A Vision of Our Resurrected Lord
Scripture: Revelation 1:9–18
A Vision of Our Resurrected LordRevelation 1:9-18
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Pastor Randy Smith
It was written, "This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned vocabulary, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times" (Philip Schaff, The Person of Christ, American Tract Society, 1913).
Another church historian concluded, "As the centuries pass, the evidence is accumulating that measured by His effect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet" (Kenneth Latourette).
The facts are indisputable as to the preeminence of Jesus Christ in world history. Nobody can deny His existence, the impact He has made and the popularity He has received. He is lauded by billions as everything from a philanthropist to a revolutionist, from a moral teacher to a religious zealot. But who is the real Jesus?
In Matthew 16 after His ministry was underway, Jesus approached His disciples and asked them that very question: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is" (Mt. 16:13)? After receiving a plethora of answers He rephrased the question. "But who do you say that I am" (Mt. 16:15)?
Everything, including the salvation of our souls, hangs in the balance depending on how we answer that question. Knowing that Jesus existed is insufficient. Misunderstanding His character and His purpose also misses the mark. But answering as Peter did, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt. 16:16), is an indication we are heading in the right direction.
Many claim to follow Jesus. Many suppose they are worshipping Him today. But for many, their faith is deficient because the true Jesus is far from their thoughts and far from their hearts. So this Resurrection Sunday we will take an in-depth look at our risen Lord to better appreciate His character and the purpose for His coming. We must cut through all the deception and allow Scripture to present to us the real Jesus Christ in all His glory.
1. CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE VISION (1:9-11)
I have called the first point: "Circumstances of the Vision."
When we think of Jesus Christ we normally imagine a handsome, blue-eyed, bearded Palestinian with long hair. I would never deny that Jesus Christ walked amongst humanity for thirty-three years and looked like an ordinary man. However, I would contend with anyone who claims to know His actual appearance. We do not have any record of what He looked like, and whatever He looked like before the Resurrection is much different than the way He looks now that He has returned to glory. But thanks to the passage we will study this morning, we have a decent indicator as to His present appearance. I believe it will be much different than what typically comes to mind.
Verse 9 tells us that the Apostle John was exiled to Patmos resulting from His faithful witness for Jesus Christ. Patmos was a small rock island in the Mediterranean that served as a penal colony. Yet while at Patmos and in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, verse 10 tells us that John heard a loud voice that sounded like a trumpet. God delivered to John a revelation that he was called to pass on to the seven churches mentioned in verse 11. This revelation according to verse 19 concerned the things that John had seen, the things that are, and the things that will take place in the future. But at the forefront and serving as the cornerstone of this magnificent revelation would be an elaborate description of the risen Christ.
John was one of the greatest apostles. He was personally chosen by our Lord. He was part of the inner three. He was identified as the one whom Jesus loved. He contributed five books to the canon of Scripture. At the time, he was the only remaining one of the twelve still alive. But even the great Apostle John in this book humbly identifies himself in verse 9 as "your brother" and "(a) fellow partaker in the tribulation" as to not detract in any way from the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ that he will now describe.
2. CONTENT OF THE VISION (1:12-16)
So let's move to the second point and take a look at the content of John's vision.
In verse 12 we read that John turned to see the voice that was speaking to him. And once he turned He did not see a person, as we would expect, but rather the text states he saw seven golden lampstands. These seven golden lampstands, according to verse 20, represented the seven churches in Asia Minor (cf. Rev. 2-3). Verse 13 says Jesus stood in the middle of the lampstands.
A couple observations deserve our attention.
First of all it is significant that the church is identified as a lampstand. Obviously we are long before the invention of electricity so lamps at this time were the primary source of light. Jesus identified Himself as "the Light of the world" (Jn. 9:5). As His followers we have been called to allow His light to shine brightly through us (Mt. 5:14). As faithful witnesses, we are called to bring the light of the Gospel to a world in darkness (Jn. 1:5). Far from placing our lamp under a bushel, we must let the light of Christ shine through us (Mt. 5:15-16), even if it means we are persecuted, as was John for our testimony of Jesus (Rev. 1:9). The churches are Christ's lampstands. Grace Tabernacle is one of those lampstands. That speaks a lot about our purpose!
Also it is significant that verse 13 tells us that Jesus was in the middle of the lampstands. This tells us not only that Jesus is central in the church, but also that He is also directly associated with each church in a personal and intimate way. He is here presently amongst us (Mt. 28:20). As the high priest would tend the lampstands found in the Tabernacle, Jesus, our High Priest, is amongst us trimming our wicks for spiritual growth, carving our wax for spiritual refinement, and breathing life of comfort and encouragement into our flickering flames. Knowing that Jesus is in our midst allows us to burn brightly as a faithful and reliable witness.
But we ask, what kind of confidence can we have in this Jesus? Well, it is significant when we compare this vision of John with Daniel chapter 7. John called Jesus "one like a son of man" in verse 13. Though many think that refers to the humanity of Christ, it is better to see it in the context of the Old Testament. There, Daniel uses it to refer to the One who will come riding on the clouds of heaven and be given an everlasting dominion that will never pass away (Dan. 7:13-14).
So now with His tenderness and power both identified, John begins to disclose specifics regarding this vision. Let's touch on each of these briefly.
First in verse 13 we read that Christ was "clothed in a robe reaching to the feet and girded across His chest with a golden sash" (cf. Isa. 6:1). This is similar to the apparel of the Jewish high priest (Ex. 28:39). Remember, it was only this man who one time a year on the Day of Atonement would enter the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle with blood not of His own for a sacrifice.
But with Jesus as our High Priest, a better covenant has been inaugurated. Listen to how the author to the Hebrews describes His ministry in comparison with the high priest of old: "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb. 9:11-14)?
John in fewer words in verse 5 speaks of this priestly ministry of Christ in a most powerful way: "To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood" (Rev. 1:5b).
And as our High Priest, the ministry of Jesus for His church extends beyond its sacrificial aspects. As the High Priest of old, in a much greater way, Jesus carries the names of His people on His heart (Ex. 28:29-30) and desires to bear their burdens (1 Pet. 5:7), solve their problems and intercede for their needs (Rom. 8:34). And while Satan accuses them night and day before the throne of God (Rev. 12:10), He functions as their advocate before the Father (1 Jn. 2:1). For the Scriptures declare, "We...have a high priest who (can) sympathize with our weaknesses" (Heb. 4:15).
In verse 14 we read that Christ's "head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire."
The description of His hair also has tremendous symbolism that is often missed because of the age in which we live. White hair, we are talking even a step beyond gray hair, was much more than a sign of growing old. While dyed hair might be preferred to white hair and youth preferred to seniority today, antiquity took special value in the characteristics of aging. White hair in particular was an indication of wisdom and dignity and glory (Pro. 16:31) commanding the respect and honor and attention of others (Lev. 19:32). And to stress these attributes of Christ, John accents the whiteness in verse 14 comparing it pure wool or fresh fallen snow, so bright it can be blinding to the eyes (cf. Dan. 7:9).
Gazing downward, Christ's eyes in verse 14 are said to be "like a flame of fire" (cf. Dan. 10:6; Rev. 2:18). The white hair brings comfort and calmness to our hearts, but the eyes like a flame of fire remind us of whom we are dealing with. Jesus is God of very God. He is filled with energy and intensity. Far from being the powerless "old man upstairs" (with white hair), nothing is overlooked from His penetrating eyes of fire. He sees all with laser penetration. Even the hidden secrets of the heart are exposed with the sharpest clarity and He is prepared to bless and judge accordingly.
His physical appearance is further described as we move to verse 15. Listen to the grandeur of Christ. John said, "His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace." I believe this speaks of His radiance and His purity. Additionally, "His voice was like the sound of many waters" (cf. Eze. 43:2). The voice of Christ is deafening (like waves crashing up against the rocks or a massive waterfall), silencing every noise that competes. He has the absolute voice of authority. When He speaks He provides not suggestions but commands to which all must submit in both human and angelic realms.
Moving on, "In His right hand" (symbolic for a place of strength and honor), verse 16 says, "He (holds) seven stars." The seven stars are interpreted for us in verse 20 as, "The angels (or we could say "messengers") of the seven churches." This can refer to either the angelic or human oversight assigned to each of His true churches. Whichever the case, here we see the church belongs to Jesus Christ. And all created leadership, whether it be man or divine is in His possession, under His authority and functioning by His sovereign control.
"Out of His mouth," says John in verse 16, "came a sharp two-edged sword" (cf. Rev. 2:12). Obviously John is using symbolic terminology here and as we search the Scriptures we see that a sword is symbolically used to describe the Word of God. Therefore it is an appropriate image to associate the sword with the mouth of Jesus Christ.
For example: Ephesians 6:17 prepares us for spiritual warfare and encourages us to take up one offensive weapon alone - "the sword of the Spirit," identified as, "the word of God." In Hebrews 4:12 we read, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
We know swords are not toys or tools of compassion. They are rough instruments intended to defend and conquer. So what does the "sword-like" voice of God do?
It wields generating power to create a universe. For God spoke and all came into existence (Gen. 1). It also wields generating power to take a heart dead in sin and infuse it with spiritual life (Rom. 1:16; 10:17). The word of God penetrates the innermost parts of our being, exposes our hidden sin and through conviction demands us to bring forth God-honoring change (Heb. 4:12). It slices and dices all error and allows the truth to prevail. John 17:17, "Your word is truth." And the word of God also serves as an instrument of judgment. We see this judgment happening to the nations: Revelation 19:15, "From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty" (cf. Isa. 11:4). And we also see this judgment happening to those who seek to destroy His church: Jesus said, "I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth" (Rev. 2:16). And may we always remember the sword that goes forth from the mouth of Christ will always fulfill His purpose. Isaiah 55:11, "So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."
Should it be any wonder that we place such a high priority on the Scripture, the word of God?
Lastly, in verse 16 John says the face of Jesus "was like the sun shining in its strength." I believe this can only refer to the radiance and brilliance and glory of Christ. Remember the conversion of the Apostle Paul when he was confronted with the risen Lord? "But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me" (Ac. 22:6).
So after examining these verses from Revelation 1, we are presented with the true picture of Jesus Christ. Maybe this is not the Jesus you thought you knew? Maybe this is not the sermon you expected to receive on Resurrection Sunday? But is there any greater way to celebrate our risen Lord than to reveal His true nature as given to us in Scripture so we might adore Him and worship Him appropriately? I think that beats creating a false Jesus made in our own image.
3. CONSEQUENCES OF THE VISION (1:17-18)
Let's move to our third and final point, "The Consequences of the Vision." I have two for you this morning.
After meditating on biblical portrait of Jesus, our first respond should be reverential fear.
In Jesus we see the consuming fire of God. We dare not play games with Him. When He speaks we should listen. When He commands we should obey. Not only is He worthy of our total allegiance, but also He demands our total allegiance. Every day is the Lord's Day and every fiber of our being was created to bring Him glory.
The book of Revelation makes it clear that judgment will come to an evil world. One day God will execute justice and every knee will bow. Yet we need to look no further than chapters 2 and 3 to see that judgment will also come to the compromising church as well. As the church in Ephesus lost its first love, Jesus said, "Remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place" (Rev. 2:5). The Spirit will depart and they will become nothing more than a "gathering." And the church in Laodicea as they were carnal and mediocre in their spirituality, Jesus said, "So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth" (Rev. 3:16). Our Lord is longsuffering, but churches and individuals who make a mockery of His grace and the precious blood He shed to deliver them from sin's domination will be tolerated for only so long.
Is this reverential fear and devout earnestness your response when you encounter the risen Lord? It was for the Apostle John! After receiving the vision he said in verse 17, "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man" (cf. Jud. 13:22; Job 42:6; Isa. 6:5; Dan. 10:6-8; Hab. 3:16; Lk. 5:8)
What is it with so many Christians today? It seems the longer they know the Lord, the more commitment weans and the more disobedience goes unchecked. Is this a wake-up call for you? Is this Resurrection Sunday a time to resurrect your spiritual life? Don't play fast and loose with the living God!
Let's remember, John lived for years in the personal presence of Jesus. Possibly no other disciple loved Jesus more. But this vision was enough to sweep this man off His feet. Let's remember, John saw many tremendous things that he recorded in this book of Revelation, but nothing had the effect on Him like the vision of Christ! Brothers and sisters, don't ever lose sight of the glory and majesty of Christ! If we do, compromise will always be the result. But a true knowledge of Christ leads to mature and victorious spirituality.
The second response from meditating on this portrait of Jesus should be comfort.
After he in reverential fear fell at the feet of Jesus, John said (in the middle of verse 17), "And He placed His right hand on me, saying, 'Do not be afraid'" (cf. Isa. 6:7; Dan. 10:12). Isn't that great!
If we are saved by His sacrifice, if we are walking in fellowship with Him, if we are repentant over our sin, Jesus is always our ultimate source of true comfort. For He is the One who walks in the midst of His churches. For He is the One who will delivers us from our enemies. For He is the One who loves us and redeems us through His precious blood. For He is the One who knows our needs, bears our burdens and works all things together for our good according to His perfect and sovereign will. His character that we studied today brings us comfort. And His current position brings us comfort too as the Good Shepherd has presently ascended to the Father's right hand where He is continually interceding for His sheep (Rom. 8:32). No wonder Jesus could tell John one of His most popular commands recorded in Scripture, "Do not be afraid."
But at this point we must ask, how can we be sure of these glorious truths? How can we be sure the Father accepted the Son's sacrifice at Calvary? How can we be sure that Christ's words are trustworthy? How can we be sure that the authority and power of Christ is really sufficient?
Answer: Verse 17, because He is "the first and the last" - The great Alpha and Omega, the self-existent and self-sufficient One from eternity past. Verse 18, because He is "the living One." All other gods are lifeless, dead idols, unable to deliver. And verse 18, here it is on this Resurrection Sunday, because He "was dead, and behold (He is) alive forevermore!"
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for all that we enjoy in His name. It is the foundation of our faith. It is God the Father's undeniable proof that Jesus is all that He claimed to be. He rose from the dead and is now ascended to the Father's right hand. The Bible says all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18), even to the extent says verse 18 that He has "the keys of death and Hades."
The unknown author said in Christ we have: A love that can never be fathomed, a life that can never die, a righteousness that can never be tarnished, a peace that can never be understood, a rest that can never be disturbed, a joy that can never be diminished, a hope that can never be disappointed, a glory that can never be clouded, a light that can never be darkened, a purity that can never be defiled, a beauty that can never be marred, a wisdom that can never be baffled (and) resources that can never be exhausted.
As I mentioned during the introduction, nobody was more influential on world history than Jesus Christ. Millions, perhaps billions, will gather together today to worship Him. But are they worshipping the true Jesus of Scripture? And are they worshipping Him not only today, but every day of their lives? How would you answer those questions regarding yourself? The great theologian, Augustine, once said, "Jesus Christ is not valued at all until He is valued above all."
The Apostle John was exiled to Patmos because of his witness for Christ. The whole theme of Revelation is to follow John's faithfulness, don't compromise, don't grow cold, but burn brightly as a lampstand for this risen Lord who is worthy and will judge the world and the church in righteousness.