New American Bible (Revised Edition)
1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show his servants what must happen soon. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,(A) 2 who gives witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ by reporting what he saw. 3 Blessed is the one[b] who reads aloud and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message and heed what is written in it, for the appointed time is near.(B)
II. Letters to the Churches of Asia
Greeting.[c] 4 John, to the seven churches in Asia:[d] grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,(C) 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us[e] from our sins by his blood,(D) 6 who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever [and ever]. Amen.(E)
7 Behold, he is coming amid the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him.
All the peoples of the earth will lament him.
The First Vision.[g] 9 I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos[h] because I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus. 10 I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day[i] and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, 11 which said, “Write on a scroll[j] what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” 12 [k]Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man,[l] wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest.(H) 14 The hair of his head was as white as white wool or as snow,[m] and his eyes were like a fiery flame. 15 His feet were like polished brass refined in a furnace,[n] and his voice was like the sound of rushing water. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars.[o] A sharp two-edged sword came out of his mouth, and his face shone like the sun at its brightest.(I)
17 When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead.[p] He touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last,(J) 18 the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.[q] 19 Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.[r] 20 This is the secret meaning[s] of the seven stars you saw in my right hand, and of the seven gold lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
- 1:1–3 This prologue describes the source, contents, and audience of the book and forms an inclusion with the epilogue (Rev 22:6–21), with its similar themes and expressions.
- 1:3 Blessed is the one: this is the first of seven beatitudes in this book; the others are in Rev 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14. This prophetic message: literally, “the words of the prophecy”; so Rev 22:7, 10, 18, 19 by inclusion. The appointed time: when Jesus will return in glory; cf. Rev 1:7; 3:11; 22:7, 10, 12, 20.
- 1:4–8 Although Revelation begins and ends (Rev 22:21) with Christian epistolary formulae, there is nothing between Rev 4; 22 resembling a letter. The author here employs the standard word order for greetings in Greek letter writing: “N. to N., greetings…”; see note on Rom 1:1.
- 1:4 Seven churches in Asia: Asia refers to the Roman province of that name in western Asia Minor (modern Turkey); these representative churches are mentioned by name in Rev 1:11, and each is the recipient of a message (Rev 2:1–3:22). Seven is the biblical number suggesting fullness and completeness; thus the seer is writing for the whole church.
- 1:5 Freed us: the majority of Greek manuscripts and several early versions read “washed us”; but “freed us” is supported by the best manuscripts and fits well with Old Testament imagery, e.g., Is 40:2.
- 1:8 The Alpha and the Omega: the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In Rev 22:13 the same words occur together with the expressions “the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End”; cf. Rev 1:17; 2:8; 21:6; Is 41:4; 44:6.
- 1:9–20 In this first vision, the seer is commanded to write what he sees to the seven churches (Rev 1:9–11). He sees Christ in glory, whom he depicts in stock apocalyptic imagery (Rev 1:12–16), and hears him describe himself in terms meant to encourage Christians by emphasizing his victory over death (Rev 1:17–20).
- 1:9 Island called Patmos: one of the Sporades islands in the Aegean Sea, some fifty miles south of Ephesus, used by the Romans as a penal colony. Because I proclaimed God’s word: literally, “on account of God’s word.”
- 1:10 The Lord’s day: Sunday. As loud as a trumpet: the imagery is derived from the theophany at Sinai (Ex 19:16, 19; cf. Hb 12:19 and the trumpet in other eschatological settings in Is 27:13; Jl 2:1; Mt 24:31; 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thes 4:16).
- 1:11 Scroll: a papyrus roll.
- 1:12–16 A symbolic description of Christ in glory. The metaphorical language is not to be understood literally; cf. Introduction.
- 1:13 Son of man: see note on Mk 8:31. Ankle-length robe: Christ is priest; cf. Ex 28:4; 29:5; Wis 18:24; Zec 3:4. Gold sash: Christ is king; cf. Ex 28:4; 1 Mc 10:89; 11:58; Dn 10:5.
- 1:14 Hair…as white as white wool or as snow: Christ is eternal, clothed with the dignity that belonged to the “Ancient of Days”; cf. Rev 1:18; Dn 7:9. His eyes were like a fiery flame: Christ is portrayed as all-knowing; cf. Rev 2:23; Ps 7:10; Jer 17:10; and similar expressions in Rev 2:18; 19:12; cf. Dn 10:6.
- 1:15 His feet…furnace: Christ is depicted as unchangeable; cf. Ez 1:27; Dn 10:6. The Greek word translated “refined” is unconnected grammatically with any other word in the sentence. His voice…water: Christ speaks with divine authority; cf. Ez 1:24.
- 1:16 Seven stars: in the pagan world, Mithras and the Caesars were represented with seven stars in their right hand, symbolizing their universal dominion. A sharp two-edged sword: this refers to the word of God (cf. Eph 6:17; Hb 4:12) that will destroy unrepentant sinners; cf. Rev 2:16; 19:15; Wis 18:15; Is 11:4; 49:2. His face…brightest: this symbolizes the divine majesty of Christ; cf. Rev 10:1; 21:23; Jgs 5:31; Is 60:19; Mt 17:2.
- 1:17 It was an Old Testament belief that for sinful human beings to see God was to die; cf. Ex 19:21; 33:20; Jgs 6:22–23; Is 6:5.
- 1:18 Netherworld: Greek Hades, Hebrew Sheol, the abode of the dead; cf. Rev 20:13–14; Nm 16:33.
- 1:19 What you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards: the three parts of the Book of Revelation, the vision (Rev 1:10–20), the situation in the seven churches (Rev 2–3), and the events of Rev 6–22.
- 1:20 Secret meaning: literally, “mystery.” Angels: these are the presiding spirits of the seven churches. Angels were thought to be in charge of the physical world (cf. Rev 7:1; 14:18; 16:5) and of nations (Dn 10:13; 12:1), communities (the seven churches), and individuals (Mt 18:10; Acts 12:15). Some have seen in the “angel” of each of the seven churches its pastor or a personification of the spirit of the congregation.