The risen Christ. 1:9-20
This passage in the book of Revelation forms part of the prologue to the book and consists mainly of John's first vision. John's vision of the risen glorious Christ is a vision for his suffering church. Christ stands as the almighty and powerful one, holding within his hands the struggling servant community. Although small and insignificant and overwhelmed by the rush of circumstance, although plagued by the perverse actions of the secular State, the community of believers is upheld by the one who is the First and the Last, the Almighty Judge, the one with power over life and death itself. John's vision is a vision that drives away fear.
v9. Following his greetings to the churches of Asia and his praise to God, John relates his vision of the Lord Jesus. John, like his readers, is a partaker of the kingdom of God and one who bears the trials and sufferings that go along with those who share in Christ's reign. John, like his readers, faced suffering when he was imprisoned on Patmos, an imprisonment that was a consequence of his Christian witness.
v10. It was on this island, on the "Lord's Day" (Sunday), while John was at prayer, that he heard the Lord Jesus speak and saw his glory.
v11. Jesus instructed John to write down his experience, so his book is not just his own reflections, but a prophetic revelation.
v12. John's vision of Christ is a vision of glory. It is a vision to uplift the soul of a people oppressed by the power of the State. The church may be small and insignificant and under the thumb of a powerful advisory, but the Lord Jesus stands head and shoulders over the ravings of political intrigue. The setting for the vision is temple-like.
v13. Amid the lampstands stands the Son of Man. He is the glorious Son of Man from Daniel, Dan.7:13. His dress too is glorious; it could be priestly garb or royal garb, but whatever, it is impressive.
v14. His hair is white like that of the Ancient of Days - dignified and wise. Yet, he is not aged and devoid of power, for his eyes flash with energy.
v15. His feet are metallic and strong and his voice, the voice of God himself, Ezk.43:2. This king will stand forever.
v16. In his hands he holds seven stars representing the seven churches. He holds them, protecting them, uplifting them. Out of his mouth comes a sword, a word of judgment, a word critical of his people, but also a word of devastating power against those that would harm his church. His face shines in radiance, the radiance of God's presence.
v17-18. The vision is so powerful it drives John to the ground. But, then comes the gentle touch of the master to lift him up. Who then has John witnessed? He is the "First and Last", the Alpha and Omega, he is the Lord almighty. He is the resurrected one, the living one. He is the one who has authority over death and over the place of the dead (Hades). He is the life-giver. He is Jesus our Lord.
v19. John is commanded by the Lord to write down the visions, visions that speak of now and of days to come.
v20. The secret meaning behind John's vision of the stars and lampstands is revealed by the Lord. These visionary symbols represent the assembled people of God: i] angelic stars - what they are and will be in Christ; ii] lamp-stands - what they are now in their imperfection.
One like a Son of Man|
It is very difficult for us to identify with the book of Revelation. The Christian church in the West is far too privileged to appreciate the strength of the book. It is a book for a martyr church; it is not a book for a flabby secularized church. Our privileged position is particularly enhanced by market based Christianity. The secular city is clearly breaking down, the urban sprawl is dehumanizing us and so people are hurting, people are afraid, people are lonely. It is easy therefore for churches to tap into those community needs and thus manipulate people into the life of the church. Yet, to what degree has there been any real change in the life of those socialized into the faith?
A believer is someone journeying on the narrow way that leads to life. Salvation depends on orientation rather than outward form, actions, intent or words. How easy it is to travel the broad way, the way well trod, the way that leads to death? We must face the possibility that popularized Christianity has little affinity with the Lord's remnant people. Christ's followers are likely to be few. Has it not always been so? In Israel, during the time of Elijah, only 7000 refused to bow the knee to Baal.
It is usually the small group into discipleship, or community which finds itself under pressure, sometimes even pressure from the mainline denominations themselves. It is the struggling church that can appreciate the vision of the Living One, the First and the Last, who stands in the heavenly realms holding in his hand the eternal lives of his little flock.
If the denominational churches in Western society can move through this final stage of nominalism toward a genuine "last-days" "remnant" community of believers, then we may expect that our situation will begin to align with the seven churches in the book of Revelation. It is then we become a danger to the Evil One's program. His "beast", the "Antichrist", the secular city, organized secular society, will then be unleashed on us. We then inevitably become a martyr church, and it is then we need to see the big picture. We serve under the one whose eyes are "blazing fire", his feet like bronze glowing in a furnace, who holds in his hands his gathered people. He is the one who is the first and the last. His mouth often chastises us, but also powerfully judges those who stand against him and his people. No trouble can ultimately harm us, no power break us.
This then is the path for a servant people under the "Living One".
1. What do the "seven lampstands" and "seven stars" represent?
2. The vision conveys a particular impression. What is it?
3. In what sense in John's seven churches similar to ours?
4. How is the church today compromised (conformed)?
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