The Revelation or Apocalypse of Jesus Christ.[a] 1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God entrusted to him so that he might show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who has borne witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ by reporting everything that he has seen.
3 Blessed[b] is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who keep what is written in it, for the appointed time is near.
He Is, He Was, and He Will Return.[c] 4 John, to the seven Churches[d] in Asia: grace to you and peace from him who is, who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness,[e] the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood 6 and made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.[f]
7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him.
All the peoples of the earth will mourn him.
So shall it be. Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
“I Am the First and the Last.”[g] 9 I, John—your brother and partner in the suffering and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are ours in Jesus—was on the island of Patmos[h] because I had proclaimed the word of God and given testimony to Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s day, I was caught up in the spirit,[i] and I heard behind me a loud voice, like the sound of a trumpet, 11 that said, “Write down on a scroll[j] what you see and send it to the seven Churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that had spoken to me, and when I turned I beheld seven gold lampstands. 13 [k]And in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man,[l] dressed in a robe that reached down to his feet and with a golden breastplate around his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white with the whiteness of wool, like snow, and his eyes were like a burning flame. 15 His feet were like burnished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars. From his mouth there protruded a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face shone like the sun in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead, but he laid his right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One. 18 I was dead, but now I am alive forevermore, and I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.
19 “Now write down what you have seen, what is happening now, and what will take place afterward. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and of the seven gold lampstands, is this: the seven stars are the angels of the seven Churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven Churches themselves.
- Revelation 1:1 Christians are living in the last period of history. They are facing difficult times, and God’s plan is questioned. More than ever, faithfulness to his plan is required. Here then is a vision of faith concerning what is happening. The one who attests to it, in the Name of Christ, is prepared to give testimony for it even by shedding his blood.
- Revelation 1:3 Blessed: this is the first of seven beatitudes that appear in the book (see Rev 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14). The word “blessed” is more all-encompassing than “happy”; it indicates the favorable conditions in which God has placed a person (see Ps 1:1; Mt 5:3). Prophecy: i.e., any word from God, whether it foretells the future, commands, instructs, or sets forth history.
- Revelation 1:4 The greeting and the address introduce the work as a letter. [He] who is: this is how God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:14); this time, the divine name embraces the past, present, and future of humankind and is turned to the future, to the immediate fulfillment of all things: God, he who is to come. God is also described with the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, Alpha and . . . Omega; he is the Beginning and the End, the origin and the completion (a proper name of God according to Isa 44:6; 48:12). In addition, he is the master of all historical events, including the present ones, which, according to the author, are decisive. And Christ will appear in all the glory of his Resurrection and in the grandeur of the work accomplished to save humankind, comprising the body of the Church (see 1 Pet 2:5, 9), in the imminence of his coming to judge the world.
In order to speak of him, the author here multiplies Biblical reminiscences (Ex 19:6; Ps 89:28, 38; Isa 55:3). The seven spirits before the throne (v. 4) represent the Holy Spirit in the many ways that the Spirit manifests himself in the world (e.g., Isa 11:2, 5).
- Revelation 1:4 Seven Churches: the Churches (named in v. 11) formed a circle in the province of Asia and were separated from one another by some fifty miles.
- Revelation 1:5 Faithful witness: the Messiah is the witness to the promise the Lord made to David (2 Sam 7:1; Ps 89; Isa 55:3-4; Zec 12:8) in his person as well as in his work. He also fulfills this promise and is thus the efficacious Word, God’s Yes (see Rev 3:14; 19:11, 13; 2 Cor 1:20). He is the heir of David (see Rev 5:5; 22:16) but also the firstborn from the dead because of his Resurrection (see Col 1:18) who will rule the universe after his enemies have been overcome (see Rev 19:6; Dan 7:14).
- Revelation 1:6 Those who follow Christ will be part of a kingdom, because they will rule over all the nations (see Isa 54:11-17; Dan 7:22, 27; Zec 12:1-3; see Rev 2:26; 5:10; 20:6; 22:5). They will also be priests because like Jesus the Priest they offer up the sacrifice of their own lives as a burnt offering of love.
- Revelation 1:9 The author describes himself as a Christian who has been exiled to a little island that lay off the coast of Miletus and Ephesus and was known as a prison island. Before his eyes the risen Christ appears. The majestic description derives its images from the portrait of the Son of Man in chs. 7 and 10 of the Book of Daniel. The description of his stance and clothing suggests majesty and power; this being who is master of life possesses the secret of all things and holds even the realm of death subject to him (v. 18).
The netherworld, or the lower world (Hebrew: Sheol; not to be confused with hell, the place of eternal damnation), is a localization of the realm of death, where, it is imagined, the dead dwell, deprived of the ability to perform any existential act. Another term for it is Hades. Christ has the power to release souls from the netherworld (see Jn 5:26-28).
The very figure of Christ shows the judgment to be imminent. But he is also present in the life of the Churches, and the author lists seven of them (seven is the number symbolizing universality).
The text speaks of the angels of the Churches; according to the religious vision of the world at that time, some heavenly representatives presided over the destinies of cities, peoples, and Churches. The seer might be speaking of the earthly persons in charge of the Churches. However, the Churches are also in the power of Christ and under his protection.
What is happening now, and what will take place afterward (v. 19): these words anticipate the two main parts of the work.
- Revelation 1:9 Patmos: a small island in the Aegean Sea about 50 miles from Ephesus. According to the third-century Church historian Eusebius, John the Apostle was released from Patmos under the emperor Nerva (A.D. 96–98).
- Revelation 1:10 In the spirit: i.e., in a state of spiritual ecstasy (see also Rev 4:2; 17:3; and 21:10). The Lord’s day: Sunday. In the Old Testament the expression “Day of the Lord” signifies some special intervention of God in history. For Christians, the eschatological age is the last times that have begun with the Resurrection of Christ; to celebrate the Lord’s day means therefore to commemorate his Paschal victory and to hasten his return (see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 11:26; 2 Pet 3:12; see also the present-day liturgical acclamations after the consecration of the Eucharist).
- Revelation 1:11 Scroll: pieces of papyrus or parchment sewn together and rolled up. The book form came into use some time in the second century.
- Revelation 1:13 Jesus appears in garments that are priestly (the habit or long tunic) and royal (the golden breastplate). The white hair is a symbol of eternity; the flaming eyes signify omniscience, and the bronze feet, immutability. He is also a Judge, prepared to sentence those who are unfaithful (see Rev 2:16; 19:15; Isa 49:2; Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12). One or other of his attributes as Judge is used by the author at the beginning of each of the seven letters to indicate the circumstances of the Church addressed.
- Revelation 1:13 Son of man: see note on Mt 8:20.