A Terrifying Vision of Jesus: Revelation 1:9-20

We should not be scared of teaching the book of Revelation.  In fact, John tells us in Revelation 1:3 that those who teach it and hear it will be blessed.  We should run to this book, ponder it deeply, and respond to it as the Word of God.  We have been in a series in the book of Revelation at RisenLife Church and Gateway Community Church and it is has been stretching us as pastors as well as the members of our churches.  I have included my recent sermon on Revelation 1:9-20 where John receives his commission to write the book of Revelation to the churches.  In this section of Revelation John will also receive a terrifying vision of Christ and then receive a Word for the risen Lord.
It is the vision of the risen Christ that motivated John, the seven churches, and should motivate us to persevere in Christ standing firm as faithful witnesses to Jesus, even unto death.  That is what this whole book is about; faithful witness and perseverance in Christ as we await His return.

Revelation 1:9-11 tells us that John is our partner in the Gospel.  Throughout his life he served as a faithful witness to Christ.  He had known Jesus, seen His transfiguration, and here gets a fresh look at the Lord he serves and is more than happy to continue to live for Christ.  He is in exile on the island of Patmos and receives a vision for the churches.  We see from John’s example that as believers if we are to claim Christ we will suffer for it.  Part of what Revelation wants to reveal to us is that we will suffer for our witness to and belief in Christ.  The question for us is, “Can we call ourselves partners in the Gospel?”  John is a partner in the Gospel and Jesus is asking us to become a partner as well.  It is actually our faithful witness to Christ in the midst of our trials that is God’s plan to reach the world.  Through your faithful and persevering witness, God will reach the nations.

In Revelation 1:12-17 John sees a terrifying vision of the risen Christ.  Every piece of the imagery used here has great meaning and significance.  Some will ask, “Is this what Jesus really looks like?”  My response is always “Absolutely!” and “Absolutely Not!”  John is describing Jesus through the use of pictorial language that helps him to communicate the magnitude of his vision.  Jesus is absolutely everything described here and that is terrifying.  Jesus has given this vision to us because He wants us to set our eyes on Him.  When we see Jesus for who He is, we cannot help but live for Him, speak about Him, and persevere in Him until the end.  If you are facing a lack of motivation in your Christian life for the things of God, then let me urge you to take a fresh look at Jesus!

An important aspect of John’s vision of Christ is the fact that Jesus is pictured as tending His churches.  Jesus is walking among the lampstands and as we will see in the letters to the different churches He will complement, correct, rebuke, celebrate, and motivate these churches towards holiness and perseverance.  We can take comfort in the fact that Jesus is in control of the church.  When the church you attend doesn’t do all the things you want it to, when you see problems, sin, and disunity, Jesus asks you to trust Him.  He is in control and He will discipline and sanctify His church.  Our response to Jesus’ activity among the lampstands is to trust Him.

It is interesting to note that John’s vision here accords almost exactly with that of Daniel in Daniel Chapter 10:1-21.  It is also interesting to note that John and Daniel along with Isaiah, Paul, and Peter have the same reaction to an encounter with the risen Lord; they fall down in fear and worship feeling ruined in their sin.  This is important for two reasons: First, it reminds us that the closer we get to Jesus, the more apparent our sin becomes.  This means we should not despair when we feel like we are growing in Christ and yet we see ourselves as more and more sinful.  This is what happens the closer you get to Jesus.  Secondly, and this may not seem like a very important detail in these accounts, but when your church is in Salt Lake City, it is very important.   Anyone who claims to have seen the risen Christ in a vision and their account is not accompanied with fear, worship, and a feeling of sinful inadequacy, it can be guaranteed that their vision is false.  Every time someone in the Bible encounters any spiritual being the reaction is pretty much the same, but even more so when they face Jesus.  Let us be careful not to fall prey to erroneous claims to visions of the risen Lord.  Jesus warns us that many will be deceived in the end and this is one way many have been deceived.

Finally in Revelation 1:17-20 John receives precious words from Jesus.  Similar to Isaiah in Isaiah 6:6-7 and Daniel in Daniel 10:10, Daniel 10:12, John is comforted.  If you have given your life to Christ, He has made you clean, He has wiped away your sin, He is for you, He wants the best for you, and He will ensure that you will faithfully follow Him until the end.  We no longer have to fear anything that may come our way.  He is alive and He is in charge.  In fact He is in control of the things we fear most: Death and Hades.

The most amazing part of Jesus’ words in Revelation 1:17-20 is the fact that He reveals Himself to be God.  In Revelation 1:17 He says “I am the first and the last, and the living one.”  Jesus is God.  This is part of the reason why Christians cannot let go of the Trinity.  God the Father says he is God, Jesus says he is God, and the Holy Spirit claims to be God.  Our security in salvation is based on this very fact.  Jesus is God come in the flesh and that is why he was able to accomplish our salvation.  Now he asks us to trust Him and to walk with Him until the end.

Revelation 1:7 tells us that Jesus is coming back.  He is a gracious and loving savior that wants to speak into our lives now and prepare us for what is to come.  Jesus does this trough His letters to the churches of Asia and visions of the future in the book of Revelation.

Jesus wants us to be faithful witnesses until the end.  Revelations 1:12-17 gives us a fresh vision of Him as the Risen Lord.  May we be motivated to persevere in our service to the King.

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