Join us as we study through Revelation verse by verse. Our Bible study guides contain discussion questions, teaching points, and applications which can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
Revelation 1:17-20 Bible Study Commentary and Questions – Jesus is Approachable
Revelation 1:17-20 Video Bible Study
Revelation 1:17-20 Audio Bible Study
Revelation 1:17-20 Bible Study Lesson
I. John’s Interaction with the Son of Man (17-20)
- How did John react when he saw him? What does this show us about Jesus?
- What did Jesus do when John reacted that way? What does this teach us about Him?
- How does Jesus’ statement that He is the first and the last, the living one, connect to His instruction to “fear not?”
- What does it mean that Jesus has the keys of Death and Hades? What implication does that hold for us?
- What are the “things that are” and “those that are to take place after this?”
- Who are the “angels of the seven churches?” Are they actual angels?
- Why are churches referred to as lampstands? What does this teach us about the role of the church in the world?
Numbers 16:22 – And they fell on their faces and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?”
Ezekiel 1:28 – Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
Luke 16:23 – And in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.
Revelation 3:7 – “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”
1. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead – Throughout the Bible, this is a common response to seeing the glory of God. When Jesus came as a man, He veiled His glory. Here John saw Him in His true form, full of glory. It was an awesome site, but it was also terrifying.
Sometimes people have a very wrong view of Jesus. They think that He is timid and weak, perhaps because He allowed Himself to be killed. And people also view God as “the old man upstairs” or a kind of Santa Clause in the sky.
This description of Jesus and John’s reaction should put those flawed perspectives to rest.
In the Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis recorded an interesting exchange about the Lion King Aslan (who represents Jesus).
“‘Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy.
‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.'”
Seeing a glimpse of Jesus’ glory here makes the gentle humility He characterized during His life on earth all the more amazing. We see His power and His divine glory. His authority, holiness, perfection, and literally shine forth. And yet He set all of that to the side when He became a man. Taking a much lesser form, He submitted Himself to the Father’s will and then gave His life on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11).
Application: We need to have the correct view of Jesus. Understanding His glory, power, and authority will help us have a deeper appreciation of His humility and sacrifice on our behalf.
2. He said, “Fear not.” – In this exchange we are privileged to witness an up close and personal view of Jesus, which sheds a bright light on who He is. Jesus did not condemn John. He did not say, “stay down there.” Rather He encouraged and strengthened John. Laying His hand on John, Jesus told him not to fear.
Even though Jesus has all authority, He is the most approachable person in the universe. Time and again during His earthly ministry, He demonstrated this. While others rejected the poor, uneducated, or sinners, Jesus chose them. Willingly, He ate with them and fellowshipped with them.
Luke 5:32 – I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
Many of Jesus’ own disciples were from the low class. Matthew was a tax collector, despised by his people. Jesus chose him as one of the disciples.
Reflect: Who is the first person Jesus publicly declared that He was the Messiah to?
It was the Samaritan woman. Here was a woman who was rejected by the Jews because she was a Samaritan. And she was rejected by her people because she was an adulteress, a sinner. People spurned her to the extent that she had to go by herself to the well in the middle of the scorching day to get water.
And yet Jesus was willing to talk with her, intentionally going through Samaria so that He could share with her. Not only did He talk with her, but He revealed to her that He is the Messiah.
John 4:25-26 – The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
What an amazing story. Here is a woman whom nobody wants to talk to. And the Messiah Himself approaches you and tells you a “secret.” He is the Messiah. And He welcomes you. He wants a relationship with you.
If that does not show us His heart, what will?
In addition, Jesus reached out to and ministered to many woman. The ruling rabbis of Jesus’ day did not view women as important enough to teach or educate. Jesus did.
Jesus was approachable. It is remarkable that Jesus is so intimately aware of the evil of sin (having died because of it) and knows every one of our sins, and yet He still says, “fear not.” He still reaches out and welcomes us.
That is the Lord we serve. What a privilege!
3. I am the first and the last, the living one – Jesus reiterates that He is the first and the last. Even death cannot stop Him as He arose again. In the book of Revelation we will see His enemies rise up against Him. There will be times of darkness when it looks like the forces of Satan are winning. But Jesus will have the last say. He defeated death and the grave. In the same way, He will defeat all opposition.
Psalms 2:1-4 – Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
4. I have the keys of death and Hades – Hades is the place of the dead. Jesus has authority over death and Hades. It is Jesus who decides who lives and who dies. Our breath was given by Him. And we are sustained by Him. He knows the exact moment when we will leave this earth.
But just as the key locks, so it opens as well. As Jesus was raised, so He raises those who belong to Him. He will rescue us from death and the grave, giving us glorified bodies.
Hebrews 2:14 – Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.
2 Timothy 1:10 – And which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
1 Corinthians 15:55 – “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Death is a scary thing. But we do not need to fear it because Jesus is on our side. In verse 17, John felt as one dead. Jesus told him not to fear. He has the power over life and death. And He will save all who come to Him.
Application: If you belong to Jesus, do not fear death. But if you have not yet been saved, now is the day of salvation.
4. Write the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. –
Here is a simple outline of Revelation. Revelation 1 is the vision which John had seen. Revelation 2-3 contains the letters to the churches. The church age is the age John lived in and which continues to now. Those are the things that are. And the subsequent chapters are the things that will be, the revelation of future events in history which will culminate in Jesus’ second coming and His glorious kingdom.
5. Seven stars – Jesus explains the figurative language used here as He often did in the gospels. The seven stars as the “angels of the seven churches.” At first glance this is confusion. Did the churches have an angel leader? Was there a guardian angel assigned to each church?
The word for angel used here is “aggeloj,” pronounced as “ang’-el-os.” Literally it means messenger. Generally it is used for angels, but it can be used for any messenger from God. The same word is used in each of the letters to the seven churches. For example, Revelation 2:1 says, “to the angel of the church in Ephesus.”
We must then ask ourselves why would Jesus write a letter to an angel at Ephesus. And the answer is that this word in the context refers to a leader of this church. That leader was a messenger who was charged with passing the message/letter to the whole church. They were the stars who were to shine the light to the whole church, who in turn were the lampstands who were to shine the light to the whole world.
6. The seven lampstands are the seven churches – It is not a coincidence that Jesus used a lampstand to figuratively describe the church. Shining the light of Christ is the job of each church and each person in the church.
Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Application: Are you doing it? Are you shining the light of Jesus to your circle of influence? Is your behavior attracting people to Him or repelling them?
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