The Vision of the Exalted Christ
The Vision of the Exalted Christ (Revelation 1:9-20)
The Gospel stories shape our image of Jesus. We think of Him as the humble traveling teacher and healer. We see Him at His trial, on His cross, in His humiliation. Yet the final picture of Christ in the New Testament is anything but that of an humble victim. As an old man, the apostle John was exiled to the island called Patmos, a tiny six-by-ten-mile rock off the coast of Asia Minor. He was there "because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." John was the last surviving apostle. The churches were under persecution by the Emperor Domitian. The Christian churches seemed so fragile and vulnerable.
In that context a vision of Christ as He really is broke in upon John. He sees the cosmic Christ, the exalted King, the everlasting Lord Jesus uplifted to incomparable dignity. We all need a vision of Christ exalted over the church and the world.
The Function of the Exalted Christ in His Church
What is the Lord Jesus Christ doing today as His principal concern? He walks among His churches caring for and judging them.
The function of the church is the illumination of the world. The seven churches of Asia Minor are called "seven golden lampstands." The seven-branched candelabra had burned in the Jewish temple as a symbol of God's light. That famous candelabra was now gone. Now the church must illumine the world with the light of God. The church only shines by deriving its light from Christ. The church is not self-consumptive like a candle. It is fed by the oil of the Holy Spirit. A lampstand requires constant renewal of oil in order to shine (Zech. 4).
The church lights the world in its diversity and its purity. The seven churches of Asia Minor were diverse in their character and contribution (Chs. 2–3). None of the churches was perfect, and several were severely flawed. Yet each of them is still a center of light. God's ideal for the church is that of a "golden lampstand." The purer the gold, the brighter the light. The call is for purity in the churches.
The function of the risen Christ is the care of the churches. The last vision of the risen Christ in the Bible presents Him in the midst of His churches. The location of Christ today is among His churches, walking among the assemblies of His people. He walks among us as the "Son of man." That is His favorite title, a title of humble identity with our weakness and need. Yet He walks among His churches in dignity (His long robe) and ceaseless activity (the robe girded around His waist).
The Identification of the Exalted Christ in His Church
As John examines the cosmic Christ, the exalted risen Lord, He sees Him in His sevenfold character. The number seven throughout this book indicates the perfection of God Himself.
His eternal duration: "His head and hair were white like wool." We need the assurance of the One who was, and is, and always will be. John's world disintegrated before his eyes. Our world changes with such velocity that we cannot conceive what is happening. Above it all, the eternal Christ reigns.
His penetrating vision: "his eyes were like blazing fire" (v. 14). In a world that conceals so much, the gaze of the risen Christ penetrates all things. When we think that nobody knows or understands, we should remember that His sight pierces every detail.
His active judgment: "his feet were like bronze glowing." That metal was associated with the activities of judgment. Few things are more evident than the lack of justice in this age. The risen Christ assures that all will be set right.
His resounding authority: "his voice was like the sound of rushing waters" (v. 15). As John listened to the waves crash against the rocky island coast, it reminded him of the resonant authority of Jesus' voice. He is our eternal contemporary. Every other voice is silenced or becomes irrelevant. His is always fresh with authority.
His grasp of concern: "in his right hand he held seven stars" (v. 16a). These stars seem to be the pastors of the seven local churches (v. 20). This suggests that the ministry of the church rests in His hand. The call, equipment, and preservation of the ministry belongs to Him—not to the church or to the world.
His weapon of conquest: "out of his mouth came a sharp, double-edged sword" (v. 16b). The short Roman dagger had a tonque-shaped appearance. All of Jesus' victories are won by His word alone (Heb. 4:12). He does not fight Rome with the kind of power Rome knows. His victory is that of His word alone.
His brilliance of appearance: "His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance" (v. 16c). The composite impact of this vision was like looking at the sun filtered through thin clouds. He is the Light that gives the church all their light.
This vision is not to be explained so much as to be an encounter with Christ as He is.
The Reaction to the Exalted Christ
There is a reaction of reverence: "I fell at his feet as though dead." The characteristic response to a vision of the divine is one of total submission out of reverent awe. There is a reassurance of care. The risen Christ does not desire to overawe us into terror. It is just the opposite. His first words are "Do not be afraid." We should have no fear because of His eternity, "I am the First and the Last" (v. 17). He has been and always will be with us. We should have no fear because of His victory, "I [became] dead." He has entered into the worst that can happen and emerged victor. More than anything else He wants us to understand that. We should have no fear because of His mastery, "I hold the keys of death and Hades" (v. 18). Whatever life holds now and in the beyond, He grasps the key that opens the door. We shall forever and ever honor and exalt the One Who so loved us and gave Himself for us.