I think it’s important before we start looking at the details of Revelation to get the big picture of this book.  Billy Graham tells the story about going to the Louve museum in Paris and standing close to an impressionist painting.  He couldn’t grasp it.  He said to his wife, “I don’t see what it is.”  Ruth Graham said, “Just step back a little bit.”  And he stepped back so he could see the whole picture and by doing that he got the picture.  Here’s what he wrote about that experience related to the book of Revelation.

Billy Graham: “I’d been standing too close to the masterpiece.  Each individual detail, each patch of color, each brush stroke kept me from seeing the effect of the canvas as a whole.  I was bogged down in the details.  But when I stepped back across the hall the mystery suddenly disappeared and the image composed by the artist was clearly visible.  For too long I suspect too many of us have examined the book of Revelation in the same manner.  We’ve turned his great masterpiece into a series of images and brush strokes and we’ve tried to outguess each other of the modern meaning of every star, dragon and number.  As a result we’ve lost the grand design of the prophets mission.  And we may have also missed the urgency of his warning.”


As we jump into a deeper study of  chapter one let me skip down to a key verse that is found in  Revelation  1:19.   It’s very clear about what he’s going to write about.  “Write now, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”   Those are the three divisions of the book of Revelation.  The first division can be called…

  1. What you have seen.

Guess who he sees in chapter one of Revelation 1? John has an encounter with the Resurrected and glorified Christ. He is the main character in the book of Revelation. When I say the name Jesus Christ, what do you picture?

  • Some people picture a baby in a manger.
  • Some people picture a gentle shepherd of men, a healer.
  • Some people picture a man on a cross.
  • Some people even picture someone resurrected from the dead.

But there is a picture at the start of the book of Revelation unlike any picture you’ve ever seen. It is the picture of incredible power because that’s who Jesus is. remember this is the revelation of Jesus Christ!  Look at this picture:

Rev. 1:13-16 “and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,”[1] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”

This book is a Revelation of who Jesus is. He is not on the cross anymore.  He is honored for what he did on the cross.  But this book unveils him for who he is!  He is a conqueror.  That’s the picture of Jesus Christ – the picture of power.  And then the second division of the book of Revelation can be called…

  1. What is Now

Revelation 1:19  “Write now, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”

In Revelation 2 and there are letters that Jesus writes to seven churches of that day.  Ephesus, Smyma, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea.   He has a message for each of those churches. When the book of Revelation was written those churches were real groups of people who gathered in those cities.  Jesus had commendations and criticisms of those churches. Jesus challenges them to stay faithful and become overcomers.

We are still living in this realm of what is now because we are part of the church. The letters to the seven churches still refer to churches in our world today.  We live in what bible scholars call the age of Grace. We live in the church age.  It is what is now. The letters to the seven churches are as relevant today as the day Jesus wrote them.

And then

  1. The things which shall be.

Revelation 1:19 “Write now, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”

Starting in Revelation 4, John begins to talk about the future. I just want you to be able to step back and see the big picture. To understand the book you need this outline in your mind.  When John tells all things future it an incredible unveiling of the entire future of all mankind, and all that happens in the ages to come.  Revelation 4-21 deal with all things future.   It helps us to have this in our mind before we begin a detailed study.


Revelation 1:1-3 “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”


Many people get messed up by the word “shortly” in this passage of scripture. 2000 years have passed and much of this hasn’t came to pass. However, we must see things from Gods perspective which is eternal. For us, shortly, means a few 24 hour days. Shortly to God could mean thousands of years. In fact the scripture tells us that a day with the Lord is a thousand years.


This scripture also talks about how John got this revelation.  God gave this revelation to Jesus who gave it to an angel, who gave it to John.  So what we understand by this is that ultimately God is the author of this book. We know that God is sovereignly in control of the entire universe.  All John did was to write down what was signified by the angel. Of course, this book is a part of the canon of scripture and is inspired by Almighty God.


Then there is the blessing in verse number 3.   To those who read and hear the word of this prophecy they will be blessed.  The blessing comes not in knowing the future but in seeing Jesus in all of his splendor as he unfolds throughout the book. The blessing is knowing that we must be right with God in order to be a part of God’s eternal kingdom. The blessing is also understanding the urgency of the hour so that we might live holy lives and be people of prayer.


As the book opens, we must remember that Jesus as the central figure.  And it makes perfect sense that  the first thing that is highlighted in the book is the work of Jesus as Savior.  That is the point of the whole book. As we study this in depth, you are going to be amazed at how God wants everyone to come into a saving knowledge Jesus.


Revelation 1:4-6 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.

 This is typical of letter writing in those days. But John under the inspiration of scripture uses both the typical form or greeting for Greeks and Hebrews. Grace is the Greek form of greeting, and for believers it is especially significant because we are not saved by works but by the grace of the Lord Jesus. Peace is the Hebrew manner of greeting and signifies a wholeness of body, soul, and spirit.  Both of these concepts generate from God because he says, “Grace to you and peace from Him..”  Grace and peace come from God and it is our relationship to the Savior that determines how much grace and peace we have.

We see here in these couple of verses that the whole trinity is involved in bringing to us this wonderful grace of God.

  • We see the Father… Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come


  • We see the Holy Spirit… and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 

You may be thinking, I thought there is only one Holy Spirit.  This reference to seven Spirits is a reference to the completeness of the Holy Spirit.  In the bible you need to understand that numbers can have a great deal of spiritual significance. The number seven denotes perfection or completeness.   This doesn’t refer to the seven Holy Spirits, but rather it refers to the completeness of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is one person.

I am one person, however we could say that there is a sense that there are a lot of “Bob’s” out there.

  • Bob the dad.
  • Bob the pastor.
  • Bob the Ranger leader.
  • Bob the leathercrafter.
  • Bob the yard worker.

Understanding this helps us to see that this is referring to the completeness of the Holy Spirit.  Isaiah 11:2 gives us insight into various aspects of the Holy Spirit.

“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”

 Let’s count them:

  1. The Spirit of the lord
  2. The Spirit of Wisdom
  3. The Spirit of Understanding
  4. The Spirit of Counsel
  5. The Spirit of Might
  6. The Spirit of Knowledge
  7. The Spirit of the fear of the Lord

This is the best way to understand the book of Revelation. To take one scripture and allow it to interpret the other scriptures.  One can never go wrong in this method.  We are talking about how this grace and peace came to us through the whole Trinity.

  • By God the Father
  • By God the Holy Spirit
  • By God the Son.


Revelation 1:5  “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.”   These titles are important if we are going to understand the revelation of Jesus Christ in its fullness. All three titles meant something to John and to us today. Those three powerful titles that Jesus has are…

  1. He is the faithful witness. Everything we need to know about God is going to be revealed through Jesus Christ. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. Phillip and Jesus were having a conversation and Phillip asked Jesus to show him the Father. John 14:9  “Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”  Jesus was saying, I have been the perfect faithful witness of what the Father is like.  Jesus is saying that  in his own person, his being, his word alone is found a witness of who God is. That should be enough for us.

In a court of law you may need many witness to establish the truth. Even the scripture says that out of the mouth of two or three witnesses let every word be established.  But if we know who Jesus is, we can be assured of his faithfulness as a witness.  He is the Truth. We know that being truth translates to telling the truth. What Jesus said of God is true. What he said of Himself is true. What Jesus said of the Holy Spirit is true.  Jesus is the faithful witness.

Jesus is not the only witness. There are others.   John the Baptist cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” He also witnessed of who Jesus was. The miracles of Jesus themselves were a witness of his divinity.

As I think about this title of “the faithful witness.”  I think of John. He had become like his Lord. He also was a faithful witness. He was there at the cross, at the tomb, and saw the resurrected Christ. And John had lived his life as another one of the faithful witnesses. Undoubtably in his mind he would think of his associates, the other disciples who all had been willing to be martyred. And that makes the second title even more powerful.

  1. Jesus is called, “the firstborn from the dead.” This is referring to the fact that he is the first fruits of those who are being raised from the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:23 “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” You might be thinking, weren’t there other people who raised from the dead before Jesus. How can he be the first?  That is true, Elisha and Elijah both raised the dead. Even Jesus raised three people from the dead. But the thing is that those people all then went on to die a natural death.

Jesus is the first to be raised from the dead in the sense that he imperishable. He will never die. He has a glorified body.  So, Jesus was born from among the dead never to die again. Do you see how all of this revealing who Jesus is? And because Jesus was the firstborn from the dead, we also will be raised.  Think about John, he is the last living disciple. What did it mean to him as he is thinking about all those who have been martyred when suddenly he thinks of the title of Christ?  He realizes with joy that they will live again because of who Christ is.

  1. And then it gives him the title of “ the ruler over the kings of the earth.” The book of Daniel makes it very plain that the rulers of the earth do so under the sovereignty of God. Now there is a sense in that Christ is allowing men and women to have rulership in the earth, but he does so knowing that all their leadership will do is to ultimately bring the earth to a place where Jesus Christ will indeed reign as the king of King and the Lord of Lords.

There is a verse later in the book of Revelation where it says,  “The kingdoms of this earth will become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.”  In that moment, God will no longer allow men to rule as He does now. But Jesus Christ will rule. He will in fact rule the earth for 1000 years.

John was a prisoner of Rome, and it seemed like Rome’s power was unbreakable and that power was coming against the church. All of these things must have been of great concern to John. And God is revealing to John who Jesus is.  He is telling him that it was worth it to have lived for Jesus. This same Jesus whom your friends, the disciples, gave up their life, did so because they were a part of a kingdom.


After the titles, the scripture continues to honor and give praise to Jesus for what He has done for us. The saving work of Jesus in the past bears its fruit in the present.  Revelation 1:5  “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us [c]kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  The older I am, the more I love songs about the blood of Jesus. I am so grateful to be loved and thankful to be washed from my sins in the blood of Jesus.  Have you been washed by the blood?

Colossians 1:13-14 “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” And it not just that as wonderful as that is, there is more to the relationship that we have with Jesus. We are not just forgiven and set free because of him. We are a part of a kingdom. Jesus is the king of Kings. By we also are kings and priests.  We may not look like kings right now, but we will when we reign with Him.  @ Timothy 2:12 says,

“If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.

 Daniel 7:27 says,

“Then the kingdom and dominion,
And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’”

What a privilege to rule and reign with Christ

And we are priests to God. In other words even know we have access to God. In Old Testament times the common man could not come before God, but as believers we can.  We stand between God and the people. We can intercede on their behalf.


And then it talks about the Future work of Jesus Christ. Revelation 1:7  “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.”  This is  talking about the glorious appearing of Jesus in strength and in power.  This is not talking about the rapture.  It is talking about what is plainly revealed in Revelation when Christ comes on a white horse in Revelation 19.  Jesus will appear in the clouds at the end of the Tribulation period and return to the earth to set up a kingdom on earth that will last 1000 years.


He will come in a cloud. It is significant that he ascended in a cloud.  Acts 1:9-11 “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”


When it says, every eye, it means every eye. Certainly, heaven will be watching.  Men on the earth will see it. Even the dead will see this happen. Jesus told Caiaphas that he would see him coming.  Matthew 26:62-64 “And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”  64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Caiaphas is now dead and unless he repented he is in Hades, but Jesus said, you will me coming on the clouds of heaven.


For those of us who believe this is wonderful. However, for those who have rejected the Savior and have chosen sin over God, this is not going to be a good day. Even Jesus said so.   It will be a day of mourning on earth.  Matthew 24:30-31 “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

 The book of Revelation from its salutation on repeated causes us to consider and think if our lives are right with God or not. Will you not accept Him as Savior right now? Will you not leave your sins and confess them to God, and turn to Him to give you new life, forgiveness, and hope? Today is the day of salvation.