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Revelation I - Prologue (Rev 1:1-8)

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Related articles

Introduction to the Book of Revelation Four main views of Revelation
Structure of the book Main Characters in the book
Virtual Seven Churches Jesus the Lamb
Allusions to the Old Testament
Millennium Rapture and tribulation


I: Prologue (1:1-8) II: Letters to seven churches (1:9 - 3:22)
III: Seven Seals (4:1 - 8:1) IV: Seven trumpets (8:2 - 11:18)
V: Seven signs (11:19 - 15:4) VI: Seven Bowls (15:5 - 16:21)
VII: Prostitute / Babylon (17:1 - 19:10) VIII: Seven judgements (19:11 - 21:8)
IX: Bride / Jerusalem (21:9 - 22:9) X: Epilogue (22:10-21)

Prev - Revelation Intro Next - Revelation II


Title and purpose (1:1-2)
Blessing to the reader (1:3)
Greeting (1:4-5a)
Doxology (1:5b-7)
God the Alpha and the Omega (1:8)

Title and purpose (1:1-2)

The first three verses were probably added by people who knew John, perhaps elders in the church in Ephesus. They are written about John, while the rest of the book is written by John in the first person. Similarly, the last few verses of John’s Gospel were added by people who knew John, to confirm the truth of his testimony to Jesus (Jn 21:24-25).

The title of the book is, “The revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1). This book is about Jesus. He is the focus of the book, and He should be the central figure in our interpretation of the book. The book is a 'revelation', an uncovering or unveiling of something previously hidden from us. The readers of this book are given a revelation of the nature of the risen exalted Lord Jesus, who has conquered evil and taken his place in glory.

The purpose of this revelation is to show his servants what must soon take place (1:1). The question is what is soon taking place for John’s readers. It could be referring to the second coming. Through all the NT, there is a sense of imminence, that Jesus could come any time (22:20). However we are still living here on earth nearly 2000 years later and Jesus has not come yet. Otherwise it may be referring to the persecution resulting from the demand to worship the emperor. This had already begun during the reign of Domitian, but would shortly increase in intensity. Persecution from Rome became a particular challenge in the early part of the second century under Emperor Trajan, and continued spasmodically for the next 200 years, with several periods of intense persecution over the whole Roman empire. This revelation came to John through the angel sent by Jesus, and John had to pass on this revelation to his readers in the seven churches (v2).

Blessing to the reader (1:3)

This is the first of seven blessings through the book (1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7,14). These are blessings to the saints, the believers. The blessing is firstly to the one reading aloud the words. This would originally have been the person giving the public reading of the book in the church meeting. Secondly the blessing is for those who hear and keep what is written, to those who listen and obey the words of the prophecy. The message of this book has practical application, and is something readers need to respond to in obedience.

It has been noted that the seven blessings form a chiastic structure (ABC CBA), with the first blessing acting as a summary,
"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near". (1:3).

A1 - second blessing
"Blessed are the dead who from now die in the Lord. ‘Yes’, says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labours for their deeds follow them’." (14:13)

B1 - third blessing
"See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposed to shame" (16:15)

C1 - fourth blessing
"Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb". (19:9)

C2 - fifth blessing
"Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection". (20:6)

B2 - sixth blessing
"See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." (22:7)

A2 - seventh blessing
"Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates." (22:14)

A1 and A2 emphasise the death of a believer and their eternal destiny, resting from their labours and having access to the tree of life and the heavenly city.
B1 and B2 are both a call to vigilance for the coming of Jesus.
C1 and C2 both declare a promised blessing for the believer, being invited to the marriage supper of the lamb, and enjoying the first resurrection.

This is the first time the Book of Revelation is called a prophecy (also 22:7,10,18,19). A prophecy is a word from God which demands a response in the here and now, but which also speaks about the future. The readers will be challenged to respond in worship of the Lamb and maintain their faithful witness to him, patiently enduring the persecution. The future destiny of the readers (including us) depends on how they respond to this book.

Greeting (1:4-5a)

This is where John begins his letter to the seven churches. The grammar changes from being about John to John writing in the first person. John starts his letter with a similar greeting to those used by Paul in his letters. Here it says, “John to the seven churches that are in Asia”, similar words to those Paul wrote, for example, “Paul ... to the church of God that is in Corinth ...” (1 Cor 1:1).

John addresses his letter to seven churches in Asia which are listed in 1:11. Letters to each are recorded in chapter 2 and 3. These were real historic churches in cities in the Roman province of Asia. At that time Asia was a small area of what is now western Turkey, not the whole continent of Asia. The map below shows the location of the Roman province of Asia, and the seven cities.

In all of Paul’s letters the greeting is followed by a blessing, “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:3). Here, John gives a blessing from all three persons in the Trinity: the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Son. God the Father is described as “him who is and was and who is to come”, a description which is used a number of times through the book, and is later applied to Jesus as well. God is the God of the past, present and future, who is not limited by time. This description is drawn from the revelation of God’s personal name 'I am who I am' when Moses stood before the burning bush (Ex 3:14).

The Holy Spirit is described as “the seven spirits who are before his throne”, which is what John later sees in the vision of the heavenly throne room (4:5). This unusual description is drawn from the seven characteristics of the Spirit that will rest upon the shoot coming from the stump of Jesse (Is 11:1-2). In the Hebrew OT, there are only six characteristics: the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. But the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT), which John was probably remembering, includes a seventh characteristic - the spirit of godliness. There may also be an allusion to the seven lips on the seven lamps on the lamp-stand through which the oil flowed, representing the spirit coming on Zerubbabel, and the eyes of the Lord ranging through the whole earth (Zech 4:2,10).

Three descriptions of Jesus are given. Firstly he is 'the faithful witness'. This is an important theme of John’s Gospel, that Jesus brought a faithful witness or testimony to his Father. The readers are also called to maintain a faithful witness to Jesus. Secondly, he was 'the firstborn from the dead'. Jesus was the first person to be resurrected from the dead, never to die again, showing that death had been defeated. He was the first fruits, a guarantee of our own future resurrection (1 Cor 15:23). This would serve as an encouragement to those facing martyrdom. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, they too can have the confidence to face death, knowing that they have eternal life in glory to look forward to. Thirdly, he is 'the ruler of the kings of the earth'. In Revelation, the kings of the earth represent rulers who derive their authority from the beast and the dragon. Jesus is the real king, who rules over all worldly rulers, however powerful they may appear. All rulers, tyrants and persecutors will have to stand before Jesus at the final judgement and will receive punishment for how they mistreated people.

Doxology (1:5b-7): Glory to the coming Jesus

This is the first of seven declarations of praise to God, known as a doxology (1:6, 4:9,11, 5:12,13, 7:13, 19:1). It contains some wonderful statements about the person of Jesus and what he has achieved for believers.

'He loves us'. When believers were facing persecution and hardships, the knowledge that they are loved by Jesus would be a real encouragement. It is a wonderful privilege and security to know that the king of the universe loves us, and cares for us.

'He has freed us from our sins by his blood'. This is a powerful summary of the work of the cross. The shedding of his blood on the cross has paid the penalty for our sins. So we who were previously in bondage have been set free. As Paul writes, we are no longer slaves to sin, but are now slaves of God and righteousness (Rom 6:15-23).

'He has made us a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father'. Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6), a title also used to describe the believers (1 Pet 2:9). We enter the kingdom of God through repentance and faith (Mk 1:15), and become priests of God. In the O.T. only the descendants of Aaron could become priests, but now all believers are priests. A priest is an intermediary between sinful mankind and a holy God. So just as Israel was called to represent God to the world, and bring people to God, we do the same. We can bring people into the presence of God through intercessory prayer, and bring God to people through the preaching of the Gospel.

Verse 7 is the first description of the second coming in the book. “He is coming with the clouds”. Whenever there are descriptions of appearances of God in his glory, there are clouds. For example, there were thick clouds on Mt. Sinai (Ex 19:16) and Jesus ascended in to clouds (Acts 1:9). Here John is alluding to the exaltation of the glorious Son of Man to the Ancient of Days in the clouds of heaven (Dan 7:13).

'Every eye will see him'. When Jesus comes for a second time, it will be impossible to miss it (1 Thess 4:16). This is certainly not any secret coming. 'Even those who pierced him'. The account of Jesus being pierced with a spear after he had died on the cross is only recorded in John’s Gospel (Jn 19:24). He is alluding to a passage in Zechariah, “... when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him” (Zech 12:10). When Jesus appears, he will be seen by those who crucified him, and by the people persecuting the saints. The second coming is bad news to unbelievers, so “the tribes of the earth will wail”. When Jesus returns it will be too late for people to turn to him in repentance, so they will wail. For many, the day of Jesus’ return will be a tragedy, when they realise too late what (or who) they have missed.

God the Alpha and the Omega (1:8)

God confirms the truth of the doxology, by stating that he is the Alpha and Omega. These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. God is the first and the last, the beginning and end. God is the God of the past, present and future - the one who was and is and is to come (v4). This title is also derived from the holy personal name of God, 'I am who I am' (Ex 3:14). This name was revealed to Moses at the burning bush, and was the name of the God of the covenant, the God who has heard the groaning of his people, and wanted to draw close to them and rescue them from slavery in Egypt. Later in the book, this title is taken by Jesus (1:17, 22:13). The Book of Revelation contains many great statements of the deity of Jesus, particularly when titles of God are also used for Jesus. God is also the Almighty, the all-powerful. In a time of persecution God can appear distant and events can appear out of his control. The Book of Revelation brings a repeated statement of God’s sovereign rule and control, reminding the readers of his sovereign power.

Prev - Revelation Intro Next - Revelation II

Related articles

Introduction to the Book of Revelation Four main views of Revelation
Structure of the book Main Characters in the book
Virtual Seven Churches Jesus the Lamb
Allusions to the Old Testament
Millennium Rapture and tribulation


I: Prologue (1:1-8) II: Letters to seven churches (1:9 - 3:22)
III: Seven Seals (4:1 - 8:1) IV: Seven trumpets (8:2 - 11:18)
V: Seven signs (11:19 - 15:4) VI: Seven Bowls (15:5 - 16:21)
VII: Prostitute / Babylon (17:1 - 19:10) VIII: Seven judgements (19:11 - 21:8)
IX: Bride / Jerusalem (21:9 - 22:9) X: Epilogue (22:10-21)

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
Numbers Deuteronomy

Joshua Judges Ruth
1 & 2 Samuel 1 & 2 Kings Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah Esther

Job Psalms Proverbs

Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations
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Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 & 3 John


Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
Israel Museum Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS