Revelation #4 Rev 1:9-20 (MSG) End Times Revelation of Jesus
John makes it clear to us that he has received a message that he is to give to 7 churches. These are real places in his day, they are not epochs of time, he is relating Jesus' message to these congregations. It is John’s instruction that this message be read in all 7 congregations. Then we get a vivid picture of Jesus full of symbols that reveal who He is. It is in this picture that John introduces his key concepts that will be developed through the rest of the Revelation
Rev 1:9-11 (MSG)
9 I, John, with you all the way in the trial and the Kingdom and the passion of patience in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of God's Word, the witness of Jesus. 10 It was Sunday and I was in the Spirit, praying. I heard a loud voice behind me, trumpet-clear and piercing: 11 "Write what you see into a book. Send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea."
We do not know exactly which John is writing. The Scholars tell us that there are a couple of choices and of course, they have arguments to support their conclusions. For our purpose, we are going to go with John the Apostle.
John writes that he’s in the same boat as those he is writing and if there is good news in everyone being in the same boat it's Jesus being in the boat with us.
In the gospel, according to Mark, there is a story of Jesus and His disciples in a boat. Jesus is asleep in the stern, the back of the boat. A huge storm kicks into high gear and even the fishermen in the group think they are going to capsize and drown. Things look bad, life-threatening bad. In a panic, the disciples wake Jesus with “Don’t you care we’re going to drown?” Jesus wakes up and tells the wind and waves to calm down, and instantly everything is fine. You can take this away from this event, no matter how bad things are, if Jesus is in the boat with you, you have nothing to worry about. You’re oppressed, persecuted, disenfranchised, and suffering, if you are with Jesus, even though they kill you, everything is going to be alright.
John tells his readers that he just like them is in the midst of suffering. To find yourself in the midst of suffering should never surprise the Christ follower. Jesus is the martyr witness. It is through suffering that victory is won. Jesus' path took Him from suffering to sovereignty (Eller, p 53). Acts 14:22 (MSG) "Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times." This is a theme continually within the book. Things are grim, apparent failure, destruction, and devastation, but then suddenly the tables are turned, the last become first, and the apparent defeated become the victors. Tribulation becomes triumph.
The triumph comes with the Kingdom. The Kingdom comes with the Second Coming. This is when the wrongs are righted. This is when God redeems all the things we have entrusted to Him. This is when the immeasurable more than we could ask or imagine becomes a reality (Ephesians 3:20). This is when we see the truth that our troubles were light and momentary in comparison with what God prepared for His children (2 Corinthians 4:17). The Kingdom is the winner's circle.
The blood washed need “passionate patience” to endure the hardship while they wait for the glory (Eller, p.53). You’ve been on that car ride and the kids start asking “Are we there yet?” When we are told Jesus is coming soon, it’s a call to patient endurance. “Since the present is a time of tribulation and the Kingdom is the time of blessedness, the believer must, during this interim period, exercise that kind of patient active endurance which was exemplified by Jesus” (Mounce, p. 75). Jesus is our living model. He demonstrated how to patiently endure. “They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right” (1 Peter 2:23 (MSG).
John receives Jesus’ revelation while on the Island of Patmos. Why he was there is not known other than because of the Word of God and the witness of Jesus. Speculation has him as a political prisoner guilty of sedition for preaching Jesus as King. Possibly the ruling authorities hoped that removing one of the ring leaders of this Christian cult thing would slow down the spread of it. If this is correct John is in the midst of his own troubles when he receives this vision of encouragement. It happens on a Sunday, the day that becomes the traditional day of worship for Christians, the first day of the week. The Jewish Sabbath was celebrated on Saturday sun down Friday to sun down Saturday. Christian corporate worship is traditionally on Sunday. John writes that he was in the Spirit praying on Sunday the Lord’s Day, the day of His resurrection. John reports that he was in the Spirit indicating he had entered an altered state of consciousness. The Apostle Paul described his experience as being caught up in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2). Thus the message comes in the form of a vision. [Bible Trivia, Both the prophet Isaiah and Ezekiel started their ministries because of a vision.] A vision is like a vivid dream but you’re awake when it happens.
From behind a voice, loud, impossible to miss, trumpet clear. Trumpets are used in the Revelation to announce that something decisive is about to happen. Once again the experts debate, but we can assume this is the voice of Jesus. He tells John to write to 7 congregations. These are actual Christ followers who live in the cities that are addressed. Even though this is a heavenly vision, there is an earthly message being delivered.
Revelation 1:12-16 (MSG)
12 I turned and saw the voice. I saw a gold menorah with seven branches, 13 And in the center, the Son of Man, in a robe and gold breastplate, 14 hair a blizzard of white, Eyes pouring fire-blaze, 15 both feet furnace-fired bronze, His voice a cataract, 16 right hand holding the Seven Stars, His mouth a sharp-biting sword, his face [shinning like the] sun.
Let’s decipher the symbols.
The gold menorah with seven branches. You may have seen a menorah during Hanukkah, during the time we Christians celebrate Christmas. Most likely the menorah you saw held 9 candles. During the time of temple worship, there 7 branches to which the candles were inserted (Exodus 25:31-37). The seven candles represent the major feast days of the Jews; Passover, The Feast of Unleavened Bread, of First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles. The menorah symbolizes universal enlightenment. There are seven menorahs, one for each of the seven congregations that are being written to. This tells us that the mission of any congregation is to bring enlightenment to the places they are located. Congregations are to be an influence for the Kingdom, their menorahs burning brightly. Jesus is amid such congregations.
It is Jesus who is the son of man. Jesus is standing in the center of the lampstands, which means the son of man is the medium of universal enlightenment. In the writings of the Old Testament prophets the son of man is a symbol of God’s chosen one, God’s Messiah, the Christ savior. Jesus himself referred to himself as the son of man. In doing so He declared two important truths. The first is that He is fully human “experiencing the same joys, pains, and struggles as other people” (ChatGPT Sep 23, 2023). The second is identification with the fulfillment of the prophecy that He is divine authority, the Messiah of God.
The robe is a symbol of the priesthood, and the golden breastplate is a sign of royalty. Together they reveal that Jesus is pure, righteous, and the King. Having a blizzard of white hair identifies Jesus as the Ancient of Days, the possessor of infinite wisdom. The color white stands for purity, righteousness, and holiness. Eyes blazing symbolize that Jesus sees through all pretenses and concealments, revealing the truth of all things, He knows the motives of the mind, and He knows the intentions of the heart. With truth comes judgment, judgment is what fire is all about, when there is fire there is judgment, and we should also note that fire refines and purifies. Refining and purifying are part of judgment. To have bronze feet refined in the fire is a sign of strength, durability, and stability. The one with feet of bronze endures. A voice like a cataract, is like the overwhelming sound of Niagara Falls, that drowns every other sound out, a voice of majesty and power that cannot be ignored. In His right hand seven stars, in His strong right hand, is imagery from the Old Testament which communicates God’s care and protection. The stars symbolize the prevailing spirit of these 7 churches that are being written to. It’s a picture of Jesus sustaining ministry to these congregations. From His mouth comes a sword that harkens back to Isaiah 49:2 where it belongs to God’s suffering servant and is used to discriminate between truth and lies.
This describes who Jesus is. Sometimes our mental image of Jesus is misleading. That picture needs to be spot on. You need to know that you have bent the knee to a person of majesty and power, worthy of your commitment, trustworthy to lead you into victory after victory. Toss out lowly Jesus meek and mild. Toss out the suffering servant. Those are pictures of Jesus the One who was, but John sees this image of Jesus the One who is. Jesus the One who is, is awesome, his presence overwhelming, his presence is commanding, and his visage proclaims danger, not to be trifled with. John sees Jesus and this is what happens:
I saw this and fainted dead at his feet.
Talk about taking your breath away! John collapses to the floor and passes out. Some translators suggest that John falls dead at the feet of Jesus. Exodus 33:20 reads “no one can see me and live.” If John is John the Apostle, he is referred to as the disciple that Jesus loved, of all the disciples John had the heart to pick up on what Jesus was all about. This suggests a close friendship. But so indescribably glorious is risen Christ, that John falls at his feet unconscious.
Now let’s see what Jesus does.
His right hand pulled me upright, his voice reassured me:
"Don't fear: I am First, I am Last, 18 I'm Alive. I died, but I came to life, and my life is now forever. See these keys in my hand? They open and lock Death's doors, they open and lock Hell's gates.
Here Jesus lifts John from the ground and speaks directly to him. Don’t fear. How we need to hear this from the lips of Jesus. Don’t fear. Fear not. These words take away our anxiety. Jesus tells John of his eternal existence, no beginning, no end. Similar language is used to describe God in the Old Testament (Isaiah 44:6, 48:12). Jesus represents second-order life. The first order is what we experience now. Because of sin, there is also first-order death. This is the death of the physical body. The second order life is life after resurrection, as we shall read there is a second order death. Jesus the Living One is the giver of second-order life.
Jesus holds the keys to death and hell. Hell is not the best translation for it leads us to think of our folk images of devils, demons with pitchforks, torturing the souls of the damned. These are images from the Inferno, written by Dante in 1320. They stuck with us. The Greek word is Hades, which means the place of the dead. We may explore this further later on, but for now, what we learn from this image is that even though death and hell are still around, Jesus is Lord even of them. The victory over death and hell has already been won. It was won on Golgotha’s hill and validated with an empty tomb.
We will pick up next time at verse 19 and move on into chapter 2 so I encourage you to read on ahead. And again if you have questions you would like me to attempt to answer, ask away and I’ll do my best to give you an answer.
Here’s what you can take away from this teaching.
The Revelation is a message to real churches full of real people who were alive when John wrote. This is one of our interpretation tools. What is written must make sense to them before we can discern meaning for us.
You can be assured if Jesus is the boat, everything will work out. Suffering and death will lead to glory and life everlasting. Be patient, stay at your post, do the work you’ve been called to do, keep on keeping on, and don’t recant your faith.
There is this incredible almost beyond description of who the glorified Jesus is. Let this description help you realize just to whom you have bent your knee. He is unstoppable.
Lastly, take this with you, and put it into practice right now: Do not be afraid.