Summary: John's final book begins with glorious encounters in the heavenlies. God's outline of the book was,1. The things you have seen, 2. the things which are, and 3. and the things which shall be. This is part one of the outline, and most important!
1. The things which John saw.
Address of origin (1: 1-2). John receives this document from an angel. Even when Jesus appears to be speaking, the angel is delivering the message. Knowing just this one fact will make much of the reading in the beginning and especially at the very end of the Book, much smoother. For example, in 22:6-8, John falls down to worship an angel. And why not? The angel has been saying things like, “I am coming quickly!” Only Jesus should say that! But the mystery is abated in 22:6 where the angel himself explains, “The Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel …” That means the Lord God is not the angel himself.
The cultists love going to these passages to “prove” that Jesus is nothing more or less than an angel, and definitely not Divine, since he refuses worship from John. But here in the very first verses of Revelation is the solution to that heresy. As in chapter 22, the statement is made that Jesus sent and signified it by His angel.
Many want to take the “angel of the Lord” passages of the Old Testament and make them work here, believing firmly that that Old Covenant appearance of this angel was indeed Jesus. Since we are never told who that angel is, and since he does indeed seem to say some things that are very Divine-sounding, it makes some sense to “go there” for the interpretation. My personal feeling is that such diversions may be dangerous, and that we should not mix the two concepts, namely, the eternal Son, and the doctrine of angels.
A cursory study of the appearances of “the angel of the Lord” leads people to the same conclusion that John was brought to, but erroneously: This must be Jesus! In Genesis 16:7-14, Hagar sees him and believes so much that he is God that she names a well, “One Who lives and sees me”. But in a later confrontation of these two, Genesis 21:17, it is clear that God and the Angel are separate. Abraham’s hearing of the Angel is that of one receiving a simple message from God, the role indeed of messengers. But with Jacob, one would think that God Himself is speaking when the Angel reportedly says, “I am God” (Genesis 31:11). In Genesis 48:16 Jacob seems to be referring to God as “the Angel who redeemed me.”
In Exodus (3:2) Moses has a similar experience to Jacob, where the angel seems to be introducing himself as God. In Numbers God’s anger against Balaam is manifested through the same Angel of the Lord (22:22 ff). In Judges 2:1 the Angel again calls himself God. But later in that book (6:20) we are told that Gideon saw the Angel, and the point is made that he did not die. Before Christ was born of a virgin, could anyone look upon God and live? Judges 13:3: With Samson’s family the clear distinction between God and the Angel of God is made.
When David saw the angel, he spoke to the Lord, II Samuel 24:16. Daniel was aware likewise of the difference when he said, “God has sent His angel” (6:22). And the prophet Zechariah is admonished by an angel, who begins, “Thus saith the Lord.” Now, this phrase is missing in most of the Angel’s appearances, but in my opinion, it is implied in all.
In the New Testament, the definite article of the KJV has been changed to the indefinite, underscoring the fact that the translators are convinced that angelic appearances are to be kept separate from Divinity. Only in Acts 12:11 is it clear that a particular angel is being referenced, and in this case it is equally clear that he is not God.
The point I believe Scripture makes is this: There is a magnificent Being known as The messenger of the Lord, perhaps Gabriel, perhaps Michael, perhaps one we have never met by name in the Biblical record. He is God’s special envoy sent on the most urgent of Kingdom business. His presence and power are so great as to make everyone from the unlearned Hagar to the beloved Apostle John, wise with years of knowledge of the Lord, think he/she is in the presence of God Himself. But attempt worship, and the rebuke will come swiftly, “Don’t do that!” No, in comparison to Divinity, he is merely a servant, like John. A servant of God and a servant of the prophets, and a servant of all obedient to the Word. Worship, says the angel of the Lord, is reserved for God only (22:9)!
Now, lest we get caught up too early in religious controversy, let us meditate awhile on just how incredibly important the Book of Revelation must be to have been thus sent down the “chain of command” to us. The Father passes it to the Son. The Son passes it to the Angel of the Lord, “His Angel”. The Angel is then the spokesman throughout the Book, assisted by other angels, and all of this is copied diligently by John. John bears witness to this word, and passes it to us. Those who are His sheep and hear His Voice, because of His Spirit living in us, pass it on and pass it on and... How very much He wants us to have this message!