The Book of Revelation Part 1: Prologue

John on Patmos, 17th c., Jacopo Vignali
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show to his servants the things which must soon take place. He made it known by sending by his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near."-Revelation 1:1-3

The Revelation of Jesus Christ. 
The Greek word apokalypsis signifies a revelation; an unveiling or making known. It also means the revealing of ones self, a coming. Both meanings are appropriate here. It is a revelation Christ has made concerning His return in power and majesty at the End Times. It is also a prophecy of events leading up to this second coming. These things must "soon take place". They comprise the whole history of the church from the time of Christ until the end of the world. This is why their fulfillment was already beginning in the days of the Apostle John. This revelation has been confided to Jesus Christ by God the Father. Christ in turn sends an angel to impart it to His servant John. Some of the spiritual beings in heaven fulfill the role of angels, or messengers, and are the intermediaries between God and man. They often fulfilled this mission before the time of Christ. Today their ministry continues in many ways, mostly in the area of spiritual warfare, which has both material and spiritual realities. By writing these revelations John has given testimony to God and to Jesus Christ. Testimony may be given by word or by works, especially by martyrdom. John gives testimony by written word here. Whoever reads this book, opens his heart to its teachings, and conforms his life to its precepts is worthy of eternal life. It is a mistake to think the book was written for future ages only. It is being fulfilled in the here and now, and and every Christian is participating in its contents, whether they realize it or not. Even the sinner is playing a part in the fulfillment of the prophecies it contains and the will of God.

"John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is 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 of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. "I am the alpha and omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."- Revelation 1:4-8

John begins by laying down a rule of conduct for those of his own times. He is an Apostle, and in particular, the Apostle of Asia Minor. Thus he addresses himself to the leaders and churches of that province; yet his words are of universal application. Through the churches of Asia Minor, he addresses all churches through out the world for all time, and especially for those who will see the prophecies contained in the book come to pass.

"In the Revelation of John, again, the order of these times is spread out to view."- Tertullian

"John sees, when on the Isle of Patmos, a revelation of awe inspiring mysteries...Tell me, John, what did you see and hear concerning Babylon?"- Hippolytus

Some theologians understand the seven churches to be types of seven ages in the church. Much can be said in favor of this opinion, but it is difficult to distinguish periods in the church corresponding to the characteristics of these seven churches as described. Thus, for example, the church of Ephesus, characterized by lack of fervor and zeal, would represent the Apostolic period of the Church. But it can't be said with any historical accuracy that the church in that age was especially noted for lack of fervor and zeal. The simpler and, as I believe, the more correct view likens these letters to many of Paul's Epistles which were written to particular churches for particular purposes, but intended by the Holy Spirit to be warnings and instructions for all churches and for all times. The universal character is much more evident in these seven letters than in the Epistles of Paul. They weren't sent as separate letters to the individual churches, but form an integral part of the Revelation which was sent to each church as one complete document. In Scared Scripture "seven" is considered one of the most sacred numbers. The seventh day of the week was consecrated to God in a special manner. The Paschal feast lasted seven days. Seven weeks later came the feast of Pentecost when seven lambs were offered in sacrifice. Seven sprinklings of blood were prescribed for sin. In the Holy Place stood the seven-branched candlestick with its seven lights. It is the perfect number, the symbol of perfection, fullness, or universality. It seems to have acquired this meaning from the fact that God completed the work of creation in six days and rested on the seventh which He blessed and sanctified.

The Apostle prays for peace and grace; not such peace as the world can give, but peace and grace from God. This peace from heaven is proclaimed upon earth by the seven spirits who stand before the throne of God. Traditionally, three of these spirits are considered to be Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael. In the Apocryphal book of Tobit, Raphael is quoted as saying: "I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord." According to this book he was sent with a message of peace to Tobit.  Gabriel announced peace to Daniel, to the Priest Zachariah, and to Mary. Michael is considered the special protector of the Jewish nation. These seven spirits also symbolize the ministers of the churches who preach the Gospel of peace and grace to all nations. Jesus Christ, their Master, is the Prince of Peace, and becomes for us the source of all grace through the merits of His life, death and resurrection. All earthly kings and rulers must accept His law and govern according to His precepts because He is King of kings and Lord of lords., Through the infinite love of Jesus Christ we have been redeemed and cleansed from sin by His Blood.

Christ has established the Church as His kingdom upon earth with the bishops and priests as its teachers and rulers. Therefore John says to the church leaders, his co-laborers in the church: We have been made kings and co heirs of His kingdom; we have been chosen priests to render glory to His eternal Father. To Christ belongs the ultimate honor through all ages because he is God, equal to the Father in all things. Those to whom John writes are the leaders in the churches. This is why the words of praise or reproof are written specifically to the "angels", that is, messengers. They're personal warnings to the leaders and through them to the churches.

The future being revealed to John, he sees our Lord coming in clouds of glory to judge the living and the dead. Clouds are often symbols of divine majesty.

It is worth noting that the Book of Revelation is literally filled with striking expressions of John's faith in the divinity of Christ. This is proof sufficient that this dogma wasn't invented after the time of the Apostles as skeptics would have us believe.

At His second coming Christ will be manifest to all; even those who put Him to death on the cross will behold His power and majesty. Then all nations will mourn because of the judgment that awaits them.

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and omega the last. Hence Christ calls Himself alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.