The Risen Christ's Revelation

During our journey through the Bible we have seen promises, prophecies, and pictures of the coming King. We learnt about the arrival of Jesus and how He provided the way of salvation for all who believe. After He ascended to Heaven He was seated at the right hand of the Father. There He reigns as King, but His kingdom is yet to be fully revealed. The Old Testament prophets spoke of a coming kingdom that will destroy earthly kingdoms (Dan. 2:44), bring blessing (Is. 4:2; 9:1-2), establish justice (Is. 11:1-5), remove the effects of the curse (Is. 25:8), and that will last forever (Dan. 2:44; 7:14). The book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse, provides for us insight into how this is going to come to pass. This book records for us the prophetic events that lead to the return of the King. When Jesus returns, He reverses the effects of the curse, judges all His enemies, and reigns for eternity. By way of overview we will consider (1) The Risen Christ’s Revelation (Rev. 1-3), (2) The Risen Christ’s Retribution (Rev. 4-16), and the Risen Christ’s Rule (Rev. 17-22).

The Risen Christ’s Revelation (Revelation 1-3)

In the opening verses of the book of Revelation, there are four important features about this book. Firstly, we learn that the Person of the Revelation is Jesus Christ (1:1a). The word “revelation” means “to uncover” or “to unveil.” This prophecy contains the uncovering of the authority, rule, and victory that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Secondly, the Purpose of the Revelation is so that God’s people will know “the things that must soon take place” (1:1b). Thirdly, we discover what the Process of the Revelation was (1:1c). It began with the Father (the originator and Divine author of the Revelation), was given to His Son (the Mediator and Executor of the Revelation), who sent it to His angel (the messenger of the Revelation), who passed it onto John[1] (the human author), who finally delivers it to all of God’s people (the readers of the Revelation). Finally, we are told about the Promise of the Revelation. Though it is true that every book of the Bible is a blessing to read, the book of Revelation promises a unique blessing to those who read, hear, and do what it says (1:3). This is the first of the seven beatitudes or blessings found in the book of Revelation (see also: 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). In these opening chapters, we learn about the Master of the Church (Rev. 1:9-20) and then the Message for the Church (Rev. 2-3). This is preparation for the coming King.

The Master of the Church (Revelation 1:9-20)

John was banished to the island of Patmos[2] because of his faithfulness to Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:9). He then goes on to record the experience he had on the Lord’s Day (which is likely a reference to a Sunday).  John “was in the Spirit” (Rev. 1:10a), indicating that he received a spiritual experience.[3] He heard a loud voice behind him, and was then instructed to write what he sees and send it to the seven churches (Rev. 1:10b-11). After hearing this voice, John turns around to see who was speaking to him. He saw seven golden lampstands and in the midst of them He saw the risen Christ (Rev. 1:12-13, cf. Zechariah 4). Jesus was “clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash”. The idea here is that the supreme Prophet, Priest and King is standing there. John then provides a seven-fold description of the One he saw (Rev. 1:14-16). He observes His hair, eyes, feet, voice, right hand, mouth, and face. This description reveals that this individual is eternal, all knowing, righteous, holy, sovereign, wrathful, and glorious.

After John saw this sight, it caused him to be filled with fear (1:17). Jesus tells him to “fear not” and then instructs John to write down the visions he is going to receive. Then Jesus provides John with the interpretation of the vision he just received. Jesus simply said, “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (1:20). The lesson is, Jesus is the Sovereign King and He has a plan for His Church and for this world.

The Message for the Church (Revelation 2:1-3:22)

Revelation 2-3 contains seven letters to the seven churches. These churches were real, historical, literal churches at the time in which John received this vision. Why are only seven churches addressed? I take the view that these seven churches are representative of the types and varieties of churches throughout the ages. There are a number of features that are of importance to observe. All seven letters are framed by the same structure. They begin with a reference to the church, a commendation (except for Sardis and Laodicea), a criticism (except for Smyrna and Philadelphia), counsel, and a charge. In the opening address Jesus describes Himself with the seven-fold description of Himself stated in the previous chapter (1:14-15). The description used in each letter reflects an issue within that particular congregation (this will be briefly discussed in the relevant section). In all seven letters Jesus utters the words “I know” (2:2, 9, 13, 19, 3:1, 8, 15). This reminds us that He is the sovereign and all-seeing Saviour who is constantly aware of what is happening in His churches – He sees all their service, suffering, and sin. Each letter ends with a promise to the one who overcomes. Below is a brief overview of Jesus Christ’s message to the Seven Churches.

(1) Ephesus is known as the church that left its first love (2:1-7). It was a congregation that was faithful in their labour, endurance, and doctrinal purity (2:2). But it was a church that was criticised by the Lord as having left its first love (2:4). They had abandoned the burning intensity and passion they used to have for the Lord (cf. Acts 19:19-20). Out of His great love for His church, Jesus offers her the solution to their problem – Remember, Repent, and Return (2:5).

(2) The church in Smyrna can be referred to as the persecuted church (2:8-11). It was suffering by being persecuted due to their faithfulness to the Lord. It is interesting that Jesus identifies Himself as “the first and the last, who died and came to life” (2:8). Here Jesus provides them with hope by reminded them that He has walked the path of suffering. Jesus knows their hard situation (2:9) and calls for them to not fear but to be faithful (2:10). Interestingly, Jesus offers no criticism of this church. Often those who suffer the fiery trial of persecution have no time to be swayed by compromise and sinful fantasies.

(3) The church in Pergamos could be called the compromised church (2:12-17). This church compromised by allowing unbiblical beliefs and practices to come into the church (2:14-15). Instead of being like the church in Ephesus who had “tested those who say they are apostles and are not” (2:2) and who hated “the deeds of the Nicolaitans” (2:6), they did nothing about those who were worldly. Jesus commanded them to repent and reminded them that judgment will come if they don’t (2:16).

(4) The church in Thyatira was the tolerant church (2:18-29) because it was tolerating sin and became compromised. When sin entered into their congregation they didn’t stand up and call sin for what it was. Jesus referred to Himself as the One who has “eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze” (2:18) revealing His holiness. His holy feet will not stand with sinners by tolerating their sin.

(5) The church is Sardis is the church that was dead (3:1-6) because it didn’t display any life. There were people there, they went about the routines of ministry, but in the appraisal of the Lord Jesus Christ they were a dead people (3:1) The fact that the Lord spoke to this church shows that there were some who were not in a spiritual stupor (3:4).

(6) The church in Philadelphia was the faithful church (3:7-13). Like the church in Smyrna, this church receives no criticism from the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the church that is known as the faithful church. It was a church that had an open door (3:8) and was faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ in the opportunities He had given (3:10).

(7) The church in Laodicea was the lukewarm church (3:14-22) because they were neither cold nor hot.[4] They weren’t burning with the intensity and passion like the Ephesians originally did. They weren’t hot. But they weren’t cold either. They were lukewarm. This means they were insipid, unpalatable, revolting, and foul in the mouth of their Lord (3:16).

In the opening three chapters of the book of Revelation we learn about the Risen Christ’s Revelation. He is sovereign over the church and He wants to the churches to hear His message. As the church of Jesus Christ awaits the arrival of her King, we are to listen carefully to His message and honour Him.

 

[1] The name “John” appears on four separate occasions in this book (1:1, 4, 9; 21:2). This refers to the apostle John who also authored the Gospel of John, and 1, 2, 3 John. When did he receive this from the Lord? According to the early church father Irenaeus, “John received the Revelation almost in our own time, toward the end of the reign of Domitian” (Against Heresies 5.30.3). Domitian’s reign ended in A.D. 96, so most scholars agree that it was received around A.D. 95.

[2] Patmos was a rocky, barren, and volcanic island located in the Aegean Sea (which is a part of the Mediterranean Sea that lies between Greece and Turkey).

[3] This happens on three others occasions in this book 4:2; 17:3; and 21:10

[4] The city of Laodicea sourced it water from the hot springs in Hierapolis and from the fresh cold water from Colosse, which traveled through an aqueduct. By the time it reached the city it was lukewarm.