Revelation Jewish New Testament, JNT, CJNT, David H. Stern
1. This is the revelation which God gave to Yeshua the Messiah, so that he could show his servants what must happen very soon. He communicated it by sending his angel to his servant Yochanan,
The book of Revelation, the last book in the New Testament, polarizes readers. Some see in it the key to the universe, or at least the key to the future. Others find it completely opaque or dismiss it as nonsense. Some regard its highly picturesque language as absolutely literal, others as entirely symbolic, and still others as sometimes one and sometimes the other, or even both at once. There are four major approaches to its interpretation:
(1) Futurist. The book of Revelation is an explicit forecast of a future yet to unfold.
(2) Preterist. The prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled in the first century. (Latin praeter means "before.")
(3) Historical or Presentist. The prophecies of Revelation are being fulfilled now, during the period between Yeshua's resurrection and his second coming.
(4) Idealist. The book of Revelation does not refer to history at all but is a timeless allegory of the conflict between good and evil.
To add to the confusion, some commentators combine two or more of these approaches at once.
Given no more information than this, it should be obvious that Revelation is the most difficult book in the Bible on which to comment. Dealing with the historical assertions and theological opinions found in the other 26 books of the New Testament is hard enough; but when the subject matter touches on the future, it's everyone for himself! Making sense of such a book is a great challenge, and I am not the first to whom it has given pause — John Calvin wrote an extensive commentary on the whole Bible, Old Testament and New, except for Revelation. On the other hand, there are those so eager to read their own pre-formed opinions into Revelation that they ignore what it actually says; or they engage in what Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a Hebrew Christian scholar, calls (in his commentary on Revelation, Footsteps of the Messiah) "newspaper exegesis," that is, seeing in every current event a sensational fulfillment of some biblical prophecy.
I myself do not hold strong views about the book of Revelation. I do not have a distinctly preferred pair of spectacles through which I see it. If readers perceive that my remarks shift from one perspective to another, and if they find this disturbing, I apologize in advance — I can't give more than I've got. Fortunately, much of what I have to say about this book does not depend on which of the above four viewpoints is correct.
In KJV the book is called 'The Revelation of Saint John the Divine," but the text calls it the revelation which God gave to Yeshua the Messiah,... communicated... by sending his angel to his servant Yochanan. Hence the Jewish New Testament properly calls it "The Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah to Yochanan." The Greek word for "revelation" is "apokalupsis" ("unveiling"), which gives the book its other popular title, "The Apocalypse," and raises the question of how this book relates to a category of Jewish writing called "apocalyptic literature."
George Eldon Ladd calls Jewish apocalyptic "tracts for hard times." Biblical imagery and symbolic language are used to express the idea that this world offers no hope for improvement; but history will end with a cosmic catastrophe, at which time the apparently victorious wicked will be punished and the downtrodden righteous rewarded. Such books as The Assumption of Moses, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra and The Apocalypse of Baruch are examples. Moreover, Isaiah 26-29, Zechariah 12-14, and Daniel 7-12 offer a biblical pattern for these later, extra-biblical books.
The book of Revelation is sometimes said to be merely another example of Jewish apocalyptic, but there are these differences:
(1) Most of the Jewish apocalypses were written pseudonymously, in the names of heroes long dead. Revelation's author uses his own name, reflecting the fact that in New Testament times God had restored prophecy (Ac 11:27&N), and Yochanan was a prophet (v. 3).
(2) Jewish apocalypses are pseudo-predictive—the author writes from a viewpoint in the past and "predicts" history that has already taken place. But Yochanan stands in his own time and looks forward to God's future consummation of his redemptive purpose.
(3) The Jewish apocalypses are entirely pessimistic about the past and present. Revelation's author looks to the past work of Yeshua as the ground for present hope. Moreover, the book of Revelation is highly distinctive in the way it uses the Tanakh.
There are very few direct quotations, but no less than five hundred allusions to the Tanakh, especially the books of Exodus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and Daniel. In fact, they are so numerous and frequent that I have not attempted to note very many of them either in the text of the JNT or in this commentary; the interested reader should consult other commentaries on Revelation. But the overall effect of so many Tanakh references and allusions is to anchor every part of the book in the God-inspired words of Israel's Prophets.
Yochanan. Tradition takes him to be the emissary Yochaflan, the same as the author of the Gospel and the three letters bearing this name. To this it is objected that the style of Greek used in Revelation is far rougher and more Hebraic than that of the other four books, which all resemble each other. One possibility is that the fisherman from the Galil, for whom Greek was a second or third language, wrote the visions of Revelation himself, as commanded (v. 11), and did not permit alterations (22:18-19); whereas for the Gospel and his letters he had a native Greek-speaker to help edit and translate. Another possibility is that this was a different Yochanan. known to history as an elder in the congregation at Ephesus (although Yochanan the emissary also is identified with Ephesus; see 2:1N).
What must happen very soon. Compare Daniel 2:28-29. To what degree the New Testament writers regarded the End as imminent is debatable. Contrast, for example, 1С 7:29-31 with 2 Ke 3:2-10. Yet they did urge believers to stay alert, for the Messiah may return without warning, like a thief in the night (Mt 24:32-25:30, Mk 13:32-37, I Th 5:2-3. 2 Ke 3:10).
"Without doubt the early church lived in expectancy of the imminent return of the Lord; but so should every generation of believers. The New Testament expresses a tension between imminence and perspective; the time is near, yet the end is delayed (Mt 24:42-44, Lk 19:1 Iff.)." (G. E. Ladd, Revelation, p. 292).
A more strained rendering of the Greek, especially in view of v. 3 ("For the time is near"), is, "what must happen rapidly"; i.e., once the events described commence, it won't take long for all of them to occur.
Yeshua uses his angel to mediate the vision. Angels play a significant role in the book of Revelation.
2. who bore witness to the Word of God and to the testimony of Yeshua the Messiah, as much as he saw.
The Word of God is the Gospel (6:9); it does not come back void (Isaiah 55:11); it is the "sword" which comes from the Messiah's mouth, by which he conquers and rules (v. 16&N; 19:15).
The testimony of Yeshua the Messiah. See 1:9N.
3. Blessed are the reader and hearers of the words of this prophecy, provided they obey the things written in it! For the time is near!
Blessed. This is the first of seven blessings, the others being at 14:12-13, 16:15,19:9, 20:6,22:7,22:14. See v. 4N on "seven." Reader... hearers. Like Sha' ul (Co 4:16), Yochanan expected what he wrote to be read aloud to the congregations. Hearers... obey. In both Messianic and non-Messianic Judaism, learning is supposed to lead to doing. Compare Exodus 24:7, Ro 10:14-21, MJ 6:4-8, Ya 1:22-25, 2 Ke 2:20-21.
"Rabbi David Hoffman (1843-1921), the leading Orthodox rabbinical authority in Germany during his era, [wrote in a responsum:] 'The Torah of Israel is not only a song and rhetoric which one studies only to understand the religion of Israel. Rather, the purpose of Jewish religious learning is lilmod v'la'asot, to study and to observe, and one who learns and does not observe, it would be better if he had not leamed."'(Aron and David Ellenson, "The Dilemma of Jewish Education: To Learn and To Do," in Judaism, Spring 1984)
Prophecy. The author of the book of Revelation claims to be a prophet. The term puts the book of Revelation on a par with the Tanakh — both are inspired by God. The time is near. See v. 1N on "very soon."
4. From: Yochanan
To: The seven Messianic communities in the province of Asia:
Grace and shalom to you from the One who is, who was and who is coming; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne;
Seven is the number of completion and perfection in the Tanakh. God ended his work of creation on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3). This is why the day of rest, Shabbat (the Hebrew word means "rest"), is the seventh day of the week (Exodus 20:8-10); the year of sh'mittah ("remission"), when the land rests, is the seventh year (Leviticus 25:3-7); and the year of yovel ("jubilee"), in which both the land and possession of it rest, comes after seven years of sh 'mittah (Leviticus 25:8—17). Sevenfold vengeance was to be taken on anyone who might kill Cain (Genesis 4:15). Noah took seven of each clean animal on board the ark (Genesis 7:2). From Pharaoh's dream of seven fat and seven lean cows Joseph predicted seven years of plenty and seven of famine (Genesis 41). The number seven appears over and over in connection with sacrifices and temple ritual; here are two examples: the blood of a sin offering was sprinkled seven times before Adonai (Leviticus 4:3-4); the leper appeared before a cohen on the seventh day to be examined and pronounced clean (Leviticus 13:5-6).
The festivals of Pesach and Sukkot each last seven days; and seven weeks intervene between Pesach and Shavu'ot, on which day seven lambs were offered (Leviticus 23). If Israel is unrepentant she will be punished sevenfold for her sins (Leviticus 26:18-28). Jericho fell after Israel had marched around the city seven times, and seven cohanim had blown seven shofars (Joshua 6:4-15). Chanah, celebrating her fertility at the birth of Samuel, prayed, "The barren has borne seven" (1 Samuel 2:5; contrast Jeremiah 15:9). Solomon took seven years to build the first Temple (1 Kings 6:38). The Shunammite woman's child sneezed seven times before opening his eyes when Elisha raised him from the dead (2 Kings 4:35). After Israel's male population has been decimated, "seven women shall take hold of one man" (Isaiah 4:1). It will take seven days to consecrate the altar of the End-Time temple (Ezekiel 43:25-26).
Seven is also the number of fullness and completion in the book of Revelation, speaking of God's perfection and the finality of his coming judgment on mankind. Yochanan writes about seven Messianic communities and the sevenfold Spirit, seven gold menorahs (v. 12), seven stars (v. 16), seven flaming torches (4:5), seven seals (5:1), a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes (5:6), seven angels with seven shofars (8:2), seven thunders (10:3), a dragon with seven crowns on his seven heads (12:3) — which are also seven hills and seven kings (17:9-10), and seven angels with the seven last plagues in seven gold bowls (15:1,7); moreover, he pronounces seven blessings (above, v. 3&N). These references are only to the first mention of each; altogether "seven" and "seventh" appear nearly sixty times in this book.
There were more than seven Messianic communities in the province of Asia (present-day Turkey), but those named in v. 11 represent them all. Grace and shalom to you — the same greeting as Sha'ul gives in nine of his letters.
The One who is, who was and who is coming. This is based on God's self-identification in Exodus 3:14, "I am who I am," or, "I will be who I will be." Compare MJ 13:8. In the Siddura line from the popular Jewish hymn, Adon- '0lam, reads: "V'hu hayah v'hu hoveh v'hu vihyeh l'tif'arah" ("He was, and he is, and he will be, into glorious eternity"). The substitution of "is coming" for "will be" seems to allude to Yeshua's return.
The sevenfold Spirit. Although I believe the reference is to the Holy Spirit, for reasons given in the next paragraph, the literal translation, "the seven spirits" (here and at 3:1, 4:5, 5:6), has strong arguments in its favor. The spirits could be seven angels attending God before his throne (Judaism recognized seven archangels — Mikha'el, Gavri'el, Rafa'el, Uri'el, Suri'el, Fanu'el and Yechi'el; see 8:2N). At MJ 1:14 angels are called "spirits who serve," which is consistent with describing the Lamb's seven eyes (5:6) as "the seven spirits sent out into all the earth." Messianic Jews 1:7 quotes Psalm 104:4, "...who makes his angels winds [Hebrew ruchot, also translatable as "spirits"! and his servants fiery flames." The rendering "seven spirits" would make 4:5 parallel to Psalm 104 (with the terms reversed): "...before the throne were seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God."
However, the above understanding presents a major difficulty in that it means the author, who opposes angel-worship (19:10. 22:8-9), has sandwiched inlo his divine greeting, between God and Yeshua, a reference to seven created beings. Moreover, two passages from the Tanakh suggest a special relationship between the Holy Spirit and the number seven — Isaiah 11:2, which gives seven attributes of the Spirit, and Zechariah 4:2-10, in which some of the "seven"-imagery of Revelation is associated with the Spirit.
5. and from Yeshua the Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the earth’s kings.
To him, the one who loves us, who has freed us from our sins at the cost of his blood,
6. who has caused us to be a kingdom, that is, cohanim for God, his Father — to him be the glory and the rulership forever and ever. Amen.
The original readers were greatly encouraged in their struggle against persecution by these three aspects of Yeshua the Messiah:
(1) He is the faithful witness (or "the faithful martyr"; see 2:13&N) He witnessed unto the point of his own death, and especially through his own death, that God is in control of history. Compare Yn 1:18. "the Only Son..., the one at the Father's side — he has made him known"; and Isaiah 55:3-4,"...the sure mercies of David. Behold 1 have given him for a witness."
(2) He is the firstborn (or "foremost, chief) of those who get raised from the dead. This means that faithful believers too can look forward to being resurrected and having eternal fellowship with God, even if in this world they receive do reward and die ignominiously. Compare Ro 6:5; 1С 15:20, 23.
(3) He is the ruler of the earth's kings, the "King of Kings" (17:14, 19: 16) who will one day subject to himself even the most unbridled and oppressive governments (1С 15:24-25). Moreover,
(4) He loves us.
(5) He has freed us from our sins at the cost of his blood (that is. by his bloody, sacrificial death; see Ro 3:24N).
(6) He has caused us to be a kingdom, a community subject to him who loves us.
(7) He has caused us to be cohanim ("priests," Mt 2:4N) for God. his Father.
For these seven reasons, to him be the glory and the rulership forever and ever.
On hearing this read (v. 3&N), the congregation is to respond by saying, "Amen" (see paragraph on "Amen" in Ro 9:5N and Mt 5:18N).
7. Look! He is coming with the clouds! (Daniel 7:13)
Every eye will see him,
including those who pierced him;
and all the tribes of the Land will mourn him (Zechariah 12:10–14). Yes! Amen!
This verse states the theme of the book of Revelation, the second coming of Yeshua the Messiah in a way that the world will be unable to ignore. When predicting his own second coming Yeshua himself combined the same phrases from Daniel and Zechariah (Mt 24:30).
Those who pierced him. The allusion is to Zechariah 12:10, in which Adonai says, "They will look to me, whom they pierced; and they will mourn him as one mourns an only son." The 19th-century Messianic Jewish commentator Yechiel Liehtenstein (see MJ 3:13N) writes,
"It can be seen that the mourners will be the people of Israel, first, because Zechariah writes of the families of Israel — the families of David, L'vi, Shim'i, Natan, and 'all the rest' (Zechariah 12:10-14), and second, because the phrase 'they will look' refers to 'the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem' (Zechariah 12:8-11, 13:1)."
Thus this great Messianic prophecy from the Tanakh speaks of the day when the entire Jewish people will recognize Yeshua, pierced on the execution-stake, as the Messiah and as fully identified with God, "me, whom they pierced." But in a midrashic sense the phrase, "those who pierced him," is not limited to Jews, nor does it mean only the Jews and Gentiles historically responsible for Yeshua's physical death. Rather, it includes all who have not acknowledged his atoning sacrificial death, who by their sins participated in and continue to participate in piercing him. See Yn 19:37&N, where this verse of Zechariah is also quoted.
Lichtenstein's note continues,
"Some say they will weep because there is no longer any opportunity to repent, but this is wrong. True, there will be an obstacle to repentance, the unbelief of the majority of Israel in their Messiah and Savior, so that he will not be able to come and save them. But this is precisely why God "will pour on |them] the spirit of grace' (Zechariah 12:10), enabling them to recognize Yeshua as their Savior."
I would put it this way: The tribes of Israel will mourn Yeshua, experiencing deep grief over centuries of having rejected him as a nation; this grief will open the way to repentance and accepting him as Messiah and savior of the Jewish people. Some translations render this, "will wail because of him," implying that the Jewish people will experience neither grief nor repentance but only the anguish of judgment. But the Greek text here quotes the Septuagint word for word, which in turn translates Hebrew safdu 'alav ("will mourn on him") word for word. In Hebrew "to mourn on someone" does not mean "to wail because of him"; it is simply how Hebrew says "to mourn him." Mourning generally includes both grief over the death itself and sorrow at what one failed to do in relation to the deceased. There is no ground for supposing Yochanan meant anything other than what Zechariah meant. Lichtenstein again:
'The Talmud offers an astonishingly similar interpretation:
"The land will mourn, each family by itself (Zechariah 12:12). Why do they mourn? Rabbi Dosa and the Rabbis give different answers. One says it is because Mashiach ben- Yosef [the Messiah, the son of Joseph] has been killed, wh i le the other says it is because the yetzer hara' ' [the evil inclination | has been killed. The former is a good explanation, because we have Zechariah 12:10, "They will look tome, whom they pierced; and they will mourn over him as one mourns over an only son.'" (from Sukkah 52a)
"Of course, 'Mashiach ben- Yosef is Yeshua ben-Yosef (son of Joseph) from Nazareth. "Moreover, when Zechariah 13:1 continues, 'On that day there will be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a fountain to cleanse them from sin and impurity,' it refers to Yeshua's second coming; for it conveys the same idea as Sha'ul's statement in Ro 11:25-26,
'It is in this way that all Israel will be saved. As the Tanakh says, "Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer; he will turn away ungodliness from Ya'akov; and this will be my covenant with them,... when I take away their sins.'
"At Acts 1:11 one learns that just as the Messiah was taken from the Mount of Olives with the clouds, so he will return there in the same manner [and this too the prophet knew — see Zechariah 14:4]. What is said here, that every eye will see him in perfection coming down on earth, is in keeping with Mattityahu 24:30, which says that the mourning will be after 'the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.'"(Commentary on the New Testament) All the tribes (or "clans" or "families") of the Land of Israel will mourn him. This alludes to more of Zechariah1 s prophecy about the people of Israel — "All the Land will mourn, each family by itself (Zechariah 12:12; the Septuagint translates "family" by the Greek word for "tribe"). Every other translation of this verse reads, "All the tribes of the earth will mourn him." This may indeed happen, but in context Zechariah is referring to the Land of Israel, and there is no reason to suppose that Yochanan is altering or spiritualizing the original. Indeed the contrary is true, since both Zechariah and Revelation speak of Israel's future acknowledgement of her pierced Messiah. See Mt 5:5N for more on why Greek gi should be rendered "Land" and not "earth."
Yes, Amen. Compare 22:20, where the hearers are again encouraged to affirm Yeshua's soon coming. Therefore the sense is, "Yes, that is how it will be," or, "Yes, we want it that way." See last paragraph of vv. 5-6N.
8. “I am the ‘A’ and the ‘Z,’” says Adonai,
God of heaven’s armies,
the One who is, who was and who is coming.
The "A" and the "Z," literally, "the Alpha and the Omega," that is, the one who existed at the beginning and who will exist at the end. Here and at 21:6&N the phrase refers to God the Father; but at 22:13&N it refers to Yeshua. It means the same thing as the One who is, who was and who is coming (on which see v. 4N). Adonai, God of heaven's armies. The Greek is kunos о theos о pantokrator, literally, "Lord, the God, the ruler of all." In the Septuagint at Amos 3:13,4:13 this phrase renders Hebrew YHVH Elohey-Tzva'ot ("YHVH, God of hosts"). These "hosts" are the angelic armies of heaven, both the good and the evil, over which God rules; and since they are the most powerful of God's creatures, the title epitomizes God's absolute dominion over the universe. Readers are thus reassured that no matter what demonically evil things might happen to them, God remains in control. This is why the Septuagint writers rendered "tzva 'oi" ("of hosts") into Greek as "pantokrator," which means "ruler over all" but is often translated, "the Almighty." Thus the KJV's phrase here in v. 8, "the Lord, God,... the Almighty," renders the Greek well but does not take account of its Hebrew source in the Tanakh. The reference to God's armies of angels highlights Revelation's concern with God's final judgment, in which — as is clear from the book itself— the angels play a major role; for example, see 19:14&N, where "the armies of heaven" are seen following Yeshua on his white horse to defeat the forces of the beast.
9. I, Yochanan, am a brother of yours and a fellow-sharer in the suffering, kingship and perseverance that come from being united with Yeshua. I had been exiled to the island called Patmos for having proclaimed the message of God and borne witness to Yeshua.
On believers' sharing Yeshua's kingship, see 3:21, 5:10&N, 20:4&N, and 2 Ti 2:12. The island called Patmos is off the coast of Turkey.
For having proclaimed the message of God and borne witness to Yeshua. Literally, "on account of the word of God and the testimony of Yeshua." There are two genitives here ("word of God," "testimony of Yeshua"), and the question is whether these are subjective genitives ("word which God gave," "testimony which Yeshua gave") or objective genitives ("message about God" and "testimony about Yeshua" which believers proclaim). For background to this grammatical problem see Ro 3:22N. Ga 2:16cN.
As translated here, "the message of God" could be either subjective or objective, while the second is objective. But a good case, based on 1:5, 3:14 and 22:20, can be made for rendering the second too as subjective in all six instances where the phrase appears in Revelation (v. 2, here, 12:17, twice in 19:10, and 20:4). Even though the grammar then makes "the testimony" that given by Yeshua and not by the believer, the believer still has an active role: here, for example, Yochanan can be understood as having been exiled to Patmos not "for having... borne witness to Yeshua" but "on account of [proclaiming! the testimony which Yeshua gave."
10. I came to be, in the Spirit, on the Day of the Lord; and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a trumpet,
10 I came to be, in the Spirit. Alternative understandings:
(1) Yochanan's body remained where it was, but in his spirit he saw visions;
(2) the Holy Spirit came over him, with the result that he saw visions; or
(3) the Holy Spirit caused him to be physically present (with this possibility compare Ezekiel 11:1, Ac 8:39^0, 2C 12:2).
On the Day of the Lord. If this is what Greek en ti kuriake emera means, as I believe it does, Yochanan is reporting the unique experience of having seen God's final Judgment. If it means "on the Lord's Day," that is, Sunday, the day on which Yeshua was resurrected (Mt 28:1, Mk 16:2, Lk 24:1) — and this is the majority understanding — then Yochanan is mentioning a relatively minor detail, the day of the week on which his visions took place.
I think my translation is supported by the context, since the whole book of Revelation is about the Last Judgment, which over and over in the Tunakh is called in Hebrew "yom- YHVH " ("the Day of Adonai," "the Day of the Lord"). On the other hand, Ignatius, who claimed to be a disciple of the emissary Yochanan, wrote letters only two decades or so after Revelation was written, in which he uses "kuriake" to mean Sunday — as does modern Greek. This only shows how quickly the Jewish roots of the New Testament were forgotten or ignored.
(Even if "on the Lord's Day" is correct, Shabbat is not thereby moved from Saturday to Sunday; nor does "the Lord's Day" replace or abrogate Shabbat (Mt 5:17); nor is Sunday mandatory as a day of worship for Christians or Messianic Jews. On this see Ac 20:7N, 1С 16:2N.)
The interpretative problem arises because the Greek adjective "kuriake" is rare; it appears in the New Testament at only one other place, 1С 11:20, which speaks of "a meal of the Lord," that is, pertaining to the Lord; in context it means a meal eaten in a manner worthy of Yeshua or of God, a "lordly" or godly meal.
According to Yechiel Lichtenstein's commentary (see MJ 3:13N), the late second-century writer Irenaeus mentioned a church tradition that the Messiah will return during Pesach and believed that en te kuriake emera refers not to Sunday but to the first day of Pesach. This calls to mind the Seder ritual of opening the front door for Elijah the prophet, forerunner of the Messiah.
Actually, when the events of Yeshua's ministry are arrayed in relation to the Jewish calendar set forth in Leviticus 23, Numbers 28 and Deuteronomy 16, his return should be expected at Rosh-HaShanah ("New Year"), the biblical Feast of Shofars ("Trumpets"). The Jewish calendar is divided into the spring and fall holidays, corresponding to Yeshua's first and second comings. The first spring festival is Pesach ("Passover"), when Yeshua's atoning death took place (Mattityahu 26-27). The nex,t is Shavu'ot ("Weeks," "Pentecost"), when the Holy Spirit was given to his talmidim (Yn 7:39, 14:26,15:26,16:7-15, 17:5; Ac 2:1-4&NN). The long summer break corresponds to the present period when Yeshua is not on earth. According to Mt 24:31, 1С 15:52and 1 Th 4:16-17 (see notes there and at 8:2 below, and compare Isaiah 27:13), Yeshua's second coming will be announced by shofars; this corresponds to the first fall holiday, the Feast of Shofars. Interpreters expecting a Millennium (4:1N) see it in relation to the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh-HaShanah and Yom-Kippur (the "Day of Atonement"), which itself corresponds to the Day of Judgment (20:11-15). Finally, the new heaven and earth (21:1-22:17&NN) hold the position of the year's last holiday, the joyous pilgrim festival of Sukkot (Yn 7:2N, 7:37&N), which all the nations of the world will one day celebrate (Zechariah 14:16-19), just as through the New Covenant the nations of the world are invited to join Israel through faith in Israel's Messiah, Yeshua.
11. saying, “Write down what you see on a scroll, and send it to the seven Messianic communities — Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea!”
See the letters to these seven churches in Chapters 2-3.
12. I turned around to see who was speaking to me; and when I had turned, I saw seven gold menorahs;
Seven gold menorahs ("candlesticks"). Exodus 25:31-40 speaks of the seven-branched menorah which stood outside the second curtain in the Tabernacle. The ten gold menorahs in Solomon's Temple (1 Chronicles 28:15) were carted off to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:19). Zechariah 4:2 speaks of a single gold menorah with seven nerot ("lamps," "candles").
According to v. 20, "The seven menorahs are the seven Messianic communities" of v. II. With Yeshua's warning to the community in Ephesus, "I will remove your menorah from its place — unless you turn from your sin!" (2:5), compare his remark in the Sermon on the Mount that believers are light for the world (Mt 5:15-16); see also 2C 4:6.
13. and among the menorahs was someone like a Son of Man, wearing a robe down to his feet and a gold band around his chest (Daniel 7:13; 10:5).
Son of Man. Yeshua's preferred title for himself as the Messiah; see Mt 8:20N.
Yeshua fulfills three main offices set forth in the Tanakh — prophet, priest and king. Yeshua served as a prophet during his life on earth (Mt 21:11). At present he serves as high priest in heaven (MJ 2:17-3:6, 4:14-5:10, 6:20-10:21); this is signified by his wearing a long robe and a gold band around his chest, the clothing of the cohen hagadol (Exodus 28). The rest of the description in vv. 14-15 suggests his future role as judge and Messianic king.
14. His head and hair were as white as snow-white wool, his eyes like a fiery flame,
At Daniel 7:9-10 it is "an Ancient of Days," God the Father, who is described in similar language. Thus we see here Yeshua's identification with God. Eyes like a fiery flame against unholiness; see 2:18, 19:11-12.
15. his feet like burnished brass, refined in a furnace, and his voice like the sound of rushing waters (Daniel 10:6; Ezekiel 1:24; 43:2).
Voke like the sound of rushing waters (literally,".. .of many waters"), loud and majestic.
16. In his right hand he held seven stars, out of his mouth went a sharp double-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
Seven stars. See v. 20.
A sharp double-edged sword came from his mouth. This imagery is found Isaiah 49:1-3, where Yeshua the Messiah and the people of Israel are identified with each other (see Mt 2:15N). This sword is the Word of God (6:9. Ep 6:17). With it Yeshua, in his role as judge and king, strikes down nations (19:15); for earlier he had warned that people would be judged by it (Yn 12:48-49). The Word of God is well-suited for judging, since it can discern the truth in people's hearts (MJ 4:12-13&N).
17. When I saw him, I fell down at his feet like a dead man. He placed his right hand upon me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last,
I fell down at his feet like a dead man. A common reaction to seeing the Sh 'khinah, the divine glory (see MJ 1:2-3N); compare Isaiah 6:5. Ezekiel 1:28; also 19:10 below and Daniel 8:17.
Yeshua says, "I am the First and the Last," here, at 2:8, and at 22:13 (see v. 8N above). At Isaiah 44:6, 48:12 it is God the Father who so describes himself. Many titles and descriptions which the Tanakh applies only to YHVH are in the New Testament applied to Yeshua (for another example, see 3:7&N). Since the New Testament distinguishes Yeshua from God the Father, we conclude: (1) Yeshua is to be identified with YHVH. with God; yet (2) Yeshua is not the Father. See Yn 1:1N, 2O:28N; Co 2:9N.
18. the Living One. I was dead, but look! — I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys to Death and Sh’ol.
The Living One; compare the phrase, "El Chai~" ("the Living God"), at Joshua 3:10, Psalms 42:3, 84:3. I was dead, literally, "I became dead" — by being executed on the stake. But look! I am alive forever and ever (compare v. 5).
And I hold the keys to death and Sh'ol, the abode of the dead. Since keys are a symbol of authority (Mt 16:19), the meaning is that Yeshua can release the dead (compare Hosea 13:14, Yn 10:17-18&N. 1С 15:1-58). But this authority is God's alone; compare these passages from the Talmud:
"Rabbi Yochanan said, 'The Holy One, blessed be he, has retained three keys in his own hands and not entrusted them to the hand of any messenger — the key to the rain, the key to childbirth, and the key to revival of the dead.... [We know this is true about] the key to reviving the dead because it is written, "You will know that I am Adonai when I have opened your graves" (Ezekiel 37:13)."' (Ta'anit 2a-2b)
"Elijah prayed to be given the key to the raising of the dead but was told, "Three keys have not been entrusted to an agent: those of birth, rain and resurrection. Is it to be said that two are in he hands of the talmid [Elijah] and only one in the hands of the Rabbi? Bring me the other [the key to the rain, which he already had (I Kings 17:1; see Ya 5:17-18&N)]. and take this one [temporarily, to raise the widow's son (1 Kings l7:17-23)).'"(Sanhedrin 113a)
Thus in having authority over death and Sh'ol, Yeshua is shown to have authority reserved to God and is thus identified with God.
19. So write down what you see, both what is now, and what will happen afterwards.
Both what is now, and what will happen afterwards. This phrase can be used to support the Futurist, Preterist and Historical approaches to the book of Revelation, or a combination of them (see v. 1N).
20. Here is the secret meaning of the seven stars you saw in my right hand, and of the seven gold menorahs: the seven stars are the angels of the seven Messianic communities, and the seven menorahs are the seven Messianic communities.
Angels. Difficult. Alternative possibilities:
(1) They are guardian-angels; but then it is odd that Yochanan is to write them letters (2:1,8, etc.).
(2) They are the pastors of the Messianic communities; but there is no precedent for calling pastors "angels."
(3) They are "messengers" (an alternative meaning for Greek angeloi) from the communities; but if so, why address them rather than the communities themselves?
In any case the letters of Chapters 2-3 are meant for the seven Messianic communities mentioned therein.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5
- chapter 6
- chapter 7
- chapter 8
- chapter 9
- chapter 10
- chapter 11
- chapter 12
- chapter 13
- chapter 14
- chapter 15
- chapter 16
- chapter 17
- chapter 18
- chapter 19
- chapter 20
- chapter 21
- chapter 22