic calendar, interpreting biblical prophecy could not possibly succeed. However, the fulfillment of prophecy manifested in the reestablishment of Israel as a political nation indicates that former generations made an egregious error in ignoring the importance of Israel. Biblical chronology is rapidly nearing its consummation and the words of Paul are still relevant, "The night is almost gone, and the day is near" (Rom 13:12).
John: See verse 1 above. John does not describe himself as an apostle as there was no need for him to assert such authority. to the seven: Grk. hepta, the number seven. A unique aspect of Revelation is found in its "sevenness." The sheer dominance of the number seven in Revelation declares that his Word is perfect and his prophecy about the end is complete and that nothing should be added or taken away (22:18-19). See my article A Book of Seven.
congregations: pl. of Grk. ekklēsia means assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation. In secular use ekklēsia referred to a political body or a public meeting of citizens (cf. Acts 19:32, 39, 41). The popular interpretation of ekklēsia as "called out ones" is based on etymology and not usage, and thus has little value in understanding the word in its biblical context. In the LXX ekklēsia renders the Heb. qahal (DNTT 1:292-295), which means assembly, convocation, or congregation (BDB 874). In the Tanakh qahal denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or instruction (Deut 4:10; 31:30; Ps 35:18). Ekklēsia occurs only twice in the apostolic narratives (Matt 16:18; 18:17) and Yeshua most likely used the familiar Hebrew word. The Heb. term never identifies a building, a polity or a Gentile ecclesiastical organization.
The English translation of "church" was first introduced in the Wycliffe Bible (1395, "chirche"). The Tyndale Bible (1525), the Miles Coverdale Bible (1535) and the Bishop's Bible (1568) rendered ekklēsia as "congregation," but the Geneva Bible (1587) returned to the word "church" and from that time this has been the word used in Christian English Bibles. As the instructions of King James to the translators of the 1611 KJV show, the reason for using "church" was to maintain the ecclesiastical language of Christianity. The English word "church" from its Middle English roots really means "Lord's house" (Dictionary.com), and thus is not an accurate translation of ekklēsia. This translation decision created a permanent wedge between Christianity and its Jewish roots.
John begins by identifying the recipients of his writing. The grand story of the Messiah's revelation is for seven congregations in Asia. John does not imply that there were only seven cities in Asia with believers at the time and if there were more these were the principal congregations (Barnes). The reader of the apostolic writings should be cautious about reading modern church organization, whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or the 57 varieties of Protestantism, into first century settings. When Yeshua died "the Church" as Christians conceive the term did not yet exist. In the apostolic writings ekklēsia is never treated as an institution, a building, a specific polity or even a specific size of group as the English word "church" can mean.
Everywhere in the apostolic writings ekklēsia refers to either the entire Body of the Messiah or the sum total of the Jewish and Gentile believers in a particular city. Most importantly, the term emphasizes a spiritual community of people bound together by their trust in the God of Israel and his Messiah (Stern 54). The Complete Jewish Bible translates ekklēsia as "Messianic communities," an excellent descriptive term. Ekklēsia occurs only twice in the apostolic narratives (Matt 16:18; 18:17) and Yeshua most likely used a familiar Hebrew word that means "congregation." Thus, when Yeshua said he would build his congregation (Matt 16:18) he was not thinking of a Gentile ecclesiastical hierarchy that would exist 2,000 years later.
In the apostolic writings, then, the doctrine of the ekklēsia is more about a living body than an organization governed by Roberts Rules of Order, the Pope or the King of England. The assembly of the faithful was to be known by its passion rather than its programs. As an organism each city congregation and sub-groups consists of disciples committed to living by the teachings of their Master and Messiah. Through the community of believers the ministry of Yeshua is extended far beyond the bounds of the holy land and his mortal life on earth.
in Asia: Grk. Asia, which refers to the Roman district bordering on the Aegean Sea in western Anatolia, which was the geographical name for the peninsula of Asia Minor, now known as Turkey (Atlas 122-123). Asia Minor, of course, included more than seven cities with congregations of believers, but the cities identified in verse 11 below were strategic for commerce and influence. The use of the definite article "the" in connection with "congregations" may identify them as the most significant in the province.
Grace: Grk. charis refers to favor, help or goodwill, in this case from God. The LXX uses charis about 190 times of which only 75 have a Hebrew equivalent, and of those (61 times) renders hēn (grace, favor, acceptance) and a few times hesed (lovingkindness) (DNTT 2:116-117). The use of hēn clarifies the meaning of grace in history. It denotes the stronger voluntarily coming to the help of the weaker who stands in need of help by reason of his circumstances or natural weakness. When used of God hēn denotes granting special favor to an individual or causing nonbelievers to grant favor to God's people (Gen 6:8; 39:21; Ex 3:21; 11:3; 33:12; cf. Rom 1:5) (TWOT §694a). Hēn is used mostly in the sense of God's undeserved gift of election and hesed is used often in the sense of the covenant fidelity demonstrated by God toward his people (TWOT §698).
to you: pl. of Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. and peace: Grk. eirēnē means peace, harmony and order in relationships, particularly between man and God. Eirēnē corresponds to the Heb. shalom, which also means tranquility, safety, well-being, welfare, health, contentment, success, comfort, wholeness and integrity (Stern 39). John employs the customary salutation of "grace and peace" as Paul opened all his letters. The wish for peace is a typical greeting by Jews, but the Messianic Jewish apostles added the word grace to demonstrate the complete nature of God's gifts in the Messiah. This greeting is not a meaningless courtesy as one might say "good morning," but a sincerely felt prayer for the recipients of Revelation. To wish "grace" includes enjoying God's faithfulness accomplished in the fulfillment of covenant promises in the Messiah and experiencing God's help in times of trouble. To wish "peace" refers to having a right relationship with God through forgiveness of sin and right relationships with fellow believers that produces true oneness in the Body of the Messiah.
from: Grk. apo, prep. generally used to denote separation, but here indicates a person of origin; from. the One: Grk. ho, demonstrative pronoun and definite article. Most versions translate the word here as "who," but a few versions have "the one" (CEB, ERV, GW, LEB, NLT, NOG). Other versions appropriately capitalize "One" (CJB, EXB, HCSB, NCV, NIRV, OJB, TLV). Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6). John, in typical Jewish fashion, chooses to leave the name of God unmentioned. who is: Grk. eimi, pres. part., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG).
and: Grk. kai, conj. who was: Grk. eimi, impf. The imperfect tense describes continuous action in past time. and: Grk. kai, conj. the One: Grk. ho. coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part., means to come, come back, return or appear and in a few instances it means to go. When used of persons erchomai often indicates traveling or a journey. The present tense may seem strange, but in Greek the present tense can have a variety of meanings. A present tense verb may indicate action in progress, habitual practice, or action at successive intervals. However, sometimes the present tense is used to indicate an event now occurring, a past event with vividness, an anticipated future event or an action purposed. The verb occurs about 15 times in Revelation in reference to the Lord Yeshua "coming," though not always meaning the Second Advent. The dominant word in the rest of the apostolic writings for the Second Coming is parousia, which does not occur in Revelation at all.
The entire descriptive identification may be intended to paraphrase God's self-revelation to Moses, "I am who I am" (Ex 3:14), which expresses not merely the Lord's eternal existence but his nature of being that makes all creation possible. In the Siddur (Jewish prayer book) a line from the popular Jewish hymn, Adon-O'lam, reads, "he was, and he is, and he will be, into glorious eternity" (Stern). The Greeks also gave this description to Zeus (Rienecker), but John asserts who has the real right to the title. John's declaration emphasizes that Yeshua was both the One who revealed Himself to Moses, as Yeshua told the Pharisees, "Before Abraham was I am" (John 8:58), and the One who revealed Himself to the apostles, the very Messiah who will come again.
and: Grk. kai, conj. from: Grk. apo, prep. the seven: Grk. hepta. spirits: pl. of Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement (Luke 8:55). The spirit of man is that which man has in common with God who is Spirit (Gen 1:2; John 4:24). Pneuma is used frequently for transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Holy Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). While the ASV, HNV, KJV, MW, NASB and NKJV capitalize the word, the CEV, DRA, ERV, ESV, HCSB, NCV, NET, NIV, NRSV, RSV, TEV and TLV render the identification in the lower case, "spirits." The CJB and NLT have "the seven-fold Spirit." The "seven spirits" (mentioned also in 3:1, 4:5 and 5:6) join in the greeting, which points ahead to John's narrative of visiting heaven.
Many commentators identify the seven spirits as symbolic language for the supposed seven-fold nature of the Holy Spirit deduced from Isaiah 11:2. Actually, Isaiah gives six characteristics, not seven, and Isaiah does not use the terminology of "seven spirits," which occurs only in Revelation. Stern believes that the Lord, who is opposed to angel-worship (19:10, 22:8-9), would not include a reference to created beings in his greeting, probably because the greeting speaks of grace and peace from the Lord. However, Hebrews 1:14 identifies angels as "ministering spirits" and God has used heavenly emissaries to proclaim his Word (Luke 1:26-37; Acts 7:53, Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2).
As for the text, there is no interpretation offered for the seven spirits anywhere in Revelation and there is no mention of "seven Messiahs" or "seven Fathers." The Holy Spirit is mentioned 14 times in Revelation without any designation of "seven." Moreover, the plural form of "spirits" never refers elsewhere in Scripture to the Holy Spirit. While the Holy Spirit fulfills his important teaching ministry in the seven letters (cf. John 16:8-11), he does not offer a greeting here because the Spirit does not draw attention to Himself, but rather exalts and points to Yeshua (John 16:13f). There is, then, no textual need to capitalize "Spirits." The only reasonable conclusion is that the seven spirits are simply seven heavenly spirit beings.
Revelation offers five elements of identification. In this verse the seven spirits share in the greeting and are "before the throne," which includes them with the rest of the heavenly court of the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures (4:4-6) that are seen continually performing acts of worship. The seven spirits are also described as possessed by God (see 3:1 on "seven spirits"), as the seven lamps (see 4:5 on "seven lamps") and as the seven eyes sent out into the earth (see 5:6 on "seven eyes"). Collectively the five elements point to the seraphim witnessed by Isaiah (Isa 6:1-7) and the greeting here is parallel to the message of grace and peace that Isaiah received from the seraph (Isa 6:7).
who are: Grk. hos, relative pron., who. before: Grk. enōpion, prep., from a word meaning "facing" with the basic idea of being 'in sight of' or 'in the presence of.' His: Grk. autos. throne: Grk. thronos refers to a throne or chair upon which a king sits. Ancient thrones typically had a high back-rest and arm-rests and sometimes with a foot-stool. The throne was the official place from which the king exercised his power, authority and judgment. The term is often used figuratively in Scripture of sovereignty or dominion (DNTT 2:611-615). Thronos is a significant word in Revelation, occurring 46 times and referring primarily to the throne of God the Father, since the Son has his own throne (3:21; 12:5; cf. Ezek 1:26-28; Heb 8:1; 12:2) and the Holy Spirit is never associated with sitting on a throne. Yet, the throne of God emphasizes the unity of the Godhead since the throne is of God and the Lamb (7:17; 22:1, 3). Much activity occurs in relation to the throne. Few specific details are offered to describe God's throne, but the frequent mention of the word reminds the reader that God's sovereignty, dominion and judgment are exercised from heaven over all who live on the earth, as David says, "The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his sovereignty rules over all" (Ps 103:19).
5— and from Yeshua the Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To the One loving us and having freed us from our sins by his blood,
and: Grk. kai, conj. from: Grk. apo, prep. Yeshua the Messiah: See verse 1 above. the faithful: Grk. pistos, adj., characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; faithful, reliable or trustworthy. witness: Grk. martus is a legal word referring to one who testifies before a legal proceeding regarding first hand knowledge (cf. Matt 18:16; Acts 7:5). The word soon came to refer to those in the persecuted church whose witness resulted in death. The third source of greeting is from Yeshua, who is described as the faithful witness, the one who stood firm before Pilate, the religious leaders and the people, and never compromised the truth, even in the face of death.
the firstborn: Grk. prōtokotos may mean (1) being the first child in order of birth, firstborn; or (2) enjoying the status of a first child, privileged firstborn. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX prōtokotos renders Heb. beckhor, 'firstborn,' either literally or figuratively, e.g., Ps 89:27 (Frankfurter 466). of the dead: Grk. nekros, without life in the physical sense; dead. The "firstborn of the dead" is an important title. Although traditionally denied by Catholic doctrine, Yeshua was a firstborn son (Luke 2:7, 23). The term "firstborn" would only be appropriate if Miriam gave birth to more children. Paul recognized the special significance of Yeshua' status and referred to Him as the "firstborn of creation" (Col 1:15) and the "firstborn from the dead" (Col 1:18). The latter application of "firstborn" is actually a Jewish Messianic title (Ps 89:27) and refers to Yeshua being first in terms of priority of those who participate in the resurrection (Col 1:7) (Stern). Israel was considered in a collective sense to be the firstborn of God (Ex 4:22), and as God accepted the tribe of Levi in lieu of all the firstborn of the rest of the tribes (Num 3:12), so Yeshua became the substitute for all mankind (1Jn 2:2). Also, in ancient Israelite society the firstborn assumed headship of the clan upon the death of the father.
and the ruler: Grk. archōn may mean (1) beginning, (2) the first cause, (3) ruler, authority or (4) rule, domain and sphere of influence. The title of "ruler" points to his royal inheritance as King of Kings (cf. 17:14; 19:16), which, ironically, Satan offered to Yeshua in exchange for his surrender (Matt 4:8). At the time of the first advent there was a general expectation of Jews that one of their own would rule the earth (Num 24:17-19) and this belief is even reflected by Roman historians. Tacitus had written, "but in most there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judea, were to acquire universal empire" (The Histories V). Even though the entire world lies in the power of the evil one (1Jn 5:19), earthly rulers will have to answer to the Messiah for their actions (cf. Ps 2:10-12). Suetonius wrote, "An ancient superstition was current in the East, that out of Judea would come the rulers of the world" (X, 4).
of the kings: pl. of Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate Heb. melek. In the Tanakh the title "king" was not associated with the size of territory governed (often a city), but the authority wielded. The executive and judicial functions (and sometimes legislative) of government were vested in one person. of the earth: Grk. gē can mean (1) soil or earth receiving seed, (2) the ground, (3) the bottom of the sea, (4) land as contrasted with the sea; (5) the earth in contrast to the heavens or heaven; or (6) the inhabited globe, people, humanity (BAG). The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets has the same range of meaning as gē, but especially (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75). Here the focus is on the entire earth and emphasizes Yeshua's authority over all governments, regardless of political type.
To the One loving: Grk. agapaō, pres. part., to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, even if it means making a personal sacrifice to do so. In the LXX agapaō translates aheb, but aheb is a far more comprehensive word than agapaō. There are four words in Greek for love. Besides agapaō there is eros, desire or longing between a man and woman; storgē, family affection; phileō, affection of people who are close to one another, whether inside a family or out, also care and compassion, and then love of things that one enjoys. Aheb is like the English word "love” which is used to mean all these things. The verb points to both the character of God (1Jn 4:8) and the faithfulness of God to his covenant promises.
In Greek a participle is a verbal adjective, so God loves because it is his nature to love and he continues to love. In the apostolic writings God and Yeshua serve as the models for the best expression of agapaō. 1 Corinthians 13 outlines the key characteristics of a life dominated by this virtue. Conversely, several passages use agapaō is used in a thoroughly negative sense (Matt 24:12, Luke 6:27; 11:43, John 3:19, 2Tim 4:10). The common factor in every passage employing agapaō is the willingness to sacrifice, which sets it apart from the affection of phileō and the passion of eros.
Yeshua is not only honored in title form, but the text emphasizes that he is active in doing good for his people. The character of Yeshua is summed up in the word "love." John 3:16 says "God so loved," but here John reminds the congregation that the Son is also possessed of the same love as the Father. John uses the present tense "loves" to reinforce the fact that God's love was still a present reality even though he was suffering for his allegiance to Yeshua. God's love is not temperamental or unpredictable, but continues forever. The Lord's love drove Him to make the necessary sacrifice to take care of everyone's sin problem. In fact, only a sacrificial and self-giving love could sustain Him in the sacrifice of his body and blood by the barbaric brutality of being hung on an execution stake.
us: pl. of Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. John uses the pronoun in reference to the Body of Messiah (John 13:1; Rom 8:39; Eph 2:4), but there is also a hint of his personal knowledge since he is the one of the apostles whom Yeshua especially loved (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). We should also note that "us" could have a more national meaning in reference to Israel. Contrary to the assumption of most Christian commentators the Body of Messiah in the apostolic era was largely Jewish. (See my web article The Apostolic Community.) God has always loved Israel (Deut 4:37; 7:8; 1Kgs 10:9; 2Chr 9:8; Ps 78:68; Jer 31:3; Hos 3:1; 11:1; Mal 1:2; Rom 9:13). God did not reject the nation He loved (Rom 9:1-4; 11:1-2), as taught by the church fathers and Christianity for centuries.
and having freed: Grk. lusanti, aor. part. of luō, has a range of meaning from (1) loose or untie bonds; (2) set free, loose, untie a person or animal; (3) break up into its component parts, destroy, tear down; to (4) destroy, bring to an end, abolish, do away with. The KJV has "washed," but the earliest and best MSS have "freed," as translated in all modern versions. While the English words are not alike in any way, the Greek words are virtually identical, the word for "washed" being lousanti and the word for "freed" being lusanti. The one-letter difference in MS spellings resulted from the fact that the pronunciation of ou and u in Greek is almost indistinguishable, and the mistake occurred when a scribe made a copy from dictation. The same kind of mistake can occur when pronouncing the English words "there" and "their" (Metzger-TNT 190-191).
us: pl. of Grk. egō. The repetition of the pronoun is emphatic, and again carries a national implication. After all Yeshua came to redeem Israel (Matt 15:24; Luke 1:68; 2:11; Acts 5:31; 13:23; Rom 1:16; 2Tim 1:10) and Gentiles are only saved by being grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel (Rom 11:17) and admitted to the Commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12). Many Christians romanticize redemption as if it was accomplished just for them, as conveyed in the song "When He was on the cross, I was on His mind" (by Ronnie Hinson and Mike Payne). No, I wasn't on his mind. If anyone was on Yeshua's mind as he hung on the cross it was his mother (John 19:26-27), and the thief hanging next to him (Luke 23:43), but most of all his people Israel for whom he died (John 19:30; Acts 3:26; 13:23, 26; Rom 5:8; 1Pet 3:18).
from: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of, from within." our sins: Grk. hamartia may mean (1) misdeed that creates liability for the agent; (2) the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. In most passages hamartia refers to an action or behavior, a departure from the way of righteousness as defined by Scripture. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the apostolic writings. In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss, to miss the mark, to lose, not share in something, be mistaken. A mistake is the result of ignorance. Hamartia essentially meant to fail and could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, anything that offends against the right, that does not conform to the dominant ethic, to the respect due to social order and to the polis (DNTT 3:577).
In contrast to the Greeks the Jews invested hamartia with a strong moral component. In the LXX hamartia translates a whole range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (lapse, sin). In the Tanakh a sin is an offense against the religious and moral law of God. In ancient Israel sin was tantamount to rejecting God's covenant. Hamartia is not displaying the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, but violating the clear instructions of God. The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Religious people may erect their own codes for determining sinful behavior, but God's judgment is based strictly on the commandments He gave and recorded in Scripture. For more discussion on this subject see my web article What is Sin?
by: Grk. en, prep. His blood: Grk. haima may refer to human or animal blood. Haima also has figurative uses in the apostolic writings as the seat of life, as an expiatory sacrifice and as an apocalyptic color portending disaster. The praise of the Messiah's person and work on Calvary was foreshadowed, of course, in the Last Supper (Passover), which undeniably linked the meritorious sacrifice of the Lamb of God with the lambs of the first Passover. However, the Passover story is not so much about death, but liberation as the heavenly King defeats the power of an earthly tyrant, even at the price of the firstborn of Egypt, and achieves complete deliverance of Israel from slavery in order to experience the new life God had in store in Canaan. The faithful repetition of the Passover by the Jews not only celebrated the past victory, but also anticipated that time "when God's people would be redeemed from all remaining pharaohs and from that evil which dominates and disgraces this present world" (Wilson 252).
6— and he made us a kingdom, priests to the God and Father of him; to him be the glory and the dominion into the ages of the ages. Amen.
and: Grk. kai, conj. he made: Grk. poieō, aor., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. Both meanings can have application here. This verb tense is used in Revelation to emphasize the certainty of future events, but here the event is presented as resulting from the atonement.
us: pl. of Grk. egō, pron. of the first person. a kingdom: Grk. basileia means kingship, royal power, or territory ruled over by a king. John goes on to say that Yeshua the Messiah has made us a kingdom. The past tense phrase "he has made" points to its divine creation. Yeshua taught that the Kingdom of God (or Kingdom of Heaven) had arrived in his person (Luke 10:8-9; 17:21), fulfilling the Father's promise to the ancients. Thus, by being "in him" the disciples become or are made into his kingdom (cf. Rom 12:5; Col 1:12f). The Kingdom is not only a people centered in a person. The verb "made" emphasizes that the kingdom was a present reality for John, as noted in verse 9 below, and not merely something for John to anticipate in the future (cf. Matt 11:12; 12:28; 16:19). The kingdom can be present, even though the King's primary residence is currently in heaven, because the indwelling Holy Spirit enables the Lord Yeshua to reign from within his disciples, both individually and corporately (Matt 12:28; Luke 17:21).
But, who is the "us" to whom John refers that has been made a kingdom? Scripture does not say that God made "us" a congregation. When Yeshua began his ministry he announced that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, not the Church. The term "kingdom" points to the reign of the King of Kings, which began in humility with the first advent and will be established in glory with the second advent. Important to understanding this passage is that the entire saying is actually drawn from the Torah, "and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6). For John, then, "us" is Israel, which makes perfect sense coming from John the Jewish apostle, who may have been of priestly lineage or closely associated with the temple.
The Kingdom of God announced by Yochanan the Immerser and foreseen by the prophets (Isa 40:3; Mic 2:12-13; Mal 3:1; 4:5-6; cf. Matt 11:12; Luke 16:16) is centered in the nation of Israel, fulfilling God's inviolate covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Luke 1:68-73; Acts 1:6-7; 28:23; Rom 9:7; Gal 3:29). Yeshua said that salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22) and must be presented to the Jews first (Matt 10:5-6; 15:24). Yeshua was clear that his kingdom did not originate from the Gentile world and does not operate by worldly (Gentile) values and methods (John 18:36; 1Cor 15:24). God never intended that Gentiles would form a separate body to supplant Israel. Conversely, God also never intended that Gentiles would be saved apart from Israel but rather be grafted into the Jewish root and enjoy the privileges of citizenship in the commonwealth of Israel (Rom 11:17-24; Eph 2:11-13).
Being made a kingdom means that its citizens put complete trust in the King for their welfare, surrender their hearts, lives and fortunes to the King, accept the authority of the King for life, and obey the King's commands (Matt 5:3, 10, 19; 6:21, 33; 7:21; 18:3; 28:19-20; Luke 12:31-34; 17:21; John 3:5). Such obedience reflects the primary character of God's kingdom, namely "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14:17). There may be many congregations in the present age, but there is only one Kingdom in the present age and the age to come.
priests: pl. of Grk. hiereus, personnel in charge of sacrifice and offering at worship places, particularly the tabernacle and Temple. In the LXX hiereus renders Heb. kohen. The Heb. term for priest (kohen) literally means "one who intervenes, one who stands up for another, and mediates in his cause" (Edersheim-Temple 57). In the apostolic writings hiereus refers almost exclusively to an ordinary Jewish priest in contrast with a chief priest. Not only has the King made us a kingdom, but he has also ordained disciples as priests. Being identified as "priests" stresses not only access to God, but assisting others to come to God (cf. Ex 19:5-6; 1Pet 2:5, 9). The first use of the word "priest" in Scripture is in Genesis 14:18 where it refers to Melchizedek, who brought bread and wine to Abraham, blessed him and received tithes from him as an act of worship. The ministry of Melchizedek illustrates the essential activities of exalting God, interceding with God and serving the needs of others.
Following the enactment of the covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai the priesthood became identified with the tribe of Levi and the high priest was selected from the descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. Being a priest was considered a gift and call of God (Num 18:7; Heb 5:4), but candidates had to complete training and be without physical defect in order to be ordained. According to Jewish tradition, half of each of the twenty-four "courses," into which the priesthood was divided, was permanently resident in Jerusalem; the rest scattered over the land. Being a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6) meant the priesthood served as representatives of the people without any ambition of power. Priests ministered daily (Heb 10:11), not just on special occasions, but looked forward with anticipation to their duty at the temple (Edersheim-Temple 55).
Christian commentators assume that God's intention for Israel to be a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6) meant they were to be priests for all the nations and lead other nations to God. However, this specific purpose is never actually stated in the Torah. A kingdom of priests would be one in which a family of priests held the reigns of power, rather than the bulging bureaucracy that Jethro advised Moses to implement (Ex 18:21-22). In reality, Israel's priests could only function as priests for the nations if the non-Israelites joined themselves to Israel and bound themselves by the covenant God made with Israel. There is no conception anywhere in Scripture that Israelite priests would mediate salvation for a Gentile who would not be committed to live by God's commandments (cf. Acts 15:19-21, 28-29).
Much later in Israel's history Isaiah prophesied that God would appoint members of all the tribes of Israel as priests and Levites for the future Kingdom (Isa 66:18-21; cf. Rom 15:16) and Isaiah also spoke of a time when the light of salvation and the Law of God would go forth to the nations (Isa 2:3; 42:1, 6; 49:6; 60:3; 61:11). Yet, the revelation to John offers the hope of Gentiles not only receiving salvation but gaining such sacred appointments (cf. 1Pet 2:5; Rev 20:6). Jews might insist that priests could only come from the biological descendants of Jacob, but Yeshua and the apostles established that Gentiles had equal standing in the Kingdom and thereby share equally in its benefits. (Cf. Matt 12:50; 28:19; Mark 11:17; Acts 10:45; 11:18; 15:14; Rom 2:10; 9:24; 10:12; 1Cor 1:24; 12:13; Gal 3:28; Eph 3:6; Col 3:11.)
To grant redeemed Gentiles the status of "priests" is special indeed. The ordinary Jew could enter the temple and worship in the Court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women or the Court of the Israelites, but he could not go into the Court of the Priests. Priests had the right of direct access to God, interceded for God's grace on the people's behalf, performed acts of benevolence and proclaimed God's Word. Yet, in all the lists of ministry positions ordained or authorized by Yeshua, the office of priest is never mentioned. Nor is there any mention in the Besekh of the apostles ordaining priests, although they did appoint deacons (Acts 6:5f) and elders (Acts 14:23) for administrative and ministry purposes. However, Peter makes reference to the entire Body of the Messiah as "being built into a spiritual house to be cohanim set apart for God to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Yeshua the Messiah" (1Pet 2:5 CJB; cf. Isa 61:6).
Each believer is a priest by virtue of the new birth and bears responsibility for spiritual sacrifices. Why spiritual sacrifices? The system of sacrificing animals for sin was superseded by the once-for-all sacrifice of Yeshua. Spiritual sacrifices include the sacrifice of praise and worship (Heb 13:15), the personal sacrifice of total consecration to God (Rom 12:1), the sacrifice of proclaiming the Good News (Rom 15:16; 1Pet 2:9), the sacrifice of prayer and intercession (Eph 6:18; 1Tim 2:8; Jas 5:14; 1Pet 4:7) and the sacrifice of service for others (Php 2:17; 4:18; Heb 13:16).
It should be noted that Hebrew priests in biblical times did not have the authority to forgive sins in lieu of God. They had to offer a sacrifice brought by the sinner (including themselves) and then God would forgive (Lev 4:20). In the New Covenant the Father is still the source of forgiveness as illustrated in the Lord's Prayer (Matt 6:12). However, disciples can act as God's agents in forgiveness in two ways. First, individuals can and must forgive in their hearts transgressions committed against them (Mark 11:25) and pronounce that forgiveness to the offender when (and only when) requested (Matt 6:12; 18:35; Luke 17:3-4). After all, God only forgives in response to confession and repentance (1Jn 1:9). Such forgiveness is a spiritual sacrifice.
Second, disciples can pronounce God's forgiveness for offenses against God or others when a person manifests the requisite confession and repentance. In the story of Yeshua healing the paralytic (Matt 9:2-8), Yeshua said, "the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (v. 6). Interpreters commonly assume that Yeshua was using "Son of Man" to refer to himself, as he often did. However, "Son of Man" is idiomatic language for "human being," and Yeshua was asserting his right as a human being to grant the Father's forgiveness. Indeed, the crowd made this interpretation as Matthew records, "But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men" (verse 8).
to the God: Grk. theos. See verse 1 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. Father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor, but frequently in reference to God, which emphasizes both his activity as creator and sustainer. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which generally occurs in the human sense, but also of God as father in relation to Israel (Ex 4:22) (DNTT 1:616f). In the Besekh the capitalized "Father" is a circumlocution for the God of Israel, not a Christian trinitarian personality as expressed in familiar creeds. Some dilute the biblical message to assert God as father to all mankind based on Paul's quotation of a Greek philosopher, "we also are His children" (Acts 17:28). While God gave physical life to mankind, he is only Father in a spiritual and covenantal sense in relation to Israel.
God's paternal relationship to Israel is affirmed many times in the Tanakh (e.g., Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Isa 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; 31:9; Hos 1:10: Mal 1:6; cf. 2Cor 6:18). In the Sermon on the Mount Yeshua speaks to his Jewish disciples a few times of "your heavenly Father" (Matt 5:48; 6:14, 26, 32), but many more times simply as "your Father" (e.g., Matt 5:45; Mark 7:11; Luke 6:36; John 20:17). Gentiles can claim God as Father by virtue of being adopted into the family of Israel (cf. Rom 8:15; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5) and then He becomes "our Father" (Matt 6:9; Rom 1:7; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2).
of him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun that alludes to Yeshua. Bible versions translate autos as an adjective "his" before God. However, the phrasing (God and Father of him) is deliberate and very Jewish. To speak of "his Father" would be natural since Yeshua often spoke of having a personal relationship with the Father in heaven. However, to say "his God" sounds strange to Christian ears since Yeshua is God. Nowhere in the apostolic writings is Yeshua referred to as theos (God) and the apostles always carefully distinguish between the Messiah's possession of divine attributes and the oneness of the God of Israel. There is no equivocation in apostolic writings that Yeshua is the image of the invisible God and agent of creation (Rom 1:4; 2Cor 4:4; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2-3), but no verse says, "Theos is Yeshua."
Such a statement might confuse the Son with the Father, even though they are one (John 10:30; 17:11, 21). The enigma of unity of the Son and Father is captured in Philippians 2:6, "although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped." Yet, Paul does seem to make an exception to his normal pattern when he says in Titus 2:13 "the glory of our great God and Savior, Messiah Yeshua" (TLV). As Messianic Jews confess in their rendition of the Shema, "Yeshua is Adonai." Another important nuance of meaning is that "the God of him (Yeshua)" is the God of Israel. There is no other God. The God of Yeshua would never reject Israel and the Jewish people as Christianity later claimed and persecute Jews as Christianity did.
to him: Grk. autos, used of Yeshua. be the glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod, which refers to the luminous manifestation of God's person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45).
Before going on John pauses to offer a fitting hymn of praise to God (Cf. 2Tim 4:18; Heb 13:21; 1Pet 4:11; 2Pet 3:18). The phrase "to Him be the glory" is not a wish prayer, but a statement of fact. In reference to God the word "glory" sums up his dwelling in unapproachable light (1Tim 6:16), his absolute holiness, the beauty of his appearance, and the only One worthy of honor. The word "dominion" stresses the recurring theme of Revelation that God is in control.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the dominion: Grk. kratos, quality of being strong; strength, might. The word refers particularly to the might of God's power or the power of Yeshua as Messiah; also his rule and sovereignty. God is eternal and thus his authority and dominion over all the universe and what happens on this tiny planet have always been in force and will always exist. into: Grk. eis, prep. with a focus on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival; into, to, toward.
the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn may mean (1) a long period of time and in reference to the future a period with no apparent end; eternity; or (2) a segment of extended time determined by qualifiers as present or future; age. In the LXX aiōn occurs over 450 times and renders Heb. olam, first in Genesis 3:22. Olam means "a long duration, antiquity or futurity" (BDB 761), which is also used as an adverb meaning "for ever, for all time," the first being in Genesis 9:12 (DNTT 3:827). In the Tanakh olam is used for ancient time (Gen 49:26), and indefinite futurity (Deut 15:17), but more often to the everlasting nature of God (Gen 21:33), His laws (Ps 119:89), His promises (Isa 40:8) and His covenant (Gen 9:16; 17:7; Ex 31:16; 2Sam 23:5). Lastly, olam encompasses existence after death and into eternity (Ps 90:2; Isa 45:17; Dan 12:2-3). The great majority of Bible versions render the plural noun as "forever."
of the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn. The prepositional phrase "into the ages" means the age to come, the Messianic Age, and "of the ages" emphasizes time that continues into eternity. The plural number of the noun does not necessarily indicate multiple ages, although possible, because the Heb. olam is a plural noun that may be expressed by a singular translation like the Hebrew word for God Elohim. The concept of "into the ages of the ages" (i.e., "forever and ever") does not refer to an event in the future, because "forever" started before the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.
Amen: Grk. amēn means "so let it be" or "truly." Amēn transliterates the Heb. 'amen, which means "it is true, so be it, or may it become true" (Stern 26). The Heb. root '-m-n means "truth, faithfulness." Thus it is used in English as well as Hebrew by those listening to a prayer. Stern says that a speaker's "amen" to his own prayer or statement is itself superfluous, yet it is useful as a cue for others to respond with "amen." In Hebrew 'amen points to something previously said, yet most versions translate it as if it pointed forward. John closes his doxology with "amen," probably a cue for the congregation hearing the Scripture read to respond appropriately. "Amen" is used nine times in Revelation - four times as a cue for the congregation, four times as a response of the angels, and once as a title for Yeshua.
John now shifts attention from the work of Yeshua during his life on earth to his future return. The entire verse repeats in reverse order with a couple of added elements the words of Yeshua in the Olivet Discourse, "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" (Matt 24:30 NASB). In the Olivet version Yeshua blended specific prophecies of Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10 into a single saying.
Behold: Grk. idou, aor. mid. imp. of eidon, the inflected aorist form of horaō ("to see," see note on verse 12) and functions as a demonstrative particle. In communities accustomed to oral communication, idou would serve to nuance a narrative reduced to writing, especially to focus on exceptional moments in the narrative (Danker). Thus John uses idou 25 times in Revelation to alert the reader to the next image or vision he saw. Here the particle heightens the dramatic effect of the announcement by considering the impact on those who look into the sky to witness the awesome sight of the glorious King of Kings riding on the clouds of the sky accompanied by myriads of angels. he is coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. See the note on verse 4. The present tense of "coming" is used in the sense of an anticipated future event.
with: Grk. meta, prep., used to mean either (1) an association, accompaniment or some other linkage; with, amid, among; or (2) a sequential or positional marker; after, behind. The first usage applies here. the clouds: pl. of Grk. nephelē, cloud, as of the atmospheric phenomena that brings rain. The description alludes to a Messianic title used by Jews for Daniel's heavenly Son of Man, Mashiach ben Ananim, "son of the clouds" (Sanh. 96b). The entire phrase of "he is coming with the clouds" addresses the manner of the Second Coming at the end of the age. In Scripture the divine presence, particularly in judgment, is often accomplished in a cloud, accompanied by a cloud or represented by clouds (Ex 13:21; 16:10; Job 22:14; Ps 104:3; Isa 19:1; Jer 4:13; Lam 2:1; Ezek 30:3; Nah 1:3; Matt 17:5). John declares the blessed hope of every disciple of Yeshua, the point toward which all of history is moving.
Yeshua had departed the earth by means of a cloud and the apostles were informed that he would return in the same manner (Act 1:9-11), just as he had prophesied in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27). The mention of clouds would have significant meaning for John. James Neil offers this interesting first-hand report from his experience in Israel:
"I have observed invariably that in the late spring-time, in summer, and yet more especially in the autumn, white clouds are to be seen in Palestine. They only occur at the earliest hours of morning, just previous to and at the time of sunrise. It is the total absence of clouds at all other parts of the day, except during the short period of the winter rains, that lends such striking solemnity and force to those descriptions of the Second Advent where our Lord is represented as coming in the clouds. This feature loses all its meaning in lands like ours, in which clouds are of such common occurrence that they are rarely absent from the sky." (Neil 44. James Neil, an Anglican minister, lived in Jerusalem from 1871 to 1874.)
and: Grk. kai, conj. every: Grk. pas, adj., all or every. eye: Grk. ophthalmos, the physical organ of sight, but used fig. of person. will see: Grk. horaō, fut. mid. See verse 2 above. him: Grk. autos. The clause identifies who will see Yeshua when he returns. Of significance to the modern debate on the timing of our Lord's return is that the first statement in Revelation about the Second Coming is that it will be public and not secret. In his first comments about the Second Coming in the Olivet Discourse Yeshua warned his disciples not to believe anyone advocating a secret return but to expect Him to make a very public appearance in the sky following interstellar portents (Matt 24:25-30). "Every" does not leave any out, and when Yeshua comes every person alive on the earth will see him in the same event. Depending on which side of the earth a person might reside the Lord's coming will be in the daytime for some and at night for others (Luke 17:30-36). "Every eye" could even include animals, as if all of creation will turn its attention to the grand entrance of the King.
While "every eye" certainly has a wide application the original message had a direct bearing on the corporate salvation of Israel. Simeon declared as much when he saw the baby Yeshua in the temple, "For my eyes have seen Your salvation" (Luke 2:30). In the Olivet Discourse Yeshua told his disciples, "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28 NASB). Then, in his final words to the Jewish leaders before his crucifixion Yeshua promised, "hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matt 26:64 NASB). When Yeshua returns "his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives" (Zech 14:4), so John affirms the promise and encouragement of Isaiah's vision of the future Zion, "Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, they shout joyfully together; for they will see with their own eyes when the Lord restores Zion" (Isa 52:8 NASB; cf. Ps 24:7; Isa 30:20; 33:17; 49:16-18; 60:4; Zeph 3:20).
also: Grk. kai, conj. those who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun, anyone, whoever, here with a qualitative connotation, "namely those who." pierced: Grk. ekkenteō, "pierced," functions as a euphemism of "killed" (cf. Num 22:29), and occurs only twice in the apostolic writings (also John 19:37), both of which quote Zechariah 12:10. In quoting Zechariah, John follows the Hebrew (daqar) rather than the LXX, which softens "pierced" into "insulted" (Earle). Daqar means "to pierce" or "to thrust through with a spear or lance" (cf. Num 25:7f; Hab 3:14; John 19:34) and points to the climax of the crucifixion (Baron 448). him: Grk. autos.
The phrase "those who pierced him," alludes to prophecies that the Messiah would be executed (Ps 22:16; Isa 53:4-8; Zech 12:10) and may mean (1) a specific group within the larger group of "every eye," (2) a clarification of "every eye" or (3) a separate group from "every eye." The choice depends on how "every eye" and the conjunction (which the NASB translates as "even") are interpreted. The KJV, DRA and WNT render the Grk. conjunction with "and;" the CJB and TEV use "including," but almost every other version uses "even." The verb "pierced" graphically describes the brutality against Yeshua, that is, his physical flesh was ripped first by thorns, then flagellum, then nails and finally a spear. Thus, "those who pierced" is shorthand for the enemies of Yeshua. The pronoun "those who" cannot include John or by extension any other faithful Jewish or Gentile disciple of Yeshua, but meant literally the Roman soldiers who carried out the execution order of Pilate.
However, the actions of the soldiers was the conclusion to a causal chain that began with the Sanhedrin leaders who conspired to have Yeshua arrested, used Judas to betray him, sat in judgment over him, called for his death by the Roman authorities, and recruited a large crowd to shout their demand (cf. Matt 26:55, 65-66; 27:20-25; Mark 15:11; John 11:53; Acts 2:36; 5:28). Yeshua declared that the Jewish leaders that handed him over to Pilate were guilty of a greater sin (John 19:11). John's historical reference is then in accord with the earliest apostolic sermons that confronted the culpability of the Sanhedrin who broke the Torah in denying Yeshua due process and courted the favor of uncircumcised pagans to carry out the despicable deed (cf. Acts 2:23; 1Cor 2:8). Peter confronted all those who had a part in the death of Yeshua and called for their repentance (Acts 2:23, 36; 3:14-15 and 4:10). Stephen held the Sanhedrin personally responsible for illegally executing Yeshua and actually accused the Sanhedrin of murder (Acts 7:51-52).
Of course, another branch of the causal chain goes from Pilate who ordered the execution of a man he knew to be innocent (Matt 27:24; John 18:38) to the Emperor whose government policies fostered an indifference to injustice committed against Jews, whether committed by Gentiles or other Jews, an attitude that prevails to this day (cf. Acts 9:4-5; 18:17). As an active verb "those who pierced him" includes those who have always opposed Yeshua and persecuted the true faith, including those who have fallen away from the faith and by their apostasy "crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame" (Heb 6:6 NASB; cf. Php 3:18).
In the context of Zechariah's prophecy "those who pierced Him" specifically referred to the Judean adversaries of Yeshua and is stated merely as an historical allusion without any hint of prejudice. John had personally witnessed the cruel piercing of Yeshua and applied the prophecy of Zechariah to that event (John 19:34-37). The apostle Paul felt keenly his personal responsibility of having formerly been an enemy of Yeshua (Acts 26:9-14; 1Tim 1:13-15) and challenged his fellow Messianic Jews to realize, "If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom 5:10 NASB).
As the subsequent story unfolded Zechariah's prophecy of Jews looking to Him (for salvation) and mourning (over sins) occurred as many that had taken part in the Passover conspiracy repented and joined the disciples in following Yeshua (Acts 2:23, 37-41; 6:7). Yet, the tragic fact of history is that the early church fathers and their successors blamed all Jews for the crucifixion of Yeshua (so-called deicide), and this prejudice and malice led to persecution and discrimination against Jews by the Roman Church for centuries. Not until 1965 did the Roman Catholic Church take official action to repudiate both the deicide charge and all forms of antisemitism. (See the declaration of Pope Paul VI.)
Stern, in reacting to the historical application of "pierced," reminds readers that people of all time bear responsibility for the death of Yeshua. Christian commentators concur that his sacrificial death was necessary to atone for the sins of the whole world (cf. John 4:42; 11:51-52; Rom 5:6; 2Cor 5:14-15; 1Jn 2:2; 4:14), and recognize that Yeshua "died" as an exertion of his own will, refusing to heal himself (Matt 27:40) in accordance with the foreordained will of God who decided to have mercy on lost and dying people (Acts 2:23; Eph 1:4, 9-10; Col 1:19-18). While these are important theological truths, we cannot escape the fact that "those who pierced him" can only allude to Zechariah's prophecy of Jews in Jerusalem and the land of Israel alive in the days of the Second Coming. As Paul declared, "With respect to the Good News they are hated for your sake. But with respect to being chosen they are loved for the Patriarchs' sake" (Rom 11:28 CJB). Because the Jews are God's beloved he will extend his grace and provide the gift of faith so they may turn to their Messiah before he returns.
and: Grk. kai, conj. all: Grk. pas, adj. the tribes: Grk. phulē has two basic meanings: (1) a tribe of Israel and (2) a nation or people. In the apostolic writings phulē occurs 8 times in the singular, 23 times in the plural, and is often used to denote one or all the twelve tribes of Israel. Phulē derives from phuo, to bring forth, produce, grow, be born. In the LXX phulē occurs over 400 times and translates three different Hebrew words: (1) matteh (SH-4294), a staff, rod, shaft, branch, a tribe (Gen 38:25); (2) shebet (SH-7926), rod, staff, club, scepter, tribe (Gen 49:10); (3) mishpachah (SH-4940), family, clan, tribe (Gen 10:5) (DNTT 3:870). Basically phulē is a body of people united by blood kinship or habitation. While the Hebrew terms apply predominately to the tribes of Israel, phulē can also apply to the nations of the world, as in the blessing of Abraham (Gen 12:3). The word translated "tribes" occurs frequently in the Tanakh and the apostolic writings, normally indicating the tribes of Israel. In only a small number of instances does the term apply to non-Israelites (7:9; 11:9; cf. Gen 12:3; 25:16; Isa 19:13; Ezek 20:32).
of the land: Grk. gē. See the note on 1:5 above. This phrase has been interpreted three ways: (1) a symbolic reference to unsaved humanity (Barclay, Barnes, Earle, Faussett, Gill, Henry, Johnson, Ladd, Mounce and Wesley); (2) a reference to the tribes of Israel (Clarke, Gregg, Juster, Stern, and Varner); and (3) a symbolic reference to spiritual Israel consisting of believing Jews and Gentiles (Robertson). However, the HNV, CJB and Marshall translate "earth" as "land" expressing the common usage of the term in the Tanakh to designate the Land of Israel. The phrase "all the tribes of the land" repeats the exact same statement of Yeshua in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:30), which alludes to the prophecy in Zechariah 12:10. While the usage of "earth" in Revelation generally refers to the entire world, as in 1:5, its combination with "tribes" in this context can only refer to those Jews alive in the land of Israel at the Second Coming of their Messiah.
will mourn: Grk. koptō, fut. mid., means to beat one's chest as an act of mourning. Kopto may be contrasted with lupē that refers to the grief, sorrow or pain of mind or spirit (2Cor 7:10). The Heb. word for mourning is sapad or to make lamentation. Hebrew mourning was always demonstrative and might include cutting oneself, shaving off one's hair, eating mourning bread, calling in mourning women (Jer 9:16-21), putting on sackcloth (Isa 15:2f), removing one's beard (Isa 7:20), beating one's breast (Nah 2:7), but most prominent was wailing or loud crying (Isa 15:2; Mark 5:38) (DNTT 2:417f). The text as drawn from Zechariah 12:10 means that the tribes "will mourn." Many commentators assume the mourning mentioned in this verse refers to remorse at having rejected Yeshua as Messiah and Savior and anticipation of divine judgment (so Barclay, Earle, Henry, Johnson, Ladd, Mounce and Wesley). There are several reasons why this interpretation does not fit the context:
(a) The verb here for mourning refers to the normal grief felt at the loss of a loved one (cf. Matt 11:17; Luke 23:27). The mourning that may include regret or repentance is the verb pentheō or the noun penthos, not koptō (cf. Matt 5:4; Mark 16:10; Luke 6:25; 2Cor 12:21; Jas 4:9; Rev 18:7f, 15, 19, 21:4).
(b) The context of Zechariah 12:10 is judgment on the Gentile nations opposing Israel and deliverance by the Messiah of his beloved people;
(c) The mourning in Zechariah follows the "Spirit of grace and of supplication" received from the Messiah;
(d) The context of the Revelation prologue preceding this verse offers encouragement to the seven congregations of Asia and a reminder of the blessed hope; and
(e) The focus of the mourning is Yeshua Himself, not what he does negatively to wicked people.
over: Grk. epi, prep., expressing the idea of 'hovering,' used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'on, upon, over.' him: Grk. autos. Stern comments that in Hebrew to mourn "over" someone means simply "to mourn him" and mourning generally includes both grief over the death itself and sorrow at what one failed to do in relation to the deceased. Baron affirms that this mourning is not ceremonial, but genuine sorrow of heart (Baron 453). The mourning of this verse is not anguish over impending judgment but the anticipation of the day when the Messiah will "open the way to repentance and accepting Him as Messiah and savior of the Jewish people" (Stern). Then the Messiah will provide consolation (Isa 66:13).
In his comment on Matthew 23:37-39 Stern clarifies that the national confession of Israel must take place before the Lord will return (71). There has already been a great turning of Jews to their Messiah, as prophesied by Hosea, "Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to his goodness in the last days" (Hos 3:5; cf. Rom 11:25-27). The reader should note that Hosea says "in the last days" not "on the last day." Today Messianic Judaism is growing at an unprecedented rate and Hosea's prophecy will achieve its complete fulfillment in Israel.
Stern also quotes the contrasting view of the eminent Messianic Jewish scholar Jehiel Zvi Lichtenstein (1827-1912), who says, "What is said here, that every eye will see Him in perfection coming down to earth, is in keeping with Mattityahu [Matthew] 24:30, which says that the mourning will be after the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky." Baron takes a similar view saying that the mourning reflects a national confession of Isaiah 53:3-6 and once the Jewish nation looks upon the One they pierced, they will be "born in a day" (Baron 450, 454). Varner, too, interprets this mourning as an expression of penitential remorse when Israel's tribes recognize their suffering Messiah (Varner 104-105). The proposition that Jews will be given the privilege of waiting to believe until after seeing Yeshua in the clouds seems inconsistent with the apostolic teaching that repentance must precede the Second Coming.
Both Yeshua and the apostles proclaimed that salvation is for those who are spiritually ready for his return, as in the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13), and judgment follows immediately upon his return for those who are not (cf. Matt 3:2; 24:37-42; 25:19, 31-33; Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31; 2Cor 6:2; 1Th 5:2-10; 2Th 1:6-8; 2Pet 3:9; Heb 2:3; 3:13-15; Rev 2:16, 22). The return of Yeshua is not a time of examination in which Jews (or anyone else) can take a wait and see attitude and subject Yeshua to proofs and then once satisfied repent. The time for believing after seeing ended with the first advent. Now we must believe before seeing (cf. John 20:29). Today is the day of salvation (2Cor 6:2; Heb 3:12-13). Otherwise seeing Yeshua in the clouds will only produce terror as the unbelievers experience in the description of the sixth seal.
Juster's chart of end-time events correctly lists the national confession as preceding the appearance of Yeshua based on his explicit words, "Behold your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until [emphasis mine] the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'" (Luke 13:35; cf. Luke 16:30-31) (Juster 112). In the Zechariah context the mourning that follows receipt of the Spirit of "grace and supplication" (cf. Eph 2:8) and looking to (i.e. believing in) the Messiah for salvation is not a repentant humbling to prevent judgment, but a deep grief of having rejected the Messiah for so long and a manifestation of an existing attitude of repentance (cf. Jer 6:26; Amos 8:10).
Moreover, Zechariah clarified the mourning "as one mourns for an only son," which is not a synonym for the initiation of repentance, but as a result of true confession experiencing the grief of the Father who gave his only son and through Yeshua bore our sins. This grief is so profound that Zechariah compares it to the sorrow of Israel over the death of Josiah (Zech 12:11) and depicts each Jewish family as mourning privately (Zech 12:12-14). On the mourning over the loss and then the restoration of an only son consider the story of the Shunammite woman's son (2Kgs 4:32-37) and the story of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-15). The story of the prodigal son illustrates that the heart repentance of the son preceded the words of repentance when he saw his father (Luke 15:17-20).
The timing of Israel's national confession is somewhat obscured in the text of the Olivet Discourse. When the apostles asked Yeshua "what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age" (Matt 24:3), Yeshua answered with a list of "signs" or precursor events. For the last of these events that precedes his appearance in the clouds, Yeshua quotes from Joel's prophecy (Matt 24:29),
"The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls." (Joel 2:31-32 NASB)
Some Messianic Jewish scholars, as well as Christian scholars, have assumed that the "sign of his coming" is his riding on the clouds. When the disciples asked Yeshua for the sign (Matt 24:3) they most likely meant a miracle or other event that would signal the immanence of the Day of the Lord. While the appearance of Yeshua in the sky will certainly be a wonderful sign for all who have waited in faith, the repetition of Joel's prophecy explains what Yeshua meant by the sign of his coming in the context of the Olivet Discourse. Israel's repentance will accelerate with the return of Elijah and be brought to fruition and conclusion by the sign of the double eclipse of the sun and moon, which is the true sign of the Second Coming. (See 6:12 on "eclipse").
No doubt the ministry of the two witnesses (11:3-4), the angelic proclamation of the eternal Good News (see 14:6), and the seemingly unstoppable invasion of the beast's army (16:13-16) together motivate the supplication for God's mercy and receipt of his grace through the Holy Spirit resulting in national spiritual revival. Thus will come to pass the saying, "Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed" (John 20:29). The actual appearance of Yeshua in the clouds closes the door of opportunity for salvation. Even so: Grk. nai, a particle of affirmation, agreement or strong assertion, lit. "yes" (Danker). Amen: Grk. amēn. See note at the end of the previous verse. The verse ends with a wish prayer that events will come to pass just as described.
8— "I AM the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty."
I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. AM: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. The pronoun-verb expression occurs 47 times in the Besekh, 34 times on the lips of Yeshua, often as a conversational way of identifying himself to others (e.g., Matt 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20; Acts 9:5). However, in John's narrative of Yeshua's life and here Yeshua employs egō eimi with distinctive meaning. Stern suggests that the metaphoric expressions imply a claim even greater than being the Messiah (168). They are too similar to the God of Israel's self-revelation in the Tanakh to be accidental.
In the LXX egō eimi is predominately spoken by the God of Israel in reference to Himself, first in the name "I am who I am" (Ex 3:14; also in Isa 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; 47:8; 48:12; 51:12; 52:6). More commonly God says egō eimi kurios, for Heb. ani YHVH, "I am YHVH" 48 times (e.g., Ex 7:5; 16:12; 20:2; 29:46; Lev 11:44; 26:1; Deut 5:6; 32:39; Isa 45:8; 61:8; Jer 24:7; Ezek 28:22; 29:6). In the Hebrew text of the Tanakh God uses first person self-descriptive phrases of Himself: "I am God Almighty [Shaddai]" (Gen 17:1; 35:11); "I am your shield" (Gen 22:1); "I am your healer" (Ex 15:26); "I am the first and the last" (Isa 41:4; 44:6; 48:12); "I am YHVH your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior" (Isa 43:3); and "I am YHVH your Holy One, creator of Israel, your King" (Isa 43:15).
While the self-identification certainly refers to his divine nature (cf. John 1:1), its first use with Moses identifies Yeshua as the eternally self-existent and unchangeable God who remembers his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex 3:6; John 5:8). "I am" is also shorthand for "I am the Lord" which throughout the Hebrew Scriptures serves to seal commandments and prophetic pronouncements with authority. The impressive assertion further guarantees the authenticity of all that will be revealed to John and affirms that his experience is just as valid as all of God's appearances to the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets.
the Alpha: Grk. alpha , the first letter in the Greek alphabet, corresponding to the Heb. aleph. and: Grk. kai, conj. the Omega: Grk. Ō , the last letter of the Greek alphabet, corresponding to the Heb. tav. The KJV adds "the beginning and the ending," which is found in only a few MSS (GNT). In Rabbinical proverbs the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet were considered to be symbols of the beginning and the end and everything in between. God was in the beginning and He will be in the end and He is sovereign over all the ages between those two points. In addition, the Jewish expression "the observers of the Torah from Aleph to Tav" refer to those that keep the Torah in its entirety (Shab. 55a). Yeshua, the Son, is the beginning (John 1:1) and the end of the Torah of God (Rom 10:4). Being the end of the Torah does not mean that Yeshua terminated the Torah, but that he was the goal at which the Torah aimed and so he fulfilled its purpose (Matt 5:17f; Luke 24:27).
says: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. the Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the vernacular kurios was used to refer to persons of high or respected position, addressed as "sir," "lord" or "master," but especially as a designation for God. The principal title used for Yeshua in the Besekh is "Lord." In the apostolic narratives Yeshua is referred to as "Lord" by his disciples and others four times more than any other title. Luke 2:11 announced that the Messiah would be "the Lord."
In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, and in the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), kurios replaces Heb. YHVH. In addition, kurios translates the divine title Adonai ("Lord"), as well as terms that identify men of higher rank to whom respect is owed (DNTT 2:511f). In view of John's exile by Roman authorities the declaration of lordship is even more significant. Rome was the center of Caesar worship and Caesar believed he was kurios of the world. To confess that the God of Israel is "Lord" would be considered an act of treason and would eventually create many martyrs.
God: Grk. theos, is the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. The complete title "Lord God" is probably meant to reflect the Hebrew combination name YHVH Elohim (LORD God) as occurs frequently in the Hebrew Scriptures. Of interest is that Elohim first appears in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," and YHVH is the name especially given to Jacob and Moses as the name of Israel's deliverer and law-giver (Gen 28:13; Ex 3:14f; 20:2). Thus the title name Lord God emphasizes that the One addressing John and the congregation is the awesome Creator and Covenant-keeping God of Israel.
The phrase "says the Lord God" is an important phrase in its own right and not merely part of John's writing style. The phrase occurs over 400 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, and while often these words seem to reflect the prophets specifying the source of the quoted material as being from the Lord, there are many times when the phrase comes from Lord, speaking of himself in the third person (e.g., Ex 4:22; 8:1; 9:1; Num 14:28; 2Sam 7:5, 8; 1Kgs 21:19; 2Kgs 19:6; Jer 11:3). Of interest is that all the other uses of "says the Lord" in the apostolic writings are quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures (Acts 7:49; 15:18; Rom 12:19; 14:11; 1Cor 14:21; 2Cor 6:17-18; Heb 8:8-10, 16). Finally, the phrase likely had a contemporary application. On one occasion Caesar Domitian began a letter, which his procurators were to circulate, with the words, "Our Lord God instructs you to do this!" and "Lord God" became his regular title both in writing and conversation (Suetonius XII, 13). The Lord knew of Domitian's self-idolatry and set the record straight.
who is and who was and who is coming: The description in verse 4 above is repeated verbatim. In Psalm 90:2 Moses expressed the wonder of God's eternal existence, both before time began and after this present age concludes – "Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." God "is" emphasizes the eternal self-existence of God. Since God created all things "in the beginning" (Gen 1:1), then he "was" before all the things he created. The title also points to the future when God "will come." The Messiah will return to establish his eternal kingdom on the earth.
the Almighty: Grk. pantokratōr refers to God as the mighty ruler of all, the Almighty. In biblical usage it emphasizes more God's supremacy over all things than just his omnipotence (Rienecker). Ladd suggests translating the word as "All-Ruler." Pantokratōr is not found earlier than the LXX and in Greek literature is used as a title for pagan deities (DNTT 3:717). In the LXX pantokratōr renders Sebaot, ("armies" or "hosts") in the prophetical books in references to the "Lord of Hosts" and Shaddai ("sufficient" or "almighty") in Job. However, given the context here Sebaot is much more likely to stand behind the Greek word than Shaddai.
In its Hebrew origins the title "Almighty" has military overtones and refers specifically to God being the ruler over the armies of heaven (Stern). With such resources at his disposal the Lord God becomes the mightiest Warrior and invincible King. In the last days the nations and the dragon will wage a fierce war against God's people and Mount Zion, but the Almighty God will vanquish all his foes. The Lord God's rulership also extends to control over the entire universe and all processes of nature on earth. Indeed, these resources are included in his vast arsenal to punish and defeat the enemy.
9— I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance in Yeshua, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Yeshua.
I: Grk. egō. John: Grk. Iōannēs. See verse 1 above. your: The pronoun is plural. brother: Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a male sibling, although the term could have a figurative use to indicate affinity in common interests or culture. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites, and in the rest of the Besekh likely emphasizes the dominance of Jewish constituency in congregations, rather than Gentile dominance as generally supposed by Christian scholars. (See my web article Paul's Community for a discussion of the demographics of the Body of Messiah in the apostolic era.) and: Grk. kai, conj. fellow partaker: Grk. sugkoinonos, "fellow partaker," means one who shares together (Rienecker). Rather than asserting his position of authority as an apostle, John appeals to his readers on the basis of their shared experience.
John identifies three areas of shared experiences, all of which emphasize the sufferings of disciples. in: Grk. en, prep. the tribulation: Grk. thlipsis (derived from thlibō, to press, squeeze or crush) means oppression, distress, or affliction. In the LXX thlipsis rendered a number of Hebrew terms, especially tsarah (straits, distress, affliction, trouble, BDB 865). The terms all denote need, distress, and various afflictions depending on the context, e.g. war, exile and personal hostility (DNTT 2:807). Thlipsis is a word picture of being crushed under a weight.
The first occurrence of thlipsis in the LXX is Genesis 35:3 where Jacob speaks of his "day of distress," referring to the hostility of Esau. Joseph experienced thlipsis at the hands of his brothers (Gen 42:21 LXX). The people of Israel suffered thlipsis in Egypt (Ex 4:31) and one of the curses for disobedience was thlipsis caused by an enemy nation (Deut 28:49-57; cf. 1 Sam 10:19; 2 Kgs 13:4; 19:3-4; 2 Chron 15:6; Neh 9:27; Isa 10:3; 26:16; Jer 28:8). The ration of bread and water in prison was known as the "bread of thlipsis and the water of thlipsis" (1 Kgs 22:27; cf. Isa 30:20).
Thlipsis occurs 45 times in the apostolic writings and is translated by Bible versions as either tribulation or affliction. The usage in the Besekh is clearly the same as in the Tanakh. The first usage of thlipsis is Matthew 13:21 where Yeshua describes seed sown on rocky soil as the man who receives the word of God with joy, but then falls away because of affliction or persecution. Throughout the apostolic writings tribulation is treated as a normal and expected experience for the God's people (Acts 7:11; 14:22; John 16:33; Rom 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; Eph 3:13; Php 1:17; Col 1:24; 1Th 1:6; 3:3-4; 2Th 1:4; 2Tim 3:12; Heb 10:33; Rev 2:9-10; 7:14), although a few references speak of the wicked suffering tribulation as retribution (Rom 2:9; 2Th 1:6; Rev 2:22).
Yeshua warned his disciples that as they served God's purposes they would suffer persecutions, tribulations, privations, family desertions, hatred from adversaries and finally death by cruel hands. Likewise, Paul promised that all who are godly would suffer persecution (2Tim 3:12). Tribulation against disciples of Yeshua is the visible reality of an unseen warfare between the Kingdom of God and the rebellious forces of Satan. Disciples of Yeshua are not destined to suffer God's final wrath on the end-time tyrant or His eternal wrath (1Th 5:9), but tribulation is a reality in this life and no one should be surprised when it occurs. Moreover, Jacob, the brother of Yeshua, counseled believers to rejoice when they suffered various trials (Jas 1:2f). Persecution may seem ironic for children of the King, but true discipleship means to follow in the steps of the suffering Savior (Php 3:10).
and: Grk. kai, conj. kingdom: Grk. basileia means kingship, royal power, or territory ruled over by a king. For the use of the title the size of the territory was immaterial, ranging from a city to a country to an empire. In the LXX basileia renders Heb. malku, "royalty, reign, kingdom" (BDB 1100). The presence of "kingdom" in the three areas related to suffering may seem strange, but it may have a dual meaning. First, persecution in the first century came about as a result of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Second, opposition was generally instigated by religious leaders, whether Jewish or pagan, who appealed to local courts or rulers to bring charges against the apostles and those who chose to follow Yeshua.
On various occasions and to different degrees all of the original apostles, and particularly Paul, were beaten, stoned, thrown in jail and deprived of legal rights, and all except John died from violence. Two brief periods of persecution were initiated by Emperors Nero and Domitian in the city of Rome. Tertullian summarizes these two emperor-instigated persecutions:
"Nero was the first who assailed with the imperial sword the Christian sect. … Domitian…tried his hand at persecution; but as he had something of the human in him, he soon put an end to what he had begun, even restoring again those whom he had banished." (Tertullian, Apologia, V)
and: Grk. kai, conj. perseverance: Grk. hupomonē, the capacity for resolute continuance in a course of action, patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness and perseverance, particularly demonstrated in the face of toil and suffering. in: Grk. en, prep. Yeshua: Being "in Yeshua" is descriptive of a close relationship. He was with them even in tribulation. arrived: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state to another, with the following applications: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; (2) exist through will or effort; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. In the LXX ginomai renders Heb. hayah (SH-1961), to fall out, to come into being, become, come to pass, to be (DNTT 1:181).
on: Grk. en, prep. the island: Grk. nēsos, island. The word occurs only 9 times in the Besekh and only in the book of Acts and Revelation. An island is a tract of land completely surrounded by water and not large enough to be called a continent. An island could be considered a mountain that is mostly covered by water. called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass. part., to identify by name or give a term to; call. Patmos: Grk. Patmos, a small island (about 16 square miles) in the Aegean Sea some forty miles west-southwest of modern Turkey. Patmos is six or eight miles in length, not more than a mile in breadth, and about fifteen miles in circumference. It had neither trees nor rivers; nor has it any land for cultivation, except some little nooks among the ledges of rocks (Barnes).
Many commentators have suggested that Rome used Patmos as a place to banish criminals and political prisoners, who were forced to do hard labor in its quarries, although there is no evidence contemporary to John to substantiate the claim (Mounce). John's simple statement, indicates that he was writing at some point after his release from captivity and emphasizes that the visionary experiences recorded in Revelation occurred while on Patmos. Tertullian said that John had been in Rome where he was "first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile!" (The Prescription Against Heretics 36).
Victorinus claims that John was condemned to the labor of the mines by Caesar Domitian (Victorinus 10:11). Hard labor in Roman times could mean a short life, so this part of his report may be legend, as it is not supported by other church fathers. While John explains candidly why he was on Patmos, there is no mention of personal suffering while on the island. John begins his report with a mention of his worship and he is repeatedly told to "write," in some cases implying he had materials at hand. There is no proof that John was treated as a criminal on Patmos.
John might remember that Yeshua warned of personal suffering when John's mother asked for the privilege of having her two sons sit next to the Messiah's throne. "Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to Him, "We are able." he said to them, "My cup you shall drink" (Matt 20:22f). John's brother Jacob ("James") was the first of the apostles to drink that cup of tribulation, having been executed by Herod (Acts 12:2). Now John, the last of the apostles, drank the cup, as well.
because of: Grk. dia, prep. With the accusative case of the noun following the preposition signifies a causal function. the word: Grk. logos. See verse 2 above. of God: Grk. theos. See verse 1 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. the testimony: Grk. marturia. See verse 2 above. of Yeshua: See verse 1 above. John indicates that he did not go to Patmos on a missionary journey but was sent against his will, although not contrary to God's will. The two reasons John mentions may function simply as Hebrew parallelism or he may intend something different by each term. As distinct terms the word of God may refer to the written Scriptures or direct inspiration for teaching whereas the testimony of Yeshua may mean the testimony Yeshua bore while on the earth concerning the kingdom, repentance, and salvation. John may have simply meant that he was exiled because of his proclaiming Yeshua as Messiah. John was still a "son of thunder" (Mark 3:17) and he taught the Scriptures as the truth revealed from heaven, not as ideas and theories of man.
As a prophet of God, John likely followed the example of Yochanan the Immerser who did not hesitate to rebuke the political authority for gross violations of God's laws. All of the Caesars were incredibly wicked in personal conduct and public policy, so John would have had plenty of issues to speak against. God's law applies to all residents of earth, not just the people of God. Sin and toleration of sin merit confrontation and a public call for repentance (cf. Acts 17:30-31). Perhaps his circumstances were similar to the trial of a prominent Christian in Rome: "in the fifteenth year of Domitian Flavia Domitilla, daughter of a sister of Flavius Clement, who at that time was one of the consuls of Rome, was exiled with many others to the island of Pontia in consequence of testimony borne to Christ" (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, III, 18). A contemporary of Justin Martyr said that Domitian dreaded the advent of Yeshua, as Herod had done (Hegesippus, Concerning the Relatives of our Savior), and Domitian certainly reacted harshly against any perceived threat to his reign.
Unlike Luke who provided a detailed record in Acts of Paul's appearances before rulers, John does not mention the name of the ruler who issued the exile order nor does he indulge resentment to rail against the Roman government. The attitude of the apostles was to rejoice that they were considered worthy to suffer for the name of Yeshua (Acts 5:41; Jas 1:2; 1Pet 4:13). Thus, the second way of interpreting John's statement is to treat it as a restatement of his introduction in the first two verses and an affirmation of God's sovereign will. In other words, God wanted John in a secluded place to give him the final revelation for the canon of Scripture. The decree of a pagan ruler was only incidental to John's trip to Patmos.
Mounce considers the record of the church fathers that John was banished by Domitian as legend, but blames his exile on the governor of the area in which John pastored. A governor's decree of banishment is certainly possible and may have occurred as part of enforcing Domitian's harsh policies against Jewish tax evaders. Suetonius makes the interesting statement that Domitian "took proceedings not only against those who kept their Jewish origins a secret in order to avoid the tax, but against those who lived as Jews without professing Judaism" (Suetonius XII, 12). On the other hand, anti-Christian feeling did exist in the provinces, as evidenced by the letters of Revelation. Everywhere disciples of Yeshua were treated with contempt because they did not sacrifice to the pagan idols and did not acknowledge the deity of Caesar. The Asian governor may have used the precedence of Domitian's edicts against certain Christian nobles to persecute John.
I was: Grk. ginomai, aor. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. spirit: Grk. pneumati, dative case of pneuma, without the definite article. See verse 4 above. En pneumati without the definite article occurs 33 times in the Besekh, sometimes without any textual indication of distinguishing between the Holy Spirit and man's spirit (cf. Rom 2:29; 1Cor 6:17; Gal 6:1; Eph 6:18; Col 1:8; Jude 1:20). There are passages where en pneuma definitely refers to the Holy Spirit (Matt 22:43; Rom 8:9; Eph 2:22; 3:5) and most versions translate en pneumati here as "in the Spirit." The phrase evokes immediate wonder. What did John mean by saying he was "in spirit?" Most likely he meant what Yeshua meant when he told the Samaritan woman that the day was coming when people would worship "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23).
Worshipping "in spirit" means the person is in a right relationship with God and wants to please the One who is the focus of his worship. Worshipping "in spirit" does not refer to a "free" vs. "liturgical" style of worship that Christians are so divided over. Worshipping in spirit does not pertain to form, but attitude. Worshipping in spirit is also not code language for speaking in tongues or worshipping in a manner to please oneself. Worshipping in spirit would be tantamount to the humility shown by the living creatures and the angels who bow down in awe before the holy God (Rev 4:10-11; 7:11-12). Thus, John means that he was in a spiritual frame of mind with his thoughts focused on God, absorbed in meditation and intercessory prayer.
While John may have been cut off physically from his brethren, his isolation on Patmos did not hinder his ability to commune with his heavenly Father. Being "in spirit" meant that John was ready to receive the Lord's revelation. The Holy Spirit would certainly have a role to enable him to actually participate in the visions and not merely watch them, no doubt like Ezekiel (Ezek 3:12), Peter (Acts 10:10) and Paul (Acts 22:17; cf. 2Cor 12:2-4).
on: Grk. en, prep. the Lord's: Grk. kuriakos, adj., belonging to the Lord. In Roman inscriptions and papyri after AD 68 the term meant imperial, such as imperial treasury, service, etc. (BAG). Day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The second meaning is intended here in reference to the first day of the week. Hēmera in combination with kuriakos, originally referred to Emperor's Day, which was the first day of the month on which official money payments were made from the imperial treasury (Robertson).
John's mention of the "Lord's day" as the occasion for the commencement of the revelation has led to considerable difference of opinion on its meaning. Some commentators, as Stern, believe "Lord's day" should be translated "Day of the Lord" (also found in the TLV), referring to the day of God's judgment at the end of history. However, the phrase here does not match the Greek construction of the "Day of the Lord" found in the rest of the apostolic writings (cf. Acts 2:20; 1Cor 5:5; 1Th 5:2; 2Th 2:2; 2Pet 3:10). Moreover, Grk. kuriakos is an adjective in the dative case, not kurios in the genitive case. In addition, being transported to the end of history at this point is not consistent with the fact that chapters two and three deal with current situations in existing congregations (Morris). Furthermore, the assumption that John was at the Day of Lord from this point in the narrative stretches the definition of "day" beyond recognition, as well as confusing tribulation events with judgment.
A Sabbatarian scholar believes that "Lord's day" referred to the Sabbath, since the only day Yeshua said he was Lord of was the Sabbath (Bacchiocchi). However, Yeshua did not say "I am Lord of the Sabbath." He said the "son of man is lord of the Sabbath." While "Son of Man" was a title Yeshua used constantly to refer to himself, he also used it in its typical Hebraic meaning as a euphemism for "man." In other words, the individual person has the responsibility to determining how to keep the Sabbath (cf. Col 2:16). This was his point in responding to his critics. Yeshua was certainly not creating a special name for the day. "Lord's day" was never a Jewish euphemism for the Sabbath, nowhere else in the apostolic writings is the Sabbath called "Lord's day" and there would be no need for John to employ such a circumlocution if he really meant Sabbath.
The Messianic Jewish scholar Yechiel Lichtenstein presents an interesting suggestion that John was referring to Pesach or the first day of the feast of Passover, which occurs on 14 Nisan (Stern). As a Messianic Jew John would have maintained the worship and festival calendar prescribed in the Torah. This interpretation has the benefit of textual support in that the only other usage of kuriakos occurs in 1 Corinthians 11:20 as a reference to the Lord's Supper or Seder. Yeshua had enjoined his disciples to observe the Passover "in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19; 1Cor 11:24f), thus making Pesach his day. The Lord Yeshua could have introduced his revelation to John on any day of the year, but what better day to give the revelation of his future deliverance of the earth than on Passover, the day that commemorates both the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage and deliverance from sin accomplished on Calvary. As with the Sabbath theory John's narrative offers no textual support for the Passover thesis.
The plain sense of the expression "Lord's day" is the first day of the week or Sunday, probably as a commemoration of the day Yeshua was resurrected from death. Previously the Lord's Day was referred to simply as the first day of the week (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). When gathering for worship and fellowship on the first day of the week began for early believers is unknown. It could have started shortly after the Ascension as a resurrection celebration. Yeshua had been raised on the first day during the 4th watch (3–6 a.m.) (Mark 16:9), and his first two appearances to the disciples were on the first day of the week (John 20:19, 26). Thus, the disciples continued the pattern established by Yeshua.
The resurrection remembrance service probably followed at the conclusion of Sabbath observance at sundown, as in Acts 20:7 where Paul's teaching until midnight is spoken of as taking place on the first day of the week. Paul also gives instruction to the Corinthian congregation to collect an offering for Judean believers on the first day of the week (1Cor 16:2) and only a gathering for worship would explain such specific directions. Stern (491) points out that Jewish believers would not have called the first day of the week Shabbat, because Judaism forbids handling money on the Sabbath and, therefore, Paul would not have directed the congregation to take up a collection on a day deemed to be the Sabbath.
The translation of "Day of the Lord" in the TLV and CJB unfortunately gives the appearance of trying to avoid having the apostle "in the Spirit" on the first day of the week, as if such an act would deny his Jewishness. Some Messianic Jews believe that the Lord's day was the invention of patristic Christianity, forgetting that all the sacred days on God's calendar were regarded as sabbaths (Ex 31:13; Lev 19:30; 23:38). At the beginning of the second century Ignatius (d. 107) references the dual observance of the Sabbath and the first day of the week when he said,
"But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner…. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, ‘To the end, for the eighth day,' on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ." (Epistle to the Magnesians IX)
Worship on the "Lord's day" as a reference to Sunday also occurs in the early Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (14:1). The use of "Lord's Day" for Sunday in patristic writings beginning in the first half of the second century may mean that John coined the term just as rabbinic scholars invented many new terms in translating the LXX. Christians should refrain from calling the Lord's Day the Sabbath. We don't call Christmas "Easter," so we should endeavor to be correct in our terminology of calendar divisions. By the same token the Lord's Day is a sabbath and should be treated accordingly. See my web article Remember the Sabbath. John goes on to state the reason he wrote this book and identifies the source of its content. his meditation and prayer was abruptly interrupted by the voice of the Savior.
and: Grk. kai, conj. I heard: Grk. akouō, aor. See verse 3 above. behind: Grk. opisō, adv., in a state, condition or situation that is subsequent, used here in a spatial sense; behind. me: Grk. egō. a loud: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great. BAG notes a wide variety of applications such as (1) a unit of measure to specify size, capacity, quantity, intensity, age, or degree of wealth, or (2) a general reference to rank, dignity, sublimity or importance. Here the word functions as a superlative to denote intensity and volume. In the LXX megas, which occurs about 820 times, is used to translate several Heb. words, but by far the most numerous is gadôl (SH-1419), 'great' (first in Gen 1:14), which is used for volume of voice in many passages (e.g., Gen 39:14; Ex 11:6; 2Sam 15:23; 19:4; 1Kgs 8:55; 18:27; Prov 27:14; Isa 36:13; Ezek 8:18).
voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language, 1Cor 14:10; 2Pet 2:16). The word phōnē is often used in the Besekh of articulated sound from a human mouth, which may be weeping (Matt 2:18), prophetic proclamation (Matt 3:3), quarreling (Matt 12:19), greeting (Luke 1:44), earnest pleading (Luke 17:13) or rejoicing (Luke 17:15; Rev 19:5-6). In the LXX phōnē generally renders Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression (DNTT 3:113).
Isaiah had prophesied of the Messiah, "He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street" (Isa 42:2 NASB), but four times Yeshua employed a megas phōnē, the first time in this setting. The second and third times were on the cross (Matt 27:46; Luke 23:46) and the fourth time was on this occasion to John. as: Grk. hōs, adv., like, as, similar to, in the manner of.
as: Grk. hōs, adv., like, as, similar to, in the manner of. of a trumpet: Grk. salpinx, which may refer to the instrument itself, the sound made by blowing into it or the signal given by the instrument. In the LXX salpinx translates six different Hebrew terms, the most common being shofar (SH-7782) and chatsotsrah (SH-2689) (DNTT 3:873f). The term shofar referred to originally the curved "ram’s horn," then more generally "horn" or "wind instrument," and was used for both military and religious purposes. Chatsotsrah was a long straight trumpet made of beaten silver and used for both practical and religious purposes (Num 10:1-10). The CJB, HNV, MW and OJB use term shofar, but the TLV has "trumpet." The context does not provide sufficient support for shofar.
John's description is not of an actual instrument that was blown, but what the voice of Yeshua sounded like. John could just as easily intended the silver trumpet which he had heard regularly blown at the temple in Jerusalem. When the Messiah speaks, his voice is unmistakable to his faithful disciples (John 10:27). John did not have a recording device, but he endeavored throughout Revelation to convey as much as possible of what he heard by the expedient of comparison. Frequently he likens what he heard to sounds familiar to his audience and thereby gives realism to his report. Unlike Elijah who heard God speak in a still small voice (1Kgs 19:12 KJV), John likens the speech of Yeshua to the piercing tone of a trumpet, an authoritative command that demanded instant obedience.
11— saying, "Write in a book what you see, and send to the seven congregations: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea."
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 8 above. Write: Grk. graphō, aor. imp., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. Twelve times in Revelation John is instructed to write something (1:19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 14:13; 19:9; and 21:5). The frequency of the command indicates that those portions of Revelation should receive special attention and reflection from the reader. in: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." a book: Grk. biblion means a book, a scroll or a document. The noun is the diminutive form of biblos, derived from an older form bublos, which originally meant the papyrus plant, or its fibrous stem, that was exported to Greece through the port of Byblos in Syria where the plant was prepared. In the LXX biblion translates Heb. sēpher, which was used for anything that has been written, such as a scroll, book, writing, letter, diary, or a legal document. Biblion is also used in the LXX for individual sacred writings (Dan 9:2), but most importantly as a solemn expression for the Torah (Deut 17:18; 28:58; cf. Heb 9:19). John calls his testimony of Yeshua a biblion (John 20:30; 21:25). In Revelation biblion is used of the book mentioned here that John was commanded to write, the book of life and the books of works opened at the final judgment (20:12), but especially the book containing the divine decrees for the future (DNTT 1:243).
The Lord does not specify how John was to accomplish the writing. While hard surfaces, such as stone, often received writing, the main materials available for writing the text of the Scriptures were skins, papyrus and vellum (NIBD 1110). The use of prepared leather for recording documents dates well into antiquity and was used by the Hebrew prophets (Jer 36:23). Papyrus is a reed plant that grew in marsh areas of Egypt and Canaan and met the writing needs of the Greco-Roman world for a thousand years. While papyrus was the preferred material in John's day, vellum (parchment), a material made from the skin of cattle, sheep or goats was also widely employed (2Tim 4:13). Writing also required pen and ink. For softer materials, the pen was usually made from a reed plant and the ink made of soot or black carbon, mixed with oil and gum of balsam (3 John 13) (Rienecker)
What is not clear is when John actually wrote. To do any writing while on Patmos would require the tacit cooperation of his Roman captors, which is not impossible given the amount of "freedom" Paul was granted by his Roman guards while in custody (cf. Acts 28 16, 30). There is an implication in 10:4 that John was actively writing as the visions were occurring. Yet, it is just as reasonable to suppose that he could have written down his entire story after leaving Patmos with the Spirit-aided remembrance promised by Yeshua (John 14:26). Another possibility is that he was able to write notes while having the experience and after his release he used the notes to finish the book.
what: Grk. ho, relative pronoun. you see: Grk. blepō, pres., to have the capacity for physical eyesight, to use one's eyesight to take note of an object or to have inward or mental sight. Yeshua intended that John's writing bear the stamp of personal experience, what he actually saw. and: Grk. kai, conj. send: Grk. pempō, aor. imp., to dispatch someone for a variety of purposes; send. A key activity of God is "sending," and in the past His emissaries included angels (Gen 19:13; 2Chr 32:21), Joseph (Gen 45:5), Moses and Aaron (Ex 3:15; 1Sam 12:8), and all the prophets (1Sam 15:1; 2Sam 12:1; 2Kgs 2:2; Isa 6:8; 48:6; Jer 26:5, 12; 35:15; Ezek 2:3). In the New Covenant era God sent Yeshua (John 4:34) and the apostles (John 20:21). to the seven: Grk. hepta, the cardinal number seven. congregations: pl. of Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 4 above. Yeshua gave John a direct commission to produce a written record of his Revelation experience and send it to seven congregations in specific cities of Asia.
to: Grk. eis, prep. Ephesus: Grk. Ephesos with a population of about 300,000 was the largest and most important city in the Asia province, now Turkey. Ephesus was a free city having been granted the right to self-government by Rome. Ephesus was sixty miles from Patmos situated at the mouth of the Cayster River and had the most favorable seaport in the province, serving as a center of commerce. The business prosperity of the city was rivaled by its cultural attractions, including a 25,000-seat stadium, baths, gymnasiums and impressive buildings. The principal attraction of Ephesus was the Temple of Artemis (or Diana, the Roman name), which was ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The history of the congregation in Ephesus probably began with the efforts of Priscilla and Aquila who accompanied Paul (Acts 18:18-19).
and: Grk. kai, conj. to: Grk. eis, prep. Smyrna: Grk. Smurna located in western Asia north of Ephesus and was a neighbor to Pergamum. A natural harbor made the city a commercial competitor of Ephesus. Smyrna possessed a famous stadium, library and public theater (the largest in Asia) and claimed to be the birthplace of the epic poet Homer. Smyrna had a long history of idolatry, having built its first temple for pagan Roman worship in 195 BC and in 23 BC became the center for cult worship of the Roman emperor. Smyrna, or Izmir, is still a thriving city today. There is no record of the founding of the congregation in Smyrna, but most likely disciples from Paul's ministry carried the Good News of the kingdom there (Acts 19:1, 10).
and: Grk. kai, conj. to: Grk. eis, prep. Pergamum: Grk. Pergamum was the chief city of Mysia, near the Caicus River in northwest Asia Minor, present-day Turkey, about 15 miles from the Aegean Sea. Pergamum once boasted a library of over 200,000 items, but they were lost to Alexandria, Egypt, when Mark Antony confiscated them and presented as a gift to Cleopatra. Besides being a government center, Pergamum was known for several cults to the Greek gods and three imperial cults devoted to emperor worship. Pergamum is only mentioned in Revelation so when and how the message of the Messiah came there is unknown, although like Smyrna it was likely an outgrowth of Paul's ministry. NOTE: in some Greek literature the name is spelled Pergamos.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to: Grk. eis, prep. Thyatira: Grk. Thuateira was located on the road from Pergamum to Sardis and situated on the south bank of the Lycus River. The city was a thriving manufacturing and commercial center in the first century. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of many trade guilds and unions. Thyatira was known as much for its pagan feasts as for its commercial goods. Lydia, the seller of purple cloth, came from Thyatira (Acts 16:14).
and: Grk. kai, conj. to: Grk. eis, prep. Sardis: Grk. Sardeis, was the capital city of Lydia in western Asia Minor. The city was situated on the east bank of the Pactolus River, about 50 miles east of Smyrna. In ancient times it was well fortified and easily defended, having been built on a rocky spur of Mount Timolus. When Sardis was rebuilt in the time of Alexander the Great, it was dedicated to the Asiatic goddess Cybele (Greek, Artemis) of whom the worship was most licentious. The patron deity was believed to possess the special power of restoring the dead to life. The origin of the congregation at Sardis is unknown, but it was likely connected with Paul's evangelism (cf. Acts 19:10).
and: Grk. kai, conj. to: Grk. eis, prep. Philadelphia: Grk. Philadelpheia was situated on the Cogamus River about 28 miles southeast of Sardis in Lydia. The city was a center of wine production and not surprisingly its chief deity was Dionysus, the Greek god of wine (the Roman Bacchus). The city had been originally founded to promote and spread the Greek culture and language in the province, but another missionary program had come to Philadelphia and enjoyed success – the Good News of Yeshua.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to: Grk. eis, prep. Laodicea: Grk. Laodikeia, a prosperous city of Laodicea was located in the fertile Lycus Valley in the province of Phrygia in western Asia Minor. It was about 40 miles east of Ephesus and about 10 miles west of Colossae. The city boasted three marble theatres, had a vast wall to protect against invaders and, like Rome, was built on seven hills (Henry). The city was also known for its garment industry, which relied on the raven-black wool produced by the sheep of the area. Epaphras, Tychicus, Onesimus and Mark apparently assisted in bringing the gospel there (Col 1:7; 4:7-15), although it is doubtful that Paul ever visited the city (cf. Col 2:1).
Rev. John Foxe of the 16th Century who researched and wrote the "History of Christian Martyrdom" asserted that John founded all of these congregations, except the one at Ephesus (King 13). More likely is that the congregations were planted as a result of the twelve disciples of Yochanan the Immerser to whom Paul declared Yeshua and who were filled with the Spirit. It was in the context of the Ephesian Pentecost that all Asia heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:10). The seven cities, alluded to in verse 4 and located in southwest Asia Minor, are listed in clockwise order beginning with Ephesus, the one nearest Patmos and the capital of the province of Asia (DSB). The fact that cities are listed does not mean that the congregations had a single meeting facility in each city. Rather, there were probably several groups that met in private homes (cf. Acts 2:46; 12:12; 17:4-5; 18:7; 20:20; 21:8; Rom 16:5; 1Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; and Phm 1:2).
There is no textual evidence to support the claim made by some that the congregations represent distinct eras or "church" ages in history. Each of the cities was the postal center for their district (Barclay). Although apostolic letters were addressed to individual congregations, they were carried to neighboring cities and congregations for public reading (cf. Col 4:16). Thus, John's composition, consisting of the Lord's seven brief letters to specific congregations and the prophecy of the end of the age, was likely intended for wider circulation. The selection of seven congregations may be interpreted to represent the entire Body of the Messiah, but their specific identity conveys a focused concern about the spiritual health of their leaders and members.
While John is told who to write and what to write, this verse does not address "why" he should write to these seven specific cities. There were other congregations in Asia that ranked equally in importance (Troas, Acts 20:5ff; Colossae, Col 1:2; and Hierapolis, Col 4:13) (Mounce). What about the cities of Greece and Italy? Although the letters contain immediate pastoral concerns, Revelation is for a wider audience, indeed for believers living at the end of the age, and there must be a global or universal purpose. (See The Message of Revelation.) In other words, since Yeshua is coming and will judge the world with fire, the letters answer Peter's challenge, "what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness" (2Pet 3:11; cf. 1Th 2:12).
Juster comments, "The seven letters precede the prophecies of what is yet to come because the Church must be zealous and holy to face the spiritual warfare of the last days." Revelation was given for all believers, but in obedience to the command John addresses his manuscript to the congregations with whom he has ministered. Those who are upon John's heart will be the first ones to receive the news. It is interesting to note that the Besekh contains letters written by the apostle Paul to congregations in seven cities – Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Thessalonica and Philippi. Paul apparently wrote to Laodicea (Col 4:16), but that letter for some unknown reason did not survive.
The KJV includes the phrase "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" at the beginning of the verse, but there is very little MS support (Johnson).
The Vision of the Son of Man (1:12-15)
12— And I turned to see the voice who was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;
And: Grk. kai, conj. I turned: Grk. epistrephō, aor., to turn about in a space. to see: Grk. blepō, pres. inf. See the previous verse. the voice: Grk. phōnē. See verse 10 above. who: Grk. hētis, relative pronoun; whoever, whatever. was speaking: Grk. legō, impf. with: Grk. meta, prep. me: Grk. egō. And: Grk. kai, conj. having turned: Grk. epistrephō, aor. part. I saw: Grk. horaō, aor. act., refers to the perception of physical eyesight and so means to see, perceive, to catch sight of or to notice. The verb is a strong assertion of personal experience. John may have been occupied with prayer, because he had to turn his head to see who was speaking to him. The declaration, "I saw," occurs frequently in John's narrative and affirms the absolute certainty of the visual experience.
seven: Grk. hepta, the cardinal number seven. golden: Grk. chrusous, adj., made of or adorned with gold; golden. Gold was the metal of choice in temple vessels and adornments. lampstands: Grk. luchnia refers to the stand upon which a luchnos, or lamp, was placed or hung. The KJV translation of "candlesticks" may be misleading to modern readers. Candlesticks hold candles and the molded candle in use today did not exist in the first century (Mounce). In regular Greek usage the word for lampstand refers mainly to the common single-branch stand found in ancient homes (Luke 8:16; 11:33). A lampstand was an accessory in ancient buildings to set a lamp on.
In the LXX luchnia translates menorah, which referred both to the seven-branched golden lampstand used in the tabernacle and temple (Ex 26:35; 2Chr 28:20) and a single-branched lampstand used in homes (2Kgs 4:10). The same Greek word is used in Hebrews 9:2 for the seven-branched menorah of the tabernacle. Also, Zechariah was given a similar vision of a single lampstand with seven lamps, i.e. a menorah (Zech 4:2, 10). While one might assume there were lamps sitting on the lampstands John nowhere makes mention of the fact. Ancient lamps came in a variety of shapes and designs and relied on wick and oil to provide light.
13— and in the middle of the lampstands one like a son of man, having been clothed to the feet, and girded about at the chest with a golden sash.
and: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. the middle: Grk. mesos, adj., at a point near the center, midst, middle, in the midst of, among. of the lampstands: pl. of Grk. luchnia. See the previous verse. The description may imply the lampstands were situated in a circle. one like: Grk. homoios, adj., like, similar to, resembling. a son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben ("son,” "son of”), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5). (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32), as Yeshua is referred to as the son of David and Abraham (Matt 1:1); or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3).
of man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man, or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for man and woman and as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27; 2:5; 1Sam 15:29); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24; Job 1:1) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Job 5:17; Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). "Son of man" was the most common title used by Yeshua of himself in the apostolic narratives. The only other person to call Yeshua "the Son of Man" was Stephen (Acts 7:56). The use here no doubt alludes to Daniel 7:13 where the Son of Man comes on the clouds and appears before the Ancient of Days to receive a kingdom of everlasting dominion (cf. Rev 14:14).
The idiom "Son of Man" is thoroughly Hebraic and has no counterpart in Greek culture. Christian interpreters typically treat "Son of Man" in the context of Yeshua's ministry as representative of his identification with humanity, whereas "Son of God" pertains to his deity. In Hebraic thought these expressions mean just the opposite. The Christian notion is based on the fact that in the Tanakh, except in two passages, ben adam is idiomatic for "man" or "human being," occurring 11 times in a general sense of all mankind (e.g., Num 23:19). This sense also occurs when God addresses two prophets as "son of man:" Ezekiel (93 times) and Daniel, once (Dan 8:17). However, the two exceptional passages point to a Messianic figure. First, the "son of Man" is the Davidic deliverer:
"God of armies, please come back! Look from heaven, see, and tend this vine! 15 Protect what your right hand planted, the son you made strong for yourself. 16 It is burned by fire, it is cut down; they perish at your frown of rebuke. 17 Help the man at your right hand, the son of man you made strong for yourself. 18 Then we won't turn away from you if you revive us, we will call on your name. 19 ADONAI, God of armies, restore us! Make your face shine, and we will be saved." (Ps 80:14-19 CJB; cf. Ps 2:7, 12; 110:1)
Second, "Son of Man" is the eschatological supra-natural figure from heaven who establishes a kingdom on the earth. Daniel saw him.
"I kept watching the night visions, when I saw, coming with the clouds of heaven, someone like a son of man [Aram. bar enosh]. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 To him was given rulership, glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His rulership is an eternal rulership that will not pass away; and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. … 27 Then the kingdom, the rulership and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. Their kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey them.'" (Dan 7:13-14, 27 CJB)
Two significant characterizations occur in the apostolic narratives concerning the use of "Son of Man." First, the Son of Man identified with humanity by humble service to the poor (Matt 8:20). He was the healer of men's bodies (Matt 9:6) and co-sharer in their sufferings (Mark 9:12). Greatest of all he suffered in order to bring salvation from sin. He would be killed by judicial decree and buried, but then be gloriously raised from the dead. This usage occurs in 42 verses.
"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day (Luke 9:22 NASB)
Second, the Son of Man is the end-time Judge and King. He will come in power at the end of the present age with his angels and sit on his throne. This usage appears in 28 verses, sometimes alluding to Daniel's prophecy.
"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (Matt 25:31 NASB)
In no way does this vision to John diminish the nature of Yeshua as portrayed in Daniel. Psalm 80:17 departs from the general humanity motif in saying, "Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself." God had promised Adam's woman that her Seed would crush the serpent's head (Gen 3:15), thereby doing justice for her who had been cruelly deceived and providing salvation for all her descendants tainted by sin. Yeshua is not merely the son of mankind or the perfect human, but the son of God and son of the first Adam, who has come to remedy what his earthly father could not provide (Rom 5:14; 1Cor 15:22, 45). Thus he comes as the perfect high priest to secure salvation for his people.
clothed: Grk. enduō, perf. mid. part., to provide covering, thus, to put on, clothe oneself or wear. The perfect tense indicates the longevity of the practice and the participle indicates the habitual manner of dress. to his feet: Grk. podērēs, reaching to the feet. Danker says that since the term was ordinarily associated with vestments, it was a natural development to consider usage as a long robe that reached the feet. Even though there is no description of the robe Mounce suggests that the robe emulates the blue-purple outward robe of the high priest (Ex 28:4; 29:5). The robe of the Jewish high priest also long enough to reach his feet. and: Grk. kai, conj. girded about: Grk. perizōnnumi, perf. pass. part., to put a belt or sash around, gird about. at: Grk. pros, prep. the chest: pl. of Grk. mastos, the mammary glads of a woman (Luke 11:27; 23:29) or the nipples of a man, as here.
with a golden: Grk. chrusous. See the previous verse. belt: Grk. zōnē, a belt. The girdle or wide belt was part of the high priest's attire (Ex 39:29), and "covering his chest" denotes the dignity of office. Daniel noted a similar wardrobe worn by Gabriel (Dan 10:5), denoting a badge of rank or honor (Frankfurter 467). Rienecker points out that the ordinary girding for one actively engaged was "at the loins," but Jewish records indicate that Levitical priests were girded higher up, about the breast, favoring a more majestic movement (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, III, 7:2; see also Edersheim-Temple, 68f). Since these garments were only worn when the high priest was actively engaged in his ministry, then the appearance of Yeshua in these garments serves a reminder that he is the only means through which mercy can be obtained from God and that he ever intercedes for his people as they make the necessary changes to prepare for his reign (Heb 7:27; 8:1).
14— Now his head and his hair were white as wool, white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire.
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). his head: Grk. kephalē, the head as an anatomical term. and: Grk. kai, conj. his hair: pl. of Grk. thrix, hair, here of the head. were white: Grk. leukos means bright, shining, gleaming and especially white, which for the Greeks included many shades. as: Grk. hōs, adv. wool: Grk. erion, wool of the sheep. white: Grk. leukos. as: Grk. hōs, adv. snow: Grk. chiōn, snow, a precipitation in the form of ice crystals in the form of flakes.
The vision of Yeshua with hair as "white wool" is similar to the one given in Daniel 7:9. Daniel reports that the Ancient of Days had a white vesture and white hair. The text here says that the head of Yeshua is white, but rather than meaning Yeshua appeared as an albino, "head" probably is intended as shorthand for the top of his head, namely his hair. In Hebrew society white or gray hair was considered beautiful (Prov 20:29) and greatly respected as a "crown of glory" (Prov 16:31). In the presence of gray hair all stood ready to receive wisdom (Lev 19:32). This vision of Yeshua probably reinforces the Hebrew understanding of age and emphasizes both the Lord's wisdom and his worthiness of respect.
and: Grk. kai, conj. his eyes: pl. of Grk. ophthalmos. were as: Grk. hōs, adv. a flame: Grk. phlox, a flame, from phlegō, to burn or be aflame. of fire: Grk. pur, fire, as a physical state of burning. Daniel described a heavenly visitor similarly as having eyes as "flaming torches" (Dan 10:6). This description (also in Rev 2:18 and 19:12) may be intended as a comparison to the color of fire, just as the hair was compared to the color of wool. Yeshua said in the Sermon on the Mount that the "eye is the lamp of the body" (Matt 6:22), so perhaps the expression "flame of fire" may indicate the intensity of purpose, attitude and emotion John saw in his eyes. Rienecker says the eyes "indicated the penetrating glance which flashed with quick intelligence and, when need arose, with righteous wrath."
15— and his feet resembling fine metal, as having been refined in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters.
and: Grk. kai, conj. his feet: pl. of Grk. pous, which referred to a foot of man or animal. Pous was also a measure of length and used to describe the leg of a couch. resembling: Grk. homoios, adj. See verse 13 above. fine metal: Grk. chalkolibanon, the precise meaning is undetermined but probably brass or bronze of high quality. Daniel described a heavenly visitor similarly as having legs as "polished bronze" (Dan 10:6), and John will later see an angel with similar appearance (Rev 10:1). The word is found no other ancient literature, so John may have coined the term, perhaps conflating chalkos (brass, bronze, copper) and stibō (shine, be radiant), since these words occur in the LXX of Daniel 10:6.
NASBEC suggests that chalkolibanon is derived from chalkos and libanos ("frankincense") (1577), and if so the choice of libanos would be of its color, yellow with a slight greenish tint. Robertson says the metal may have been a compound of copper, gold and silver. as: Grk. hōs, adv. having been refined: Grk. puroomai, perf. pass. part., to set on fire, to burn (Rienecker). in: Grk. en, prep. a furnace: Grk. kaminos, a furnace, oven or kiln. The depiction of the feet is another color comparison. Mounce suggests the feet may be intended to convey strength and stability. and: Grk. kai, conj. his voice: Grk. phōnē. See verse 10 above. as: Grk. hōs, adv. the sound: Grk. phōnē. of many: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope or high degree in amount. waters: pl. of Grk. hudōr, water as the physical element.
"Many waters" is a simile for loudness and a comparison to the divine voice (Frankfurter 467). John may be alluding to Ezekiel's report, "And his voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with his glory" (Ezek 43:2; cf. Ps 29:2-9; 68:33; 93:4; Ezek 1:24; Rev 14:2; 19:6). Earle suggests that John connected the sound to the crashing waves of the Aegean Sea on the shores of the rocky Patmos. The reader should not assume that when Yeshua returns he will manifest any of the physical characteristics described in this vision. The testimony of the angel at the ascension (Acts 1:11) affirmed that Yeshua would return as he left and that promise may relate as much to the physical appearance of Yeshua as to his mode of travel. In any event John offers no symbolic interpretation, but the startlingly sight and sound of the vision compelled him to listen.
The Mystery of the Stars and Lampstands (1:16-20)
16— and in his right hand he was holding seven stars, and out of his mouth was coming a sharp two-edged sword; and his face as the sun shining in its strength.
and: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. his right: Grk. dexios, right, often used of bodily limbs, but also of location. hand: Grk. cheir, the body part with fingers, the hand. The right hand indicates God's strength, sovereignty, security and salvation (Ps 16:8; 18:35; 89:13; Acts 5:31). he was holding: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application. seven: Grk. hepta, the cardinal number seven, used here of quantity. stars: pl. of Grk. astēr, a luminous heavenly body other than the sun. In Scripture the term may refer to any object in the heavens, whether planets, asteroids, meteors or stars. John sees that the Messiah is holding in his right hand seven objects emanating light, which seemed as miniature stars of the heavens. The Lord declared through Isaiah, "Surely My hand founded the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand together" (Isa 48:13 NASB; cf. Ps 8:3; Isa 45:12; Heb 1:10).
and: Grk. kai, conj. out of: Grk. ek, prep. his mouth: Grk. stoma, the bodily organ of the head used for eating and speaking. The phrase "out of the mouth," occurs seven times in Revelation (also 9:17; 11:5; 12:15; 16:13; 19:15, 21). As a metaphor in Scripture "mouth" refers to the strong power of influence that can be used for good or evil, including bringing about death. The metaphor accomplishes the same intent as the expression "breath of his mouth" with which Yeshua executes justice on the wicked (cf. Job 4:9; Isaiah 11:4), and particularly on the beast and his followers (Rev 19:15; cf. 2Th 2:8). was coming: Grk. ekporeuomai, pres. mid. part., to go out or to come out (BAG). The verb has both literal and figurative usages. The verb is usually associated with coming out of a place.
a sharp: Grk. oxus, having a keen edge or point, sharp. two-edged: Grk. distomos, double-edged and is used only three times in the Besekh, all in reference to a sword. sword: Grk. rhomphaia refers to a long-bladed and heavy broadsword used by Thracians and other barbarous nations (Rienecker). Outside of Revelation rhomphaia is only used for the sword that would pierce Miriam's heart (Luke 2:35). The "sharp two-edged sword" is a powerful weapon, but it is not the double-edged sword of Hebrews 4:12. For a sword to be "two-edged" meant greater sharpness. Victorinus observes:
"By the twice-sharpened sword going forth out of his mouth is shown, that it is he Himself who has both now declared the word of the Gospel, and previously by Moses declared the knowledge of the law to the whole world. But because from the same word, as well of the New as of the Old Testament, he will assert Himself upon the whole human race, therefore he is spoken of as two-edged. For the sword arms the soldier, the sword slays the enemy, the sword punishes the deserter. And that he might show to the apostles that he was announcing judgment, he says: 'I came not to send peace, but a sword.'"
and: Grk. kai, conj. his face: Grk. opsis, the front part of the head from the forehead to the chin; face. as: Grk. hōs, adv. the sun: Grk. hēlios (for Heb. shemesh), the sun, the star that is the central body of the solar system, created on the fourth day to "govern the day" (Gen 1:16-19). Its mean distance from the earth is about 93 million miles from the earth, which assures the right balance of heat, light and photosynthesis to sustain all of earth's physical and biological processes. In both the solar system and on the earth "there is nothing hidden from its heat" (Ps 19:6). The sun moves in an orbit through the Milky Way Galaxy (Ps 19:5-6), at a speed that scientists estimate to be 600,000 mph (BBMS 165).
shining: Grk. phainō, pres., may mean (1) function in a manner that makes observation possible; shine, appear, or (2) be in a state or condition of being visible or observed; appear. in: Grk. en, prep. its: Grk. autos. strength: Grk. dunamis, ability to function effectively; power, might. In the apostolic writings dunamis is primarily used to refer to the power of God. In ordinary usage the Greek word suggests the inherent capacity of someone to carry something out, whether it be physical, spiritual, military or political (DNTT 2:601). In the LXX dunamis was used to translate Hebrew words that referred to military forces or the power of a ruler (DNTT 2:602). The phrase "sun shining in its strength," a vivid word picture. Current scientific research indicates that the sunlight hitting the earth is equal to approximately 1,368 watts per square meter, a brightness so intense that a person cannot look directly at the sun for any lengthy period without experiencing discomfort and even damage to the eyes.
The shining of the Messiah's face might have reminded John of his experience on the mountain of Transfiguration (Matt 17:2). When Moses came down the mountain from God's presence his face shone so much as to require a veil (Ex 34:29f). In Moses' experience the apostle Paul saw the spiritual transformation that takes place in the believer, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2Cor 3:18 NASB).
17— And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead and he laid his right hand upon me, saying, "Fear not; I AM the first and the last,
And: Grk. kai, conj. when: Grk. hote, temporal marker linking an event with another event, here with a focus on coincidence of time. I saw: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 2 above. him: Grk. autos. I fell: Grk. piptō, aor., to drop from a relatively high position to a lower position, apparently in prone position. at: Grk. pros, prep. his feet: pl. of Grk. pous. See verse 15 above. as: Grk. hōs. See verse 10 above. dead: Grk. nekros. See verse 5 above. John was so overwhelmed by what he saw that he passed out. Abraham immediately fell on his face when he heard God speak (Gen 17:3). Moses hid his face for fear after God spoke from the burning bush (Ex 3:7). Joshua fell on his face to the ground when confronted by the angel of YHVH (Josh 5:14).
Daniel blanched and fell to the ground in a deep sleep when a heavenly visitor came to give him a revelation of the future (Daniel 10:8f). Similarly, Ezekiel immediately fell on his face upon receiving the heavenly visions (Ezek 1:28; 3:23; 43:3). A quite understandable reaction. Irenaeus asserted that John actually died, saying,
"But when John could not endure the sight… that what was written might come to pass: 'No man sees God, and shall live' (Ex 33:20), and the Word reviving him…declared 'I am the first and the last.'" (Against Heresies, IV, 13:11) However, the adverb "as" argues against the interpretation of Irenaeus.
and: Grk. kai, conj. he laid: Grk. tithēmi, aor., to arrange for association with a physical site; place, put, set out, serve, lay. his right hand: See verse 16 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. me: Grk. autos. Whether it was a fainting spell, a coma or actual death, Yeshua acted quickly to restore him. John felt the Master's right hand, although in the vision it held the seven stars. Daniel, too, felt that restorative touch (Dan 10:10). What a comfort! The One who upholds the universe (Heb 1:3) and the congregations also cares about the needs of every individual.
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 8 above. Fear: Grk. phobeomai, pres. mid. part., to fear, terrify, dread, withdraw (flee) from. not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, generally subjective in nature; not. I AM: Grk. egō eimi. See verse 8 above. the first: Grk. prōtos, adj. The basic idea has to do with 'beforeness.' The term is used in two ways: (1) having primary position in a temporal sequence; first, earlier, earliest; and (2) standing out in significance or importance; first, most prominent, most important, first of all. Both meanings can have application here. and: Grk. kai, conj. the last: Grk. eschatos, adj., coming at the end or after all others; last. The phrase "the first and last" is an allusion to God's self-revelation as the God of Israel,
"Thus says Adonai, Israel's King and his Redeemer, Adonai-Tzva'ot: 'I am the first, and the last, and there is no God beside Me.'" (Isa 44:6 TLV; cf. Isa 41:4).
In context the Isaiah passage meant two things. First, God brought the nation of Israel into existence and declared the future of that nation to the end of time. Since there is no one greater than the God of Israel, John can stop being afraid. Second, the Lord insists that he was alone in the beginning before creation (Gen 1:1). While the human mind cannot wrap itself around the concept of God's perpetual and eternal existence, He has always existed. No god or sentient being existed before the Creator and since He created all things He would know if there was another god in existence. God would also be the "last," since he can destroy all things, but no one can destroy him. And, God will always have the last word. Paul combined these ideas in his introduction to Hebrews:
"At many times and in many ways, God spoke long ago to the fathers through the prophets. 2 In these last days He has spoken to us through a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things and through whom He created the universe" (Heb 1:1-2 TLV).
"First and last" is comparable to three other titles, "Alpha and Omega" (1:8), "beginning and end" (22:13) and "author and finisher" (Heb 12:2), that use terms of the opposite ends of a spectrum to summarize all of God's divine attributes, and in so doing affirms the deity of Yeshua.
18— and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am living into the ages of the ages, and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the Living One: Grk. zaō, pres. part., be in the state of being alive. That Yeshua refers to Himself as "the living one" is significant. "Alive" in Scripture refers to real physical existence of flesh and blood (Lev 17:11; Luke 24:39; John 20:27). and: Grk. kai, conj. I was: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 1 above. dead: Grk. nekros. See verse 5 above. Physical death was only a brief interruption and Yeshua will never die again. The atoning blood only needed to be spilled once. and: Grk. kai, conj. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 7 above. I am: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. living: Grk. zaō, pres. part. into: Grk. eis, prep. the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn. of the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn. See verse 6 above for the phrase "the ages of the ages," which is an Hebraic way of speaking of eternity past to eternity future.
and: Grk. kai, conj. I have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 16 above. the keys: pl. of Grk. kleis refers to anything used for locking, especially a key. Usages of kleis in Revelation also include: "key of David," 3:7; and "key of the abyss," 9:1; 20:1. The "keys" refer to the Lord's authority over the power of the curse that God imposed on humanity because of Adam's sin. Yeshua has the sure knowledge that in the flesh he will be alive forevermore. of Death: Grk. thanatos, not alive in a physical sense, but the term is also used in a figurative sense of existence outside a relationship with God, as well as eternal death. He could also be using "Death" here as a personification as occurs in 6:8 and 20:13-14.
and of Hades: Grk. hadēs originally in Greek culture referred to the god of the underworld. In later Greek hadēs became associated with a locale (Danker). In the LXX hadēs occurs more than 100 times, in the majority of instances to translate Heb. sheol, the underworld which receives all the dead (DNTT 2:206). Josephus used the term hadēs with the same meaning (Ant. VI, 14:2). In the Tanakh little is known of sheol, except that it is a place of darkness devoid of joy (Job 17:13; Ps 6:5).
However, during the intertestamental period many Jews embraced the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and resurrection, which altered the concept of hadēs. Reward and punishment would begin after death and the souls of the righteous would enter heavenly blessedness, while the souls of the ungodly are punished in hadēs. Josephus records that this was the position of the Pharisees and the Essenes (Wars II, 8:14). This separation is clearly presented in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-26). Thus Hades lost its role as the resting place of all souls and became a place where the unredeemed dead are kept in anticipation of the final judgment.
Of interest is that the Greek word for hell, gehenna, does not occur in Revelation at all, although Hades is probably an equivalent term. Yeshua, who spoke of gehenna more than anyone in Scripture, equates it as a place of immediate punishment after death (Luke 12:5), in contrast with the final place of punishment described in Revelation (19:20). As a location Hades can be equated with the bottomless pit of 9:1, which is its lowest region and located at the center of the earth (cf. Isa 14:15). Hades is always described as being down, thus it is in a subterranean region of the earth (cf. Matt 11:23; 12:40; Luke 10:15; Eph 4:9). The Bible does not admit to any belief in Purgatory, and Hades is not a temporary abode where one's guilt is purged in order to qualify for the blessing of heaven. Typical of the Reformers, Wesley, in his comment on this verse, wondered how the Pope came to have possession of the keys of Purgatory.
While the reference to death and Hades may be of the death of the body and the destination of unbelieving spirits the promise may actually mean there are two demonic spirits or princes that have power over death and those that arrive in the Pit. (cf. Ex 12:23; Jdg 9:23; Hos 13:14; 1Cor 10:10; 15:55; 2Th 2:3; Rev 6:8; 9:11; 17:8; 20:13f). In his death and resurrection Yeshua conquered the demonic powers (Col 2:15). In 1 Corinthians 10:10 Paul uses the personal taunt of Hosea 13:14, "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" (NKJV).
Yeshua conquered these two demonic princes, Death and Hades, not merely in an abstract theological sense, but in a very personal sense. Beginning with the thief on the cross, Yeshua holds out the promise of Paradise following death to all who believe in Him. Yeshua took the "keys" formerly held by Death and Hades, which means that he alone controls the access in and out of the underworld prison (cf. 1Sam 2:6). The Lord gave his apostles the keys to the kingdom of heaven, meaning the authority to preach the Good News and disciple believers in the faith, but he reserved the keys of Death and Hades to Himself.
19— "Write therefore the things you saw, and the things that are, and the things that are about to take place after these things.
Write: Grk. graphō, aor. imp. See verse 3 above. therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which may (1) indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then;' (2) indicate that one takes account of something in the narrative immediately preceding, 'then;' or (3) simply indicate a stage in the narrative, 'so, then.' The first application fits here. The Lord commands John to provide an accurate account of his experience. John's report is to be based on what he has seen and heard, no more and no less. Whether John wrote down his Revelation experience while still on Patmos (cf. 10:4) or after his return to Ephesus is uncertain. Nowhere does John offer narrative about the physical act of writing.
Writing Revelation while on Patmos would have required considerable accommodation by the Roman military overseers, both as to time and provision of writing materials, but such allowance would not have been impossible. Consider the accommodation shown the apostle Paul when he was in Roman custody (Acts 28:30). the things: pl. of Grk. hos, used here as a demonstrative pronoun; this, that. you saw: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 2 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. the things that: Grk. hos. are: Grk. eimi, pres. and: Grk. kai, conj. the things that: Grk. hos. are about to: Grk. mellō, pres., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to, be going to.
take place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf. See verse 9 above. after: Grk. meta, prep. these things: pl. of Grk. toũto, neut. demonstrative pronoun, 'this.' The three time references seem to provide a basic division of material in the book, although certainly not in any rigid sense. Time shifts are common in Revelation. The "things which you have seen" could refer to the vision of the glorified Messiah, but most likely it means the total Revelation experience. Past tense verbs are frequently used in Revelation to refer to events that await fulfillment in the future. John repeatedly declares "I saw" to underscore that the content of Revelation came from first-hand knowledge.
The phrase "things which are" is ambiguous but may refer to the present circumstances of the seven Asian congregations and the letters John is directed to write to them (chapters 1—3). Of course, man's consciousness of time is only in the present and for John all of the Revelation was given in his "present time" on Patmos. Most significantly, the "things that are" refers to objective truth and facts about reality. Revelation pauses numerous times to reflect on those things, such as the fact that Yeshua is alive, that God created the universe and all in it, and that God's people have cause to rejoice in the majesty and faithfulness of God.
The future tense statement "the things are about to take place" probably would not have communicated much to John at the moment he heard it. The phrase "after these things" occurs several times in Revelation (4:1; 7:9; 9:12; 15:5; 18:1; 19:1; 20:3) and serves simply as a method of marking transition from one visionary experience to another. Here the Lord uses the phrase to inform John that unimaginable new knowledge awaits him. For the generations that followed John the "future things" elusively remained in the future. Taking Revelation as straightforward narrative means that the prophecies of God's great acts in chapters six through twenty-two still are awaiting fulfillment, since none of the cataclysmic events described have occurred. However, when God does grant permission for the trumpets to begin blowing "in the fullness of time" all will be completed quickly.
In summary, then, the Lord did not merely provide John in this verse a chronology of the book or human history. Rather, the Lord emphasizes the three types of content: the visions, the truth and God's acts of redemption.
20— "As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw on my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the messengers of the seven congregations, and the seven lampstands are the seven congregations.
the mystery: Grk. mustērion, which in common Greek usage meant a secret rite or secret teaching. Yeshua first used the term "mystery" when he explained why he taught in parables (Matt 13:11), but the concept of God's secrecy was originally explained to Moses, "the secret things belong to the Lord" (Deut 29:29). In Scripture a mystery is a reality or plan that God kept concealed from his people but finally revealed to his apostles (cf. Eph 3:5). God had communicated several mysteries (cf. Dan 2:28f; Matt 13:11; 1Cor 4:1; 13:2) to his prophets, but the meaning remained obscure, in effect hidden in plain sight. God's secret counsels were necessary because man cannot really be trusted (John 2:24f) and Satan engages in unceasing warfare against God's kingdom and would certainly use any intelligence to hinder God's workings (John 10:10; cf. Eph 6:12; 1Th 2:18; 1Pet 5:8).
The term "mystery" occurs only four times in Revelation, but given the "sevenness" of Revelation, the reader might expect to find at least seven mysteries. Several mysteries are identified in the rest of the apostolic writings, such as the mystery of the kingdom (Mark 4:11), the mystery of the hardening of Israel (Rom 11:25), the mystery of the Good News (Rom 16:25; Eph 6:19), the mystery of God (1Cor 2:1, 7), the mystery of the resurrection (1Cor 15:51), the mystery of the Messiah (Eph 1:9; 3:4; Col 1:26f; 2:2; 4:3), the mystery of the Messiah and his people (Eph 5:32), the mystery of lawlessness (2Th 2:7), the mystery of the faith (1Tim 3:9) and the mystery of godliness (1Tim 3:16). Five specific mysteries are identified in Revelation: the mystery of the seven stars and seven lampstands in this verse, the mystery of God (10:7), the mystery of the woman Babylon (17:5) and the mystery of the beast (17:7). The remaining two mysteries the mystery of the resurrection (20:4; cf. 1Cor 15:51) and the mystery of the millennium (20:4-6; cf. 1Cor 15:25).
In order for man to understand anything of God's mysteries, he must reveal them, and God chose the prophets and apostles as the messengers of his revelation (2Pet 1:20f; 3:2). Even though John was an eyewitness to the Father's revelation, he would not have known with any certainty the meaning of the symbolic portions of the prophecy without the divine explanations. It is even more crucial for interpreters of John's report to allow God to be the final arbiter of what his Word means. Then with the aid of the Holy Spirit the revealed truth can be comprehended by his disciples and applied to life (1Cor 2:12-13; 2Tim 3:16f). So, the Lord proceeds to explain the symbolic significance of the vision.
of the seven: Grk. hepta, the number seven. stars: pl. of Grk. astēr. See verse 16 above. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. you saw: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 2 above. on: Grk. epi, prep. My right: Grk. dexios. See verse 16 above. hand: Grk. cheir. See verse 16 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. the seven: Grk. hepta. golden: Grk. chrusous. See verse 12 above. lampstands: pl. of Grk. luchnia. See verse 12 above. In characteristic fashion Yeshua explains to John the mysteries of the stars and lampstands. The seven: Grk. hepta. stars: pl. of Grk. astēr. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. the messengers: pl. of Grk. angelos. See the note on 1:1. The use of angelos here is obviously of human beings since angels do not pastor congregations. See the Additional Note below.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the seven: Grk. hepta. lampstands: pl. of Grk. luchnia. are the seven: Grk. hepta. congregations: pl. of Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 4 above. Some commentators have concluded that the seven lampstands represent seven church ages. Another symbolic interpretation is that the distinctive points of rebuke or commendation represent types of churches that have existed in every age. Rosenthal suggests that Yeshua follows the pattern in the Hebrew prophetic works of using contemporary events to project into the distant future, and, thus, the content of the letters is pertinent to a present concern and reflective of the condition of Christendom in the last days (288). The text offers no evidence to support any such symbolic interpretation, which leads only to fruitless speculations.
Unlike the parables of Yeshua there is not even a hint of typology. Indeed, the Lord's rebukes and warnings for each congregation are applicable to all periods of history. The messages to the congregations, then, should cause the reader to make personal application as implied by the invitation to hear what the Spirit says. The significance of the lampstands must be found in the function of the lampstand, i.e., to give off light. In Zechariah's vision the single menorah located in the Jerusalem Temple typified Israel's high calling to shine the light of God from its land to other nations (Zech 4:2, 10; cf. Deut 4:5-8; Isa 60:1-3; Ezek 5:5) (Baron 131). Yet, Israel under the Herods and Sadducees failed in its divine mission, prompting Yeshua to declare, "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it" (Matt 21:43).
The seven lampstands graphically illustrate God's view of the function of the faithful remnant of Israel (cf. Matt 5:14-16). The disciples of Yeshua were called to leave their homeland and take the light of the Good News of the Messiah to the ends of the earth. The seven individual lampstands may illustrate the independence of each congregation in an organizational sense, but together they represent the unity of the Spirit under the headship of the Messiah. The natural result of the light shining through the Messianic congregations is that God will be glorified (Matt 5:16), the worship of God will not be centralized in one place (John 4:21-24), Yeshua will be esteemed in local communities (Acts 19:17) and Torah principles will be modeled and communicated to a world without moral compass (Mic 4:2; Rom 8:4; Phil 2:15f). The commendations, challenges and rebukes in the letters that follow relate in some way to the basic character Yeshua expects of his people. Since the Greek word for these lampstands referred to an implement that used oil as its source of energy, an inference may be drawn about the power of the Holy Spirit needed by the believer to give off the light of Yeshua.
Additional Note on Angeloi as Messengers
In the apostolic writings angelos occurs 176 times, but is used outside of Revelation only six times of men (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24; 9:52; Jas 2:25 and Luke 7:27 quoting Mal 3:1). The corresponding Hebrew word malak means messenger, representative, courier or angel. Malak occurs 213 times in the Hebrews Scriptures, about equally divided in reference to a heavenly messenger and to a human messenger. The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or human relies primarily on the context. Often in the Tanakh and the Besekh the identification "of the Lord" is added to confirm the messenger as angelic.
The term malak is used frequently of a human being sent with a message from another human (Gen 32:3, 6; Num 20:14; 21:21; 22:5; Deut 2:26; Jdg 6:35; 7:34; 9:31; 11:12, 13, 14, 17, 19; 1Sam 6:21; 1Kgs 10:2 [51 times in 1Samuel―2Kings]; 1Chr 14:1; 19:2,16; 2Chr 18:12; 35:21; Neh 6:3; Job 1:14; Prov 13:17; 17:11; Isa 14:32; 18:2; 30:4; 37:9,14; Jer 27:3; Ezek 17:15; 23:16,40; 30:9; Nah2:14). Malak is more particularly used of a prophet (2Chr 36:15, 16; Isa 42:19; 44:26; Hag 1:13 and Mal 3:1) and a priest (Eccl 5:5; Mal 2:7).
Considerable difference of opinion exists among commentators concerning whether these seven angeloi should be interpreted as supernatural beings or humans. Stern summarizes the difficulty by pointing out that (1) if these stars are angels it is odd that John is directed to write to them, (2) pastors are never called angels in Scripture and (3) no reason is given for addressing each of the letters to an individual instead of the whole body of believers. Gregg observes, "We may justly conceive of the communications between God and his heavenly angels as being somewhat more direct than to require letters posted by apostles" (62). The difficulty is illustrated another way by some commentators asserting that the delinquencies of the congregations cannot be laid at the feet of the heavenly angels (as Faussett) and others insisting that the "angels" cannot be human officers of a congregation for the exact same reason (as Coffman).
However, the concept of the individual representing the whole is everywhere in the Scriptures. As the judge or king went so went the nation of Israel and God often judged the people for the actions of the leader. Nevertheless, many commentators opt for a spiritual interpretation, essentially explaining a symbol with another symbol. Barclay sees the angel as the ideal of the congregation and the congregations are being addressed as their ideal selves to bring them back to the right way. Ladd suggests that the angels are an unusual symbol to represent the heavenly or supernatural character of the congregation. Mounce concludes that angels personify the prevailing spirit of the congregations. For Coffman the angels symbolize the obedient disciples, since they are the ones who receive strength and protection from the hand of Yeshua.
While symbolic interpretations may seem to avoid difficulties, Yeshua gave a straightforward substantive explanation of the meaning of the stars. Nowhere in Revelation does the Lord intentionally seek to clarify the visions by creating obscurity. Interpretation needs to begin by considering the usage of "star" in Scripture. The word "star," of course, refers to an interstellar body, but serves as a useful figure of heavenly beings in some passages (Judg 5:20; Job 38:7; Ps 148:3). While little is known of angel hierarchy, angels do serve as personal guardians of the God's people (Matt 18:10; Acts 12:15). Michael's protector role in relation to Israel (Dan 12:1), suggests that other angels are similarly assigned in other cities wherever the Body of the Messiah is found.
Morris observes that pastors may come and go, but the angel of the congregation can continue as long as the people of God are present (DSB), and indeed "some have entertained angels without knowing it" (Heb 13:2). The experience of Job illustrates the power of angels when given permission to use it. Angels do the Lord's bidding and sometimes are God's instruments in executing his judgment, particularly among his own people. When David sinned, an angel struck down many Israelites (2Sam 24:17). When King Herod allowed himself to become the object of idolatry, an angel struck him down (Acts 12:23). If "angels" here refers to heavenly beings, then Yeshua may be alluding to parallel activities.
A suggested scenario is that in heaven Yeshua gives his messages to the seven angels, while on earth John sends the Lord's letters to be circulated among the seven pastors for public reading. Angels would be involved because the spiritual restoration, revival, or reformation called for in the letters invariably result in spiritual warfare with the demonic realms. As Paul reminded the congregation, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:12). The reality of the demonic opposition to spiritual growth requires prayer and intercession for God's people (Eph 6:18), and in response God sends his angels into battle to help his people (cf. 12:7; Judg 5:20; Dan 10:13, 21; 12:1).
Having made a case for the stars being angels, there are far more passages in the Bible in which "star" is figuratively applied to various people on earth. "Star" is used to symbolize the sons of Jacob (Gen 37:9), the seed of Abraham (Gen 22:17; Ex 32:13; Deut 1:10; 10:22; 28:62; Neh 9:23), God's people (Dan 12:3; Heb 11:12), King David (Num 24:17), the king of Babylon (Isa 14:4, 12f), heretical teachers (Jude 1:10-13) and Yeshua (2Pet 1:19; Rev 2:28; 22:16).
Much confusion probably could have been avoided if the word angelos had been translated as "messenger" in Christian versions, which is the literal meaning. Commentators generally reject the translation of "messenger" because in the apostolic writings angelos is used for heavenly emissaries who visited Zechariah, Miriam, Joseph, Yeshua, and the apostles. Since Revelation was originally written in Hebrew, then "messenger" should be considered in light of its frequent occurrence in the Tanakh for human messengers. Thus, many commentators (e.g., Barnes, Clarke, Faussett, Henry, and Wesley) believe the "angels" are congregation leaders. Since the people of God in a large city likely consisted of multiple groups meeting in private homes, then the "messenger" would probably have been the "overseer" that had shepherding responsibility for the local Body of Messiah (cf. 1Tim 3:1).
Little considered by commentators is that Messianic communities in the apostolic era, being primarily Jewish, followed the model of the synagogue for organization. Indeed, the community is addressed as sunagōgē in Jacob's letter (Jas 2:2), although commonly translated as assembly or meeting. Moseley suggests that angelos was a term used of a synagogue minister (9). There is no such usage in the apostolic writings, but the synagogue organization included a wide variety of leadership and ministry positions (Moseley 8-11), and those who taught the Scriptures could easily have been thought of as messengers for God. The term "messenger" emphasizes that regardless of the level of administrative or supervisory duties his most important responsibility is speaking for the Lord as the Messiah's duly appointed representative. The same priority would exist today for pastors.
Scofield suggests that the messengers were men sent by the seven congregations to determine the condition of the exiled apostle, just as Epaphroditus was sent to Paul while he was in prison (Phil 4:18). Against this practical solution Barnes objects that (1) no evidence exists of anyone visiting John; (2) visiting a banished exile in Patmos would probably never be permitted; and (3) the messages were not sent by them, but to them as indicated by the greeting of each letter. Scofield, like most commentators, overlooks a key element. While some letters draw attention to certain sinning members and all the letters enjoin all the members to apply the message of the Spirit as it fits, the content of the letters is addressed first and foremost to the messengers, since the personal pronouns and verbs are predominately second person singular. The Lord's personal application does not make the letters of Revelation unique since other apostolic epistles contain censure of individual leaders (Gal 2:11; 1Cor 5:1-3; Php 4:1-4; 3Jn 1:9-10).
John also notes that the seven stars are kept in the Lord's right hand, making these "messengers" of more significant stature than mere postal couriers. The figure of the right hand in Scripture is frequently used to emphasize God's power to protect and to deliver his people from harm (Ps 60:5; 63:8; 98:1; 108:6; 118:15f; 138:7; 139:10). Being held in the Messiah's right hand indicates that the same sovereign care and control that keeps the stars of the heavens in their places and fulfilling their created design of providing light to the earth will also assure the security and well-being of his messengers and the congregations they oversee (cf. Deut 33:3; 1Sam 24:20; 1Chr 29:12; Ps 31:15; John 10:28).
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Bacchiocchi: Samuele Bacchiocchi, The Sabbath Under Crossfire: A Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity. Biblical Perspectives, 1999. Online.
Barclay: William Barclay, The Revelation of John. 2 Vols. The Westminster Press, 1976.
Barnes: Albert Barnes, New Testament Notes. Baker Book House, 1949. Online.
Baron: David Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary on His Vision and Prophecies. Kregel Publications, 1918.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.
CSS: Marie Coody, Linda Shaw, Helen Silvey, Revelation: Vision of Hope and Promise. 2 Vols. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2000.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Earle: Ralph Earle, The Book of The Revelation. Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. X. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1967.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim, The Temple-Its Ministry and Services, Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament. eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, Allen Wikgren. American Bible Society, 1966. (NA25)
Henry: Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (1710). Unabridged Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1991. Online.
Johnson: Alan F. Johnson, Revelation. Expositor's Bible Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. (Zondervan CD-ROM Version 2.6, 1989-1998)
Juster: Daniel Juster, Revelation: The Passover Key. Destiny Image Publishers, 1991.
King: Marie Gentert King, ed., Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1968.
Ladd: George E. Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972.
Lyons: George Lyons, "Commentary on Revelation," Illustrated Bible Life. WordAction Publications, December-February 1995-1996.
Metzger-TNT: Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Morris: Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record. Tyndale House Publishers, 1987.
Mounce: Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation. rev. ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.
NASBEC: New American Standard Bible Exhaustive Concordance. Updated Edition. Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.
Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co., 1882.Rienecker
Stern: David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 5th ed. Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1996.
Suetonius: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (c. 69-122 A.D.), The Twelve Caesars. Trans. Robert Graves. Penguin Books, 1957. Online.
Tacitus: Publius Gaius Tacitus (c. 56-117 A.D.), The Annals of Imperial Rome. Trans. Michael Grant. Penguin Books, 1975. Online.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Bible Institute, 1980.
Varner: William C. Varner, Jacob's Dozen. The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1987.
Victorinus: Victorinus, Bishop of Pettau (d. 303 A.D.), Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John.
Wesley: John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament: Revelation. 2 Vols. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1981. Online.
Wilson: Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.
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