2 Timothy 3:16, says,
"All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable….."
This, of course, includes the book of Revelation.
Admittedly, Revelation is one of the more difficult-to-understand books in the Bible. And for this reason, many people avoid a study of it. But, the book of Revelation is not written in such a way as to hide its meaning. The Greek word "apokalupsis," is translated "revelation." It means an "unveiling," a "disclosure" of what had previously been concealed.
The Key Phrase of the book of Revelation is found in the very first verse. "The revelation of Jesus Christ"
First, notice the word is singular -- Revelation. This book is one continuous revelation of Jesus Christ. It is really incorrect to call this book, Revelations (plural). As you study the book of Revelation….keep this Key Phrase in mind. This book is about Jesus Christ. He is the central Figure.
The book is full of Him. Just like the rest of the Bible, this book points to Christ as the Messiah - the Savior. Revelation 19:10 tells us that...."The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
To emphasize why I believe this book is an unveiling of the Person of Jesus Christ like no other book in the Bible consider all the various titles and descriptive phrases given to Him in this book. To start with, 26 times in Revelation, He is shown to be the sacrificial Lamb.
1. The faithful witness (1:5)
2. The firstborn from the dead (1:5)
3. The ruler over the kings of the earth (1:8)
4. The Alpha and the Omega (1:8)
5. The Beginning and the end (1:8)
6. The One who is and who was and who is to come (1:8)
7. The Almighty (1:8)
8. The First and the Last (1:11, 17)
9. The Son of Man (1:13)
10. He who lives (1:18)
11. He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands (2:1)
12. He who has the sharp two-edged sword (2:12)
13. Son of God (2:18)
14. He who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass (2:18)
15. He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars (3:1)
16. He who is holy (3:7)
17. He who is true (3:7)
18. He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens (3:7)
19. The Amen (3:14)
20. The Faithful and True Witness (3:14)
21. The Beginning of the creation of God (3:14)
22. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah (5:5)
23. The Root of David (5:5, 22:16)
24. Lord, holy and true (6:10)
25. Lord God Almighty (15:3)
26. King of the saints (15:3)
27. The Word of God (19:13)
28. King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16)
29. The Bright and Morning Star (22:16)
30. Lord Jesus (22:20)
31. Lord Jesus Christ (22:21)
What a testimony to the person and work of Jesus Christ. If one does not see Jesus in this book, they must be blind. He is the focus of it all:
-- the centerpiece of its pages,
-- the reason for its message,
-- the glory of its words.
A few years ago Paula and I were in Munich, Germany. While there, we visited a number of museums. One was a large art museum. I leaned close to look at the brass name-tag next to one paints, and recognized the name of Rembrandt or Renoir. I looked up at the painting. Standing just inches away, the painting seemed to be nothing more than globs of paint splattered incoherently across the canvas. I remember thinking to myself….."I thought this artist was supposed to be good." Then something inside me said, "Step back a little." Only then did I realize the beauty of it all.
I had stepped too close to the masterpiece and each oil splotch, each brush mark kept me from enjoying the whole. But when I stood back, the mysterious puzzle disappeared and the beautiful scene came into view.
We have to be careful that we do not stand too close to the Apocalypse of John. It is easy to turn this great masterpiece into a series of blotches and brush marks. As events in our world occur, students of prophecy try to outguess each other as to the modern meaning of every star, every dragon and every number. When that happens, we will lose the grand design of the prophet's vision and maybe miss the urgency of his warnings.
So we need to keep the book's introductory verse in mind and not lose sight of its overall theme. This book is a revelation of Jesus Christ. That is the key phrase of the book of Revelation.
WHERE WAS JOHN LOCATED WHEN HE WROTE THE BOOK OF REVELATION?
The isle of Patmos.
DO YOU KNOW WHERE PATMOS IS LOCATED?
Let me take you to Patmos on the map. It is located off the western coast of Asia Minor (now called Turkey), in the Aegean Sea……just a few miles from the coastal city of Miletus, which is a few miles south of Ephesus.
It is a rather small island, approximately ten miles long and six miles wide. And it is covered with rocks and very little vegetation.
WHY WAS JOHN ON THIS ISLAND?
He was a political prisoner of Rome and was banished in exile to this small island.
WHAT WAS HIS CRIME AGAINST ROME?
Revelation 1:9 NIV
9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Persecutions of Christians was occurring with increasing frequency during this era, and John was banished to this island for refusing to stop preaching about Jesus Christ. And, like so much of the evil that Satan thrusts on the people of God, what he meant for evil, God turns around for our good……and to God's glory.
In God's wonderful plan, John was arrested and exiled so that he could receive this marvelous revelation about the future.
Let me pose a question that at first might seem to be unrelated to what has been said thus far. Actually, I would like to borrow from Augustine who lived from 354 - 430 A.D. He posed the following experiment.
Imagine God saying to you, "I'll make a deal with you if you wish. "I'll give you anything and everything you ask: pleasure, power, honor, wealth, freedom, even peace of mind and a good conscience. Nothing will be a sin; nothing will be forbidden; and nothing will be impossible to you. You will never be bored and you will never die."
He pauses and says, "I have only one more phrase to this experiment. How do you feel about it so far?" The first part of the proposition is very appealing - anything I want and nothing is a sin, and I will live forever. Isn't there a part of us, a pleasure-loving part of us, that perks up at the thought of guiltless, endless delight?
But then, just as we are about to raise our hands and volunteer, we hear the final phrase. "You can have all that - only you will never see my face."
And we pause. Never? Never know the image of God? Never ever behold the presence of Christ? At this point, doesn't the bargain begin to lose some of its appeal? Hopefully, for most it will.
For others, the exercise may raise an awkward question. Someone may ask, "of course I want to see Jesus. But see him forever? Will He be that amazing?"
According to Paul, he will. He writes, "On the day when the Lord Jesus comes, all the people who have believed will be amazed at Jesus" (2 Thess. 1:10)
Look at those last 3 words - "amazed at Jesus!"
He doesn't say, amazed at angels
…or amazed at our mansions
…or amazed at our new bodies.
…or amazed at encountering the 12 apostles or Paul.
…or amazed at embracing our loved ones.
If we will be amazed by these things - and certainly we will - he does not say here. What he does say is that we will be amazed at Jesus. What will be so amazing? Of course, I have no way of answering that question from personal experience. But I can lead you to someone who can.
One Sunday morning many Sundays ago, a man named John saw Jesus. And what he saw, he recorded, and what he recorded has tantalized seekers of Christ for two thousand years.
Picture the scene with me. John is getting rather elderly - maybe 80 - 90 years old. Out on the craggy island, he is probably brown by the sun. His feet and hands are rough and callused. John wasn't just sitting around, writing the book of Revelation. As a political prisoner, he was part of a work crew.
In your imagination watch John as he carries granite chips from the cliffs above to a dock on the beach beneath. I can imagine John, stumbling under the loaded straw basket strapped to his forehead, hanging down his back. He balances it there, and uses both hands to grasp his staff and pick his way down the trail.
Imagine John on this Sunday at the beach. He has come here to worship. The wind stirs the cattails and waves slap against the sand. John sees nothing but water. It may be only a number of miles to the coast of the mainland, but, for John, it might as well be an ocean, for it separates him from his home. But no amount of water could separate him from Christ. Chapter 1, verses 10-11, record these words:
Revelation 1:10-11 NIV
10 On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,
11 which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."
Notice the voice has come from behind him. John is about to turn and see Jesus. Of course this isn't his first time to see his Savior. You and I only read about hands that fed the thousands. Not John - he saw them - knuckled fingers, callused palms. He saw them. You and I only read about the feet that was able to walk a path through the waves. Not John! John saw them - sandaled, ten-toed, and sometimes dirty. You and I only read about his eyes - his piercing eyes, his fiery eyes, his weeping eyes. Not so with John. John saw them -- gazing on the crowds, dancing with laughter, searching for souls. John had seen Jesus.
For more that three years he had followed Christ. But this encounter was far different from any in Galilee. This time the image is so vivid - the impression is so powerful, that shortly after her turns, what he sees causes John to fall at his feet as dead. Let's read the entire encounter.
Revelation 1:12-17 NIV
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
13 and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.
14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.
15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.
16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.
When I read this passage again in the last couple of weeks, this passage grabbed my attention. If anyone knew what Jesus looked like, it was John. He had spent years with him, almost every moment for more than 3 years. Why would seeing Jesus this time cause him to fall as dead before the Lord. Was there something different about Jesus?
John gives us a vision of Christ to ponder - a vision that comes at you from all angles. Swords and bronze feet….and white hair…..and sunlight. What are we to make of these images? And why was John so affected? And will we be affected similarly if we see what John saw?
Earlier, when we read verses 10 & 11, John is told to write what he sees, and send it to the 7 churches of Asia. But did you notice that what John wrote here was not what he saw. You heard me correctly - What John wrote is not what he saw. What he wrote is like what he saw. What he saw was so otherworldly, that he had no words to describe it. Consequently, he pulls from his vocabulary a set of metaphors and returns with an armload of word pictures.
Did you notice how often John used the word like? He describes hair like wool….eyes like fire….feet like bronze and a voice like the noise of rushing waters. Then he says Jesus looked like the sun shining at its brightest time.
By the way, John's strategy should not be strange to us. We do the same today. If you open your newspaper to an editorial page and see a donkey talking to an elephant, you know the meaning. This isn't a cartoon about a zoo, it is a cartoon about politics. On second thought, maybe it is a cartoon about a zoo. But you know the symbolism behind the images.
In order to understand John's vision, we must do the same. And as we begin to interpret the pictures, we gain glimpses of what we will see when we personally see Christ. Let's give it a go. In the words of John, what do we see in Jesus?
Christ - the perfect priest
Verse 13 - "He was dressed in a long robe and had a gold band around his chest."
WHAT DOES THAT IMAGE SIGNIFY?
The initial readers - members of the 7 churches - knew the significance of the robe and the band. Jesus is wearing the clothing of a priest. A priest is one who presents people to God and God to the people. Any priest that we may have known during our lifetime also needed a priest. Like you, they were sinful. But not with Jesus. Jesus is the kind of high priest we need. He is holy, sinless, pure, not influenced by sinners. Jesus is the perfect priest.
"His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like flames of fire."
What would a person look like if he had never sinned? We'll know when we see Jesus. What John saw that Sunday on Patmos was absolutely spotless. The picture reminded him of the virgin wool of sheep and the untouched snow of winter.
John was also reminded of fire. Others saw a burning bush - or a burning altar - or a fiery furnace - or a fiery chariot, but John saw fiery eyes. And in those eyes he saw a purging blaze which will burn the bacteria of sin and purify the would.
The image continues.
Verse 15 - "His feet were like bronze that glows hot in a furnace."
John's audience knew the value of this metal. Bronze is a combination of iron and copper. Iron is very strong, but it will decay with rust. Copper won't rust, but is easily pliable, therefore not very strong. Combine the two and the best quality in each is preserved -- The strength of the iron and the endurance of copper.
The rule of Christ is set on this base. The foundation of his power is tested by fire. But the strength of Jesus will never be surpassed. When you see Him, you will, for the first time, see absolute strength.
Up until this point, John has described what he saw. Now he tells what he heard. He shares the sound of Christ's voice. Not the words, but the sound, the tone, the timbre of the voice. The sound of a person's voice sometimes can be more important than the words of the voice.
Ever wonder how you would feel if Jesus spoke to you? John felt like he was near a waterfall, or a rushing stream.
Verse 15 - "His voice was like the noise of rushing waters."
The sound of a fast flowing river is the backdrop for all other sounds. The chirping of birds is heard now and then. The crackling of twigs under the hooves of a deer is heard, then it is not heard. Even when all nature is asleep at night, the river continues to speak.
Jesus never sleeps or slumbers……and his words continue to sooth us. The sound of the voice of Jesus soothes the soul, but the truth of his voice pierces the soul.
And what will happen when you and I see Jesus? You will see unblemished purity and unbending strength. You will feel his unending presence and know his unbridled protection. This is when the truth of 1 John 3:2 really comes alive.
1 John 3:2 NIV
2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Since you will be pure as snow, you will never sin again. Since you will be as strong as bronze, you will never stumble again. Since you will dwell near the river, you will never feel lonely again. Since the work of the priest will have been finished, you will never doubt again. When Christ comes, you will dwell in the light of God. And you will see him as he really is.
The Prince and the Peasant girl.
Let me tell you a story of a prince and his attraction to a peasant girl. His attraction to her is almost baffling. She, the common peasant - He, royalty. She is not ugly, but plain - He, stately. She can be sometimes cranky and turned inwardly.
To most peoples opinion, she is not really the kind of soul you'd want to live with. But, according to the prince, she is the soul he can't live without. So, on the dusty floor of her peasant's cottage, he knelt, took her hand, and asked her to be his bride. She whispers, yes.
He needed to leave, but he promises that he would return soon. She pledged, "I will be waiting," No one thought it odd that the prince would leave. After all, he is the son of the king. Surely he has some kingdom work to do.
>What is odd is not his departure, but her behavior during his absence. She seems to forget she's engaged. You'd think the upcoming wedding would be ever on her mind - but it isn't. You'd think the day of his return would be on the tip of her tongue. But it is not. Days pass - even weeks - and his return isn't mentioned in her conversation. Some of her friends have never heard her speak of the upcoming event.
Why, there have been times, perish the thought, when she has been seen cavorting with the village men - flirting with them. Is she rebellious? Maybe.
Has she forgotten that she is engaged? "That's no excuse" many are heard saying. Why, his return should be her every thought." How could a peasant girl forget her prince? How could a bride forget her groom?
That's a good question. How could we?
You see, this story I have told you is not some wild fairytale. It's not a tail about them, but a portrayal of us. Are we not the peasant girl? Isn't Christ the stately prince. Are we not the one who has been spoken for? Have we not been set apart "as a pure bride to one husband" (2 Cor. 11:2)? Did not God say to us, "I will make you my promised bride forever. (Hosea 2:19)?
Think about it - we are engaged to our Maker. We, the peasant, have heard the promise of the prince. He entered our village, took our hands, and stole our hearts. Why, even the angel bent close to hear our "yes."
You see, the angels don't just rejoice when a soul repents. I will always look at that verse as telling me, the angels are rejoicing because they have heard us say "yes" to the Prince's proposal of marriage. We have indicated that we are his.
The same angels must be puzzled at our behavior. We don't always act like we are engaged, do we? Days will pass - even weeks and months - and we'll say nothing about our wedding. Some of those who know us well don't even know about the soon coming of our Prince.
What's wrong with us? Are we rebellious? Maybe. Mostly, I think, we are just forgetful.
Like the story of the young peasant girl - which is really the chosen bride of Christ, we feel so common. Self-doubt plagues us. Insecurities stalk us.
Do you want a cure for insecurity? Do you need a elixir for self-doubt? Then meditate on these words.
Song of Solomon 4:9-12
My bride, you have thrilled my heart; you have thrilled my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one sparkle from your necklace. Your love is so sweet, my bride. Your love is better than wine, and your perfume smells better than any spice…..my bride, you are like a garden locked up, like a walled-in spring, a closed up fountain.
Do you find it odd to think of God as an enthralled lover? Do you feel awkward thinking of Jesus as a suitor who is intoxicated on love? If so, how else can you explain his actions? Did logic put God in a manger? Did common sense nail him to a cross? Did Jesus come to earth guided by a natural law of science?
No, he came as a prince with his eye on a maiden. And He's ready to battle even the dragon itself if that is what it took to win her hand. And that is exactly what it took. It took a battle with the dragon of hell. He has "loved you with an everlasting love; [he has] drawn you with loving-kindness" (Jer. 31:3).
There is no doubt that Jesus can live without us, but He doesn't want to. He longs for His bride.
Who is this beauty who occupies the heart of Jesus? It is not nature. He loves his creation and creation groans to be with him, but He has never called creation his bride. It is not his angels. His angels are ever present to worship and serve the prince but He has never called these heavenly beings his bride.
Do you ever feel unnoticed? Learn to see yourself as God sees you.
Isaiah 61:10 reads,
"He has covered me with clothes of salvation and wrapped me with a coat of goodness, like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding, and like a bride dressed in jewels."
When your self-esteem sags, remember what you are worth.
1 Peter 1:18-19
"You were bought, not with something that perishes like gold and silver,……. but with the precious blood of Christ, who was like a pure and perfect lamb."
Do you ever feel like you have nothing? Just look at the gifts He has given you. He has sent his angels to care for you - his Holy Spirit to dwell in you, - his church to encourage you, - and his Word to guide you.
You have privileges only a fiancée has. Anytime you speak, He listens. Make a request, and He responds. Let a tear drop on your cheek, and He is there to wipe it. Let a love sonnet appear on your lips, and he is there to hear it.
AS MUCH AS YOU WANT TO SEE HIM, HE WANTS TO SEE YOU MORE.
You might ask, "then why hasn't He come?" There is only one answer - His bride is not quite ready. She is still being prepared.
Engaged people are obsessed with preparation. The right dress - the right weight - the right hair - and the right tux. They want everything to be just right. Why? - So their fiancée will marry them? No! Just the opposite. They want to look their best because their fiancée is marrying them.
The same is true for us. We want to look our best for Christ. We want our hearts to be pure and our thoughts to be clean. We want our faces to shine with grace and our eyes to sparkle with love. We want to be prepared.
Why? In hopes that He will love us? No. Just the opposite. Because he already does.
Never forget you are spoken for. You are engaged - set apart. Forbidden waters hold nothing for you. You have been chosen for his castle. Don't ever settle for a one-night stand in the arms of a stranger. Be obsessed with your wedding day. Guard against forgetfulness of His promise to come back and get you. Write yourself notes. Memorize verses.
You are engaged to royalty, and your Prince is coming to take you home!