Not a stretch to say we live in troublous times. Not really anything new – since Adam and Eve did their own thing in the Garden, has been continual struggle between “the serpent and the woman”… and her offspring. Intensity of struggle fluctuates, but has been and will be part of life until Jesus comes back. Appears at this point in human history that over large areas of world evil is winning. Not just here in America, not limited to Western nations or even first-world areas. Trouble and suffering and evildoers top the news everywhere.
Where should child of God go for reassurance in such times? You’d think – family of God, local church a logical place of first resort. Church isn’t in best of shape right now. According to the New York Times (August 1, 2010) “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.” Churches and leaders and denominations no longer “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). What are we to do?
Things were not significantly different in 1st century apart from speed of communication. Wasn’t only culture and government in trouble, church in serious difficulty also. Same source of strength and courage and comfort available to us today as for John and contemporaries – the One in midst of lampstands. This first vision John had sets tone for entire book – don’t forget… from Ascension to Second Coming risen Christ not only at right hand of the Father; is standing among lampstands, holding seven stars in his right hand. During earthly ministry, Jesus promised followers he would not abandon them, leave them orphans.
Lord of the Church is presently taking active hands-on role in daily life of his church. Sends comforting words to us by his servant John who he commissioned to write. Lord Jesus is maintaining a comforting posture until his return.
A. comforting words v.17-18
do not be afraid
anybody can say it, not everyone is believable – requires certain abilities on part of one speaking to provide real assurance
yes, is a book of visions, things communicated by signs and pictures; yet Jesus did not rely on sight alone, he gave additional specific reasons to build confidence
is good reminder: no matter how intimate fellowship we have with Jesus now, will understand who he is in whole different way when face to face
also important – anyone less than God himself cannot credibly say with authority under all circumstances: “Fear not”
the First and the Last — God
both John’s comfort and commission come from the eternal God – was that very God standing there speaking with John
readIsa. 44:6-8 (pg. 835) – notice who is speaking: the Lord, the King, his Redeemer, Lord of hosts, the only God – any questions?
in case you do, Isa. 48:12-13 (pg. 841) – First and Last is sovereign over all he created in all universe (heaven/earth)
this the one who has full absolute authority over all things past, present, future – will not be frustrated, cannot be frustrated
how many times have you said/heard “don’t worry, got it under control”… followed by “uh-oh” – never from God
he who lives, was dead, am alive — Man
Lord and King, at the same time… Redeemer – not only Lord over beginning and end, is Lord over middle also
same God who began it all, who will end it all, has one purpose in it all – the Incarnation an essential element of God’s purpose
Jesus’ redemptive work has ramifications from Eden to New Jerusalem – death / burial / resurrection only hope in all history
has relevance for us because Jesus is one of us… and has shown that death could not hold him – but wait, there’s more
Lord Jesus is living proof that there’s limit to what Satan and agents can accomplish
suffering in this life not only has purpose, is not the last chapter of the story – look at Jesus: didn’t just survive, is victorious in glory, same awaits us
1 John 3:2Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
I have the keys
his work as Man had real purpose, achieved real results, demonstrate his real power
Jesus’ victory over death not simply for his own personal benefit – he has keys, that is, complete authority over life and death for every individual
makes sense, doesn’t it – after all, Jesus is the Judge, one to whom all authority in heaven and earth given
is Lord Jesus who oversees ultimate destiny of men and angels, can credibly promise victory over death to his church
B. commissioned to write v.19
commission from Lord of the Church to his servant – write a book: further expansion on initial words in v.11
told not only to write, told what to write and given basic outline for structure: past, present future
what you have seen
might wonder why is important to include initial vision here in chapter 1 – this revelation of exalted glorified Christ and first words to John not meant only for John
are hints, glimpses of Jesus in other places in NT – Stephen, Saul on Damascus road – and some instruction about Jesus’ present ministry… all good stuff
none of those appearances has the same impact, same breadth of meaning as what John experienced… and wrote for benefit of all who read
this is part of blessing promised in 1:3, 22:7, 14 – that we would be comforted by Jesus’ words, strengthened by Jesus’ appearance and significance
present conditions and needs in church of John’s day, iow, letters to seven churches – specific individual, yet representative local churches
just like any other Scripture, this is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness in all ages of church
what will take place
tone of letter to churches changes beginning with chapter 4 – much more forward-looking… from John’s 1st century perspective
things that would come after had already begun when John wrote – things already in place, in motion, would continue as described from then until the end
since primary means of revelation was by visions, took more than one vision covering same span of time for John / us to get full picture
as you read through ch. 4ff, final Day keeps coming up: ch. 7, 11, 14, 16, 19 – recapitulation, not sequential
one further division: Temporal Warfare (ch. 2-11), Spiritual Warfare (ch. 12-22)
first section – greater emphasis on what we see/hear/experience with senses; second section – emphasis on spiritual realities underlying physical/temporal manifestations described in first section
we are composite beings: material and immaterial, physical and spiritual; they are distinct yet connected – what we see on physical level reflects the spiritual, spiritual activity often has physical consequences
purpose of Jesus’ revelation through John – give sufficient insight into both physical and spiritual for us to live as victorious Christians
C. comforting posture v.20 (cf. v.13, 16)
in very first vision some things clearly understood, other things not so much… because they are signs, must be understood symbolically
the one standing, speaking identified himself in way that made sense – looked like what John expected God to look like
this also sets tone for much of rest of book – stars, lampstands stand for something else… explained by Jesus
Christ is present in his church, among the churches, seven representing the complete church… spread throughout world
important to remember – Lord of the church not just up there, is in here… among us, by his Spirit, present with us
is Jesus who is source of light, role of churches to hold up the light supplied by Christ
given it is Jesus with two-edged sword, he is present not only to supply needs of his church, also to guard well-being of his church – further reinforced by the stars
had in his hand seven stars, angels of the churches: guardian angels? messengers? leaders of churches? some combination?
angels are the ones most directly responsible for spiritual well-being of the churches, the ones to whom Jesus’ messages are directed, through whom those words would reach final intended audience
probably more significant – where they are: in Jesus’ right hand: to work at his sovereign direction, under his protection
When Jesus took leave of disciples, remember what he said: Matt. 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Is most important, not what you know, but Who you know. The Lord of the church, the cornerstone and protector of his church, present with his church. Keep eyes on Him – no matter what is going on around, He will bring all his people safely home.