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1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
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. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 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.”
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 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. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 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.
17 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, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 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. (Revelation 1:1-20, English Standard Version)
Have you ever had a special Sunday experience? Someone by the name of John had. He encountered Christ on a very special Sunday, who is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ.
Most of us don’t have to work on Sundays. We see Sunday as a day of rest and family time. As Christians, we have our corporate worship on every Sunday. By the way, let’s pray that this coming Sunday will be a special one!
1) On the Island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9)
The special Sunday experience of the Apostle John happened in Patmos. It is a small arid, volcanic island in the Aegean Sea. It is about ten miles long and five to six miles wide.
In the first century, the Romans sent exiles to such islands as a common form of punishment. The Apostle John was probably sent to Patmos as a criminal, and his crime was being a Christian, for Christianity was seen as an illegal religious sect. John would have lived under harsh conditions. Most probably, he was forced to work under the watchful eye of a Roman overseer. Also, he didn’t have enough food and clothing, and had to sleep on the bare ground. At that time, John was a ninety-year-old man and these harsh treatments would have taken their toll on him.
Encountering Christ in a Bleak Condition
As you can see, the Apostle John encountered Christ in a bleak condition. In the island of Patmos, John had lost his freedom and his fellowship with believers.
Many years ago, a young missionary had to flee from western China because an angry mob fiercely pursued him. He quickly got on a riverboat and the mob came after him on the boat as well. He chose to jump into the river and the mob started to throw spears at him. Miraculously the missionary escaped, unharmed. Later, a friend asked him about the ordeal, saying, “What verse from the Bible came to you as you were darting beneath the boat to escape the spears of the mob?” With great surprise, he responded, “Verse? why, the Lord Himself was with me!” In an adverse situation, the missionary experienced God’s presence.
Are you in a gloomy situation? Do you feel abandoned and helpless? Don’t worry! Christ is beside you right now. All you have to do is to ask for His comfort.
2) In the Spirit on the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10)
In the Spirit
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (ESV) can have the following meanings:
First of all, it might be a trance-like state—a visionary state (see Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17; 2 Cor 12:2–4).
The second possible scenario is that he’s under the control of the Holy Spirit, John was transported to a plane of experience and perception beyond that of the human senses. In that condition, God supernaturally revealed things to him. Ezekiel (Ezek. 2:2; 3:12, 14), Peter (Acts 10:9ff.), and Paul (Acts 22:17–21; 2 Cor. 12:1ff.) had almost identical experiences. To put it in a layman’s language, the Holy Spirit was at work in John’s life. The Holy Spirit was ministering to John on the Lord’s Day and He can also work in our life today. Let’s have an open heart and wait upon the Holy Spirit so that He can speak to our hearts.
The Lord’s Day
So, what does the Lord’s Day mean?
The Lord’s day which here means Sunday, the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Besides, the Lord’s Day was kept as a day of worship because it is centered on God’s acts of new creation and redemption in Christ. Also, they called it the Lord’s Day as a direct challenge to the emperor worship in John’s days. It was a bold and fearless testimony by the early Christians, as they proclaimed that the Lord’s Day belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ and not the emperor Caesar.
Christian TraditionPerhaps, many early Christians observed both the Sabbath, that is, the seventh day of the week, Saturday, and the Lord’s Day as well. The Apostle Paul objected to the Gentile Christians’ adopting of Sabbath observance (Gal. 4:10). In the Letter to the Colossians, Paul instructed the believers that Sabbath observance was not required (Col. 2:16). Sunday became the tradition that Christians gathered to worship the Lord. Also, they gathered money to remember their poverty-stricken fellow believers in Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1–4). To the Christians in the early church, Sunday is a day of public and private worship, rest and mercy. So, Sunday worship in a local church is very special and important. By means of worshipping on Sunday, Christians declare Christ’s acts of new creation and redemption. In short, we want to witness to the non-believing world that Jesus Christ is the resurrected Lord and Saviour of all humankind.
3) Encountering Christ on the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:12-20)
His Lampstands (Revelation 1:13)
Interestingly, John saw Jesus Christ walking in the midst of seven lampstands, which acts as a symbol of His presence among the seven local churches. In short, the seven lampstands represent the seven churches and Jesus Christ is the Lord of these congregations.
Christ is present in all local churches. Some churches might be in hard times, but Christ hasn’t abandoned them at all. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous English Baptist preacher, says, “As sure as God puts his children in the furnace, He will be in the furnace with them.”
The Definition of Revival
What is revival or spiritual renewal? Here’s a good definition. “Revival is always marked by an overwhelming sense of Christ’s presence in the church.” By means of Christ’s presence, there will be an increased and renewed participation in worship, an outpouring of love among God’s people, a heightened awareness of holiness with confession, repentance, and restitution, an eagerness for Christian service, anointed preaching of and individual interest in the Holy Word of God, a growing boldness in prayer, a remarkable ease in witnessing to and evangelism of the non-churched community, all-out involvement in spiritual warfare and an unusual sense of wellbeing or wholeness.
On that Sunday, Christ spoke to John on a personal level, and today He desires to communicate and connect with us as well. Do you have the desire of experiencing His presence? What is worship to you? “To many, worship is synonymous with music—hymns or praise choruses.” Rory Noland says, “worship is our response to the presence of God made possible by Jesus.”
His Apparel (Revelation 1:13)
Let’s read Revelation 1:13. 13 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. (ESV) This image of Christ can be understood in the following three ways: (1) Christ as the High Priest (cf. Exod. 28:4; 29:5; Lev. 16:4 and Zech. 3:4); or (2) Christ as a royal, wealthy person (cf. I Sam. 18:24; 24:12 and Ezek. 26:16); or (3) Christ as the glorious messenger of Dan. 10:5. Most likely, this image represents Christ as the High Priest, since the high priest in the Old Testament wore such a sash (cf. Ex. 28:4; Lev. 16:4). To sum it up, Christ is the royal High Priest of God. As the author of Hebrews says, 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to the confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time. (Heb 4:14–16, Holman Christian Standard Version) When we engage in worship, let’s come to our High Priest, confessing our shortcomings and expressing our concerns to Him.
His Hair (Revelation 1:14). In Eastern countries, white hair commands respect and indicates the wisdom of years. The white hair of Christ might indicate His deity and wisdom (cf. Col 2:3). The hair of Christ’s head was white, like white wool, like snow, which has the connotations of “bright,” “blazing,” or “brilliant”, and It symbolises Christ’s eternal, glorious, holy truthfulness. It is a picture to portray Christ as the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9. In short, Christ is seen to be Yahweh.
Christ Knows Our Hearts
The Apostle Paul says, 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. (1 Th 2:5 ESV) “God is witness” can be translated as “God knows very well what we did,” or “God knows our hearts.”
Christ is Yahweh
Do you know why Jesus Christ knows us so well? The reason is simple. Christ is Yahweh or the Lord in the Old Testament. Yahweh is the only proper name for God, occurring in the Old Testament 6,828 times. The Apostle Paul clearly declares that Jesus Christ is Lord in one of His letters (Phil. 2:11). Not only that, Christ plainly stated that He is Yahweh. In the Gospel of John, Christ told the Jews that “Before Abraham was born, I am!” This declaration meant that He existed before Abraham, but also stated that He was in equality with God (“I am” of Exodus 3:14). Jesus Christ is not just a good teacher and prophet, but He is the everlasting God.
The Meaning of Yahweh
The meaning of Yahweh may best be concluded as “present to act (usually, but not only) in salvation.”Yahweh spoke to Moses, “I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14), and later He spoke again, “I am the Lord” (Exod. 6:2–8). The name Yahweh specifies an immediacy, a presence. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ knows our hearts because He is Yahweh. Also, He is present in our midst right now. Let’s come to Him with awe and ascribe all the glory and honour to Him alone!
His Eyes (Revelation 1:14)
“His eyes were like a flame of fire” (ESV) is a symbol of Christ’s penetrating knowledge (cf. Dan. 10:6; Rev. 2:18; 19:12). In short, Christ can see the conditions of His Church so well, that He knows her inside out.
A church added a building that included a new office suite. The interior decorator wanted a soft green colour scheme in the pastor’s office, but the pastor preferred brighter colours. Finally, the lady interior decorator explained to him that because a pastor would spend much time counselling people, most of whom would be in a disturbed emotional state, and green colour scheme would soothe the emotions. Not before long, a lady who was emotionally distraught came to see the pastor. After the counselling and praying, she was more under control. She remarked, “The green in this office is so soothing!” Remember Psalm 23, God leads us to lie down in green pastures (Ps. 23:2) to refresh our troubled spirits. God knows what He is doing.
There is a strange annual festival in Basel, Switzerland. The good Protestant townspeople would put on masks and go through the city doing things and going places that they would never consider doing or going under normal circumstances. They do these unusual things because these masks hide away their identity. One year, the Salvation Army was concerned about the abandonment of moral standards, so they put up signs all over the city, which read, “God sees behind the mask.”
Oftentimes, we think we can fix things quickly. In the workplace, we think we are the fixers. In our family, we regard ourselves as the fixers of things. Ignorantly, we think we can fix things at church too. In fact, by comparing to God’s omnipotence, we simply know so little.
Just as I Am
Christ knows our spiritual condition inside out. Let’s draw near to Him just as we are. There’s no need to be pretentious before our Saviour and Lord.
His Feet (Revelation 1:15)
Let’s draw our attention to Rev. 1:15. In ancient times, kings sat on elevated thrones, so those being judged would always be beneath their feet. The feet of kings thus represent their authority. The brightness of shining metals like fire represent the appearance of God’s glory (Ezekiel 1:13, 27; 8:2; Daniel 10:6). Thus “his feet were like burnished bronze” (ESV) may indicate triumphant judgment.
A little Scottish boy wouldn’t eat his prunes, so his mother sent him off to bed saying, “God is angry at you.” Soon after the boy went to his room a violent storm broke out. Amidst flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, the mother looked into the boy’s room, worried that he would be terrified. When she opened the door, she found him looking out the window whispering, “My, such a fuss to make over a few prunes.” Like the little child, we think of God as a severe judge!
The Spiritual Condition
Do we know the spiritual condition of our church? Can leaders make a good climate report of our church community? Perhaps, to a certain extent, but only God knows of our spiritual state and can help us to make the best judgment.
His Voice (Revelation 1:15)
To the Apostle John, the voice of Christ was like the sound of many waters (cf. 14:2; 19:6), as if the mighty waves crashing on the rocky shores of Patmos in a storm. It is a way to describe the glory and majesty of God in a way similar to that in Ezekiel (1:24; 43:2).
What do we mean by God’s glory? God’s “glory” is how we describe the summation of His attributes.
What are Missions? R. Keith Parks offers this excellent definition or description of missions (World in View, [Birmingham: New Hope, 1987], p. 16): “Missions is God’s redemption proclaimed through persons to all people. The source is God. Its embodiment is Jesus Christ. Its story is the Bible. Its purpose is salvation. Its scope is humanity. Its declaration is the believer’s mandate. Its fulfillment is the church’s task. Its application is the world’s hope. Its culmination is God’s glory.” So, mission is all about the culmination of God’s glory.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), German composer and musician, defines Christian music as “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”Worship is all about the proclamation of God’s glory. Let’s come to know and experience God’s glory in Sunday worship.
His Mouth (Revelation 1:16)
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. (ESV) Definitely, the Prophet Isaiah foretold that the Messiah will “strike the earth with the rod of his mouth” and “with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.” (Isaiah 11:4) The sharp two-edged sword is a symbol of Christ’s tongue, meaning that Jesus uses to speak words of judgment against His enemies. Interestingly, at His first advent, Christ conquers the world through His death and resurrection, instead of using military power. But, ultimately He will judge everyone. By the way, dear brothers and sisters, let’s use our words carefully, for words can be very damaging. Let’s not judge others easily because only Christ is the ultimate Judge.
His Right Hand (Revelation 1:16)
A Bible commentator regards the right hand as the place of power and safety. Another scholar believes otherwise, and sees the right hand as control.
The Lord of Our Church
Norman L. Geisler, the American theologian, says, “The universal church is invisible; the local churches are visible. There is only one universal church; there are many local churches.” Not only that Christ is the Lord of the universal church, but He is also the Lord of all local churches. In a nutshell, Christ is in control of all churches.
A ship encountered a storm at sea. The passengers were scared to death because they thought they couldn’t survive. One passenger went up on the bridge. He regained his peace and calm when he saw the captain. Although the face of the captain was beaten by the wind and rain, his hands firmly held the helm. Not only he was holding the ship on its course, but he also had a smile on his face. You might encounter some sort of storm in your life, but may I remind you that God is always in control of everything!