The opening scenes of the book of Revelation find the faithful disciple John imprisoned on the isle of Patmos. He was sentenced to this fate because of his widespread success in proclaiming the gospel throughout the Roman world. The Patmos prison experience was meant to silence his powerful message. But the Roman authorities could not have been more wrong.
Jesus is communicating with us that He is right here, with us, in our church today.
The opening passages of Revelation bear a striking resemblance to the opening passages in the book of Daniel. Daniel chapter one opens with a siege on the city of Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar took several captives, including Daniel. Despite his captivity, Daniel remained faithful to the Lord.
While the siege on Jerusalem was taking place, Daniel was probably scared for his life and perhaps confused. Similarly, while he was being tried, sentenced, and then transported to a prison island, John must have felt deep strain. Yet through these hardships God gave us the complementary hopefilled works of Daniel and Revelation.
There is a very powerful lesson here about the Christian experience, staying faithful to the Lord, and trusting Him to turn our dark moments into transcendent and eternal lessons. We see here a revelation of Jesus as a personal and loving God who is there through it all, carrying us even through life’s dark valleys.
The Lord’s Day (Exod. 31:13; Isa. 58:13; Matt. 12:8; Rev. 1:10)
When theologians discuss eschatology, they are discussing that part of theology that deals with death, judgment, and the events surrounding the end time. The book of Revelation and the companion book Daniel are eschatological books, painting a picture through imagery of the events of the end time.
It is the eschatological nature of these books that has led scholars to debate the meaning of the term the Lord’s day used in Revelation 1:10. Does this term refer to the Sabbath day? Or does this term point forward to the great day of the second coming of Jesus Christ? Whichever side of the scholarly debate you may be on, the beautiful thing is that both arguments are a revelation of Jesus Christ. The first argument, the Sabbath, is a weekly revelation of Jesus Christ in our lives. A day set aside by God, for humanity, from the very beginning of creation in this world. The second argument, the second coming of Jesus Christ, represents the final and most dramatic revelation of Jesus Christ—the day that the sons and daughters of this earth will finally be reunited with our heavenly Father.
Jesus Revealed (Rev. 1:12–17)
As fascinating as the debate regarding the Lord’s day may be, what happens to John next literally defies description. We know that he was observing Jesus. But the Jesus in my mind’s eye usually doesn’t have feet of glowing bronze, a voice like rushing waters, or a double-edged sword coming out of His mouth. It seems John really had a difficult time articulating his vision. Amid this colorful imagery the words like and as are repeatedly used, associating what he was seeing with human tangibles but also suggesting that the vision of the Lord that he witnessed was beyond linguistic description. What a beautiful revelation of Jesus Christ in His post-resurrection glory.
The location of where Jesus Christ was standing is also of vital significance. He was standing among the lampstands. Revelation 1:20 reveals the mystery of the lampstands: they represent the seven churches. Therefore, as John turned and beheld this vision of Jesus, He was literally with the people of His churches. Jesus has promised to be with us, and with us He is. A further investigation of Revelation reveals that these churches are not only the seven ancient Christian churches of Asia Minor; they are also types of the Christian churches throughout history, right up to today. So when John reports that he saw the Son of man among the lampstands, Jesus is communicating with us that He is right here, with us, in our church today.
Jesus and His Churches (Jer. 2:2; Rev. 2:1–7)
It is important to remember when reading Revelation 2 that the “names of the seven churches are symbolic of the church in different periods of the Christian Era. The number 7 indicates completeness, and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time, while the symbols used reveal the condition of the church at different periods in the history of the world.”1
John begins Revelation 2 with a direct call to the seven churches. This first call to the church in Ephesus begins with revealing only a part of the full vision of Christ given in Revelation 1:12–16: “ ‘These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven lampstands’ ” (Rev. 2:1, NIV).
As the second chapter of Revelation unfolds, only segments of the full vision of Christ given to John are used to communicate with the seven churches. This is strategic and deeply symbolic of Christ meeting us where we are. Each church had its own unique challenges and thus needed to have Christ presented to them in a slightly different way. As we grapple with life, we can be assured that Jesus will always be with us, among the people of His church, and ready to meet us where we are. This is how Revelation reveals Jesus.
In what other ways to do you see Jesus being revealed in the opening three chapters of Revelation? What parts of Jesus are revealed to the other six churches? Why?