Revelation is first and foremost a “revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1), which tells us key truths about our Savior. John describes much about Jesus’ person and work in 1:5–7, and as we see in today’s passage, Jesus reveals an essential fact about Himself the first time He speaks in the book of Revelation.
In Revelation 1:8, the “Lord God” speaks. Note that “Lord God,” or Yahweh Elohim, appears hundreds of times in the Old Testament as a designation for the God of Israel (e.g., Gen. 2:4; Ex. 23:17; Ps. 59:5; Amos 3:7). Yahweh is the special covenant name of God for His people and Elohim is the more generic term “God,” which emphasizes that He is the one God over all. Here, John applies the Greek translation of Yahweh Elohim to Jesus, the One speaking (Rev. 1:1), demonstrating that John understood Jesus to be very God of very God. Jesus Himself confirms this when He speaks.
Jesus opens His mouth and declares His own deity. He calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega” (v. 8), referring to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. This echoes the words of the Lord God in Isaiah 44:6 and elsewhere, where He calls Himself the first and the last, declaring that besides Him there is no God. Jesus is the Lord of Israel incarnate, the one true God. Because He is the one true God, He is, and was, and is to come (Rev. 1:8). Like the Father and Holy Spirit, the Son of God is before all things and after all things. All of creation finds its origin and sustenance in Him.
Having opened the book of Revelation, John begins to narrate his vision. He starts by telling us where he was when Jesus spoke to him: on “the island called Patmos” (v. 9). Patmos is an island in the Aegean Sea, off the west coast of Asia Minor and about sixty-five miles from the city of Ephesus. The Romans used Patmos as a penal colony, and apparently, John had been exiled there because of his Christian testimony. John’s vision occurred when he “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (v. 10). Here we have an early reference to Christians’ worshiping on Sunday, so Jesus came to John as he was praising the Lord on the first day of the week.
While worshiping the Lord on that Sunday, John heard a voice that sounded like a trumpet, commanding him to write what he would see and send it to seven churches (v. 11). The listed order of the churches reflects the route that one would take from Patmos to Ephesus and then in a semicircle, visiting each city in turn.