Week Commencing 28th January 2018   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Revelation 1, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”

As we approach Easter this year (a time of the year traditionally known as “Lent”), we are going to spend time in the final book of the Bible, known as “Revelation”. We are only ‘dipping our toes in’ so to speak, exploring the first three chapters, but it is our hope that we might return to this most powerful, but perhaps most neglected book of the New Testament in 2019.  Here’s the plan for this series:

04 Feb The revelation of Jesus Christ Revelation 1
11 Feb To the church in Ephesus Rev 2:1-7
18 Feb To the church in Smyrna Rev 2:8-11
25 Feb To the church in Pergamum Rev 2:12-17
04 Mar To the church in Thyatira Rev 2:18-29
11 Mar To the church in Sardis Rev 3:1-6
18 Mar To the church in Philadelphia Rev 3:7-13
25 Mar To church in Laodicea Rev 3:14-22

DAY 1: Read Revelation 1:1-3

There is a problem with the book of Revelation. It is either largely ignored – except for the letters to the seven churches in Chs 2-3 (!), or people have some sort of obsession with it!  Bishop Paul Barnett acknowledges that ‘much of it is considered bizarre, weird and meaningless’. [1]  Over the years, people have found all sorts of world events and power struggles there – anything from helicopters to bankcard to Bush, Clinton and Trump! It appears it is possible to pour through the text of the book and yet miss it’s point completely.

In an incredibly helpful sermon I listened to in preparation for this series, the Rev’d Dr John Woodhouse, former Principal of Moore College points out that if we keep three principles in mind when we read Revelation, we are less likely to get the book wrong. They are:

  1. Remember that the message of the book is not different from the rest of the New Testament. Although the forms of expression are different, the book is not teaching us anything not found in the other books of the New Testament; that is, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and its implications.
  2. Remember that the message was intelligible to the first readers. The book was not written to confuse, but to reveal. The word ‘revelation’ means to lift the veil.
  3. Remember the that first readers knew things we don’t know. So, while all the symbols and weird animals sound all very strange to our ears, we can assume that John uses commonly known and understood imagery. We just have work out what some of it means so we better grasp the message.

Now look briefly at vv1-3. Note first, that this is a revelation of Jesus, from God given to John. This is not mere human composition. God sent an angel (literally, messenger) to John who was on an island prison. What he passes on is the “word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ”. Note now what is claimed for those who read the book; hear it and take to heart what is written here: they are blessed! That is, they are to be envied! We envy those who we think have all the toys under the sun; those who have power and influence. But no friends, if you read, hear and take to heart what is written here; you will be blessed. Will you read and take it to heart?

 DAY 2: Read Revelation 1:4-8

The great mistake people often make with the book of Revelation is to think that this is a book describing the future all the time. They see it as a kind of Biblical Nostradamus, full of predictions of events down the centuries. It’s not that kind of book. It’s not focussed on predicting specific events. Rather, it is a book that presents (albeit using overwhelmingly graphic and powerful symbols) God and his relationship with this world. The big event which dominates the books and features again and again, is in fact, the turning point of all history: Jesus’ death and resurrection. The book spells out in clear terms, the implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection for all the world, for all people, for all history and indeed for Satan and all evil. This central event, we understand, determines the destiny of all things!

The greeting, typical of 1st century correspondence, is seen there in v4. John addresses his letter to the seven churches in the province of Asia. If you were to google now a map of New Testament history, you would see all the churches listed in chs 2-3 (see table above). Yet, it’s highly likely that the number ‘7’ here is symbolic, for there were more than seven churches in Asia. The number seven, we realise as the book unfolds, is a number used to convey completeness. The seven churches chosen, represent the whole of the churches – the whole church. The greeting is from the Father (him who is, and who was, and who is to come), from the Holy Spirit (the seven spirits before his throne) and from Jesus Christ. Mention of Jesus Christ, sparks a glorious outburst of unrestrained praise from John, for he has been reminded in the vision is about to describe, that Jesus is undoubtedly, the rule of the kings of the earth and one who loves us so much that he has freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father. And note – he will return! Every eye will see him! And the guarantee? The one who is, who was and is to come, the Almighty! To him indeed, be glory and power for ever and ever!

DAY 3: Read Revelation 1:9-16

The Christians to whom this letter was written – to whom this revelation was given – were suffering. They were a hated and despised minority and regarded as the scum of society. The Roman emperor – most likely Domitian c95AD – ruled mercilessly. He required that his subjects bow and worship him – which Christians were not prepared to do. As a result, they were persecuted; they lost their property, and many lost their lives. We are reminded at end of the last passage (v8) and throughout the book, that in this dire situation, there is God! Almighty God who was there in the beginning was almighty and will be there at the and will be almighty! We are not to allow our own dark times to delude us or blind us to the fact that God is here now, and he is Almighty!

John is suffering with those to whom he is writing and in the midst of his imprisonment on the isle of Patmos, he hears a voice like a trumpet. He’s told to write his vision down and send it to the 7 churches – i.e., to the Church in its completeness. The voice was so distinct, that he turns to see the voice. And he sees someone “like a son of man”. He saw someone like the one in the vision the prophet Daniel had had many years before. Read about that vision in Daniel 7, where we read He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. (Daniel 7:14.) John realises that he is seeing that one – that same one which Daniel saw to whom was given all authority and power.

We notice his great majesty. He has sovereign power. His dominion is everlasting. He is a noble figure. His bronze feet indicating that he is immovable. His white hair showing perhaps both age and wisdom. His penetrating eyes and amazing voice! The symbol of his rule – his sword as he rules by his Word! Christians in all their suffering, need to know that this one is with them. Pictured as standing among the seven lampstands, signifies he is with the church – his people. Domitian doesn’t rule anything at all!! Jesus rules! He reigns!

DAY 4: Read Revelation 1:17-20

John fell as his feet as though dead. The total impact of his physical appearance and clothing were overpowering. To John’s immense relief, this Judge-King reassuringly place his right hand on him and assured him that he was firmly in control. In using “I AM” three times (“the first and the last”, “the Living One”, and “alive for ever and ever”), he claims his connection with God who revealed himself to Moses as the “I AM” (just as we see in John’s Gospel). He holds the keys to death and Hades (God’s eternal punishment) precisely because he claimed victory over death. The victory of Christ is always on view. There is no future battle in prospect; the victory already belongs to Jesus. We are to listen now to what he has to say and respond!

Next week we will look at the first of the seven letters to the seven churches.

[1] Paul Barnett, Apocalypse now and then p 3.