1. Revelation (v.1).
The Geek word is apokalupsis, from apo,
from, and kalupto, to cover, cover up, or hide; hence,
removal of the cover from, or uncovering, and therefore the revealing
or revelation of something. In this case, it is a revelation that God
gave to Christ for earthly recipients (v.11).
The verb form, apokalupto, always translated "reveal,"
occurs a total of 26 times in the New Testament. The noun form, apokalupsis,
anglicized as apocalypse, occurs 18 times, variously translated,
as "revelation" (Romans 2:5; 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:6,26;
2 Corinthians 12:1,7; Galatians 1:12; 2:2; Ephesians 1:7; 3:3; l Peter
1:13; Revelation 1:1); "be revealed" (2 Thessalonians 1:7;
l Peter 4:13); "to lighten" (Luke 2:32); "manifestation"
(Romans 8:19); "coming" (1 Corinthians 1:7); and "appearing"
(1 Peter 1:7).
The words apokalupto and apokalupsis are
therefore common in the New Testament vocabulary, without any specialized
meaning unless possibly in Revelation 1:1. But between 200 B.C. and
A.D. 200 a type of literature styled apocalyptic became fairly common.
It was modeled more or less after the highly figurative and symbolical
writings of Ezekiel and Daniel, and elements of Isaiah, Joel, and Zechariah,
and occurring mostly in times of severe trial and apprehension, to comfort
and encourage with assurances that God is in control and will give ultimate
victory to their/his cause.
The Book of Revelation is the only inspired apocalypse of that period.
Its exact date is disputed. The majority of scholars place it some time
in the latter part of the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian, or between
90 and 96 A.D., but a minority have argued for the latter part of the
reign of Nero, and not later than A.D. 68. This is done principally
to be able to interpret a major portion of it as a prediction of the
destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state. But if the later date
is correct, obviously such an interpretation is inadmissible.
Not only various internal considerations, but early external testimony
favors the later date.
According to Eusebius (A.D. 263-339), the father of church history,
the tradition handed down was that during the persecution under Domitian
the apostle John was banished to the island of Patmos but permitted
to return to Ephesus under the reign of his successor, Nerva. He quotes
Clement of Alexandria (who died A.D. 215) as speaking of John as, "after
the tyrant was dead, coming from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus."
He also quotes Irenaeus (A.D. 125-202) as speaking of John, "who
saw the revelation, for it is not long since it was seen, but almost
in our own generation, at the close of Domitian’s reign." (Eusebius,
Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapters 17-18,20,23). This
testimony of early antiquity would seem to be decisive, and gainsaid
not for objective but for subjective reasons.
2. Shortly (v.1).
The Greek word is tachos, which also occurs in 22:6 and
is there likewise translated "shortly". Elsewhere it is translated
"quickly" (Acts 12:7; 22:18) and "speedily" (Luke
18:8). Obviously the word is a relative term and subject to a great
deal of latitude, depending on the perspective of the speaker or writer.
In Revelation 22:6, "shortly" seems to cover the accomplishment
of all the predictions of the book up to that point, which includes
more than a thousand year segment of time after Chapter 19 and carries
the readers to the consummation – to the end of all things of this earth
and transition into eternity.
Also, in Luke 18:7-8, the text reads: "And shall not God avenge
his elect, that cry unto him day and night, and yet he is longsuffering
over them (or, as the margin renders it, slow to punish on their
behalf)? I say unto you, that he will avenge them speedily.
Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the
earth?" The implication is that the avenging will be when the Son
of man comes, presumably at the end of time on earth. Yet the word tachos,
which in Revelation 1:1 and 22:6 is translated ‘shortly," is used
also in this text and translated "speedily".
Again, in 2 Peter 3:8-9, we are admonished: "But forget not this
one thing, beloved, that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his
promise as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering
to youward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should
come to repentance." These words were spoken in regard to the coming
of "the day of the Lord", when Jesus comes and "the earth
and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (verses 10-13).
From the Lord’s perspective, is not slack concerning his promises to
be fulfilled "shortly" (tachos) – even if it
seems so to men.
On the other hand, however, even from human perspective, the chain
of events depicted in Revelation did begin "shortly",
regardless of how long the consummation may take.
(Note: A related Greek work, tachu, occurs in other chapters
of Revelation – 2:5 (KJV), 16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7,12,20 –each time translated
"quickly". It is also employed elsewhere – in Matthew 5:25;
28:7,8; Mark 6:8; and John 11:39, and translated the same way. In Revelation
it always refers to the coming of Christ, but not always to a personal
coming, though likely in Chapter 22 it does.)
3. Signified (v.1).
This suggests a communication by means of signs and symbols – that
it is sign-i-fied. That is predominately what the Book of Revelation
is. In 12:1 and 15:1, what John saw is specifically referred to in each
instance as a "sign". (The word also occurs in the plural
in 13:13, but does not refer to what John saw.) In 12:1 and 13:13, the
King James Version has "wonder" and "wonders". Such,
however, is an inexact translation, though in many instances signs were
wonders. But there are other words more properly translated "wonder".
4. Prophecy (v.3).
The word "prophecy" denotes properly a divinely inspired
communication, which the Book of Revelation is. It occurs also in Chapter
22:7, 10, 18, 19. In it are matters to be "kept" or observed
– which would be exhortations or commands. Because prophecy oftentimes
involved predictions, it has come to be popularly used almost exclusively
of such. But that is not its basic meaning in the Bible. However, the
Book of Revelation is itself primarily, though not exclusively, a predictive
prophecy – namely, of things which "must shortly come to pass".
5. Cometh (v.7).
The Greek word here is erchatai, "futuristic present
indicative of erchommai," to come, in the sense of
arriving. In this text it is described as a visible coming, and a coming
with clouds. It is as though Acts 1:9-11 was in mind, promising that
Christ would come again in the same manner that he went away when ascending
back to heaven, and a cloud received him out of the sight of his gazing
disciples – which would make it a personal and visible return, with
or upon a cloud or clouds. That there will be such a return at the end
of time, is indicated in l Thessalonians 4:13-18, where the saints are
described as being "caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in
A few have applied the "coming" of Revelation 1:7 to the
destruction of Jerusalem, or to the overthrow of Rome – in either case
a non-personal coming. That the "coming" of Christ is sometimes
referred to in an invisible sense is evident from Ephesians 1:17, where
it is stated that Christ "came and preached peace to you that were
far off, and peace to them that were nigh" – that is, to Gentiles
and Jews – a preaching done by his disciples, but at this direction.
Also, in Matthew 16:28, we have Jesus saying, "verily I say unto
you, there are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste
of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" –
evidently referring to Pentecost after his ascension back to heaven,
when he came representatively in the person of the Holy Spirit
and in the events of that day. Moreover, in Revelation 2:5, 16, 25;
3:3, 10, 20 it is evident that impersonal comings are intended – some
of them stated as being conditional, whereas the personal coming
of Christ at the end of the world will be unconditional.
It is not unlikely that all the comings of our Lord on, in, or with
clouds, are references to his coming at the end of the world.
His disciples asked him when the destruction of the temple would
be and "what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the
end of the world (Matthew 24:1-3) – thinking that those three
events would be simultaneous or nearly so. Then he desabused their minds
of the thought that his coming at the end of the world would be associated
with the destruction of Jerusalem (vs. 4-14), which would occur before
that generation had passed away (vs. 32-34). It would be "after"
the tribulation of those days that the Son of man would be seen "coming
with the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (vs. 29-30);
Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28). He specifically excepted that occasion
from "all these things" which were to occur within the lifetime
of that generation, when Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed.
That seems to make all references to our Lord’s coming with the clouds
to be of his coming at the end of the world, unless that of Revelation
1:7 is an exception – for which there seems no compelling reason to
conclude. At the end of the world, there will be the general resurrection
and judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) – when surely "every eye shall
see him, and they that pierced him" (1:7). It would seem most appropriate
to refer to that consummation at the outset, toward which all else to
be mentioned would be moving.
6. Alpha and Omega (v.8).
These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and are
equivalent to our A and Z. In this text, they are used by God to describe
himself as "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty"
– similar to the description John uses of him in v.4 – to indicate the
external nature of his Being.
In 22:13, Jesus likewise says of himself, "I am the Alpha and
the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end".
And in 1:17-18, he testifies: "I am the first and the last, 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".
These references remind us of the Gospel of John, 1:1-2, in which Christ
is referred to as "the Word", as follows: "In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same
was in the beginning with God". And v.14 states: "And the
Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory
as of the only begotten from the Father)". It was "in the
flesh" that he was put to death (1 Peter 2:18), but he did not
Deity inhabits all eternity. And both the Father and Son are Deity,
as is also the Holy Spirit. All three are associated in John’s invocation,
7. Kingdom (vs.6,9).
In v.6, it is said that Christ "made us to be a kingdom".
And in v.9, John said: "I am your brother and partaker with you
in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus".
John’s concept of the kingdom was not premillennial. Instead of not
to be established till the second coming of Christ, Christ had already
made his saints to be a "kingdom" and John and his fellow
Christians were in it. This accords with Colossians 1:13. And with the
fact that both John the Baptist and Jesus, during his personal ministry,
preached that the kingdom was "at hand" (Matthew 3:1; 4:17;
etc.) It is ironic, therefore, to use John’s language in Revelation
20:1-6 to teach to the contrary.
This kingdom is referred to variously as the kingdom of heaven, kingdom
of God, kingdom of Christ, "the kingdom of Christ and God"
(Eph. 5:5), and sometimes simply as "the kingdom" as in Luke
Though all these are one and the same kingdom, there are two dominions
or administrations – that of the Son, during time, and that of the Father,
in eternity. The former had its formal beginning on Pentecost following
the ascension of Christ. He had said, "There are some here of them
that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the
kingdom of God come with power" (Mark 9:1). After his own death
and resurrection, he requested his apostles to "tarry ye in the
city (of Jerusalem), until ye be clothed with power from on high"
(Luke 24:49). Likewise, he promised them, "But ye shall receive
power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you" (Acts 1:8). The kingdom
was to come with power, power was to come with the Holy Spirit, and
the Spirit came on Pentecost, clothing them with supernatural power.
So the kingdom was formally established that day, and ceased to be preached
as "at hand" – and never was preached as postponed.
On Pentecost day the apostle Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, testified:
"This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we are all witnesses. Being
therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received the
promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see
and hear. For David ascended not into the heavens: but he saith himself,
The Lord <God> said unto my Lord <Jesus Christ, yet to be born>,
Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of
thy feet". Then he concluded, "Let all the house of Israel
know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus
whom ye crucified". (Acts 2:32-36).
At the right hand of God, "angels and authorities and powers (are)
being made subject unto him" (1 Peter 3:22). But at his "coming",
when he raises the dead, "Then cometh the end, when he shall DELIVER
UP the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have ABOLISHED
all rule and all authority and power. For he must REIGN, till he hath
put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be abolished is death.
. . . And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the
Son also be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that
GOD may be ALL IN ALL" (1 Corinthians 15:23-28).
So, the administration of the kingdom was Christ’s from Pentecost and
will continue till he comes again at the end of the world. But in eternity
the administration will be the Father’s. Christ’s administration is
temporal, the Father’s will be eternal. When it is said to disciples
of Christ that "through many tribulations we must enter into the
KINGDOM OF GOD" (Acts 14:22), and when it is said unto the faithful,
"for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the
EXTERNAL KINGDOM of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter
1:11), reference is to the eternal phase of it, after the consummation
of things temporal. While Christ will be co-regent, as it were, he will
be subordinate to the Father
An understanding of these facts is necessary to prevent confusion over
the kingdom being spoken of as presently existing, on one hand, and
as being yet future, on the other hand.
In no case do the scriptures support the concept that the establishment
of Christ’s kingdom was postponed till his second coming, then to last
only a thousand years and end before the end of the world. Revelation
20:1-6 has nothing to do with the BEGINNING of Christ’s reign, but with
only a SEGMENT of its ONGOING existence.
8. In the Spirit (v.10).
This expression obviously means that John was under the influence
of the Holy Spirit, and inspired by it, on the occasion of receiving
the Revelation on Patmos. It is repeated in 4:2, 17:3; and 21:10, then
in vision he changed locations – to heaven, to a wilderness, and to
a great and high mountain, respectively – each with a distinctive series
9. The Lord’s day (v.10).
Early Christians understood this as referring to the first day
of the week, in honor of the Lord Jesus Christ on the day of his resurrection.
(See Didache 14; Ignatius, in Magnesians 9.)
The Greek word kuriakos, here translated "Lord’s"
was in common use in the sense of "imperial" and relating
to the emperor of the Roman empire. This is significant, and sets the
tone for depicting the escalating conflict between Caesar as Lord (in
the pagan world) and Christ as Lord (among Christians).
10. The word of God and the testimony of Jesus (vs.2,9).
The foregoing is the reading of v.9, referring to John’s having been
exiled to Patmos "for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus"
in the sense of being on account of his bearing witness to such prior
to his exile. V.2 refers to "the word of God, and . . .the testimony
of Jesus Christ" received by John on Patmos and recorded in the
book he was commanded to write.
11. Tribulation (v.9).
This has reference to the increased trials and persecutions of Christians
at that time, particularly in the Roman province of Asia, where emperor
worship was promoted more vigorously than anywhere else in the empire.
John was their "partner" (companion, KJV) in these
tribulations, being exiled on Patmos.
12. Patmos (v.9).
This was a rocky, almost treeless, wind-swept, island with salt mines,
in the Aegean Sea, off the coast of southwestern Asia Minor, 37 miles
west-southwest of Miletus, which was 20 miles south of Ephesus as the
crow files, and used as a Roman penal colony. It is 10 miles long and
six miles wide at its broadest point, with an area of about 25 square
According to tradition preserved by Irenaeus, Eusebius, Jerome, and
others, (see The Great Harlot (Notes on Revelation A7:1 - 19:4 and Note
at the end) the apostle John was banished there toward the end of the
reign of Domitian (A.D. 81-96), and released 18 months later by Domitian’s
successor, Nerva – making the banishment to have been about A.D.95.
A cave, or grotto, near the town of Scala, is said to be pointed out
to travellors as the abode of John while on the island.
Most scholars today agree that the Book of Revelation contains internal
evidences supporting a date during the early 90s A.D. In fact, while
previous emperors had accepted divine honors, Domitian was the first
to require them – except the "mad" emperor Caligula (A.D.
37-41), who endeavored to have his statue placed in the temple at Jerusalem
but died before succeeding. Even the beastly Nero (A.D. 54-68), who
horribly persecuted Christians in Rome and under whom the apostle Paul
was put to death, did not require divine honors but shied from them.
13. The seven churches that are in Asia (vs.4, 11).
That there were other congregations in the Roman province of Asia is
almost certain. But these seven were on a somewhat circular Roman post
road that would enable a messenger to deliver to each a copy of the
Revelation. No doubt they also represented about all the conditions
that existed among the churches of the region. And they were so situated
that any other congregations of the area would soon be able to have
these copies shared with them.
Beginning with EPHESUS, the nearest to Patmos, and listing the approximate
distance and direction from one place to the next, we have the following:
SMYRNA, slightly west of north, 40 miles; PERGAMUM, slightly east of
north, 60 miles; THYATIRA, southeast, 44 miles; SARDIS, south, 36 miles
(and 58 miles east of Smyrna); PHILADELPHIA, southeast, 26 miles; and
LAODICEA, southeast, 50 miles (and 100 miles east of Ephesus).
Modern names are, respectively, Selcuk, Izmar, Bergama, Akisar, Alashehir,
and Eski Hissar ("old castle"). The latter lies in ruins.
The names are Turkish, and the area is now a part of Turkey.
14. Angels of the seven churches (v.20).
Each of the seven congregations is represented as having an angel (2:1,
8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14). "Angel" means messenger – who may
be either earthly or heavenly. In this text, a human messenger seems
more likely. As such, he would have been the one ( or ones, collectively)
most responsible for communicating the Lord’s message to the church
– possibly "he that readeth" (v.3).
Each letter, while addressed to the angel of a particular church, was
really to the congregation itself collectively and individually, and
even to all the other churches and individual members as well – the
admonition in each letter being: "he that hath an ear, let him
hear what the Spirit saith to the churches" (2:7, 11, 17,
29; 3:6, 13, 22). Also: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they
that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things which
are written therein" (1:3).
While not written to us directly, Revelation is nevertheless preserved
and disseminated for us. And we can be abundantly "blessed"
by familiarizing ourselves with its contents, imbibing its spirit, being
encouraged by its assurances, and sharing it with others as opportunity
15. The things which thou sawest, . . . which are, and . . . which
shall come to pass hereafter v.19).
"The things which thou sawest" must be the vision which John
had just seen (vs.10-20).
"The things which are" would seem to be primarily the conditions
described in the letters to the seven churches (Chapters 2 and 3).
"The things which are to come to pass hereafter" would be
those particularly disclosed in Chapters 6-22 – prefaced by Chapters
4 and 5, which show God to be in control of the future, with Christ
associated with him on the throne of the universe.
(THESE VOCABULARY NOTES ARE DESIGNED TO BE OF VALUE AND USE THROUGHOUT
THE STUDY OF REVELATION, JUST AS THE FIRST CHAPTER ITSELF IS.)