Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Revelation 1:4-20

July 17th, 2010 by Vic

“Greetings from Jesus”

July 18, 2010

John introduced himself as a bond‑servant who received a gift of God from an angel.  God’s gift is the revelation of Jesus Christ (vs 1).  What follows is the written form of that gift from God.

The popular literature of that day that included visions and symbols and verbal cartoons about the last days were also called revelations or apocalyptic writings.  They were politically controversial and the writer never gave his real name.  John is making it clear right up front that his writing may have some similarities with popular apocalyptic writings, but his Revelation is different from the others.  His is more like the prophets’ writings that call men to repentance.  His is an open letter to 7 churches that he knew well.

John begins with a style of greeting that was common in letters of that day.  Last week we noticed that this letter is an uncovering, a showing and a sign post.  It is a letter of comfort for those who are suffering.  Verses 4‑8 describe the exalted Jesus with physical eyes and 9‑20 describe Jesus with spiritual eyes.  Throughout the routines of life it is wise to keep our eyes on Jesus.

1:4 This greeting is not written to the Baptists, the Lutherans, the Nazarenes, or Catholics.   It is addressed to 7 local churches in the Roman area of Asia.  There were other churches near these churches, but John chose to identify these 7.  The people in these churches knew John.  He writes with authority.  Maybe he wrote to these 7 because these cities are postal centers.  The order of their mention was a mail route.  I believe they also represent all churches of all time.  These churches are like churches found in every age.  They had typical temptations that are common in every age in all churches.

The local church is important to John and Jesus.  The vision that John has in this first chapter does not transport him to heaven.  Instead he is in the Spirit and sees what is happening on the earth from God’s point of view.  He sees Jesus walking among the churches.

With this letter, John prays that grace and peace would be theirs from God the Father, the Spirit and the Son.  Grace was the normal Greek greeting and peace was the Hebrew greeting.  Christians used both.  But it was unusual to identify the Trinity as the source of grace and peace.  This is a majestic elaboration of the normal Christian greeting.

Notice how he describes the Trinity.  He begins with God.  God the Father is present in time, was before time and will be after time.  Everything is present with God.  He is identified as “the One who is”.  This was a common Greek title for deity.  The phrase is used in Revelation 4 times (1:4,8; 11:17; 16:5).  The ultimate source of this letter is the One who is.  God is absolute, does not change, and is not dependent on time or place, past or future.

The Spirit is 7 because He is varigated in His manifestations buy complete for the 7 churches and every church for all time.  There is unity in diversity.

The Spirit is before God’s throne.  The word ‘throne’ occurs 46 times in this book and related words like authority, power, rule, king, kingdom, occur 75 times.  The majesty of deity is always before us.

Rev 1:5  Jesus is given 3 titles.  Jesus was the faithful witness for God.  He spoke only the words that God told Him to speak.  Jesus is faithful and we are called to be faithful.

He was the first born of the dead never to die again.  He was the first of a new group of people.  He is the precedent and forerunner.  He was first in time and also first in importance.

Jesus is thus “the ruler of the kings of the earth.”  What the devil had promised Jesus in the wilderness temptation and could never have given Him, Jesus accomplished for Himself by the suffering of the Cross and the power of the resurrection.

The 3 titles for Jesus suggest His earthly life, His resurrection, and His exalted place in heaven.

The last half of verse 5 begins a doxology, a verbal praise. Normally doxologies are directed to God, but in Revelation there are 3 doxologies directed to Jesus.  This is the first. (5:13; 7:10)

This doxology tells us how we should say the doxology.  All valid praise will include the facts precipitating the praise.  When we say “Praise the Lord”, we usually add in our hearts “for what He has done”.  Just to repeat the words “praise the Lord” or “praise you Jesus” is like Hindus or Moslems repeating mantras.  The repetition of words has only emotional and psychological value.  They do not honor God.

So why do we praise Jesus?  He loves us in the present tense.  To Him who loves us we give praise.

He loves us today and released us in the past from our sins by His blood.  This second verb is past tense.  It suggests a completed act done in the past.  He has released us in the past.  We were held captive to sin, the guilt of sin, and the penalty of sin.  The cross and resurrection have broken the power of sin and death.  We have been released from our sins by His blood.  This is a free gift of forgiveness that you can accept by faith.  God is our new owner.

Rev 1:6 Jesus has made us to be a kingdom of priests or both a kingdom and priests to His Father.  The NT does not teach that each Christian is a priest or that any individual should be a priest.  The word priest is always used in the plural form in Revelation.  What it says is that each group of Christians is a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a kingdom of priests.  The Christians we worship with are called as a group to offer spiritual sacrifices and praise to God.

To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.  There are 12 forever and evers and 10 Amens in this letter.  The word Amen is often translated verily, verily.  It means, so be it.  Let it be so. Truly, truly.

Rev 1:7  One of the themes in Revelation is that Jesus is coming.  That is not a future tense, but a present tense.  Jesus is coming.  It is like saying, “We are eating and breathing.”  The process is already in motion.  Jesus is coming.

Look here, listen, pay attention.  (look or behold occurs 26 times in Revelation) He’s coming “with the clouds” is similar to Dan 7:13.  God’s presence was often associated with a cloud not a clock.

Every eye will see Him.  This is interesting because this was before surveillance cameras and satellites.  The Jewish writers said only those in Jerusalem would see the coming of the Messiah.  We tend to limit God with our logic.  Christian scholars had trouble with this too.  Some suggested the seeing of Christ would not happen at once, but would be like the sunrise.  As the world turns, all will see Him.  The Bible says, “All will see Him.”  Not only at a point in time, but it will include those of every age and every nation who were indifferent to Jesus or willfully pierced His side.  They will mourn, but it will be the remorse of being caught, not the remorse of repentance.

Rev. 1:8  This could be Jesus or God Himself speaking.  I think Jesus.  He is eternal like the Father.  All time is present with Him.  He is the Almighty because there is no higher name and He is coming again.  If this is God speaking, He only speaks one other time in this letter.  In 21:5ff He claims to be the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.  The title is used again of Christ in 22:13.  I think this is Jesus telling John who He really is.  For a while He took on the form of man and lived among us, but He has always been greater than John ever imagined.

The Alpha and Omega are not just the beginning and the end, but also everything in between.

The Almighty is a title that is used only 12 times in the NT and 9 of those are in Revelation.  Nothing lies outside the Almighty’s control and care.

Now in the rest of the chapter we have a description of Jesus through spiritual eyes.  In Rev 1:9 again John makes it clear who is writing.  He is a brother and fellow‑participant (συγκοινωνὸς ).

Our brotherhood in verse 9 extends to 3 interdependent areas.  The grammar tells us that tribulation, kingdom, and perseverance should be interpreted together and they mutually interpret one another.

John is identifying himself as a brother, a co‑partaker in (1) the tribulation and pressure they were experiencing.  Even as part of God’s kingdom, we will have tribulation.  We are to be more than conquerors through him who loved us.  The meek really do inherit the earth.

John also claims to be a fellow‑participant of (2) the kingdom.  We have a common national allegiance.  We are ruled by the same King.  Our equality extends to our home country, citizenship, and inheritance.  This is not a Greek utopia, but a kingdom with tribulation and perseverance.

The third point of equality is (3) persevering.  This word for endurance or patience is not the passive kind of fatalism that folds its hands and says whatever will be will be. This endurance is a spirit of courage and conquest.  This endurance transforms tribulation into dignity and strength.  Our world tempts us to compromise in many ways.  Persevere and resist temptation.  We win by persevering, holding on.

Rev 1:10  John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.  He was experiencing God’s presence.  He was loosed from the paradigm of this earth.  He hears with spiritual ears.  He sees with spiritual eyes.  He is liberated from time and space.  Notice that John was on the island of Patmos and in the Spirit.  He was in tribulation and in the Spirit.  No matter where you are or what you are suffering, you can know the presence of God.  In this physical world we can hear God.

Man’s prisons may be doorways into heaven.  Freedom is in Christ not a physical place.   Maybe sometimes we do not see too well with our spiritual eyes because life is too cushy.  Maybe if we were exiled on a rocky island 10 miles long and 4 miles wide we would hear God a little better.

The wording in 10-11 has similarities to Ezekiel 2, 3, 11, 43.

John was in the Spirit enjoying a mountain top experience.  He may have been looking across the ocean toward Asia.  Then suddenly someone shouts from behind him, “Write down what you see!”  The grammar here is unusual.  It is like some of the sayings we have when we shout, “You all hear?”  or “Hey, you listen up”.

The trumpet spoke on Mt Sinai.   The trumpet sounded the beginning of temple worship.  It announced the living water at the festival of Tabernacles.  The trumpet announces the year of Jubilee.  The trumpet will announce Christ’s return.  How does a trumpet sound?  It is clear, distinct, loud, startling, penetrating.

Rev 1:11  John is commanded to write what he sees.  The command to write occurs 12 times in Revelation.  He received a divine command to tell the whole story to all the churches.  Writing this book was not his idea.  It was not an apocalyptic dream induced with drugs or chants.

Rev 1:12  John turned to see the voice and what he saw was overwhelmingly brilliant and made him squint.  John sees the voice.  What does the word of God look like in a vision?  John sees the Living Word.  First his eyes went to the 7 golden lamp stands in a circle.  This reminded him of the candlestick of pure gold in the Tabernacle, but different.  That candlestick had one stand and 7 branches.  These candlesticks are individual distinct stands without lights.  Churches are not united in a physical way, but in the presence of Christ.  Verse 20 tells us the lamp stands are the 7 churches.  God’s presence is among the golden lamp stands.  The Holy Spirit is the oil.  Christ is the Light that the lamp stands live in and reflect His Light.

The gold suggests they belong to God and are precious and costly.  The 7 suggests unity in diversity.  These were representing all churches of all time.  The lack of a flame is a reminder that churches exist in the Light, but we are not the Light.  The Living Word is our light.  He is walking among us.  Jesus had told the disciples they were to be lights in a dark place, but that is not the emphasis here.  This is talking about the source of our light and strength.

Rev 1:13  Jesus is seen now with spiritual eyes.  The description of Jesus is similar to Daniel 7, 10 and the transfiguration story.  In heaven Jesus still looks like man.  He did not get rid of all human features when He ascended to heaven.

His clothing reveals His character.  The robe reaching to the feet with a high waist line was worn by kings, priests, and judges.  The royalty, righteousness, and holiness of Jesus are seen in His long robe.  The golden girdle was one requirement of the high priest.  Jesus lives in heaven to provide us access to God.  He has opened the way for all of us to enter into the presence of God.

Rev 1:14  His hair is white suggesting dignity, respect, honor, status, and the wisdom of the ages. Being white like wool reminds us again that He came as a lamb.  Sheep don’t have white wool, but lambs do.  He is a priest and the Lamb of God like the Ancient of Days.

His eyes were like a flame of fire.  This is not the glow of an oil lamp, but the intensity of a roaring fire.  This is our equivalent of penetrating search lights.  His eyes were all seeing.  He knows all because He sees all.  He sees all the churches of all time.  His eyes are warm and penetrating.

Rev 1:15  His feet were pure, stable, and swift.  Fired in a furnace suggests moral purity.  They reflect the beauty of righteousness and holiness.  You can tell a lot about a person by the way he walks and where he walks.  Bronze was a symbol of judgment.  This describes a sacrificial walk.  The altar of sacrifice was made of bronze.  It may also suggest the fiery furnace.

Now His voice is compared to the sound of many rushing and cascading waters.  John is probably hearing something greater than the mighty rolling sea beating against the jagged rocks of his island of exile.  What John hears is a Majestic voice from heaven.

That means that the sound of His voice is powerful, overwhelming, penetrating.  It can be soothing or terrifying.  If you are in a rubber raft near the shore, it is a sound of terror.  If you are in a warm cabin (in Christ) overlooking the sea, crashing waves are a soothing rhythm of peace.

Rev 1:16  You can follow the movements of John’s eyes as he described the robe, the belt, the head, the eyes, the feet, the voice, and now he notices the right hand.  In His right hand He held 7 stars.  The right arm is the symbol of power, control, protection, and security.  Verse 20 tells us the 7 stars are the angels of the 7 churches.  Some commentators think these are the pastors of the churches that Jesus gives power to.  Some feel they are the guardian angels of the churches.  Others identify them as the prevailing spirits of the churches.  Jesus was holding these stars with a powerful grip.

Out of His mouth comes a powerful word (Heb 4:12).  It is just and effective against all the enemies.  His weapon is His Word of Love.  It will never loose its power. I am not ashamed of the gospel.  It is the power of God unto Salvation.  The sword is similar to our judge’s gavel in symbolic meaning.

And His face was too bright to behold.  The beauty of His presence is able to purge His churches.  The light purifies.  The light of His presence is the only light the lamp stands have.

Rev 1:17 John took one glimpse at His face, recognized the true nature of his Master and was overwhelmed.  Did John remember sitting next to Him at the Last Supper?

Was it Jesus’ love that John felt?  Was it the touch of a friend?  When John saw Jesus with spiritual eyes, He was compelled to worship.  Then Jesus touched him.  He knew the love and comfort of the touch of Jesus.

If John was this overwhelmed by the sight of Jesus real nature, how will it be for those who do not know Jesus and have failed to give Him honor?

Then Jesus said, “Do not be afraid”.  He had said these words many times before.  Now John was hearing the comfort of a familiar voice.  When fear fills our hearts, Jesus lays His hand on us and says, “Do not be afraid”.  It was His right hand.  That was a symbol of strength and power, with the touch of love.  It’s like being held and resting in the arms of your Father.

Now Jesus tells John plainly who He is.  While Jesus walked on earth, He did not use these titles for Himself.  These were titles that the Jews reserved for God the Father.  Now Jesus takes these titles for Himself.  Just like the Father, He is alpha and omega. There is no time with Him.  Everything is present.  He is self‑existing, uncaused.  He is life itself.  He is the Living One; we are the dying ones.  His essential nature is life.  He possesses life.

He has the power over the power of death.  He has power over the place of death.  Jews said that Hades was the place where souls of the unrighteous went after death.  The righteous went to Abraham’s bosom.  Wearing large keys was a mark of status and authority.  It could mean, people enter death through many different doors.  Jesus has a key for all of them.

The self‑existing Christ emptied Himself and gave His life to God in death to receive it back from the Father.  He entrusted Himself to His Father.  Now all power has been given to Him in heaven and earth and in life and in death and in Hades.  Jesus can go anywhere and do anything.

Rev 1:19‑20  John is commanded to write.  The things John writes are not intended to be pictures on a wall, but pictures in our minds and hearts.  They were never intended to be drawn or put on a chart.  The Greeks and our western mind would try to paint them.  The Jew was more concerned that the visible symbol might suggest a distortion of truth.  Jews would not draw pictures for fear that they may become an idol.  John is not giving us a chronological outline, but some things will be revealed now and some later.

The word mystery means that only the initiate will understand what is said.  The outsider cannot understand.  You need to be a Christian to understand the Bible.  If you are not a Christian you are trying to read someone else’s mail.

Our words are symbols.  We think we understand English, but we do not know what ‘my shout’ means or footpath, stuffed (broken), singlet, jumper, dummy (pacifier), spanner, dustie, rubbish, rat bag, chooks.

The 7 stars and lamp stands were not common symbols that all his readers would understand so John gave his readers the meaning.  The stars represent power and responsibility.  They are lights only in darkness.  Does this mean the pastor/leader can only shine in the darkness?  Do our lights quit showing when we come together and Christ walks among us?  Let your light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father.  Churches become unseen when the real Light is present.  Christ is seen in a loving church.  The church is the light bearer.  The churches are important to Jesus.  Before all the vision of battles, seals, trumpets, and the wrath of God, we are given a picture that Jesus cares for us.  When the problems come, remember Jesus cares.

Jesus is alive.  He is moving among His churches throughout the world.  Each church has available the power of His right hand to give light in the darkness where each is placed.

I’m so glad that when I am occasionally overwhelmed with the majesty of His presence or just everyday circumstances, the touch and voice of Jesus are there.  We belong to Him and He cares for us.

If we really see Jesus, like John saw Him in 1:17 we will fall at His feet and worship.

Let’s open our spiritual eyes and see the world full of God’s glory.

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