Revelation Series Manuscripts

Revelation Series Manuscript #1  

"Who, What, When" October 11, 2020

Revelation Series Manuscript #2

"Who's Coming? - Part 1" October 18, 2020

Revelation Series Manuscript #3

"Who's Coming? - Part 2"October 25, 2020

 

Sermon Text – Revelation 1:1-6

10/11/20

Who, What, When?

Introduction ~ 

There was once a fellow who found himself in the middle of a field with an angry bull charging him.  The only escape in sight was a nearby tree, but the lowest limb was over ten feet off the ground.

With little hope, the man ran for it with the sounds of a charging bull coming ever closer behind him.  He made a tremendous leap, reaching out to the branch.  He missed the limb on the way up, but caught it on the way down.

 

As we consider wading into the mysteries of the Revelation, we will find that it seems something completely out of our control is racing toward us.  There seems to be nothing we can do to escape, and yet, we will find that God grants us the power to reach the limb.  The imagery we’re going to encounter may sound scary, even horrifying, but there’s no reason to fear.  God remains in control.  

Therefore, as we begin to study what is probably the single most difficult book in the Bible, there’s one primary principle that I want to serve as our lens for interpretation.  That lens is God’s love.  This is the foundational characteristic of our God; 1 John 4:16 ~ 

16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

 

God always acts consistent with His nature.  Therefore we can expect that even the horrific images of the book of Revelation will serve as a frame for God’s love.

Now, because there is so much involved in interpreting the Revelation, I have several handouts that will be included with the bulletins over the next couple of weeks.  These provide background information that I don’t want to take the time to explore during the sermons.  I hope you find them helpful, but if they’re not, feel free to dispose of them… just not on the floor of the church sanctuary.

Context ~ 

As we work through the Revelation we need to remember that, in Scripture, the Kingdom of God is referenced in multiple tenses.  There is the past tense in the sense that God has reigned over creation from the very beginning.  There is the present tense, in which His Kingdom now reigns in the hearts of His followers.  And, finally, there is the future tense in which Jesus will return and establish His divine authority and reign on earth forever.  

By way of a minor clarification, I believe, and will teach, that Jesus’ reign as King on earth will be a literal physical kingdom.  Some believe that this is spiritual, and quote passages such as Luke 17:20-21 ~ 

20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

 

In contrast to this, we also find passages such as Revelation 11:15~ 

15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

 

This is further teased out in passages such as Luke 1:30-33 ~ 

30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

 

So, although I acknowledge that the Kingdom of God begins in our hearts, I still see it as something yet to come in a literal, physical, reality.  It’s more than spiritual.  One reason for this is that Christ’s earthly reign is necessary if all of the promises God made to the Jews are going to be literally fulfilled.  

So, you see that even something as fundamental as Christ’s earthly reign can be a subject of debate.  There are many topics addressed within this book that are debated in a similar way.  We’ll need to try to keep that in mind as we strive to interpret and apply our way through the book.  

Our full text today is Revelation 1:1-6 ~ ; 

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

 

Revelation ~ 

With that, let’s begin to examine the details of the opening passages of the Revelation; Revelation 1:1a ~ 

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—…

 

The Revelation (note: singular “Revelation,” not “Revelations”) reveals Jesus Christ in His glory as our Savior, as our Great High Priest, as our King, and as the One who is in complete control.  

The word, “revelation,” is (Ἀποκάλυψις) in Greek.  In the New Testament, the word is used exclusively in the religious sense of divine disclosure.  This (Ἀποκάλυψις) is more than the name of a book in the Bible, the word has meaning, it references laying bare what was previously unknown, a disclosure of truth.  

In our culture today, we tend to read “apocalypse” and think total devastation, nuclear holocaust.  That’s not how the first century readers understood it.  For them, it was God prophetically revealing the future, as well as proclaiming His will for the present.  What they needed to know was being given to them.

The text says this is the Revelation, the Apocalypse, the unveiling, “of” Jesus Christ.  Now that little word “of” is important even though it’s not actually in the Greek text.  The translators inserted it because “Jesus” is in the genitive case.  In Greek, this case, or the inflected word form, points to possession.  Therefore, the genitive case typically serves to mark a noun as the source or possessor of something.  Alternatively, it may refer to the kind of relationship that particular noun has with another noun.  

Now, what all that means is this; the form of Jesus’ name used in the passage could be operating as an objective genitive which mean that this is a revelation about Jesus Christ, or it could be operating as a subjective genitive which means that He is the One who received the revelation and is now passing it on to John.  In context, the latter choice is better, and that agrees with Jesus’ words in Mark 13:31-33 ~ 

31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.

 

Soon ~ 

So, right out the gates we run across a potential problem; Revelation 1:1b ~ 

—things which must shortly take place.

 

Jesus says these things must take place “shortly” (τάχει) in verse one.  The word means “quickly,” “shortly,” or “soon.”  It most often pertains to a point of time that follows another point of time with a relatively brief interval between the two.  What do we do with that?

We start by looking at the grammar.  Here the word is a noun in the dative case which normally functions as the indirect object, or as the object of a preposition.  It serves to reference the person or thing that is given something, or that receives the action of another.  Here it is the object of the preposition “in” (ἐν) within the infinitive clause “take place in a short time.”

Now, this may be understood in a number of ways.  I seems to me that the most natural reading is that this will take place in a short period of time after it was written: i.e. within a few years.  The letter opens and closes with the assurances that these things will happen quickly, forming a kind of bookend for the letter.  We find this in Revelation 1:1 ~ 

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.

 

This is reemphasized at the end of the letter where we find this statement again; Revelation 22:6 ~ 

6 Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.

 

Clearly, these things were still in the future from John’s perspective.  Remembering that this was written, most likely, somewhere around 1,950 years ago, this creates some problems.  The vast majority Christians in the western hemisphere are still waiting for, and expecting, these events to take place.  There is virtually no standard of time measurement that would argue that 2000 years could in any way be argued to be “soon.”

So, how do we understand this?  Was Jesus wrong?  

There are a couple of things to keep in mind as we struggle with this.  First, most of us are unfamiliar with our world histories.  There are events in history that could be interpreted to be the fulfillment of much of the Revelation.  A number of scholars, good conservative scholars with a commitment to the inspiration of the word of God, will make the argument that these things in the Revelation have, in fact, already taken place.  Events under the reign of Nero in the 70’s fit very well.  Events that took place under Domitian in the 90’s also fit very well.

This is known as the Preterist view of the eschatology; this interpretive approach sees Jesus’ prophesies about His return and the destruction of the temple, and the Revelation, as having been, from John’s perspective, in the future, but from our perspective, as being completed in the past.  

Having said that, I don’t find the Preterist view to be compelling.  Some, maybe even many, of the events that took place under Roman rule fit very well with the things described.  However, the historic events that the Preterists point to as having been fulfilled in the Revelation, seem to me, to fail to match the global nature of the events described, and example of this is Revelation 8:7 begins the judgment heralded by trumpets ~ 

7 The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

 

Even granting symbolic language and apocalyptic hyperbole, the scope of this and the following passages seem to go beyond the historic events that took place under Nero or Domitian.  

So, do we have to ignore the presence of the word “shortly” (τάχει) in the text?  Not at all.  Now, before I proceed I have to tell you that I don’t find resorting to 2 Peter 3:8-9 as a compelling reason to see this as something in the distant future.  2 Peter 3:8-9 says ~ 

8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

 

That seems to me to be a disingenuous use of the passage.  But as we look at grammar and word meanings, we find something interesting.  It could be that (τάχει), “soon,” is actually intended to be translated as “quickly.”  This is a perfectly legitimate translation, and is grammatically acceptable.  The passage may then be interpreted to say that, once these things begin, it will all take place quickly.

Having said that, there is, finally, an alternative way to interpret the text of Revelation 1:1.  Rather than simply looking at the grammar, we can also examine the genre.  Genre is always important for biblical interpretation, and it is especially so when tackling the literature contained in the Revelation.  

The genre of apocalypse is used heavily in this book.  In your handouts I provide a brief description of each of the genres employed in the Revelation.  When dealing with eschatology and apocalyptic language, the future is always seen as immanent regardless of the intervening elapse of time.  An example of this is Isaiah 3:24-26 ~ 

24    And so it shall be:

Instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench;

Instead of a sash, a rope;

Instead of well-set hair, baldness;

Instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth;

And branding instead of beauty.

25    Your men shall fall by the sword,

And your mighty in the war.

26    Her gates shall lament and mourn,

And she being desolate shall sit on the ground.

 

This prophesy was made shortly after 740 BC.  And yet, this prophecy was not fulfilled until 597 B.C. and the events recorded in 2 Kings 24:13-14 ~ 

13 And he carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and he cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said. 14 Also he carried into captivity all Jerusalem: all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land.

 

God began to warn the Kingdom of Judah that there were consequences for their sin, but it took 140 years, 3 ½ generations, before judgment finally fell.  Therefore, “soon” need not be understood in terms of a short lapse of time between the message’s delivery and the culmination of events.  

In apocalyptic literature, time as a chronological sequence is, at best, a secondary concern.  “Soon” simply means that it could take place at any time.  That’s exactly Jesus’ point in Matthew 13:35-37 ~ 

35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

 

Having said that, a word of caution is in order.  It would seem the original audience understood these events to be imminent, that is, within most of their lifetimes.  That remains the most natural reading.  So draw your conclusions with caution.

John ~ 

Next we come to the author.  It is my view that the author, identified simply as John, is John the Apostle; Revelation 1:1 ~ 

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,…

 

There are a variety of reasons for this, not least being this is the traditional interpretation of the Church.  Some early church scholars, such as Origen, felt that the Greek employed was distinctly different from John’s other writings and therefore concluded that the Revelation to have been written by someone else.  However, in contrast, Polycarp, a disciple of John’s, wrote that the Apostle John was the author.

Additionally, the Apostle John was a well-known leader of the Church, he had resided in Ephesus prior to being exiled to the isle of Patmos.  We also find that he had extensive knowledge of the condition of each of the churches addressed.  Therefore it would have been unnecessary to provide much in the way of identification, everyone knew who he was.

So, I’m working off the assumption that the Apostle John wrote the Revelation.

Purpose ~ 

With that out of the way, note that the letter opens with a purpose statement; Revelation 1:1 ~ 

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.

 

The text says that this is given so that we might now what was/is coming.  It’s not intended to be a mystery, it is intended to be a revelation.  Back at the end of the book, Jesus says this; Revelation 22:10 ~ 

10 And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.

 

This stands in contrast to the command that Daniel received at the end of his vision in Daniel 12:9 ~ 

9 And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

 

Given these facts, and given that this particular book is notoriously difficult to understand, we’ll apply the rule of biblical interpretation that says you interpret Scripture with Scripture, and I will seek to do so as often as possible.  We need to do our best to understand and apply the material presented in this book.  It’s been given to us with a purpose, just was with all other Scripture; 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ~ 

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

Word of God ~ 

Next, we find that the angle, or messenger, was delivering the word of God; Revelation 1:2 ~ 

2 …who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.

 

John tells us that the message he conveys is God’s word delivered in continuity with the prophets of the Old Testament.  What’s more, he tells us that these were things he, personally, saw.  

Although in the book of John “word of God:” is used to reference the Person of Jesus, here it refers to the promises and acts of God.  When we see the expression “word of God” we need to stop and think about what that tells us.  Is it a reference to Jesus, THE Word of God?  Is it referring to the Scriptures, the word of God?  Or… is it referring to the Gospel, often called the word of God.  Alternatively, is it simply referring to God’s words in whatever form they may be delivered?  We have to read with our minds on the alert.  

Here it means God’s words, the message that He is sending to His Church.

Blessed ~ 

Next we find something unusual.  There is revealed a surprising blessing being offered, one that I don’t think is specifically stated anywhere else in Scripture; Revelation 1:3~ 

3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

 

The word “blessed” (μακάριος) is used in the New Testament to refer to the distinctive joy resulting from the knowledge of our salvation and inclusion in the Kingdom of God.  It is alternatively translated as “blessed,” happy,” and “fortunate.”

It seems to me that this blessing is some low hanging fruit.  Because of that, each week we’ll take the time to read the full text starting with where we left off the previous week, and then read through where we’ll end this week.  That way, over the duration of our study of Revelation, we’ll have read the entire letter through.  Why not place ourselves in a position to receive the blessings God promises?

But notice something else, we’re not supposed to simply know what it says, we are supposed to keep what it says; Revelation 1:3b

…, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

 

The Revelation gives us a glimpse of the future, but it also tells us what God wants right now.  We’ll need to keep our eyes open for that as we move along.

The Churches ~ 

Then, at last, we find out who the specific recipients of the letter are; Revelation 1:4a ~ 

4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:

 

One of the things that differentiates churches today from the churches of the first century is the decision that was required.  To be a part of the Christian church meant you decided to abandon your old life and its connections.  Although that’s still really the truth, we can get away with being a part of the church and never deciding whose side we’re on:

There was a little old man who was seen every Sunday walking down the street to his church.  He was deaf, so he couldn’t hear a word of the sermon, or the music of the choir, or the hymns sung by the congregations.

Finally, a local scoffer asked him, “Why do you spend your Sundays in that church?  You can’t hear of word of what’s actually going on.”  The old man never hesitated as he replied, “I want my neighbors to know who’s side I’m on.”

 

These churches, located in Asia, had made that choice.  They could no longer participate in emperor worship; that came with consequences.  It severed many business ties, it broke down social contacts, and it isolated Christians from their pagan neighbors.  They came to be viewed as different, and therefore untrustworthy.

Now, “Asia” was a reference to what we normally think of as Asia Minor, mostly the western region of modern day Turkey.  There's no mystery in that.  But why just seven churches?  These were literal, real, churches that existed during the first century.  But surely there were others.  We know there were.  After all, we’ve just spent sixteen weeks studying the letter to the Colossians, and that church was in this region.  

Some have seen each of the churches to symbolically stand for difference church ages down through history.  Ephesus would prophetically stand in the place of all churches during the apostolic period up to around A.D. 95.  Smyrna represents the martyred church which would last until about A.D. 316 and Constantine.  The next periods become more difficult to find agreement on… until we get to Laodicea and the present period of lukewarm apostasy.

Here’s the catch, there’s nothing in the text that suggests this is John’s intent.  There is an interesting detail, the churches are listed in the order they would have been visited if you were to start in Ephesus and follow the ancient travel circuit ending in Laodicea.  

The truth is, in every church age examples of each of these churches may be found.  Personally, I find the speculation about symbolic church ages to be both relatively unimportant and doubtful.  Whether they symbolically stand for something or not, we can learn from what Jesus had to say to them in very much the same way we learned from what Jesus had to say to the church in Colossi.

Seven ~ 

So, we still have to deal with the fact that John addressed only seven churches.  It would seem that there’s something significant about the number seven.  

This number shows up A LOT in the Scriptures, the Jews walked around the city of Jericho seven times, Naaman was told to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times, there were seven years of plenty and seven years of famine in Egypt during the life of Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar was insane for seven years, there are seven beatitudes in the New Testament, there are seven petitions in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus spoke from the cross seven times, seven churches are addressed in the Revelation of Jesus Christ; so… yes, seven seems to be a significant number.

I’ve heard it said, and I’ve said it myself, that seven is the perfect number.  That’s actually not correct, in Scripture seven denotes completeness, not perfection.  Sometimes that’s the same thing, and sometimes not.  

In fact, seven is not the only number in the Scriptures that convey the idea of completeness, seven, ten, forty, one hundred, these are all regarded as giving the idea of completeness.  Seven, in particular denoted either plurality or completeness, as in the idea of seven-fold.

In this case, writing to the seven churches, obviously plural, could be intended denote that these seven stood in the place of the entire body of Christ.  The complete Church.  Again, there’s nothing specifically in the text that says so, the best we can do is infer this was the intent.  If you prefer seven church ages, fine by me.

God ~ 

Now, we quickly run into some more difficult mysteries as it appears that the nature of God may be implied; Revelation 1:4b-5a ~ 

Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.

 

In Scripture, every time we’re given a name for God it is theologically significant.  Most interpreters agree that the reference to the One who is, and who was, and who is to come points us to the Father, we’re introduced to Him in Exodus 3:14 ~ 

14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

 

He is further self-identified in Isaiah 41:4 ~ 

4    Who has performed and done it,

Calling the generations from the beginning?

‘I, the Lord, am the first;

And with the last I am He.’ ”

 

The next designation is a little more tenuous, the reference to the seven Spirits before the throne.  Many see this as a reference to the Holy Spirit.  The imagery is very similar to the imagery of Zechariah 4:1-6 ~ 

4 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?”

So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. 3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.” 4 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, “What are these, my lord?”

5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?”

And I said, “No, my lord.”

6 So he answered and said to me:

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:

‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’

Says the Lord of hosts.

 

That’s not terribly helpful since this passage never explicitly explains the seven lamps.  There are four other places in Revelation where the seven Spirits are mentioned, and in each case the reference is enigmatic.  

Some see the reference to the seven Spirits as a reference to the Ministry of the Holy Spirit to the seven churches.  If that’s the case, then the idea of completeness plays in again and we find the ministry of God to the churches through His Spirit is complete, there is nothing lacking.

Others see this as a reference to a reference to some heavenly entourage that has a special ministry in connection with the Lamb.  In the end, we’ll have to simply admit we cannot know for sure what this references.  Personally, I lean toward this referring to the Holy Spirit, mainly because the next Person mentioned is Jesus; Revelation 1:5a ~ 

5 … and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.

 

One reason to see the reference to the seven Spirits as a reference to the Holy Spirit is that we then have an elaborate formula that references the Trinitarian nature of God at work.

Interestingly, and probably significantly, we then have Jesus described in a triad; Jesus the faithful witness, Jesus the first-born from the dead, and Jesus the Ruler over the kings of the earth.  Most of these are pretty obvious, but “first-born from the dead” probably deserves a little attention.

This doesn’t mean that Jesus was created first.  It means that He is preeminent as both the source and sustainer of all creation.  It signifies that, not only was Jesus the first to be raised from the dead glorified, but that He also holds first place of significance.

Paul uses this expression in a couple of places, one being Romans 8:29-30 ~ 

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

 

It conveys Jesus’ position of supreme authority in much the same way we saw Jesus proclaimed as supreme over creation, supreme over the Church, and supreme over individual followers.

Jesus ~ 

And then, finally for today, we have a series of descriptors applied to the Person of Jesus; Revelation 1:5b-6 ~ 

5b To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

 

Again, we’re reminded of the love of God for mankind, we’re reminded of His mercy and grace, and we’re reminded that this humble and lowly Jesus is also the One who deserves our praise, worship, and service; Romans 5:6-11 ~ 

6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

 

Finally, remember that the love of God will be laced throughout the Revelation, and as we wade into the mess I don’t want us to lose sight of the fact that God is love, and that all He does is an expression of that love; 1 John 4:14-16 ~ 

14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

 

Conclusion ~ 

Take another look at Revelation 1:5b-6 ~ 

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

 

This Jesus loves us with an unshakable and sacrificing love.  Because of that love He has cleansed us of sin in every respect; penalty, power, and, ultimately, presence.  In love He has appointed each of us to be both kings and priests to God the Father.

I encourage you to spend some time this week meditating on Revelation 1:5b-6, think about this Person who loves us so much that He would do what He did, that He would suffer what He suffered, so that we could enjoy Him forever.  That will give you the right lenses to read the Revelation with.  

And then, with the angelic hosts, ascribe to him glory and dominion forever and ever.

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Sermon Text – Revelation 1:7-17

10/18/20

Who’s Coming, Part #1?

Introduction ~ 

A preacher mentioned in one of his sermons that God came out of nowhere.  After the message, one fellow challenged him on that point.  He said, “Preacher, let’s be reasonable about this,” to which the pastor replied, “All right, if you want to be reasonable about it, the reason God came from nowhere was that there wasn’t anywhere for Him to come from, and coming from nowhere, He stood on nothing, for there was nowhere for Him to stand.  And standing on nothing, He reached out to where there was nowhere to reach and caught something when there was nothing to catch and hung that something on nothing and told it to stay there, and nobody said a word.  The reason nobody said a word was that there wasn’t anybody there to say anything, so God Himself said, “That’s good.”

 

Just as God is a mystery, so is most of what He does.  Thinking through the implications of Revelation could give you a headache, but behind it all we have to remember one thing.  The interpretive lens we use is the love of God.  That can help to smooth out some of the tough spots we’re certainly going to come up on.

Context ~ 

In our passage today we find a number of clues, or indicators, for the source of all that will follow.  What we find is that the man Jesus is now revealed in glory and power as the eternal Son of God who is coming again.  Our full text today is Revelation 1:7-17 ~ 

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

 

The Coming King ~ 

Jesus is shown to be coming, but the coming is described in an interesting way; Revelation 1:7 ~ 

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

 

Verse 7 affirms Christ’s kingship over the nations of the earth.  It affirms that He’s not done with planet earth.  It affirms that He is, indeed, God almighty.  And… it affirms that He is the Judge.    The expression, “He is coming with the clouds,” speaks of Christ’s return.  That return is described in Revelation 19:11-16 ~  

11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS

 

Jesus’ return is very different from His first coming, this time He is revealed as the returning King.  He is described as the offspring of David in Revelation 22:16 ~

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

 

That King was predicted back in Jeremiah 23:5 ~ 

5    “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,

“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;

A King shall reign and prosper,

And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.

 

This is God telling the people that He will keep the promise that He made to David in 2 Samuel 7:16 ~ 

16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” ’ ”

 

The reassurance to Jesus’ people, that He remains King, in complete control and knowing exactly what was happening, was probably needed.  After all, how do we reconcile being children of God, priests and ministers, joint heirs with Christs, and therefore rulers with Jesus in the Millennial Kingdom, in light of their (and our) present suffering?  We hold onto His promises.

He is Coming ~ 

Consider “He is coming” in Revelation 1:7a ~ 

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him.

 

“He is coming” is translated by the single word, (ἔρχεται).  It means “to come.”  The idea is to come from one place to another.  So we know that Jesus is coming.  Jesus Himself made that promise in John 14:3 ~ 

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

 

That promise is now reiterated.  The verb used, (ἔρχεται), is in the indicative mood, the present tense, and either the middle or passive deponent voice.  You probably remember that the indicative mood is used to describe something that “is,” as opposed to what “might be.”  This is the mood in Greek used to convey factual information.

Before we look at tense, I want to spend just a couple of moments examining the “voice” of the verb.  This is what is called a deponent verb.  The strange thing about deponent verbs, whether middle or passive, is that the meaning is always active even though the inflected form is not an active form.  What that means is that, although the form of the verb is not active, the meaning is.  It’s just a strange detail I stumbled across.  But what it tells us is that no one is doing this to Jesus, He is the one bringing it about.

Now, it’s the tense of the verb that we’re really interested in.  This “coming” is in the present tense.  The present tense usually describes something as being in process at the time of speaking.  However, depending on context, it can reference something taking place in the future but described in terms of the present.  Alternatively, it may convey the idea that something that is taking place repeatedly.

Again, remember that prophesy always treats the event prophesied as imminent.  So what we find is that He is coming, that’s clear.  But the present tense would tell us that He is coming right now.  That could be, in which case this sermon is no longer needed.  

Additionally, it is grammatically possible that He is always coming, or that He is coming repeatedly.  It’s apparent that many “comings” are possible, and according to some biblical interpreters, this understanding is even likely.  The fall of Jerusalem is seen as a judgment Jesus predicted and executed against Israel for rejecting the Messiah.  

His “comings” in both blessing and judgment throughout history are manifestations of the exercise of His authority throughout history.  Therefore, Christ’s “coming” in verse 7, along with other references to His coming in Revelation may be, and probably should be, understood as a process of occurrences throughout history, with the “second coming” actually being the final coming.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the intended sense of the passage.  Therefore, it seems to me, without having an ax to grind, that this points to a future event, but one that is currently, and continually, in the process of taking place.  Jesus is coming.

In the Clouds ~ 

What’s intended is that this coming will not be a secret coming.  Could there be other “comings?”  Yes.  If you believe in a pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation rapture, that would happen prior to this coming in power and glory.  We’ll address that later in the Revelation.  For now, simply note that this coming will not be a secret coming, it will be very public as He comes to establish His Kingdom.  Jesus says this; Revelation 1:7 ~ 

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

 

This statement combines two separate prophesies; the first words are from Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13 ~ 

13    “I was watching in the night visions,

And behold, One like the Son of Man,

Coming with the clouds of heaven!

He came to the Ancient of Days,

And they brought Him near before Him.

 

In its Old Testament context this refers to the Son of Man enthroned over all the nations.  By applying this passage to Jesus, He is shown as its fulfillment, coming as the King.  This is then supplemented with Zechariah 12:10 ~ 

10 “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

 

In context, this addresses the period when God will defeat the enemies of His people, again in context, Israel.  But in Revelation 1:7 John amends the passage in Zechariah by adding the phrases (πᾶς ὀφθαλμός) “every eye” and (τῆς γῆς) “of the earth.”.  This serves to take a prophesy that was initially dealing with Israel and expanding it to include all the nations of the planet.

Now, Jesus coming with the clouds points to the supernatural nature of Jesus’ return.  

I recently saw someone post that Jesus will not arrive riding on Airforce One.

 

That is correct, and it will happen in such a way that it will be known to everyone.  But… even as we acknowledge this, there’s a bit of an interpretive challenge with this imagery.  The expression, “coming in the clouds,” was commonly used in the Old Testament.  In each case it was symbolic language used to convey God’s majesty, power, and glory.  No one actually saw God riding in the clouds like a chariot or skate board or moped or something.  We find this language in Isaiah 19:1 ~ 

19 The burden against Egypt.

Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud,

And will come into Egypt;

The idols of Egypt will totter at His presence,

And the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst.

 

By taking this language and applying it to Jesus every Jew would have immediately recognized this is revealing Him as God.  In fact, during His trial before the Sanhedrin Jesus used this imagery, and the Jews immediately recognized the significance of what Jesus was saying; Mark 14:61-64 ~ 

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

62 Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?”

 

The Jews immediately recognized that Jesus was claiming to be God.  However, in none of the instances in the Old Testament where this expression is used is God ever literally seen.  So, once again, a certain note of caution is appropriate as we seek to apply the symbolic language of the Revelation.  

What’s so interesting about this is that Jesus takes this symbolic language where, in the Old Testament, it was used to convey the power and grandeur of God without Him being literally seem, and He then takes that language and explicitly states that He will be seen! 

Seen by Whom? ~ 

He will be seen by everyone!  But… what about this business of those who pierced Him seeing His coming?  Revelation 1:7 ~ 

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

 

It could be that Pilate, Annas, and Caiaphas, along with all the others involved in Jesus’ crucifixion, were understood to act as representatives for all of mankind.  If the idea of representative guilt is in mind then, “they who pierced Him,” this could be a reference to all those who are guilty of rejecting him.  Again, I emphasize “could.”

Alternatively, there are obscure references in Scripture that are suggestive, such as Ephesians 4:9-10 ~ 

 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

 

I don’t know exactly what this means, but could it be that Jesus revealed Himself to those involved in His execution after these individuals died?  I don’t know, but what I do know is that those who have perished continue to exist while they wait for the resurrection of the dead: 2 Corinthians 5:8 ~ 

8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

 

If Christians are awake and aware after death, it is reasonable that those who die apart from Christ would be as well, although presumably not in Paradise.  Regardless of the conclusions you draw, it’s necessary to keep in mind the symbolic nature of the Revelation.  In some sense, we know that He will be revealed as God and King to “those who pierced Him.”

Who’s Coming?

Next, precisely Who is coming in the clouds is revealed; Revelation 1:8 ~ 

8 “I am the Alpha and the Ω, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

 

The purpose of verse 8 is to emphasize Jesus, as God, sovereign over all history  It would be hard to miss the impact of the claims being made for Jesus in this passage.  The force of the words are very much in line with what is written in John 1:1-5 ~  

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.  3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

 

Last week we saw the Father identified as the eternal One, now we find a similar designation being applied to Jesus.  The expression, “alpha and omega” is a Greek idiom referring to completeness.  He says of Himself that He is the alpha and the omega.  

Of the many names of God that reveal His character, there are four strong names applied in this verse to Jesus; “Alpha and Omega,” “Lord God,” “who is and who was and who is to come,” and “the Almighty.”  This speaks to Jesus’ eternal nature, nothing was before Him, and there will be nothing that exists after Him, since there will be no “after.”  He is supreme in all things.  This One who transcends time is also guiding the course of history to its appointed end.  Nothing is beyond His reach.  All power is His.  When we are in right relation with Him, that power is available to us:

The story is told of Thomas Aquinas speaking with Pope Innocent II while the Pope was counting a large sum of money from the Vatican treasury.  The Pope turned to Aquinas and noted that the church no longer needs to say, “Silver and gold have I none.”

Thomas intently looked into the Pope’s eyes and sadly commented, “Neither can we any longer say, ‘Arise and walk.’”

 

It all hinges on where we put our trust.  If you look at Jesus’ return through the lens of God’s love for us it becomes even more breathtaking.  That this One, who can be called the Almighty, would condescend to take onto Himself our sin should cause us to sit up and take note.  Where will we focus our attention?

 
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Sermon Text – Revelation 1:7-17

10/25/20

Who’s Coming? Part #2

 

Introduction ~ 

A woman who worked for a veterinarian was about to have knee surgery.  She was nervous about this, and decided to ask her veterinarian boss if he had any words of advice for her.  Without much thought, he provided this good advice, “Just turn your worries into prayers, get plenty of rest, and don’t lick the incision.”

 

In our passage today, Jesus is revealed.  If that revelation is allowed to accomplish all that it should, your perspective should be changed.  You will know there is no reason to worry about the future, and you will know not to lick your wounds.  

Today is part #2 of last week’s sermon, the full text is Revelation 1:7-17 ~ 

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

 

Today we’ll pick up at verse 10 and the first of the visions recorded by John in the Revelation.

Jesus Revealed ~ 

If that’s not enough, we’re given more information about this Jesus whom we serve.  John hears Jesus speak, there is power in that voice; Revelation 1:10 ~ 

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,… 

 

It is at the sound of that voice that the dead in Christ will rise to eternal life.  We find this, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ~ 

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

 

That same voice is what John heard in his vision; Revelation 1:12-13 ~ 

12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.

 

Is hyperbole being used to express the sense of Jesus majesty, or is this simply a description of what John literally saw as Jesus revealed His innate glory?  It boils down to whether this is simple narrative, or prophetic language.  I tend to assume this is literal, there are too many Old Testament encounters with God that sound similar.

Lamp Stands ~ 

The thing John sees is the revelation of the Son of Man in the midst of “seven golden lampstands.”  We know that the lampstands are symbolic of the churches because we’re told they are in Revelation 1:20 ~ 

20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.

 

Jesus being in the midst of the lampstands, the churches, is significant.  With the Old Testament foreshadowing the New Testament, it was the High Priest who had sole oversight of the lampstands in both the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple; Leviticus 24:3-4 ~ 

3 Outside the veil of the Testimony, in the tabernacle of meeting, Aaron shall be in charge of it from evening until morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a statute forever in your generations. 4 He shall be in charge of the lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the Lord continually.

 

The general background John draws from with the lamps comes, first, from the lamp used in the Tabernacle described in Exodus 25:31 ~ 

31 “You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece.

 

Then, for the next half dozen verses or so, the details of the lampstand are provided.  Although those are interesting, they’re not that helpful to us today.  However, there is something in another verse that is. The same imagery is symbolically applied to Israel in Zechariah 4:1-2 ~ 

4 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?”

So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.

 

In this vision, the lampstand with its seven lamps figuratively stand for the entire temple which, by extension, was used to represent all those descendants of Abraham that remained faithful to God through all of their hardships.  Remember, in Zechariah these were people who had survived the exile to Babylon.  They had returned home, and were now facing severe hardship as they worked to restore both the city of Jerusalem and, more importantly, the Temple.  

Zechariah prophesied that these people would draw their power to complete the work of the temple construction directly from God’s Spirit.  Consequently, with Jesus standing in the midst of His church, they, His followers, each of us now incorporating all peoples, are given divine power to complete our work, which is to be Jesus’ ambassadors.  Our work is to share in the ministry of reconciliation that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 ~ 

18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

 

The shift from one lampstand in Zechariah to seven in Revelation points out that the letters in Revelation are intended for the church universal (remember the number seven being the number for completeness?).  It also points to the fact that true Israel is no longer limited to the biological descendants of Abraham, instead it now includes all peoples.  Christ’s sovereign oversight of His churches necessarily assumes His constant presence among them.  

Now, in the reality only suggested in the Old Testament, Jesus, our great High Priest, stands in the midst of His churches, overseeing them, caring for them.  So, the glorified Christ is shown to be in the midst of His seven churches, and if seven is intended to be symbolic of completeness, then this is a picture of Christ in the midst of the Church universal.

Jesus Revealed ~ 

Then John saw Jesus, He’s recognizable, John says the One he saw looked “like” the Son of Man; Revelation 1:13 ~ 

13 … and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.

 

Most commentators agree that Christ is here portrayed as both the King and High Priest.  One aspect of Jesus’ priestly role is to tend the lampstands (the Church).  Just as with the Levitical priesthood, the priest was responsible to trim the lamps, remove the wick and old oil, refill the lamps with fresh oil, and relight those that had gone out.   In the same way, Christ tends the ecclesial lampstands, His Church, by commending, correcting, exhorting, and warning each one as needed.

The description of Jesus comes from a number of Old Testament allusions.  There is, as you might begin to expect, some ambiguity since the clothing described may apply to either a priest or King.  But it is entirely possible that this is deliberate since Jesus is both King and High Priest.  One example is found in Daniel 10:5-6 ~ 

5 I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.

 

First we note that in both passages He is wearing a garment that falls to His feet with a golden band that runs around His chest.  Being clothed in a robe and “girded with gold,” is a descriptions of priestly clothing.  But the description continues with Jesus’ physical appearance; Revelation 1:13-14 ~ 

14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;…

 

We find the description of the Son of Man’s head and hair matching that of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9 ~ 

9    “I watched till thrones were put in place,

And the Ancient of Days was seated;

His garment was white as snow,

And the hair of His head was like pure wool.

His throne was a fiery flame,

Its wheels a burning fire;

 

At the same time, the description of Jesus’ eyes and feet match Daniel 10:6 ~ 

6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.

 

The overall impression is probably more important than the individual details as Jesus is revealed for Who He Is.  This must remind us of Jesus’ nature being revealed during His transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-2 ~ 

17 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

 

Now, in eastern countries white hair commands respect and points to the wisdom of years.  The blazing eyes may denote penetrating scrutiny or fierce judgment, both would be applicable within the context of the Revelation.

Judgment is implied in Revelation 1:15 ~ 

15 … His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;…

 

His feet are described to be burnished brass, symbolically understood to represent judgment.  This glowing metal is one of the symbols connected with the appearance of the glory of God.  We find a similar figure described in Ezekiel 8:2 ~ 

2 Then I looked, and there was a likeness, like the appearance of fire—from the appearance of His waist and downward, fire; and from His waist and upward, like the appearance of brightness, like the color of amber.

 

Finally, the language used to describe Jesus’ voice echoes what we find in Ezekiel 43:2  ~ 

2 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory.

 

Jesus’ voice is the same one that spoke the universe into existence for His purposes.  It is this same Jesus who reveals the Father, and through whom all things were made and are sustained; Hebrews 1:1-3 ~ 

1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

 

It is the same voice that will call His followers to rise from the grave.  It is His voice that will finally call those still alive at His returning to join Him outside of this world.

He’s Doing Something ~ 

But as intriguing as Jesus’ personal appearance is, He’s shown to be doing something; Revelation 1:16

16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

 

Revelation 1:20 identifies the “stars” ~ 

20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.

 

In both the Old Testament, and in Revelation, stars are often associated with angles, although not always.  Now, “angels” is not as precise an expression as we might like.  The word is (ἄγγελοι) and fundamentally means “messenger.”   Although only used rarely in Scripture to reference human messengers, it is used to refer to those Jesus sent out in Luke 9:51-52 ~ 

51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.

 

The primary use of the word in the New Testament refers to divine messengers and heavenly representatives.  We find such a reference on Hebrews 12:22 ~ 

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels

 

Because of this, (ἄγγελοι) refers to a messenger, an envoy, one who is sent, an angel, a messenger from God, and therefore can refer to missionaries, prophets, or evangelists.  

In our text, the point is that Christ is the priestly ruler not only of the church on earth but also of its heavenly counterpart.  The right hand of God was seen as the place of both power and safety in the ancient world.  The “angels” in His right hand could be angels assigned to watch over the churches, some have seen it as a reference to the pastors serving those churches, and some see the seven stars pointing to the churches’ position in the heavenly temple in the midst of which Christ is ruling and present.  Take your pick.

A Sword ~ 

And now we come to a strange image, a double edged sword coming out of His mouth, and His face is glowing like the sun.  This is almost certainly symbolic language.  Its roots are found in the prophecies of Isaiah 11:4 ~ 

4    But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,

And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,

And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.

 

Hebrews describes the word of God as being a two edged sword; Hebrews 4:12-13 ~ 

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

 

The metaphor of the sword is important for a few reasons.  First, it adds to Jesus being depicted as the eschatological Judge, the One who will fulfill the Messianic expectation.  The expression comes up five different times throughout Revelation, and the word used for “sword” is unusual and found only in the Revelation.  The word is (ῥομφαία).  This reference denotes a Thracian weapon, a large double edged sword.  It was a broad sword that was used for both cutting and piercing.

A sword is both a weapon and a symbol for war, but here coming from the mouth of Christ rather than in His hand, it points to divine judgment that will not be accomplished through the normal power wielded by nations.

Glory ~ 

Then, finally, Jesus’ face, or countenance, reveals His divine glory and preeminence.  These verses identify the Christ to John and connect this vision to Jesus’ existence in history.  

Notice John’s reaction.  This is the one who was Jesus’ most intimate friend, the one Jesus committed the care of His mother to as He was crucified, and yet, in the presence of the glorified Christ, John faints dead away.  John finds himself in the presence of the divine, the One described in Psalm 90:2 ~ 

2    Before the mountains were brought forth,

Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,

Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

 

With that, we find the only reasonable response; Revelation 1:17 ~ 

17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

 

Jesus at Work ~ 

Jesus’ work of redemption is complete, but His ministry continues.  He intercedes for us as our High Priest; Hebrews 7:24-25 ~ 

24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

 

He stands as our advocate interceding for us before the Father; 1 John 2:1-2 ~ 

2 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

 

But at this point we find that the ones being judged are His people.  He is the judge, there is no flattery, there is no partiality, He will not overlook sin.  And yet, for the Christian there is no sin, it has been taken to the cross.  We are told this, in Colossians 2:13-14 ~ 

13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

 

Application ~ 

As the first and the last, John clearly identifies Jesus as God, the absolute Lord of history, and the Creator of all that exists.  It was this One who determined to die so that we might be saved; 1 Peter 1:17-21 ~ 

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

 

We have in our passage today a vision describing the glorified Person of Jesus Christ, God the Son.  And yet, at the same time He is the son of Mary, God’s decisive act of mercy as He works to save us; Galatians 4:4-5 ~ 

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born  dof a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

 

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the grandeur and glory of the exalted Lord that we forget that He loves us, in fact loves us intensely.  He is the One who came into the world to save you and me.  He is the same One described in John 3:16-17 ~ 

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

 

Rightly understood, this passage gives us a much greater understanding of the mystery of God’s love.  The Judge is also the Savior, God almighty is also the One who humbled Himself so that you and I might be saved.  Philippians 2:8-11 ~ 

8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

The day is coming when, in joy, we’ll confess before the hosts of heaven that Jesus Christ is Lord.  In doing so, we will fulfill the purpose we were created to accomplish, with the result that God the Father will receive even more glory.  

That is a cool picture.

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