Rev 1:1-3:22

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  • Rev 1:1. The ambiguity of the first part of this verse suggests two totally different but equally valid interpretations: the "of" might mean on the one hand that what follows is a revelation in which the Christ Himself is unveiled, or it might on the other hand mean that what follows is a revelation that Christ Himself had (while in the flesh, apparently). While Latter-day Saints are most likely inclined to assume the former, the remainder of the verse suggests the latter: "which God gave unto him," to--it seems it must mean--Jesus Christ. Since John is not mentioned until the end of the verse, it seems rather clear that John only saw what Jesus had Himself seen. The best reading of this first verse suggests that this book is so difficult and yet so absolutely vital because it embodies (or at least includes) a revelation given to Jesus Christ.
If the Revelation is indeed a revelation had by Christ while in the flesh, one might justifiably ask if any other reference (somewhere other than in the Book of Revelation) exists in scripture. There may be, in fact, a hint. Looking carefully at the stories of Jesus' baptism, there may be a suggestion that this book records a revelation Jesus had in connection with that event. According to Matthew's account: "Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him" (Matt 3:16). Immediately upon rising up out of the water, the heavens were opened to him and he was given to see a vision. Matthew mentions next, and in the same verse, that "he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him." If this experience is to be understood as connected to the event represented in Abraham's facsimile no. 2, fig. 7, then it appears that the reception of the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove is something like an endowment experience, for there Abraham receives from God "the grand Key-words of the Priesthood." After the voice of God Himself pronounces Jesus His Son (the temple/revelation overtones of which are plentiful--the Lord even quotes there a temple psalm, Ps 2:7), Matthew says: "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit" (Matt 4:1). The phrase sounds, if extracted from the context somewhat, as if Jesus was taken up into heaven for a time. The remainder of that verse makes it clear that the Spirit sent Him into the wilderness (the desert) to be tempted, but Mark's telling of the same experience suggests that more still is at play. As he writes: Jesus "was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him" (Mark 1:13). No clearer summary of (at least the first half of) Revelation could be written. There may be some reason to believe that the revelation called The Revelation was the experience of Jesus Christ Himself at His baptism. All of the above might well be confirmed on totally other grounds. J. Massyngberde Ford, in the current Revelation volume of the Anchor Bible Commentary, argues that the Book of Revelation has peculiar connections to John the Baptist, though it was written/compiled by John the Revelator (the interesting hints of some connections between John the Baptist and John the Revelator are confirmed in LDS scripture in D&C 93, where the record of John the Baptist is quoted at some length, though its connections to John 1 are abundantly evident).
The above comments must not be understood, however, to suggest that the present revelation was not given to John. As this first verse goes on to make clear, the revelation was also "sent and signified," specifically "by his angel," to "his servant John." In other words, if the revelation was indeed had in the first place by Jesus Christ, then what this verse amounts to saying is that Christ then gave it to others, initiated them into His own mysteries and visions, and that by the ministering of angels. The context in which John was given to see the vision becomes vital: in prison, suffering for the testimony of Jesus, he is given the same thing Christ had had. The meaning of the revelation on the whole is thereby enriched.
In 1 Ne 14:18-25 Nephi is told by an angel that the things written about the end of the world (which we presume are found in the Book of Revelation) were written by one of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. This makes our John the Revelator John the Apostle, son of Zebedee and brother of James. The Bible Dictionary connects John the Apostle with John the Baptist by saying that we may assume he is the unnamed disciple of the Baptist mentioned in John 1:40. This is an interesting connection, as is the assumption that John the Apostle might have been "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Either one of these connections could have given him special insights into occurrences that may or may not have happened at the time of Jesus' baptism. The Joseph Smith Translation of verse 1 may also remove some of the ambiguity in the first part of the verse.
God sent and "signified" this Revelation to John by an angel. The Greek word "semaino" suggests that the angel gave John a sign or a token that the vision was authentic.
  • Rev 1:3. It is often pointed out that the pairing of "readeth" and "hear" in this verse suggests the revelation was originally intended to be read in a liturgical setting. In other words, not unlike other epistles in the New Testament, this one was written to be read in the churches as part of the ritual of the Eucharist. Other details in the Revelation confirm that (see verse 4, but also Rev 22:20).
  • Rev 1:4: A letter. As this verse makes absolutely clear, the book of Revelation is a letter, an epistle, with a very specific audience. Chapters 2 and 3 make explicit that very particular historical peoples are in question, with very real situations being faced. And this epistolary character of the book of Revelation does not end with chapter 3; rather, it extends to the last chapter of the book. In other words, Revelation is an epistle, and it apparently ought to be read alongside, say, the epistles of Paul, rather than as a book of explicit predictions concerning last-days events. The book is undeniably a book of prophecy, but apparently a prophecy in the sense Paul understood (see 1 Cor 13:8). The prophecy itself is undercut by its charitable character, by the situation in which it was written (details suggest that the epistle entire serves the purpose of uniting John and the saints in the seven churches in a single liturgical celebration of the Lord's supper: see verse 10, verse 12, and especially Rev 22:20). While this does not absolutely undo the predictive nature of the book of Revelation (see Ether 4:16), it certainly suggests that it not be read as in absolute terms. The book of Revelation apparently must be read historically, contextually.
  • Rev 1:10: The Lord's day. That the event takes place on the "Lord's day" is powerfully suggestive. The phrase only shows up elsewhere in D&C 59:12 as the day upon which, specifically, the sacrament is taken. Moreover, Acts 20:7 suggests that this day was broadly characterized among early Christians as the day of "break[ing] bread." In other words, there is a hint in verse 10 that John's revelation has something to do with the sacrament of the Lord's supper.
  • Rev 1:12. When John hears the voice, it comes from behind him, and when he turns around to see what is behind him, he sees seven golden candlesticks, perhaps a menorah. If he indeed sees a menorah, then the text seems to suggest that John's present location has been figurally changed into the Holy Place in the Mosaic tabernacle. If so, John has turned from the table of shewbread to the menorah. This seems to confirm the sacramental reading to be found here. John turns, at the call of the trumpet, from his bread and wine to the concerns of the vision.
  • Rev 1:16. Numerous scriptures connect the sharp two-edged sword image with the word of God. Heb 4:12 says that the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword; D&C 6:2 goes further with the Lord admonishing the reader to give heed to his word which is sharper than a two-edged sword. The two-edged sword lends itself to be interpreted here in revelation as symbolic of the word of God since it issues forth from the Lord's mouth.
Upon seeing the Lord and the brightness of his countenance, John falls at his feet as if he were dead. The Lord comforts him by telling him that he holds the keys of hell and of death, symbolizing delivery from spiritual and temporal death.
We learn from D&C 84:19-22 that the keys of the greater priesthood allow a man to stand in the presence of God and live. Perhaps there is also priesthood significance in the Lord laying his right hand upon John (as indicated in verse 17) as he says these things.
The seven angel spoken of in verse 20 should be the seven servants as indicated in the Joseph Smith Translation. The seven servants are those who are appointed to lead the even churches in Asia.

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  • Rev 1:1: What does it mean that this is a revelation "of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him"? Does this mean that this vision was first given to Christ?
  • Rev 1:1: Why is Revelation capitalized in this verse?
  • Rev 1:1: Who are the servants mentioned here?
  • Rev 1:1: Who is the angel sent here, and who is the "he" that sent him?
  • Rev 1:1: What is "signified" by the angel here? The vision? What does it mean to be signified?
  • Rev 1:1: Which John is the servant here? John the Baptist? John the Beloved? Some other John? How can we figure out the answer to this?
  • Rev 1:2: How did this John "bare record of the word of God"? Is this the same record of the word reported in the opening of the Gospel of John?
  • Rev 1:2: What is the testimony of Jesus Christ? Later in Rev 19:10 we read that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of revelation; does that change how we see this here? What is the connection between testimony and revelation, or between testimony and the Book of Revelation?
  • Rev 1:2: Who is the "he" that saw at the end of this verse?


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