The Lord Among His Lampstands

Intro: Have you ever wondered what Jesus thought of this church? I hope you have considered it, along with His personal view of you. When I read through the first 3 chapters of Revelation (the part of this book that we read the most), I cannot help but wonder where we fit in. Which of these churches are we most like? It would be humbling to know how Jesus sees us.

Just as individual churches today these 7 churches were different and distinct; Jesus saw them as they were:

  • Some were thriving and faithful ( Philadelphia had the faith and persevered – 3:8-10);
  • Some were surviving, but had need of repentance (Ephesus stood firm against false teachers, but had left it s first love and need to regain the passion they once had for Christ – 2:1-7; Pergamos had also survived enormous persecution, even martyrdom, but still struggled with idolatry – 2:12-17);
  • Some were not commended at all, and appeared to be in serious trouble with the Lord (Sardis looked alive but they was dead – 3:1-6), and Laodicea was lukewarm and smug before God – 3:14-22)

But contained within the individual messages of the Spirit to these churches is a profound picture of Jesus. This is not just a view of the people, but of Christ. He sees us; and we must see Him.

I. The Jesus of Our Redemption: Who is Jesus who speaks to the 7 churches? He is introduced to us in the first words of this book. Notice how Jesus is described:

A. Rev 1:5 – 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, These descriptions point us to the Jesus of our redemption.

1. Faithful Witness: Jesus, in His life of humility among us, lived by faith in the will of the Father. He gave witness to this assurance through making known accurately and perfectly the word of God to men and living it our perfectly. It is interesting to note that the word witness (martus) is transliterated as “martyr”, and points to one who bear witness a cause through His death. He became obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:8). We can trust Him to tell us the truth. He was uniquely qualified to give witness to the nature and character of God, the Father. Matt 11:27All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

2. Firstborn from the dead: We gave some attention to this description in an earlier lesson. The term “firstborn” does not convey first in chronological occurrence, but first in position or importance. Jesus was not the first to be resurrected from the dead (Dorcas, the daughter of Jairus, Eutychus, the widow’s son at Nain, Lazarus, and many of the saints” who came out of their graves following the resurrection of Christ). But He alone arose never to die again. He alone provided the assurance and power for future resurrections. As Beckwith put it: “The language implies the future resurrection of the saints.” Compare God speaking of the Messiah in Ps 89:27“Also I will make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth” with the words of Peter’s sermon in Acts 13:32-34 – 32 And we declare to you glad tidings — that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ 34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption,

3. Ruler over the kings of the earth: He is the absolute sovereign authority. “Only Potentate, Lord of Lord, King of Kings” (1 Tim 6:15) Jesus is ruling as Head of His church, and King of His Kingdom today. Those who would be saved must obey Him. (Heb. 5:9)

4. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood: John sees Jesus in view of His redemptive work. It began with His initial and unrequited love for all of us. This love is viewed in connection with what He did for us – He washed us from our sins in His own blood (some translations say “released us”) This is a vivid portrayal of atonement – Jesus paid the price for our sins through His death on the cross. His blood was the ransom that set us free. There can be no understanding of Jesus as our Savior without recognition of the place of His sacrificial death.

a. v. 7-8 – Jesus is further presented as the One Who is coming with clouds (just as He left) and every eye will see Him. He cannot be ignored, even by those who hate Him.

II. Jesus among the Lampstands: Rev. 1:5 alone is a powerful introduction of Jesus and to the coming visions Jesus would allow John to see. But in what appears as another introduction to what is to come John is given the opportunity to see Jesus standing among the lampstands; The Christ among His churches.

  • Let’s read Revelation 1:9-20 –It is not hard to realize that the One who appears here standing in the middle of the lampstands is extraordinary. He is robed in dazzling white clothes, His head and hair are bright white, His eyes are like a flame of fire, His voice is like the sound of rushing water; In His hand He holds seven stars, and a sword is shooting from His mouth.

A. John’s reaction to seeing Jesus… vs. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. Can you blame John for falling down as a dead man before such a One? This was a common response among those who experienced visions from God, or who experienced the glory of God:

        • John and his companions at the transfiguration fell on their faces and were greatly afraid (Mt. 17:6)
        • Daniel reported that during his vision, “I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.” (John 10:8-9 NIV)
        • Isaiah’s reaction to being allowed into God’s throne room… “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isa. 6:5)
        • Ezekiel accounts five occasions when he fell on his face in the midst of a vision from God. These greatly contrast the frivolous, false, and boastful claims of many in our own day who claim to have seen God, as though God would just drop by for a chat.

B. “But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid…” Jesus’ intent was to comfort John, even as He had done at the transfiguration (Mt. 17:7 – “he touched them”) The power of majesty of God is reasons for fear, but for God’s child, His love and mercy provide assurance. Jesus’ encouragement for John to not be afraid was based upon who He was and His authority.

1. “I am the First and the Last” – Earlier the text uses the phrase, the Alpha and Omega (v. 11) – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Thus the proverbial use of this expression means, the first to last, all there is.

a. There is no one or anything beyond Jesus. This involves more than Jesus’ preexistence, but also proclaims His authority and power. In the O.T. Isaiah describes Jehovah with these same words, pointing to His

              • preeminence among the gods of the nations: Isa 44:66 “This is what the Lord says — Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.
              • uniqueness as the Creator all the earth: Isa 48:12-1312 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last. 13 Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.
              • Thus these words proclaim Jesus deity and indicate that nothing can overcome what He has accomplished. When everything else is gone, Jesus will remain. Plummer pointed out that the use of this figure is progressively expanded in Revelation. Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:8)…The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev 21:6)… The Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev 22:13).

2. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. Jesus is described as the One who lives (living One). This again is an O.T. designation of God. God was distinguished as “the living God” – not a dead god made of stone; and the One who could give life. Jesus is the eternal God.

a. But notice this living One was dead. The Greek text literally reads, “I became dead.” This is the great paradox of Jesus’ work for us. The living, eternal, and self-existent God who could never die, became man and died. This caused many to stumble. Who can find power and honor in death? Peter explains it this way in 1 Peter 3:18, Christ was “put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” (NASB). In His humanness He died without ceasing to live as God.

b. Behold I am alive forevermore… The word behold introduces a wonder, something to be amazed at. Christ’s resurrection emanated into an unending life. What could have comforted John more? John Macarthur writes… “In spite of his sinfulness in the presence of the glorious Lord of heaven, John had nothing to fear because that same Lord had paid by His death the penalty for John’s sins (and those of all who believe in Him) and risen to be his eternal advocate.” What can give us greater confidence than to know that Jesus is alive forevermore!

              • Romans 6:99 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
              • Hebrews 7:15-1615 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life….v. 24-25 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

3. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. The word “keys” signifies power or authority. (every teenager knows what it means when his father says “give me the keys”) Jesus comforted John by pronouncing His authority over Hades (not Gehenna, but the grave) and death (the punishment and curse of sin). Jesus Christ has all authority over life and death. He decides who dies and who lives. That is true for all life and death; physical and spiritual. Again we recognize the divine implications in this description. Matt 10:28 – 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

a. Jesus conquered Satan and took away the keys of death from him. Heb 2:14-1514 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

b. Again, for John, and those who are living faithfully toward God, these are words of comfort. We do not need to fear death. Jesus at the death of Lazarus: John 11:25-26 – 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

III. Do We See Jesus? Does Jesus See Us? In the first 3 chapter of Revelation Jesus presents Himself individually to each church and addresses its personal situation.

  • We should notice that the descriptive phrases portraying Christ in chapter one are incorporated into the first five, or six opening statements to the churches.
  • The identity of Jesus was an integral part of His message to each church. There were to see Jesus among them and be confronted by who he is.
  • Ephesus, the church which had left its first love, needed to know that Jesus was still near. He still holds the seven stars in His hands and walks among the seven lampstands.
  • Smyrna, a church suffering tribulation and poverty, needed to know Jesus was alive and well–the first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life?
  • Pergamos, a church who struggled with the false doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolatians, need to see Jesus with His sharp two-edged sword, ready to reprove and judge.
  • The churches need to know that Jesus sees all their works. They need to see that He gives people time to repent (2:21). He will come upon His people as a thief (3:3). He stands at the door and knocks, willing to enter and dine (3:20). If we see Jesus for Who He is we dare not play at this or be presumptuous.
  • Jesus visits each church with a view of Himself, because God’s people need to see Jesus in order to live for Jesus. If we miss who Jesus is, our faith cannot be a faith that saves.

Conclusion: What does Jesus see in this church? What would He tell us? I am convinced that an important part of the message would be for us to see Him in the ways He is described here. Jesus is God; Jesus died and washed in His blood; Jesus is alive.

  • A practical application of John’s vision is that every Christian and every church needs to see Jesus. He is at the center of the vision; He does all the talking. What do persecuted, threatened, tempted, faltering, and even faithful Christians need? We need encouragement, instruction, rebuke, warning, but above all we need to keep our eyes on Jesus–the glorious Lord among the lampstands. Don’t take your eyes off of Jesus.
  • “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”