John at the Island of Patmos, (Read)
We have been looking at this theme “Divine Encounters” – and it’s all about what happens when you have a moment with God. (PPT) This is not just any encounter but close encounters of the Divine kind. We’ve been looking at some well-known stories in the Scripture, a record of individuals who encountered the Lord unique to them and for them. (PPT) We are not looking at every detail of each account but purely from the perspective of their Divine encounters, things we can learn, principles that we can put into practice to posture ourselves to encounter the Lord. We saw these individuals they had a moment of surprise visit from God, a face-to-face encounter with the Lord. I have said this again and again, but I believe it is crucial to our understanding – (PPT) we believe in a personal God, therefore, we must expect personal encounters with Him. This is essential to relationship, all relationships, especially our relationship with our God.
We saw Moses at the Burning Bush on Mt. Horeb; Jacob at Jabbok, Gideon at the Winepress; Isaiah in the Throne Room, Elijah on the Mountain; Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration Mount. (PPT) Today is the last of the series, and we are looking at the encounter of the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. It is about Revelation, not the revelation of John but the Revelation of Jesus Christ. When we read Revelation, we often think it is all about the end times. In some sense, yes, there is element of end times but it is not primarily about the end times. Most definitely, from beginning to the end, the book focuses on Jesus, the Son of God. a revelation or unveiling of Jesus Christ, and that is what Greek word apocalypse (apokalypsis) is, an uncovering of Jesus Christ, to reveal what He is really like and what He sees and thinks now.
Now that is rather interesting. I wonder what the Lord Jesus Christ think of what's going on in the world now. Or what He thinks of what's happening in the church now. What He thinks of what's going on in your life right now. What He sees and thinks what we do with our lives? This is unveiling, a revelation to John of what the Lord Jesus is like at this moment, and what He wants the church to know. If there is a central message, I believe it is this: (PPT) we need a new revelation of the Lord Jesus, a fresh disclosure or manifestation of the Son of God to impact a life-changing experience in our personal encounter with the Living God. I pray that to some degree, this message will bring it closer to you. Let me share 4 principles, there probably more, but we just look at four for our purpose. (Pray)
(PPT) First of all: DIVINE ENCOUNTERS ARE OFTEN IN THE CONTEXT OF SUFFERING FOR CHRIST. We’ve seen some aspects of this in our previous encounters. Very often, these individuals who encountered the Lord did not begin at mountaintop but in a valley – at the low-point of their life. Moses, Jacob, Isaiah, Elijah, for example, they all began from a valley of brokenness and weakness, fear and doubt, hardships and struggles, discouragement and disappointment. Here in , we see the Apostle John identifies with the rest of the believers undergoing persecution and enduring hardships because of their faithfulness in Christ. (PPT) We read in v.1 - “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker of the tribulation and the kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus”. Good people do suffer for the sake of Christ. Many of the believers were going through persecution of all sorts and Apostle John was taken to the Island of Patmos, a prison camp of the Roman Empire, where people were banished to hard labour. (See PPTS – Map of Patmos Island, Cave of Apocalypse)
So, we are talking about the last surviving disciple of Jesus, and he was described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” – someone very dear to our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, it doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t love the rest of the disciples but it means that Jesus had a special relationship with John. This is not because John was anything better than the rest, but rather, he was seen to love Jesus more than the other disciples. His love for Jesus was both loyal and undivided from start to finish!
John had the privilege of seeing certain things the rest of the disciples didn’t experience. He was there with Peter and James, witnessed how Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from death. At the Garden of Gethsemane, John again was there with the Lord Jesus in His agony. As we saw the last time, John again was there at the Jesus’ transfiguration together with Peter and James. Then, at the Last Super, it was John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, rested his head on Jesus’ chest. If you read the epistles of , & 3, you can describe him as “the Apostle of love”. Finally, at the cross where Jesus was hung, while everyone forsook Jesus and fled, it was John who was still there. From there on, it was him who took care of Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother. Then, on the day he and Peter heard that Jesus rose from the dead, he and Peter ran to the tomb to see it but John ran faster, and he reached the tomb first, went inside, and he did not see Jesus’ body and he believed!
Yet, this is what I like you to see (PPT) – John’s loyal and undivided love for Jesus did not immune him against suffering and tribulation! Just because you are more blessed than others do not mean you are problem-free or trouble-free. Someone says that John’s love for Jesus like this, “it actually kind of qualified him to suffer for Jesus”. What am I talking about? I’m not talking about sickness and all sorts of tragedy and things like that. (PPT) I am talking about suffering for Christ for the sake of righteousness!
Are we to be surprised? No! John recalled what Jesus said in , “if the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me…because you are not of the world…..the world hates you…If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours”. Later in , Jesus also said, “in the world”, and I assume it applies to you and me as well because we are still here in the world. What are we to expect in the world? Jesus continued, “You will have tribulation”. However, Jesus also gave us this wonderful assurance, “But take courage, I have overcomes the world”. Remember this promise whenever we encounter tribulations in this world.
Paul says the same things in ? He said, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. What I am saying is this, if we desire Divine encounters, we have to be prepared for dark encounters. Read Phil, 3: 10, Paul said, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection”., and that’s great, and that’s wonderful Divine encounters, and that’s what we desire too! But Paul also said, it comes with “the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to his death”. This is a package – you can’t have resurrection without crucifixion, you can’t have joy without pain, you can’t have triumph without trial, and you can’t have the crown without the cross, you can’t have Divine encounters without dark encounters. (PPT) What I am saying is that – Divine encounters, very often, but not always, happen in the situation of suffering for Christ, or suffering with Christ.
I read about the story of Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish Presbyterian pastor, theologian and author. Around 1600, Rutherford was persecuted for his faith and his expression of his faith and was put in prison. While in prison, like Paul, he wrote letters to members of his church. One of those letters ended with these words, “Jesus Christ came into my prison cell last night, and every stone in it glowed like a ruby” That’s wonderful experience – don’t you think so? However, it happened in a cell, a prison, a time of suffering for Jesus! You cannot expect divine encounters if you are not prepared for dark encounters!
(PPT) Second principle is THE NEED FOR EXTRACTION FROM YOUR NORMAL ENVIRONMENT. What do I mean? I mean that if you desire a Divine encounter, there is a need, a necessity, to be extracted out or be prepared to be removed from your normal environment or your comfort zone. You look at John - where was he? He was on the Isle of Patmos, a desolate and deserted island, about 10 miles (16 km) long and 6 miles (10 km) wide. But could God have given John this vision somewhere else? Yes, He could have!
(PPT) Yet, what I find interesting is that the Lord came to John while he was in a desolate place of isolation – while he was all alone!! This is the point I want to make. It was there, alone, living in exile in prison camp, he had a “profound spiritual experience” not while he was living a normal life or in the comfort of his home, This was not a normal situation. John was forced into it. He didn’t buy a ticket to Patmos for a vacation. He was actually banished there as a prisoner “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus”. He was forced to extract out of his normal life and environments and be alone by himself and there he got engaged with God and encountered Him in a real and personal way.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you will be forced into prison cell like Samuel Rutherford or Wang MingDao, or you deliberately locked yourselves into prison. It doesn’t mean you are to look for a prison cell so you can experience the Divine encounters. (PPT) What it does mean is that – At times, out of a necessity or a spiritual need, you will have to intentionally choose to extricate yourselves out of your normal environment in order to be with God alone to engage Him and seek Him. Like what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: “But when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret and your Father sees what is done in secret will reward you”. (Matt6: 6). Yes, your “inner room”, and that’s where God will encounter you.
You remember Jacob – he was “left alone”, purposely and intentionally, and then all of a sudden, he was wrestling with God. Where was Moses? He was at the backside of the desert, alone except for a few sheep, and God came and spoke to Him. Where was Gideon? Alone at the winepress, fearful and doubtful, yet the Angel of the Lord came, “O, valiant warrior!” Where was Isaiah? He was alone in the temple, and he was transported into the Throne Room of God. Where was Elijah? Alone on the mountain and the Lord came to him in a still small vice in his heart! Where was Jesus? Alone on the transfiguration mount, praying and he was transformed.
If you could remember, I told you the story of Wang MingDao, who was known as The Father of Persecuted Church in China. One day, a worker from the Open Doors Ministry came to see him, and Wang said, “When I was in prison all those years I had nothing to do except get to know God. For 20 years that was the greatest relationship I have ever known - but the cell was the means”. As he was referring to the Christians in the West, Wang said to the Open Door worker, “I was pushed into a cell, but you will have to push yourself into one. You have no time to know God, you need to build yourself a cell so that you can do for yourself what persecution did for me - simplify your life to know God!”
Precisely – simplify your life, but we are too busy, too occupied, we are too distracted with so many things and activities that we find ourselves no time or lack of time to know God or to build our spiritual lives. (PPT) If you desire to encounter God, a moment with God, you must intentionally and purposely find the time, set a time, even in the midst of busyness, to get alone with Him in your ‘inner room’ to pray and to seek Him. I mean you look at Jesus – He too was very busy with life and ministry and with people, yet, He finds the time to get alone with His Father, sometimes before dawn or late into the night, to pray and seek His Father’s will.
(PPT) The third principle is TO POSITION OURSLVES IN THE SPIRIT. John was not only imprisoned for his faith but also as he said in v.10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”. What does he mean? Some say it means being in the Spirit as opposed to “in the flesh” like what Paul says in , “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh”. It could be but most likely, John is speaking about a specific “spiritual experience” unique to him, a kind of out of body experience when he enters into spiritual realm to receive the Divine revelation that we read about in the Book of Revelation. The idea here is that, John, as he enters the realm Spirit in his human spirit, he was carried or transported beyond his normal state or environment. Often in the Divine encounters, the Holy Spirit has a role to play. (PPT) I suppose we could call it, “spiritual exaltation”, a mysterious movement of the Spirit lifting up your spirit to the spiritual realm where you are about to experience Divine encounter – a personal moment with God in His presence. This is unique to John and for him as God enables it to happen.
Paul himself has something like that too. We read in , he said, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know or out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a man was caught up to the third heaven – and I know how such man…was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak”. Paul didn’t know if he was still in the body or out of the body in some spiritual sense. All we know is that Paul was caught up or taken up, and he experienced something of the heavenly Paradise. Peter in , was praying for 6 hours on the roof top, and he found himself in a trance or ecstasy or he was brought to “another realm”, and there Peter saw the Lord speaking to him.
(PPT) But please don’t confuse John’s experience with Astral Projection. Some have used Paul’s example to refer to Astral Projection. This is a term used to describe a willful out-of-the body experience that assumes the existence of a soul or consciousness called “astral body” separate from our physical body and capable of travelling outside it throughout the universe. What we have here in John’s experience is a biblical experience when your spirit is transferred into another dimension in the realm of the Holy Spirit as the text says “In the Spirit”. Some scholars see it to be a “visionary” – a vision, or an apocalyptic vision. It is possible because the word “see”/”saw” repeated many times - a vision God permits John to see. However, it appears more than just an apocalyptic vision.
Let me bring you through to show you what I mean. If you look at , we see same experience happens again, “Immediately I was in the Spirit and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne”. As you can see, John is in the Spirit, and then mysteriously and supernaturally, in his human spirit, he was brought into heaven seeing the Throne room of God. Turn with me to , it says, “and he (one of the 7 angels) carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast…” So, here, we see, John was actually being carried away into the wilderness. Now, go to , it says, “And he (again one of the 7 angels) carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God”. So, it would seem, the Holy Spirit takes John’s spirit, to the mountain of God to show him the New Jerusalem. Well, not just John. We know Elijah was carried away to heaven. We read Philip, the evangelist, after he baptised the Ethiopian eunuch, we read in , “the Spirit snatched Philip away…” or transported, carried or taken away. As early in , we read that Enoch did not die but “God took him”.
So, what I am saying is that each of these biblical experiences can only happens when God enables it and only He makes it happens, Astral Projection, on the other hand, is internally self-generated or imposed by means of hypnosis or hallucination, and often into a dream-state. But John’s vision, as you can see here, is not a dream or hypnosis. He said, “I was in the Spirit”, passive tense, it means it was God who made it happens and brought him into the presence of the Spirit as he worshipped on “the Lord’s day”. The Spirit enables him, instills in his spirit, and he heard a loud voice like the sound of the trumpet behind him. He did not become out of body with a soul and consciousness travelling outside of his body. Of course, it doesn’t mean we should spend our life pursuing such experiences. You must remember, God is sovereign, and He chooses to give such Divine experiences unique to some individuals. As we have seen in the account of Transfiguration, everyone can have Divine experiences but not everyone does because it is God’s prerogative to give whomever He chooses. God grants such divine experience to John doesn’t mean He will do for everyone.
But what I like to point out is this: (PPT) if you desire Divine encounters, you need to be open to anything and everything that God wants to do in your life. I can say this is true in my life and it is true for anyone who constantly pursuit of God for anything and for everything He wants to do in your life. So long you are willing for anything and everything that God would want to do in your life, you will sure to encounter Him. I do not know what it will look like to you or anybody but it doesn’t really matter so long it is God’s doing. But I do know this: (PPT) God desires to reveal and give all of Himself to you; to commune and abide with you; you to encounter you, but you must be found in His presence, alone in the Spirit in prayer and He will surely meet you there!
I have taught Revelation, but only now I notice as I read verse 10, John said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet”. It seems the “voice” John has heard is God’s voice speaking but it is still and silence. But the moment John was in the Spirit, in the realm of the presence of the Spirit, that still small voice in his heart becomes a “loud voice like the volume of the trumpet. Do you see it? In the Spirit, as God enables to happen, John is able to hear God’s voice speaking to him loud and clear in his heart. .
You know, sometimes the way you go through life, busy, occupied and hectic, stresses, workload, commitments, and in the midst of those life experiences, you are trying to tune in to the still small voice of God, to hear, I hope you are trying to do that, I hope you are starting to hear that little, gentle whisper of the Lord in your heart! You know, God has no megaphone, and He rarely speaks with an audible voice – even in Scripture, it is quite a rare occasion. John didn’t expect it but suddenly, behind him, through the grace and the power of the Spirit, he heard a loud voice, God’s voice, like a trumpet! (PPT) That’s usually what happens when you are in the Spirit, what I mean is, you will have a heightened or increased amplification and sensitivity of your spiritual senses to the leading of the Spirit, and you are able to hear what the Spirit has to say in your heart!
You remember Moses - he saw the burning bush, nothing special in the wilderness because there were burning bushes all the time. What intrigued him was that the burning never consumed, and Moses was curious, and he turned aside to see or to find out. The moment he turned aside to see, he heard a voice, God’s voice speaking to him. John did the same here. He heard a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, then, John did this, “I turned to see the voice that was speaking…” He heard, and then he turned to see, to find out, and he saw the amazing discovery – “the seven golden lampstands”! He positions himself to turn to see the voice. If he didn’t, then, he would not have discovered the amazing encounter! Remember, John came to the Lord on the Lord’s Day to pray and worship in the Spirit, to see and to hear what the Lord wants to say.
What I am saying; (PPT) at times, you’ve got to intentionally turn aside, stop in your tracks at the little signs and signals that God is putting in your way, you need to bring yourself to pause and pay attention to what’s He’s doing, and then, He will come in and speak and give direction. If you don’t position yourselves to pause or you have no time to turn to see and discover, or to pray, to pay attention to Him, you cannot expect God encounter you. This is why not many can have Divine encounters.
Only when he turns to see, Christ speaks and reveals His nature and His message to Apostle John, that’s the way it happens! Read v.11. “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches…” If I may put it this way, “What you see, what you have studied and discovered, and understood, write in a book and send it to the seven churches”. I believe this is often how a true preacher of the word will do. (PPT) He positions himself to read, study, pay attention to Christ and His Word, to read, listen, and to hear, to see and discover fresh revelation of the God’s Word, and then it is his responsibility to declare and preach. Like Moses at the Burning Bush, God revealed something of His nature, “I AM – I AM the Lord”, and that was a new revelation, something Moses heard it for the first time. Later when he finally went to Egypt, he made it known to the people, “I AM sent me”!
(PPT) So, here again, let me remind us; the primary objective of Divine encounters is NOT for personal thrill or enjoyment BUT for God to reveal to you something of Himself that you didn’t know before or at least you didn’t know it the way you needed to know it. For example, you look at John, Christ reveals Himself as “Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last” which is only occurs here in Revelation. This was not known about Christ before until now, and that includes many things we read about in the Book of Revelation. As far as John was concerned, this was a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ that renews his spirit and gives him courage and confidence especially in the midst of enduring hardships.
What I am saying is that, (PPT) when you have a moment with God, a Divine encounter comes to you, you will likely learn something new and fresh revelation or insight about God and His will He has prepared for you. When I say “new revelation”, I am not talking about something equivalent to canonical revelation which is what we already have in the Holy Scripture. You cannot receive anymore of God’s revelation than what God has already revealed in His written Word – the Bible. Anything so call “new revelation” has the same footings or authority as God’s revealed Word, it is likely a heresy. I am referring to something new or refreshing you haven’t learned about God that you need to learn or understand; and you learn it through personal divine encounter with the Lord in your personal devotion with Him. This “new revelation” always carries a fresh message that have a personal impact in your experience with Him.
(PPT) That leads us to the fourth and final principle, the objective of DIVINE ENCOUNTERS IS ALWAYS TO REVEAL AND GLORIFY CHRIST. We read in , “when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me”. Then in , “….whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come…He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you….” Here in , through the Spirit, He revealed to John, “I am…the First and the Last…” (repeat of 1:8). Let me paraphrase for you what I think Jesus might be saying, “It’s all about Me. It’s all about Me! From start to finish it’s about Me!” (PPT) So, what it teaches us is that: if our desire and pursuit of Divine encounter is not to know Christ better, it is likely a counterfeit pursuit; if it is not a heart-passion to know Christ, it is probably for self personal gain. What did Paul say about the goal of his life? , “that I may know Him….” – that’s the goal of Divine encounters!
Now listen to what John was being revealed in v.12, “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands…” If you read on the following verses to v.20, you will know about the “seven lampstands” represent the seven churches in Asia Minor, or the church as a whole, and Jesus, the Son of Man is in the midst of His churches, speaking to them! He’s giving them a picture of “lampstand”, a candlestick, in the Tabernacle in the Holy Place.
What’s a lampstand? A lampstand gives light, and Israel nation in the OT was a “light to the nations”. Jesus said His disciples “You are the light of the world”. Paul said in , that God has placed the church as “a light for the gentiles that you may bring salvation to the end of the earth”, So, it seems to me, this lampstand symbolises the witness of God’s people as light to the nations. Jesus was living and walking in the midst of the witness of the community of God’s people, the seven churches in the seven cities of Asia Minor. This was the same message He gave to the 12 Disciples, “You shall be my witness…go and make disciples of all nations”, and it still the same message for you and me today – you are the light of the world!
Do you know what it means? It means that Jesus is the Head of the church, and He is in charge! He is the One who builds the church. Whether people acknowledge or recognise Him, or regardless what happens to His church, Jesus is still in charge. He speaks to each of them. His message to them is this: “This is what I’m going to do. if you don’t repent, this is what I’m going to do”, referring to the lampstands, and He warns them He’s going to take them away and remove them.
But what was it that He’s going to remove from them? Here’s what I see, (PPT) He’s going to remove their effective witness if they don’t listen to Him. That’s the impression I get when I read through the accounts of the 7 churches in chapters 2-3. Now, I do not know, maybe He too will do the same to us if we fail to pay attention to him, focus on Him and listen to Him. Perhaps this is the reason why Revelation begins with exaltation to “take heed”, and the repeatedly warning throughout the 7 churches “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says…” It might apply to us if we fail to “take heed” and listen to Him.
Among the Apostles, John was the most familiar with Jesus, he knew Jesus better than anyone else, yet, he was overwhelmed by this new revelation. He should be thrill and excited about the experience of Divine encounters, but he was overwhelmed, overcome and he fell dead! Read v.17, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man…” Was he dead? Some people think he actually did die, I don’t know, but he fell as if he was dead.
Why was John so afraid? The reason, I think, this is not how John would have remembered or recognised the Lord Jesus some 60 years ago! He had never seen anything like it! He had never heard anything like it. This was a new revelation for him. By this time, John is an old man, and this is not how he would have remembered Jesus nor described Him. As far as John is concerned, the story of Revelation is something new, a different story, a fresh revelation that comes with a warning that has so much impact on his experience with God.
Supposed you knew John, and you met up with this old man, you said to him, “Hey, John, you knew Jesus better than anyone of us, how do you describe Him?’” If you had asked him 60 years ago, you would have heard a totally different story. Here in Revelation, 60 years later, it is not how he would have described Him, and he didn’t even recognise Jesus even though John was the most familiar with Jesus. For this reason, he is overwhelmed, he falls down as if he’s dead, and obviously, he’s terrified!
Well, look at what John described what he saw. I bet you too would be terrified of the new revelations of Jesus Christ when He personally comes to you in a new way. Read v.14, the specifics, “His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow”. This would have the same figure of the image of the Ancient of Days as described in – a symbol of His purity. Then, “His eyes were like a flame of fire” represents the vision of the Son of God like the laser incision X-ray who sees and knows everything – the All-knowing God! V.15, “His feet were like burnished bronze when it has been made to glow in a furnace” and it speaks of His judgement that is coming now and coming soon, walking into the house of God, the church, to judge. When He judged, “His voice was like the sound of many waters”. This “voice” is not the still small voice we’ve been hearing about, this is a voice of the thunder waters, the deafening roar and it speaks of His authority Then v.16, “In His hand He held the seven stars”, that is the seven churches, they are secured because He’s in controlled. It speaks of His sovereignty. John continued “and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword”, that is His Word. Like a two-edged sword, God’s word is dividing spirit and soul, bone and marrow, and discerning thoughts and intents, of the heart of every person. Finally, “and His face was like the sun shining in its strength” and that’s the picture of His glorified state. At the Transfiguration Mount, 60 years ago, John saw Jesus’ glorified state at the Transfiguration Mount - “His face...and His clothing became white and gleaming”, but now, it was even greater glorified state
So, here we observe one important point: (PPT) the Lord Jesus Christ can appear differently to different people in different places. At Transfiguration Mount, He was transfigured in His glory, He appeared in glory, but after He was resurrected, in the Garden tomb, He appeared as a gardener to Mary, at least that’s what Mary thought, she didn’t recognise Him. The disciples, you remember when He was walking on water they thought He was a ghost. But John in v.13, he says, “…in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a Son of Man”, this is apocalyptic language, it’s a vision, of course; he never seen Jesus like this; it’s a vision of the glorified Jesus, and that’s how he saw Him, and that’s how Jesus appeared to him at the Isle of Patmos.
But John was petrified - we read in v.17, he saw Him, and he was almost dropped dead, terrified. Unable to move! Jesus came and placed His right hand on him, and said, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last”. What do you mean “Don’t be afraid?”. What do you think is going on in John’s mind? Here’s what I think; I am terrified! I am in hard labour camp, I might be executed. The brethren, Your people, facing persecution, you tell me “Do not be afraid?” It’s easier said than done! If you don’t want me to be afraid, don’t terrify me, and don’t frighten me”. But John, He can’t help it! He didn’t mean to frighten you. You see, He’s so beyond us, He’s so holy and pure, but you are sinful, yet, He allows you to even to get a glimpse of His glory, His greatness, His magnificence, His Majesty!
(PPT) Now, this is the paradox of I find in the experience of Divine encounters when you have a moment with God. You can have the thrill and the joy of close encounter with God and you can have the falls, the pushed down, the goosebumps, and your hair standing, the fear, and yet, in that moment with God, you are totally and utterly safe and secure – don’t be afraid! Like Elijah in the cleft of the rock, he saw the earthquake, the thunder, the fire and he was in the midst of it all, yet, he was secure and safe!
Now, here is a practical truth I like you to see. For John, it provides him a new sense of encouragement and confidence especially, and it should be the same for us.. John was terrified and afraid, and especially the churches in Asia Minor going through suffering and persecution, and he too enduring hardships in prison camp. Jesus is telling them, “Don’t be afraid of the lions, the burning stake, Rome or the Emperor, or the swords. I am in complete control!” When Jesus commands us not to be afraid, we have every reason to be confident in our lives. As you listen, do you fear what the future might hold for you? If yes, remember, your life and your concerns are safe and secure in His hand, so do not be afraid or anxious! Like the song reminds us, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow...all fear is gone...He holds the future..life worth living...” simply “because He lives”!
Notice, it says, “His right hand”, and the same right hand holding the seven churches. This tells me that Christ not only cares for His church, but He also cares for individual who needs His encounter. I’m not sure if you realise how that has been helpful, but it certainly helpful to me. Why? Because He does care for my need and He takes it into account. I may not have much but I know He will take care of my need. He tells you, me and everyone who needs His touch or encounter, whatever your circumstance, Jesus says – “Do not be afraid. I am in complete control. I will take good care of your need. I am the First and the Last. So, be faithful, and persevere”!
Conclusion: As I conclude, I want to highlight one potential problem within the Church as in the day of John. The Church, people of God, has been around for last 2000 years, and still a problem. (PPT) What is the problem? It is this: losing sight of the vision of the glorified Christ, and If you lose that, you lose the joy of salvation; you lose your power and confidence in service and your purpose in life and your motivation.
That’s exactly what Satan wants to do. He has already gotten many Christians lose sight of the vision of the glorified Christ. He has succeeded to get them obsessed by other things of the world and keep them occupied there as long as he could.. He gets us busy, and some of them are good things, but only to displace Christ from the centre of our lives. Reading the church history, many observers have said that almost every organisation that began in the power and the enthusiasm of the Holy Spirit, sooner or later, gradually were drawn away from the devotion to Christ. This was true of the 7 local churches in Asia Minor in John’s day, and it is still true today. Not just for churches but also for individual believer like you and me. Are you losing focus on Christ?
Perhaps you first started to do something, you were so zealous and so enthusiastic initially. You were all out to do anything for the Lord. You were on fire so to speak. You started well but what happens – you are losing steam & eventually you slow down, you are discouraged, you are disappointed about this or with someone, and so you are retiring and giving up and finally you stop. Why is this happening? That’s because we get so distracted and diverted in daily life that we lose our vision of the glorified Christ in our midst.
That is why we constantly need a fresh revelation of Christ. We need to hear, to read and to heed His prophetic word of the Scripture more and more. If you are going to be spiritually charged, to be renewed, to be motivated, to be on fire again, to be a witness in the society, to remain spiritual stable and steadfast in the faith, to be confidence, the only thing that will sustain you is this: a fresh encounter of the vision of the glorified Christ and it’s the only thing! Therefore, let me remind you once more, if there is only one thing we need more than anything else, it is this: (PPT) we need to encounter Jesus again; we need to see Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith; we need to behold Him, and we need to hear what He is saying to us today.
There’s a story about a father trying to get peace to read his newspapers. His problem was, every time he settled down, his little girl kept asking him questions. He came up with a bright idea by giving her something to do while he read his paper. He searched one of the missionary magazines lying on the coffee table. He found a map of the world. He cut it out into small piece. He came to his daughter, and said, “Look, dear, here’s a map of the world; see if you can out the jigsaw puzzle together”. He then settled down to read his paper. After a few minutes, the little girl was back and the father couldn’t believe it. He asked her, “How did you do that so fast?” Like a flash, she said, “Well, Daddy, it was easy. I found a picture of Jesus on the other side of the page, and I knew when I had Him in the right place, then the world would be all right”.
It’s true, isn’t it – when the glorified Christ is at the centre of everything we do in our life, like the little girl says, “all will be well!”, nothing to fear or be anxious about! If you haven’t recognised that, if Jesus is not at the centre of your life, or He is not at the rightful place of your life, He’s being shelved aside or pushed aside, it is time for you to catch up and put Him back to where He rightfully belongs in your life.. Like John, this is what you need to do – (PPT) turn aside, position yourself in the posture of being alone with Him, pay attention to Him, hear and listen to the still small voice of the Lord speaking in your heart, you will see what He is really like, what He’s really saying to you, and like John, you will be overwhelmed, but it will transform your life!