Summary: Revelation 1:9-20
The Seven, part 6
John's Portrait of the Lord of the Church
June 23, 2013
The last two weeks we have looked at John's “Portrait of the Lord of the Church.” John saw the risen Christ as the son of man, a conquering king. The imagery comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel where Daniel sees a vision of the future the son of man, whose kingdom will overthrow all earthly kingdoms and who is given universal sovereignty and power and authority. Then Christ is identified as God himself, the Ancient of Days. His eyes are like a flame of fire, penetrating vision, that sees beyond all hypocrisy and deception. His feet are like burnished bronze refined or glowing as in a furnace. Glowing as a molten metal speaks of unstoppable, unquenchable, and inflexible judgement that cannot be avoided. The sword coming from his mouth shows that Christ is an invincible warrior. This sword is the written word, the only weapon he needs to judge his enemies. His face is like the shining sun in full strength, so bright that it is impossible to look at and so hot it consumes and burns. This portrait was meant to encourage the churches under attack that Christ is an invincible warrior who is coming to vindicate his church and judge his enemies. Now let's look at John's reaction and his response to the portrait.
John's Reaction to the Portrait
It has been some sixty years since John has seen his best friend and things have changed. The church has expanded yet all the apostles have died as martyrs for the church. Paul, the founder of the churches in Asia Minor, has also been killed. John is exiled to Patmos and the churches are suffering and struggling. But in an unlikely place and at an unlikely time Jesus comes to John in a vision that is nothing short of terrifying and traumatic, the trauma of glory.
• Trauma of glory
When John turns and sees the resurrected Christ, he falls as though dead. He is paralyzed in awe inspiring immobility. This was not commanded nor demanded, it was an spontaneous response to traumatizing and terrifying glory. This glory took his life and his strength away in an involuntary collapse. This is the norm for those who encounter God's glory. When the disciples are on the mount of transfiguration and get a foretaste of this present glory they fall on their faces, terrified. When Jesus is in a boat with the disciples in the midst of a storm the boat begins to fill up with water. The disciples wake him to help so Jesus commands the storm to stop and when it does, the disciples are terrified. They terrified because the only thing more terrifying than a storm outside the boat is the Lord of glory inside the boat! Then there is a woman with the issue of blood for ten years. She believes that her only hope is to touch Jesus to be healed. So she stretches her hand through the crowd, touching the hem of his robe and is healed. What is her response? She falls in fear and trembling! It is the trauma of glory. Then you have the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus on a mission to destroy the church. When the Lord of glory confronts him he falls to the ground, blind and does not eat for three days. Moving to the Old Testament, a man named Manoah and his wife encounter the Lord of glory and fall in fear and dread, thinking they are going to die. Every time the prophet Ezekiel encounters the glory of the Lord he falls. Notice they are all fearful, terrified for their lives and all life and strength is sapped from them. This is not the usual picture of Jesus we have hanging in our living rooms or in our churches. Christ will not be tamed, contained, or domesticated. He is terrifying and an encounter with him is traumatic but he is good. Then Jesus laid his right hand on John and commands him, 'fear not,' or literally, 'fear no more,' inviting John into fearless fellowship.
• Fearless fellowship
The participle used her can mean both refined or burning, glowing.
See Rev 6:16-17; Rev 14:10, 19; 15:1; 16:19; 19:15.
See Isa 49:2; 19:15; 21.
Judges 13:3, 10, 20-22.
Ezek 1:28, 3:23, 43:3; 44:4.
Jesus, the Lord of glory, can invite John into fellowship without fear of being killed because he loved him and freed him from the penalty of his sin. Instantaneously, the command wipes away all his fears; John is safe. The Lord of glory may be terrifying but he is infinitely good. Then the risen Christ gives John the reason why he is this terrifying Lord of glory and the reason not to fear. 'I am the first and the last, that is the living one. I died and live forevermore and as a result of being raised from the dead, I hold the power and control of Death and Hades.' 'I am' points back to the identity of God in the Old Testament and Jesus uses it of himself in the gospels. This Lord of glory is to be identified with the God of the Old Testament, the fulfillment of God's redemptive purposes. Any Jew would know that he is saying, I am equal with God. He also calls himself the first and the last, similar to calling himself the Alpha and Omega , meaning I was before all things and I am after all things; the beginning and the end and everything in between. I am eternally present. Then Christ says, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” In death Jesus defeated death. Death could not contain him; it could not hold him. I paid the penalty for your sin so you have no need to fear me nor fear death. You belong to me whether you live or die; fear of death no longer has to have a hold on the human heart. Now, as a result of his conquering death, he holds the keys to Death and Hades. Hades was the god in greek mythology who ruled the realm of the dead. Hades was the place of the dead and death was the door to Hades. Holding the keys demonstrates that Christ has the power and authority to open and close, to allow or refuse access; to lock up or liberate. Christ controls the destiny of every single person. The fear of death is the weapon of Satan that grips the human heart yet Christ destroys that weapon because in him death has become the door to victory and life. So the same event, death, Satan uses to exhibit his power and in Christ that power is made useless. Death becomes the path to victory. His point is for the churches are not to fear Rome or anyone else who is a hostile foe or force. Death has lost its sting because to be absent from the body is to be with Christ.