John's vision of the risen Christ in Patmos, 1:9-20

John's call to the prophetic ministry


John is a prisoner in a work gang on the island of Patmos. It is a Sunday, and he hears a trumpeting voice from behind him, commanding him to write to seven churches in Asia Minor about his vision. In his vision, he sees seven golden lamp-stands with someone like a son of man standing in the midst of them. This man is glorious beyond measure, standing with seven stars in his right hand and a double-edged sword coming from his mouth. John is transfixed by the vision, but the glorious Son of Man tells John not to be afraid for he is the ever living one, the one who holds the keys of death and Hades. John's task is to write what he sees.


The Kingdom of God is at hand: Christ reigns in glory.


i] Context: See 1:1-8. Commentators are divided as to the extent of the prologue of this letter. Most opt for v1-8, but the account of John's vision, v9-20, seems to be part of a carefully crafted introduction. The opening paragraph declares the divine origin of the book and serves to define the title ApokaluyiV, "The Revelation", v1-2. The second paragraph consists of a blessing upon the readers, a from whom and to whom, a blessing, a doxology, and two prophetic sayings which establish John's thesis that the kingdom is come, v3-8. We then come to the passage before us which serves as an account of the vision and commission of John, v9-20. This is presented in similar fashion to the experience of the Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It is this vision of the risen Christ that prompts John to write his letter / sermon / book.


ii] Background: See 1:1-8


iii] Structure: John's vision of the risen Christ:

Setting for the vision, v9;

John's initial experience, v10-11;

The vision of the one like the Son of Man, v12-20:

The unveiling, v12-16;

A word from Christ, v17-20:

Commissioning, v17-19;

Explanation, v20:

the seven lamp-stands and stars = the seven churches.


iv] Interpretation:

John's vision of the risen glorious Christ is a vision for a troubled church. Christ stands as the almighty and powerful one, holding within his hands the struggling servant community. Although small and insignificant, overwhelmed by the rush of historical events and compromised by the secular State, the community of believers is upheld by the one who is the First and the Last, the Almighty Judge, the one with power over life and death itself. John's vision is a vision that drives away fear.


In typical fashion John begins his letter / prophecy with an opening greeting, prayer and ascription of praise to God, v1-8. In the passage before us, John opens by declaring his standing with his readers - "partners / companions" in the kingdom, a kingdom realized through patient endurance - repentance and faith. John goes on to set the scene: He notes his situation at Patmos, which, at the time, served as a site for a labor camp; he notes his spiritual state in the Spirit (the Lord's Day gives a focus on the resurrection of Christ); and he notes the divine direction he is given to write the content of a vision he is about to experience, v9-11. John then recounts the vision of the Son of Man, v12-18. The vision of Christ has a threefold structure: Christ's character, v12-15; his ministry, v16-17a; his resources, v17b-18. Finally, John tells us of the commission given him by the Lord, v19. John is to write what he "has seen" of the state of the church in the world, "what is" (in the terms of a divine glory unaffected by human sin), and "what is about to happen" (in the terms of the full realization of the kingdom of God).


John's definition of terms: Seven stars, Seven golden lamp-stands, and Seven angels, v20. In this verse John provides an explanatory note regarding the seven stars and the seven lamp-stands - a kind of interpretive key; "as for the symbols (mystery) of the seven stars ..... they represent ...." The seven stars represent the angels of the seven churches, but the lamp-stands also represent the seven churches. The difference is probably that the stars represent the church in its not yet reality, while the lamp-stands represent the church as it is now, a light to the nations. Yet, what about "the angels"? Osborne nicely summarizes the different interpretations for the angels of the churches. The following are worth noting:

Patron angels of the churches / city - Beale, Beasley-Murray, Blount, Osborne, Alford.

Heavenly counterparts of the churches - Caird, Mounce, Swete.

Messengers / evangelists / leaders of the churches - Lenski, Hendriksen, Strelan .

An ideal representation of the Christian church - Smalley, Preston & Hanson.

The last interpretation seems best. The letters to the churches may be addressed to the "angel of the church", but they go to the church itself. So in the end, "the angel of the church" is God's church in Ephesus, etc., while "the seven stars are reminders of the spiritual nature of God's church, and the lamps of its material embodiment (a light shining in the wilderness)", Smalley. Although this seems the best interpretation we need to remember that the first fits well with the Jewish idea of every community having a guardian angel who identifies with that community. Often, with Revelation, no clear interpretation presents itself and so we are left to rely on the general thrust of the imagery.


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

Text - 1:9

i] Setting - John's call, v9: Following his greetings to the churches of Asia and his praise to God, John relates his vision of the Lord Jesus. John, like his readers, is a partaker of the kingdom of God and one who bears the difficulties that go along with those who share in Christ's reign. John, is imprisoned on Patmos, an imprisonment that is a consequence of his Christian witness. This verse is seen by some to contain John's thesis, namely that glory through suffering is achieved by patient endurance. It certainly reveals something of a proper response to the gospel, although the seven letters gives us a better picture - Christ calls on his church to repent and persevere in faith.

uJmwn gen. pl. pro. "your" - [i john, the brother] of you. The genitive is adjectival, relational. Reference to the readers, plural.

sugkoinwnoV (oV) "companion" - [and] participant (one who shares in the same experience as another). Standing in apposition to "John".

en + dat. "in [the suffering]" - in [affliction]. Local, expressing context / circumstance.

basileia (oV) "kingdom" - [and] kingdom. Used in Revelation of divine reign experienced both now and in the future. Both "suffering" and "patient endurance" tell us something about how the kingdom is realized.

uJpomonh/ (h) "patient endurance" - [and] endurance. The capacity to remain firm to one's convictions over a long period of time.

en + dat. "in [Jesus]" - Local, expressing space / incorporative union. Similar idea to Paul's "in Christ" ... identified with, in union with, one with ...... John, as a fellow participant with his readers in union with Christ, shares Christ's bitter-sweet journey.

egenomhn (givomai) aor. "was" - i was. The aorist may imply that John is no longer on the island at this point in time.

en + dat. "on [the island]" - Local, expressing space; "on", as NIV.

th/ kaloumenh/ (kalew) pres. pas. part. "of" - the one being called. The participle serves as an adjective, idiomatic / location, limiting "island", "which is called ..."; "on the island called Patmos", ESV.

Patmw/ (oV) dat. "Patmos" - Dative in agreement with "island". Patmos is a small island in the Dodecanese group off the coast of Asia Minor and was used by the Romans as a quarry and manned by prisoners of the State.

dia+ acc. "because of" - because of [the word of god]. This preposition, when followed by the accusative, takes a causal sense, "because of", "on account of." John was a leader in the Christian church and, because of his Word ministry, his preaching, he had obviously come to the attention of the authorities and as a consequence, was imprisoned. "In the interests of" is a possibility, but unlikely, as is a final sense, "in order to receive the word of God ..."

Ihsou (ouV ou) gen. "[testimony] of Jesus" - [and the testimony] of jesus. Both genitives, "of God" and "of Jesus", may be taken as verbal, plenary, ie., both subjective and objective; "word from or about God and testimony by or to Jesus", Beale. John's situation is probably related to his preaching about / concerning both God and Jesus, ie., an objective genitive.


ii] John's initial experience, v10-11. It was on this island, on the "Lord's Day" (Sunday), while John was at prayer, that he heard the Lord Jesus speak and saw his glory.

en "on" - [i was] in [the spirit] on [the lord's day]. "On" the Lord's day is an adverbial use of the preposition, temporal, while "in" the Spirit is local, metaphorically expressing space.

th/ kuriakh/ hJmera/ "the Lord's day" - Presumably this means Sunday, so Aune, but the eschatological end-day is possible.

egenomhn en pneumati "I was in the Spirit" - Although a literal translation of the Gk., the sense of this phrase is unclear. John is possibly saying he was in a trance-like state, a state of ecstasy, but more likely "I was overcome by the Spirit of the Lord", much like the Old Testament ecstatic prophets were overcome.

hkousa (akouw) "I heard" - [and] i heard. "Heard the voice of Jesus."

opisw + gen. "behind [me]" - Spacial; "after, behind."

wJV "like" - [a great sound] as. Comparative; "loud and clear as the sound of a trumpet blast."

salpiggoV (x goV) gen. "a trumpet" - The genitive is ablative, source / origin; "as if from a trumpet."


Jesus instructs John to write down his experience, so his book is not just his own reflections, but a prophetic revelation.

legoushV (legw) gen. pres. part. "which said" - saying. The participle serves as the complement of the direct object "a loud voice", "I heard a loud voice ...... saying." Normally as a double accusative construction, but "saying" is genitive, presumably attracted the the genitive "trumpet".

grayon (grafw) aor. "write [on a scroll what you see]" - [what you see] write [into a book]. John is to write down an account of all that he is about to see; the aorist probably indicating the whole book is in mind

taiV epta ekklhsiaiV (a) dat. "[send it] to the seven churches" - [and sent] to the seven church, to ephesus ......]. Dative of indirect object, then eiV either for a dative of interest, "for" things / places, so eiV Efeson, "for Ephesus", although more likely spacial, of movement toward, so Moule. The identification of seven churches is obviously symbolic, but the significance of the churches themselves is somewhat elusive. The most likely suggestion is that Asia Minor had, by this time, become the dominant Christian province in the Empire. The different churches, with Ephesus at their center, serve as a representative expression of organized Christianity, ie., the number seven representing completeness. If John had been writing in the nineteenth century, the focus would have been on England, if today, it would be on America.


iii] The vision of the Son of Man, v12-20: a) The unveiling, v12-16. John's vision of Christ is a vision of glory; it is a vision to uplift the soul of a people oppressed by the powers of darkness. The church may be small and insignificant and under the thumb of a powerful advisory, but the Lord Jesus stands head and shoulders over the ravings of corrupted politicians, elitists, media, ..... The setting for the vision is temple-like.

epestreya (epistrefw) aor. "I turned around" - i turned back, turned, turned around.

blepein (blepw) pres. inf. "to see [the voice]" - The infinitive is adverbial, expressing purpose, "in order to see". Although a literal translation of the Gk., it actually makes no sense in English. John turned around to see the person who was speaking with him. The NRSV "to see whose voice it was who spoke to me" is messy to say the least. "I turned around to see who was speaking to me", NJB.

met (meta) + gen. "to [me]" - [which was speaking] with [me]. Expressing association; "with me" = "to me."

epistreyaV (epistrefw) aor. part. "when I turned around" - [and] having turned [i saw]. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV; "on turning, I saw ..."

crusaV (ouV ou) acc. "golden [lamp-stands]" - [seven] golden [lamp-stands]. We would expect an adjectival genitive, attributive, as NIV, or of material, "lamp-stands made out of gold." The lamp-stands represent the seven churches as they presently exist, their weaknesses and their strengths, v20, cf. Zech.4:2-6.


The Son of Man stood amid the lamp-stands. He is the glorious Son of Man from Daniel, Dan.7:13. His dress too is glorious; it could be priestly garb or royal garb, but whatever, it is impressive.

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

twn luxniwn (oV) gen. "the lamp-stands" - of the lamp-stands. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

oJmoion uiJon anqrwpou "someone like a son of man" - like son of man. The adjective o{moion serves as a comparative, while the genitive anqrwpou, "man", is adjectival, relational. The accusative uiJon, "son", should properly be a dative after o{moion, of the person or thing compared, cf. MHT IV. This is a direct quote from Daniel 7:13, referring to the divine man who receives dominion. It is tempting to flesh this term out, eg. "what looked like a human being", TEV., or even "a divine figure that bore a human image", but it is really not wise to attempt a dynamic equivalent of such a significant Old Testament title.

endedumenon (enduw) perf. part. "dressed in" - having been dressed in clothing. As with periezwsmenon, "having been wrapped around", the participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting / describing the garb of the son.

proV +dat. "around [his chest]" - [to the feet and having been wrapped around] at [the breast with a golden sash]. It is rare for proV to be followed by the dative. On such occasions the preposition takes a positional sense, "at", or here best rendered "around".


His hair is white like that of the Ancient of Days - dignified and wise. Yet, he is not aged and devoid of power, for his eyes flash with energy.

wJV "[his head and hair were white] like [wool, as white] as [snow]" - [and the head of him and the hairs white] like, as [white wool], like, as [snow and the eyes of him] like [a flame of fire]. Comparative. A literal translation leaves us thinking that his scalp and hair are a white wool color and snow color. The sense is "his hair was like snow-white wool." cf. Dan.7:9f.

puroV (r roV) "[blazing] fire" - [flame] of fire. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "flame", "burning flame", the comparative phrase functions adjectivally, limiting "eyes"; "his eyes blazed / shone brightly", cf. Dan.10:6


His feet are metallic and strong and his voice, the voice of God himself, Ezk.43:2. This king will stand forever.

o{moioi adj. + dat. "like [bronze]" - [and the feet of him was] like, as [fine bronze]. Here followed by the dative complement calkolibanw/, "bronze", a rare word possibly meaning "fine" or "very shiny bronze", cf. uiJon, "son", v13.

wJV "-" - as if, as. Here probably adverbial, expressing manner, so Mathewson.

pepurwmenhV (purow) gen. pas. part. "glowing" - [as if in a furnace] having been made to glow. The participle is possibly adjectival, attributive, limiting "furnace"; "a furnace which is glowing." Since the participle modifies the dative kaminw/, "furnace", it should also be dative and not genitive. Beale suggests the reference purposely follows the Theodotion syntax of Daniel 3:21, 23, 26. Aune classifies it as a genitive absolute, so temporal; "his feet were like bronze as it is burning in a furnace", Matthewson. Possibly the sense is "highly refined"; "his feet were like highly refined polished bronze."

en + dat. "in [a furnace]" - Local, space, or instrumental, means, "by a furnace", or adverbial, temporal, or modal, expressing manner.

uJdatwn (r toV) gen. "[rushing] waters" - [and the voice of him as the sound] of waters [many, much]. The genitive is ablative, source / origin; "like the sound coming from a giant waterfall. cf. Ezk.43:2.


In his hands he holds seven stars representing the seven churches. Given that seven is a sign of completeness, the seven churches represent the church as a whole, all believers. He holds them, protecting them, uplifting them. Out of his mouth comes a sword, a word of judgment, a word critical of his people, but also a word of devastating power against those that would harm his church. His face shines in radiance, the radiance of God's presence.

ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "he held" - [and] having [in the right hand of him]. Throughout the Revelation John often uses the participle "to have, hold" as if it were a finite verb. Technically we would classify this usage as a periphrastic construction with an assumed / missing verb to-be. Given the context, other classifications may be appropriate: object complement; attendant circumstance; adverbial, modal; adjectival, attributive; ...... Most translations will often treat anarthrous examples of the participle as a finite verb, and this is certainly the way the NIV handles it.

asteraV eJpta "seven stars" - stars seven. As in v20 these stars are most often taken as the angels representing the seven churches addressed by John. As to the identity of these angels, there are numerous suggestions, eg., guardian angels. As already noted it is possible that the stars represent an idealized expression of the believing people of God - God's people are held in the hand of the glorified Christ. See v20.

ekporeuomenh (ekporeuomai) pres. part. "coming out" - As with "having", the syntactical function of this participle is unclear. The ESV treats it as a finite verb, "from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword", ie., technically a periphrastic construction with an assumed verb to-be. It is not clear whether aspect is being emphasized.

ek +gen. "of [his mouth came]" - from [the mouth of him a sharp two edged sword going forth]. Expressing source / origin; protruding from his mouth. The imagery may be depicting the word of the risen Christ, a word of chastisement for those who believe, but a word of judgement for those who don't, ie., it's a word that cuts both ways. As is always the case with the imagery in Revelation, it is unclear how far we should take it. A general application of the imagery is always safer than a more specific application, although it is always possible to fall back of the defense of poetic license!!!

en + dat. "in [all its brilliance]" - [and the face of him shining] in [its power]. Here forming an adverbial phrase, modal, expressing the manner of the sun's "shining"


b) A word from Christ, v17-20. The vision is so powerful it drives John to the ground. But, then comes the gentle touch of the master to lift him up. Who then has John witnessed? He is the "First and Last", the Alpha and Omega, he is the Lord almighty. He is the resurrected one, the living one. He is the one who has authority over death and over the place of the dead (Hades). He is the life-giver. He is Jesus our Lord, v17-18.

o{te "when [I saw him]" - [and] when [i saw him]. Temporal conjunction serving to introduce a temporal clause.

epesa (piptw) aor. "I fell" - Prostrated rather than fainted. Lying face down is the typical response of those confronted by the risen Christ, or in fact by any theophany. This response should prompt us to question the present frivolity favored in Christian worship in the West, imposed, we are told, for the purpose of accessing the unchurched. Why not go all the way? Recently a clergyman performed a parachute jump from the church steeple, prior to morning prayer, in attempt to boost attendance. I guess he had a Biblical precedent, Lk.4:9!!. It is very easy for the still small voice, present with the gathered two or three, to be suppressed by the babel.

proV +acc. "at [his feet]" - at [the feet of him]. Spacial; "he prostrated himself before/in front of him."

wJV "as though [dead]" - as if [dead]. Probably adverbial, expressing manner.

thn dexian adj. "right" - [and he placed] the right [hand of him]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to place." The commissioning hand.

ep (epi) + acc. "on [me]" - upon [me]. Spacial

legwn (legw) pres. part. "and said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he placed", "he placed .... and said ..." It could also be classified as adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the action "to place", "he placed .... saying ..." The participle "saying" often introduces speech in the Revelation, with the context determining its classification: attendant circumstance; adverbial, modal, expressing manner; an object complement; an incomplete periphrastic construction missing the verb to-be. It is likely that we have Semitic idiom here, similar to the way the participle "saying" introduces speech in the synoptic gospels; parakalei auton polla legwn, "he begs him much saying." In the case of the synoptic gospels, "saying" is classified as either adverbial, modal, or attendant circumstance, "he begged him earnestly and said", or just "he begged him earnestly" ie., redundant.

mh fobou (fobew) pres. pas. imp. "do not be afraid" - do not fear. The present imperative may indicate a command to cease an action in progress, or "cease an action viewed as a process", Mathewson. John need not fear because of who Jesus is.

oJ trwtoV kai oJ escatoV "the first and the last" - [I am] the first and the last. Predicate nominative. A restatement of v8, cf. Isa.44:6.


kai "-" - and. Probably here serving to introduce an epexegetical clauses expanding / specifying / explaining the meaning of Jesus' claim that he is "the first and the last, that is / namely the living one". A second kai is also probably epexegetic, "that is / namely, the one who was dead and is now alive ....."

oJ zwn (zaw) pres. part. "I am the living one" - the living one. The participle serves as a substantive. This may be read as a title, eg. "the eternally living one", a divine title popular with the rabbis, or as a descriptive, eg. "the one who has/gives life."

egenomhn (ginomai) aor. mid. "I was [dead]" - i became [dead]. Possibly "I died", but better, "I was dead." The epexegetic sense could be emphasized by "the one who was dead, but (kai) is now alive....", although this is not grammatically correct.

idou interjection "behold" - [and] look, pay attention. "I was dead, and see, I am alive ...." "Behold" is a bit archaic.

zwn (zaw) pres. part. "[I am] alive" - [i am] living. The participle with the present tense of the verb to-be eimi forms a present periphrastic construction expressing a durative aspect - he will live forever.

eiV touV aiwnaV town aiwnwn "forever and ever" - into the ages of the ages. Here the preposition eiV, "into", is temporal. The phrase "into the ages" is idiomatic for "forever, evermore, eternally." The additional genitive "of the ages" makes it emphatic, "for ever and ever", but we could also classify it as partitive, given that "the ages" are just one part of all the ages, which sequence of ages God reigns over. There is high mystery here that needs to be preserved (something greatly appreciated by generation X/Y); "See, I live into the aeons and ages that exist beyond the stars."

tou qanatou (oV) "[I hold the keys] of death [and Hades]" - [and i have the keys] of death [and of hades]. This genitive, along with a{/dou, "Hades", is adjectival, attributive, giving the sense "the keys which / to unlock death and the place of the dead." This final descriptive of the one who is the beginning and the end, uses popular Jewish imagery to make the point that Jesus has mastery over death; he can release us from its hold. It was understood that God possessed the keys to unlock the chains of death and the catacombs that hold the dead captive. It was popularly believed that Hades was the catacombs that housed the dead. Hades is distinct from Hell (Gehenna), the fiery place of punishment, so named after the ever-burning rubbish tip outside Jerusalem. It is not wise to take the image literally, in the sense that the dead are housed in such a place, eternally living in a place of fiery bondage, an idea developed from a faulty interpretation of 1 Peter 3:18ff.


John's commission. John is commanded by the Lord to write down the visions, visions that speak of now and of days to come.

oun "therefore" - Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

eideV (oJraw) aor. "you have seen" - [write the things] you saw [and the things which are]. John is to write concerning the visions. The following two clauses expand the subject matter, things happening now and things in the future. The book is often divided between these two: the letters to the churches, the now, and the prophecies, the then. This dichotomy is often forced and and as a consequence damages a proper understanding of chapters 4-22.

genesqai (ginomai) aor. inf. "what will take place" - [and the things about] to happen. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb mellei, "about"; "the things which are to be hereafter", Phillips.

meta + acc. "later" - after [these things]. Temporal use of the preposition. What are the "these things"? cf., Rev.4:1; 9:12; John 13:7.


Finally, we are given an explanatory note concerning the symbols of the stars and the lamp-stands. The secret meaning behind John's vision of the stars and lamp-stands is revealed by the Lord. It seems likely that these visionary symbols represent the people of God: a) angelic stars - what the church is in Christ; b) lamp-stands - what the church is now (a light to the world??). John does seem to be giving us a key to the visions at this point, a key to unlock the mystery of the visions.

to musthrion (on) acc. "the mystery" - A rare absolute accusative. A secret truth/meaning now revealed, so here the meaning of the two symbols used so far, namely, stars and lamp-stands.

twn epta asterwn gen. "of the seven stars" - of the seven stars [which you saw on the right of me]. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, epexegetic, specifying / explaining the mystery, but possibly adverbial, reference / respect, "the mystery, with respect to the seven stars, ...... is this ...." The secret meaning concerning the symbol of the stars ....... is that they represent "the angels of the seven churches." As noted above, there is much debate as to the identity of these angels, eg., Beasley-Murray in his commentary, pp 69-70, argues convincingly that each angel is an existential representation, a perfect heavenly counterpart of a Christian congregations here on earth. The stars, or more properly the seven planets, were often represented on Roman coinage and served to depict the authority and power of the state. The people of God under the lordship of Christ, both here and in eternity, now control the destiny of the universe. See "Interpretation" above.

taV ... lucniaV (a) acc. "[and] the [seven golden] lamp-stands" - We would expect a genitive, as for "stars", but we have an irregular accusative. John tells us that this symbol represents Christian churches. As for the number "seven" it again expressing completeness, ie., "the church in its universality", Smalley.

twn epta ekklhsiwn (a) gen. "of the seven churches" - [the seven stars are the angels] of the seven churches [and the seven lamp-stands are the seven churches]. The genitive is adjectival, possibly idiomatic / subordination "over the seven churches", but attributive, limiting by describing "angels" is more likely; "the seven angels which are a perfect representation of the seven churches."


Revelation Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]