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Presentation of the vision 1:11-18

The revelation to John 1:11-16

The Golden Stands 1:11-12

saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," and, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea." - Revelation 1:11

Jesus declared, "I am the Alpha and the Omega." This is the second of four occurrences of this expression in The Revelation. The first two are found in the first chapter of the book. The first was in 1:8, where it was apparently God the Father speaking, but possibly God the Son, or the whole Trinity. In this verse the claim is made by Jesus Himself. We will see the other two uses in the last two chapters of this vision, with a similar shift - from God the Father in 21:6 to God the Son in 22:13. All of this just underscores the reality that the Three Persons of the Trinity share the same divine attributes of the One True God.

This, by the way, is another of the many names for Jesus in this book. If you are keeping track, it is followed by an eighth appellation, "The First and the Last". This is another way of saying the same thing. "The First" comes from the Greek word protos, which was derived from the preposition pro - "before." In more recent times, when scientists discovered the atom, they named the first and most basic element of the atom the "proton." It is no wonder then that the Apostle Paul was inspired to write this description of Jesus:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. - Colossians 1:15-16

The Greek word for "last" is also interesting. It is eschatos, from which theologians have named the entire discipline of "eschatology," the study of "last things."

When I was a young teenager, just before I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord, I would sometimes go out at night and lie on the grass, looking up at the sky. Like millions of people before me, I would try to imagine how far the Universe extended. At the edge of the Universe, was there some kind of boundary that held it all in? With or without a boundary, what was beyond that? How could there be a limit to it? On the other hand, how could there not be a limit? Try as I may, I was never satisfied with the limited knowledge I had about the subject.

Today astronomers tell us how many millions of light years wide they think the universe is. It is so much bigger than I could have ever imagined, but the same problem is still there. How could it have any boundary, but then again, how could it not?

We have the same dilemma about God Himself, and about the Trinity. How could He possibly be eternal - have always existed, before He ever created the Universe? On the other hand, how could the One True God not be eternal? If He were not, and something else caused Him to come into existence, wouldn't that earlier "something" be the True God?

God is infinite and eternal. Our problem understanding this just causes us to fall back to God's own explanation given in our notes on verse 6 above. In Isaiah 5:8-9 God says His thoughts and ways are just much higher than ours!

The words of the wonderful hymn, "Immortal Invisible" by Walter Chalmers Smith, express a proper acceptance of God's incomprehensible attributes:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Next Jesus tells John, "And what you see…" The information about to be given to him is a "vision," and "seeing" all of these things will involve many of his other senses as well. He should then "write in a book" all of the detail he will be given. In John's time a book would normally be a scroll.

He was then told to "send it to the seven churches which are in Asia." How the book would be sent is not described, but when the Apostle Paul wrote his letters, he often mentioned that a trusted accomplice would travel to the recipients and deliver it by hand. Once the original was delivered, handwritten copies would be made and distributed to other churches.

The churches in Asia were familiar ground to John because he had evidently presided over them before his banishment

The number "seven" is used again (cf. 1:4) - this time to indicate that the messages would apply to all the churches, since seven is symbolic of completion. In the coming verses there are also seven golden lampstands and seven stars associated with these churches.

Since the Book of Revelation is a book of prophecy, the symbolic meaning of these messages is to foretell the history of the Church Age. We will discover seven periods of Church history in the next two chapters.

However, the seven churches did actually exist in Asia, and we will also look at them as individual collections of Christians in seven actual cities, each with their strengths and (usually) weaknesses. In the First Century all of the believers in any given city were considered part of that city's church. So the vision will address the church in each of the cities just as Paul's epistles had done many years earlier (The church at Corinth, the Church at Colosse, etc.).

One can also find in these seven churches the general characteristics of all the types of churches that have existed in each time period, and still exist today. This would mean that there are still "apostolic" type churches today, like the one in Ephesus; churches with many martyrs, like the one in Smyrna; and so on.

Now the churches are named: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea. We will look at the message to each of these in the next two chapters.

Next: Revelation 1:12


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