The Lord of the Church (Revelation 1)

Introduction

At the start of the New Year  here are 2 Questions

  1. How are we going to get through another year?

We finished 2016 talking about peace. This was in the context of:

–          A Troubled World

–          Our own personal challenges

–          The call to be faithful witnesses  in the face of pressure/opposition/stretched resources etc

The book of Revelation is a vision that John[1] shares with the church -which is from Jesus.

It was written when people were under similar pressures. Christians  were a persecuted minority in the Roman Empire. They lived under the shadow of cruel, despotic rulers. There is a strong sense as we will see that the emperor Nero casts a shadow over thchurch life. The book was either written during his reign (AD60-70) or a little later under another cruel emperor, Domitian but with Nero still casting a shadow through rumours about him coming back from the dead. (c.f. https://faithroots.net/2017/01/05/dating-revelation/)

How were they to find security, peace, hope, purpose?

They would find the answer in this book.  You see, Revelation is a book that gives God’s view of the whole of history from the perspective of Christ’s return given so that we may know how to live now.”[2]

John writes as a co-heir and partner who is part of God’s kingdom, he is someone suffering for Christ and patiently enduring (v9)[3]

Leads to question 2

  1. What should our priorities be in the situation we find ourselves in?

The two questions are linked because we see that the answer to our hopes and fears is in God’s Revelation which focuses us on Jesus, who he is and what he has done for us.

  1. Make time to hear God through his word

Revelation from Jesus/God -it is only God who can make sense of what is happening to us. Only God knows his place an and purpose for history (v 1)[4]

NB “soon” – has the idea of imminence – and the idea is that The Last Days have already started with Christ’s birth, death, resurrection and ascension.  Imminence is not about human chronology and is complimented by the idea of “patient endurance.” – Christians live both as though this is our last day and as people ready for the long haul.

The Revelation is faithfully recorded for us (v2, v 11, v 19)

A blessing is promised (v 3) for all who read (nb what is true here in Revelation is true for all Scripture. Blessing – means knowing God’s provision, presence and care in the whole of life – not financial prosperity or physical health -but knowing God more closely, experiencing his work in our lives so we become more like him, hope looking forward to eternity -the ability to have contentment and joy here in this life.

Practical Implications

-Give time to God’s Word -make it a priority to be present each Sunday so you can benefit from consistent, systematic teaching

– Pray for those preaching and teaching -value the gift

– Take time to read the Bible daily

– Study the Bible with your family

– Get involved in a Home Group

  1. Make Worship your priority

The central thing here is a clear revelation of who God is and an awe I nspiring vision of Jesus

A Trinitarian Revelation

The one who was, is and is to come (v4), Alpha and Omega (v8)

The seven Spirits/Sevenfold Spirit – 7 represents completeness/wholeness (e.g. God rests on the 7th Day) – So this is the Holy Spirit (v 4b)

Jesus Christ (v5-6) (nb he is also first and last (v 17) Alpha and Omega (22:13)

-faithful witness

– First from the dead

-king of kings

Praise is given to him as the one who has bought our salvation -and that’s exactly why our trust is in him alone.

A glimpse of Christ’s future return (v 7)

He is coming with the clouds.  The imagery is from Daniel 7:13-14. He is the one who has authority and power and comes to judge and reign.

All will mourn the one they pierced (cf Zech 12:10).  This points to judgement.  All are held accountable for rejecting and putting Christ to death. This includes not just those physically there but all are culpable for Christ’s death.[5]

A vision of the risen Lord Jesus (v 9-20)

John was exiled on Patmos. It was The Lord’s Day (Sunday).

He Hears a voice first and then turns to see “One like a son of man.” The imagery is Daniel from 7:13-14 i again. Jesus used the Daniel verse to point to his true humanity and takes the title “Son of Man”

This is an incredible vision of power, beauty, glory, purity, wisdom (white hair suggests maturity and wisdom) (nb. The imagery echoes Daniel 7:9 but this time things that were said of The Ancient of Days are ascribed to Christ). Tom Wright comments that Jesus is not a distant figure from history or mythology. He is relevant, real, someone we can know intimately but we must not see him as a “cosy figure, one who makes us merely happy inside.” There is something here that causes awe, reverence, fear.[6]

A two-edged sword from his mouth – a reminder again of God’s Word. Nb when Revelation talks about Jesus fighting/conquering it is primarily about his word -spiritual warfare, people convicted, God’s truth revealed.

Holding the Seven stars in his hand  -v20 seven stars = the angels (representatives/messengers)[7] for the 7 churches (represented by 7 lampstands -possibly refereeing to a “Menorah”[8])

Jesus holds the Church in his hands – a reminder of his Lordship and care for his church – security in him

Practical Implications

Worship – praise, delight, awe, submission, trust – safe in his hands. Look to Jesus in an insecure, unstable, wicked world.

Worship is about the whole of life -that we do everything for his glory.  Remember why you are working, studying, serving in ministry etc.

Worship includes prayer – how big a priority is this for us? How will we make it central to church and personal life this year?

  1. Make Witness an everyday part of your life

The idea is that John is to pass on what he sees and hears (v19)

So are we.

If the only way people can find forgiveness and peace in this World is through Jesus and if one day Jesus will return to judge then the message is urgent.

Practically

-Opportunities provided The Big Question, Firstlook, Rooted

– Praying for and recognising personal opportunities 1-1 through friendship

Conclusion

How do we live?

Ready for the long haul -patience that comes through trust in God through his word

And ready for Christ’s soon/imminent return -could be at any time so live as though this is your last day.

[1] Authorship has been disputed but it is my view that this is john the apostle and that he is the same erson that wrote the Gospel and the 3 epistles. See https://faithroots.net/2016/10/19/reading-revelation/

[2] See https://faithroots.net/2016/10/21/interpreting-revelation/#more-1704.  See also Richard Bauckham, A Theology of Revelation which takes a similar view.

[3] Nb I think this helps inform our eschatology.  John sees Kingdom and Tribulation as things that belong together not apart. This is one of the reasons why I believe that Christ’s Millennial Reign and the Great Tribulation provide two perspectives on the same events in history rather than two separate stages in history.

[4] The Greek word translated Revelation is also the word from which we get our word “Apocalypse” Though we associate the word with end time disaster, it simply means the uncovering of something hidden -a revelation. The bible reveals what would be hidden. We cannot know God’s plan and purposes ourselves. We need him to reveal it to us.

[5] Kistemaker, Revelation, 86.

[6] See Tom Wright, Revelation for Everyone.

[7] Nb see Kistemaker, 150. The word “angel” simply means “messenger” and whilst often in Revelation refers to heavenly beings can also refer to human messengers. Given the letter goes to the “angels of the churches” and that they are held accountable, it is likely that the reference here is to leaders/teachers in the churches.

[8] See Gordon Fee, Revelation.

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