Sunday School

Revelations 1:1-8 Study Guide

Ok, well this got pretty long winded, but it introduces a lot of major topics in understanding Revelation. Hope this helps you think well about this book of Scripture.  Also, I reserve the right to change my mind on some issues as I study and the Lord gives me deeper insight 🙂


      • How do you feel about studying Revelations? Or maybe a better question is, how would you feel about being asked to teach the book? Here are a few of my thoughts:
        • It looked very daunting to me because I have hardly any background.  I have read little, studied little, and heard few teaching/sermons. So I have to do a lot of study to feel educated enough to speak about it.
        • There is probably more debate about the interpretation of Revelations than most Bible books, especially the NT.  I think this is a big part of why it looks scary to teach it.  I think humility will be a crucial ingredient for fostering an actual learning environment in this class.
          • Osborne, Kindle Location 808: Thus in interpreting the symbols of the book, we first need the “hermeneutics of humility” to realize we “see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror” (1 Cor. 13: 8 NLT). We are to center on the purpose of the text and note the theological thrust, leaving what will actually happen with God.
        • One answer to this trepidation is to review Revelation 1:3. The blessing for being internalizing this book is very clear.  (more later). My grandpa used to say, it says blessed are those who read/hear–not who understand it.
      • Another reason it feels like such a hard book to teach is because there are so many symbolic events depicted (e.g. story of the dragon and the woman).  What really was God trying to convey with that vision? Was a dragon literally trying to eat the baby, or is this just a symbol?
        • I think it’s important to distinguish between literal and physical since we earth dwellers often confuse the two (literal means it actually occurred; physical means it happened in the physical realm).
        • It is likely that God has chosen esoteric symbols from the common store of apocalyptic symbols in the first century in order to turn the reader away from exactly what he is going to do and toward the theological meaning of how he is going to do it. We do not know what is going to happen behind the pictures of locust plagues, meteor showers, volcanic eruptions, and horrible storms. Some may happen literally, many will not. It is important to realize that we know no more about the second coming than Jesus’ Jewish disciples did about the first. They too thought they were reading the Scriptures rightly. (Osborne, Kindle Location 803).  (Osborne has a lot more interesting things to say about how to understand a book like Revelation.)
        • Addendum after teaching the class: I think in a book like Revelation, it can be easy to miss the forest for the trees.  It can be easy to get so hung up on the details we don’t understand that we miss the obvious and important ones.
      • Interpretive models of Revelations: I can hardly proceed without giving a quick primer on the 5 families of interpretive models of Revelations.  I think a bit of framework will help you understand both Scripture and your own bias towards Revelations. I STRONGLY encourage you to review the article by Greg Herrick regarding interpretive models.  Models for Interpreting Revelations (Wildly Generalized)
      • A very simple outline of the whole book by Osborne (Kindle Location 1516)
        1. Prologue (1: 1– 8)
        2. Churches Addressed (1: 9– 3: 22)
        3. God in Majesty and Judgment (4: 1– 16: 21)
        4. Final Judgment at the Arrival of the Eschaton 17: 1– 20: 15)
        5. New Heaven and New Earth (21: 1– 22: 5)
        6. Epilogue (22: 6– 21)


      • V 1: The Revelation…
        • Quick question, what is the name of the last book of the Bible (it’s actually Revelation–not Revelations, plural)
      • The Greek word for Revelation is apocalypse. Some scholars use the title apocalypse interchangeably with Revelation.
        • A side note, but apocalyptic literature is an actual genre of books of the day. Knowing this is helpful when trying to do a (in depth) study of Revelation.
      • 4 step process of Revelation (Yoder). God > Jesus Christ > angel > John > God’s bondservants.
        • This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
        • V 2: It is reliable (John bore witness)
        • The author is John. Some debate on which John, but best evidence if for the apostle John. It is worth noting one argument that frequently listed is that the writing style is so different from the apostle John’s other writings.  The canonicity of Revelation was questioned in the early church, so there are less extant manuscripts and more textual variants.  Osborne argues (and I agree), that the solecisms (e.g. unusual grammar/allusions to OT terms) were John’s way of highlighting an important truth (Kindle location 989).  Nonetheless, this is pertinent to serious study of Revelations because John’s grammar has led astray a lot of well-meaning people.
      • The content of the Revelation–The events listed will take place soon (1c, 3c). This informs our model of interpreting Revelation.  It is also pertinent that God’s version of “soon” is not synonymous with humans, and that this language is similar to other NT language referring to the Jesus’ 2nd coming (Yoder).
        • Osborne says this is an allusion to Daniel 2:28 (implying this is the end spoken of there). The imminent end of history is a constant theme in the  NT and is at the heart of the Book of Revelation. (Osborne, Kindle Location 1616)
      • V3: Reader and Heeder: as I mentioned earlier, there are very specific commands for the church in regard for what to do with this Revelation from Jesus. If you forget everything else from today, remember this verse!! Read (aloud), hear, keep. Also, implied to remember it (for the time is near).
        • Reader: this was referring probably primarily to the tradition of having official readings of Scripture in worship services (think our readings before the message, or as part of the worship).  One of the most important ideas that give me is that we should be using Revelation more often for our worship services!
        • Hear: this is an extension of the previous thought–primarily referring to the worshipers who were paying attention during the services as the book was read.
        • Heeder: keep what is written in it.  Are there commands in the book of Revelation? I would have thought of it more as a prophecy book, and not realize that it contains commands for the church today. But whatever we learn from this book, we must always be keeping a sharp eye out for the instruction for us.
      • To the seven churches: why did John/Jesus pick these seven churches specifically?
        • Therefore, John deliberately chose to address these particular seven churches but intended them to typify all the other churches (see “what the Spirit says to the churches” in 2: 7, 11, etc., with the plural meant to include all churches). (Osborne, Kindle Locations 1738)
        • This means this message applies to us as well.
        • Good time to point out that the context of Revelation was to the suffering church.  It was to give hope!  Likely written around 90 AD during reign of Domitian, although time of Nero is also possible.  Imperial cult (worship of the Emperor) was prominent.

Verses 4-8: JESUS! Jesus is a central theme of Revelation.  I tend to think of Jesus as tender, meek and mild and forget he is the rider on the white horse who will judge the nations with a rod of iron!! Nowhere else in the NT do we really get a glimpse of awesome divinity of Jesus like this.  I think worship is a key task for us for our study of Revelation!  Let’s take a look at the different attributes listed of Jesus:

    • Grace and Peace: This can only be given by someone who can extend grace and create peace.
    • From him who is and who was and who is to come (repeated v. 8 and elsewhere): besides affirming Jesus’ eternal nature, this is a declaration that He is in control of past, present and future, in spite of evil having a heyday in the present.
    • Reference to the Holy Spirit underscores the Trinity.
    • Jesus is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings on earth.
      • Probably way more significance than this, but to the persecuted church, Jesus was emphasizing that he had been through the same things they had, and he was in control of their enemies–death and kings.
    • Vs 5b-6: a Doxology TO Jesus. What a powerful list of his loving work on behalf of His Bride, the church! There is not nearly enough time in one SS lesson to even begin to cover these verses.
      • Again, to the hearts of those suffering for the name of Christ–what a reassurance to be reminded of His work and know that he has made us his kingdom and priests!
      • What is the significance of priests? (direct access to God and task of representing Him)
    • V 7: coming with the clouds (Dan 7:13 and Matt 24:30). Even those who pierced him (reference to Zech 12:10.  Again, a major theme of Revelation is Jesus’ return with glory and power.
    • Alpha and Omega. As previously stated, this idea of God’s eternity displays his control of everything, in this context especially the end of the world and bringing judgment.