19: The First Window

castle windows_2

Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, is the Son of God

Revelation 1

If you have ever felt paranoia when reading the Book of Revelation itself, or Christian novels based on it, you are not alone. There is no doubt that the prospect for earthlings is grim, and that is not a minor matter in Revelation. Even now, as I write, I find it hard to put from my mind the “darkness.” I have driven in isolated places of Australia on nights with neither moonlight nor starlight. Just one small glimmer of light in the distance was a welcome relief, particularly when it was at my destination.

It seems to me that God understands how we humans feel when we peer into the future. Things look dark even without God to tell us. The Book of Revelation paints no better picture — except at the end, the very end. In the meantime we need light. And that is just how Revelation begins. Let’s look through the first window.1

Firstly, I see John, who tells me about his circumstances, on the island of Patmos. While he is a historical figure, he seems to represent us all, exiled from home and isolated. Feel for him if you will. We have spoken of him before.

Ah, but then, with John, I see one central figure. I am given a spectacular view of Jesus. No longer is “his appearance … so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness (Isaiah 52:14).” Today He is brilliant, powerful, the Light of the world but, as before, still speaking peace.

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus says (Revelation 1:17).

After the sermon on the mount (Luke 12:32), He had spoken words of assurance to His disciples: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

Again, to His disciples (Matthew 10:31) when commissioning them for a missionary journey, Jesus said: “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

When the disciples mistook Him for a ghost (Matthew 14:27): “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Words of encouragement to the ruler of the synagogue before He went and resurrected his daughter (Mark 5:36): “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

The night of His betrayal He tells His disciples (John 14:27): “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

To the startled women who saw him after His resurrection (Matthew 28:10): “Do not be afraid. …”

And now, to John who, with Peter and James, had already seen Him transfigured (Matthew 17:7) He is saying again: “Do not be afraid.”

So, after all those years had elapsed since John and his colleagues had seen Him, heard Him and touched Him (see 1 John 1:1), Jesus Christ is still “the same old Person” (I speak as a man) He was then — and before.  He has not changed.  What a pleasure to hear His voice again — and how needed!  This is the character of him “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times (Micah 5:2),” the “Ancient of Days (Daniel 7).”

Don’t be afraid!
The Book of Revelation was written to tell you the truth, and at the same time to give you reason to not be afraid.

This book is the last of that series which began by stating categorically, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God spoke, saw and named. God blessed, rested and sanctified. And we human beings are not only part of that creation but of all living creatures its acme. It was David who, in the eighth Psalm, wrote that we were made a little lower than God (Hebrew: elohim).2

Now, today, it is our Creator who addresses those who are prepared to listen. Will the creature listen to the Creator? For believers, there is good news.

The Godhead speaks as Three. The Father, the Holy Spirit and the Son, in that order.

“Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come (God, the Father), and from the seven spirits before his throne (The Holy Spirit, whose perfection is indicated by the number 7) and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” God’s identity is worth remembering, and His attitude toward us must never be forgotten.

Further, the aim of the Book is important. Is it to strike fear into our hearts? On the contrary. Listen!!

In the first two verses John explains that what he saw in vision on the island was in fact “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” In the ninth verse he looks beyond his exile, as did Joseph when he revealed his identity to his brothers (Genesis 45:5), and considers that his time on Patmos was really “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”

“The testimony of Jesus?
Regardless of whether one considers this to be a message from Jesus or about Jesus, chapter 19:10 emphasizes the testimony of Jesus is “the spirit” of prophecy. There, John records that he was so impressed that he was about to worship the angelic messenger. What reproof followed! Your focus should be on Jesus, just as that is the focus of true prophecy. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Conversely, what is “the spirit” of prophecy? The spectacular? The sensational? Soothsaying? A complete collection of prophetic writings? A prophet, however gifted? No! It is the testimony of Jesus. Nothing more and nothing less.

The Greek word translated “spirit” here means “life” — the motive force, the essence, the heart. While some at this point might introduce a reference to the Holy Spirit as being the Divine source of prophecy, and that is true, this is not the point of the angel’s corrective.

We must, and will, hear more of the “testimony of Jesus.”

And what of Jesus since His ascension to the right hand of the Father? Here we learn that Jesus Christ, the son of man, is indeed the glorified son of God.

On the Lord’s Day3, John, in the Spirit, heard behind him a loud voice like a trumpet. This voice told him to write down what he saw and then send it out to the seven churches that were at the time in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea in western Turkey.

Upon turning around, his attention was attracted to seven golden lampstands which, while reminiscent, because of their number, of the menorah (seven-branched lampstand4) in the Jewish temple, were not identical to it.  Those in the vision were freestanding and were explained to represent the seven churches, not any heavenly counterpart of the menorah.  Walking among them was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His appearance and clothing were striking and brilliant with a voice like the sound of rushing waters.  Seven stars were in his right hand.  A sword proceeded from his mouth.  He symbolized the One who calls himself the First and the Last, the One who was dead, and is now alive for ever and ever, the Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself.  And if you had not noticed he also holds the keys of death and of Hades.5

Just a reminder, John. Be sure to record what you have been watching.

“Now that you know who I am,” this Figure is saying, “you are wondering about the lampstands and the stars.”

John says that he was told that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches.

This last explanation is important. Far from giving us a view of Christ’s activity in heaven where He now appears for us in God’s presence (Hebrews 9:24), this is  a symbolic picture of the Christian church tended by Christ Himself. It was St. Paul who wrote, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst (1 Corinthians 3:16)?” and again “You are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16).” To the church in Ephesus he wrote, “you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.”

This, then, is the meaning of the vision of Jesus among the lamp stands.

“The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” Because the term “angel” nowhere else in the Book of Revelation refers to a human being the Expositor’s Bible Commentary suggests, “John’s reference should thus be understood as the heavenly messengers who have been entrusted by Christ with responsibility over the churches and yet who are so closely identified with them that the letters are addressed at the same time to these ‘messengers’ and to the congregation.” A moot point. Yet the picture is one of Christ’s interest in and care for His people.

It’s as if He is saying again: “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands (Isaiah 49:16).”

Yes, today, “Don’t be afraid.”

Hebrews 2:14-17: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

In the future, “Don’t be afraid.”

Christ, the son of man, is the son of God now glorified. And the good news is that “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).”

Have faith in God,
In Jesus glorified.
Have faith in God,
The Savior at your side.
Have faith in God,
And in that Truth abide.
Have faith, dear friend, in God.

Have faith in God.
He tells us not to fear.
Have faith in God,
For He is ever near.
Have faith in God.
The future’s now more clear.
Have faith, dear friend, in God.6

1. The windows:

1st (chapter 1): Christ: The Son of Man Is the Son of God
2nd (chapters 2-3): The Church: What Does Christ Think of His People?
3rd (chapters 4:1-8:1): The Issues: What Is Christ Doing in Heaven?
4th (8:2-11:19): Witnessing Against All Opposition: What Is Christ Doing on Earth?
5th (12:1-22:5): The Tale of Two Cities: The Rise and Fall of Babylon; the Rise and Rise of the New Jerusalem
6th (22:6-21): The Soon-coming of Jesus: A Promise is a Promise

2. Psalm 8:5 in the Hebrew reads “a little lower than God.” The LXX (quoted in Hebrews 2:7) reads “a little lower than the angels.”
3. Let not dogmatism about the day obscure the importance of the incident.
4. The menorah is depicted in bas-relief on a frieze on the Arch of Titus in Rome.
5. Not the fiery “hell” as popularly thought of, but the place of the dead. The word “hades” (pron. hah-dees) is the New Testament Greek equivalent for the Old Testament word for the grave, the place of the dead.
6. by Angus McPhee, with apologies to the late Seventh-day Adventist Pastor H. M. S. Richards (1894-1985), founder of “The Voice of Prophecy” radio program.

© 2010, Angus McPhee