Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Revelation Chapter One, Part 4 of 6

1:9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Patmos is a small rocky island in the Aegean Sea, off of Turkey. Emperor Domitian banished John there for his testimony of faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and God.

1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet
The “Lord’s day” is the first day of the week, or Sunday. It was the day in which Jesus our Lord was raised from the dead, Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1. Matthew’s account is especially useful, since he notes that the “first day of the week” fell on the day following the Sabbath, which was Saturday. I know sects such as Seventh Day Adventists make much of Saturday Sabbath keeping, but to try to prove that such Sabbath keeping is the traditional day of Christian worship and fellowship flies in the face of too much history. If such wish to worship on Saturday rather than Sunday they may; but let not that one who does so condemn a believer who elects Sunday as their day of worship, for God revealed that such matters of days and weeks and festivals are subject to a believer’s conscience and not at all to any law, Romans chapter 14; Galatians 4:9-11; Colossians 2:16-23.

1:11 What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia
Here John receives a commission to write the Revelation down that he is about to bear witness to. What John “sees” goes far beyond the seven churches of Asia, since the church letters end with the conclusion of chapter three. John was commanded at least two more times to write and prophesy regarding what he saw, Revelation 10:9-11; 21:5. Since no man since John’s time has received this direct command from the Lord to add to Scripture, John sealed his work with the very sober warning at Revelation’s end. I am what some might call a Cessationist; I am firmly convinced that the divine mandate to add to Scripture ended with the death of the last of Christ’s original apostles. We have been given all that we need for “life and godliness,” 2nd Peter 1:3. Adding to or taking from the Lord’s words assumes that you can compliment or (Heaven help us) correct what He has said. God save you if you think this way.

1:12-13 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man
The seven candlesticks which John beheld are seven churches, which become the recipients of the message Jesus delivers over the next two chapters. This and verse 21 are important verses to recall a little later in our study to view certain things spoken by our Lord in a proper light, which we shall address when we arrive there, God willing.

We see in the midst of the seven churches (the candlesticks or lampstands) one like unto the Son of man, or one who bore a resemblance to Jesus Christ. Since John knew Christ in His earthly ministry, he might have recognized his Lord, though vaguely. John only briefly saw our Lord in glory once, at the mount of transfiguration. Now Christ was coming to John in power and glory, and the language used to describe Him immediately invokes a vision from the book of Daniel. “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed,” Daniel 7:13-14.

This is the One who walks amidst the seven candlesticks; that is, Christ is in the midst of His saints personally and corporately. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” Matthew 18:20. It takes but two to make a corporate church, apparently. These seven churches then were spiritual, believing bodies of saints; as the candlestick represents the presence and leadership of the Holy Spirit, the true light within the body of Christ. We are told that a lamp that is lit cannot be hidden: “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house,” Matthew 5:15. A saved man, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is such a vessel; we are temples of God the Holy Spirit, and when our light shines, it is only the effulgence of Christ our God showing through us. Our deeds are to draw attention to and glorify Him, as He, in His earthly ministry, drew attention to and glorified the Father. This is the mission of the Holy Spirit: to direct all worship to the Son, so the Son may be honored as the Father is. It is through the agency of clay pots like you and I that He will accomplish this feat, to the glory of God.

The number seven, as we have already observed, is the biblical number for perfection or completion; therefore it is reasonable to assert that our Lord chose seven churches to write to as a duel indication that these letters were applicable to all churches throughout the entire church era; also, that when Jesus was finished addressing the churches in chapter 3 that the church age was complete. The rest of Revelation, viewed from the vantage of Heaven when John is taken there, deals with God’s restoration of Israel and His final climactic defeat of Satan’s earthly reign. The church is conspicuously absent after chapter 3, while Israel becomes the focus of attention. For now we see Christ our Lord in the midst of His professing body, glorified and almighty.

1:13 clothed with a garment down to the foot
Modesty is the dress code in Heaven. Christ Himself was clothed with a garment from head to toes, so to speak. I was in conversation with some fellow employees not long ago, talking about decent or indecent attire; I asked a co-worker whether she thought that since women could not go topless around Duluth during the summer, if men shouldn’t either. Her response was, “I think so; I think men should dress properly.” It was a modest and prudent answer, and I wholly concur. On earth we are too prone to forget that we were given our “nakedness” only to share with our lawfully wed spouse. We are not meant to flaunt it in public so others might get an eyeful that truly leaves precious little to the imagination. Even sometimes fully dressed, young woman especially, the clothing is so tight that it leaves little curvature hidden from even casual eyes. “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation,” 1st Timothy 2:9. Our Lord was girt from head to toe, and girt with a robe that was entirely humble and modest. Brethren, let us take care how we dress, so that in every way we may adorn the doctrine of God in all things, Titus 2:10.

1:14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire
Here begins John’s description of the glorified Son of God, revealed not as the meek Lamb of God (as John previously knew Him) but as El Shaddai, God Almighty, Jehovah. Bear in mind that John was without doubt looking upon Jesus Christ; he was simply looking on the Lord in His glory, rather than the humility of His flesh. What he saw is a worthy testimony to every pseudo-Christian cult that twists Scripture to fit their own reason, rather than allowing God’s Holy Spirit to conform our finite reason to the authority of Scripture. Read on for Daniel’s identical description of God enthroned in a vision much like John’s, 600 years before Revelation was written. “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire,” Daniel 9:9.

If there is still question as to who John and Daniel are referring to, let us listen to a third witness: “And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire… And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake,” Ezekiel 1:4, 26-28. With John, Daniel, and Ezekiel, when they beheld God’s glory they fell as dead men, and had no power to rise. Christ’s appearance even to redeemed men is still so overwhelming that they are rendered impotent.

1 comment:

  1. Your comment that the church age is complete at the end of Revelation 3 is very important. While the rest of Revelation is primarily for those who come after, just helping us to understand, The messages to the seven churches are specifically to those who live in the church age, namely, us. I suspect that the messages to the seven churches are for Christians today, the most important part of the book, albeit the most neglected.
    Great Post.


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