[This week we’ll be looking into chapters 1-3 of the book of Revelation.]
Have you ever asked the question, “Where is Jesus today?” Have you ever thought to yourself, “Okay, I know where Jesus was when he came to earth, and I suppose he is now in ‘heaven’ (whatever that means), but where is he now?”
This is one of the key questions John answers in this vision, but first he walks us through another even more crucial question, “Who is Jesus?”
There are certainly many “Jesuses” on offer these days. Think about some of the popular ideas about and conceptions of Jesus that exist in our world today.
One of the things that immediately comes to my mind is the “Jesus is my homeboy” clothing apparel. Now, I’m sure these people have great intentions and I’m all for seeing Jesus as our friend, but after this vision John records for us I’m not so sure he would think of Jesus as his “homeboy.”
Here’s how it went down. John was on Patmos, a sixty square-mile island thirty-seven miles off the coast of Asia Minor. He had been exiled there for refusing to stop talking about and worshiping Jesus. He very well may have been alone, but that wasn’t going to stop him from worshiping. After all, it was Sunday, and all the other followers of Jesus were meeting together to do the same thing. But today something was different. Today worship was particularly moving for John—he described it as being “in the Spirit.” We aren’t given many details, but he was probably meditating on Scripture, maybe singing a few songs.
And then it happened.
First he heard a voice, like a trumpet, like thunder. Then he was told to write what he would soon see and send it to the churches.
And then he turned around to see who it was. And what he saw refuses to be paraphrased:
When I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 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. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 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. (Rev 1.12-16).
Like John on the island of Patmos, what we need most is a clear vision of Jesus.
The last thing I want to do is over-explain this vision. To do so would be, as one scholar put it, to “unweave the rainbow.”
But I do want us to explore some of the details of John’s vision. Every single element of this vision builds on some image or event or person in the Old Testament. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
– That John is told to write his visions on a scroll reinforces his vocation as a prophet, which means that he was going to bring God’s authoritative word to these seven churches (Exodus 17.14; Isaiah 30.8; Jeremiah 37.2).
– Moses was instructed to place lampstands in the tabernacle and the temple as a symbol of the illuminating presence of God (Exodus 25.31-40). Over time the lampstands came to symbolize the faithful people of God who live in his presence (Zech 4.2-10).
– It was the high priest’s job to trim the lamps, to refill them with oil, and relight those that had gone out. Much of Jesus’ clothing also identifies him as high priest (Ex 28.4; 39.29; Lev 8.7). He is the one who goes between God and man, opening the way for man to know God and vice versa.
– Jesus is also described as Judge (Isaiah 11.4; 49.2) and, perhaps above all else, as King. John’s description draws heavily from two of Daniel’s visions (7.1-14; 10), one of which climaxes in a heavenly coronation ceremony (see 7.13-14).
Once again, I want to be careful not to over-explain this vision. Part of the majesty of revelation is the way its color and drama overwhelms our imaginations. Think about what it would be like to actually see this.
No wonder John passed out. You would’ve too!
Living what we learn
That’s worth reflecting on for a few minutes. If you saw Jesus, you would probably lose consciousness immediately. Jesus is not our homeboy; he is our High Priest, our Judge, and most importantly our King.
And notice what he does next.
“He placed his right hand on me and said, ‘Do not be afraid’.”
It’s hard to believe, and yet it seems strangely familiar, doesn’t it?
The touch – Matthew 8.1-3,14-15; 9.27-33; *17.1-8; 20.29-34
The words – Matthew 6.25-34; 8.23-27; 14.22-36; 28.8-10
You want to know something else? One of my favorite things about this vision is what Jesus tells John afterwards.
Who are the lampstands again? And where is Jesus? They are the church, and Jesus is among them.
The one who is called “the First and the Last, the Living One,” who conquered death—the real, true Jesus—is right where we are. And we must not miss what would have been obvious to those living under Rome’s power (whether by choice or by necessity): Jesus, not Caesar, is King. To have a clear vision of Jesus is impossible until we come to terms with the full meaning of confessing him as King or Lord within the context of powerful powers that work against God’s purposes. We’ll flesh this out more as we continue through the book.
For now let’s ponder the fact that Jesus our King is here with us, that he touches us on the shoulder and says to us, “Do not be afraid.”
Lifting the Veil 005 // Revelation 1.9-20