A Study in the Word: Revelation 1:9-20


John joined with churches in a “brotherhood of affliction” due to their faithful witness of Christ (1:9-11).  The kingdom comprises both spiritual sovereignty and realm.  GNB translates: “I am your partner in patiently enduring the suffering that comes to those who belong to His Kingdom.”

“In the Spirit” can mean “spiritual” or specifically to the Spirit giving the revelation (1:10).  This form of “Lord’s” means “belonging to the Lord,” and carries a strong element of personal possession (“Church” derives from it).  The church named the first day of the week the “Lord’s Day,” being well-reminded whose possession it is.

The recipients are seven churches (1:11), “real churches with real successes and failures - just like churches today” (James Brooks).  The order is geographical, following a main travel route.  The seven letters to seven churches are contained within the single letter that comprises the entire book. 

John “sees” a voice (1:12-13).  The vision indicates that a lampstand symbolizes a church.  The central figure of the vision is the Son of Man (1:13-16; Dan. 7:13).  He is described in His person (1:13b-15a, 16), by His voice (1:15b), and by His authority (1:16).  These titles are repeated in the seven letters to the churches as they pertain to the particular situation of each church.

White hair symbolizes His holiness.  Fiery eyes indicate penetrating vision (1:14).  His feet are of a bronze-like metal known for strength; these are not feet of clay.  Sea waves crashing against Patmos would magnify the voice of many waters (1:15; Ezek. 43:2).  He holds sovereign control over the “stars.”  The sword is “the Word of God that goes forth to make war on sin and unrighteousness and drive them from the earth” (Walter Conner).  Here is majesty in brilliance (1:16). 

“The first and the last” shows the Son of Man standing in equality with the Father (1:17).  John’s attention is fixed upon Christ.  He becomes motionless in the presence of true deity. 

Christ stands as victor over the greatest enemy of all – death (1:18).  As the Living One, “keys” illustrate ultimate power over death and over the realm of the dead.  The entire letter of Revelation informs all churches of what Jesus has to say and do (1:19).

Interpretations vary, but it seems best to me (as a practical matter in chapters 2-3) to refer angels in 1:20 to humans held by a crucified hand leading their respective churches. 

Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University.  Email: dm5867se@outlook.com