- John sees several symbols representing parts of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
“The book of Revelation, written by John, was…written in sorrow-from the lonely circumstance of exile: ‘I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation … was in the isle that is called Patmos.’ (Rev. 1:9.) But perhaps even more powerful than the physical separation and loneliness John felt as he wrote was the spiritual isolation he suffered. We can sense it as we read his words, for John did not write in a time of success, but of gloom. The young, struggling gospel kingdom was beset upon from all sides. The Saints were hunted, persecuted, slain. But more distressingly, the Church was being ravished from within by false teachings. Undoubtedly the loneliness and sorrows John felt as he beheld the struggles of the beleaguered Church contributed strongly to the passion in his words as he wrote what he saw. Then, trying to communicate the scenes viewed in revelation, John wrote of the trials and glories of the earth’s future in powerful and starkly beautiful terms.” (Lenet H. Read, “How the Bible Came to Be: Part 3, A New Word Is Added to the Old,” Ensign, Mar. 1982)
Revelation 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
‘Now, we have some people professing Christianity who are very intense upon the idea that the old Sabbath day should be maintained. The Lord himself changed the day. The Saints in olden times, that is, after the resurrection of Christ, accepted the date of the resurrection as their Sabbath, and they called it the Lord’s day. It was on that day that John, in prayer before the Lord, received the great revelation known to us as the “apocalypse.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, General Conference, April 1963)
Revelation 1:11 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.
What is the meaning of Alpha and Omega? Jeffrey R. Holland said “These [first and last] letters from the Greek [alphabet] suggest the universal role of Jesus from the beginning of the world to its end.”
Revelation 1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
Throughout the Joseph Smith Translation of Revelation 1-3, the word angels is changed to servants, making it clear that the stars represent the leaders of the seven branches of the Church. How are Church leaders like stars? Church leaders are like the stars in that they are constant and give direction to those who look for it.
Revelation 1: 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
‘the mystery] The use of this word in the N. T. is not very far removed from its primary meaning in classical Greek. We may paraphrase it, “the hidden divine truth, now made known, but made known to God’s favoured ones only:” ‘(The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)
“The word ‘candlesticks’ reflects the King James translators’ familiarity with wax candles. What John actually saw, however, was a seven-branched menorah with a bowl at the top of each branch. Each bowl held olive oil, into which a wick was placed and then lit, providing light. The seven churches must be filled with the Spirit that they might bring light, healing, and peace to the world. The challenge has not changed for us today.” (Michael Wilcox).
- The Lord tells the seven branches in Asia about the blessings promised to those who overcome.
Revelation 2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
Today, the Savior is still in the midst of his Church, guiding inspired priesthood and auxiliary leaders and individual members in their callings and responsibilities. It is important for us to know that he is in the midst of his people.
“Made well known by Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Ephesus is located 40 miles south of Izmir on the west coast of central Turkey and was a famous commercial center in Paul’s time. The branch, in which Paul spent several years, was later directed by Timothy, and later still was the home branch of the apostle John. Following Roman rule its harbor filled with silt, and with it went the city’s commerce and population.” (Jay M. Todd, “The Seven Cities of Revelation ,” Ensign, August 1976)
The branch at Ephesus is commended for good works, diligence, patience, longsuffering, and rejecting apostates, Nicolaitans, and false apostles. They are condemned for forgetting their first love (God). The blessing to those that overcome is to eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God.
Revelation 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
‘Smyrna—in Ionia, a little to the north of Ephesus. Polycarp, martyred in A.D. 168, eighty-six years after his conversion, was bishop, and probably “the angel of the Church in Smyrna” meant here. The allusions to persecutions and faithfulness unto death accord with this view.’ (Jamiesson – Faussett – Brown Bible Commentary)
Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
The saints in Smyrna were called to suffer great tribulation for a period of “ten days” meaning a short season. We presume that most of the saints survived the persecutions but some did not. Martyrs from Smyrna include Metrodorus, Pionius, and Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna. (Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History (Eusebius of Caesarea), chap. 11.)
Revelation 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Through the Atonement of Christ, we will be safe from spiritual death.
The branch at Smyrna was commended for suffering tribulation and poverty and blessed to receive a crown of life and avoid the second death.
Revelation 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
“This passage may refer specifically to the enormous altar dedicated to the god Zeus, which had the appearance of a throne and stood on a hill overlooking Pergamos. It may also refer generally to the pagan cults of Athena, Asclepius, Dionysus, and Zeus, in which the power of Satan was manifest through false religious systems that promoted the worship of the emperor as a god.” (Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry, Understanding the Book of Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 35.)
Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
In their midst, there were people who would convince the saints to dilute or divide their worship in order to obtain material gain.
Revelation 2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
The church at Pergamos was commended for remaining true to the faith but condemned for tolerating the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. The promised blessing was o eat hidden manna, to receive a white stone and a new name.
What is manna? Pure nourishment from heaven. What is the white stone? A personal Urim and Thummim “whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known” (D&C 130:10). What is the new name? “The key word” (D&C 130:11), a key that unlocks the door to the person’s true identity, divine potential, and membership in the Lord’s family.
Revelation 2:18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
‘Thyatira was a city of Mysia or Lydia, not far from Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia. ‘ (Matthew Poole’s Commentary)
Revelation 2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
David Stern (Jewish New Testament Commentary) translates this as “that Jezebel woman,” or a woman who is like Jezebel. In the Old Testament, Jezebel led the people into idolatry. This congregation apparently had a similar woman, who was not being disciplined despite the fact that she had not repented. The curse to her would also apply to her bedfellows, or the saints who followed her or tolerated her behavior.
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
“The word reins literally means kidneys. To the Hebrews the word signified strength and vigor. The phrase is an idiom, meaning that the Lord knows all things about the inner man, his strengths and weaknesses, his character and emotions. And he shall then be able to ‘give unto every one of you according to your works.'” (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 452)
Revelation 2: 26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
“And to him who overcometh, and keepeth my commandments unto the end, will I give power over many kingdoms; and he shall rule them with the word of God; and they shall be in his hands as the vessels of clay in the hands of a potter; and he shall govern them by faith, with equity and justice, even as I received of my Father” (2:26-27 JST). Those who continue until the end in this state will become kings and priests, queens and priestesses, ruling over kingdoms, with the power to shape and form them, governing (guiding and protecting) them as the Gods do.
Revelation 2:28 And I will give him the morning star.
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The church at Thyatira was commended for works of charity, service, faith, and patience and condemned for tolerating the false prophetess Jezebel and her teachings of idolatry and fornication. The faithful saints were blessed to receive power over the nations, to rule by the word of God, and receive the morning star.
Revelation 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
‘the ministry of this church had a name, that is, were reported as famous for their faith, diligence, and holiness; but their faith, without suitable works, was dead, and they were no better than hypocrites. ‘ (Jamiesson – Faussett – Brown Bible Commentary)
Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
“Perhaps few chapters in scripture afford such insightful glimpses into the spirit of the Lord’s judgment as do the first three chapters of Revelation. The Lord’s appraisal of the members faithfulness, endurance, patience, charity, and service-and their inactivity, cooling of love, tolerance of wickedness and false doctrines, lukewarmness, self-satisfaction, worldliness, and lack of zeal in his cause-have served for generations to motivate thoughtful readers to evaluate thoroughly their life-style.” (Jay M. Todd, “The Seven Cities of Revelation ,” Ensign, August 1976)
Revelation 3: 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
3:4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The church at Sardis was commended for the few righteous which had not defiled their garments and condemned for forgetting the Lord, becoming spiritually dead, and for works of wickedness. The faithful were blessed to be clothed in white and have their names written in the book of life.
Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
‘Philadelphia—in Lydia, twenty-eight miles southeast of Sardis, built by Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamos, who died A.D. 138. It was nearly destroyed by an earthquake in the reign of Tiberius [Tacitus, Annals, 2.47]. The connection of this Church with Jews there causes the address to it to have an Old Testament coloring in the images employed. It and Smyrna alone of the seven receive unmixed praise.’ (Jamiesson- Faussett-Brown Bible Commentary)
Revelation 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
‘Usually when someone says, “I know your works. I know what you’re doing,” don’t we usually think, “Oh, no! You know what I’mdoing?” and begin to feel guilty or self-conscious! There’s a tendency to assume we’re doing something wrong, isn’t there? Yet in this instance, there’s not a shadow of accusation or blame or guilt in the words of Jesus. He is speaking in comfort, in promise, in assurance, in might: “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” (V. 8.) Isn’t there a feeling of triumph in what he’s saying? He sets before us an open door that we are completely free to walk in and out of, as we choose. No one can close that door between us and the Savior. In fact, he himself is that door. We have total, complete access.’ (Chieko N Okazaki, Lighten Up! )
9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
Walls, doors, stairways and windows of a building may be moved, but a pillar is a main supporting post and cannot be removed. Those who become “fixtures” in the temple to go no more out will receive the name of Christ, and will be known as citizens of his heavenly city.
Revelation 3:13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The church at Philadelphia was commended for faithfulness in spite of little remaining strength and the faithful were blessed to triumph over their enemies, be made a pillar in the temple of God, and receive a new name.
Revelation 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
‘Laodicea lay south of Philadelphia in the way to return to Ephesus: for the seven churches lay in a kind of circular form, so that the natural progress was from Ephesus to Smyrna, and so forward in the order in which the cities are here addressed, which probably was the order in which St. John used to visit them. ‘ (Benson Commentary)
Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
‘If we are in the line of our duty, we are engaged in a great and glorious cause. It is very essential to our individual welfare that every man and every woman who has entered into the covenant of the Gospel, through repentance and baptism, should feel that as individuals it is their bounden duty to use their intelligence, and the agency which the Lord has given them, for the promotion of the interests of Zion and the establishment of her cause, in the earth. Those who are not faithful in the discharge of these duties cannot be wholly acceptable to God; for they are more or less in the condition of the Church which was complained of by the angel to the Apostle John, as being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and therefore only fit to be “spewed out,” or to be disowned of God. Manifoldly more deserving of this rebuke and chastisement are those who are not only indifferent to the interests of the cause of God, and its growth in the earth, but who murmur and find fault and who, instead of putting their shoulders to the wheel, actually try to retard its progress by using what little influence and means they possess to obstruct the onward march of the kingdom.’ (Joseph F Smith, Journal of Discourses)
Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Those who make it through the challenges of life, overcoming through the power of the Atonement, who keep their temple covenants and endure to the end, will actually be sitting on Christ’s throne with him. This implies becoming as he is, one of the revolutionary doctrines of the restored gospel.
Revelation 3:22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The church at Laodicea received no commendation and was rebuked for being lukewarm and proud in their riches. The faithful were blessed that they would sit with the Lord in his throne.
- John learns that the Saints overcome Satan through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and their testimonies.
Revelation 12:1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
The woman represents the church of God and the twelve stars are the apostles.
Revelation 12:3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
“Joseph Smith said, ‘At the first organization in heaven, we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it.’
“There were others, however, who were less noble. Many of the spirits, exercising their agency, chose to follow Lucifer in rebellion against God. (See D&C 29:36; Jude 1:6.) Lucifer, as the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, was once ‘an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son’ and ‘sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ.’ (D&C 76:25, 28; see Isa. 14:12-15.) Lucifer’s proposals that ‘one soul shall not be lost’ (tempting as it sounds, it would nevertheless suspend our agency to choose) and that he be given God’s place and glory were rejected. (See Moses 4:1-3.) War followed, and because of his rebellion, Lucifer ‘was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, and was called Perdition.’ (D&C 76:25-26; see Rev. 12:7-9.)” (Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, “The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation,” Ensign, Jan. 1989, 30)
Revelation 12:5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
The child she brought forth represents the kingdom of God—the government that will exist on the earth during Jesus Christ’s millennial reign. (Gospel Doctrine Teachers Manual)
Revelation 12:7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
“As we ponder Adam’s role, we see that Adam is a great opposer to Satan. Even before Eden, Satan was defeated and cast out of heaven to the earth by Adam and priesthood power and priesthood forces. Because of the holy priesthood, Adam will forever have ascendancy over Satan.” (Arthur A. Bailey, “What Modern Revelation Teaches about Adam,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 27)
Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Unfortunately, Satan’s war did not end with his expulsion from heaven. As John observed, Satan and his followers were “cast out into the earth”and have come here with “great wrath.” (Revelation 12:12). The evidence of their wrath can be seen in the blood and horror that has afflicted man from the beginning of time. (James J Hamula, General Conference, October 2008)
Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
‘A testimony was an invaluable weapon in the war in heaven, and it is an indispensable weapon here on earth.
A testimony that is continually being nourished and is continually growing will help us at every crossroad when important decisions are made. Indeed, a testimony supplants the need to make certain decisions under fire, because we already know well in advance the course of action we will take.’ (Spencer J Condie, “Agency: The Gift of Choices,” Ensign, Sept. 1995, 22)
Revelation 12:12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
‘Because he knoweth that he hath but a short time – That is, he knows that the time is limited in which he will be permitted to wage war with the saints on the earth.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)
Revelation 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
‘Satan is marshalling every resource at his disposal to entice you into transgression. He knows that if he can draw you into transgression, he may prevent you from serving a full-time mission, marrying in the temple, and securing your future children in the faith, all of which weakens not only you but the Church. He knows that nothing can overthrow God’s kingdom “save it [be] the transgression of [his] people.” (Mosiah 27:13) Make no mistake about it—the focus of his war is now on you—you who seek to “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” ‘(James J Hamula, General Conference, October 2008)