Our Majestic Ascended Lord Jesus

Revelation  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:45
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Our Majestic Ascended Lord Jesus Christ Spring Valley Mennonite; September 16, 2018; Revelation 1:9-20 The Gospels present Jesus from His miraculous birth to His death and resurrection. The Epistles give hints of the present ministry of Jesus in heaven as our Mediator and Intercessor. Now, the Revelation tells us “the rest of the story”. In this book, we see a very different Lord Jesus; we see Jesus glorified and exalted. Philippians 2 presents the two aspects of Jesus’ mission: 2:5-11: Have this attitude [e]in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [f]grasped, 7 but [g]emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death [h]on a cross. This was the first aspect of Jesus’ mission. The second aspect is what we see in the Revelation: 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. W.A. Criswell, the long-time pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas observes this about these two divisions of Jesus’ mission: But then is that all the world is ever to see of our Savior—dying in shame on a cross? No! It is also a part of the plan of God that someday this unbelieving, this blaspheming, this godless world shall see the Son of God in His full character, in glory, in majesty, in the full-orbed wonder and marvel of His Godhead. Then all men shall look upon Him as He really is. They shall see Him holding in His hands the title-deed to the Universe, holding in His hands the authority of all creation in the universe above us, in the universe around us, and in the universe beneath us; holding this world and its destiny in His pierced and loving hands. (Expository Sermons on Revelation [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969], 1:16–17)1 In this second sermon on the Book of Revelation, John describes the awesome majesty of the ascended and glorified Lord. I. The Setting and the Charge to John Read 1:9-11. As we observed last week, the Emperor Domitian instituted a persecution on Christians in the last decade of the first century. His suspicious nature saw in Christianity challenges to his authority as Emperor. John alludes to this in verse 9, as he was experiencing first-hand the persecution in his exile on Patmos. At this time, the Apostle John was well-known as a leader in the church, and most likely the only surviving of Jesus’ disciples. John identifies with the oppression being experienced by others, but also with the hope of the Kingdom of Christ and the perseverance required to, not only survive, but truly count in that kingdom. Today we understand and experience the need for hope and perseverance as our culture grows increasingly hostile to the things of God. It was on a Sunday, “The Lord’s Day”. John was separated from his congregation on the day when people were gathered to worship. When any Pastor is separated from his congregation on Sunday, he misses them deeply and prays for them. I think John was praying for his church, and for other churches in his circle of influence, perhaps for some of the very churches mentioned here. John was deeply engrossed in meditation and worship, “in the Spirit”. The best explanation I have found about “being in the Spirit” is in the writings of Manfred George Gutzke: “John’s being ‘in the Sprit’ is commonly understood to mean that he was in such a state of communion with the Lord that he himself was caught up on personal fellowship and communion with the Lord through the working of the Holy Spirit in him. If we should have the idea right now that we want to be “in the Spirit” on any given day, I suggest that this is a matter of putting other things out of our minds, not thinking of anything else—and then thinking about the Lord Jesus Christ, letting the Holy Spirit show the things of Jesus Christ to us. If we were to devote ourselves in prayerful worship and think on the things that the Spirit brings to mind—Jesus Christ dying for us, Jesus Christ raised for us, Jesus Christ interceding on our behalf, Jesus Christ dwelling with us, Jesus Christ being in us—and then think those things through until by the working of the Holy Spirit, the presence of Jesus Christ would become more real in our consciousness than any other person or thing, we could well say that we were in the Spirit, namely, that the Spirit had control over our consciousness at that time.”2 The scene suggests he was alone when his meditations were interrupted by a loud voice, which arrested his immediate attention. Picture quietly meditating and being startled by some sound as loud as a trumpet! Talk of heart-stopping! Usually God speaks to us through scripture or in quiet impressions in our mind, but this message was of crucial importance! Seemingly John was paralyzed at first, for the voice continued before John turned to see who was speaking. He was commissioned with the words, “Write in a book what you see and send it to these seven churches.” These seven were representative of what issues and problems the existing churches were experiencing, but also presented a picture of issues in the different eras in the history of the church before the great and terrible Day of the Lord’s Judgment and return. These problems can also crop up in any church today, so the individual warnings apply to the church of the 21st century. A message of challenge and warning was about to be delivered to these seven churches and to us. II. The Glorified and Risen Jesus Speaks! The voice was not without a body, but what a sight John saw! Read vv. 12-13. There is no useful information in the Bible telling what Jesus looked like. Painters from the first millennium portrayed Jesus as a white European, which, while appealing to their audience, certainly didn’t reflect reality. The pictures of Jesus we commonly find, including the one on the wall behind me, portray Jesus in His earthly ministry. John knew Jesus intimately, as John described himself as “the disciple Jesus loved”. But the magnificent and awesome figure who speaks to John only bore a faint resemblance to the Jesus John knew on earth. Contrast in your mind the vision of Christ on the cross, physically abused so dreadfully that he barely looked human, with this magnificent being—the exalted Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory! When you pray, do you visualize the One to whom you pray? What kind of Jesus do you see? As John saw Him is what He is truly like! No longer see our Lord as “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”! Let’s examine the vision of what John saw: The first thing John noticed was seven lampstands. Allow me to digress from the description of Christ to comment on these lampstands. Verse 20 tells us the identity of the lampstands: they are the seven churches mentioned in verse 11. Think with me for a moment about lampstands. The lampstands of John’s day were like floor lamps, tall with an oil lamp or lamps on the stem. Today we have incandescent or LED bulbs which provide light, but a light bulb is useless without a lamp. What we call a “lamp” today is really a lampstand. All lamps elevate the source of light, so the light can shine on a larger area: the taller the lamp, the further the light can spread. We take table lamps and, as their name says, elevate them on tables. A candle stick serves the same purpose. Why do you think churches are said to be lampstands holding lights? Does it not tell us that the purpose of a church is to shed light? We as a church are to be a lampstand which lifts up the light of the world. What or Who is that light? John recorded Jesus saying, “I am the light of the world”. We exist as a church to lift up Jesus, to make Him known, and to be an example of “Light-filled people. Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation evaluate these churches on how effective they are being as “lampstands”. Jesus is said to be standing in the middle of these seven churches, observing and evaluating and challenging them to remove any hindrances to their light-spreading purpose. Returning to this magnificent and awesome figure John saw, he saw “one like the son of man”—it was a human figure, for the resurrected and glorified Christ has a body in heaven; He is the first-fruit of all we who will also receive glorified bodies. But this God-man was majestic, clothed in a robe reaching to his feet. In describing the clothing of Jesus at His transfiguration, which James, John and Peter observed, it was dazzlingly white and gleaming. The robe was the garment of a priest. The priest’s clothing emphasized modesty and covered the body; the ordinary men’s garment of John’s day was shorter and more suited for work. The upper body of Christ was girt about with a golden sash, representing Jesus as our High Priest, who offered the final and ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Whereas the Jewish High Priest wore such a covering, called an “ephod”, with 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel, this golden ephod or sash was pure gold, speaking of the unity of our High Priest under the New Covenant and His relation to the church. Read vv. 14-15 His head and hair were snow white. This doesn’t speak of age, although those of us with white hair would like to think so! It takes us back to the vision in Daniel 7 of the Ancient of Days: “I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool…” John continues his description: “His eyes were as a flame of fire.” We think of the eyes of Christ as being compassionate, looking down upon us with the knowledge of our infirmities and weakness. But when we are being called to our accountability for the responsibilities He has given, or facing the significance of our conduct, His eyes would deliver a penetrating gaze. The flaming eyes of the Lord Jesus burn through any excuses we might offer for our sin. His feet glowed like polished brass, like they had just come out of an oven. This demonstrates not only strength and stability, but in the Old Testament, brass stood for judgement. The altar before the Tabernacle and Temple was made of brass, for it could stand the temperature. The ways of the Lord, relating here to the feet, are of unyielding righteousness. One writer puts it like this: “The day is coming when He shall put His feet on everything contrary to truth and righteousness. Everything unholy will be stamped out in divine judgement.”3 The voice John heard was powerful, like the roaring of a mighty waterfall or a raging river. My family once visited Niagara Falls. The sound was overpowering, and all you could do was be silent and listen. Read v. 16. In His right hand, the hand of honor, Jesus held seven stars. Verse 20 tells us that these stars are “the angels of the seven churches”. The word “angel” may speak of a particular guardian angel assigned to each church, but the same word, translated “messenger” in Luke 9:52 and James 2:25 refers to people. It has been suggested that these “angels” were the human leaders of the church, the Pastor. This possibility humbles, thrills and frightens me! “Out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword.” This doesn’t match any way we might envision our Lord! Once again, this is a symbol, not a picture. It reflects what we read in Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” What Jesus says, either directly or through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the writings of the Bible, are piercing and sharp, absolute in their authority. We dare not ignore the truthful, and often severe sword-like words of God’s Word; one does not trifle with one wielding a sharp two-edged sword! One last descriptive phrase describing Christ is that His face is shining like the sun! Churches are lamps, Christians are as stars, but Jesus is the Sun! III. The Consequences of the Vision (are found in verses 17-20…) Read vv. 17-20 We must realize that John is writing this “after the fact”. When John experienced it the loud voice, the vision, and the effect of the vision occurred quickly, one after the other. John’s response was to collapse in terror and fear. I can imagine how being roused out of deep meditation by such a vision would strike terror in anyone! A Christian song which has become popular in the last few years is entitled “I Can Only Imagine”. There has been a very moving Christian film made about the writer of the song, and his group “MercyMe”. The first verse and the chorus go like this: I Can Only Imagine MercyMe I can only imagine what it will be like When I walk by Your side I can only imagine what my eyes will see When Your face is before me I can only imagine Surrounded by Your glory What will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus? Or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your presence? Or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing Hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine, I can only imagine. ©1999 Simpleville Music(ASCAP) Songwriters: Bart Marshall Millard © ESSENTIAL MUSIC PUBLISHING For non-commercial use only. Data from: LyricFind When we see Jesus, our situation will be different than that of John. Our glimpse will most likely be as we have just drawn our last breath and are “absent from the body and present with the Lord” as Paul puts it. But I can’t think of any response other than falling on my face in humility and gratitude and awe at the sight of our Lord and Savior! I think a dance of joy will come later! Upon seeing Jesus, John faints away in fear, but the Savior reaches down, lays His right hand on John, the right hand communicating power and blessing. How many times had this disciple heard Jesus say the words, “Fear not!”? This ascended and resurrected Jesus, awesome in power and burning with righteous judgment, need not be feared by anyone who has taken advantage of the mercy and grace He offers. But for the one who has rejected God’s offer of salvation, yes, fear and dread is the only response left. Jesus follows with the words, “I am the first and the last, and the Living One, and I was dead, but now am alive forevermore!” The crucified Lord has now taken His rightful place with the Father and has resumed a glorified state. We once again are awed by the love of God which through the death of Christ ransomed us from sin and eternal death. God died for us! But He is now alive forevermore! The final chapter of redemption and the eradication of sin and wickedness is at hand. John is about to witness a preview of the end of the world as we know it; Justice is about to be fulfilled on earth. The devil and his followers, who have tormented mankind from the beginning, will be forever eliminated. For all the unbelievers entering the Tribulation Period, final opportunity will be given for responding to the Gospel message, but the opportunity will only last for seven years, and with all the natural catastrophes, life will be short for many. One should never count on a final chance to repent. It will be very difficult for anyone to follow Christ, although many will. Most of the earth’s population will not survive the terrible judgments of the Day of the Lord. John is to write what he has seen, this first chapter’s vision; the things which are: the present conditions of the church in chapters 2 and 3; and the things which shall take place: the events described in the final 19 chapters. This serves as an outline of the Book of Revelation. Throughout the last 2000 years of church history when the church has faced tough times of opposition and persecution, the Book of Revelation has been a great comfort. These are such times, and the time is near. Jesus is coming! There will be no warning when the Lord Jesus comes in the air to rapture His church. Are you ready? Another question: What would you like to be doing when He comes? Is there anything for which you would be ashamed? Food for thought! Do you face that day with confidence or fear?
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