The apostle John recorded how the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him while he was exiled on the isle of Patmos and told him to a write letter to the seven churches of Asia Minor on His behalf. That’s what the book of Revelation is, it’s a letter from King Jesus to His Church containing what He wants believers to know about Him, the Church and about the future events in the world and in heaven leading up to His return.
In the first chapter of Revelation, the apostle John described how believers might receive the blessing of the revelation of Jesus Christ. We can receive the blessing of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Below is an automated transcript of this messageGood morning, church! It’s good to see all of you today. We’re beginning a new sermon series today entitled, “Letters from Jesus.” And have you ever received a letter from someone really, really important to you? Have you ever received a letter like that? Well, you’re about to get one today. We want to greet those of you that are viewing online; whether you’re from our Rocky Mount campus or our Wilson campus we are welcoming you to this new series. We are happy to see all of you that are here with us at our services in person today.
Before I became a pastor, I ran drugstores for a major corporation out of Clearwater, Florida; this corporation had about 1600 drugstores. I was a district manager over twenty of those drug stores; I had stores in Virginia, in a town called Pulaski. I had an employee named Bob who was a retired twenty-year Marine; his previous tour of duty before he became a store manager was the guy that you see when the helicopter lands on the White House lawn and the president deplanes and comes off. Bob was the Marine that stood there at attention at the bottom of the steps. He served on what is called Marine One. That was his final tour of duty. He served under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan before he came to work for me. I would go to his store and visit; I would go and sit in his manager’s office before walking his store. He was kind of intimidating. I would look on his wall; he had these photos of himself shaking the hands of each of those presidents and next to each photo was a personal letter from President Carter, President Ford and President Reagan. For those of you that remember President Reagan, he even had a big jar of jelly beans because Reagan loved jelly beans. The jar had the presidential seal on it. These letters were so important to Bob that he framed them and hung them on the wall.
Some years ago, I was friends with a member of our church, Charles Gallion; he has since “graduated” to heaven. He was a retired soldier who served three tours in Vietnam. If you went to his house, he had hanging on the wall, his Purple Heart letter, because he had been wounded in combat. He had a letter from President Johnson, speaking to him about his valor and his courage. He’d framed it and he had it hanging on the wall.
Have you ever received a letter that you just couldn’t throw away? You just had to hang on to it; maybe even frame it? Well, that’s what we’re going to be reading, starting today. John the beloved, John the last living disciple, has a letter that he wrote down. He’s the writer, Jesus is the sender and you and I are the recipients of this letter. Will you hear it today? Do you have your hearts ready? Are you in the spirit today so that you have the kind of heart and the kind of ears that can hear this letter from Jesus?
The letter is entitled, Revelation; not “revelations,” as some will say, There’s only one, not plural. You’ll hear some older people say, He preached from the Book of Revelations. Well, I can’t because there isn’t one of those books. It’s the revelation of Jesus Christ. It comes from the Greek word ἀποκάλυψις, apokalypsis. You may recognize the word “apocalypse;” it comes from this Greek word. It has this meaning of “to unveil, to draw back the curtain, to fully expose that which was secret prior to and can only be made known if the curtain is drawn back.” This is the revelation of Jesus Christ. It’s about Jesus and it’s from Jesus.
Now , in these uncertain times, don’t you wish you knew what the future held? There’s a lot of prognosticators that are trying to tell us, Well, there’s gonna be some new normal. They don’t know; they’re just guessing. But, don’t you wish you didn’t know what the future held?
Perhaps you’ve heard it said, I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. That helps me a lot; does it help you? But, what if the One who holds the future said, Come here, come here and He pulled back the curtain and said, Let me show you what’s coming. That’s what this letter is; this book of revelation.
The Apostle John is the one who records how the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him. He was exiled there on the Isle of Patmos because of his ministry. The Romans had exiled him there, and he was instructed by Jesus to write it down and to send a letter to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor. As he wrote, he talks about how it would be a real blessing to anyone. As we look at it today, I want to talk to you about how this book could be a blessing to you and how it could be a blessing to us.
As we read the text today, we’re going to be talking about three conditions, three necessary conditions, for each of us in order to receive the blessing of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Are you ready? Do you have your spiritual ears on? Let me read.
Revelation 1:1-20 (ESV) 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. This is God’s Word. Amen.
Three conditions for receiving the blessing of the revelation of Jesus Christ: 1. Know Jesus. Let’s keep it simple. We have a lot to explain today. Let’s keep the points simple. Here’s the first condition; know Jesus. Know Jesus. Do you know Jesus; not about Him? Do you know Him personally as your Lord and Savior? The first condition, in fact, all three conditions can be found in verse three. Verse three explains the three conditions for receiving the blessing of the revelation of Jesus. Do you see it ?
The first condition in verse three is to read it aloud. According to the ESV translation, it says, 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.” So, there are three conditions. Let’s unpack the first one: (1) Read it aloud. The King James says “he that readeth it;” it doesn’t include the word, “aloud.” May I speak about that for a moment? It doesn’t say “out loud” in the original Greek, but the idea seems to be that that’s how it should be read so people can (2) Hear it, which is the second condition. People didn’t read silently back in the day; back in the day, people read aloud. If words were written down, they were read aloud. Not very many people were literate in those days, and so they needed a preacher. They needed a speaker; someone who could read it aloud to them. Here’s the other thing about that word to be read aloud in the Greek. It has literally this idea to read it, to know it. It is from the Greek word, ginōskō, which means to know, to know it intimately, to know it well and because it’s the Greek word, anaginōskō, it means to lift up to pull out or to raise up. It’s almost like this; to raise it off the page to your brain and through your eyes. And so, it’s a very visual kind of word in the Greek; it means to read.
I don’t mean to say that it means more than that, but I just want to unpack it; to chew on it and get all of the juice out of that word. To say and to know is the result of the reading; so that you might know the revelation of Jesus.
John certainly knew Jesus, wouldn’t you agree? He spent three years with Him. He walked with Him. He talked with Him. He ate with Him. He saw Him perform miracles. He’s the only disciple that stood at the foot of the cross of Jesus when He was crucified. John stood there holding the hand of His mother, Mary. This John knows Jesus. He knows who He is, but he’s about to know Him better. And I pray that so will we know Him better; not just today, but every day.
It’s a blessing to read the Bible aloud. Have you ever read the Bible aloud to yourself? It’s a blessing to read it silently, but when you read it aloud, you get more out of it . Just think about it; it goes in your “eye gate,” out of your “mouth gate,” and into your “ear gate.” You get it three times. It’s even better than reading it silently. You get more blessing out of it. Read it aloud.
I noticed this word in verse one. And then again in verse three. It is the sense of suddenness; it says in verse one, “that must soon take place.” Did you see that? And then, in verse three, “for the time is near.” Do you see that? As we look at that, know that this was written in 95 AD. That’s a long time ago; that’s 2000 years ago. And so, “that must soon take place,” has resulted in at least four interpretive methods to the whole book. This book, which right out of the gate, you see that John says it’s prophecy. It’s in verse three. He calls it a prophecy throughout.
There are four interpretive methods; I am going to give them to you quickly, and it would deserve your further study. We’re not going to study them further today, but these views will impact how you study the Book of Revelation. The first is the Preterist Method. It comes from the Latin, which means past and so the Preterist Method says that it has already happened. The whole book of Revelation has already happened in the first century, probably during the reign of Diocletian or the reign of Nero, when all of that persecution happened. The person with the Preterist interpretive method views this as history. Just like you do with the book of Nehemiah. Yes, it’s full of spiritual principles, but it’s history. It’s not future prophecy. That’s the first myth.
Here’s the second one: the Historical Method. The Historical Method looks at the Book of Revelation as a panoramic progression of the church throughout history. So it sees the church of Ephesus, which we will study next week, as the first century church, and it progresses through the ages. The historical method Revelation is a progressive panorama of church history, from the initiation in the apostolic era to the consummation of the end of the age. (Postmillennialism View) It tends to say that today we are in the church of Laodicea age, which is the seventh of the seven churches, and it sees us as a lukewarm church. And that’s the historical method. It has a mixture of past, present and future in its method. The post millennial view comes out of that approach. Post millennial means after the 1000 year reign.
Here’s the third one: the Idealist Method. This is the idea that the book of Revelation is filled with symbols that are not to be taken literally. And so, the Idealist Method says that Revelation does not represent actual events, but is metaphoric to depict the great struggle between good and evil. (Amillennialism View; Amillennialism means there’s not a literal 1000 years. It’s not to be taken literally.
Here’s the fourth method: the Futuristic Method, which is your pastors approach to studying the book of Revelation. The Futuristic Method says that Revelation describes real events, both past and future, that constitute a marvelous prophecy of God’s program for the consummation of the age. And that view tends to lend itself to the Premillennial view that these things are happening prior to the 1000 year reign of Jesus, which is what Premillennialism means. So if that’s the case now myself, that I have to be honest, as a futuristic person, that I view this as coming and hasn’t happened yet. There’s parts of chapter one through three that have already happened, but four through twenty-two haven’t happened yet. That gives me something I have to deal with. What does it mean, “soon to take place;” what does that mean? “… that for the time is near,” I have to deal with that I’m going to view it as future prophecy.
“…for the time is near” has the idea of not just a ticking clock. There’s two Greek words for time; one is χρόνος chrónos Chrónos is this tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. The other is Kairos, which means in the fullness of time. Ladies, what is the gestation time of a baby? It’s nine months, give or take right? In the fullness of time. So the doctor gives you a date and maybe, or maybe not, that’s the date. What he meant was, somewhere around nine months, the baby will come. And so, I have the sense that that’s what is here; it’s more like the fullness of time. There is a certainty that it will happen. You should be looking for it. It’s coming soon. Remember this; a day is as 1000 years to the Lord. He doesn’t deal with Chronos time. He deals with Kairos time, the fullness of time. The woman gave birth to the man Jesus in the fullness of time. I think that’s what’s in view. I think it also has the idea of suddenness; certainty and suddenness.
1 Thessalonians 5:2 (ESV) “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” I think that’s what it means, but I’ve put all my evidence on the table for you to study on your own. There are at least four interpretive methods. I’ve told you the one that I think; in my opinion. These are all Christian methods soI’m not disparaging those who hold them. But I think the fourth method is by far the best method and does the best to give you the best understanding of this book.
John names himself as the author. He does so three times in the first chapter; in verse one, verse four and, again, in verse nine. Some would say this is not John the Apostle, but I don’t know of anyone who is among the evangelical movement that trusts the word of God as the word of God who would say otherwise that this is indeed one of the twelve disciples. This is John the beloved; the last living apostle. All of them have died martyrs’ deaths at this point in time, in 95 AD. He’s the last living of the twelve disciples; that’s who is writing this book, That’s what I believe. He writes it as he’s told to the seven churches. You see it in verse four; he’ll name them later. He doesn’t name them yet. The word, seven, is his favorite word in the book of Revelation, more than it was in the Gospel of John. He loved “sevens” in the Gospel of John. I’m going to give you seven signs of Christ is who He claimed to be. I’m going to give you the seven “I am” statements. He’s got a lot of “sevens,” but in Revelation, it’s everywhere.
The number seven, in the Hebrew numbering system, is the number of completion. God worked for six days when He made the creation, and on the seventh day, He rested; He had completed the creation. The number seven means completion. He has written to the seven churches; he names them, Ephesus through Laodicea. In just a moment, we’ll cover that.
I think it, also, is written to you and I and all of the churches throughout history. The Church, with a capital C, because seven means completion or all. He does name the seven specifically, but I don’t think it was just for them. I think it’s for all of us, too.
And so, for the seven churches, he now writes a letter. Starting at verse one through three, this might be considered the prologue. It’s like I’m “fixing” to tell you something, that I’m going to tell you something. If you don’t know what that word, “fixing,” means, you can ask your nearby Southerner.
He says, “I, John…” And then he begins by saying, “to the seven churches.” This was the pattern of ancient letters. The writer would say who they are, who it’s to. Then, they would open up with a blessing. Here, he offers them grace and peace, a common greeting in the New Testament. Here is a trinitarian blessing, as all three are in view. He starts with God, the Father, who is and who was and who is to come. He is the ancient one, the eternal one. Then, he kind of stumps us for a minute; “and from the seven spirits who are before the throne.” We’ve never heard the Holy Spirit called that before, but I am convinced that’s who He’s talking about.
You can study the book of Zechariah, chapter four, verse six. You’ll see that Zachariah saw something in a vision; he saw a lamp stand. The lamp stand he saw was the one that’s in the temple, not the menorah that commemorates Hanukkah for the Jews. The menorah has nine lamps, but the lamp stand in the temple has seven lamps. Zechariah saw it it. This is the Holy Spirit. John draws on Zechariah’s vision of God’s Spirit as a golden lampstand with seven lamps. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord” (Zech. 4:6). He saw a lamp stand and he saw two trees on either side. The lamp stand was the Holy Spirit and the two trees were possibly Zerubbabel and Joshua.
Here’s what I would say to you about the book of Revelation. Remember, it’s the last book, not the first book. It’s the cap stone, not the foundation stone. Read the first sixty-five books; that’s where you’ll get the answers to these questions. The seven spirits is symbolic for the Holy Spirit; the Son is next. How do we know that? He tells us in verse five, “and from Jesus…” That made it easy; thanks, John. “…the faithful witness…” He gives us a threefold character list of His person.
John knows this Jesus. This is not new. John already knew this. He’s getting ready to tell some stuff that he didn’t know, but he knew this, and he gives us the threefold witness to His person. Jesus is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and the ruler of kings on earth. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords; that’s who He is. And then, John gives us a threefold description of His work; of what He did for us. “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.” He gives us the threefold witness to his person; a threefold witness to his work.
And then, Paul can’t help himself. He starts worshiping. He says, “to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” Amen. And then, he says my favorite word, behold; I love that word. Behold, take a look at this and keep on looking. Don’t stop, look and behold. 7 “ Behold, he is coming with the clouds.” He, speaking of Jesus, is coming with the clouds. He’s coming with the clouds and every eye will see him. Even those who pierced him. Even those who crucified him will see him.
Remember what Jesus told the high priest? The high priest asked Jesus, “Tell us, are you the Messiah?” Jesus said to him, “I am, and you will see the son of man coming on the clouds.” Remember Him telling the high priest that? It’s right before they sent Him to Pilot to be crucified. Even the ones who pierced him will see him.
John goes on, “and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.” Why will they wail? They didn’t know Him when He appeared. And then, John writes, writes “Even so, amen.” Even so. Amen. Not everyone’s going to be happy to see Him. “Even so, Amen.”
Verse seven is not the rapture, which is secret. How do you know that it’s not secret? Every eye will see Him. It’s not secret. The rapture is the “snatching away.” The Greek word is harpazō (ἁρπάζω). Read 1 Thess. 4:13; it means to “snatch way,” translated into the Latin Vulgate translation as raptūra. Snatching away, which is in secret; one will be standing, one will be walking in a field and one will be snatched away. That’s raptūra. This is the second coming of Jesus that John is speaking of.
Then, as John is closing his introduction, he says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was…” “I am…” I am. He is Yahweh, the covenantal God. He is the Alpha and the Omega. The first letter of the Greek alphabet is Alpha; Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet. He is the first and the last and everything in between. He is the Almighty One, which in the Hebrew is El Shaddai. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, all knowing, the Alpha and the Omega.
Here is the capstone of the first section; we’ve covered eight verses now. This is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? Have you received Him as your Lord and Savior? You can’t really understand where I’m going from here if you don’t already know Him personally. It’s not enough to know about Him. Do you know Him? Do you know Him? If you do, you can receive the blessing of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
John 17:3 (ESV) “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Do you want to know God? Then, you need to know Jesus. Do you know Him? Do you acknowledge Him as your Lord and Savior? This is the first condition.
Here’s the second:
2. Hear Jesus.
Can you hear Him speaking? Even now, I’ve asked the Lord to anoint my voice so that my voice disappears and you can only hear His voice. Christian, if you’re in the spirit today, you will know what I’m talking about. Do you hear Him speaking? 3 “…blessed are those who hear…” Now, John will begin his letter in verse nine. He says, “I John;” I’m your brother. I’m your partner in all of this . You know me. I used to be the pastor at the church of Ephesus before they exiled me to the Isle of Patmos over here on this little bitty dot in the Aegean Sea. The Isle of Patmos up against Turkey; it is a part of the Mediterranean Sea. 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.” John got put on the Isle of Patmos on account of the word of God. He had been preaching and the Romans put him there because he was causing trouble talking about the gospel. They boiled him in oil when he was younger and it didn’t kill him. He is the last living disciple. Jesus asked “Peter, do you love me?” Yes, Lord. I love you. “Peter, do you love me?” Yes, Lord, I love you. “Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep.” Remember that part? And then remember, Peter told Him he would die for Him. He would never betray Him. And then, he betrayed Him three times. Remember the whole background there? Now, Jesus says, “you said you would die for me, that you were willing to die for me. Well, that’s what’s gonna happen. One day they’re gonna take you where you don’t want to go and they will stretch forth your arms,” describing that Peter would die by crucifixion. Peter died by crucifixion; as he approached the cross, he begged them, “I am not worthy to die as my Lord Jesus,” and they crucified him upside down. That’s the Peter we’re talking about. Now you have to remember Peter; he heard that he was going to die for Jesus. Paul saw John sitting over there. He said, “What about him?” Jesus replies, “What’s it to you if I let him live? There seems to be a little something there that implies that John would be the last living disciple.
John is an old man; it’s 95 AD. John is an old fella. He’s living on the Isle of Patmos, and that’s who we’re talking about. Patmos, a tiny Aegean island, where felons and enemies of Rome were exiled to break rocks in quarries there. Those Romans loved to build roads and buildings; they needed a lot of rock. And so, that’s what old John’s doing; he is breaking rocks.
I have visited the Isle of Patmos with my wife. Let me show you a couple of photos because I want you to understand these are real places. The Bible is not a myth; it’s history. It’s a story about real events. This picture is of Robin and I standing outside the monastery of Saint John, where he saw the vision that he recorded in the Book of Revelation. If you go to the next picture, you’ll see the front door to the Monastery of Saint John. Those Greek Orthodox; anytime they found a holy place from the Bible, they built a church on top of it. If you go inside and go down the stairs, you go to what they call the “Grotto of Saint John.” It’s a cave; it’s the place where he laid his head when he wasn’t breaking rocks on the Lord’s Day. What day is the Lord’s day? Today is the Lord’s Day, not the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the seventh day; the Lord’s day is on the first day. Christians have worshipped on the first day ever since Jesus got up from the grave because Jesus got up on the first day of the week. Christians have worshipped on the first day of the week ever since the Lord’s Day. John was in the spirit. He was in quarantine. I can’t resist this: John was not in quarantine for Covid, but he was in quarantine for Christ.
I’m a pastor, and just being quarantined in my home, trying to talk to you on video, has nearly broken me because I was built for you and you for me. Here’s old John at the end of his ministry. I’m getting up in age too but not to his years. You start thinking as you get older that you know more now about the Lord than you’ve ever known. You’ve got more to give to the Lord and you don’t want to waste not one day.
Here’s John; Lord, did you forget me? I’m over here breaking rocks in this cave. How can you possibly use me? Shouldn’t I be over there at the church of Ephesus and doing my circuit around the seven churches. I am in a cave. Lord, why would you do this to me? I think God needed John to get all to himself because God is getting ready to lay on him the last book of the Bible, the capstone. John didn’t know why he was there, but he got in the spirit that day and he poured himself out.
What does it mean to be in the spirit? In the Greek, it is the word that we get ecstatic from. He was not in an ecstatic experience; this was probably him worshiping and praying and asking, God, why am I here? What do you want to say to me? But we know, he at some point stopped talking and started listening because he heard a voice. I never realized that prayer is more than just you giving God your laundry list. It’s more than that. You have to listen; Lord, speak. So John is in the spirit on the Lord’s Day as it says in verse ten. He heard a loud voice; it probably wouldn’t have been that hard to hear. He said it was a loud voice, like a trumpet. The trumpet plays a sure sound; it’s not like a piano. You can play as many notes as you have fingers on the piano and play them in harmony, which is preferred. But you can also play him like a kid, which is not preferred . But a trumpet only comes from one mouth, and it makes one tone and one sound It makes a sure sound, a clear sound, a certain sound and a loud sound. That’s what John heard, like a trumpet, clear and intelligible. He’s yet to see who owns this voice. John is telling the story as it occurred to him, right?
So John describes this unknown voice. We will know it’s Jesus, in a moment, as the author John described. I need you to write a letter for me, John. That’s why you’re on the Isle of Patmos. Stop worrying. I haven’t put you on a shelf. You haven’t wasted your life. It’s not too late. There’s plenty of work to be done, right, John? I’ve got some stuff to tell you. Jesus says “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.” This time, He names the seven churches and He goes through them.
I’ve got to slide for you. We’ll work on this more in the coming weeks. I hope you don’t miss the next few weeks; it’s really good stuff. You’ll see that they’re listed in a way that it looks like a circuit So one is Ephesus and seven is Laodicia. That’s how they’re written in the book and you’ll see how they’re like a circuit. The first one is the closest one to the Isle of Patmos; it is about 40 or 50 miles from the Isle of Patmos. Jesus wants John to start with Ephesus, which is probably where John was accustomed to working. I’ve been to the ruins of the church of Saint John in Ephesus, which supposedly, according to tradition, is where John died. John died in the city of Ephesus; he didn’t die on the Isle of Patmos. He gets this letter delivered, otherwise, we wouldn’t have it.
Over the next seven Sundays, we will take on each church and we will study what Jesus said to Ephesus, what He said to Smyrna and so forth. I visited all of these sites. They’re real places. They’re not mythology. If you go there today, they don’t have the same names because the Muslims have renamed all of the places. If you go to Smyrna, they call it Izmir. In fact, some of the locals call it Christian Izmir because there’s still a great number of Christians that live in Izmir, which was formerly known as Smyrna.
I don’t think John had ever seen anything like what he’s about to see, other than what he saw on the Mount of Transfiguration. Remember that story in the Gospels, where Jesus invited Peter, James and John up on a mountain? And for just a moment, Jesus pulled back the curtain. The Father pulled back the curtain, and they saw Jesus transfigured in His glory, and they saw Him talking with two other men. Remember that part? It was Elijah and Moses . And then, Peter said, Hey, wait a minute, I’ve got an idea. I think we should build three churches up here. Let’s build it. Let’s build the church to Jesus, the temple to Jesus, the temple to Moses and one to Elijah. God, the Father, basically tells Peter to be quiet. This is what it says in Matthew 17:5 (ESV) 5 “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
I don’t know who you’re listening to today. Will you hear Jesus? He still speaks. How do you hear Him? Read His gospel. Read His revelation. Read it and then listen. How much do I read? Read until He speaks. Read one verse; If you get a sense that He’s speaking to you, stop and talk to Him about it. I didn’t hear from Him until I read a chapter. Okay, read a chapter. That’s how much you should read. Read until He speaks to you. He still speaks. Are you listening? Will you hear Jesus? He’s alive. He still speaks. He speaks primarily through the written Word, but He also speaks through the Holy Spirit and He often does it in a sweet combination of the two.
Here number three for receiving the blessing of the revelation of Jesus Christ:
3. Keep looking for Jesus.
Now, John will share what he saw. Put your seat belts on because it caused him to fall out like a dead man when he saw it. He says, in verse 12, :”ThenI 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. ” He turned to see the voice; he heard it before he saw Him. When he turned, he didn’t see the source. He sees seven lamp stands glowing. He sees them first and then among them, walking among them was Jesus. Jesus still does this; He still walks among His churches; His lamp stands. “I saw one like a son of man.” He’s using the Messianic title that Jesus often used of Himself. Primarily, in the book of Daniel, it was used as the Messianic title. This is a title of the Messiah that was to come; he’s already hinting at this. This Messiah will be a son of man, but more than that, he’s got all these descriptions of Him. He can’t just be a man to be all the things.
Jesus is called the Ancient of Days in Daniel. In fact, if you want to really understand revelation, you need to understand Daniel . because Daniel is the book of Revelation for the Old Testament. However, God told Daniel to close the book and seal it. God told John to open it up and reveal it. And so Revelation is really the revelation of that which Daniel; he’s got his eyes closed. He describes it but doesn’t fully see it. It’s sealed to him. In fact, today, if you go online and look for videos from a group called “One Israel,” you’ll see that often rabbis tell them not to study the book of Daniel. because it’s too weird, it’s too symbolic. It’s too Messianic; it’s too much pointing to Jesus, the Son of man.
John sees this Son of man. Look at Daniel 7:13 (ESV) 13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. “There’s Daniel, he saw someone coming in the clouds. Sounds familiar .
Matthew 24:30 (ESV) “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” We heard that earlier, didn’t we? See how John is using imagery that we can find in the Old and the New Testament. This is where people get stuck. They look outside the bible to understand the symbols when the answers are in the bible, in the books of the Bible.
Let’s just keep working through some of these verses. What’s he wearing? He’s wearing a long robe with a golden sash. This is the wardrobe of a priestly king. Jesus has hair like snow, like wool. If you look it up Daniel 7:9 you’ll see the same description; his hair is like white wool. This shows His holiness and eternality. He’s got eyes like fire in verse 14. If John were writing today, and he had seen a Superman flick, he might have said Jesus had laser beam eyes because His eyes burned to the core and could see right through us. These eyes are the eyes of judgment, the eyes that can see right to the bone. Daniel saw him, too; he saw the same guy; he saw this Jesus. Daniel just didn’t know everything that John knows.
Look at Daniel, 10:6; Daniel 10:6 (ESV) “His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.” Daniel saw a similar vision, but not with all the full revelation that John saw. Daniel even predicts to the exact year the coming of the Messiah. There’s a mathematical equation and Daniel that predicts it. It is fulfilled.
His feet were like bronze, which shows irresistible strength and ultimate authority. His voice is like many waters, continuous in power and volume. Daniel said it was the sound of a multitude. But John had in mind that it sounded like Niagara Falls to him, with its continuous volume and power. Have you ever been to Niagara Falls? You hear it before you see it. “Right hand held seven stars” (verses 16 and 20). The right hand shows authority. The “seven stars” are decoded by Jesus in v. 20 as the “seven angels of the seven churches.” The word “angel” (“angelos”) means messenger. These are the seven “pastors” who have been given authority over the seven churches.
His right hand held seven stars for 16. The right hand shows authority. It’s the right hand of authority; it held seven stars, which could have easily been seven stars from the constellation. After all, he is God. He is the Creator. He could have had them in His hand. We’ll find out, in verse 20, that it was symbolic of something. I feel like you couldn’t have found this anywhere else in the Bible. So Jesus said, 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.” I know that’s a mystery to you, John. So let me just go ahead and tell you what the seven stars symbolized. The seven angelos in the Greek, means messenger, the seven messengers.
Now, does that mean each church has its own particular angel and that these letters were written to these angels and John had to somehow get these letters to the angels? Was he writing this to the angels? No, I don’t think that’s what it means. I think it means the seven messengers in the seven churches. That’s what the word, angel, means; it means messenger. It sometimes means that fiery being that God created. One third of which have fallen, have become the demonic presence that are on Earth; two third are Michael and Gabriel and others, which God tells them to carry his message. They do those things that He instructs . Yes, those are angels, but that’s not what He’s talking about here. He’s talking about the seven pastors of the seven churches that He has given authority to give the message to the churches. That’s what I’m convinced it means.
“Out of his mouth came a two edged sword” (in verse 16) – This is a metaphor for the word of God(Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12). The sword of the Lord is the word of God, right? Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Out of His mouth comes that kind of word.
“His face shone like the sun” (verse 16) – this speaks of His glory. He is the “Light of the World” (John 9:5).
And then, in verse 17, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” John, lay at His bosom, as it says in John 13:23. He knew Jesus, but he didn’t know Jesus like this. John didn’t lay on His bosom this time; he laid at His feet like a dead man.
I love this part, this picture of Jesus, in verse 17; it says, “But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not…” When John was laying down on the ground, Jesus bent down. Aren’t you glad Jesus bends down? He put his right hand on John and says, “Fear not.” Fear not. I’m the living one. I don’t think he heard “Niagara Falls” right there. I’m just visualizing it: John, buddy. Hey, you need to get it together. We’ve got twenty-one more chapters to go here. All you did was see me; I haven’t told you anything yet. Then I visualize John saying, Okay, Lord, and he gets back on his feet. Let’s start.
First of all, this is how I want you to outline the book. And so, verse 19 is “the key under the doormat” for outlining the Book of Revelation. Verse 19 says, “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.” The things that you have seen in chapter one; you saw Me. Write that down. The things that are; that’s chapter two and three. The things that are happening in the churches and the things that are to take place after this in chapters three through 22, that is in the future. It’s still the future for us now, although, boy, it looks like it’s right around the corner. There’s the outline. That’s how you outline the book.
Verse 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.” The seven stars in my hand, and those seven lamp stands are the seven churches. If you go in the temple, of you could look in the Tabernacle today, you would see that the golden lamp sits in the holy place and right across from it, beneath its light, is the table of the Showbread, which is the bread of life which represents Jesus. If the church is this lamp stand, it should always shine its light, not on itself, but on Jesus. And so that’s when he takes away the lamp stand when it doesn’t do its job and shine on Jesus.
I want to close with Luke 21:27-29 (KJV) 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” We used to sing a song when I was growing up, “Lift up your head, redemption draweth nigh.” Do you look for Jesus? Do you know Him? Do you hear Him; do you listen for His voice? Are you looking for him? Take your eyes, for a moment, off of your circumstances. Right now, in the Spirit, recognize who your Lord Jesus is and that He’s coming. Just is sure as the sun comes up every day, He’s coming. He’s coming again. This Jesus that John saw, that is revealed to us by this letter, will be revealed to us by our own vision one day. Do you know Him? Do you hear Him? Do you look and keep looking for Him?
Let’s pray, Lord Jesus, first I pray for the one who doesn’t know You. Is that you, my dear friend? Would you come into the saving knowledge of Jesus, now that you’ve heard me talk about it? Would you come to a place right now and pray with me, Dear Lord Jesus, I want to know you. I believe what I’ve heard; that You died for my sins and that You raised again and that You’re coming back one day. Lord, I want You to come to me now. Make me a believer. Make me a child of God. I believe in you. I want You to be my Lord and Savior. If you’re praying that prayer right now, believing, He will save you and you will know Him and He will know you. The rest of us who know Jesus, I would pray now, are you listening to Him? Do you hear His voice? Do you take time for Him, to hear Him and do you keep what He says? Are you looking for Him? Oh, Lord, we repent where we’ve taken our eyes and put them on the world. When we are full of fear and are filled with anxiety. You say, “Fear not.” Help us to look to you and to hear You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.