BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 3, Day 5: Revelation 1:9-20

Summary of passage: John was exiled to the island of Patmos because of his beliefs in Jesus. He heard a voice tell him to write down and send to the seven churches a message. The 7 churches were: Ephesus Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

John saw 7 golden lamp stands and Jesus dressed in a robe and a golden sash. He held 7 stars in his right hand and a sword came out of his mouth. Jesus put his hand on John and told him he is God and he holds the keys of death and Hades. He commands John to write what he has seen, including how the 7 stars represent the angels of the 7 churches and the 7 lamp stands are the 7 churches.

Questions:

12)  Verse 20 tells us:  “The seven lamp stands are the seven churches” previously mentioned:  Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

13)  Jesus is the Son of Man.  He is dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  His head and hair were white like wool and snow and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.  His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

[Side Note:  The “Ancient of Days” in Daniel is God, harking back to God at the beginning, the Alpha.  In Daniel 7:22, the “Ancient of Days” is Jesus.  All are one as the Triune God.]

14)  Personal Question.  My answer:  [BSF is assuming John is the Apostle John.  Seems to be BSF’s belief here.  The question is referring to John the Apostle.  John of Revelation or John of Patmos NEVER states he knew Jesus personally or was a “close friend”.]  John was overwhelmed seeing Jesus in his heavenly glory.  This teaches me not to judge others as they may cloak their true personas.  In worship, Jesus deserves all the glory for who he is.  Falling at someone’s feet is a sign of great respect and awe in the Bible.  I would imagine he was dumbfounded and speechless as I would be!

Conclusions:  I am a bit bothered that BSF doesn’t even mention that John of Revelation may not be John the Apostle.  I believe if we are to study the Word then we cannot ignore some facts (like John of Revelation may not be John the Apostle because in the Word John never identifies himself as such).  That needs to be made clear.  It’s fine if BSF wants to assume this is John the Apostle as most scholars agree with this.  However, it needs to be stated up front that this is their assumption for the rest of the study.  It is presented here as fact when doubt exists.

More and more scholars merely refer to John here as John of Patmos.  All we know for sure is he was a prophet (being given a vision by God/Jesus) and he was known to the churches he was writing to.  He was on the Island of Patmos (which the reasons exactly why are unclear besides “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus”).  And the text probably dates between 90-100 AD although some scholars say earlier in the 60’s AD.  See more thorough discussion HERE

There is a TON here and BSF has barely touched on this passage as it deserves to be studied. Please see End Notes below for a more thorough analysis.

End Notes:  This is an analysis of verses 12-20 only.  See Previous Post for an analysis of verses 9-11.

Verse 12:  We see the 7 lamp stands 7 times in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:12, 13, 20; 2:1, 5; and 11:4).

Jesus is still speaking here.  Note John saw the lamp stands first then Jesus.  These are not menorahs or candles stands.  These are free-standing and held the lamps on top.

THIS IS IMPORTANT AND CRUCIAL:  In the Old Testament in the Tabernacle, there was one lamp stand with 7 candles (Exodus 25:31-37).  Here there is 7 lamp stands.  As BSF asked us, the lamp stands represent the church.  In the Old Covenant, there was ONE church–the Jews.  In the New Covenant there are many churches (here 7)–signifying the Gentiles.  God’s people are now one.  Awesome!!

Light does not come from the lamp stands–it comes from the lamp on the lamp stand.  The church does not create the light (God does as the Light); the church merely displays it for all to see.

Verses 13-16:  The Son of Man is standing in his glory amongst all the lamp stands–Jesus is standing amongst all the churches.  This is a title all readers and listeners of these words would have understood.  Jesus used the title “Son of Man” about 90 times in the Gospels.  It was first used by Daniel in 7:13 to introduce the Messiah.  Remember, ancient Christians had much more of the Bible committed to memory than we do today merely because they couldn’t read and had to have it memorized.

His clothes are significant; they signify authority and royalty.  Only those who didn’t perform manual labor could wear long robes that would have hindered work to others.  The golden sash is something only the rich could afford.  The priests in the temple wore a sash with gold threads (Exodus 39:1-5).  Jesus’ is pure gold!

Jesus here is the high priest, our intercessor! (Exodus 28:2-4; Hebrews 4:14-16)

The high priest tended the lamp stands in the temple; so Jesus tends us.

White hair spoke of age; age spoke of wisdom in ancient times.  Also, snow is pure (Isaiah 1:18).  Also, Daniel 7:9 has the Ancient of Days with “clothing as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.”  The Ancient of Days (God) is Jesus as well.

Fire represents judgment (Matthew 5:22, 2 Peter 3:7).

Bronze is a very strong metal and is what the sacrificial altar was made of (Exodus 27:1-6).

Verse 16:  The 7 stars represent the leaders of the 7 churches here.  7 is the number of completion; therefore, Jesus is holding the entire church in his hands.  Cool!

The double-edged sword coming out of Jesus’ mouth is the Word–Jesus’ weapon. The Greek word for sword here is a heavy, battle sword used to kill and destroy.

Jesus had the same glory as in the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2).  Here is the real Jesus.

Fun Fact:  This is the only physical description given of Jesus in the Bible.  Isaiah 53:2 is vague in comparison.

Verses 17-18:  This is the first time John sees Jesus in all his glory.  Jesus’ touches him and comforts him.  He identifies himself 3 times–He is Lord of time–past, present and future.  Lord over resurrection.  Lord over death.  Only God and Jesus can determine life and death.  The devil has no power here.

Verse 17:  The First and the Last is God (Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, and 48:12).  This is one of the few places in the Bible where Jesus identifies himself as God himself.

Verses 19-20:  Second time John is commanded to write (Revelation 1:11 is the first) what he sees in the past, present, and future.

Revelation 1:  Past

Revelation 2-3:  Present

Revelation 4-22:  Future

Jesus tells us the 7 stars are angels.  Some scholars say the 7 stars are the pastors of the 7 churches.  The Greek word used here means “messenger”.  Some take it literally and say they are 7 guardian angels of the churches.  Some take it figuratively and say the 7 angels are the spirit of each church. What’s important here is they are representatives of the body of Christ.

Note Location:  Right Hand of Jesus.  We will see this in the next chapter as well.  In Jesus’ right hand, rests safety and strength–exactly where we want to be.

Remember–John is on the island of Patmos–maybe a prisoner.  Jesus is there in our sufferings and trials and we can know him and see him and trust him right where we are.

Conclusions to Lesson 3:  We learned the book of Revelation is all about Jesus and God’s plan for the future of His people–all peoples with the 7 churches.  There is so much here in Revelation that BSF does a good job of focusing the most important pieces and I hope the lectures will bring out more we don’t discuss.

I would encourage all of you to read my End Notes as they will bring out more BSF just can’t do in such a limited amount of time as well as do your own extra reading and analysis of Revelation. Commentaries will be most beneficial.

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 2, Day 3: Revelation’s Writer and Recipients

Summary of passages:  Various passages for the day.

Questions:

4a)  Matthew 4:21-22:  Here is where John was called by Jesus to be his disciple.

Matthew 17:1-3:  John witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus.

John 19: 25-27:  The “disciple whom he loved” is the apostle John.  Jesus told John to take care of his mother.

John 20: 1-10:  The “other disciple” here is the apostle John.  John reached Jesus’ tomb first and saw that he had risen

John 21: 20-25:  The disciple here is the apostle John.  It tells us John is the one who testifies to these things and wrote them down.

Acts 4:13:  The apostle John had been with Jesus.

1 John 1:1-3:  [Note:  This letter does not outright say John is the author.  It is assumed by scholars that John is the author of 1 John based on writing style and hints that put the odds in John’s favor–like here where the author says he has seen Jesus with his own eyes.  Still, there is no conclusive proof John wrote this letter.]

Assuming John is the author, the author here reveals he has heard, seen, and touched “the Word of life” which is Jesus.

[Again, the John who wrote Revelation is also assumed to be the apostle John, However, like in my POST where I laid out the arguments, it may have been a different John who wrote Revelation.  Keep that in mind.]

Revelation 1:1-2:  John is God’s servant who was sent an angel to reveal “the revelation of Jesus Christ” and this is the testimony of everything he saw–the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

b)  Obviously if the author of Revelation is the Apostle John, then he is trustworthy.  He was hand-picked by Jesus, walked with Jesus every day and saw the miracles he performed, was at Jesus’ transfiguration, wrote down writings and the testimony an angel had given him.  Why wouldn’t he be trustworthy?

All of Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) so even if this John is not the Apostle John he is trustworthy because God is trustworthy.

5a)  The recipients were suffering and poor, but loyal to the church and tested false apostles.  Some were about to face prison for their beliefs and possibly death but if they were faithful to the end, they’d receive the crown of life.

b)  Same.  People are the same no matter the time period as are believers.  We are called to suffer like Christ suffered and we may (and do) face persecution and death because of it.  It is not as prevalent as it was 2000 years ago, but it exists and for those of us in the Western world it takes different forms.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  As I do anytime I study God’s word, I desire to know Him more, to love Him more, to be more like Him, to do His will for my life and gain insight into His will for my life, and to love others more.  In one word:  closer.

Conclusions:  It is clear from these passages BSF is taking the position that John the Apostle wrote Revelation.  This is probably true and most scholars agree.  Just keep in mind we are not 100% sure whom John of Revelation is.  In fact, modern scholars tend to call the author John of Patmos (great explanation HERE of why they believe the author is not John the Apostle) to distinguish him from John the Apostle.

Not for sure how 5c is related to 5a and 5b.  Filler if you ask me.

More On the Recipients of Revelation:  It has been about 60 years since Christ walked the earth.  Most of the original witnesses who saw Christ in the flesh are dead.  Only a few are left and the writings left behind by the apostles and others to testify to Jesus’ time here on earth.

This led to speculation and a cult who claimed Jesus did not come in the flesh.  Known as the Gnostics, they believed a physical body was intrinsically evil and denied the fact a pure, omnipotent God would take such a form.  Hence, some claimed Jesus was a phantom or that God left Jesus before he was crucified.

Hence, John is faced with setting the record straight of who Jesus is, what he did, and what he will do in the future.  He spoke in their language, using language and symbols they would understand.

For instance, in 1 John 1, all Christians would have understood “the Word”.  All Jews knew the Word to be God.  For Greeks, the Word (or Logos in Greek) meant the Reason or the organization and control of the universe.

With only a 60 year history, early Christians needed encouragement.  They needed clarification.  They needed hope.  Remember in the first century, most people didn’t make it to age 50, all did back-breaking physical labor to survive, 99% of them never left the town they were born in, and various gods and myths and monsters were real.  The unknown was terrifying.  And most everything outside of their little circle was unknown.

Early Christians needed a victory.  The answer is clear:  Jesus is the victory.

Overview of Revelation: Author, Date, the Island of Patmos, and the Seven Churches of Revelation

I’m beginning a series of posts in preparation for Bible Study Fellowship’s forthcoming study of the Book of Revelation.  As you all know, there is so much in this book that I’ve decided to break it into smaller components for better understanding.  I hope this helps to digest the information and feel a bit prepared before the study begins.  This will serve two purposes:  1)  Not to feel so overwhelmed with Revelation  2)  To of course have some background before diving right in.  I have no idea what BSF will focus on for me it will be critical to have background knowledge BEFORE studying the actual text which dives right in.  So let’s begin!

Who wrote Revelation?

First off, let me just say this:  in the Book of Revelation there will be many things in doubt and question due to the ambiguity of the text.  Hence, many things in this study will be interpretations–and that is all. No definitive answers.  Starting with who wrote the book.

For years, scholars attributed the book to John the Apostle who wrote the Book of John.  In verse 1 of Revelation, the author identifies himself:  “John”.  However, that’s all the author tells us.  He doesn’t say, “Hey, it’s me!  John who walked with Jesus.”

In verse 9, he does say, “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”.

This doesn’t help much either.

It didn’t take long to question the author either.  Dionysius of Alexandria (231-265 AD) first pointed out that this author declared his name.  John, the apostle, did not when he wrote the Book of John.  And the style and vocabulary of this author were so different from the known writings of the Apostle John that there’s no way they could be one and the same.

Many chuck this up to the difficulties of translating languages from the Aramaic to the Hebrew and the Greek.  Others cite the facts similar terms were used such as “Word of God” for Christ, “water of life” and “the Lamb” to say, yes, indeed, John the Apostle wrote the Book.

So, who wrote Revelation?  No one knows.  And in the end, does it really matter?  As in verse 1 of Revelation, God gave the revelation to Jesus who gave the revelation to an angel who gave it to a man named John who gave it to us.  Just like the rest of the Bible, if we accept it as God’s divine word to His people, does it matter who put pen to paper?  Accept it as a gift from God and remember His ways are not ours.

When was the Book of Revelation written?  Again, up for debate.  Scholars have narrowed it down to two time periods, not all that far apart.

One, during the alter portion of the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (37-68 AD)

Two, a bit later, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD).

Some scholars (known as preterists which I will cover in a later post) support the earlier time frame because it was before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  Hence, Revelation’s message about the fall and destruction speaks to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Most scholars (the futurists) argue for the later date.  They cite the preponderence of early scholars saying s0 (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Victorinus, and Jerome).  The author, John, was banished to the island of Patmos.  This was a favorite punishment of the Emperor Domitian.

So, when was the Book of Revelation written?  No one knows.  And in the end, does it really matter?  Some say yes because it holds the clue if this book is written as a warning of what’s to come or as a warning of what happened and is thus a purely historical document.  All of this is true.

However, for me, we need to focus on how this applies to us today.  I’m not one to worry what the future holds as I may be dead tomorrow.  I’m not going to live my life thinking the world is ending.  If it does, there’s nothing I can do about it so why worry (Philippians 4:6).

The Book of Revelation has so many different interpretations one can easily get bogged down in the subtle nuances and the quoted passages that support this argument and that.  For me, that’s not what this study will be about.  It will be about what is God saying to me today?  Right where I’m at.  Right where He has placed me.  And how can I take the understanding He will give me and apply it to my life, my community, my church, my world.  That will be my focus.

Where is the Island of Patmos?  One thing John tells us is he was on the island of Patmos when he received his revelation from the angel.  The island of Patmos is a tiny Greek island about 34 square miles.  See map HERE and HERE It’s tiny, secluded, and hard to access, a perfect place to send criminals in the first century AD.  Think modern-day Alcatraz–a place criminals were sent to work and die.

Who was John writing to?  “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:11).

John was writing to seven early Christian churches in Asia Minor.  See map HERE, HERE, and HERE

As you can see from the second and third maps, the churches were located on a major road that ran north to south.  It would have been easy for a messenger to send the letter quickly.  There were other churches in Asia Minor at the time but these churches seemed to be selected for the need they evinced.  Their faith was shrinking and needed encouragement.