Jesus is present among us, possesses us, protects us, and has a purpose for us. As Christians, we ought to fall down in worship and rise up as witnesses. May his glory continually captivate our imagination. May his grace supernaturally empower our devotion. May his gospel radically compel us on mission. In this message on Revelation 1:9–20, Pastor David Platt called us to endure in the power of Christ and lead others to salvation.
- Jesus is present among us.
- Jesus possesses us.
- Jesus protects us.
- Jesus has a purpose for us.
I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that 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 are the seven churches. (Rev. 1:9—20)
If you have Bible and I hope you do, turn with me to Revelation 1. Today we begin our second week in the book of Revelation. If you were not here last week, I might encourage you to go back and listen to last week’s sermon. I don’t normally like to recommend my preaching to anyone, but we covered some foundations for this book that are, I believe, essential to understanding this book. So if you have a chance, if you missed last week, maybe go online and download it and listen sometime this week so that you might catch up to where we are.
We’re going to look at the second half of Chapter 1 this week, and then, I’ll go ahead and warn you, we’re going to move fairly swiftly through this book in the coming weeks. Not because we’re in a rush. We are in no hurry. But I shared last week how this book was written to be read to churches in the first century during one setting. They didn’t over analyze every single image and every single detail like many studies of Revelation do today, and I want us to be careful to catch the overall picture of what God is saying to His people in this important book. Not just about the future and the end of the world, but about the present, about our lives today in this world. And if we’re not careful, we’ll try to satisfy our curiosity about this detail or that detail and we’ll miss the overall point and purpose of this book.
So, the pace is going to pick up in the days ahead. We’re going to spend 13 weeks total in Revelation, and in that time frame, we’ll obviously cover all 22 chapters.
Today, though, we are in Revelation 1:9—20, which we’ve already heard. This is a passage that provides what is quite possibly the most majestic portrait of Jesus that has ever been written down on paper. I want to show you this morning the indescribable Christ. I want to invite you to see Him (to behold him), and as you do, I pray that you will see His glory as an unshakable foundation for your life and for our church.
My prayer today is that if you are weak, you will find strength; that if you are sorrowful, you will find comfort; that if you are confused, you will find clarity; that if you are weary, you will find hope; that all who are struggling with sin will be empowered and all who are timid in their witness will be emboldened today by a vision of Jesus in all of His glory.
We are a family of brothers and sisters.
Now notice how John begins by identifying himself with us: “I, John, your brother…” (Rev. 1:9). So from the very beginning, we’re getting a picture here of the church. John, a disciple of Jesus, is writing to churches that are filled with followers of Jesus, and he says we are a family of brothers and sisters. And that’s what we are—even in this room.
We saw this in 1 Timothy last year. We are a “household” of faith. It’s why we often refer to the church as a faith family. And the beauty is, members of The Church at Brook Hills and followers of Christ who are visiting with us from other churches today, we are brothers and sisters in a family, a family that spans generations and ages. John, who is writing this book, is our brother.
I was talking with a couple of people this week who upon coming to faith in Christ were abandoned by their physical family. One man whose mom said, “If you become a Christian, son, I will kill myself.” What do you do when your mom says that to you? His dad told him, “You will destroy our family.” This man followed Christ anyway. Thankfully, his mom did not kill herself, but the ramifications of following Christ in this man’s family were real.
The cost of following Christ is great. It’s why Jesus said in Mark 10: “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father … for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers…” (Mk. 10:29—30). In other words, when you come to Christ, you are coming to a family of brothers and sisters and mothers united under a Father who loves and cares for us.
Revelation 1:9–20 reminds us we are an army engaged in a battle.
So church, John says, we are a family of brothers and sisters, and we are an army engaged in a battle. John says, “I am your partner” and he lists three things he partners with them in: “…in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus…” (Rev. 1:9).
So remember (we talked about this last week), John is writing this letter to seven churches spread throughout Asia in a day of intense and inevitable persecution and suffering for Christians. So John says, “We’re together in the middle of tribulation, affliction, suffering in Jesus.” So don’t miss this. John says, “Together, we share in the sufferings of Christ.” Literally, “I’m your partner in suffering in Jesus.”
Now, a couple of things that are important when we talk about suffering here. First, and this is not in your notes, but I just want to make sure it’s clear. When John talks about suffering and tribulation in this book, he’s talking about suffering that Christians experience as they obey Jesus, not suffering that we experience when we disobey Jesus. So when we sin, when we walk in disobedience to God, we will suffer.
We will experience consequences of sin— destructive, disastrous consequences of sin—and those consequences are intended by God, in His gracious discipline, to wake us up to the horror of our sin that we might run from it.
But that’s not the kind of suffering and tribulation John is talking about here. He’s not talking about suffering that comes because of disobedience to God; John is talking about suffering that comes as we walk in obedience to God, suffering that comes as we live faithfully in and for Christ.
Which leads to the second thing that is clear all over Revelation and all over the Bible. When you become a Christian, suffering does not cease. If anything, suffering increases. So the theology that is alive and well all throughout this city and all over the world that says, “Trust in Jesus, and you will have health and wealth and everything will go well for you” is bogus, blasphemous, and unbiblical. Don’t buy it.
We don’t follow a health and wealth Savior. We follow a homeless and wounded Savior who said, “When you follow me, I will send you out like sheep among wolves. People will hate you because of me. They will flog you, persecute you. Following me,” Jesus says, “involves picking up a cross, an instrument of torture and death.”
Paul says in Philippians 1 that it has been granted us not only to be saved by Christ but to suffer with Christ. Philippians 3, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). Colossians 1, we are “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24). 2 Corinthians 1:5, “We share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings.” 1 Peter 4:13, “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings.”
Now many people wonder, “Why does the Christian suffer?” And it’s likely what many of these first-century Christians were wondering: “Why are we suffering like this? Our family members and friends are being imprisoned, beaten, beheaded, crucified. What is going on?” And John is saying what we see all over the New Testament.
Christian, we share in Christ’s sufferings as we portray Him. Think about this. This is huge! How does the kingdom of God come into the world? The kingdom comes in the form of a suffering Savior. Jesus, the suffering Savior, conquers death by suffering for sinners on a cross. That’s who Jesus is. He is a suffering Savior and (we’re going to see this in Chapter 5) Jesus is a Lamb who looks like He’s been slaughtered. The kingdom comes in the form of a suffering Savior.
So, then, how will the kingdom advance? The kingdom advances through the lives of suffering saints. So follow this: Jesus has shown the Father’s infinite and glorious love by suffering and dying for sinners. And now the Father has sent us out—the church of Jesus Christ—to make Christ known to all the peoples of the world.
So how will we show the world a suffering Savior if everything always goes well for us? God has not ordained for His kingdom to advance, His King to be clear, through the healthiest, wealthiest people who have all the pleasures and possessions and comforts and luxuries this world has to offer.
God has ordained for His kingdom to advance, His King to be clear, through men and women who let go of their wealth and give their possessions away because Christ is better than possessions. And when they lose their health, they say, “Christ is better than health.” And when they lose their loved ones, though the pain is real, they say, “Christ has conquered death.”
I was with a woman this last week who spent the last thirty years with her husband in one of the most dangerous countries in the world to live in as a Christian. For thirty years, day after day, through all kinds of physical difficulties and spiritual trials, they served the people of that country, providing medical help along steep mountainsides and in remote villages.
Two years ago this week, this woman’s husband was with a group of nine other people on a medical trek in the mountains when they were bombarded by gunmen, and all ten of them were killed. This week, with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face, this woman says to me, “I have discovered the satisfaction that comes in sharing the sufferings of Christ, and He is good. He was good to my husband and me every day for 30 years, and He is so good to me now.”
God, raise up women and men like that all across this faith family. Brothers and sisters who, to use the language of Revelation 12, “do not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:11). Men and women, brothers and sisters, who don’t seek after suffering but, in seeking after Christ, embrace suffering however it comes—knowing and showing and proclaiming that Jesus is better than the best treasures of this world put together.
We share in Christ’s sufferings as we portray him in this world, and as we proclaim Him in this world. Why is John on an island called Patmos? “On account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 1:9). John preached God’s Word and proclaimed the testimony of Jesus, and as a result, he was banished to live on an island in exile. There is a price to be paid for proclaiming the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Turn to Revelation 6 real quick with me. This phrase, “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” is used three other times in Revelation, and every time it’s used, it refers to Christians who are suffering because they’re speaking about Jesus. Underline them with me. The first one is in Revelation 6:9. “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.”
Now turn over to Revelation 12:17. Right after we learn about Christians who conquer Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, John tells about the dragon, Satan, and he says, “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.” Satan is making war on those who proclaim the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
And then, one more time, turn to Revelation 20:4. When John talks about the millennium, this is a passage that people spend endless time debating today. John describes, don’t miss this, how he “saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
Do you see this? From beginning to end in this book, John is making clear that there is a price to be paid for proclaiming the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus in the world today. You will be attacked by Satan, slain, beheaded, exiled. And John is writing this book to say to the saints: “It won’t be easy, but don’t stop proclaiming the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus!” Church, proclaim Christ even when it costs you your life!
Oh, what a word for us today, both here and around the world. Here, where there is no such cost for proclaiming Jesus, you and I have the privilege to proclaim Christ freely every day this week. Sure, we may face the fear of rejection or isolation, but not the fear of imprisonment or beheading. May we not be silent. Brothers and sisters, let’s proclaim the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
And then let’s realize that yes, there are places around the world where it is costly to proclaim the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Let us not hide here in the comforts of Birmingham while billions of people need to hear this gospel all around the world. Let’s go, let’s risk our lives making this gospel known in the toughest places in the world.
Let’s keep scattering to Central Asia and East Asia and North Africa and Southeast Asia—short term, mid-term, and long-term. Let’s not stop, let’s go all the more. And everywhere we go, let’s proclaim the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus, knowing in a very real sense that some of us might be slain. We share in the sufferings of Christ, but that’s not the end of the story.
John says we participate in the reign of Christ. “I am your partner in the tribulation and the kingdom” (Rev. 1:9). We talked about this last week—how we’re not just people under Christ’s rule, but we’re participants in Christ’s reign. Jesus reigned through His suffering, and so do we. Jesus conquered through suffering, and so do we. The Bible tells us that as Christians, we have been seated in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6) and we share in Christ’s reign (Rev. 5:10).
You say, “What does that mean: that we participate, even now, in the reign of Christ?” Well think about it. Today, even now we have confidence amidst suffering. We know Romans 8, brothers and sisters. We know that “God works all things together…” (Rom. 8:28). We know Romans 8. We know Philippians 1:21. We know that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
We know, 2 Corinthians 4, that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor. 4:17—18).
We have confidence amidst suffering, and we experience victory over sin. In Christ, we are free from sin—Romans 6—we are no longer slaves to sin because we are sons of God.
We reign in Christ over sin and we lead others to salvation. You want to see the reign of Christ in action? Listen to one member of our faith family who was invited not long ago to give a speech at his corporation’s annual nationwide meeting. He was nervous, but he knew that God had given him this opportunity to speak about Christ, so he shared the gospel in the middle of his speech.
Then he sat down at his table, and one of the other managers across the table said, “Can you tell me more about Jesus?” So this brother from our faith family, right there at the table, explains the gospel more fully to this guy and then says to him, “Would you like to turn from your sin and trust in Jesus as your Savior and Lord?” And this guy looks back and says, “Yes, I would,” and right there at the table with all these other
managers looking on, this guy becomes a follower of Christ. That is participating in the reign of Christ. That is asserting victory over the kingdom of darkness with the gospel that brings light!
We participate in the reign of Christ! And we endure in the power of Christ. So here’s the picture: we’re in a strange time. On one hand, we are in a world full of suffering and persecution. On the other hand, we belong to another world where we reign in Christ, a world that one day Christ will return to establish once and for all. So John is writing this book to encourage patient endurance from this day until that day.
That’s the point of Revelation. John is not writing this book to inspire a Left Behind series. John is not writing this book to give us fill-in-the-blank charts to figure out.
He’s writing this book to say to the church then and today: brothers and sisters, every one of us individually and all of us collectively are in a battle with sin and suffering in this world. And each of our battles is only a part of a larger, cosmic battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. This battle will not be easy, John is saying in this book, but don’t give up hope. Fight against sin, persevere amidst suffering, advance the kingdom until one day the King comes back.
The Indescribable Christ…
So how do we endure? John says, “In the power of the indescribable Christ.” Here John, our brother and partner in tribulation, gives us a glorious vision of Jesus. Now I’ve got 16 characteristics of Christ from this vision that are listed in your notes Obviously, we are not going to be able to go in-depth into all of them. (In fact, we’re going to go pretty quickly through each of them.) But it’s like I mentioned earlier: if we’re not careful, we can dissect every single part of this vision and miss the whole of what it portrays.
William Hendriksen writes in his great commentary on Revelation:
“The entire description must be taken as one whole and interpreted as such. Let us try to see it [that way]. Notice that the Son of man is here pictured as clothed with power and majesty and with awe and terror. That long royal robe; that golden belt buckled at the breast; that hair so glistening white that like snow on which the sun is shining it hurts the eye; those eyes flashing fire, eyes which read every heart and penetrate every hidden corner; those feet glowing in order to trample down the wicked; that loud, reverberating voice, like the mighty breakers booming against he rocky short of Patmos; that sharp, long, heavy great-sword with two biting edges; that entire appearance as the sun shines in its power, too intense for human eyes to stare at – the entire picture, taken as a whole, is [symbolic] of Christ, the Holy One, coming to purge His churches and to punish those who are persecuting His elect.”
See the indescribable Christ. I use that word “indescribable” because of the task John was given here. In verse 11, this voice like a trumpet booms and says, “Write what you see in a book…” (Rev. 1:11). Now that’s a tough thing to do. It’s one thing to write down words that you hear. It’s a whole other thing to write down in words the wonder of what you see with your eyes.
Imagine you’ve got a pen and piece of paper, and someone says, “Write down what you see in the Grand Canyon.” You look at your pen and paper, and you think, “There’s no way to put on here the grandeur of what I see out there.” So feel the magnitude of John’s task here as he turns and sees the voice (he sees the voice!) of the One who was speaking to him, and he attempts to describe Him in words.
Revelation 1:9–20 reminds us Jesus is a man.
He’s “like a son of man…” (Rev. 1:13). Jesus is a man. Can you imagine John’s perspective here? He had spent three years with Jesus on the earth. For three years, every day, they had walked together and talked together and eaten together. And then after three years, he saw Jesus brutally slaughtered on a cross. And three days later, He had risen from the grave, and then Jesus ascended into heaven. And that’s the last glimpse John had of his Friend and Savior and King. And so now he turns, and he sees Him again! Jesus! Not robed in earthly humiliation anymore; now robed in heavenly exaltation!
Revelation 1:9–20 reminds us Jesus is God.
As man and as God. Jesus is God. All throughout this vision, we see links between Jesus and God the Father. Right before this, God has spoken and said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1:8). Now Jesus speaks and says, “I am the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17). This is God!
Isaiah 41:4, “I, the Lord, the first, and the last; I am he.” Isaiah 44:6, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel…I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” Jesus is God.
In Daniel 7, God is described as the Ancient of Days whose clothing is as white as snow and whose hair is like pure wool, yet here, that is the description of Jesus. John is describing Jesus in terms that are only used for God.
Revelation 1:9–20 reminds us Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy.
Jesus is a man, Jesus is God, Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. Oh, write this down: Daniel 7 and Daniel 10. In both of these prophetic passages in the Old Testament, we see a vision of a son of man clothed in linen with a belt of find gold around his waist, with eyes like flaming torches, with arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, whose voice echoes like the sound of a multitude. This is the picture of a son of man ushering in the kingdom of God. Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy.
Realize that these images are not intended to be literal. This is not John’s answer to the question, “Well, what is Jesus wearing in heaven?” No, these are images that would have been familiar to John’s readers, images that would have triggered in their minds the words of the prophets, images that would have evoked in their hearts awe and wonder at a vision of the One Scripture had spoken about centuries before.
Jesus is the final high priest.
Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. He is the final high priest. “Clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest” (Rev. 1:13). Six of the seven times a long robe like this is mentioned in the Old Testament, it refers to the clothing of the high priest who would enter into the most holy place to offer sacrifices for the sins of God’s people.
So Jesus here is pictured as the final high priest who has entered into the presence of God the Father and He has offered full and final, once and for all, sacrifice for the sins of God’s people. A golden sash high around his chest signifying his dignity and royalty.
Jesus is infinitely old.
He is infinitely old. “The hairs of his head are white, like white wool, like snow” (Rev. 1:14). This is a deliberate picture of age. Like I mentioned just a second ago, this is the description Daniel gives of God as the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7, and now it is applied to Christ. Jesus has existed forever. He did not begin.
Revelation 1:9–20 reminds us Jesus is infinitely wise.
He is infinitely old, and He is infinitely wise. In ancient culture, white hair was clearly a symbol of accumulated wisdom through years of experience. The experience and the wisdom of Christ know no end.
Jesus has knowledge of all things.
He has knowledge of all things. His eyes are like a flame of fire. Nothing escapes His gaze. He sees it all, He sees through it all. Most of these images we’re going to see again in the letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3 next week, and this image of Jesus’ eyes like fire will reappear in His letter to Thyatira, to whom Jesus will say, “I know everything about you.”
He knows everything about us. With eyes like fire He searches every area of our hearts. Jesus sees through all pretense. He sees the purity of our hearts, and He sees the stains of our hearts. He searches every area of our hearts, and He sees everything we’d like to hide. Nothing escapes the all-searching, all-knowing, pure gaze of Jesus.
Jesus is holy above all things.
Which leads to the next characteristic: Jesus is holy above all things. His feet are like burnished bronze. This is a picture of glowing purity and power. His purity has no error. Bronze metal would have purified in a furnace so that it might glow in purity. So Jesus is absolutely pure. His purity has no error, and His power knows no equal. Burnished with bronze is a picture of glory and strength.
Jesus’ voice resounds with authority.
First, His voice was like a trumpet, and now, it is like the roar of many waters. What imagery! And from His mouth—get this picture—from His mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword. See it’s double edge. On one hand He declares eternal salvation. With His never failing, ever-lasting Word, Christ declares salvation for His people.
At the same time, He decrees final judgment. Later in Revelation, Chapter 19, we will see Jesus at the final judgment, and the Bible says, “From his mouth will come a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Rev. 19:15). Jesus is the Judge who speaks and whose declaration, whose decree is final and forever.
Revelation 1:9–20 reminds us Jesus’ face radiates with light.
Jesus’ voice resounds with authority, and His face radiates with light. “Like the sun shining in full strength” (Rev. 1:16). Jesus comes in judgment and in glory, and John falls on his face at His feet as though dead.
Jesus had the first word in creation.
Then Jesus—oh, imagine this!—Jesus lays his right hand on John and says, “Fear not, I am the first…” (Rev. 1:17). Jesus had the first word in creation. Colossians 1, “By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16—17).
Jesus will have the last word in creation.
Jesus had the first word in creation, and Jesus will have the last word in creation. He will fully and finally usher in new creation. Jesus is the force behind all of human history, and He alone is able to bring the divine purposes to pass because He has conquered.
Jesus was dead…for a time.
You see, Jesus was dead … for a time. Oh, I love this. Jesus says, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18). Jesus was dead…for a time.
Revelation 1:9–20 reminds us Jesus is alive…for all time.
But now, Jesus is alive … for all time. He is the living one who will never, ever die again. These books that have come out about people who supposedly die and go to heaven and come back and share what they saw. Don’t buy them.
I had a guy tell me this week, “If you’re preaching through Revelation, you really need to get this book about this kid or this book about this woman who went to heaven and came back.” No! These books are written by sinful children, women, and men who will die, who will succumb to death one day. Why would we even start to listen to them when we can hear from the King who has conquered death forever? His Word is trustworthy, and His testimony is true.
Death is controlled by Jesus.
Jesus is alive forevermore, and death itself is controlled by Him. Jesus has “the keys of Death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18). Keys are a symbol of authority in Jewish thought. Jesus says, “I have authority over death. I speak, and death listens. I speak, and death obeys.” Satan does not determine when you or I die; Satan does not have that authority. Jesus does. And because Jesus has authority over death, He has the ability to turn it into gain—for you and for me and for all who trust in Him.
This last week, my family remembered the day when eight years ago, my dad unexpectedly died from a heart attack. Next week, Heather’s family will remember the day when one year ago, her mom all of a sudden passed away. But brothers and sisters, by God’s grace, both of our parents knew the King who controls death. So when their hearts stopped beating and their lungs stopped breathing, Jesus Christ the King asserted His authority over death and welcomed them into His presence. Praise God! Death is controlled by Jesus.
No one or nothing compares to Jesus.
And no one or nothing compares to Jesus. Gaze upon the indescribable Christ. And then see what is around Him and in His hands. We haven’t talked about these lampstands and these stars. What do they mean?
Well, John tells us what they mean. He tells us that Jesus is standing in the middle of seven golden lampstands, and these seven golden lampstands symbolize the seven churches that John is writing to. Churches that are struggling with sin, churches that are struggling amidst suffering, and the indescribable Christ is right in the middle of them.
Write down Zechariah 4. There, God gives Zechariah a vision of seven lamps in a temple to symbolize how God will rebuild His temple and restore His presence among His people, and God tells his people that they will endure not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit.
Well here in Revelation 1, Jesus is not rebuilding a physical temple. Instead, He is dwelling in the midst of a spiritual temple, His church, and His people endure not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit living in the midst of them.
He holds seven stars in His right hand, which are the angels of the seven churches. We’ll talk about this more next week, but the picture here is angels who are in some way identified with each of these churches, representing each of these churches. And the picture is Jesus holding them in His right hand, His hand of authority, possessing these churches and protecting these churches in the midst of all that they are going through. And using these churches for a purpose. The point of a lampstand is to provide light.
Churches, lampstands, stars. The picture here is just like what we see in Isaiah 43 and 44. “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am the Lord, and besides me there is no Savior…you are my witnesses” (Isa. 43:10—12). So see it: this is Jesus in the middle of these churches—churches that are suffering and hurting and struggling, churches full of Christians who feel weak and vulnerable and scared – and John gives them a vision of Jesus in the middle of them, holding on to them, guarding them, and enabling them to shine light in the middle of darkness.
The Indestructible Church…
This is a vision of an indescribable Christ in the middle of an indestructible church. As long as this Christ is in the middle of His church, then nothing, no matter how fierce, can destroy His people. Nothing. And so this is where I want to apply this text to this church in this room. I was just struck reading this text this week to realize that, faith family at Brook Hills, we are His church. Brook Hills is one of His lampstands. And we are walking through all kinds of things this morning. All kinds of suffering represented around this room that we talked about last week. All kinds of struggles with sin. And we are a church on mission, going into difficult places among difficult peoples around the world.
So brothers and sisters in this room, partners together in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, see the indescribable Christ. See Jesus! Fully man, fully God, fulfillment of prophecy, the final high priest, infinitely old and infinitely wise with knowledge of all things, holiness above all things.
Hear His voice resounding with authority and see His face radiating with light. The One who had the first word in creation and will have the last word in creation, the One who was dead for a time and now is alive for all time, the One who controls death to whom no one or nothing can compare, this indescribable Christ is present among us. This Jesus is in our midst this morning!
Feel this! Realize this! Wonder at this! Jesus is standing among us. Jesus is not distant from us. Jesus is not just over us. Jesus is in the middle of us as we gather today. He is here. This Christ is here on this Lord’s Day!
And He possesses us. He is holding us in His hands. We belong to Him. Church at Brook Hills, we are in the grip of His gracious governance. He is our Lord.
Jesus protects us. He guards us and guides us. See and feel His protecting power today in a world of sin and suffering.
And Church at Brook Hills, Jesus has a purpose for us. To shine light in Birmingham amidst neighborhoods and offices and schools and communities all over this city. And to shine light in North America and North Africa and Central Asia and South Asia and the Middle East.
The Inevitable Commission…
Fall down in worship.
Brothers and sisters, the inevitable commission is clear: fall down in worship before the indescribable Christ. See the gulf of grandeur and glory that separates you and me from Him, and fall on your face at his feet. All of us.
Non-Christians (so, if you are not a Christian today): Have much fear. Have much fear. Here’s what I mean by that. If you are not a Christian, if you have not called out to God for forgiveness of your sins through the sacrifice of Christ on a cross, if you have not turned from your sin and rebellion against God and confessed Jesus as Savior and King and Lord, then you have much reason to fear today. For one day, it could be today, you will die or He will return, and instead of facing Jesus as Savior, you will face Him as Judge. And you have much reason to fear standing in sin before a holy God in judgment.
So turn from your sin today. Trust in Jesus as the Savior who died on the cross for your sin and rose from the grave in victory over sin. Do that in your heart, even now, I urge you. And when you do, and for all who turn from sin and trust in Christ as King, Christians: Have no fear. Don’t dread the day when you will see Jesus’ face; anticipate that day. And know today that nothing can happen to you in this world that will ever separate you from Him.
Rise up as witnesses.
He is present with us, He possesses us, He protects us, and He has a purpose for us. So fall down in worship and then rise up as witnesses. Jesus says, “John, rise up and write down what you have seen.” And obviously, we are not authoring a biblical book today in this room, but we have much to tell. In view of the indescribable Christ in the midst of His indestructible church, this is my prayer for this faith family. This is my prayer for The Church at Brook Hills based on Revelation 1:9—20.
May His glory continually captivate our imagination. May we never cease to be amazed by His magnificence. May we never grow casual in His presence. May His glory continually captivate our imagination.
May His grace supernaturally empower our devotion. In a world where we are bombarded by sin and suffering on a daily basis, in a world where it is challenging to portray Christ and dangerous to proclaim Christ, make no mistake about it: our best life is not now.
Our best life is coming when one day our King will split the sky and return for His people. But in the meantime, here, we share in His sufferings and we endure with patience, knowing that we have a purpose, which is to make His gracious glory known to the ends of the earth—no matter what it costs us.
May His glory continually captivate our imagination, may His grace supernaturally empower our devotion, and may His gospel radically compel us on mission. Until He comes back and we see the indescribable Christ of Revelation 1 face to face.
Observation (What does the passage say?)
- What type of writing is this text?
(Law? Poetry or Wisdom? History? A letter? Narrative? Gospels? Apocalyptic?)
- Are there any clues about the circumstances under which this text was originally written?
- Are there any major sub-sections or breaks in the text that might help the reader understand the focus of the passage?
- Who is involved in the passage and what do you notice about the specific participants?
- What actions and events are taking place? What words or themes stand out to you and why?
- Was there anything about the passage/message that didn’t make sense to you?
Interpretation (What does the passage mean?)
- How does this text relate to other parts of the Scriptures
(e.g., the surrounding chapters, book, Testament, or Bible)?
- What does this passage teach us about God? About Jesus?
- How does this passage relate to the gospel?
- How can we sum up the main truth of this passage in our own words?
- How did this truth impact the hearers in their day?
Application (How can I apply this to passage to my life?)
- What challenged you the most from this week’s passage? What encouraged you the most?
- Head: How does this passage change my understanding of the Lord? (How does this impact what I think?)
- Heart: How does this passage correct my understanding of who I am to the Lord? (How should this impact my affections and what I feel?)
- Hands: How should this change the way I view and relate to others and the world? (How does this impact what I should do?)
- What is one action I can take this week to respond in surrender and obedience to the Lord?
[Note: some questions have been adapted from One to One Bible Reading by David Helm]