Revelation 1:9-20: Five Parts of John’s Vision
December 2, 2019
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
For an introduction to the Book of Revelation as a whole, see the previous devotional on the first part of chapter 1. Here we begin to get into the content of the book proper, and we are entering into the substance of John’s vision. Note, the five parts of the vision:
First, the context of the vision. John, along with other Christians at the time, is in a season of particular suffering and pressure for his Christian faith. It is in this context that this vision of Christ’s sovereignty and final victory comes to John. Christian, therefore, do not be discouraged by being opposed for being a Christian or sensing that the Christian faith is under opposition. Throughout church history, it is very frequently at these times of opposition that greatest insights have been given to Christians.
Second, the timing of the vision. It is on the “Lord’s Day,” i.e. Sunday, that John sees the vision. He is “in the Spirit,” focusing on God, in worship, caught up in reflection and meditation on Scripture, and it is there that this new insight and revelation is given to him. Christian, make the most of your Sunday. Some of us perhaps must work on Sundays; if we do not work, we will not be able to eat. The same was true for many of the early Christians who had to abide by the pagan calendar, not a Christian calendar. What did they do? They arose early on Sunday and worshipped God before the day’s work began. By all means, in whatever way you can, make the most of your Sundays to be in God’s house, among God’s people, worshipping God, listening to God’s Word, being “in the Spirit.”
Third, the destiny of the vision. The whole of the Book of Revelation is a letter that is written by Jesus, through John, to the seven churches of Asia. This is obvious from the beginning and in the actual letters that we see at the start, but the book as a whole is framed by this missive that is sent to these churches. There was an ancient road that went from Ephesus around to the other major cities of that region, and this Book of Revelation was to be carried from one to the other. Christian, it is the church which most concerns God. The church is God’s great hope for the world; the church is God’s plan A, and he does not have a plan B. Therefore, align your life with the local church.
Fourth, the substance of the vision. The substance of the vision is the person of Jesus himself. John’s description from verses 12 to 16 not only passes beyond all brilliance, it is also filled with meaning. Jesus is among the seven golden lampstands: he is concerned with and present with the local church. He has all the signs of purity, holiness, and power. His word, in particular, is frightening and awesome. His voice like the sound of rushing waters (ever heard Niagara Falls?), and out of his mouth comes a sharp double-edged sword. His face like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
Fourth, the response that John makes. He falls at his feet as though dead. Until we understand that this Jesus – awesome beyond words – is the Jesus, we will not respond in worship and awe as John did. Christian, worship Jesus and fall at his feet.
Fifth, the message that Jesus gives. Jesus tells John, first of all, not to be afraid. Jesus is awesome, but for those who trust in him, he is to be worshipped with great joy. Jesus is the first and last, the living one, who died and rose again. And because of that he holds the keys of death and hell. Praise him! And John is told to write what he sees. The timeframe of the letter is now described: it is about “what is now” and “what will take place later.” First we have a key: the seven golden lampstands are the seven churches of Asia, and the seven stars are the seven angels of those churches.
[What are are the “angels of the churches”? Many have wondered and come up with different solutions. Traditionally, they were said to be the “messengers” (“messenger” is what the word “Angel” means at root) of the churches, and hence the equivalent of the pastors of the churches. This view is dismissed by many scholars today because the word for angel is rarely used in this sort of context as a human messenger. But that it is a view honored by long tradition that needs to be taken into account; and it is certainly a coherent solution to why these letters are being written to someone: namely, the pastors of the churches. Another view is that the “angels” are literally the angels of the churches. That they are some sort of guardian angel of the churches. This too should not be dismissed; who are we to say that heaven does not assign guardian angels to churches? And if heaven does, then we can be grateful for it. But this nonetheless seems an unlikely interpretation. Why would Jesus tell John to write a letter to the angels? Surely there are easier ways for heaven to conduct their mail service. A third common interpretation is that the “angels of the churches” represent the basic spiritual essence or atmosphere or spiritual tenor and tone of the churches. Again we should not dismiss this view. It does seem a little vague as an interpretation, and difficult to see why a spiritual tone would receive a letter. What is the right interpretation? I’m not entirely sure! The most practical interpretation is the first, the most sophisticated the last. The reader can make their own choice. Either way, the meaning of the letters is not effected.]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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