9 ¶ I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; 20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
John was on the island of Patmos. The Bible does not say that he was a prisoner but that he was there for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is certain Christian traditions that say he was there as a prisoner. The Harper’s Bible dictionary says the following, which is misquoted in Wikipedia as of this writing;
Early Christian tradition says that John was banished to Patmos by the Roman authorities. This tradition is credible because banishment was a common punishment used during the Imperial period for a variety of offenses. Among such offenses were the practices of magic and astrology. Prophecy was viewed by the Romans as belonging to the same category, whether pagan, Jewish, or Christian. Prophecy with political implications, like that expressed by John in the book of Revelation, would have been perceived as a threat to Roman political power and order. [The writer goes on to refer to Pliny’s Natural History and Tacitus’ Annals as references to the series of islands where Patmos was located as being used for used for such purposes.](1)
(1) Adela Y. Collins, “Patmos,” Harper Bible Dictionary, Paul J. Achtemeier, gen. ed., (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1985), 755.
This sets the writing and events in a specific period of time in history, probably, according to many historians in the AD90’s, fully decades after the temple of Herod at Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…, is an interesting phrase. First, it reinforces that Christians worshipped on a special day called the Lord’s day. Other evidence of a special day that particular worship was held can be found at;
Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
1Corinthians 16:2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
What does it mean to be in the Spirit? Note the uppercase S.
The believer is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, who is God.
Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
The context of the following shows that as the believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God his sanctification is not accomplished by carnal, fleshy things such as ordinances and commandments but by the change brought about by the Spirit on his or her life.
Galatians 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
The believer who walks in the Spirit does not seek to fulfill the lust of the flesh. If we live in the Spirit it must be evidenced by our walk.
… 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh…25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Being in the Spirit has to do with being detached from the world and focused on and controlled by God.
Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Colossians 1:8 Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
1Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
John was so deeply given to prayer and so focused on God that the Spirit of God controlled him and was able to show him things we cannot see because even when we pray we are still firmly planted in this world. Few have prayed hard enough or for a long enough time or in a focused manner that would allow their complete surrender to God. Usually we want something or we don’t want something but our prayers are not focused on our position in God; our submission to Him or His authority over us. We either mumble a hurried prayer, recite a formula, or preach a sermon to others. What John experienced here was much, much more. Of course, I am assuming John was praying although this could have been similar to Peter’s trance in Acts 10.
John heard a voice behind him and before he turned around the voice, which sounded powerful and loud like a trumpet and identified Christ as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and ending, again, named the specific seven churches in the Roman province of Asia. They do not still exist and the Roman province of Asia is now an predominantly Muslim country named Turkey after the Turks who conquered the Eastern Roman Empire in 1453, whose capital was at Constantinople, which the Turks renamed Istanbul.
Each of these cities has an intriguing background and the archaeology surrounding them is very interesting. But, it is what God says about them in the Bible that matters the most to us here, not the suppositions and theories of historians and archaeologists, although I am not discounting them or rejecting what they say. One book I recommend is Merrill F. Unger’s landmark work entitled Archaeology and the New Testament.
As they do not exist now, their presence in the Bible must mean something else to us, if we believe that the Holy Spirit gave the Bible to the writers of it by inspiration and that He was an active agent throughout the history of its preservation. We assume that all of the obscure names given in the Old Testament, for instance, have some type of significance and importance to us even though we do not know yet what it is.
There are many theories about what the seven churches mean. Some have said they are seven ages of church history. Some that they are simply seven types of churches throughout history. John turned then to see who was speaking to him and here we get an important point about translating. The translators use the word candlesticks, something which modernists despise. This does not mean that John is referring to candles of wax although candles were used at that time and there is plenty of evidence that candles were used from the middle of the millennium before Christ.
The word, lampstand, is not found in English lexicons and dictionaries before 1800. If you find it let me know. As the British use the word torch for what we call a flashlight hearkening back to earlier technology the King James Bible translators used candlestick for the apparatus on which a lamp was set.
Zechariah 4:2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
Exodus 25:31 ¶ And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same. 32 And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side: 33 Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick. 34 And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers. 35 And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick. 36 Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be one beaten work of pure gold. 37 And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it. 38 And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall be of pure gold. 39 Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels. 40 And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.
Think of other places where the translators used words that the reader would understand rather than transliterating a Greek word. Think of furlong for the Greek stadion in Luke 24:13. Think of penny in place of denarion in Matthew 20:2.
In verse 13 paps are nipples, so this garment is cinched at breast height.
Luke 11:27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
(Oh my! Why isn’t He wearing a suit and tie!?? I’m so offended. Just joking, fundamentalists.)
The appearance of Christ here, the image, the likeness we see in this passage is different from what the disciples saw when He was walking the earth. He is glorified and in the world of spirit. His head and his hair are white like wool. His eyes glowed like fire. His feet were like brass in a furnace and His voice sounded like many waters. What’s that sound like? Imagine the waves of a storm pounding on the beach or assaulting a ship at sea.
Psalm 93:4 The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.
We can picture in our head the sound of a waterfall or the rapids on a great river but the Bible definition is the mighty waves of the sea.
He is holding seven stars in His right hand and a sharp two-edge sword is coming out of His mouth. The stars are defined as the appearance or angels of the seven churches, and that would be before God as they existed on earth at the time while the seven candlesticks were the actual churches. Churches should be a light, shouldn’t they?
The two-edged sword is the Bible, the word of God.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
In this verse in Hebrews word of God is the same word as Word used for Jesus in creation, logos. Then, would the Bible be Christ in written form?
Christ’s face glowed like the sun shining in its power. Notice the verses regarding Moses;
Exodus 34:29 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. 30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. …33 And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face…35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
2Corinthians 3:7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
Now, Christ at His transfiguration;
Matthew 17:1 ¶ And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
Verse 17 says; And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
(Peter, James, and John were taken with Christ to see His transfiguration clearly because they will write significant portions of the end-times letters; 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, James, and Revelation.)
Note from Ezekiel…
Ezekiel 1:26 ¶ And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. 27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. 28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.
In verse 18 Christ said that He had the keys of Hell and of death. Death and Hell have a close relationship in the Bible.
Proverbs 5:5 Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.
Proverbs 7:27 Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.
Isaiah 28:15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves…18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
Habakkuk 2:5 Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:
Revelation 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Revelation 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
John is then instructed to write about the past, the present, and the future; what he has seen, what he sees, and what he will see. Then, Christ explains that the seven stars are the angels or appearances of the seven churches while the seven candlesticks are the seven churches. The difference between an angel or appearance, a presence, from the physical thing in our space-time should be clear by now.
Notice that the vision John is having is literal but that images in the vision are representational of things. I think this makes it clear that things existing in the spiritual world for things in the physical world do not necessarily copy those things in appearance but represent them.