Revelation

This post was originally published as a Sunday School Lesson post for the Biblical Recorder here.

Seeing is _____________.  A picture is worth a __________________ ________. I imagine you had little difficulty finishing those sentences with “believing” and “thousand words,” respectively. Pictures and visions reveal glorious truths. The book of Revelation is a book of visions. John witnessed vision after glorious vision intended to encourage and challenge. John himself received the book of Revelation during a time of intense persecution as he was imprisoned on the isle of Patmos. His fellow believers, many of those in the churches to whom he wrote, were experiencing persecution and suffering in turmoil. Enter Jesus. Now John knew Jesus as well as anyone. He was one of Jesus’ closest followers, if not his most intimate. But if you notice in this text, when John saw Jesus in all of his unfettered glory, he fell at his feet as though dead. John’s vision of Jesus in Revelation 1:12-20 is not the carpenter’s son dressed in the humble vestiges of a traveling preacher. Rather, John’s vision of Jesus is victorious and full of glory. Jesus is in the midst of the lampstands—his churches. Jesus’ clothing reveals his role as High Priest—the one who intercedes for his churches. His flaming eyes and feet of bronze display his holy judgment. His voice like the roar of many waters reminds us of his revelation to his churches. He holds the stars in his hands indicating his control of his churches. Out of his mouth comes a sharp, two-edged sword. This same picture returns later in Revelation when Jesus returns victorious on the white horse defeating his enemies. Jesus protects his churches as he shines gloriously through them. Astonishing as the vision of the unveiled, victorious Christ is, his word to John may be even more marvelous. “Fear not. I am the living One. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore. I have the keys of Death and Hell.” Jesus is saying, “John, I am victorious and my resurrection gives you the right to join me in my victory.” So, in your situations and concerns, take courage, don’t be afraid, have hope, Jesus is our Victor.

Current news should bother us. Christians across the world, especially in countries where ISIS exists, are being persecuted, hunted down, and murdered because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Hardly a week goes by before we hear another report of another video of another group of Christians being murdered by Islamic terrorists. We should be horrified. We should ask our political leaders to do something. We should pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters. We should pray for God’s justice and vindication.

We should seek answers.

I propose that we go to a book of the Bible that does answer questions for us about persecuted believers. The apostle John wrote the book of Revelation while experiencing persecution on the isle of Patmos to believers facing the wrath of Rome’s emperor Domitian.

No doubt this apocalyptic text does describe for us much of what will happen in the future. However, the first readers of Revelation would not likely have been intent on discovering its end times interpretation beyond the certainty that Christ rules and reigns. Because of their personal suffering, they would have sought a more immediate hope than the consummation of the ages. In the book of Revelation, they would fin comfort, consolation, and encouragement. The unveiled Christ who gave John the vision of Revelation gives hope to Christian martyrs. They will worship at the throne of the King of Kings (Rev. 7:9-17), receive justice (Rev. 19:2), and they will experience the most glorious display of righteousness, justice, and victory in the history of mankind (Rev. 19:11-21).

John’s original readers met a Christ, not robed in the humble vestiges of a Carpenter or traveling preacher, but they met this Christ of Glory—this Sovereign in the midst of the churches—this King of Kings—this undaunted Prophet and Judge speaking his Word of judgment to the world—this paradoxical vision of High Priest and Worthy Lamb—this Ancient of Days—this returning Omnipotent Son of Man (Revelation 1). The unveiled Christ of John’s Revelation offered them salvation, hope, eternal life, justice, mercy, and victory.

We as believers should bemoan the persecution faced by our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should seek and pray for their vindication. We should persuade our politicians to pursue justice for them. We should give them aid. But we need to remember that we have the end of the story. We’ve read the final chapters of world history. And friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, we win. So, if genuine persecution should come to our shores. If we should face the persecution so many millions of our spiritual family members have faced. Then we must take courage. The Christ of glory is the King of kings and all will bow at his feet, all will tremble at glory of his holiness, and we will reign with him in righteousness.

“He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. Revelation 22:20-21