Is This How You See Him?

Posted: October 3, 2010 in Revelation

Revelation 1:9-20, “Is This How You See Him?”
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If we were to go down the street & ask people how they see Jesus – what they think of who He is – we’d be sure to get a ton of different answers (likely few of which would be Biblical). People see Jesus as a hippie – or a liberal – or a myth – or a good teacher – or a prophet…or even as a sacrifice, but forever dead – or in His weakness as a baby, but nothing more. Popular books today even picture Jesus as just a carpenter who not only set aside His deity, but completely got rid of it & is just another “one of the guys,” only slightly concerned about the independent streak (i.e. “sin”) of men. That’s NOT what the Bible says about Him.

For all the books & stories that talk about people having a nonchalant encounter with Christ, the Bible gives us a radically different picture in Revelation 1. What John saw was a glorious vision of the Risen Lord Jesus – he came face to face with Christ in His unveiled majesty, and he almost runs out of words to describe it. All of these things radically show John (and us) who Jesus really is – and how we ought to see Him as He truly is.

Revelation 1:9-20 (NKJV)
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.

A. Background for when the book was written… Where/what was Patmos? A rather barren, rocky, volcanic island about 37 miles out to sea from Ephesus. Eusebius tells us John was sent there as punishment by the emperor Domitian & allowed to return 18 months later by the following emperor, Nerva.

B. What was John in prison/in exile? “For the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” He was an enemy of the state of Rome because he was a witness of the Lord Jesus! Are we willing to take a stand for the Scriptures? Are we willing to take a stand for the gospel? Christians all over the world are faced with making decisions everyday that we may have never yet faced (though we will!).

C. Notice how John describes himself. He’s an apostle & a prophet – but he doesn’t take those titles to himself. Instead he’s extremely humble: just a “brother and companion…” Titles & offices are never something with which others are exalted. Paul never hesitated to take the title of apostle when it was needed – but he never used it as a club with which to beat anyone down… Likewise with John. He’s not better than anyone else; just a brother with everyone else.

D. Everyone who’s in Christ can share the same description here as John. We’re brothers & sisters (we’re family!) – we’re companions in our walk with Jesus. That includes many things. We’re companions in:

a. “tribulation”: Not only in the general trials of life & the suffering that all of us experience from one degree to another, but the tribulation that comes with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12).
b. “kingdom”: All of us share in the kingdom of God right now. We may not experience it in its fullness until the Millennium, but every believer in Christ is currently a citizen of the kingdom.
c. “patience”: This is what’s needed to get there. How do we hold up under the pressure of tribulation now until we see Jesus coming with His kingdom later? Through the patience of God!

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

A. What does John mean by saying he “was in the Spirit”? Likely he’s referring to the same sort of event Peter experienced in Acts 10. [rooftop vision in Joppa…Cornelius] Seems that John was in such deep prayer, that the Holy Spirit put him into a trance & got John ready for the vision he was about to receive.

B. BTW – notice when John was in the Spirit: “on the Lord’s Day.” There’s a bit of debate on what this day actually refers to: perhaps a transport into the future Day of Judgment – perhaps a reference to Resurrection (Easter) Sunday – perhaps just a reference to Sunday morning worship (which is how the church fathers used the term). In the end, it doesn’t matter the exact date; it just matters that it happened, and it was on a specific enough date that John’s original readers knew exactly what he was referring to.

C. Before John saw anything, 1st he heard something. “A loud voice as of a trumpet.” Why a trumpet? Calls to mind how God appeared to Moses & the nation of Israel as He gave the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai. (Exo 19:19)

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.”

A. Regarding the description of Alpha & Omega, etc…this is undoubtedly true & Jesus uses these exact words to describe Himself later on in the book of Revelation. However, this phrase as it stands here is not in the oldest manuscripts, nor is it in the vast majority of manuscripts passed down to the church. The truth of the statement isn’t in doubt; just the inclusion of it in Ch 1.

B. The Lord Jesus will describe it more later (in vs. 19), but here we get His commission to John. Jesus did not appear to John only for John’s benefit; Jesus had a specific purpose for John. John was to write all of the things that he saw & distribute it to the church.

a. Tells us something important about the text: the book of Revelation was not written in code. John very plainly saw what the Lord Jesus wanted him to see, and John was specifically commanded by our Lord to write down the things that he saw. Thus when John writes that he saw 144,000 Jews numbered, we can trust that’s exactly what he saw. When he writes about a mighty angel or a serpent – we can trust that’s what he saw. He was not instructed to write a book of obscure codes that needed to be deciphered; he was told to write what he saw. [] This gives us a powerful reason to read & interpret Revelation just as we would read & interpret any other book of the Bible: according to the natural, literal, grammatical, & historical method & context.
b. God wants you to understand what He has to say to you! If you’ve trusted Jesus as your Lord & Savior (you’re born-again), then you’re now a child of God & God WANTS you to understand what He has to tell you. It’s not hidden from us. … [parables & the disciples – Luke 8:10]

C. Jesus lists out the specific churches to which this book is to be distributed – the same seven churches that have specific letters addressed to them in Ch 2-3. These are specific, historical churches – yet the book isn’t only addressed to them. Back in vs. 3, we see how this book is a blessing to ALL the Church… We could also think of these seven specific churches as being symbolic of the Church as a whole. These churches were known cities in a postal route in the heart of the Roman empire…they would have been well-known to all. They were also indicative of all the Church in some way. There are some churches in history that identify well with Smyrna – others with Ephesus – others with Laodicea. All of us have something to learn from what Jesus had to say to these seven churches.

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.

A. Imagine the sight! Jesus Himself describes what the 7 lampstands represent (the 7 churches) – we’ll get to that in vs. 20. The placement is what is striking here. Jesus is in the midst of the lampstands, just like Jesus is in the midst of the Church. Jesus is the foundation of the Church; He’s our everything.

B. The most important thing John saw wasn’t the lampstands; it was the Person in the middle of the lampstands! John saw the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that John had walked, eaten, and lived with Jesus for three years – he was one of the very first people to have seen Jesus risen from the dead. John had even seen a glimpse of the glorified Jesus at the Transfiguration… But this time, he saw Jesus like he had never seen Him before! No longer did John see the miracle worker from Galilee; he saw the Lord Jesus Christ in all of His glory!

a. Remember that the book of Revelation gives us the last description of Jesus that we ever get in the Bible. Often we tend to think of the Resurrected Glorified Jesus sitting at God’s right hand looking like Warner Sallman’s “Portrait of Christ” – with doe-eyes & flowing blond hair. With all respect to the painter, it seems that the picture needs to be redone. When we think of the way Jesus looks today, we’d be better off going to this description Rev 1! As the Lord Jesus intercedes for us at the throne of God, He does so in His glory. As Jesus mediates for you & I before God, He does so in His glory. As Jesus lives & acts & moves & reigns in Heaven today, He does so completely glorified! We do not serve a weakened, impotent person (which is how so many view Jesus); we serve a Risen, Glorified, All-powerful Savior!

C. How is Jesus’ glory described? It begins in vs. 13 & runs through vs. 16. 1st, Jesus is the “Son of Man.” To understand the reference here, we need to go back to Daniel 7. Much of what we’ll see in Revelation is explained or otherwise founded in prophecy given in the OT & we need to be sure to continually interpret Scripture by the standard of Scripture. Daniel 7:13-14 (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. (14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed. [] … There’s no question that the “Son of Man” is a reference to the God-man; the Messiah. Even the Pharisees & Sadducees recognized this with Jesus during His mock-trial… (Mk 14:62-63).

a. The point? When John calls the man in the vision to be “the Son of Man,” there’s absolutely no escaping Who it is to whom John is referring. He’s referring to the Messiah (the Christ): the risen Jesus! But specifically, this is a reference to Christ in His 2nd coming. This isn’t the meek Jesus, the suffering servant. This is the glorious Jesus who will rule & reign from the throne of David over Jerusalem & indeed over all the earth!

D. 2nd, John describes how Jesus is clothed: “down to the feet & girded about the chest with a golden band.” We’re not told much about the tunic (other than its length) – but the golden chest band is interesting. We get a similar description of other angels in Rev 15 (prior to the bowl judgments), but why here? Is this just another one of many angels, or is this Jesus? Repeatedly in the Scripture, gold is used as symbolic of royalty or deity. The ark & all the tabernacle furniture were overlaid with pure gold for the glory of God. The sash/band is something like a priest would wear in service to God at the Tabernacle. To have a vision of a man in a golden band that looked like the Son of Man is not to have a vision of the archangel Michael (or any other angel, for that matter), but to have a vision of Jesus Christ, the Son of God as our Great High Priest. (Heb 7)

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;

A. All of the description here also calls back to Daniel 7. Only this time, instead of the description being of the Son of Man, it’s of a direct reference to God as the Ancient of Days. Daniel 7:9-10 (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; (10) A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, And the books were opened. [] Can this also be a reference to Jesus? Of course! Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) – he who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (Jn 14:9). For Jesus to fit the exact description of the Ancient of Days only goes to underscore the fact that Jesus is none other than God in the flesh!

B. Head & hair were white = symbolic of Jesus’ purity.

C. Eyes were like fire = symbolic of Jesus’ holiness/righteousness. Our God is an all-consuming fire…

D. Feet were like brass = symbolic of Jesus’ judgment & power. Just as the ancient tabernacle altar was made of bronze for the place of sacrifice as judgment of the sin, so Jesus was sacrificed for us to the glory of God & raised again with power over the grave.

E. Voice like waters…not necessarily symbolic, but definitely awe-inspiring! Ezekiel encountered much the same experience in his visions of the heavenly creatures (Ex 1:24), as well as in a later vision when God showed him the temple. Ezekiel 43:1-2 (1) Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east. (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. [] John’s point isn’t hard to grasp…he realizes that he’s standing in the presence of Almighty God – God the Son in all of His glory…and it’s an incredible thing!

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.

A. The seven stars will be explained by Jesus as the seven angels of the seven churches – we’ll get to that in vs. 20.

B. Out of Jesus’ mouth went a sword. Not just any sword; a “sharp two-edged sword,” meaning that is effective in whatever direction it’s being swung. This is similar to the vision that John will have later of Jesus’ triumphant 2nd coming when He fights (and ends) the battle of Armageddon.

a. What is the sword exactly? The word of God! Hebrews 4:12 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. [] Jesus IS the Word of God & He speaks forth the word of God…and it does indeed cut like a knife. It can either pierce us to the heart when needed like a sword striking a person, or it can be a scalpel that cuts out the impurities to bring healing. How much we are willing to receive the word of God makes a huge difference in how the Lord will use it in our own lives.

C. His “countenance” was shining – basically speaking of His face…and it was shining forth the glory of God. [The Shekinah] Moses had a similar experience… [Exo 34:29] The main difference is that Moses’ face reflected the shining glory of God; Jesus’ face generates the glory of God. How bright is the glory of God? “Like the sun shining in its strength.” The glory is so bright, that neither sun nor moon will be needed in heaven (Rev 21:23). This isn’t just neat trivia; it speaks of the sheer holiness of God. God’s glory is so bright, that nothing can be hidden in its light. There’s no sin or impurity that can be covered; the brightness of the glory of God uncovers it all.

a. So what are we to do? If all of our sins must be laid bare in the light of the glory of God, who can survive? That’s part of the glorious good news! Our sins aren’t hidden from God; they’re cleansed & done away with! Our sin was placed upon Jesus at the cross, so that we’re no longer clothed in our sin, but in the righteousness of Christ!

17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.

A. Keep in mind, that’s a completely appropriate response to have to the glory of God. Objection: “Wait a second. If I know Jesus & His love, there’s no reason for me to be afraid in the presence of God.” Yes, John knew Jesus well – John knew Jesus well enough to know that he was beloved of Christ, and thus always described himself in the gospel as “the disciple who Jesus loved.” There’s no doubt that John knew of the love of God for him. Yet at the same time, when John came face-to-face with his (and our) Creator in all of His glory, he could not help his reaction…his knees buckled & he fell before his glorious King.

B. It seems that in our own culture, we’ve lost a bit of the righteous fear of God which is so very necessary to a proper understanding of who God is. We need to know of the great, vast, encompassing love of God for us…but we also need to remember that God is God & we’re not. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge & of wisdom (Pro 1:7, 9:10). It’d be safe to say that we likely cannot truly understand the extent of God’s infinite love for us if we don’t first have a proper idea & fear of His infinite holiness & righteousness.

…But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

A. John’s terror is understandable, but it wasn’t necessary. The fear of the Lord is necessary, but abject terror is not – not for those who rest in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on their behalf. For those outside of Christ, relying upon their own ‘good’ works & deeds to grant them favor with God, they have every right to fear in terror, because their best deeds aren’t anywhere good enough to erase the stain of their sin. It’s not enough to attempt to ‘do good’; we also need to be cleansed from the evil that we’ve already done. Only Jesus Christ can do that (and His offer of forgiveness is available to all who call upon Him). … [] But for the rest of us, righteous fear is good; unbarred terror is unnecessary. Over & over throughout the Scriptures God tells people not to fear. When we trusted Jesus as Savior & Lord, we were given the right to become children of God (Jn 1:12); we can approach Him at all times for grace in our times of need (Hb 4:16) – we can approach our Loving Father as His redeemed children: without fear, but in respect & love.

B. Jesus describes Himself in 3 ways here. 1st, Jesus is the All-Encompassing One: He’s “the First and the Last.” God used these same words to describe Himself (Isa 44:6), and it’s an excellent description of what it is to be the great “I AM.” Jesus (because He is God) is “First”: He’s ever-existent…He is the Creator of all things…He is prior to all creation because He simply IS. … Jesus is “Last”: He is the God of all history – death itself will pass away, but Jesus Himself will never pass away. What’s implied also: Jesus is everything in between! In Him, all the universe consists & holds together.

18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

A. 2nd, Jesus is the Resurrected One: “He who lives & was dead…alive forevermore.” This is the crux of the gospel message & forever at the center of who Jesus is! Some would try to strip the Cross from Jesus, seeing it as a tragic end to a good moral teacher, but that’s not how Jesus sees it. This goes to the core of why Jesus came to dwell among us: to die for our sins & rise again to life – paying the debt of sin we owed & offering us life in return. … Not only did Jesus rise again to life on the 3rd day, He rose never to die again. Jesus is ever-alive. Eon after eon will pass, and Jesus will always be alive – thus He’s the only one who can offer that same eternal life to those who place their trust in Him.

B. 3rd, Jesus is the Victorious One: He has “the keys of Hades and of Death.” Not only did Jesus gain victory over the grave for Himself, He gains victory over the grave for everyone else to follow. We have the glorious hope of a future resurrection because of Jesus’ own resurrection. We have a glorious assurance of eternal life with Christ, because our Lord holds the keys. In the grand battle between life & death, Jesus won! He’s victorious! Death has no victory & no sting over the Christian (1 Cor 15:55). Why? Because Jesus holds the keys!

19 Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. .

A. Goes back to the commission that Jesus gave John. Back in vs. 11, Jesus told him to right the things that John saw. Here, Jesus gets into the specifics – in the process, outlining the book of Revelation.

B. “The things which you have seen”: I.e., the stuff going on right now. The vision that John was receiving of Jesus & the commission that he was being given. This all provides the context & the authority of everything which is to follow.

C. “The things which are”: The situation in the present-day for John (~95AD). In Ch 2-3, Jesus will dictate letters to the seven churches in Asia, giving not only instruction for all the Church in all times, but giving very specific instruction to very specific church congregations. Those were the “things which are” (only for us, they “were”)…that was the present day time when the book of Revelation was written.

D. “The things which will take place after this”: Basically a reference to the rest of the book from Ch 4, onward. All of the rest is a reference to things that would take place in the future, looking forward towards the time of the Great Tribulation, the coming of Antichrist & the false prophet, the great judgments of God upon the world, the victorious 2nd coming of Christ, the millennium, and the eternal state.

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.

A. By far, the best way to interpret symbols in the Bible is when God Himself gives us the interpretation – and that’s exactly what Jesus does here regarding the 7 stars & the 7 lampstands.

B. The 7 stars = “angels of the seven churches.” The big question here is if “angel” means “angel”…or if perhaps it just means “messenger” (the most basic meaning of the Greek word ἄγγελος). Granted, the word is very often used to refer to heavenly angelic beings in the book of Revelation – but it’s also used to refer to demons as well…so the meaning isn’t quite exclusive. In addition, the context of these specific 7 “angels” are the 7 churches…some of whom Jesus has words of commendation; others words of rebuke. Surely a heavenly angel wouldn’t be responsible for bringing change in a local church congregation – that’s a responsibility for the local church leadership. Many scholars believe that the reference to the “angels” here is really a reference to the primary church messenger, i.e. the local church pastor. Jesus isn’t really calling pastors “angels” (some of us certainly don’t have the right temperment!), but really just referring to the pastor as a messenger (which certainly fits the pastoral role in presenting the word of God).

C. The 7 lampstands = “the seven churches.” This is about as plain as it can get. The lampstands represent the seven specific historical churches that Jesus listed in vs. 11. So why a lampstand? In Zech 6, it’s the Holy Spirit that’s likened unto a 7-branched lampstand (“not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.” Zech 4:6)…why would the figure change to the churches? (1) Because Jesus said so. 🙂 With His interpretation, there’s little room to question what He meant. (2) Because of the function of a lampstand:

a. Lamps in the day were powered by oil…oil is a typical symbol of the Holy Spirit. Just as lamps contained the oil for lighting, so the Church needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit for power.
b. Lamps give light. Just as Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 8:12), so He called us to be the light of the world (Mt 5:14). Part of our mission as believers in Christ is to bring His light – His gospel into the world…to let people know how they can be reconciled to God through Christ Jesus through the forgiveness of their sin.

Conclusion:
What a vision! To hear the voice of our Lord Jesus & to see Him in all of His glory would have been completely mind-blowing! Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there with John? Good news: one day we WILL be. One day we’ll see the Lord Jesus exactly how John saw Him. We’ll see Him in His glory as the All-encompassing One – the Resurrected One – the Victorious One… We’ll be able to join with the heavenly chorus in singing praises to our Lord & King, because He is so utterly worthy of our praise!

The question for us today: is this how you see Him? Is this how you see Jesus? There are a lot of popular images of Christ… But do you see Him for who He really is?

Christians can miss out on this almost as easily as non-Christians. We have our devotional books – we have our paintings – we have our favorite songs…none of these things are bad. But depending on what these things are, sometimes they can be rather one-sided. Taken by themselves, sometimes we can be left with the impression that Jesus is not so much our Ever-worthy Lord, but rather our buddy or girlfriend. Jesus is LORD – He’s glorified – He’s powerful – He’s worthy of our praise & service…simply due to the fact that Jesus is God.

If you’re someone who can not yet call yourself a “Christian” – someone who hasn’t turned away from their sin & believed upon Jesus Christ for His grace & forgiveness as God in the flesh, crucified & risen again – then perhaps you have a totally different view of Jesus. Perhaps you view Him as just another choice in a long list of “gods” & religions. Perhaps you view Him as simply a myth of history. Perhaps you view Him as a good teacher, but nothing more. Whatever your view is of Jesus, you need to have it re-adjusted. What John wrote of Jesus is how Jesus exists today. Jesus is none other than Almighty God who came in the flesh, died on the cross as the punishment you deserved for the sins you committed, rose again to life, and holds the keys of death in His hand. He offers eternal life to all who call upon Him in faith & receive Him as Lord. May this be the day you see Jesus for who He really is – may this be the day you turn from your sins & trust Jesus as Lord & King.

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