The first voice, described in Revelation 1:10-11 is heard (and written in red). Then John turns to see who or what is speaking, and sees what is described as Jesus. The words spoken by Jesus (verses 1:17-20) continue to be printed in red.

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in haven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, an I will show you what must take place after these things." Revelation 4:1

When we get to chapter 4, the words of 'the voice like a trumpet' are not written in red in my printed and electronic NASB, but are written in red in my NLT and HCSB.

Why is this? Is there debate over this voice not being Jesus?



5 Answers 5


I emailed the Lockman Foundation regarding this question, and their editorial department responded, saying essentially:

  1. The simplest way to translate 4:1 is "the first voice which I heard" (not "had heard").
  2. If "I heard" is the translation, it could theoretically be understood as not referring to 1:10-11.
  3. The translators thought that John was most likely referring to the voice of 1:10-11, so they translated the text as "had heard."
  4. However, since some uncertainty remained, they left the text black.

I'm told that they have flagged this for further review and may make a change in future editions.


[Just to make my bias clear up front, I don't agree with the NASB's interpretation in this instance.]

I don't know any of the NASB translators personally (I'm not famous or anything thankfully), so I don't know for sure why they interpreted this passage in this way. C. Stirling Bartholomew explained the most likely possibilities (in my opinion). I'm guessing personally that the "second alternative" he mentioned is more likely to be the reasoning behind the NASB translators' interpretation, but I'd like to expand on it a bit and give a theory which might explain why they interpreted it in this way.

Possible NASB Reasoning

For the NASB translators, I'm guessing that the reason for "who" the voice is ultimately has a lot to do with "when" in the book it's speaking. I.e., when the NASB translators were deciding whether to put red lettering in this passage, I'm guessing that their final conclusion on "who" the voice is stems largely from "when"/"where" in the book this passage occurs within their outline of Revelation [which is a respectable conclusion, although I personally disagree with it].

Revelation 4-21 doesn't have any red lettering at all, which correlates at least indirectly to the fact that a popular interpretation of Revelation reads this same section as future events. This interpretation is especially popular among those with premillennialist views, and many of those with premillennialist views focus extra on preserving a word-for-word, literal rendering of the text, which is the first two of the NASB's main goals. Therefore, because of the high popularity of this interpretation of Revelation and the link between those who support it with those who have strong sola Scriptura literalis values, I think it's fair to guess that the NASB translators might have had this particular interpretation of Revelation in mind. And if they did, they would have also viewed chapter 4 as a major transition in the book. Yet even if they held to a different one, most other interpretations view chapter 4 as at least some kind of major turning point (the μετα ταυτα makes it pretty clear). This correlation is indirect: if someone interpreted 4-21 as strictly future events, they would not necessarily come to the same conclusion as the NASB translators did in 4:1. Nevertheless, if they had held to this interpretation, I believe it would have guided their translation in 4:1.

Looking at the text, if we were to leave out 4:1 for a minute just for argument's sake, it's reasonable to conclude that Christ does not speak at all in chapters 4-21. Many verses in 4-21 are similar to 1:10-11, where a voice gives instructions to John. Compared to the one in 4:1, it is much easier to conclude in these other examples that the voice is an angel, or at least someone other than Christ (e.g., 10:8). If one were to make this conclusion, he might see the voice in 4:1 as the first of the non-divine voices which give John instructions.

My Own Interpretation

Given all that, I personally believe it's definitely Christ speaking in 4:1. I see it as a major connection to the three verses before it and a key conclusion which links 1:10-11 to 3:20. It's like, between the lines, John is wrapping up the intro and saying, "Now the good stuff. THIS is what He showed me."

First, in 1:10, he "heard [ἀκουω + accusative]... a voice like a trumpet [φνωην ὡς σαλπιγγος]", and he "saw [εἰδον] someone like a son of man."

Then, in 3:20, this son of man/Son of the Father (cf. 3:21) has just said, "I stand as far as [ἐπι + accusative] the door [θυρα]...; if anyone listens to [ἀκουω + genitive] My voice [φωνη] and opens [ἀνοιγω] the door, I'll come to him [or her].... I, the Victorious One, [nominative substantive participle] will grant him to sit [καθιζω] with Me on My throne [θρονος]..."

Now in 4:1, John "saw [εἰδον]" an "open door [θυρα + ἀνοιγω]" and "heard [ἀκουω + accusative]... a voice like a trumpet [φνωην ὡς σαλπιγγος]." And in 4:3, there's "One who's seated [nominative substantive participle of καθημαι, the reverse of καθιζω] on the throne [θρονος]."

I'd say John's doing everything he can to tell us that it's Christ who's speaking here. It's like Christ is saying, "Come and see what it's like to open the door. Come and sit with Me, the Victor, the King, on My throne."

By the way, why in the world [pun unintended] do all the English translations translate "Ὁ Νικων" in 3:21 as "He who overcomes" or "The one who overcomes"? It's nominative: Christ is "Ὁ Νικων," not us, especially since there's another nominative substantive participle in the same sentence which clearly refers to Christ (and which they translate correctly). It's like the English translations wimp out on the whole climax of "Ὁ Νικων"'s speech. (I still think our English translations are awesome though; don't get me wrong.)

Are you writing a sermon on this? If you are, I wish I would have seen this earlier in the week to give you some more ideas. There's so many awesome things here to preach on.


As Susan pointed out, ὁ νικων could be a pendent nominative instead of just the subject. If it is, that means that it's pointing out that ἀυτω ["him"] is the topic of the sentence, not the literal subject of the verb: the "I" in δωσω ["I'll give"]. That's how Pastor Wallace interprets it in his grammar book too. I'll open it for debate in another question because I still have some more ideas about it.

Also, I forgot to mention that Pastor Brighton argues that it's the "Son of Man" speaking in 4:1, and he, like most people, interprets the "Son of Man" to be "Christ". (His commentary is my personal favorite for Revelation.)

  • 1
    Hello and welcome! Regarding the question in the first paragraph of the addendum, feel free to ask another question if interested, but the short answer is that it’s a pendent nominative (a.k.a. nominative absolute participle). I think it’s highly unlikely that all translations are “wimp[ing] out”. :-)
    – Susan
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 0:02
  • Thanks, I really appreciate your detailed response. I'll read it in detail this afternoon. I'm not writing a sermon, just taking some time to dig deeper into Revelation this year.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 0:04
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    Does anyone know whether the red letter was actually the translator's choice, or whether it's this publisher's choice?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 5, 2015 at 4:55
  • @curiousdannii In this case the two are closely related, since the Lockman foundation oversees both. It sounds like the translators made the call (see my answer). Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 16:20
  • @Susan Ah yeah I forgot about that pendent nominative thing. After looking at this passage more, I have to admit that does make more sense. I'll update my answer. Hey yeah that would make a good question! I'll do that if it hasn't been asked yet. Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 3:17

Rev. 1:10 I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet

Rev. 4:1   After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

Rev. 1:10 ἐγενόμην ἐν πνεύματι ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ καὶ ἤκουσα ὀπίσω μου φωνὴν μεγάλην ὡς σάλπιγγος

Rev. 4:1 Μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ θύρα ἠνεῳγμένη ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, καὶ ἡ φωνὴ ἡ πρώτη ἣν ἤκουσα ὡς σάλπιγγος λαλούσης μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ λέγων· ἀνάβα ὧδε, καὶ δείξω σοι ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα.

There are several factors to weigh in regard to who is speaking in Rev. 4:1. Starting with the assumption that Jesus Christ is speaking in Rev 1:10 it is common to view the language of Rev. 4:1 “the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet” as an anaphoric (backwards pointing) reference to Rev 1:10 “I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.” The expression “the first voice” is understood to point in the direction of the first vision in chapter one and the repetition of formula “like a trumpet” helps to identify the first voice. This reading has found a large following. It isn’t as inevitable as it might seem at first glance.

Several Potential alternatives:

The first alternative doesn’t challenge the logic of the scenario described above. If the voice of Rev 1:10 is an angel or some other unidentified source (F. Dusterdieck:1884, pp110, 188f, H. Alford:1875 v.4 p593, H.B. Swete:1914, pp13,66) then the argument that Rev. 4:1 points to the voice in Rev 1:10 explains why the words are not marked as coming from Christ. This position is still held by some expositors see G. Beale:1999,p203 who appears to contradict himself on p. 317.

Compare F. Dusterdieck:1884 with D. Aune:1997

The voice which imparts the command, Revelation 1:11, belongs not to “an angel speaking in the person of Christ,” nor to the angel mentioned in Revelation 1:1, nor to God speaking in distinction from Christ, who speaks in Revelation 1:15. It has been thought that the voice proceeds from him whom John, Revelation 1:12 sqq., sees, and therefore from Christ himself; but on account of Revelation 4:1, this cannot be admitted. It is therefore, as in Revelation 4:1, Revelation 10:4; Revelation 10:8, entirely undecided as to whom this voice belongs.

F. Dusterdieck pp. 188-89

David Aune (R. H. Charles redivivus) commenting on the distinction between the first and second voice.

[Rev 4:1b] καὶ ἡ φωνὴ ἡ πρώτη ἣν ἤκουσα ὡς σάλπιγγος λαλούσης μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ λέγων ‘and the first voice, which I had heard like a trumpet speaking to me saying’ is a “redactional gloss intended to link this section with 1:9-20. The ‘first voice’ must be the voice in 1:10-11 … however, the author apparently wishes to distinguish the ‘first voice’ of 1:10-11 from the ‘second voice’; i.e., the ‘first voice’ is not the exalted Christ who summons John to the heavenly world in 4:1 but an … ‘interpreting angel.’ Though a distinction between two speakers cannot be found in 1:9-20 (Beckwith, 436), Zahn (1:317-18), Roloff (44-45) never the less think that the speaker in 1:11 is an angel while the he speaker in 1:19 is Christ.”

D. Aune:1997 (Rev. WBC v1 p282)

Some further exploration of an alternative where the voice in 1:10 is not the same as the voice in 4:1. There are three issues, the discourse function of Μετὰ ταῦτα “After this” in Revelation, the meaning and reference of ἡ φωνὴ ἡ πρώτη “the first voice”, and the significance of the repetition φωνὴ … ὡς σάλπιγγος “voice … like a trumpet” in Rev. 4:1.

Μετὰ ταῦτα “After this” is a standard formula in the Apocalypse for introducing a new scene, vision or episode. It isn’t so much a pointer to what precedes as it is an announcement of a new scenario (G. Beale 1999, en loc).

It is possible that ἡ φωνὴ ἡ πρώτη “the first voice” only pertains to the current scene/vision — the first voice in this episode. If you read on in chapter four there are other voices. This voice could be understood as first in relationship to the voices of the four living beings and the twenty four elders.

The repetition of the trumpet language in Rev 4:1 might appear to uniquely identify the voice in Rev 1:10. However, John often repeats stock language which serves to enhance textual coherence without any implications being drawn in regard to referential identity such as we find in this instance.

The expression φωνὴν μεγάλην ὡς σάλπιγγος “a loud voice like a trumpet” is language that accompanies theophany and divine discourse, perhaps an allusion to Exodus 19. The trumpet blast is stock eschatological material, see the New Testament examples below.

Ex. 19:16 ἐγένετο δὲ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ γενηθέντος πρὸς ὄρθρον καὶ ἐγίνοντο φωναὶ καὶ ἀστραπαὶ καὶ νεφέλη γνοφώδης ἐπ᾿ ὄρους Σινα, φωνὴ τῆς σάλπιγγος ἤχει μέγα· καὶ ἐπτοήθη πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ὁ ἐν τῇ παρεμβολῇ.

Ex. 19:16   On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled.

Ex. 19:19 ἐγίνοντο δὲ αἱ φωναὶ τῆς σάλπιγγος προβαίνουσαι ἰσχυρότεραι σφόδρα· Μωυσῆς ἐλάλει, ὁ δὲ θεὸς ἀπεκρίνατο αὐτῷ φωνῇ.

Ex. 19:19 As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder.

Ex. 20:18 Καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ἑώρα τὴν φωνὴν καὶ τὰς λαμπάδας καὶ τὴν φωνὴν τῆς σάλπιγγος καὶ τὸ ὄρος τὸ καπνίζον· φοβηθέντες δὲ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ἔστησαν μακρόθεν.

Ex. 20:18   When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance,

Heb. 12:19 and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.

Matt. 24:31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

1Cor. 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1Th. 4:16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

In summary, this alternative claims that the language is compatible with the idea that there is a different voice in Rev 4:1 than in Rev 1:10. This isn’t going to win a big following. The evidence does appear to point in the other direction.

  • If the voice in Rev 1:10 is that of an angel doesn't it seems strange that the angel claims deity, compare Rev 1:8 where we are told that it is the 'Lord' and the 'almighty' who is 'the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end' with Rev 1:11 - consider also Rev 22:13 where again clear it is God the son speaking (he is the one who is coming again) and we are left with only one conclusion, the person claiming these titles in Rev 1:10-11 is none other then the Son of God. Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 9:26
  • @Jonathan Chell, These expositors identify more than one voice in Rev 1. Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 17:26
  • 1
    They assert it, but they do not demonstrate it! When there is a simple and obvious reading that makes sense why over complicate the matter? Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 6:51

Let's simplify things and let the Bible interpret itself:

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. [Revelation 4:1-2 KJV]

The rest of the chapter describes the one on the throne and everything going on around it. But, don't stop there; chapter 5 continues the narrative:

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. [Revelation 5:1-7 KJV]

The one on the throne must be God the Father, because He is holding the book. Then the "Lion of the tribe of Judah"; the "Root of David", the "Lamb as it had been slain", (obviously, this is Jesus), takes the book out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne.

The command in Rev. 4:1, "Come up hither,..." should not be in red letters as it is spoken by God the Father, not Jesus.

  • 1
    Hey that is possible! The NASB doesn't use red letters when the Father speaks at Jesus's Baptism either. That's a cool way to think of it because John's main message in Revelation (imo) is that Jesus is I AM: that He IS God, always has been and always will be; that He's in total control every single moment of all eternity. So maybe John intentionally made it unclear whether the Father or the Son is speaking in order to show that it really doesn't matter because they're/He's still God: the One who sits on the almighty throne over all of creation throughout its entire existence. Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 5:04
  • I don't see the connection, perhaps you can clarify? The voice is heard before being caught up in the spirit. What reason is there to assume the voice heard prior to being taken in the spirit is a particular being seen inside the vision?
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 3:33
  • 1
    @Jacob John had just turned around (1:12) to see Jesus speaking with him, (on the same level). The voice in 4:1 is coming from above. Maybe since Jesus is God, He could have just shot up to heaven and yelled down to John to follow Him up, since He is also seen in heaven later, but I think that that is reading too much into the passage. It's more likely that whichever person of the Godhead calls, "Come up here." you are going to go directly to that person. When John hears, "Come up here," he is immediately in the heavenly throneroom, standing in front of God the Father, whom is on the throne. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 6:07

I disagree.... although Revelation 4:1 COULD be the Lord Jesus speaking.... I do not disregard the possibility of one of His angels ... being the "voice of the trumpet".. if we envision Jesus as the "trumpet"... then this could be stating the angel doing Christ's bidding.... aka... speaking on His behalf.. or relaying what Christ has said to this angel.... do these words NEED to be in red? ..the word's may be Christ's... yet the one ushering them in that moment may be an angel...doing Christ's bidding.. And did this Angel speak the words Christ gave them Verbatim?... how do we know that Jesus did not tell this Angel "Bid him to enter"... and the Angel re-worded it as "come up thither"....

If the words the Angel spoke were NOT indeed word for word what Christ said to him... but a paraphrased form... is it necessary to place them in Red letters?..

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  • The one with the voice like the sound of a trumpet is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is not one of his angels, as there are many entities before John in his visions.
    – Joshua B
    Commented Feb 25 at 0:06

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