Vision of Christ among the Lampstands: Part 2 of 6 (series: Lessons on Revelation)
by John Lowe
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
“I was in the Spirit”—this cannot refer to his own spirit, for such an expression would make no sense. The language then must refer to some unusual state, or to some outside influence that had been brought to bear upon him. The word “Spirit” may refer either to the Holy Spirit, or to some state of mind that the Holy Spirit produces—a spirit of soaring devotion, a state of high and unusual religious enjoyment. It is clear that John does not mean to say that he was under the influence of the Holy Spirit in the sense of his being inspired by Him, for the command to make a record, as well as the visions, came after this occurred. The meaning which should be applied to this clause, is that he was at that time experiencing, in a large measure, the influences of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of true devotion; that he was going through elevated feelings of religious enjoyment, and his condition was not inappropriate for receiving the remarkable communications which were made to him on that day.
The state of mind he was in at the time can also be experienced today by any Christian in a high state of religious enjoyment. This episode is an illustration of the great truth that God can meet his people anywhere and under any conditions—when in solitude, when undergoing outward affliction, when persecuted and rejected, when deprived of the means of public worship and association with religious friends—with the rich and plentiful comforts of His grace, and fill their souls with joy and peace. This wasn’t the state he was in when he received the revelations which were about to be revealed. It was, to be more precise, a state which seems to have resulted from the fact, that on that desert island he devoted the day to the worship of God, and, by honoring the day dedicated to the memory of the risen Savior, he found, what all will find, that his soul will receive rich spiritual influences.
“On the Lord’s day”—the word rendered here as “Lord’s” means “pertaining to the Lord”; and, so far as this word is concerned, it might mean a day “pertaining to the Lord”; either because he claimed it as His own, and had set it apart for His own service, or because it was designed to commemorate some important event pertaining to Him, or because it was observed in honor of Him. This clause makes several things obvious:
(1) That this refers to a day which was distinguished from all other days of the week, and which could be identified by the use of this term, “the Lord’s.”
(2) That it was a day which was for some reason regarded as especially a day of the Lord, or specifically devoted to Him.
(3) That this was a day which was for the most part devoted to the Lord Jesus; for two reasons:
a) That is the natural meaning of the word “Lord” as used in the New Testament.
b) That if the Jewish Sabbath was intended, the word “Sabbath” would have been used.
“And heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.” The voice seemed to emanate from the trumpet; it was not the trumpet’s voice, but rather, the Lord speaking through the trumpet, which served as a megaphone, to increase the volume and modulate the voice.
11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
“Saying,” that is, literally, “the trumpet saying.” It was, however, clearly the voice that spoke these words to John, though they seemed to come through a trumpet, and that's why the trumpet is called the speaker.
“I am Alpha and Omega”—see comments on Revelation 1:8.
“The first and the last”—see comments on Revelation 1:8.
“And, What thou seest”—the voice, in addition to the announcement, “I am Alpha and Omega,” instructed the apostle to record what he saw. The phrase, “what thou seest,” refers to what would pass before him in the vision; what he saw there, and what he would see in the extraordinary manifestations which were to be shown to him.
“Write in a book,” that is, make an accurate record of it all, which means that he should describe things exactly as they occurred, and this implies that the vision would remain before the eye of his mind
long enough for him to be able to describe it in the “book.” After recording it there on the island of Patmos, he should “send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia.” Though Patmos was a lonely and barren place, having few or no inhabitants, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that John could have found writing materials there, but it is even more likely that they permitted him to take such materials with him. He was banished for “preaching,” not for “writing”; and there is no evidence that the materials for writing were withheld from him during the time he spent on the island of Patmos. The word “book” is used here to signify a roll or scroll, for that was the form in which books were made in John’s day; each book was painstakingly copied from the original or another copy.
“And send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia” does not imply that the churches listed in the next clause were the only churches in Asia, but it does mean that there were particular reasons for sending it to these seven. He was to “send” those churches the record of everything he saw; that is, all that is recorded in this book of “Revelation.” Chapters 2 and 3 pertain to the seven churches, but the remainder of the book, chapters 4-22, would NOT pertain to the seven churches any more than they pertain to any other church. “The Church” would share a common interest in the entire book of Revelation. Persecution of Christians by unbelievers, both Jew and Gentile, would become more and more severe with each passing year, and there are important reasons why they need the assurance given in Revelation that the church would ultimately triumph over all its enemies. They were to derive from it the consolation which it could impart in times of trial, and to transmit it to future generations, for the welfare of the church at large.
“Unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” Our study of Chapters 2 and 3 will provide a description of these seven churches and the issues that each epistle had to deal with.
12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me.” He did naturally what you and I would do, he turned around to see who it was that spoke to him, since he was in a solitary and desolate place, where he thought he was alone. “To see the voice,” means to see the “person” who spoke.
“And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks.” My paraphrase is this; “When I had turned around, the first thing ‘I saw’ was ‘seven golden candlesticks.’” These were the “first” things that met his eye; seven lamps or candelabras. This must have happened at the beginning of the “vision.” The word rendered “candlesticks” means a light-stand, lampstand—something to hold up or support a light. It would be applied to anything that was used for this purpose, and nothing beyond that is implied in the use of the word, in regard to the appearance or dimensions of the light-bearers. Lamps were in common use at that time, more so than candles, and so, we may suppose that these were designed to be lamp-bearers, or lamp-sustainers, rather than candle-holders. There were seven of them, not one branching into seven, but seven spaced far enough from each other that the One who appeared to John could stand among them. Each of these lamp-bearers evidently held a light—and together they gave a special brilliance to the scene. It is not unlikely that since they were intended to represent the seven churches of Asia that they were arranged in an order resembling these churches. The scene doesn’t take place in the temple, as many assume, for there is nothing that resembles the arrangement of the temple except for the lights themselves. The location remains the island of Patmos, and there is no evidence that John thought he was some other place, or that he thought for a moment that he had been translated to the temple in Jerusalem. There can be no doubt about what is represented, for it is expressly declared in Revelation 1:20 that the seven lamp-bearers were intended to represent the seven churches. Light is often used in the Scriptures as a symbol of true religion; Christians are represented as “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) (compare Philemon 2:15 and John 8:12), and a Christian church may be represented as a light surrounded by darkness.