Summary: We don’t have any photographs of Jesus. That’s good and bad. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have any pictures. In fact, I would suggest that we have three portraits of Christ in the book of Revelations.
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Three Portraits of Christ
Revelation 1, 5, 19
Introduction: We don’t have any photographs of Jesus. That’s good. If we did, we would probably turn them in to idols. Superstitious folk have enough trouble would outlines in tree bark and stains on subway walls in Chicago. Imagine what people would do with an actual photography.
On the other hand, without an actual picture of Jesus imaginations run wild. We tend to picture him as we want him to be. We end up with paintings of Jesus that look like white, Renaissance, Italian artists. Or worse yet, we conceive of a Jesus who is meek, mild, and weak. Our pictures leave nothing that would account for the fear and awe that friend and foe alike saw in the real Christ. The Jesus of our paintings is often a Christ that few of us, even Christians, take seriously.
We don’t have any photographs of Jesus. That’s good and bad. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have any pictures. In fact, I would suggest that we have three portraits of Christ in the book of Revelations. The last book of the Bible is named Revelation for a reason. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. That phrase cuts two ways. It is a revelation from Christ. It is also a revelation of Christ.
The three portraits of Christ in Revelation come at the critical junctures in the book. The first (in chapter 1) outlines the one who speaks in the book. The second (in chapter 5) describes the one who holds the key to all that follows. The final portrait (chapter 19) is the grand finale. The Christ of the Second Coming is the one for whom all of history is waiting. Each is a detailed word picture complete with vivid symbols and graphic images. They don’t tell us what Christ looks like as much as who he is. That’s the picture that matters.
1. The Christ of the Church (Rev 1)
Read: Revelation 1:10-20
Church, don’t forget this picture. Christ stands with his church. He is in the midst of her. He holds her angels in his hands. Her future, her power, her hope rest in him and him alone. When the church is in his hands, it is in good hands.
2. The Christ of the Future (Rev 5)
In chapter four, John gets a glimpse of heaven. He sees the glory and power of the one who sits on the throne. He is awed by the scene. He is also troubled. He sees in the right hand of God a scroll. He knows the scroll contains the will and plan of God for his people. On it are written the future of planet Earth. John so desperately wants to know what it says. It is not so much the future he wants to know as God’s will. That ought to be every saint’s desire. Who cares what the future brings as long as we in God’s will when it comes?
But there’s a problem. The scroll is sealed. No one can open it. Then a cry goes up from the courts of heaven. The scroll of the future can be opened. There is one who is worthy to unlock its secrets—only one! Here’s the portrait that follows.
Read: Revelation 5:1-14
The song says it well. “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow.” The Christ lamb who was slain and lives holds the future in his hands. What ever happens, we are in good hands when we are in his.
3. The Christ of Eternity (Rev 19)
Everything revealed on the scroll leads to the point. God has issued his warnings. Satan has given his best shot. Kings and nations have rebelled. Heaven and earth await the end. Finally, the clock of heaven strikes the final hour. God says it’s time.
Read: Revelation 19:6-21
Every person living and dead has a divine appointment. Someday the king of glory will return. Every eye will behold him. Every tongue will acknowledge him. But only those who are prepared will join him for all eternity. When our eternities are in his hands, we are in good hands, indeed!
Conclusion: C. S. Lewis offers the word we need to hear once we have considered these portraits of Christ. He reminds us that such images are not for our amusement or to satisfy our curiosity. They must bring us to our knees in devotion, worship and obedience.
“God is going to invade this earth in force, but what is the good of saying you are on his side then when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else, something it never entered your head to conceive, comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing. It will be the time when we discover which side we have really chosen whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”