Commentary on Revelation — [Chapter 1]

 

All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise indicated.

 

Revelation 1

(Rev 1:1-3) – 1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show unto his servants, even the things which must shortly come to pass: and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John; 2 who bare witness of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, even of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein: for the time is at hand.

 

I believe we have in the opening and closing verses of Revelation (Rev 22:18-19), the key to interpreting the time period of this book:

 

(Rev 1:3) – 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein: for the time is at hand.

 

This means that anyone who reads and hears and keeps the things that are written in this book, will be blessed. Not only does this plain statement made by Jesus require this to apply to every Christian of any time period (namely, throughout the Church age), but common sense demands it! The “things that are written therein,” must obviously refer to the things that are written therein! If the book of Revelation is primarily about the last seven years of history, up to the return of Christ (as Dispensational premillennialism teaches), how can all other Christians throughout the Church age who read this book, keep the things that are written in it? This verse helps to interpret the “who” of verse one:

 

(Rev 1:1) – 1 …which God gave him to show unto his servants, even the things which must shortly come to pass:

 

As Christians, we are all “his servants,” and that is whom this book is being addressed, which means every Christian of every period of time. Thus we must conclude that the book of Revelation is about the entire Church age, from the first Advent of Christ to His second. Therefore, we can interpret the words “which must shortly come to pass,” as referring to the beginning of these things, which was at the time the Apostle John wrote this book. Our conclusion is supported by the closing verses of Revelation:

 

(Rev 22:18) –  18 I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book….

(Rev 22:19) – 19 and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy….

 

As with the opening verses of Revelation, the closing verses of Revelation reveal and confirm that this book is about and applies to all Christians and to all people throughout the Church Age. The plain statements of Christ requires it.

 

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs 1)

 

I believe it refers to the revealing of Jesus Himself. He is seen as King of kings and Lord of lords in this book. He is seen in His glory upon the throne of Heaven with His Father. He is seen as the true Savior of the world. He is seen as the true God in the outpouring of His wrath upon a Christ-rejecting world. He is seen in His glorious return to this earth in defeat of His enemies. He is seen as the all-powerful and Sovereign Judge at the Great White Throne Judgment. He is seen upon His glorious throne with the Father in the Eternal Kingdom – the New Jerusalem.

 

“and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (vs 1)

“signified it” (communicated it or made it known)

 

Jesus communicated the things of this book to John via His angel. The name of this angel is not made known, but it’s the same angel referred to in Rev 19:9-10; 22:6-10).

 

(Rev 1:2) – 2 who bare witness of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, even of all things that he saw.

 

The Apostle John was a witness of three things:

 

The Word of God: John is letting his readers know that what they’re about to read is God’s Word. Thus this is not a book to be taken lightly. The things written in this book will surely come to pass, and so those who read, need to respond according to God’s will or suffer the consequences.

The testimony of Jesus: The words of this book are the very words of Christ Himself. This is His testimony of the truth and what lies ahead for those who reject Him, as well as for those who follow Him and remain faithful. Thus John gave witness to the witness of Jesus.

All things that he saw: John gave witness to all the things that was revealed to him, as recorded in this book.

 

John was faithful to share with the world what was revealed to him. He knew that what was shown to him was the truth, and that it would most certainly come to pass. We too as followers of Christ have the truth. The truth has been revealed to us through His written Word as the Holy Spirit has opened our spiritual eyes to it. We are to be faithful, as John was, to share the truth of Christ with those whom God brings into our lives. We must be willing and ready to share the gospel of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit provides those opportunities.

Truth is light and false religion is darkness. This contrast between light and darkness is sharply revealed in this book, and occurs throughout the Church age. Those of us who belong to the light, must allow the light of Christ to shine in our lives to those around us. We are the vehicles through whom Jesus shines His light and His truth and His life to a world in need of Him. If we belong to the light, then we must be faithful to to be who we are in Christ.

If we profess Christ as our Lord and Savior, but are not following Him, His light does not shine through us. Therefore, it’s quite likely that we don’t actually have His light abiding in us. In other words, we don’t actually belong to Him. Faith always follows what it knows to be true. Faith is not simply something we think or feel, it’s something we do.

All of us who profess Christ must take a sincere look at our heart and at the way we are living our lives. We must carefully consider what we truly believe in our heart of hearts. If we really believe what we say we do, then our lives will reflect that belief. We will find ourselves identifying with the faithful that we read about in this book. As we read along, we must ask ourselves which of the two groups we identify with, which group we really belong to.

 

(Rev 1:3) – 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein: for the time is at hand.

 

Blessed are those who “read” and “hear” and “keep” the things that are written in this book. It’s not enough to simply read or hear these words. One must keep (obey) the instruction and warnings of this book, for it is certain that there will be a fulfillment of all the things revealed therein.

No matter at what point we are during the Church age, we will always have to deal with those who identify with and preach a false message. There will always be Christians who will have to deal with a government that is anti-Christian. There will always be consequences for sin and for rejecting Christ. There’s an application for all, and at every point in history. Thus the time is always “at hand” or “near.” Again, this clearly indicates that the book of Revelation covers the whole Church age (up to chapters 21 and 22).

 

(Rev 1:4) – 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits that are before his throne;

 

“to the seven churches”

 

Again, note who it is that John addresses. It’s the Church! Not the nation of Israel. Revelation is a New Testament book, and it must be interpreted according to the teachings of the NT. Dispensational Premillennialism views this book largely as a book that deals with the nation of Israel. But from the very beginning of this book, Jesus, through John (vss. 10-11), reveals that this is a revelation that pertains specifically to the members of His Church. To make this book about the ethnic nation of Israel, is to ignore the intended audience that Jesus specifically addresses.

 

“seven churches”

 

These were seven actual churches of John’s day. Why Jesus chose to address these churches specifically, we cannot know. But no doubt there were certain things about each of those churches – both positive and negative – that Jesus wanted all churches and all Christians to learn from. I believe that in choosing these particular churches Jesus was able to cover all that He wanted to in His address to the Church worldwide.

It’s commonly understood that the number seven represents perfection and completion. Therefore, this suggests that it’s the whole Church throughout the Church age that actually being addressed here.

 

“Grace to you and peace”

 

This greeting has a familiar ring to it. This is how the Apostle Paul typically began his letters. Perhaps the words of Paul were in John’s mind as he was writing this.

 

“from him who is and who was and who is to come”

 

I believe this expresses the eternal existence of God.

 

“seven Spirits”

 

(Also see Rev 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6)

 

I don’t believe there should be any doubt that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit, for the Father and the Son are also included in this salutation. Thus the Trinity of God is clearly revealed here.

But why does John refer to the Holy Spirit as “the seven Spirits?” For sure this does sound strange to our ears, for there’s only one Spirit of God. But we have to keep in mind as we go through Revelation, that this is a book characterized by symbolism. Here we have the first example of that.

What does this expression symbolize? We can’t say with certainty, but the number seven is a very prominent number in this book: seven churches, seven stars, seven candlesticks, seven angels, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowl judgments, seven kings, seven heads, etc.

As I stated above, seven is understood to refer to perfection and completion. Therefore, first and foremost, this would refer to the perfection (sinlessness) and completeness (without lack of anything) of the Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Trinity of God. In fact, this number seven may also have the Trinity of God in view, because to speak of one is to speak of the other, for they operate in perfect harmony as one God.

Considering that this book extends to the final period of history and the return of Christ and the Judgment and the Eternal Kingdom, it makes sense that this “seven,” as applied to the Holy Spirit, refers to the perfect and complete Church, the entire Church age, and the completion of the plan of God for this world and for the people of this world.

God is moving everything together according to a grand plan, toward the fulfillment of this grand plan. It’s the Holy Spirit who moves throughout the world and within the hearts of people. He is the One who convicts the world of sin and reveals truth. He’s the One who makes a person aware of their need for Christ. He’s the One who regenerates the believing sinner. He’s the One who indwells individual believers. He’s the One who indwells the Church. Thus it’s the Holy Spirit who is at work in God’s plan and bringing it to completion.

Therefore, I believe the “seven Spirits” symbolizes perfection and completion, with the whole Church and Church age in view — for the Church of Christ is perfect and complete in Him.

 

and from the seven Spirits that are before his throne”

 

God’s throne represents Supreme authority over all things and all people. The picture of the Holy Spirit being before the throne of God (the Father), suggests what was just explained above, that the Holy Spirit moves throughout the world doing the will of God, carrying out the plan of God for this world. The book of Revelation sees that plan coming to completion.

 

(Rev 1:5) – 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood;

 

“and from Jesus Christ”

 

Again, we see the Second Person of the Trinity here.

 

“who is the faithful witness”

 

As the Son of God, Jesus is the true witness of the true God and of the truth itself. He is the faithful witness of the true salvation of mankind. He is the faithful witness of the glories of Heaven and of things to come. He is the faithful witness of the things written in this book. It’s not possible for Him to speak a lie or to deceive or to lead anyone astray. His witness can be absolutely relied upon.

All other leaders and prophets representing other religions – past and present – are false witnesses. They are witnesses to false gods and false religion and false saviours and false hopes. Anyone who believes their witness will find themselves eternally lost and away from the presence of the true God.

 

“the firstborn of the dead”

 

A cross-reference to this phrase is found in Colossians 1:18:

 

(Col 1:18) – 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

 

Jesus is the beginning or the source of spiritual life, which He secured for us through His resurrection. “Firstborn” refers to His “preeminence” – His place of honor above all and above all things. Christ is preeminent in “all things,” both in regard to the universe and in His resurrection. He was the first to be raised from the dead in a glorified body and in newness of life (1 Cor 15; Ro 6:4-11), never again to return to the grave. His resurrection secured our resurrection. His resurrection proved that He was who He said He was, the Son of the living God, the Savior of the world, and the true King. What separates Christianity from all other religions is the empty tomb, and who it is that walked away from it.

 

“the ruler of the kings of the earth”

 

As we see in the the Colossians reference, this refers to Christ’s preeminence, as the “firstborn from the dead.” The argument can be made that this phrase “the ruler of the kings of the earth,” simply refers to His Sovereignty as God as Ruler over all things, as the Second Person of the Trinity. While there’s no doubt this is in view here, I don’t believe this is all that is in view. I believe the context indicates that John has more than that in mind, that he is actually referring to the Kingdom of Christ, where He rules as King over His Church, and over the world via His Church. In other words, Christ’s kingdom is not some distant future kingdom on this present earth, as Premillennialism teaches.

That the Kingdom of Christ is now and in the form of His Church, is what the NT teaches, and is confirmed in the next verse (vs. 6).

Dispensational Premillennialism teaches that the Kingdom of Christ is an earthly kingdom that begins upon the return of Christ and lasts for a literal 1000 year period. However, I went to great lengths in my series “Kingdom of Christ Now” to demonstrate that the NT teaches that the Kingdom of Christ is actually now, that Christ reigns from His heavenly throne over and through His Church….that the Church is the Kingdom of Christ.

The kingdom of Christ that the Jews looked forward to was fulfilled in Christ and His Church, and will ultimately be fulfilled in the Eternal Kingdom (the New Jerusalem – Rev 21:1-2). That Christ is ruling as King now, and that His Church is His kingdom, is confirmed by Peter in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:29-36).

After His death and resurrection, Jesus ascended to “the right hand of God exalted” (Acts 2:33). This fulfilled the prophecy about Christ found in Psalm 16:8-11 and Psalm 110:1, as quoted by Peter. Then he speaks of the promise of the Holy Spirit being poured out (Acts 2:33), which was the beginning of the Church at Pentecost. Peter then mentions the fact that Christ is at the right hand of God till His enemies are made the footstool of Christ’s feet (Acts 2:35). Peter concludes by saying:

 

(Acts 2:36) – 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.

 

The Jews were looking for an earthly kingdom where their Messiah would reign as King. As a Jew himself, Peter was fully aware of the understanding they had regarding this kingdom. Therefore, in his sermon, Peter corrects their understanding about this, and reveals that their Messiah is reigning right now at the right hand of God, and that their Messiah is the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they crucified. He reveals that the kingdom of Christ is what they were all witnessing.

 

(Rev 1:6) – 6 and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

 

John says that Jesus is the “firstborn of the dead” (Rev 1:5) which, in part, is a reference to His resurrection after dying on the cross for our salvation — which he connects with this statement: “and loosed us from our sins by his blood.” He then says that Jesus “has made us to be a kingdom.” In other words, the corporate people of God (the Church) are a kingdom, which implies a King. But we are not our own king. Jesus is our King. He reigns over us. If you compare this context with Peter’s sermon, the two are in harmony with one another. Thus as the people of God, as the Church, we are a kingdom, and that kingdom is now, and Jesus reigns now.

Before we look at the next phrase in this passage of Revelation, I want to provide an example (one of many) of how Premillennialists must force their position into texts of Scripture to make it fit their position. In regard to Peter’s sermon in Acts, this is what Premillennialist William MacDonald says in his commentary regarding Acts 2:34-35:

 

Quote:

Had not David also predicted the exaltation of the Messiah? He was not speaking of himself in Psalm 110:1. Instead he was quoting Jehovah as saying to the Messiah, “sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Note carefully that verses 33-35 predict a waiting time between the glorification of Christ and His return to punish His enemies and set up His kingdom.)

Unquote

 

Note what MacDonald says in his parentheses. He claims that this passage predicts a “waiting time” between the glorification of Christ (death and resurrection and ascension of Christ), and His return. In other words, this Kingdom-rule doesn’t begin until after Jesus returns, which from the premillennial viewpoint, refers to an earthly millennial kingdom.

However, take a close look at verses 33-35, and you will see that there is NO HINT of any kind of waiting time. That idea must be forced into the text, because it’s simply NOT there. They put this gap into the text because they assume that it belongs there because of what they believe about the Kingdom of Christ. It’s preconceived ideas like this that leads to wrong interpretations.

Premillennialists are missing the whole point of Peter’s sermon, which I already explained in our discussion above. Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father now. Meaning, that He is ruling now, and that He will continue in that place until the defeat of all His enemies, and death is destroyed (1 Cor 15:29-36) — which happens when He returns to judge the world, where every unbeliever on earth dies. Thus the Kingdom of Christ must be now, and is in fact the Church.

 

“to be priests unto his God and Father”

 

This refers to the priesthood of believers. As Christians, we are “priests” unto God. Again, Peter provides us with a helpful cross-reference:

 

(1 Peter 2:5,9) – 5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

9 But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

 

As the people of God, we are a “spiritual house,” a “holy priesthood,” a “royal priesthood,” to offer “spiritual sacrifices.” The Church is this “spiritual house.” Together we are a “royal priesthood.”

The Old Testament temple, and the sacrifices therein, are obviously being referenced. However, Peter reveals that it’s the Church that is now the temple of God (also 2 Cor 6:16), and that it’s all the people of God who share in this “holy priesthood.” Meaning, the Levitical priests under the Old Covenant were the only ones who had that designation. But in Christ, we are all priests of God.

The OT temple and the OT priesthood was a type and picture of the temple and priesthood that was to come in Christ. Christ and His Church is the fulfillment of this type in the New Covenant. The OT temple and priesthood are clearly Jewish, but in the New Covenant, it refers to the Church, which is made up of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles.

Thus we see that both the Apostle John and the Apostle Peter (and Paul) provide us with a correct understanding regarding true Israel and the true Kingdom of Christ. In Christ, the Church is both New Israel of the New Covenant, and the Kingdom of Christ — who is Himself, true Israel.

What John has done for us in the very first chapter is to eliminate any notion of a 1000 year earthly kingdom, and any notion of a literal temple in the book of Revelation. We must keep this in mind as we move through this book.

Before we move on to the next verse, there’s a cross-reference for this passage in Revelation 5:9-10:

 

(Rev 5:9-10) – 9 And they sing a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, 10 and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon the earth.

 

This provides further confirmation that the Church – made up of all believers in Christ – is the Kingdom of Christ and are the true priests of God.

While this is a heavenly vision, it has Christians on earth in view, because it says that “they reign upon the earth.” As the Kingdom of Christ, we reign with Christ with His truth over all the falsehood of the world. To be clear, we are a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom we all enter upon our faith in Christ (Col 1:13).

I will say more about this “reign upon the earth” when we get to Rev 5:10. For now let me say this: The full glory of Christ’s reign will not occur until He co-rules with His Father in the Eternal Kingdom of Revelation 21 & 22. But Jesus does truly rule now over His Church and over this world, and we as His followers are a part of that reign. We represent and serve the King of kings and Lord of lords, thus there is no rule or authority or religion that reigns over Christ’s people, regardless of what the enemies of Christ may do to us — because in the end, we win!

 

(Rev 1:6) – 6 and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

 

It’s not clear if “to him” refers to Jesus or to the Father. The context, which includes verses 7 and 8, indicates that it could be either. Whichever one John is actually referring to, the Father and the Son share this “dominion,” a dominion that is both now and throughout eternity. Glory and dominion belong to both.

 

(Rev 1:7) – 7 Behold, he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him. Even so, Amen.

 

As the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” at the appointed time, Jesus will return to this earth as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” The Apostle John opens and closes this book with the return of Christ (Rev 19:11-15; also Matt 24:29-31).

When Jesus returns to defeat His enemies, many other events take place around this same time: The resurrection of both saved and unsaved, the marriage supper of the Lamb, the Great White Throne Judgment, the New Heaven and New Earth, and the beginning of the Eternal Kingdom (Rev 19:6-10; Rev 20:1-15; Rev 21:1-7).

In John’s day believers were being persecuted for their faith in Christ. At any point in history, somewhere in the world Christians are being persecuted and killed for the name of Christ. Knowing this, and in anticipation of what follows in this book, John wants us to know what we have to look forward to for our faithfulness in the midst of persecution and suffering and death for the Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:33).

 

“Behold, he cometh with the clouds”

 

I believe that “clouds” refers not to the clouds of the sky, but to angels, the redeemed of Christ, and to the glory of God:

 

(Matt 24:30) – 30 and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

(Matt 26:64) – 64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.

(Mark 14:62) – 62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.

(Mark 8:38) – 38 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

(Jude 1:14) – 14 And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones,

 

Also:

Rev 19:6-14

Exodus 13:22; 14:19-24; 16:10; 19:9,16; 24:16; 33:9-10; 34:5; 40:34-38;

Lev 16:2,13

1 Kings 8:11

Matt 17:5

 

I think it’s clear that when Jesus “comes with the clouds,” it’s not the clouds of the sky, but the clouds of Heaven, which includes both angels and the glorified saints, and accompanied with the glory of God. And that stands to reason, because the clouds of the sky is something that is peculiar to the troposphere of the earth.

 

“every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him”

 

I can’t be dogmatic about this, but I believe that when Jesus returns, His glory will be manifested with such great brightness that it will light up the entire universe. I believe it will out-shine the sun. When He returns, everyone will know it…..including:

 

“they that pierced him”

 

I believe this refers to one of two people groups: either to unbelieving Jews, or to the people of the world in general. It was unbelieving Jews (both the Jewish leaders and the people: Matt 27:20-26) who called for the crucifixion of Christ. However, it was because of all sinners that Jesus was crucified. In effect, it was as though we nailed Him to the cross ourselves.

 

“and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him”

 

“mourn” (Gr. kopto – 2875)

To lament, to beat one’s breast for grief.

 

When Jesus returns in great glory and power, all the tribes (peoples, nations) will “lament” and “beat their breast for grief.” Those who rejected Christ will be terrified by the sight of Christ and His heavenly host. They will be terrified when they suddenly realize they were wrong. It will be the saddest and most tragic day of the world for unbelievers, but a day of glorious triumph for those who follow the King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

(Rev 1:8) – 8 I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

 

“Alpha and the Omega”

First and last letters of the Greek alphabet.

 

“who is and who was and who is to come”

Eternal existence.

 

Our God, the true God, is the “Alpha and the Omega,” the beginning and the end of all things. He is the eternal Creator of the universe. He is preeminent over all things. All things are subject to Him. All people are accountable to Him and will give account of their lives to Him on the Day of Judgment. This happens after Jesus returns in His glory.

 

(Rev 1:9) – 9 I John, your brother and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

 

“tribulation”

 

I believe this refers to both the persecution they were going through for the name of Christ – which will continue until Jesus returns – and to the tribulation that we have in the world in general (John 16:33).

 

“kingdom”

 

As the people of God, we are a “kingdom,” the Kingdom of Christ. We enter this spiritual kingdom upon our faith in Christ (Col 1:13). The Church is that kingdom.

 

“patience”

 

While living life in this difficult world, and when suffering for Christ, we must endure with patience, for our time of painless rejoicing will come. The heavenly, eternal rewards that we will receive will be worth it all. We must keep our eyes on Christ and on the glories that await us.

 

“which are in Jesus”

 

The “tribulation,” and “kingdom,” and “patience,” are all in Christ. The world hates Jesus, and it hates those who follow Him. This is part of who we are in Christ. The truth is always at odds with that which is false. There is no harmony between light and darkness. There is a sharp divide between those who belong to Jesus and those who belong to the devil (John 8:44; 1 John 3:10). Christians are in one kingdom, and the people of the world are in another (Col 1:13).

In regard to suffering for Christ, meditate on the following passages:

 

1 Peter 4:12-13

Romans 8:16-18

Philippians 1:29

2 Timothy 3:12

Revelation 2:10

 

Those who profess Christ as their Lord and Savior, must be willing and prepared to suffer and die for Him. If we profess Christ but are not willing to suffer persecution for Him, then we deceive ourselves in thinking that we are true Christians. We need to decide now who we really belong to and who we really serve.

If we profess Christ, we need to make sure that our lifestyle reflects who we say we are. We must be willing to give up our own will and the things of this world for the One we profess to believe in. Faithfulness to Christ and a willingness to suffer for Him go hand in hand.

 

“was in the isle that is called Patmos”

 

The Apostle John was exiled to an island called Patmos. Albert Barnes provides some good information about it in his commentary:

 

Quote:

Patmos is one of the cluster of islands in the Aegean Sea anciently called the “Sporades.” It lies between the island of Icaria and the promontory of Miletus. It is merely mentioned by the ancient geographers (Plin. Hist. Nat., iv., 23; Strabo, x., 488). It is now called Patino or Patmoso. It is some six or eight miles in length, and not more than a mile in breadth, being about fifteen miles in circumference. It has neither trees nor rivers, nor has it any land for cultivation, except some little nooks among the ledges of rocks. On approaching the island, the coast is high, and consists of a succession of capes, which form so many ports, some of which are excellent. The only one in use, however, is a deep bay, sheltered by High mountains on every side but one, where it is protected by a projecting cape. The town attached to this port is situated upon a high rocky mountain, rising immediately from the sea, and this, with the Scala below upon the shore, consisting of some ships and houses, forms the only inhabited site of the island.

Though Patmos is deficient in trees, it abounds in flowery plants and shrubs. Walnuts and other fruit trees are raised in the orchards, and the wine of Patmos is the strongest and the best flavored in the Greek islands. Maize and barley are cultivated, but not in a quantity sufficient for the use of the inhabitants and for a supply of their own vessels, and others which often put into their good harbor for provisions. The inhabitants now do not exceed four or five thousand; many of whom are emigrants from the neighboring continent. About halfway up the mountain there is shown a natural grotto in a rock, where John is said to have seen his visions and to have written this book. Near this is a small church, connected with which is a school or college, where the Greek language is taught; and on the top of the hill, and in the center of the island, is a monastery, which, from its situation, has a very majestic appearance (Kitto‘s Cyclopoedia of Bib. Literally). The annexed engraving is supposed to give a good representation of the appearance of the island,

It is commonly supposed that John was banished to this island by Domitian, about 94 a.d. No place could have been selected for banishment which would accord better with such a design than this. Lonely, desolate, barren, uninhabited, seldom visited, it had all the requisites which could be desired for a place of punishment; and banishment to that place would accomplish all that a persecutor could wish in silencing an apostle, without putting him to death. It was no uncommon thing, in ancient times, to banish people from their country; either sending them forth at large, or specifying some particular place to which they were to go. The whole narrative leads us to suppose that this place was designated as that to which John was to be sent. Banishment to an island was a common mode of punishment; and there was a distinction made by this act in favor of those who were thus banished. The more base, low, and vile of criminals were commonly condemned to work in the mines; the more decent and respectable were banished to some lonely island. See the authorities quoted in Wetstein, “in loco.”

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“for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus”

 

John was banished to this island for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and the doctrines of the Christian faith. It was his testimony of and faithfulness to Christ that had him banished. As an Apostle and servant of Christ, he was called to teach the life of Christ, to proclaim the message of salvation through Him, and to give instruction for living the Christian life. We have five books of the New Testament that were written by him: The Gospel of John; 1 John, 2 John, 3 John; and Revelation.

Many Christians today are called to preach the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ in lands that are hostile to the Christian faith. Like John, many are either banished from that country, or they are imprisoned or put to death.

In America, this type of persecution has not yet come to our shores. However, our country is becoming more and more anti-Christian, and as we’ll see in this book, that day will come. We must be getting ready for it.

However, I believe it can get better in America before it gets worse. We need to be praying for revival. Our pastors need to make sure that their ministries are not worldly, but following the biblical pattern. They must make sure that they’re faithfully teaching the Word of God verse by verse. We need to make sure that we’re living holy, separated lives unto the Lord, and not allowing ourselves to be conformed to this world.

Furthermore, we need to be involved in the voting process, that we are voting for men and women who have a clear testimony for Christ — if we have that option. This includes the President, Governors, Senators, Congressmen, and Mayors. When we have followers of Christ governing our country in reliance upon the Lord, good things happen. God put us in the world and in this country to make a difference for Him. We’re to support those who follow Christ. We’re to oppose sin and darkness and evil. One of the best ways we can do that, is to vote for those who will work against those things for God’s glory and for the good of our country.

 

(Rev 1:10) – 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet

 

“I was in the Spirit”

 

I believe John is saying that he was completely under the influence and power and guidance of the Holy Spirit by whom the revelations and visions of this book were made known to him. (Matt 22:43; Luke 2:25-27; Eph 3:5; Rev 4:2; Rev 17:3; Rev 21:10).

 

“on the Lord’s day”

 

Many commentators believe this refers to Sunday, and that’s a plausible interpretation. However, John could also be referring to the Day of the Lord — the revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His return (Acts 2:20; 1 Cor 1:8; 1 Cor 5:5; 2 Cor 1:14; 1 Th 5:2; 2 Th 2:2; 2 Pet 3:10). In other words, this book ultimately reveals the end of God’s plan for the world, which ends with the Day of the Lord. This whole revelation that John received has that in view.

 

“and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet”

 

As the next verses reveal, this “great voice” (loud or strong voice) belongs to Jesus. The mention of a “trumpet” gives us the picture that He is about to make an important announcement and wants our attention.

 

(Rev 1:11) – 11 saying, What thou seest, write in a book and send it to the seven churches: unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

 

“What thou seest, write in a book”

 

We know John was obedient to that command because we’re reading that book now.

 

“send it to the seven churches:”

 

Jesus is addressing the Church. He is not addressing the ethnic people of Israel.

As I indicated in verse 4, the number “seven” is significant, as it has the meaning of completion or perfection. This number is used many times throughout this book. Because of its meaning, we must be careful that we don’t always take this number literally, for it may simply be symbolic to indicate completeness and/or perfection, as we saw in verse 4 when John refers to the Holy Spirit as “the seven Spirits.”

However, as used here, I believe the number seven is being used both literally and symbolically. Jesus is indeed addressing seven actual local churches. However, I believe the choosing of seven churches (instead of 6 or 8, etc.) indicates that Jesus is speaking to the Church as a whole, His complete and perfect Church. Thus what Jesus says to these churches has application for all the Church at every point throughout the Church age.

It’s an entirely fair argument that Jesus has the Church in view throughout this book. I believe the Lord’s address to the churches provides strong support for the idea that the Church will go through the most severe time of tribulation of the world, which is just prior to the return of Christ. There is of course, further biblical support for this elsewhere in the New Testament.

Pre-trib premillennialists want to separate the Church (chapters 1-3) from the rest of the book (up to chapters 21 and 22). However, I believe that idea forces its way against the evidence that we see here within this whole context and discussion regarding these seven churches.

It’s common understanding how important the introduction is to any book or other types of manuscripts. It provides important and necessary information to the readers that alerts them to what to expect in the body of the work. In other words, it provides a direct connection to what lies ahead for the reader. My point is, it’s unreasonable to try and separate the introduction to the book of Revelation from the rest of the book. It’s unreasonable to argue that Jesus begins this book with the Church in view, but that He has no view of it in the main body of this book. The subject matter of the introduction of any book is always the lead-in to what follows.

Therefore, we must conclude that the book of Revelation is to the Church, about the Church, and for the Church. We must also conclude that the idea that the Church will not go through “great tribulation” (severe worldwide persecution) is at serious odds with what I believe Jesus is actually revealing to the Church otherwise. I will talk more about this as we work through these seven churches.

 

“Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”

 

I’ll provide an introduction to each church as we come to it in chapters 2 and 3.

 

(Rev 1:12) – 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And having turned I saw seven golden candlesticks;

 

It’s interesting that John says that he turned to “see” the voice, because we don’t see voices, we hear voices. Thus what he actually meant was, that he turned in the direction of the voice to see who was speaking to him.

 

“I saw seven golden candlesticks”

 

Part of what John “saw” was “seven golden candlesticks” (or lampstands). These seven candlesticks symbolize seven churches, as Jesus reveals in verse 20. A candlestick for each church.

 

(Rev 1:13) – 13 and in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto a son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle.

 

“in the midst of the candlesticks”

 

It was Jesus who was “in the midst of the candlesticks.” This speaks of His authority as Head of the Church. He rules over us and among us. He is our King and Savior and Lord and God. It’s because of Him that we have our existence and salvation, both individually and corporately as the Church.

Furthermore, He rules as Head among local churches, because the Church universal is carried out on the local level. Every local assembly is to give glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to follow His pattern of holiness and total devotion to God. Each pastor is to follow His pattern of teaching the Word of God, and not the philosophies of the world or some shallow version of the Word of God. We exist as a local church to give our full allegiance to Him and to His will. We exist as a local church to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples unto Him. Everything we do as a local church is to be centered on Christ our Lord and to the mission He has called us to. As His people, there is to be a clear distinction between us and the world.

 

“son of man”

 

The title “son of man” was used extensively in the four Gospels, especially in Matthew, Mark and Luke. This is a heart-warming name, as it identifies Christ with mankind as being one of us. I believe Jesdus enjoyed identifying Himself with those whom He would die for, in providing for our salvation. It was the sinless man dying for sinful man. It was the sinless man doing what sinful man could not do for ourselves.

 

“clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle”

 

In verses 13-16 we have a picture of Jesus, described in a symbolic manner. The “garment” (robe) and “golden girdle” (golden sash), I believe represents Jesus as High Priest and King, The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary explains (bold print mine):

 

Quote:

– a mark of high rank. The garment and girdle seem to be emblems of His priesthood.Compare Exodus 28:2, Exodus 28:4, Exodus 28:31; Septuagint. Aaron‘s robe and girdle were “for glory and beauty,” and combined the insignia of royalty and priesthood, the characteristics of Christ‘s antitypical priesthood “after the order of Melchisedec.” His being in the midst of the candlesticks (only seen in the temple), shows that it is as a king-priest He is so attired. This priesthood He has exercised ever since His ascension; and, therefore He here wears its emblems. As Aaron wore these insignia when He came forth from the sanctuary to bless the people (Leviticus 16:4, Leviticus 16:23, Leviticus 16:24, the {chetoneth}, or holy linen coat), so when Christ shall come again, He shall appear in the similar attire of “beauty and glory” (Isaiah 4:2, Margin). The angels are attired somewhat like their Lord (Revelation 15:6). The ordinary girding for one actively engaged, was at the loins; but Josephus [Antiquities,3.7.2], expressly tells us that the Levitical priests were girt higher up, about the breasts or paps, appropriate to calm, majestic movement. The girdle bracing the frame together, symbolizes collected powers. Righteousness and faithfulness are Christ‘s girdle. The high priest‘s girdle was only interwoven with gold, but Christ‘s is all of gold; the antitype exceeds the type.

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(Rev 1:14) – 14 And his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

 

The description of the white hair is similar to what’s seen in Daniel 7:9-10 of the “Ancient of Days,” which pictures Him as Ruler and Judge.

 

Barnes Notes (bold print mine):

Quote:

The representation was suited to signify majesty and authority; and this would be best accomplished by the image of one who was venerable in years. Thus, in the vision that appeared to Daniel (Daniel 7:9), it is said of him who is there called the “Ancient of Days,” that “his garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool.” It is not improbable that John had that representation in his eye, and that therefore he would be impressed with the conviction that this was a manifestation of a divine person. We are not necessarily to suppose that this is the form in which the Saviour always appears now in heaven, anymore than we are to suppose that God appears always in the form in which he was manifested to Isaiah Isaiah 6:1, to Daniel Daniel 7:9, or to Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu in the mount, Exodus 24:10-11. The representation is, that this form was assumed for the purpose of impressing the mind of the apostle with a sense of his majesty and glory.

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“eyes were as a flame of fire”

 

I believe this symbolizes two things: purification and judgment.

“Eyes” of course are for the purpose of seeing. Jesus sees all. “Fire” purifies (1 Pe 1:7; Rev 3:18; 1 Cor 3:13-15; Prov 25:4). Thus, Jesus as King and Priest and Judge and as God, He sees all things and will purify all things. In this book, we see Jesus purifying the world of all sin – both via judgment and a new creation – as history comes to a close and we enter the Eternal Kingdom.

I believe the burning and dissolving of the universe (2 Pet 3:7-10) and the creation of a “New Heaven and New Earth” (Rev 21:1), gives us the picture of God purifying the universe of all sin and of all the effects of sin.

Nothing is hidden from Christ, and all the sins of the world are in His focus and are subject to the fire of His Judgment.

Also in view here is the purifying of our sins through the blood that Jesus shed for us. In seeing our sins, He purified us of our sins, through faith in Him. In doing so, we are spared from the “fire of His Judgment.”

 

(Rev 1:15) – 15 and his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as the voice of many waters.

 

“his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace”

 

Believer’s Bible Commentary:

Quote:

The Lord’s feet were like polished brass, as if refined in a furnace. Since brass is a consistent type of judgment, this supports the view that it is the judicial office that is primarily in view.

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Barnes Notes:

Quote:

As if they burned in a furnace – That is, his feet were so bright that they seemed to be like a beautiful metal glowing intensely in the midst of a furnace. Anyone who has looked upon the dazzling and almost insupportable brilliancy of metal in a furnace, can form an idea of the image here presented.

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“his voice as the voice of many waters”

 

Barnes Notes (bold print mine):

Quote:

As the roar of the ocean, or of a cataract. Nothing could be a more sublime description of majesty and authority than to compare the voice of a speaker with the roar of the ocean. This comparison often occurs in the Scriptures. See Ezekiel 43:2, “And behold the glory of the God of Israel came from the east: and his voice was like the sound of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.” So Revelation 14:2; Revelation 19:6. Compare Ezekiel 1:24; Daniel 10:6.

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(Rev 1:16) – 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

 

“seven stars”

 

Jesus identifies these “seven stars” as “the angels of the seven churches” (vs. 20).

 

“a sharp two-edged sword”

Clearly refers to the Word of God.

 

Ellicott:

Quote

And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.—There need be no doubt about the meaning here: the imagery of the Bible elsewhere is too explicit to be mistaken; it is the sword of the Spirit, even the word of God, which is here described; it is that word which is sharper than any two-edged sword, and which lays bare the thoughts and intents of the soul (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12. Comp. Isaiah 49:2). This is the weapon with which Christ will subdue His enemies; no carnal weapon is needed (2 Corinthians 10:4). Those that take any other sword in hand than this to advance His kingdom will perish with the weapon to which they have appealed (Revelation 13:10; Matthew 26:52), but those who arm themselves with this will find it mighty through God. With this weapon of His word He Himself fights against His adversaries (Revelation 2:12; Revelation 2:16; Revelation 19:15; Revelation 19:21); with this He lays bare the hidden hypocrisies of men, cuts off the diseased members, and wounds that He may heal.

“The sword wherewith Thou dost command, Is in Thy mouth and not Thy hand.”

It is a two-edged sword; it has the double edge of the Old Testament and the New; “the Old Testament, cutting externally our carnal; the New Testament, internally our spiritual sins” (Richard of St. Victor). It has the double edge of its power to rebuke sin and self-righteousness; the evil of wrong-doing and the evil motives which wait on right-doing; the two edges of which will cut off sin from man, or else man in his sin. (Comp. Isaiah 11:4, and 2 Thessalonians 2:8.) The Greek word here rendered “sword” is used six times in this book, and only once (Luke 2:35) elsewhere in the New Testament.

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“his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength”

 

No doubt this refers to Christ’s glory as King of kings and Lord of lords, as Almighty God (Rev 21:23; 2 Cor 3:12-18; Jn 17:5; 1 Cor 2:8; Matt 25:31; Lu 9:26; Lu 21:27; Jn 2:11; 1 Pe 1:21; 1 Pe 4;13; He 3;3).

 

(See notes on Rev 1:7 about Christ returning in glory)

 

(Rev 1:17) – 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last,

 

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead”

 

Barnes Notes:

Quote:

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead – As if I were dead; deprived of sense and consciousness. He was overwhelmed with the suddenness of the vision; he saw that this was a divine being; but he did not as yet know that it was the Saviour. It is not probable that in this vision he would immediately recognize any of the familiar features of the Lord Jesus as he had been accustomed to see him some sixty years before; and if he did, the effect would have been quite as overpowering as is here described. But the subsequent revelations of this divine personage would rather seem to imply that John did not at once recognize him as the Lord Jesus. The effect here described is one that often occurred to those who had a vision of God. See Daniel 8:18, “Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground; but he touched me, and set me upright”; Daniel 8:27, “And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king‘s business.” Compare Exodus 33:20; Isaiah 6:5;Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 43:3; Daniel 10:7-9, Daniel 10:17.

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“And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last”

 

The Apostle John was overwhelmed by this vision of Christ, and at that moment he needed His familiar touch. This John is the same of whom it is said, “Jesus loved,” and who “reclined on His bosom” (Jn 13:23).

Like John, during those times of life that become overwhelming for us, we need the familiar touch of the Lord and to hear Him say, “fear not, I am the first and the last.” During these times we need to fall at His feet in worship, in need of a sense of His loving and powerful presence to carry us through without fear, in total dependence on Him.

 

“I am the first and the last”

 

Speaks of Christ’s eternal existence and Divine preeminence over all things. (Is 41:4; Is 44:6; Is 48:12; Rev 2:8; Rev 22:13).

 

(Rev 1:18) – 18 and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

 

“and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore”

 

Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave, providing for our salvation. As the eternal Son of God, death could not hold Him. He lives “for evermore” as our Lord and Savior and God and King. Thus no matter what trials we may be going through (such as we see in this book), all will one day be behind us as we dwell in the presence of His glory.

 

“I have the keys of death and of Hades”

 

As the One who died and rose again for the sins of humanity, Jesus does not say that He has the keys of life and of Heaven (Matt 16:19), as we might expect. Instead He says that He has “the keys of death and Hades.”

Keys open doors. Thus Jesus has the keys of both Heaven and of “Hades,” the current place of the dead — those who are dead in their sins (Eph 2:1-7) and without Christ as Savior. The dead, those who are in Hades, will one day stand before Him to be judged, and they will be cast into the lake of fire for their sins and for their rejection of Christ (Rev 20:11-15).

This reveals the preeminence and sovereignty of Christ over all things. No one has control of their own eternal destiny. Everyone is subject to and accountable to Christ the Lord. It’s the will and plan of God that those who come to Him via faith in His Son, to be granted forgiveness of sins and eternal life. It’s also the will and plan of God that those who try coming to Him via any other way, to be rejected and forever lost.

 

(Rev 1:19) – 19 Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter;

 

John was instructed to write down the following (as we have in this book):

 

“the things which thou sawest”

 

This appears to be the things that he’s seen up to this point in chapter one.

 

“the things which are”

 

This appears to refer to the things that are current in John’s day as revealed to him regarding the seven churches (chapters one and two).

 

“the things which shall come to pass hereafter”

“hereafter” (after these things)

 

This refers to the future, such as revealed in the remainder of this book (chapters 4-22).

 

“which shall come to pass”

 

Whatever is written in this book, will surely come to pass. We have Jesus’ word on it. The things written in this book will be fulfilled exactly as He has revealed to us. We can count on it with absolute certainty.

Thus it would be wise for us to consider carefully Peter’s question about these things:

 

(2 Peter 3:7-13) – 11 Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, 12 looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

 

Both those who have Christ and those who don’t, need to consider carefully where they’re at spiritually. Those who do not have Jesus as Lord and Savior, need to choose Jesus, or suffer the eternal consequences. This world and self-will is not worth the price.

Those of us who do have Jesus as Lord and Savior, need to consider what kind of life we’re living. This life is only temporary and the rewards of this life are only temporary. But life in the presence of God is eternal, and the rewards for faithfulness are eternal and glorious beyond comprehension. Let us make sure that we’re living with Christ and eternity in view.

 

(Rev 1:20) – 20 the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are seven churches.

 

“mystery”

Not known before but now revealed.

 

“The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches”

 

The seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches, one for each church.

Many commentators, if not most, believe that this refers to the pastor of each church, and not to actual angelic beings, because the Greek word for “angel” means messenger. However, the normal reference is to literal angelic messengers. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says:

 

Quote:

The Greek word for angels (angeloi) occurs sixty-seven times in Revelation and in every other instance refers to heavenly messengers, though occasionally in the NT it can mean a human messenger (Luke 7:24; 9:52; James 2:25 [Gr.].

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When Jesus addresses each church, He specifically says: “to the angel of the church in….” So is Jesus addressing angels or pastors here? As the above Commentary indicates, we can’t say either way with certainty.

In Rev 1:1 it says that Jesus communicated the things of this book to John via “His angel.” In Rev 1:4, we see that John addresses the “seven churches.” Then we see Jesus addressing the “angel” of each church.

If angel is meant to refer to the pastor (overseer) of each church, why was the normal use of the Greek word for “overseer” not used? Which is “Episkope.” Why was the normal use of the Greek word for “angel” used instead?

Again, is Jesus addressing pastors or angels?

 

Here’s what I believe is in view here:

Angels are both messengers of God (He 2:2; Rev 1:1) and ministers of God (He 1:7,14). They deliver God’s message, and they serve God “for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation” (He 1:14). Pastors too are messengers of God, delivering His Word to His people. They’re also ministers of God, “overseeing” the spiritual welfare of those who “shall inherit salvation.”

Therefore, I believe that the use of the word “angel” is used symbolically for the pastors or overseers of each church. Thus when Jesus addresses the angels of each church, He’s actually addressing the pastors (the Elders), because of the common calling and role they share. I further believe that in addressing angels, Jesus is alluding to their holy character and total submission to the will of God. I believe He’s alluding to their faithful service in the heavenly and glorious presence of God.

Therefore, in addressing these pastors, I believe Jesus is alluding to those same angelic qualities that are to characterize overseers. Thus they share not only the role of angels, but they’re also to share their character and total submission to the will of God. And like angels, pastors are to be separated from the world and its allurements that would distract them from their holy and heavenly calling.