From the Island of Patmos to the World
The Book of Revelation
Scripture Reading: Revelation 1:9-20
The key to understanding the book of Revelation is to know that it is all about Jesus Christ. If we lose focus on the Risen and Victorious Christ, we will get lost in all the other pictures and symbols that bombard us throughout the rest of the book. It’s always about Jesus and the opening vision sets the stage for everything that follows. Revelation 1 shows us Jesus is not dead, silent, or absent from among his people. He is present among us.
Who is the author of Revelation and from where is he writing his letter? Why is he there?
Who originally received this letter?
From the island of Patmos, the revelation to John will reach across time and geography. This is a letter for the Church of Christ of all times and all places. And what is the content of that letter? We hear it in Revelation 1:12-20 and it is expounded upon in seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. It’s all one vision of the Risen and Victorious Christ. A Jesus who was simply a first-century travelling preacher and teacher of good morals and ethics is not good enough. Jesus is more than that – much more. N.T. Wright says, “To see Jesus as he is would drive us not to snuggle up to him, but to fall at his feet as though we were dead.” The glory of the risen and victorious Lord is awesome. The vision in our text is an awesome sight that causes John to fall down as though dead. The vision brings us to our knees in worship and adoration.
How is the Risen Jesus described in John 1:12-16?
What Old Testament prophet also had a vision of the “Son of Man” and “Ancient of Days”?
What does the “sharp double-edged sword” represent?
What do the stars and the lampstands represent?
The fancy name for this type of writing that we find in Revelation is called “Apocalyptic Literature”. It uses pictures and symbols to depict a greater reality. We do not read these visions as literal descriptions of God and Jesus. They are pictures and symbols. They are symbolic in the way that a flag is symbolic of the country it represents.
It’s an awesome vision that John sees in our text, but what are we to make of it, really? What is the enduring message for the Church today? This is where we need to be wise. The never changing revelation is of the Risen and Victorious Christ, but the Word that comes from the throne is a living and active Word that will speak into the place and situation where it is heard. God’s Word will always speak into the context in which it is given.
What follows our text in Revelation 1 are seven letters to seven churches in Revelation 2-3. In one sense they are individual letters speaking into the life and times of Christian communities from a long time ago. However, it is really a single message to the Church of all times and places. And the message is this: The Living Christ is present among his churches. Pictures and symbols representing a greater reality is what we find in the book of Revelation. The picture in Revelation 1:12-16 is of One who speaks as he stands among the lampstands. The One who speaks is Christ and he is among the lampstands which represent his single, universal, beloved Church. Therefore, to all of us he says, “Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever.”
How are we comforted by the vision of Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16?
What is the word he says that was also spoken on the night when he was born?
The apostle John may have found himself exiled to the island of Patmos, but the Word of the Lord is never in exile. It will always be living and active. The powers of this world may oppose the Church and scatter the members, but we are never defeated. In our pandemic-focused world things might seem bleak, but there are also signs of hope. We are not abandoned, the Church will not die, the gospel is still being proclaimed. What unites us is much bigger than what might divide us. The victory is already ours and we rest in the gospel of Jesus Christ: crucified, risen, and Lord. He is the Risen and Victorious Savior who is present among us.
Read Revelation 2-3 and notice how Jesus consistently refers back to the vision in Revelation 1 as he addresses the seven churches.