Thursday, August 8, 2013

Revelation 1:9-20 A Magnificent Vision

Text: Revelation 1:  9 - 20
Title : A Magnificent  Vision
Date:  04/08/2013 

We are now   coming  to  the  main body of the Book of Revelation  which consists of  numerous visions. In Ch.  1: 9 – Ch. 3 f  we  find the first vision.

Outline of the Vision :
(i)                      A vision of the glorified Christ walking in the midst of the golden candlesticks and commissioning John to write the things which he saw. (Ch. 1:9-20)
(ii)                    A message   from Christ  to  John  which he must deliver to  the 7 churches in Asia. (Ch’s. 2-3)  

This vision comes to the apostle John ( who is  probably the last surviving apostle)  from the Lord Jesus Christ who is   speaking from His position as the  exalted Christ.  At this time  John   was  living on   a   rocky  and barren little   island  called    Patmos,   not far  off the coast  of  Asia Minor (modern Turkey). According to  early church historians  he had been sent into exile there    during the rule of the  Roman emperor Domitian  ( emperor from AD 81 -  96) . He  was  a devoted  worshipper  of the  Roman gods ,  and appears to have opposed the Christians.  Our text tells us  that John  was banished there “on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”  If it was  under the rule of Domitian, then we  may  conclude that  John  was on that  island   around 95 AD.

The vision given to John is for the benefit  of  7 churches  in Asia (v.11). In this vision  John does not see himself as  aloof from the church. He  sees himself  as a “brother and a partner in the  tribulation and  the kingdom and the patient endurance that  are in  Jesus ...” (v.9) . All these  experiences are true of the church in history and today.  She always  participates  in the sufferings of our Lord Jesus. [1]  The church is  the  agency through which the Lord Jesus makes  His kingdom visible . It  is only in the power of that patient endurance that we can bear the tribulation and persevere unto the end. The tribulation of the Christian church in Namibia relates to the fact  that she  struggles to survive  in the midst of materialism  and the good life, and with prayerlessness  and  lack of heartfelt devotion and attachment  to Christ. Thank God that  the kingdom of God is advancing among us, but  you will appreciate  that unless the Lord Jesus  had granted  us   patient endurance  we would almost have become discouraged.

God used this obscure,  lonely little  island  to  send a mighty  Word into the world like ours. That which we hold in our hands  now  known as “the Revelation to John”,  continues to encourage and inspire countless Christians today.
John received this vision  when, as he says,   “I  was in the Spirit on the Lord's day [2]“.   On this Sunday  the  Lord Jesus  visited him in a very profound  way. On that day  John was given insight  into  the mind of Christ  concerning that which must soon take place  (1:1,19) . And  John  records: “I  heard  behind me  a loud voice like a trumpet saying, write what you see in a book  and send it to the seven churches...”.

We shall consider the content  of that writing in chapters 2 &3.  At this point  John is not so much  concerned with the content  of  what he must communicate to the churches. He  is  preoccupied with the vision of the Lord Jesus Christ. As he hears the voice behind him,  he says:  “I  turned to see the  voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man….”. He sees  the glorified  Lord Jesus  in the midst of golden lampstands.  

Four  things  are described here:  
1.                        He describes  the glorified Christ  (vv. 13-16)
2.                       He describes the  effect  which this vision had on him (v.17,18)
3.                       He  describes  the commission  which he receives  from Christ: Write ! ( v. 19)
4.                       He receives  an interpretational key  concerning the 7 stars  in his right hand (v.20)

1.       The description of  the glorified Christ :  (vv.  13-16) .
John describes   Jesus being  “ like  a son of man”. This is significant !  “Son of man” – that  was Jesus favourite  self- designation.[3] The term is probably derived from  Daniel 7: 13,14.
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days  (described in  Dan 7: 9-10) and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”  The  “son of man”  who  in Daniel’s vision is described as separate  from  “the Ancient of days”, now appears  to  be one and the same  person  in   Revelation  1:13-16.  The nature of the Trinity  indeed is a mystery.

Let’s get back to the  revelation of the “son of man”.  The  Lord Jesus, the  eternal Son of God, appeared in time  as a  man. He was  born  of Mary,    through the agency of the  Holy Spirit ( Lk 1:35) . He ascended to heaven with a resurrection body, as a glorified  man. He presently rules  there  as  a glorified man,  and He shall come from there in in His glorified state  as a man. His return will be a visible return- as  a glorified man.   John’s vision confirms this. Everything that John  says here,  bears  testimony to the fact that our Lord Jesus is indeed the Son of man. He   clearly displays the features of  man. Consider the following:
·       He is clothed.  Only bodies  are clothed. Here He wears  a long robe and with a  golden sash around  His chest.  These are the robes  of  a  High priest, and that is what Jesus is  (Hebr. 9:11) .  He has finished His sacrificial work on the cross,   but He  is still engaged as our High Priest and Intercessor with the Father, as our man  in  heaven.  
·       His hair is white  like white wool  or  like white snow.  Hair is a very human thing. The whiteness of His hair pictures the Savior in His divine nature, as very God- as the eternal Son of God, and God the Son, “whose coming forth is from of old , from ancient days.”  (Micah 5: 2). 
·       He has eyes, and they are like  a flame of fire.  Eyes too are  part of  human  anatomy.  But the eyes of Christ  penetrate into the deepest recesses of the hearts of men; they discover hidden things. They are omniscient  eyes.  All  things (even the secret thoughts)  to Him are an open book.  Those eyes  discern every  evil thought or deed. Those flaming eyes also express holiness and righteous indignation and wrath.
·       He has  feet   and they are like burnished bronze.  Revelation 19:15 tells us that  that with these  feet He will “ tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty”.  As the Son of man He will   soon crush Satan under  His feet (Rom 16:20) .    
·       He has a voice, and it roars like many waters -  much more intimidating that  the  Victoria falls! “ He utters His voice, the earth melts” ( Ps 46:6) It is the voice of power. With that voice, the  Lord Jesus  at His coming “will kill the lawless one  with the breath of His mouth and bring him to nothing by the appearance of his coming.”  (2 Thess 2:8) .
·       He has hands, and in those hands He holds seven stars; (more about that in a moment)
·       He has a mouth,   from which  comes   a sharp two-edged sword.  The sword in Scripture is symbol of authority  and  of power to punish evildoers.  That sword is the Word which He speaks. It is  "living and active,  sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing  to the division  of soul and of  spirit, of  joints and of marrow, and  discerning  the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebr. 4:12)
·       His face  was like the sun shining in full strength!  Moses, when confronted with the glory of God   could not bring himself to look at that glory. He was afraid ( Ex 3:6). And  Moses himself when he had spent 40 days in the company of God on Mt Sinai  could not be looked  at  by his people ( Ex. 34:29-35) .

This is how John sees Him: the Son of Man  in the midst of   seven golden lampstands. Though these are individual lampstands, the  symbolism reminds us  of the seven armed  lampstand (the Menorah), which once stood in the holy place in the temple in Jerusalem. These  lamps had to be kept burning continuously, symbolizing  the truth that Israel was the light of God shining in the darkness of this fallen  world.  In  this vision  the seven lampstands  represent  the church of all ages, concerning which the Lord Jesus had said:  “You are the Light of the world”  (Matt 5:14).   It goes without saying that  the church  is a light, that derives its source of light not of herself, but from the Lord who  is  in her midst.   

2.  The Reaction  and Reassurance from Christ (Vv. 17 &18)

When I saw  Him  I  fell at His feet as though dead.” [4]This  is terrifying glory – something which Isaiah also felt when in the year that Uzziah died, and when He saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, he cried “Woe is me . I am lost!” ( Isa. 6:1-7). The immediate reaction to the unveiling of God’s glory is always fear. Those that encounter  the glory of God always have to be assured: “Fear not[5]!  
Why  must John not be afraid?  The answer is  given:  “I am the first and the last , and the living one. I died and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and hades.”  John is in safe hands. His life will not be taken  in the face of this severe experience of glory.  John is in the hand of the  Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last.  In v. 8 this was said of God; here  Christ claims  this for Himself. There is no conflict here. Christ  is  God of very God.  In His particular role He fulfills  the part of  Mediator, the incarnate  Son,  the first to rise from the dead.    He is the life! He has life in Himself, for He is the eternal God come in the flesh! And He  died,   in order that as the great High Priest He might finish the sacrifice for  our sins. Death could  not hold Him in the grave. He  rose  and now He is alive forevermore! And because He rules over death  the keys of death and hell are His.  Jesus has the keys to life and death. What  He opens no one shuts , and what He shuts no one opens. 
Therefore, John  … fear not!  We need not fear God ; we need not fear death  if we find ourselves in Christ .  Blessed are they that put their trust in Him!

3. The  Commission (v.19)

Having calmed John’s fear, the Lord gives him his commission:  “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are  (present) and those that are to take  place after this (future).”     This   no doubt refers to  the contents of the whole Book of Revelation. “The things  that are" refer to the  first three chapters  , and the  "the things which are to take place  after this “  relates  from  Chapters 4 to the  end.  We will find that in these  chapters  there is repetition, but in the repetition there is progress.

4. Interpretational help   ( v.20)

 You were perhaps wondering what the  seven stars  in Jesus right  hand  in v.  16 were  symbolizing?  Here is the answer provided   in v. 20.  The seven stars which Jesus holds in His right hand   are said to be  the angels of the seven churches.  Commentators  differ  with respect to what is meant by these seven stars or angels which the Lord Jesus holds in His hands. I will give you the two major views:
·       Some  maintain that these are   the  guardian angels of each church.  This would be difficult to sustain. It is  difficult to conceive of the possibility of writing letters to such guardian angels.
·       Others   have applied the words to the  pastors  or overseers  of the churches. In the Bible,    both the Hebrew word for  angel  (mal’ak e.g. Malachi means ‘my messenger’ ) and the Greek word (angelos)   literally translated  also means,  ‘messenger’. It is most likely that  the angel of the church  in this case is a human  messenger  of God. They are symbolized  as stars, not because the churches receive their light, but because stars,  like planets   are  only reflected lights.  God  gives  light   to  His church  through His messengers,  who  say what He says.  The Psalmist says:  “Your word is a lamp  to my feet and a light to my path” ( Ps 119:105) ; “ The unfolding of your words gives light”( Ps. 119:130). These messengers  cannot be separated from the churches. They represent the churches. This close connection between the stars (or angels)  and the churches is evident from the seven letters which follow in the next two chapters,  and it is evident  that Jesus through John  speaks through the messengers  which they represent and serve.

[1]   Suffering  with Christ: See also  Rom 8:17; 2 Cor 1:5; Phil 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13
[2] The first day of the week – Sunday, the Christian Sabbath
[3]   In the Gospels Jesus is alternatively called  Son of man , Son of God  and Son of David
[4] See also  Paul – (Acts 9:3f);  Ezekiel- (Ezek 1:23; 3:23; 43:3, 44:4) and Daniel ( Dan. 10:7ff)
[5] E.g. Lk  1:13,30;2:10

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