Revelation – Seeing Jesus – 2

Revelation 1:9-20

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. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 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.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 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. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 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.

17 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, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 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.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

What do you think the perfect life is? What would it be for you? (Most people would say no hardship or having everything you want) The perfect life is a life that follows Jesus. How that is played out is often in complete contradiction to the ways of the world and the American Dream. And that thought has crept into the church. The best life is the one that follows Jesus. But look what Jesus himself says about following Him:

Luke 9:23 – If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Following Jesus involves suffering and obedience. (9-11)

The apostle John, who is suffering, is writing to specific churches, who are suffering. Why is John suffering? He did nothing wrong. He is suffering simply for following Jesus. He is in his nineties and he is exiled on an island for criminals. John MacArthur tells us,

“According to the Roman historian Tacitus, exile to such islands was a common form of punishment in the first century. At about the same time that John was banished to Patmos, Emperor Domitian exiled his own niece, Flavia Domitilla, to another island. Unlike Flavia Domatilla, whose banishment was politically motivated, John was probably sent to Patmos as a criminal (as a Christian, he was a member of an illegal religious sect). If so, the conditions under which he lived would have been harsh. Exhausting labor under the watchful eye (and ready whip) of a Roman overseer, insufficient food and clothing, and having to sleep on the bare ground would have taken their toll on a ninety-year-old man. It was on the bleak, barren island, under those brutal conditions, that John received the most extensive revelation of the future ever given.”[1]

John is saying he is a brother and partner in tribulation. He has joined them and is with them amidst their hardship. And they can all make their way through it because Jesus is with them.

Your best life is not now. (9)

I love this about Revelation. It shows me the future. It shows me the destruction of everything that has destroyed me so many times. The destruction of worldly, enticing, sinful culture…the destruction of Satan…the destruction of sin…and ultimately the destruction of death. Right now, we dwell amidst all of these things. Destruction surrounds us. If you think you are living your best life now, you are in for a rude awakening. Hardship awaits you, followed by more hardship. But Revelation shows me that no matter what I face now, God is making all things new.

Here is something else incredible to think about. I want you to dwell on the best things you have experienced in life. The best things you have experienced. The most beautiful things you have seen. The most pleasing aromas you have smelled. The most delicious of foods. The most exhilarating of stories you have watched or read. Amidst all of those incredible goods, your best life is not now. What awaits in heaven makes all of those things look dull and boring.

There is so much hope in Revelation, because though we suffer now, it won’t last forever, and all the good we have now, we have even better waiting for us in our future, purchased and prepared by Jesus himself (John 14:3).  

The risen Christ calls his church to obedience. (11)

Do you do what you are told? Is it easy or hard for you to do what you are told when your parent or some authority tells you to do something? We like to do what we want. Nobody desires obedience to another. (My little girl thinks it’s the end of the world when we tell her to walk up the stairs and she wants one of us to carry her. What would take her 10 seconds ends up taking 5 minutes of crying and barely crawling.)

John is told to write down exactly what he sees, and what does he do? Exactly as he’s told. He’s already in the situation he is in because he has done exactly what he was told, taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. This very letter is intended for churches in Asia. All the suffering he has experienced through being the last living apostle has come from each apostles’ obedience in doing what Jesus told them as well. Jesus’ own brother, James, was stoned to death. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul had his head cut off. And here John is, the disciple whom Jesus loved, the one who reclined at the last supper, leaning on Jesus, the one who saw him transfigured, the only one of the disciples who was at the foot of the cross, the one who took care of Jesus’ mother Mary…here he is in his old age after living a life of obedience to Jesus, still walking in obedience. Here he is, after all these years, 60 years after hearing the voice of Jesus, hearing from the mouth of Jesus again, a resurrected and fully glorified Jesus…and you better believe he is doing whatever he is told, without question. He sees the worth of Jesus. And when you do, you are willing to follow wherever he leads.

Seven lampstands (12, 20) = seven churches

Hear the words of one commentator regarding how we should understand this imagery in relation to the Old Testament:

“In order to understand this passage, it is important to understand the Old Testament background. Most of the references to lampstands in the Old Testament are references to the lampstand in the tabernacle or the ten lampstands that Solomon prepared for the temple. But the most important background for what John relates here about Jesus in the midst of the seven lampstands is what Zechariah saw as stated in Zechariah 4:1-14…The lampstand Zechariah saw points to the successful rebuilding of the temple and the renewal of God’s presence among his people…This scenario now finds its fulfillment in what John sees in Revelation. The Lor is not building a temple in which he will dwell but a church (cf. Matt 16:18)! The church is not a building but believers who are “living stones” (cf. 1 Peter 2:5). Zechariah’s lampstand, which symbolized the presence of God in the temple, is fulfilled by the seen lampstands of Revelation, which symbolizes God’s presence in the seven churches to whom John writes (1:20; 2:5).”[2]

Here’s something I want you to see about all of this. It is where Jesus is standing. He is standing amidst the lampstands (13). You know what this means? You are not alone. You have all the saints who have walked before you in suffering and obedience, your fellow brothers and sisters in the faith like John, and you have Jesus. Right here among us. With us in the fight. You are not alone. Even John, locked away on an island. Jesus is among his churches.

Seeing Jesus as he truly is produces awe and wonder. (12-16)

Warren Wiersbe says, “There is a dangerous absence of awe and worship in our assemblies today. We are boasting about standing on our own feet, instead of breaking and falling at His feet.”[3] We could greatly use a fresh sense of awe when it comes to Jesus. Let’s try to make sense of some of what John is seeing about Jesus in these passages. Remember, much of Revelation is symbolic, which means it also has intended meaning.

His attire (13) = Heavenly Priest – see Daniel 10:5[4]– What he is wearing is similar to what a priest would wear. A priest is someone who would facilitate the forgiveness of sins with sacrifices. Jesus is our high priest who sacrificed himself for us once for all.

Son of Man (13) = Messiah – see Daniel 7:13-14[5]

13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Hairs (14) = Ancient of Days – see Daniel 7:9[6]

“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.”

Eyes (14) = All-Seeing Judgment

“When John describes Jesus as one whose ‘eyes were like a flame of fire,’ he is declaring the reality that nothing escapes the all-searching, pure gaze of Jesus.”[7]

Remember, “Revelation” is an unveiling or uncovering. Sometimes it’s good when things are revealed, like when we truly see Jesus for all that He is in all of His splendor, or that moment when a husband first sees his wife as she’s walking down the isle. Other times revealing is painful and scary. We hide things for a reason…because we don’t want them to be revealed.

Here are three things to know about the all-searching gaze of Jesus.[8]

            1) No sin we commit will escape his notice.

            2) He will see every faithful thing his people do.

            3) He will note every injustice done to his people by their enemies.

Feet (15) = Purity – see Daniel 10:6

“His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.”

His feet are bronze, refined in fire. When refining would take place with metals, you would put the metal in a hot fire and it would burn away all the impurities. The picture John sees of Jesus is one of absolute purity. He is the perfect one. There is no blemish in him. What an incredible vision this would be to behold. What would your response be to seeing Jesus this way?

Beholding Jesus’ power overwhelms and encourages. (17-20)

“As we see in verses 17-20, this appearance of the risen Christ, in blazing splendor like the sun shining in full strength, produced in John a sensory overload that left him “as though dead” (17). The incomparable glory of the risen Christ motivates John’s audience to heed what John has been commissioned to write. The matchless splendor of Heaven’s King attracts the attention and compels the obedience of the churches John addresses. The risen Christ in glory summons forth obedience from his churches.”[9]

John was literally overwhelmed when he saw Jesus in all his glory. He dropped down as if dead. But Jesus said the most wonderful words: “Fear not.” We can fear not because He is alive and He holds the keys to all of time and death itself.

I love what Danny Akin says in relation to Jesus’s response to John here:

“Do not fear time. He is the First and the Last.

Do not fear life. It is He who is alive forevermore.

Do not fear dying. He holds the keys to the grave and death.”[10]

I want to conclude with these words from James Hamilton in his commentary on Revelation:

“The most significant feature of this passage is the overwhelming glory of Jesus. The grabbing description of the sovereign Lord Christ, the King Messiah, assures John’s audience, which includes us, that Jesus is to be worshiped and obeyed because of his surpassing worth and power. His authority is such, as the one who holds the keys of death and Hades, that he controls the earthly and the eternal destiny of every man, woman, and child. Your response to Jesus as he is revealed in this passage determines whether you will rule with him or will be slain by the sword that comes from his mouth. He is risen. He is indestructible. He is unconquerable. He is Lord.”[11]

Have you made him your Lord?

[1] MacArthur John, Revelation 1-11, vol. 32, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999), 41.

[2] James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 45-6.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007), 1039.

[4]  Hamilton, Revelation, 47.

[5]  Hamilton, Revelation, 46.

[6]  Hamilton, Revelation, 48.

[7] Hamilton, Revelation, 49.

[8] Hamilton, Revelation, 49.

[9] Hamilton, Revelation, 50.

[10] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 27.

[11] Hamilton, Revelation, 52.


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