Revelation 1

This devotional is written by Matt Coombs.

Revelation 1

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw – that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Greetings and doxology
4 John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

7 ‘Look, he is coming with the clouds,’
and ‘every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him’;
and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’
So shall it be! Amen.

8 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’

John’s vision of Christ
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.


Revelation, for many Christians, is a daunting book to read. It's often hard to comprehend, and so many do not give it the time of day. The reason that it is so difficult for modern readers is that it is cast in apocalyptic style, which as modern readings we have little reference for today. However, it would have been better understood by the early church who were familiar with the same writing in Old Testament books such as Ezekiel and Daniel, and other non-biblical writings.

Now, I might have already lost you with the word apocalyptic. This immediately brings to mind images of catastrophe, or the complete destruction of the world. But actually, apocalypse in the Bible simply means revelation, it means to uncover or pull the lid off something. John's revelation uncovers and reveals through symbols and images what John has seen, what is happening now and what will take place later (19). Verse 1 would read in the original Greek "The apocalypse from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place." So not as scary or crazy as you might imagine.

Apocalyptic imagery is primarily that of fantasy - a beast with seven heads and ten horns (13:1), a woman clothed with the sun (12:1). We'll see these as we read through Revelation, but John interprets the important images himself; Christ (1:17-18), the church (1:20), Satan (12:9), Rome 17:9, 18) which gives clues to the rest. But the visions are meant to be seen as wholes and not pressed regarding all of their details, that is, the details are part of the evocative nature of the images, but it's the whole vision that counts. Imagine someone produced a huge tapestry depicting the book of Revelation - you could walk closely to zoom in on particular images, but you need to step back and look at it as a whole.

To sum up, what we will read in the coming days, Revelation is written using dramatic, visceral imagery. It speaks of the suffering and salvation experienced by God's people, and God's judgement on the Roman Empire. It acts to remind the first Christians that God is in control, to assure them that suffering is inevitable in the present, that justice will come upon those responsible for the church's suffering and ultimately that God will restore all that was lost at the beginning (Gen 1-3).

The stand-out verse in today's reading for me is verse 17.

17 When I [John] saw him [Jesus], I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid.

If there is one thing I hope we get from reading Revelation together, it is the assurance that God is in control. We do not need to be afraid.

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