Grace For The Journey
This passage is known as John’s “Inaugural Vision.” It is his first vision that gets us started in the Book of Revelation. One of my favorite hymns is “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” It is a hymn that reminds us that when we focus on the Lord Jesus Christ everything else works out. The chorus contains these phrases . . .Turn your eyes upon Jesus,Look full in His wonderful face,And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,In the light of His glory and grace.As we “turn our eyes upon Jesus” how do we see Him? We really do not know exactly what Jesus looked like. I have never been too pleased with many of the artist’s renderings of Jesus. I do not like the idea of an effeminate Jesus, and that is usually how He is portrayed. He is always portrayed as a skinny, womanly kind of figure, kind of wimpy looking. Jesus was a man, and a man’s man at that. He was a carpenter. He knew how to drive nails and cut wood. He could haul big nets of fish in a boat and overturned a table or two.However Jesus looked in His earthly ministry, John catches a glimpse of Jesus as He is today. He has a vision of the glorified Christ in heaven. In today’s Bible Study, we will turn our eyes upon Jesus and see Him just as He is.Remember, John is on the island of Patmos. Verse 9 says, “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.” This verse tells us that John has been banished to the island of Patmos for preaching the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. He has been banished there because of his stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and his refusal to compromise God’s Word. Eusebius (4th Century Historian) claimed that John’s banishment to Patmos occurred in the 14th year of Domitian’s Reign (AD 95). Domitian liked to refer to himself as “Lord and God.” Literally, that is the way he loved to be addressed. John did not address him that way. And so, Christians like John were often charged with treason and exiled to places like Patmos.John identifies himself with the churches as a “brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” That word “patience” is better translated as “perseverance” or “endurance.” It is a reference to the Christian’s perseverance under fire. John is able to say, “I am a brother with you in this time of tribulation. I am with you in this.” John closely identifies with the plight of the wider Christian Church. The terms “brother” and “companion” speak of a deep fellowship and partnership. The basis of all Christian partnership: we are “in Jesus”
Just as John identified with the afflictions of the wider Church, so should we be aware of how our brethren around the world are being persecuted and lift them up both prayerfully and practically. We should also be prepared to face persecution here in North America.
Then John gives us specifically the account of his vision. As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, first we . . . 1. Hear The Sound Of His Authority – Verses 9-11.John first describes for us what he heard in his vision. He heard the sound of Christ’s authority. Verse10 tells us, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.” Even though John was a prisoner of Rome he worshipped the Lord on a regular basis. In the early Church, Christians had a designated day for corporate worship which they called “the Lord’s Day” – the day of Christ’s resurrection (cf. John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). The phrase “in the Spirit” indicates God’s special preparation of John to receive this revelatory vision. Peter and Paul both had similar experiences in which God revealed truth through a vision – Acts 10:10-11, Acts 22:17, 2 Cor 12:2-4. John heard a loud voice behind him, “as of a trumpet.” Note when this vision took place. John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” The “Lord’s Day” is a reference to the first day of the week, Sunday. This vision took place on the Lord’s Day when John was “in the Spirit.” The text does not suggest John drummed this up himself. Rather, he was seized by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit seized him and our Lord Jesus appeared to him. John hears the sound of Christ’s authority. He hears behind him a loud voice, as of a trumpet. The trumpet is the loudest instrument of a band. When it is played this instrument will be heard. The instrument carried a kind of authority all its own. It is appropriate, then, that John describes the voice of our Lord as of a trumpet. The voice of the glorified, risen Christ is a strong, loud voice of authority. No mealy-mouthed mumbling of the Lord Jesus Christ, but “a loud voice, as of a trumpet.”Look what Jesus says to John in verse 11, “… 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.” Christ speaks with authority. He tells John to “write.” The verb is an imperative. Jesus is not asking John to write, nor suggesting that he write, He is commanding him to write. John is told to write this all down. He is to write in a Book what he see and then “send” (another imperative) it to the seven churches which are in Asia.”Jesus specifies the seven churches. I have mentioned these churches before. There are seven of them and they are listed in the order that a letter carrier would deliver them if he were delivering mail. If you look at a map, you will see a circular route a letter carrier might take as he went from Ephesus to Smyrna to Pergamos to Thyatira to Sardis to Philadelphia and to Laodicea. The number seven signifies, or as one person says, “sign-i-fies” perfection and completion. These seven churches are real churches that also represent churches of all ages and locations. We will note, especially in the coming weeks as we study these churches, how their problems do mirror problems in the churches today.Keep in mind that John is writing as pastor of the seven churches under his care; as a pastor of people who are being tortured, persecuted, and killed. That is why he identifies himself as their brother and companion in difficulty. This identification suggests that John views himself as one who participates (i.e., as companion) with his Christian audience (i.e., as brother) in their various experiences of suffering, to which they respond with patient endurance, because they share equally in the same kingdom as priests (1:6). We still live in a mostly Christian-friendly environment in this country, although it is becoming more hostile. As we get closer to the Second Coming of Christ, we should look at this Book and its application from the standpoint of a government who is in opposition to the church. Jesus is showing John “a new hope” which Jesus intends to use to help His people succeed. John shows us a trio of opportunities: Tribulation, kingdom, and endurance – All found in Jesus Christ.John was exiled on the island of Patmos because of God’s Word and his testimony about Jesus Christ. This is the same weapons used against Satan and the Antichrist (Revelation 12:10-11). This means that being a Christian and sharing the message of Jesus in a godless culture will get you persecuted and even imprisoned.John was brought into a spiritual vision by the Holy Spirit. He heard a voice, and the voice told him to write what he saw to the seven churches (Revelation 1:10-11). John turned to see who spoke to him. He saw seven gold lampstands, and then a person like the “Son of Man.” In this vision, John sees Jesus in a certain way. He sees Jesus differently than he has ever seen Him before.John heard a voice from behind. It as a like a trumpet, which is similar to the description of God’s voice in Exodus 20 when He gives out the Ten Commandments from the mountain (Exodus 20:18). This voice reminds us of the power and majesty of God. Just as the Ten Commandments were given to help the people live as they entered the Promised Land, this vision and what follows is given to help encourage the Christians to live today.What is most significant is that Jesus appears among the lampstands (1:12–13; 2:1), which represent the seven churches (1:20; cf. John 20:19). Because priests needed light to function in the sanctuary concealed from the light of the external world, the temple included a golden lampstand (Exodus 25:31–35; 37:18–21; 2 Chronicles 4:7, 20), which was never extinguished by night or day.John hears the voice of Jesus. All of this happens before John turns around. Do you see that in verse 12? He says, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.” All what we read in verses 10-11 happened before John actually faced Jesus. He hears the sound of Christ’s authority.John will later write in verse 15 that Christ’s voice is “as the sound of many waters.” If you have ever been next to a waterfall, you know what he is talking about. I remember our trip to Niagara Falls. Standing nearby the Falls causes one to have to shout to be heard. You can take a boat up close to the Falls. It is loud and echoes everywhere. The roar of the waters is practically deafening. This speaks especially to us in our day. In the midst of all the voices telling us who we are and what we are to be doing we need to drown those voices out with the authority of His Word.As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, we hear the sound of His authority. Secondly, as you turn your eyes upon Jesus . . .2. Look At The Splendor Of His Majesty – Verses 12-16.John will present seven descriptions of Christ in these verses. But first, note in verses 12 to 13 where John sees Christ, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man.” John saw Jesus in the midst of “seven golden lampstands.” The imagery of lampstands is rooted in the Old Testament Temple (Exodus 25). The light symbolized God’s presence in the Temple. Zechariah’s vision of a Golden Lampstand (Zechariah 4:1-14) symbolized the Spirit’s presence and power for the rebuilding of the Temple during the post-exilic period. Jesus describes the Church as the “light of the world” and a “city on a hill.” God’s people are to shine the light of God’s truth and presence into all of the world. There are times in the book of Revelation where we have to interpret the signs and symbols. Then there are other times when John just tells us exactly what the signs and symbols “sign-i-fy.” In verse 20 he tells us that the seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches. Then John says that “in the midst of the seven lampstands” he sees “One like the Son of Man.” Of course, this is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that the term “Son of Man” is Christ’s favorite designation of Himself. He referred to Himself over 80 times in the Gospels with the self-designated title “Son of Man.” That phrase draws upon the Old Testament prophetic literature. The imagery of the ‘Son of Man’ is from Daniel 7 and 10 – a Messianic figure in Daniel’s visions who will have dominion over all earthly kingdoms. The Bible says in Daniel chapter 7, verses 13-14, “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. 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.” Daniel is prophesying about the coming Messiah, a prophecy specifically about the Lord’s Second Coming. He refers to the Messiah as “One like the Son of Man.” John is using this same language as he describes His vision of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ as He was then, as He is today, and as He will be when He comes again.1. His clothing.John describes Jesus in verse 13 as, “Clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.” This is a description of a robe. Christ’s wearing of a robe pictures His priestly office. Jesus Christ is our High Priest. He is our go-between. The New Testament nowhere teaches that man is to go to an earthly priest to get forgiveness from God. Jesus is our High Priest. The Bible says in Hebrews 7:25 that Christ, “ever lives to make intercession for us.” He is always there as our go-between. He is our bridge to the Heavenly Father. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).The garment described here is the apparel of a Priest or King (cf. Exodus 28:4). It speaks of Jesus power and authority over all the kingdoms of the world and of the priestly ministry of Jesus as He tends the lamps; and inhabits and builds His Temple (His Church).This picture of Jesus Christ is a picture of authority and power. This language is a powerful mythic hero language. This language’s purpose is to display the power of Jesus Christ. The language shows Jesus in His glory. Daniel saw Jesus in the same way in Daniel 10:5-6. “I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like the appearance of lightening, 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 picture of Jesus here in Daniel is in relationship to Israel. When we look at Daniel 10:1-9, we see that a man (not an angel) is dressed in a powerful fashion. These visions are all about the authority and power of Jesus. John saw this before. When Peter, James, and John were with Jesus on a high mountain, Matthew 17:2 describes how they saw Jesus, “And He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”John’s vision is clearly meant to portray Christ as the Divine Priestly Warrior, and the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy of the “Son of Man.” The vision displays Christ’s presence with and His concern for His Church on earth. Just as the Priests tended the Lamps in the Temple, so Christ tends His Church and builds His true Temple on earth.2. His head.Verse 14 says, “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire. This is the imagery from Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 7:9 of the “Ancient of Days.” It is a symbol of wisdom. John’s vision attributes the attributes of God (Ancient of Days) to Jesus (Son of Man). Jesus is divine! The picture of His hair being white as snow reminds us of the pure clean nature of Jesus. It also reminds us of His power to forgive sins. The prophet Isaiah declares a powerful truth from the Lord in chapter 1 and verse 18, “Come, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool.” Verse 14 goes on to say, “… And His eyes like a flame of fire.” His “eyes of fire” remind us of His piercing nature into our souls. It is the imagery from Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10:6 – It is a symbol of Judgment – John refers to Christ’s eyes like the work of a penetrating fire. This is a reference to the judgment of Christ Jesus. Christ sees exactly what is happening here on earth and will judge accordingly. He looks at us with eyes that penetrate our hearts. He looks right into our soul. I think Peter saw something of this in the earthly Jesus when he looked up at Jesus and felt the penetrating gaze of Christ and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” He saw something of this again later when he denied Christ in the courtyard and the Bible says in Luke 22:61 that when the rooster crowed, Jesus “looked at him” and Peter wept. 3. His feet.Verse 15 goes on to say, “His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace …” This is imagery from Daniel’s vision in chapter 10, verse 6. It is a symbol of purity, holiness, strength, and stability of Jesus Christ. He is pure and holy, and His strength is permanent. 4. His voice.John continues to describe the Lord Jesus in the latter part of verse 15, “… And His voice as the sound of many waters.” It is the imagery from Ezekiel 1:24, 43:2. 5. His right hand.Verse 15 declares, “He had seven stars in His right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from His mouth, and His face was shining like the sun at midday.” (Revelation 1:16, HCSB). The seven stars are identified in verse 20 as the ‘angels of the seven churches’ What are the seven stars? John is given the answer in verse 20, “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” The word “angels” literally means “messengers”. Although it can mean angel and does throughout the book (The word “angel” occurs over 60 times in the book of Revelation), it cannot refer to angels here because angels are never leaders in the church. Most likely, these messengers are the seven key pastors representing each of those churches. Whoever they are, they spread the Light. Jesus is the source of this Light. He is holding and protecting these stars in His right hand. If these are ministers of God, they have no power in themselves. The Light that they give out comes from Him.This is one of the reasons that I believe preachers should be moved upon by the Holy Spirit of God, and receive their message for the church through the Spirit from God. I do not believe that ministers should buy, or be sent, messages from other people to be used to give to the church. Jesus’ Spirit is in each church, if we are His. He knows the problem of each specific church on a given day, and He alone knows what message needs to be brought. These seven candlesticks, we are told here, are the seven churches symbolic of all churches for then until now. A candlestick is not a light. vIt is the holder for the Light. These candlesticks lift the Light up for all to see. That is the exact purpose of the church,To elevate and lift up the Light, Jesus Christ.These candlesticks have to be cared for and fueled to be able to burn.The minister and the church are difficult to separate. We know this is speaking of the church and the ministry of the church. I believe that the stars are ministers held in Jesus’ hand. I believe these letters were written to these particular churches describing conditions that were going on then. But a more important message for us to see, is the message in each of them dealing with the problems in our churches right now.6. His mouth.The imagery is from Isaiah 11:4, 49:2. A symbol of Christ’s authority to proclaim judgment: · It speaks of judgment against apostate Churches – cf. Revelation 2:16-17· It speaks of judgment against wicked nations – cf. Revelation 19:15.Verse 16 continues, “… Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword …” Here again is a reference to the judgment of Christ. His judgment is like a double-edged sword. When He renders judgments, the King of the Universe speaks like a double-edged sword. The writer of Hebrews speaks of the Word of God this way in Hebrews 4:12, “The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”7. His Countenance. Verse 16 concludes with, “… and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” Again, a reference to the unveiled splendor of Christ’s glory, the glory that was veiled in earth and is now unveiled for eternity. His face shines like the sun shining in its strength.The vision shocked John to death. But Jesus laid His hand on John and spoke to him the same words He had spoken before, “Do not be afraid!” This is the message that Jesus says to us when we encounter difficulties. Jesus has overcome death (Revelation 1:18) and He will help you overcome whatever you are going through right now. He holds the keys of death. The phrase “do not be afraid” appears over 350 times in the Bible! While Christ’s enemies certainly do have something to fear, Christ’s redeemed people have nothing to fear from the Lord!Turn your eyes upon Jesus and hear the sound of His authority . . . see the splendor of His majesty and . . .3. Rest in the Strength of His Sovereignty (17-20)We have examined . . .What John heard And What John saw, Now watch What John does.Verse 17 tells us, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” It is remarkable that even the Apostle John who knew the Lord as a friend fell down before Him in fear and trembling. In the Bible falling forward in fear and awe is often the response to an encounter with the Lord – cf. Joshua 5:14, Isaiah 6:5, Ezekiel 1:28, Daniel 8:17-18, Exodus 33:20. Someone said, “Better to be dead at the feet of Jesus than alive anywhere else!” But of course, John did not die, but fell at Christ’s feet “as dead.” This reaction is a reminder of what happens when we encounter the holiness of God. Like Isaiah in Isaiah 6. He encountered the holiness of God and he said, “Woe is me. For I am undone.” Job, argued with God for 37 chapters. God responds in chapter 38, “Who is this who darkens my counsel? Brace yourself like a man, Job, because I’m going to ask you some questions now. Where were you, Job, when I laid the earth’s foundation? Where were you when I flung the stars in space?” From chapters 38-41, God asks no less than 71 questions. Job finally responds in chapter 42: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand. I repent in dust and ashes!” John “fell at Christ’s feet as though dead.” The rest of verse 17 shows us the response of Jesus to John’s feelings, “But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.” We see the strength of Christ’s sovereignty here. He rests His right hand upon John, the right hand is a symbol of authority. He rests it there to convey rest to John. Then He tells John to stop being afraid, because He is, “the First and the Last.” Those words convey sovereign rule and reign. We saw this last time from verse 16 where we are told Christ is “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Christ alone is God. He is the Lord over everything. He is before all things and He outlasts all things. He starts and He finishes.In verse 18, Jesus states, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.” The sense of the last part of the first declaration is, “became dead.” The Son of God “became dead.” He says in John 10:17, “No man takes My life from Me. I willingly lay down of My own accord.” He “became dead” for us. He died for us. Then He says, “I am alive forevermore.” The crucifix does not tell the end of the story. The grave is the rest of His story! He “became dead” and is “alive forevermore.”Verse 18 concludes with, “And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” Jesus holds the keys to Hades and Death. “Hades” is a term that refers to the grave. It refers to the place of all dead, “Sheol” in the Old Testament. It is like our saying of one who dies, “He has passed on.” We are not saying where that person has gone. We are saying he is no longer here. He has passed on to another realm, could be heaven, could be hell.Death claims the body. Hades claims the soul. And Christ has the keys Of Hades and death. He is the One who holds Our fate in His hands!If we have been saved, He unlocks Hades and death, and we enter into the presence of heaven. If we are not saved, death claims our body and hell claims our soul. He is the only way in. He holds the keys in His hand. He is the sovereign One.In verse 19 Jesus commands John to, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” Here again is our outline for understanding the book. Then in verse 20 Jesus states, “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.”The seven lampstands are the seven churches and the seven stars messengers to the churches. And where is Christ? He is in the midst of the seven lampstands (verse13) and He holds the seven angels in His “right hand.” This speaks of the presence and the protection of Christ. He is with us. You need fear nothing. Rest in the strength of His sovereignty.In verse 19, Jesus then tells John, “Write the things which you have seen, the things which care, and the things which will take place after this.” Jesus tells John to write the visions he “has seen” (which are in chapters 1), “what is” (which are the letters to the seven churches in chapters two and three), and then “what will take place” which covers chapters 4 through 22.Then in verse 20, Jesus interprets the vision for John. In the book of Revelation, every vision is interpreted. In this case, Jesus says that this vision was about the churches John would write to. In this verse, Jesus tells John what the lampstands represents. These lampstands are reminiscent of the vision given to Zechariah. In Zechariah 4:2, the Bible tells us, “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 lampstands with seven pipes to the seven lamps.” In Zechariah 4:10, the angel wraps his conversation with Zechariah with these words, “For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubabel. That are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” The “seven lampstands” represent the church. In Zechariah 4:2–6 the lampstand with its seven lamps is a figurative of speech by which part of the temple furniture stands for the whole temple. This by extension also represents faithful Israel (cf. Zechariah 4:6–9), which is required to live “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). Who are the messengers to the churches? Are they pastors, or angels?Revelation 1:20 informs us that the seven messengers, which is used in Luke 7:24 to speak of John’s followers, of the seven churches. God holds His servants and places them where He wants them to “shine” for Him. In Daniel 12:3, wise soul winners are compared to shining stars. These messengers also are designed to encourage the church. Jesus had told John to write the vision on the scroll to seven specific churches. This section reminds us that Jesus has a word of exhortation and encouragement for His church!Through death into life everlastingHe passed, and we follow Him there;Over us sin no more hath dominion—For more than conquerors we are! Turn your eyes upon Jesus,Look full in His wonderful face,And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,In the light of His glory and grace. This is God’s Word …This is Grace for your Journey …Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!Pastor Terry