Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 6, Christ's Appearance To John And The Symbolism Of His Appearance, Part One

John was called by Christ to write down the prophecies He will give him about things to come. In today's passage John relates to us how this came about. He is going to tell us what was going on when Christ appeared to him, and he is going to describe what Christ looked like when He appeared. Today and tomorrow we will discuss what these highly symbolic aspects of Christ's appearance may mean.

We are moving through the first half of Chapter 1 quite slowly, but I promise you the pace is going to pick up very soon. Revelation is an action-packed book. But we needed to settle some things firmly in our minds from the very beginning, and one of these things is the power and authority of the One who is providing us with the prophecies of the end times. We (like John) are going to glimpse Christ as He has never before been seen: in the glory that was restored to Him upon His return to heaven, the glory He referred to in prayer with the Father as "the glory that I had with You before the world existed". (John 17:5) Christ temporarily laid aside this glory in order to take on human flesh and offer Himself as a ransom for us. (1 Timothy 2:6) But now, restored to heaven and restored to glory, awarded the highest honors for His obedience to God the Father (Isaiah 53:12), He appears to us on the pages of Revelation in a new and awe-inspiring way.

John wants to be clear from the outset on whose authority he is writing the prophecies of the end times. He was given these visions by the greatest authority of all, by the One who says of Himself: "'I am the Alpha and Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'" (Revelation 1:8)

How did John receive these revelations from the Lord? He sets the scene by saying, "I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: 'Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.'" (Revelation 1:9-11) All of us who are in Christ have the Holy Spirit indwelling us at all times, but sometimes we receive an extra outpouring of the Spirit. John is observing the Sabbath (likely on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath), and has probably been praying and studying the word of God. Suddenly, while worshiping the Lord in the Spirit, a voice speaks to him.

Naturally, this loud voice startles him and gets his attention. "I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me." (Revelation 1:12) Did John think a mere human being had walked into his room? If so, what he sees quickly tells him otherwise.

"And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash around His chest. The hair on His head was white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and coming out of His mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance." (Revelation 1:12b-16)

Many churches and many homes have pictures of Jesus hanging on the walls, but none of them look like this! Have you ever seen a picture of Jesus with a double-edged sword coming out of His mouth? I certainly haven't. The appearance of Jesus to John is highly symbolic, so we are going to take a look at each aspect of His appearance and discuss what it might mean. For example, I don't think that Christ literally has a sword coming out of His mouth. But what is it that the Scriptures refer to as a double-edged sword? The word of God. (Hebrews 4:12) And what will Christ use to judge the world? The word of God. (Revelation 19:15)

We most often think of Jesus in His human incarnation, as our Friend and Savior. And so He is! But He is also Almighty God. And because He is God, He is to be regarded with the utmost reverence---with a holy fear. It is by the word of God that every thought and every action will be compared, and since Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh, we owe Him all our respect and allegiance and adoration. As we move through the book of Revelation, we are going to see how the Word of God will, in all righteousness and fairness, judge the rebellious. So from the very beginning in Chapter 1 we are presented with a symbol (the two-edged sword) which reminds us that Christ has the authority, the power, and the right to judge.

I hope you can join us tomorrow as we delve deeper into the meaning of the symbolic appearance of Christ in verses 12 through 16.

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