Letters from Jesus #1
Title: Behold Our God
Text: Revelation 1:1-20
Background and Setting 1-11
Verses 1-3 gives us the book’s title, author and a blessing to the obedient hearers of the book. Revelation comes from a Greek word that we get our English word apocalypse that means an unveiling, a manifestation, a showing, a revelation. Then we also see the author is the Apostle John. He calls himself a servant or slave of Jesus who testified and gave witness about Jesus and the word of God. Then John gives a blessing to the reader and hearer of this book in verse 3. Notice that the blessing isn’t just tied to hearing the Word, but doing it as well, this is like the exhortation in James 1 to be doers of the Word and not just hearers so we are not deceiving ourselves.
In verse 4 John gives the official greeting to open the letter by addressing the seven churches in Asia. Those seven churches are later named specifically in verse 11. John prays for grace and peace for these churches from the triune Godhead. The first title, “who is, who was, and who is to come” is not a reference to Christ, but is actually being ascribed to the Father, the eternal God the I AM.
The second title given is of “the seven spirits that are before his throne”. There is a lot of discussion on how to interpret this title, but most hold that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit, but there is debate on how it relates to the Holy Spirit. The answer I am most satisfied with is tying John’s writing to Zechariah 4. In Zechariah 4, the prophet has a vision of seven lamps and there is mention of the seven eyes of the Lord seeing over the whole earth. If these references in Zechariah are also about the Spirit, then so is John’s reference here in Revelation 1, as well as chapters 3, 4, and 5.
John then names Jesus Christ as the third person giving grace and peace, but John also ascribes to Christ other titles. Theses titles and actions all point Jesus’ deity. John isn’t arguing for or proving Jesus’ deity, but he assumes its and gives honor to Christ. He also reminds his readers that we have become part of His kingdom and became like royal priests before God.
John then goes into a doxology in verse 7 which is actually a combining of two different OT prophetic writers. He combines Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10 to create this doxology. This strengthens the link between this apocalyptic book with those prophecies from the OT.
Then in verse 8, which has no direct connection to verse 7, we hear the voice of God telling us the He is Alpha and Omega. He is the One who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. He is from the beginning with no beginning, He will be at the end with no ending, and He is everything in between. His is the all powerful Eternal God.
John then moves into his calling to write this letter. In vers 9 he connects with the seven churches by identifying himself as their brother and partner in the work of the Gospel through the afflictions and the endurance that they were facing with the open persecution from
Rome. He tells them that he was on the Island of Patmos, an inhospitable rocky island prison, as a result of his testimony for Christ. John says that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. John was at the very least probably spending time personally worshipping when he was filled by the Holy Spirit and given this vision. The vision begins with John hearing a loud trumpet like voice from behind him telling him to write to these specific seven churches.
Why would John be writing to these churches? Church tradition and history tells us that when the Jews rebelled against Rome in the late 60s AD John left Jerusalem for Asia Minor where these churches are located. There he ministered to and with these churches and developed a close relationship with them. But this book was written later, around 90-92 AD, near the end of John’s life.
This section sets the tone for the next couple of chapters and for the rest of the book. We see eternality and power of the Godhead, the deity of Christ, and we also see that the key to the book of Revelation is not the Church, but Jesus Christ. Christ is revealed to John, Christ speaks to these churches, Christ is the center of chapter 4 and 5 and on through the book. Behold our God.
Christ in Glory 12-16
Lampstands and Son of Man 12-13
After hearing this trumpet like voice, John does the most natural thing he could do, he turned around to see Who was speaking to him. After turning around the first thing he saw was seven golden lampstands. We will see in a few verses that these lampstands symbolize individual churches in different cities as churches are supposed to show God’s light throughout the earth, there are deeper meanings as well, since Revelation is heavily dependant on the OT. The reference here is similar to the gold lampstand in Zechariah’s vision in chapter 4 of that book, and to the seven branched lampstand that was in the Tabernacle. Both of these symbolized God’s people being a light to those around them.
Among these lampstands John sees a person, and uses the phrase “one like the Son of Man”. More than likely John is meaning this phrase in the messianic sense that many of us would think of, especially John heard Jesus use this term of Himself as Jesus quoted Daniel in Mark 13:26. Then John tells us of the dress the Son of Man is wearing. A long white robe with a golden sash across his chest. Many take this to symbolize Christ’s status as our great High Priest, but priests are not the only ones who wore long robes. It is possible that the robe signifies the general high rank or dignity of the person.
John continues to describe the appearance of Jesus in the next few verses. In six of the letters to the seven churches, Jesus uses as titles and descriptions of Himself from here to verse 20. So His presentation is an important aspect of those letters. John first describes Jesus’ hair as white wool and white snow. In Daniel 7 the Ancient of Days on the throne is the One with hair of white wool. Tying this to Jesus, we see the connection to Jesus’ deity and holiness. Then John describes His eyes as a flaming fires. This again links back to Daniel’s vision, in chapter 10 he describes the eyes of the angelic messenger in a similar way. The general idea is of a supernatural intelect, but in John’s writing of Christ the fiery eyes represents His omniscience. That He knows all and sees all. There is nothing that is hidden from the Lord.
John then describes Jesus’ feet as “bronze as it is fired in a furnace”. Visually what we should be thinking of is pure bronze when it is still in the crucible, when the metal is in its molten state at a high temperatures. The idea is a glow so bright that you cannot look straight at it. This image should be understood to represent Christ’s purity. John then describes the sound of Christ’s voice as that of rushing or crashing waters. Throughout Scripture, wording like this tends to show a powerful force. This phrase is also found in the Hebrew text of Ezekiel 43:2 and is associated with God the Father. Again, we see the equality of the Father and the Son. This same voice was described as a trumpet a few verses ago, but it is likely that the trumpet description was used to indicate the introduction while the power force of crashing waters gives the authority behind the commision to write.
Verse 16 finishes Jesus appearance. We start by seeing in His right hand He hold seven stars. In verse 20 we are told what these stars are, angels or messengers of the seven churches. I believe that the better translation should be messengers here as they seem to be in leadership or have an authority within these churches, and angels are described as ministering spirits in Hebrews 1. Angels are not seen as having authority over the church, and why would Christ need to John to write letters to angelic beings to give them to the churches? So if we hold that these stars are messengers/leaders/pastors of the churches what is symbolic of them being Christ’s right hand? There are two views about that. One is that the right hand is viewed as authoritative and controlling, the other is the idea of protection and comfort. Both of these views can be argued from Scripture, but I am going to take the middle ground on this and say it is a mixture of both comfort/protection and authority/control.
John also describes a sharp double edged sword coming from His mouth. There is OT and NT passages that can relate to this image. More likely the one that comes to mind is Hebrew 4:12 describing the Word of God as a sword. John then describes Jesus face as the sun shining in its strength, or at high noon. This is the climax of this vision with the overwhelming power of the glory of Christ. Some sixty years previous, John, his brother James, and Peter were able to witness Jesus in His glory on the Mt of Transfiguration where Jesus face was said to shine like the sun, here John is able to see that glory again.
We see Christ here in His glory. We see Christ in His deity. We see Christ among the Churches, seeing all, knowing all. We see Christ ruling over and guarding His ministers in His Churches. We also see Christ is moving in judgement against the churches. Behold our God.
Commission to Write 17-20
John’s Response 17a
Here again, John does the natural thing, he falls down at the feet of Christ. Ezekiel did the same in his vision of God. The appearance of the Lord causes men to realize Who the are before, and in fear and shame they fall before Him in worship.
Christ’s Comfort 17b-18
Christ doesn’t leave John like this, He lays His hand upon John’s back and tells him to not be afraid and then confirms Who He is to John. Jesus gives John another “I Am” statement by calling Himself the First and the Last. The Lord continues by saying He is the Living One, The Lord is the only living god. Other “gods” are dead idols. But Jesus is the One Who conquered death. He hold the keys to death and Hades. The keys are a symbol of authority. Christ has absolute dominion over the death and the realm of the dead, hades.
Verse 19 is the commission to write. This verse is also the main outline to the book of revelation if you interpret from a futurist perspective as I do. Chapter 1 the things you saw, the vision of Christ; Chapters 2-3 the things that are, the seven churches; Chapters 4-22 the things that will be, the future events.
Verse 20 Christ explains the meaning of the seven lampstands and the seven stars. We have already discussed the lampstands and stars earlier as we walked through this vision of Jesus.
Though Jesus was coming in judgement, coming in power and authority, He wasn’t coming for John. The faithful servant of Christ’s never has a need to fear Christ’s coming, though our natural response to fall in worship of Him and in shame and repentance of our sin. Behold our God.
This morning we looked at John’s vision of Jesus. We saw Christ’s deity as a member of the Godhead. We saw Christ’s power and authority among the churches. We saw what our response should be when we are confronted by our holy God, but we also saw that Christ is compassionate on those who are faithful to Him.
It is easy to focus on Christ as the Lamb, the perfect sacrifice for our sins. It is easy to focus on Christ as our Great High Priest ever making intercession for us before the Father. But we should never forget that Christ is just as all powerful, all knowing, and eternal as the Father. Let us not forget Whom we serve and Whose church we are. Behold our God.