Bible Passage: Revelation 1:9-20


9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

 10 On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,

 11 which said: 'Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.'

 12 I turned round to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,

 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round his chest.

 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.

 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.

 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.

 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

 19 'Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.

 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Rev. 1:9-20 NIV)


Key OT/NT passages on how this passage fits within the Bible story as a whole

The God of the Bible is a God of great glory, power, and perfect holiness. Visual images stress his character throughout the Old Testament (Daniel 7:9, 10:6, Ezekiel 1:24, 43:2) – he is pictured in all of his burning purity. Into one of these visions, in Daniel 7, comes one “coming with the clouds of heaven” who is able to enter God’s presence. According to the text, “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”


The New Testament presents us with Jesus Christ, one who shares the Father’s divine authority (John 1:1). Calling himself the Son of Man, he appears in resurrection glory (John 20:26-28). He is the one who superintends his church as the risen and ascended Lord, and will bring everything to completion in the new creation (Revelation 21).


Brief note on context/key themes of book

The book of Revelation is written by John to the suffering church (Revelation 1:9) under the Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96AD). It is an epistle (Revelation 1:4), about the gospel of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:6), founded on the sovereignty of God (Revelation 1:7-8). Having presented us with a picture of Jesus in all his glory (Revelation chapters 1-3), it shows us a glimpse of heaven (Revelation chapters 4-5) and the way in which the lamb deals with God’s wrath. What follows is a series of overlapping picture that take us through from the present age to the return of Christ (chapters 6-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-16, 17-18, 19 and 20). The final vision shows the New Jerusalem – Eden exceeded, and the temple fulfilled (chapters 21-22). This glimpse of heaven (‘Revelation’ literally means ‘an unveiling’) has a pastoral purpose. It is to show the suffering church that what ever is going on, God is on the throne, and is bringing everything to an end – his people, cared for by the risen Lord Jesus, will be safe.


Structure of the passage

After the book’s introduction in verses 1-8, the suffering apostle John is shown a vision of the glorious, risen and ascended, Jesus Christ. The purpose is to strengthen and encourage his church.

In the light of this vision…

Christians may suffer but they’re undefeated (9-11)

John is in political exile on the island penal colony of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. He, like the churches he’s writing to, is experiencing the suffering that comes ‘in Jesus’ (Revelation 1:9). But he belongs to the kingdom. And as such, he is able to patiently endure (Revelation 1:9).

Christians are stunned but they’re not afraid (12-17)

The vision of Jesus that he sees is drawn both from the appearance of the Son of Man in Daniel 7, and the appearance of God himself (Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, 48:12, Ezekiel 1:24, 43:2). he is the first and the last, but Christians are not to be afraid (Revelation 1:17). He holds the churches in his hand (Revelation 1:20).

Christians are dying but they are eternally alive (18)

John is an old man, and the church is seeing martyrs killed under Roman persecution. Jesus reminds them that he himself died, but is now alive. Indeed, he holds the keys of death and Hades. With this powerful Lord caring for them, death is no longer anything to be feared.


Suggestions for any tricky bits?

What are the ‘angels’ of the seven churches?

It’s not 100% clear what the ‘angels’ represent – they may signify (1) the heavenly angels who protect the church, or (2) the human leaders of the church, or (3) the personality of the church itself. Commentators differ as to which is the most likely. All have their problems, but because human beings can be ‘angels’ or ‘messengers’ (see Luke 7:24 and 9:52), and they are the most natural recipients of the letters, this seems the most likely.


Summary of author’s main point

Christ’s glory is evident in the midst of suffering; held by him, Christians can and will persevere to eternal life.


Aim/purpose for original audience

To see Christ’s glory in the midst of suffering, and be reassured that, held by him, Christians can and will persevere to eternal life.


Aim/purpose for us today

To see Christ’s glory in the midst of suffering, and be reassured that, held by him, Christians can and will persevere to eternal life.


Key area of application

When attacks and suffering come, the pain is real, and our immediate reaction is to turn to ourselves and look and see where we are hurt, and what we can do to survive. Can we keep looking to a risen and ascended Jesus Christ, even when we’re in pain? Counter-intuitively, strength under suffering comes from looking outside of ourselves.