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...Of Jesus Christ

September 20, 2020 Preacher: Steve Heron Series: The Seven Churches of Revelation

Passage: Revelation 1:9–1:20

Message

Good morning.

Summer, where is your victory? Summer, where is your sting?

Okay, grab your Bibles take a look here at the Book of Revelation. The very last book in your Bible. Last week, we looked at two particular things. As John began teaching us, and really sharing with us the Revelation of Jesus Christ. And in that phrase, you have really the purpose, the source, and the object, of this entire book.

This entire book is about Jesus Christ–who he is and all of what he will come to do to judge Satan, and sin, to throw death and Hades into the Lake of Fire, and complete the new creation. So it's an important book in your Bible for you to get a full picture of who Jesus is and what he's about. And we said two things last week as John introduced us to this letter. 

We said that John began with a promise. That all those who hear and read and obey this book will be blessed. 

And then we looked at John taking a moment to Praise Jesus and who he is, that to him be glory, for the to the one who loved us, and freed us from our sins by his blood. 

Well, I know you're eager to jump into the seven churches, but we're not quite there yet. There's one more important introduction here that we've got to handle between Jesus and the Apostle John, and that's going to be in Revelation 1:9-20, so that's where we're going to be this morning. 

Let me tell you how this text breaks down. It's kind of really easy. If you want to take notes and you want an outline, it starts with John in the middle, then Jesus, and ends with John. Okay, three "J's" two of them are John. It's hard to screw that up if you're taking notes. Alright, you can do it. I have faith in you. 

But this text is an interesting one. The more I meditated on it, the more I thought about it this week, I think there's something here really important for us to get before we get into all of the commendations, rebukes, and challenges that Jesus will give to the church. This text is going to handle perhaps the two most important seasons for the Christian.

In fact, these two seasons are the ones that probably cause you the most consternation, the most prayer, the most meditation. They cause you to reach out for help. They cause you to search the scriptures. They cause you to seek out other Christians who have been through these two seasons. And these seasons, I think, are probably the most instrumental in your own personal spiritual growth in the way that you walk with Jesus in the context of community with other people and as you seek to put into practice the things that you know about who Jesus is.

 So here are the two seasons, are you ready? These are the two that we're going to look at here this morning. We're going to talk about why these seasons are really two that are so important for us and so important for your spiritual growth. 

The first one is when you suffer or when you struggle. Any of us, probably a vast majority of us, have walked in the back doors of the church here this morning having struggles in our life. Have you found that walking with Jesus doesn't eliminate all of your struggles? That you still have seasons of difficulty? Where as you walk through life, there are valleys of the shadow of death. Where there are times where you don't know what is going on, but you know that your journey has now hit some rocks. You're in a ditch, and there are some difficulties, and there are some hardships that you have faced as a result of walking with Jesus. And might not be a particular sin issue that has brought you to that place. But living life in a sinful and broken world, journeying through decades of marriage, your parenting or vocational struggles… you hit bumps in the road.

And those seasons are common to all of us. We all have times where we struggle, where we suffer, where we face difficulty in this life, and John is going to be no different. He's going to talk about what does it mean for me to suffer well? What hope and comfort do I have in the context of suffering? Has God forgotten me? Is this suffering too much for God? Is this a point in my life of difficulty where I'm on my own, and I don't know what God thinks, or God says, or I don't know what he would say to me in this moment? Or, what encouragement could I even find when I open the scriptures?

So that's your first one. Your first one is seasons of struggle, difficulty, and hardship. 

But your other one is seasons of obedience. Where you come to places in your life where you know the scriptures inform the way you ought to use your mouth or your money or your emotions or the way that you ought to obey in a certain area of life, but you're not sure you're up to the task.

You're not sure you're sufficient for the season. You've got, maybe, a walking with God by faith right now, and you can't see around this boulder that is in front of your faith to know, will God be faithful? Will God come through? I know I'm supposed to trust him in the season. I know I'm supposed to walk forward him in faith, but I don't know what God's going to do with this. I don't know if I'm sufficient. I don't know if, in this struggle or this trial or this opportunity for obedience, God's going to be there.

Now, aren't those common to us? Aren't those seasons of difficulty and hardship and ways where we know we ought to obey? I could go around this room and talk about seasons of struggle that we have had. I could go around this room and talk about stories of people who had to trust Christ when things didn't make sense, and trust his word, and walk forward in faith when it seemed like the only light they had was the truth of God's word. 

Well, John's going to handle both of those today in this text this morning, in these little bitty 11 verses. All right, so that's where we're going to be. We're going to look at seasons of suffering, and look at our seasons of obedience. We're going to trust that God would make plain and clear to us how to walk through those things. Let's pray.

Father in heaven, for your word and for your Spirit, we ask this morning. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our redeemer. Would we come to your word here this morning with great expectancy, trusting that you can speak to us, trusting that you are good, and you are kind, you do not leave us alone. As Jesus said in his high priestly prayer, you do not leave us as orphans, you come to us. So, as we gather this morning around your word around the truth from a God who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the maker of heaven and earth, the seas and the dry land, would we tremble at your word? Would you teach us what you would have us learn here this morning? May we get a greater understanding into the glory and the person and the work of Jesus Christ in whose name we pray. Amen. 

Alright, Revelation 1:9-20. And let's see how John begins. As I said, it's going to be John, Jesus, John. And I'll give you that, I'll explain that, really toward the end of the message here this morning. Here's where John begins. John's already given you a greeting about who he is, and he's talking about the glory and the praise of God. Now, John is going to invite you into where John is, and to John's own personal situation. The things that John is dealing with personally. And he's going to tell the story of this Revelation–that this Revelation is not accidental.

It's a purposeful Revelation to a real individual in a real place on earth as we'll see here in a minute. Revelation 1:9:

"I, John" 

And watch how John begins here. This is an epistle. That doesn't prove John's apostleship, per se. It is a revelation given to John for the sake of the churches and for the sake of Christians throughout all time. But John says something. John never refers to himself as an apostle in any of his letters. He never claims authority for his writing, and it's clear here. He just calls himself the Elder in second and third John. And all throughout his first gospel, he calls himself "the one whom Jesus loves." So John is a really tender writer, generally speaking. He doesn't begin with his authority or his credentials, even. He begins with equality with those that he writes to. See how he begins:

"I, John, your brother and your partner" 

What's that tell you? It tells you that all of what John is about to say, essentially John is saying this: I'm in it with you.

I'm not claiming some element of apostolic authority and looking down at the church and saying, "the church ought to obey." John, as one of the last living apostles, is now standing shoulder to shoulder with you and I. He is speaking to the churches and saying to the churches, "I'm your brother." It's you and I together in this thing, and I'm your partner now he's going to say three different things about which I think we would all raise our hands and say yeah, that's me. He's going to give you three different things that are common to the experience of the Christian, of somebody who is walking with God in the context of life in a sinful world. I'm your brother, and I'm your partner. What's your first one? You see the three?

"your brother and your partner in the tribulation." 

That's not a capital "T" tribulation, but that's just trouble you ever been through life, when you faced trials of various kinds. Remember what James says, "count it all joy my brothers when you encounter trials of various kinds."

Those of us who live this life, when you came to Jesus Christ, and you experience the forgiveness of your sin and being made right with God, all of a sudden, I didn't lose that extra 15 pounds, I didn't get a 25 thousand dollar raise, and I didn't get a brand new car. I had the same problems in a lot of ways, didn't I?

But now my sins are forgiven, I'm now able to look at the struggles in the difficulties and the tribulations of my life in a different way. But it doesn't mean all of my struggles and tribulations have just magically gone away, does it? We still have seasons of difficulty. John says, "I know, I do too." I'll prove it to you here in a minute. But your first one is a partner in tribulation. Your next one, you see what it is, is I'm 

"partnering your tribulation and in the Kingdom"

 We said last week that he has made us a kingdom of priests. That we have a status and a service. John says the same thing–that I have a similar status with you. Not only am I a brother with you in the kingdom, but we have a royal status when it comes to being under God's Authority, God's Rule, and God's word. That he has made us what the Bible calls the "firstfruits of all of his creatures." That we have become now a part of what God is doing in the earth. And John says, "I'm there with you too. I'm a part of the story of this arc of the Alpha and Omega, who's working throughout history, too. Bring us all together to the end."

So I'm a brother and partner in tribulation. I'm a brother and partner in the kingdom. And what do you think you and I need as we face the conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world? You need what John says right here. Tribulation, kingdom, which means they have a new status. 

How am I going to live this life?

I'm going to live this life with endurance. That's what James goes on to say:

"count it all joy, my brothers, when you experience trials of various kinds, for you know, the testing of your faith produces" this word, "endurance. And let endurance have it's complete effect so that you may be mature, lacking in nothing." 

You know, when you come to the New Testament and the New Testament talking about suffering, really this is a biblical theme across the scriptures. That suffering is never accidental. Rather, when Paul writes to churches that suffer, he always lays claim to the fact that suffering has a purpose and a goal. That suffering is never, never wasted in God's economy. In fact, this became the mark of the New Testament Church. That they understood, you see, how John and his phrase, 

"I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the endurance that are in Jesus" 

That this is a part of what life looks like with Jesus. Isn't that depressing?

John, I want something a little more encouraging. What do you mean there's tribulation, there's a fight between the kingdoms, and now I'm supposed to have endurance? You know what that word endurance is? It's a great word. It's made up of two words: "to stay" and two "under," and the two words together mean essentially to stay underneath. It's as if there's weight on your shoulders, and the goal of endurance is the demonstration of your faith when things are hard. And the weight sits on your shoulders, and endurance means staying under the weight.

Now John, have you ever had somebody, when you're going through tribulation, who says something like "I know how you feel," and you have that moment in your brain where you go, "no, you don't."

Ever have that? You ever get a little snarky on the inside? Maybe you don't do that. Maybe I just do that. "You don't know what I'm going through, you have no idea what I'm going through, John." Asking, "John. How do you know what it means to walk through endurance and tribulation and feeling the division in life between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world?" Well, look at what he says here at the end. 

"I was on the island called Patmos." 

Let me show you where Patmos is. We've got a slide for you here. I'll show you. Right there. It's in the Aegean Sea between Greece and what is now modern-day Turkey. Patmos is thought to have been a Roman colony during that time. The Roman religion believed that the emperor was ultimate, so the Roman religious system of the day said that everybody should bow the knee to the emperor. And John is now on the island of Patmos. Patmos is not... it looks like it'd be a great place to visit, you know, Mediterranean island kind of thing, but it wasn't that in that day. 

It's now, modern-day, still a small island. There are not more than 3,000 people who live there. But it's probably thought that John was exiled as a result of preaching the Christian faith. In the Roman religious world, Christianity would have been viewed as a sect as a cult. And here's John, in his 80s, preaching the message of Jesus Christ. John now loses his friends, his church community, any property he has, and now gets exiled to an island to live out the remainder of his days because of Roman persecution of the Christian faith. Well, John, how do you know what it means to suffer?

John has now been exiled to do hard labor in his 80s. Anyone want to sign up for that? Only as a result–see what he says–he doesn't say he traveled there and got lost.

I was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 

What's that tell you? It tells you that John's faith and John's faithfulness cost him something culturally. It cost him something economically. It cost him something to be faithful to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Now, the or the culture was not favorable toward John preaching that message. Now John has been exiled and sent to a place where he's about to receive the greatest Revelation, the greatest visual experience of Jesus Christ, anywhere in the scriptures.

And John says I'm your brother and I'm your partner. I know what it's like to hold the line on the truth of God.

All right. That's how he begins. He's not on a yacht. He's in a hard labor/ exile kind of place, and he's there because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Now, here's the time look what it says verse 10 

"and I was in the Spirit" 

That "in the spirit" is kind of a key phrase. Peter receives a vision of the spirit in Acts 10; Paul receives a vision of the spirit probably when he's stoned and raised back to life. The "in the spirit" phrase is used in the book of Ezekiel in the dry bones vision that God gives to Ezekiel. 

So probably, this begins the Spirit's work in the Spirit's Revelation of showing who Jesus is. And John says he's in the spirit on the Lord's day. Which means this is John's Sunday. This was typically used throughout the first century to describe the day the Lord rose from the dead. So here's John at church on a Sunday, and he's in the Spirit about to receive this Revelation. He's in the spirit on the Lord's day. 

"And I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet." 

I went to Dallas Theological Seminary. Back in the day, at Dallas Seminary, there was a chaplain. A guy named Chaplain Bill and Chaplain Bill was well known as a loud, boisterous, fun-loving worship leader. He would always lead our chapels, and my wife went to my graduation, and she had never heard of Chaplain Bill before. What she didn't know when she went to that graduation is that Chaplain Bill, from time to time, as he led the hymns, liked to break out his trumpet. And as he was singing and leading with all of these students who were getting ready to graduate,

my wife was stunned at the fact that this man started blowing a trumpet into the microphone. And it shocked her visibly to understand what was going on. If you have an uncle who likes to play jokes on the cousins in my family and he liked to wake us up from time to time when all the family was together. At about 6 a.m. With revelry on a trumpet. And if you've ever been woken up by a trumpet, maybe you haven't been, imagine what it's like to be woken up by a trumpet, or to be surprised by somebody with a trumpet. 

You probably get the sense of what John is experiencing right here.

Can you imagine somebody just honking a trumpet? I assume that's what it means to play a trumpet. I call it honking. Imagine somebody honking a trumpet behind you. And that commands attention. The trumpet throughout the scriptures is used to indicate the day of the Lord. A lot of times, virtually all over the New Testament, any time a trumpet is mentioned, it's mentioned about the eschatological–the end times events related to Jesus returning. So here's John in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and he hears a voice like a trumpet. Verse 11 

"Saying this: write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches to Ephesus and Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea."

So I'll show you where all those churches are. All those churches are in modern-day Turkey. Go back to the slide, and I'll show you where they all are–those blue dots. They're all kind of in a somewhat of a circle/ semicircle there. They're all in modern-day turkey, and they're particular churches, and they have a particular purpose in John's Revelation. And we'll get into all that as we keep going.

So, the Revelation of Jesus to John, watch, this is first verbal before it's visual, and I won't make a big deal about this, but you and I understand that, don't we?

There are certain things about Jesus Christ that you believe that are verbal. That are in the inspired word of God. That you have not seen yet. Is that true?

There are certain things that you lay hold of that give you great joy and great peace, but you haven't seen him yet. That's what Peter writes, "Though you do not see him, you love him, and rejoice with a joy inexpressible."

And for John, it begins verbal, and then he turns, let's watch what he sees in verse 12 

"Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning, I saw seven golden lampstands." 

Now, the lampstands will be interpreted at the end of this passage, but I'll just give them to you early because I know you're eager to know what they are. They're all the churches. And these churches in John's vision are golden, which means the very precious. And they are lampstands, which, for lack of a better explanation, they give light.

This is how the church is viewed by Jesus Christ in heaven. This is how John sees the church on earth–as giving light to the world.

Now what John is about to do is capture the person of Jesus Christ for you.

And this picture of Jesus Christ is not so much descriptive as it is thematic, because every one of the attributes of Jesus that you get in Revelation chapter 1 will be applied to the churches in different ways in Revelation 2 and 3. So I don't want you to look at this and try to draw a picture. That's not really the point. The point is that you get the essence of what Jesus is trying to demonstrate and communicate as he gives this vision to John. Alright, let's watch who Jesus is. Look at verse 13 

"In the midst of the lampstands, one like a son of man" 

"In the midst of" is literally "in the middle of" so you can imagine that Jesus Christ is standing, and surrounding Jesus Christ are these seven churches, these seven lampstands.

That phrase is one of the more encouraging phrases, I think, in this entire passage. What if the passage said, "and on turning, John saw seven lampstands, and Jesus way over there, shouting at the churches."

That's not what John has. John has Jesus, who is attentive, and involved, and in the middle of the churches. It's as if Jesus is pictured in the middle as tending all of these churches at the same time. That his attention and focus is upon the care and well-being of each of these churches. And that's going to be borne out in all of the letters that John gives to you.

It is the greatest hope of myself, of our pastors, of our staff, of you as members of this church, that Jesus loves us. Jesus knows what we're dealing with. Jesus walks, in a sense, among the lampstands of the churches attending and caring and invested and attentive to the needs, the struggles, the good days, and the bad days. Isn't that encouraging to you to know that Jesus cares about this church? Jesus cares about all churches. That Jesus is invested and attentive to what is happening in the life of the church.

And John says that he's in the midst of the lampstands: 

"One like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest." 

This is a rare word. It's only used one time in the New Testament. But outside of the Bible, it's often used to refer to the high priest. That it's a robe that covers him from ankles to shoulders, the whole way down. He has a sash that covers his chest. It may be a picture of Jesus's priestly ministry as he cares for and intercedes for the churches. It may be a picture of his royalty and his dignity. Both may be implied here. The remainder of this vision, really, I think, pertains to his glory and his dignity and his royalty more than his priesthood, though. So that's kind of the way of showing that Jesus is regal and royal as he stands among his churches, being the head of his church. That he is in authority and control as the one to whom all the churches look to worship.

"He's the head of the body," is what Paul says in Ephesians.

So, he's close, with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. Look at verse 14 

"The hairs of his head were white" 

You may have in verse 14 a cross-reference to Daniel chapter 7. Daniel 7 gives really one of the only visual pictures of God the Father. It characterizes God the Father with similar features. That the hairs of his head are white. White is connected to Jesus's purity, that when Jesus was transfigured in the book of Mark, it said his clothes were white, whiter than any launderer could bleach them.

So, he's blazing white purity. The hairs of his head being white have to do with his distinguished wisdom in terms of who he is. He has total wisdom and experience and is completely available to give that to the churches.

"The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow."

Now, if I were grading John's paper here, I take off for redundancy. You have any English teachers? Here you go. I get it. It's white. Like wool, yes. Like snow, okay, we understand. It's white! It's extra white. Not eggshell. It's brilliant white, super white, extra white, like snow. Like, well, like white. Okay, John. I get it.

"His eyes were like a flame of fire."

His eyes "like a flame of fire" is a great phrase. It has to do with Jesus's discernment.

Later on, when that phrase is used in the letter to the church at Thyatira, it said that everyone will know. The letter begins with Jesus, who has eyes of a flame of fire. And then, later on, the application is that everyone would know that Jesus is the one who searches mind and heart.

That Jesus knows every thought, every word, every tone of voice, every inflection, every intention. Every impulse with total and complete discernment.

That's scary. That's a little scary.

Complete, exhaustive, discernment. Verse 15:

"His feet were like burnished bronze."

Feet in the Bible pertain to your way of life, to the paths that you take. And the feet here being burnished bronze means they're gleaming and they're strong. That this individual has a way of life that is totally reliable, and steadfast, and dependable. And probably a sense of having complete and utter authority to judge.

Paul tells the Romans that God will soon crush Satan underneath your feet. The feet are the picture of power and sovereignty in the Scriptures as well. And Jesus has complete reliability, dependability, authority, and sovereignty related to his walk–to his way of life.

"His feet like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters." 

You know, in this text, Jesus's mouth or voice will be referred to three times. The first one is the voice like what we just said it was. It's like a trumpet. The second one is here, like the voice of many waters.

So the first one is a cry of command, of attention. The next one has to do with complete power and authority. And the third one you'll see here in just a minute. But think about just for a moment how Jesus, when he walked on earth, how Jesus's word was used. Remember what the centurions come back to the Pharisees and say? We never heard anyone speak like this man speaks. He speaks not as the scribes. He speaks as someone with authority. 

What did Jesus do with his word?

He calmed the storm, "peace, be still." He cleansed the demoniac who had a legion of angels come out of him and go into the pigs. He raised Lazarus, "Lazarus come forth." He healed a centurion's servant with a word from a distance. He raised a little girl from the dead, "little one, get up." And she's up.

That Jesus's word, when he is on earth, has total and complete authority to accomplish anything and everything God wants to accomplish.

How could it be any less when you get to the full Revelation of who Jesus is?

It's the way Jesus rules.

The Scriptures say that he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

God doesn't have to flex. God doesn't have to get all worked up. All God has to do is speak, and creation happens, speak, and New Creation happens.

The book of Thessalonians says that Jesus will destroy the Antichrist by the breath of his mouth and bring him to nothing.

One word and the battle will be over.

Now, look at verse 16.

"In his right hand, he held seven stars." 

And here's your third mention. I'll tell you what the stars are in a second as we get to the end of this passage.

"But from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword."

The sharp, two-edged sword has to do with Jesus's authority to judge. It's in the church of Pergamum that will show up here in a couple weeks when we see that. But it says that Jesus will come and make war against them with a sword that comes from his mouth.

That when Jesus judges, it will be with a word. So, you've got a cry of attention, the power of many waters, complete discernment, and authority and power to judge any and all sinners who opposed him. All connected to his word. 

In his right hand, he held seven stars. The right hand typically has to do with authority and power in the scriptures as well. Also, skill, wisdom, power, authority, control, dominion all rest in the hand of God. And it's as if God has his hand, or Jesus has his hand, on these Seven Stars. And we'll see who those Seven Stars are here in a minute. But finally, 

"his face like the sun, shining and full strength." 

How long does it take you to get a sunburn? Maybe 15 minutes on a bad day. If you're a redhead, maybe seven. The sun shining in full strength, what kind of a revelation of this is this to John?

This is terrifying.

This is overwhelming. This is complete sensory overload in what he sees and what he hears and what he feels. Imagine John having this experience. You know, all of the post-resurrection meetings or encounters with Jesus were all characterized by joyful disbelief. They never have this element of power and glory. Jesus eats fish and restores Peter and encourages Mary Magdalene and shows up at a prayer meeting. But he never looks like this. This had to have blown John's mind.

To see the one that he walked around with for three years, finally exposed for all of his glory.

So let's sum up. Here are the attributes that you've seen of Jesus thus far. Are you ready? Let me give them to you here real quick. He's attentive and present with his church.

Number two, he's dignified, and he's glorious. He's Regal and Royal.

Number three, he is eternally wise.

Number four, he has complete discernment and insight.

Number five, his life and person, his way of life, is completely stable, reliable, and dependable.

Next, he speaks with total and complete authority. When he opens his mouth, everything stops. Everything goes. Everything happens all according to the word of God. 

Finally, he has complete dominion, authority, power, and strength.

That's pretty good. We should close in prayer and go home, right?

That's quite a visible representation of what God wants us to know about his son Jesus Christ. How do you think John's going to react? Want to take bets? I think John goes, wow, that's interesting.

Look at verse 17: 

"When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead."

John is completely overwhelmed. When Isaiah receives his vision of God, he trembles and weeps at how unholy he is. He shouts, "woe is me!"

John falls at his feet as though dead.

See, this encounter with Jesus is terrifying. This encounter is in store for all of us.

There will come a day where you will see Jesus as he is.

And the beauty and the hope in this passage is what happens next. Take a look at what he says, 

"but he laid his right hand on me." 

What did the right hand do up to this point in the passage? It's had complete control and authority over the angels of the churches over the stars. But yet that same right hand condescends upon somebody who's completely overwhelmed by the glory of Jesus. And he says this, 

"He laid his hand on me and he said, 'fear not I am the first and the last.'" 

Now, that puts you squarely connected to what we saw last week with God the Father, that Jesus shares eternally the attributes of the Father.

"I'm the alpha and the Omega," Jesus says, 

"I am the first and the last and the living one."

That's a phrase that's particularly connected to God. As in his self-disclosure of who he is, especially in the Old Testament. That the living God characterizes God and who he is.

"I'm the first and the last and the living one. I died, and behold, I am alive forevermore. And I have the keys of death and hades." 

Now, if you read that in one breath, you get the sense of what Jesus has accomplished. That the co-eternal Son of God, equal with God, the Father has now condescended to become man, and experienced death on our behalf. He is risen, and now he is alive. He died, and behold, he lives forevermore. Romans 6 says that "death no longer has dominion over him." And not only that, "I have the keys to death and Hades." The keys have to do with power and authority to grant access or deny access.

There are only four keys in your Bible. The Four Keys are:

One set of keys is given to the church. The church is given the keys to the kingdom. 

Jesus says there's a key of knowledge that the Pharisees will not allow others to unlock. That they prevent others from accessing the kingdom, the key of knowledge.

The third key is the Key of David from the book of Isaiah. And I actually will show you what that is here in a few weeks. That applies to one of these churches–that Jesus is said to have the Key of David. 

And finally, Jesus here has the keys of death and Hades. Jesus has complete authority and control over all those who will experience death and experience the afterlife. All of that rests in the wisdom, discernment, power, and authority of Jesus Christ alone. It's not Karma. It's not the force. It's the will of Jesus Christ.

He has the only authority to unlock death and Hades and will ultimately dispose of them in the lake of fire at the end of this book.

"Behold, I am alive forevermore. And I have the keys of death and Hades." 

Now look at verse 19: 

"Write, therefore." 

Why is therefore, there?

Because what John is supposed to do is now take the truth of the things he has seen. He's been commanded to write twice. But the first time was just a command from a voice that was like a trumpet. Here, John has had an encounter with Jesus Christ, and now John is supposed to order his obedience around his encounter With Jesus Christ. You with me?

"Order what you are about to do as a result of you experiencing Jesus and who he is." That's going to be important in just a second. 

"Write, therefore, the things that you have seen, those that are, and those that are to take place after this."

Commentators think this is an easy breakdown of the Book of Revelation.

What are the things that you have seen?

All of what we've seen about who Jesus says in Revelation 1. What are the things that are? Probably the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. And number three, the "things that will be" would be everything that you see from Revelation 4 all the way to Revelation 22. Maybe also a connection to the eternity of God and of his son Jesus Christ already in this passage.

"He who was who is and who is to come."

Verse 20: 

"As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands." 

I told you this last week, and this is pretty consistent throughout the scriptures, mysteries are not like Rubik's Cubes. They're not magic tricks. They're not things you can't quite figure out. They're things that are up to this point unrevealed. And what Jesus is about to do for John is unlock the key to Revelation of his first vision.

Jesus is going to give you the cheat code to understand what this vision is about. Jesus being among the seven lampstands and holding the seven stars:

"As for the mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches." 

Now, what in the world does that mean? that is a weird way to phrase it. Commentators go probably about five different ways in the ways that they understand who the angels are. Are they true angels?

That could be the case. Virtually throughout this entire book of Revelation, Angels, the word anglos always refers to spiritual beings.

On the other hand, it seems odd that John would get a message from God the Father to Jesus Christ to an angel to John back to an angel. That seems weird.

It could be that the angels are the spirits of the churches that are represented in heaven. That there's some kind of ethos of the church. The church is generally described in this way. But the angels in Revelation 2 and 3 are told to repent, which seems really weird for angels. Nowhere else in the Bible are they told to repent. This is an important discussion for you at lunch because you're gonna have answers to which people have no questions.

I incline slightly toward these being leading teachers of the churches. When Paul writes to Timothy, he tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 to preach the word, he prefaces it with a statement. Here's the statement that he prefaces it with second Timothy 4:1. 

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word."

James chapter 3 says, "not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for we know that teachers will be judged more strictly." 

They have a higher accountability. I leaned slightly toward the fact that or toward the sense that these angels are kind of leading teachers of these churches because these teachers being under the control and dominion of Jesus Christ, are supposed to say what Jesus says. They're supposed to have their finger in the book when they speak to the church. They're supposed to have an authority and accountability that comes from being accurate in the things that they say according to the truth of God. 

Now, don't twist my arm. That's where I land today. I might change that. But it's not totally clear who these angels are. The most important thing for you to know is that these angels are the authority of Jesus Christ.

And that Jesus has control and dominion over these angels, whatever they may be. And finally, the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

All right, pretty good. Revelation 1:9-20. There's your whole text. Let me break this text down to you in about 10 seconds. It's what I just gave to you as we started this text. It's John, it's Jesus, and then it's John.

But it's two very important things about John. There are two very important seasons that are connected to John and that John is experiencing in his life. And these two seasons can only be interpreted by the middle section in this text.

Steve, what do you mean?

If you scrub the middle of this text out, what you have is John suffering for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. And then John having a commission to write to the churches truth that is meant to order their life. John is supposed to be obedient, and John is experiencing suffering and difficulty. What you lose is the ability to interpret both of those seasons wisely.

What you lose is the single greatest thing that will allow you to have comfort and suffering and to have the courage to obey.

Let me explain. When you go through seasons of suffering, you and I have this tendency. Maybe you don't, maybe I do. Maybe I have this, you don't. Maybe you're far more sanctified than I am.

But I have a temptation toward bitterness in suffering. Ever feel that? That when life gets hard, you feel like nobody's paying attention and that God has kind of left the control room? And you're somewhat on your own and going through these seasons of suffering. And you're not sure what you're trying to learn. You know, it's painful, and it's hard.

And one of the things that happens when you and I go through suffering... here's my great fear in suffering. This is the fear that is kind of unspoken that bubbles up in my heart when I faced seasons of fear and struggle. 

It's that my suffering is for nothing.

It's that life is arbitrary that no one is in control that I am going through suffering. It's really on me just to pull myself up by my own strength, my own ability to grit my teeth to be strong. But when it comes to the New Testament scriptures, when people face suffering, there's not one time in the Bible where God says, "you should be more sufficient." "You should be more competent." "You should be more able to handle this on your own." Rather, when we face situations of suffering, the invitation in suffering is always to come to Jesus and interpret our suffering in light of the person of Jesus. Always. 

So that in Jesus, suffering is never for nothing.

It always has a purpose and design. And God always promises to use it. Now in this text. If you scrub the truth of Jesus out of the middle of this passage, what encouragement are you going to give to John?

Sorry. I guess it's bad for you.

But if our suffering is meant to point us to the glory of Jesus Christ, then all of these truths about Jesus become inherently applicable to my life of suffering. Is it important to know when I suffer that Jesus Christ is attentive?

Is it important when I suffer to know that he is glorious? To know that he is powerful? to know that he's in control? To know that he's dignified? To know that he's the beginning and the end the first and the last, that there's not one molecule outside of his sovereign ability and power? And the temptation for you and I when we suffer is to think that, "well, sickness must be in control." "Well, drunk drivers, I guess, have the last word."

Is that what Christians believe?

Is that the only comfort we can give to each other? No, the text demonstrates for us that when you and I go through suffering, what you and I are doing fundamentally is being invited into a greater experience and understanding of who Jesus is.

John's experiencing suffering on account of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, in a place that he didn't plan to be, he didn't want to be, and he ended up because he was faithful. And John receives the greatest visual experience of Jesus Christ ever in all of the scriptures. Was God's sovereign in John's difficulty?

Yes, he was.

Did God know what he was doing, exiling John? He did. Did God have a plan in John's life to make him encounter the risen Jesus Christ, to now bless the churches and bless us 2000 years later? He did. 

He didn't waste a minute of John's difficulty.

Now, is that important for you and I to know as we go through seasons of suffering? To know that God doesn't waste a minute of it? Church, let me tell you there's not one moment of suffering that God wastes.

Not a minute.

In every single one, you and I are invited into a greater understanding of who Jesus Christ is. 

Now let me talk about the second one. The second one is our obedience.

I think this text is great because on the other side of this encounter with Jesus Christ, Jesus does something to John that is so comforting to you and me. You face times in your youth, you know the right thing you ought to do, but you feel insufficient and not up to the task. That you know having to say these words and speak the truth in love might cost you. But, you know, it's the right thing to do.

You're not sure how God is going to honor his word in your life when you give or when you serve or when you consider others as more important than yourself. Though you know that's the right thing you ought to do. See, if you scrub the truth of Jesus Christ out of the middle of this passage, and you and I are left with obedience, all we're left with is this perspective on our obedience that our lives are just filled with a lot of "I ought to choose." "I know I ought to be nice." "I know I ought to say the right thing." "I know I ought to be humble." "I know I ought to be sacrificial." "I know I ought to be patient." You ever have that this week? I know I ought to be different than I am, and I'm just not.

I feel so insufficient to be able to do the things that God is calling me to do. That's what's beautiful about what Jesus gives to John right here. It's that Jesus lays his hand on John and says, 

"do not fear."

You see what Jesus tells John?

It is not that you're sufficient, you are able, you're in control, or you are powerful. You should grow up. What Jesus says is, 

"Fear not, I've died, and I've risen."

Do you know what he just said to John? He said I have handled the greatest horror that you could experience, which is separation from me. I have healed the divided. I have died for you. I am alive. And now death no longer has dominion over me, and death no longer has dominion over you.

So it doesn't matter. I'm in control. I'm the first and the last no matter what you're going to go through. No matter what God is going to call you to you in suffering, a vision and an intimacy with Jesus gives us comfort in obedience. A vision and understanding of Jesus gives us courage.

That you and I are now able to step into what God is calling us because we know that Jesus saw the most important issue for us–that he's died for us. He's canceled our sin. I'm in right relationship. And now our obedience doesn't come from "I guess I ought to," "I guess I should do the right thing," "I guess I better be better this week." 

Our obedience now comes from complete acceptance and intimacy. Now we step forward in freedom and courage because we're able to do the things that Jesus has called us to. Because Jesus empowers us, encourages us, makes us right with him, and now calls us to obey. If Jesus handled the greatest problem we have, which is sin, then all of my obedience to and for him comes out of a heart of gratitude. Listen, you know, this is what we looked at in the entire book of Galatians. That we all have this tendency to scrape intimacy with Christ away. Just rely on things we know we ought to do.

And rather, this passage says that we should understand our obedience in light of all that Jesus has done for us. It's an invitation to greater intimacy, greater understanding of who he is now. Do you need to know that Jesus is regal and dignified and wise and discerning and has complete authority according to his word has a way of life? That is totally dependable and totally reliable when you are called to obey?

Say yes. Yes. That's what you need to know. See, you and I need theology when we suffer. We need truth when we obey. We need to build these seasons in our life upon the truth of who Jesus says he is.

Listen, if Jesus is the first and the last, that means everything we said last week, every beginning in your life is about God. And that means every ending in your life is about God. And that means every season of suffering, and every season where you are being called to obey, becomes an opportunity for you to know and experience Jesus and understand who he is and experience his glory and intimacy with him.

In those times, don't waste those moments.

Father in heaven for our church for myself or our marriages for our parenting for the ways in which you call us to obey. For the ways in which right now, there are men and women in this room who are experiencing suffering and difficulty, I pray that we would come back to the truth of your word to understand rightly who we are that we would not allow suffering to warp our theology. But that you would, by your grace and by your word, inform our hearts allow truth and theology and a right understanding of you shape our emotions, our words, our actions, our thinking, our feeling, all of those areas, Father for those who need courage to obey you. To maybe break off a relationship they know is sinful. To be sacrificial in the way they give to speak up and to share the gospel with a neighbor or with a friend or a co-worker. Father, I pray that you would inform our obedience according to your word that you would shape us. That we would gain great courage and great confidence in the Revelation of Jesus Christ for us. Father, may we be a church that rests upon the truth of God. That rests upon the person of Jesus Christ. That you would reform us all the way down with your eyes that are a flame of fire to the areas of our heart where we need discernment to understand, to walk uprightly, to walk in a way that honors you, to order our lives and emotions in ways that are pleasing to you. That we would be a church that tries to discern what is pleasing to God.

Father, in all this we pray, and we are confident because Jesus has died for us. We are hopeful because Jesus has died for us that he is the first and the last the he is the living one that he has died, and he is alive forevermore. We are so thankful that Jesus is risen, and it's in his name that we pray. Amen.

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