John begins describing his vision. This first part is given to him directly by Jesus and starts with John hearing His voice.
John sets the stage first by telling his readers where he was and why he was there when all this took place. John has been sharing the gospel since the Holy Spirit fell on Pentecost. And, like his fellow disciples, he has come under persecution and imprisonment. The island of Patmos is his “prison” and where he is being secreted away because of his faith.
John also wants his readers to know that he is just like them. He isn’t over them or lower than them. He is a “brother and partner” in everything they are facing. He was a “partner in the tribulation and the Kingdom and the patient endurance” that were part of waiting for Jesus’ return. Kind of reminds me of marriage vows; “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part.” John was in this journey for the long haul and he prayed they were too.
The “tribulation” John was speaking about wasn’t the “great tribulation” that was to come but the day to day persecution for being a follower of Christ. And the Kingdom John referenced was God’s Kingdom. Because of his, and his brother’s, “patient endurance” through the “tribulation” they had the promise of being part of His “Kingdom.” That was a joy worth waiting and fighting for!
John heard a “loud voice” behind him. I wonder if he recognized it as Jesus’ voice before he even turned around. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). John had also spent 3 ½ years walking the dusty roads with Jesus. He probably could pick His voice out in any crowd. But was this the same voice Jesus used during John’s vision? I don’t know.
Jesus’ appearance had certainly changed since the last time John had seen Him. But He was STILL recognizable to John. “And in the midst of the lampstands one like a Son of Man, clothed with a long robe with a golden sash around His chest” (verse 13). Jesus called Himself the Son of Man on many occasions and this was the same designation John chose to use. He looked like Jesus, but was still a bit different. John goes on to describe some of the differences. His sash color, His hair color, His eyes, and even His feet were different. His voice was more powerful; “like the roar of many waters” (verse 15b). He also had a “sharp two-edged sword” coming out of His mouth and “His face was like the sun shining in full strength” (verse 16b). MORE powerful than the changes John saw in Him during that morning on the mountain top! Jesus was AMAZING!!!
John did EXACTLY what the rest of us would; he “fell at His feet as though dead” (verse 17a). Absolute awe and terror! Jesus didn’t leave him in that state though. He gently “laid His right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not’” (verse 17b).
THIS is when Jesus makes sure John recognizes Him. Jesus lists His accomplishments of the promise. “I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys to Death and Hades” (verse 17c-12). NO ONE else had done these things. No other deity could make these claims. There was no doubt that it was in fact Jesus Christ standing before John in this instance.
Now that Jesus FIRMLY established Who He was, it was time to get down to business. “Write therefore the things that you have seen, and those that are and those that are to take place after this.” (verse 19). EVERYTHING that John saw had a purpose and a meaning. Jesus wanted it ALL shared with His body.
Jesus told John who His audience would be by telling him which churches to pen this letter to. I wonder if there was more than one church in each of these towns. It was still early in the church age but there were already divisions happening among the groups. Paul mentioned several “church splits” in his letters. But Jesus names the city home of the church He is targeting in this message. “Send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea” (verse 11).
These churches had issues that are important to all churches then and now. Just because MY church wasn’t named doesn’t mean that this message isn’t for me too. I need this letter as much as they did.
Our reading today concludes with Jesus sharing the meaning of the things He is holding in His hands. HIS hands are big enough to hold ALL of us! He is holding in His right hand “seven stars” and “seven golden lampstands.” He has His body firmly in His hands. As I mentioned before, just because my church location wasn’t mentioned doesn’t mean I’m not represented in those golden lampstands. I’ll take, and use, all He instruction He has to offer!
Thank You Lord Jesus for taking the time to share this message with me. I know I’m not specifically named but I also KNOW that I was on Your heart when You spoke to John that day. I PRAY I can take it all in and understand what changes You want in my life.
Thank You Father God for allowing me this peek behind the veil. I know there is MUCH more to come as we go on through this letter. Help me listen well!