A Vision to Carry Us through Everything | Revelation 1:9-20
By John Fitzsimmons
Pastor, Sligo City Church
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John has been exiled to an island called Patmos because of his preaching and testifying about Jesus. He is worshipping in the Spirit on the Lords day. Take note. Here is John exiled and suffering, but nothing could separate him from God. Not even isolation from everyone and everything else… Sometimes it’s in the most difficult times that God makes himself most real to us!
What happened while he was in the Spirit? He heard a voice, a loud and clear voice, as unmistakable as a trumpet! That’s what happens when we worship in the Spirit, we hear the voice of God! God is a God who speaks with clarity. He is not the author of confusion. He desires to be heard.
This voice tells John to write what he sees in a book and to send it to the seven churches... Take note that each church got the whole book... These were seven literal churches which would have been situated in what is modern day Turkey. However since the number seven is symbolic in Revelation… it also symbolises the full essence of what the Church needs to hear in every generation. That’s why John was told to write this down! We need to take what Jesus says to these churches seriously. We need to read what is written as if it’s written to our church.
John turns around to hear this voice that is speaking to him & does his best in the following verses to describe the indescribable, which was not easy. It’s not easy to record something that blows your mind & is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. But John while he’s in the Spirit records this staggering vision for us.
Jesus could have appeared to each church himself, but he didn’t choose to do it that way. He chose to reveal himself to John and then have him record in a book what he seen. John got the vision, we get the book! This is not because Jesus wants to be distant and impersonal with us, far from it. It’s because he wants to come to us through his Word… He wants us to be able to carry and keep this vision with us through the ups and downs of life…
The book of Revelation, and indeed all of Scripture, was not merely given to increase our knowledge of God. It has been given that we might know God and to awaken a desire to encounter him! If I wanted to get to know you more I might arrange to meet you at your home or in a coffee shop. When I want to get to know Christ more I meet him in his Word! Jesus wants us to not only read about him but encounter him through his Word. The Holy Spirit wants to use the words he inspired to overwhelm us over and over again with revelations of Jesus. And when this happens, Christ stands forth from his Word and overwhelms us with the reality of who he is… Why else would Jesus have John record this for us unless he desired us to encounter something like what John encountered, unless he wanted to wet our appetite for such encounters with him? That’s God’s desire for us! That we encounter the risen Christ over & over again! What did John see?
V 12-17a “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lamp-stands, and in the midst of the lamp-stands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash round his chest. The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was shining like the sun in full strength. When I saw him I fell at his feet as though dead.”
Christ in the Midst of Us
So a voice has spoken, John has turned around, the Mediterranean Island of Patmos is fading into the background, and before him opens up a vision of another kind of reality altogether. The first thing John sees is seven golden lamp-stands. These represent the seven churches, and more importantly for us, the complete Church in every generation... The point is the Church is to be the light in the midst of a dark world reflecting the glory of Christ… John continues and tells us one like the Son of Man is in the midst of the lamp-stands… Meaning Jesus stands in the midst of his Church as we shine in the midst of darkness. In fact it is him that makes us shine...
The Church is the most important place on earth! There is nothing more important happening in this world than what is happening in the Church – because the Church is the place where Christ dwells… Christ stands among us. Christ rules over his Church, but he does not rule from a distance. He rules as one in the midst of us! The Christ John is telling us about stands among us. He is not far away in space or time. He moves among his people breathing life back into flickering flames, keeping it burning through trails, and doubts, and temptations, and hardships… As Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 18:20 NASB; “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Now the title ‘son of man’ was Jesus’ favourite name for himself while he walked this earth. It might sound like it refers only to his humanity. It includes that but there is more to it. Turn with me to Daniel 7:13-14 NLT and listen carefully to what it says.
“As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honour, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.”
So when John says that "one like a son of man" is standing in the midst of the lamp-stands, he means one with supreme power and glory and sovereign authority over all nations and all peoples. One who will rule the world forever and ever because he is King of a kingdom cannot be destroyed!
The one who stands among his Church is the one who has sovereign authority and eternal kingship over heaven and earth. We need to hear this today, just like the seven churches needed to hear it in John's day. It is "the son of man" who walks among the lamp-stands. The one with everlasting dominion whose kingdom cannot be destroyed! We must hold this vision ever before us in the midst of all the troubles and temptations of this world. Jesus said in John 16:33 NLT; “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart I have overcome the world.”
A Vision of Jesus
Jesus is clothed with power and majesty and with awe! This is an awesome sight John is seeing. No one has encountered a more awesome sight that this, ever! Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. No one is more Royal than him! No one has more majesty and power than him! In fact one day all kings and queens and rulers and presidents and PM and TS will bow before him and declare him as the sovereign ruler of all!
The long royal robe and golden sash around his chest symbolises he is also the great high priest. All other religious leaders... will also bow before him… He is the one who offered the perfect and complete once and for all sacrifice for our sins… He is the only way to God—the only mediator! He is the one who permanently and faithfully intercedes on behalf of his people! He moves among us offering forgiveness, sympathizing with our temptations and trials, giving us mercy and grace to help in times of need, strengthening our hearts with his grace. This should comfort and give us great hope as we journey through this life. Christ is with us…
His glistening white hair reflects his wisdom and eternal nature. No one is wiser than Jesus for he is the eternal God. He is the all wise one who owns all the wisdom of eternity. We associate white hair with aging. It reminds us that we’re getting older and as we get older we get weaker… But the bible offers another perspective. Proverbs 16:31 says, "A white head is a crown of glory." Why? Because wisdom comes with age! Jesus has hair as white as snow in this vision. The Brightest of white! He has all the wisdom of eternity and he has not lost any of his strength and power. He is not subject to aging and decay like us. He is forever strong and wise! He has lost none of his capacities…
His eyes are like blazing fire so sharp they read the hearts of men and women, penetrating into every hidden corner of their lives. Jesus sees what we hide from others… His eyes are sharp with clarity. They miss nothing than happens in the universe. They are exploding with zeal and desire. They are ablaze with inexhaustible energy and hope. They are burning with passionate love for his Church. His feet are like burnished bronze in a furnace. They are stable, immovable and unshakable… They will trample on everything that sets itself against him - unrighteousness, injustice, impurity… They will crush all who stand opposed to his kingdom and rule. They will crush Satan’s head! No one can get in his way!
His voice BOOMS like the roar of many waters with a power that can shake the foundations of the earth! This is Jesus, as he’s coming back, risen, exalted, glorified and overcoming. In his right hand he holds his Church and he’s not letting go! From his mouth comes a long, sharp, heavy, double-edged sword and with it he pierces the darkness and exercises perfect justice. And his face shines like the sun in full strength. Imagine looking into the sun up close and you’ve got the picture. Too intense! Too radiant for human eyes to gaze upon! This is not a Jesus we approach casually. This is the Jesus you fall down on your face before in awe, worship and wonder. Understandably then John did exactly that, he fell on his face like a dead man!
Do Not Be Afraid
So that is how John responds to Jesus, that’s the only fitting initial response to the Risen Jesus, but how does Jesus respond to John?
V 17-18 “When I saw him, I fell on my feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
Jesus laid his right hand on the trembling John. What an intimate gesture from Jesus. The God who dwells in unapproachable light is intimate with his people… He introduces himself as God, as the one he saw crucified, risen from the dead, and ascending into heaven. This is the same Jesus exalted and glorified! The same Jesus who entered the world as a baby with his glory veiled, who lived the perfect life, demonstrated perfect love, became the perfect sacrifice for sin while praying that his murderers might be forgiven. This is the same Jesus who touched the untouchable, healed the sick, raised the dead, delivered from demons, and taught with absolute authority. This is the same Jesus Risen, exalted and glorified…
The one we see in this vision is the one we pray to. He is the one we worship today. He is the one we come to encounter. He is the one in our midst. He is the one who is with us and for us through all the ups and downs of life. He is the one who will never forsake us! He is the one who empowers us to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil! So while it is right for us to tremble at the though of such an awesome encounter with Jesus, it is equally right that we feel his intimate touch and hear him say to us today “fear not”, as we rise up to our feet with full confidence, knowing that we are safe in his terrifying presence because of his blood, and if he is for us then who or what can possibly stand against? This is the same Jesus who says in John; “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hands.”
We should stop and allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with this mighty vision of Jesus. So often we are overwhelmed with people, or stuff, or circumstances, with temptations, troubles or sicknesses. Let’s allow ourselves instead to be overwhelmed with this awesome prophetic vision of Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour. For if we’re overwhelmed with Jesus then we’ll not be overwhelmed by any of the other things!
The Vision We Need More Than Any Other
Today we often hear people emphasizing the importance of vision. We’re told “If we are going to get people committed we need to present to them a vision, to show them where we are going, and inspire them to follow.” The words “where there is no vision the people perish” have almost become a cliché. But it’s important to understand that in Scripture vision is linked very strongly to hearing from God. For example 1 Samuel 3:1 says “And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” The assumption is that the word of the LORD and vision go together. This idea is also highlighted in Proverbs 29:18; “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast of restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” Often the verse is quoted without the last bit. But it’s essential to understand it in light it...
Today we have been looking at a prophetic vision and the vision before us is not one of ideas and plans. Rather the vision we have been looking at is a prophetic vision of Christ Jesus our Lord. It’s a vision of a person. The most powerful and glorious person of all! This is the vision the Church needs more than any other—a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and overcoming!!!
The most important thing is not that we have a five year plan—that is important and needed—but the most important thing is that we have a clear prophetic vision of Christ Jesus. Because what if the next five years don’t go as we plan or expect? What if people let us down? What if plans backfire? What happens to vision then? Will it not be in pieces? NO! Not if the clearest vision we have is of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Risen and all-powerful standing in the midst of his Church! Not if our vision is of his constant presence with us! His eyes burning with passionate love for us! Him interceding on our behalf! Him holding us securely in his right hand, trampling every obstacle in our way, keeping the flame alive when circumstances and trials threaten to put it out! If Christ himself is truly our vision then nothing will stop us! Nothing will ever discourage us to the point of giving up! Nothing will cause us to lose heart! How can you see and encounter this Jesus, knowing he is for us, and give up?
What the Church of every generation needs more than anything else is a clear prophetic vision of Christ Jesus. This is why Jesus told John to write what he saw! Such a vision will ignite mountain moving faith in our hearts, and help keep us faithful until he returns... So no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in today or any day this vision of the Resurrected Jesus is here to resurrect our hearts... to resurrect our faith... to resurrect our hopes... every day. The reason we need to carry this vision through all the up and downs of life is because this is the vision that will carry us through everything and anything...