Revelation 1: Setting the Stage

    Revelation 1 has a ton of information in it. I'm sure I skipped some. Nonetheless, this podcast episode is going through the chapter discussing symbols and key points. More information and sources can be found on the website below.
    Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” Revelation 1:3 NKJV


    There’s so much information in Revelation; I think it’s probably impossible to get through it in one episode or even in one reading. This is me sharing as much as I could and encouraging you to keep praying, reading, and studying!

    Revelations From The First Verse

    The first verse of Revelation 1 tells us quite a bit about what we’re getting into.

    1. The book is the Revelation of Messiah
    2. It was given by YHWH
    3. It was meant to be shown to His Servants
    4. The events are to take place “shortly”
    5. It was established by an angel
    6. John was the person given the message

    What Does Shortly Mean?

    ⏱️ Word Used in Revelation 1:1 📔 Bible Version
    shortly ASV, BRG, DARBY, DRA, GNV, KJV, NKJV
    quickly DLNT, HCSB, JUB, YLT
    about to happen MSG
    destined to take place, and speedily OJB

    The first verse says that the events are to happen “shortly,” “soon,” or “quickly” depending on what English translation you read. This gives a sense of urgency, but time is relevant. I remember as a child feeling like years passed between days off from school and other milestones. Now, it seems I wake up and months have passed without me realizing. Not only has age changed my perception of time, context can be a game changer as well. Imagine someone saying “I need to get gas soon” versus someone saying “I’m going to write a book soon.” With the former, I would assume a timeline either within the hour if they were currently driving or within the next day or two if parked. The latter however I might assume soon to be a year or so. The Greek word translated to shortly is τάχος. It means “within a brief space of time.” Once again, how we define brief is subjective.

    This leaves a great deal of speculation when trying to figure out what YHWH meant when He said soon. One thing that can be deduced though is that YHWH expected John to be able to write the things which he saw and pass the letter on to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor during a time when there were no planes, trains, or even cars. Google maps says it would take about 20 hours to walk (and boat where necessary) from Patmos to Ephesus. It’s unlikely anyone would walk for 20 hours straight, so I would assume it took 2 or 3 days to travel to the first church slated to get the message. The other churches were even farther away. If we assume it took 2 or 3 days to travel to each church, we’re looking at almost a month of travel time to get the message to each of these churches. That means YHWH couldn’t have intended it to happen within the month.

    2 Peter 3:8 tells us that a day with YHWH is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. With that in mind, the 2000 years since the Revelation has been like 2 days for YHWH. I think most of us would consider 2-3 days very soon.

    Who Are His Servants?

    In Revelation 1:1, we are told that the message is for “his servants” but in Revelation 1:11 John is told to send the message specifically to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor. What about his servants in Jerusalem? What about his servants in Africa? Who exactly was this message for and why?

    Depending on your leanings, the absence of concern for Jerusalem can be explaining very easily. Many believe the book of Revelation to be written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, this would mean all of the believers living in Jerusalem would have relocated by this time, rendering a message to Jerusalem unnecessary. Only Preterists need the text to be written prior to 70 AD as they believe it is predicting 70 AD. A major question I would have for them is why the Churches of Asia Minor should care about the destruction of Jerusalem in the first place.

    As for the rest of the world, I don’t have a tidy answer. The mystery of Northern African is present throughout the New Testament and history. We know from Acts 8 that there were followers of the Most High in Africa and that at least one of them converted to follow Messiah. Early church history proves there were Churches in Ethiopia and Alexandria—in fact, Ethiopia is home to some of the oldest churches in history. I could ask why they didn’t get a dedicated messenger (like Paul) and why we don’t see letters to these churches in the New Testament, but the more relevant question at the moment is why wasn’t the revelation sent to them?

    Here is where the historicist model shines brightly. Most historicists view the churches of Asia minor as being symbolic of periods of time in church history. Under this interpretation, the message is meant to reach all servants of the Most High but these specific churches are called out to either outline the future of the church or categorize individuals in the church. We’ll get more in to that in the next episode, though.

    Futurism has a similar problem to Preterism in explaining the importance of the seven churches. The churches mentioned in Revelation are no longer central hubs to the faith. It seems odd that the Most High would take care to call them out specifically if they had no influence during the time of the events. Otherwise why not just address the revelation to all servants of God? For futurism to make sense, either the seven churches were the best for preserving the revelation or at the very least they are examples of churches that will exist during the time of the end.

    Why Did He Give it To John?

    There were lots of disciples and apostles. We often focus on Paul, because he wrote most of the New Testament, and the Twelve, but at the time of the crucifixion, there were at least 120 disciples who had been present with Messiah from the beginning (Acts 1:15-22). I don’t have an answer but I do have some observations and theories.

    1. John was exiled to Patmos, a desolate island. This may have been his “wilderness moment.” At the very least, it showed that even in desolation the Holy Spirit can come and bring a message. It also proved that even if man locks away a believer, the believer’s ability to deliver God’s Word is not hindered.
    2. Perhaps John was well respected among the churches and the most credible witness. In this vein, perhaps he was the last of the twelve alive to receive the message.

    Description of the Messiah

    Revelation 1 is one of few places where we get a physical description of someone. Many people use these verses for their own purpose but I think it’s important to note that throughout the Bible when a vision is given, the descriptions and objects are not literal. Examples of prophetic visions include Pharaoh’s dream (which featured fat and skinny cows to represent abundance and famine), Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (which featured a statue of different metals meant to represent future kingdoms), and Peter’s dream (which featured unclean animals meant to represent gentile nations). It is important for us to remember this as we read these descriptions.

    Similar descriptions of the Most High and the Messiah are given in Exodus 24:17; Daniel 7:9-10; 10:4-6; Matthew 28:3; Mark 9:2-3

    Many people use the verses about Messiah’s feet being like bronze and his hair like wool to make claims about His race. While I agree that He was not white (see Whitewashing the Bible), I don’t think that was the point of focus for either description.
    13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
    Revelation 1:13-16 KJV

    Garments with a Golden Girdle

    What you wear has always been a marker of status. Today we think of name brands and money when the word status is thrown out, but I’m focusing us to the position itself. For instance, if you are a construction worker, you’re probably not going to the site in heels and a formal ball gown. Similarly, if you are a lawyer, you’re unlikely to show up in court wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Certain clothes and footwear are more conducive to our occupation than others. Even during Biblical times you could identify a person’s position in society based on what garments they wore.

    We are told two things about the garment Messiah is wearing: it is long and has a girdle (or belt) that set high on His chest. Long garments were worn by the wealthy—the length made them impractical for labor and the additional material cost money.[5] The girdle is golden which also signifies wealth. In addition to wealth there is the fact that elsewhere in the Bible the Amor of God is described as having a belt (or girdle) of truth. Perhaps this golden girdle symbolizes the value of His truth. There are also some who claim the girdle’s placement around the chest mirrors that of the priestly garments, thus this could be a symbol of His status as our High Priest.[6] In Exodus, God does command them to make a girdle for the high priest and the breastplate is placed above it (Exodus 28:27-28). Technically above could mean on top of or over, meaning the girdle was beneath the breastplate and therefore at the chest. However, it could also mean above, where the girdle sits below the breastplate and is at the waist or hips. The article making the claim cited historian Josephus as the source, so they very well may be correct (I did not look up their citation to verify).

    This description is also attributed to the angel who speaks to Daniel in Daniel 10.

    Head and Hairs White Like Wool and Snow

    Photocredit: Wikipedia

    Photocredit: Wikipedia

    I’ve always skipped over the fact that verse says his head and his hairs are being described and latched on to this description as it relates to hair. However, there’s a reason God included it as a description of his head as well.

    White hair is a sign of age which is usually a sign of wisdom (Proverbs 16:31). Earlier in the passage, both Father and Messiah are described as the Beginning and the End or the Alpha and the Omega. In Daniel 7—during another important prophecy—He is referred to as the Ancient of Days, and the description of hair like wool is also present. All of these titles establish the Most High as eternal, and white hair helps to re-enforce that idea.

    White can also be a sign of purity, though I don’t remember seeing it used in such a manner regarding hair—usually garments being white is the sign of purity. This is actually pretty interesting because you choose what garments you wear as well as what you do while wearing them. In essence, it is a choice to keep your garments white in the literal sense. In contrast, hair turns white (or gray) at it's own pace outside of our control.

    The hair is described like wool and like snow. Most references to white as snow have been about purity, though some are about leprosy. Wool was used to make garments and interestingly, in Ezekiel 44:17, the priests are forbidden from wearing wool in the inner court of the Temple. In Ezekiel 27:18, white wool is described as a luxury item. This could be a symbol of either. Others focus on the texture of wool, which is closer to Afro-textured hair than the silky straight white-washed portraits made by man. It is interesting that both snow and wool are mentioned when only one is necessary to describe the whiteness of the hair.

    I don’t know for certain why these descriptions are also associated with His head, but I have a theory. If we assume the head represents the mind, then apply these symbols we are being told that the wisdom and purity of His mind are worth much.

    Eyes Like Fire

    It’s interesting to me that our society often conflates Satan and Hell with fire when Biblically speaking it is God who is most often connected to fire (e.g., the burning bush). in Revelation we see this association with fire appear in the eyes. This description of His eyes repeats the description given by Daniel in Daniel 10:6, but this time it’s ascribed to an angel. Fire is also prominent of Ezekiel’s description of God and the throne in Ezekiel 1; 8; 10. So what does this fire represent?

    There are a couple possibilities for the angel described in Daniel 10. It could be a theophany—an appearance of God disguised as an angel (this occurs frequently in the Old Testament). It could be pre-human Messiah appearing as an angel. Or it could be an angel reflecting the same attributes as God. The issue with the first two options is that Michael, the archangel has to come help the angel fight the Prince of Persia. Needing assistance from an archangel implies it can't be Messiah, so that would be a problem. Some have suggested that the line about needing help was attributed to a different angel than the one described (multiple angels appear to Daniel).

    In Malachi 3:2, He is described as a refiner’s fire; this would be a fire that essentially melts something so that it can be molded (or refined) into something better. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah's lips are purified with a flaming coal, implying that fire cleanses. Another interesting mention of fire is in Exodus 4:17, where God is described as “a fire in the eyes” of the Israelites. This is almost a mirror image, though likely it means the Israelites are looking up at the mountain top seeing fire where God is. In most cases, however, fire is associated with judgement.

    Another thought I had is that in the end, Messiah will only see the righteous and pure—those who have been saved by His blood. In that way, His children are sealed and it is the rest of the world that feels His wrath.

    Feet Like Fine Brass

    Some translations say bronze, while others say brass. The Greek word used here is χαλκολίβανον, which Strong’s concordance defines as “neuter of a compound of G5475 and G3030 (in the implied mean of whiteness or brilliancy); burnished copper, an alloy of copper (or gold) and silver having a brilliant lustre:—fine brass.”[3] There are a couple things to consider when thinking about this.

    1. In Daniel 2, the metals that made up the statue represented particular attributes of their kingdom (e.g., gold matched the wealth of Babylon while steel matched the might of Rome). In the statue of Daniel 2, the feet were a mixture of iron and clay and represent the earthly power during the end times. Iron and clay don’t mix well (Daniel 2:43 confirms this), which means the base of these earthly kingdoms is not stable or solid. Brass on the other hand has properties that make it stronger and resistant to corrosion.[4]
      • This could be a statement of the stableness of His kingdom.
      • Both materials are technically alloys, with one holding together and the other falling apart. The brass of Messiah’s feet could represent the fact that different nations have come together, but because they are all following Him and of one mind, they are able to form a viable alloy, unlike the kingdom of the Beast.
    2. We are told specifically that the brass is as though it has been burned in a furnace. In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar makes an all gold version of the statue from his dream and commands people to worship it. When Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah refuse to worship the statue, they are thrown into the furnace. After the men are thrown into the furnace, witnesses see a fourth man whom they describe to be “like the son of God,” and the men come out of the ordeal unscathed. Could this be a reference to this incident and a reminder that He will walk through the fire (or tribulations) with His faithful servants during times of persecution?

    Voice of Many Waters

    There are quite a few places where God’s voice is described as being like many waters (Jeremiah 10:13; Ezekiel 1:24; 43:2)—the angel of Daniel 10 also fits this description. There were two main thoughts that came to me as I read this:

    • In Revelation 17:15 we are told that the waters represent nations and peoples. What if this means He speaks for all people or a group of diverse believers?
    • The sound of water is usually soothing (like ocean waves, or the sound of a waterfall, etc.) Note: this is a personal opinion so not super important.
    Note, the voice of Babylon is also described as being like “great waters” in Jeremiah 51:55

    Stars in the Right Hand

    The stars in His right hand are revealed to us later in the chapter. Revelation 1:20 tells us they are the angels of the seven churches of Asia Minor. We will see stars come up again in Revelation 6, 8, and 12. Might these also be angels?

    In ancient culture the right hand was the “good hand.” It was an honor to be seated at the right hand of someone, thus the fact that the stars are in His right hand is a sign of rank and fortune.

    Another thing to note is the question of what type of angel. The Bible doesn’t give us a complete history of angels and that leaves a lot of room for speculation. We know there are cherubim (who do not look like babies with wings) and seraphim, both of which are described in Ezekiel and Revelation. However we also see angels disguised as men (e.g. Genesis 19) and we see God appear as an angel disguised as a man (e.g., Genesis 18). There are archangels, but we don’t know how they differ from other angels—is it a title or a type of angel? On top of all that, the word angel actually means messenger and could mean an earthly human as well. In Revelation 2, John is told to write to the angel of each church—is this a heavenly being or a person like the pastor who will be the messenger of the word? To me the latter makes more sense given that God could have given heavenly beings the message directly and left John out of it. Of course, there could have been need for cohesion and a larger picture, which would make the former plausible.

    Two-Edged Sword

    So left to my own devices I would assume a sword represented war or fighting, but as always we should let the Bible define things.

    Psalm 149:6 says that a two-edged sword was to be in the hands of the saints. Proverbs 5:4 describes an immoral woman as being sharp as a two-edged sword. Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword.

    One would assume the Messiah is not being compared to an immoral woman—this is one of those symbols where satan is counterfeiting traits of the Most High to add to our confusion. Most interpretations I’ve seen or heard lean toward the two-edged sword representing the Word of God. Note also that in Ephesians 6, when describing the armor of God, a sword represents the Spirit.

    Countenance as the Sun

    When Moses goes up the mountain to meet God and comes back down, he is said to be shining such that they had to put a veil over him. In Revelation we are told that the countenance of the Messiah is like the Sun, which also suggests shining.

    The Number 7

    7️⃣ Symbol 🗣️ Meaning
    7 Candlesticks The 7 churches of Asia Minor (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea)
    7 Stars Angels of the 7 churches
    7 Spirits The Holy Spirit?

    The number 7 is used 12 times in this chapter! There are 5 groups of 7, 3 of which appear to be symbolic:

    • 7 Candlesticks
    • 7 Stars
    • 7 Churches
    • 7 Angels
    • 7 Spirits

    A few sources online suggested the 7 Spirits are meant to represent the Holy Spirit. A major argument for this interpretation is Isaiah 11:2. In this passage, 7 Spirits are used to describe the power given to Messiah which many interpret to be a reference to the Holy Spirit.[7][8]

    References and Footnotes

    1. Strong’s G5034. τάχος”. Blue Letter Bible; visited December 2023
    2. Ree Hughes. “The Wilderness Moment“. PSALMS to God. December 29, 2023
    3. Strong’s G5474. χαλκολίβανον”. Blue Letter Bible; visited January 2024
    4. CW721R High Tensile Brass ~ Manganese Bronze” Aalco; visited January 2024
    5. I don’t have a source for this for Israelite culture specifically, but it makes logical sense and seems to be the trend in other ancient cultures of the region.
    6. Can You Explain the Description of Jesus in Revelation 1:13-15?”. La Vista Church of Christ. April 2009; visited January 2024
    7. “What Are the Seven Spirits of God”.; visited January 2024
    8. Brandon D. Smith. “Who Are the 7 Spirits in Revelation?”. The Gospel Coalition. December 10, 2020; visited January 2024
    9. Ree Hughes. “Revelation 1: John Receives a Vision“. PSALMS to God. July 5, 2020
    Published on Friday, January 19, 2024
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