Book Of Revelation In Jewish Context (rev 1:4-7) – Dr. Eli Lizorkin-eyzenberg And Peter Shirokov

"BambergApocalypseFolio003rAngelWith7Candlesticks" by Auftraggeber: Otto III. oder Heinrich II

“BambergApocalypse” by Auftraggeber

1:4 John to the seven churches that are in the province of Asia:

While the book of Revelation is an apocalypse when it comes to its genre, it is not a pure apocalypse (1) in that it is set in the context of a letter. We can see this clearly in the following verses. The Book of Revelation is not really a book; it is in fact a letter addressed to churches in the province of Asia. By its own witness, this apocalyptic letter also contains prophecy (Rev. 1:3, 22:7).

It is common to think of prophecy as predictions, but to an Israelite mind prophecy is primarily a proclamation of previously known truth, a call to return and not to forget the important matters. Thus, the Book of Revelation can be called an apocalyptic letter containing prophecy, combining at least three genres in one document (apocalyptic, epistolary and prophetic).

While it is not possible to say with full confidence who exactly was this John who wrote Revelation, it is clear that his identity was known to the seven historic churches mentioned in the letter. The author must have been authoritative enough to be accepted since the Revelation of John was not the only apocalypse at that time. However, the authorship of John the Apostle is early and strongly attested. Several 2nd century congregational leaders (such as Melito, bishop of Sardis (c. 165CE) (2) and Irenaeus of Smyrna (c. 180 CE), (3) whose churches were among the original recipients of the letter of Revelation (4)) explicitly mention that the letter was believed to be from John the Apostle.

The case for Johaninne authorship of Revelation ironically is stronger than that of the Gospel of John. The most significant argument in favor of another author (meaning that the author of the fourth gospel and Revelation is not the same person) is that the Greek of Revelation is significantly lower in quality than the Greek of the Gospel of John. This, however, could be easily resolved by positing that John used a scribe for the composition of the Gospel (as did Paul (5) among many others in Roman antiquity), but that no scribe was available to him as he composed the book of Revelation since it was written when he was under house arrest on the Island of Patmos. In other words, he was left with his own limited Greek language skills.

All seven churches mentioned in the letter are located within the system of Ancient Roman roads. It was therefore actually possible for the letter to make a full circle of all the locations after it was originally delivered and be read in the individual congregations.

Not all known congregations in Asia were addressed (for example, the congregation at Colossae). The letter is tied to the importance of the number seven, pointing to the symbolic nature of the churches. It is likely that the seven actual historic congregations symbolize all the churches existent at the time of John and even beyond that historical setting.

Grace and peace to you from “he who is,” and who was, and who is still to come, …

The passage is an allusion to Ex. 3:14 according to the Greek language Septuagint version where God refers to himself as “he who is” (ὁ ὤν). The Greek is translated from the divine self-description in Hebrew אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה (I am who I am). John uses the same wording only in this place in Greek (6). God’s unpronounceable name YHWH is believed to be connected to the verb “to be” in Hebrew. It is a composite of past, present and future aspects all present in one word, “who is and the one who was, and who will be.” The hint is deliberate.

This passage is one of many places where it could be said that the Greek used by John is poor. Note the comment above about the authorship of Revelation and possible absence of an assisting scribe on Patmos). Since not all portions of Revelation could be characterized this way, it is not possible to explain the Greek grammatical irregularities only by the Hebraic background of John’s original thought language. Whatever the explanation may be behind the awkward grammatical irregularities, they are probably intentional in nature. For the reader familiar with the nuances of both Hebrew and Greek grammar, they act as clues that something else is going on.

…and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,

The number seven in a wide variety of Jewish scriptural traditions is the number of fullness, totality and completeness. As was already mentioned, Revelation is full of sets of the number seven, but just as in the case of the churches, this fact calls attention not to the number itself, but instead to the totality of that which is discussed – in this case the Spirit (seven spirits) who is/are before the throne of God. There are at least two interpretive options here. One has to do with the Holy Spirit and the other has to do with key angelic beings.

First, conventional interpretation connects the seven spirits in Revelation with the seven “aspects” of the Spirit in Isaiah 11:2: “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord” (NASB). In reality there are six aspects, not seven, because the Spirit of the Lord is not one of the aspects. A better translation (NetBible), however, is provided by the Net Bible translators, rightly showing that each pair is really one concept, reducing 6 to 3: “The Lord’s spirit will rest on him – a spirit that gives extraordinary wisdom, a spirit that provides the ability to execute plans, a spirit that produces absolute loyalty to the Lord.” No matter which translation we use for Isaiah 11:2, the connection between those verses and the seven spirits in Revelation does not seem likely to us.

Second, in the non-canonical Jewish books such as 1 Enoch that has many references to the Jewish Son of Man traditions, we repeatedly encounter an unfamiliar phrase “the Lord of the Spirits.”

For example, we read in 1 Enoch 46:1-2:

“There I beheld the Ancient of Days, whose head was like white wool, and with him another, whose countenance resembled that of man… Then I inquired of one of the angels, who went with me, and who showed me every secret thing, concerning this Son of man; who he was; whence he was and why he accompanied the Ancient of days. He answered and said to me, This is the Son of man, to whom righteousness belongs; with whom righteousness has dwelt; and who will reveal all the treasures of that which is concealed: for the Lord of Spirits has chosen him; and his portion has surpassed all before the Lord of spirits in everlasting uprightness.”

We have here a wonderful passage establishing Jewish traditions (contemporary to the book of Revelation) about the Daniel (7) Son of Man figure. We must note that this common Enochean phrase – “the Lord of the Spirits” may be connected with the “…the seven spirits who are before his throne” in Revelation. (Rev. 1:4b)

While the parallel between “Lord of Spirits” and “seven spirits that are before his (God’s) throne” is intriguing, we may be dealing here with an early Jewish equivalent of pre-systematized, later Christian Trinity (albeit in different order) – Father, Holy Spirit and the Son.

Another interpretive possibility, however, that presents itself to us when we compare the book of the Revelation to 1 Enoch. The seven spirits before the throne of God may be seen as seven key angelic figures who (are imagined in some Jewish apocalyptic traditions) to serve before the throne of God.

Angels are after all spirits that serve God and these seven angelic spirits, according to this Jewish apocalyptic tradition, serve before God. It is significant that the seven do not only appear in Enoch, but also in other Jewish books both Biblical and para-biblical.

While believers can be tempted to make too much out of this connection, we must keep things in perspective. Whether or not the names of the seven key angels are Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raquel, Remiel and Saraquel as is stated in the book of Enoch, we may never know, but it is at least conceivable that other contemporary Jews (including the Jew who authored the book of Revelation) had a similar concept in mind to that of the author of the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch 20:1-8).

So, other than the Holy Spirit, another potential explanation for seven spirits could in fact be the seven angelic figures.

In this case, God, the seven key angels, and as we will shortly see, Jesus Christ, are the ultimate authors on behalf of whom John is writing/delivering this letter to be sent to the Christ-following congregations of Asia Minor.

1:5 and from Jesus Christ—the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and has set us free7 from our sins at the cost of his own blood 1:6 and has appointed us as a kingdom, as priests serving his God and Father—to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! Amen.

Jesus Christ’s five-fold title is clear – 1) faithful witness, 2) firstborn (8) from the dead, 3) ruler of the earthly kings (1:5a), 4) the one who loves us and 5) the one who set us free (1:5b).

Such a full (especially in comparison to the other authors or those who commissioned the letter) title description deserves a doxological exclamation – “to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever!” (1:6b). This is especially so because Jesus Christ appointed “us” (presumably John, his community and the believers to whom he addressed his letter) to be the priestly kingdom, serving Jesus’ God (“his God”) and Father (1:6a).

The idea presented in Rev. 1:6-7 is that the multifaceted greatness of Jesus Christ eventually results in the glory and power of his God and Father. Interestingly enough, this too may have a conceptual parallel in 1 Enoch 48. We read in 1 Enoch 48:2-6:

And at that hour that Son of Man was named In the presence of the Lord of Spirits, And his name before the Head of Days…
He shall be a staff to the righteous whereon to stay themselves and not fall, And he shall be the light of the Gentiles,
And the hope of those who are troubled of heart. All who dwell on earth shall fall down and worship before him,
And will praise and bless and celebrate with song the Lord of Spirits. And for this reason hath he been chosen and hidden before Him, Before the creation of the world and for evermore.

What we see in the 1 Enoch text is that the praise and worship the Son of Man receives from all those who dwell in the earth results ultimately in praise and worship of the Lord of Spirits (God Himself).

This is indeed a very similar concept to the one described in Revelation 1:5-6 “…Jesus Christ – the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood and has appointed us as a kingdom, as priests serving his God and Father – to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! Amen.” (9)

1:7 Look! He is returning with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes on the earth will mourn because of him. This will certainly come to pass! Amen.

What is very important to keep in mind as we slowly read the Book/Letter of Revelation is that we have a variety of voices being heard in this letter (God, John, Spirit, Jesus Christ, Bride, etc). As in any complex composition, such a rich polyphony of heavenly sound will demand careful and attentive listening in order clearly distinguish between the varieties of these voices, appreciate both their choir-like message and the voice of the individual performer.

It is not clear whose voice we are hearing in Rev. 1:7, but whoever this voice belongs to would like us to be aware that the crucified Christ will return in power (with clouds) and no one (including his killers) will be able to deny his resurrection (every eye will see him, even those who pierced him).

This will bring fulfillment to the visions of Daniel 7:14: “All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed” as well as Zachariah 12:10: “I will pour out on the kingship/house of David and the population of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look to me, the one they have pierced. They will lament for him as one laments for an only son, and there will be a bitter cry for him like the bitter cry for a firstborn.”


(1) The apocalypse is always revelatory; it informs as it unveils otherworldly experiences and visualized cosmic reality. There is a story, a narrative that can be followed. These big picture descriptions of the events of the heavenly realm act as a backdrop to the events experienced by the audience of the apocalyptic writer. This is a parallel and analogical thinking, typical of the Middle East. The earthly events are presented in light of heavenly, unveiling the greater reality.(2) C. 165 CE; Eusebius, H.E. 4.26.2.(3) C. 180 CE; Adv.Haer. 3.11.1, 4.20.11, 4.35.2)(4) Rev. 1:11; 3:1-6; 2:8-11.(5) Romans 16:22: “I, Tertius, the one writing down this letter, greet you in the Lord.”(6) Notes to Rev. 1:4 in the NetBible ( Available at (Last accessed 13.6.14). (7) Most Bibles have “washed” (λούσαντι, lousanti) instead of freed (λύσαντι, lusanti), but most reliable manuscripts have set free. There is a one-letter difference between the two, but the “set free” is likely to be the original variant.(8) Firstborn (bikkurim) from the dead is a uniquely Jewish title, tied to the concepts of the first fruits of the barley harvest offered on the third day of Passover. The motif of resurrection is implicit in this feast and this title is used by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:20 and Col. 1:18.(9) John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne. Revelation 1:4And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, “These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.’” Revelation 3:1
And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Revelation 4:5
And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Revelation 5:6
And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Revelation 8:2

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  1. Dellareese

    Thank you for your awe-inspiring insight. I have to do / read this again. This reading is jam-packed with so much wisdom and insight.
    I love the references from Jewish texts, particularly Enoch.

  2. James Kieser

    The 7 lamps refer to the Seven cities of Laodacia – Yeshua Messiah is the one who is speaking to his -(brother) John – circa 90 AD – At that time, the Jewish Rabbi -Clement- was the first POPE- after Peter- Resurrection was celebrated as the PASSOVER- In reality – Easter is a Pagan holiday and PASSOVER is the true Christian Holiday- Much of the Book-letters of REVELATION – refer to the Catholic Church in which 50 to 100 million Christians were killed- the 1260 days refer to -Fall of the Roman Empire circa 525 to circa 1776 – when the US was founded first country not a king & not rules by POPE/ Lost Tribes of Israel -=US -/Church of the Wilderness – bride is the church-too Yeshua – Messia

    1. Lois

      Where is the evidence that Peter was ever a Pope? I hear this sais but never have seen any historical evidence. It is so clear in the NT (Acts) that James the Righteous was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. The rock that the church is built on is the revelation Peter had that Jesus is the Christ, not on Peter. Peter is a living stone, as are all believers.We are little stones taken from the rock of Jesus. Jesus is the rock, attested to in the wilderness from which water, living water came. The rock of our salvation. The cornerstone, for the city built from the foundation of the apostles and prophets, capstone joining the gate arches of Judah and Israel.

      1. Charles van den Berg

        Lois ,the first bishop of Rome who called himself Pope, was Siricius (384-399). Typically, however, also be retroactively its predecessors as Pope referred to.

      2. Charles van den Berg

        The Holy Pope Linus (died Rome, ca. 76) was between 67 and 76 the second Pope. He is considered the successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome.
        This is inlaid with retroactive effect.
        The Pope calls himself a vicar of the son of God: VICARIVS FILII DEI Here we found the number 666
        V(5)I(1)C(100)A(0)R(0)I(1)V(5)S(0) – F(0)I(1)L(50)I(1)I (1)- D(500)E(0)I(1)=( 5+1+100+0+0+1+5+0)+(0+1+50+1+1)+(500+0+1)= 112+53+501=666

  3. Marvin Gabrièl Coronado Mijangos

    This is an outstanding study of the Revelation letter. The counting of the days from the death to the Resurrection of Yeshua Prince Messiah had been debated and still are important to study. How to count days; when is the godly given date of Bikkurim; when is the biblical day of shabat if we take into account that fridays and saturdays didn`t exist back there in time; This is important to study because the “sign of Jonah” was to be three days in the abyss. Could we say that the counting of days of Jonah sign began when The Lord and King of Jews (as he had been proclaimed) made His Last Supper, and big sweat drops of blood alike (water+salt+blood) touched the Getsemany soil? Shalom.

  4. Kat H

    I thought the unpronounceable name YHWH had to do with God’s character. Why would His existence be too holy to pronounce? What am I missing? I also read somewhere that “I Am” is existent and YHWH is self-existent. Is “I Am” Jesus? (Sorry, I have to toss all previously learned words and concepts — trust issues 🙂 )

    1. Prof. Peter Shirokov

      The lack of pronouncing God’s name (besides the fact no one knows how exactly) comes from 10 commandments where we are told not to use God’s name in vain or lightly. The idea is not to bring dishonor to God’s name in any way exactly because it is his character. Thus the tradition of substituting the name with other names. It is a “fence” principle. One cannot dishonor God’s name if one never pronounces it. Simplistic, perhaps but solid logically. Ironically we (humans) find other ways how to dishonor God, even without using his name. 🙂

      1. Kat H

        Thank you Prof Peter
        That is very, very interesting. I have done something similar while waiting on grace. 
        L-ove (1 John 4:20) 🙂
        This makes me wonder if Simon Peter was substituting words as well.

        “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

      2. Fred Aguelo

        To me, we dishonor GOD when we claim to trust & do not do His will. I prefer to use His proper Name because that’s what He said we should call Him. I will not act out of fear because that would be succumbing to the desire of the enemy. Why did the translators have to translate the Name YHWH & not translate the name of hasatan? The enemy has put fear into the hearts of people that they no longer call on the holy Name as in he days of old & thus had forgotten how to pronounce it. How nice! Part of an intimate relationship is in calling each other by our names. Inany case, am so glad the recent passage gives us so much insight into who YHWH is.


      3. Charles van den Berg

        Sorry Peter, I do not wish to turn this discussion on Revelation into some Divine Name Debate, but for personal study purposes, I want you to ask to provide me a overview where in the Scriptures I can found the 10 commands where we are told not to use God’s name in vain or lightly. If you want you can send me by email.
        Thanks! Charles.

      4. Lois

        I have recently come to an understanding that to take God’s name in vain is to misrepresent His character by our actions in the world, not the use or not use of pronouncing His name. It is the names of the false idols that we should not let pass our lips. We should not use His Name to curse Him or others and we should not do hateful things in His name ( for eg, the Crusades, the Inquisition) because this misrepresents Him. I will never say that I have a complete understanding of anything, far from it. But this understanding of taking His name in vain goes deeper into my soul and fills me with a great awe of responsibility before Him.

    2. Edward Siders

      KAT H——— I know why Gods name should not be spoken . If you want seek the answer for your self . Its in the scriptures, even his name . Start with DEUT 32 :1-4 ——— But remember Moses did not reveil his name Joshua did . The last reff. could be Rev.1:5 ——- If you find the answer dont tell anyone . If you did they wont believe you . ————Word for thought did Jesus have a bro. called John? If your answer is no, your right . However the Messiah does .

      1. Kat H

        Edward Siders, thank you. Yes, but worshiping some of God’s name instead of all of God’s name is worshiping Him in our own image, not His. Perhaps learning to focus on all of Him is the key to overcoming our anger. 😉 I study by trying to understanding words as opposed to just reading the Bible.

        I accepted Jesus as God’s provision (pay the debt + & love ).

        1. Brad Thompson

          Something else to consider. As the four letters of the Divine Name Havayah reveal His Holiness and Character, so does the Name and the Man we know as Yeshua Messiah – Jesus Christ. He both revealed and clothed God within Himself. And it was only through His teachings or speech we begin to fully know God the Father; that is the meaning of self-nullification, divine comprehension, and serving God (A paraphrase of an idea by Rabbi Isaac Luria). The writer of this letter is reminding the reader of this fact perhaps???

          1. Prof. Peter Shirokov

            There are many opinions about names and I am aware that many people are in the Christian world who are opposed to my traditional stance and do not understand the reasons why Jewish people as a community do not try to vocalize the name. It’s OK with me. I do not wish to turn this discussion on Revelation into some Divine Name Debate. So please friends let’s not go there!

            I would encourage everyone interested in the matter, (who has not do so already) to study the concept of “SHEM” (name, but not YHWH) in Tanakh, how it is used, what it means exactly and what it does. Most enlightening. You will see that the idea of NAME in Hebrew is very, very different form English concepts of “personal name” or “name proper”.

            Grateful to everyone for interaction with the Revelation commentary!

  5. Richard

    Thank you so much sir. I learn a lot from this teachings. Especially about the names of seven angels
    I am very bleessed. May the Lord increase you.

  6. Daniel Darling

    Very interesting post. A lot of people do an injustice to Revelation because they forget that it is a letter. Not a manual of things to come. Good job!

    1. Prof. Peter Shirokov

      Very true, Daniel. This is why the approach we take is to compare Revelation with other Jewish literature, looking at is as a letter, with multiple voices that speak. It helps a lot to steer away from the manual approach.

  7. Dr Denis O'Callaghan

    Dear brother Eli,
    Thank you
    Dr’s Dennis & Marsha Callahan

  8. Todd Maloney

    Very well written. I really appreciate this article.

  9. Jackson Ambe Ndecheck

    Dr Eli,
    I find your insights very helpful and inspiring.
    I started memorizing the book of revelation some months back after few other books on my almost unrealistic passionate ambition to memorized the whole Bible and present it word for word as an eye-witness.
    But unlike the tradition route approach to memorization, the method we use is simple in that we focus on understanding each events in ther original context. And reading your insight on revelation, John and Mark has help to provide more depths and meaning.
    So, please keep it coming.
    Ndecheck Jackson.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Jackson, shalom!

      Welcome to our study group. May the Lord richly bless you and your family as you serve him in Africa. You know Aphrahat (the Persian Sage) was a Eastern Church Father who seem to quote all of Hebrew Bible/OT (and did a lot of it) from memory.

      Dr. Eli

  10. Brad Thompson

    I’m wondering if these verses, especially in light of verse 3 and Zachariah 12:10, is implied the idea of if we know G_d in all our ways, then G_d’s Presence is within use. If G_d is in us than everything we do – in this case write – is from God. This idea can be seen in various commentaries concerning the “Sanctuary” and “Temple.” However, I’m not sure when this idea was first introduced in Jewish thought. Yeshua Messiah certainly lived out this principle perfectly. Thus, if the writer is infused with the Essence of G_d, than what is written is from God and not merely from human conscienceness. And so, a great blessing will be obtained if we rightly discern and do what is written.

    1. Jeremaia Naviko

      Really appreciate the commitment done to this research, wow….glory to God the most high