Revelation 1:12-20 | Breaking Gravity | Jason Drumm
Topic: Stand-alone messages Passage: Revelation 1:12–1:20
Turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Revelation. This morning we’ll be looking at Revelation chapter 1, verse 12 through 20, and I just wanted to begin by reading this passage and again asking the Lord for his help this morning.
We’ll start in verse 9. Revelation 1:9:
I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and 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, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Then 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, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that 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 are the seven churches.
Father, we just want to come before you one more time this morning and ask for your help. Lord, we read this passage and we’re overwhelmed by this vision of Christ, and we need your grace, God. We need wisdom. In this life, Lord, we need encouragement. We need so much.
You are gracious, God, and you are generous. I pray that you would this morning give us what we need from your word. Shape us and mold us into the image of Christ as we behold his glory in your word. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Three. Two. One. Ignition. The engines of the space shuttle erupt downward. You’re familiar with this sight. Frantic flames flood the launchpad. And then…there’s this moment. There’s this moment after the ignition when the engines flood the launchpad with flames, and then the whole thing, the space shuttle, just hangs there, this brutal vertical fight as the engines strain to break gravity.
The shuttle is this massive weight, 4.4 million pounds. Then you add to that the monumental force of gravity pulling down, and there’s this moment where you wonder, is this crazy? Is this thing ever gonna get off the ground? Is this possible? Is it ever gonna break gravity and get through?
Maybe you wonder that in your spiritual life sometimes. We’ve all had those moments when you feel like in your spiritual life you’re just hanging there, burning your engines, trying to break gravity, as it were. And you have all this weight, this monumental force seemingly pulling down on you. Sometimes it’s just a moment in your day. Sometimes it lasts for weeks, for months, for years.
Maybe it’s persecution of some kind. Maybe it’s trials you’re facing, the painful loss of a loved one, or just great temptation to give in to sin. Or maybe it’s just the overwhelming nature of the difficulties of life at times.
If we’re honest, it can feel sometimes like God has forgotten about us. It feels like sometimes he’s not answering your prayers. Maybe sometimes it feels like he’s punishing you. Sometimes life brings us through things that are seemingly unbearable.
Ever wonder if the Bible has encouragement for Christians going through times like that? We wouldn’t be here if it didn’t.
The thing that’s gonna encourage you through those kinds of difficult times, it’s not a mystery. It’s not a secret. It’s clearly revealed on the pages of Scripture, and I just want to show you this morning how to, as it were, break gravity in your spiritual life.
Before we get to that this morning, I want you to see where I get that idea from. Because Revelation is a letter. It’s a letter from John, written in the darkest of times for the church, written by the apostle John somewhere around 90 to 95 A.D., about 60 years after Jesus died and rose again.
This was a very difficult time for Christians in the early church. A difficult time because of the nature of the difficulties of life for all of us, a difficult time because of the trials that we can all go through at times, but an especially difficult time because of the persecution facing the early church, now not only from the Jews, but also from the Romans. Since Roman authorities at this time were beginning to enforce emperor worship, Christians who held that Jesus Christ, not Caesar, is the Lord were facing increasing hostility against now not just the Jews but also the Roman government.
Most of the apostles at this point when John writes this letter have already been martyred, murdered for their faith. John is the last apostle remaining alive when he writes the book of Revelation, and he had been exiled for his faith to an island like we would think about Alcatraz, exile island, called Patmos island.
And it looks like, I mean, from all human perspective, believers at this time would have looked around and thought, man, I know Jesus said he was gonna build his church and the gates of hell will not stand against it, but this isn’t looking good. Jesus shows up and tells John to write a letter, write a letter to the churches.
So John writes to encourage the believers that Jesus is the reigning ruler of the universe and that he has not forgotten his people, and if you look at verse 12 here, this is how it all starts, right? The apostle John, exiled to Patmos island—he hears this voice, and he spins around. And when you hear a voice and spin around to see it, you would think the first thing you’d see is a person, but he says—look at verse 12 in your copy of God’s word—“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw [not a person, but] seven golden lampstands,” is the first thing that he sees. Verse 13: “[A]nd in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man,” and that’s Jesus.
Any new believers in the early church, having known the Old Testament from their Judaistic days, would have read this and thought, wait. Time out. You begin, I, John, was in the Spirit; and now you say, I saw one like a son of man. This is what we’ve been waiting for! This is what Daniel told us about. This is what Daniel saw. I, Daniel, saw a vision of the Son of Man. And we’ll see this morning quite a few matches between what Daniel saw and what John is now seeing, and we’ll see one monumental difference between what the two men were told.
So here we see John’s vision of the Son of Man paralleling Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man, but the funny thing here is John doesn’t first mention the Son of Man. First he mentions the seven lampstands. What’s significant about that?
Because then right in the middle of this vision of Jesus, we also see—look at verse 16—“in his right hand he held seven stars.” So we’ve got these seven lampstands and seven stars. Is Jesus just trying to be weird here? What’s going on? Jesus is pictured in these verses walking among the seven lampstands, and he’s holding the seven stars in his hand. He’s among them, moving around, protecting the stars. What is he doing here?
Well verse 20, the end of the passage, tells us. “As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels [or messengers] of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
So we know the seven lampstands are the churches. Are the seven churches are, it says, the angels, the Greek word here, angelos. Angelos can be translated either angels or messengers. Now, angels is really just the transliteration. Angels are God’s messengers. The meaning of angelos is messengers. The traditional translation in English back to William Tyndale, the King James Version, is angels. And I’m not normally one to argue with William Tyndale. Angel is fine as long as you understand that angel means messenger.
If you look at chapter 2, verse 1, Jesus continues, “To the angel [angelos] of the church in Ephesus write.” Chapter 2, verse 8: “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write.” Chapter 2, verse 12: “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write.” Now, if you think about this, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Jesus to show John things that angels have already seen and then have John write a letter to angels about it. Right? And furthermore, how exactly does Jesus expect John to deliver a letter to an angel? [Holds out imaginary letter and looks around in bewilderment.] Right?
So, in this picture, it seems to make a lot more sense to understand this as messengers. What Jesus means here is, I’m walking among the lampstands, the churches, and I hold the messengers, the pastors of the church, in my hand, my right hand.
So this picture and everything we’re gonna look at this morning is a vision that John sees of Jesus, the Son of Man, holding the pastors of the church in his hand and actively at work among, amidst the churches. Jesus shows up and begins speaking to John.
Now think about this for a second. What the apostle John saw in this vision, what he saw, what he heard he was commanded by Jesus to write, and what he wrote he was commanded by Jesus to send, and what he sent to the churches was copied and multiplied so that other churches could read it and eventually passed down through the centuries, and you have it sitting in your lap this morning.
In this vision, the first thing John sees is Jesus at work among us, among his church, among the churches, and this passage shows us six encouraging characteristics of Jesus at work.
1. Jesus is the Great High Priest
Let’s look at the first one in verse 13. Jesus is the great high priest. Take a look in your Bible at verse 13. It says he was “clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.” It says he’s wearing a long robe, right? The sash is the part that you would tie around you. A commoner in those days would tie it around their waist. In their day, the higher up you tie the sash, the more exalted your position in society would be. It was kind of a cultural icon, like, you know, Gucci sunglasses or something.
Here Jesus has it tied around his chest. And it’s not just a plain sash; it’s a golden sash, and this is a picture of a royally exalted man of dignity and honor. But much more than that, because this word for robe here—almost every time it’s used in the Bible it refers to the robe of the high priest.
Now you know the idea of having a high priest is the idea that there’s someone actively working on your behalf spiritually before God, someone who stands between you and God, as it were, so that you and the Lord can relate to one another. So John sees Jesus show up dressed like a high priest. That’s the first thing he notices about Jesus, and that’s significant because Jesus is the great high priest.
And we see that here in this passage, and it’s all over the place in Scripture. Listen to Hebrews 2:17-18. “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers [this is Jesus] in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
Now you might think, okay, so Jesus is my high priest. I don’t feel a lot better about what I’m going through right now. I mean, what does that mean for me practically? Hebrews 4 makes it really practical. Let me read verse 14 and 16. It says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15). Application—verse 16 of Hebrews: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Because Jesus is your high priest, you have access to God. Do you with confidence draw near to the throne of grace in prayer? Do you go to the Lord in prayer with assurance that he is hearing you and he is answering according to his perfect will? Because you have a high priest in Jesus who makes it possible. You will receive mercy. You will find grace to help in time of need.
Oh, how we would love to have access to some of the most powerful people in the world. We could think of what we might say or what we might ask for if we got to meet with this president or this king or this queen or this ruler or this CEO. Far more than that, we have access through Jesus Christ to the Creator of the universe, the one who by the word of his power holds all things together. That should be a huge encouragement to us no matter what we’re going through.
2. Jesus is the Image of God
Six encouraging characteristics of Jesus at work. First, he’s the great high priest. Second, Jesus is the image of God. I want you to see this in the text in verses 14 and 15. Look at it in your Bible. It says, verse 14, “The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.”
This is not the normal appearance of a man. This is not what you’d expect to see when you turn around and hear somebody talking behind you. In verse 13 John described Jesus’ clothing, what he was wearing as a great high priest. Here in verse 14 and 15, he moves on to describe Christ’s body, his hair, his head, his feet, his eyes, his voice.
And the fascinating thing is that this description of what Jesus looks like, sounds like, is just like John’s describing God. In fact, in Daniel’s parallel vision in Daniel 7, the description of God the Father, the Ancient of Days, specifically says, “his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool” (Daniel 7:9). Matches John’s description here to a T.
Daniel was describing the Ancient of Days, God the Father. John is describing Jesus. His description of Jesus’ feet here, glowing like they’re on fire, is parallel with God the Father in Daniel 7. It’s almost like if you see Jesus, you’ve seen the Father.
When John says Jesus’ voice was like the roar of many waters, you know, that’s a classic Old Testament description of the voice of the Lord. I always try to imagine what this would sound like, and I always just end up sounding stupid by adding “sssshhhhhhh” to what Jesus is trying to say because that’s what water sounds like to me, “sssssshhhhhhh.” It’s hard to imagine, right? What it would have been like to hear his voice like the roar of many waters.
A couple years ago, Claire and I went on a mission trip to New Zealand—beautiful country. Had the opportunity to preach at a week-long conference there, and at the end of it, we’re driving back to the airport, and the locals had told us, you have to stop. You’re driving right past one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Zealand. It’s only three minutes off the road—turned out to be about thirty—but they said it’s only three minutes off the road; just turn on this road and just follow it down, and it’s no problem; you’ll find it.
So we found it. About a ten minute hike down to this little ravine where there’s this massive waterfall. And there’s like a great observation platform. If you’ve ever been to Niagara Falls, kind of like that where you’re on the platform and you’re looking out kind of at the top of the falls and looking down into the canyon. Right?
So it was a lot like that, and there’s a sign there that said, “Unstable ground. Please remain on observation deck.” And so being the wildly intelligent man that I am and the super godly pastor-leader of this mission trip, I decided to ignore the sign. And I think, you know, if I can just get a little lower, then I can look up at the waterfall and get a great picture. It’s always about the picture for me. It’s killing me.
And so I’m like, I gotta get this good picture, right? So I step three steps off of the observation deck. Guess what? The ground was unstable. From all of the mist churned up from the waterfall, right, even though there’s like this lush grass, it’s all growing in mud—deep mud all the way down the ravine which acted as a brilliant waterslide for me to instantaneously be transported from three feet away from the observation platform to three feet away from the bottom of the waterfall.
I managed to not find myself in the river, but perhaps barely. And so as I’m hearing my wife screaming from the observation deck, right, I’m flying down this ravine, thinking I’m gonna die. And what was amazing was, I’m covered in mud when I get to the bottom, just absolutely covered in mud. I’m sore. I’m like beat up from hitting things on the way down. And I stand up, and I first look up at the observation deck, and then I realize I’m looking up at this massive waterfall, and it was…just—I totally forgot about the fall, the slide, the mud, the observation deck. I was just like silenced before the intensity of the sound of this water, just [crashing water sound]. John says Jesus’ voice was like the roar of many waters. You can just imagine the intensity of it.
Again, John’s describing that because what we’re seeing here is that when John describes Jesus, Jesus looks and sounds just like God. There’s a very significant reason for that. Because Jesus is the image of God. He’s supposed to look just like God because first of all, he is God. Secondly, he came for this very reason, to show us exactly what God is like. Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God.” Hebrews 1:3: “[Jesus] is the radiance of the His [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (NASB).
There’s something you need to understand about your walk with Jesus. He is the image of God. You see, we were made in the image of God in Genesis 1. You know this. But when mankind fell into sin, the image of God in man was broken, corrupted, marred. We do not perfectly reflect God the way that we ought to, the way that we’re supposed to, the way that we were intended.
And if you want to walk faithfully through difficult times as a believer, you need to recognize that the Bible doesn’t describe the process of Christian faithfulness as this dry and mechanical adopting of practical tips and tricks from Scripture. The Bible describes the process of Christian faithfulness as looking to Jesus and being transformed to become like him as he displays the image of God to us.
We look at Jesus in our trials. We look at Jesus in our persecution and we see in him the image of God that we were meant to reflect, and as we do, we become like him as we behold him in the pages of Scripture. That’s why the author of Hebrews says, “[L]et us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
But more than that, this ought to deeply encourage you to see Jesus so vividly described as God himself. The Jesus we follow, the true Jesus—he’s not just a good teacher. He’s not just a prophet. John makes it clear in his description that when he sees Jesus, he is looking at God.
3. Jesus is the Protector
So we’ve seen Jesus is the great high priest in verse 13, Jesus in the image of God in verse 14 and 15. In verse 16, I just want you to see the third encouraging characteristic of Jesus is, he is the protector.
Verse 16: “In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” There’s this amazing picture here of Jesus holding the pastors of the seven churches in his hand, caring for them, walking among the churches, protecting them, guiding them, near to them, in their midst.
From his mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword, and John says, “[H]is face was like the sun shining in full strength.” This would be a terrifying sight to see. And that is evidenced by the fact that John is terrified in the next verse, and we’ll get to that.
So the image here is that Jesus is among the lampstands, among the churches, holding the pastors in his hand, with a sword, shining face, coming against the enemies of the church to protect and to defend his bride. This is just like Jesus promised, right? His continued presence with the church for our protection. He is with us here and now.
Jesus had reminded the disciples that when they practiced church discipline. Matthew 18—where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with you. The last thing Jesus said on earth before he went back to heaven—Matthew 28: Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Hebrews 13:5 just echoes the same thing, right? “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (NASB).
You see, Jesus is the protector of the church, and that makes a big difference for us. Are you tempted to be afraid because of your current circumstances? Afraid of what the doctors might say? Afraid of not knowing? Afraid of what the future holds for Christians by way of persecution? Remind yourself of these truths. We’re not alone. We’re in this together. And Jesus is at work among us. And he’s our protector.
It really does change your outlook when you realize this as true, because imagine with me, for example, it’s nighttime. You’re in your room alone. You’re a teenager. Let’s just say your parents are out of town, and you’re in the house alone. It’s the middle of the night. It’s dark. It’s nighttime. And you hear a noise at the front door. It’s two men breaking into your house. They think you went out of town too. They have guns. You have no weapons. Imagine how you would feel.
All of a sudden, there’s a gentle knock on the bedroom window. You walk over and, terrified, you pull back the curtain, and you realize…it’s Rob Leahy. The head of Canyon Bible Church security is outside your bedroom window! And he’s got guns. Lots of guns. Guess what? You feel better. You feel safer. You feel less afraid of your circumstances. Right?
Now all of a sudden, instead of being afraid—what am I gonna do? Those guys…. All of a sudden you’re like, these guys are breaking into my house! Let’s go get these guys! I’m on a mission now! Totally changes your perspective, doesn’t it, to know that someone with the ability to help you, defend you, protect you, someone is there with you. It changes everything, doesn’t it?
The same exact truth is true in spiritual battles. We’re fearful, but we’re not alone. We’re in this together, as a body, as the bride of Christ. And guess what? Rob Leahy is not the head of Canyon Bible Church security. Jesus is.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4 says furthermore, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Suddenly this is about more than just surviving through trials, right? Jesus wanted John to write to the churches not just so they could make it, but so they could thrive because Jesus had given them a mission to accomplish.
You know how easily we can be distracted from our mission when trials and persecution begin to roll in. We are so fearful in the things that God has called us to do. And oh, how we should be emboldened by passages like this. How we should be lit on fire for the mission, the ministry of the church, our evangelism in this town when we recognize Jesus is here with us, actively at work among us to strengthen all that we do, and he is the protector of his bride, the church.
I’m just finishing a book called Captive in Iran. It’s about two ladies, Maryam and Marziyeh, who get saved in Iran. They become Christians, followers of Christ, where it’s illegal to convert to Christianity, it’s illegal to hand out Bibles, it’s illegal to share the gospel with anyone, it’s illegal to convert other people to Christianity—basically anything that a Christian is called to do is literally illegal.
And yet, these women, recognizing the mission that God has given them as believers and the unique position that they had as Iranians living in the capital city of Tehran, they take a map of Tehran and they tack it up in their apartment, and they draw a grid over it with a Sharpie, and they go square by square, and they take each square and they go to that part of town with backpacks full of Bibles. And they go knock on every home, go into every business, and start sharing the gospel with everybody that they encounter, talking to people about the Lord, handing out Bibles, praying with people, sharing the gospel. People start coming to know the Lord; they start hosting a church in their little apartment. And as they finish in that little square, they draw a red cross in that little square; they move on to the next square. And they continue for over three years in the capital city of Iran going door to door sharing the gospel, winning souls to the Lord. Just absolutely remarkable.
Finally they’re caught, and they’re thrown into Evin Prison which is notoriously one of the worst, most torturesome prisons on earth. And in that prison they realize, we’ve been trying to hide our evangelism for years so that they don’t throw us in prison and sentence us to execution. Now we are in prison, sentenced to execution—not much more they can do. We’ll just share the gospel with everybody in here!
And so they start winning the fellow prisoners to the Lord. They start praying with people, talking with people, and honestly these are two women that even as you read the book you see they don’t even know their Bible very well. And yet they are so bold because they know Jesus is with them. They’re not alone in this mission.
And what about us? It’s legal here. How much more would we, would you, be emboldened in your evangelism, in your ministry if Jesus was literally standing physically next to you as you share the gospel with people, as you walk into the store, as you talk to your neighbors? How much more if Jesus was there with you, and yet he is. Jesus is the protector of the church, and he is at work among us.
4. Jesus is Terrifying and Comforting
Fourth, Jesus is terrifying and comforting. Look at verse 17. John says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not.’”
You can already see just in reading the verse how Jesus is both terrifying and comforting, but I just want to take a closer look at this. John doesn’t have the wrong perspective here. It’s not like, aw, come on John, it’s Jesus! Friend of sinners! Get up off your face! No, this is the right perspective. He says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.”
It’s no wonder too, right? I mean, Jesus is standing close enough to John that the next verse says Jesus puts his hand on John’s shoulder. So that means Jesus is not further away than [steps one step to the side and places hand on podium] this, right? With a sword coming out of his mouth and eyes of fire and hair as white as snow, feet glowing on fire, his voice like the sound of many waters, his face shining like the sun in full strength. Can you guess why John might have fallen down on his face? He says his face is shining like the sun in full strength.
There’s a solar eclipse coming in a few weeks, August 21st, and you know, they tell you even when the sun is completely eclipsed by the moon, it’s still harmful to your eyes to look straight at it. That’s remarkable, right? I mean, the thing is so bright that when it’s 99% covered up, you’re still in danger of burning your retinas by looking at it. No wonder John’s terrified. He says it’s like the sun shining in full strength.
Now, John’s terrified. Jesus is terrifying. Amazingly, this is exactly what happened to Daniel in the parallel passage. Right? When he saw the same vision of Jesus, he says—let me read this for you. Listen to what Daniel says:
And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in a deep sleep with my face to the ground. (Daniel 10:7-9)
Daniel just passed out. The Son of Man had to like wake him up. See, whenever men see God in Scripture, they’re terrified because they realize for the first time how holy God is and how sinful they are, how sinful we are.
When God appeared to Isaiah, he said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined….For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:5; NASB). That’s exactly what happens to John here, right?
It’s good for us to think about this because we feel like we know some pretty holy people. Maybe we even think we’re pretty holy. Been walking with the Lord for a while now. Know my Bible pretty well. Been really obedient. When you see God for the first time face-to-face, you will say, I’ve never seen holiness in my whole life. The holiness of God is so pure, the glory of God so great that it knocks people off their feet onto their faces over and over again in the pages of Scripture, and yet so often we have this Jesus-is-my-homeboy mentality.
We have this laissez-faire attitude towards the things of God, and we need to allow stories like this, pictures of Jesus like this to have their proper effect on our hearts. We need to allow the stories of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Korah, Ananias and Sapphira to have their proper effect on our hearts and our perspective of the Lord. We ought to see the response of John and Isaiah and Daniel and adjust our view and our attitude of our heart accordingly. He’s not safe. But he’s good, right?
See, Jesus doesn’t just leave John terrified. John falls down on his face and Jesus is like, all right! My work here is done. Jesus comforts him. See, look at verse 17. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not.’”
Now this is great because, I mean, look at how these connect. We’re looking this morning at six encouraging characteristics of Jesus at work. We’ve just seen, verse 17, that Jesus is terrifying and comforting. Jesus now comforts John, saying, “Fear not,” but look at how Jesus continues and gives John the basis upon which he’s telling him not to be afraid.
5. Jesus is the Gospel
Number five: Jesus is the gospel. It’s been sixty years after Jesus died when he appears to John on Patmos, and sixty years later Jesus is still talking about the same thing. He’s still talking about the gospel. Sixty years later, John is still writing about the gospel.
Look at it there in your Bible in verse 18. Jesus says, “Fear not, [why?] I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Jesus says, first of all, I am the first and the last, just like God the Father says, I am the Alpha and the Omega. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. He is God, and he says in verse 18, “[I am] the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.”
We think it’s a big deal Jesus rose again, and it is. He’s saying, you think that’s a big deal; the big deal is I died in the first place. The living one…died. I mean, that’s the real mind-blowing truth here. The one who has life at his core, he is the living one. All life is in him, and he died. How does that work?
And then he says, “and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” I don’t think we need a lesson this morning on what death is. Hades is the word that they would use to describe the realm of the afterlife. You know, where do people go after they die? The keys then represent access and authority. Jesus has the authority to decide who lives and who dies. He is the one who determines who goes to heaven and who goes to hell.
This is why when Lazarus died when Jesus was walking on earth, just before he raises Lazarus from the dead, he’s talking with Mary and Martha, and Martha says to Jesus, “’I know that he [Lazarus] will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live’” (John 11:24-25). You see, Jesus is the gospel.
In Acts 2 when Peter preaches the first gospel sermon of the early church, he preaches Jesus—Jesus of Nazareth who I’m here to preach to you about, he says. You crucified Jesus. This Jesus God raised from the dead, this Jesus whom you crucified. He tells them at the end, therefore repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. It’s all about Jesus.
And just like Peter stood up and preached Jesus, that’s exactly what I’m here to preach to you this morning. Jesus. And honestly, there’s a high likelihood that many people who come to church on a Sunday morning might think that they’re believers. Many people who come to church on a Sunday morning know that they’re not believers.
And I would say to you, as you think about the trials and challenges that you’re going through in life, it will not get solved by a five-point practical plan for a better life. If you don’t know Christ, you need to look closely at passages like this. If you don’t know Christ and you feel like you’re going through hell in your life right now, let the trials wake you up to the fact that what you’re going through right now isn’t hell. But there is a hell. And Jesus is holding the keys.
See, if you don’t know Jesus, that’s a terrifying reality, but for believers the same terrifying Jesus before whom we will all fall on our face one day—we know he wants to lay his hand on your shoulder and say, you don’t have to be afraid. Fear not. Because for the believer these are comforting words.
Now I want you to notice that in verse 17 and 18 Jesus means for this to be comforting words to the fearful, face-planted John. For the believer, we hear these words and feel we could endure anything with Jesus by our side because we know that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
6. Jesus is Talking to You
Finally, Jesus is talking to you. This ought to be massively encouraging because this is for you. Verse 19. Jesus tells John, “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place.” This is everything that Jesus is about to take John to see in heaven, in the future, in eternity. He says, write ‘em down.
This is just like Jesus when he first showed up. The first thing he said was, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches.” Jesus opens his mouth, and the first two commands in the book of revelation are, write and send. Jesus wants it recorded, and Jesus wants the churches to know about it.
The seven churches listed here we know as the seven churches of Asia Minor, but this is significant because these seven churches are also in the seven cities that represent the seven postal districts of the time. See, Jesus wants the message out. I don’t think it’s an accident that he sent him to these seven churches. Jesus wants the message of Revelation to go out to all the churches, because Jesus wants the message of Revelation to go out to all the Christians.
It’s also significant that John begins in verse 9, “I, John.” That’s reminiscent of Daniel. John begins just like Daniel. Daniel said, “I, Daniel.” And then he saw a vision of the Son of Man. John says, “I, John,” and then he saw a vision of the Son of Man. And their visions are so similar. We’ve seen the comparison throughout the morning. It’s spectacularly obvious that they saw the same thing when they saw Jesus.
But let me tell you what’s different between Daniel and John. Daniel was told at the end, after everything he’d seen (Daniel 12:4), “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.” The idea is, Daniel was commanded not to give enough clarity of information in his book for people to fully understand the time of the end yet.
But guess what Jesus tells John at the end of the book of Revelation. Revelation 22:10: “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” Jesus commanded John to write these things down with clarity because it is time for you to know now.
Jesus wants you, Christian, to know the truths of the book of Revelation, to see this vision of him among the churches. He wants us to know that he’s coming on the clouds. He wants us to know about the great supper of God and the seal judgments. He wants you to know about the completion of Daniel’s seventieth week, the destruction of the antichrist, the millennial reign of King Jesus, a wedding on a glassy sea. He wants you to know about the new heavens and the new earth and the new Jerusalem. He wants you to know about crowns and glory and worship and singing and the throne, and he wants you to see this glory of Christ. And as you read about it in Revelation, he wants you to be affected by it to the core.
See, the book of Revelation is an incredible collection of monumental visions of the future. Standing alone, it’s the greatest prophetic unfolding of the future that the people of God have ever received. But the book of Revelation doesn’t stand alone. It ends our Bibles not with a period, but with an ellipsis. It takes all the momentum of inspired Scripture, and when it reaches the end it thrusts our eyes to the future. It’s a sovereignly inspired arrow aiming our thoughts and our hearts to the future that God has prepared.
The book of Revelation says to our narcissistic American souls, stop getting so caught up in your day-to-day life here and now without remembering, realizing, and looking to the grand finale of all of history! It’s coming!
And in the moments when you feel most discouraged, most abandoned, most spiritually distraught, remember the believers of the early church. Remember the persecution that they faced for their faith. Remember what they had to endure.
But most of all, remember Jesus. Remember Jesus in the book of Revelation wanted them, and wants you, to have a bright and hopeful outlook on the future. Remember that the Bible sits in your lap as a testimony to the fact that he has not forgotten you, Christian. Not only does he promise that he’ll be with you, but he wants you to know that the future is bright. For all that we’ve suffered here on earth, eternity will be that much sweeter. We will say, as we can say now—Romans 8:18—our sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Father, we humble ourselves before you this morning as we see this vision of your Son, the Son of Man, revealing himself to John and revealing himself to us through this passage this morning. Jesus, we cherish you. We worship you as the King. We humble ourselves before you and pray that you would allow passages like this to have the right impact in our hearts, to motivate us, to encourage us, that we would become more like you as we behold your glory. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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