Revelation 1

Revelation 1

The Revelation of the Exalted Christ

Sermon Text: Revelation 1
Sermon Theme: Seeing and hearing from the Exalted Christ will bless, distress, and comfort His people.

Sermon Reflections:

This book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ; the whole Bible is so; for all revelation comes through Christ, and all relates to him. Its principal subject is to discover the purposes of God concerning the affairs of the church, and of the nations as connected therewith, to the end of the world. These events would surely come to pass; and they would begin to come to pass very shortly. Though Christ is himself God, and has light and life in himself, yet, as Mediator between God and man, he receives instructions from the Father. To him we owe the knowledge of what we are to expect from God, and what he expects from us. The subject of this revelation was the things that must shortly come to pass. On all who read or hear the words of the prophecy, a blessing is pronounced. Those are well employed who search the Bible. It is not enough that we read and hear, but we must keep the things that are written, in our memories, in our minds, in our affections, and in practice, and we shall be blessed in the deed. Even the mysteries and difficulties of this book are united with discoveries of God, suited to impress the mind with awe, and to purify the soul of the reader, though he may not discern the prophetic meaning. No part of Scripture more fully states the gospel, and warns against the evil of sin.

(From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

  • Do some say that we should not be concerned with prophecy, that it is a frivolous exercise? But if God was concerned enough to talk about it, shouldn’t we be concerned enough to listen? We should not understand prophecy to mean “prediction.” The word does allow for prediction, but basically it points to divine origin. The prophet was a man who could say, “Thus says the Lord.” This book is from God. John proceeds to call not only for a hearing of it but for an observing of what is written in it. He does not wish merely to stimulate interest but to influence action. Scripture is a guide to conduct as well as the source of doctrine.
  • How would you answer a critic of Revelation who argued that “soon” cannot possibly be stretched to cover the nineteen hundred years between John’s day and ours, so Revelation must be patently false? Time does not translate chronos, which refers to time on a clock or calendar, but kairos, which refers to seasons, epochs, or eras. The next great era of God’s redemptive history is near. That the return of Christ is imminent, the next event on God’s prophetic calendar, has always been the church’s hope. Jesus commanded His followers to watch expectantly for His return: “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” (Luke 12:35-40)
  • For John, seeing and hearing the exalted Christ immediately led to worship. We do not see and hear him as John did, but we are to worship him. How can we “see” and “hear” Christ today? What personal experiences have you had that encourage you to worship Christ? Summarizing the proper response to God’s holiness and majesty, the writer of Hebrews exhorts believers to “offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
  • Have you heard the wonderful words of our Lord Jesus Christ as you read Scripture that says, “Fear not?” Do you understand your adoption? Do you value it? Do you daily remind yourself of your privilege as a child of God? Have you sought full assurance of your adoption? Do you daily dwell on God’s love of you? For knowing that Christ has authority over death provides assurance, since believers need no longer fear it. Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…. because I live, you will live also.” (John 11:25; John 14:19). To die, Paul noted, is “to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). Jesus conquered Satan and took the keys of death away from him: “Through death [Christ rendered] powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and … free[d] those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15). The knowledge that Christ “loves us and released us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5) provides the assurance that is the balance to the reverential fear that His glory and majesty evoke.
  • Do I think of Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord, as my brother too, bearing to me not only a divine authority but also a divine-human sympathy? Do I think daily how close he is to me, how completely he understands me, and how much, as my kinsman-redeemer, he cares for me? 
  • Are we understanding that the secret things of God are not to be scrutinized and those which he has revealed are not to be overlooked, lest we may, on the one hand, be chargeable with curiosity, and, on the other, with ingratitude? For a blessing is pronounced on the person who will read “the words of this prophecy” to the church and upon those who will hear it and take to heart what it says. Note that it virtually reproduces the words of Jesus in Luke 11:28, “Blessed … are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” The congregation was to “take to heart” the things written in the prophecy indicates that the work was considered to be moral instruction, not simply prediction. For this message is from God. God will bless (make happy) the person who reads the words of this message. To hear God’s word is a blessing. To obey it is a duty. Here is a warning to anyone that hears but then forgets. It is also a warning to those who take no notice of the message. Reading, hearing, and obeying the truths taught in the book of Revelation (and in the rest of Scripture) are to be a way of life for believers.
  • Are you “taking to heart” what you have hear in Scripture and being obedient? For it must be made clear that the reading does not accomplish the obedience of the commandments, nor does the hearing display the completion of an accomplished deed. Rather, that alone is perfection, when you perform with understanding what you read and what you hear. For the New Testament clearly sets forth the holy standard that Christ has established for His church. “Therefore you are to be perfect,” Jesus commanded, “as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). To maintain that divine standard, Christ will discipline His church (Matthew 18:15-17; John 15:2; Hebrews 12:5-29)—even to the point of taking the lives of some impenitent, sinning Christians (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 11:28-30). Even Peter, who well understood the power of temptation, warned, “It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17).
  • Are we prepared and ready for the return of Jesus? Jesus repeatedly spoke of His return (Matthew 16:27; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26) and warned believers to be ready for it (Matthew 24:42, Matthew 25:13; Luke 12:40; Luke 21:34-36). Satan is the temporary ruler of this world (John 12:31; John 16:11), the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), who uses the power of death to enslave men (Hebrews 2:14-15). But Jesus, the rightful ruler, will return to destroy him (a process that began with His first coming, Romans 16:20; 1 John 3:8) and reclaim what is rightfully His. As believers, we have the greatest expectation and the promises of God that Christ will return. “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only,” wrote Paul to the Corinthians, “we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Believers are those who are constantly “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13); those “who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). The hope that Christ will one day return and take believers to heaven to live forever in His presence provides hope and comfort (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:18).
  • Are you feeling the hand of God upon you especially in times of fear and need? Jesus put his hand on John. He told him not to be afraid (Revelation 1:17). At any time, Christ has the whole church in his hands. At any time, he can look after any particular person. God’s hand is strong enough to hold the heavens. It is gentle enough to wipe away our tears.

Additional Notes:

1) What the word “revelation” means: The Greek word for revelation is apokalupsis. From that, we get the word apocalypse and the word apocalyptic — an uncovering or disclosure, a bringing to light of that which had been previously wholly hidden or only obscurely seen. God has been pleased in various ways and at different times (Hebrews 1:1) to make a supernatural revelation of himself and his purposes and plans, which, under the guidance of his Spirit, has been committed to writing. The Scriptures are not merely the “record” of revelation; they are the revelation itself in a written form, in order to the accurate preservation and propagation of the truth. For some things only God knows—we men and women cannot know them. We can know them only if God chooses to show us. It applies in this way. We cannot know what is happening in heaven. We cannot know what will happen in the future. Things are happening in heaven. Things are happening on earth. But there is a connection between the two — revelation is history as God writes it.

  • Revelation is how God tells us what he wants us to do. Paul says that he went to Jerusalem by revelation. He went because God told him to go there (Galatians 2:2).
  • Revelation is when God shows his truth to men and women. Paul did not receive his gospel from men. He received it by revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12).
  • The message of the preacher is a revelation (1 Corinthians 14:6). The Bible uses the word to show us God’s secrets.
  • Revelation is about the whole of our Christian life. God shows us what we must do and say. God shows himself to us through Jesus. We find this in Paul’s letters. In them, he mentions the revelation of the birth of Jesus Christ (Romans 16:25). He who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (John 14:9).
  • Revelation tells us about final judgment. God will be the judge for those who do not recognize him. But for those who trust in Jesus Christ it is different. For them, the revelation is of grace and glory and joy. Revelation is not just an idea. It is what God offers to all who will listen.

2) THE CHURCHES ARE LAMPSTANDS, NOT LIGHTS (By Oecumenius): As he himself will explain a little later, the seven lampstands are the seven churches to which he is commanded to write. He calls them “lampstands” since they carry in themselves the “illumination of the glory of Christ.” He did not call them “lamps” but “lampstands,” for a lampstand itself does not possess the capacity to shine, but it bears that which is capable of illumination. Likewise, Christ mentally illuminates his churches. For just as the holy apostle exhorts those who have received the Faith, “be as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life”—for indeed the lamp does not in itself possess light, but it is receptive of that light which comes to it—so also here the Evangelist saw the churches as lampstands and not as lights. For it is said concerning Christ, “You shine forth marvelously from the everlasting mountains,” probably meaning the angelic powers; and again he says to the Father, “Send out your light and your truth”; and again, “the light of your countenance, O Lord.” And so, those who partake of the divine light are described on the one hand as lights and on the other hand as lampstands. He says that the lampstands are “golden” on account of the value and excellence of those made worthy to receive the divine light.

(From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)

3) THE NAMES OF THE CHURCHES CONTAIN MYSTERIES (By Apringius of Beja): … There is a mighty mystery in the names which we will examine and discuss to the extent that God allows. Ephesus means “my will” or “my plan.” He wills that we know that the whole reality of our faith and the dignity of the church is not to be ascribed to human merit, but they are the will of God and the disposition of the divine purpose. Smyrna means “their song.” And what else is the song of the perfect if not the celestial doctrine and the preaching of the gospel and the advance of the Christian religion, or the melodious confession of the church? Pergamum means “to him who divides their horns.” This refers either to the insolence of the powers of the air, or to the arrogance of the heretics. And he teaches that the pride of the powers is always to be separated and divided from the congregation of the church, for the horns are either power or arrogance. He writes to Thyatira, that is “enlightened.” This signifies that, after the expulsion of heretical pride and after the defeat of temptations from the powers of the air, the holy church is deserving of the light of righteousness. Sardis means the “beginning of beauty.” The church is seized by the sun of righteousness and is illumined by the light of truth, so that she might have the beginning of beauty, the Lord Jesus Christ, and might always shine in perpetual light. Philadelphia means “preserving devotion to the Lord.” After possessing the sun of righteousness, after the illumination of holiness, after the comeliness of holy beauty, the church rightly is devoted to the Lord and preserves herself by an inviolable observation of devotion. Laodicea means either “a tribe beloved of the Lord,” or, as some would have it, “a birth is expected.” Both are meaningful, for she who has merited the beauty of faith and the sun of righteousness and knows that through faith the Lord cleaves to her, might also be a tribe whom the Lord loves, who is both loved by the Lord and preserved by the Lord. Furthermore, the church might well await her own birth, either the regeneration of baptism or the glory of the resurrection, whenever she preserves herself by humility and patience.

(From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)

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