__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1


See: John’s Vision of the Risen Jesus; Jesus and the 7 churches of Revelation, part one © 2012, Chris MacKinnon

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) Scriptures marked as CEV are taken from the Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society. Used by permission. Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked as NKJV are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations noted NLT are from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations noted Phillips are from The New Testament in Modern English, copyright © 1958, 1959, 1960 J.B. Phillips and 1947, 1952, 1955, 1957 The Macmillian Company, New York. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Italics in Scripture quotations reflect the author’s added emphasis.


C O N T E N T S

1.

John, Patmos, and Seven Churches

2.

The Writer of the Letters

The Exalted Jesus

4 14 19

3.

Our High Priest

20

4.

He is Divine

24

5.

His Business is Urgent

28

6.

Our Glorious Judge

31

7.

His Word is Pre-eminent

35

8.

The Source of Authority

39

9.

Our Conqueror

43

10.

Our Heavenly Light

47

The Victorious Jesus

52

11.

The First and the Last

54

12.

The Living One

58

13.

The Holder of the Keys

63

14.

Conclusion

67

Notes


O N E

John, Patmos, and Seven Churches

At the end of the New Testament, we have an amazing gift from the Apostle John. This is John the brother of James, who used to be a fisherman. He walked with Jesus as one of the twelve disciples. He was given access to special miracles and teachings as a member of Jesus’ inner circle of three (Peter, James and John). The youngest of Jesus’ the Twelve, he lived to be around 100 years old, and was the only one to escape death by martyrdom. As an eyewitness to the life of Jesus, he wrote a Gospel record for us. A shepherd for the church, he also wrote three letters to be shared among those he called his “beloved.” And before the end of his life John wrote one more letter, a volume of incredible value. At the time of his vision John was on a small island in the Aegean Sea, between the modern nations of Greece and Turkey.

4


S E E

5

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffer-ing and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (1:9)

Patmos is only thirteen square miles (or thirty-four square kilometers) in total size. 1 Its history goes back thousands of years and it changed political hands throughout the centuries. In the second century B.C., it was taken over by Rome and used as a place of exile for those who caused political or other strife within the Empire. John was exiled for preaching Jesus in Ephesus. He was captured and sent to Rome for trial. When he was sentenced to death he was thrown into a vat of boiling oil but it did not harm him. So he was sent to Patmos by the emperor Domitian. Sometime later he was released by the new emperor, who determined that John had already carried out his sentence in oil, though he had survived. 2 While the audience for the letter has been every believer throughout Church history since its writing, it was especially written to seven churches in what is now the nation of Turkey. What comes to mind your when you think about the seven churches of Revelation?


6

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

When we start talking about “The Seven Churches of Revelation,” we have a tendency to jump straight to chapter two. Chapters two and three are messages that Jesus commanded John to write to these churches. Each message is personal, revealing an element of Christ’s character, addressing the current state of each church, giving clear direction and action to take, and the gift of a promise from Jesus to reward “him who overcomes.” Before Jesus speaks His very direct, very personal message to each church, there is an entire chapter that we must be careful not to overlook. In chapter one we find the setting of the stage for the words that Jesus will share with His churches. This is Jesus’ appearance to John, who sees the Lord for the first time in His glorified, exalted state. As Jesus showed Himself in this vivid vision to John, He allowed John to see more than just Himself. Immediate attention is made to seven lampstands, showing that they have a vital role in what is about to happen for John. These lamps are the seven churches.

Why these Churches? After the Gospels and Acts, the New Testament is a collection of letters. These letters were written to churches throughout the Roman Empire, including this little slice of Asia. The church at Colosse (or Colossae), to which the book of Colossians was written, was just next door to the church of Laodicea, only six miles away. Several churches were spread throughout the province of Galatia, not too far a


S E E

7

distance to the east of these seven churches. During his journeys, Paul established and visited church gatherings in many other cities in Asia Minor. So the natural question is, Why these churches? What makes these seven groupings of believers so special? Why would Jesus speak only to them in such a personal, powerful way? Why do you think Jesus chose to speak only to these churches?

We have a clue to the answer in chapter one. There we see that Jesus commanded John to address the entirety of the Book of Revelation to these churches. I, John, your brother and companion in the suffer-ing and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.� (1:9-11)


8

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

From the first words that John heard from Jesus he knew that all of Revelation was intended for these churches, not just their individual messages from Him. Because of this we have to look at these seven churches and their roles in this letter from a very specific viewpoint. Some believe that the churches represent seven time periods in Church history, beginning in the time of the Apostles and ending with the end-times church. Some have even gone so far as to label and date these time periods. To say that each message is only for a specific period of history opens us up to dangerous territory. If a person believes himself to be in one age of the Church, he might ignore the warnings and call to action appointed to the believers from a different age. He might consider himself safe from those issues and troubles because the Church at large has passed through that stage already. Imagine telling a Christian in a country that is Muslim or atheistic that he does not have to fear persecution anymore because the time of the Roman persecution is long gone. What will he say to you? Will he believe he is free from persecution, or that he does not need to stand firm for Christ even if it means suffering or death? Read Revelation (22:18-19). If we frame the messages of the churches within specific periods of time, are we in danger of taking away from this prophecy? If so, what does John say will happen to us?


S E E

9

As we go through Christ’s messages to the churches, we will see that the shortcomings and troubles of the various churches are not time-sensitive. They never go away. They can be found in every time period of Church history in some part of the world, and maybe even within the same local church. This agrees with Jesus’ command that the whole letter be sent to all seven churches, not just each little message to its corresponding church. A better viewpoint is to see that these seven churches are a spiritual representation of the Church, from Christ’s ascension until His return. It is not so much the individual issue of each church that makes it special, but that in collecting these issues Christ can address almost any church, any believer, at any time in history. The number seven also represents completeness. Remember that all of Creation was made in seven days. When Jesus said that we must forgive, He said not to do it just seven times, but seventy times seven. Seven is used throughout the Book of Revelation with this imagery in mind, and it is only natural that it would also signify the completeness of Jesus’ message to His Church. Finally, there is a practical reason for choosing these churches. They were situated on a Roman road that ran up and around the western side of Asia Minor. You could leave Ephesus and arrive at each city in the order that Jesus addressed them. In this way Jesus could speak directly to each church, sharing not just a personal message but the whole of Revelation, sending it naturally down the road of delivery to the whole Church. Like the other letters of the New Testament, it would be copied and sent along so that other


10

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

churches could hear it as well. These seven churches were just the beginning of the book’s journey.

The Angels of the Churches There is one more detail we should take note of about the churches before going further. The letters are not written to the church as a local body of believers, but to the “angel” of the church. “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write…” (2:1). Who do you think these “angels” are?

In Revelation 1, John took his first glimpse upon the glorified Jesus. Within that description he spoke of Jesus standing by seven golden lampstands (or “candlesticks”, KJV), and holding seven stars in His right hand. Jesus later explained what John was seeing. “The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lamp-stands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (1:20)

Most agree that the angels are not spirits from God, what we typically refer to as heavenly angels. If Jesus


S E E

11

needed to speak to heavenly beings He would not have sent a physical letter to a physical location. He would have summoned them to the Throne or sent another angelic messenger. The angels of the churches are the pastors or elders, the earthly leaders of the churches. Why do you think Jesus spoke to the leaders of the churches instead of the congregation as a whole?

The word “angel” typically means “messenger.” In Scripture it refers to messengers sent by God, by Satan, and even by men. It is, “anyone who is a messenger . . . anyone who is employed to communicate the will of another; to transact his business, or . . . to act in his place–to be a representative.” 3 Paul regularly appointed leaders over churches. He sent Timothy to one group in Ephesus to correct false teaching and model Christian living. A pastor or elder serving in such a capacity is clearly a messenger of Christ, representing Him and delivering His word to the church, just as much as a pastor in modern times. As He spoke to the churches, there were some cases where Jesus made a general call to action. There were also times when the road ahead was going to be difficult and unpopular. Ultimately it was, and is, church leadership that


12

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

that hold the responsibility of encouraging the church to move in the right direction. If the action required is to repent and remove those with unholy influence, as was needed at Pergamum and Thyatira, it is the leadership who must take that action. If the course required involved holding true to the name of Christ in the face of persecution and martyrdom, as Jesus told the church of Smyrna, it is the leadership that will have to lead the way. Smyrna is an example where our Lord’s message may have been directly for the pastor of the church who gave his life for the name of Jesus. Serving as the messenger, the stand-in for Jesus in the midst of His people, the pastor was given the message for the whole church. They were placed in his care. It was his responsibility to take it to heart and see it through. And so Christ commanded John to write down the Revelation, what he saw of “what is now and what will take place later” (1:19), and address the book as a whole to these seven churches. They were chosen as representatives of the whole Church of Christ, facing issues that would be at work until Jesus’ return. In them we see the Church’s past, present and future. In them we can find ourselves and learn Christ’s personal, powerful word to us. Leaders must take the word to heart and see it through, but every Christian can see the truth of what is said and apply it to his individual life. Before we look at the letters to these churches, there is more to see and understand. So this study of the seven churches is broken into two parts.


S E E

13

The first of these parts is in your hands. John wrote down a description of the Jesus that he saw on the island of Patmos. In this part we will See Jesus as He revealed Himself to John. The second part is a separate volume. While it remains a portion of the study of Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation, it is a call to Hear the message that Jesus delivers to saints throughout the ages. You are invited to take a journey that reveals Jesus as you may not know Him. Though you are familiar with the Baby lying in a manger in Bethlehem, you have heard about the Teacher and the Miracle-Worker, and you believe and trust in the Savior Who died and rose again, you probably do not know this Jesus. He is Jesus as He was before coming to Earth, and Jesus as He will forever will be. Come and see the Jesus that writes to the seven churches. He is the Jesus you will see in Heaven. He is the One who desires and is able to work in your life today.


T W O

The Writer of the Letters

The Apostle John was ministering in Ephesus when he was arrested and convicted for preaching Jesus. His sentence to be boiled in oil was carried out though he came out of it unscathed. Not knowing what to do with him, the Romans exiled John to a small island in the Aegean Sea, Patmos. While there John had a vision and was told to write down what he had seen, both “what is now and what will take place later” (1:19). All that he saw and wrote was to be sent to seven churches in today’s nation of Turkey: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The whole of the vision, as well as the little messages at its beginning, was supposed to travel to each of these cities that sat on the same Roman road and then they would spread it to other churches throughout the known world. The meaning and significance of a message is not always contained in the text of the message itself. To truly under14


S E E

15

stand the message, we must know something about the person who received the message and the person who wrote the message. If you were to find a small note card in your Bible that simply said, “I love you,” what significance would it have? You might quickly assume it is from your spouse or someone else you care about and think nothing of it except that it was nice of them to do it. But what if you are not married? Or what if it came from some other person? If a husband were to leave an “I love you” note in any person’s Bible other than his wife’s it would have a completely different meaning. When we look at the seven churches of Revelation and their messages we tend to spend a lot of time looking at the receiving end of the message. What were these cities and churches like when the message was written? What does the message mean to them? What might it mean to us? All too often we fail to stop and look at Who sent the messages. Why do you think we usually focus on the recipients of the messages (the seven churches) and skip over the Sender of the message (Jesus)?

The message of Revelation did not originate with John, though John was no stranger to writing about Jesus or


16

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

sending instruction and oversight to churches. But this book is different. It was not inspired by a prompting to share the Gospel or to serve as an Apostle to these churches. It is not a letter from John; it is a letter from Jesus. We have to take the time to understand the true Author of these messages.

Our Image of Jesus Of course, we do not really skip over Jesus when we talk about these messages. At the beginning of each message Jesus introduces Himself to the church He is speaking to. He addresses Himself differently to each church, which has meaning in itself. We also know that the messages come from Jesus. If they came from anyone else they would not have the same meaning. For example, if the messages were from the Apostle John who wrote them down, the messages would have lesser impact and may not be as accepted by the churches. To know they are from Jesus raises them to the highest level and the people in the churches would be more likely to take them to heart. Still, we have to wonder if we are describing these messages as coming from the right Jesus. Would it be the picture of Himself that Jesus wants us to understand these messages from? Chapter 1 of Revelation gives us a startling picture of Jesus. This is what He wanted the hearers of the letters to have in mind when they thought of Him.


S E E

17

Describe Jesus.

Usually when we describe Jesus, we talk about His love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, sacrifice, that He is the Son of God, risen from the dead and alive, sitting at the Father’s right hand. Often the pictures that we have seen of Jesus will come to mind; gentle, kind, caring. This is not the picture that Jesus wants the churches to have in mind when they hear His word to them. The Jesus that John saw and described for us is not the living, miracle-working, dying on the cross or resurrected Jesus. John saw the exalted and victorious Jesus. Even John’s reaction to seeing Jesus was not what you might expect. Remember, this is the John who was a member of Jesus’ inner circle, the one who laid his head on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper. He was the one hand-picked by Jesus to care for His mother, Mary, following His death. John knew Jesus, the same Jesus we would quickly describe. But he was completely unprepared for the Man that appeared to him. Notice that John did not run to Jesus, give Him a hug or a high-five, or offer Him a cup of coffee. John may have been the last person alive at the time who had known Jesus


18

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

in the context of a personal relationship, yet even he fell to the ground when he came to face-to-face with this Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like trumpet . . . I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double- edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (1:10, 12-18)

This is the writer of the messages to the churches. The commands in these letters are not just from the Teacher who sat on the mountainside and shared the Beatitudes. They did not only come from the humble servant Jesus, the suffering Messiah who laid His life down quietly as a sacrifice for sin according to the will of the Father. This was the risen, exalted, victorious Jesus. He saw and knew all that was going on in the churches, and He had a personal, powerful word to speak to them.


The Exalted Jesus

In verses 13 through 16 of Revelation 1, Jesus showed Himself to be more than the teaching, loving, miracleworking, forgiving Jesus that we know from the Gospels. Here we see eight phrases that physically describe Jesus in John’s vision, but also portray His character and working as the exalted Son of God. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

He is our High Priest He is Divine His Business is Urgent He is our Glorious Judge His Word is Pre-eminent He is the Source of Authority He is our Conqueror He is our Heavenly Light

19


T H R E E

Our High Priest

[He was] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.

John saw a man like the Son of Man, and the first thing he noticed was that the Man was dressed in a robe tied with a golden sash. This is not a bathrobe, or even what you might consider to be the typical dress of someone in the Roman Empire during the first century (like a toga). When John spoke of a robe, he used a Greek word that was used in translating a very specific robe in the Old Testament. God spoke and gave specific directions to Moses in the book of Exodus regarding a robe.

20


S E E

21

“Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor. . . . These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash.� (Exodus 28:1-3, 4)

The robe and sash that John saw Jesus dressed in signified the Savior’s role as our High Priest before the throne of God the Father. We see this in the book of Hebrews as well. During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:7-10) As New Testament believers we have a different view of the priesthood and sacrifices than the people of Israel. What might it mean to have Jesus as our High Priest?


22

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

One way that Jesus serves as our High Priest is in the work of His death. Fulfilling the requirement of God’s wrath to remove our sins, Jesus died as the perfect sacrifice. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him . . . Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Hebrews 7:25-27)

But Jesus’ role as High Priest continues beyond the sacrifice He offered for our sins. Even in the Old Testament the High Priest’s work was done in the presence of God. We know that Jesus ascended to Heaven and sits beside the throne of God. He is there working on our behalf. For forty days following His resurrection, Jesus walked and talked with the Disciples and other followers. On that final day He led them out of the city and was taken into Heaven before their eyes (Luke 24:50-51). Ascended into Heaven, Jesus is able to serve before the Throne of God in another Tabernacle (Hebrews 8:1-2). Though the priests served in the Tabernacle of Moses and the two Temples (one built by Solomon and the second after the exiles returned from Babylon), those were copies of a Tabernacle in Heaven, “the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” Earlier in Hebrews the writer gives us a description of Jesus’ service there.


S E E

23

Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them. (Hebrews 7:25 AMP)

We also have confidence in the fact that Jesus is our permanent High Priest. The earthly priests of the Old Testament system died and passed the office on to their sons. The priesthood of Jesus is different because it will not be passed to another, for Jesus will live forever. Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priest-hood. (Hebrews 7:23-24)

When John saw Jesus dressed in a robe with a golden sash, he saw Jesus as our High Priest. It is a reminder to the churches and to us that He is our perfect sacrifice, serving us forever before the Father’s holy throne. His work did not end on the cross, or even in His resurrection. Jesus is not on vacation or sabbatical before He returns at the end of time. He is before the Father, working on our behalf, today.


F O U R

He Is Divine

His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow...

At first glance this verse does not seem to refer to Jesus as being divine, being in nature God. You could look around and see many people with white hair that are not even godly. But this is not the first appearance of this description in Scripture. In Daniel 7, the prophet also saw a vision of the future, and these two visions often help us understand the other. In the middle of his vision, Daniel saw God sitting on His throne in Heaven. “As I looked,

24


S E E

25

“thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.” (Daniel 7:9)

To be gray-haired was a sign of wisdom and commanded respect. God is referred to as the Ancient of Days, and there is none older for He existed before the creation of time in what we call “eternities past.” Jesus spoke of His existence before taking on flesh when He told the Jews, “I tell you the truth . . . before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). The white of His hair also implies purity. We are to be as holy and perfect as God is, and Jesus is the pure and spotless lamb. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” . . . For you know that ... you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:15-16, 18-19) Why do you think it is important to recognize that Jesus is God, not just the Son of God?


26

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

The divinity of Christ is a key doctrine of the faith. If Jesus is not both fully God and fully man, He cannot serve as the bridge between us. The writer of Hebrews shows how Jesus could not be equal with the angels, as some would say. Others believe that Jesus is the Son of God but not God Himself. Still others say that no one would have believed that Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God, and thereby equal with God. Yet they forget that this was the accusation the Jews brought against Him to ensure His conviction and death sentence (Matthew 26:63-66). In the middle second century, Justin Martyr debated with a Jew named Trypho over this issue. Justin asserted that Christ existed as God before He took on flesh, being both divine and human. Trypho thought this was not only “paradoxical, but also foolish.” 4 If we see Jesus only as the Son of God, we run into two problems. First, we forget that He is more than just man, He is God in the flesh. Before taking on human form in Mary’s womb and being born as a man, Jesus existed throughout eternities past with the Father and the Holy Spirit as God. By taking on flesh and being born as Jesus, He is forever the God-man. The second issue is also troubling, because when we make Jesus less than God, we diminish His message because we lessen the messenger. To hear a word from God Himself is considered much more powerful than hearing a word from one of His messengers. Throughout Scripture God used angels, men, and even a donkey to speak His word. But no word from these messages are taken to heart like those spoken directly from God to us.


S E E

27

So Jesus showed Himself to John in a way that would be confirmed and recognized through the vision of Daniel that likely came 650 years before John saw the exalted Jesus. He is God. With that understanding we can properly respond to His words.


F I V E

His Business is Urgent

… and his eyes were like blazing fire.

As we start talking about the blazing eyes of Jesus we quickly look at His omni-science, the attribute of God that says that He knows everything. The eyes of our Lord are aware of all that happens in Heaven and on Earth. This is not much of a stretch as Jesus quickly confirms His knowledge of earthly events, people and situations in each of the seven messages. After introducing Himself in each letter, Jesus uses the phrase “I know” to begin His report on each church. Nothing has occurred in secret. Nothing has escaped His gaze. “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” 5 28


S E E

29

What is your first reaction when you hear that Jesus sees and knows every part of your life?

Yet Jesus’ knowledge of all things does not directly affect the attitude of those listening to His message. We can glean another meaning to this word picture when we look at the only other two occurrences in Scripture of having eyes of fire. One of these is in the book of Daniel, when he encountered an angel from God. The angel was sent on the first day Daniel started seeking God but ran into demonic opposition. Knowing the importance of the message, he pressed on through the encounter, and only after twentyone days and the help of the archangel Michael was he able to reach Daniel (Daniel 10:1-14). It is also used in reference to Jesus near the end of Revelation, at the time when He gathers His armies and descends from Heaven to make war against the beast and the nations of the earth. At that time Jesus defeats the beast, locks Satan in the Abyss for one thousand years, and establishes the Kingdom of God on the Earth (19:11-21). We should not interpret the fiery eyes to be a sign of omniscience, because the angel in Daniel 10 was not Jesus, and therefore not God, and could not know all things.


30

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

Neither would Jesus’ knowledge be a factor when He sets out into battle at the end of the Tribulation. Instead the fiery eyes are an indication of great fervency, earnestness and urgency. It is a sign that the business at hand—whether delivering a message, answering a prayer or meeting the enemy in battle—is of intense urgency and great importance. This same urgency motivated Jesus’ message to His Church, both then and now. If Jesus’ business was urgent at the end of the first century, what does that mean for us today?

If we look upon the exalted Jesus with this in mind, we get a sense of the urgency of the situation that cannot be easily communicated in writing. It also affects Christ’s message to Thyatira where a great enemy was at work, threatening to destroy the faith of many. Jesus’ business was urgent, and not just at the time of delivering these messages. Even in His early days He understood the importance and time for His mission when He operated from the understanding that He was doing His Father’s business (Luke 2:41-51). It should remind us that time is short, and we, too, must be zealous to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”


S I X

Our Glorious Judge

His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace ...

Some look at the brilliance of the glowing bronze and believe this to be a picture of the holiness of God. But bronze is a metal heavily associated with judgment and wrath in Scripture. At the time of the Exodus, God directed Moses to build the Tabernacle modeled after a heavenly Temple (Exodus 25-27). The Tabernacle was a tent and courtyard that could be collapsed and moved. Later Solomon built the permanent Temple of God in Jerusalem, using the same model. In delivering those very specific directions to Moses in building the Tabernacle and all of the instruments and articles to be 31


32

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

used in its making, God was also very specific about what types of metal would be used. Within the Tabernacle/Temple itself, all of the items were made of pure gold. The Ark of the Covenant, the Altar of Incense, the Lampstand, the Table of Showbread, all of these were to be covered in or made out of gold. Outside of the tent of the Tabernacle, in the courtyard, were items and articles made of bronze: the altar of sacrifice and the laver, sometimes translated as the “basin.� Based on its location in the Tabernacle/Temple, which metal better represents the holiness of God: gold or bronze?

Outside of Revelation there are two other uses of this description. One is of the angel in Daniel that we mentioned earlier. His task was also to tell about what was going to come in the future. The second is in the book of Ezekiel. In the opening chapter of Ezekiel, the prophet had a vision of the glorious Throne of God, and also saw four living creatures around the Throne. I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north- an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that


S E E

33

of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. (Ezekiel 1:4-7)

Rather than holiness, this glowing bronze might signify one’s being in the glorious presence of God. Each time that Moses encountered the glory of God, his face became “radiant,” a word that pictures blinding rays of light shooting out from his face (Exodus 34:29-35). When he spoke with God at the burning bush, God directed Moses to remove his shoes for he was standing on holy ground (Exodus 3:5). Putting these two elements together, we can easily suggest that the picture of fiery legs of bronze could be the consequence of longer exposure to the glorious presence of God. The fiery bronze may also be a sign that what was about to come involved God’s judgment. In the case of Ezekiel, the task he received from God was clearly one of delivering God’s judgment upon the chosen people of Israel, but also upon many nations. When the description appears later in the book of Revelation, it is in reference to an angel that appears in the space between the sixth and seventh trumpets of God’s wrath (Revelation 10). The seventh trumpet is the deliverance of the greatest plagues and woes on the earth before Christ’s return. As we examine the messages from Christ to the churches we will also find God’s judgment. Out of seven churches, four are told to repent, and one is passed the time of repentance. In some cases Jesus declared that His judgment was about to fall on specific people in the


34

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

churches. This is a fulfillment of the role Jesus told us that He was given by the Father. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.� (John 5:24-27 NKJV) What do you feel as you hear that Jesus is our Judge? Does it frighten you? Does it bring your comfort? Why?

We do not have a straight answer about the feet like hot, glowing bronze. It may signify judgment, and it may signify the glory of God. Since we know that Jesus is Himself God, and that He is showing this to His people, we call Him glorious. Yet He is more than just a messenger that has been in the presence of God. He is God, and from the Father He is given the authority and the task to be our glorious Judge.


S E V E N

His Word is Pre-eminent

… and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.

Hearing the voice of the exalted Jesus may have reminded John of the night that Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the soldiers were led by Judas into the Garden where Jesus was praying, He stepped forward and asked who they were looking for. When they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth,” He spoke and said, “I am he.” As He spoke “I am,” John wrote that the soldiers fell to the ground (John 18:1-6). The voice that John heard on Patmos was not the one he heard teach the crowd, offer forgiveness to the adulteress, or that commanded demons. This is the voice that spoke and created the uni35


36

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

verse. It is the voice that David wrote of in Psalm 29. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. . . . The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (Psalm 29:3-5, 7-9)

What does it mean that His Word is pre-eminent? To be “pre-eminent” means to be the first, the greatest, the most excellent, the best or finest. Webster’s Thesaurus says it is “coming before all others in importance” and “highest in rank or authority.” If the voice or Word of Jesus is supposed to be the greatest in our lives, which voices should we ignore?


S E E

37

The New International Version says that Christ’s voice in John’s vision was “like the sound of rushing waters.” Look at it from a few other versions. His voice as the sound of many waters (NKJV) His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves (NLT) ... his voice sounded like the roar of a waterfall (CEV)

Some of us like to hear the sound of a river or the crashing of waves from an ocean or a lake. Streams and creeks make a gentle trickle as they run their courses. You can even buy fountains in various sizes to add just the right amount of natural sound to your home or workplace. But think about what it is like to stand next to a great waterfall. You can hear it long before you get to its bank. When you look down into its depths or stand at its base the sound can be deafening. The larger the waterfall, the more difficult it is to hear the voices of those around you. The pre-eminence of the word of Jesus makes His voice the great waterfall that no other voice can be heard over. Every other word or voice is smaller, less significant than what He has to say. It is foolish for anyone to attempt to share a lesser word, and worse for those who would try to follow it. What are some “lesser words” that you see modern-day Christians in danger of following?


38

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

Again, Jesus displayed that His word to the churches was greater than any earthly message. Those sitting within these churches who might speak against what is read from the letter of Revelation will have to think twice before doing so. Anyone who speaks against this Word is not just opposing John, the physical writer of the letter, but stands against Christ Himself.


E I G H T

The Source of Authority

In his right hand he held seven stars ...

We already spent some time talking about who these seven stars represent. It is the only element of John’s vision of Jesus that is explained for us, and it is Jesus Himself who explained it. “The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lamp-stands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (1:20)

These seven stars are the messengers of Christ in each of the seven churches. They were held in Jesus’ right hand, the 39


40

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

place of power and security. As they hear Christ’s message, the leaders of the churches can rest in knowing that they are held in the hand of the Savior. Remember that some of these pastors will be commanded to face difficult people and situations in their churches. Even though they have confidence in their calling and gifts for ministry, pastors still face intimidation and fear in the face of the people they lead. What comfort can the pastor/leader have in knowing they were held in Christ’s right hand?

Imagine being the one entrusted with carrying out Jesus’ plan of action in the church. Five of the seven churches are going to hear a very direct word to “Repent!” Other churches would see the dismissal of highly influential people. The fact that these churches were so far in their sin should lead us to believe that the pastors were either partakers in the sin, or allowed it to go on unchecked. A sudden change in attitude to bring right living into the church was going to result in open opposition and hostility, putting a giant target on the back of the pastor/leader. So Jesus reminded His “angels” in the churches that they were secure in Him, not in what the people were going to think of them, the message they passed on from Christ,


S E E

41

or the measures that would be taken to ensure Christ’s commands were followed. At the same time, Christ reminded the followers of the seven pastor/leaders that He is the Source of the leaders’ authority. The commands of repentance and right living are not the invention of man; they are the very Word of God. God is very particular about authority. In one church the issue of authority is the center of Christ’s evaluation and commands, and even the warning of judgement. Paul wrote to the Romans about God’s view on authority. …all legitimate authority is derived from God's authority, and the existing authority is appointed under God. To oppose authority then is to oppose God, and such opposition is bound to be punished. (Romans 13:1-2, Phillips)

If Jesus grants the authority to the pastor/leader, what does that mean for the rest of those in the churches?

David, after being anointed king, could have taken action to place himself on the throne of Israel. But David chose to submit to the current authority, even when Saul intended harm for him. At one point David could have captured or killed Saul, but chose not to. Even when he had


42

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

only cut off the corner of Saul’s robe, David felt convicted for coming so near to endangering Saul. Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’S anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. (1 Samuel 24:5-7a)

When Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses and his authority, God responded by striking Miriam with leprosy. God took the attack so personally that Scripture says, “The anger of the LORD burned against them” (Numbers 12:9). Jesus threatened to remove the lampstand from the church of Ephesus if they did not repent, effectively removing them from fellowship with Him and the Holy Spirit. Notice, though, that Jesus didn’t threaten to extinguish the “star.” Those who ignore or circumvent authority, whether it is that of Christ or of the “angel” in the church, will face God’s judgment. God values authority, setting it in place. He also protects those in authority. In John’s vision of the Exalted Jesus all were reminded of the chain of authority and that Christ’s appointed leaders are precious to Him.


N I N E

Our Conqueror

‌ and out of his mouth came a sharp doubleedged sword ...

The sword is a weapon of warfare. It is used by those who attack as well as those who defend. But here in Revelation 1 we see the first occurrence of a special kind of sword. It is a large, broad sword, and speaks of devastating judgment. 6 It is like the two-handed Braveheart broadsword or the large sword of a knight. Though a sword is shown in other places in Scripture, the original Greek word here in Revelation 1:16 is only used one other time outside of Revelation. In those other New Testament texts we often think of in connection with swords, we read 43


44

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

about a different kind of sword. 7 Two references might come to mind. The first is when we are told to put on the whole armor of God. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. . . . Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13, 17)

It should not be a surprise that when the book of Hebrews likens the Word of God to a sword, it makes use of the same original word as Ephesians. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

This is a much thinner sword, a saber sword, almost like a fencing sword. Hebrews says it is used to separate flesh and bone, which might make you think of a fisherman’s filet knife. It is quick, agile, used with more precision than the sweeping strokes and doom of the broadsword. Not all swords are used for the same purpose. What might be the difference in use or purpose between the broadsword that Jesus has and the short, quick sword we are told to carry?


S E E

45

To find out what this sword means as it is wielded by Jesus, let’s look at its other appearances in the Scriptures. When Jesus writes to the church in Pergamum He says that He will fight against false teachers and workers of evil, doing so with this sword (2:16). In Chapter 19 we see Jesus on a white horse, with this same sword coming out of His mouth. He will come at that time to judge and make war, and in fury and wrath He will strike down the nations with this sword (19:11-15). This sword is the weapon that Jesus will bring out to fulfill God’s judgment. But it depicts more than just wrath or even His holy judgment. It is the tool by which Christ will conquer the earth and setup His Kingdom. We are told what the result of that great battle will be. “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14 ESV)

Jesus will conquer, defeat and overcome Satan and his armies. When Jesus steps out to make war, armed with this sword, He will win the victory. Yet there is one more key element to this sword. A sword is used in your hands. Its power and effectiveness come from how sharp it is, but also by the strength and skill of the one using it. Jesus’ sword, however, is not held in His hand. Its power is not based on His strength, though even if it were, His omnipotence would make it unbeatable. The power of Christ’s sword comes from His mouth. It is based on His very Word, the word of truth. What is the word of truth?


46

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

You could say that is the Word of God, but this is far too general. The word of truth is referred to in exact terms in Scripture. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation‌ (Ephesians 1:13a) We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. (Colossians 1:3-6a)

The tool, the weapon that Jesus yields to defeat His enemies is no earthly tool or weapon. Its power is not found in physical strength but in the power of His word. This sword is the word of truth, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus will not conquer the armies of the nations with earthly strength and power, but with the greatest of powers, the Gospel.


T E N

Our Heavenly Light

His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

The final element of John’s picture of the Exalted Jesus is the brilliance of His glory. This may be why John was slow to say that it was Jesus. He knew His face well, probably seeing it in his memories and dreams. John described this heavenly Man as “someone ‘like a son of man,’” in part because he could not clearly see the face of Jesus. If those who have been in the presence of God come out shining with His glory, what is it like for the One who embodies that presence? So great was this shining that when John finally did look upon Christ, he “fell at his feet as though dead” (1:17). 47


48

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

Why is it when people see God in His glory that they fall to the ground?

Who else in Scripture had the same reaction to God’s presence?

John would have had a glimpse at the only earthly revelation of Christ’s heavenly glory. Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him up on a mountain to pray. There these three closest disciples fell asleep in the hour of prayer, but when they awoke, they saw Him. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. . . [A] cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:29, 34-35)


S E E

49

Yet what John saw on the island of Patmos was far beyond that small window into all that Jesus contained within flesh and bone, the fullness of the Godhead. Now in His fully exalted state Jesus was free to shine with all of the light that He is. The Light that Jesus embodies is a light that will shine forever. John said that “His face was like the sun,” and it is the light of Jesus that will one day replace the light of our sun. One day there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth, and we who are His will live with God forever in a New Jerusalem. While describing that great, future sight, John tells us, The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (21:23)

If Jesus shines the light of God’s glory in the new heaven and earth, what can we assume about that light?

His light is not temporal, lasting only for a few hours in a day. It cannot be hidden by cloud or storm. The Light of God’s glory shining through the lamp of Jesus Christ will forever be with us, lighting our way. The light of Jesus is also a preview and promise of the light that we will be in the Kingdom of God. Jesus told a


50

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

parable about weeds that choked the sons of the kingdom. There would be a future time when Jesus would send His angels to remove those who cause sin and do evil. “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father…” (Matthew 13:43)

Just as the Lamb shines with the glory of God, so shall we. We are the light of the world, pointing those in darkness toward our glorious Father (Matthew 5:14-16). Yet there will also be a time when we shine like sun. Sharing in eternity with God, separated from the weeds that would choke us, unhindered and continuously shined upon, we will shine in God’ Kingdom.

This is the Exalted Jesus that John saw, the One that was delivering a message to the churches. He is our High Priest He is Divine His Business is Urgent He is our Glorious Judge His Word is Pre-eminent He is the Source of Authority He is our Conqueror He is our Heavenly Light All of these form a picture of the Jesus that wrote the message to the churches. This was not the humble,


S E E

51

suffering, gentle Jesus that walked with John in first century Palestine. This is a holy, glorious, terrible Jesus, feared by the one closest to Him. But Jesus is not done revealing Himself to John in this chapter. There are few more truths of His character and being that Jesus is about to share with him.


The Victorious Jesus

John saw and described Jesus as he saw Him on the island of Patmos. After seeing Him and falling at His feet in fear, John found out that what he had seen about Jesus was not the complete picture. There are three more elements that Jesus shared with John at the end of Revelation 1. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (1:17-18)

The Jesus that John saw was the Exalted Jesus. Who Jesus described Himself to be was the Victorious Jesus. Jesus’ true victory does not come at the end of time when He climbs onto the white horse and comes down from Heaven with wrath and judgment. He will come and conquer at that time, but Jesus’ victory was won long before that final battle. None of the statements Jesus makes in these verses is new to those who have read through the New Testament and are now reading through Revelation. The other New 52


S E E

53

Testament books, the Gospels, Acts, the letters of Paul and Peter and even John, all precede the book of Revelation. They had already begun their travels from church to church, region to region. The believers at that time would have heard these truths before. That is because Jesus’ victory came from His death and resurrection. The words of Jesus in the Gospels and the teachings of the writings that follow all emphasize the victory of the Cross. What Jesus does here is emphasize these three elements one more time as He reveals Himself to the churches before delivering His message to them.


E L E V E N

The First and the Last

“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.”

In His first statement Jesus took the time to emphasize the truth of His person. He made it plain that He is God. He invoked a description used by Jehovah (“the LORD”) when He spoke through the prophet Isaiah. “This is what the Lord says– Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” (Isaiah 44:6)

Jesus was claiming to be the same “the first and the last” that created the Earth.

54


S E E

55

“Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.” (Isaiah 48:12-13)

Why might it be significant that Jesus wanted to be understood as the Creator God?

For anyone who thought that Jesus’ existence began at His earthly birth, to hear Him claim to be the same Creator God that shaped the universe was something that could not be ignored. As we have already said, He is more than the Son of God, He is God. It also prepares us for a statement that comes later in Revelation. In describing those who would worship the beast (Anti-Christ), mention is made of a special book. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. (13:8)


56

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

Some translations change the meaning of this text by rearranging the words. They lead us to believe that the Book of Life had the names written in it before the creation of the world. While this easily fits with the truth that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), it is not the meaning of this statement. In the Greek, these words are in the order of the phrase as it appears in the New International and New King James versions: “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” The Lamb is Jesus. He had to die for the sins of men. His death made Him the only one worthy to open the key scroll of Revelation 5, setting the last judgment of men into motion. According to 13:8, though, Jesus was slain before the foundation of the world. This is a key reminder that we do not catch God at unawares. Before man was created God knew there was going to be a Fall. He knew that the sinful nature would be handed down from generation to generation. He even knew that it would ultimately cost Him life and death. To have relationship with man is God’s ultimate goal and joy, and He chose that joy over the pain and suffering of the cross. As the Creator of the universe, Jesus reached down and calmed John’s fears, “Do not be afraid.” The hands that shaped the worlds and flung the stars in space are hands that bring comfort to the people of God. When we come into the presence of the holy God, it is natural for us to fall down before Him. Not only does the sin within cringe at His holiness, or the frailty of flesh bow before the awesomeness of the vastness of God, but we are


S E E

57

reminded that we are the created who are meant to serve the Creator. But Jesus does not rise up in strength and power and beat us down. He does not call us to see His greatness and cower in fear. His victory is our victory, and His glory will one day be our glory. The Victorious Jesus is the Creator God, all powerful and knowing all things. But He is also the One who reaches down and says, “Do not be afraid.� To those living in and leading into sin, He is terrible. But to those who love Him, He is comfort.


T W E L V E

The Living One

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!”

Jesus looked at John and reminded him of the climax of His earthly work. From the very beginning it was God’s plan for the Son to die for the sin of mankind. In His heart and plan it was done but at the cross it was physically complete. Look at what John saw on the day Christ died. Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received

58


S E E

59

the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30)

In that timeless moment of a supernatural vision, did John relive the day of darkness when Christ died on the hill of Golgotha? Did he flashback and see the darkness, feel the earthquake, and hear the cry, “It is finished”? Jesus had died. John saw it with his own eyes. But John also saw a different sight three days later. He saw the empty tomb. Jesus appeared and John saw and felt the scars. He walked with, laughed with and listened to Christ for forty days until He was taken up through the clouds into Heaven. On that day a promise was made to those who witnessed Jesus’ ascension: They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

From that day John must have longed to see His Savior again. Now here He was. How far back in time did His memory go? What did the glorious face before Him remind him of? Looking in the eyes of the One he loved, John would have seen that Jesus did not age during the years He had spent in Heaven since ascending from the Mount of Olives. He was not grey-haired, stiff-jointed and old, like John was.


60

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

He was the same as the day of the resurrection. To behold Him must have felt like the release of a time capsule for John. Jesus is alive, and He will never die again. There is a lot of significance in stating that Jesus was dead, was resurrected and lives forever. Something that we may not consider when we read the Gospels is the fate of those that Jesus brought back from the dead. What difference is there between Jesus bringing someone back to life and His own resurrection from death?

Jesus proved His supremacy and power over death when He brought Lazarus back to life (John 11:1-44). Unfortunately for Lazarus, he would die again. Just like anyone who has their heart restarted or air pumped into their lungs to bring them back to life, they will once again see the end of life. Everyone that Jesus brought back from death had to face it again one day. The resurrection of Jesus is a completely different story. Jesus will not die again. He cannot, for in the resurrection His mortal body was changed into a glorified, immortal body. He is alive forever, unable to taste again the sting of death. Because Jesus will not die, His word will continue. When a king is alive his word is the law. However, when that king dies, his word perishes with him. Whoever follows on the


S E E

61

throne can uphold and continue what the previous ruler decreed or nullify it completely. Since Jesus will never again die, there is no opportunity for someone to take His place and change the rules to the game of life. This is extremely important as we approach the messages to the individual churches. Nothing that Jesus says to these churches is going to change. The issues that require repentance will always require repentance. No one is going to come up and change the decrees of Jesus in Chapters 2 and 3. Because He is alive forever, they are permanent, eternal. And the victory of Jesus over the grave is a promise that we will one day share in that life that Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

While Paul describes what we consider to be the Rapture of the saints, we know that those who believe in Christ and


62

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

die will also be resurrected and receive their glorified bodies. The Living One is victorious and He freely offers that life to us. Like Him we will never die. It was His promise to us. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.� (John 11:25-26)


T H I R T E E N

The Holder of the Keys

“I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

The Victorious Jesus is God, who looked through time before it started, and chose the Cross so that He could choose us. “In the fullness of time,” as Scripture says, the Son was born and lived on this earth, until the day that He laid His life down as a sacrifice for our sin. But on the third day He was transformed and “death no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9 ESV). He was not just raised to life again but took on the immortal, imperishable life that He promises to us as well.

63


64

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

The reward of Christ’s sacrifice was a set of keys. “Death” and “Hades” are references to the physical death and to a spiritual death. In the book of Revelation, this spiritual death is referred to as the “second” death. Jesus took the power of these keys through His physical death. Through Adam, sin and death entered the world and mankind, bringing God’s curse upon both. Only in God’s sacrifice of Himself as a man could He legally reclaim that which man gave up rights to in the Garden of Eden. The writer of Hebrews explains how it was Christ’s combination of humanity and deity that returned the keys into the hands of God. Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Death is a pervasive theme in Revelation. Both the righteous and the wicked will die in the woes that come upon the earth. Some of the righteous will perish at the hand of the wicked. It is a special comfort to those who love Him and face physical death that they will not be destroyed in the second, spiritual death. Christ can use these Keys to the benefit of His people. What other uses might He have for them?


S E E

65

There is another key that Jesus has that is not spoken of here. It is a special key, given to Him by the Father. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. (Isaiah 22:22)

Isaiah was delivering God’s word about how one man who served God would replace the man who sought to make himself famous before men. The key here was a real key, a master key worn on the tunic of the king’s steward. This key shows up right here in the letters to the churches, and it is in the possession of Jesus Christ (3:7). Its significance is important when we put it together with the other keys Jesus has in His possession. What He opens is open, wide open, and you cannot close or lock it back up. What He locks shut is not able to be opened, no matter how much effort you put into it. Now look ahead to Revelation 6. At that time the seven seals of the scroll will start to be opened. Each of the first four seals bring out a horse and rider. When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. (6:7-8)

Many condemn God for opening the doors to eternity punishment. They consider it unfair and unjust that He


66

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

would send the men and women that He claims to love to such an end. They either forget or do not understand that God has always opened two doors. The door opened to judgment was created and intended for the one who rebelled in Heaven, and for all who followed him. The other is open to life for those who would choose to follow Christ. Jesus can open and close the doors of Death and Hades. If you are wicked, the doors of physical and spiritual death are open to you, pulling you in, and you cannot shut them. If you are serving God, you may face physical death, but spiritual death is closed to you. You will enter into life, and there is no force that can rip it away from you. The doors are locked and unlocked according to the wisdom of God, and the keys are in the possession of His Son.


F O U R T E E N

Conclusion

In Jesus’ self-description to John, He brings three important pictures of the Victorious Jesus. He is the First and the Last, the Creator God who knew from the beginning of time that He would have to die for your sin. He brings judgment for those who oppose Him but comfort to those who love Him. He is the Living One. He died, yes, but He was resurrected to the immortal, unending life. Every word that He says will last forever because He will never be replaced. For us, He is the promise of eternal life and our own glorious resurrection. He holds the keys of Death and Hades. He has retaken the keys from the enemy of our souls and He adds them to the powerful key of David. He opens and closes, and none can overrule Him. This is the Victorious Jesus, and we add these pictures to that of the Exalted Jesus that John saw and described for us. Christ made every effort to prepare His people for the word He had for them, which is also for us. 67


68

Jesus and the Seven Churches of Revelation

Far from the baby in the manger, passed the suffering servant on the cross, this is Jesus as He is now and forever. Exalted. Victorious. Ready to bring forth His word. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.�


N O T E S

1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/patmos, accessed 8 March 2012.

2

John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000) 10-11.

3

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible regarding Revelation 1:20. Electronic version for e-Sword. www.e-sword.net.

4

The Early Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1; The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Electronic version for eSword. www.e-sword.net.

5

Charles Hutchinson Gabriel and Civilla Durfee Martin, “His Eye is On the Sparrow.” Public Domain.

6

Strong’s Greek word, number G4501.

7

Strong’s Greek word, number G3162.

69


www.chrismackinnon.com

Profile for Chris MacKinnon

See: John's Vision of the Risen Jesus  

In the opening chapters of Revelation, Jesus spoke seven letters to seven churches. We often jump straight to Chapters 2 and 3 when we discu...

See: John's Vision of the Risen Jesus  

In the opening chapters of Revelation, Jesus spoke seven letters to seven churches. We often jump straight to Chapters 2 and 3 when we discu...

Advertisement