The Vision of the Risen Christ (Rev. 1:9-20)
“You have to go find yourself.” “You need to discover who you are.” Have you heard that before? I bet you have, and I bet you’ve heard it more than once. The funny thing about this is that if you had said something like this to someone a hundred years ago, they would have looked at you like you had sprouted horns or were growing a tail or something. Such a statement would have been utterly incomprehensible to our forefathers, not because they were stupid, but for the simple reason that they already knew who they were!
So what is meant by that? “Go find yourself,” they say. Well, it is the motto of a culture that has elevated self-sovereignty over everything else. The primary value of our time is the freedom of the self. And so, according to the world, you get to decide who you are. It comes out in phrases like, “You can be whatever you want to be,” an obviously false statement. It comes to us in its most extreme form currently in the transgender movement, in which people are told that even their DNA is not a constraint on their personal identity as male or female.
I find that particularly interesting because it used to be the case that in common parlance DNA referred not only to biological realities, but also to the essential core identity of something, like that of a business or organization or group. You would hear people talk about the DNA of some organization, and what they meant by that was the essence of that organization, what it was, what is was about, what it stood for. But now, we want to divorce our identity from our DNA (which determines whether we are male or female) because according to the values of secular humanism, human freedom must have no objective or external constraints. Our culture is actually advocating the idea that there is no such thing as a real, objective essence to the human being.
This is a fragile identity. It’s fragile because it means that our identity is ultimately founded on how we feel about ourselves, on our emotions. To let the foundation of your identity rest on that may at first feel freeing, perhaps even dizzyingly so, but it is also results in an incredibly brittle identity. To rest your identify on how you feel about yourself is like building your house on quicksand. There is nothing fixed or firm or objective about that at all. For what are your feelings fixed upon? You have already rejected everything objective; there is nothing there upon which to hang your feelings. They are hanging on nothing; they exist on thin air.
Is it any wonder then that the modern man in the modern world is so confused and anxious and depressed? How can it be that people who walk around with supercomputers in their pockets wrestle with despair? But they do. It is amazing to me that despite the amount of power that we possess today, the modern man and woman can find no rest for their souls. There is a reason for this; and I think the fundamental reason for this has to do with our rejection of God’s sovereignty over us, replacing it with the pursuit of ultimate personal freedom and independence from God.
So one of the things I want to do in my message today is to offer a Christian alternative to the self- sovereignty which is preached by the elites and entertainers and educators of our post-modern world. For the identity of a Christian doesn’t hang in thin air. Rather, it is defined by who Jesus Christ is. And that is good news. For the message of Christ to us is the same message to John: “Fear not” (Rev. 1:17). And we can be confident that this is not a message which will change because he is “the first and the last” (11, 17), the one who “was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore . . . and have the keys of hell and death” (18). Whereas the world cannot ultimately find freedom from fear, or at least has no rational basis for it, the Christian does. The security of our identity doesn’t hang on the flimsy film of personal feeling, but upon Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).
That is where these verses come in. Jesus Christ is revealed to us in these verses (Rev. 1:9-20). In these verses, we have the beginning of the first of four visions which will determine the contours of this book. This is the vision of the risen Christ, beginning in 1:9 and going on to the end of the third chapter. In this vision, Jesus comes to John in his glory as the resurrected Son of God and commissions him to write this book that we are reading. Then in chapters 2 and 3, he will speak to the churches in Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
What does this have to do with our identity as Christians, you might ask? Well, John begins by defining his audience who are Christians in Christian churches, and the point I want to make is that this identification is determined by who Jesus is. In other words, in these verses we have Biblical confirmation that if you’re a Christian, you don’t look for personal meaning, you don’t find yourself like the world does, by looking inward. Our identity is not shaped by our feelings; rather, our feelings are meant to be shaped by our identity in Christ. The Christian doesn’t look to himself or herself – the Christian looks to Christ. This is the Christian alternative that I am talking about.
In these verses we have three things. First of all, we have The Question: What is a Christian? We will see the answer to that in verses 9-11. Then we have The Tension: how can we presently belong to God’s kingdom and yet be called to endure with patience through tribulation? This tension of course arises from the answer to the question of what the Christian is, for a Christian is defined by tribulation, kingdom, and endurance in verse 9. I have been saying that the modern quest for personal identity is fragile. But how about the Christian’s? Is our identity in Christ robust enough to endure through the worst that this world has to give us? (And we’re going to see, as we go through this book, that we are called to expect the worst from the world!) But then we have The Solution: the glory of the risen Christ resolves the tension, for he entered into glory through suffering, and he calls on us to do the same. More than that: we can be sure that we will enter into glory because we are united, not to a defeated Christ, but to a victorious and living Christ, the one who is the first and the last. We will see that in verses 12-20.
All of this book flows out of this vision. This is why it is first. You cannot understand any of the book of Revelation if you don’t see it as a vision anchored in this reality, that Jesus is not dead but that he is risen and has the keys of death and hell. And so those who are united to him by faith will also conquer death and rise victorious over death, hell, and the grave.
With that being said, let’s now look that these three things: The Question, The Tension, and The Solution.
The Question: What is a Christian?
John writes in verse 9, “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” What is a Christian? In this and the following verses a Christian is defined by the following things.
First of all, the Christian is a member of the family of God. Notice how John begins: “I John, who also am your brother and companion.” Here is the great apostle, and yet he does not advertise himself in that way. Rather, he identifies with them. And he reminds us that the Christian is a member of a family. God is our Father, and Christ is the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). We in turn are brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter what the world thinks about us, no matter if they reject us, the church ought always to be a welcome and loving place for the followers of Jesus.
Unfortunately, this is not always so, and it is a sad commentary on the church that we are too often at each other’s necks when we ought to be at each other’s feet. What a terrible witness this is! Instead of pushing each other away, we ought to be embracing one another. Unity in the family of God is a given, but we often don’t act like it. We need to therefore remember this. We need to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). We are to be companions, fellow-laborers, and fellow- burden bearers. Are we? Do we? Do we receive each other as Christ received us to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7)?
How do we keep the unity of the Spirit though? What does this look like concretely? Here is where the doctrine of the church is so important. It is very easy to say, “Yes, I agree that we should be unified with other believers,” and yet when it comes to the local church, the local church can look like an evening at the fights. And we can become weary and want to disengage ourselves from the church. But before you do that, consider what our text has to say to that.
Where is Jesus here? He is “in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” [or rather, lampstands] (Rev. 1:12-13). What are the lampstands? They “are the seven churches” (20). We’ve already made an argument from the significance of the number seven that these churches are meant to be representative. Now it’s important that we understand how they are representative. They are not representative in the sense that they describe the progression of church history, as if Ephesus represents the apostolic era and Laodicea the period of time immediately preceding the Second Coming. They are in the order they are in because all seven churches lay along an ancient postal route in Roman Asia, and they are listed in the order in which you would have met them along that route. In other words, their order has everything to do with geography and nothing to do with history! Rather, they are representative in the sense that this group of churches stands for the church as a whole in every place and in every age.
So when the text says that Jesus is in the midst of the lampstands, it is not just saying he was present with these churches, but that he is present with the church in every age (cf. Mt. 28:20). Jesus is present in the church. If you want to experience the presence of Jesus, you should seek it in the church. Now I believe in the idea of the universal church. But you should not divorce the church universal from the church local. These churches represent the universal church, and yet they are also specific local congregations. This means that if Jesus is so committed the local church, so should we. It is simply misguided and unbiblical to detach ourselves from the local church.
Consider also – looking ahead a bit – that of the seven churches, only two are not rebuked for sin. And yet Jesus is in their midst! I want to be where Jesus is, don’t you? He is knocking at the door of Laodicea; he is calling for Ephesus to repent. Let us not be so quick to give up on the church. Let us not be so quick to become discouraged by the church. We pursue the unity of the Spirit in the context of real relationships with real people (sometimes difficult people!) in real churches. What is a Christian? He or she is both a member of God’s family and a member of God’s church.
Next, he describes three common realities that every Christian experiences. Are you a Christian? Then can you identify with John in these three things?
The Christian is someone who is enduring tribulation: “your . . . companion in tribulation.” The entire NT witness agrees. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22). “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).
I don’t doubt that the tribulation in verse 9 refers at least partly to persecution for the sake of the gospel. This is how it appears to be used most of the time in Revelation (cf. 2:9-10; 7:14). Here, in 1:9, John refers to the fact that he has been exiled to the island of Patmos “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” In other words, it appears that the Roman authorities didn’t like the fact that he preached the gospel and so they banished him to this rocky little island in the Aegean Sea off the western coast of Asia Minor.
But tribulation comes in many flavors. Physical sickness, depression, and trials in the family and business are just a few of the ways we can endure tribulation. Here’s a list from the apostle Paul, not all of which are directly related to persecution: “in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” (2 Cor. 11:23-29).
This bottom line is this: we shouldn’t think that because we are going through difficult times that God is against us, or that we must have messed up really badly somewhere. Not at all: this is the road every Christian must take. It is in the way of tribulation that we find sanctification and nearness to God. More holiness is gotten through severity than through softness.
The Christian is someone who is entering a kingdom: “your companion . . . in the kingdom . . . of Jesus Christ.” I say entering because the kingdom of God is both present and future. We are already in a kingdom (Rev. 1:6) but we are also in the process of entering a kingdom (Acts 14:22). God’s kingdom comes in its fulness, and our experience of this kingdom, after the return of our Lord in the Second Coming and resurrection of the just and the unjust. Right now we may not look like much, but consider that our Lord said that there is coming a day when “the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt. 13:43).
Brothers and sisters, remember this: you are not only members of a family, but you are royal children, sons and daughter of Almighty God. Do you believe that? “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 Jn. 3:1)!
The idea of a kingdom evokes images of privilege, power, and prosperity. Kings and queens are not wanting for many things. They have the most advantages. They have the most freedom. They have the most pleasures. And this is the word that is used to describe the Christian. And it is important to understand that we are not only in a kingdom, the kingdom of God, but we reign with him: “And he that
overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Rev. 2:26-27). The life that is granted to the believer is called a “crown of life” (2:10; cf. 2 Tim. 4:8).
It is true that the fulness of this is to come. The crown of life is not granted yet. But it already belongs to the sons and daughters of the Most High. I am reminded of the advice that was given to Elizabeth I, when she had to hold the crown during her sister Mary’s coronation: “It will not seem so heavy when it sits on your head.” Right now we have the heavy task of holding a crown for others. But be of good cheer: it will not feel so heavy when it sits on your head – and if you belong to Jesus, it will!
Third, the Christian is someone who is exhibiting patient endurance: “your companion in the . . . patience of Jesus Christ.” The word translated patience here is rendered in the ESV as patient endurance. It’s the idea of perseverance. A Christian is someone who is persevering in the faith of Christ. This is important because, as our Lord put it, “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mt. 24:13).
It’s called endurance because the Christian is not only defined by the reality of the kingdom but also by the reality of suffering and tribulation. Again, Acts 14:22 put these things together: we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom. Endurance is the thing that connects present suffering with eternal glory. Not that our endurance merits the kingdom and the glory. But endurance is the fruit of God’s grace in bringing us out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son (Col. 1:13, 23).1
Now I think it is important to note here that all three things – tribulation, kingdom, and patience – are defined by Jesus Christ. The tribulation that we endure is the tribulation of Jesus Christ. The same with the kingdom and the patience. The Christian is not someone who has just had a hard life. Or just because you have high hopes for the afterlife does not make you a Christian. Just because you don’t give up when things get hard doesn’t make you a Christian. None of these things makes a person a Christian. Fundamentally, what makes a person a Christian is that they belong to Jesus Christ. And the way they show that they belong to him is by faith in him, embracing him as their Lord and Savior, and by repentance of sins. They show it by taking his name upon themselves in baptism. They show it by identifying with his people, the church. A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ as he is presented to us in the New Testament, in the gospel.
The Tension: how do you hold the kingdom and the tribulation and patience together?
The tension here is a tension throughout Revelation. On the one hand, God reigns (cf. 11:15-17). But on the other hand, so do the dragon [Satan] and the beast [nations and states under Satan’s control] (13:1- 2). Because the beast reigns, the saints endure tribulation and persecution, even to the point of martyrdom (cf. 12:17; 13:7-10). But because God reigns, the saints are members of an eternal kingdom. Now the question is really this: how do you hold these two things together in your head as you are going through tribulation so that you endure to the end? That’s the tension. How does the promise that you are kings and queens of an eternal kingdom keep from letting the suffering you are enduring cause you to deny the faith? For, as we have said, the kingdom comes in its fulness in the future. But the suffering is in the present. The future can look so far away at times that it does not appear worth it to remain faithful to Jesus. I mean, after all, if God really does reign, why doesn’t he give us the kingdom now? It’s questions like that which can be so unsettling to our faith. That’s the tension that I’m talking about. It’s the tension between the present and the not-yet, between the tribulation which we have now and the kingdom which comes later.
The solution to this is found in the vision we have of Christ in verses 10-20.
The Solution: the Vision of the Risen Christ
Before we look at the details of this vision, I want to briefly pause and observe when and where John saw it: “I John . . . was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. . . . I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet” (9- 10). John didn’t see this vision as he was luxuriating on the beach at an oceanside resort while on vacation getting some much-needed rest. In fact, I’ll be honest with you; in all my reading of church history, I read about some pretty remarkable encounters that people have had with the Lord, and none of them – none! – happened when they were enjoying a barbeque with friends. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying vacations and barbeques are bad, far from it! But I am saying that the place where people meet God in a life-changing way is almost always in the context of some kind of suffering. And that is where John was, exiled away from those he loved most. There is some evidence that Patmos at that time was a penal colony. But it was in that place that he had this incredible vision that has blessed the church for two thousand years.
My friend, let’s not short-change God. You might think that you need to get out of whatever trouble you are in right now in order to get to a place where you can get alone with God and get right with him and experience personal revival. But John was “in the Spirit” on Patmos, on a penal colony, in exile. He was a companion with all who suffer tribulation. It was precisely here that the apostle was taken by the Spirit to a place where he was able to meet with Jesus Christ in all his resurrected glory. Maybe the Lord has put you in a difficult place so that you too can truly meet with him.
Let’s also notice when this happened. It was “on the Lord’s day” (10). Now some folks think that this is a reference to the day of the Second Coming. They argue that the language of the “the day of the Lord” is synonymous with “the Lord’s day.” And since “the day of the Lord” is a reference to that final day of days when Jesus returns and makes all things right, that must be what John is referring to here. In other words, the Spirit has put John in a time-capsule, so the speak, and they have traveled through time to the last day.
That’s not what John is talking about. For one thing, the word used here, kyriakos, is never used in the Bible – not even in the Septuagint – to refer to the Day of the Lord. For another, we know for certain that the early church from about the middle of the second century on uniformly used this very language to refer to the first day of the week when our Lord rose from the dead. That is what is being referred to here. This is the first day of the week, the day on which Jesus was resurrected. The church has from the beginning recognized the significance of this day. This is the day on which the church has met for worship from the start. Perhaps the reason John tells us the day here is to inform us that he was, whether alone or with others, worshipping the Lord, and it was then that God met with him. May we have the same expectation of meeting the Lord on his day!
But what did he see? What we will see is that John saw Jesus Christ who revealed himself to John and to us as a Prince and a priest who was defined by matchless purity, unequaled power, and incomparable perfection. First of all, we are told that he heard something, “heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet” (10). He “turned to see the voice that spake with me” (12). After turning, he sees seven golden lampstands and in the middle of the lampstands “one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the waist with a golden girdle” (12).
This is a description, first of all, of a Prince (cf. Rev. 1:5). I say that because of this phrase, “one like unto the Son of man.” This is the language of Daniel 7:13-14 – “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” The Son of man is a king whose kingdom is eternal and indestructible.
But this is also the description of a priest. The garments worn by this Son of man were priestly garments (Rev. 1:13).2 This, along with several other features, also points us to the heavenly being that Daniel saw in Dan. 10. Many of the features of Christ here are identical, or similar, to the features of the one the prophet saw. The difference is, however, that Daniel saw a vision of the preincarnate Christ; John sees a vision of the resurrected Christ. We should expect this, because Jesus didn’t come out of nothing – he is the expectation of OT hope and the parallels between Daniel 10 and Revelation 1 show this.
The features that follow in verses 14-16 show us that Jesus Christ is not only risen but that he is risen in purity, power, and perfection. First of all, consider how the purity of Jesus is communicated in this vision. Fire and light are often in the Bible associated with purity. Jesus is incomparably pure, he is perfectly holy, and this is seen in a number of his qualities. For example, we are told that “his eyes were as a flame of fire” (14) – his gaze is penetrating, so that no one is able to hide their sin or escape his judgment. We are told that “his feet [were] like unto find brass, as if they burned in a furnace” (15), so that he is able to crush the serpent’s head and all his enemies. We are told that “his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (16), reminding us of Paul’s description of God who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16).
We see the power of Christ in the “voice as the sound of many waters” (15). When you see pictures of tsunamis and the power they possess, and when you realize that Christ is the one who created the oceans, and that this is communicated in the overpowering sound of his voice – you get an unmistakable picture of power. You see it also in the picture of a sharp, two-edged sword coming out of his mouth (16), “that with it he should smite the nations” (19:15). You see it in the fact that he holds in his hand “the seven stars” (16). (By the way, this shows that this is not meant to be a literal description; these are figures of speech that are communicating very important realities.)
In all these things, we behold perfection. The one whom John beholds is not someone who is in danger of dying. Indeed, he tells John, “I am the first, and the last, I am he that liveth, and was dead: and, behold, I am alive forevermore . . . and have the keys of hell and death” (17-18). There is no weakness in him, no imperfection either of character or ability.
This is a divine figure. We must not miss that. Now in the King James Version, Jesus addresses himself to John as “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last” (11; cf. 17). Most modern versions omit the phrase “Alpha and Omega” in 1:11. However, they all include this self-description of Jesus in 22:13. In other words, whatever the manuscript evidence is for the inclusion or exclusion of this phrase in 1:11, the fact that everyone agrees it is included in 22:13 means that this is how our Lord understood himself. And since the Father announces himself to us in this same way in 1:8, we have indisputable proof that Jesus understood himself as possessing the divine attributes of self-existence, immutability, and eternity. The Son of Man is the Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal.
You also see this in 1:14, where John sees that “his head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow.” How is that significant? Remember Daniel 7? There the “Ancient of Days” – clearly a description of God, and OT version of the “Alpha and Omega” – is described in this way: “the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool” (Dan. 7:9). The fact that Jesus is described in this way means that this is not just a description of a heavenly created being, but of someone who shares fully in the divine nature of the Ancient of days.
Now how does this vision solve the tension created by the definition of the Christian as a suffering king? How can we be kept from giving up on the future kingdom because of present suffering? The tension is solved because of the fact that the Christian belongs to Christ. He represents us to the Father, and he upholds us by his Spirit. We are connected to him and to his resurrection life like branches are connected to the life of the vine (Jn. 15:1-7).
And that means two things. It means that if we are followers of Jesus, we should expect suffering. For who is Jesus? He is the one who “was dead” (18). He is the one who washed us from our sins “in his own blood.” He achieved his victory through suffering, and he calls on those who follow him to do the same. This does not mean that we are meant to redeem ourselves or others, as Christ did. It simply means that following Christ means death to oneself, death to the world, even to the point of losing one’s physical life in this world. Suffering is not something to surprise us; it is something to be expected.
But the reason why we can do this is because Jesus didn’t just die. He rose from the dead. He conquered death. Again, he achieved his victory through suffering. Suffering is no proof that we are on a fool’s errand. If we belong to Jesus, it is the path along which we endure to eternal life. This is the point of the phrase, “I am alive forevermore . . . and have the keys of hell and death” (18). To have the keys means to have authority over. If you belong to Christ, death cannot have the last word. It cannot have authority over you. It no longer reigns over us; indeed, through Christ we reign over death. As the apostle Paul writes, “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21).
And this reality is communicated in all the features displayed in John’s vision of the risen Christ. This is the picture of the divine, powerful, eternal, holy, victorious, and sovereign Lord. This is not the picture of a defeated Christ; it is the picture of the one who has conquered. And because we belong to him, not because of our goodness but because of his grace, we can have supreme confidence that we will conquer with him and in him.
By the way, this is still a proper picture of Jesus for us. For “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen” (Rev. 1:18). The Jesus who John saw is the Jesus that we worship and serve today. He is the same today as he was then. He is the same unchanging and unchangeable.
He is risen. And he is risen for the church. He walks in the midst of the churches, the lampstands. And he holds in his hand the seven stars which “are the angels of the seven churches.” We’ll consider in our next message what the angels are. But for now we note their connection to the churches. Christ died for the church. He loves the church. He is coming again for the church.
And please hear this, he rules history for the church. It’s not like we have to wait until the end of history for Christ to reign. Brothers and sisters, he is reigning right now. This is the point of the command: “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (19). Now some take this to be a basic outline for the book of Revelation. “The things which thou hast seen” is supposed to be chapter1, “the things which are” refers to chapters 2-3, and “the things which shall be hereafter” chapters 4-22. I doubt that such a neat outline is meant by this. I think rather the point is this: Revelation is a prophesy that deals with past, present, and the future. The point I want to make here is that Jesus speaks just as easily about the future as he does about the present and the past. Do you know why? Because he is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He rules history, and he rules it for the church.
So, brother and sister, what Jesus said to John applies equally to all who belong to him: “Fear not.” Fear not the present and fear not the future. Fear not past failure or future uncertainties. Fear not your sins and fear not death. Be not afraid but be strong and courageous! Why? Why not? Look who your Lord is! Look where he is, what he has done, look who he is!
But this of course applies only if you belong to Jesus. Where are you this morning? When it comes to the person of Jesus Christ, the gospel both invites us and warns us. For sinners who need a Savior, it invites: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30). “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Rev. 21:6-7). But for rebels who persist in their self- sovereignty, it warns: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). Oh may we respond to the invitation and heed the warning!
1 There’s another verse that I think dovetails nicely with the triple definition of the Christian here in Rev. 1:9 – it is Rom. 12:12: “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” We rejoice in hope because of the kingdom. This in turn fuels our endurance in tribulation. And one of the chief ways we endure is by continuing in prayer.
2 According to Mounce, in the LXX, in every case but one, the word podhvrhV referred to the robes of the high priest. Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1998), p. 58.