Hollywood studios produce spectacular displays for movie-theater entertainment. With computer-generated images and other high-tech tricks, movies present special effects that seem almost beyond comprehension. Aliens and dinosaurs come to life; explorers travel faster than light; animals and trees dance, sing, and talk. Viewers marvel at the show, then return to reality as the credits roll.
That’s great entertainment. But we know it’s not real. Now flip to the back of your Bible, to the last book—Revelation. As you read, you soon will become immersed in a fantastic display of sights, sounds, colors, and images. If you feel overwhelmed and amazed, think of what the original witness to these events, John, must have felt as vision after vision assaulted his senses. No adjectives can adequately describe this multimedia show. Trumpets, thrones, lightning, thunder, lampstands, awful creatures, millions of majestic angels, a mighty chorus, fiery horses, plagues, terrible bowls … one scene follows another, moving steadily and decisively toward the ultimate finale.
This is a story of martyrs and battles, of demons and angels, of things to come. Revelation reveals God and his plan for the future. And it’s true.
Although Revelation touches on all of human history, it is specifically addressed to seven churches located in what today is southwestern Turkey: churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea and believers everywhere.
To reveal the full identity of Christ and to give warning and hope to believers.
It wasn’t until the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (a.d. 81–96) that refusing to worship the Roman emperor became a punishable offense throughout the Empire. This was the time frame that most scholars believe Revelation was written in. All apocalyptic literature claims to be a revelation from God. The Greek word for “apocalypse” (apokalupsis) actually means “revelation.” Thus, in the book of Revelation, God gives a glimpse into the future.
Interpreting Revelation. Revelation is a book of symbols. Every symbol in this book was understandable by people in the first century. This was a first-century book, written to the believers of the first-century church; yet it also has significance for Christians two thousand years later. It is a vision of what is to come…
Revelation 1:1-6 (CSB)1 The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatever he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near. 4 John: To the seven churches in Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth.To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The Apostle John writes to encourage all the churches of Asia, and extends grace and peace to them from the one who is, always was and is to come. He extends grace and peace from the sevenfold Spirit who is before the throne of the Father and he also extends grace and peace from Christ Jesus. Jesus is the first person to rise from the dead and receive a glorified body. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All glory goes to Jesus, who loved us and freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He has made us a kingdom of priests for God the Father. All glory and power goes to him forever!
John is setting us up for the story. It’s amazing how these letters were written to Asian churches and now we’re in an Asian church studying these letters. Now John says grace and peace from the sevenfold Spirit [seven spirits of God in some translations]. What does that mean? Does God have seven Spirits? No, what John is talking about are some of the attributes of the Spirit of God:
Isaiah 11:1-3 (NLT) 11 Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.
So the Spirit of the Lord, who is full of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord was extending peace to the churches of Asia through John’s writings. That same Spirit lives in you and I as believers. . Since Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, no power, or government or political machine can stop him and his people! He has freed us forever from our sins through his blood, and has established us as a kingdom of priests. So John in his opening line sums up this book:
The Book of Revelation is all Jesus
The letters the seven churches — Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea can be looked at in many different ways. But one of the ways we can interpret is that every single church that is established can fall into one of the categories Jesus mentions here.
So as we study Revelation for the rest of the time I am at Neighborhood, ask yourself in your personal life, which of these churches applies to me as an individual believer? We will look further into John’s Revelation of Jesus…
Revelation 1:9-16 (NLT) I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. 10 It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. 11 It said, “Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”12 When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. 13 And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. 15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.
The Apostle John was worshipping in the Spirit on Sunday, when a voice told him to write in a book everything he saw and send it to seven specific churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. When John turned around he saw seven gold lamp stands and in the middle of the lamp stands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing robe with gold across the chest, he had hair as white as wool, and his eyes were blazing fire. His feet were like polished bronze melted and polished to perfection, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth, and his face was shining like the sun in all its brilliance.
So John is on this island for prisoners, but he never loses his perspective and never loses his zeal for the Lord. He is exiled to this island but continues to pray, to seek the Lord, and he has this incredible vision of Christ. The seven gold lampstands are the seven churches in Asia to whom this letter is addressed (Revelation 1:11, 20). (See also Zechariah 4:1–10 for his vision of seven lamps.) Jesus, the Son of Man, stands among them. No matter what the churches face, Jesus is in control and protects them with his all-encompassing love and reassuring power. His blazing eyes symbolize judgment of all evil (see Daniel 10:6) and deep insight, not only over the churches and the believers but over the entire course of history (see also 2:18; 19:12).
The feet like bronze picture an exalted person with great power The voice like rushing waters (see also 19:6) evokes the image of a huge waterfall roaring over a high cliff. Thus, the voice is powerful and awesome. When this man speaks with authority, nothing else can be heard. Re-evaluate the way you think of Jesus as you read and study Revelation. Allow his awesome presence to transform your life.
There are two swords in Revelation. Chapter 19 has the “great sword.” The sword here is the sharp two-edged sword. This type of sword, invented by the Romans, represents invincible might. Previously, swords were about three feet long and made of an inferior metal. They could not be sharp on both edges because the metal wasn’t strong enough. The double-edged sword was lighter and sharp on both edges. When the Romans used their double-edged swords, they could slice and cut both ways. These swords gave such a great advantage in hand-to-hand combat that the Roman army was called “the short swords.” It made them virtually invincible. This sharp two-edged sword is coming from Jesus’ mouth. This means Jesus’ words of judgment are as sharp as swords; he is completely invincible.
Tell everyone you know about beauty and majesty of Christ
Revelation is the closest book to our time today. So the Jesus that you see in Revelation is God’s most progressive revealing of him. He is no longer in his carpenter role, but he is as we will see him in heaven, beautiful and terrible.
You can look into the eyes of a lion and see majesty. You can look into the eyes of a lion and be terrified. It’s that fearful symmetry that we see in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the one whom we worship, who is worthy of our worship. There is a scene in C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia that I love…there is a Horse in the books who is friends with the main characters. She encounters Aslan, the Lion King of Narnia, for the first time.
“Then Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh and trotted across to the Lion. “Please,” she said, “you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy
I’d rather be devoured by the Lion of Judah than fed by anyone else.
Amos 3:8 (NLT)The lion has roared— so who isn’t frightened? The Sovereign Lord has spoken— so who can refuse to proclaim his message?
Hosea 11:10 (NLT)For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return trembling.
Jesus is the all powerful Son of God, the Son of Man. He is the definition of strength, and masculinity. He is power, he is wisdom, and he is love. We see the Apostle John gave the only appropriate response in this next passage….
Revelation 1:17-20 (NLT) 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. 19 “Write down what you have seen—both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen. 20 This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
Jesus laid his hand on John and told him not to be afraid. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He is the living one, the who died but now lives forever. He holds the keys to death and the grave.
Who are the angels of the churches though? The seven letters in Revelation 2–3 contain reprimands against the messengers, and angels are not ever considered to be heads of churches, it is doubtful that these angels are heavenly messengers. If these are earthly leaders or messengers, they are accountable to God for the churches they represent.
The seven golden lampstands among which Christ had been standing (1:13) represent the seven churches to whom this letter would be circulated (1:11).
Jesus controls life and death; so he controls circumstances
What a powerful picture of how much Christ is in control. he also holds the keys to everything beyond our death. Surely, in light of this incredible power, we can place our trust completely in the one whose eyes are blazing fire, and whose voice is the sound of a thousand waterfalls.
My prayer for all of us is that we would see Christ in a fresh new way through the book of Revelation and that God would peel the covers back on all that Christ has for us in this life, and in eternity. We pray for continued insight into the wisdom and love of Christ, and for continual direction by Him until we reach those blessed shores in Jesus’ name, Amen.