Revelation was written during reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96). Domitian promoted emperor worship and persecuted those who refused to worship him.
1:1 The revelation [Gr. apokalypsis: unveiling of something previously hidden] of Jesus Christ [central theme of the revelation], which God [the source of the revelation] gave Him [Jesus] to show His servants [John] what must [divinely ordained necessity of things to come (revealed to John through series of visions)] soon [message intended primarily for John’s first readers] take place. He made it known by sending his angel [Jesus’ messenger] to His servant John [who was in exile on island of Patmos],
1:2 who testifies to everything [left nothing out; included every detail] he saw [in the form of visions] – that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
1:3 Blessed [first of seven beatitudes in book] is the one who  reads [public reading to Christians assembled for worship] the words of this prophecy [declaration of God’s will], and blessed are those who  hear it and  take to heart [obey] what is written in it, because the time [season] is near [end time or time of fulfillment of book’s prophecies].
1:4 John [recorded the message from Christ], To the seven churches [see v. 11] in the [Roman] province of Asia [geographically formed a rough circle in the province of Asia; included all churches in province]: Grace [God’s unmerited favor] and peace [results from grace] to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come [phrase refers to God], and from the seven [number represents completeness/perfection] spirits [refers to the Holy Spirit in His perfection] before His [God’s] throne,
1:5 and from Jesus Christ, who is  the faithful [credible; reliable] witness ,  the firstborn [His resurrection guarantees ours; see 1 Cor. 15:20] from the dead [resurrection of Jesus; cf. Col. 1:18], and  the ruler [sovereignty over all rulers] of the kings of the earth [cf. Rev. 19:16]. [begins doxology; praise directed to Jesus] To Him who [continually] loves us and has freed [liberated or loosed] us from our sins by His blood [the cost of our liberation; see Eph. 1:7; 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:18-19],
1:6 and has made us to be a kingdom [made up of those who submit to God’s rule in their lives; cf. Col. 1:13] and priests [priests represents God to people and people to God; priesthood of believers] to serve [a function of priests] His God and Father – to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
1:7 Look, He [Jesus] is [certainty] coming [this hope should stir believers to faithfulness] with the clouds [phrase is symbolic of Christ’s deity; cf. Mk. 14:62; He will come from heaven], and every eye [whole human race] will see Him, even [including] those who pierced Him [enemies]; and all [believers/unbelievers] the peoples of the earth will mourn [unbelievers because of judgment] because of Him. So shall it be! Amen.
1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega [first and last letters of Greek alphabet; affirm eternal character],” says the Lord God, “[earthly time dimensions] who is, and who was, and who is to come [cf. 1:4], the Almighty.”
1:9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
1:10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet
1:11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches [read the specific message to each of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3; these churches were located in the western portion of Asia Minor-what is modern-day Turkey; content of letters reveals a time of persecution]: to Ephesus [Paul spent much time in Ephesus on third missionary journey (Acts 19; 20:16-17)], Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira [hometown of Lydia (Acts 16:14)], Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea [Epaphras spent time there (Col. 2:1; 4:12-16)].”
1:12 I turned around to see the voice [cf. vv. 9-11] that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw [this first vision extends to ch. 3] seven golden lampstands [refers to the seven churches as per 1:20 and named in 1:11; a church, like a lampstand, is to be a light-bearer in the world],
1:13 and among [in the midst of] the lampstands [churches] was someone [begins description of the glorified Christ through v. 16] “like a son of man [cf. Dan. 7:13; designation for the Messiah; Jesus preferred this title for Himself],” dressed in [priest’s apparel] a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash [girdle] around His chest.
1:14 [description of the (symbolic) features of the Son of man] His head and hair were white [sign of wisdom] like wool [cf. Dan. 7:9], as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire [fierce judgment or penetrating scrutiny].
1:15 His feet were like bronze [symbolized strength/stability] glowing in a furnace [capability of treading victoriously on enemies], and His voice was like the sound of rushing [powerful] waters [conveys idea of majesty and authority].
1:16 In His right hand [position of power] He held [protectively] seven stars [“angels of the seven churches” (1:20); some think a reference to pastors], and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword [signifies victorious power of His word]. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance [glory and victory].
1:17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead [cf. Isaiah 6:1-8, Ezekiel 1:28, and Daniel 10:9 concerning similar responses to visions of God]. Then He placed [reassuringly] His right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am [cf. Ex. 3:14; Jn. 14:6] the First and the Last [eternal in nature; cf. Isa. 44:6; 48:12].
1:18 I am the Living One [eternal and uncreated]; I was dead, and behold I am alive [Christ conquered death] for ever and ever! And I hold [our destiny is in His hands] the keys [power to hold/release] of death and Hades [someone observed that the Devil doesn’t even have the keys to his own house].
1:19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.
1:20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.