1This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things which must happen soon, which he sent and made known by his angel to his servant, John, 2who testified to God’s word and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, about everything that he saw.

3Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is near.

4John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from God, who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne; 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and washed us from our sins by his blood— 6and he made us to be a Kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

7Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen.

8“I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

9I John, your brother and partner with you in the oppression, Kingdom, and perseverance in Christ Jesus, was on the isle that is called Patmos because of God’s Word and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a trumpet 11saying, “What you see, write in a book and send to the seven assemblies: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

12I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. Having turned, I saw seven golden lamp stands. 13And among the lamp stands was one like a son of man, clothed with a robe reaching down to his feet, and with a golden sash around his chest. 14His head and his hair were white as white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace. His voice was like the voice of many waters. 16He had seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining at its brightest. 17When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man.

He laid his right hand on me, saying, “Don’t be afraid. I am the first and the last, 18and the Living one. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forever and ever. Amen. I have the keys of Death and of Hades.

19Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will happen hereafter. 20The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lamp stands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven assemblies. The seven lamp stands are seven assemblies.

The Use of Figurative Language to Express Literal Meaning

Note | Rev 1:16 | Hershel Wayne House

The Apocalypse (unveiling) of John is filled with denotative and connotative language. Most of the book should be interpreted in a plain sense, with occasional figures of speech or symbolic language mixed in. 

Fortunately, John in the Revelation, similar to what he does in his letters explains the meaning of the figurative language in the text. For example, in John 7:37-39, John records the words of Jesus that were spoken in symbolic terms, "Jesus stood and cried out, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink! He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, from within him will flows rivers of living water." Here Jesus spoke in connotative terms that could be confusing to the hearer, and were highly symbolic. The denotative language or literal language, is given by John to make the literal meaning of the teaching of Jesus clear to his readers, "But he said this about the Spirit, which those believing in him were to receive. For the Holy Spirit was  not yet given, because Jesus wasn't yet glorified."

One observes the same kind of usage in Revelation 1 when using terms like "seven lamp stands" and "seven stars in." John provides the literal meaning in Revelation 1:20, by clarifying that the lamp stands are the seven churches to whom he is writing, and the seven stars are the angels over the seven churches to whom he is writing.

The text continues with figurative language in Revelation 1:16 of a two-edged sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus that is most likely a statement of judgment by Christ, similar to language found in Isaiah 48:2 and Hebrew 4:12.