Revelation 1:9–20. Getting Ready For a Performance Evaluation.
Key Notes: An overwhelming vision. The Son of Man.
1:9 "I, John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation, and the Kingdom and the patient endurance."Tribulation means pressure, harassment, choking off--an apt description of persecution. Persecution is to be expected.
1:9 John was "on the island called Patmos on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus." Patmos is a small (7x12 Km) volcanic island in the Mediterranean Sea where the Romans kept political prisoners. John was exiled there because of his preaching and teaching. He was an old man, at the end of his life.
1:10 "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day." This is the first use of the phrase "The Lord's Day" in Scripture. There are three references to the disciples meeting on the first day of the week, communing (Jn.20:19), teaching (Acts 20:7), and collecting an offering (ICor.16:2) but this is the first time that it is called the Lord's Day. John was in the Spirit, perhaps in an ecstatic state. What are we thinking on the Lord's Day?
1:10–11 He heard a voice like a trumpet (as if a great tenor were singing or a great orator were speaking) commanding him to write what he saw in a book. He turned toward the voice and saw a cluster of seven golden candle-sticks. Then in the center he saw:
•"One like a Son of Man." The expression was first used in Dan.7:13 when "one like a Son of Man" was presented to the Ancient of Days and was "given dominion and glory and kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away."The name "Son of Man" was Jesus’ usual name for Himself, and is not mysterious if understood in this context. In fact, it would be a powerful statement to His Jewish contemporaries if they understood it.
•"clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast". Such a garment was not worn by a farmer, soldier, or shepherd, but by a priest or king.
•"His head and His hair were white as white wool, white as snow".The Ancient of Days had hair white as wool. (Dan.7:9). Whiteness is also a sign of purity. So both age and purity are suggested.
•"His eyes were like a flame of fire". When we see fiery eyes, we think of anger and conviction. But Jesus was not angry with John, but rather with the persecutors and apostates who afflicted his churches.
•"His feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace". Bronze metal was used on the brazen altar (IK.8:64) which stood before the tabernacle and the later temple, and is thought to represent judgment.
•"His voice was like the sound of many waters". The roar of a Niagara Falls is awesome, overwhelming.
•"in His right hand He held seven stars" which are the angels of the seven churches. We do not know whether the angels were literal angels, ministers of the churches or abstract representations of the churches (stars). But the point is that He holds the leaders or communicators of the churches in His hand.
•"from His mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword". The sword is the Word of God (Eph.6:17, Heb.4:12). Here, and elsewhere in Scripture, God's Word has great power in itself, because His decrees are carried out. “...and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.” (Isa.11:4)
•"his face was like the sun shining in full strength". The vision was overwhelming, as in Ezek.1, Dan.10, and Matt.17. John collapsed in a faint.
Jesus said "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world". (Jn.16:33)
Paul said "...through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God". (Acts.14:22)
There are good effects. "Suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope." (Rom.5:3–4)
In the end, the world will experience The Great Tribulation. (Matt.24:21, Rev.7:14). This is also called "the time of Jacob's trouble". (Jer.30:7). In both Revelation and Jeremiah, deliverance out of great tribulation is promised.
Perseverance (“patient endurance”) is a term for the Christian's spiritual security and implies our ability to continue the Christian life to the end of our lives. The other side of perseverance is preservation and entails God's protection of our salvation. Many theologians make preservation part of the doctrine of providence--God's care for the creation--rather than part of the doctrine of salvation. Both are necessary.
The preservation of the believers is taught in I Pet.1:3–5.
"By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time."
This passage makes God's part paramount. But our need to persevere is plainly seen in Jesus' two warnings:
"You will be hated by all for My Name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." (Mk13:13)
"Because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved." (Matt.24:12)
Hatred and wickedness will weaken the saints. But endurance to the end is necessary.
All Christians begin well. The name of the game is to end well.
So we can say that we hold onto God. And God holds onto us.
The vision of Christ preparing to evaluate the churches is powerful, awesome, and threatening. It is not the image of the suffering Savior or the shepherd with a lamb in his arms or Jesus blessing little children, images which we would prefer. Our human supervisors present quite benign images to us. But the vision conveys the message that we are in serious business. "Playing church" is far away from where John positions us and our churches. Dare we ask for a performance review of ourselves and our churches?