Warren: The topic is about our Lord Jesus. The theme of this book is it is an invitation to a wedding. That’s the grand message of Revelation. It’s telling you about your destiny as the bride of Christ. What does that mean? From beginning to end, that is the grand theme, that Jesus has come to rescue you and He has a heavenly destiny for you. We will spend a lot of time talking about heaven. There’s so much in this book, and elsewhere, about heaven.
Where will we spend eternity? How will we relate to Jesus? What does it mean that we are the bride of Christ, this magnificent doctrine that is the culmination of this grand book? And so, we’re going to have some wonderful times together. We’re going to look at this book in a fresh way. My goal tonight is for you to understand Revelation 1 and to see the magnificent vision of the earthly Jesus. He has two visions of Jesus in this book. In Revelation 1, it’s the earthly Jesus. In Revelation 19, it is the heavenly Jesus. You put them together and it is a magnificent picture of our Savior.
We’re going to look at Revelation 1 tonight. I want to try to make sense of this very challenging literature to you so that you will understand it, perhaps in a fresh way. And that will launch our times together in this glorious, wonderful book.
Eugene Peterson has said that he thinks the next reformation will come from the book of Revelation, and I think he’s absolutely right. The pictures, the artistry, it’s a sound and light show. And it’s remarkable that in chapter one of this book, we read about Jesus, and what he says about Him is really phenomenal. Let me read you quickly what John says because I want to start in a very special way.
The image that he gives us of Jesus in the first chapter is one of sight. It’s brilliant. It’s dazzling in its brilliance. Jesus is standing in the midst of seven lampstands. His face is blazing like the sun shining in its strength. His hair is white, like snow. His eyes are like fire. His breast is golden and His feet are glowing like molten bronze. And so, the overarching vision is one of sight, and it’s brilliant. You have to hide your eyes from the brilliance of this One who loved you and came for you and has espoused Himself in an eternal covenant for you and who will be your eternal companion.
So, we’re going to learn about Him tonight. It’s the introduction of the bridegroom, if you want to look at it that way. But because this vision is so filled with light, I wanted to begin with a song. I thought it’d be good. We’re going to be here for an hour and a half, so if we can stand up and sing together and invite the Spirit of God. And I thought, well, what goes with a text like this that shows the brilliance of the light of the Savior? And I thought about the old song we used to sing: Shine, Jesus Shine. Do you remember that one? Let’s sing it together.
Warren: What a Savior. Alright. Take your seat and let’s, let’s plow into the Revelation of Jesus Christ. I’m going to read the chapter and then we’re going to take it apart so that you understand what John is doing in the way that he’s presenting this. I want to make some comments. I will focus on the specific vision of Jesus that begins in Revelation 1:12 through the rest of the chapter, but I want to make some comments about the way John introduces the book.
“The Revelation,” which basically means the unveiling. It’s showing His splendor. It’s like a transfiguration. When you see through what we see in the earthly sphere to the heavenly sphere, and you see who Jesus truly is through heavenly vision.
“The revelation of Jesus Christ the Messiah, which God gave Him to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.”
The word “shortly” can mean “quickly,” too, and that’s a nuance that will become important to us when we come to the end of the book.
“He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ,”
John the son of Zebedee is the one who receives this vision. I think he receives it in the 60s A.D. on the prison isle of Patmos. And his commission is to write these things in a book, and that book is both the Gospel and Revelation. They’re written together, as we will see. The evidence of that is very clear. If you take the two books together — and we’ll talk about that in a great bit of detail. But John, when he introduces the gospel, says that Jesus came into the world as the light into darkness, and that’s the that he’s going to give us to the beginning of Revelation. It parallels the opening of the Gospel. He created all things, and by Him all things were created. He says He came into the world as the light, but the darkness wanted to extinguish the light. And he uses that metaphorically, but it speaks to us spiritually.
There is a quarrel between light and darkness. And you go through the Gospel and you see that quarrel working its way out. When Nicodemus comes to Jesus — and Nicodemus comes out of Jerusalem at night. It’s a dark city, but he’s coming into the presence of the light of the world. When Jesus commands Judas to leave the Seder Supper — what you call the Last Supper. When Jesus commands him to leave, “What you do, do quickly,” it says that John says Judas went out into Jerusalem, leaving the light of the world, and it was dark.
And so, you see the quarrel between light and darkness that’s not resolved until you come to the end of Revelation, and there we learn that in the heavenly city there is no longer any darkness, but the light has triumphed. The light, the eternal light of Jesus, is the redemption that illumines the heavenly city for all time. There is nothing that is dark any longer. No sin, no darkness. So, you read the books together and you begin to see how the war between light and darkness is resolved when we come to the end of Revelation.
So, anyway, then it says — write these things — “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy,”
You’re promised a blessing just for listening. How great is that? You’re blessed when you read this, and that blessing is announced again at the end of the book. It promises you a blessing just for studying this book.
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”
So, John then writes to the seven churches which are in Asia. And this is Roman Asia, the Roman province of Asia, which is really Western Turkey.
So, he says, “Grace to you and peace from Him that was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.”
Fantastic verse. He’s giving you blessings from the triune God, and he’s telling us that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. Now, that’s an unusual combination, isn’t it? When you think of birth, you think of the new beginning of life, but you don’t typically think of the firstborn from the dead, the end of life. What does John mean by that? There is a richness to what John is going to with you. If you go back to the creation, when God made Adam, He made him of the dust of the earth. And so, Adam was born of the womb of the Earth. The Earth is the womb of man. So, we speak of Mother Earth. And that’s true all the way through the Old Testament. When you die, you go back. Adam was made of dust, and he goes back to dust. And so, it’s a way of going back to the womb. But that’s a Christian vision because it transfers that which is a dead to that which is the promise of new life.
When Adam is told, “You’re going to go back to the dust,” he goes back to the dust, but God had taken him from the dust originally. So, His creation is anticipating His resurrection, and that’s how we’re to understand death. When Job says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I will return there,” he’s not saying he’s going to be buried. He says, “I’m going back to the womb, and from there I will be resurrected.”
And Paul, in Romans 8, says, “In the last day, this old Earth will be in labor and travail to bring forth the children of God. The womb of the Earth will open up and we will come forth.”
That gives you tremendous hope when we bury away our loved ones because we’re not seeing the end. We’re seeing a new beginning. The firstborn from the dead means Jesus came back from the grave, and that’s promised us too. It’s glorious. This language is so rich. He loved us. He washed us from our sins in his own blood. What a powerful metaphor that is. That is a bridal bath. Jesus is giving you, imparting to you, the beauty that makes you worthy of the Son of God Himself.
“And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father,”
How can we be kings and priests in the Old Testament? You can’t be king and priest, but Jesus has made us kings and priests. Why? It’s a bridal metaphor. When you are espoused to, when you marry the Son of Glory, Jesus is the Prince of the line of Judah. He has the Sceptre of David. And you, as His spouse, then enter into all the prerogatives of that royal blessing. And He has a higher order of priesthood than Aaron. It’s Melchizedekian. That is your priesthood. You are a Royal priesthood. Like Peter says, you are kings. You are a royal tribe. However common we may have been, He is lifting you up and giving you an entirely different destiny.
“And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”
He is the ruler of the kings of the earth. Psalm 2. The Old Testament foresaw that the Sceptre of David would rule over all the kingdoms of the world. It’s ecumenical. That’s Gospel. He is the ruler over all the kings of the earth.
John says, “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
And you share, beloved, in that glory and dominion forever and ever.
“Behold, He is coming with clouds,” — He comes from heaven — “and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.”
And he quotes Zechariah 12:10 here, which foresaw that Israel would see the one that they had crucified, and they would mourn for Him like one mourns for an only begotten son. But John is expanding his vision and it’s not just Israel that mourns. The whole world mourns because the whole world has learned to love Him. It’s the Gospel that is now ruling over all the kingdoms of the world.
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, amen.”
And then Jesus speaks.
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,”
The first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet. It’s like, “I’m A and Z.” He is the word of God. And so, all the constituents that constitute the Word becomes Jesus. “I am the beginning and the end of the alphabet.”
“‘The Beginning and the End of time,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’
“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom…”
Look at what he puts together. He’s on a prison aisle. John, the son of Zebedee, is the one who will introduce Christ, who is on a prison aisle. Well, how could that be in the providence of God? How could John be suffering? If he served such a king, could that king not deliver him from prison? But he’s on a prison aisle on Patmos. And just like the Gospel begins, and who is the one who introduces Jesus in the Gospel? Another John. John the Baptist before he is cast into prison. There are all kinds of correspondences that are beginning to be established between these two books.
“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,”
“I suffer too, but this is what I saw,” is what he’s saying. “In the midst of my tribulation — I’m in tribulation, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t His kingdom. This is His kingdom. He is the sovereign over all.” And so, he says, “I’m your companion. I’m with you. I suffer with you, but I’ve got this glorious prospect, too, with you.
“…and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos…”
It’s a prison isle.
“…for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
He’s innocent, but because of his Christian testimony, he had been banished to this desolate island in the Aegean.
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me loud voice, as of a trumpet,”
And so, he turns.
The voice said, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,”
And then his commission to write this great book, Revelation and John — both of them, together, he’s commissioned to write.
“‘Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia…’”
So, it’s addressed to the seven churches of Asia, but not just the epistles to each individual church. The whole book is given to the people of God in Roman Asia.
“‘…And send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’ Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.”
And you’ve got to understand the literature and what he’s doing with it. He says, “I turned to see the voice,” and that’s not what you expect. You expect him to say, “I turned to hear the voice,” didn’t you? But he says, “I turned to see the voice.” Now, is that an error? No. It’s a figure of speech. It’s customary in visionary language. It’s called synesthesia. The senses are all confounded here. I turned to see the voice. That’s very customary for this kind of language.
“I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,”
And the lampstands will represent the seven churches in Asia. So, he’s looking from Patmos, which is in the Sporades, in the Aegean, looking into Western Turkey, and there are the seven churches. And they’re represented by lampstands.
He says, “And I saw in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”
He saw one like the son of man, but John knew His face. He may not have seen Him for 30 years, but now he sees Him and he recognizes Him, but He’s in that transfigured glory. He says that He has a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. It’s a reference to Joseph after he’s been exalted to heaven and the king gives him a golden color. It ties together this vision of Jesus with the one in Revelation 19 where Jesus wears a robe dipped in blood. That, too, is Joseph. So, very subtle, the language here.
“His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.”
The one point of commonality between this vision of the earthly Jesus and the heavenly vision is His eyes are like a flame of fire. And what does that mean? It’s expressing His passion because He’s coming to rescue you. It’s His passion for you.
“And His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace,”
Brass is the emblem of judgment, and “as refined in a furnace,” that means it’s glowing. It’s brazen and it’s heat.
“And His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.”
What does that mean? We’re going to talk about that. He holds the seven stars in his right hand. Keep that in mind. He’s the one who speaks and galaxies spin into heaven. Remember.
Anyway, “Out of his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”
We’ll talk about these.
“And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.”
It’s a terrifying vision. John is seeing Jesus. He hasn’t seen Him now for 30 years, but when he sees Him in the glory as he comes to Him on this prison island, he’s struck with terror, as you can well imagine seeing this kind of a vision. He falls at His feet like a dead man. And then there is one act. Everything is descriptive. Everything is descriptive of Jesus. There is just one act that he does, and I want to focus on this one because John is focusing on it. The one motion that Jesus does is He reaches down, kneeling down to touch His disciple, His beloved disciple who is afraid. He reaches down and touches him with His hand.
“And He says to me, ‘Do not be afraid.’”
And that’s the word of Jesus. That’s the word of Jesus. If He were here, He would say that to you. Do not fear. Here is one who is in tribulation. He’s a prisoner. He’s exiled. He’s been cast aside. He’s seeing the heavenly Jesus. He’s afraid of death. And Jesus’ word to him is, “Do not fear.” Do not fear. Why?
“‘I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.’”
He has tasted death for all of us who put our trust in Him, and He has tasted it and comes back from the dead telling us, “Do not fear.” He’s the beginning and the ending. We live fragile lives. David led a fragile life, didn’t he? Tremendous triumph and heroism, but then he shatters it all in one act of massive disobedience. We all can see and we can understand how fragile our lives are, but it’s reassuring to know that the One who has seen the end of our story still comes back and says to us, “Fear not,” because He superintends our destiny and He will bring us to Himself.
Fear not. He has overcome death.
And so, he says, “‘I have the keys of Hades and of Death.’”
The tomb is no more. The tomb is always open for the Christian. And so, He says His commission.
“‘Write these things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.’”
That is our glorious vision of the Lord in chapter one of this great book. So, I want to look, now, at what kind of literature is this, and do we have any clues from ancient literature. If we come to understand ancient literature, I think it will be better for us. I’ve got a copy of that here, so I’m going to go ahead.
I want to look at the vision of Christ that John has given us with all these metaphors, all these similes. His mouth was like a sword. What does that mean? His eyes are like a flame of fire. What does that mean? Putting all of this together will give you a complete picture of the Christ that John is setting forth who is to be our eternal companion. We need to learn what figure of speech he’s using, and the figure of speech that he’s employing to describe Jesus is called a blazon. What is a blazon? A blazon is a portrait of a person, generally from head to toe, with very carefully selected similes. What’s a simile? It’s something that uses the word “like” or “as.” He’s making comparisons of the body, from head to toe, to different things. That’s what the formal idea of a blazon is.
So, let’s take a look at it. So, what is the context here? I want to look at another picture of Christ from the Song of Songs. This is from chapter five of Solomon’s song, which also has a blazon. The Song of Songs of Solomon is a duet sung between Solomon, the son of David, and Shulamith, the feminine form of Solomon, his beloved bride. And it’s an imaginary duet as they sing of their love for one another throughout that book. Ultimately, the Spirit of God intends for Solomon to represent the son of David who is Jesus, and Shulamith, who is his beloved, to represent you, the bride of Christ. And so, the daughters of Jerusalem ask the bride to describe her groom. What is he like? And this is what she says. It’s really quite beautiful. But notice it begins with the head and the hair and it’s going to go down, as we see, to the toes.
“My beloved is white and ruddy, Chief among ten thousand.”
She begins by glorying in the fact that he is of the royal tribe of Judah. He’s the son of David. David was ruddy. Do you remember? And so, the son of David, Solomon, is ruddy in his complexion, and chief among 10,000. That, too, looks to David. You will remember that when David and Saul went out to battle against the Philistines, David was incredibly victorious on the field. Saul was too, but David exceeded him. And so, when they came back to Jerusalem, the daughters of Jerusalem went out to celebrate Saul and David and they sang a song. They composed it.
“Saul has slain his thousands.” Remember that? “And David his tens of thousands.” The reason that I’m going into that detail is because that opens up a verse in Revelation. It’s magnifying David’s heroism against Saul. It prompted jealousy in Saul, as you may remember. When the women sang< “Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his tens of thousands,” he’s the greater hero. But when you come to Revelation 5:11, you find the next verse of that song. You see, all of heaven, in Revelation 5:11, is singing that Jesus has saved his tens of thousands of tens of thousands and thousands and thousands. So, you put the songs together.
“Saul has slain his thousands, David has slain his tens of thousands, but Jesus has saved his tens of thousands of tens of thousands and thousands of thousands.”
It’s a very subtle reading of that text to show you that He is truly the great Son of David. Jesus is greater in His love and redemption than David and Saul. Amazing. So, she’s celebrating the son of David, which is Solomon, figuratively.
“His head is like the finest gold; his locks [hair] are wavy like the date palm, black like the raven. His eyes are like doves…”
Now, the eyes, when Solomon described Shulamith, that’s the one point of commonality. Their eyes are like doves. What does that mean? The dove in the Bible is always looking for rest, and so it’s describing what we would call love at first sight. You’re looking at all of these people, but when you see your beloved, your eye rests and it has no intention to go any further. Does that make sense? You have found the one in whom your soul rests. That’s your spouse. So, she’s saying his eyes are like doves. When he sees her, he has found his companion, his mate, and she says the same.
“His eyes are like doves by the rivers of waters, washed in milk and fitly set. His cheeks are like a bed of balsam, banks of scented herbs. His lips are like lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. His hands are rods of gold set with beryl. His body is like carved ivory inlaid with lapis.”
So, you see how we’re going down.
“His legs are like pillars of ivory, fixed on basis of fine gold.”
So, this is the literary device that we’re using that John will use to describe Jesus so we can become familiar with it. His face — and you can go back to the face.
“His countenance is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet, yes, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem!”
In the context of the Song of Songs, she has lost her beloved and the daughters of Jerusalem were saying, “Where is he? Where has he gone?” And in the context of the book, he has gone to meet death, but he is not dead. We’ll see this, just to show you.
“Where has your beloved gone, O fairest among women? Where has your beloved turned aside, that we may seek him with you? My beloved has gone to his garden, to the bed of spices,”
Directly alluding to the burial of the Savior when the ladies brought the spices to the Lord.
“My beloved has gone to his garden,”
Remember the tomb in the garden?”
“To the beds of spices, to feed his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies.”
The Hebrew word is “shushan.” It really means lotus, but it’s the same idea. We have lilies on Easter, don’t we? Because out of the dirt of the ground comes forth this beautiful flower that looks like a trumpet, celebrating its triumph over death. And so, he’s not dead. She refuses to believe that he’s dead. He’s alive. He’s gathering the lilies for me. It’s beautiful. So, that’s how this figure of speech works. If you understand that, it will help you, now, as we come to what John has done in describing Jesus in Revelation 1:12.
So, this, too, is a blazon. It’s going to go from head to toe describing Jesus. And our task is to understand why he chose these particular similes. Why did he make these comparisons? Because when you read them, it sounds strange to our ear, but once we think about it, we’ll understand what he’s doing.
“Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands is One like the Son of Man,”
I love that. Jesus is in the midst of our church. Isn’t that glorious? He’s here with us. The imminence of the savior. He is here with us. If two or three are gathered together, He’s with us. His heart is to be with us far more than our unfaithful, so often, heart is wanting to be with Him.
“In the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet…”
So, he’s completely clothed like this.”
“And girded about the chest with a golden band.”
Now, we start at the head.
“His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow,”
Why does he say that? Why explain it just like that? There are many things that are being done here.
“His eyes were like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass,”
So, we’ve gone from head to foot.
“As if refined in a furnace,”
What does it mean that His feet were like fine brass, as though it’s molten in a furnace of fire? Notice that you’ve got His head and His hair were white like wool, white like snow, and the very next line, His eyes were like a flame of fire. How do you put that together? His hair is like snow. His eyes are a flame of fire. It’s a juxtaposition that we don’t quite understand to begin with, but we will momentarily. You’ll see why he does that.
“And His voice was like the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars,”
The emphasis is on the right hand. He has seven stars. It’s interesting. I remember a cosmologist in a lecture a long time ago — I can’t remember his name, but he made the comment that the distribution of dark matter in the universe is not like you would expect with the big bang. He said, actually, if you look at the way that dark matter is distributed throughout the universe — and this is what he said: “It’s like a man was casting it out of his hand while he was turning around and dancing.”
I think that’s beautiful because what is he dancing for? He’s anticipating showing His splendor to you. He’s dancing because of His joy in who you will be. The great message of John’s Gospel, as you well know, is John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son. The message of Revelation is contrary to that. God so loved His Son that He gave Him the greatest gift He could give Him. And what is that gift? It’s you. You are the one that were chosen to be the eternal companion of the Son of Glory. That’s the message of this book. That’s who you are. You’re going to learn about your destiny. So, anyway.
“His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword,”
That language struck me as strange. I remember years ago I was seeing an exhibit of African art, and they had one of the tribal chieftains there. It’s all in wood figures, carved out of wood, and coming out of his mouth was a double-headed ax. And I thought, “That’s really bizarre,” but then I realized what he’s intending to say is the chieftain, his word can speak life and death. Right? That’s the point of that. It’s not that there’s actually a sword, but the word that comes forth from his mouth will separate, eternally, the sheep from the goats. It’s a word of life and death. That’s the power. That’s the significance. Each of these metaphors has a significance like that.
“Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at his feet as dead.”
So, you have the same resurrection theme.
“But He laid His right hand on me,”
He laid His right hand on me. Think about that for a minute.
“He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not fear; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.’”
He lays His right hand. He comes from heaven. John sees Him and falls at His feet like a dead man. And in one hand, He’s holding the seven stars. He is the cosmic, heavenly Christ. But then when He sees His friend falling in fear, Jesus kneels down and puts that same right hand on John’s back to encourage him. And John has touched the hand that cast off the stars into their galaxies. It’s the hand that is pierced by a nail, isn’t it? And He touches John with a nail-pierced hand, and that comforts His beloved disciple.
And all of you who know Christ, who know Him intimately, recognize that. Though He created the world — you know that. John tells you all things were made by Him and through Him and for Him. But He also can come alongside of you in the times of your deepest, darkest hours. And He can touch you with a hand that knows infirmity. He knows your sorrows and He loves you, and that’s the compassionate touch of the Savior. The same hand that holds the seven stars, that gives care for all the churches, cares for you personally, an He’s mindful when you are afraid.
So, He comes and that’s His message: “Do not fear. I’m the First and the Last.” I mean, we live in a world that is, in many ways, falling apart, but it’s always falling apart. There’s always some ground for fear, but Jesus’ word to us is, “Fear not.” That’s His love for you. He’s going to take care of you. He is your spouse. He is your husband. You have right and title to all of His titles. He shares those with you like a husband will share his name, his honor, his property, all of that, with his bride. And Jesus puts all of that at your disposal and He intends everything. He will walk through you through the tribulation. He may call you to tribulation and He has purposes for doing that, but He will walk with you and through it and encourage you.
“Fear not,” He says. What a word. Do not fear. What is it you don’t fear? You don’t fear death because He has the keys. He says, “I’m alive. I am He who lives, I was dead, and behold, I’m alive forevermore.” It’s the same resurrection theme. If He’s overcome death, is there anything that should terrify us, if He has the keys of Death and Hades? So, that’s our savior.
Now, let’s try to make sense of those metaphors now that we have grasped them a little bit. Why did John describe Jesus in this way? And I want to show you why he’s doing that. The first thing is it’s appealing to your senses, especially three of them. The first is sight. It’s very visual, like I began tonight. Jesus is standing in the midst of seven lampstands. His face is blazing like the sun, shining in its strength. His hair is white like snow. His eyes are like fire. His breast is golden. And His feet are glowing with molten bronze. So, he begins with this crash of light out of darkness that is Jesus appearing to him, which corresponds to the beginning of His Gospel because the light, the heavenly light, shines into darkness, and the darkness did not understand it, but the light has come into the world.
It’s magnificent. It really is this beautiful vision of Jesus. He’s corresponding the beginning of his gospel in Revelation. But all of these appeal to your sense of sight. There is sound there, too. His voice is like a trumpet. His voice thunders like many waters. You wouldn’t ordinarily put those together, but he’s putting them together. It’s so that you hear, as well as see. It’s a sound and light show. It’s fantastic, the way that he is presenting Jesus. His hair; touch. You can touch it, too. His hair is coarse like wool. His word is sharp like a two-edged sword. So, it’s invoking all of your senses. It’s appealing to your senses, this kind of synesthesia that I spoke about.
Now, there is another level to the way that he’s picked out these similes to describe Jesus, and there we have to learn another figure speech. It’s the most common figure of speech, I think, in the Bible. It’s called a merism. Well, what is a merism? Merism comes from the Greek word “merismos,” which means to divide. And that is you take opposites, but they don’t mean opposites. They mean the totality of everything. So, we will say it’s a juxtaposition of opposites that indicate totality. We say, “Young and old came from near and far,” but if I say that to you, you know that I’m not just talking about young people and older people, and I’m not just talking about near and far. I’m talking about what? Everybody came from everywhere.
Does that make sense? You see, that’s the logic of it. You take the opposites to indicate totality. If I say that John is describing the human form from head to toe, that’s a merism. Not just the head and the toe, but the whole of the body. So, if we understand that figure of speech, we see Jesus is uniting these opposites.
In the climax of the vision, Jesus says, “I am the First and the Last.” That is, He spans all the dimensions of time. We don’t do that. We are creatures. We had a beginning. We will have everlasting life, but eternal life belongs only to God who has no beginning. So, He spans all of the dimensions of time. He’s divine. He’s different than we are. Binaries. His head is like wool, His feet are like burnished bronze. That is, He fills the full stature of a man from head to foot. That’s important for us to know because Jesus had to be fully human to make a human sacrifice on our behalf. But he takes the opposites and we realize he’s describing the full stature of a man here.
His hair is white like snow. His eyes are a flame of fire. That is, He comprehends both frozen cold and blazing heat. Isn’t that amazing how John is bringing all of these aspects of the creation together in this cosmic vision of Jesus? His voice is like the sound of many waters. His feet are like bronze in a furnace. He expresses the extremes of both wet and dry. He’s taking the vision of Jesus and stretching it to reach all of the corners of our imagination because Christ is going to fill all things. So, His breast is girded in gold, His feet are like glowing bronze. He reconciles both the precious and the base. He has the keys of Death and Hades, but His mouth is like a double edge sword. That is, He has authority over both life and death. So, He has authority over all things. His right hand holds the seven stars of heaven, but that same right hand reaches down to earth to touch His disciple and to speak comfort to Him. So, His dominion spans all of heaven and all of earth.
This one absolutely stuns me. Like I said, the vision, he’s describing Jesus. There’s no verbal. This is the way He is. He doesn’t use verbs, which are action. There’s only one action which accents that one action. And that one action is when Jesus reaches down, kneels down and puts His hand on His beloved disciple. That’s the one action, and that’s so magnificent. He creates all things and He marches the galaxies and the constellations in their order, we’re told. But He’s mindful when you are afraid and He will come alongside you and touch you to comfort you.
What a savior. I mean, what a magnificent word is that. The same right hand reaches down to the earth to touch His disciple and to speak comfort to Him. That is, His dominion spans heaven and earth. He unites the three dimensions. When God creates the world, we speak of it as a space, mass, time continuum, don’t we? Which is Trinitarian, interestingly, and each one of these — space, mass and time — is also Trinitarian. It’s amazing how God has put His fingerprints on all that He makes.
Matter, we observe in three physical states — solid, liquid, gas. Time is made up of past, present, and future. And space is three-dimensional — length, breadth and height. And so, what is he doing? He’s stretching the imagination for you to see Jesus reaching into all of these corners of everything that He has created.
Now, why is he doing this? Let me just back up for a minute and remind you, He is showing you the bridegroom. This is the one who loved you. The Father chose you and gave you to the Son, all of you who have confessed your faith in Him. This book is an invitation to a wedding. It’s free and open to anyone who will respond to this invitation. Jesus will be your eternal companion. Well, what does that mean? You see, you wonder because our metaphors break down when we think about the transcendent, but we can’t express the transcendent without metaphor. What does it mean that Jesus is your bridegroom when He is similarly covenanted with millions or billions of people? But see, that’s when we forget who He is. He is not finite. It doesn’t mean that you’ll make an appointment in 15 million years to see Him for 10 minutes. That’s not what that means at all.
Because, you see, He is infinite, which means in all of eternity He will be immediately present with you because He’s infinite. You have a taste of that already because there are millions of prayers, maybe billions of prayers, being offered to Jesus every moment of every day. Isn’t that right? And He understands and answers them all. We assume that. But you’re being prepared to be the eternal companion of Jesus Christ. And what does that mean when your bridegroom spoke the stars into existence on the fourth day? What adventures await for you? We’re going to spend a lot of time talking about heaven.
What John is going to tell you about heaven is unbelievably beautiful. It’s magnificent, and it’s an understanding that He’s giving that to you so that you can endure the sufferings that have been appointed for this present age. And God, in kindness, gives it to us to suffer for His name knowing that we will be glorified through it all.
Anyway, He unites the three dimensions of space. He holds the stars of heaven. His voice is like the waters of earth and He has the keys of the underworld. So, He unites the dimensions of time. He knows the things that have been, the things that are and the things that will be hereafter. He knows everything. There’s nothing that surprises Him, and if you understand that and believe it, that comforts you in going through life to know that He is not taken by surprise. And what has He promised you? He will supply every need you have in Christ Jesus. Whatever eventuality comes into your life, He is there with you and He has suffered through life and He will be our companion in tribulation because He’s preparing us to inherit a kingdom. And that’s what John is sharing with us. He unites the dimensions of time. He’s the living one who was dead and who is alive forevermore.
In Genesis 1, when the world is created, it’s created of binaries; these opposites that show the whole horizons of the world we know. We are not able to think outside of these horizons. Immanuel Kant pointed that out. We can’t imagine what was before time. You can’t. Your mind doesn’t. It isn’t wired to understand that. You can’t understand what is at the other side of space. What is on the other side of space? If you were to reach the limit of the universe, what would that limit be and what would be beyond it if it’s not spatial? You can’t imagine the limits of time or space. We have minds that are made for this world, just like a baby in the womb can’t imagine, if he’s able to think consciously and rationally, if he would be able to think like that, why is he being given legs and why arms? He’s being prepared for another world. Don’t you see? Where those become useful and necessary in order to enjoy all that God has prepared for us.
And, in some sense, I think it’s like that. We are now in the womb and we’re being given faculties and abilities and we’re given experiences that are preparing us for another world. That’s who we are. So, anyway, He creates a world. Why does He create this world? It’s made of opposites. There’s God and man. There’s heaven and earth. And all of the opposites are images of the first, so that man is made in the image of God, Earth is made in the image of heaven. The beginning of the ending. The ending corresponds to the beginning in the Bible. It’s when Jesus, when He, talks about the end, He said it will be like in the days of Noah. He goes back to the beginning.
So, male and female. The female is made in the image of male. Good and evil. Evil, too, imitates good — in a perverted sense, but it’s an imitation. It’s in the image of. It pretends to be good. Life and death. Death, in the Bible, you can be dead while you live, Paul says. The walking dead who are dead in trespasses and sins. But anyway, Jew and Gentile. That’s the last binary. That doesn’t come until Genesis 17. But there’s seven of these binaries. Those are the horizons of the world, as we understand them. Does that make sense? They’re the horizons of the way that we understand the world.
Why did God make this particular kind of a world? We’re told in the Bible that everything that was made was made by Jesus, and that’s in John and in Revelation. Everything that was made was made for Him — by Him and for Him and unto Him. All things that are made, that were made. Well, what does that look like then? Look at this, the binaries of creation. You have God at the top, but He makes man in His image. You have heaven and earth, beginning and ending. You see? You have male and female, good and evil, life and death, Jew and Gentile. Those are the horizons of the biblical world. You don’t think beyond them, but everything that we know is within this tetradecagon, or decahedron, I think it’s called, technically. So, see that? Each one is the image of the other.
Now, why is this the case? Who could bring all these together? We are men. We’re mankind, right? We’re not divine. So, we don’t reach from one end to the other. We know earth, but none of us have been to heaven. We had a beginning that is not the original beginning. We will never know an ending, but we had a beginning that was not original, so we can’t stretch over the span of time. We are male, but not female, or female and not male. So, we know good. We know evil. We’re called to be good, not to partake of evil. We know life. We will know death. We are Jew, we are Gentile, or perhaps we’re both in some ways. But this is the world and we don’t span all of it. We can’t connect all of it.
Is there anyone who can bring all of the horizons of the world we know together? Here He is. You can see how the world was made for Jesus, can’t you? He came. He’s divine. Is He not God? Yes. But is He authentically man? Yes. He is God, but He is man — fully man. That’s our Chalcedon confession. Fully God, fully man, united together, forever, in one glorious person. That’s the Savior. He came forth from heaven. We know that. He came forth from heaven, but in His resurrection He also came forth from the earth, didn’t He? Like the first Adam. He came forth from the earth. He came forth from heaven. He brings these great horizons of the cosmos together in His one person. He was before time. In the beginning, He is the one who is creating all things, and He has no end. He knows the beginning and the ending of this world that He has created, but He is before and after it.
Male and female. And this is glorious. Does Jesus bring these two together? Absolutely. He does. How? And this is your glory. You see, when Adam was created, God made him alone for a special reason, and he had to learn that he was alone and he could not fulfill what God had required of him to be fruitful and multiply alone. And when Adam learns that by naming the animals, and they come in sexual pairs, he learns his loneliness. Then, at that point, God will give him the gift of the bride. And so, he is given a companion for himself. Why? Because God said it’s not good for the man to be alone. When you realize that when Jesus is born in the fullness of time, He’s born to Mary, but He is male. And so, He’s born under the law and the law says it is not good for the man to be alone.
The Father will prepare a bride suitable for Him. What could be a bride for an infinite Son but an innumerable company of people? And so, you were in the mind of God when Christ was born. He knew He had to have a bride, and He will be complete when you are with Him. And that will be the consummation of His great joy. You will be beautiful like Eve. You will be pure like Eve when you are given by the Father to the Son, and then, with you, He will bring together male and female, good and evil.
How can Jesus bring that together? Jesus is always holy, harmless and undefiled. No man convicted in the sin. He never sinned. But you understand that when He went to the cross, our sin was imputed to Him and He suffered the full penalty of the wrath of God against our sin. Although He had never done sin actively, passively He took the full weight of the wrath of God upon Himself for you. That’s what He did for His beloved. He took the wrath of God that was justly due, so He knew evil. He who knew no sin was made to know sin and the consequence of it. And so, He brings together good and evil and Himself, but He does that when He is destroying evil for all time. Life and death. He was born.
Did you ever think about that? The fact that the mystery of the incarnation — we’ve just passed Christmas. The mystery of God coming as a man. If you read ancient literature, when you see the gods appearing, they appear in showers of gold, like Zeus comes from heaven in a shower of gold. This big show. When the true God comes into the world, He is squeezed by muscles in a birth canal of a Jewish maiden into the world, and He’s tethered to her with an umbilicus. That’s how God arrives in this world. The humility of that, that He who made all things would be made a baby so that we might have a Redeemer. It’s incredible when you think about what He was doing.
You know, He is called, in the Bible, the Word of God. The Latin word “infant” comes from “infance.” It means one who cannot speak. The chief characteristic of an infant is they can’t speak. And so, the Word, the eternal Word of God who created all things by the Word becomes a baby who can only cry in a manger. Why did He do that? Why would He do that? Leave the glory of heaven, the riches of heaven? Because though He knew the riches of heaven, for our sake, He became poor that we, through His poverty, might become rich. It’s because of His love for you, the mystery of the faith. This is the Savior.
Anyway, He brings all of these together. The Jew and the Gentile. Read His genealogy. We just did. You went through it. Chip, very faithfully, took you through the genealogy of Matthew. What does it mean that Jesus had Rahab for an ancestress who was a Canaanite, cursed by Noah, condemned by Moses? But Rahab became a mother of Christ. Or Ruth, a Moabite, strangers to the covenants of promise. You have Tamer, likewise a Canaanite. What does it mean? You see, if you take that genealogy and its chronology as it’s presented, Boaz is half Canaanite, isn’t he? And when he marries Ruth, who is a Canaanite, his son, Obed, is only one quarter Jew. Abraham and his descendants, three quarters Gentile, and Obed is the father of Jesse, the father of David. David had a lot of Gentile blood because God is showing His love is universal. It’s universal and He will take a bride who is both Jewish and Gentile. That’s who we are. He brings them together and the Gospel of God.
You may know this picture, “Vitruvian Man,” by DaVinci. DaVinci was looking for what is it that brings heaven and earth together? What is the commonality? And they thought that you had to learn, mathematically, how to square the circle to do that. But he knew from Vitruvius — Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, the great architect from the Roman era. He knew the proportions of the human body are divine. They’re based on the golden mean. Your body is magnificent. You know that from Psalm 139. Everything is mathematical in the way that your body is put together. It’s based on Fibonacci cycles. It’s based on the golden mean. It’s unbelievable how the body is constructed. There clearly is design in that.
So, how do you bring together the square, which represents humanity, and the circle, which represents divinity? The circle is around the navel of the figure and the square is around the genitals because he’s saying, “How do we bring that together?” He’s gesturing toward how can we imagine Christ? How can we do that? How can we mathematically square the circle? How do we do that? Well, Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact image of the nature of God. There are magnificent pictures of Christ in Ephesians 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 and Revelation 1, and if you understand how these similes come together, you will understand what the apostles are saying. Like, for example, in Hebrews 1, the apostle says, “Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact image of the nature of God. He is the image of God, of the nature of God, in human form.”
So, he’s bringing together these binaries. He’s giving you a merism to show you a comprehensive vision of Christ. All the apostles understood Jesus like this. Paul says, “Jesus is man in the image of a Godhead,” so he’s bringing together, in Colossians 1, that beautiful vision of Jesus. He’s bringing together these same concepts. In Colossians, we’re told that heaven and earth were created for Him. That makes sense, doesn’t it? He makes all these horizons. In Ephesians, we’re told that Christ has been exalted to heaven, from there to rule over all the earth. So, they’re thinking, the apostles, all of them are thinking in these categories to understand Jesus. Beginning and the ending. In Colossians, were told that He is the beginning and the end. There it is, explicitly again, in Colossians 1. The apostles begin with a correct understanding of who Jesus is. That’s the most important thing. Understand who He is and that will speak comfort to you in the times of trouble, knowing that He loves you like He does.
In Ephesians, we learned that Christ will rule both in this age and the age to come. He brings together male and female. Christ is the head of the Church. By a great mystery, He unifies man and woman. You see that, especially, as it’s developed in Ephesians 5 because Ephesians is tracking the same trajectory as Revelation. It’s going from a vision of Jesus to that great teaching about the bride of Christ. And then it talks about the glory, all of that. It’s all bringing it together. Good and evil. Christ has delivered His people from darkness to light. Colossians 1. That is, He’s taken us from an evil place to a glorious place, a good place. That’s what that is. It’s His purpose toward you in all the things that happened in your life. It gives pardon for sins or good for evil in Colossians 14. We deserve wrath because we have fallen into sin, but He takes that wrath upon Himself in order that He can deliver us from death. What a Savior. That’s the glory of Jesus.
His resurrection reconciles life and death. Pretty amazing, no? His resurrection brings together a life and death. He’s called the Prince of Life. Well, how can the Prince of Life die? He tasted death. It wasn’t His grave. It wasn’t His cross. It’s my cross, my grave, and all of you who believe in Him. That’s what I deserved. He didn’t deserve that, but He went willingly. Why did He go to the cross? Hebrews tells you. He went to the cross in joy. Do you realize that? Hebrew says that. Who would have thought He went in joy? Why? Because He was foreseeing that He would be with you for the joy that was set before Him. For the joy of being with you, He suffered the shame, despised the shame of the suffering, in order that He might rescue you.
That’s how much you have. Do you realize that the love that is being poured out on you stretches the whole universe? That’s the measure of it. That’s the Savior. And His cross reconciles all things to Himself, whether Jew or Gentile, because your identity is taken from Him. And if you’re in Him, all of His rights and titles become yours. Very precious, precious promises to become yours.
There’s one thing, just to show you just one illustration of so many. In the Old Testament, when you see and read prayers, they don’t pray to God the Father. Did you ever notice that? They don’t pray to the Father. That’s not known. That’s not imagined until God makes a covenant with the House of David. He says, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be a son to me,” and that becomes the privilege of the heir of David. The true heir of David is Jesus. And so, when the disciples ask Him to teach them to pray, what does He begin?
He teaches us to pray, “Our father.” How can He do that? Because we have been espoused to Him and because of His royal prerogative as the Son of David, He shares that with His bride. When you call on God your Father, what a privilege is that? You’re being invited to participate in the love of the Trinity. That’s John 17. Unimaginable is the glory that’s being given to us. And then this, most magnificent: But He laid His right hand on me, saying, “Do not fear.” A crucified hand. He has a crucified hand. That’s the only way He can truly say — isn’t it? — “Do not fear.” It was nailed once. Now there’s a scar that’s the emblem of new life and healing because He’s come forth from the grave. And so, He touches John.
And I suggest He touches you, as well. The closest you come to touching Him is at the communion supper, when you partake, in faith, of His flesh and His blood, and you recognize in that supper something of the love of Jesus for you. It’s like the Emmaus disciples because He had been masqueraded from them. They didn’t recognize Him until the breaking of the bread. When He takes the bread and breaks it, they recognize Him. How? By the nail-pierced hand. So, you will know Him. And those of you who know Him in truth know He does touch you. He comes to you in your hour of greatest need. It’s His love for you.
Well, that’s the burden of the lesson that I wanted to do. I wanted to cover that, but I also wanted to end with a song like we began. Shines Jesus Shine. Maybe you can see that in a different light now. It’s a blazing light that is the image of your Savior, your espoused, your beloved. But I want to end with another one. I want to end with a song, a contemporary song, but it’s a blazon. Now that you know what a blaze of is, a pattern of metaphors that go from head to toe, that celebrate a loved one and remind you of why He is altogether lovely. So, I’d like us to end with this one. You can stand. You can sing if you want. It’s Twila Paris, “How Beautiful.”
Chip: I’ll clean up your mess when you get done teaching the class in a couple of months. If you go to Israel with me and Warren next month, you’ll see we like to like to pick at each other, but we love each other. I hope you enjoyed tonight, and I can assure you that this will continue on. This was just an entry into the book. You’ll be blown away as we continue to go through it, but I just would encourage you to continue to show up. I think you’ll see some things that you never saw before. And I hope, tonight, that you got some cool things, especially with the blazon and merism. I know that when I first started listening to Warren and the literary devices — because he has multiple degrees in literature and those things — it was remarkable the way this book started to take on a whole different form. Great job, Warren.
So, let’s end with a word of prayer and we’ll get out of here. If you have any questions, both Warren and I will hang out and answer as long as we can.
Let’s pray. Father, I thank You so much for Your Word. It’s apparent to me, the older I get, and the more I read Your Word, that there’s so much more depth than sometimes I catch or see just in a cursory reading. Your love for us is beyond anything that we could ever understand. And Father, my prayer is that as we read this book together, as a church, as we look at this book together, as a church, I pray that it would really change us, that we would get a better picture of who You are and what You really are doing in our lives, as individuals and as a church collectively.
So, I pray that You would continue to lead, guide, and direct each and every one of us. I pray that You’d give everybody safe travel home. And I pray that You would give Warren safe travel home, tomorrow, as he travels back to Fort Lauderdale. And I pray, Lord, that You’d bring us all back, in a couple of weeks, on a Wednesday to continue to learn about this fascinating book.
We love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.” God bless everybody. Have a wonderful night. Just remember this one thing. When you get your church on on a Wednesday night, it doesn’t mean you’re exempt on Saturday and Sunday. So, see everybody soon. See everybody this weekend. God bless everybody.