The second verse of Revelation chapter 1 needs a little grammar discussion. It begins with the word “who.” Looking back at the first verse, we see that the relative pronoun might take as an antecedent either John or the angel who brought the vision to John. The verse says, “Who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.”

Since John will speak in the first person in the course of the book of Revelation, I think it’s safe to believe that John is speaking of himself as the one who is bearing witness to God’s word and the testimony of Jesus. He is an “eyewitness” to what he writes about, and he assures his readers that it is all reliable. It comes from God and is verified by Christ Jesus. The Word of God and the testimony of Christ certify the accuracy of what John is writing. Osborne observes, “Throughout the book, these two phrases frequently emphasize the actual source of everything written down in it. The emphasis is on the trustworthy nature of these God-sent communications. These are not subjective dreams or imaginative stories but visions stemming from God in heaven. They are absolutely true, and the church must carefully study the book’s message.”[1]

There is a focus on what was seen, not on what was said. Most prophets in the Old Testament would say, “thus saith the Lord.” Although there are some comments to be recalled, the brunt of John’s Revelation concerns what was “seen.” The phrase “I saw” appears about 45 times in the book of Revelation. But we don’t have the visions only the verbal descriptions of them. John is a living eyewitness to what he testifies to. There is nothing “hearsay” about John’s communication to us. The validity of the New Testament is attested to often. The Father bears witness from heaven to his Son. He opens the heavens and declares, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” The Holy Spirit bears witness, coming down bodily in the form of a dove. Archangel Gabriel bears witness, bringing good tidings to Mary. That Jesus was born of a virgin bears witness to the fact that he was the Messiah promised in Isaiah. Now, in the book of Revelation, John testifies on the witness stand. McGee says, “He was an eyewitness to the visions. What John saw, he made pictures of, and the Book of Revelation is television, friend. It was the first television program ever presented, and it is one you would do well to watch. It came from heaven from God the Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ, and it was given to an angel who gave it to John, who wrote about what he saw. Not only did John hear, he also saw, and these are the two avenues through which we get most of our information. I sometimes wonder if John didn’t smell things just a little bit, too, because there are parts of this book where you catch the odor also.”[2] You might say that John is swearing in before he takes the stand. He is taking a lawful oath. A lawful oath, even in our culture, is calling upon God, who alone knows the heart, to bear witness to the truth and to punish me if I swear falsely. Thus, an oath that appeals to the name of God should impress on an oath-taker that he is to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is what John does in the book of Revelation.

[1] Osborne, Grant R. 2016. Revelation: Verse by Verse. Osborne New Testament Commentaries. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] McGee, J. Vernon. 1991. Thru the Bible Commentary: The Prophecy (Revelation 1-5). Electronic ed. Vol. 58. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.