David Jeremiah - Christ in the Midst of His Churches
What does Jesus look like? I mean, the answer is, of course, "We don't know". None of us have ever seen him. We don't know what Jesus actually looked like, but we can make some assumptions that when he walked upon this earth, he was probably in his early 30s when he began his ministry, and he would not have had long hair because the culture at that time would not have been that way for him. It's fair to assume that Jesus had a beard. He spent a lot of time outdoors, so his skin tone would likely be darker, like an olive color. It is typical of those in the Mediterranean countries to have skin like that. If you've ever been there, you notice that immediately. Now, here's an interesting thing. How tall would he have been? How tall was a 1st-century Jew?
From an analysis of skeletal remains, archeologists have firmly established that the average build of a Semite male at the time of Jesus was 5'1" with an average weight of about 110 pounds. The Jewish people at that time were very small. And Jesus was not a tall man, even though we see that in many of the movies and pictures. But this picture of him from his time in the New Testament Scriptures and the picture we are about to study are not even remotely similar. I mean, in this lesson, we're gonna see a picture of him in his glorified body. The picture that we view in Revelation 1 is not the lowly Galilean of the Gospels, but rather this is the glorified risen Christ, the Almighty God who has eyes like a flame of fire that pierce and burn. I want to make, first of all, this point, that the vision that we are about to see was the vision by John that he saw while he was in exile on the island of Patmos, "I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, I was on the island that is called Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ".
Now, isn't it interesting that this most formidable book of prophecy was written by John while he was basically in prison? He was exiled on an island. In the book of Revelation, we discover that the Apostle John enjoyed no immunity from tribulation. Don't let anybody tell you that great things can't come from insignificant beginnings. The insignificant beginning of John was that one day he was in his fishing boat and Jesus came along and said, "Follow me". And John followed him, and he followed him all the way to the isle of Patmos, where he gave us this book we are about to study. The Bible says that he was banished to Patmos, a small, barren, rocky island in the Aegean Sea, 10 miles long, 6 miles wide, located in about 70 miles south of Ephesus. Tacitus, the historian, describes this time of trial in these words, "The sea was thickly strewn with exiles, the crags were stained with the blood of victims".
And so because, as we're going to learn, of his testimony for the Lord, John was sent to this island, where they intended him to be until his death. They just wanted to get him out of circulation. So they banished him to the isle of Patmos. It was in these dark circumstances on this island, isolated from loved ones and all kinds of human fellowship that John received the most extensive revelation of future things that's ever been shown to any man. He was shut out form the world, but he was shut up to God. The place of his banishment became the place of the vision of divine glory. And John's exile from the world gave him power over the world. He had nothing to lose. He had nothing left to give. And so, the Bible says, "He was punished for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ". And so, it seemed only logical on the part of those who wanted to destroy the church that if they could get rid of the influence of the leader, they could diminish the influence of the church. Even though John was the disciple that Jesus loved, still, he became a particular participant in tribulation and suffering.
How many of you know that if God loves you, that doesn't mean you won't go through tribulation? God loves us. He always has. He always will. But I want to tell you somethin'. You're gonna have trouble anyway, right? Only difference is now you know that God's going to help you through it. But we don't get a pass from tribulation just because we're Christians. And I want to tell you somethin'. You don't get a pass 'cause you're a pastor either. Tribulation follows us, and the Bible tells us that's the way it is. Listen to Romans chapter 5, "Not only that, but we also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now, hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit he has given us". And John 16:33 says it this way, "'In the world you will have tribulation.'" Say that with me, "'In the world you will have tribulation.'" But then he says, "'But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,'" amen.
So this vision was seen by John while in exile on the isle of Patmos. Number two, this vision was received by John while in the spirit on the Lord's Day. Notice verse 10, he said, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a voice, as of a trumpet". What happened to John was that his normal bodily condition of time and space limitation was set aside. And now he was in the realm of the spirit. And he was elevated so that he could go places he'd never been before. And he could actually move forward in time so that he could see the Day of the Lord, which is the time of Jacob's trouble, the tribulation. He could see all of that before it actually would happen. Number three, the vision was to be written by John and sent to the seven churches. And that's exactly what the Scripture says. Read with me again, "Saying, 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,' and, 'What you see, write it in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.' Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands".
Now, the Bible says this, "John turns back. He sees," and here's some of the symbolism of Revelation, "he sees seven golden lampstands". They appear before him. And the Bible tells us what they are. We don't have to wonder. The Bible tells us, "The seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches". What seven churches? The seven churches to which he's to address these letters, each of them very significant. The Bible says, "In the midst of the lampstands he sees someone". And it says, "He sees someone like unto the Son of Man". These seven lampstands give us a picture. They're in a circle. And in the center of the circle is the Lord Jesus. And the Bible says, "These seven lampstands which are pictures of the churches, they shine light on Jesus". How many of you know that every church that calls itself an evangelical church has one major role, shine the light on Jesus, amen?
When we shine the light on Jesus, everything is right. Please note that the candlestick is not the light, but the bearer of the light. There is no inherent light in a candlestick. If you don't put light in it, it's not gonna have any light. You light the candle. It doesn't have any light of its own. The light is the Lord's, not the church's. And the purpose of the light is to bring glory to the Father who is in heaven. We light up Jesus so that the Father will be glorified. You say, "Pastor, where did you read that"? I'm glad you asked me. Let me show you where I read it. Matthew 5:16, "'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,'" and what's the rest of it? "Glorify your Father who is in heaven.'" Or 2 Corinthians 4:6, "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ".
Now, the writer begins to tell us that number four, the vision is of the glorified risen Son of God. He sees, first of all, the churches. But then, as he looks at the churches, the light shines on what's in the center. And what's in the center is Jesus. Notice, first of all, the position of Christ in the vision, verse 13, "And in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of Man". Now, the Bible goes on to give us not just the position of Christ in the vision, but secondly, the portrait of Christ in the vision, and he begins with his clothing. Notice, Revelation 1:13, "I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band". He had a long flowing robe. That spoke of his greatness. And here's what the Bible says about his head and his hair, verse 14, "His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow".
I want to pause just a moment and say there is glory in white hair. White hair is godly. White hair is like Jesus'. Don't dye it, keep it. White hair is good for us. Now, the white head and the white hair speak of the eternity or duration of the Lord. It's a picture, the snowy white hair of his head is not the white hair of senility, but the absolute holiness and wisdom that is the part of a judge. Do you know, in the old time, when a person was a judge, they put on a hairpiece that was white. Why did that do that? Because it signified the solemnity of the moment, the seriousness of the moment, and the dignity of the judge. And then notice, he next describes his eyes, Revelation 1:14, "And his eyes like a flame of fire".
Now, John had seen Jesus' eyes. He had seen Jesus' eyes filled with tears. He saw Jesus' eyes the day Jesus called him from Galilee to be his disciple. But now, he sees the eyes of Jesus in his glorified future role, and the Bible says, "When he looks and sees the eyes of Jesus, they're like fire". His eyes penetrate into the deepest depths of the soul. They see everything. His x-ray vision and his anger are symbolized by the close-up of his eyes. Psalm 11:4 puts it this way, "The Lord is in holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids test the sons of men". What that means, men and women, is whatever you are doing that you think God doesn't know about, forget it. His eyes see everything. His eyes pierce right through all the veneer we put up, all the spin we give to life, all the things we do to try to think we're hiding from God. How foolish can we be? John sees the Lord as he really is. He sees him with fire in his eyes. And then the Scripture describes his feet. Revelation 1:15, "His feet were like brass, as if refined in a furnace".
Now, brass in the Scripture represents judgment. The altar in the Jewish tabernacle, for instance, was made out of brass. And the feet of brass speak of the time when he will put all of his enemies and every evil power beneath his feet. Burnished brass is military brass. And the foes of Jesus one day will be crushed under the feet of the Lord Jesus. You're seeing this whole picture of the Lord in these first few verses. He goes, number five, to describe his mouth. And he has a lot to say about that in verses 15 and 16, "And his voice as the sound of many waters; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword". Notice, first of all, the sound of his voice. John said that when he saw Jesus in the midst of the lampstands with his white hair, and his burnished feet, and his fiery eyes, all of a sudden, he spoke. And he said, "When he spoke above the boisterous waves, there was the thunderous voice of the Son of Man".
The Bible says that, "God's majesty in Jesus is such that when he speaks, it reminded John of the voice of the sound of many waters," full of majesty, and probably somewhat frightening. That was the sound of his voice. Notice, the sword of his mouth, verse 16, "And out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword". The instrument of warfare is the two-edged sword that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. This sword is the Word of God. The Bible tells us, "The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword," Hebrews 4:12. And Ephesians 6:17 tells us to, "Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God". Out of his mouth came the power of the Word of God, cutting sharply. And then notice his hands, verse 16, "And he had in his right hand seven stars".
The Bible says that as he sees Jesus, Jesus is standing there, and he's got seven stars in his right hand. And those stars represent the pastors of the seven churches, which in essence say that the pastors who serve the seven churches stand in the authority of Jesus Christ, and he holds them in his right hand, not only as a symbol of his authority, but as a symbol of his sovereignty and his protection. This picture that John sees? The seven churches surrounding him, the Son of Man in the center. This majestic picture of the Son of Man, his hair, his feet, his mouth, his eyes. And in the right hand of the Son of Man are the seven pastors, the seven stars of the seven churches. And then number seven, we read about his face. "He had in his right hand seven stars, and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and his face, his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength".
I would imagine John struggling with the words to describe this vision that he saw. Let me tell you, number five, the vision paralyzed John until he was touched by the Lord. Notice verse 17, "And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, 'Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.'" Even though John had known this Jesus personally, had laid his head upon his breast, it is not a surprise that he fell at Jesus' feet as dead. He was overwhelmed by the majesty of the glorified Son of Man. When you see Jesus as he really is in glory, and I can't even pretend to describe it as I should, you will be so overwhelmed with his glory and majesty you will fall on your knees before him and say, "Surely, this is the Son of God". And you will worship him.
And the Bible tells us that as he was on his face before the vision of the glorified Lord, "Jesus laid his right hand on him, saying to him, 'Do not be afraid.'" In the midst of John's paralyzing fear, the Lord touched him with the right hand and spoke to him with the voice who's sound was as many waters, and both the touch and the words were used to encourage John. Immediately following the words, "Fear not," John was given three reasons why he should not be afraid. These are good reasons for us. Number one: "'Fear not for I am the eternal God,'" verse 17. "John, don't be afraid. I am the one who is, and who was, and who will be". "Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last. I am First in that no one is before me. I am Last in that none will follow me. I am the living one". His name is not I was, or I will be, his name is I am. "So, John, don't be afraid. I'm the eternal one". And then secondly, "John, don't be afraid because I'm the resurrected Christ. I was dead and behold. I am alive forevermore".
Peter says that, "We have been begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". Christ says, "I am dead," historical fact of his crucifixion. "I am living," the continuous state of his endless life. And, "I was really dead. I am really living," and that will be an encouragement to anybody who understand it. What is the one thing we fear the most? Death. And here is this Lord putting his hand upon John on the isle of Patmos as he sees this incredible vision, and saying, "John, don't be afraid. I know this is a fearsome thing you have seen, this vision that you have been privileged to see. But don't be afraid. I am the eternal God. And I am the one who came back from the grave". And then, thirdly, "I am the one who has in my power the keys of death and hell". "Fear not," he says, "for the power over death and the grave is in my hand, and I will protect you".
Let us walk away from here full of the glory of the Lord Jesus, but not full of the fear of him. We have nothing to fear from the one who loved us and gave himself for us. I was reading some months ago the book that Max Lucado wrote on fear. And I want to finish with something that he said. He said, "We fear being sued. We fear finishing last. We fear going broke. We fear the mole on our back, the new kid on the block, the sound of the clock as it ticks us closer to the grave. We sophisticate investment plans, create elaborate security systems, and legislate stronger military. Yet we depend on mood-altering drugs more than any other generation in history. Moreover, ordinary children today are more fearful than psychiatric patients were in the 1950s. Fear herds us into a prison and slams the door.
Wouldn't it be good to walk out? This is Jesus' desire for you. His most common command emerges from the, "Fear not," genre. The Gospels list some 125 Christ-issued imperatives. Of these, 21 urge us not to be afraid, or have courage, or take heart. The second most common command, to love God and neighbor, appears on only 8 occasions. The quantity is an indicator Jesus takes our fears seriously. The one statement he made more than any other was this: "Don't be afraid". Imagine your life untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats? Envision a day, just one day, absent the dread of failure, rejection, and calamity.
Can you imagine a life with no fear? Fear may fill our world, but it doesn't have to fill your hearts. It will always knock on your door, just don't invite it in for dinner. Let's embolden our heart with a select number of Jesus', "Do not fear" statements. The promise of Christ is simple. We can fear less tomorrow than we can today. And here in this wonderful passage is the final word from the Lord to John, who was overwhelmed by what he saw, "'Fear not, I am the eternal one. I have overcome the grave, and I hold in my hands death and hell. And if you know me, if you know me, you don't have to be afraid.