A Vision of Jesus
RevealedPastor Jerry Gillis - September 20, 2015
The only way we will ever see what God wants us to see is when we clearly see Jesus for who He is.
Community Group Study Notes
- Interact with this statement: “The only way we will ever see the world for what it is will be when we see Jesus for who He is.” What do you think this means? What relevance does it have to Sunday’s message?
- What are some of the imbalanced views of Jesus that we sometimes have? How does this skew or alter our perspective on life? How can we gain an accurate, mature view of Jesus? What difference will it make in our lives?
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)
Revelation. Just the mention of the word sometimes draws a visceral emotional reaction from people just when you say it.
I don't know what it conjures up in you. Some of you are kind of, in your stomach you've got some anticipation, some of you are a little bit on edge. Some of you are, I don't know what you are.
But if there's an emotion that can be described when you hear the book of Revelation, and there's probably a lot of them, there's one that I really hope does not enter in and be something that you feel when you hear the word. Fear. I hope that you don't feel that. The reason that I hope that is because I do realize that there's a lot of people - were I to be a man on the street and walk around with a microphone and a camera and start asking a bunch of people "Hey, what do you think of when you think of the apocalypse?" They would probably be giving me all kinds of different illustrations of what that might be, but probably at the core they would be talking about things that frighten them. Now they might also be talking about people dying and planes crashing and buildings toppling and dragons flying and multi-headed beasts with multi-headed horns. They might be thinking about, you know, having to eat out of the garbage cans on the street and mushroom clouds and all kinds of other stuff, right, when they think of the word apocalypse.
The thing is, that's the kind of the definition that we've given to the idea of apocalypse. The actual word itself, when you say apocalypse, it literally means to reveal. To unveil. To pull back the curtain. In the original language, when you translate this word apocalypse, it does not mean get your ammo and your canned goods and head to your bunker in your back yard. That is not what the word means.
Oh, looks like the lights are on. Now they're off. See what we wanted to tell you is that this is a very specific series and the apocalypse is happening right now. We wanted to make sure you all understood that.
Actually, because there's many people that get scared when we talk about the idea of the apocalypse, there have been some people even in the Christian community, because some of the people that are the most scared are people of God. And so, there have been people who have preyed on that fear in the people of God. Now I'm not suggesting, by the way, that every single time that someone writes a book about the time of the end or any of those things that that's preying on peoples fears. I'm not suggesting that at all. There's some fine books on that. But there's also some that are trying to capitalize on the sensationalism of the end of the world. And they are feeding and being paid for, the fear that everyone seems to have.
In fact, I was online looking up a variety of these things relative to the apocalypse, because I was interested to see them, and I was tracking one website that talked about you know the secret mysteries that we can help uncover for you from the ancient documents and blah, blah, blah and so you know, I just kept scrolling through going all right where are these knuckleheads going to be taking ... and I'm just going through, and then you keep going this is information you have to have because the end of the world's approaching, like probably next week or whatever, you know, and you're just working through that and then you get to, oh yeah, you're probably going to need some survival stuff, some gear that you're going to need. Okay yeah man, we're probably going to need some gear. And then by the time you scroll through this, which takes forever to do you're reading all this information that's scaring you to death and by the time you get to the end it's like, look, we know that what we should probably do, because this message is so serious is give this away, but we can't because we've got to help some other people find this message out so for $100 you can get some tents, some backpacks and then we'll send you the secrets to unlock the keys of telling you about all these things.
You know what that is? Stupid. And embarrassing and silly. And weird and capitalizing on the fear of people. Ultimately, that is a bad scenario, so I want you to understand something when we embark on this series in the book of Revelation. That I am not going to make an effort to capitalize on your fear. That's not what I'm going to do and there's a reason for that. There's many reasons, actually. The foremost in my mind is that Jesus actually never played to people's fears. That's just not what he did in his ministry. He didn't play to people's fears. He told the truth. Sometimes the truth hurts, sometimes the truth cuts. But he didn't play to people's fears. The apostles in their preaching and teaching, they didn't play to people's fears. The scripture as we have it now put together by God's sovereign hand does not play to people's fears. Therefore I'm not going to play to your fears either.
But, before you start going all unicorns and rainbows on me, you need to understand that there are some things that we are going to study in Revelation that are going to be straight and they are going to be corrective, and they are going to be sometimes you're going to go whoa, the images that you see and that you hear and that you experience and that you feel, you're going to be like, "Man, this is a lot to handle". And you might find yourself standing in a place, and I might find myself standing in a place that is in need of alteration and correction from the way that we view the world.
So, even though I'm not going to prey on your fears this is not a scenario where you're just going to be able to, you know, snuggle up with your teddy bear and your apple cider and your polka dot footsie pajamas. This is going to be something that we're going to study, and this book has a sobriety to it and a seriousness to it.
But before we begin in the book of Revelation and we'll be in Chapter 1 today, and if you don't know where that is, if you've got a Bible and you going I'm not really sure where Revelation is, turn to the back, turn to the end. That's where it is, it's the last book in your Bible. But before we get there I need to set some expectations. Now I don't usually recognize doing this the negative way, because as a communicator, and even teaching other communicators and in terms of communication principles, you don't set out by saying things that I'm about to say. So don't copy this. But I'm going to go ahead and tell you that there may be a number of ways in which you are disappointed in this series in Revelation. Depending on what it is you''re bringing to the table, and what it is you're looking to find, you may potentially be disappointed in what we do in this series in Revelation.
In fact, I know that there may be some specific things that you might be disappointed in, so I want to give you basically my top five and I'll do it in terms of a top five list of reasons that you're going to be terribly disappointed in this series. Here are the top five reasons, and I've got my buddy Mike to help me out. Mike could you give me a drum roll?
Alright, number 5 reason you're going to be terribly disappointed is you want me to pick a date, give or take a week when Jesus is going to come back based on the blood moons. If that's you, you're going to be terribly disappointed in this series. Number four: You want me to hand out a hand-drawn pictorial chronology of the events of Revelation. You're going to be terribly disappointed. Number 3: You want me to warn everyone to cash out their savings because of the end of the Shemita year cycle. Which by the way is already over, just in case you were wondering. Number 2: You want to know if the flying locusts in Revelation 9 are helicopters and what nation is flying them. If that's what you want to know you're going to be terribly, terribly disappointed. And the number 1 reason you're going to be terribly disappointed in this series is, you want to know if either Hitler, Stalin, the Pope, Bush or Obama is the Antichrist. Thanks Mike. So you're just going to take your snare and go home? Alright man, cool.
Alright, so now that we have level-set the expectations for maybe what some ways in which you potentially could be disappointed in this series, I want us to actually turn our attention to the book, and today's message is an introduction to the book of Revelation. It is a marvelous book and it can be an intimidating book to handle and you'll see why in just a few moments, but when we begin this, I want us to ask kind of the first natural question, and that is who wrote it? That's probably the first place to start to give us some context because we need to have some sense of context and some sense of history in terms of what is going on here, or else we're not going to read the book correctly.
So, when I think about the idea, the first question that comes up is, who actually wrote this. Well, from a human authorship standpoint, he names himself very clearly as John. Now we believe this to be John, the apostle of Jesus and he's writing in the latter half of the very first century. In fact, John tells us where he is in terms of his writing, look in verse 9 of chapter 1. He says "I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."
So here's what we know: we know that John is on an island. And he's there because of a reason. He says it's because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. The likelihood is, given the history that we know about Patmos, is that John is there because he has been put there by the Roman Empire. He has become a threat based on his preaching of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Now, if you don't know where Patmos is or what it is, it's a Greek Island and it's off the western coast of what is modern day Turkey in the Aegean Sea. That's where it is, that's where it's located. What is this island? Well, Tacitus who was a Roman historian, said that this island was set up, Patmos was set up to be a penal colony. In other words, a place where prisoners or political adversaries were sent, some of which they had to do hard labor in salt mines. We don't know if John had to do that or not. But that they were sent there because the empire considered them a bit of a threat. So, we know that from Tacitus, the Roman historian, but what we also hear from Eusebius, which is a Christian historian, and maybe the most notable Christian historian, is that he actually says the emperor Domitian in his reign sent John to Patmos for the preaching of the word of God, and that John was there for eighteen months before he was released.
Now what we do know is that while John was on Patmos, that is where he got his vision. In fact, listen to after he says that he was on Patmos in verse number 10 he says, "On the Lord's day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet." And then it goes on to say write a letter, that I'm going to tell you where to send it.
So, ultimately what we see is that he has received a revelation and that he is excommunicated apparently on an island named Patmos, which is for prisoners of some type, and he is there because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. So the framework that we have, is that we know that in this setting in the latter part of the first century, there is some persecution that is going on, because John is actually feeling that as kind of a fountainhead of the Christian church. And he knows that there is more persecution to come if they are not already experiencing it in the world. Then the body of Jesus and the followers of Jesus are going to experience that in soon time. So, he knows what's about to transpire. This is the setting that we have with John.
So if we know that it's John, and we know in the context that he's writing, the next natural question to ask is what type of book is it? That's an important question. You see, any time that you pick up a book, you want to know what kind of book it is, what kind of literature it is. So somebody gives me a book and I'm expecting to read a biography but instead I've got a romance novel, that doesn't work well, right? I want to read what I'm supposed to be reading. If it's a romance novel you read it that way. If it's a biography you read it that way. If it's fantasy you read it that way. So we need to know what kind of book Revelation is because the Bible, although it is one book that testifies to the glory of God, it is also a library of books that have various styles and genres. And this is important for us to grab hold of.
The good news is, is that Revelation tells us what that style is very clearly in the text. Not every book does that for us in the New Testament. But the book of the Revelation does, in the text itself, tell us what kind of book it is.
First of all, it's apocalyptic. Now if you want to write that down you can just write it down, that means it's a particular style. But look in verses 1 and 2 it says this: The revelation, pause right there, that word in the Greek, apokalupsis, that's where we get our word apocalypse, right? "The revelation or apocalypse from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw--that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ."
Now, when we know this book to be revelation or to be apocalyptic, that is a style of writing that was reasonably well accepted between about 100 BC and 100 AD. There were a number of various kind of apocalyptic style writings and they all had similar kind of fingerprints. See, apocalyptic writing was first and foremost, it was about a vision that was given, and then there was usually a guide in the vision which was most often some kind of angelic figure, and then there was also a bunch of symbols and signs within that particular vision. That's what apocalyptic literature was meant to be read as, and we learn right from the outset that it is that style of literature.
Now, what's interesting is when he says, he made it known by sending his angel - that phrase he made it known comes from a Greek word symaeon. That is where we get our word sign or symbol. So, right out of the gate when we begin to read Revelation, it tells us the kind of book that it is, that it is apocalyptic in its nature and that we now are going to be understanding many of the things that are within it as signs or symbols that we need to understand. That is a part of what apocalyptic literature does.
So, that means that instead of Revelation being a puzzle book, it's a picture book. O.k.? There's a difference in those things. We're not just trying to put together pieces in a puzzle, we're actually looking at pictures that help us to understand the big picture of what's going on.
Now, it makes sense, doesn't it, that John is on an island, that he is on there because of persecution for the gospel, and he's going to be writing to the people of Jesus - it makes sense that he might be writing in this style, which is a bit symbolic and a bit coded, so to speak, because of the nature of the persecution that is going on. But here's what we also know. We know that John, after receiving this vision thought about it quite a bit, and interacted with it quite a bit, and reflected on it quite a bit prior to writing it all down. Because we know the way in which he puts together the thoughts of the Old Testament consistent with what the vision has revealed to him. So John has interacted with it.
You see, this is inspired of God, and it is given by direct revelation. In fact, the scripture says that this is God's revelation, given to Jesus Christ, who then through an angel reveals this to John so that it will be for the good of people. That's how this thing came to be. Now this is all a part of the process of the inspiration of God in the process, but God in inspiration of a text does not bypass the human vehicle. He works through. Men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Prophets of old spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. And so, we have John interacting with the text that preserves the inspiration of the Spirit of God, but he interacts with the text led by the Spirit of God, so that he can reflect on how this fits into an even bigger picture.
So it's apocalyptic to start out with. But it's also prophetic. This is the kind of book it is. It's also prophetic. In verse number three, we get an indication of that. Listen to what it says. "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near."
Now, when you guys think of prophecy, most often, I'm not going to speak for everybody in the room, because I can't, but most often when you think of prophecy, you are thinking of predictive type of things. In other words, something that we get here that predicts what's going to happen down here, whether that's in the short term or in the long term. Does Revelation fit that bill? Absolutely. There's no question about it. Revelation is prophetic in the sense that it is predictive, both in some short term occurrences, and in some longer term occurrences. But prophecy is not just predictive, it is also corrective. You see, when prophets would speak it was not always about predicting the future, it was talking about the consequences of action in the present and what would result from them. So in that way, Revelation is both. It is both corrective and predictive, and this is something that we don't want to miss.
But you probably saw this when we were reading the text just a moment ago in verse number three when it says blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it. You know what that means? Listen carefully. In doing this series, I am invoking blessing. I am invoking blessing on us all. As I read the words of this out loud, blessing. As you listen to it and take it to heart, blessing. But the blessing comes - listen - with a because. Blessed are the ones who read the words of this prophecy out loud. And blessed are those who hear it and take it to heart, because the time is near.
Now, some of you are going, well, it's been two thousand years since this was actually written, and it doesn't seem like it's real near as far as I'm talking about. That's because you misunderstand prophecy. Because prophecy was real near to his hearers because there were some things that we're going to unpack that John was going to see in his vision that were going to occur in the now. That were going to occur in the short term. That were going to be fulfilled in that context. That they were going to experience some the oppression of the empire and the persecution that results from it, they were going to experience it in the near term.
So, everyone who was reading this and everyone who was taking it to heart were blessed because they had the strength to endure what was coming their way. That was the blessing. It's not just some mystical thing, like if I'll just read it out loud then I'll be blessed. If you'll read it out loud, listen to it, and take it to heart you'll be blessed, because then you will believe in the God who gave it to us and be prepared for all the things that it reveals. Are you following me here? O.k. Good. Because I'm having to do some setup teaching, and I had to get some preaching in while I was doing the setup teaching. So when I raise my voice and go ar, ar, ar, ar, that's preaching and when I sit down that's teaching. All right. Kidding.
But there's another way that we have to read this book. Listen - it's apocalyptic, it's prophetic, but it's also a letter. Now, we figure that out real quickly when we start to approach the book because it's a very traditional formula that John uses. Look in verse number four. It says, "John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia." That's how you start a letter. That's traditional. And then, by the way, when you get over into verse number ten and eleven, he says, "on the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a voice like a trumpet, which said: 'Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.'"
So, we see the traditional style of the letter starting with the name. John. To the following people - to the seven churches in the province of Asia. But even though we see this as letter, listen carefully, even though we see this as letter, we have to understand that it is letter that is still in the context of apocalyptic and prophetic. These all go together. You can't just sort them all out. They all go together. It's all three styles.
In fact, you see it in terms of who the letter is addressed to. You see both the fact that it's a letter going to real churches in real places that are named, but it's also apocalyptic because it is symbolic. You go what? Yep. Seven churches. Seven. Were there more churches than that in Asia minor? Boy, if you read the book of Acts you'll sure find them. Colossae, Troas, Hierapolis, Corinth. Lots of those. They're not named. Seven. What does seven mean? Fullness, completion. So even though these are real letters that are going to real churches in real places, to be read by all of them, it is also a reminder that it is the intent of the revelation to show that these churches are representative of the whole, because there are obviously other churches. So we are confronted right away with two of the styles of this literature right in the very outset. That it is apocalyptic, it is prophetic, and it is a letter.
So, let me give you a sentence to help clarify what Revelation is in kind of regular people language, and you might not have time to write it down but you can always go back to thechapel.com and listen again if you have to go back and you're one of those people if you don't get every note that you're going to panic and look at the people next to you, all right? So, here it is. It's kind of long but you'll have to get it. Revelation is a letter to Christ's people that reveals God's perspective on events in the present and the future using symbolic language, and calls Christ's people to obey Him in the present and trust Him in the future. That's what the book is. O.k.? I incorporated, by the way, in that particular definition, I incorporated the fact that it is apocalyptic, that it is prophetic, and that it is a letter. O.k.? All of those are accounted for in this definition of what the book of Revelation is. All right?
Or, you could just look at Revelation 1:19 which says "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later." All right? And then all I'm saying is, that's going to be shown to us - what's happening now and what's happening later - is going to be shown to is in pictures, in symbols, in signs, many of them, and often are going to show us not only what happens now in the corrective prophetic sense, but also what is going to come in the predictive prophetic sense. So, it's all of those things.
Now - what's the heartbeat behind Revelation? Well, we see it in chapter one. In chapter one we figure out what the heartbeat of Revelation is and it's this: a vision of Jesus. That is the heartbeat of the book of Revelation, and right in the very first chapter here's what we see: boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Everything that you're going to see needs to be framed in reference to the fact that the writer wants us to see from the very outset a vision of Jesus. You see this is what this apocalyptic, prophetic letter is trying to do - give us a vision of Jesus.
In fact, look with me in verses four thru six: "John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father - to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen."
So, right when we're introduced here to the God that is being revealed to us, we are introduced to God in a tri-personal way. Notice how he talks about the eternality of God by saying this is from the one who was and who is and who is to come. That pretty much covers it, right? From there, from here, from there - this is the God. The eternal one. Then he says it's also from the seven spirits before the throne.
Now you say, that's kind of a unique way of saying something. Yeah, it is a very unique way. but what do you hear in there? You're the number seven. It can also be translated and you'll see it in some of the margins of your bible, it can also be translated the seven-fold spirit. Now you go wait a minute. I have enough trouble trying to conceive of the tri-personal nature of God as Father, Son, and Spirit. But now you're throwing spirit at me with seven spirits. Now I'm really confused. Don't be. Because this is simply symbol that is borrowing from other apocalyptic prophecy that is trying to remind us of the fullness, the completeness, of the Spirit.
In fact, it's actually tapping into Zachariah's prophecy, as I'm sure you were aware, in Zachariah's prophecy in chapter number four. It says, "The angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep and he asked me, 'What do you see?'" So you see this kind of apocalyptic kind of vision, right? I answered, "I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. And also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left." And I asked the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" And he said, "do you not know what these are?" "No, my lord," I replied. So he said to me, "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.' says the Lord Almighty.
You see, in this particular passage he is equating the Spirit with the sevens. The idea of fullness. There were metaphorical pictures to help us understand the nature of the completeness and fullness of the Spirit. So here we see the one who is and was and is to come, and then we see the Spirit in his completeness and Jesus Christ. This is the tri-personal introduction. But then when we get to Jesus, another set of threes to describe Jesus. Faithful witness, firstborn from the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth.
Now why does John give us this picture from the very outset? Well, here's what you and I both know. When we look at the whole Revelation of scripture, from the very beginning all the way through the Old Testament - when we look at that, we find that God - listen to this - we find that God speaks or mediates His presence through three predominate groups of people: the prophets, the priests, and the kings. O.k.?
What John is showing to us in this beginning part of the Revelation is that Jesus is a prophet. Why? Because he is the faithful witness. In other words, like the prophets of old who would bear testimony of God to the people, even if it meant that they got stoned or they got injured or they got killed, Jesus is the faithful witness who is bearing the promises of God to the world even if it costs him his life. He is a prophet. He is also a priest. What does it say next? He is the firstborn from the dead, right? And as firstborn from the dead that means as priest he is the one who knows how to offer the offering. Who knows how to make the sacrifice but as the great high priest he is not only the one who makes the sacrifice, he himself is the sacrifice, but he doesn't stay dead, he rises from the dead so now we see that he is prophet who has faithfully testified even to his death, and he is priest who has executed the offering but now is no longer dead, and then we see that he is King because the scripture says he is ruler of the kings of the earth, and we are reminded at the back end of Revelation that he is the King over every king and he is the Lord over every lord, he is the King of the earth.
So, we're reminded at the very outset about the nature of who Jesus is and this is very important for us because we're going to need all of these things. In fact, if this wasn't exalting enough in terms of the nature of Jesus, then what John does is he takes two Old Testament prophecies and he smashes them together in verse number seven. Notice what he says. "Look, he is coming with the clouds," and "every eye will see him, even those who pierced him"; and all peoples on earth "will mourn because of him." So shall it be! Amen.
Now, some of you are reading going, man, right out of the gate he's telling us that Jesus is coming back. Indirectly, but not directly. That's actually not the direct meaning of what this passage means. Well, Jerry, it says it right there - look. He is coming with the clouds. Correct. Where did that phrase come from? He's quoting Daniel.
Now listen - Daniel chapter seven is where we get this from and listen to what it says in Daniel seven. "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power and all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."
You see, why he's quoting this is because he says, hey, this Jesus who is the faithful witness, who is the firstborn from the dead and who is the ruler of the kings of the earth, he is sovereign in power. That's what this phrase is actually referring to. In fact, if you break it down real easy you'll see it. Because you read it and say look, he's coming with the clouds and you're saying to yourself, because you're imposing the meaning upon it, that means he's coming again. By the way, the scripture's real clear that he's coming again. That doctrine is made very clear through the course of scripture and in Revelation. But in this particular passage, that's not what's being communicated. I'll tell you why. Because he's quoting Daniel, and do you know what Daniel said about the Son of Man? Coming with the clouds of Heaven? That he came to approach the Ancient of Days. Is that there, or is that here? He's going the wrong way for some of you. Jesus is coming with the clouds in Daniel in approaching the Ancient of Days, not in return to earth.
Why does that matter? Because the phrase coming with the clouds is actually referring to - listen to this - it's referring to the vindication and exaltation of the Son of God and how the Ancient of Days has entrusted to the Son all sovereign power and all dominion over everything. So, John is saying to us not only is he the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the King of every king, he is also sovereign in power over everything. But John makes it even clearer when he says, hey, this sovereign in power is also capable of judging you - judging rightly.
That's why he mashes together with Daniel 7, Zachariah chapter 12. And it says this: "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son." Do you know what this passage in the context of, chapter 12 in Zachariah? It's about God's judgment of Jerusalem's enemies.
So, the reminder here is that Jesus is the - listen to this - is the faithful witness, firstborn from the dead, who is the King over every king, who is sovereign in power to rule, and in his ruling is going to judge rightly. That is what we're seeing right here from the very outset of the book of Revelation and that is important for us particularly with the events that Revelation unfolds, we need to be able to count on the fact that this is the one, this is the one who's in charge of all of these things.
So, in addition to being the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, ruler of the kings of the earth and the sovereign judge over all things, now we even get a glimpse of what he looks like. Look in verse twelve. John says I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me and when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands were someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. Pause right there. That's giving us a picture of the high priestly nature of Jesus. And then it says the hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow. This is giving us a picture as the Old Testament testifies to, of a crown of splendor, of wisdom, and of dignity. Some of you are going, I'm thankful to Jesus for the gray hair that I have right now, right? I'm wise, I'm wise. This is the picture that it's giving to us - the preeminence of wisdom, white as snow.
And then it goes on to say, and his eyes were like blazing fire. This is indicative, ladies and gentlemen, a picture of the all seeing nature of who Jesus is. That he can look into the hearts and the souls of everyone everywhere and cut through everything because he's sees.
Then it says in verse fifteen his feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace. This is the picture that he is steadfast, stable, and strong because his feet have been fashioned in the fire of oppression and he has overcome in the midst of this.
And then it goes on to say after that, that his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. Between what it said earlier, that his voice sounded like a trumpet and now his voice sounds like rushing waters, we're reminded that he speaks with authority and he speaks with majesty whenever he speaks.
Then it goes on to say - this is awesome! - it says in his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. We'll deal with the stars next week, o.k.? But then he says the sword that is coming out his mouth, it is a reminder, a picture, that when he speaks and when he judges, it cuts between all of the deceit and the lies and he speaks righteously every time.
Then it says by finishing that his face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. It was a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, that you have never seen glory until you have seen the face of Jesus. This is the picture.
Now, it is an awesome sight that John has just beheld. If it's me or you, you know what you're going to do? Exactly what John did. Look what it says in verse seventeen. "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead." Hey, man, if you see this picture, and you see the glorious nature of who Jesus is, that's about what's going to happen to you. You're going to fall at his feet as though dead. But notice what happens. It says this: "Then Jesus placed his right hand on me" - pause right there for just a second and look this way. We just said that Jesus was holding all of these stars in his right hand, so how is he putting his right hand on me? Because it's apocalyptic. Stop reading it so literally. It's a picture that he's trying to give to us, o.k.? Some people try and strain these gnats and they're like, wait a minute. He had some stuff in his hand. He couldn't have put his hand on me. I tried to already explain this, o.k.? So it says he puts his right hand on me, and what are the first words out of the mouth of Jesus to John? "Do not be afraid." Whooo! He says "I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."
Of all the things that the glorious, majestic, Son of God could say, when John gets this incredible vision of who he is, of all of the choices and all of the world in all of the languages, here's what he said: "Do not be afraid". Why does he say that? Well, one, because John is petrified because he's just gotten a vision of Jesus and it is mind blowing for him. But he's not just saying it for that moment. He's also saying it because he is reminding John what he's going to need to be resting in and be assured of because of what he's about to see. That's why he says, "John, don't be afraid". Here's why: I'm the First and the Last. I was dead. Now I'm not. And I hold in my hand the keys of death and hades.
Why do you think he's telling John how important it is that he has risen from the dead and that he holds the keys of life and death? Because of what John is going to see and what John is going to face. The same thing's true of me and you. You see, ladies and gentlemen, we just as badly in our day need to see a vision of Jesus. Just as badly in our day. This is not just for John. This is for us. Blessed are those who read the words of the prophecy of this book out loud, and blessed are those who listen and take it to heart, because there's some things that are coming and the time is short. You will be blessed in knowing that he is the faithful witness. He is the firstborn from the dead. He is the ruler of the kings of the earth. He is the sovereign one who is capable of judging all things.
And now here's what we find, that John shows when he falls dead, Jesus puts his hand on him and says don't be afraid. Why? Because Jesus is showing us in Revelation one that he's the hope giver! He's the hope giver! We live our lives so fearful and Jesus says how about a vision of me, because I'm the one who will give you hope. Get up, John. I'm here. The First and the Last. Who was dead and now isn't! And I hold the keys of everything that you're going to face, even if it's death itself. No worries. I've got you! That was my translation.
So, maybe jot this down: the only way we will ever see what God wants us to see is when we clearly see Jesus. You want to grab something, a rich truth here from Revelation one? Here's one for you. The only way we will ever see what God wants us to see is when we clearly see Jesus.
You see, we'll never see the world, how we need to see the world until we see the world through how we see Jesus. We will never see ourselves the way we need to see ourselves until we see ourselves through how Jesus sees us. And through how we see Jesus. We will never see people and events that are going on in the day and age that we live in, we will never see them clearly until we actually see Jesus clearly and through Him can now see everything else clearly. This is how this goes.
That's why Revelation chapter one is the heartbeat, because it is introducing us to a vision of Jesus that we cannot lose sight of when we begin seeing the rest of the fulfillments of the vision. This is what he wants us to see from the very outset. This is what Jesus wants us to pay attention to. Because He is trying to remind us He is the hope giver and He is the one who gives us clarity.
See, part of the issue is we've got a badly imbalanced view of Jesus in our day and age. You see, there are some people who have made Jesus into their own image instead of seeing Him for who he is. In other words, you've got a soft version of Jesus because that's what you need. So Jesus is much more like, he's your buddy, he's your sweetheart, he's more like a pet than he is your King. He'll never criticize you. He will never disapprove of anything that you ever do. He's never going to hurt your feelings. That's not my Jesus. He's never going to hurt my feelings. Not my Jesus. You've got a soft version of Jesus. And it's imbalanced. You see, what we need is we need a clear vision of Jesus and here we have him in his resurrected, glorious, majestic state. And we need to understand what it looks like.
Now, on the other side, by the way, there are also people who make up a tough guy Jesus because they need him to be that. In fact, there are pastors who need that to happen. There was one, a number of years ago that was quoted in Relevant magazine trying to make Jesus into a tough guy because he himself fashions himself as a tough guy and needed some tough guy stuff, material for all of the tough guys in there because they were worried about the soft Jesus kind of idea that nobody wanted to follow, and so he needed to make up a tough guy Jesus.
So here's what he said in Relevant magazine - it doesn't matter who it is - he says "In Revelation, Jesus is a pride-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That's the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up."
Hmm. A couple things. One, this Jesus that you've fashioned that you can't beat up? You crucified. Try that one on. Secondly, he doesn't have a sword in his hand. It's in his mouth. Trying to make him someone that he's not. He's not wielding a sword looking to make someone bleed as if he's got a sword in his hand. The sword's in his mouth. Plus, when you have this kind of mindset, then you basically take on a "fight anyone and everyone for any reason" kind of mentality. And it's not helpful to the kingdom.
What we need is, we don't need soft guy versions of Jesus that we fashion. We don't need tough guy versions of Jesus that we fashion. We need a vision of Jesus that he gave us. That he himself gave us. Because when we do, we're going to be able to see as we should see. We need Revelation's vision of Jesus. Do you know what that means? He is the faithful witness who has confessed the glory of God and the will of God to the world even though it cost him his life. He is the firstborn from the dead, demonstrating that he was willing to offer his very life. It wasn't taken from him. He offered it himself as both the priest and the sacrifice. And that he has conquered death and hell.
We see him also as the King who is ruling over all the kings of the earth. Why? Because he is sovereign in power and he is righteous when he judges, and we see as well that in the midst of all of that hell that may transpire in the world that we live in and all of the craziness, when it seems to get nuts, and with all of the people making decisions all over the world, it seems like this thing is careening off the tracks, he says "I'm the hope giver. You need to look at me because I'm the First and I am the Last. I was dead and now I'm not and I hold the keys of death and hades in my hand. You can trust me. Don't be afraid." This is the heartbeat behind the book of Revelation.
So, it means we can see the world with optimistic realism. That means we can stand in the face of every trial, of every persecution, of every tribulation, of every hardship, and we see them for what they are. But we also, because we see Jesus for who he is, we can endure. Blessed are those who hear the words, who read them out loud, and who listen and take them to heart. Why? Because the time is near. We'll face these things. And we need to be prepared to endure and we will only be ready to do it when we have a vision of Jesus. Let's bow our heads together.
Before we've dismissed, and today's been an introduction to the book of Revelation. But the introduction to the book of Revelation is an introduction to Jesus and so, my heartbeat for you is that if you're here and you have never been introduced to Jesus in a real way, in a personal way, in a relational way, that today you would realize that your credentials as your own god, pale in comparison to the revelation of the vision of who Jesus is, the Son of God. The one who holds death and hades in his hand. The one who has conquered death. The one who is himself life. If you've never turned from your sin and stopped doing it your own way, and put your faith and trust in Jesus, then I want to encourage you to do that today. When we dismiss in just a moment, the Fireside Room is directly across the Atrium and there are some prayer partners in there, some pastors in there who would love to take a few moments and talk to you about what it means to know Christ. There is no more important issue that you could ever deal with in your life. None, zero, nothing that has happened in your life that will be more of consequence than what you choose to do with Jesus.
Father, I thank you for the reminder today for us to take off our rose colored glasses and to be able to look into the vision of Jesus that you have clearly represented for us here. Because when we do, we are reminded of One that is wiser than the wisest, whose eyes see everything, who judges rightly and righteously, who has always been faithful, even to the giving of His life. Who has been set as the ruler of all things, who is sovereign in power, and who is our great hope in the midst of trial. So I pray that we would be reminded to see the vision of Jesus in this world that we live in, and that we would be reminded when we see Revelation, we see Jesus as the great hope giver.
So Father, I pray that you would write this on our hearts, and you would conform us into your image as a result of it and that you would help us to be a people who model what it means in a world that seems to have gone nuts, to be people who are not likewise living in fear and freaking out all the time, but we are trusting and confident in the One who is the First and the Last. The One who was dead and now He lives. The One who holds the keys of death and hades in His hand. Jesus, you can be trusted. We have confidence in you, and I pray that you would blossom our trust in you, so that we would be a people that demonstrate what it means to face difficulty in life, and trust you wholeheartedly in the midst of it. Thank you for this truth. In Jesus name, Amen.
God bless you folks. Love you. Have a great week.