Lesson 2: The Preeminent Person of Prophecy (Revelation 1)
Martin Luther didn't think much of the Book of Revelation, just as he did not think much of the Book of James. You will recall that he referred to the Book of James as a right straw-y epistle.1 In 1522 Luther was said to have made this statement about the Book of Revelation:
My spirit cannot adapt itself to the book and a sufficient reason why I do not esteem it highly is that Christ is neither taught nor recognized in it.2
It probably should be noted that he later qualified these words, but nevertheless we can see that his estimation of the Book of Revelation was not what it should have been. Luther's value judgment was based upon a faulty premise: that “Christ was neither taught nor recognized in it.”
I cringe when I read Luther’s appraisal of the Book of Revelation. Having said this, I fear that Luther’s words may reflect an attitude toward the Book of Revelation that is far more common than we would like to believe. How much of Christ do we seek to see in the Book of Revelation, and in the rest of biblical prophecy? When come to the Book of Revelation we may be so intent upon discovering the events of the future and the means by which they will be brought to pass that we fail to focus on the Person of our Lord, who is preeminent in prophecy, and who should be the focus of our attention.
One of the famous books on prophecy from a dispensational point of view is called Things to Come.3 It’s not a bad title, and it is certainly a worthwhile book on prophecy. But in the process of studying prophecy let us not lose sight of the fact that prophecy is about the return of our Lord Jesus Christ to planet earth. Prophecy is about Jesus Christ, who is coming soon to dwell in the midst of His people, and not merely about “things to come.”
12 (Look! I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done! 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end!) . . . 17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say: “Come!” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge (Revelation 22:12-13, 17).
Revelation chapter 1 serves as an introduction to the book and in so doing it sets the tone for the rest of the book. At the very outset of this prophecy the spotlight falls upon our Lord, calling the reader’s attention to the majesty and the glory of our Lord, for this book is a “Revelation of Jesus Christ” (verse 1). It is not merely a revelation of coming events (although it is that, see verse 1); it is a revelation of the Person who is coming again, our Lord Jesus Christ.
When we come to the Book of Revelation we come to a book that contains prophecy about things to come. That is clear from chapter 1. But far more than that we come to a book that is portraying the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ and it is talking about the Person who should always be preeminent in prophecy, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Preeminent theme of prophecy is the Person of Christ. When Luther comes to the Book of Revelation and he cannot see Him, that's a problem. When we come to the Book of Revelation and we do not see Him, focus on Him, and worship Him, that is a problem.
Our inability to see Christ in Revelation may be one of the reasons why we have so much difficulty with the Book of Revelation. The Christ we see in the Book of Revelation does not look like the One we are used to seeing in the Gospels.
I suspect it’s because the Lord whom we see there is not the Lord that we see in the Gospels, or so it would seem. It's sort of the same thing takes place when people say, I believe in the God of the New Testament, but the God of the Old Testament is somebody else. That's different. I can't go for that. The whole point of the Scriptures is that the God of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament and we must put those two aspects of dimensions of our Lord together. Perhaps the reason why Luther did not see the Lord Jesus as much as he should have is because he was looking for a different Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospels, rather than the Jesus who is exalted, lifted up and coming in the clouds to judge sin and sinners.
Chapter 1, then, is written so that we will turn our eyes upon Jesus as we study things to come.
Let's turn our attention to Revelation 1. Specifically I want to focus on the Person of Jesus Christ but before we do that there are some necessary details to cover, for all of chapter 1 doesn't speak only of our Lord and so I'll go through some of the other matters, such as those through whom the Book of Revelation was written. I find that somewhat interesting because there is a fairly clear outline of the persons who are involved in the process of the revelation of this book. I don't suppose that most of you are used to the marketing system but it's amazing how many people are between the product and the manufacturer before it ever gets there. When I used to sell automobile parts, we used to buy them from a warehouse, which bought them from the distributor, who bought them from somewhere else. By the time you bought the part that the mechanic put on your car it had gone through five or six hands to get there. Obviously each one of those had made a small profit on the item. There is a little bit of an analogy to those, although there is no profit on the item, in that it has gone through a number of hands. Notice first of all that it is from God. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to Him. So the Revelation begins with God. I might say that we'll supply an extra person here perhaps, as it says in verse 4,
John, to the seven churches that are in Asia, grace to you and peace from Him who is, and who was and who is to come, that is from the Father and from the seven Spirits that are before His throne.
You may see a note in the margin of your Bible that may suggest the possibility of the seven-fold Spirit. That is a unique expression, but when you look at verses 4 and 5, it seems rather clear contextually, that the book is being written from the perspective of coming from the Trinity. For it is from the One of who was and who is and who is to come, the Father, the Seven-fold Spirit and then Jesus Christ, the Faithful Witness. I would understand that while this is an unusual expression it is undoubtedly an expression of the Holy Spirit that is used.
Some have turned our attention to the Isaiah 11:2, where there is a seven-fold function of the Spirit of God. Perhaps that is the sense in which it is intended to be understood. The book comes from God, the Holy Spirit is involved, and it comes to our Lord Jesus. God gave that to Him to show His bondservants the things that must shortly take place, the things to come. He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bondservant John. There are a number of people involved in the revelation process, God the Father, the Holy Spirit is involved, God the Son receives the revelation and He gives it to the angel who communicates it to John. Very little has been said about the angel and rightly so. We do not know specifically who the angel is, nor the process that is involved. It would seem to me that this is probably a more tightly woven prophecy in the sense that I do not believe in a dictation theory where each prophet is saying to God, Now what was that again? Repeat that line, like a stenographer righting it down. But when we come to things like this that are beyond the grasp and comprehension of the writer, then it is no doubt true that there is a closer relationship between the one who is communicating the message and the one who is writing it, that is John the Apostle.
John speaks of himself in several of the verses in the first chapter. He calls himself a bondservant in verse 1. That is a very appropriate title in the light of the New Testament. It's also a very appropriate title in the light of the revelation of the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is no problem to us to look in the Gospel of John and to see him referred to as the one whom Jesus loved or the one who reclined on Jesus' bosom. But it doesn't seem appropriate here because John is not reclining on our Lord's breast, he is rather dead before His feet. It is a different image, a different sense of the relationship of John to his Lord. While it is an intimate one, it is one of awe and wonder, as a result of what he has seen.
John then says that he is a fellow-sufferer and brother in verse 9.
I, John, your brother and fellow-partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus was on the island called Patmos.
I should say that there are many theories as to who this John was. But I think it is most normal, natural and likely that he was John the Apostle, the one whom Jesus did love, the writer of the Gospel of John. There are a number of similarities of expression and theology between this Book of Revelation and the Gospel of John.
He said he was on the island of Patmos, a small island approximately 4 miles by 8 miles, and he is there apparently as a result of his faithfulness to the testimony of Jesus Christ. He may very well have been exiled there and he receives the Revelation and writes it apparently from that place.
These are the ones that are involved in the Revelation. I think it is safe and clear to say that as we are introduced to this message and this book, it is presented as that which is clearly the inspired Word of God. It is clearly an oracle of God; for example the word communicated or signify is used with reference to a divine oracle. The expression the word of God in verse 2 is a technical expression from the Old Testament that means a divinely inspired prophetic utterance. When we look at the instructions that God gives in terms of the writing of the book, right from the outset it was clear to John that this was a book that was inspired of God, it was a prophetic utterance and it ought to be read. We see that alluded to in verse 3:
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and heed the things which are written in it for the time is near.
Notice the change from the singular he who reads, to the plural those who hear and those who heed. The word that is used here when it speaks of the one reading suggests that it is oral reading. It is quite clear in the context that the allusion is to the fact that when this revelation is received in the churches there is but one letter, which is read to the entire church. It's not like tapes where we can make copies, or like letters that we can Xerox, so that there is a copy of the Book of Revelation for each person in the church. So one person in the church would be the natural normal one to take that letter and to read it publicly to the church. Whatever was read publicly, other than just normal communication between churches, the fact that a passage of scripture was to be read publicly in church was one of the touchstones for whether or not that passage or that book of scripture was regarded as part of the canon, the inspired Word of God. This is a tacit claim to the fact that it was an inspired revelation from God.
Blessed in the one who reads it. Blessed are those [the congregation] who hear it and [in particular] those who pay heed to its message.
That is the thrust of those through whom the revelation was given. Notice those to whom this revelation was given. We have already alluded to that in verse 3 in the fact that there is one who will read it publicly and the church congregation will hear it. In verse 4 that congregation, or those congregations, are detailed, for its says,
To the seven churches that are in Asia, grace to you and peace.
Then you'll notice as we go on down that those churches are listed. So it says in verse 11,
Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum . . .
This revelation is addressed specifically to these seven churches. If you would look at a map of Asia, you would discover that the order in which these churches were listed would take you in a circular fashion, going north and then turning back down south. That would be the route that one would have traveled to visit those various churches. It is apparent that the book was written specifically for those seven literal churches. Those churches undoubtedly have the characteristics of churches today and in that sense the revelation applies to all of us. I think that these churches are not fictitious in the mind of God or the mind of John. These are the recipients of the revelation. God says to them. In fact, when God is portrayed, He is portrayed as One who stands amongst those churches. I think that is a very significant revelation.
You'll notice that it is the seven churches that are addressed in this letter, in verse 11, and then they are referred to as the golden lampstands in verse 12 and also in verse 20. The revelation that God has given is the revelation to those seven churches first and foremost. As we understand that message to those seven churches then we understand the message to us to the extent to which we have the same problems as those seven churches. I think we can find a little, or maybe much, of all of them in us. That will be the point of relevance when we study chapters 2 and 3.
Fourthly, I want to deal with Him of whom this book is a revelation. It is true when you look at verse 1 that it is a revelation of things that will shortly take place. I wouldn't deny that. But prophecy is a prediction a foretelling of the events of the future. Not all the events, and not necessarily the events in such a way that we can lay them out in nice, neat order. Prophecy involves things to come, but things, events, sequences and times are not the thrust or the major emphasis. The emphasis is the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is called the Revelation of Jesus Christ. When it is said a revelation, to reveal means to uncover. It means to expose that which is unseen and not known. I know I shouldn't have to say this to you or to myself, but I do. The Book of Revelation is a revelation. When we come to it we come with our minds fixed upon all the imagery, the seals, the trumpets. We say to ourselves What in the world is this book talking about? We get our minds set on the fact that it is really a book that is a mystery, a book designed to conceal. There is an element of truth in that. But it is not ultimately to conceal. Here is an analogy. In the Gospels our Lord tells parables. When He tells them He says, Let him who has ears to hear, let him hear. If you go back into the Gospels, you will discover that when Jesus began to speak in parables the disciples said to Him, Why are You doing this? He goes back to Isaiah 6 and answers, so that they won't see, they won't understand, they won't turn and they won't repent. Parables were spoken to conceal the truth. This is true. They were also told in order to reveal the truth to those who loved our Lord. And so Jesus said,
To them who are outside, all things are spoken in parables, that seeing they may see and not see. But unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom ( ).
Parables were given with a two-fold purpose. One purpose was to conceal the truth, namely in Mark 3, to conceal the truth from the religious leadership of Israel that had rejected Jesus as Messiah and had already purposed to kill Him, and had said that His power was not that of the Holy Spirit but of Satan himself.
He does this by Beelzebub, the prince of demons ( ).
The parables were to conceal the truth from unbelieving eyes. But the parables were also given to stimulate the interest, to provoke the thought, the questions and the study of the disciples. As I understand the Book of Revelation it does precisely that. Incidentally, you remember that the expression is repeated through chapters 2 and 3 Let him who has ears to hear understand. If you were a Christian living in the days of intense persecution, if you were living in a day when the government that was over you viewed Christianity as a revolutionary religion, revolutionary in the sense of overturning government power, you'd have great suspicion. You'd undoubtedly be reading their manual, just as we read some of the materials that Marx has written to find out what his strategy and methodology is. I really doubt that it would be very wise and beneficial for an unbelieving king to read that governments are going to be overthrown in a most clear and literal sense. So part of the obscurity of Revelation is by design. Part of the lack of clarity is because it is a filter; it filters out those who shouldn't know and don't know from those who should know and investigate. The other is, as I suggested, that the obscurity of Revelation is part of the nature of prophecy. Prophecy is never understood fully until it is fulfilled. By nature and by design it is obscure. We are talking about the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is not something that is intended to totally mystify and baffle us. It is something, in the light of verse 3, that we are to read, understand and apply. I think we have to have that mindset when we come to Revelation. God has a word for us from this book. He is not trying to confuse, but He is trying to enlighten us. As I have said repeatedly, He is not primarily trying to tell us about events as He is about the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ who is returning again.
This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. That expression of Jesus Christ has created much discussion. What does it mean? It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the sense that it belongs to Him. We know that because it says the Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to Him. If you said that is the property of Joe Brown, it belongs to him. Of means that it belongs to him. Surely this revelation belongs to our Lord. God gave it to Him. He, as its owner, has the right not to communicate it to His servants, which it does. It is the revelation, though, more than that, of Him as about Him. It is a fuller disclosure of the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is a critical point. It is intended to more fully disclose and reveal the Person of our Lord Jesus. It is intended to expose Him in a new light, in a way we have not seen Him before or fully come to grasp before. It is a revelation of our Lord Jesus.
He is called, as this passage unfolds in verses 5 and 6, by a three-fold expression. He is the Faithful Witness. He is the Firstborn from the dead. He is the Ruler of the kings of the earth. Somebody has said that this is probably accurately describing the sequential work of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, He is the Faithful Witness, the One who came as the Light, as the Word of God, to reveal God to men at His incarnation. He is the One who was hung upon the cross, who rose from the dead as the Firstborn from the dead. And He is also the One who is the Ruler of the kings of the earth. That is this future element of which Revelation is all about. He is going to come, set His feet upon the earth and rule with majesty, power and purity. So you see the three-fold dimension of our Lord Jesus, the One who came as a witness, the One who died and was raised from the dead and the One who is returning again to rule upon the earth and rule over men.
There is also a three-fold description of Him in regard to believers in particular. The last expression is a more general expression and summary of His work. Notice it says that He is One who loves us, who loosed us from our sin, and who makes us to be a kingdom of priests. That is the work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the behalf of believers. We may look at Him as the One who first loved us, who has released us from our sins by His blood and who is making us into a kingdom of priests.
I want to say, as a footnote, in thinking about this that sometimes Christians have a fixation about their position, on their part in the kingdom. I know that the expression a kingdom of priests is a pregnant expression which contains much more than any of us realize and it is food for meditation. I could not help thinking of Deuteronomy 10:9 which talks about the Levites who entered into the land. You remember something distinctive about the Levites? What was their inheritance? None. They didn't have one. They had tithes and offerings as their means of sustenance but they didn't have a piece of the land. I suppose that today there would be some kind of Levites Union which would march by God's throne with signs saying unfair. In Deuteronomy 10 we see that their inheritance is God Himself. That's what they possessed.
As we think about all of the dimensions of the kingdom in which we'll be priests, I wonder if we don't approach it in a sense thinking which piece of property will be mine? One time one of my nieces was walking through my dad's property with him and she said Grandpa, when you die, who gets this property? He answered Your mother and father will get part of my other children will get the rest. They walked a little farther and she said, Grandpa, which part is ours? That's the mentality I think we have. As we come to the subject as we come to the subject of the kingdom of God again our focus is not one the King, not on the Person of Christ and the fact that we will have Him, but we're saying which part is mine? The disciples said will I sit on your right hand or your left hand? Where is my piece of the action? What is my inheritance? The kingdom of priests, if we are truly priests, have as their inheritance the Lord Himself, the Person of Jesus Christ. Heaven is where He is. We shall forever be with the Lord. But if we were in heaven some of us might be up there chunking off pieces of the streets of gold, filling our pockets. That is not the essence of the kingdom, nor the essence of our priesthood. It is to serve Him and to worship Him.
It says in verse 7 that not only is He the One who loved us, who released and has made us kingdom, but the awesome revelation of verse 7 is that He is coming again in the clouds and returning with power. You may notice the references in the margin of your Bible that this description given us to us is saturated with references and allusions to the Old Testament. That is perhaps for two reasons. One of them is to identify the Person of Jesus Christ with the God of the Old Testament in the sense that He is the fulfillment and the realization of that. It is the linking of Old Testament prophecy with New Testament prophecy and saying it is the same Person. Jesus Christ is God. He is coming again in the clouds. Those who have pierced Him will look upon Him. What an awesome thing. So you see two different responses to the King. One is the response of those who love Him, who have been ransomed by His blood and who have been made a kingdom of priests. The other is by those who have rejected Him and who will see Jesus Christ coming as well, but they will see Him coming as the Victor, as the One whom they had rejected.
Ed Martin told me one time about the time that he work as a IRS agent in Canada and had audited a doctor. He was in the hospital one time visiting someone and he saw this doctor whom he had audited and given a rough time. He was very grateful that he was not in that bed as a patient, for she may have made life as miserable for him as he had for that her. When those who have put Jesus Christ on that cross, those who have rejected Him, when they see Him, they see Him as the One whom they have pierced, whether they were literally the ones who performed the act or whether they are those who in later days would have done it. They will see Him coming as the reigning King. I read a quotation in Dr. Walvoord's commentary on Revelation in which he said:
The focal point of verses 1-8 is the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is His work. It is the fact that He has received the revelation and He has communicated it. It is the fact that He is the One who has come as the Witness, who is the Firstborn from the dead, who is going to be the Ruler of kings. He is the One who has loved and released us and made us a kingdom of priests. He is coming again with power and authority to subdue His enemies.
The preeminent Person of the first 8 verses is Jesus Christ. But I want you to notice that after verses 9-11, those verses are describing that it is God who has spoken and who has directed John to write this revelation. Notice that our attention turns once again to the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, only now He is described in figurative terms, and that is the vision of the Lord Jesus that he receives.
In verses 12 and 13 He is the One who is described as standing in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. That is very important, for Revelation 1 is not an introduction to the whole book, but Revelation 1-3 is an introduction to the whole book. Everything that is written in chapters 4 and following is written to the seven churches and in light of what those seven churches are. What this serves to do is to introduce chapters 2 and 3. What it is saying is that the message that is given is given by the exalted, resurrected, glorified Lord who is standing amidst the churches. It is God's view of what of what is taking place in the church and when you look at what is happening in chapters 2 and 3 it is not a pretty sight. But our Lord is standing exalted, looking over those churches. So you see a heavenly view, a divine perspective of the church of Jesus Christ described in chapters 2 and 3. He is standing amongst the seven golden lampstands. He is described as One like a Son of Man. Remember that this a prophetic expression from the Old Testament and our Lord Jesus uses it of Himself in the Gospels. He is identifying Himself of the Old Testament prophecies as the Son of Man. Here this vision is linked to the Old Testament prophecies and to the Person of our Lord Jesus in the New Testament who calls Himself the Son of Man, and He is clothed in a robe reaching to the feet and girded with a golden girdle. Some have said that that is a priestly robe. While that is a possibility it is more likely that the imagery of this long flowing robe is the imagery of One who has majesty, who has power. It is a symbol of authority just as Joseph's coat of many colors was a symbol of authority. It is the authority, power and dignity of our Lord Jesus that is described in His dress. Notice His head and His hair are white like wool. In the Old Testament, in the Book of Proverbs especially, white or gray hair is described as an evidence of dignity, of maturity. Obviously this is symbolic, but what is being said is that in our day which exalts youth, our imagery and thinking is that the ideal leader is youthful. But the Scriptures are describing our Lord Jesus in terms that will inspire thoughts of wisdom, of insight, of experience. The gray hair refers to that. While He may have dignity He does not lack desire and zeal. That is the thing we don't like about white hair is that it is the evidence that we lack the power to do the things that we used to do when our hair was another color. It says that His eyes were like a flame of fire. The fire hadn't gone out. The fire is there is the sense that here is One who not only has maturity and wisdom, but He has zeal. He comes with a purpose. You recognize as you see Him that here is One who is intent to go about the work that He is going to do. He has fire in His eyes. His feet were like burnished bronze. I do not know and have not seen any commentator who really knows what that means. An almost white-hot glowing metal is an awesome sight, whether it speaks of purity or strength, it is intended to add to the awesomeness of the image that is standing before the Apostle John. In His right hand He holds the seven stars and out of His mouth comes the sharp two-edge sword. Now we see Him again as our Lord who is standing as the Sovereign amongst the churches. He is not aloof, nor disinterested; He is there and He is reigning and controlling and all things which are coming to pass are doing so by His direct authority and oversight. He is holding the seven stars and He judges with the sharp two-edged sword. His face is shining like the sun. What He has done is take all of these images each of which has its own special point of reference and He has blended them together and said this is the Person of Jesus Christ who is coming again to judge.
It is no wonder then that in verse 17 when John saw Him He fell at His feet as a dead man. He laid His hand on him and said
Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last and the Living One, and I was dead and behold I am alive forevermore and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
The things, now He says, that you're seeing, the things which are, the things which shall take place after these things, write. Write it down. What we see then in chapters 2 and 3 is God in the Person of His Son speaking to His church of the things about which this book is intended to address. The Lord is standing amongst the church and all of those future things which are revealed are revealed to the churches in the midst of all of their problems and difficulties because that truth is essential truth to them where they are.
Revelation chapter 1 tells us Christ is preeminent in prophecy. He is the preeminent One. Things to come are incidental because all of those things which are to come are those things which occur at the power and the authority and the dispatch of Jesus Christ Himself.
I want to suggest that this was a necessary revelation. When Jesus Christ came He came to reveal the Father. But in Philippians 2, for example, the kenosis or the emptying of Christ is described. We need to understand that the God that we see in the Person of Jesus Christ is not a total picture in the Gospels. For example, we see in Philippians 2 that He has laid aside His glory and His splendor. Apart from divine insight and the message which God had given to the shepherds, nobody would have stood and worshipped a babe laying in a cattle trough. The point of the incarnation is the humility of our Lord, His humbling of Himself. When we look through the Gospels I understand that there are flashes of divine glory. They are only flashes, so that you see the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fact that He has taken upon Deity humanity. It was so well done that the Jewish leaders who were looking for Messiah couldn't see Him because Jesus came as One humbled and meek. While Peter could say at those flashes of insight You are the Son of God, and while he could say Depart from me O Lord, for I am an unclean man, Peter could also say Wait a minute, listen Lord, You've got to get your head on straight ... This business about death is all wrong. Even the disciples looked at each other and said Who is this man? The fact that He was God incarnate, in flesh, was there; He came to reveal that but He did it in flashes. We receive a partial picture of the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospels and we see flashes of the totality. If men saw Jesus Christ as He really will be then they would see Him as John did. John could lay on the bosom in the Gospel of John, but he falls dead before His feet in Revelation. What I am saying is that we have a totality of the Person of Christ. The disciples kept saying, in effect, give us a glimpse, give us a look, let us behold Your glory. But there was a sense, in His first coming on the earth, in which that glory was subdued. It was suppressed, veiled, for a purpose. But in Revelation the veil was removed and now we see Christ exalted, lifted up, all-powerful; all of that glory, that visible manifestation of His deity that had been veiled over Him at the first coming was removed. Now Jesus Christ is seen in His totality.
What I am to say at this? Everything we see of Jesus Christ in the Gospels is true but it is not everything there is to see. That's why when you see movies that try and represent Jesus they represent Him sometimes as puzzled, as curious. I saw, for example in the stage play Cottonpatch_Gospel a Jesus that turns the water into wine and after its done He says it worked, it worked. That's the sense in which one could leave the Gospels if one did not know better. You should know better from the Gospels but lest we don't the Book of Revelation removes all of that. Jesus wasn't puzzled by what happened about Him, He wasn't mystified and He wasn't amazed when the miracles worked, because He was the Son of God. He was the Person who is described in Revelation 1 and all of the Book of Revelation. You and I need to catch a glimpse of that.
I was reading in J.I. Packer's Knowing_God. We had a quote entitled The Majesty of God. Packer said that one of the problems with us today, which results in a lack of fear, lack of worship and lack of trust, is that we have lost sight of the majesty of God. That's part of what I'm trying to say. The majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ was not the primary focus of our Lord's coming and the incarnation in the Gospels. That's why Paul said He laid it aside. He didn't lay aside deity, omniscience, omnipotence or any of His attributes. He laid aside the visible splendor that was His. Men, if they have seen Him laying in the manger may have rejected Him. But if they had seen in standing in the midst of the candlestands as John saw Him in Revelation 1 they wouldn't have rejected Him or try to correct Him as Peter did.
There is broader, fuller vision of our Lord Jesus Christ. I want to suggest that Packer's words may have a special application. The reason why we have lost the sense of the majesty of God is because we have focused on His personal relationship. Please do not misunderstand. The personal relationship is there and Packer is very clear about that; the fact that He is an intimate Friend as He said I call you no longer servants but friends. That element is there. But we have come, in our age, to so focus on the personal intimacy that we have, if you would 'laying on His bosom.' We have come to so dwell upon that aspect of the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ that we have not dwelt upon the aspect of His majesty and His power. If we stop and think about it, it is no wonder that worship is so difficult for us, and trust. What is it that inspires awe in us anymore? The psalmist used to sit and look at the heavens and behold them and now we think we've been there! We're sending explorers out to the planets out there and we're seeing them on television. We'll be there soon! There is no majesty even in the universe to some. We look at atomic power and we are not awed by it anymore. A bumper sticker said More people were killed in Ted Kennedy's car than were ever killed in nuclear power plant. We're not afraid of that anymore. The things which seem majestic to men of days gone by don't impress us anymore. What does it take to make a headline in a newspaper? Then we come to church . . .
You remember in the Old Testament the Temple itself was awesome. I'm beginning to understand why those who saw the Second Temple cried. It wasn't as awesome. The point is that when our Lord God, when His Presence came to dwell in the Temple, the awesomeness was the Presence of God that was there, not just the building. Sometimes we, in our church setting, we come so-to-speak in our Bermuda shorts. We walk into church and everything is so casual. You have to ask the question, where is the sense of awe? Where is the sense of majesty, of reverence? We don't have it in political figures. Some nations have powerful figures and the very thought of the power of that person makes one tremble in his boots. Not us. Especially since Richard Nixon and Watergate. We found a way to find the cracks and chinks in the President's armor and now the President doesn't get much respect. Rodney Dangerfield isn't alone. Who does? Including our Lord. It seems to me that the purpose of the Book of Revelation is to supply for us that revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ which allows us to focus on His majesty. It allows us to look on Him as the object of our trust and the object of our worship. It is no wonder that John says to Him To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. It's no wonder that he says Blessed is the one who reads and blessed are those who hear and those who heed. One of the primary ways that you will heed the Book of Revelation is to fall before Him and worship like John did, and like the twenty-four elders will do. That is the preeminent theme of the Book of Revelation: Jesus Christ in His glory. Jesus Christ as we only saw glimpses of Him in the Gospel is the same Lord but now all of the veil has been removed and we see Him as He really is. For a small struggling church as those churches were in chapters 2 and 3, in the midst of a time of intense persecution, the Revelation of Jesus as the One who is coming in the clouds with majesty and glory and honor was something to hang on to. It gave them a vision of the majesty of God which inspired their trust, their obedience and their worship. I would suggest that if there ever was an age that needed that, it is our age. We have emphasized to a great extent the relationship aspect, the humility, the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. He did say to the woman caught in the act of adultery Go and sin no more. But, you see, the same Lord who came the first time and said I didn't come to judge, didn't them. But He is now. That the Lord whom we serve and the Lord for whom we wait. That the vision of whom ought to inspire all kinds of awe and wonder and worship from us.
Dr. Waltke, when I was a student in seminary, used to say that when he went to the Old Testament he asked God to let him see more of the Lord Jesus. That is very good. I'd like to suggest that as we come to the Book of Revelation we ask that same thing. That God would allow us to see more of the Lord Jesus as He fully is and as we shall see Him. We shall be like Him, John said, for we shall see Him as He is. Revelation describes that. John describes how He was and Jesus said to His disciples it was better that He go. I pray that as you and I come to the book we will come to see Jesus as He is. That we will come first and foremost to worship, not to think about things, our place in the kingdom as much as to acknowledge the majesty of God in the Person of His Son.
Related Topics: Prophecy/Revelation