As we continue our study, we look at the vision that the Apostle John had of the risen Messiah, and his reactions to what he saw and experienced. The passage is found in Revelation 1:9-20
9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send to the seven churches which are in Asia, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.
12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned i saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands, One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
17 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. 18 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. 19 “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. 20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”
WHAT DID JOHN HEAR? (verses 9-11)
The first thing that John did was to confirm his identity. He made sure to let the readers know that he was a brother and companion in tribulation and patient endurance for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself had warned what would happen in the days ahead.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Jesus had warned the disciples that because He was hated, they were going to be hated too. John, the last of the original apostles still alive, had been sent to the penal island of Patmos to die. He was already quite old when he was sentenced to the island, and history shows that during the era of the Roman Empire, the island was totally void of vegetation. Surviving was very tough. But, this is where God wanted John and God sustained him.
Trials of all sorts were expected and as old as John was, he had experienced many. In the epistle written by James we find a verse, which has an interesting view of our trials. It reads thus in the Phillips version of the New Testament:
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. James 1:2-4
Even though we usually consider the Sabbath the Lord’s Day, every day belongs to Him, especially for the believer. Are we able to be “in the spirit” regardless of outside circumstances? Are we able to “walk in the spirit” without complaints, even when things seem to be going backward? Are we living for the here and now, or are we living with eternity in mind? These are principles for all followers of Yeshua/Jesus, not just apostles, prophets, or pastors.
As was the old apostle’s habit, he was in the spirit communing with His Father in heaven on this particular Lord’s Day when he heard a voice behind him. Is there significance to the fact that the risen Lord came from behind John? There are those who think so. This might be a small indication showing that what John saw was not just imagined in his own head. The voice he heard was loud and had the sound of a great trumpet. There is another great trumpet that comes to my mind every time I read this passage. It is found in the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian Church.
“…For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
I have tried to imagine the sound of that great trumpet my whole life; much more as of late than ever before, I’ll have to admit! When had John last heard the voice of his Master? I believe it was at the ascension, as Jesus lifted into the air from the Mount of Olives to go back to the throne of God. As John heard this loud trumpet-sounding voice, the identity of the owner of the voice was once again confirmed. Once again He said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.” And then he added His instructions: “What you see, write in a book and send to the seven churches which are in Asia…”
One truth which will be repeated over and over has to do with the true identity of Jesus Christ. From the very beginning, there has been an onslaught against the identity of God. This became more intense when the Messiah came the first time. The Jewish people, who should have been the first ones to recognize Him since God had provided an abundance of prophetic signs and proofs, missed Him totally. From that time on, the one common denominator among all false religious belief systems, is the rejection of the Deity of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene. Some reject His identity outright, saying that He was the child of fornication though Joseph and Mary had had no physical relations before Jesus’ birth. Others add to the blasphemy by accusing Jesus of having relationships with some of his female followers, particularly Mary Magdalene. Worse yet, there are those who accuse Jesus of having been a homosexual because of His close relationships with his disciples, especially the one given the vision of the apocalypse at the end of the age, John.
Many religious systems allow for the fact that Jesus may have been a great prophet or teacher, along with Buddha, Mohammad, Baha’u’llah, Confucius, and many others. But the voice here announced Himself as the One, who is and who was and who is to come, the ALMIGHTY. He was announcing Himself as The “I AM,” which means, “THE ETERNAL.” This is exactly how He had identified Himself to the Scribes and Pharisees when they questioned His identity. He had told them “Before Abraham was, I AM.” They knew exactly what He was saying, and wanted to kill Him for it. Eventually, they did…but, here, John heard His voice right behind him!
What John was about to be shown would be like nothing anyone has ever seen. This was a foretelling of the future. The Church, which at the time was going through terrific persecutions, needed to hear a message that confirmed to them that there really was an end to it all. God really was in control, no matter how it looked at the time. Although this revelation was difficult to understand throughout the centuries, the primary Revelation—that of Jesus Christ, was easily understood by anyone who would read the book. Today, due to the fact that Israel has been brought back to their ancient land, as foretold for thousands of years, our generation, the last generation before the return of Jesus Christ, is being given understanding of this book.
John was instructed to write everything down and deliver it to seven churches specifically chosen in the area of Asia Minor. Jesus gave the specific names of these churches to John, and we will examine these at another time.
WHAT DID JOHN SEE (verses 12-16)
The question is sometimes asked, “Did John have this experience with the risen Christ in person, or was it a vision. I don’t believe it matters. The Apostle Paul, when he was stoned and left for dead under a pile of rocks, was taken into the third heaven. He himself didn’t know if it was in spirit or in person. Whichever it was, the experience John had was as real as real can be! Although there is an abundance of symbols used in the revelation, this does not mean that John did not encounter the real, living, risen Messiah–in the flesh.
A comparison of John’s description of the Messiah in verses 12-16 of our text with Daniel 7:9-14 is appropriate at this time. Let’s read what it was that the prophet Daniel saw 2,500 years ago:
I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. A court was seated, and the books were opened.
I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking: I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
I was watching in the night visions and behold, One like the Son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before him. Then 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 the one which shall not be destroyed.
Here we have a heavenly scene where God, the Father (the Ancient of Days), is described in considerable detail. Then another character, “the little horn” is brought onto the scene which is the Man of Perdition, or as he is also called, the Antichrist. The scene being described is one at the end of the age when God intervenes in the affairs of mankind, bringing the kingdoms of this world down and into judgment. As this is happening, the Messiah appears on the scene in order to take His place of rulership over the entire planet, as KING of Kings and LORD of Lords.
One of the most stunning revelations the Apostle John gave of the Messiah, is his description which appears to be identical to the Ancient of Days who Daniel saw. Let’s look at John’s description once again for the sake of comparison:
…and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
The garments worn are symbolic of a Judge-King, representing honor and great authority. The day is coming in the near future when Jesus Christ will judge the nations of the world. When the time comes, there will be no question whatsoever whether He really has this authority or not. No one on earth or from hell will be able to dispute the fact. The Apostle Paul made reference to this fact when writing to the Philippians:
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:8-11
As we continue in the description of who both John and Daniel saw, note that He had white hair, white as wool, and as white as snow. This is symbolic of the fact that He is eternal. As humans, we have difficulty imagining anyone or anything being eternal. Eternal means not only having no end, but having no beginning! It means, God always was, He never changes, does not develop, transcend, mature, grow, or change in any way. He just is! In Hebrews 13:8, we are told, Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. These are not the words of a quote, but words of absolute, undebatable Truth. This very truth was offensive and was not accepted by the religious leadership at Jesus’ first coming. At His return, He will not be coming as the suffering Messiah here to die for the sins of the world, but rather as the conquering KING.
John went on to comment about Jesus’ eyes. We have heard the saying, “the eyes are the window to the soul.” As John looked at the risen Christ, he saw eyes that were all-seeing, eyes that were windows to the Judge of absolute righteousness. In Revelation 19:12 John describes the returning Messiah with “eyes like a flame of fire.” In Hebrews 4, we find these words:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrows, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Verses 12-13
John also described the risen Messiah’s feet as like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace. Once again we find this is a reference to judgment. In the Old Testament Tabernacle, brass was symbolic of judgment, and the first item seen within the outer court of the Tabernacle was the large brazen altar. This is where blood sacrifices were made to atone for sin. The closer one got to the inner court of the Tabernacle, brass was replaced by gold.
Then John described the voice once more. This time, instead of saying the loud voice behind him sounded like a trumpet, he said it had the sound of many waters. When I try to imagine the sound he heard, could it have been like a great waterfall? I imagine the sound of Niagara Falls in New York, Victoria Falls in Africa, or even Yosemite Falls in northern California. The sound is a cumulative sound and can be deafening! It is a sound of raw, unstoppable power!
Everything about what the apostle saw was in contrast to the suffering Messiah he wept before on the cross at Calvary. This was the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Ever-Present GOD, presenting Himself in the form of the Son of Man!
The Almighty GOD, awesome Creator of the entire universe was bringing two important principles to mind:
- All streams of revelation are brought together in the Father’s “last word” to man, and man must pay attention! We find powerful words at the beginning of the Book of Hebrews making reference to this very thing:
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds, who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” Hebrews 1:1-3
- He speaks with absolute power and authority and, again, must be heard! The sword from His mouth certainly represents the living Word of God which is referred to in Hebrews 4:12 above, and also in Ephesians 6:17 where the Apostle Paul describes to the believer the weapons of his spiritual warfare in this fallen world:
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (emphasis, mine)
The Almighty GOD provided an abundance of proof to show that Jesus Christ is unique. He is much more than another prophet, priest, or even king. He came to mankind as God in the flesh. He is not someone who can be ignored. God literally bankrupted Heaven to save mankind from his sin. No greater price could possibly be paid than the death of the perfect Lamb of GOD. As we continue in Part three, we will look at what John the Apostle saw and how he reacted to what he saw.
Continued in Part Three…