Thoughts on the opening verses of the book of The Revelation, Part 1

I prepared this little study some day ago and I send it forth from the hospital bedside of my dear wife Ann whose life is ebbing away.

I have been prompted to send this out at this traumatic time by the memory of her unfailing faithfulness to the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.

She let nothing stand in her way of service to the Saviour!

As a Christian she was faithful in prayer and witness to the Saviour’s glory; as a mother she raised six children who now in this dark hour “arise up, and call her blessed,” (Proverbs 31:28).

As a pioneering Christian school teacher, she sacrificed herself for the care of the pupils under her charge.

As a wife and companion, she was unfailingly courageous in her love and prayerful support of this poor servant of God during traumatic and perilous times here in Ulster.

According to my Bible reading in Isaiah this morning, she will soon “see the king in his beauty”: and “shall behold the land that is very far off,” Isaiah 33:17.

Praise God, I and our children, shall join her in glory to bless the merciful God Who has planned it all in grace and love.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster

John the Evangelist and Peter, 1526 by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)


(Part One)

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand,” Revelation 1:1-3.

According to the great chronologist, James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh and sympathiser with Ulster’s persecuted Presbyterians, the Book of the Revelation was written 100 years after the birth of the Saviour. If that is so, it went forth from John’s pen some sixty seven years into the age of the New Testament Church. Given that the age has endured now for some 2024 years, it was given in the very early formative years of the Gentile Church. There is in that a noteworthy consideration!

The Lord would have His people acquainted with the truth concerning the last days and the second advent of Christ from the earliest days of their pilgrimage. Sadly, that is not the state of affairs amongst His people today, nor has it been so in recent history!

The book was written in a time of great persecution under the Roman Caesar, Domitian, (AD 81-96). John suffered in that time of affliction. “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ,” verse 9.

This not only helps us date the book but it also indicates that the Lord would comfort His people in a time of great trial by showing them the final conclusion of this age with all its wickedness — “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever,” Revelation 11:15.  How a reading and believing of this book will bless and strengthen the people of God in this ever more evil age!

I trust that these few considerations will help to place the study of this wonderful book much higher up in our list of priorities.

There are two main thoughts that I would have you consider. First of all:


That is stated clearly in the first two verses.

1. The Lord Jesus is the AUTHOR of this book. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” His authorship is further stated in verses 10-11 of chapter 1. “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”

How we should cherish a book which so carries the Saviour’s ‘autograph’!

There is an incident recorded in John chapter 9 which has long been very precious to me.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him,” verses 35-38.

The Lord Jesus alone can reveal Himself to us! Like it was with Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, so it must be with any who embrace the truth of the gospel.

“And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks,” Acts 9:5.

May we be like the blind man who was so wonderfully healed and say of this book in which is revealed to us in glorious detail the events of the last days of this age: “Lord, I believe.”

2. The Saviour is also the SUBJECT of the book. It is a ‘Revelation’ of the Lord Jesus. The Greek word translated ‘Revelation’ is apokalupsis, from which we get the English word, ‘apocalypse’.

The Greek word means ‘a disclosure of truth, instruction’ and that is of course just what this book is. Sadly, many would say of this book that it is the very opposite to what its name means. Even ministers of the gospel have been known to say that the book will only confuse those who read it! In truth, this is a blasphemous rejection of what the Lord says of this book!

The Lord Jesus fills this book from the first verse to the last verse of it!

3. Christ is revealed to us in this book by way of plain speech and also by symbolic language. The first sight John is given of Christ illustrates these two methods of conveying the truth concerning the Saviour.

“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.  His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; 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 which thou sawest are the seven churches,” Revelation 1:12-20.

This revelation of Christ given to John and reported to us by him was of a likeness of the Saviour very different from the person of Christ that John has accompanied for three years. Yet he knew it was the Lord Jesus. Few Christian readers of this book would question the identity of this symbolised figure and yet there are those who throw up their hands and dismiss this book as beyond understanding because of other symbols found in it, which are used to convey the truth!

John recognised the Redeemer for when he saw Him he “fell at his feet as dead”!

There is nothing in the symbolism of this book which gives any grounds for dismissing it as  unintelligible.

We should note that the Saviour informed John of the meaning of the less obvious symbols. “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 which thou sawest are the seven churches,” verse 20.

In like manner we can expect to find any obscure symbols explained by a due consideration of the words of Holy Scripture. For example, when we read of “Babylon” and “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”, we have but to research what the Bible has to say about that ‘literal’ city and the idolatrous activities linked to it and the re-emergence of that city in the latter days and the ongoing and concealed machinations of its ancient blasphemous religion, to understand that, as Paul states, it is active today and will continue to be so until its destruction by Christ at His return. “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way,” 2 Thessalonians 2:7.

It was Martin Luther who said: “Scripture interprets Scripture.” The tools for properly interpreting the Bible are contained in the Bible itself. Thus, we should look into the Bible to see it interpret itself.

4. This book, as with all of Holy Scripture, has come to us from our heavenly Father. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him,” verse 1.

The Father is the fountain of all things good and blessed. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” James 1:17.

John Gill says of verse 1: “This was given him by God the Father, and put into his hands, to make known as being a part of the administration of his prophetic office.”

The Lord Jesus is indeed our PROPHET by which the truth of God comes to us. He is the “Word” of God to His elect.

5. Please consider the steps in the process by which the truth is revealed to the people of God. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw,” verses 1-2.

God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, the angel, John the apostle and finally “his servants”. these are the ’steps’ by which this book has come down to us.

The use of the title “servants” for the people of God reminds us that the Word that comes to us is a command, instructions for us, “God’s servants’ to obey and carry out!

How we so often read the Bible without recognising that it is to be obeyed!

To be continued.

Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)