In Charles Dicken’s book, The Tail of Two Cities, the opening line in the book says, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
- That line is a pretty good description of the situation when the book of Revelation was written.
As far as the Roman Empire was concerned, it was “the best of times.”
- Rome was the most powerful nation in all the world at the time.
- And not only was it the most powerful, it was also the riches and most influential.
- To be a Roman citizen brought tremendous benefits
- And for the most part, it was a time of great prosperity and wealth.
- So for the Roman Empire…it was the “best of times.”
But that was not true for those who were devoted to Christ.
- For them it was the worst of times.
- As far as Rome was concerned the Christian was a traitor to the State because they refused to worship the Emperors…and they refused to participate in the State sponsored wars which were carried out simply for the purpose of gaining more wealth.
- And as far as Rome was concerned these Christians were nothing more than an evil religious sect that practiced all kinds of evil and wickedness, even cannibalism, and they did it under the guise of religion.
- And not only that, these Christians were constantly trying to make new converts…and they were trying to spread their beliefs all through the regions of the Roman Empire…and Rome saw that as a threat to their own goals.
- So, as far as the Roman gov’t. was concerned…these Christians were a people they could do with out.
- And so the Christians were made an example of…they had their property taken away from them, they were pressed into slavery, used for sport, confined to prison, banished to remote islands…and for some, they were put to death.
- Things were so difficult for the Christians in some regions of the Roman Empire that they had to meet in secret.
- So it was the worst of times for those who professed to be followers of Christ.
And because things were so bad, some of them began to doubt…and waver in their faith.
- After all, it had been 45 years or more since Christ was crucified.
- And all the apostles except for one had died.
- Perhaps this “Christianity thing” was just a passing fad.
- Maybe Jesus was just another among several who claimed to be the Messiah.
- Maybe they were foolish for holding on to what the apostles had taught them.
- Maybe they too should save themselves a lot of trouble and grief and bow down to the Emperor like so many others had.
Well, that is in part why this book…this Revelation….this prophecy came when it did.
- To encourage these Christians…and to persuade some of them that their faith was not misplaced.
- And to rebuke others for drifting away from Christ and giving in to the pressures.
- And to warn them all to get ready for the judgment that was coming on Rome.
And with that in mind, let’s start in verse 7. In verse 7 the Lord, through John says:
Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen.
- Here is the first announcement of the coming judgment of the Lord.
- And we know this is not talking about the “second coming of Christ” or the “final judgment of the world…because back up in vs. 1 and 3 we are told that these things “must shortly take place”…that they are “near.”
You see, what He says here in verse 7 is “language of judgment”.
- You find this same kind of language in Isaiah, Joel, Zachariah, and Matthew.
- And in those instances this language was used to speak of an impending judgment that was soon to come on a nation or a people.
- It spoke of a judgment that was to come in their lifetime.
- And that is what God is doing here.
- He is warning them of a judgment that is going to come in their lifetime.
- And over and over again in this book you are going to see God speak of this judgment that is to shortly take place.
- But it is not a judgment that is going to end time as we know it.
- It is a judgment that is going to end the present problem that these Christians were going through.
The Lord is coming in judgment and “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.
- Before, when they killed Him on the cross they just saw Him as a thief…as a trouble maker.
- But when He comes this time Rome will see Him for who He really is.
- They will see Him as the righteous judge.
And all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.
- “Why didn’t we listen to Him…why didn’t we bow to Him and obey Him?”
- “Why did we mock Him and reject Him?”
- When He comes this time in judgment it will not be like the time before when they put a crown of thorns on His head, and cursed and spit on Him, and mockingly called Him, “King of the Jews.”
- No, it will be different this time.
And notice that little phrase at the end of the verse: “Even so. Amen.”
- You can count on it!
- When God says “Amen” to something…you can count on it taking place.
- The Lord is coming in judgment on Rome.
And if you have any doubts that He can carry out this judgment…well, look at verse 8:
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
- Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last.
- God is the A to Z and everything in between.
- He is the beginning and the end.
And He says that He is the “One who is, and who was, and who is coming”
- He was here before Rome came to power and He will be here afterwards.
And He says that He is the “Almighty”…this is a word that describes one who has “dominion over all.”
- These Christians can be sure that their God has the power to judge Rome regardless how strong, powerful and influential Rome may seem to be.
- Now we come to verse 9 and John’s commission to write in a book what he sees.
Vs. 9: I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
- Think about how encouraging these words must have been to the ones reading them.
- John wasn’t sitting somewhere in comfortable surroundings and trying to tell these brethren what to do.
- People aren’t going to listen to someone who sits in his easy chair and preaches endurance…or one who preaches courage and faith even unto death while he is safe from harm.
- John was in the midst of this hardship too.
- He had been exiled to Patmos…a little prison island in the Mediterranean Sea that was about 10 miles long and 6 miles wide.
- And he wasn’t there because he was some common criminal.
- He was there because he had preached the word of God…and taught the word of God and lived the word of God…and the Roman gov’t. didn’t like it.
And I want you to notice that John says that he is their “brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus.”
- The word “tribulation” literally means “a pressing…or a squeezing”…like you would squeeze grapes.
- And notice where this tribulation is…it is “in Jesus.”
- Don’t think just because you are a Christian there are not going to be any hard times.
So John says, “I too am being squeezed by these difficulties.”
- And I too am part of “the kingdom.”
- Notice, the kingdom exists when John writes this.
- Many people use Revelation to show that the kingdom is yet to come.
- But John says here, it is already here and he is part of it.
So John says, “I too am being squeezed by these hard times…and I too am a part of the kingdom…and I too am persevering.”
- And the word “persevering”…that said a lot to these Christians who were suffering so much at the hands of the Romans.
- That word “persevering” is not a passive persevering…where one just sits back and lets things happen.
- This is speaking of an active courage which leads to victory.
- John wasn’t cowering down in his faith.
- He is courageously standing firm.
And the thing this said to these Christians is, “I am hanging in there, you hang in there too.”
- “Don’t you quit! Don’t you give up!”
- “You are part of the kingdom…and because you are you are suffering these tribulations…”
- But you be courageous…and hang in there!”
Listen, it is easier to endure the hardships when you know that those you look up too are enduring too.
- Talk about a lesson in leadership…here it is!
Now, verse 10: John says that he was “in the Spirit…”in the state of receiving revelation from God.”
- “On the Lord’s day…
- That would be the first day of the week.
- The Sabbath under the old Jewish system commemorated God’s rest after the creation of the world.
- But the Lord’s day commemorates the rising of Jesus from the dead and a new beginning.
So John is “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” and he says: “and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet; (loud and clear…a call to attention.)
Rev 1:11 … saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
- Notice, there are 7 churches.
- The number 7 indicates “completeness or totality.”
- This message was for all the Christians in the region.
And notice, he is to write this down.
- You write something down so they can read it again, and again and again.
- The words written here are intended to not only encourage these Christians…but us as well.
Now, starting in verse 12 John is going to tell these people some things that they need to know about Christ.
12 And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;
- “gold”…used in vessels of divine service.
- “lampstands”…their purpose is to give light.
- If it gives no light its purpose is gone.
- Now we know from verse 20 that these “lampstands” are the churches and when a congregation fails in its purpose it will be removed.
13 and in the middle of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle.
- Christ is in the middle of these “lampstands.”
- And His description here is one of who is a “king and priest.
- Notice where the robe is girded.
- If this was just a workman, the robe would have been girded around the waste.
But this robe is girded around the breast…a sign of sovereignty…of a priest officiating for the people.
- So the picture here of Jesus in the midst of these lampstands is a picture of Jesus as head of these churches.
- He has authority…He gives counsel, and leadership, and sustaining power to all.
- He knows their condition and He cares for them.
- Christ knows what is going on.
Vs: 14 And His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire;
- White hair: speaks of the purity and holiness with which He is crowned.
- It speaks of justice, righteousness, dignity, wisdom, and nobility.
- This is a picture of the “ancient of days” mentioned in Dan. 7 and speaks of God’s eternal nature.
It says “His eyes were like a flame of fire.”
- Penetrating, piercing…doesn’t miss anything.
- Able to penetrate the hearts of men.
- Discerns the thoughts and intent of each.
- Can flash with wrath and righteous judgment, but can also shine with mercy, grace, love and compassion.
Vs. 15: and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been caused to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.
- Burnished bronze feet: Able to carry out what He sets to do.
- Suggests destructive power…the power to trample…able to crush those who hinder His right purposes.
- Voice like the sound of many waters: strong, powerful.
Vs. 16: And in His right hand He held seven stars…indicates His possession, authority, and control of the churches.
…and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword…His word has the power to rightly judge.
…and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.
- Speaks of His glory.
- An exalted glory and power that causes you to fall at His feet.
And that is what John does, vs. 17: And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
- Look at this…the Lord tells John not to be afraid.
- The purpose of the vision isn’t to instill fear.
- The purpose is to instill trust and confidence.
- That is why the Lord lays His right hand on John.
And another thing…only the enemies of God have reason to be afraid…because judgment is coming on them.
- Those who remain faithful have nothing to fear from God.
At the end of vs. 17 Jesus says, “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold I am alive forever more…”
- Even though He was crucified…and even though it had been 40 years since he left this earth…Jesus reassures them that He is still alive and always will be.
And then He says: “I have the keys of death and Hades.”
- Christ has conquered death for all those who are faithful to Him.
- The may die in the coming tribulations…but death would not hold them because of Christ.
And now, verse 19: “Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things.
- The fact that He tells John to write these things down means that they are not just for John…but these things are for others to read as well.
- And all three times mentioned in this verse again indicate the eternal nature of Christ.
And now 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.
- There is no need to speculate what the 7 stars and lampstands are.
- Jesus tells us.
Now, all of these terms that are found in here Revelation 1 are meant to encourage these Christians…but they also are an introduction to the next two chapters.
- Because in chapters 2-3 Jesus is going to deal specifically with the churches and some things they need to be doing.
- And these descriptive terms of Jesus are here to keep these Christians from disputing what He is going to say to them.
- He is the eternal, all seeing, righteous, judge who knows and sees the hearts of men…and He sees things they way they are.
Their faith…as well as ours…is not misplaced.
- We must remain faithful….and it may be that some may need to renew their commitment and come back where they once were.
- Judgment is coming…and those who remain faithful to Christ…will be blessed.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023