#5 The Vision of Christ III
We have entered into a wonderful, blessed journey through this book called the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This morning’s lesson will be the conclusion of the vision of Christ in the opening chapter. To begin, I would like to review what we have seen thus far. Our human guide for this adventure in faith is the Apostle John, the beloved disciple, the one who leaned on Jesus’ breast at the Lord’s Supper: the one to whom Jesus Christ entrusted the care of His earthly mother. God appointed this man to write what he had seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.
He introduces himself to us in verse 9 as “I, John, your brother. And as I said before, I think it is wonderful to have such a loving, caring brother who, through his gospel, his three epistles and now here in Revelation, seeks to instruct us in the truth? God in His mercy has given us an older, wiser brother to teach us as Jesus taught Him for the purpose of firmly establishing us in the truth! There is a saying, “he being dead yet speaks!” But we must also understand that it is not simply John who is speaking to us. This is not merely the philosophy of some wise man. Jesus Christ moved John to write what he saw in the same way He has always moved holy men of old. And so in reality it is Jesus Christ Himself who speaks to us through the pages of His Holy Word! This is His revelation not John’s.
Jesus lives in and through His Word and in the life of this man John who is our brother in the faith as well as a …fellow partaker in the tribulation… He has lived for Jesus and suffered for His name and therefore has much to teach us. He knows what struggles await us. Even then, at this writing he was experiencing tribulation in a very real and tangible way. He had been banished, imprisoned on a lonely rocky island called Patmos. John was suffering for His faith in Jesus Christ. His exile is evidence of his steadfastness in the faith. He knew his citizenship was in heaven where Jesus is and for him to live was Christ and to die was gain. He followed in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ who suffered in our place. He was drinking the cup of the Lord.
Remember the incident found in (Matt 20:20-23) “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John) came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She *said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They *said to Him, “We are able.” 23 He *said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” John loved Jesus deeply and his hearts desire was to live for Him, to bring glory and honor to Him and to be with Him in heaven. This meant that he would not compromise the truth even if it resulted in his death. He had no fear of those who could only kill the body. He loved and served the King of kings. He had lived godly in Christ Jesus and was suffering tribulation. This was his cup of suffering. But God had not cast John off. Even in his exile he would serve his Father in heaven. And he calls himself our brother in tribulation, a fellow sufferer with us and we are fellow partakers with him of the kingdom and in perseverance which are in Jesus… Like John, we are children of God! He has set His love upon us and has sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise. He has granted us life and a home in heaven where our beloved Savior Jesus Christ is. And by His Spirit we can persevere in times of trial. We can be steadfast in Christ our Rock. Jesus, our Faithful High Priest who has passed on through the Heavenlies is our Great Elder Brother who lived as one of us: experiencing all the trials and tribulations that are common to man: yet without sinning!
And He lives inside of each of us: daily conforming us to His image, strengthening and maturing us. Every day He skims off more of the dross, the impurities that remain. And one day He will call us home where all of the sorrow of this life will be forgotten because of the joy that we will know in seeing our Savior. John was being sustained by God Himself during this time of tribulation. He was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. He had been faithful to Jesus Christ and would not compromise even if it meant death and he was exiled to this island for his stand of faith. Do we have that kind of faith that will stand against evil? Do we have the kind of faith that will not compromise with the world? If you can say yes then give glory to God for flesh and blood has not bestowed this upon you. It is a gift of God. Therefore let him who boasts, boast in the Lord who is the giver of life and faith and all that pertains to life and godliness.
I find it wonderful that John was not staggered by this turn of events. He was a prisoner and yet he was faithful. He reminds me of Joseph who was faithful to God throughout all of his tribulations knowing that God was with him even though his brothers had sold him into slavery, even though he had been thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He could see the hand of God in his life: first in Potiphar’s house when he was placed in charge of the household and then in prison when again he was placed in charge. He knew that he had not been cast off and was faithful to God in all things. And God raised him out of the prison house to reign over the land of Egypt as second in command only to Pharoah himself!
Here we see John imprisoned for his faith. He had done nothing wrong. In fact he had done everything right. But sinful men could not bear the light of the truth and had to cast him out of their sight thinking that they would be free from the burden of this man’s living testimony! But John had not lost heart even in exile. He worshiped even in this awful place. In verse 10 we read this testimony “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, He was worshiping. And while he was worshiping his beloved, while he was communing with His Savior, suddenly Jesus was there. Under the control of the Holy Spirit he says: and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet… This was a tremendous time, a terrifying time; an awesome time for God Himself had rent the heavens and come down. John heard the voice of His Lord, loud and awesome like the sound of a blasting trumpet.
In verse 11 John was given a divine commission. Jesus was saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Lord willing we will begin next Sunday to examine these letters which will humble us into the dust and at the same time raise us to the heavens as we rejoice in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who leads us and guides us in the way we should go. John says in verse 12Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lamp-stands; representative of the Church of Jesus Christ…13and in the middle of the lamp-stands I saw one like a son of man, Jesus Christ Himself who dwells with His people. He said that he would never leave us nor forsake us. He walks with us, comforts us, teaches us, and chastens those whom He loves. He prunes us so that we will bear fruit to the praise of His glory. This is no disinterested Deity. He is intimately acquainted with His church. He was clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, a symbol of rank. Slaves wore shorter robes while the Priests wore long flowing robes with tassels on the border. It is the robe of Christ our High Priest who ministers to us and intercedes before the Father on our behalf.
But He is more than that. He is our Prophet who knows all things, who indeed has told us the end from the beginning and from times past things which haven not been done saying “I will accomplish all of My good pleasure. And He is our King: the one who overrules our lives: who commands and it is done, Who calls and His sheep come! He is our Lord and we are His subjects. He is our Shepherd and we are the sheep of His pasture. In Him we have everything we need. He makes us to lie down in green pastures: He leads us beside still, quiet waters. He restores our souls: He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil: for He is with us; His rod of correction and His staff of protection comfort us. He has prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies: He has anointed our heads with oil; our cups overflow. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives: and we will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Like the priests of the temple whose clothing was a picture of the true, the Heavenly High Priest’s attire we read that He was… girded across His chest with a golden sash. 14His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; White signifies purity, righteousness and Holiness which are the characteristics of the pure spotless Lamb of God! The scriptures describe one with white hair as one who is wise. And there is no one wiser than the One who invented wisdom? Here is the all wise, all knowing God. who knows the end from the beginning because He decreed all things that will ever come to pass! His hand made all things: (Ps. 19:1-4) “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world.
And His eyes were like a flame of fire. He sees His true children and those who are merely pretenders, hypocrites who wear the mask of Christianity but inwardly are ravenous wolves. He knows His own sheep by name! He foreknew us before the foundation of the world. With His blazing, penetrating gaze He looks deep within our hearts to see all of our motivations, all of our secret thoughts, all of our plans and schemes. The eyes of the Holy One are always upon us. They see, they know, they weigh the thoughts and the intentions of our hearts. His gaze is all-searching and penetrating like fire. 15His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, think of an erupting volcano with it’s brilliant flow of molten lava. It is overwhelming and unstoppable as it destroys everything in its path.
Think too of the blast furnace which melts copper and other precious metals until they too blaze in splendor. When Jesus returns He crush His foes in overwhelming judgment and will destroy them out of His sight as they suffer for eternity in the fires of Hell. (2Th 1:8) tells us that He will be “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” The description continues with John saying…and His voice was like the sound of many waters. It was tremendous! Remember again the visitation at Sinai! The voice of God was deafening, greater than any peal of thunder you have ever heard! The roar of Niagara Falls cannot compare to the omnipotent power of God’s voice, before Whom even the dead will rise at His thunderous command.
16In His right hand He held seven stars, representative of the seven angels or the seven messengers, or the seven pastors of these seven churches. These are His messengers. He called them, sent them, holds them and sustains them by His own omnipotent power. …And out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; the almighty, unstoppable, omnipotent word of God! The writer of Hebrews speaks of the power of His Word in (Heb 4:12) “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, when God speaks, He is not merely expending air like many of us. He speaks and it is done! His word accomplishes exactly what He purposed. By His word dead sinners are raised to life and “As for hypocrites, the word will ransack them, and give them a very glimpse of the judgment to come, as it did Felix, Herod to name two. God smites the earth with this rod of His mouth. He smashes His enemies in the teeth, and makes them spit blood, as it were; hewing them down by his prophets, and slaying them by the words of his mouth,
and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, the least things and the most secret things are exposed by His Word! which is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The word of God is called the sword of the Spirit. With it God raises dead sinners to life and with it He will judge the nations and sentence the unrepentant to eternal death. Finally we read “and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.” Here is the face of Christ in full unveiled splendor. To His children the countenance of the Lord is a wonderful thing; to His enemies it is terrifying. The scriptures speak of Christ destroying His enemies with the brightness of His coming. This is a picture of just such brightness. It is devastating! Now what was John’s reaction to this incredible vision? Did he walk right up to Jesus and give Him a great big hug? Did he ply our Lord with a thousand questions or tell Him how He could do things just a little bit better? This is what many people I have spoken to said they would do when they see Jesus.
But John very literally jerks us back into reality. See how the beloved disciple, the one who laid on Jesus breast reacts to this intensely overpowering, unbearable vision! 17When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. There is no bravado here! John has seen God and His reaction is the same one we would have if we were given the same privilege. Daniel had a similar visitation and a similar reaction. (Daniel 10:4-11) On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, 5 I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. 6 His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult. 7 Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. 8 So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. 9 But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground. 10 Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said to me, “O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.
John had the same reaction as Daniel. And as the man in Daniel’s vision did He (Jesus) touched John. He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; John must have remembered those words. Out on the Sea of Galilee in the storm and in the upper room when Jesus visited the disciples after the resurrection Jesus spoke words of comfort to His children. Here He does so again and I’m sure that with the memories, peace flooded John’s soul. And Jesus said “I am the first and the last, the eternal One, the beginning of all things and the end of all things. 18and the living One; as opposed to the dead idols of the nations which were nothing more than the fanciful ideas of men’s darkened imaginations. It is interesting to me that many false religions deny the actual death of Jesus on the cross. In response to this Jesus said so that everyone can hear it! and I was dead, and for those who deny His resurrection He says “behold, I am alive forevermore, I laid down My life of My own accord! NO ONE TOOK IT FROM ME! I LAID IT DOWN AND TOOK IT UP AGAIN PROVING THAT I HAVE POWER OVER DEATH!
Then He says “and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” which speaks of Christ Jesus’power of Christ over both life and death. His power over death is seen in taking away persons when he pleases, Ananias and Sapphira, Herod, and Uzzah are proofs of this. He demonstrated His power over death also by delivering people from the brink of death such as the centurion’s servant, Peter’s wife’s mother, and the nobleman’s son of Capernaum as well as by raising people: Jairus’s daughter, the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus as well as Himself are examples. Of this! But consider further, when He returns His power over death will be demonstrated once again. But this time it will be on a universal scale in raising all the dead at the last day. His power will be seen in opening the graves at the time of the resurrection, when death and hell, or the grave, will deliver up the dead in them, at His command!
Then too He will open the doors of hell, and cast the wicked into that place: both soul and body, and He will shut them up, so that they cannot come out from there. He will bind Satan, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up there, the key of which he has in his hand. Having delivered His people from the wrath of God, He will resurrect us to life eternal. And while we are still in this sinful evil world He will keep His church and people so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against them. This is an expression of the sovereignty, power, and authority of Christ. This Omnipotent, Sovereign God who alone is God commissions John in verse 19“Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. 20“As for 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 are the seven churches.
We have not received such a heavenly vision. Indeed I dare say that none of us have seen our Risen Lord in bodily form. And yet we still believe. We believe because we have known His reality through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the faith that He has given us. Jesus said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe! And in (1Peter 1:8) we read these words, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, And now we will listen as this: our Awesome, Incredible, Almighty, Holy God speaks to His Church. And my prayer is that we will have ears to hear what the Spirit says to us, the Church of Jesus Christ.