Revelation 1:4-20 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How are God the Father and the Holy Spirit defined in Revelation 1:4 (printed below?)

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

God the Father is defined as the one “who is and who was and who is to come.” Here is a reference to God the Father in His identity as the sovereign and eternal God who is Lord over all (note verse 8). The Holy Spirit is referred to as “the seven Spirits who are before His throne.” Here is a reference to the Holy Spirit in His character of perfect holiness (in Scripture the number “seven” is the number that represents perfection) and as He gives us direct contact and communion with the throne of God (cp. Ephesians 2:18).

2. How is the Lord Jesus Christ defined in Revelation 1:5a (printed below?)

…and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. (Revelation 1:5a)

The Lord Jesus Christ is defined as “the faithful witness.” He is the one who faithfully communicates the Word of God to us (note John 12:49-50) and who faithfully bore witness to the truth of God before the world (note 1 Timothy 6:13). The Lord Jesus is further defined as the One who is “the first born of the dead;” the reference is to our Lord’s own resurrection as well as the fact that all who believe in Him shall finally participate in His resurrection (cp. 1 Corinthians 15:20-21,23). Finally, He is defined as “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” here is a reference to His ascension and exaltation at the right hand of God the Father (cp. Ephesians 1:20-22). God the Father has bestowed upon His Son (in the Son’s incarnate state) His own divine authority (note Acts 2:36).

3. According to Revelation 1:5b-6a (printed below), what is Christ’s relationship to His people and what has He done for us?

To him who loves us and who released us from our sins by his blood—(6) and caused us to become a kingdom and priests for his God and Father (Revelation 1:5b-6a)

In His relationship to His people, the Lord Jesus is defined as the one who “loves (present tense) us.” Christ’s love for His people is continuous; the Christian must not allow the clouds of trial and tribulation, that may hide the brightness of Christ’s love, to refute the continuing reality of His great love. The Lord Jesus is further defined as the one who “released us from our sins by his blood.” The supreme expression of His love was His work of redeeming His people “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). Note that this redemption is not only from the penalty of sin, but from sin itself (cp. Matthew 1:21), and it was accomplished by the shedding of His blood. Finally, he has “caused us to become a kingdom and priests for his God and Father.” The Lord Jesus has brought us into the kingdom of God, transforming us from being rebels into becoming loyal subjects. But the Christian is not only a passive subject in the kingdom of God, he has also been called to the blessed privilege of actively serving our God and Father.

4. How does the Lord Jesus reveal Himself to John? See Revelation 1:12-13, 16a (printed below) How does He explain the imagery used in these verses? See Revelation 1:20 (printed below)

I turned around to see the voice that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, (13) and in the midst of the lampstands was someone like the Son of man, dressed in a robe that reached down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest…(16) In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. (Revelation 1:12-13,16a)

With regard to the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars represent the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands represent the seven churches. (Revelation 1:20)

The Lord Jesus, appearing in His divine glory and dominion, is seen walking among the seven golden lampstands (1:13) and in His right hand He holds seven stars (1:16). We are told, “the seven stars represent the angels of the seven churches.” That is to say, “the seven stars” represent the church as it exists in the presence of God “in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” secure in the hand of Christ (note Colossians 3:3 and John 10:27-30). We are further informed that the seven lampstands “represent the seven churches” with Christ walking among them. This imagery represents the church in its present earthly existence, with Christ present with us by the person of the Holy Spirit (note John 14:16-18).

5. Of what future event does John speak in verse 7 (printed below?)

Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth shall mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

John declares, “Look! He is coming!” As Christians, we are to take heed and take comfort from the fact that our Lord will, indeed, return (note Acts 1:10-11). The fact that our Lord is coming “with the clouds” is a reference to the vision recorded in Daniel 7:13-14, identifying our Lord’s return at the end of the age with the triumphant coming of the majestic and divine Son of Man. John informs us, “every eye shall see him, including those who pierced him.” Here is a reference to our Lord’s universal vindication: God will cause all the world to see the One whom they rejected, the One whom He has exalted to supreme honor and glory (cp. Matthew 21:42). On that day the longsuffering of God over the world will give way to the justice of God, vindicating His Son and condemning the world.