Turn with me then to Revelation please, chapter 1, we're going to read from verse 9 this time through to the end of the chapter. We've a lot to get through tonight, so I trust you'll stay with us as we get through these verses.
Verse 9 of chapter 1: "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches".
Tonight we are considering 'The Vision Of The Glorified Lord', and in verse 9 at the very beginning of our section once more this evening we are confronted by the recipient of this revelation, that is the apostle John. Now we've covered considerable ground concerning him in previous nights, save to say that he designates himself in this verse in a different way than he has hitherto. He says: 'I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation'. He doesn't use any ecclesiastical terms concerning himself, not even the title 'apostle' that he was perfectly right in using if he had done - but he just calls himself 'John', and he also confesses his solidarity with those who were in the churches of Asia Minor who were suffering for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, just as the apostle John was there incarcerated on the Isle of Patmos. So we saw in previous weeks that this book is a letter written by a suffering saint to the suffering saints of Asia Minor. It's terribly important that we remember that in all of our interpretations.
Now, as we'll see in the weeks that lie ahead, the seven churches, some of them, that he is writing to are already experiencing such persecution. If you turn to chapter 2 just for a moment and look down at verse 10 concerning the church at Smyrna, the Lord Jesus speaks to them and says: 'Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life'. Now these believers, and indeed we today, should not be surprised that we will face suffering and persecution. Our Lord promised it, the apostle Paul indeed described in the book of Acts that suffering must come before the kingdom enters in. You may remember his words, that his business as an apostle and a servant of the Lord was to confirm the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.
Of course, James 1 tells us that such trial and tribulation develops in our lives, as the children of God, patience and Christian maturity. So right away we see that the weight of New Testament teaching is that God's plan is that we should endure tribulation, trial and trouble as a pre-requisite for reigning in the kingdom of God in a near future day. Now right away that puts the cat among the 'health and wealth' pigeons, the preachers that tell us we ought not to be poor, we ought not to suffer in any sense - the Bible teaches the converse of that. Indeed, in Romans 8 Paul said that if we are the children of God then we are 'heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together with him'. Of course that famous verse that Paul spoke to Timothy in his letter, his second epistle, 'If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him: but if we deny him, he will deny us'. God's plan is that suffering, tribulation, is the pre-requisite for entering into the kingdom of God. In other words, there will be no crown without the cross - for the Saviour the cross must come before the crown, and it is no different for we, His servants. It is the suffering, and then the glory: that is God's order.
Now we see this personified in none other than the recipient of this revelation, John the apostle. He is effectively in the Alcatraz of the day, out on the Isle of Patmos, and verse 9 tells us he is there 'for the testimony of Jesus', 'for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ'. That word 'testimony' is very interesting, it literally is the word 'witness', and it is the basis for our English word 'martyr'. So this testimony, this witness that John is engaged in, and indeed the first century saints of God were all engaged in, it doesn't just involve sweat and tears, but it incorporates the very shedding of their life's blood. Now we could spend some time on that just now: how is our witness for Christ? Do we even shed a tear? Precipitate sweat in an effort to see others won for Christ? I'm sure for none of us we have resisted to blood, striving against sinfulness and in our testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ - it makes me feel very pygmy-like in comparison to John and the other saints of the first century. We want to entertain people into the kingdom of God today, these folk were dying to get them in - literally.
John was exiled in an effort by the authorities to silence him. He was there because of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ - but what was the result? They wanted to shut him up, but there on that island he is given the greatest revelation of Jesus Christ ever! That ought to be an encouragement to all our hearts tonight: was John discouraged a little out on that island? I'm sure, as a human with a nature like ours, he was. Was he despairing? Well, I don't know about that, but I'm sure he was near to it. He probably thought at times that his ministry was over, and his usefulness for God was behind him - but little did he know that the best was yet to be. The pinnacle and the climax of his whole ministry was ahead of him. Can I say to you, discouraged servant of the Lord: that is always the case for the saints of God. No matter what you have experienced in your past, and no matter how useless you feel you are in the present, the best is always yet to be - even if that is death itself. Things can only get better for the people of God!
So the recipient of this vision is indeed John again, this suffering apostle. Now look at verse 10, because there we have the reception of this vision, and I want to bring this to you under three headings. First of all: the manner it was given. Then secondly: the time it was given. And thirdly: the One who is giving it. Now if you look at verse 10 you will see that John says he was in the Spirit on the Lord's day. Now let's just deal with that first expression: 'I was in the Spirit' - that is the manner in which the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Apocalypse was given to him. Now let me make a general application upon that thought: if you or I ever want a glimpse of Him in glory, as the hymn says, we will need to be in the Spirit in a general sense. We need to be walking in unclouded fellowship, thus in a position to receive divine communications - in other words, we need to be near to hear. Is that not what the Psalmist said, when he said: 'The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him'?
Now they tried to isolate the apostle John from communion with Christian people, and in effect what happened was: they could not isolate him from communication with the Christ. That's wonderful, because if we are in a position of unclouded communion with the Lord Jesus, you as a Christian can be in two places at once. Now, as a man, I'm sure some of you are often heard to say: 'I can't be in two places at once' - or maybe it's the women say that? But all of us as Christians can say that truly, because here we see John on the Isle of Patmos, but he is also dwelling in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. He is imprisoned by the Romans, and yet he's also at the feet of the Lord Jesus. Samuel Rutherford was imprisoned in Aberdeen for preaching the gospel, very similar to the circumstances of John, and writing to his own church he ended one of his letters by saying these words: 'Jesus Christ came to me, into my prison cell last night, and every stone in it glowed like a ruby'. Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus; and sometimes the darker the cell, the greater the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ will be - what a wonderful privilege! Constant, uninterrupted communion with the King of kings and the Lord of lords - and yet how little all of us avail of it, including myself.
But the specific meaning, when John said 'I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day', is more than simply his communion with God. What John was in effect saying was that he was carried, beyond the normal sense, into a state where God could reveal supernaturally to him the content of this book of Revelation. Other prophets of God experienced this, like Ezekiel, and the apostles Peter and Paul. Now, I know that some of you, along with myself, revere the great apostle Paul - and it is only right that we should. He has given us about 13 books in the New Testament, the apostle to the Gentiles, but please - as you set him on a pinnacle - don't forget the apostle John. John was there on that snow-capped Hermon Mount when the Lord Jesus Christ was transfigured before the three disciples. John was there in the Garden of Gethsemane when the Lord Jesus was in an agony of prayer. John was the only disciple who remained at the foot of the rugged cross. Some of the last words of our Lord on this earth were spoken to John the disciple: 'Behold, thy mother'. Now John becomes the recipient of the last inspired revelation of God in the New Testament to His people, that we have in this last book of the Bible.
He is a wonderful character, and whilst he had great depth of knowledge and understanding of spiritual things, what primarily marked the recipient of the book of the Revelation was his love. There is a lesson for us all, and please don't miss it: to love the Lord Jesus Christ is to view the Lord Jesus Christ. It's not how much you know, but it's got a lot to do with how much you love. This beloved disciple who had a special place before the Lord when He was on the earth, also found a special place before the Lord when He had ascended to heaven.
The manner that this vision was received...look also at the time that it was given: 'I was in the Spirit', verse 10, 'on the Lord's day'. Now some people feel that this expression means 'the day of the Lord', and that expression is an expression for the time period when God will judge the nations by the tribulation, and pour many judgements upon them. Many believe that, because John saw a vision of these future events, that he was propelled into 'the day of the Lord'. Now I have to say that the - and I'm not an expert in Greek, far from it - but the Greek expression here seems to be quite different than the one that is often used of 'the day of the Lord'. That literally could be translated like this: 'I was in the Spirit on the Lordly day' - the Lordly day, 'Lord' is used as an adjective here. There's only one other time in the New Testament where Lord is used as an adjective, and that is the 'Lordly Supper' - the Lord's Supper. Of course, the Lord's Supper was practised, eventually, on the first day of the week, which was the day of resurrection, which was also the day that subsequent to the Lord's resurrection there were two appearances of the Lord to His disciples. It was on that first day of the week that the Holy Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost, and it was in the book of Corinthians that Paul instructed those believers to take collections, stewardship, on the first day of the week. The Lordly Supper was on that day.
Now add to that fact that history testifies, and there is quite a lot of evidence to show, that in some parts of the Roman Empire, notably in Egypt and Asia Minor (and these letters are being written to the churches of Asia Minor), that there was an imperial cult existent - that is, a religious system dedicated to worshipping the Caesars as god. Incorporated within their religion were 'Emperors Days', and sometimes they were once a month when they commemorated worship to their deity Emperor - and even in some places they observed that day once a week. Now it's my persuasion, for what it's worth, that the Christians in contrast adopted the first day of the week in honour of their Lord, and that became 'the Lordly Day' - and how fitting, even if that's not the case, how fitting it is that it is on this particular day that John receives a Revelation of Jesus Christ. I believe this was the Lord's day.
The third thing I want you to notice regarding the reception of the vision was the One giving it, verse 11, John heard behind him a great voice, as a trumpet: 'Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last'. Now I want you to notice that in verse 12, John turns to see the voice that spake with him and, after seeing the golden candlesticks, in verse 13 we see that he sees the Son of Man, that is the Lord Jesus Christ, in the midst of the candlesticks, in the midst of the churches. So the voice that spoke and said 'I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last' is the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God the Son. How could anyone doubt the doctrine of the Triune Godhead, and the deity of our Lord Jesus? Again we see in verse 11 the addressees of this letter: 'What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea'.
Now let's move on swiftly to the core of this passage of Scripture, the record of the vision. We've looked at the recipient of the vision, the reception of the vision, let's look at the record that we have before us. Now verse 12 tells us that John turned to see the voice, and even before he sees the Lord Jesus, he sees the seven churches of Asia Minor. Now he sees them as lampstands, how do I know that these lampstands are the seven churches? Well, He gives us the interpretation in verse 20, if you look down, after describing the mystery of the seven stars He says at the end that: 'the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches'. Now, of course, note in verse 13 that the focal point of this vision is not so much the seven churches, but Christ in the midst of the church - He is the focal point of the vision. The Spirit of God wants these seven churches of Asia Minor to recognize the One who is in their midst.
Now before we look at the depiction of Him, let's consider why it is that the Holy Spirit uses this figure of a lampstand for each church. Some of you may be familiar that in the Old Testament in the Tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and in the Temple stood a lampstand - rather a candlestick might be a more accurate description, there is a picture of one here on the screen which, incidentally, I believe is the one being prepared for the new Temple in Jerusalem. It's already finished, that's interesting, we will use that in weeks perhaps that lie ahead. But this is a menorah, which is one lampstand with seven candles on it, seven lights. In the Old Testament this was always a symbol for Israel's national testimony for God on the earth, they were His chosen Old Testament people to bear witness and shine the light of God unto the Gentile world nations. Of course Old Testament history shows us, as we see in 2 Chronicles 36, that they failed so miserably in bearing testimony to God that that menorah was removed to Babylon. Now we know that there is a day yet to come, according to Zechariah 4, when the testimony will be restored to Israel, and we see that menorah again in Zechariah 4, and that will be fulfilled in the millennial reign of Christ on the earth for a thousand years.
Now why do I tell you all that? Well, at the moment Israel's testimony for God is suspended because of their unbelief. So, during this age, which is the church age, the Church of Jesus Christ gives testimony to God on the earth, and it is a complete testimony - as the seven lampstands testify, seven being the number of completeness - but these seven lampstands are separate. It's not now seven lights on one candlestick, it's not an entity that is one nation, but seven separate local churches giving testimony to the Lord Jesus - individual congregations, each of these lampstands, as you can see, stands alone: single stemmed, freestanding, with one base.
Now let me give you some practical applications from this figure and symbol that John uses. Here's the first: during this New Testament age of grace the complete church, that is the body of Christ that is made up universally of born-again believers alone, the complete church through the witness of the local churches is the organ of God's testimony on the earth today. Now that might seem elementary to some of you, but I believe that this truth needs to be rediscovered in the day in which we are living. The first reason I believe that is that there is a very low view of the church abroad in evangelicalism, and there is also a very low view concerning New Testament church principles that we find in the Bible - but what we see here in this letter is that the church matters to God, and so it should matter to us.
The second reason why I need to rediscover this truth is because in our modern age organisations have replaced God's organism of the New Testament body of Christ. Now let me say that I'm not faulting Christian organisations, I feel that they have stepped in where the church has failed, and I believe God ordained them to do the work that the church was failing to do. But God chose, from the beginning in His plan, that the church should be His organ of testimony on the earth, and the revelation that we are given here is of the Lord Jesus in heaven, operating on the earth through the church; and the church operating in localities through assemblies. Therefore it follows that the church on earth should function for the Lord Jesus - is it a revelation to you that the church does not function for unbelievers? It doesn't. It functions for Christ. We have to reach out to unbelievers, but we don't order ourselves according to what suits them, but what suits Christ for He is the one and only Head of the church. Of course the parable of the lampstand, which we looked at as we were going through Mark's gospel, shows us that the Lord Jesus envisaged that we, the church, should be the ones who should shed abroad His light in this age.
Here's a second practical application: Christ, just as He is in this vision, today is in the midst of His church. Now let me ask you: do you believe that? Do you believe that Christ is here, now? He said: 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age'. He said: 'I will not leave you comfortless, orphans, I will come to you'. He said: 'Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst'. That is a truth that should revolutionise our gatherings as Christians: that Christ is still in our midst!
Here's a third practical application of the lampstand: please note that there is nothing between the Lord Jesus and each individual lampstand. Let me be more specific: there is no agency, there are no hierarchies, no organisations - each of these lampstands are autonomous, they are self-governing, and the only thing that unites them in common is their relationship with Christ. I believe that's the way it should be. No denominations, no churches gathering concerning particular interpretations, but just in their relationship to Christ. That's the way it was in the beginning, and I believe it's the way it should be today.
Then look at verse 13, John hadn't seen Him for well near 60 years, and here he - in the midst of the seven candlesticks - sees 'one like unto the Son of man', Christ in the midst of the churches, like unto the Son of Man. Now the Son of Man and this depiction is an apocalyptic one - now what I mean by that is that though 'the Son of Man' is the favoured title of the Lord Jesus that He uses of Himself in the Gospels, in the Gospels it's put like this: 'the Son of the man', literally in the Greek language, but here it is 'a Son of man'. Now, 'What's the difference?', you say - well, that is the exact expression that is used way back in the book of Daniel. Now I want you to turn with me to Daniel 7 please - and if you can't find Daniel, just look for Ezekiel, and it's a big one, and right after Ezekiel you'll find Daniel. Daniel chapter 7, and you'll see right away the similarity of the description given here of 'a Son of man' - Daniel 7:13: 'I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him'. Now if you go back to verse 9 there is a depiction of God: 'I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days', that is God, 'did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire'.
Now go to chapter 10 of Daniel and verse 5: 'Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude'. This is a depiction of not only the Ancient of days who is God, but a Son of man who is always within the Scriptures, in the book of Ezekiel and the book of Daniel and other prophetic apocalyptic books, the One who would come - not just speaking of Christ's humanity, but speaking of His messianic identity. He would be the prophesied One!
Now how does He appear here in Revelation 1 in the midst of the church? Let's look first of all at His dress. The first thing we see - and if you look at the screen it will give you a picture of it, but do look at the scriptures primarily - is that the Lord Jesus is wearing a linen white robe, and He is adorned by a sash across His breast. Now Exodus 28 verse 4 tells us that this was the garb of the High Priest of Israel. Now there are many other things mentioned there, but certainly this dress that the Saviour is shown to wear here is the high priestly garb - but it's a little bit different in that the Lord is appearing here as not just the High Priest in the midst of the churches, but He is appearing to judge them, so we could say that this is the High Priest Judge before us.
Now look please at the features as the Lord Jesus is depicted - now remember it is a depiction of Him, apocalyptically, with signs and symbols; it's not a literal feature of the Lord Jesus. There is a sevenfold description here of Him. First of all in verse 14, the first part, we see His hair and His head are white like wool. We read from Daniel 7 that this is identical to the Ancient of days, which is a title of God. If we were to look at Matthew chapter 17 and verse 2, John would have witnessed before that as the Lord Jesus was transfigured before them, His face did shine as the sun, and His garment was white as light. That speaks of Christ's holiness, the white purity of the Son of Man - He is God, for only God is truly holy.
Then we see in verse 14 again that His eyes were as a flame of fire, and that speaks very similarly to His righteous judgement. These fiery eyes, in holiness, are able to sear our souls and judge us righteously according to God's holiness. It speaks specifically, I think, of Christ's omniscience - He is the all-seeing God who can see into the depths of our hearts. Then we see a third description in verse 15, His feet like unto fine brass, brass refined in the furnace. Now that 'brass' could be translated 'bronze', and that helps us a little because bronze in the Old Testament is a figure of judgement - that's why you've got a bronze, a brazen altar on which there was a sacrifice for sin. God was depicting judgement for sin on that lamb. Here in these bronze feet we have a picture of how this High Priest Judge is chastising and judging His church through this vision.
Then we find fourthly, His voice is as many waters. Now that correlates with Ezekiel 43, a description of God there, it correlates with Psalm 29 if you care to read it, and it's describing to us a cataract that drowns all other voices. Have you ever been to some of the great waterfalls of our world, like Niagara or Victoria? You can't hear anything other than the roar of the water. This speaks of Christ's authority: no other voice needs to be heard by the churches, other than Christ's - boy do we need to hear that today!
Then we have fifthly, in his right hand, verse 16, He is holding seven stars. Now the right-hand was the hand of favour and protection. If we look down to verse 20, the Lord Himself gives us the interpretation of what these stars are - the stars equal the angels of the seven churches. Now really the figure, whatever this means, the figure and the lesson that is being given to us is: Christ is in control of the churches, He holds them in His hand. Now let's deal with the controversy for a moment, because many people ask: 'Who are these angels?' - and we could go on with interpretations, but generally there are three. The word 'angel' could be translated 'messengers', and some believe that these were the human messengers that took the letters to these seven churches. Then there are others who say: 'Well, these were the pastors, or the pastor of each of these seven churches' - the Bishop if you like, the one head in each of these seven assemblies. Now the third interpretation - and I'll deal with the other two in a minute - is simply that 'angels' here means angels - that's a strange one!
Now I don't believe that these angels speak of messengers, and I'll tell you why in a moment. I don't believe that it speaks of one pastor or one bishop, as the head representing each of these churches, because frankly the New Testament knows nothing about one single representative of a local assembly - it's nowhere else to be found in the New Testament, so it would be a surprise to find it here. I believe it means angels, and the word is not used in any other way in this book, and indeed scarcely is it used meaning anything else in the New Testament. In Hebrews 1 verse 14 we read there concerning angels: 'Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?'. Angels minister in strange ways, very unknown ways at times, to believers in the church of Jesus Christ - therefore I don't think it unreasonable to think of angels having a role in the church. Now this is a bit hard to define, and yet in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 regarding headship and indeed head-covering, Paul told the believers there: 'For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels'.
Now in Scripture we find that angels represented nations, we find that Peter, according to the church of his day, had a guardian angel who looked after him when he was in prison and escaping. We find in Hebrews that angels are ministering spirits - should it be strange if we think that angels can represent churches before God? After all, God gave this vision to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ gave the vision to an angel, and an angel gave the vision to John the apostle. Why should it be strange that these letters should be addressed to angels that may well represent some of these churches? But the final reason for me interpreting it like this is verse 20: it's very unlikely for John to interpret the symbol of a star by another symbol - did you hear that? It is very unusual for John to interpret one symbol by another symbol, because that's what he'd be doing if these angels meant something other than angels - but he interprets the symbol, star, as an angel. Well, I'll leave it there, I'm sure many of you won't agree with me on that. The point is this: these stars are in Christ's right-hand, and in the next number of weeks we're going to see in these seven letters to the seven churches that He has some scathing criticism of them as their High Priest Judge - and yet, with all that, they are secure in His right hand.
The sixth description we have of Him here in verse 16 is that out of His mouth comes a twoedged sword - and that is, I believe, the judging power of the word of God as we see it in Hebrews 4 and John 12. It is here Christ's judgement not of the church's enemies, but of the church! Then seventhly in verse 16 we see that 'His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength', 'brilliant' is the word, it is the word 'dynamus' that we get the word 'power' and 'dynamite' from, it is Christ's glory. When you can find all of these depictions and descriptions of the Lord Jesus, you see Him as the Lord Jesus Christ, the High Priest as He is in His ministry to the church now in this age, supremely as the High Priest and Judge of His people. Now later we're going to see in this Apocalypse that He judges His enemies and His foes, but here He is judging His church - why? Because judgement must begin at the house of God! So that's where it begins here in the book of Revelation.
Now, please don't misunderstand me, the churches are being judged here with the purpose of purification and reward, but the nations of unbelievers will be judged with the purpose of punishment. We will never be punished because Christ was judged for our sins on the cross, but here it's the matter of purification and reward, and being fit to stand before Him. Now look at verse 17, because here we have the reaction of John to the vision: 'When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last'. Now this is beautiful: John expires, as if he was dead he falls. This was not prostration of worship, he was so overwhelmed by what he saw that he falls before Christ! The Lord Jesus reaches out His right-hand and touches him - this is mighty! The hand in which He holds the church is also at the disposal for an individual saint of God who needs His touch. Does that help you tonight? It helps me! He's not too busy to take my needs into account, and He says to John and He says to us: 'Fear not; I am the first and the last', the title of Jehovah Himself - why should we fear?
Verse 18: 'I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen'. Now that literally is 'I am He that became dead', that's what it literally means. It doesn't sound that good in English, but that's what it means, because He could not die. We are dying from the moment we are born, but this is the Eternal Son of God and He became dead. The One eternally alive died and rose again, and is now alive for evermore. He says, look at it in verse 18, He has the keys of Hades and of death. Now Hades was the realm of the dead, and that speaks of the soul. Death speaks of the grave, which is where the body goes. What the Lord is saying is: 'Because I died, and because I was buried, and because I rose again, I have the keys of Hades - the place for the soul - and the grave - the place for the body'. Oh, this is precious: Christ snatched from Satan his power over death, it was his and it's no longer his! Now He possesses authority over death; and that means, Christian here tonight, no one can die who is saved apart from His divine permission. That helps me - as one old saint of God said: 'I am immortal until it is my time to go', so are you if you're a child of God.
What the Lord is saying is: 'Fear not' - are you here tonight and you fear what the future might hold? He's saying to you: 'Fear not, for the keys are in my hands'. Remember that these are suffering, persecuted believers, and He's telling them: 'Fear not, I'm in control - not the lions, not the burning stake, not the Emperor - I'm in control!'. Could your future be in a safer pair of hands? One day, as this book will show us in later weeks in chapter 21 and verse 14, He is going to cast Hades and death into the lake of fire, and there'll be no death any more - Hallelujah!
John's reaction was to fall at the feet of the Lord. Can I ask you in the closing moments of our meeting: what is your reaction to this vision of the glorified Lord? Because I have a suspicion that our view of Him now is very often not John's view of Him here in chapter 1, am I right? We have an image that's maybe from children's picture books, of a humble Galilean, the despised Nazarene, the Man of Sorrows. Now please look at verse 19 with me for a moment, because here is the outline of the book that we saw in previous weeks, John is told: 'Write the things which thou hast seen', and we saw that the things that he saw, the 'had seen', were the things of chapter 1, this very vision itself. The 'things which are' are chapters 2 and 3, the letters to the seven churches. The 'things which shall be hereafter' is the rest of the book and the future of this world - but you need to realise that though chapter 1 is past when John's writing this book, it is a description of how the Lord Jesus Christ is now! We need to realign our view of Him to this vision here before us. Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying please, I sing with the best of them:
'Tell me the stories of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word.
Tell me the stories most precious,
Dearest that ever were heard'.
We must meditate on how He was in the Gospels and what He did, because it's through His life and through His death and through His resurrection recorded here in the gospel that we derive our salvation. Not only do we need to meditate on it, it is our message: we preach Christ crucified! It's only through that message of the Saviour that lived and died and rose again that people can be saved. It's also our motivation, Hebrews 12:3: 'For consider him that endured such contradiction', and opposition, 'of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds' - and boy, these suffering Christians needed such motivation. They needed to draw strength and instruction from how the Lord Jesus lived and died. How He was comprises the foundation of our faith, but please note: don't make the mistake that the past is the present, because it isn't. As Paul said: 'Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him' - now! - 'and given him a name which is above every name' - that's how He is now!
Now when John was in the upper room in the Gospels, you remember in John 13 he leaned on Jesus' bosom - but when he sees the glorified Lord as He is now, he falls on his face. Paul told the Corinthians: 'From now on we regard no one according to the flesh, even though we have known Christ according to the flesh; yet now we know Him thus no longer'. Don't confuse how He was with how He is. Now this is important - why? Because these downtrodden saints in the first century, like downtrodden saints in the 21st century, can take comfort - yes - from the Gospels, from the One who suffered as their forerunner, but their confidence is in the One who is now, who has risen and overcome, and who is no longer trodden underfoot but soon shall tread the wine press of fierceness and the wrath of Almighty God. To the suffering Christian he says today: 'The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly'. The result of what He is now ought to inspire in us faith and praise, for the highest place that heaven affords is His by sovereign right, now!
You see, the potential problem with the church in John's day, and I believe it has been the church's problem every day since Pentecost, is that they lose a vision of the glorified Lord. The tempter, Satan, is conscious that many good men will never be deflected by outright evil, so his ploy is that he seeks to get them obsessed by other things. He gives preeminence of place to displace Christ from His central position. Church history observers for years have pointed out that almost every organisation that began in the power of the Spirit, sooner or later gradually were drawn away from their devotion to Christ - every one. What has been true of organisations has also been true of individuals: distracted from a vision of the glorified Christ in our midst.
We're going to see in the weeks that lie ahead that these seven churches are representative of the churches in John's day; we're going to see, I believe, that they're representative of the church right up until our day. We are in danger, folk, of losing a vision and losing sight of Christ. That is why they needed a revelation of Him, that is why we need a revelation of Him - and I believe the only thing, listen to me, that is going to save the testimony of Jesus Christ in the local churches of our land today is a fresh vision of the glorified Lord - it's the only thing!
A father was trying to get peace to read his copy of the Daily Telegraph. The problem was, every time he settled down with his cup of tea his little girl kept on asking him questions. So he came up with a bright idea, and off his coffee table he lifted a missionary magazine. He ripped a page of a map of the world out of it, and ripped it into several pieces, and then said: 'Dear, I've got something for you to do, it's a little puzzle. Here's a map of the world, see if you can put the jigsaw puzzle together', and he sat down again to his Daily Telegraph. In a few minutes she was back - and he couldn't believe it, she had it all done! He asked her: 'How did you do it so fast?', and like a flash she replied, 'Well, Dad, it was easy. I found a picture of the Lord Jesus on the other side, and I knew when I had Him in the right place the whole world would be all right'.
He needs to be in the right place as the glorified and risen Lord in the church. He is the only head of the church, in your life, believer. As we will see in this book, until He is in His right place in this universe, this world will not be alright - but, praise God, it will when He is given preeminence. I trust that you, this evening, have been granted a vision of the glorified Lord.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his 'The Book Of The Revelation' series, entitled "The Vision Of The Glorified Lord" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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