The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 9

The Man in the Glory

(Revelation 1)

The Last Apostle

Just before the Lord Jesus Christ went back to heaven after His death and resurrection, He spoke to Peter concerning his fellow apostle, John the beloved: “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:22)

Jesus did not say that John would remain alive until His second coming, but the disciples interpreted it that way for a time.  It was an elliptical way of answering Peter’s question about John.  As a matter of fact, according to all the available records and traditions, John did outlive every one of the other eleven disciples.  All had long since gone to a martyr’s death when John, more than sixty years later, wrote the matchless words of the Book of Revelation.

Christ had deliberately left the time of His return uncertain, but He did tell His disciples they must always be watchful and ready (as in Matthew 24:42-44), so that He could actually have returned in that very generation – at least as far as they could know and as far as divine prophecy had revealed.  That the apostles did actually believe His coming could have been in their own lifetime is evident in many passages of Scripture (such as 1 John 2:28 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).

The same is true for every generation since.  The Lord wanted all His servants to live in an attitude of expectancy, knowing that He might return at any moment, and that is still true today.  And finally, “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37).

In one sense, John did indeed tarry until Christ came.  On the wonderful “Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10) when John received the Book of Revelation, Christ did “come” back to John’s presence (or perhaps caught John up to heaven), so that John saw his beloved Lord once more.  Furthermore, John was allowed to “see” all the events that would be associated with Christ’s eventual second coming to the earth, so that he could record them for the instruction and inspiration of all believers between his day and the last day.  We today still have the privilege of seeing and hearing, through the eyes and ears of John, all these great future events that will take place when Christ returns.

Revelation 1:1.   The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.

     The word “revelation” is the Greek apokalupsis and means literally “unveiling” or “taking off the cover.”  Thus this book is not intended to be mysterious or confusing, but illuminating and revealing.  In this opening statement, John stresses the wonderful fact that Jesus Christ, even though now glorified in heaven, is still a resurrected man.  In His continuing humanity (even though also deity), He received from God this prophetic unveiling of the future, with full authority to reveal it to His servants for their guidance and blessing.

     The things being revealed would be fulfilled beginning almost immediately.  The word shortly means literally “in a brief time.”  Even though many years yet remained in actuality, His coming could have been almost immediate, at least in principle, as far as John’s first readers were concerned – or as far as his future readers in any generation would be concerned.  Furthermore, even thousands of years constitute only a “brief time” on the eternal time frame within which He was speaking.

     The revelation was intended for the guidance of the “servants” (literally “bondslaves”) of Jesus Christ, and He chose to use His specially beloved servant to convey it, preserving his life through perils and persecutions without number through sixty long years until the time was ready.  The “angel” by whom the revelation was “signified” is not here identified (though later, in chapter 22, verses 6-9, he is said to be a “fellow-servant” of John and other servants of Christ).  Whoever he is, he had the ability to “signify” and to “shew” (Revelation 22:6) John the great visions and revelations of this book, by the power and authority of Christ.  The word “signify” is closely related to “sign,” or “miracle,” and may well refer to the miraculous nature of the marvelous prophetic visions which John was enabled to see.  On the other hand, the word is also occasionally used merely in the sense of “identify” or “specify” (Acts 25:27).

Revelation 1:2.   “Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.”

    The writer of Revelation identifies himself as John, and the uniform testimony of early Christian writers is that this was, indeed, John the Apostle.  Nevertheless, liberals have often alleged that it was some other John, largely because the vocabulary of Revelation seemed different from the vocabulary of the Gospel and epistles of John.  This verse clearly asserts, however, that the John who wrote the Revelation was the very one “who bare record of the word of God,” terminology which clearly identifies him as the author of John’s Gospel and epistles.  The phrase, “bare record” (Greek martureo, also translated “testify” or “bear witness” or “bear testimony”), is highly characteristic of John, occurring forty-four times in his writings and only twenty-five times in all the rest of the New Testament.  Here he emphasizes that in Revelation he is bearing witness of the very word of God.  Furthermore he is bearing record of the “testimony of Jesus Christ.”  This word “testimony” (Greek marturia) is also characteristic of John, occurring thirty times in his writings and only seven times in all the rest of the New Testament.

     Thus there can be no doubt, both from the fact of the assertion and the very words in the assertion, that the same John who was the Lord’s beloved disciple was the great apostle chosen by Him to write down the final words of the written Word of God to men.

     Note the threefold nature of the record that John wrote:  (1) “the word of God,” stressing that the entire book was verily inspired by God; (2) the testimony of Jesus Christ, referring to the frequent statements made by Christ Himself to John throughout the book; and (3) the “things that he saw,” recording the great future events in heaven and on earth which he was permitted to “see” through the special ministry of the angel who miraculously “signified” them to him.

     This verse emphasizes the extremely important fact that the Book of Revelation is an actual eye-witness record of real events and real people.  Just as Genesis is the record of the people and events of the world’s primeval history, so Revelation is the record of the terminal events of history, written by one who was there John was miraculously translated in time and space, by the omnipotent Creator of time and space, to enable him actually to see and hear these momentous events of future history.

     John was always careful to emphasize that he wrote only what he saw and heard.  In the concluding section of his Gospel he had written: “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24).  Writing of the amazing events on the cross, he had written: “And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe” (John 19:35).  The opening words of his first epistle again stressed that he had heard and seen and touched the very One of whom he was writing, concluding with this testimony: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” (1 John 1:3).

     Similarly, John claims over and over in the Book of Revelation that his eyes had seen and his ears had heard all these amazing future scenes of which he was writing.  In fact, this claim is even impressed with “the seal of the seven.”  That is, John makes the claim “I heard” twenty-eight times (that is, four sevens), and he makes the statement “I saw” (or “I looked” or “I beheld,” all of which are translations of the same Greek word) no less than forty-nine times or seven sevens.  This phrase is used, in fact, more often than in any other New Testament book.  John would have us know, beyond any possible misunderstanding, that he was not writing his own dreams or imaginings.  He was writing precisely what he had seen and heard, and nothing more.  To us, the Book of Revelation is a prophecy.  To John it was actual history, recorded just as he had observed it.

Revelation 1:3.   Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein; for the time is at hand.

     A special blessing is promised to all who read or even who hear the words (note the emphasis on the very words, not just the themes) of this book of prophecy, and who “keep” what is written in it.  It is obvious that one cannot keep what he does not possess, nor could he be blessed by it, so that this wonderful promise clearly presupposes that those who read or hear these words are well able to understand and appropriate them.  And this can only be true if the words are to be taken literally.

     The exhortation to recognize the imminence of the “time” is explicitly repeated at the end of the book (22:10).  If it was urgent for Christians in John’s time to study this book of prophecy: how much more urgent it is for those of us who are 1900 years closer to the time when it will all be actually taking place.

Website Builder