A Vision of Christ: Revelation Chapter 1
What does Jesus look like? This has been a question for centuries. When artists try to paint a picture of Jesus, they often do so with an eye to the familiar. The Europeans paint Him as a white man, long hair and a beard. Others paint Him as a Middle Eastern Man, curly hair, in rough clothing.
The book of Revelation is very interested in giving us an accurate picture of Christ. No, there are no snap-shots from His family album, but there are amazing word pictures.
The Faithful One, The Resurrected One, The Ruling One, the Loving One, the Glorious One, and the Coming One.
The church at the end of the first century desperately needed to see Jesus. There was some confusion about who the real king was and who was God.
You see, during the time of Octavian or Augustus Caesar, some came to see a man as god. At his death a statue was place of him in the Pantheon and he was proclaimed as god.
No one really took all of this seriously until Caligula insisted on being worshipped while being alive. The soldier who killed him said, “Caligula discovered that he was not a god!”
But at the end of the first century, the cult of emperor worship became very serious. Domitian declared himself “lord and god” and demanded that all worship him.
The Jews were given an exemption because of their known monotheistic stance. However, Christians had no exception, and they steadfastly refused to worship Caesar. And so, Domitian launched a world-wide effort to eradicate the church. Thousands died.
About seventy miles southwest of Ephesus was the tiny prison island of Patmos; there in exile was the apostle John, the last living apostle.
He was spared martyrdom by Domitian, but was banished to Patmos to shut him up. One Sunday morning, John was visited by a friend he had not seen in some sixty years. This friend said, “write what you see” and then held back the curtain for John to see.
Jesus revealed to John just the message that the church needed to hear. It is also a message that we need to hear today.
Today we begin to look at what Jesus revealed to John in the Book of Revelation. We won’t learn what every image means’ we won’t try to prove every theory false. But what we will do is to look at the sweeping story of the victory of the Lamb.
Two Foundational Facts:
First, the book was written to a specific historical situation. John goes out of his way to put everything into historical context.
1:1 Read “must soon take place”
1:3 Read “the time is near”
The way to approach any study of the Bible is to always understand what it meant to its first hearers. If we make any text mean what it could have meant, then we have missed the point. To see this book speaking about thousands of years from its writing misses the point.
John is writing to a hurting church that desperately needs a word from God. This book must mean something to them. It is written to them for a reason.
Second, the central figure of the book is Jesus Christ. It is a “revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is both a revelation by Him and a revelation about Him. Jesus is the point!
Eugene Peterson, in his book Reversed Thunder, makes this point about Revelation.
“Revelation is, in the first place not information about the bad world we live in or a report on the first century church under persecution. It is a proclamation by and about Jesus Christ.”
- a. Chapters 2-3: Christ dictates the letters to the seven churches of Asia.
- b. Chapter 5: Jesus who is the Lamb worthy to open the scroll.
- c. Chapter 12: Christ is the male child that rules the nations.
- d. Chapter 14: Jesus is on Mt. Zion, rising on clouds to execute judgment.
- e. Chapters 17, 19: Jesus is “the King of king and the Lord of lords.”
- f. Chapter 22: The book closes with a benediction in the name of Christ.
James Stewart, in the book of The Gates of New Life gives us this analogy of 1:5, 6. (READ)
- Jesus Loves Us
- Jesus released us from our sins by His blood
- Jesus had made us to be a kingdom and priests
- To Jesus be the glory and the dominion forever
Who is the heavy in the Apocalypse? Who is represented by beasts and dragons? Oh, I could spend time on that too. But who is the hero of the story? There is no doubt! This book is about Jesus.
There are to interpretive keys that control how we will handle the book.
- First, it must mean something to the persecuted church at the end of the first century.
- Second, it must focus in Christ. And interpretation that shifts focus off Christ is false.
If fact, these two points actually merge into one—what this persecuted church needed to see most was a renewed vision of the glory of Christ. That’s how John begins.
The Vision of Christ
What does Jesus look like? What vision of Christ are we to take with us and think of when we think of Christ? Read Revelation 1:12-18
First, we see Christ’s authority. (1:13) His attire is not that of the common working man, but of royalty. His robe is tied with a gold sash. Royal robes are secured by gold. Jesus is presented as a king.
Second, this vision speaks of Christ’s purity and holiness. (1:14) His head and hair are white as snow.
White is a symbol of purity; it will have that significance several times in this book. So when we look at Jesus we see purity, holiness.
Third, this portrait of Him proclaims Christ’s vision. (1:14) His eyes are blazing fire. Hebrews 4:13 says: “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Could Jesus see what was going on with the early church? Did He know that His people were suffering? John here assures the church that Jesus does see; His eyes penetrate all.
Fourth, the vision stresses power. (1:15) The metal spoken of is metal that has strength and endurance. His feet will trample all those who dare to oppose Him.
His voice was powerful and majestic, like the sound of the waves on the sea. When the Lord speaks, men should listen. His voice carries the power and weight of authority.
Fifth, this vision of Christ points to the judgment of Christ. (1:16) This is not some good news; it was the Lord’s Word of judgment on His enemies.
Other times in Revelation we have this reference again. In chapter 2, concerning false teacher, Jesus says “Therfore repent. IF not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” Rev. 2:16
In Revelation 19, the sword comes from the mouth of Christ to destroy His enemies.
Jesus Christ has not forgotten about justice. So Christians, in all of your distress and trouble, do not worry, the God of justice has not forgotten you.
Sixth, the vision speaks of the deity of Christ. (17-18)
“I died, and behold I am alive forevermore. And not only is He alive, but He now controls the realm of death, for He has the “keys of death and Hades.”
It is Christ and not Imperial Rome who holds the power of death and Hades. He has the power to release the spirits of those who died for their faith. Death would not destroy them, and Hades could not hold them.
Jesus is also saying that He has the power to cast unbelievers into the realms of death and Hades, as is evident later in Revelation. What He wants these early Christians to know and apply is His deity. “Do not be afraid!”
Even though it appears that the world is ruled by Rome, it is Jesus Christ who is the real ruler.
And so as the church face extinction because a megalomaniac proclaimed himself lord and god. It is the vision of Christ that should give them strength and understanding to withstand the persecution and trials they are dealing with.
And as we look at Jesus, we too should gain strength.
Can you see His portrait? Look upon Him.
- Jesus has all authority
- Jesus is pure and holy.
- Jesus’ vision sees all and so He knows all.
- Jesus’ power can trample all who oppose Him.
- Jesus’ judgment trumps the judgment of this world.
- Do not be afraid, Jesus is deity and He holds the power of death.
Some are uncomfortable with the concept of a powerful Lord who punishes evil. They prefer the Jewish carpenter, the pale Galilean, the gentle Shepherd. When evil comes into your life, however—when the world turns against you and hope flies out the window—you need someone who knows your problems and heartaches, someone with the power to do something about it.
Revelation tells us that that Someone we need is Jesus.