As we left off in part two of this series, we were examining what the Apostle John saw in Revelation, chapter one. It is obvious that John saw the risen Messiah, but not at all as he remembered Him! He was not looking at the suffering Christ nailed to a Roman cross, and he was not seeing Jesus as He saw Him during the time between the resurrection and His ascension. He was seeing Him now as the glorified Christ, the mirror image of the Ancient of Days depicted in the Old Testament.
One of the things John made mention of as he described Jesus was the the sharp two-edged sword coming from His mouth. Did John see a literal sword or was it an apparition? I don’t think it really matters. It is clear John was intended to see its reality. Jesus, as the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead, is called the Word of God. As the Word of God, He is the literal definition of Truth. Not partial truth, but 100% undeniable truth. We have philosophers today who tell us that “truth is relative,” meaning that one person’s definition of truth may not be the same as another person’s truth. There are absolutes that cannot be debated away. One of these is the existence of the Eternal God. No matter who would like to deny His existence, theirs is the futile argument of a fool. In this passage, the vision of the risen and glorified Messiah as revealed with the Sword of the Spirit is a declaration of the fact that the risen Messiah is the very definition of Absolute Truth. He is the Author of Truth, and He overcomes all of His enemies with His Word of Truth. In chapter two, we find a short passage in which Jesus expresses His displeasure at wrong teachings allowed within the Church of Pergamos and confronts them with this statement:
Repent or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. Revelation 2:16
Later in the 19th chapter of the Book of Revelation we have another passage referring to Jesus with the Sword in His mouth:
And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. Revelation 19:19-21
The “Word” of God is all that is needed. No physical weapon is needed. God spoke all of creation into existence with the power of His Word. He can easily defeat His enemies in the same way. Not only that, He has taught us to do the very same thing.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…2 Corinthians 10:3-5
How much killing has been done in the name of religion over the centuries? Men have stooped to the lowest human depravity and blamed it on their religious beliefs. How many millions were murdered in the name of religion during the almost 200 years of the Crusades? The number of people tortured and slaughtered by the Roman Catholic Church, especially during the Dark Ages, was in the multiplied millions—all in the name of religion, supposedly by the sword of the cross! Territories were invaded and people forced to submit to the religion of the invaders, or tortured and murdered in the most savage ways the human mind could invent. Today it is no different. More Christians have been martyred since the turn of the millennium than all the nineteen centuries previous! Men, women, and children are buried alive, hacked to death, stoned or beaten to death, crucified, beheaded, or worse…much worse—all in the name of religion? This is not what God has taught man to do. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who abuse us. He taught us to use the Word of God, not the sword! Those who take any sword other than the Sword of Truth to advance His kingdom will perish with the weapon to which they have appealed.
He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Revelation 13:10
But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” Matthew 26:52
Here we have the law of “reaping and sowing.” Jesus taught us to do unto others as we would have them do to us. If we choose to do the opposite, we will pay the consequences of the choices we have made. Either way, we reap what we sow.
Continuing in the description the risen Lord, John said, “His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” It is the spiritual truth which gives the splendor to such a description. The dazzling glory of Him who is the Sun of Righteousness is too much for the human eye. It is no surprise if we remember that we are taught that He is the brightness of His Father’s glory, and that the Father dwells “in that light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see” 1 Timothy 6:16. Yet, we have this promise in Matthew 13:43: “…the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father…”
The Lord’s countenance also reminds us of His transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-2:
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
Here three of Jesus’ disciples had an experience they would never forget. They saw something totally unexpected and supernatural. They caught a glimpse of the brightness and glory of eternity that made their physical world dark and dull in comparison. This reminds me of a powerful passage in the Book of Malachi:
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble, and the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “that will leave them neither root nor branch, but to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings, and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves…” Malachi 4:1-2
Like the sun which provides warmth, protection, and sustains life, the sun is an image of God in the Old Testament, a source of not only blessing, but also of judgment. The sun can burn as well as bless! In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul reminds us of this very thing.
“For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God; on those who fail, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off, and they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” Romans 11:21-24
Two other observations made by the apostle are the seven golden lampstands and the seven stars John saw in Jesus’ hand. The lampstands represent the seven churches to which Jesus instructed John to send His completed revelation. The stars in His right hand represent the leadership of each church. John saw Jesus right in the center of these lampstands as the Head of the Church. All those of His Church should imitate the Head in all things and in all ways. In John 1:4 we are told that in Jesus was life, and the life was the light of men. Our light should so shine that all are directed to the source of that light.
WHAT DID JOHN DO?
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last, I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death…” verses 17-18
As John looked upon the Person before him, he fell at His feet as a dead man! You and we would all do the same. In our world we think of those who hold great power; presidents, prime-ministers, kings, dictators, rulers, or emperors. But this was GOD standing before John, the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Ever-Present, GOD. Contrast this with John’s reaction to the person of Jesus in his gospel, “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved…John 13:23. John as a young disciple was very comfortable with his Master, and even though understanding that He was the Messiah, still interacted with Him, much like a father with whom he had a close relationship. This was the same Jesus, yet…much different, indeed!
A vision of the exalted Christ can only produce awe and fear, much as it was with the Old Testament prophet, Daniel when he had a supernatural encounter that was too much for his weak human body.
And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore i was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength. Yet I head the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground. Daniel 10:7-9
As has already been mentioned, much of this awe has been lost in our modern-day church, especially in the West. The Laodicean Church, represented in our generation, is described as neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, thinking they are rich, in need of nothing. Yet, in the eyes of the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, they are wretched, poor, miserable, blind, and naked! Sadly, too many today match this description. Too often we have become self-centered, self-ruled, self-satisfied, self-sufficient, and spiritually proud and narcissistic. God help us to recognize Whom it is that we serve! Paul left us these instructions in the New Testament:
…and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, 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. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…2 Corinthians 5:15-18
We have become part of this grand plan! A plan that involves God’s eternal foreknowledge from before the foundation of the Earth was laid, and extends into the infinite eternal future. What an astonishing, stunning eternity we have been promised…just for recognizing Jesus for Who He truly is, and giving Him His deserved Lordship over our eternal future! We serve a great and mighty God, indeed!
This Saviour John saw is the One who was dead, but alive forevermore! And He has the keys of hell and death. It was He who gently touched John and told him not to be afraid! This was the Almighty Creator of all, yet the same One whom John loved so as His disciple for 3 1/2 years.
The risen Lord then told John:
“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this…” verse 19
What John was going to be given in this revelation would prove to be stunning, shocking, sometimes confusing, but of such importance that John was told to make sure to deliver it to all seven of the named churches. Verse 19 tells us that this revelation would provide information from the past, of the present, and of the future.
There are a number of characteristics that should not be missed when reading the words of the prophecy of the Book of Revelation.
It is all about the Messiah: From beginning to end, we find a description of His greatness, His glory, and His power
It is an “open” revelation: John is instructed not to seal the book. The message it contains is a message that God’s people must have. The message it contains is also understandable, although it needs to be read and studied with the help of the Holy Spirit and by letting other portions of the holy writ explain what is written therein
It is full of symbols: The content is timeless and it is limitless—as is the Author. One example of a symbol is the Lamb of God. The sacrificial lamb was first offered at the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. The sacrifice for sin was the continued theme of covering sin by means of the sacrifice of innocent animals. In God’s timing, the four-footed animal sacrifice was replaced by the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who took upon Himself the sins of the entire world. The perfect Lamb of God is presented before God’s throne early in the Book of Revelation and fulfills prophecy by returning to planet Earth later in the book as KING of Kings and LORD of Lords.
It is a book of prophecy: “Blessed are those that read the words of this prophecy…” Revelation 1:3 “Blessed is he who keeps the words of this prophecy of this book” Revelation 22:7 And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book” Revelation 22:10 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book… If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy…Revelation 22:17-18
After the two chapters containing commendations, corrections, and instructions for the churches, history is laid out, that of the past, present, and the future, right on through to the eternal realm. The persecuted Church, in particular, very much needed to hear about the victorious Christ who would also return sometime in the future to take God’s people home.
It is a book of blessing: As we have already seen in Revelation 1:3, there is a special blessing to anyone who reads the words of the prophecy of this book…and, who keeps the things which are written in it; for the time is at hand. After 4,000 years of man’s history on earth at the time of Christ, the beginning of the Church was considered the “last days.” Today, 2,000 years later, we find ourselves at the last of the last days!
It is absolutely relevant: The very first verse of the book tells us that these things must “shortly” come to pass. The third verse tells us that the time is “near.” We also find the words: “…I am coming quickly! Revelation 22:7; “…for the time is at hand” Revelation 22:10; behold, I am coming quickly!” Revelation 22:12; and once again, “I am coming quickly” Revelation 22:20.
What does the word “shortly” mean to God? I don’t think it necessarily means “immediately,” but it does mean “imminently” and “swiftly.” God exists outside of time but He does understand that we live inside of time. After all, it was He that created time. We just need to remember that God sees all time, past, present, and future, at the same time. He does not see it the same way we do, yet, when he says “shortly,” He does infer that it will happen “quickly, swiftly, suddenly.” The Apostle Peter made comment to this:
…beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, but the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…2 Peter 3:8-10a
The prophecies in the Bible started slow but as time went on, the fulfillment began to speed up. We are now at a time when the fulfillment of Bible prophecy has accelerated to a feverish pace. At this point in time, nothing will be able to interrupt the fulfillment of all things prophesied to happen directly prior to the second coming of the Messiah!
It has grandeur, majesty: We find “the throne” mentioned 46 times in Revelation. The prophecy of this book exalt His majesty, His sovereignty, His glory, and His total dominion.
In Psalm 2 we find a fascinating conversation between the members of the Godhead discussing the state of mankind. At the beginning of the psalm, the Holy Spirit makes comment to the foolish wickedness and rebellion of evil men who say to the LORD and His Anointed, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us” (verse 2). After both the Father and the Son speak, The Holy Spirit closes the psalm out saying, “Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” (verses 10-12)
God’s absolute dominion is established eternally at the end of the book.
It is all-inclusive: John was told: “you must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” Revelation 10:11. This same phrase is used in several more passages in the prophecy. God’s gift of salvation has been made universally available. God is not willing that any perish.
It has a culmination: What began in the Book of Genesis is completed in the Book of Revelation, God’s will cannot fail…ever! What He has decided and decreed will happen. This is what makes the Bible so unique. If it has been written, it is as good as complete! This is because Jesus Christ really is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and Last. There is none other! Several verses penned by Isaiah the prophet, make it very clear that Jehovah God is All-Powerful and that His reign over the universe is unquestionably sovereign.
“…there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other…” Isaiah 45:21-22
“To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal, and compare Me, that we should be alike? Isaiah 45:5
“Remember this, and show yourselves men; recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure. Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed i have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” Isaiah 46:8-11
“I will take vengeance, and I will not arbitrate with a man.” As for our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name. The Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 47:3b-4
In a time when much of the Church has become lax in its testimony, it is important to remember that it was at very great cost that our salvation was made available. Complete forgiveness and right-standing with God has been made available to us. We should however, never lose our awe of God and what He has provided for us. The “fear of God” should have a permanent place in our attitude as followers of the Messiah. This is a “fear” that is defined by reverence, honor and submission to our Omnipotent Father. There is none other like Him! The Apostle Peter leaves these instructions for us, the Church:
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of the God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. 1 Peter 4:17-19
In Part Four we will begin looking at what the Author and Finisher of our Faith, Messiah Jesus had to say to the seven churches in Asia.
Continued in Part Four