For someone who came to faith in the 80s it’s a bit surreal to contemplate that we’re just over seven months away from entering 2020. For much of the 80’s the Bible-believing community was awash in speculation, discussion, and anticipation of the secret rapture of the church, which would be followed by the Great Tribulation. Consequently, many of us were sure that this world would never see the year 2020.
However, as we crossed the threshold of 2000 and into the 21st century, talk of the rapture has waned, being replaced with the best way to address America's challenges so that we can more fully enjoy the blessings of liberty. Yet as the people of the living God, we know that no country, no matter how great, can ever truly satisfy our deepest needs for identity, meaning, peace, security, value, purpose, and destiny. Beyond that, our primary mission remains: to be a witness to the world’s one and true King, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Consequently, though we live in relative ease, comfort, and prosperity in America, our mindset must always be that of exiles sent to this country to represent the world’s one true and final King, our Lord Jesus Christ. Like the Apostle John and the ancient church, we exist in the tribulation, the kingdom, and the patient endurance in our Lord Jesus Christ (see Rev. 1:9).
In the book of Revelation, Jesus gave us several visions that ground and fuel our worship and witness for the God who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. The first vision is of our Lord Himself. Revelation 1:9-20 reveals the vision of our Lord that John experienced while living in exile on the island of Patmos. Behind him he heard a “loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.’”
When John turned to see the voice, he came face to face with Jesus “clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest,” standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands. His hair was white, his eyes like fire. His feet “were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace.” He held seven stars in his right hand. A double edge sword came out from his mouth, and his face shined like the sun. When John saw Jesus, he fell on his face bowing before his Lord, and Jesus came to him and put his right hand on him and said, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
This vision compels our worship, service, and longing for our Lord.
It’s a crystal clear vision of Christ's power, majesty, deity, glory, and compassionate care for his people. I call it a vision of glory since it's a definitive statement of who Christ is, who we are, and why we exist. The striking imagery in the vision speaks to who Jesus is, what that means for his people, and why it moves us to pour our worship into him, find our delight in him, align our lives with his mission, turn to him for healing, and long for his return.
His long robe and golden sash speak of His great high priesthood (Exod. 28:4) and the definite atonement for the sin of all of his people. His victorious atonement guarantees that those who trust in him alone will share in the eternal blessings of that victory.
It's a compelling vision that sets the stage for the rest of them. It presents the Lord Jesus Christ as the all-powerful, all-sovereign, all-glorious conquering king that he is. His feet of burnished bronze speak of his brilliant and beautiful eternal kingdom that's constantly on the march and will not stop until every single molecule in this universe is under his direct and blessed rule.
This vision offers blessed comfort to us today.
When John first heard the voice and turned to see its source, he first saw seven golden candlesticks and then our Lord Jesus Christ standing right in the middle of them, signifying that our Lord stood with and not apart from his church. And it is with his church that He still stands through all our struggle, distress, persecution, flaws, and sin.
He stands as the literal Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8). John was blessed to gaze upon the full, unfiltered glory of the living God emanating from the face of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the glory of God of which Moses was given but a glimpse (Ex. 34). It was this glory that so filled the temple that Moses the man of God could not enter (Ex. 40), nor could God's holy priest continue with their service (1 Ki 8).
From John we learn that our Lord Jesus Christ, in the full expression of His awesome glory dwells with his church, motivating our worship, witness, and service to him while we eagerly await his soon and certain return.
The visions of Revelation are as potent and relevant for Christ’s church today as they were over two thousand years ago. We’d therefore be wise to turn to them for a clear, compelling view of our Lord that truly moves us to worship, serve, witness, and long for him.