1 September 2014Revelation 1:4-18
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (v. 8)
Verse 4 tells us that this book entitled "Revelation" (its first word) is effectively a letter addressed to the "seven churches that are in Asia" which are then named in verse 11. Asia refers to the Roman Province with that name, nowadays the part of Turkey with a west facing coast onto the Aegean Sea. Seven is a symbolic number in Revelation standing for completeness or perfection, so these churches probably represent all those in Asia of which the writer has oversight. The reference to "seven spirits" (v. 4) is perhaps similarly poetic language for the one all-encompassing Holy Spirit.
The setting for the letter is evidenced by verse 9. John shared with his readers in experiencing persecution, and at the time when God gave him the message for the churches he was exiled to the island of Patmos a short distance from Ephesus on the mainland. In all eras islands have served as penal settlements. The banishment for a time of this Christian leader has the positive outcome that he has time on his hands and is able to receive this Revelation from God, this "testimony of Jesus", for the benefit of the churches then and ever since.
Because its purpose is encouragement during times of trial the passage as a whole is one which magnifies God's authority and Christ's share in it. So God's eternal reign is stressed in verse 8, Alpha and Omega being the first and last letters of the alphabet, and Jesus is specifically described as "the ruler of the kings of the earth" (v. 5), whilst his final triumph is declared in verse 7 as though it were already happening.
- What would you be prepared to endure on account of your faith in Jesus? Would exile to an island prison be taking things too far? What experiences of persecution for your faith have you known?
- Look at the names for Jesus in verse 5. Which name or title for Jesus is your favourite and why?
- The book of Revelation contains many symbols; not all the meanings are obvious to us. But Christ "coming with the clouds" (v. 7) is Old Testament language which Jesus himself used (see Mark 13:26). Since we are told in today's passage (verse 7) that "every eye will see him", how do you imagine Christ's future coming?