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 sinner’s place to pay our sin debt. But when He comes again, He’s coming to execute judgment upon the unsaved sinner. He came the first time as a Lamb. He’s coming the second time as a lion. He came the first time, to save the lost. He’s 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. He’s 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 next—and 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 it’s like. 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 Lord’s 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 Domitian’s 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:
- 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)
- 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. Don’t miss the point that John’s particular difficult circumstances are because of Jesus. That little phrase is so wonderful. These experiences are distinctly Christian. They belong only to Christians.
- 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.” You’ll 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 He’s 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 you’re 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 hadn’t seen Jesus for some 60 years, now sees Him, in this vision as the judge and John falls at His feet.
- 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?” It’s the Lord Jesus Himself, that’s 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. God’s 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? You’re a light in your neighborhood, your place of business and with your friends. Jesus is here with us, we’re not alone, the believers in John’s day were not forgotten and friend, you’re not forgotten. We’re told they’re 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. Let’s 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. He’s 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). We’re 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 church—looking 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 everyone’s 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 God’s Word is spoken, the church must listen. God thunders to the church with divine authority of the Holy Scripture. This isn’t little niceties words that are attempting to tweak your life to make it more the way you’d 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 Christ’s 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 God’s sovereignty and power over the leader in the church. John 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 we’re 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 bride—both 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 Christ’s 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 Christ’s word, “Nothing can stand against God’s 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 Christ’s protection. What an encouragement!
- His face displays His beauty - v. 16c “and His countenance [face] was like the sun shining in its strength.” Let’s talk about His face—on 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.”
- Sore eyes fear not the presence of Jesus - vv. 17-20
- John’s 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. It’s 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. He’s saying, “John, you don’t need to fear death for I am He that was dead but am alive. I’m Jesus who triumphed over death and you don’t 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. It’s called the “M” key, the master key. I want you to know that Jesus has the “G” key. It’s 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. It’s 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 can’t 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.
- John’s 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.
- What church do you believe best represents Brookside?
- Which church do you believe best represents you?
- Which church would you like to represent?
Jesus reveals Himself to compel John’s 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).