Revelation: The Beginning of the End?

Everything But the One Thing (Revelation 2:1-7)

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The following is an unedited manuscript.

You may be aware that the was an advertising agency in Florida years ago that launched a billboard campaign displaying seventeen messages from God.  An anonymous client paid for this massive campaign that delivered messages from God to motorists on Americas highways. 

Perhaps youve heard about some of these messages.  The entire billboard was black, the messages written in white letters with one name underneath, simply God.”  Maybe you saw this one, Lets Meet At My House Sunday Before The GameGod.”  Another one said, Have You Read My #1 Best Seller?  There Will Be A Test.God.  Or this one, What part of Thou Shalt not. . .’ Didnt You Understand?God.”  Or, Life is short.  Eternity isntGod.”  And finally this one, that read, Loved The Wedding, Invite Me To The MarriageGod.”   

This makes me wonderif I were God and I wanted to deliver a unique message in this century to Christians living in New York, or North Carolina, or Brookfield, Wisconsin, what one sentence would I write on a billboard?  Surely, the Bridegroom of the church wants to communicate to His brideespecially those hurrying down 41-45 or Capitol Drive. 

Well friend, God does deliver a message to believers which He gives to His Son, Jesus, which is given to His last remaining disciple, John, to dictate.  Its the book of Revelation and its all about Jesus.   Its not on a billboard because we are privileged to have His letter it in our hands.  Some people ask why do we see 7 churches in a book about prophecy?  And the answer is that this is the final word on what a church needs to be.  These letters to these 7 churches are the finest ____ of teaching in our Bible on what God loves and what God hates.  This morning Revelation 2:1-7 teaches us that the great commandment of love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew. 22:37), does matter to God. 

As we learned last Sunday John had this marvelous revelation of Jesus.  Jesus is seen standing amid the golden lampstands which we learned in verse 20, of chapter 1, are that the lampstands are the 7 churches. The first of seven letters Jesus Christ dictated to John on Patmos was this one addressed to the Ephesians.  Ephesus was a thriving, busy metropolisnot unlike Chicago or Milwaukee.  It was an area of concentrated activity.  Within the boundaries of that seaport city was an assembly of believers, solid in their faith and well taught.  This church was founded by Paul (Acts 19-20) and later served by such notables as Priscilla and Aquilla, Apollos, Timothy, and eventuallyJohn himself.  Standing firm in this city for Christ was extremely difficult for it was an extremely immoral city and there was great confusion spiritually because it was at the center of the worship of ArtemisArtemis being the Greek namethe Roman name being Diana.  The names of this statue indicates confusion, because Artemis appears to be a male kind of name and Diana a more decidedly female figure but you find in ancient occult religions the male/female identity of gods is switched all the time as a part of Satans ploy to mingle and confuse sexual identities.  But this temple was the epic center of sexual perversion and mutilation.  Thousands of priests and priestesses served in the temple, many as religious prostitutes. The whole hysteria around this temple became a frenzy of shameless sexual activity. This place of occult worship was looked on as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient Word which was a source of intense civic pride.  The other six wonder of the world you may or may not remember, but you had the Pharos Lighthouse in Alexandria, Egypt.  The pyramids in Cairo; the hanging gardens in Babylon; the tomb of Mausolus in Halicarnassus; the Colossus at Rhodes and finally the statue of Zeus at Mount Olympus.  But in the middle of this city of Ephesus was the Temple Diana which was a hideous looking statue that had breast all down the front of the statue representing a god of sex and fertility.   One of Ephesus’ own philosophers, Heraclitus, was known as the frowning prophet, and he lamented over the immorality and wickedness of the city saying that its citizens were fit only to be drowned, and that the reason he could never laugh or smile was because he lived amidst such terrible uncleanness.”  It was a very ungodly place and right dap in the middle is this church and the Ephesian Christians were accomplishing much, but in the process of fighting for survival, the church began to erode in another area.  This erosion so disturbed our Lord that He wrote specifically with what was on His heart.  In examining these seven verses, well discover the area of weakness that prompted Jesus to write to this church that had Everything But the One Thing.  Follow along as I read for you these 7 verses, of Revelation chapter 2.  To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands: (2) I know your words, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; (3) and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My names sake and have not become weary. (4) Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (5) Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its placeunless you repent. (6) But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolatians, which I also hate. (7) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’” 

Prayer:  Oh Lord, as we hear Your letter to the church at Ephesus, and listen to Your words to us.  I pray that You would help u s to have ears to hear.  Help us to have spiritual understanding so that Your message might be personal and very practical.  We want to love You as at the first all the way to the end.  We want to hold You in first place in our lives.  We pray as we look through this letter, and Your Spirit illumines us, that You long for us to love You and not just to serve You.  I pray that our love would be so evident in our lives and in our church lest our lampstand be removed, and we are no longer effective for You.  We thank You in the name of Jesus.  Amen 

Let me ask you, what does Jesus think of His church?  The question is not what does George Barna think about the church.  He does a great deal of analysis regarding the church and culture today but thats not the question.  Its not a question about what the church consultant thinks about the church though he may be helpful in certain situations.  The question before us is simply this?  What does Jesus think of His church?  And more specifically, what does Jesus think about Brookside Baptist Church? 

Friends, Jesus identified our greatest obligation as wholehearted love for God which declares to us that God is not pleased by dutiful obedience that does not flow from genuine love (Matt. 22:36-38).  So, an all-knowing Jesus knows what we do and why we do it.  Lets look at what Jesus knows, what He sees, and what He says to this church.        

  1. Jesus want us to know what He cares - v. 1 To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands.”  Revelation 2:1 reminds us of two ways that Jesus was described in 1:9-20, so the vision that John saw of Jesus that he records should make the Ephesian church attentive to what Jesus says to them.  First, He holds (present tense) the seven stars in His right hand.”  He is in possession of His stars” the angelos, or the messengers, the representative, or the pastor of the church.  Every church Jesus purchased with His own blood is dear to Him.  Secondly, we are told here that He walks” (present tense) among the seven golden lampstands.”  Our Lord walks about among His people, His church.  He is no absentee landlord or disinterested deity.  He is here, up close and personal.           What does Jesus do on Sunday mornings?  He comes to church and oh, I know, in which Hes everywhere in being omniscience (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful) and omnipresent but theres a sense that Jesus’ focus on the church is much more important to Him than lets say the political picture of the world.  He walks among the aisles this morning and Hes observing and what He is observing is the extent of our love to Him and thats His agenda.  He sees what we do and why we do it.  He knows whats in our hearts.  This brings great assurance but it also brings to light great accountability.  But why 7 churches when we know there were more than just 7 in the area?  These churches loosely are representative of all churches throughout the church age and thats why I gave you the assignment last week of which church in these two chapters of Revelation best represents Brookside? And secondly, which church best represents you? 

Transition:  To this church in Ephesus, Jesus will begin with four wonderful compliments of what He sees.  Before He tells them what they are doing wrong, He tells them what they are doing right.  We should try this pattern at home, at work, in the classroom where we teachcommend first, then correct.      

  1. Jesus lets us in on what He sees - vv. 2-4  He will give so to speak a thumbs up and a thumbs down to what He sees. 
  • Jesus’ commendation - vv. 2-3;  
  • Diligence - v. 2a  He says, I know your deeds,” or works.”  By the way because Hes all-knowing, He knows our motives about why we do work in His church.  He knows whether were late or early to church.  He knows exactly our thought and actions like no consultant could possibly know.  Jesus knows the good things the Ephesians have done.  Im sure they helped the sick, responded to those who were lonely.  They were a beehive of activity just like it is here at Brookside Baptist Church throughout the week.  But beginning Sunday morning around 8 oclock on through the entire day there is much activity.  The pastors and the choir start arriving around 8.  Sunday school teachers, nursery workers, and ABF teachers begin coming in around 8:30.  And then all kinds of things begin to happen and it stays busy throughout the day, with choir practice and then the AWANA workers coming at 5:30 in the evening to help our children learn and memorize Gods Word.  Its a busy day and Ephesus was a busy church but it was also busy outside of its wall as we are in serving people, inviting them to retreats and dinners where they will hear the gospel and be taught Gods Word.  What a church to be a pastor of:  a beehive of activity and I dont thank many of you enough who are busy working for the Lord.  But Jesus sees you.  The church at Ephesus matched its diligence of work to the Lord as much as the citizens of Ephesus diligently served their goddess, Diana.  Jesus then commends them for their:     
  • Determination - v. 2a  I know your labor, your patience”   He uses two words here that mark their commitment to Christ and His work.  These believers were not the kind of Christians who wanted the box seats.  They werent the kind of Christians who wanted to be entertained.  They wanted to be on the field and involved.  The first word Christ uses to commend them is the word labor.” The Greek word is kopos.  We get the English word, copious like a student taken copious notes, hypothetically speaking.  The word kopos is emphasizing that they have been working to the point of exhaustion, or sweating for the Kingdom of God.  The second word Jesus uses here is the word patience,” which is the Greek word hupomone meaning to abide under a heavy load, to persevere, endure, to stay with it, not to drop out of the race.  Remember the context of Acts 19 when the church of Ephesus had started and Paul was taken to the outdoor amphitorium, which seated more than 25,000, and in Acts 19:28 we read the people chanted for two hours, Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”  Demetrius, a member of the silversmith union Im sure was leading the charge against Paul and the believers.  You can only imagine how these believers were marginalized, persecuted, ridiculed and mistreated especially when it came to getting a job in the city.  Jesus commends them for their determination for pressing on for Him.  Christ further commends them for their: 
  • Discernment - v. 2b, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars”  This was a doctrinally discerning church.  The church had kept their truth in tact.  Paul had specifically given the church at Ephesus this warning before he left them and later died, For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.  Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).  Now some 35 to 45 years later, Christ commends the church for their discipline of the immoral man and the false teacher.  Friends, one of the greatest needs of believers today is this need for discernment.  You may have friends who urge you to avoid a dogmatic approach to biblical truth and, instead, want you to tolerate all sorts of deviant beliefs that are in direct conflict with Scripture.  Truth, it seems nowadays, is in the eye of the beholder.  When it comes to what and whom you believe, the question for you this morning is this:  are you equipped to accurately unravel right from wrong, biblical from unbiblical?  Need to be careful to who you follow especially the preaching on TV, but lets commend this church that they discerned false teaching and they nailed them and said, You are a liar.”  Praise God for their discernment.  Its needed today. 
  • Devotion - v. 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My names sake and have not become weary.”  In other words, you havent quit.  Why?  The phrase in the text should tells us why they hadnt quit.  Do you see it there?  For My names sake.”  I love that phrase at the end of this verse, have not grown weary.”  Do you remember Galatians 6:9 where Paul reminds the Galatians, Do not grow weary in well-doing.”  You can, you know, from disappointment, ingratitude, criticism, rebellion, lack of response, but they hadnt.  They were faithful to the Word, faithful to the work, and faithful to the Lord.  This is a great church.  Yet after being commended for all their diligence, discernment and devotion, Christ in verse 4 gives a grievous condemnation to the church.  And we come to that word Nevertheless” or But” here we go. 
  • Jesus’ condemnation - v. 4  Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  They were doing all the right things, but sometime in the past, they had forsaken the right motivation.  They did not have a head problem, but a heart problem.  Labor is no substitute for love.  Purity is no substitute for passion.  Deeds are no substitute for devotion.  Do not pat yourself on the back for doing good things for the wrong reason.   Friends, the reality of loving Jesus is at the very core of a saving relationship to Him.  I believe many of us love Him this morning but it is subject to fluctuation as to our intensity of love for Him.  All Christians love the Lord Jesus but all Christians do not love the Lord Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength as we ought to.  And there is no better illustration of the seriousness of an eroding of our love than this letter to the Ephesians.   When the church got started there was the enthusiasm, commitment to Jesus, a reckless abandonment in their giving.  They were a witness for Christ.  They didnt have the 80-20 principle that most churches experience.  You know where 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  But what had happened to them can happen to us today.  We can substitute a lot of busyness for the Lord and not do what is most important and that is love Him with all of our heart.  Jesus wanting to identify the spiritual condition of Peter in John 21 asked him three times the same question, Peter, do youwhat?love me?”  There is the substance of your spiritual identity.  Tom Bergeron read for us this morning what the apostle Paul in Ephesians 3 had prayed, that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and heightto know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.”  And now here we are 30-35 years down the road and were talking second generation Christians.  Were talking about children whose parents were on fire for the Lord but they themselves had not picked up this same zeal.  So their love had grown cold and indifferent.  Still busy, still doctrinally discerning, but without a passion and love for Jesus.  What makes us lose our first love?  The Old Testament reveals to us how God dealt with Israel.  He had chosen Israel to be His bride, but over and over we read that Israel had gone after other gods (Ezekiel 16:8-14; Jeremiah 3:20).  What will most assuredly ruin a marriage?  Someone who draws your love away and steals your affection from the person you are committed to.  Thats what happens.  This church in Ephesus was from 30-40 years old.  I was very interested in reading what Ray Stedman had to write on this paragraph.  Ray pastored Peninsula Bible Church for over 40 years.  He writes, How easy it is over time to become mechanical. . .routine. . .dull.  You listen to the Word of God or to a powerful sermon or hear the testimony of a fellow Christian, and you feel you have heard it all already.  You become critical of others.  You become a complainer.  You become more selective in your friendships, singling out only those who match your thinking, your level and your status.  Your needs become more and more important in your thinking and the result is division and schism.  We become focused on ourselves, our own agenda, our own programs and our own interests.  The frightening thing is that there is nothing particularly unique about the Ephesians crisis.  We have all been Ephesian” in our faith at one time or another.  And the light of the church flickers, falters, and fails.”                                                 What is it that happens to people between the wedding day, so earnest, so joyful and the day the divorce papers are signed?  What happens to parents between the day the child is born and the day they complain about that frustrating, disobedient child?  What happens to us between the day a loved one is diagnosed with some awful condition and the day that loved one, whom we cherish, becomes a burden to us?  In each casedivorced spouses, frustrated parents, burdened family memberswhat happens is a loss of first love.  Gradually, what was once done from passionate fervor becomes little more than a duty, a chore.  Maybe this is how some of us feel about Christianity.  Perhaps youre just trudging through, hanging on, doing your duty. So whats the answer?  Jesus Christ provides the four-step program in Revelation 2:5-6  
  1. Jesus gives direct _____ with what He says - vv. 5-7
  • Jesus’ challenge - vv. 5-6  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its placeunless you repent.”  All was not well in the church but all was not lost.  It never is with Jesus if we will listen to what He says. 
  • Remember - In other words, keep on remembering.  Go back to the time when your love for Jesus was a burning passion and all that mattered.  We must all this morning  examine our hearts.  Do you remember how you felt that day or evening when you put your trust in Jesus Christ to save your soul?  Oh, I remember it and I have taken inventory of my life this week because spiritual drifting for a believer can occur so easily.   
  • Repent - We would never be asked to repent from something unless it was a sin.  So, as you look into your heart today and I look into my heart today and if there is a coldness and indifference it isnt just something you need to adjust to, or just live withno, according to the Scriptures its a sin that demands your repentance.  You might say to me, Pastor Ken, youre right my heart is cold and indifferent but I dont know why?  Ill tell you what one pastor told a member in his church who was wondering why he was so cold and indifferent to the Lord.  He said, Get on your knees and guess at it, just guess at it.”  Youll be amazed at what the Holy Spirit will point out to you.  Give God 5 minutes or 10 minutes and you will discover why the love has drifted and the passion is gone.  Then repent of your sin.  Proverbs 28:13 states, He that covers his sin will not prosper but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. 
  • Return -  to the first works” and its so important to keep the order that Jesus has just given.  You dont get your love back by doing the works you did at first simply by beginning to pray, or read the Scripture, thats part of it but you have to repent first.  The place where you first fell in love with Jesus was probably somewhere near the cross.  I Peter 1:8 says, Whom having not seen you love.  Though now you do not see Him, yet believing you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faiththe salvation of your souls.  Make Christ the priority in your thinking; begin a conversation with Him that goes on and off and on and off throughout the day.  Returning and doing the first works will keep a church from losing its witness and eventually its existence.   
  • Remove - Your lampstand” This is very serious and incidentally all 7 churches written to in Western Turkey are gone today.  Yes, Jesus said I will build my church and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).  But no church can say we have a permanent place in the economy of God.  I say to myself, to Brookside Baptist Church, to future generations dont take anything for granted.  If the church doesnt take this warning seriously, Jesus will take their standing away as a church.   Jesus does give one final positive characteristic here and we find it in verse 6. 
  • Remain - keep doing what youre doing when it comes to the Nicolatians.  We dont know a lot about them but we will spend more time discussing them when we get to the church at Pergamos which was holding to the doctrine of the Nicolatians.  Let me just say that when God says He hates something in the Scripture its usually about some type of moral perversion.   
  • Jesus comfort - v. 7 “‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’”  
  • Prevail - To him who overcomes” Each of the 7 letters in Revelation 2-3 end with a promise drawn from the end of the book.  Each, in some way, is related to the wonderful theme of eternal life and eternal security.  And though each letter is written to a specific church, each letter is for every other church as well.  In short, the one who overcomes is a born-again believer (I John 5:14).   
  • Promise - ‘’Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’”  “The Tree of Life” takes us back to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:9; 3:22-24 and forward to Revelation 22:3).  What Adam and Eve forfeited through sin we regain in Christ.  Heaven is paradise regained and more. 

Conclusion:  Bottom Line then is that Doctrine is not a substitute for devotion and Labor is no substitute for love. Gustav Dore was a very famous painter in Europe in the mid 1800s.  He painted many biblical pictures and in one he painted Jesus.  And someone said to him, Oh, you must love Him to paint Him like that.”  Gustav Dore said, I do love Him, but if I loved Him more I could paint Him better.”  Can we as a church today commit ourselves to loving Him more so that we can paint Him better?  Are you with me here?  It struck me that Christ did not condemn the Ephesians for having to start over.  I am convinced that the Christian life is filled with starting over again and again.   Can we commit ourselves to repenting and returning to our first love?  Or else! 

Sight for Sore Eyes - Part 2 (Manuscript)

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The following is an unedited, full manuscript of the sermon.

 Let me remind you that the theme of Revelation is Jesus Christ and we see that in the first five words of chapter 1, The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”  John, the last of the remaining apostles, recorded this magnificent, glorious revelation of Christ which is in contrast to the gospel that bears his name, which reveals Christ in His humiliation.  Remember, when He came the first time, He came to take the sinners place to pay our sin debt.  But when He comes again, Hes coming to execute judgment upon the unsaved sinner.  He came the first time as a Lamb.  Hes coming the second time as a lion.  He came the first time, to save the lost.  Hes coming the second time in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who know not God and who obey not the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  When He came the first time He came as a messenger of love.  Hes coming a second time as the righteous Judge.   

Ladies and Gentlemen, do not ever forget that there were over 100 prophecies about the first coming of Christ and many, many people missed it.  There are over 200 prophecies about what is going to happen nextand you do not want to miss it.  

I trust you have your Bibles open to Revelation, the first chapter. Our text is verses 9-20 this morning.  Let me bring to your attention  two words that we will see often in the book of Revelation that I think are important in helping you understand this book.  John, the eye witness of what is being revealed to him is living in the first century.  As he is recording what he is seeing and hearing, he is describing what itlike.  So, John will use two words like” and as” in his attempt to explain in familiar terms for us this incredible vision.   

Follow along with me beginning at verse 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 Lords Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying (11) I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, What you see, write in a book and send it 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 lamp stands, (13) and in the the midst of the seven lamp stands 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 lamp stands which you saw are the seven churches.”   Prayer:  

At the time of this writing, the church was undergoing extreme persecution under Domitians rule, and John himself had been beaten and exiled to the rock prison of Patmos.  What great comfort came to John from this vision, for the first prominent person that John encountered was Jesus Christ Himself who was truly a Sight for Sore Eyes.  

In this very difficult time when things looked bleak for the church, this book must have been of monumental encouragement to these beleaguered believers in Asia Minor.  This vision, that we just read about, that John received defined and described the present glory of Jesus Christ.  This is not a vision that says this is what Jesus will be like and what He will do in the future.  It is one which says this is what He is like now and this is what He is doing now.  It depicts Jesus Christ in all of His majestic glory even in His present ministry to the church.   

I have no idea of what type of trial that you may find yourself going through right now, but my prayer for you this morning is that you will see Jesus in all of His glory, and ought to encourage you to be living as though He died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back this afternoon.  Last week we looked at three reminders of the comfort and encouragement this vision brings to us today: 

  1. Sore eyes fix their eyes on the exalted Christ - vv. 5-8 (What He has done for us in the past and will do in the future) 
  1. Sore eyes focus on Jesus in tribulations - v. 9 (Gives us the circumstances of the backdrop for this Revelation of Jesus Christ.  John was a partner with suffering believers because of the Word and the testimony of Jesus.  Dont miss the point that Johns particular difficult circumstances are because of Jesus.  That little phrase is so wonderful.  These experiences are distinctly Christian.  They belong only to Christians. 
  1. Sore eyes find comfort in a concerned Savior - vv. 10-11 (Jesus speaks to John letting him know that He is Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.”  Youll notice His eternal existence.  The Alpha and the Omega refer to the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet.  In other words, He was here before anything was created.  The Bible presents Him as the creator. (Hebrews 1:3).  The Encyclopedia Britannica used to come in 26 volumes with articles of history and science and geology, but all of those articles, all of those words have all been composed with 26 letters.  Jesus is the A to Z, and Hes everything in between, and the Bible says that in Him resides all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge ( Colossians 2:3).  Jesus knows and loves His creation.  He cares for John and the church.  Jesus wants us to know what will happen not because He will be the Righteous Judge, but because He is also our loving Savior.  Let me ask, who is Jesus to you?  For many people Jesus is just the baby of the manger.  There are others who see Jesus as the Rabbi, a teacher, One who speaks, but not a Jesus who can do miracles.  Secular views of Jesus present a Jesus who you can manage, a Jesus who is something like a book on a shelf (You can take it off.  You can read it.  It may be interesting, but when youre done you can put it back on the shelf until you have an interest in picking it up again).  A Jesus they can keep within reach.  For many here today, Jesus is Savior, who died and rose again.  John, who hadnt seen Jesus for some 60 years, now sees Him, in this vision as the judge and John falls at His feet.           
  1. Sore eyes favor the divine characteristics of Jesus - vv. 12-16.  John says, I turned to see the voice that spoke to me.”  And to John that voice was like the sound of a trumpet.  You say, Whose voice is it?”  Its the Lord Jesus Himself, thats who it is.  And He will identify Himself after the vision.     
  • His centrality in the middle of the Lampstands reflects His activity - vv. 12-13a And having turned I saw seven golden lamp stands, and in the midst of the seven lamp stands One like the Son of Man.”  “The Son of Man” is a Messianic term mentioned in Daniel 7:13, 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.”  “The Son of Man” is mentioned 84 times in the Gospels and 21 interestingly refer to His second coming. This is the prophetic picture of Jesus, the Messiah, the God-Man and on earth He is crucified between two criminals.  And now He stands as the resurrected Judge among the Lampstands.  And we are told in verse 20 that the lampstands represent the seven churches.  In other words, all these churches are representatives of all the churches that have ever existed.  I believe that one of these 7 churches is best represented by Brookside Baptist Church.  Every church has the characteristics of many of the churches we will study in chapters 2 and 3 but I believe predominately characterized by one church.  So, Jesus tells us here whatever you need to know about a church.  Whatever kind of church there are today you can find it in chapters 2-3.  Notice here when John is told to write what He sees, He see Jesus in the middle of the lampstands.  What is a lamp stand?  Lamps in the ancient world were made out of clay or metal.  You poured oil into them and they had a floating wick.  And if you wanted to elevate the light in the house, you put the lamp on a stand.  Most of the references to lamp stands in the Old Testament are references to the lamp stands in the tabernacle.  What a reminder to us that the church is the light of the world.  The Lord told us, You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13).  Jesus also stated that He is the light of the world.  Jesus is not only the light; and wants us to be light; He is also standing in the middle of the lights.  Gods people are assembled in local churches just like Brookside as lights in the world.  The church carries that light.  Our church is a light right here in our Milwaukee area.  And you know what?  Youre a light in your neighborhood, your place of business and with your friends.  Jesus is here with us, were not alone, the believers in Johns day were not forgotten and friend, youre not forgotten.  Were told theyre golden lampstands, meaning precious, costly, lovely, magnificent and valuable.  How precious is the church to Jesus?  He bought it with His own blood” (Acts 20:28; I Peter 1:18).  But why are there only 7 because we know there were others in the area?  Seven is a number that often is used to refer to completeness.  Lets see Jesus as John saw Him.                                                                              
  • His robe and sash tell of His royalty - v. 13b clothed with a garment down to His feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”  Oh, friend, when He was on earth the gamblers cast lots for His robe.  Well, those days are over and now He is the triumphant One and He is dressed in eloquence.  A robe that reached to the ground was worn by royalty.  Hes dressed like a King and no one is dickering over His robe.  Prophets also wore robes and certainly Jesus is both Prophet and King; however, the most common usage of this word in the Old Testament was related to the robe of the High Priest.  The High Priest also wore the golden sash when he served (Exodus 28:4).  The idea that these garments pictured Christ in His present ministry as the Great High Priest is a wonderful thought.  Christ has not forgotten the persecuted believers.  He has not abandoned His bride.  The writer of Hebrews tells us, For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  Were told also in Hebrews picturing Jesus superiority, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).       
  • His head and hair speak of His purity - 14a His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow”  We think of that head which had a crown of thorns and it is that head that had blood splattered down His face when He was cruelly mocked and ridiculed.  His beard being pulled out and being spit upon.  Now He has a head with hair that is pure white.  This pictures His purifying work in the church.  The apostle Paul said that he wanted the church to be presented to Christ as a chaste virgin.  Ephesians 5:25-27 states, Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. This is Jesus desire in His church.  But also His head and hair speak of His wisdom and age.  Listen to what Daniel said about Christ some _______ years earlier, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool” (Daniel 7:9).      
  • His eyes show His perceptibility, His scrutiny - v. 14b and His eyes like a flame of fire”  Like lasers they see everything.  He sees you in your loneliness; He sees you in your weakness.  His eyes miss nothing.  They are symbols of His omniscience.  Matthew Henry wrote, God not only sees men, He sees right through them.”  Let me ask, did you feel like your parents could see right through you? Jesus can see right through us.  Does that encourage you to know that, or does that frighten you to know that?  Nothing is going on in your life, or my life, or this church that is unknown to the Lord.  Imagine for a moment, our Lord right now, though invisible to our eyes, robed in the regal gown of King and High Priest walking up each aisle and passing through each row of our churchlooking at us with eyes of divine perception and discernment, seeing our hearts, our thoughts, our intentions, our plans.  I want you to see Jesus looking at you with eyes that are piercing like fire, seeing the hidden sins and the secret plans.  But He also sees those acts of service and kindness that He will one day reward.   
  • His feet speak of victory - v. 15a His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace”  These, after all, were the feet that walked the dusty roads of Israel.  These were the feet that walked along the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, and ended up with nails driven into them on that humiliating cross.  These feet are now feet of judgment.  In ancient times, kings sat on elevated thrones so those being judged by them would always be beneath their feet.  These are the feet which are said in the Old Testament, . . .whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).  These fire-refined feet, walk through the church observing and reviewing everyones heart and deeds. 
  • His voice implies His divine authority - v. 15b . . .and His voice as the sound of many waters”  This voice one day all the world will hear, even though they now mute His gospel and mock His words.  The Lord has those who are faithful to be His spokesmen in every generation and when Gods Word is spoken, the church must listen.  God thunders to the church with divine authority of the Holy Scripture.  This isnt little niceties words that are attempting to tweak your life to make it more the way youd like it.  This is the thundering of divine truth.  Think of His words as those of the mighty waters of the Niagara Falls. Try drowning out Niagara Falls.  With 75,000 gallons of water pouring over the cliff per second, falling almost 100 feet, I am told you cannot hear the person standing next to you.  But all will hear Christs voice and He will drown out the puny voice of man.  His voice will no longer be ignored.  In fact, in His presence at the final judgment, the world will be struck silent as they recognize in utter terror that they are, before Him, eternally accountable (Romans 3:19).  The atheist, the agnostic, the religious, all silent before His voice!       
  • His right hand refers to His sovereignty - v. 16a He had in His right hand seven stars”  His right hand controls the 7 stars.   And what are the 7 stars?  Again, in verse 20 Christ explains the metaphor, The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.”  The word for stars” is the Greek word, aggelos.  The word can mean messenger,” or angel.  Most likely, this refers to pastors or the leading elder of each church.  I say this hesitantly, because this pastor, me, is not an angel.  But I am a messenger and I do take seriously this responsibility that is pictured here of Gods sovereignty and power over the leader in the churchJohn had probably known each of these pastors.  
  • His mouth refers to His judgment - v. 16b out of His mouth went a two-edged sword”  Again, when Christ was on the earth how often was His mouth swollen because of beating for speaking the truth that He was the Christ?  Now we see in Jesus a two-edged sword that is lethal and devastating.  Later in Revelation 19:15 were told, Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. . . .”  This sword represents the defense of the church by Christ, who will defeat all the threats against His brideboth outside the church and inside the church, as we will see in the letters that follow this vision.  John MacArthur wrote of this vision, Those who attack Christs church; those who sow lies, create discord, harm His people, will be personally dealt with by the Lord of the church.  His word is potent.”  John Phillips commented on this vision of Christs word, Nothing can stand against Gods word.  Whether as Creator, Comforter, or Conqueror, that mighty word of Christ is invincible.”  Imagine what this meant to Christians living under Domitian.  His word could take everything away from them.  Rome was in control, not the church.  Oh, but they had no need to fear, for their lives were under Christs protection.  What an encouragement!   
  • His face displays His beauty - v. 16c and His countenance [face] was like the sun shining in its strength.”  Lets talk about His faceon earth the Bible says His face was more disfigured than any other man.  Isaiah told us, He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2).  And now the Bible says that John saw His face and it was like the sun in full strength.  Our sun radiates four million tons of heat a second.  Jesus, shines with a blaze of eternal glory.  This is the face of the Redeemer and King and Judge.  John realized he was in the presence of infinite knowledge.  He realized He was in the presence of infinite power.  He realized He was in the presence of infinite holiness.  So, he did what any rational person would do in that situation.  He fell down as dead.   Spurgeon, the great 19th century preacher from England said, Better to be dead at the feet of the triumphant Christ than to be alive anywhere else.”   
  1. Sore eyes fear not the presence of Jesus -  vv. 17-20 
  • Johns reaction - v. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead”  This is what people did when they had visions of the Lord.  Its what happened to Isaiah and Darryl read that passage of Scripture for us this morning.  Ezekiel was overwhelmed by the majestic glory of the Lord and he fell down (Ezekiel 3:23).  This experience of the vision of Christ shocks John into lifelessness.  It would us. 
  • Jesus’ response - vv. 17-18 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.’”  What an act of kindness by the touch and word of Jesus.  Jesus was always touching people with His hand.  He touched the eyes of the blind and he saw.  He touched the lepers in their rags and the lepers became clean.  Here He touches John.  Hes saying, John, you dont need to fear death for I am He that was dead but am alive.  Im Jesus who triumphed over death and you dont have to fear eternity because I hold the keys of death and hades.”  I have in my pocket here somewhere keys.  We all have keys.  I have the key to Brookside Baptist Church.  But I need to tell you there are different keys here at the church that open different doors.  Well, I have been entrusted with a key that will let me into the building, and the office, and any other door.  Its called the M” key, the master key.  I want you to know that Jesus has the G” key.  Its the God key.  And there is no place in the Universe from which He is barred.  Milton said that the reason that Satan rebelled against God is that he would rather be king in hell than a servant in heaven.  What a mistake Lucifer made because there are no kings in hell.  In hell, Lucifer is not the tormentor; He is the tormented.  He will be tormented day and night forever.  Its always a bad idea to fight God.  But He has “keys of death and hades.”  In other words, Jesus is the One who determines when people can go in.  Friend, now you can ignore Him here today, but you cant ignore Him when you die.  No one will get by undetected.  No one will get by for He is the keeper of the keys of death and hades.      
  • Johns responsibility - v. 19 (Gives us the outline of the book) 
  • Write the things you have seen” The present, the vision of Jesus, chapter 1:1-20 
  • Write the things which are” (The present state of the 7 churches, chapters 2-3) 
  • Write the things which will take place after this” (The events that John records for us in chapters 4-22) 

Conclusion:  As we conclude this morning, I want to give you an assignment.  I would like for you to read Revelation chapters 2-3 several times this next week with three questions in mind.   

  1. What church do you believe best represents Brookside? 
  2. Which church do you believe best represents you? 
  3. Which church would you like to represent?

 

Jesus reveals Himself to compel Johns audience to heed the seven letters He is about to dictate to John, and convince them of the truth of what John will then record as the end time events in chapters 4-22.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:7).

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