Prologue, 1:1-8

Greeting, doxology and prophetic sayings


Following a rather solemn introduction which serves as a kind of preface, v1-3, John relays a greeting to the reader from God [the Father], the Holy Spirit and Jesus, with particular reference to the seven churches in the province of Asia, v4-5a. Then, he gives an overview of Jesus' redemptive ministry through to the fulfillment of all things, he proclaims Jesus as Lord, v5b-7, and concludes with a divine declaration of sovereignty, v8.


The Kingdom of God is at hand: hear and keep the exhortations in this book.


i] Context: The Revelation begins with a prologue, 1:1-20 (possibly just v1-8), and ends with an epilogue, 22:6-21. In the prologue John establishes his thesis: The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel. The kingdom at hand is established in v5, "Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, is the first born from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth", cf., also v7. The appropriate response is set out in v9, namely that glory through tribulation is ours by patient endurance - perseverance in faith / strive to conquer. Following the prologue we have the seven letters / exhortations to the churches, 2:1-3:22. Then, in 4:1-5:14, we have John's inaugural vision of heaven - the kingdom come. The Christian community may be struggling and compromised, but it is not the powers of darkness who rule in this age. This is followed by the messianic judgments, the first block of seven, the judgment of the seven seals, presented as heavenly visions, 6:1-8:1. This is where it becomes complex because instead of placing a digressio, a hymnic interlude, at the end of the 7 visions, John places it between the sixth and seventh vision, with the seventh vision serving to lead into the next block of seven, the judgment of the seven trumpets, 8:2-11:18. The judgment of the seven trumpets gets the same treatment between the sixth and seventh trumpet, although not the next block, the judgment of the seven bowls, 15-16. The structure is clear enough, the reason for it is not.

Between the seven trumpets and the seven bowls is the battle with the beasts, 11:19-15:4. This presents differently to the surrounding seven judgments. Quite a few commentators follow Farrer and argue that it is an unnumbered series of seven visions (Collins in Crises and Catharsis, 1984, argues for 7 visions, but it is a stretch). We are best to follow Bauckham who argues that this section expands on the theme developed in the Interludes #1-2: 7:1-17; 10:1-11:13/14, namely, "the people of God in their conflict with the forces opposed to God."

Then follows two visionary blocks, The Two Cities (Babylon and the New Jerusalem - The ruin of the harlot Babylon, and the dawning of the City of God), which are evidenced by linguistic parallels: 17:1-3 parallels 21:9-10, and 19:9-10 parallels 22:6-9; see Bauckham, p4. Linguistic makers define the two sections as 17:1-19:10, and 21:9-22:9. The markers are evident when the book is read aloud. Between these two blocks is a digressio / interlude, dealing with the transition between the fall of Babylon and creation of the New Jerusalem - The demise of the Beast, 19:11-21:8.

See The Structure of Revelation in the introductory notes.


ii] Background:
[Map of Asia Minor]

The book of Revelation itself sets the scene for us. John is in exile on the small island of Patmos due to his work for the gospel. He writes this circular letter to seven churches in Asia Minor under his authority, congregations which are struggling with troubles from within and from without. So the letter, with its prophetic word to the seven church, serves to encourage members to repent (turn from their sins - syncretism is often identified as the church's main failing) and persevere in faith / strive to conquer. The use of apocalyptic imagery, with its vivid word pictures, is a particularly effective medium to alter a person's perspective from earthward to heavenward.

There is much debate about the situation faced by the believers in the seven churches. The letter does not specify any particular trouble, but during the first century, the Christian church faced sporadic, although often localized, persecution. Martyrdom was by no means an unusual occurrence. As Jesus said, "In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Trouble has always been part of the deal for a believer, but so has ultimate victory. Some commentators think that the trouble facing the church at the time of writing is the persecution enacted under the reign of the Emperor Domition, 95AD, others opt for an earlier date around 68AD, during the reign of Nero.

These notes align with the earlier date, but suggest that persecution is not really a major issue. Yes, there are problems with the Roman authorities, Jewish authorities, pagan cults and the general population, but John's main concern is for the problems that exist within the Christian church - the adoption of false teachings, adjustments / compromise with the surrounding pagan culture, waning fervor and commitment. These are the problems John wants his readers to address.

So, John confronts the church with reality - the kingdom of God is at hand. In the throne-room of the Ancient of Days there is exuberant celebration and affirmation of the divine. Christ is crowned the Lord of all, judgment is underway and the New Jerusalem even now before us. Faced with this reality believers must repent and persevere in faith. And so John writes, and let those who hear his words "take to heart what is written ... because the time is near."


The map of Asia Minor is taken in part from John Strelan's excellent commentary on Revelation, Where Earth Meets Heaven, Openbook, 1994, first published in the Chi Rho Commentary series.


iii] Structure: The opening greeting, doxology and prophetic sayings,:

Title: The revelation of Jesus Christ, v1-2.

Beatitude / blessing, v3:

Prescript - greeting and blessing, v4-5a:

From - John.

To - the seven churches in Asia.

Greeting and blessing.

Doxology - Christ's redemptive ministry, v5b-7:

Conclusion - a divine declaration, v8

"I am the Alpha and the Omega"


iv] Interpretation:

The revelation / vision of John is a classic example of apocalyptic literature, although both the prologue and epilogue present in the form of a letter, a letter addressed to the seven churches that are in Asia. John is referring to the Roman province of Asia consisting of the western part of modern Turkey. Like any letter, it introduces the author and recipients, places the letter within a historical context, and gives a rough idea of its contents, namely, the divine plan.

John tells us that his letter / book is a ApokaluytiV, a revelation, an unveiling, which in Jewish literature of the time fell into the genre of apocalyptic, of the revealing of heavenly things, past, present and future. This unveiling involves a linked chain of persons: God to Jesus (to an angel ??) to John and then to the churches. Yet, this linked chain does not denote distance, but rather a breaking into our world by the divine. John tells us that the purpose of this unveiling is to show us "what must soon take place", namely, the realization of the kingdom of God.

The greeting is typical of New Testament letters, but certainly not in the from whom, v4b-5a. This is particularly so of the reference to Christ; we are provided with a detailed description of who he is and what he has done, v5b-6a. This virtually serves as a shorthand statement of the gospel - Jesus is Lord. John follows up with a common ascription of praise, v6b.

The extended doxology covering v7-8 comes in the form of two prophetic sayings which serve to establish John's thesis concerning the realization of the kingdom of God - Jesus is Lord. The first saying is crafted out of two significant Old Testament verses, Dan.7:13 and Zech.12:10ff - the heavenly enthronement of the Son of Man, the one who was pierced = the enthronement of the suffering Son of Man = the day of judgment is at hand. This prophetic saying is confirmed by a second saying which serves as a pronouncement from God: "I am the beginning of history and the end of history, and the Lord of all that lies between." The enthronement of Christ, and all that this entails, is now in the hands of the Ancient of Days.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 1:1

Prologue, v1-8: i] Title, v1-2. God the Father has unveiled a mystery to the Son regarding the realization of the kingdom of God, namely that the messiah has won a victory over sin and death, a victory about to be fully realized in the coming kingdom. God, through Jesus, has determined to unveil this mystery to his prophetic servants, in this case John, via an angel; John's task is to pass it on to the churches and bear witness to the authenticity of his words.

apokaluyiV (iV ewV) "The revelation" - revelation, unveiling. Nominative absolute. The sense "unveiling" can point to the process and / or the content. For John it refers to the unveiling of a mystery, the now / not yet reality of the kingdom and of the need for endurance in the face of this reality, so Goldsworthy . For many commentators it is the unveiling of history, eg., Beasley-Murray, but this seems unlikely. "This is the revelation of Jesus Christ", REB.

Ihsou Cristou (oV) "from Jesus Christ" - The genitive is possibly possessive, "of Jesus Christ", but usually treated as source / origin, "from", as NIV. This book is the revelation of Jesus Christ, not John.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - [which god gave] to him. Dative of indirect object. John has received a revelation / unveiling which God [the Father] has given to Jesus.

deixai (deiknumi) aor. inf. "to show" - The infinitive is probably expressing purpose; "in order to show." "God gave it to make plain to his servants what is about to happen", Peterson.

toiV douloiV (oV) dat. "[his] servants" - Dative of indirect object. The genitive autou, "his", is possessive. Here quite possibly used in a narrow sense, so prophets, rather than believers in general. In the OT the "kings servants" were his cabinet.

en + dat. "soon" - [the things which to happen is necessary] in [speed, quickness]. The preposition is likely to be adverbial here, so "in [speed]" = "quickly", as NIV.

genesqai (ginomai) aor. inf. "take place" - to happen. The infinitive serves as the subject of the impersonal verb "is necessary". The accusative pronoun a}, "which", serves as the accusative subject of the infinitive.

eshmanen (shmainw) aor. "he made it known" - [and] signified, made clear, specified. The AV rightly translates this word "signify", "to communicate by symbols", Beale; this unveiling will signify (present as a sign to the realization of the kingdom of God) rather than portray its coming in factual terms - to communicate "truths through pictorial or symbolic visions", Osborne.

aposteilaV (aposteillw) aor. part. "by sending" - having sent. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, or instrumental, as NIV. "He disclosed it by sending it through his angel to his servant John", Moffatt.

dia "-" - through [the angel of him]. Instrumental / agency; As is typical in apocalyptic literature, an angel conveys the message from the divine to humanity. "Christ then sent his angel with the message to his servant John", CEV.

tw/ doulw/ (oV) dat. "to [his] servant" - to the slave, servant [of him, john]. Dative of indirect object. Iwannh, "John", is dative, standing in apposition to "servant".


o{sa pro. "everything [he saw]" - [who (john) gave testimony of] whatsoever [he saw]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to see." Note that the verb "bore witness" is aorist. Mathewson suggests that the perfective aspect indicates the whole book is in mind.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[word] of God" - [the word] of god [and the testimony of jesus christ]. The genitive can be taken as ablative, source / origin, "from God", or adjectival, possessive / verbal, subjective; so also the genitive Ihsou Cristou, "of Jesus Christ", although possibly objective, "the testimony about Jesus Christ." This "word" and "testimony" "relate to the content of the book", Beasley Murray; "John publicly proclaimed the message given to him by God and affirmed by Jesus Christ, telling all that he had seen", Barclay..


ii] Beatitude / blessing, v3. The blessing is upon those who read, presumably read the book / letter / prophecy to the congregation, and those who hear and "take it to heart." The blessing probably entails the salvation which is promised in the book. The blessing is offered gar, "because" the revelation is about to be fulfilled.

oJ anaginwskwn (anaginwskw) pres. part. "the one who reads aloud" - [blessed is] the one reading [and the ones hearing]. The participle, as with "the one's hearing", serves as a substantive. "Read aloud", NIV, is appropriate because even if John is not referring to someone who reads the book to a congregation, everyone at this time read aloud, even when to themselves. Given the singular for the one who reads, and the plural for those who hear and keep, a congregational setting may be assumed.

thV profhteiaV (a) gen. "[the words] of this prophecy" - [the words] of the prophecy. The genitive is adjectival, possibly attributive, "prophetic words."

throunteV (threw) "[and] take to heart" - [and] keeping [the things]. Beale suggests that the "ones hearing ... and the ones keeping" may be a hendiadys for "obey", but "hearing" and "keeping", in the sense of believing, are two separate actions; "hear and believe."

gegrammena (grafw) perf. mid./pas. part. "what is written" - having been written. The participle serves as a substantive, accusative direct object of the participle "keeping".

en + dat. "in [it]" - Local, expressing space.

gar "because" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why it is necessary to hear and keep / take the heart / believe the book / prophecy, "because" the fulfillment of the prophecy is at hand.


iii] Prescript - Greeting and blessing, v4-5a. John addresses his words to seven particular churches. These may be within John's pastoral care, although it is more likely that the number 7 is an apocalyptic device, a number that tells us that John's words come with divine authority. The greeting is typical, although with a Christian twist - "grace", a typical Greek greeting, is united with "peace" (shalom), the Hebrew greeting. The greeting is from the one whose name cannot be declared openly, Ex.3:14-15, and also from the "seven Spirits." This is a reference to the Holy Spirit by means of the perfect complete number, a number with cosmic significance. Beasley-Murray notes that John has the same "was / is / will be (coming)" formula for Jesus as for the Father, v4. Jesus was the witness to God's promised grace (the gospel), is now the first fruits of the resurrection, and will come to reign. In all three titles there is a possible allusion to Psalm 89:27.

toiV .. ekklhsiaiV dat. "to the [seven] churches" - Dative of indirect object, the object being unstated (an ellipsis) / recipient; "John [writes (verb) these words (object)] to the seven churches (indirect object)". "John sends his greetings to the seven churches in Asia", Cassirer.

eJpta "seven" - Some argue that "seven" represents the universal church, but it probably just symbolizes completeness, a divine characteristic; a number of "cosmic significance", Aune.

taiV "-" - that are [in asia]. The article serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase "in Asia" into an attributive relative clause; "which is in Asia."

en/ "in [the province of Asia]" - in [the asia]. Expressing space/sphere. The article th/ defines the specific region of Asia, not the Roman province of Asia, the two known regions being Europe and Asia.

cariV uJmin kai eirhnh "grace and peace to you" - grace to you and peace. "Grace" the distinctive Christian greeting and "peace" the distinctive Hebrew greeting. The construction may be used to express a wish, "may grace and peace be given to you."

uJmin dat. pro "to you" - Dative of interest, advantage.

apo + gen. "from" - Expressing source / origin.

oJ w]n "him who is" - the one being/is. The present participle of the verb to-be functions as a substantive. The Greek is emasculated here (a solecism) due to the Jewish desire not to mention the sacred name. John treats the divine name as indeclinable, since apo, "from", should be followed by a genitive rather than the nominative case. Note also, the "who was", which takes a similar grammatical construction; the past tense would certainly jolt a Jewish reader. cf. Ex.3:14-15.

oJ ercomenoV (ercomai) pres. part. "[and] the one who is to come" - [and] the one coming. The participle functions as a substantive. There is nothing unusual in the descriptive title for God, "the one who is and ever was", but the third descriptor is somewhat unexpected. We would expect, "the one who will ever be / the eternal one", but it's not what John says. John seems to be describing God in the terms of the one who is about to bring all things to their end, "coming" in the sense of God's last days judgment, "of God's decisive intervention in history, namely the eschaton", Osborne. We have witnessed God's eternal power active in the past and the present, and will witness it in the future.

apo + gen. "from" - [and] from. Expressing source / origin.

eJpta pneumatwn "the seven spirits" - The number seven is again being used of "cosmic significance", of completeness, here with reference to the Holy Spirit. So, the greeting is from the eternal "one who ..." (Father??) and from the Holy Spirit. There are other possible meanings, eg. a reference to members of the glorious heavenly assembly of created beings who serve the Lamb, or the seven archangels, or the seven angels of the trumpets and bowls.

enwpion + gen. "before [his throne]" - before, in front of [the throne of him]. Spacial.


The greeting of grace and peace also comes from Jesus. Jesus is given three titles: First, he is the "faithful witness". This title refers to his work of revelation, particularly during his life on earth. Jesus' second title is "the firstborn from the dead." This title refers to Jesus' resurrection - he is the first to rise. His third title is, "ruler of the kings of the earth." Christ is now enthroned beside the Ancient of Days and and all are even now bowing before him, ie., the kingdom has come.

apo + gen. "[and] from" - [and] from [jesus christ]. Expressing source / origin.

oJ martuV oJ pistoV "the faithful witness" - the faithful the witness. It is possible that we have here two separate words standing in apposition to each other, "the witness, the faithful one", but although the adjective "faithful" takes an article and is in the nominative case (rather than the genitive) it is likely that it functions adjectivally, as NIV. Since the phrase stands in apposition to the genitive "Jesus Christ", a genitive, rather than a nominative case, would be expected, but the allusion to Psalm 89 has controlled the case. The articles serve to specify the title; Jesus is "the faithful witness", "Jesus Christ, who declared the truth and whose words can be trusted", Barclay. The word "witness" moves toward the meaning "martyr" in Revelation; "witness unto death."

oJ prwtotokoV adj. "the firstborn [from the dead]" - the firstborn [of the dead]. The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative in apposition to "the faithful witness." If John is alluding to Psalm 89:27, firstborn is being used in the sense of rule / authority / sovereignty, so "firstborn over death", but if the common NT sense is being used then Jesus is "the firstborn from death", the first of a resurrected community of believers (the genitive twn nekrwn, "of the dead", being adjectival, partitive, or separation, "from the dead"). Both senses may be intended, ie. Christ "is sovereign over life and death", Osborne.

twn Basilewn (euV ewV) gen. "of the kings [of the earth]" - The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination, "ruler over the kings of the earth." The genitive thV ghV, "of the earth", is adjectival subordination, "who rules over the earth", but possibly possessive, "the kings who belong to the earth." Christ also reigns over the kings who are the enemies of Christ.


iv] Christ's redemptive ministry, v5b-7. John, having told us who Jesus is, v5a, now proceeds to tell us what Jesus has done, v5a-6, and will do, v7.

tw/ agapwnti (agapaw) pres. part. "to him who loves [us]" - to the one loving [us]. As with "having freed", the participle serves as a substantive. As in v4, Dative of indirect object, eg. "I address these words to the one who loves us ...", or dative of ascription / recipient. Mathewson classifies it as "a dative of possession in a doxology."

lusanti (luw) aor. part. "freed" - having loosed. Note the variant "washed". Both participles, "having loved" and "having loosed" are coordinated with the verb "has made" in v6. "Who liberated us from our sins", Barclay.

ek "from [our sins]"- Expressing separation; "away from."

en "by" - in. Here the preposition has an instrumental sense, expressing means, "by the blood" = by Christ's sacrifice = agency, Moule IB. "With reference to Christ's blood" is possible, ie. adverbial / accompaniment, or manner. "By shedding his blood", Moffatt.


Jesus loved us and gave his life for us to free us from the bondage of sin, enabling us to be "kings and priests." This was the hope of Israel, Ex.19:5-6, a hope now fulfilled in the church. We have royal standing in the sight of God and access into his presence.

epoihsen (poiew) aor. "has made" - [and] he made. Probably best in the sense of "appointed." The clause should properly begin with o{V, "who has made ...", or even an attendant participle, rather than a finite verb. According to Aune, John is seeking "to place great emphasis on this statement", Aune.

hJmaV acc. "us" - A dative variant exists, "for/to us", implying that believers are not the kings and priests, but are given a kingdom where priests serve them. The accusative is accepted by most commentators, but it is an interesting idea.

basileian, iJreiV "a kingdom and priests" - "Kingdom" serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "us", while "priests" stands in apposition to "kingdom" - priestly service (mediation) is part of the business of reigning. Allusion to Ex.19:6, where Israel is both a kingly and priestly nation, "You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." The word "kingdom" here is probably not referring to place, but role, ie. the saints will participate with Christ in ruling his kingdom; we will reign with Christ, cf. 2:26, 3:21, 5:10, 20:4. In fact, "kingdom" is probably plural, so "kings and priests", the pl. nom. taking the same form as the acc. sing. "He lets us rule as kings and serve God his Father as priests", CEV.

tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "to God" - to god [and father of him]. Dative of interest, advantage; "for his God and Father."

autw/ dat. "to him" - to him [the glory and the dominion into the ages of the ages]. Dative of possession; the glory and power belongs to him, ie., to "the one loving" and "the one having freed". The doxology is quite conventional and is obviously directed to Christ.

eiV "for ever" - to [the ages]. Temporal use of the preposition.


The doxology to Christ continues, describing what will be. Christ is now establishing his rule on earth. The end is near at hand - "he is coming." John uses two Old Testament texts to craft this verse: Daniel's coming "Son of Man", Dan.7:13, and Zechariah's "pierced" one, Zech.12:10. The Son of Man is the one who comes with the clouds to stand before the Ancient of Days and take possession of a kingdom. The pierced one stands before Israel as the rejected one, although John has him pierced before the world. The spearing of Jesus at the crucifixion serves as an initial fulfillment of this prophecy. Thus, Christ's coming is at hand and those against him will mourn on that day. Beasley-Murray, quoting Boussett, suggests this verse sets the theme for the book. Here then is John's thesis "the kingdom of God is at hand", Christ, the victorious one, is crowned Lord. Note the OT allusions from Dan.7:13 and Zech.12:10.

idou "look" - behold. Demonstrative particle.

ercetai (ercomai) pres. "he is coming" - he comes. The present tense indicating ongoing action, but not necessarily future action, none-the-less, seeing it is coordinate with oyetai, which is future, it is possibly a futuristic present. The "now / not yet" time signature of this book must not be overlooked. It is important to note here that Christ's "coming" is to the Ancient of Days to take up his authoritative role as Lord of the universe, cf. Dan.7:13. It is possible to speak of an act of divine judgment as a "coming" of Christ, for example, the destruction of Jerusalem is such a "coming." The warnings in chapters 2 and 3 primarily concern Christ's coming in judgment, with a possible reference to Christ's second coming. None-the-less, here Christ's "coming" is not to the world, but to his heavenly throne.

meta + gen. "with" - Expressing association, or possibly adverbial, expressing manner.

twn nefelwn (h) "the clouds" - In the gospels Jesus is "on" or "in" the clouds. The cloud is no earthly cloud, but the mist associated with the shechinah glory that radiates when the divine is present. Again, alluding to Dan.7:13, and referring to Christ's "coming" to the Ancient of Days.

oyetai auton paV ofqalmoV "every eye will see him" - [and] every eye will see him. Probably the purpose of this allusion from Zechariah is not to suggest that every human will see Jesus coming, particularly as the "coming" is to heaven, nor that all the participants in this cosmic event will see, but rather that the "every" implies "universal significance" (Aune) in the "coming" of the Son of Man to take up his eternal reign and to bring all things into subjection to himself.

kai "even" - and. Ascensive; "even those who ....", as NIV.

oi{tineV rel. pro. "those" - the ones who [pierced him]. Nominative subject of the verb "to pierce". Qualitative, referring to a particular class of persons; "the one's who = those." Serving to reference rebellious Israel, those who persecuted the prophets and inevitably the Christ.

thV ghV (gh) gen. "[all peoples] on earth" - [all the tribes] of the earth. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / locative.

koyontai (koptw) "will mourn" - will beat oneself with remorse. Possibly with the sense "weeping", even "repenting", over the hurt inflicted on Christ, but also of "weeping" over the destruction of the harlot of Babylon.

epi acc. "because [of him]" - over, at = for [him]. Possibly causal, "on account of him", as NIV, "and all the nations of the earth will weep for what they did to him", Barclay, but also possibly reference / respect, "with reference to, concerning him." Generally this preposition + acc. takes a spacial sense, "up to, against, upon", so more likely with the sense of "over"; "all the families of the earth will mourn over Him with remorse because of the severity of punishment inflected upon them in conjunction with His return", Thomas.

nai, amhn "so shall it be! Amen" - yes, amen. Emphatic indicator. "Yes" says John to the Lord's words, and "yes" ("Amen") says the reader.


v] In conclusion, John declares a word from God, v8. The Lord God is the beginning and end of all things; He is the "Almighty"; He is supreme over all things, supreme over all circumstances. John makes the point that "the omnipotent one will surely implement what his prophet has predicted by way of future judgment", Thomas.

to alfa kai to w\ "[I am] the Alpha and the Omega" - Predicate nominative. A merism: the statement of opposites serving to emphasize everything between. Here used to underline God's omnipotence; He is Lord over all time. Note the textual addition exegeting "alpha and omega" - "beginning and end." "I am the beginning and end of all history." Note also that omega is not spelled out since the word wmega did not exist until the seventh century.

kurioV (oV) "Lord" - [says] lord, master [god]. Often the divine title given to Jesus, but here of God. This title was used instead of the divine name, Yahweh.

o w]n "who is" - the one being [the one was, and the one coming]. This participle, as with oJ ercomenoV, "who is to come", serves as a substantive, standing in apposition to "Lord".

oJ pantokratwr "the Almighty" - Also standing in apposition to "Lord". This reference to the omnipotent one is used eight times in Revelation and only one other time in the NT, 2Cor.6:18.


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