6th Sunday after Pentecost Sermon Series: “What a Revelation!”
July 17, 2022 Part 2, review of Intro, Rev. 1:1-20
(from Rv.Victor Marxhausen bible study 94/08)
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Two Q’s: What do you think of the Book of Revelation? And, what does God want you to think of the Book of Revelation?
Last Sunday we had an introduction to the last book of the Bible; in Greek, it’s titled the ‘Apocalypse of John’. Please note that the Greek word ‘apocalypse’ does not mean ‘disaster’ or catastrophe = even tho that’s what a modern dictionary wants to say. It means ‘unveiling’ or ‘revelation.’ Something hidden or unknown is ‘revealed.’
And even tho one thing that the book of Revelation reveals is the complete destruction of evil, that’s not the most important message of the book. What is unveiled is God’s victorious Savior = Jesus Christ is revealed in power & glory & mercy for the salvation of mankind, and the re-creation of this broken, evil world. The book is not about disaster, it’s about salvation; and the Savior is chiefly about saving & rescuing, not about destroying ==…well, unless you are evil, refusing to believe His cross-work & gracious promise.
So, the opening verses declare that this book is ‘the revelation of JC’, and that you will be blessed when you read & hear this book, because the time of its fulfillment is drawing near. You & I are always blessed by God’s Word because it is the chosen way that God-The-Holy-Spirit reveals & connects us to the one Savior, the Son of God, with His control over all things, and His compassion for you & me, and for our neighbor.
As we read this book, we must keep in mind that it is ONE vision of God’s whole plan of salvation, from the beginning of history to the end of history. God tells us about this beginning-to-end-story seven times, using seven different sets of symbols. Even tho the symbols are different, the view is the same basic 4-parts: God gives attention to His creation, sin & evil ruin His creation, Christ comes to fix our problem, and God wins the victory & restores us. It is: Genesis, the Fall, the Cross, and the New Creation = that’s our story.
And because it has this large view of history, it uses picture language, so that whether we are in the stone-age or the computer-age, humans can grasp God’s message of salvation.
We will also struggle to understand parts of the book, because God’s history is still unraveling, and it will keep doing so until the day that Christ suddenly returns in glory.
So, for example, we’re never sure if -when the book mentions a plague- what plague is it referring to? Is it talking about /the Bubonic plague of the 1300s, /or the Spanish flu of the 1900s, /or the covid pandemic, /or something yet to come; //or maybe it’s talking about a spiritual plague?
Regardless, only God knows in what way -or how many different times- these symbols will be applied in history, and to what future events. But, we can know this for sure: this book is not meant for us to use as a guessing game; it is meant for the strengthening of our faith in Christ. It’s not for predicting things, but for us to see Jesus as Savior & Lord of all; so that we will never lose heart, but will be busy being His obedient disciples, serving & supporting His Church & gospel mission to save more souls from eternal death.
With that perspective, no matter what happens in the world, our lives will have confidence and peace in the Mighty One who is working & unveiling His plan. And since about the year 100, when this vision was given to John, every believer -of any time or place- is able to read this book, and be blessed with the same confidence & peace in Christ Jesus.
In our sermon series, we’re going to focus on chpts.1~4. This morning, we review chpt.1 Let me read 1:1-11 (in your bulletin is a handout with chpt.1)
Let’s talk about John, Patmos, and Jesus = as John sees Him in this vision. John was the son of Zebedee, the brother of James. You remember that these two of the Twelve disciples were called the ‘sons of thunder’ in Matt.10. The earliest Christians fathers acknowledged the writer of Revelation is that John, the Apostle. Many so-called scholars in our day claim that the writer is some different John, who lived later; called ‘John-the-Elder.’ But the early church did refer to the last & aged apostle as ‘the elder.’
The evidence in the book itself tells us that the author was a Jew, well-versed in the Scriptures, and knew extremely well the teachings of Jesus, like an eyewitness. The apostle didn’t need to verify his own credibility in the book, because at nearly 100 years old, John was very well known, and had the highest respect among the NT churches; especially to the 7 churches of Asia Minor, to whom he writes in the first 3 chapters. The Apostle John served the large church in Ephesus for 25 years.
It’s accepted that the Apostle John is the author of the book also because his 3 epistles & gospel have a similar writing style to the way Revelation is presented. The date of the writing also matches with the historic date of when John was exiled on the Isle of Patmos by the Emperor Domitian. Back then, the Christian Church wasn’t that big, and there’s no other John that had such standing in the early church that his writing would’ve been valued as Scripture except the one the Bible calls ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ And Ephesians 2 reminds us that “God’s church is built on the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.” (2:20)
It is very fitting that the Lord of Glory would entrust this final unveiling to this apostle; the one who reclined on His chest -like a younger brother- at the Last Supper. And remember Jesus’ words from the cross? Jesus entrusted John -& not His own family- with the care of His earthly mother Mary. So, Jesus had preserved for Himself a special writer for this Final book of the Bible. And even tho the Church & John were being persecuted for the faith, the message is that there is victory in Jesus, and all the powers of hell cannot stop it.
That gives US great courage! The year is about 95 AD; all the other apostles -as well as many regular Christians- have been put to death just because they professed Jesus as the true God & world’s only Savior. So, the last one of the Twelve, banished from the world, filled with the HSp, obediently writes what he sees and hears.
Patmos is an island in the Aegean Sea, which today is the water between Greece and Turkey. It’s about 40 miles off the coast from Ephesus. The island is about 12 miles long and between 2 & 6 miles wide; a rugged, barren land in that day. If you would go there today you would see a small cave, which is said to be the place where John stayed for 2-3 years.
Patmos was used as a prison for criminals & political offenders against the Roman Empire. You see, John had not been ‘politically correct.’ In our day, you are not politically correct if you say -with the Bible- that abortion is not ‘healthcare’, it kills a baby; you can be cancelled from social media sites, or protested against by a mob. For John, to preach that Jesus was the one true God & Savior of man was seen as denying a divine honor to the Emperor, & you could be arrested & punished. There had already been persecution under Emperor Nero, but Emperor Domitian was even more brutal.
Domitian referred to himself as ‘lord and god.’ The Jews-of-the-day had an arrangement & were excused from the required Emperor worship =but not Christians. So Christians suffered & were killed in some horrible ways. John shared in the persecution. Even tho he was spared direct martyrdom, he was imprisoned on the island and left there to die. On a Sunday, he was worshiping, and the vision was given to him. Jesus shows Himself to John in a picture of triumph, victory & Lordship, and Jesus speaks to His Church then and His Church now.
Let me read the rest of the first chapter (vs.12-20)
Using the Scripture as our guide, we can say THIS about what is seen:
The robe & sash depicts humility and priestly holiness. Jesus is our high priest, as the book of Hebrews says. The white of wool & snow shows the eternal character of Christ; He has purity, wisdom, and dignity. The blazing eyes is the all-seeing & penetrating knowledge of God, from which nothing is hidden. The glowing bronze feet shows His judgment-power to tread on all His enemies. The voice of rushing waters is the voice of power & authority that nothing can drown-out. The two-edged sword is the Word of God, says Eph.6. It is The Spirit & power of God; it does whatever it says. And the glory & beauty of God’s Son is seen in His face. He stands among the lampstands; those are His churches, who are His lights to the world. And He upholds His Church’s angels or messengers with His righteous right hand.
Those angels, or messengers, refer to both the pastors of those congregations, who are called to proclaim the word of Christ which converts & saves souls; and it also refers to heavenly angels, which God assigns to watches over & protect His people who are to faithfully proclaim His saving Gospel to the world.
After this, what follows is Jesus’ words to the 7-churches; and we’ll continue with the first letter next week. When we read those 7-short letters, we read about what God expected of them, especially when the world opposes. He expected perseverance in the truth =not caving-in;
He expected an uncompromising witness to the One God & One Savior, & to the teaching of His truth for this life. Jesus expects what He said in Matt.10: “If you acknowledge Me before others, I will acknowledge you before My Father in heaven. But if you deny me before others, I will deny you before my Father in heaven.”
Those 7-letters and this vision went out to the churches for the purpose of strengthening the hearts of the faithful to /resist false teaching, /resist compromising the truth, /& resist emperor or idol worship. The vision reveals that there will be a final showdown between God and evil, or Satan = the leader of that evil. And – Satan has already lost! Satan will increase his persecution of believers, but to obtain the Crown of Life believers must stand fast = even in the face of death. God’s people have His own protection against any spiritual harm; the victory is theirs in Christ, and the victory will be fully seen by all when Christ returns. The wicked will be forever destroyed, and God’s people will enter an eternity of glory & blessing.
These 7-letters and the vision are also for God’s Church today = for us at Immanuel. There continues to be persecution of Christians in the world, in places & with various degrees. In Muslim and Communist countries, the Christian faith is simply not allowed. Last year over 5,000 Christians were killed (that we know of), & many thousands arrested, fined or imprisoned.
A few months ago, our church body spoke up in support of the Lutheran pastor and a teacher in Finland who were sued & threatened with jail simply for writing a pamphlet saying that, biologically, there are two genders, male & female. Christian churches & pregnancy support centers have been targeted since the Supreme Court decision to turn the abortion question back to individual states. For us, we’re mostly just ridiculed; but it could get worse.
In our day, we don’t have a forced emperor worship, as John did. But we certainly have a cultural worship of idols. There is a strong peer-pressure to idolize the ‘gods among us’, such as /sports & movie stars, /the wealthy, /& the politicians who control things. Satan has many crafty ways of getting us to take our eyes off of Jesus, so that we will chase after the things of this world. But only in being with Jesus will we enter & receive His eternal good things.
Our troubles today -really- are the same troubles as back then. So Jesus’ words to John are both warning and instruction for us, too. Blessed is the church that heeds the warning, and keeps itself unpolluted by the world, and keeps-to the mission of calling others out the world, and into life in Christ. These are the timeless things that are important to our Creator.
The kingdom of God is built on the faithful, pure, and public witness of Jesus Christ, and on His Word of truth and guidance. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard thru the word of Christ.’ (Rom.10:17)
We will hear these 7-letters say that if you change that Christian witness, or water it down, or teach error, or stop the mission, then the faith that saves a soul is endangered & mocks God. Lives & souls are at stake.
To summarize, Jesus says: keep the faith which has been revealed to you & written down. Do not attempt to change who I am, what I said, or what I am about. Do not let go of the promise so freely given to you, which is the forgiveness of sin and the life of righteousness which I purchased for you with my blood on the cross.
The book of Revelation proclaims that Jesus IS the only way, truth & life; and no one will go to the Father except thru Him. The book shows graphically that the righteous wrath of God is already being poured out against those who reject Him. But blessing & peace is already being given into the lives of all those who cling to the Savior. Jesus is the One who has brought you into His Church, & stands among US, His lampstands; He is with us by His Word and His Sacraments of water, bread & wine. With His things, His Church will continue to be the light of the world.
It is a marvelous book. It applied in John’s day; it applied a thousand years ago, and one hundred years ago, and it applies to us today. It will also apply a hundred years from now, and until Christ Jesus returns in glory. God strengthen us in His Faith until the day we see Him face-to-face.
New International Version
1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
Greetings and Doxology
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits[a] before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
John’s Vision of Christ
9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,[d] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels[e] of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.