The Apostle John begins Revelation by describing the way he received it; God was the source who disclosed it to an angel serving as the messenger to John. The Apostle wrote down everything and sent it to the seven churches in the province of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). The Revelation (Gr. Apocalypse) has been preserved for us as the last Book of the Bible. It is filled with symbolism both simple to understand (such as 1:20) and some more difficult. However, notice the blessing promised to everyone “who reads the words of this prophecy … who hear it and take to heart what is written in it” (1:3). Do you want a blessing? To claim all you need do is read Revelation and truly receive its message.

Notice the word of encouragement, “the time is near.” These things must “soon take place.” How do we understand this as 1,900 years have already passed? It is “soon” in contract with eternity. The Church is to be in expectation — especially those of us who are living in the last of the last days!

The Apostle John followed the standard form for writing a letter by first identifying himself and then noting to whom he was writing. He then adds words of greeting and a doxology (see 1:4-5). The references to the past, present and future underscore the eternalness of God. Jesus Christ is called a faithful witness (of God’s message). He is also the first in the resurrection and the power behind all earthly rulers.

Next, John burst forth in words of praise (see 1:6-7). John’s doxology reminds us of other verses of spontaneous praise by other biblical writers. The Lord truly loves us releasing us from our sins and washing us clean through his blood shed on the cross. Additionally, he makes us members of his kingdom when we yield our hearts to his reign. We are said to be “priests” meaning we have access to God and that we can go to the Lord on the behalf of others.

Notice the conclusion from Rev. 1:8 and 22:13. In both passages you find the phrase “alpha and omega” representing the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. What is said about God the Father is also used for Jesus. Jesus and God are one and the same.

John identified himself as, “your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus.” Observe that he chose to call himself a “brother and companion” rather than the Apostle John. He identified with them and their Christian experience. He wrote to the churches while in exile on the small rocky island of Patmos. He states that he was there because of “the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” He further points out the occasion for the letter, “On the Lord’s Day” (v.10).

When John turned around to see the voice speaking he saw seven golden lampstands (churches, see v. 20) and among the lampstands was someone “like a Son of man.” In verses 13-15, John uses descriptive language illustrating his vision of the glorified Lord Jesus. Observe the references to his body (feet, chest, head, hair, eyes, hand, mouth and face).

John’s response was to fall at his feet as though dead. Then Christ placed his hand on him and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and of Hades” (v. 17-18). This means we need not fear life, death or eternity.

The Rev. Kenneth Fellenbaum is pastor of Wildermere Beach Congregational Church in Milford. Write to him in care of the Register, 100 Gando Drive, New Haven 06513. Email