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Posted on CCPC's website 2022
The study Index page.
Again. This study is verse by verse, IMAGE by Image, IDEA by Idea, and concept by concept. Which means it is a Marathon.
We are using sources that John the Apostle and those mentioned as the recipients of the letter, the Seven Churches and other First Century Christians, the majority of which were Jews, would / should / could have been familiar with. We will also reference newer translations and versions of the book, beginning with the 1560 Geneva Bible (the bulk source for the 1611 KJV, which we also use) all the way up to much more current publications, and examinations of the text from various scholars, as well as beginning the analysis of the text from the Greek.
It should be said here, as we are beginning with the Greek, we are going in remembering that John was writing in an 'apocalyptic' style. It seems many translations have forgotten that and 'moderated' the language.
"Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe."
- Voltaire (1694 1778)
Verse three clearly states that this book is Nothing else. It is “propheteias”. Prophecy, a Fore-Telling, of coming events. And it is designed to be read out loud, with a blessing to those who do both. The next clause has two parts, “those who hear and take to heart” are also blessed. Because, as we mentioned in the introduction, “the time is at hand (near)”.
That John specified that the 'time was near', is something also done by Paul who evidently believed that he would be alive when Christ returned, as evidenced by 1 Thessalonians 4: 16 - 18.
“John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia” Background on the 7.
Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Paul had founded several of these. It is known that he wrote letters to Ephesus and Laodicea, although the latter has not survived intact. The letter that purports to be Paul's epistle to Laodicea is not credible. It is also possible that the Apostle John had visited them. He certainly spent time in Ephesus after his time on the island.
The order of the churches is relevant in that besides going from good to bad, it is also the 'mail route' one would cover after leaving the port of Ephesus to get to the various towns.
“Grace be vnto you, & peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come, and from the seuen spirits which are before his throne:” 1611 KJV.
4 - 6:
“Grace and Peace” are mentioned here. Grace is the Gift of God, the Greek word “charis” is the root for 'charity', and peace is 'eirene', in which is found the idea of serenity. They are seen in the Gospels, but not a whole lot from here on in the Apocalypse.
The essence of the middle of that sentence “... is, ... was, ... is to come” is repeated several times throughout John's vision, and is an echo from Exodus 3 : 14 and 15.
There are Seven Churches represented in the vision. And Seven Spirits (or a 'seven-fold spirit', (we'll discuss this in chapter 4) before the Throne. Seven attributes of Christ, and in a few moments, Seven Lampstands. There were seven 'classical' planets, each associated with one of the seven heavens, so it is an important number.
As we will see later, numbers are funny things in Revelation. Some are exact, realistic, counting numbers. Others are, other things, including symbolic, and figurative numbers, some meaning 'a large number', or 'multitude beyond count'. Others signifying 'a long time' or conversely, 'a short time'. And, indeed, some are both real and figurative at the same time.
In this case, "7", a real 'counting' number, is the symbolic number for perfection, going all the way back to the Seven Days of Creation, and the Seven Seventh Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25, the prime number of Seven, is direct and intended, and figures prominently in Temple worship by the priests (see Leviticus 4). There were more than seven churches in the province called "Asia" at that time, for example see Acts 15: 41 (Cilicia is south central Turkey), and John knew that. These seven were chosen to address real issues with those and other, and our own churches, and probably for stylistic reasons as well.
The Seven Attributes of Christ are also mentioned elsewhere in scripture, with the possible exception of the first one on this list, which may also be the most dramatic. There are also some interesting differences between what is in the Greek, and the various translations, which we will also look at. Beginning with the first: The two Greek words “martys ho pistos” also mean: “official witness who is trustworthy”. Which is the point of the whole thing.
“Firstborn from (first begotten of) the dead”. The “prototokos” term is used in Colossians 1 :15 (which was also a city in Asia with a church) He is the firstborn of Creation. Christ became the first born of the dead through raising Himself from the tomb. Remember, others had been brought back, including in the Old Testament in 1 Kings 17 by the prophet Elijah. But Christ had said His Life was His Own to lay down and to take back up: John 10: 18.
We're on the third term, and we have our first major variation among the translations. The 1560 Geneva Bible says He is the “Prince of the Kings of the Earth”, as does the 1611 KJV which was based on it. The Greek word is “archon” which is “Ruler” of the Kings of the Earth. The idea is that the Lord is the ultimate King of Kings. This is an idea that dates back to at least 1200 BC with the Assyrian Kings, who ruled an empire with other regional kings under them, and then later with other foreign rulers, including a Greek ruler mentioned in 2 Maccabees 13 : 1 - 4 (link below) (NOTE: we are using the Maccabees ONLY as an historical reference, as we will use other such texts as we go. OK?).
“In the year 149 Judas Maccabeus and his followers found out that Antiochus Eupator was marching against Judea with a large army and that Lysias, the young king's guardian and the head of his government, was with him. They had a force of Greek troops consisting of 110,000 infantry, 5,300 cavalry, 22 elephants, and 300 chariots with sharp blades attached to their wheels. Menelaus, trying to take advantage of the situation, went over to their side and urged them on, not because he was concerned for the country, but because he hoped to be confirmed as High Priest. But God, the King of kings, made Antiochus furious with Menelaus...”Another difference is that the older works make the verb here Past Tense, 'loved' instead of present as: “Him who loves / takes pleasure in us” which is the Greek word “agaponti”. The OT references include Deuteronomy 7 : 7 and following.
The 1560 and 1611 texts make the next one “washed us from our sinnes in his owne blood”. While others render the Greek “Lysanti” correctly and it is “and has freed (released) us from our sins by his blood.” The reference is expressly to the Crucified and Risen and Ascended Christ, later also depicted as the 'lamb which was slain' as the blood atonement for sin.
The Greek word "Basileian" is (made us royalty / a kingdom), and "hierei" is priests. This looks back both the priests of the Temple from the line of Levi, as well as the royal line of David, and the older position of Melchizedek, the King of ancient Salem (probably Jerusalem) who believed in and is said to be a “kohen” (a priest of) the Most High, as seen in Genesis 14: 18 and following, during the time of Abraham, and is mentioned in Hebrews 7 and 13.
Verse 6 (NIV): “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.”
The entirety of verse 6 explains the long term purpose of the Believers of the world, the collective Church, to serve the Father. The doxology, the statement of praise to God (to Him be...) that is the closing clause is similar to what is found in Ephesians 1 and Romans 11, and is reflective of statements of praise as used by David in several Psalms, including 145, and is used elsewhere in Revelation.
(It may be a good idea to get a couple of bookmark and put it in Daniel 7, and Ezekiel, we'll be coming back to them, a lot, later.)
Seven quotes at least two versus. Daniel 7: 13 and 14, and Zechariah 12 : 10. Followed by an affirmation “yes, amen” that is not part of the OT quote.
Verse eight restates something that was introduced in verse 4, after it introduces a new way to state it, and it is The Lord who states it! This is the origination of the use of the Greek letters Alpha and Omega as the 'First and Last'. In Hebrew, the first letter is similar, but the ending letter is totally different. So the writer is assuming a working knowledge of Greek, even if the recipients were Jews. The last word of the verse is something those Jews would know well, the Greek word for “Pantokrator” which they would render as “El Shaddai”, as is seen in the beginning of Genesis 17.
The verse begins with the name of the author, but, it also does not clearly state that this John is the John that wrote the Gospel according to John. There are significant stylistic differences, but those may also be attributed to when and how the book was written or dictated. He never asserts Apostolic authority but instead uses the word “adelphos” for brother, and “synkoinonos” which is rendered as “partner” or “companion” in most translations, and states he was with them in their troubles, for Christ.
And now it begins to get interesting with the use of the word “thlipsei” (tribulation, suffering). If the book was indeed written somewhere between 90 and 96 AD, it was written under the persecution of the Christians, and Jews, and just about everybody else, by the despised Roman Emperor Domitian (ruled 81 to 96). The characterization of the emperor is accurate, he was even hated by the aristocracy of Rome for having effectively removing all power from the Senate. After his “removal from office” his memory was officially excised by the Senate.
Exile was a punishment used by Emperors for people they disliked, but felt could still be useful in the future, or who had political allies that may take action against the Emperor for their friend's untimely demise. Perhaps the most famous example of this was the exile of the poet Ovid by the Emperor Augustus some ninety years before Domitian. The fact that the author states that he was there 'because of the word' does give some assurance that this John was That John, as a recognized leader in the new movement, the local Governor (we don't know which one, or even where John was before his 'vacation') who probably exiled John in the name of the Emperor, may have felt that John's death might incite violence by the members of the new sect and draw unwanted attention from Rome.
We come to the first major disagreement between English translations.
The Greek simply states: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day...” Some translations add modifiers to the word 'Spirit'. The 1560 Geneva states “And I was ravished in spirit...” The New American Bible (Catholic) from 1970 states: “On the Lord's Day I was caught up in ecstasy...” Others use different words, “I was worshiping in the Spirit” from the New Living Translation, 1996. Or even, “the Spirit possessed me” (Jerusalem Bible, 1966). The only explanation we can come up with is that the translators were trying to explain the circumstance of John's vision as the extra words are not in the original text.
The trumpet was, and is, used to announce important things, such as the aforementioned Jubilee in Leviticus 25: 9. For John to describe a voice as a trumpet “salpingos” that was “megalen”, the Greek is for 'loud', it must be announcing something important. Actual brass instruments will be seen later. His voice is described in verse 15 as 'the sound of many waters', which is the same idea, and restates that He was something special.
There is significant discrepancies between the various English translations as to where the quote from Christ actually begins in the text. The Greek text we had available for this study has His "Alpha" statement leading verse 11. The 1560 Geneva states “the First and the Last”, and had what are apparently tiny hand written Greek characters in the text. The words 'Alpha' and 'Omega' were picked up by the 1611 KJV.
All translations agree that the command to write what is seen on a scroll comes from Christ in verse 11. And then there is the list of the Seven Churches.
12 The Greek word “lychnias” is used for lampstand, a tall holder for an oil lamp. The 1560 and 1611 make it as candlesticks. The reference is to the golden lampstands in the Tabernacle, the Menorah, which was also rendered as lampstand in Exodus 25, and in the Temple in 1 Kings 7: 49.
13 The Son of Man.
The term in Greek is “homoion huion anthropou” for 'Son of Man' is also used in the major prophets, especially in the early chapters of Ezekiel when the Lord talks to the prophet who is a stand in for all of Humanity, and in the Daniel cloud vision as above. It is also used by Christ in all four of the Gospels, such as in Matthew 16: 13, but when He says it, it is with the definite article “the”, not as a generalized term "a" as with Ezekiel. The same is true in the 'historically interesting' book of Enoch which uses the term to refer to the coming Messiah (ch 46 : 3).
“This is the son of Man who hath righteousness, With whom dwelleth righteousness, And who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden, Because the Lord of Spirits hath chosen him, And whose lot hath the pre-eminence before the Lord of Spirits in uprightness for ever.”The reference to His clothing does not specify either a robe or trousers. It only states that the figure walking between the lamps was dressed down to His feet, and was wearing a golden “zonen” (sash) across the chest.
The description continues with the information that his head and hair were white, it lists both wool and snow to compare texture and color, and all the English translations did a good job with those. “White as snow” is seen in other descriptions of clothing, like in Matthew 28. His eyes are described as flames of fire, “phlox pyros”. And another description of the voice, now as great waters.
The word for his feet, “chalkolibano” is a form of words that are used for several alloys of copper, including brass and bronze, and a shiny compound made with copper and silver. All of which were used in the Temple and have other significance throughout the Bible. In context, the material His feet are made of is not important. The symbolism is. He is Special, walking through the Holy Place, and His appearance reflects that.
The Seven "Asteras" (stars) are the Seven Churches, as is stated later (as are the lampstands), but there are more 'sevens' coming.
The “sharpe two-edged sworde” that is coming out of His mouth is appropriately regarded as the Word of the Gospel. The Greek specifies all those terms, there is no doubt as to what it is, or where it is from. This image comes from the first chapter of both the Gospel and the First Epistle of John as well as Ephesians 6 and Hebrews 4 : 12. It also goes back into Isaiah 11 (the 'Branch of Jesse' chapter), where “His breath slays the wicked”. We'll get into 'the word' in all of its implications in a special feature study later.
The next image is that the Son shines like the “sun in strength (dynamei)”. The reference goes all the way back to Moses coming off the mountain in Exodus 34 beginning at verse 29 and Ezekiel 1 : 27 and following.
John's reaction, he fell at His feet as though "nekros", and Christ's statement “not to fear”, “First and Last” is repeated, and will be again.
This reaction to a heavenly being has been seen before, such as at the Tomb, Matthew 28: 4.
Another statement regarding Christ as the Firstborn of the Dead, and Alive Forever.
“The keys of Death and Hell”. Death is Death (thanatou) in the original text. But we have a difference of opinion on the other place. The Greek is “hadou”, usually stated as Hades. Our 1560 edition makes it “hel” (with one 'l'), 1611 adds an 'l'. The Jerusalem Bible dodges the issue by making it “the Underworld”, while the New American calls it “the Netherworld”, and the New Living calls it “the Grave”. Where-ever, and What-ever it is, HE has the key to it.
A restatement of the command, and it is a command, “Write”, with a clarification as to what he is seeing: The things that have passed, what is, and what is to come.
As we mentioned, Christ explains the Stars and Lampstands. But again, there are more churches than that, so it is worth considering that other churches elsewhere also have a star and a lamp.
End chapter one
Selected Sources for this chapter:
The Apocrypha with explanation as to their status in Protestant translations, includes 1 and 2 Macabees.
https://sacred-texts.com/bib/apo/index.htm (and see 1611 below)
Christian Classics Ethereal Library
The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament: Book of Enoch https://www.ccel.org/c/charles/otpseudepig/enoch/ENOCH_1.htm
Sources used throughout entire study:
The Bible Hub Interlinear pages: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/revelation/1.htm
the Geneva Bible downloadable https://archive.org/details/TheGenevaBible1560
the 1611 KJV
(the Apocrypha was part of the original 1611 text!)
The study Index page.
NOTE:The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.
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