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The Great Revelation Begins (Study # 1)

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I. The Purpose of the Revelation

1         The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.  And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,

2         who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, and to all things that

       he saw.

We are now entering the most dangerous time in all of history.  The faith of Christians will be thoroughly tested by earthquakes, wars, famines, tyrannies, economic crises and supernatural demonstrations of demonic origin.  It will also be a time of great apostasy as many fall into the error of believing that Goddoes not exist, or that He does not care about what happens on earth.  The apostasy will be the worst of all the tragedies.  As people lose their faith in God they will be deceived by the ridiculous pretensions of the Antichrist and will lose their part in the new day about to dawn upon the world.

To avoid this tragedy, God the Father gave the prophecies of Revelation to Jesus Christ our Savior, who in turn gave them to the Apostle John to show His servants the things which must shortly take place (v. 1).  If we study carefully the prophecies of this Book, our faith will be fortified so that we can facethe future.  These coming events, prophesied in detail and order 1900 years ago, will come to a victorious end.

Men in the Armed Forces are given special training for survival.  Along with that training, they receive a survival manual instructing them how to survive in a variety of emergencies.  The Book of Revelation is the Christian’s survival manual.  It gives assurance that God is interested in what happens on earthand that He has everything under absolute control.  This was given to hold us firm in our faith so that we might share in the triumph that is going to be Jesus’ when He comes in power and great glory.

Jesus Christ is the central Figure of Revelation.  He bought our salvation with His shed blood.  He arose from the dead.  He gives pardon for sin.  He is coming again.  Jesus Christ is the great, and only, hope for the world.

 II. The Special Blessing

3         Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it;  for the time is near.

Notice that while there is a blessing in reading any portion of the Word of God -- any part of the sixty-six books -- this is the only Book that begins and ends with a specific blessing for the person who reads and hears and takes to heart the things written therein.  Thus it is sad to see the attitude of many Christians to the Book of Revelation.  Some of  them have stated that they were afraid of the Book of Revelation.  Others have become angry when hearing it taught.  In one church where I pastored, a man who had been both a personal friend and faithful attendee became so upset over the teaching of Revelation that he got up in the middle of a service and walked out, taking his wife and two grown daughters with him.  It is this kind of negative attitude toward the Book of Revelation that causes people to lose the very blessing which it promises.

I first taught through the Book of Revelation in 1971. When I started teaching it, I had the sensation that I was wading into a deep river with no assurance of being able to come out the other side.  But since that time I have taught and written about Revelation for over 28 years, and have observed time and time again that those who have heard it and kept its truths have experienced special blessing.  Lives have been transformed, sicknesses healed, and marital problems resolved.  Likewise I have experienced God’s “Revelation Blessings” upon my own family and in my own life.  As you begin these studies, why not offer up a silent prayer to the Lord such as the one that follows:  “Heavenly Father, help me to receive the light that You have for me in Revelation.  Enable me to understand the teachings You have placed there.  Give me the strength to put what I learn into practice in my own life.  May I truly be a doer of Your Word.  Amen.”

If this is the desire of your heart, the study of Revelation will bring a great blessing to your life and to your home.

III. The Time Is Near

Please notice that verse 3 also says the time is near.  It is thought that the Apostle John received these prophecies somewhere around the year 90 A.D. when he was an old man of some 80 years of age.  The question is then, how could he say, “the time is near,” when at least 19 centuries would pass before the prophecies of Revelation would have their fulfillment?  A principle we are going to use in these studies is:  the Bible explains itself.  To demonstrate how this principle works, turn to II Peter, chapter 2, verses 3-9:

. . . knowing this first:  that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”  For this they willfully forget:  that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.  But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.  But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

According to Peter, the Lord has held back His judgments because He is patient and He wants to give to all opportunity to repent.  God is not in a hurry.  He has existed from out of eternity past and will live throughout eternity to come.  He has all the time that He needs to carry out His purposes.  We read in this Scripture that one day is as a thousand years with Him, and a thousand years as one day.  That means that these almost two thousand years which have passed since John received this revelation are of no more importance to God, time-wise, than the last 48 hours that have passed for us.  If John could say, nineteen hundred years ago, “the time is near”—with even greater reason it can be said today, “The time is near.”  The time is very near!

IV. The Meaning of “Church”

4a:  John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:

Later in these studies, we will consider the relationship between the seven churches of Asia and modern day Christians.  But for now, let us consider the true meaning of the word “church”.  Usually when we say “church” we have a mental image of a building or an ecclesiastical organization.  But the real meaning of “church” is something else entirely.  In the Greek, the word that is translated “church” is “ecclesia”.  “Ecclesia” was originally a political term.  Several centuries before Christ, the Greek city-states had a form of democracy in which the free men in each state (slaves and women were excluded) would gather together and make decisions concerning their city and pass the laws by which the city was to be governed.  This assembly of free men was called the “ecclesia” which meant “the called out ones.”

Sometime about the third century before Christ, seventy Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt, translated the Old Testament Scriptures from their Hebrew into the Greek language -- what we call the Septuagint version.  When they were translating the account of the children of Israel being taken out of slavery in Egypt and being gathered together at Mount Sinai in assembly, these Jewish scholars used the term “ecclesia” for that gathering.  Thus in the Septuagint Old Testament, when the whole congregation of the children of Israel is mentioned, the term that is used is “ecclesia”.  The Israelites were called out of their bondage in Egypt.

Centuries rolled by and Jesus Christ, when He was here on earth at His first coming, referred to His followers as His “ecclesia’’—His called out ones.  Later, as the Holy Spirit guided the writers of the New Testament, He led them to refer to the followers of Jesus Christ, of all times and in all places, as His “ecclesia”—His church.  Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ are called out from a life of sin and into the Kingdom of God.  Finally, when Jesus Christ returns for His church, His people in a very literal sense are going to be the called out ones because He will call His “ecclesia” out of this world!

Thus, it is not really accurate to say “I go to church on Sunday” or, “I go to church in the mid-week.”  We the Christians, the followers of Christ, are the church.  We, the church, gather in a particular building where we conduct our services.  Every true believer in Jesus Christ is a part of his church.

The church is not an edifice.  It is not an organization of men.  One could have their name written on the list of a local congregation without belonging to the true Church of Jesus Christ.  From time to time some group arises saying that it is the true church.  At one time in the United States, where were thirteen different denominations, each calling itself the Church of God and insisting that it was the only Church of  God.  In many places one can see signs in front of buildings belonging to the Church of Christ which proclaim, “the Church of Christ meets here.”  The implication is that if you don’t worship there, your are not a part of the Church of Christ.  There is another group which calls itself “the Local Church.”  A dear brother in the faith left a congregation I pastored to join “the Local Church” movement.  He would drive past many evangelical churches to arrive at his “Local Church”.  Any organization of men that says “We are the Church of God” or, “We are the Church of Jesus Christ” is showing a lot of arrogance.  Jesus Christ has not restricted His church to any particular organization.  If the Lord were to be limited in what He does in the world to one’s own denomination, no matter how sound in doctrine and large it might be,  there would be relatively little accomplished for the Kingdom of God.

As Christians we need to look beyond denominational boundaries.  We need to be willing to embrace people of other theological persuasions who truly love the Lord Jesus Christ as our brothers and sisters in the faith.  I personally have difficulty with some of the tenants of Calvinism.  I have problems with the excesses of the charismatic movement.  And I certainly cannot accept much of the dogma of Roman Catholic Church.  Yet I have to recognize that in all those movements there are people who truly love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ and who are my spiritual brothers and sisters.

V. Greetings from the Holy Trinity

4         John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:  Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,

5         and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the

        kings of the earth. . .

In these two verses the inspired Apostle brings us greetings from the three Persons of the Holy Trinity.  He who is and who was and who is to come is God the Father.  He is identified as the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:13.  He is to come because He will reveal Himself at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  He will reveal Himself in His Son, who is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).

The Holy Spirit is referred to as the seven Spirits that are before His throne.  The number seven in the Word of God is the number of perfection.  The world was created in six days and God rested the seventh day.  The Israelites were to worship on the seventh day of the week, and they were to allow their fields to lie fallow every seventh year.  In the Book of Revelation there are three series of events mentioned under the figures of Seven Seals, Seven Trumpets, and Seven Cups.  When the events of these three series of seven are fulfilled, Jesus Christ will have established His kingdom upon the earth.  In verse 4, when mention is made of the seven Spirits that are before the throne, it is referring to the Holy Spirit in the perfection of His ministry.

There is also mention of Jesus Christ, the faithful witness.  The word that is translated “witness” is a very interesting word in the original Greek.  It is the word “martus” from which we get our word “martyr.”  Originally the word “martyr” meant “a witness.”  In the first years of the Christian church so many believers sealed their testimony with their blood that this word “martus” or “martyr” underwent a change and came to signify a witness who went to the extreme of dying for his faith, or who was willing to shed his own blood for his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ Himself is called the Faithful Witness or Martyr.  He is the great example of a faithful martyr.  In the testimony He gave concerning His Father and Himself, He remained firm unto the end.  This can be seen in the account of His trial given in Matthew 26:63-66:  . . . And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God that You tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.”  Jesus said to him, “It is as you said.  Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy!  Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!  What do you think?”  They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”   Jesus our Lord, under oath, gave witness to the fact that He was the Son of God and He also affirmed the certainty of His Second Coming. He did this knowing that His enemies would falsely accuse Him and give Him up to death for blasphemy.

When Jesus walked on earth, He raised many dead people.  While we have only three specific accounts, there is also mention of other times when He raised the dead to life.  Since it was after  these resurrections that He Himself arose from the dead, how can we understand the phrase that He is the firstborn from the dead?  The answer is, those whom He resurrected from the dead—Lazarus, the widow’s son, the daughter of Jairus, etc.—were resurrected in their natural body.  Later, they would again die.  But Jesus Christ arose with a transformed, immortal body.  Just such a transformation we will experience on the glorious day of our resurrection!  But since Jesus was the first to receive a glorified body, He is called the firstborn from the dead.

Jesus also has the title, the ruler over the kings of the earth.  In another Scripture He is called the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Often, those who give themselves to some religious or political leader end up in disillusionment.  George Stefanopolis, who was a key figure in the first Clinton administration, and one of Mr. Clinton’s strongest backers, wrote a book expressing his disillusionment with that president.  Others find that their leader suddenly dies, leaving them without hope.  But Jesus Christ is the everlasting King, the Sovereign over all earthly kings.  He reigns forever and will never disappoint, deceive, or defraud those who place their trust in Him.  We can put all of our confidence in Him and risk our future on Him, certain  that come day we shall share in His eternal glory.  Praise the Lord!

VI. The Purpose of Our Creation—Kings and Priests

5b  To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,

6         and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

Jesus’ shed blood is His witness to the infinite love He has for each of us.  With His own blood He washed us, purifying us from our sins.  He is worthy to receive glory and honor, forever and ever. Amen!

One of the most important statements found in all of the Holy Scriptures is this one:  He has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.   This great truth has to do with  the purpose for which we were created;  the very “why” of our existence.  At this point I’m going to digress.  Only in the Bible are thethree great questions of life answered:  (1) Where did I come from?  (2) Why am I here?  (3) Where am I going?  Those questions begin to be answered on the very first page of  the Bible, Genesis 1:26:  Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;  let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  The word that is translated in this passage, “God,” in the original Hebrew is “Elohim.”  It is a plural form of the word “God.”  Moses, inspired by God, wrote the first five books of the Bible.  He knew that God was One, and yet he uses the plural.  Again, notice how Moses quotes  this decision that God made:  “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”  The verb and the pronoun are in the plural.  (This is clearly shown in the Hebrew.)  So here we have the first evidence of the Holy Trinity.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit entered into this decision to make man after their image.  The fact that man was made in the image and likeness of God includes, at the very least, these four facts:

1.        God is an eternal being and He gave to man an immortal soul.

2.        God is a rational being and He gave to man the capacity to think, to reason.

3.        God is a moral being and He gave to man the ability to choose between good and evil.

4.        God has as the most basic facet of His nature, love, and He gave to man the ability to love.

Why would God give such honor and blessing to man, who was made of clay;  formed by God from the dust of the earth?  The only possible conclusion is that God wanted a creature upon whom He could pour His love.  He wanted this creature to freely love and worship Him in return.  Man was created to be a priest, to offer up the sacrifice of love to his Creator as well as to enjoy fellowship with Him.  But He also made man to be king.  We read in Genesis 1:26:  “. . . let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  As a king, man was placed over all the other works of creation.

God’s purpose in making us was that we might be priests and kings.  When I understood this, it totally changed my outlook on Christianity, for it has to do with “Where did I come from?”  God made me in His image!  “Why did God make me?”  To be a king and to be a priest.  This is His purpose for every man and woman, every young person, every child.  He made us to be kings and priests!

Now, turn to Genesis, chapter 3.  We find there that very soon man rebelled and sinned against his Maker.  In so doing, he lost his positions of king and priest.  Instead, he became a slave to Satan.  The world today is in the horrible condition it is in because this slave has behaved himself like a tyrant over God’s creation.  There is a big difference between a king and a tyrant.  A king, in the true sense of the word, reigns for the good of his subjects.  A tyrant reigns for his own selfish gratification.  The Bible, from Genesis onward,  is the story of God’s unfolding plan to restore man to his lost estate.

We can see the harmony which exists between the first book of the Bible and the last when we read in Revelation 1:6 that Jesus made us kings and priests to His God and Father.  Jesus came to open the way between us and God the Father.  He made it possible for us to obtain the inheritance which God had prepared for us from the beginning -- that of being kings and priests!

Let us consider first that we are priests before God.  In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Jesus Christ is shown to be our High Priest.  (Hebrews 4:14,15;  5:5,6,10;  6:20;  7:14-28;  8:1-6;  9:11-15,24-26)  Every person (including the author who at the age of five, not yet knowing how to read, received Jesus Christ as Savior) who places his faith in Jesus Christ and receives Him as Savior immediately begins his functions as a priest before God.  According to the Scriptures, a priest is not a class apart who has spent years and years in a seminary and then goes through a special ordination service.  Every believer in Jesus Christ is a priest.  In I Peter 2:9, the apostle, speaking to all Christians, writes, But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; . . .  Notice that the inspired apostle says that we are a royal priesthood.  We are kings and priests.

Every believer as a priest before God should offer sacrifices to the Lord.  In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, offered Himself.  He was not only our High Priest, but also the one perfect sacrifice for sin.  He made that sacrifice once for all (Hebrews 7:27;  9:26,28;  10:10,12,14). But we must take into account that in the times of the Old Testament there were other sacrifices besides the offerings for sin.  There were burnt offerings, peace offerings, and offerings made on special days.  The Apostle Paul explains in Hebrews 13:15 and 16 what sacrifices we, as priests, are to offer up to God:

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

The Apostle Paul says that it is the exclusive privilege of the believer to offer up sacrifices that are pleasing to God:  sacrifices of praise and good works.  Whether by ourselves, or gathered with fellow believers in a religious service, singing praises or offering any kind of praise to the Lord, we are carrying out our function as priests.  We are offering to God the sacrifice of praise.

Also, when we give ourselves to do good works -- helping someone in need, witnessing for Christ, giving to missions -- any kind of good works done in God’s name is a sacrifice to the Lord.  We do need to make one important distinction:  good works can never purchase pardon for sin.  The Prophet Isaiah wrote:  But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;  we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6).  Good works done in an effort to obtain God’s favor will never succeed.  We read in Ephesians 2:8,9:  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;  it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  We are saved by faith, not of ourselves, and not by works.  We do not gain God’s favor; we do not gain salvation by works.  Rather, when we have received Christ and are His priests, we are to give witness to that fact by producing good works.  We show that we are saved by our good works.

There is yet a greater sacrifice that we need to offer the Lord.  When the Spanish conquerors came to the New World, they found the Aztecs of Mexico, the Mayas in Central America, and the Incas in Peru practicing human sacrifice -- the ultimate sacrifice.  Christianity has something similar, but with a very important difference.  Whereas the Aztecs, the Mayas, and the Incas sacrificed human beings to their gods, the Christian God sacrificed Himself for humanity!  He poured out His blood for mankind!  Nevertheless, in Romans 12:1,2, we find a kind of human sacrifice that is required:  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of  God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  As priests, we are to be living sacrifices with every aspect of our lives under the Lordship of Christ, committed to glorifying Him.  Such living sacrifices are holy and acceptable unto the Lord.

God also made us, and Jesus redeemed us, to be kings.  Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:2,3:  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?  Do you not know that we shall judge angels?  How much more, things that pertain to this life?  The context tells us clearly that we, the believers in Jesus Christ, are the saints.  Not only will we judge the world, we will judge the angels who sinned and fell!

But Jesus Christ, the great High Priest, is also the King of kings.  When Christ returns, we will be kings on earth and will reign through His authority.  At the end of the Millennium, the thousand year reign, there will take place the final rebellion of Satan.  That rebellion will be followed by the final judgment before the Great White Throne when all impious evil doers will be judged and thrown in the Lake of Fire.  Then, the Scriptures say, the believers in Jesus will reign throughout eternity with their Savior.  It is this theme of kings and priests that is found throughout the Book of Revelation.  God is using the present time to prepare us for that kingdom which we are going to inherit, and over which we will reign.

Many years ago, I read an article in TIME magazine about King Juan Carlos of Spain.  That article said that Juan Carlos began his preparation, his training to be king, when he was ten years of age.  He came to the throne sometime in his mid-forties.  All those long years he was in preparation to be the king of Spain.  But, there is a far more glorious and enduring kingdom than that of Spain that awaits the followers of Jesus Christ!  The trials and testings that come our way are permitted by God to develop character so that  we might be spiritually prepared to reign in His Kingdom.  Here in Revelation, after John has presented the great truth that we have been created and redeemed to be kings and priests, he says . . . to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.  Much reason have we to give the Savior glory and dominion throughout all eternity.  Amen.

VII. Jesus Christ, the Almighty

7         Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also  who pierced Him.

       And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.  Even so, Amen.

This verse speaks of the fulfillment of a prophecy that is found in the Old Testament in Zachariah 12:10: And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication;  then they will look on Me whom they have pierced;  they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.  This chapter of Zachariah begins by stating that it is Jehovah who is speaking:  The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel.  Thus says Jehovah, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him. . .  So it is the same Jehovah who says in verse 10 of this chapter, . . . then they will look on Me whom they have pierced.  Since it was Jesus Christ who was pierced on the cross, it is very evident that He has the same name, Jehovah, as His Father.  The Spirit of God says in Revelation 1:7 that every eye will see Jehovah the Son, even those who pierced Him.

The most solemn truth for every human being is that sooner or later he/she will have to face Jesus Christ.  The only option is between encountering Him now as Savior and so receiving Him with joy at His Second Coming, or rejecting Him as Savior and then appearing in terror before Him, the great Judge, at the final judgment.  Every individual will have an encounter with Jesus, either as Savior or as Judge.  It is a decision that each one has to make in this life.  It is a decision that will determine one’s eternal destiny.

8         “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Alpha is the first, and Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet.  Jesus says that He is the Alpha and the Omega to give emphasis to the fact that He is the beginning and the end.  This means that:

1.       Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end of creation. 

a.        All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was    made (John 1:3).

b.        For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (Colossians 1:16,17).

c.        He will make a new creation at the end of the millennium:  For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;  and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind (Isaiah 65:17).

2.        Jesus is the beginning and the end of our salvation.

a.    The Apostle Paul says in Hebrews 5:9 that He became the author of eternal salvation

to all who obey Him;  then he writes in Hebrews 12:2:  . . . looking unto Jesus,            the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

        b.    The salvation that Jesus obtained by the shedding of His blood is not yet complete. It will be complete when , at His Second Coming, our immortal soul inhabits an immortal body: 

                             For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  And not only they but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope, 

for why does one still hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see,  then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance”  (Romans 8:22-25).

Jesus refers to the truth that He is Jehovah the Son when He calls Himself the Lord who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.  The word “Jehovah” includes the past tense, the present tense, and the future tense of the Hebrew verb “to be.”  Therefore, Jesus Christ, like His Father, has existed from eternity.  He now exists and He will exist forever.  The Son is.  That is, He has life in Himself, so He shares with the Father the title “the Almighty.”  The Prophet Isaiah spoke of the divine majesty of our Savior when he prophesied concerning His First Coming to the world:  For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;  and the government will upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever (Isaiah 9:6,7).

VIII. The Apostle John Introduces Himself

9         I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the 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.

Notice the manner in which the Apostle John introduces himself.  He was an old man with much experience and perhaps was the only apostle still living at that time.  He had begun serving Jesus Christ in his youth.  It is believed that he was less than 20 years of age when Jesus called him.  John was universally respected by all the churches and enjoyed the love and confidence of all the believers.  But he refers to himself simply as one of the brethren without mentioning the position and the authority he possessed.  What a difference between his humility and the pride and love of position which many religious leaders show today!

Referring to himself as a brother, John, the great Apostle of love, teaches that all believers in Jesus Christ are equal before God.  It is certain that the Lord has established offices in the church.  The Apostle Paul  mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).  There are also distinct gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to the believers (I Corinthians 12).  But before God, none of His people has any advantage over the rest.  Each believer will receive his recompense according to how he has used his opportunities to serve the Lord.

John said that he was on the Isle of Patmos.  This a was semi-desert island 50 miles from the Province of Asia, which is now Turkey.  The Romans maintained a concentration camp for criminals on Patmos.  The Apostle John found himself there among the worse criminals of the Roman Empire;  not because of any felony, but rather because of the gospel and his devotion to Jesus Christ.  According to tradition, before John was exiled to that penal colony, the authorities had tried to kill him by throwing him into a tank of boiling oil.  When he was miraculously spared from death by that ordeal, John was sent to the Isle of Patmos. 

IX. The Lord’s Day

10     I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,

11     saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last”. . .

The early Christians called the first day of the week “the Lord’s Day” because it was on that day that Jesus arose from the dead.  The Jews worshipped, and still worship, on Saturday.  Some cults which have strayed from historic Christianity also keep Saturday.  But since it’s beginning, the Christian Church has commemorated the resurrection of the Savior by keeping Sunday as the Lord’s Day.  This is seen in the following references:

1.        Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  Now when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20).

2.        And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them.  Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” (John 20:26).  The same Apostle John, the writer of Revelation and of the Gospel that bears him name, emphasizes the fact that Jesus appeared to His disciples on the day of His resurrection, the first day of the week, and that eight days afterward (that is, another first day of the week), He appeared to them again.  On the first occasion, the disciples were gathered in the upper room for fear of their fellow Jews, but the second Sunday they were gathered with the hope of seeing the Lord.

3.       Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. . .and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. . . (Acts 2:1,4a).  The word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek and means “fifty.”  Fifty days after Passover there was another Jewish festival called Pentecost.  Pentecost was celebrated on the first day of the week and that was the day in which the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Christian Church by baptizing the 120 disciples gathered in the upper room.

4.       Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight (Acts 20:7).  St. Luke, who was the author of Acts, indicates that it was the custom of the believers to gather on the first day of the week to break bread, that is, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

5.       Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  on the first day of the week let each one you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come (I Corinthians 16:1,2).  The Apostle Paul wrote to the brethren in Corinth that they should take up their offerings on the first day of the week because it was the day when they had their meetings.

Thus we see that from the beginning of the Christian Church the Holy Spirit has guided the believers to gather together on the first day of the week to worship.  Various leaders of the Christian Church have also given witness that the first day of the week is the Lord’s Day:

1.        Saint Ignatius, a great leader of the Christian Church who lived during the years 30-107 A.D., was Bishop of Antioch.  He wrote:  “And after the observance of the sabbath (that the Jews kept), let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all days of the week. . .on which our life sprang up again, and victory over death was obtained in Christ. . .it is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has come to an end. . .”  St. Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John.  Ignatius had learned from John the doctrines and customs of the Christian Church.  Note, that the term St. Ignatius uses concerning the first day of the week -- the Lord’s Day -- is the same term which the Apostle John employs in Revelation 1:10.

2.       Justin Martyr, a philosopher born in the year 110 A.D. near Jacob’s well in Samaria, wrote:  “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read. . . But Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world;  and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.”

3.       Irenaeus, another great leader of the church, wrote in 178 A.D.:  “The mystery of the Lord’s resurrection may not be celebrated on any other day than the Lord’s Day and on this alone should we observe the breaking of the Paschal Feast. . .  Pentecost fell on the first day of the week, and was therefore associated with the Lord’s Day.”

4.       In “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles,” the Didache, which appeared about 105 A.D., we read:  “The apostles therefore appointed:. . . on the first day of the week let there be service and reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the oblation (Lord’s Supper):  because on the first day of the week our Lord arose upon the world, and ascended to heaven.

(The quotations given here are found on page 191 of the New Testament of Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible.)

Biblical and historical evidence, such as these, prove abundantly that Sunday is the Lord’s Day.  It was Sunday when Jesus arose from the dead.  It was a Sunday when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church.  Finally, the Lord Jesus gave more honor to His day, by giving to the Apostle John on the first day of the week these marvelous prophecies of Revelation.

X. Jesus’ Concern for the local churches

11      . . .saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “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 Philadelpha, and to Laodicea.”

The Being, who is talking with the Apostle John, identifies Himself as the Alpha and Omega.  The context of the verses which follow clearly indicate that the Person speaking is the Lord Jesus Christ.

John receives a message that he is to send to the seven churches in the Province of Asia.  We have already noticed that the word “church”, or “ecclesia,” means the “called out ones,” and that the true Church of Jesus Christ is composed of all persons of every place and time who have accepted Him as Savior and who love and serve Him.  But the Christian Church meets in local congregations like the seven churches of Asia.  For a congregation to exist, there is no need of a large membership nor of an imposing edifice. There were no Christian temples during the first three centuries of the Church.  The believers met in homes or private halls.  Nevertheless, that was the time when the Christian Church had its greatest growth.

Let us read what Jesus said in Matthew 18:20:  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.  A local church may be composed of only two or three persons.  The important thing is that Jesus be present.  A congregation begins in the home when parents meet with their children and read the Scriptures and pray with them.

There are countries today where believers in Christ suffer persecution for their faith and are forced to meet secretly in small groups.  In many such places the number of Christians is increasing in spite of the adverse circumstances.  We are told, for example, that today there are more Christians in Red China than when 3,000 missionaries were working there.  Among the stories that have come out of Red China is this one:  Some Christians in a rural village were called before a Communist official and accused of having prayed for a person who was sick.  “Yes,” they replied to their interrogator, “we prayed for ‘So-and-So’ and the Lord Jesus healed him of cancer of the stomach.”  There was a sudden change in the attitude of the official as he said, “Please pray for me.  I am suffering from stomach cancer.”  What kind of defense can armies and nuclear weapons offer against the living Christ?  Today there are perhaps as many as 60 million Christians in Red China with their number continually increasing.

XI. Jesus, the Son of Man

12   Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.  And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,

13    and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man. . .

We have seen in the Four Gospels that when Jesus Christ walked on earth He constantly referred to Himself as “the Son of Man.”  In so doing, He was announcing that He was the One that the Prophet Daniel had seen in a vision.  The prophet saw Him receive from the Ancient of Days a kingdom that would endure forever:  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 7:13,14).

When Jesus said that He was the “Son of Man,” He was referring to this prophecy.  He was the One who had been given a kingdom.  Jesus was completely God and He was completely man.  As a man, He lived an irreproachable life -- a life without sin.  As man, Jesus conquered Satan and obtained that kingdom, eternal and indestructible, which shall be ours!

In Revelation, the Son of Man appears in the middle of seven lampstands.  We will see further along that these lampstands represent seven churches.  But the question arises, how could Jesus appear to John in visible form and at the same time be present with His churches?  When someone, for example, is standing in a hall speaking to an audience, his presence extends further that just the couple of square feet he is occupying.  He is just as present for the person sitting in the last row of seats as for the one who sitting in the front.  If this is so for a human being, it is no problem for Jesus Christ from His heavenly dwelling place to cause his presence to be felt by means of His Holy Spirit in each congregation and in each believer’s life. 

XII. The Christ of Glory Seen by the Prophets Daniel and John

13    and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down

             to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 

14      His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;

15     His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters;

The Prophet Daniel had a vision that was very similar to that of the Apostle John:  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 beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, 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 (Daniel 10:5,6).  Daniel wrote his book some 550 years before the birth of Jesus.  He saw the pre-incarnate Christ.  John saw the resurrected Christ, but they both saw the same, divine Personage.

Both prophets go to the limit of human language, trying to describe the glory they saw.  John says that Jesus was dressed in a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.  Daniel says that he saw Him clothed in linen . . . girded with gold.  The golden band, the linen clothing, and the white hair that both of them saw give testimony to the purity and the holiness of our Lord.  As to His eyes, John says they were like a flame of fire.  Daniel says they were like torches of fire.  The Lord’s eyes demonstrate omniscient intelligence and from them comes a gaze from which no one can hide. Daniel says that His feet were the color of burnished bronze.  John compares them to fine brass.  The same feet that carried our Master along the dusty roads of Palestine, in both visions reflect His glory and His immutability.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  His omnipotence is heard in His voice that was like the sound of a multitude (Daniel), or like the sound of many waters (John).  When the eternal Word, the pre-incarnate Christ, spoke at the beginning of time, the vast universe came into existence.

16     He had in his right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

The same voice that created the worlds will be a double-edged sword that will conquer all evil doers:  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should strike the nations.   And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron (Rev. 19:15).

The resplendent face of the great King gathers together all of His divine attributes—absolute holiness, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.  Daniel says that the face of the pre-incarnate Christ was like lighting.  The Gospel says that when Jesus was transfigured His face shone like the sun (Matt. 17:2).  Perhaps as a child you tried on occasion to look at the sun but your eyes couldn’t stand so much light.  Such is the glory and holiness of our Savior.

17  And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.

The same thing happened to the Prophet Daniel:  Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me;  for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength (Daniel 10:8).  Daniel was a very brave man.  He was not afraid of the wrath of the king of Babylon, nor did he fear the den of lions.  But when he saw the pre-incarnate Christ in His glory, all his strength failed him. 

17     And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.  But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid;  I am the First and the Last.

18      I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

Here we have a beautiful picture of how our lord sustained His faithful servant, John, with the power of His voice and His right hand.  Without that help, John would not have been able to withstand the glory of the Revelation.  This is the third time that Jesus Christ announces His deity.  In verse 8, He identified himself as the Beginning and the End;  He said in verse 11, I am the First and the Last.  In verse 17, He repeats, I am the First and the Last.  We read in Isaiah 44:6:  “Thus says Jehovah, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:  ‘I am the First and I am the Last;  besides Me there is no God.’”  Jehovah says that He is the First and the Last.  Jesus makes the same declaration without creating a contradiction, because it is the same Person who is speaking.  Everything commenced with Jesus and the eternal purpose of God the Father will be fulfilled in Him.

Jesus says, “I. . . was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.”  We read in verse 5 that He loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.  The death of Jesus Christ for our sins was followed by the triumph of His resurrection.  He was a perfect sacrifice for sin and He is now our High Priest Who lives forevermore.  It is for that reason that He has the power and authority to give eternal life to every person who believes in Him.  He has all power over Hades and Death.  The Apostle Paul expresses the same truth in Hebrews 7:23-25:  And there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.  But He, because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.  Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them.  Because He lives forever, He is able to give us eternal salvation.

XIII. The Mystery of the Seven Stars and the Seven Lampstands

19     Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take

        place after this.

The book of Revelation wasn’t something which the Apostle John dreamed up.  Rather, it was written under the authority and direct inspiration of the Son of God.  With absolute confidence we can risk our future upon believing that its prophecies will be fulfilled.  Actually, for the first time in the history of the Christian Church, the prophecies of Revelation can be, and are being, literally fulfilled.

20     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 word “angel” sometimes refers to a celestial being created by God.  But the original meaning of the word “angel” is “messenger.”  In all probability, Jesus here employs the term “angels” to refer to the pastors, or messengers, of those churches.  They are the stars.  The lampstands are the churches.  The pastor, as a minister of Jesus Christ, has the sacred responsibility of ministering divine truth to his local congregation.  The Christians, the believers who form the congregation, should reflect that divine truth in their homes, in their places of work, in their community, and in the world at large.  They are God’s lampstands  in a world lost in the darkness of sin. 

Have you received the light and the love of Jesus Christ into you heart?  Are you allowing that light to be reflected in your life where you live and work?    

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