Revelation 004 – The Day of the LordRevelation 1:9-16 • Dr. Andy Woods • June 17, 2018 • Revelation
Dr. Andy Woods
The Day of The Lord
6-17-18 Revelation 1:9-16 Lesson 4
Good morning everybody. A very happy Father’s Day to everyone. In fact, raise your hand if you’ve ever in your life had a father? A pretty significant person.
Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to Revelation, chapter 1 and verse 9, maybe making it through verse 16 today. The title of our message this morning is The Day of the Lord. And we are just sort of creeping into a study we began a few weeks back on the Book of Revelation, spending really our first sermon together talking about the background of the book. And then the two subsequent sermons working our way through the prologue, which is just a fancy way of saying introduction, verses 1-8.
And you might recall that one of the things that we observed is that the Book of Revelation has a three-part outline. John was told, “Therefore write the things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.” Three parts. What John had seen is what we have in chapter 1, the section that we’re going to start looking at this morning, the vision of the glorified Christ on the Island of Patmos in A.D. 95.
Then John is told to write down” the things which are,” that’s the letters to the seven churches, Revelation 2 and 3. And then he is told to write down the things that will take place after these things. That’s the largest section of the book, the futuristic section of the book; that begins in chapter 4:1 and goes to the end of the book. [Revelation 4:1, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”’]
But we’re in that first part of the book where John is told to write down the things which he has seen. We can take that section and we can divide it into three parts. Number 1, the circumstances of the vision, verse 9-11. Number 2, the content of the vision, what did John see, verses 12-16. And then finally the chapter sort of ends with some interaction, if you will; some communication takes place between John and Jesus, verses 17-20. Let’s see if we can move to the circumstances of the vision, verses 9-11 where we’re given the purpose; the place of the vision, verse 9, the content of the vision, verse 10, the purpose of the vision, verse 11.
Notice verse 9, the place of the vision. Where did these things transpire? Notice it says, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and the kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the Island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Here, right at the beginning, we see who wrote the book, the Apostle John, who we have already talked a little bit about him in prior sermons.
And then there’s an expression here that a lot of people skip right over and yet it’s so important to interpreting many other things in the book, particularly chapters 2 and 3. You’ll notice that John calls the audience, now who’s the audience? You’re going to see it’s the seven churches. “John to the seven churches” [Revelation 1:4] refers to himself as [Revelation 1:9] “your brother.” Was John saved? Yes! Was he a Christian? Yes! Was he filled with the Holy Spirit? Yes, he was! Well, by identifying himself as “your brother” that means the churches are in the exact same position.
You say well who cares? Well, it’s shocking how much we should care because many, many Bible interpreters will go through these letters to the seven churches and they will say the sin in these churches is so bad these people just can’t be saved. So they’ll say this church is saved, that church isn’t saved; this church is saved, that church isn’t saved. And that’s to ignore what John says here in verse 9 where he identifies himself as their brother. He has the same spiritual status that they have. Just as John is a believer, a Christian, and filled with the Holy Spirit so are those within the churches, even though many of them are going through great struggles. And some of them have succumbed to great temptation. More on that down the road.
But you’ll notice what John says in verse 9, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and the kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus Christ.” John unloads on us four very important Greek words here. The first is, I have it at the top, [συνκοινωνὸς] I think you pronounce that sunkoinōnos, if I have that right. That means fellowship, partnership, partaker. It’s a compound word. When you put two words together like that, similar and fellowship it intensifies John’s solidarity with those he is writing to. In fact, from that word koinōnia, we get the word fellowship. In fact, my wife and I, when we were living in the Dallas area attended a Sunday School class called the Koinonia Sunday School Class, basically meaning fellowship.
John is saying I’m a fellowshipper with you, not only in Jesus, you’ll notice towards the end of that verse he says “in Jesus.” They have fellowship because of their commonality “in Jesus” but I also have fellowship with you in the area of three other things. Number 1, “tribulation,” that’s the Greek word thlipsis (θλῖψις). Number 2, the kingdom, that’s the Greek word basileia (βασιλεία). And number 3, “perseverance,” that’s the Greek word hypomonē (ὑπομονῇ).
And let’s see if we can break these things down. What is John saying when he says, I am “your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation”? We have to be very careful about this word “tribulation” because many people see the word tribulation and they think it automatically means the great tribulation. You say where is that described? Just wait till we get to chapter 6-19 and you’ll see plenty of it. In fact you’re going to see so much of it you might even think you’re in tribulation itself studying the whole thing.
John is not referring to being in that time period. What he is referring to is the ordinary tribulation and trials that Christians experience before this time period comes. You see, we at Sugar Land Bible Church, and I’ll be giving you much evidence of this as we progress in the series, do not believe that the church will be on the earth during the great tribulation period. But that does not mean that we somehow escape other tribulations. We are candidates for trials of life. Jesus told us in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
We are candidates also for man’s wrath. Paul wrote Timothy and said, “All who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [2 Timothy 3:12] We are candidates for Satan’s wrath; that’s why we’re told in Ephesians 6:11-12 to “put on the armor of God.” [Hebrews 6:11-12, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”]
We are also candidates for the world’s wrath. Jesus, in John 15:18-19 said, “Do not marvel that the world hates you for before it hated you it hated Me.” So if you are somehow in the midst of a trial today, man’s wrath today, Satan’s wrath today, if you find yourself out of sorts with the world system around you, don’t think that somehow you have missed the will of God. In fact, the Bible tells us over and over again that we are direct candidates for these forms of adversity.
Paul, the apostle, in Acts 14:22 says this, “…Through many” not some, “Through many tribulations” that’s the Greek word thlipsis again, “Through many tribulations we must” not might, “must enter the kingdom of God.” We are not here teaching a doctrine of escapism, we are not teaching an easy life, we are teaching escape from the wrath of God at a future point but until that time period arises the Christian life can be very difficult and we should not misrepresent the Christian life as something that it is not, because your Bible does not do that.
And so John, as he is on the Island of Patmos, in the midst of a tribulation known as the reign of Domitian, Domitian, as I’ll show you in just a moment, was the Roman Emperor who exiled John on Patmos. John says I am in tribulation right now as I speak and you churches are in tribulation. And so I am your partaker, your brother, your partner in these things.
He also says here in verse 9 that I am a partaker, a partner with you in the kingdom. [Verse 9, “John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus….”] And people will point to this verse and say well, there it is, right there in verse 9, we must be in the kingdom now. As you look at the world today does it look like we’re in the kingdom? As Christians are being martyred all over the world does it look like Christians are reigning as will be accomplished in the kingdom? Of course not. That’s the Greek word basileia.
What does he mean then when he says, “I am your partner in the kingdom”? I am heir of the kingdom along with you. The kingdom is coming, we are heirs in that kingdom but the actual kingdom itself hasn’t materialized yet, but we’re fellow citizens of a coming kingdom. James 2:5 specifically tells us that we are heirs of the coming kingdom. [James 2:5, “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”]
You might remember when we were, last week I think it was, in chapter 1 and verse 6 where it says, “He has made us to be a kingdom of priests.” I said don’t interpret verse 6 without chapter 5, verse 10. Chapter 1, verse 6 and verse 9 tells us our heirship, chapter 5 verse 10 tells us when we will enjoy what is promised to us. [Revelation 1:6, “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father– to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”] Revelation 5:10 says, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign” future tense, where? “upon the earth.”
And the story of the Book of Revelation is how that reign of God, which exists in heaven, is going to come to planet earth one day. Aren’t you glad about that? The Book of Revelation is all about this line here, Revelation 11:15, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; [and He will reign forever and ever.]” Right now there’s an enemy occupier, the devil himself who must be evicted. And the Book of Revelation is an explanation of that, culminating in chapters 20-22 where the kingdom of God finally arrives. One of the things to understand about Bible study is to interpret Scripture with Scripture. And yet so many people see the word “kingdom” in verse 6 and verse 9 and build a doctrine about the kingdom independent of what the rest of the book says. And yet the word kingdom is very easy to understand when we allow the rest of the Book of Revelation to explain it.
Robert Thomas, in his excellent book, commentary, on the Book of Revelation I believe is the best one that’s ever been written in the history of the church. That’s how highly I think of this commentary. If you’ve got a few extra shekels and you’re wondering how to spend them on a Revelation commentary that’s where I would go if I were you. Dr. Robert Thomas observes, “Little difference of opinion exists over the meaning of basileia [kingdom] in 1:9. It is the millennial kingdom described more fully in Revelation 20.” [Dr. Robert Thomas, Revelation 1 to 7: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 87]
John obviously wasn’t in that kingdom now, how could he be marooned on a desert Island if he was in that kingdom? But he says I’m an heir of the kingdom along with you. Life can be tough and difficult in the nasty now and now but there’s a better world coming. Amen! And what a hope we have as Christians because if you’re “in Christ” you are a participant as well.
But there’s a third Greek word here that’s used; it’s the word “perseverance” translated “perseverance.” In the Greek it’s hypomonē, and it says, “I John, your brother and partaker in the tribulation and the kingdom and the perseverance” hypomonē, “which are in Jesus.” What does that word hypomonē, mean? It’s something that God is trying to develop in all of our characters. It’s a capacity to bear up under difficult circumstances. That’s hypomonē, perseverance.
Now how can God develop that attribute in our lives unless He puts us into what? Difficulty. How can I develop the ability to bear up under difficulty unless the Lord puts me under a difficulty? Amen! John was under difficulty, he was exiled. The churches, as we’re going to study, were under difficulty, having reaped many times the consequences of their own sin. Two of the churches are under direct persecution by governmental authorities and John is saying I’m a partner with you, I am a fellow shipper with you in these things. I share the tribulation with you, the current tribulation, the Domitianic reign. I share heirship in the coming kingdom and I am persevering with you in God.
It’s interesting that when the Lord calls us to persevere under trial He equips us for the job. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,” what’s the next one? “patience, [kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”] Lord, give me patience and give it to me right now, we pray. But it’s an attribute of the fruit of the Spirit that the Lord is trying to produce in His children. Endurance, long-suffering, not just throwing in the towel at the first obstacle but standing up under divine power. It’s just something that God wants us to do and has equipped us to do it, in the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t call us to do this through white knuckling and human willpower. He does it through the enablement of the Spirit of God which is within us.
So John, in verse 9, says “I’m a partaker with you in these things.” And also in verse 9 John, as I mentioned before, gives us his location or his place of writing. He says, “I was on the Island called Patmos,” now where exactly is that? We’ve noted before it’s a little Island about 60 miles southwest of Ephesus, it’s in the Aegean Sea, a tiny Island that so small it doesn’t even appear on most modern day maps. And you’ll notice that John was in a very remote place and yet he was directly in the will of God because from this remote place he was going to be given the final vision of the end, the final word of God in the biblical canon.
And it’s interesting to me how God works with us and through us, not necessarily when we’re in the limelight, not necessarily when we’re winning the popularity contest, but He does very strategic work in our lives when we’re in some remote, almost God-forsaken place. And I say that as a word of encouragement to many of you, to many of us, because sometimes we don’t fully understand the pattern of our lives. Why am I in this remote place over here where nobody knows my name, I don’t have any significance, I’m toiling away at some 9:00 to 5:00 job, the organization I’m in is so big no one even knows my name, I don’t even appear on the organizational chart. Lord, what are You doing in my life? It could be that’s exactly what God has for you right now. And it could be something very, very big for you is on the horizon.
I mean, I don’t think John thought he was going to receive what he received when he was stranded out there on this remote place. You’ll notice that Patmos is a place of geography, just like Asia, verse 4. Just like the seven churches. When you see geographical locations in the Book of Revelation they’re always, as far as I can understand, to be interpreted literally which is going to become a big deal in Revelation 17 and 18 where I’m going to make the very radical case (ready for this) that the word “Babylon” means “Babylon.” You say well how can you conclude that? I mean, how can you just interpret it like it says? Because that’s what it says! Patmos is Patmos, Asia is Asia, Ephesus is Ephesus, so is Babylon Babylon. In fact, I’m going to be giving you so much information about Babylon I’m going to title the miniseries we do on Babylon babbling on about Babylon, so that is on the horizon.
It’s interesting, and we’ve made reference to this, that in the writings of Eusebius this is what Domitian did. You see, Nero, who reigned in the 60’s, would just decapitate people. We have many historical records of this. Domitian, who came to the throne late in the first century, exiled people. And we have this reference to somebody in Eusebius’ writings named Domitilla who was banished, not on Patmos but an Island of Pontia for the testimony of Jesus Christ. It’s very interesting to me that John, on Patmos, during the reign of Domitian, fits the exact same circumstances. It’s interesting that geography and archeology and history—when you study it— always has a tendency to come alongside and not contradict but corroborate the biblical record. And that’s what we have going on here.
And you say well, what did John do? How did he get marooned on this remote place called Patmos. If you look very carefully at the rest of verse 9 he tells you exactly why he was there. He says, “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Not his own words, not his own thoughts and philosophies, and how he thought the world ought to work. He got himself into trouble because he got involved with the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. The word for “word” is logos there, which is also used to describe Christ Himself. And the word for “testimony” is martoria where we get the word what? Martyr, martyrdom. What is a martyr? Martyr is basically someone who testifies about Jesus Christ and finds themselves out of sorts with the system of the world that doesn’t like the message.
The Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ will get you into trouble every single time. These are the two things that got John marooned, exiled on the Island of Patmos, during the reign of Domitian. Paul, writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will” parenthesis, not might, “will be persecuted.”
You start standing up in your family and in your workplace under God’s resources for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ and you can start expecting problems to come your direction. That’s how it is. And you say well, Pastor, things are running in my life pretty smoothly, I don’t seem to have the problems that John and others face. Could it be, and only you can answer this, that you’ve gotten a little soft on those two things, standing for the Word and standing for the testimony of Jesus Christ, because if you start standing on those things, and I’m not talking about being obnoxious because a lot of Christians get persecuted (and frankly they deserve it) because they’re rude, crude and obnoxious in how they go about it. I’m talking about having Christ-like character and firmly planting your feet in divine truth and standing on it. You do it in your church, you do it in your place of employment, you do it in your family, you do it with Christian love, “speaking the truth in love, “ [Ephesians 4:15, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,”] don’t expect an easy time. That’s what got John in trouble; that’s what gets us into trouble.
We move from the place of the vision to the actual content of the vision. Notice, if you will, verse 10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet,” what does he mean here when he says “I was in the Spirit”? What does that mean? Is that some kind of dream? Is it some kind of ecstatic state? NO, it’s talking about the doctrine of inspiration, how the Holy Spirit came upon the writers of Scripture and literally dragged them along, carried them along respecting their individual gifts and literary styles and personalities and in the process they penned God’s message. It’s an experience that John had along with every other writer and author of Scripture.
2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,  for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” That word “moved” is so interesting; it’s the Greek word for phero, which is used in Acts 27:15 and verse 17 of wind that propels the sails, fills the sails in a sailboat thereby propelling the boat. [Acts 27:15, “and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along.”  “After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along.”]
That’s what happened to these writers. The Spirit came upon them and literally pushed them along, propelled them along, carried them along, and consequently they wrote, in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” [2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”] “Inspired by God,” that’s a word in the Greek language that’s only going to appear one time and it’s in this verse; it’s theopneustos, it’s a compound word, God in Spirit, God and breath. That’s what the biblical writers claimed; when they are communicating in written form in the original manuscripts they are communicating the very breath of God. May I say it this way: the very saliva of God. And John was caught into the Spirit and he began to see this vision and he began to record what he saw.
You’ll notice in verse 10 that he says that this particular experience happened to him “on the Lord’s day.” [Revelation 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet,”] And people say well, that was Sunday, right? The Lord’s day! The problem is when you study when the early church met we all understand that Hebrews met on Saturday, that was the Sabbath. That was true for 1,500 years; they met not on the first day of the week, the last day of the week. Suddenly Christ rose from the dead, a remnant believes, the church is formed and they start meeting on Sunday, the first day of the week. And we’ve been doing that for 2,000 years. And many people see this expression here, “the Lord’s day” and they say well this obviously happened on Sunday. Maybe it did happen on Sunday, I don’t know if that’s really what’s being said.
What’s being said here is a Lordian day, Sunday as the first day of the week is called just that in Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2. [Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.” 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper so that no collections be made when I come.”] Here it doesn’t say the first day of the week. What it says is a Lordian day. There is an adjective that’s used here, “Lordian,” kurikos. It only shows up one other time in the whole Greek New Testament to describe a special supper, 1 Corinthians 11:20, called the Lord’s Supper. [1 Corinthians 11:20, “Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.”] The supper of the Lord.
What John is saying is this is the day of the Lord. And many people, including myself, don’t believe He’s describing the time of the week in which he saw this vision, he’s describing the contents of what is going to be expressed in this book. What is the Book of Revelation about? If one were to ask you this afternoon over lunch, “what is the Book of Revelation about?” A very simple answer, it’s about “the day of the Lord,” a Lordian day.
And you say well, what is “the day of the Lord”? The day of the Lord is a time period in history where God intervenes and settles accounts. There have been past days of the Lord, the flood of Noah’s day, the Babylonian captivity; many examples I could give. And there is yet a future “day of the Lord.” We think all these people are getting away with something. Not if you understand “the day of the Lord.” The only thing that’s happening today is the wrath of God is being stored up. It’s almost like a dam holding back water; the water gets so voluminous that finally the damn breaks. That’s “the day of the Lord.” That’s what’s described in the Book of Revelation, “the day of the Lord.”
And isn’t it interesting that when you go back to the Book of Genesis, chapter 1, where we first run into the concept of days it says of the six creation days there was evening and there was what? Morning, day one. It says that six times: evening, morning, first day; evening morning, second day; right on through the six days of creation. The “day of the Lord” that is coming upon the earth has the same two parts. There is an evening—a time of darkness, a time of judgment—followed by the morning, the glorious breaking forth of the sun, which is the kingdom of God.
In the book of Revelation we’re going to be reading bad news, the evening; we’re going to be reading good news, the morning, the light that breaks forth at dawn. Jesus called the earth during this time period birth pains, pains versing what? Getting us out of the even into the morning when the glorious kingdom of God breaks forth on the earth. That’s what the Book of Revelation is about; it’s about a Lordian day. The subsequent chapters give us great, great detail about this coming day of the Lord.
You look also at verse 10; what else does it say here? “A loud voice like the sound of a trumpet,” [Revelation 1:10] Now what is the word “like” here? It’s the Greek word hos, which means as or homios which mean like. What kind of figure of speech is this? It’s a simile. You’re comparing two things with the words “like” or “as.” This is going to happen over and over and over again in the Book of Revelation.
In fact, you’re going to see examples where John is sort of struggling how to describe it. I mean, how do you describe the things that are going to come upon the earth in the 21st century or beyond. How would you have the vocabulary to describe it. He just says well, it’s like such and such; it’s as such and such. And I think for the very first time he begins to use a simile as he’s using something from his own vocabulary and background. You know, the Lord didn’t really give him a lot of time to sit there and cooly, calmly reflect on what he was saying. The command, as I’ll show you in a minute, is to write. He saw and he was to write. How do you write about things that you don’t have a vocabulary to grasp? You just use analogies from your own time period.
I mean, how would Benjamin Franklin, one of the greatest minds that’s ever lived, describe going to an airport and seeing a giant airliner take off or come down the runway. How would he describe it? He couldn’t say it’s a 747 or whatever. He would say it’s “like”, maybe he would say like something he knew from his own time period, a giant bird. Or Benjamin Franklin flew kites, it was like a kite. Maybe that’s what he would say. John is under that same pressure here as he’s been given a divine command.
And why is God revealing all of this stuff? The purpose is to communicate to the seven churches. Look at verse 11. He says, “saying, “Write in a book what you” what? “see, and send it to the seven churches:” well who are those? “to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” You’re going to see something in the Spirit through inspiration and I want you to write it down and I’m not going to give you a lot of time to think about it, so John is going to keep saying it was “like” this, it was “like” that. He says that in Revelation 8:8. [Revelation 8:8, “The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood,”] I mean, what is that in Revelation 8:8. How would you describe something coming out of the sky and hitting the ocean and contaminating the ocean? You say well, that’s easy, that’s a nuclear bomb. I don’t know if that’s what it is, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. John can’t say nuclear bomb or atomic bomb. How would he know what that is?
So what does John say, “The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood.” So he’s told to write these things down in a book and this is why John is using so many similies, hōs and homios, like or as, used so frequently in the Book of Revelation. Why didn’t John do this in the Gospel of John? Different circumstances. He’s reflecting on the life of Christ; the Spirit is bringing things to his remembrance. He’s got time to sort of codify, to reflect, to figure out his literary style. That’s not what you have happening here.
And so he’s to see these things and write these things. And by the way, those are commands. In the Greek, verse 11, we call this the imperative mood. It’s not why don’t you try this, John, and see how it works. Or why don’t you turn in your first draft and I’ll go over it with you and make some spelling corrections. It’s a divine command, you’re going to see and I want you to write. And where are you going to send it to? You need to send that off to city hall because we need to make America great again. I say that sort of tongue in cheek, I’m not against trying to make American great again. But let me tell you something about God; God is a lot more interested in things happening in the church house than He is the White House. Instead of MAGA, Make America Great Again, why don’t we get some red caps that say MCGA, Make Christian Great Again? Make the Church Great Again. Because America is falling apart. Do you know why? Because the church fell apart a long time ago in this country. The church has been given over to all sorts of perverse and bizarre and aberrant non-biblical ideas. Jesus is not concerned about what’s going on in city hall in Ephesus.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to be involved in those kinds of issues. I’m involved in them a lot myself. There’s a place for that. But I think sometimes we get our priorities out of order really quick. Whether America becomes great again or not is really not the priority of the Christian; go vote and do all that stuff, I’ll do that with you. But the reality is what about the church? What about God’s unique temple? Instead of worrying about all of the compromise taking place in the world of politics, as if that’s a shock… do you all know there’s compromise in the world of politics, and on the media? What about the compromise in our own lives? What about the compromise within the four walls of our churches? Well, Andy, you’ve got to be careful here, don’t you realize that the IRS is monitoring sermons? Well, I’d say praise God, maybe some of those folks will get saved. Monitor away as far as I’m concerned, assuming it’s a good sermon.
But you see, what is on the mind of Jesus is oftentimes so different than the way we think. But you’re going to see, and I want you to write it down and I want you to send it to these churches. And you say, “Well, Andy, what is the spiritual meaning of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea? What do those words really mean?” Here’s the answer: they mean Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. That’s what they mean. These are actual churches functioning in the first-century world. You say well, what about other churches that we read about in the New Testament. I mean, why isn’t the church of Rome mentioned here? What about Colossae and Philippi and all of these other churches. I believe this, that these seven churches were strategically picked by the Lord. Of all the churches He could have picked He wants these seven addressed. Why? Because these seven churches contain within them problems. Did you all know that there are problems within churches? As long as you have people you’re going to have problems, and if you have a church without any problems, that means you have a church without people. And that means you’ve got another problem… an empty building. Every church is going to have problems; every Christian is going to have problems. The Lord, 2,000 years ago says I’m going to pick seven churches that represent all kinds of different problems that will show up over and over again and I want to give you my prescription for dealing with these things.
So those are the circumstances of the vision. Now notice as we move into verses 12-16 the content of the vision. What was this vision? Write down “the things that you have seen.” What was the whole thing about? It was about Jesus, that’s what it was about. John here, in these verses, verses 12-16, gets a glimpse of Jesus that he has never seen before because John, as a very young man who was with Christ in His earthly ministry, sixty years earlier, whose head leaned against Christ’s chest in the Upper Room, remembered Jesus as the meek and mild Lamb of God. And here John is given another glimpse of Jesus as the coming Judge and King; not the Savior but the Lord. Not the lamb but the lion. And that is equally part of God’s character, just as much as was His humiliation in His incarnation.
So what does John see? He sees, number 1, Christ’s appearance among the churches, verses 12-13. He sees His clothing, the rest of verse 13. And he sees His body; different body parts are emphasized, verses 14-16. Notice the first part of this, Jesus amongst the seven churches. Look, if you will, at verse 12, “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands.” You say, “Well, what are the seven golden lampstands?” What you’ll discover with the book of Revelation is the book of Revelation will interpret itself. In fact, 26 times in the same chapter the symbol will be interpreted for you so you don’t have to rely upon your sanctified imagination as to what the symbol means. We have too many people that are way too imaginative with the book of Revelation. It’s not that difficult to figure out when you just follow how the symbol itself is interpreted.
There’s no guesswork involved here because when you go down to the end of the chapter, verse 20 Jesus says, “the seven lampstands are the seven churches. [Verse 20, “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”] What churches? The churches we just read about in Asia Minor.
Now, is it not interesting that these churches are in Asia in chapter 1? But you get to chapter 4, the heavenly scene and what happened to these seven lampstands and presumably the lamps within the lampstands? Chapter 4, verse 5 says, “Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before” where? “the throne” of God. Where is the throne of God? It’s up there. How did they get from Asia to heaven? I think we have an explanation for that beloved. It’s called the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture of the church. The church is always portrayed in heaven before the events of the tribulation period are even described. You’ll notice also verse 13, the first part of the verse, it says, “and in the midst” it literally means middle in the Greek, “in the midst of the lampstands I saw one looking like a son of man.”
And you say well, who’s “the son of man.” We’ve just finished Daniel, haven’t we? Daniel 7:13 calls Messiah “the son of man.” In fact, when Jesus claimed the title “the son of man” and claimed to be the fulfillment of Daniel 7, the high priest, the Jewish high priest tore his clothes, Mark 14:63, and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?”  ‘You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.” Why? Because Jesus took a divine title that they all understood and applied it to Himself and in their minds that was a violation of Leviticus 24:16 which says a blasphemer shall be stoned to death. [Leviticus 24:16, “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death..”]
The only problem is, Leviticus 24:16 doesn’t apply to Jesus because He really is the Messiah and the Son of Man. There’s no doubt who this Son of Man is; it’s none other than Jesus Christ. And where exactly is Jesus Christ? Verse 13, He is exactly where you would expect Him to be, fighting bad first amendment decisions in the court system… NO! Battling pornography on the airwaves… NO! He’s in the middle of the lampstands, “I saw one like the Son of man.” The lampstands, as we saw earlier, represents the seven churches of Asia Minor. Why wouldn’t Jesus be amongst the churches? After all, He is the builder of the church, Matthew 16:18. He is the chief cornerstone of the church, Ephesians 2:20. He is the groom of the church, Ephesians 5:22-25. He is the head of the church, Colossians 1:18. And He is the One who has purchased the church with His own blood, Acts 20:28.
[Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Ephesians 2:20, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.” ‘Ephesians 5:22-25, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.  But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” Colossians 1:18, “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”]
Of course, He’s amongst the lampstands. Of course, He’s is amongst the churches. Of course, He is cognizant and aware of what’s happening within His church.
The description goes on and we get a description here of His clothing. You see that in verse 13. Apparently, clothing and the way priests are arrayed is a big deal to God. We studied Exodus 28, we studied in detail the colors, the tapestry, the length of the garments of the high priest. Why wouldn’t there be a reference to Christ’s clothing? He is functioning currently as high priest, not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek. The whole book of Hebrews is about that. Of course, he would be wearing priestly clothing.
If you look at verse 13 there’s a brief reference to His robe. It says, “and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet,” just like Aaron, who had the bells on the hem of his garment. And there’s also a reference here, verse 13, to his golden sash across his chest, verse 13, “clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.” [Revelation 1:13] The high priest, Jesus Christ, not yet the reigning King, functioning as a high priest.
I hope you understand, I hope we understand that Jesus, although He’s not yet on David’s throne reigning over the earth is very active at the right hand of the Father. That’s called the present session of Christ, an area of theology, Christology, which is sorely neglected today. It’s an area of the doctrine of Christ which explains, not what He did in the past, we know a lot about that. Not what He will do in the future, we know a lot about that, but what is He doing now? If He’s not King now, if He’s not reigning as King, if He’s just sitting up there and sort of bored and twiddling His thumbs… on the contrary, there are numerous things He’s doing, cleansing daily sins to restore fellowship is one. Building the church, giving the church spiritual gifts, all of these things that He’s doing at this unique time in history as He’s functioning as high priest.
We move into verses 14-16 and we start to get a description of His body. Notice verse 14, “His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.” You’ll notice His hair, His Head is white, it says here “like snow.” It’s a simile, like wool; isn’t that what His ministry to us is all about? Isn’t He the One who said, Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘”Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.’” And you say well, I’m holding out for a better deal. You’re not going to get a better deal than this. In a nanosecond, by way of faith, you’re made just as righteous as Jesus Christ Himself. As He is white like snow, like wool, that’s what happens to the sin-soaked, sin-stained life at the point of faith alone in Christ alone.
You’ll notice also in verse 4 His eyes are mentioned, “and His eyes were like a flame of fire.” Fire is used to describe judgment, introspection. 1 Corinthians 3:13 says, “each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” He sees in people, to people, through people. It sort of reminds me of when Jesus found Nathanial under the fig tree, John 1:47, Jesus immediately looked into his heart. He said, [“Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him,] ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”’ How could He do that? Because He’s God. His eyes, like fire.
You’ll notice in verse 15 there’s a reference to His feet, “His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.” What do you do with feet burnished in bronze? You stamp out judgment with those feet. This is why the judgments in the Book of Revelation are described as the winepress that was trodden down. Having traveled to Israel myself we actually had the chance to walk in a real live winepress. And you step on those pieces of fruit grapes and the wine is made that way. And you say that’s what the Lord is talking about; that’s why His judgment is analogized to this wine press being “trodden down.” And that’s why there’s a reference here in verse 15 to His feet.
And what a voice, “His voice was like the sound of many waters,” I don’t know what to make of that. We have another simile here, perhaps it was like the roaring of an ocean, ocean waves. But that’s what it sounded like to John.
And I want you to notice something in verse 16, what is in His right hand. “In His right hand He held seven stars.” [Revelation 1:16, “In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.”] And you say “seven stars,” what does that mean? I think I’ll go in with my sanctified imagination and interpret the seven stars; don’t you dare, to back to verse 20. “The seven stars are” the what? “angels of the seven churches. “In His right hand” are the seven angels of the seven churches. There is sort of a debate as to who these seven angels are. I mean, does every church have an angel? Does Sugar Land Bible Church have an angel… that would be kind of neat, but I don’t think that’s what it’s talking about because as you look at the method of communication you’ll see it descending from greater to lesser. The message starts with the Father and then is passed over to the Son. The Son is still God but He is submissive to the Father in terms of role.
Then it goes to an angel, and that would be a real angel; then to John, then to a book, and then it goes back to an angel, you’re no longer descending but what? Ascending, because man is created a little under the what? The angels. So I don’t think the second angel there is an actual angel; I think it’s an angelos or a messenger. You say well, does the Bible support that? You bet, you do a word study on angelos you’ll see angelos, angel, is used to describe John the Baptist, Matthew 11:10. [Matthew 11:10, “This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’”] The messengers that Christ sent out to preach the kingdom to a Samaritan village, Luke 9:52, and messengers who were received by Rahab, the harlot, in the land of Canaan, James 2:25. [Luke 9:52, “and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him.” James 2:25, “In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?”]
So then who is this second angelos? I think it’s the pastors. Pastors or the preachers over the seven churches of the seven congregations in Asia Minor, and I want you to notice something very specific here—the pastors or the preachers are in, not His left hand, His right hand. You say how do you know that. Because it’s on the internet? NO, it’s in the text. It says there in verse 16 these pastors are in His right hand. Now study the doctrine or the concept or right hand in the Bible. The right hand is always the place of honor. After all, when Jesus ascended He’s at the what hand of the Father? The right hand! In the sheep and the goat judgment, the sheep are on the right, the goats are on the left. When Jesus says, “I say to you do not resist the person but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” [Matthew 5:39, “but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”]
And people want to apply that to self-defense. It’s talking about an inner personal insult, someone dishonored you with the metaphor on the right. The fact that these pastors or preachers or messengers are in Christ’s right hand shows you what Jesus thinks about pastors that are called by God. They’re not to be manipulated; they’re not to be resisted by the sheep. They are the people in the place of honor. 1 Timothy 5:17 says, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” You say well, you’re up here making stuff up. No, I’m not. It’s right there in the Bible. And the reason I surface this and bring this up, I don’t have any issues here at this church but I hear the horror stories of my fell pastors elsewhere. It is astounding how badly the church will mistreat its own pastor. They won’t give him the room to actually be a shepherd; he’s almost like a hired hand who’s supposed to start speaking at this point and stop speaking at this point and don’t say this and emphasize this. And the guy’s whole life is choreographed; it’s almost like he’s a puppet on a string. That’s not a shepherd; that’s a hireling.
A shepherd is someone… and I’m not promoting here authoritarian leadership styles at all. What I’m saying is a shepherd called by God is to receive basic honor from the flock that he is ministering to. That is the divine blueprint. One man put it this way—your typical pastor today is treated like a piñata, it’s someone you beat with a stick until he throws candy your direction. And just looking at the statistics, the number of pastors (I wish I had the number in my head) that will resign tomorrow because pastors, after a disastrous Sunday will typically resign on a Monday. The vacancies as a President of a seminary trying to fill these positions and pulpits, I see all the e-mails … if I were to tell you the stuff I know you would probably never want to go to church again. Churches beat down their own pastors.
Now I understand that the opposite is true, you can get authoritarian pastors who beat down their flocks and that’s equally wrong as well. But the pastor is a position, not for someone to throw verbal darts at, he’s to be respected, honored. If you don’t like the way a pastor is functioning you’ve got about 4,000 options in the Houston area to choose from. And people attack and are derogatory towards pastors for just the mildest of reasons today because we’re living in a culture that really doesn’t accept authority, they don’t accept the blueprint of God, they don’t accept authority in the workplace, they don’t accept authority in the home. So why would they ever accept it in the church! And yet Jesus is holding these angelos, these shepherds in His right hand.
Very quickly, concluding with verse 16, it says there, “and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword;” just jot down Revelation 19:15 because that’s a big deal when Christ comes back. [Revelation 15:19, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.”] And if you’re interested in taking notes jot down Isaiah 11:4 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8 where Jesus just speaks: He just gives a word and the whole regime of the antichrist comes to a screeching halt in violent destruction. The Word of God is a sharp double-edged sword. [Isaiah 11:4, “But with righteousness, He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.” 2 Thessalonians 2:8, “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;”]
And then finally, verse 16, notice His face, “And out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword and His face was like” notice the simile, “like the sun shining in its strength.” I mean, it was like looking at the sun, John says, and it was so bright it was hard for me to absorb. 1 Timothy 6:16 says God, “alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, [whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.]” 1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” You say is that physical light or spiritual light, and the answer is yes. And people say well, you know, how could God say “Let there be light” in Genesis 1:1 when the sun, s-u-n, wasn’t created until day four? Answer that for me Mr. Theologian. And I think to myself, is that the mystery they often come up with?
God Himself is light; He is showing at the beginning of human history you don’t have to depend on that light bulb or that light bulb or the radiance of the sun, He is light Himself which He can generate at will, even compassing it in a secondary source, like the sun, s-u-n. Why is that a big deal? Because in history people would worship the sun, not the s-o-n, the s-u-n sun and how foolish is that since God Himself is the Creator of the sun, s-u-n, as His face itself His head radiates light. Not exactly the type of description we read about in the Gospel of John, is it? And yet this fills out our understanding of who Christ is.
And what’s John going to do in verses 17-20? He’s not going to wrap his arm around Jesus and say God’s rad, He’s my dad. He’s going to fall down as if He were dead, is what’s going to happen. He’s going to scare [can’t understand word]. This is no garden-variety pagan we’re dealing with here; this is John the apostle. Even John the apostle would drop as though he were dead in the presence of this vision. And yet Jesus is going to, as we’re going to see, comfort him.
You know, on Father’s Day wouldn’t it be great to enter a relationship with God where God is no longer your judge but your Father? See, if you’re outside of Christ the only relationship you have with God is He’s your judge. And yet trusting in what He has done for us through the gospel, through his provision, changes our whole status. No longer is He our judge but He is our Father. In fact, according to Romans 8:15 we can actually call out to him, Abba, Father, changing our relationship to God, to Jesus away from judge, to God the Father, to the role of Father is possible only through trusting in what Jesus has done, which is His death, burial, resurrection, that happened 2,000 years ago. [Romans 15:18, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”]
You can only receive that as a gift because the work has already been accomplished. If a person will not receive that as a gift their status before God is judge, and what a judgment it’s going to be. But how different it is for the child of God who trusts in what Christ has done through His provision for our sins and we are called His children who call Him, “Abba, Father.” Wouldn’t it be great on Father’s Day to change your status? That’s something you can do as the Holy Spirit places you under conviction. The Spirit of God has come into the world to convict us of our need to trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation. It’s not something we raise a hand to do, join a church to do, walk an aisle to do, fill out a decision card, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you hear the gospel, you trust in its provision; in the quietness of your own mind and heart then your whole status before the Holy One changes; you’re no longer judged but now your Father, it’s something you can do right now as I’m talking. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.
Father, we’re grateful for this vision that we see of Your coming Son becoming King and how little teaching we get on this today, even in the 21st century. I ask, Father, that You would fill out our knowledge of who it is exactly we’re dealing with in Jesus Christ and I ask that we would walk out these things by way of faith this week. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen.