The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1-6)

Publié le 3 juillet 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Pastor Samuel Niblack (preached 27/06/2021)

When we suggest to start studying the book of Revelation, you might rub your hands with glee, saying, “Great! That will help us decode the news, the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation in Israel, the geopolitical tensions, the vaccine, etc.” But that would be wrong. That’s not the aim of this book, and that’s not why we’re going to study it.

From the very first verse, we can see that it’s not a book meant to encrypt things and leave us puzzled, but the project of this book is quite the opposite: it is to reveal, to show, to make known. It is a revelation from Jesus. (According to one commentary, this book is not without challenges but is overall “easier to understand than the gospels”) It is a revelation from Jesus, and it is a revelation about Jesus. According to v3, it’s even a blessing, a real pleasure for anyone who reads and keeps these words. It is this blessing that we want to make our own this summer.

Let’s read Revelation 1:1-6.

“The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”

Not only is this a revelation about Jesus but according to v3, it’s even a blessing, a real pleasure for anyone who reads and keeps these words. It is this blessing that we want to make our own this summer. There are certainly some very strange passages in Revelation, but for the people of this time, they were less strange than you might think. They were used to this apocalyptic style, a style with a lot of symbols, numbers, colors, presented in a vivid way. There are some books in the Old Testament that are like that. They are like Japanese manga.

Another key to understanding and demystifying the book of Revelation is to remember that it was addressed to the 7 churches in the first century, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. These were 7 real churches. Obviously, these 7 churches did not witness the end of the world, and yet they needed to hear this revelation. A revelation from Jesus, his person, his power, and his plan, is what the church needs at all times.

Scripture Reading: Revelation 1:7-19

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” 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.”

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. 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.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Let’s look at 2 major realities and 2 implications for the church:

1. Soon, Jesus will come again in glory

2. Today, Jesus is gloriously present among his churches.

So,

1. Let’s not fear

2. Let’s not lose our light

1. Soon, Jesus will come again in glory

The last time the general public saw Jesus, he was on a cross, in great shame and weakness. In his Gospel, John himself had clearly shown that the cross was also a revelation of the glory of Jesus, but that was not the end of the story.

The great idea of the book of Revelation lies in v7: “Jesus is coming with the clouds”. Not “on a small cloud,” but these clouds evoke all the glory, the brilliance, and the power of God. This coming will be so glorious that all eyes will see it. It will be the supreme, indisputable revelation.

Why is Jesus coming back? To kill the dragon and save the princess. There are 3 main characters in this book: the king, the dragon and the princess. The dragon is Satan with all the forces of evil. The princess, unlike the prostitute, is the faithful church, often in danger, often persecuted, sometimes asleep, but Jesus comes to deliver her. This is the good news of Revelation.

In the secular view there is no alpha and no omega. We come from nowhere and we go nowhere. There is no hope that justice, life, and peace will one day win over evil.

Of course, we want to know when Jesus returns. And the Bible’s answer, deliberately ambiguous, is “soon!”. V1 tells of things “that must soon take place” and v3 says that “the time is near”. We sometimes have some troubles with the word “soon”. But in comparison with eternity, Jesus’ return is “soon”. For the Almighty God for whom a thousand years is like one day, it’s also “soon”. For us, whose lives are fleeting, it is “soon” too.

2. Today, Jesus is gloriously present among his churches.

Here is another fact to remember. You might say, « He will return one day, but right now, he lets us fend for ourselves. »

But the vision, the image of the 7 lampstands that dominates the first chapter will counter that idea. In the middle of the seven lampstands, a son of man, that person is the one who says in v18, “I am the Living One”. This is Jesus. But Jesus as you have never seen him before! This revelation from Jesus is useful to us as well. It is a present-day reality, not just a future one.

What John sees is not the Jesus represented in stained glass windows or on crucifixes. He is not the Jesus depicted in children’s Bibles. He is a glorious Jesus, he is a holy Jesus:

Very royal and noble: with a robe reaching down to his feet and a golden sash (the Ancient of Days)

Very pure and holy: with hair white as wool, white as snow

Very strong and powerful: with feet like bronze

Very fair: with eyes like blazing fire penetrating everything, and a double-edged sword that executes judgment.

As John’s reaction shows, he is a frightening Jesus. What a change compared with the Jesus next to whom John used to bow at the table! Yet, he is the same Jesus.

It is this Jesus who is in the middle of the 7 lampstands representing the 7 churches (v20). It is this Jesus who holds his churches in his hand. He had the 7 stars in his hand (v16): “the stars are the angels”. These stars are angels, or messengers, who represent the churches. This is what this book reveals to us: at all times, whatever the difficulties and trials, whatever the size of the church, whatever the time, Jesus is gloriously present.

Are we living out our faith, our church in the light of this revelation? It is this Jesus, the Lord, we sing about. It is this Jesus who brings us together “on the Lord’s Day”. I think it would be hard to look this Jesus in the eye, and say, I had better things to do in my life than be interested in you; I had better things to do on Sundays than praise you with your people, your churches.

Here are two realities that we tend to forget, but that must be revealed and reminded to us: Jesus is coming soon, and Jesus is present. There are two implications:

a. Do not fear

v17, This formidable Jesus, terrifying as an adversary, lays his hand on John. His hand that could throw lightning bolts. His right hand that holds all authority and power. His hand that could wield the sword of judgment. He tenderly places his hand on John. Do not be afraid.

V18, Do not be afraid. I am alive, I am the conqueror of death. I hold the keys of death and Hades. Later in the book, there is no problem to lock the dragon there, Rev.20:1-3: “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.”

The church in the 1st century had little power. They had no weight in politics. They had few financial means. John was living is exil. And the Roman Emperor thought he himself was God.

We end up limiting our thoughts to what we see. But this revelation of Jesus who returns in glory, and who is gloriously controlling everything, encourages us.

b. Let’s not lose our light
Jesus explains the vision, and we learn that churches are lampstands. A lampstand lights up in darkness. This image recalls the mission of the church. In the following chapters, Jesus reviews each lampstand, with his gaze of blazing fire. Where you are doing well, where you are doing wrong, here is how to change. In order to preserve the testimony, the light. Rev 2: 5, “Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” We too will fit into one of these churches.

It has been said that the plan of Revelation is to kill the dragon and save the princess. But to deliver the princess, well… the princess must remain a princess, she must preserve herself, she must preserve her purity, and not become unfaithful like a prostitute. This is the purpose of the first chapters of the letter. Preserve his church in holiness. “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household…” (1 Peter 4:17)

Jesus is interested in the condition of his churches at all times and in all circumstances. He doesn’t say “You are being persecuted; you can take a break from your testimony.” “You are rich, you can take a break,’ ”put out your lampstand until COVID-19 is gone…”

In the light of the celestial realities that are taking shape, in the light of the war between the dragon and the Church, in the light of the end written in advance, let us be the Church worthy of her King, of her Bridegroom, this prince who loves us, who gave his life for us!