John is writing from a small prison island in the Aegean Sea called Patmos (Rev 1:9), southwest of Ephesus. He was banished there by the Roman government to prevent him from continuing to preach about Jesus (Rev 1:9). One Sunday as he was worshipping (Rev 1:10) he was shown a series of visions and told to write them down on a scroll (Rev 1:11) and send it to the prophets living in seven cities scattered over the mainland of western Asia Minor (what is now called Turkey) (Rev 1:4). The vision he received was divided into three sections (Rev 1:19) which are described as: 1) things which you have seen; 2) things which are; and 3) things which will take place after these things. The first, though it is by far the shortest in length (Rev 1:10-20), contains the foundational revelation upon which all the rest of the prophecies are built. John hears a voice commanding him to write down what he will be shown and when he turns to see who is speaking to him he beholds the resurrected Christ in all His glory.
(Introduction continued): Here stands the triumphant Jesus whom death could not hold and who has been given the authority to free His followers from death as well (Rev 1:18). He holds in His hand the churches to whom this book will be sent, meaning He knows everything about them and is constantly caring for them (Rev 1:16). His appearance tells us He is a fearsome judge who need only speak a command to bring judgment on those who disobey Him (Rev 1:16). Such wrath is to be feared far more than all the persecution the devil and the world can produce. The second section (Rev 2:1-3:22), the things which are, is a series of prophetic words sent to seven churches located on the mainland at the time John was writing. Each had its own problems and challenges which Jesus defines and then says He will soon visit them in the spirit to punish or reward them as need be (2:5, 16, 21-23; 3:3, 11,19). Such a visit reminds us of Yahweh and two angels visiting Abraham and Sarah and evaluating Sodom and Gomorrah (Ge 18, 19). Some congregations will need to repent quickly or He is going to punish them. Others need to be assured that He will be watching over them as they endure intensifying persecution.
(Introduction continued): The third section which is by far the longest (Rev 4:1-22:5), is a series of visions concerning the events of the last days. The spiritual perspective they provide can help someone suffer bravely or crucify the flesh. By the time this book was written violent persecution of believers had already begunand more was on its way. False teachers had gained a foothold and moral decline was widespread. Some churches desperately needed to be warned and others needed to be encouraged. And the way the Lord chose to meet both needs was to give them a prophetic glimpse of the future. He shows them the last-days church and the tribulation it will endure. His message is basically this: If the end-times church, who will experience the worst persecution of any generation, can overcome and inherit the glories of eternal life, then so can you! (Rev 12:11).
(Introduction continued): The seven churches of Asia Minor needed to hear this truth, and so do believers in every generation. We need to realize we are in the middle of a great spiritual struggle over which Jesus Christ will ultimately be victorious. And we need to realize whats at stake. A new heaven and earth await the faithful which will more than make up for the sufferings endured here on earth, but an eternity of torment awaits those who love the world more than they fear God. Each of us must look beyond the borders of this life to discover its meaning, because the spiritual world is very real and human existence doesnt cease at death. Each needs to be warned that God will not allow evil to continue forever, but will bring all creation to a great judgment. When we are severely tempted by sin these realities produce a healthy fear, and when persecution threatens, these realities also produce a powerful hope that holds us steady.
(Introduction continued): So, as our study of Revelation progresses well first behold the resurrected Christ (Rev 1:10-20); next well hear Him assess the spiritual condition of seven churches in Asia Minor (Rev 2:1-3:22); and finally well watch our future brothers and sisters overcome the devils most ferocious assaults at the end of the age. This perspective surely helped the churches in Asia Minor in Johns day just as it continues to help us in our day. Verse 1: The main purpose of this book is to show people who Jesus really is. John calls it the revelation of Jesus Christ. Then he relates the careful order God used to transmit it to the churches in seven cities in Asia Minor. The process began with God the Father who gave these revelations to His Son so He could in turn disperse it to His bondservants who we will later discover are the prophets in those churches (Rev 22:6, 9). After He received it, Jesus sent it by an angel to John (Rev 17:1; 19:9, 10; 21:9; 22:16) so he could write it down and then send the manuscript to those seven cities (Rev 1:4).
Verse 1 (continued): The way each letter is addressed,
to the angel of the church
(Rev 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14), tells us that angels must have also been dispatched to assist those prophets to understand what God had said. Since an angel helped John understand what he was shown it should come as no surprise to discover that angels would be assigned to help local congregations to understand as well. No explanation is given as to how this took place, but their presence is acknowledged. If the words, things which must soon take place are taken to refer to chapters four through 22:5, the things which will take place after these things, it would seem that they were inaccurate because they culminate in the physical return of Jesus Christ who after nearly 2,000 years has not yet appeared. Trying to argue that God thinks of 2,000 years as soon isnt convincing. But if we recognize those words were addressed to the seven churches in chapters two and three then we realize that what will soon take place is not the events surrounding the Lords physical return but His coming in spirit to judge some if they did not repent (Rev 2:5, 16, 21-23; 3:3, 11, 19) and protect others from the serious persecution which was rapidly approaching (Rev 2:10; 3:10). The words, the time is near in verse three mean the same thing (Rev 22: 6, 7, 10, 12, 20).
Verse 2: As weve seen in verse one, the Father gave this revelation to His Son who in turn sent it to John accompanied by an angel. John now tells us that he faithfully wrote down everything he saw in the visions. He says he bore witness of the word of God and the witness of Jesus Christ (literal). John seems to use the word witness to mean giving an accurate report of what was seen or heard. Hell soon tell us that the reason he was arrested and imprisoned on Patmos was because of his witness of Jesus (Rev 1:9). Later he will record Jesus saying, I Jesus sent my angel to witness these things to you (Rev 22:16), and then he describes Jesus as the One witnessing these things (Rev 22:20). So, Jesus has accurately reported these revelations about Himself to John who accurately wrote down what he saw and heard.