Revelation 1: Appearing of the Lord to John

Revelation 1: Appearing of the Lord to John

The Story


What is the last book in the Bible? The Revelation. And we believe that John who wrote it is the same John who wrote the Gospel and whom we have known as one of the Lord’s disciples. He loved the Lord, and taught other people to love Him.

When John was an old man he was in charge of the church in Ephesus, and at one time he was banished by the Romans to the island of Patmos. See if you can find these names on the little map which helped us in the story of Paul’s journeys. Patmos is a pretty island with pointed hills. It was Sunday, the Lord’s day, when the Lord opened John’s eyes to see Him and to see things in the spiritual world and gave him messages to write and send to seven of the churches in Asia. The church in Ephesus was one, and the others were near by. The churches were having a hard time. They were being persecuted by the Romans, and many Christians were killed because they would not worship heathen gods and images and the emperors of Rome. There was little in this world to encourage them, but the Lord gave them by John a message of encouragement from heaven.

In the beginning of the vision the Lord showed Himself to John. John recognized Him as the Lord whom he had known and loved, but He was now glorious, much as John had seen Him when He was transfigured in the mountain. In His hand were seven stars, and He walked in the midst of seven golden lamps. This was to show that He was near to His church in heaven and in the world, and was caring for both.

The Lord spoke to John and gave him a message of comfort and encouragement to send to the people of the churches who were suffering and discouraged.

The Lord knew also of trials which would come years afterward to His church, and He made the message one of encouragement to them. Revelation contains comfort and encouragement that we need and that the whole world needs today. That is why it is important to study the book.


We have studied the Gospel of John, and now we have a few lessons from the Book of Revelation, which John also wrote. First recall what we know about the disciple John from the Gospels: his call to be a disciple, his following of the Lord, his love for the Lord, and the Lord’s love for him. The Lord’s love is revealed with wonderful tenderness in John’s Gospel.

After the Lord’s resurrection John lived and worked with others of the disciples in Jerusalem, as we learn from the book of Acts of the Apostles. Read the story of a miracle done by Peter and John in Acts 3: 1-11. There are also three Epistles or Letters of John’s included in our Bible. We find in them the same loving character which we have found in John’s Gospel. (1 John 4:7, 8, 19-21.) We see also how real the Lord’s life was to John, and how real he made it in his teaching. (1 John 1:1-3)

From other early writers we learn that John’s home in later years was Ephesus. You will find the city near the west coast of Asia Minor. It was an important center of trade and religious life. Paul preached at Ephesus, and a Christian church was founded there of which John was afterwards the leader. There are records of John’s life and ministry at Ephesus, which show the same characteristics that we have seen in the Gospel and the Epistles. He lived to a great age, and it is said that when he was too feeble to do more, he used to be carried to the church, and would say, “Little children, love one another.” When they grew tired of hearing always the same words, and asked why he always said this, John answered that it was the Lord’s command, and that if this were done it was enough. That John still loved to make the Lord’s life real to his hearers is shown by a letter written about A.D. 177 by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (France), referring to his old teacher Polycarp, in Smyrna, who had been a disciple of John. “For I remember,” wrote Irenaeus, “the occurrences of those days better than the more recent; so that I can tell even the spot in which the blessed Polycarp sat and conversed, and his outgoings and incomings, and the character of his life, and the form of his body, and the conversations which he held with the multitude; and how he related his familiar intercourse with John and the rest who had seen the Lord, and how he rehearsed their sayings, and what things they were which he had heard from them with regard to the Lord and His miracles and teaching.” (Letter of Irenaeus to Florinus)

It is also told us by old writers that John was for a time banished by the Romans from Ephesus to an island. It is perhaps this banishment that is referred to in Revelation 1:9, as the cause of John’s being in Patmos where the vision and message of the Revelation were given to him by the Lord. To one passing on a ship, the island of Patmos appears high and bold. It is now mostly barren, having lost the palms for which it once was famous.

We are with John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, in the island of Patmos. It was Sunday, the Lord’s day, the day on which the Lord arose and came to the disciples, and on which they felt that He was with them more than on other days. There the Lord spoke to John as He had in old days spoken to the prophets, and gave him a message to the churches. The churches named were all in Asia Minor, near to John’s home, but they stand for different kinds of people in the Christian Church everywhere. The message is to us all. The Lord also appeared to John with a glory somewhat like that which John, with Peter and James, had seen when the Lord was transfigured on the mountain. (Matthew 17:1-8) John was at first overpowered by the glory, as the three disciples had been, but the Lord laid His hand upon him, as He had touched the three disciples, and gave him courage. Listen, and I will read the chapter.

1. What writings of the Apostle John are included in our Bible? Which of these are strictly of the Lord’s Word?

2. What is the quality of John’s teaching? and what element in the church and in Christian character does John represent?

3. In what towns of Asia were the seven churches? Which of these was John’s own home?

4. What appearance of the Lord described in, the Gospels does this appearance to John remind you of?

5. What were represented by the seven lamps? What by the seven stars?

Spiritual Study


The Revelation is called also the Apocalypse, which means an unveiling or revealing. There were many apocalypses in the later Jewish and early Christian time, for the name was given to writing which in dark days for the church gave comfort and encouragement by opening things of the future and of the other world. They urged patience with assurance that the Lord and His kingdom would prevail. You recognize these characteristics in the Revelation. Modern interest in the Revelation has centered largely in discovering how the symbols of the book were understood by those who first heard the message, and what encouragement it brought to the Christian Church in days of affliction and persecution by heathen religions and by Rome.

Without lessening the interest of this historical study, the spiritual opening of the book through Swedenborg shows a more far-reaching message of spiritual instruction and encouragement to the church in heaven and on earth. Swedenborg made two studies of this book of Scripture. The first, the Apocalypse Explained, was made before the great judgment which occurred in the spiritual world in the year 1757, and the other, the Apocalypse Revealed, after the event. It is evident that the spiritual message of this book was a needed help in accomplishing the judgment which brought order in the other world, and the same book must be the guide and power in bringing the order of the Lord’s kingdom into this world. The book as now opened should be our inspiration and our working guide.

Have first in mind the general message of the Revelation. In the first chapter the Lord reveals Himself risen and glorified as He stands with angels and with men. Chapters 2 and 3 are His appeal to all who will to repent of the evils which keep them from Him, and to live in the sunshine of His presence. The full realization of the promise is pictured in the last two chapters of the book in the holy city. The chapters between are scenes of judgment describing the false and evil things which keep men from the Lord and must be rejected by His help before the blessed life can be realized. The dragon represents the evil of faith alone, and Babylon the evil of self-love. Yet the darkness of these chapters is relieved by several foregleams of the victory and blessing to come. See chapters 7 and 14. All this is essentially what was accomplished in the judgment in the spiritual world among those who had come from the Christian Church. Now that the spiritual skies are cleared, the same book shows what must be done to realize the order and blessing of the Lord’s kingdom in this world. It keeps before us the Lord’s appeal and the blessed life possible in the sunshine of His presence.

With this general message of the book in mind, read the description of the Lord as He revealed Himself to John in the first chapter. We are prepared to see reason for the importance which the book attaches to its message, here and in later chapters. In the description of the Lord’s appearance some particulars emphasize the Divinity and some the Humanity of the Lord, the greatness of His power and its nearness and availability to men. You will recognize as emblems of Divinity the golden girdle about the breast, the head and hairs white like wool and snow, the eyes as a flame of fire, His countenance as the sun shineth in his strength; and as emblems of Humanity the garment down to the foot, the feet of fine brass as if they burned in a furnace, the voice as the sound of many waters, and the sharp sword. Each detail of the description needs careful study. The stars and the lamps are beautiful representatives of the Lord’s church, lights of heaven and of earth. The care of the Lord for both brings them near in companionship. Find help most readily in R., chapter 1.

The Book of Revelation is very different in style from the Gospels, more like the Prophets in the Old Testament. John was “in the spirit”; his eyes and ears were opened to the spiritual world, and he was there shown scenes which “signified” events which would afterwards take place in the spiritual world and in the spiritual states of men on earth. The things described are the state of the First Christian Church at its end, the last judgment in the spiritual world, and the establishment of a New Church in heaven and in the world. The last judgment, took place in the year 1757. Before the event the meaning of the Revelation had been opened by the Lord through the instrumentality of Swedenborg in the Apocalypse Explained, and after the event the shorter exposition, the Apocalypse Revealed, was published. (E. 1; R. 2, 36)

“Things which must shortly come to pass”; “the time is at hand.” (Compare Revelation 22:7, 10, 12, 20.) It was nearly seventeen hundred years before the events signified actually came to pass. The spiritual thought is not of time, but of the certainty of the events. (E. 7; R. 4)

“He cometh with clouds.” When had the Lord spoken in the same way of His coming? (Matthew 24:30; 26:64) What are the clouds which have been dark and obscure, but which are now opened to reveal the Lord? The opening of the Lord’s Word brought light to eyes that were ready to receive it, but exposed and condemned those who were in false and evil states. So the kindred of the earth mourned. (E. 36-39; R. 24-27)

The visions were given to John, which means also that those who are in love for the Lord, who are they who are represented by John, are open to enlightenment from Him. (E. 8, 11; R. 32)

In the isle of Patmos. Places represent states. Islands represent states somewhat external and remote; but this island near to Asia and Greece represents a state open to enlightenment from religion and the Word, for which Asia stands, and from natural knowledge and intelligence, which is represented by Greece. The state described is such as Swedenborg was in when the spiritual meaning of the Word was opened to him, and such as all to some degree must be in to receive intelligently the spiritual meaning. (E. 50; R. 34)

John’s turning to see the voice that spoke, like Mary’s turning to the Lord at the sepulchre, represents the turning of the mind to acknowledge the Lord and to receive His truth. The Lord was seen in the midst of seven golden lamps and with seven stars, which are said to be the seven churches and the angels of the churches – the church in earth and heaven. Seven is applied to holy things. The gold represents the goodness which the church has from the Lord, and the lamps its truth. The garment to the foot, in which the Lord was clothed, represents His truth which comes down to the natural life of men, and the golden girdle about the breast is the Divine love from which it flows. The purity of the Divine love and wisdom is represented by the head like wool and like snow. Wisdom and providence which are from love are represented by eyes like a flame of fire. The Divine goodness and truth on the plane of natural life are represented by the feet like brass, as if they burned in a furnace, and by the voice like many waters. The sword suggests the power of the Lord’s truth to disperse falsities, and the sun shining in his strength is a type of the infinite wisdom and love. John’s falling at the Lord’s feet as dead represents the state of humility toward the Lord which enables us to be strengthened by Him, and to receive His message. (E. 60; R.42-56)

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