The Source and Focus of Revelation
In case you don’t remember, last week we started a new study on the book of Revelation. And last week we looked at four different ways of interpreting the book of Revelation, and we decided that the best way of interpreting the book is to see the events as primarily futuristic, but also to see the book as having a strong message for us living today, whether or not Jesus comes back during our lifetimes. We looked at the first eight verses of the book, and saw how John the Apostle wrote the book around the year A.D. 90. Tonight we are going to look at the beginning of John’s vision, when Jesus Christ Himself appears before John. We are going to look at different aspects of this vision, and try to determine what this vision means for us today. So if you are not already there, please turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter one, and we are going to be reading verses nine through twenty. So again, Revelation chapter one, verse nine.
“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:’ and, ‘What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.’ And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, ‘Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.’”
Let us pray.
Before we can look at some of the different aspects of this amazing vision, we need to take a few minutes and look at the setting in which this vision took place. The setting of the vision is found in verse nine and the first half of verse ten. Let’s quickly reread this section again. “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” There are several different things that I want to explain about this section. The first thing I want to mention is that John here addresses his audience as their companion in tribulation. John was writing to a specific group of Christians who were being persecuted by Emperor Domitian. While many people today love the book of Revelation, the book has special interest to those people who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ. As a matter of fact, Revelation was wildly popular in the early church, and that didn’t change until Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal in the early 300s. Then, once people stopped being persecuted, they stopped dwelling on the message that Jesus Christ was going to come back and make all things right. Even today, the message of Revelation rings the truest to those who are suffering for the sake of Christ.
Verse nine also tells us that John was exiled on the island of Patmos. Patmos is a small island located about fifty miles off the western coast of the country of Turkey, which was then the Roman province of Asia Minor. Even today, Patmos is not much of a place to visit. The only thing of note about the island is that there is a monastery there commemorating John’s vision on the island. Today, the population of the island is just a little bit less than 3,000, and many of those people are there because of the historicity of John’s exile there. So essentially, John’s exile here was not a very fun time. While island life was not all it’s cracked up to be, his exile gave him time to spend alone with God, and it was during one of these quiet times that his vision began.
Moving on to verse ten, we see that John says he was “in the Spirit.” I don’t want to dwell too much on this, because frankly, it is impossible for us to know exactly what this state was like. What we do know is that in this state, the lines between the physical world and the spiritual world were blurred, and John was allowed an extended glimpse over what the future held for planet Earth.
Also in verse ten, the Bible says that John’s vision happened on the Lord’s Day. This is one of the first references to a Christian worshipping God on Sunday, instead of the Jewish practice of worshipping on Saturday. There are many Christians in the world today who still worship on Saturday instead of Sunday, because Saturday was the original Sabbath. Does anybody know why the Church switched from Saturday to Sunday? That’s right, we did it to commemorate the Resurrection, because Jesus rose from the grave on Sunday morning. So I think it is worth noting that John here had his vision on Sunday, instead of Saturday.
Now let’s move on to the vision itself. In the vision, the first things that John sees are seven golden candlesticks. Now we are going to talk about the significance of the candlesticks in a little bit, so suffice it to say for now that there were seven candlesticks in a circle. And then, John noticed that in the middle of the circle was one who looked like the Son of Man. And who in the Bible was identified as the Son of Man? That’s right, Jesus. Now I don’t know about you, but I have always made a mistake when I thought about the Son of Man. I always thought that Jesus was pointing out His own humanity when He referred to Himself as the Son of Man, but actually, He was referring to His divinity! If you don’t believe me, listen carefully as I read Daniel 7:13,14. “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
Those two verses out of Daniel are the origin of the phrase “Son of Man.” So when Jesus said that He was the Son of Man, He wasn’t saying his mama and daddy were Homo sapiens. Jesus was saying that He was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel, and that one day, all glory, dominion, and honor would be given to Him, and He would be the King of Kings. I don’t know about you, but that kind of paints a different light on the title “Son of Man” for me. And there are several different things that John describes about Jesus, all of which point out His majesty and power, and some of which point to specific attributes of His character. Notice what Jesus was wearing in verse thirteen. The Bible says that he was wearing “a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.” Just in case you haven’t read Leviticus lately, I’ll refresh your memory. The garments that Jesus is wearing here describe the kinds of garments that the high priest would wear. Since we are not Jewish, we don’t often think of Jesus as our high priest, but the book of Hebrews says several times that Jesus is our great High Priest. Just like a priest would go into the tabernacle and make a sacrifice on behalf of the people, Jesus Christ offered up His own body, and He is constantly making intercession for us in the presence of the Father.
Verse fourteen says that His hair was as white as snow, and His eyes were like flames of fire. Personally, I believe the fact that Jesus’ hair was as white as snow and as white as wool is a reminder of the fact that Jesus was a perfect sacrifice for us. Isaiah 53 says that Jesus was like a lamb led to the slaughter. He was our sacrificial lamb. But the Bible also says that after we trust in Christ, we are washed as white as snow. In other words, we are made sinless in God’s eyes, just as Jesus is sinless. I don’t know exactly how to interpret the part about Jesus’ eyes being like fire. One commentator made the point that Jesus’ eyes of flame signified that He would consume all of those people who did not repent of their sins. While I know that is very true, I think the flip side is that for believers, the fire in His eyes is not all-consuming judgment, but all-consuming love and forgiveness.
In verse fifteen John describes His feet like they were fine brass. Two important things about this point. The first is that Jesus in this verse is barefoot, just as the high priest in the Old Testament was barefooted when he would go before God on behalf of the people. This contributes to the image of Jesus as our High Priest. But the Bible describes His feet as fine brass. The idea in the Greek is of brass that has been purified in the furnace. In other words, this brass has gone through the fire. I think this imagery is significant because Jesus is not only the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, but He is One who has been through the fire, figuratively speaking. And who did He go through that fire for? Me and you.
This verse also describes His voice as the sound of many waters. I don’t know of any heavy-duty theological answer as to why Jesus’ voice sounded like this. But to me, this sound of many waters would sound just like a waterfall. And I don’t know about you, but the sound of a waterfall is one of my favorite sounds in the world. And while Jesus is coming back with a vengeance, and He is going to punish all of the wicked, I hope you know that for you and me, He is coming back with a beautiful appearance, and a voice that speaks peace to our souls in a way that we cannot even imagine.
Verse sixteen says that Jesus held seven stars in His right hand. Verse twenty identifies these seven stars as the seven angels that delivered the message to the seven churches mentioned earlier. This is a verse that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t like to think about very much. You see, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is simply the chief among the angels. They think that He is actually Michael the archangel mentioned in the Old Testament. But in this verse, Jesus holds seven angels in His hand! Jesus Christ is not an angel. No, this verse says that He controls the angels!
This verse also says that a two-edged sword is coming out of His mouth. There are several different theories about what the two edges of this sword signify, but I don’t think we have to speculate much to know what this sword is going to do. This symbol reminds us that Jesus Christ is going to destroy all sin from the face of the Earth. But Jesus’ sword isn’t in His hand, it’s in His mouth. This is significant because essentially, this means that Jesus’ greatest weapon is the words that come out of His mouth. The sinners that are destroyed on the Day of Judgment are not innocent. Oh no, they have been warned by the very words that came out of Jesus’ mouth, and this verse paints that picture for us very vividly. And finally, this verse says that Jesus’ face shone like the sun. The Greek literally means the “noon-day sun.” This description stacks on top of everything else said about Jesus to paint a picture of an absolutely majestic and absolutely powerful High Priest.
What would you do if Jesus appeared before you in the same way that He appeared before John? While I can only imagine what I would do in that situation, I like what John did in verse seventeen. What does John say he did when He saw Jesus? That’s right, he fell down at Christ’s feet like he was dead. When we are struck with the sheer holiness and power of Christ, we are left speechless. John knew Jesus personally for at least three years. He was known as the “beloved disciple,” and was probably the best human friend that Jesus had while He was on Earth. But in this verse, when John sees his friend in His true form, he can do nothing but fall on his face and worship his Savior.
And in verse eighteen, the Savior of the World speaks to John. He says that He is the one who was alive, who was killed, and is now alive forevermore. Praise the Lord! We don’t have to wait for Easter to think about how amazing that fact is!
Now that we’ve seen this absolutely amazing picture of Jesus, I want to point out something about these seven candlesticks that surrounded Jesus. You see, the book of Exodus writes about these lampstands, and then the next verses write about the lamps that you put in the stands. But in these verses, there are seven lampstands, but no lamps that go in them. I think this is a very important symbol of what it means to be a Christian, and what it means to be a church. So what does it mean that we as a church are not the lamp itself, but we are the lampstand?
Well, before we can understand our purpose as a church, we need to understand Who the lamp is, since it is not us. So I ask you tonight, who is the light that sits on top of the lampstands? That’s right, the lamp is Jesus. In fact, the gospels actually refer to Jesus as the Light of the World. And so if Jesus is the lamp, what is our job as the lampstands? The ONLY job of the lampstand is to hold up the lamp so that everyone can see it. Let me say that again. The ONLY job of the lampstand is to hold up the lamp so that everyone can see it. Jesus is the lamp, and this church is the lampstand. Over the next several weeks, we are going to look at how well seven different churches were doing in their jobs as lampstands for Jesus. And tonight, I ask of you, how good of a lampstand are you being for Jesus Christ? Are you holding Him high so that everyone can see His light through your life? Or is your life so shrouded with sin and defeat that someone could never see the light of Christ through all of the mess? And how well is this church doing in its job as a lampstand? And how can we do a better job as a corporate body in lifting high the name of our Savior to a world that desperately needs to hear the message of the gospel? As these verses have shown, Jesus Christ is a mighty King, and He is a mighty Priest. He is coming back to reclaim the world that He created. And He has chosen this church as a lampstand to the town of Weatherford. Let us not fail in the divine mission given straight to us by our King.
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