Notes on Revelation (Chapters 1-7)

Revelation Chapter 1: John's vision

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John has a Revelation and tells how it came about. It is important that the churches know that the revelation comes from Jesus, and that they understand that the revelation was also validated by the Holy Spirit.

Note that John saw Jesus among seven candlesticks and holding seven stars. Jesus is also seen with a double-edged sword coming out of His mouth. In Rev. 1:20, Jesus says the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven candle lampstands are the seven churches.

The double-edged sword is commonly interpreted as a symbol of Jesus using the Word of God as a spiritual sword to destroy wickedness. And, of course, Jesus IS the Word of God.

As a side note, the double-edged sword, which is also referred to in Hebrews 4:12, "... penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." We see the sword re-appear in Rev. 19:15, where Jesus comes back to set up God's Kingdom at the end of time, and destroys His enemies with the sword that "comes out of His mouth."

Notice that John's vision shows Jesus, candlesticks, stars and a sword, but the candles are not mentioned as being lit on the lampstands. But candles can show no light if they have no fire. So where would heavenly fire come from?

Note that, according to Rev. 1:4, there are seven spirits (torches) before God's throne, and scholars believe those "torches" are 1) the ministries of the angels of the seven churches, or 2) the Holy Spirit Himself or 3) the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, of course, has His own fire, which disciples witnessed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

The seven Spirits of God, in fact are mentioned four times in the Book of Revelation:

  • Revelation 1:4 - John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
  • Revelation 3:1 - And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
  • Revelation 4:5 - And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
  • Revelation 5:6 - And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

According to Wikipedia, "The "Sevenfold Ministry of the Spirit" interpretation holds that the seven Spirits refer to Book of Isaiah 11:2. In this interpretation, "The "seven Spirits" represent the sevenfold ministry of the Spirit as depicted in Isaiah ..."

You can't say with 100 percent certainly exactly who the seven spirits of God really are, of course. You can read more about the seven spirits in this study.

Revelation Chapters 2-3: Instructions to 7 churches

The book of Revelation was intended as a revelation for the churches, too, not just for John. Jesus has John write instructions to the seven churches in existence during John's time. In every set of instructions for individual churches, Jesus tells every church:

  • Who He is
  • How HE sees that church
  • What is being done wrong, and what is being done right
  • How to fix what is wrong; praise for what is right
  • Encouragement/admonishment to continue along the right path and the eternal rewards for doing right

Notice how man times the number 7 is used. Examples: Seven churches, seven candlesticks, seven stars and seven spirits (torches) before the throne of God. Seven, indeed, is the number of God, or things related to God Himself.

Revelation Chapter 2

Revelation 2:29 by saying, "He that has an ear, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches." Note the endorsement of the Holy Spirit to what is being said in Chapters 2-3. So, we have two Persons of the Holy Trinity speaking - the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit.

Revelation Chapter 3

Here we see another reference to the number 7 in Revelation 3:1, which refers to the "seven spirits of God."

In Revelation 3:22, at the end of instructions to all the churches, we again see that the Holy Spirit validates what John saw as being a true and accurate account of what Jesus wanted the churches to know, a validation which we first saw in Revelation 2:29.

Revelation Chapter 4

In Rev. 4:1, a voice calls John to "come up here", and it sounds like a trumpet. There are other references to heavenly voices that sound like trumpets, too. God's voice may also sound like one. And Jesus has a voice that sounds like "many waters", which must be a loud, rumbling sound (Rev. 1:15). Thus, Heaven must be a loud-sounding place - at least at times.

And in Rev. 4:2, the scripture says, "And straightway, I was in the spirit ..." Could this be what the Rapture might be like, or what it might be like when Christians die and go to Heaven? There appears to be no time lapse between when John was "called up" and when he was there in Heaven in the spirit." Consider these scriptures: Luke 23:43Philippians 1:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:8.

In Rev. 4:3, we see a reference to a rainbow John sees around God's throne. There are only three other references to a rainbow in the Bible:

  • The first time a reference to a rainbow appears is in Genesis 9:12-17, where God puts a token of His covenant with Noah in the clouds as a rainbow.
  • The second time it appears is in Ezekiel Chapter 1. In a vision, Ezekiel sees God seated on a throne that looked like sapphire (Ezekiel 1:26) and which included a radiance "like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day (Ezekiel 1:28, Parallel Bible).
  • In Revelation 10:1, John sees a might angel robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head.

So, what could the rainbow symbolize. We can make some generalizations:

  • It has to do with God's covenant with mankind, starting with Noah.
  • It has to do with God's glory.
  • It has to do with God's love, mercy, peace, hope and faithfulness.

In Rev. 4:3-9 we see a kind of excerpt from Ezekiel Chapter 1, the famous "wheel within a wheel" chapter of the prophet's book, a reference which is also seen in Ezekiel 10:10). In this Revelation passage, we see a throne of jasper (Ezekiel said looked "like a sapphire stone" in Ezekiel 1:26). We also see four living creatures in Rev. 4:6, as we do, beginning in Ezekiel 1:5).

Rev. 4:4: Why are there 24 thrones around God's throne?

Could 12 thrones belong to Old Testament patriarchs (elders) and another 12 thrones belong to the 12 disciples (New Testament patriarchs/elders)? If so, this could represent the whole panorama of God's covenant relationship with Jews and Gentiles, all of whom are brought together through Christ.

Revelation Chapter 5

This chapter serves as the preamble to the opening of the seven seals. We see the Father with a scroll that has writing on two sides, and which is bound by seven seals. We then see that the only one in Heaven, earth, or under the earth that is worthy to even look at the book is Jesus, the slain Lamb of God. Jesus is also the only one worthy to take it from God's right hand, which He does, and to break the seals, beginning in Revelation Chapter 6.

In Rev. 5:4, we see John weeping, even though he did not know anything about the book, other than it was in the Father's right hand, had writing on two sides, had seven seals around it and that no one was worthy to look at it or to open it. Here, then, we have a mystery: Why would John weep, given his lack of knowledge of the significance of the Father holding such a book, or what was even written in the book?

Revelation Chapter 6

The Lamb (Jesus) now begins to loosen the seven seals of the book He has taken from the right hand of the Father. Chapter 6 sees the opening of six seals, and the seventh seal is not loosed until Chapter 7.

Let's look at what the first six seals are.

The first four seals are four colored horses, each with riders (beings) on them. In order, the colors are: white, red, black, and pale (also interpreted as green). Each colored horse, then, has a seal associated with it. Interestingly, each of the four living creatures before God's throne announces to John what a particular horse's rider is supposed to do:

To sum up, then, the first four seals are the individual horsemen of the Apocalypse. The mystery is why the first four seals are announced to John only by the four living creatures and not some other heavenly being or beings. So, the fact the seals were announced by those creatures must therefore have some spiritual significance not readily apparent to us.

On to the fifth seal: The further martyrdom of the Saints. In Rev. 6:9, we see the souls of those who have been martyred as being under the altar of God, longing to have their blood avenged. Each is given a robe and an explanation as to why they must wait a little longer (Rev. 6:11): More martyrs will die, just like the souls under God's altar.

One might speculate that there is some kind of divine cup of justice that must fist be filled before God will execute judgment. This excerpt from the Lamb & the Lion Ministries web site illustrates this point:

"Sin collecting

"All through the Scripture we find the concept of the accumulation of sin and the wrath of God. It seems that God rarely brings judgment upon His creation with their first offense (Adam and Eve being notable exceptions). Typically He allows the sin and His corresponding anger to accumulate, to "pile up" until finally His very nature requires Him to respond in fury.

"In God's dealings with Abraham we find an excellent example of this. Abraham is told by God that his descendants will inherit the land of Canaan. They will be given the land as a permanent possession. But first they must go to a foreign land (Egypt) where they will be slaves for 400 years. And why is it that Abraham and his descendant cannot begin immediate occupation? God gives a perplexing answer: "For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" (Genesis 15:16).

"Amazing! Here are these ungodly pagans — child sacrificers, idol worshipers, and indulgers in sexual perversion and immorality of every sort — and God says their sin hasn't filled its appointed measure yet. Israel will have to wait four hundred more years to get possession of the land. This little episode tells us three things: 1) God is amazingly patient, 2) God stores up man's unconfessed sin, and 3) There will be a day of reckoning.

"When Joshua brought Israel into the land as invaders 400 years later, God's command was to wipe out these people entirely, leaving nothing breathing. Judgment had been slow in coming, but when it arrived it was devastating. (Read the full article here)."

And now we come to the sixth seal, as written in Rev. 6:12-17.

The sixth seal is a great shaking and an apparent unraveling of Creation. First, there is a great earthquake, followed by the darkening of the sun and a blood-red moon. Next, a great number of stars fall out of the cosmos and onto the earth. The sky disappears (like it was rolled up like a scroll) and every mountain and island on the earth is "removed out of its place." All of this is in Rev. 6:12-14.

Everyone on Earth - from the greatest to the least - sees all of this and hides themselves in caves and rocks of the mountains, and are so terrified that they ask the rocks to fall on them to hide them (Rev. 6:15-16) from both the Father and Jesus. In Rev. 6:17, we see that they realize what's behind what they're seeing: The end of the world is finally near, and they know judgment is being poured out on them.

So, here we see what could be land masses moving, meteor showers or asteroids possibly hitting the Earth, the loss of sunshine and a red-tinged moon. You should know that, in prophecy, a blackened sun is a prophetic warning to all of the nations of the earth that something of significance to heaven is about to happen, and a blood-red moon is a symbol of prophecy that deals only with Israel. Thus, when we see a blackened sun and blood-red moon at the same time, we're seeing a warning of judgment to all nations and also to Israel.

Here's something to consider: What would the sky look like if it were removed (Rev. 6:14)? Would mankind then be able to see right into Heaven? Or would mankind then see what has never been visible before? Could this be the reason that mankind will say in Rev. 6:16 that they want to be hidden from the face of Him who sits on the throne (the Father) and the wrath of the Lamb (Jesus)?

Note also in Rev. 6:17 mankind says the day of their (the Father and Jesus) wrath is come. How did they reach this conclusion? Did they always know this day would come, did it come to them after they saw the signs in the heavens, or did they only believe it when they saw something when the sky was split (removed)? One possible answer might be that, when God reveals Himself to man, man sees himself as who he really is - and who God is in relation to him.

For all the terror and realization that comes upon mankind from all the seals, and especially the sixth seal, there is no mention of mankind's repentance of sin. Instead, we see at the end of the sixth seal a revelation by man that there is a God, judgment is coming, and there is a reason to be afraid; but there is only defiance - man runs to the caves and the mountain rocks and hides, perhaps hoping that God will just "go away."

Revelation Chapter 7

Chapter 7 continues the narrative about the sixth seal. The chapter begins with hints that what's coming next is judgment by wind and sea, and all wind is stopped on the Earth. But before the opening of the seventh seal, however, we see the angels marking the foreheads of 144,000 Jews with the "seal of the living God" (Rev. 7:1-4). Then each tribe and the total sealed are enumerated - 12,000 people from each of the 12 tribes, for a total of 144,000 souls (Rev. 7:5-8).

The balance of the chapter then tells of a a vast multitude of people in white robes who appear before the throne (Rev. 7:9, composed of those who come out of the great tribulation on the Earth (Rev.7:13-14). Please notice that the seventh seal has not yet been broken.

UP NEXT: Notes on Revelation Chapters 8-14