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Meditations Contents
Series Theme:  Revelation 1 to 3 Meditations

PART ONE: Chapter 1

Meditation Title: Overview 

   

 

 

Part 1 : The Bringer of the Revelation

1

1:1

God of communication

2

1:1,2

The Witness

3

1:3

Be Blessed!

4

1:4

Our place in history

5

1:4

God's Grace

6

1:5

Jesus, witness, firstborn & ruler

7

1:5,6

The work of Jesus

8

1:7

The Coming One

9

1:8

God who is

10

1:9

Our place in history (2)

11

1:10

Revelation!

12

1:11

Directional prophecy

13

1:12,13

Lord of the Church

14

1:14

The All-Wise & All-Seeing One

15

1:15

The Tried & Tested One

16

1:16

Authority!

17

1:17

Effects of Divine Encounters

18

1:17,18

The Overcomer

19

1:19

The extent of revelation

20

1:20

Church Structure

 

 

Part 2 : The Words he brings (1)

 

 

2.1 Ephesus

21

2:1

Lord of the Church

22

2:2,3

Struggles and Strains

23

2:4,5

Losing our first love

24

2:5

Accountability

25

2:6

Righteous Hatred

26

2:7

The Reward of Life

 

 

2.2 Smyrna

27

2:8

The Lord who is the Overcomer

28

2:9

Opposition

29

2;10

Suffering

30

2:10,11

The Reward of Eternal Life

31

2:12

The Speaker of the Word of God

32

2:13

The Faithful Ones

33

2:14,15

Beware the Heretics

34

2:16

Beware the Word of God

35

2:17

A Secret Reward

 

 

2.4 Thyatira

36

2:18

The Revealing One

37

2:19

The All-Rounders

38

2:20-22

Beware the false prophetess

39

2:23

Retribution

40

2:24,25

Hold on

41

2:26-28

Authority Imparted

 

 

Part 3 : The Words he brings (2)

 

 

2.5 Sardis

42

3:1

The One who Holds the Church

43

3:1-3

Wake up!

44

3:4

The Clean Ones

45

3:5,6

Acknowledged

 

 

2.6 Philadelphia

46

3:7

The Key Holder

47

3:8

Little Strength?

48

3:9

Deceived Opposition

49

3:10

The Second Trial

50

3:11-12

Pillars of the Church

51

3:12

Named

 

 

2.7 Laodicea

52

3:14

The Faithful Witness to the End

53

3:15-17

Lukewarm

54

3:18

The Remedy

55

3:19,20

The Guest

56

3:21,22

Ruling with Christ

57

….

Lord of the Church - Summary

58

…..

Areas of Vulnerability

59

…..

Our Inheritance

60

1:3

Doers of the Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditations Contents
Series Theme:  Revelation 1 to 3 Meditations

Meditation No. 1

Meditation Title: God of Communication

     

Rev 1:1   The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John

 

I have seen it many times but it never ceases to make me marvel, this truth that God seems, above all else, to be a God of communication. Theologians tell us that before He made the Creation, God communicated within Himself – Father with Son with Holy Spirit – and that in one sense there was no need to create anyone else. Yet the truth seems to be that God delights in communication. At the very beginning God initiated relationship with man through communication: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die(Gen 2:16,17). Communication is the foundation of a relationship. This particular communication brought the promise of blessing (You are free to eat from any tree in the garden), a responsibility (you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), and consequences (for when you eat of it you will surely die). Suddenly man knew God's provision but also knew that with that provision came one limitation and by honouring that one limitation he would be showing his feelings toward God. This is the thing about relationships: communication is more than simply imparting information, it is the creating of meaningful interaction between the parties.

 

Throughout the Bible we find God communicating with mankind. Much of the time it is instruction of how to live in accordance with the way He, the Lord, has designed the world to work best, and at other times it was simply to tell people what He was going to do. At one point, with Abraham, we find the Lord pondering, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Gen 18:17) and He then goes on to ask questions of Abraham about Sodom . He wanted to share with Abraham something of the enormity of what was about the happen, so that Abraham would learn and understand and grow.

 

Now, as we come to the book of Revelation, we find something similar. Note first that there is a chain of communication: Father to Son, Son to angel, angel to John. Why didn't the Father communicate directly with John? We can only speculate. Is it because, very simply, the Father likes to encourage communication within His world? He communicates with His Son, and His Son then communicates with his angels who then communicate with John. It seems also that the Father likes to involve people to enable them to fulfil the role that is theirs. We are designed by God to be ‘doing' people. Psychologists tell us we are most fulfilled when we are doing what comes most naturally to us, which then takes us on to the roles in this chain. The Father is shown in Scripture to be the One with all authority.

The Son is always answerable to the Father's authority, but has authority vested in him by way of his relationship with his Father. Now he is seated at his Father's right hand ‘ruling in the midst of his enemies' (Psa 110). Indeed he is now ruling over all things: “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything(Eph 1:22 ), and that includes the angels who are servants of heaven (Heb 1:14). So the Son is most fulfilled when he is serving his Father's purposes, which includes communicating them down the chain. The angels of heaven are most fulfilled when they are serving heaven, Father & Son. Thus the angel is sent to communicate with John. Now if you read through the book of Revelation you will see that angels turn up and communicate with John a number of times. It would seem that it involves a number of angels but that is not certain. So much for the individuals involved.

 

Now let's consider what is being communicated. We are told it is what must soon take place. That is the bulk of this book; it is what is yet to come. Chapters two and three are almost an aside to the churches of Asia Minor over whom the Son reigns. They are the subject of his attentions in those chapters, but the rest of the book after the revelation of heaven in chapters four and five, seem to be what is going to happen in the end of the end times. We won't worry here about the content of that revelation, but simply note that it is the Father's desire that we hear from Him what is going to happen. Again it is this same thing coming through, the Father's desire to inform us, to involve us in what He does.

Why does He do this? He does it because He is looking for a response from us. When we read these things in this amazing book, what will be our response? He also does it because He wants to reassure us. The end of the End Times is a difficult time, but he wants us to know that He know about it all, and He is working into it. This world is not out of control; it is working according to God's foreknowledge. God tells about what is going to happen so that as His sons and daughters we may more intelligently respond in faith (yes those things DO go together!). We'll think more about John as we go along. For the moment he is simply the recipient of this revelation from God which he faithfully conveys to us. Let's make sure we respond to it well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Theme:   Revelation 1 to 3 Meditations

Meditation No. 2

  

Meditation Title: The Witness

   

Rev 1:1,2 He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw--that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ

 

The idea of a witness comes up in Scripture a number of times. One of the early, somewhat unusual examples of a ‘witness' was between Jacob and Laban: “Laban also said to Jacob, "Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me (Gen 31:51,52) A pile of stones was to act as a witness or reminder of what had taken place. Isaiah also used the concept of a witness in a significant prophecy: “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples(Isa 55:3,4). David was a witness or reminder to the people of what God had said and done in the past. That was one of the reasons that David's name crops up so many times in the Bible; it is God reminding His people of the covenant He had with them that had brought such blessing. When John the Baptist came he was described thus: “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light (Jn 1:7,8). John came to testify to what he knew about Jesus. Now this changed the idea of witness because the previous examples had been about testifying to the past. John was being a witness or support to what was now happening in the present.

 

Of course just before he departed Jesus declared, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) and a bit later when the apostles were considering who to replace Judas with they said, “For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection (Acts 1:22 ). In both of the verses the idea was of the apostles being witnesses who would testify to what had happened. That is the primary idea about a witness, they testify or tell what had taken place. Luke, as he started his Gospel wrote, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses” (Lk 1:1,2). There is the same idea.

 

There had been those who had been there and seen and heard all that had happened and they had passed this on. John writing his first letter wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched --this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard (1 Jn 1:1-3). We need to keep reiterating this. The things we have in the Bible, we have because people saw and heard and wrote down what they saw. They were eyewitnesses to what took place. These were not stories made up, but accounts of those who were there and who saw and heard.

 

So, now at the beginning of this amazing book we call The Revelation, we find John declaring the same thing: he was coming as a witness to what he had seen and heard. This prophecy is rooted in history. It wasn't something that he had made up; it was something he had received at a specific moment in history while he was on the island of Patmos . God had spoken to His Son, Jesus had passed it on to one of his angels and the angel had conveyed it to John, who is now faithfully acting as a witness and conveying it to us. There is no fairy story element to this. It happened!

 

Now see what he says it is. First it is the word of God. It is God's specific communication to His people. It originated with God; it is His word. We need to emphasise this. This is the authority for this book. It is what GOD has said. But second it is the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is a record of who Jesus still is and what he is saying. It comes through him and is all about him. We will find as we read through it that Jesus is THE main player in this book. It is reassuring because it is all about him. He, you will see if you read it through, is the one who unrolls the scroll of the End Times. He is in control. He brings blessing and he brings judgment.

 

So as we read this book, can we have a sense of entering into history? First of all because this book came to be written by John because of what God had said to him at a specific point of history and, second, because it is all about history, the end of history, about what will happen. Likewise can we ask ourselves, do we live as witnesses? We may not be sure to say sometimes, but the blind man's testimony is often the simple best: “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see (Jn 9:25) Amen!

   

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Theme:   Revelation 1 to 3 Meditations

Meditation No. 3

Meditation Title: Be Blessed

     

Rev 1:3   Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near

 

Blessings and being blessed are specific and clear features within the Bible. The first instance of the use of these words is to Abram: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Gen 12:2,3) The clear implication is that God was saying “I will do good to you, and as a result you will do good to many others. Also I will do good to those who do good to you. Those who do bad to you, I will do bad to.” God's blessing is God's decree of goodness coming upon a life. Moreover here, blessing is set against curse, and curse is God's decree of judgment. To see the fuller import of a blessing being a prophetic declaration from heaven over a person, see Isaac blessing Jacob and Esau (Gen 27).

 

The two classic cases of seeing the use of the word ‘blessed' are first in the Psalms (1:1, 2:12, 32:1,2, 33:12, 34:8, 40:4, 41:1, 65:4, 85:4,5,12, etc.) and in the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-10). In each case they start with “Blessed are” or “Blessed is”, meaning “Oh the goodness that will come upon….” In other words, it will be very good for you when you…. but we have to note that in every case it will be very good for this person because God says so, God decrees it and therefore goodness must follow. This isn't like saying, “Oh how nice it is to drink a cup of tea first thing in the morning” which may be true, but it is saying, “God will specifically bring good to you because you do this.

 

Having said all that, we can now look at today's verse. Blessed is the one who reads this prophecy . Now why will he or she be blessed? Why will God do good to them? Well, let's suggest several reasons. First, simply because God says so! If He says it, it will be so. Second, because this is the word of God and God's word always brings blessing in some way or other. Third, because the content of this book will bring challenge and encouragement and will let us see that when everything is not going as we might hope it would, the reality is that God is still in charge and Jesus is still working out his Father's purposes. In that respect it will bless and encourage us.

 

But there is another reason that is given in the text – because the time is near . Now when we look back on this book we might say, “Well I thought it is a book of the end times, so why was John expecting fulfilment soon. When we look at the content of the book we find that chapters two and three are about the beginning of the End Times, i.e. then! Those two chapters were addressed to church that were in existence then, and Jesus was expecting them to respond to what he was saying to them because the prophecy spoke of problems they were facing then and there! Indeed there are some warnings that he will remove them if they don't respond well and so this book becomes an immediate warning to them, and so if they read it, hear it and respond well to it, they will be blessed. Instead of the discipline or judgement spoken of, blessing will come! This is a very real reason why this book will be a blessing to whoever reads it.

 

But when we think about chapters four and five, which are revelations of what is happening in heaven, we see yet another reason why this book will bless the reader: it brings great assurance of the reality of heaven and who is there and the greatness of the Father and Son. When you read those chapters you are strangely comforted when fresh truths about Jesus emerge, the Lamb of God.

 

When you get to the end of the book, yet another reason for feeling blessed is given, for there we find descriptions of the final state and God's final provision for us. For any who have worries about what is to come, this is tremendously comforting. There we see God triumphant over all forms of evil and Satan finally being dealt with. All the questions about evil are wrapped up there!

 

In the middle part of the book we see the evil of godless and unrighteous mankind maintaining their rebellion against God, but we also see the hand of God moving to bring a variety of judgements, to seek to bring foolish mankind back to Himself or face destruction. There is an amazing sense here of the sovereign hand of God moving to bring about His ultimate purposes. He IS in control throughout, and that is very comforting. For all these reasons the reader and listener (when the book was read in local churches) will be blessed, will be made to feel good. It is a book of comfort for people living in troubled End Times. Hallelujah! But remember one last thing that John said that we haven't commented upon yet: the blessing will come for those who will take to heart what is written in it. As you read it, will you take in and believe what you read and thus be blessed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Theme:   Revelation 1 to 3 Meditations

Meditation No. 4

Meditation Title: Our Place in History

     

Rev 1:4      John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia

 

There is something so basic and fundamental here that most of us will never have thought about this: we each live within a specific geographical and historical context and we have to live our lives out within this. Now this needs saying because I believe it is possible to live in a dream world where we almost ignore the world in front of us and only live in a vision that actually is not! For instance here is the young Christian (and it tends to be younger Christians, but it can apply to all of us) who finds themselves with a new group of friends and life only exists with that group of friends. Everything else is tolerated. Non-Christian parents are tolerated and escaped from as quickly as possible, school, college or work is tolerated, and in fact everything apart from the exhilarating life of that with the Christian friends is tolerated. It is, in fact, a form of escapism. This same form of escapism appears in older Christians who tolerate neighbours, tolerate going to work, tolerate the world generally, and only see life in their church or Christian activities.

 

In some parts of the Christian world this is actually taught as something that is virtuous – come apart from the world. What they don't realise is that the call is to be holy or distinct in a moral, gracious and social way in the mind – but the whole world ‘out there' is God's world to be enjoyed and loved.

 

Let's put this in the context of our verse today which looks quite harmless and which some would pass over with virtually no thought. It starts out with John. This is the son of Zebedee, probably the only remaining one of the twelve who, we'll see later, was in his old age on the island of Patmos where he has been temporarily exiled for his faith. John has history. He's an old man and old men have many years of history. He is a leader of the church at Ephesus – or at least was until he was exiled – and is one of the most respected leaders of the rapidly spreading church. He is well known and honoured. He is well known because he was one of the twelve and he is honoured because he has been a faithful servant of the Lord for many years. He is thus a good ambassador for the Lord to pass on this word to the church of the day and the church to come in history.

 

He writes to seven churches in the province of Asia. Round about AD 70 the church at Jerusalem had left Jerusalem before the city was razed in that year by Rome . The church was strong in such places as Rome and still existed across Asia Minor where Paul had originally journeyed planting the word of God and planting churches. The churches that we will see in the coming two chapters, were there still and had gone through some tumultuous times – as we'll see when we get to those chapters. It is going to be John's task to convey to them the corrective words from the head of the church.

 

Consider this man John for a moment. It is believed he is probably over ninety. Think about him when he was say eighty. He's had a good life. He had been a fisherman until one day the teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, had called him to leave his fishing and follow him. Life had never been the same. For three incredible years he had traveled with the Master and watched him, on a daily basis doing the impossible – healings thousands. Then the Master had been executed, but three days later had been back with them, risen from the dead. The trauma of those days would have been indelibly imprinted in John's mind. Then the years passed, the church grew, was scattered by persecution, grew more and spread across the nations. John, in his travels finds himself as the leader of the church at Ephesus .

He perhaps reflects back over the years and wonders how much longer he has on this earth. He could have been forgiven for thinking that his life's work had virtually come to an end. The years pass, he ponders on the heresies that threaten the church. His mind wanders back to those three incredible years. With the clarity of the distant past that comes with old age, he sees those events as if they were just yesterday. Suddenly he's aware of hearing Jesus say things that the others had not picked up in their Gospels. He thinks about what he has learned about his Master down through the long years. He realises that he has insights that the earlier church had not had, insights useful to combat the growing heresies. He starts puting down in his mind those things, and then puts them into writing and his incredible “Fourth Gospel” comes into being. The authorities rise against him and he is exiled onto Patmos . This surely is the end! Then one day suddenly heaven breaks in and he starts ‘seeing' and hearing the amazing things in this book. In fact it has been the most significant and important years of all his years of ministries, these years of old age.

 

Do you catch the lessons here? You never know how the Lord is going to use you! You never know when the really significant things will happen. Don't say, today is just going to be an ordinary day; you just don't know what the Lord might be going to do in it – with you! Don't say, “I'm too old”. Learn from John's story. Don't say, “The Lord couldn't use me here.” Remember Patmos ! What a day it might be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Theme:   Revelation 1 to 3 Meditations

Meditation No. 5

   

Meditation Title: God's Grace

   

Rev 1:4    Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne

 

Grace and peace are two characteristics of God's provision through Christ that are both needed and available for every Christian. Grace might be simply summed up at God's supernatural provision to enable us to live out our everyday lives in His will. Grace for the Christian is God's provision of His Spirit's enabling to enable us to cope with the trials and tribulations of life, and to equip us to serve Him and rejoice in all areas of life. Grace is thus His provision that comes in a variety of ways – power to enable us to do, wisdom to enable us to know how, strength to enable us to stand against opposition, and in fact all the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23) to enable us to be more like Jesus.

 

Peace is that state of mind, body and spirit where we are able to be at rest in the knowledge of the will of God. When we know that Jesus has fully reconciled us to his Father and that we have done all we should in His will, we can have peace in the additional knowledge that our Father is both for us (Rom 8:31) and is in complete control of the world around us, so that whatever happens we can know that He will be there working all things together for good for us. Both grace and peace are things that come from God.

 

Now having said that, John doesn't just say, ‘God', he gives an enigmatic description of God. It is one of the characteristics of this book that it is full of descriptions of Jesus and God that come through the prophecies in either prophetic descriptions or in prophetic pictures. So let's consider what he says about God. First of all he describes Him as him who is . Note the present tense who is . When Moses encountered God at the burning bush and asked Him who he should say had sent him when he returned to his people, the Lord replied, “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you.'” It was at this point that God gave His name The LORD, but note the ever present, “I AM”. This was God saying, “I am always present, I am always here in the present. I am the ever-present One.” Thus our starting place in identifying the One who provides for us, is to say He is the One who always is with us.

 

But it doesn't stop there. He goes on, and who was , or if you like in the light of what we said above, the One who always has been in the past. There has never been a time when God did not exist. He always has been. He didn't just come into being one day; He always has been before anything else existed. On a personal level, there has never been a time when He has not been with you in your life so far. You may not have been aware of Him and certainly may not have turned to Him and received from Him, but He was always there. If you got into a scrape because you didn't ask for His help, it wasn't because He wasn't there; it was simply because you didn't think to turn to Him and seek His help!

 

But there is yet a third aspect to this: and who is to come . However long you live, the Lord will always be there. There will never be a time in the future when He will not be there. Whenever you need Him He will always be there. You need never fear that one day He might not be there. He always is, always was, and always will be there.

 

So this is the One who will provide for us His grace, which means His grace will always be there available for us. There will never be a time when it will not be there for you. But there is yet another aspect of this to be noted. The provider of this grace has already been described as we've just seen, but this provider is also described as follows: and from the seven spirits before his throne. Now in prophetic language seven is the number of perfection and so when it says the seven spirits, it actually means the one perfect spirit, The Holy Spirit. Now why is the Holy Spirit mentioned separately from God? Because the Holy Spirit is like the ‘executive arm' of God, the part of God who does things upon the earth. When we speak of the Father, we speak of the One who is the supreme authority in heaven. The Son is the delegated authority, and the Spirit is the executive arm of the Trinity who brings about the will of the godhead on the earth. So when the bringer of grace is described, the first description that we've considered tells us that His provision will always be there because He is always there. When He speaks of the Spirit it is to confirm that He is ready AND ABLE to provide what is needed. The fact that He is BEFORE the throng means that He is first within easy access of the Father and Son to receive their directions, and second He is separate from the throne because He is ready to come to our aid instantly!

 

So the provision is grace and peace and the Provider is One who is always there to provide for us, and is able and ready to come immediately. Hallelujah!

    

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Contents:

  

Meditation No. 6

Meditation Title: Jesus, the Witness

     

Rev 1:5   and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

 

Now what is interesting and shouldn't be forgotten when we take out a verse like this, is that this is still a continuation of the description of the Provider of grace and peace. There is a threefold description of the godhead, as if to say that they are all involved in bringing this grace and peace to us. The Father has been described as the One who always is, the Eternal One who is ever there for us, the Spirit has been referred to as ready before the throne to do their bidding in bringing that grace and peace to us, and now the Son is described, and the hint is that it is because of what he has done that we can receive this grace and peace. Even as three is the number of the godhead, it is also the number of descriptions given here of Jesus.

 

First he is described as the faithful witness. A witness is one who testifies to what he knows. A faithful witness is one whose testimony remains true and accurate through his testimony. Jesus ‘testimony' was first his very life, second his words, and third, the things he did in his ministry. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work(Jn 14:9,10) Did you see those three things here? His life expresses the Father so if you see him you see the Father. The words he speaks are the words of his Father and point to the Father, and in his ministry the works he does are the works of the Father which further reveal the Father. In all these things he testifies to and reveals the Father to us. The writer to the Hebrews described Jesus as, “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:3) Paul described him as “the image of the invisible God.” (Col 1:15). The same thing keeps coming over; the Son reveals the Father. His life, his words and his deeds testify to the existence of and the nature and character of God.

 

But he is also described as the firstborn from the dead . This refers to his ultimate purpose for coming to the earth – to die redemptively for us. If you are the firstborn, you are the first child of a family. Jesus is therefore the first of God's new family and he is that because of what he has done – He has risen from the dead. Death and resurrection are key elements of this new family. Paul said of us, you “were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air(Eph 2:1) and a bit later added, “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions(v.4,5). Before we knew Christ we were spiritually dead, therefore when we became Christians and God placed His own Holy Spirit in us, He enlivened us and brought us to life, i.e. raised us from the dead. This was all able to happen because Christ had come, died for our sins and been literally raised from the dead. In that sense Jesus was certainly the first of the new family of which we are now part.

 

The third and final description of Jesus is what he has finally been given by his Father when he returned to heaven – he is now the ruler of the kings of the earth. The New Testament is full of this: “he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything (Eph 1:20-22), i.e. after the resurrection and ascension Jesus was seated at his Father's right hand to rule. The writer to the Hebrews puts it, “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool” (Heb 10:12,13). There was an echo there of the Old Testament prophecy, “The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies(Psa 110:1,2) and Paul declared, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:25) These are just a few of the many Scriptures that declare that Jesus is now a ruler at his Father's right hand in heaven.

 

The personal aspect of all this is that the godhead that will provide grace and peace for us, includes the Son of God who has experienced a human life and knows what we go though. Even more, what he has been through means that he has earned for us all the provision of heaven to enable us to live today. It is not by our efforts, but by his, that we can ask for and receive grace and peace from heaven. It is ours because Jesus has bought it for us. Hallelujah!

          

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 7

Meditation Title: The Work of Jesus

     

Rev 1:5,6    To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Yesterday we saw something of the work of Jesus Christ, as part of the Godhead. Now in these verses John finds his spirit lifting in praise to the Son. Jesus said of the Spirit, “ He will bring glory to me,” (Jn 16:14) and when the Spirit inspires John to write, he finds his own spirit being lifted and praise for the Son ensues, and that is what these two verses are.

 

First of all we see Jesus Motivation for all he has done – he loves us. Most people know the possibly best known verse in the New Testament: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (Jn 3:16). Jesus came as an expression of God's love. John told us, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:16) and because Jesus is an expression of God as we saw yesterday, he also IS love. John was particularly aware of Jesus' love. In his Gospel we find that enigmatic little phrase, “the disciple whom he loved (Jn 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7,20) who, it is thought, referred to John himself. We often hear references to God loving us, but John knew that truth through his encounters with Jesus. He knew that Jesus loves us.

 

Second, we see the Nature of the Work of Jesus: “freed us from our sins by his blood”. Whatever else Jesus did for us, the ultimate or main thing was to free us from our sins. This was necessary because it was our sins that separated us from God. We needed to be reconciled to Him and the only way to do that was to deal with our sins. When Joseph was told by the angel of the child Mary was carrying, and was told to call him Jesus (or Joshua), deliverer, it was because “he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). Paul reveals to us that this became one of the early church sayings: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15). And does how does he do it? The writer to the Hebrews points us back into the Old Testament when he says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb 9:22). The Old Testament picture was of the sinner taking a perfect animal to the Temple , putting his hand on its head by way of identification with it, and then killing in. The picture was thus of the sin being taken from the guilty sinner and being put upon the innocent animal which was then sacrificed to pay the sinner's punishment. John the Baptist understood this when he declared of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world !” (Jn 1:29). Later in Revelation John was to write, “I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne.” (Rev 5:6). There the Lamb is clearly Jesus and he is also in the place of rule and authority.

 

Third, we see the End Working of the Work of Jesus: “made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and FatherJesus has made us a people and a people who have God the Father as king, thus a kingdom. Having dealt with our sin Jesus has made a people who relate on a daily basis to God as their king or ruler. There is nothing hard or despotic about that; it is simply that because God is the Creator, He knows best how we ‘work', how we should live, and therefore His rule is simply Him leading us into that way of living. Yet it is an emerging kingdom, hence Jesus' prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven(Mt 6:10). As we learn of Him in our daily walk, so He is able to guide us more and more specifically into His way. In heaven His will is done perfectly, but on earth it is imperfect because a) we are (redeemed) sinners still, and b) we cannot see or hear Him with our natural faculties. But that is part of the wonder of God's plan. Despite this we are a people who hearts are focused on God, who desire to do His will and who are gradually changing so that we do it more fully as the years go by.

 

But we are also priests to serve. The role of the priest in the Old Testament was to bring the people to God. Thus our role today is to bring the rest of the world to God through Jesus. We are the means of the work of god continuing to reach out to more and more people. So it is that we see Jesus, motivated by love, coming to earth to die in our place to deal with our sins. He brings us into the people of God where God is conforming us to the likeness of Jesus, His supreme human design. As He does this we act as witnesses to the rest of the world so that the work of drawing people to God is continued. It is an ongoing process.

 

It is because of his awareness of all of this, that John concludes with, “to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. John recognizes that he wants Jesus to be glorified for what he has done for ever and ever. He wants Jesus to continue to have the power to reign for ever and ever, for he sees that what Jesus is doing is good! Thus he concludes with this praise. Do we see Jesus in this light? Do these truths about him stir a chord of praise within us? If not, ask him afresh to open our eyes so that these things so truly impact us.

        

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 8

Meditation Title: The Coming One

     

Rev 1:7     Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.

 

There are times in Scripture when the Holy Spirit simply inspires an individual and they break out in prophecy, speaking out the will of God, the plans and purposes of God, often with insight that is centuries if not millennia ahead of its time. It is like the individual steps out of time into heavenly eternity and catches a sense of God's big purposes and just pours them out. (John the Baptist's father, Zechariah, is a good example of this – see Luke 1:63 on). That is what seems to be happening here. John is starting to write down the things he has seen and heard that are so vivid to him, and as he writes about Jesus his spirit is lifted and he finds himself writing and declaring a yet-future truth about Jesus.

 

Now part of this is rooted in the words the angels spoke to the apostles on that last occasion when they saw Jesus, when he ascended to heaven: “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1;10,11). Yes, Jesus disappeared into the clouds as he ascended, and would be seen in the clouds when he returned. Jesus often referred to himself with the Messianic designation from Daniel, ‘Son of Man'. There we find, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven (Dan 7:13). When the high priest asked Jesus is he was the Coming One, he replied, “I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (14:62). Later in Revelation we find, “ I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.” (Rev 14:14). There are these number of similar revelations showing Jesus coming back and being seen in the sky.

 

Paul taught, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thess 4:16,17). Here we have the same thing: Jesus will come from above and we'll be caught up to him in the clouds . Surely this was the same event that John recorded later in Revelation: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True… and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean(Rev 19:11-14). Yes the word above is quite clear, “every eye will see him.”

 

What will be the effect of this coming? “all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him” . There was a glimmer of this right back in the prophecies of Isaiah, “Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth (Isa 2:19) This was exactly fulfilled in Revelation: “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:15-17) With the coming of the Lord, there is fear in the hearts of ungodly and unrighteous men and women. Perhaps this is what Paul was hinting at when he wrote, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth(Phil 2:10)

 

In this prophetic glimmer that comes out of John at this moment early in the book, we get a glimpse of Jesus quite different from the human figure who walked on earth. This Jesus is the returning conquering King. This Jesus will somehow be seen by every eye at the same moment and those who are children of God will be caught up to him, while those who are not will flee before his awesomeness. Jesus gave an enigmatic warning of this when he said, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8). The fact is that one day – and it could be in our lifetime – Jesus will return. May we be found to be his children doing his will when that happens.

  

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 9

Meditation Title: God who is

     

Rev 1:8     "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

 

This is one of those times when we need to check the context to ensure we see the full picture, because otherwise this declaration seems to come out of the blue, and we will miss its importance. What we have seen so far has been John's greetings to the seven churches of Asia Minor, which desired for them grace and peace (v.4) but it isn't grace and peace from John, it is grace and peace from the Trinity (v.4,5). That in turn evokes praise for the Son and for what he has done (v.5c,6). Out of this flowed a prophetic vision of the Son coming back (v.7), and as John's spirit soars with this vision he finds the Father making a sovereign declaration which we find in our verse today. It is almost like the Father is breaking into our consciousness, as He broke into history as He did, for example, at Jesus' baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17) where He put the spotlight on His Son, and, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Mt 17:5), where He did the same thing with an even greater sense of focus on the Mount of Transfiguration – “Listen to him”. Thus now the Lord Himself speaks as if to add authority to the prophetic vision about the Son's return. He does this by declaring who He Himself is.

 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last letter. Thus He says, “I am the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” When the Lord says this He lays claim to all of history. History – in time and space – is His, is because of Him. He brought material existence into being and He will end it. He is the Creator. When He adds, “who is, and who was, and who is to come” He is reiterating how John described Him under inspiration in verse 4. We already considered this in the fifth meditation. We may summarise it as “I am the One who always has been, always is, and always will be – I am!” This is God Eternal speaking. Yet He adds one further description, “ the Almighty ”. In this He elevates Himself above all others. There is no other being in all of existence who can say that he is ALL -mighty, mightier, more powerful than any other. This is our God, the Creator of all things, whose power is unlimited. By these descriptions of Himself, the Lord firmly stamps His authority on the revelation of His Son that has been given. In the same way as we saw in the two instances from the Gospel, it is as if He shines His spotlight on what has been said to confirm it and make it stand out.

 

Now if this so, it is as if the Lord is saying, pay attention! Jesus is coming back and you need to be ready! Now this applies to the seven churches that Jesus is about to speak to. It's as if the Father is saying, you'd better pay attention to what he says because he will be returning and you will be answerable to him! What then follows in the rest of the book, after the heavenly visions of chapters four and five, is simply the unrolling of the history of the end of the End Times which culminates in the return of Jesus as conquering king in chapter 19. All that goes before that, is the constant work of God to try to bring mankind to its senses, to turn as many as possible to Him before He winds up all things. The judgments that come and come again, are simply warnings to turn mankind back to Him so they can receive eternal life from Him – but so many refuse. This declaration here in this verse is almost like God's own seal being imprinted on the beginning of this book, as if to say, this IS from me, this IS my word, this IS the truth, so take careful note of it; realize afresh who my Son in and respond to him through it.

 

Can we therefore see the effect of this verse as coming like a spotlight to highlight the Son and his work? If we weren't paying careful attention before, may we ensure we do now! There is always a danger, which we have commented on before, that we simply take these meditations academically and they remain mind things. When God comes like this, it is like a wake-up call; it is like He's saying, folks, remember I am the Eternal God, God Almighty, this is MY revelation and I want you to pay close attention to what you read, and I want it to impact your lives. As we've previously suggested, the letters to the seven churches give warnings of ways we can fail or get side tracked – so we need to be especially vigilant to avoid the errors there – the visions of heaven reveal even more the wonders of the Godhead that we are to worship, and the remainder of the book is to bring reassurance to us that Jesus is in control of the End Times, despite all the terrible things happening and despite the ongoing godlessness of mankind. These things are written for us for our encouragement. This is one of God's ways of helping us through these times. The spotlight is shining – this IS God's word, so let's be careful to let it impact us and change our lives. Pray that it will!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 10

Meditation Title: Our Place in History (2)

     

Rev 1:9    I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

 

We have considered this subject before in the fourth meditation but it is so important we cover it again now. We noted before the very simple fact that we have to live in the place and time we find ourselves in history. We didn't choose to be at this point of history, but here we are. We cannot wave a wand and put ourselves in a different time or in different circumstances; we just have to live out our lives with the circumstances that we find before us. For some they are easy and for others they seem difficult. We find ourselves at a point of time when our society is thinking in a particular way and, as usual, it is ungodly and unrighteous, and we have to learn as Christians how to live in that without giving way to it. We probably didn't ask for the government we have or the role our country seems to play in the world. We didn't ask for our leaders and there is often (for most of us) little we can do to influence the course on which they set our nation.

Probably the people in the New Testament who felt this most acutely were Mary and Joseph. She finds herself pregnant, Joseph is bewildered, and then the Roman emperor has a whim which means they have to travel miles to Bethlehem at the most inconvenient moment. Rich wise men arrive and subsequently the Hebrew king-governor threatens the life of their son so they have to flee to Egypt . A whole bunch of circumstances largely beyond their control – but not beyond God's!

Is that how John felt? He identifies with the people in the churches that he is writing to. He is a companion in suffering. He too knows what persecution means. But he is also a companion in the … kingdom. He is a subject of the Lord Jesus Christ and although suffering through persecution comes, he sees himself first and foremost as under Jesus' rule and he takes whatever comes. Because of this he is also a companion in the … patient endurance . He has learned to wait out God's will, take what comes but trust God to bring good through it. Dare we have this approach to life? For the early church it was common. For us, less so, but it is increasing, and in some parts of the world just as real as it was for the early church. Dare we face opposition with a solid realisation that Jesus is ruling and his rule and God's will is the most important thing in it all? Dare we settle in to endure patiently with a right and good attitude in it all?

So here is John on the island of Patmos where he has been exiled for his faith. His local situation where he is church leader is miles away at Ephesus , but for now, he is banished to this island. There is no mention of imprisonment and tradition has it that on this beautiful island with a beautiful harbour, that he lived in one of the many caves overlooking what is now the harbour. Here he lived out the hours and days and months until, it is believed after about eighteen months he was returned to Ephesus where he eventually died of old age. The temptation, as we've commented before, might be to think that as he is old and as he is separated from his flock and isolated on this island, it is the end of his useful time on earth.

Is this where he will finish his years? Has the end of his usefulness in the kingdom come? Let's think radically! Was it that he had to be isolated on Patmos to ensure he was not distracted by his church cares, so that he could hear God and receive this incredible revelation? Did he have to be in isolation so that after he received it, it would not be snatched from his mind by the affairs of life in the church? Did he have to be here in quietness so that as he wrote down what he had seen and heard, nothing would distract him and he could recollect every detail? It would seem that here on this island he was very much in the place of God's appointing. The authorities may have thought they were getting the better of him, but they were simply playing into God's hands, so that the Lord could communicate to His servant without distraction. This is no wasted time; this is a time of supreme revelation that will affect millions in the centuries to come before Jesus actually returns.

We have this big temptation that so often faces us; we look at the adverse circumstances and we think we've been written off, or that the enemy has got the upper hand, and we feel frustrated. It's all right, God will still be working all things together for good for you (Rom 8:28 ). Receive His grace for the circumstances and be at peace in the awareness that He is Lord and He can change these circumstances as and when He wishes. And if He doesn't? Then be at rest in His love for you and still receive His grace to cope and triumph. As the angelic hosts look on (Eph 3:10 ), may your testimony bring glory to your Lord. This is His day. Live it!

 

We have considered this subject before in the fourth meditation but it is so important we cover it again now. We noted before the very simple fact that we have to live in the place and time we find ourselves in history. We didn't choose to be at this point of history, but here we are. We cannot wave a wand and put ourselves in a different time or in different circumstances; we just have to live out our lives with the circumstances that we find before us. For some they are easy and for others they seem difficult. We find ourselves at a point of time when our society is thinking in a particular way and, as usual, it is ungodly and unrighteous, and we have to learn as Christians how to live in that without giving way to it. We probably didn't ask for the government we have or the role our country seems to play in the world. We didn't ask for our leaders and there is often (for most of us) little we can do to influence the course on which they set our nation.

Probably the people in the New Testament who felt this most acutely were Mary and Joseph. She finds herself pregnant, Joseph is bewildered, and then the Roman emperor has a whim which means they have to travel miles to Bethlehem at the most inconvenient moment. Rich wise men arrive and subsequently the Hebrew king-governor threatens the life of their son so they have to flee to Egypt . A whole bunch of circumstances largely beyond their control – but not beyond God's!

Is that how John felt? He identifies with the people in the churches that he is writing to. He is a companion in suffering. He too knows what persecution means. But he is also a companion in the …kingdom. He is a subject of the Lord Jesus Christ and although suffering through persecution comes, he sees himself first and foremost as under Jesus' rule and he takes whatever comes. Because of this he is also a companion in the … patient endurance . He has learned to wait out God's will, take what comes but trust God to bring good through it. Dare we have this approach to life? For the early church it was common. For us, less so, but it is increasing, and in some parts of the world just as real as it was for the early church. Dare we face opposition with a solid realisation that Jesus is ruling and his rule and God's will is the most important thing in it all? Dare we settle in to endure patiently with a right and good attitude in it all?

So here is John on the island of Patmos where he has been exiled for his faith. His local situation where he is church leader is miles away at Ephesus , but for now, he is banished to this island. There is no mention of imprisonment and tradition has it that on this beautiful island with a beautiful harbour, that he lived in one of the many caves overlooking what is now the harbour. Here he lived out the hours and days and months until, it is believed after about eighteen months he was returned to Ephesus where he eventually died of old age. The temptation, as we've commented before, might be to think that as he is old and as he is separated from his flock and isolated on this island, it is the end of his useful time on earth.

Is this where he will finish his years? Has the end of his usefulness in the kingdom come? Let's think radically! Was it that he had to be isolated on Patmos to ensure he was not distracted by his church cares, so that he could hear God and receive this incredible revelation? Did he have to be in isolation so that after he received it, it would not be snatched from his mind by the affairs of life in the church? Did he have to be here in quietness so that as he wrote down what he had seen and heard, nothing would distract him and he could recollect every detail? It would seem that here on this island he was very much in the place of God's appointing. The authorities may have thought they were getting the better of him, but they were simply playing into God's hands, so that the Lord could communicate to His servant without distraction. This is no wasted time; this is a time of supreme revelation that will affect millions in the centuries to come before Jesus actually returns.

We have this big temptation that so often faces us; we look at the adverse circumstances and we think we've been written off, or that the enemy has got the upper hand, and we feel frustrated. It's all right, God will still be working all things together for good for you (Rom 8:28). Receive His grace for the circumstances and be at peace in the awareness that He is Lord and He can change these circumstances as and when He wishes. And if He doesn't? Then be at rest in His love for you and still receive His grace to cope and triumph. As the angelic hosts look on (Eph 3:10 ), may your testimony bring glory to your Lord. This is His day. Live it!

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 11

Meditation Title: Revelation!

     

Rev 1:10     On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,

 

There are quite a number of very obvious truths that perhaps we take for granted and need to pause and look at. This particular one we've commented on a number of times in the various sets of meditations on this site. It is the fact that God takes the initiative in communicating with us. We very often focus on thoughts about prayer, about us seeking to make contact with the Lord, but in my own experience I know that the crucial life changing words from the Lord have come completely out of the blue without any warning. God has suddenly made His presence known by speaking clear words into my mind that could only have originated with Him.

 

So here is John on the island of Patmos . Now the first thing to note is that John was completely aware of the times and this revelation came to him on what would probably have been a Sunday. The early church had transferred the Jewish Sabbath from the seventh day to the eighth day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. That for them was ‘ the Lord's day '. Some commentators have suggested that this phrase means that John was transported into the final day of the Lord, but in prophecy that end time judgement is always referred to as ‘the day of the Lord, not the Lord's day. It would seem that this was a Sunday and John has put it aside as a specific day to wait upon and worship the Lord. Thus as he worships he is ‘ in the Spirit ' ; he is aware of being in God's presence, enabled by the Holy Spirit. His spiritual senses have been alerted and in this awareness, there on a hillside on Patmos , he suddenly hears a loud voice like a trumpet .

 

There is no indication that anyone else heard this voice and so we are likely to be talking about in a spiritual dimension John hears this voice. His part in this significant day's activities was simply to worship and wait upon the Lord. That is all he can do. We need to realise this: you can't make God speak. All you can do is seek the Lord. God speaks when He wants to speak and on this occasion He sees His servant John waiting in quiet isolation in His presence and starts to speak.

 

There is an intensity about this speaking. It is loud. It is like a clarion call of a trumpet calling for attention. Very often the Lord speaks very quietly. Do you remember the instance of Elijah waiting for God in a cave (interesting similarity possibly!)? There Elijah experienced an unnatural wind, an earthquake and a fire, but the Lord was not in any of those spectacular things. Instead we read, “And after the fire came a gentle whisper(1 Kings 19:12). It seems that it is so often like that. The word of the Lord comes as a gentle whisper, only heard by those whose hearing is attuned to Him. Was that the purpose of the wind, the earthquake and the fire, to create great noise so that afterwards the sense of silence would be heightened?

 

Yes, the Lord is found by those who seek Him with all their heart: “you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut 4:29). Sometimes the Lord creates those times, as with Elijah, sometimes He meets us when we have created the time. There in the quiet waiting He speaks – except this time, on Patmos , He speaks very loudly! It would seem that the loudness is a measure of the importance of what is about to follow. Yes, it is like a town crier coming into the market place and making a loud cry by voice or instrument to catch the attention of the people before he conveys a message. This is a wake-up call, a call to pay attention; this is a highly significant word that is about to come. It is also an indication of the size or might of the individual bringing the word. This is a mighty person bringing a mighty word. This brings a sense of awe to what has already been seen.

 

What we perhaps should ask ourselves is how often do we put ourselves in a place where God can more easily speak to us? Yes, the Lord can break it at any time and does, but nevertheless it does seem that He does delight in speaking to His children who seek after Him. John was ‘in the Spirit' on the ‘Lord's Day'. Do we come to a service and operate on a purely material plane where it doesn't matter if God is there or not, or do we come with open hearts, purposefully seeking Him, and seeking to move in a spiritual dimension with the aid of the Holy Spirit? Is He able to impact us and move upon us and speak to us on such days? This is a challenge to materialism here. Do we believe that God speaks and moves or have we reduced Christian experience to pure materialistic experience? The Lord broke in to His servant and spoke significant words. Can He speak to us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 12

Meditation Title: Directional Prophecy

     

Rev 1:11    which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."

 

I am sure that some people think of God as some sort of ‘force' or impersonal being who hovers in the background, who is a nuisance to think about and who disturbs our conscience because of long past superstitions; in other words, He's something in the background that is better ignored! The thought of an ‘impersonal' God is totally alien to everything the Bible reveals about Him. From the very earliest words of the Bible right through to the end, He is revealed as a Being who is hyper intelligent, all knowing, all wise, totally aware, all powerful and utterly involved in this earth. Throughout the Old Testament He is shown as the One who interacts with ‘His people', Israel , who He brought into being. This interaction involves Him speaking again and again to His people and acting on their behalf in sovereign ways. There is nothing impersonal about this. This is the history of a Supremely Personal Being who communicates and acts to change this material world and what goes on, on it.

 

Now all this needs saying because we so often take for granted some of the most obvious things we read in the Bible – unless we have only just come to it and everything is brand new. However, for many of us who are Christians and who read the Bible (you probably wouldn't be here reading this if you didn't), we take for granted the fact that God speaks and speaks into the affairs of the world because, after all, the Old Testament is full of that. Many of us get uncomfortable at the thought that God might speak into our circumstances today, but that is merely a sign of our insecurity, not because of anything we find in the Bible. The reality is that God does speak to His people. He did it throughout the Old Testament, and the New Testament, and throughout Church history since. Thus we find in these verses the last written-down records of the sacred canon that reveal His words to His church nearly two thousand years ago.

 

We have in these verses words within words. First of all there is John recording the fact that he heard this very loud voice speaking. Then the very loud voice instructed him to write on a scroll what he was about to see and hear. This was not just to be a word for John, this was first a word for the Church of that day, and then for the Church in history until Jesus returned. Next we have the recipients of these words and finally we will come to the words to be conveyed themselves. As we said, these weren't just words for John, they were words for the Church, and so John has first to write down what he sees and hears and then he is to send it to the seven churches. John clearly still had contact with the outside world, even though he is confined to Patmos . Somehow he is to send the scroll from Patmos so that it is read in the seven churches. How he did this and how the scroll was conveyed from church to church, we don't know, but this was what he was told to do; again something we tend to forget when we consider this book – it was for reading to the Church.

 

Now each time we have referred to the recipients we have referred to The Church, because the Church was made up of local congregations and, initially at least, local congregations were a single congregation in a particular town. Again, perhaps because of familiarity, we tend to take it for granted that the Church was represented in these particular towns. Now why these particular seven churches we aren't told. There were, after all, local churches in many major cities – Rome , Alexandria in North Africa , Lyons in Gaul (France) and Antioch in Syria , among many others. The church, as we've commented previously, had moved out of Jerusalem prior to the sacking of that city in AD 70 by Rome . So why these seven churches?

 

Perhaps they were the network of churches in Asia Minor that Paul had established on his journeys, but other places mentioned in Acts – such as Derbe and Lystra and Iconium – are not included. No, it seems it is purely the churches in the administrative district of what was simply called ‘Asia' (not the continent we know today!). For some reason, which we are not given, the Lord of the Church focuses on this particular area. The fact that he chooses seven churches may be significant. Seven in Scripture is considered the perfect or whole or complete number. Seven churches may thus be a subtle indication that Jesus is speaking not only to these seven specific churches but to the whole of his Church, and the fact that this book has been added to the sacred canon and passed on down to us, would confirm that. The warnings and encouragements to these seven churches are also warnings and encouragements to the whole Church throughout history before Jesus returns.

 

Thus we have the personal God speaking through John to these seven churches in this one province, but also to His worldwide universal Church. This is very directional. God is speaking to each one of us very purposefully, each one who considers themselves a part of His Church. As we read the book, can we read it with that level of significance and importance?

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 13

Meditation Title: Lord of the Church

     

Rev 1:12,13  I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lamp stands, and among the lamp stands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.

 

Back in Isaiah's fourth ‘servant song' the messianic prophetic picture of Jesus declared, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isa 53:2). That was the Jesus who came to earth with no glory, just a human body or, as Paul put it, “made himself nothing, taking the very form of a servant, being made in human likeness(Phil 2:7). When Jesus ascended back into heaven he was glorified: “God… raised him from the dead and glorified him.” (1 Pet 2:21). Jesus had prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began(Jn 17:5). From now on, every picture that we have of Jesus glorifies him in some way. No longer is he the hidden Son of God.

 

There is a very human element in our verses today, which distinguishes this revelation from some of the mystic writings of the world. John tells us, I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. This was a clear and memorable event in reality, not a story made up. John actually turned round because the voice appeared to come from behind him. It is simple details like that that make this experience the more real. Why was the voice behind him? Perhaps this was God's way of requiring a response from him. Moses had to turn aside to see the burning bush (Ex 3:3). It seems so often that the Lord speaks in such a way that we are required to make a move that indicates our desire to listen before He will speak further. The Lord always looks for our response.

 

When he turns round, John finds himself with a vision. He had to purposefully turn towards God before he was shown this. The first thing he sees is a display of seven golden lamp stands, which verse 20 tells us were the seven churches. A lamp is a means of bringing light. The local church is to be a people who bring light to the rest of the world. Just as Jesus said, “I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12), so he also said to us, “You are the light of the world.” (Mt 5:14). Thus the seven lamp stands are the seven churches of Asia Minor who may also, we noted yesterday, represent the Church at large.

 

Having noted the lamp stands John also notes there is someone standing in the midst of these lamp stands who he describes as “ someone like a son of man ”. Now that is always an interesting description because is says this is a human figure but not quite! Note the word, like. He looks like a man but he is more than a man. Now a concordance search will find ‘man' over 2000 times, and ‘son' over 2300 times, but for ‘son of man' you have to go to Ezekiel where God calls the prophet by that title over 90 times. After Ezekiel we find Daniel uses the phrase, that we've noted before, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven (Dan 7:13) This was clearly the messianic figure, but later in Daniel the angel Gabriel is referred as to “one who looked like a man (Dan 8:15) and he then refers to Daniel himself as “Son of man” (Dan 8:17).

 

So we can distinguish between angels who can appear as men, and men who are referred to as very human beings, the designation “ Son of man ” meaning of the race of human beings. So Gabriel looked like a man (but wasn't), Ezekiel and Daniel were both of the human race born of a woman, and the Messiah would appear as one who seemed to be part of the human race born of a woman, but more than that. Thus when, in Matthew's Gospel, we find Jesus referring to himself as the Son of Man over 25 times, he is identifying completely with the human race. Now here though, in his glorified state he is described as like a son of man, i.e. to all intents and purposes of the human race and yet something gloriously more!

 

But he is dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. Now it was the high priest who wore a robe down to his feet, and so Jesus first appears as the High Priest of God whose role is to bring men to God. But this High Priest presented himself as the sacrifice for us (See Heb 9). Now we are going to see that this picture of Jesus is as Lord of the Church who comes to speak words of encouragement, rebuke and correction. Paul spoke of Jesus as the ‘head' of the church: “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ(Eph 4:15). A bit later on Paul was to say, “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church , his body, of which he is the Saviour (Eph 5:23). But note that Paul linked head and Saviour together and so it is that we find the Lord of the Church standing in its midst as its Saviour-High Priest. When Christ comes to challenge his church and correct and rebuke, he does so as the one who died for it. He alone has every right to correct us, for he alone has died for us.

 

Therefore, any time the Lord rebukes, corrects or challenges you through his word, remember he comes to you as your high priest, wanting to present you to his Father in heaven by his own precious blood. Do you catch the humility and the heart of that? This is no dominant, overbearing, harsh ruler. This is one who comes with the marks of death upon him (as you see in the heavenly visions later), the marks of death for you.

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 14

Meditation Title: The All-Wise and All-Seeing One

     

Rev 1:14    His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.

 

We need to recap. We have said yesterday that the Jesus of hidden-glory seen in the Gospels is not the Jesus of Revelation, in as far as now the ascended Jesus is seen in some of his fullness. We noted that he was described as someone like a son of man , so he appears in human form but is clearly someone far more than just a mere man. All the characteristics now described tell us something more about him. Let's consider him.

 

His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow. White hair is a sign of age and age is a sign of wisdom. In one of Daniel's revelations we find: “As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool (Dan 7:9) This was a picture of God Himself and now this figure in Revelation that is Jesus is portrayed in the same way. It says that both Father and Son are full of wisdom. Wisdom is an implicit characteristic of the Lord. Jeremiah said, “But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom” (Jer 10:12). Similarly in Daniel we find, “ Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his (Dan 2:19,20). God has to have wisdom to be able to impart it, as in Solomon's case. When Jesus came, Luke recorded, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Lk 2:52). This one who comes and stands in the midst of the lamp stands is all-wise. But there is more.

 

his eyes were like blazing fire. When we consider eyes we consider the capacity to see and in a variety of meditations on this site you will find reference to Jesus' ability to see, and to know because he sees. Eyes that are described like blazing fire suggest eyes that burn through any obstacle, are penetrating and able to see anything and everything. In a previous set of meditations on Psalm 139 we have commented at length on the Lord's ability to see and know everything, and that ability is conveyed to the ascended Jesus, the head of the Church.

 

As he stands in the midst of the seven churches, representing as well the whole of the Church, there is an awesomeness about this one who can see everything. Nothing will be hidden from his eyes. We sometimes hold on to wrong ideas or wrong attitudes because we believe that other people can't see them, and so we get away with them – but Jesus sees! We say or do things in secret where we believe others cannot see and we believe we get away with it – but Jesus sees. We have worries and anxieties and doubts and fears that we convey to no one and we believe no one knows them – but Jesus sees.

 

Now if that was the only characteristic of Jesus that would truly be scary, but we have just noted the white hair indicating maturity and wisdom. Now we didn't mention it above, but an aspect of maturity is understanding. Where there is a wise person, the older they get the more understanding they receive. Understanding is knowing why people act as they do, why things happen as they do. Fortunately for us Jesus understands us and linked with that is his compassion which is observed a number of times in the Gospels. So Jesus sees every single thing about our lives and he understands and he has compassion where he sees we have been downtrodden. However we need to realize that Jesus will not excuse us and look the other way where we do wrong and are aware of it and fail to do anything about it. These seven letters, that we will come to in the next two chapters, are full of rebukes and warnings. Because Jesus is full of compassion, we need to realize that that does not extend to sin, therefore where we have been sinning, we need to realize that his penetrating eyes will see, and he will hold us accountable.

 

These seven letters that are coming, really challenge in this respect. There is a tendency in modern Christianity, in our desire to recapture grace, to excuse people's failings, but although the Lord loves us and accepts us as we are because of Jesus dying for us on the Cross, He does not excuse our willful sinning. Where we are rebellious against authority and against His word and declared will, He will hold us accountable and will discipline us. The all-wise one sees and knows why we are what we are, why we do what we do. He understands and he feels for us – but he also sees where our words or actions are simply willful sin and in those cases he will act and speak and hold us accountable. Christianity doesn't just shrug its shoulders at sin; it deals with it and removes it. As John himself said, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.” (1 Jn 2:1). We should not be sinning. But he continued: “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins(1 Jn 2:1,2) In other words if we inadvertently sin and then realize it, or purposefully sin and then realize the awfulness of it, Jesus will be there to receive our repentance and speak up on our behalf before his Father.

 

Jesus sees and knows. Let's bear that in mind.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 15

Meditation Title: The Tried & Tested One

     

Rev 1:15     His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.

 

As we have been observing the description of the one who is speaking to John, we have suggested that this is the ascended and glorified Jesus who now appears as the Lord of his church. As such, and it will become clearer and clearer as we go on, we are shown characteristics that had not been plainly obvious previously when he had lived on earth. It is worth commenting that they were there but not revealed. In his years on the earth his glory had been concealed and so we only saw a man. It was only the Gospel writer John, the same one as is receiving this revelation, who saw something of Jesus' glory as the Son of God. In the vision that he now receives of the ascended and glorified Lord – but who is standing in the midst of his church – John continues to note the nature of the one before him.

 

Like prophets of old who had similar visions, the word ‘like' appears again and again. It wasn't that the features were as described, but they were ‘like' this. It seems that whenever we are given a prophetic vision, words start to fail us when it comes to descriptions of the Lord and His Anointed One. We find the writers saying, he was like this, or like that, as they struggled to cope with what they saw. The description points to a truth.

 

So what next does John observe about his risen Lord? His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace . The state of the feet of a person reveals their stability. If you have bad feet you feel quite unstable. Now the feet of this person are seen as bronze which first of all indicates strength. This being is firmly established. But bronze is a manufactured alloy, a strong material that has been brought about by the work of combining two materials. Does this suggest the combination of God and man, for that was what Jesus was? His bronze feet thus remind us that this being has been forged (because it is bronze glowing in a furnace ) by the fires of life on earth and there is a perfect blend of God and man in Christ. This figure that stands in the midst of the church has been forged by a combination of heaven and earth. Yes, he comes with all the wisdom and insight of heaven, but it has been tempered by the experience of the Godhead in a human form, living out life on earth for a little over thirty years. This One comes as a representative of both heaven and earth and there is a tremendous strength in that combination.

 

We have already been told that his voice was loud like a trumpet (which was John's initial impression of it) but now we are told that as John takes in the vision before him, he realizes that it is even greater than just a trumpet; it is like the sound of rushing waters. Now where do we hear the sound of rushing waters? Where there are rapids or more specifically where there is a waterfall. Imagine the roar of the millions of tons of water pouring over the Victoria Falls; that is the nature of the voice that speaks to him now, the voice of the ascended Lord. When God spoke at Sinai we find, “the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice.” (Deut 5:22) So awesome was this voice that the response of the people was, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God …. or we will die(Deut 18:16). When David sung of the Lord bringing judgment on his enemies he declared, “The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.” (2 Sam 22:14).

 

In the book of Job, the prophetic voice of Elihu says, “Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth…..After that comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice. When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back (Job 37:2,4). Ezekiel in his vision recorded, “When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army (Ezek 1:24) There again the voice of the Lord is described in parallel to the sound of rushing waters. What is this saying? It says that when the revealed Lord speaks, His incredible might and majesty, when seen in human terms, is reflected in the incredible power of His voice. There can be no mistaking that there is no other being in all of creation who is like this. This voice cannot be withstood, in the same way that a rowing boat could not withstand the deluge of the Victoria Falls . If you try to raise your voice before the immensity of the volume that is coming, you will not be heard!

 

When this head of the church stands in his ascended glorious state in the midst of his Church, there is no withstanding him for he comes as a glorious representative of the Godhead and the immensity of the power of God is revealed in him too. This Jesus is not for debating with! When he speaks and brings rebuke and correction, there is no arguing. You do not argue with the immense strength that is being conveyed here. You humbly bow. The fact that the vast majority of us have never heard the Lord speak with this immensity should not mean we are casual with him. We need to realize that the One who so often speaks so gently to us, could, if he was revealed fully in his glory as here, utterly demolish any pretensions we might have, simply by the immensity of his voice. This is the ascended and glorious Lord. Worship him!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 16

Meditation Title: Authority

     

Rev 1:16    In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

 

Remember, this is the ascended, glorified Son of God, one looking like a man (v.13a) yet obviously far more than just a man, dressed as a priest (v.13b), coming with the signs of wisdom and maturity (v.14a) and with eyes that penetrated and burned through to see everything (v.14b). There was a stability about him and that had come through a combining of God and man that brought great strength (v.15a), and when he spoke it was with the incredible power of God (v.15b). Now John gives us three further amazing descriptions.

 

First of all we see that In his right hand he held seven stars. The right hand in Scripture is always the hand of authority. For the mystery of the stars we only need to read verse 20: “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches Now commentators are divided on the meaning of the word ‘angel' here and suggest it could mean ‘messenger' or even ‘leader'. Now if it means angelic messenger, then we see the Lord of the Church holding in his hand of authority the seven messengers from heaven that are to go to the seven churches of Asia Minor. He is thus the one to whom the authority of the word to the Church has been entrusted. If, on the other hand, the word means ‘leader' then we see the Lord of the Church holding the leaders of the seven churches in his hand of authority; they are, if you like, in his hand and their destiny has been entrusted to him. Whichever the meaning, the picture is clear: the Lord of the churches holds their destinies in his hand of authority. Part of his authority is about determining God's reign in respect of these seven churches. In his hand, they are his to do with as he will!

 

The second description tells us that out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword . In Heb 4:12 we find, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” and the fact that it comes out of his mouth confirms that he comes with the word of God for these churches. In the second Messianic ‘servant song' Isaiah spoke the words of the servant that was Jesus, “He made my mouth like a sharpened sword.” (Isa 49:2) A very large part of Jesus' ministry had always been bringing the word of God to the people, and it still is. But let's note more carefully the nature of the word of God that comes from him.

The Hebrews quote tells us that it penetrates to the very depths. We've seen that his eyes penetrate and see absolutely everything going into the very inner recesses of a person. The same is true of the word. The fact that it is described as a sword means that God's word does battle with untruth. When he speaks to the seven churches he lets it be known in each case that he knows everything about them, and the word he speaks to each of them applies specifically to their circumstances. He reveals their shortcomings and he tells them what to do about it. When you read the seven letters there is no room left for anyone to say, “But I didn't understand what he was saying,” because it is all so sharp and clear.

 

When Jesus brings his word to our lives it is always sharp and clear. The only reason we sometimes think otherwise is because our hearts are divided and in our thinking we make excuses. The Bible declares that, “The heart is deceitful above all things (Jer 17:9). God's word is clear cut if we are honest enough to face it, but very often unresolved sin in us still defends self and says, “I don't understand” but that is not the truth, we do understand it but we're not willing to face it.

 

There is a third description: His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. We have spoken a number of times about the ascended and glorified Son of God. On the Mount of Transfiguration we read, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun (Mt 17:2). This was the glory of the Son of God as it really is in heaven, revealed for a few moments on earth. In a number of places in Scripture we read of the ‘glory of the Lord' which comes as immense brightness, e.g. “ they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud(Ex 16;10), and “the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai ” (Ex 24:16), and “Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Ex 40:35), and “the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple (1 Kings 8:11) and finally when the New Jerusalem comes as the end of the Revelation, “It shone with the glory of God (Rev 22:11). Whenever God was revealed, His glory was seen. When Jesus is fully revealed, the glory of God is seen. This is God's glorious Son, of that there can be no question.

 

Do we understand that Jesus is the Lord of the Church and has expectations of it (us)? Do we see him as the One who comes to bring God's word to us, to bring encouragement, correction etc., to bring change? Do we see something of his glory as the Father's glorified Son, and do we therefore worship him? May it be so!

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 17

Meditation Title: The Effect of Divine Encounters

     

Rev 1:17    When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

 

A question we might usefully ask ourselves is how do people in the Bible respond to an encounter with the Lord? The answer seems to depend on the nature of the Lord's revelation of Himself. For example Adam and Eve initially seemed to have no problem with meeting the Lord on what seems a regular thing as He was “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” until they sinned (Gen 3:8). Enoch “walked with God 300 years” (Gen 5:22) but we don't know what sort of revelation the Lord gave him. A number of people encountered the Lord but it wasn't until the revelation of God at Sinai that people feared, but that seems largely because of the cloud and fire and thunder and lightning that were seen – and possibly the voice that spoke.

 

In day to day ‘encounters' there seemed little impact. It is only when we come to specific revelations given that there are more dramatic responses. When Isaiah had a vision of the Lord (Isa 6:1-4) his response was, “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 ” (v.5), i.e. he was aware of his lack of holiness. This was not unlike Peter's response when he began to realize something of who Jesus was, “ he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). When Ezekiel saw the vision of the Lord (Ezek 1) he records, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking (v.28). Now this doesn't seem an unconscious falling down, but more a falling down in awesome reverence. When God shared with Abram his covenant promise of a son, “Abram fell facedown (Gen 17:3) When David commanded Israel to worship the Lord we find, “So they all praised the LORD, the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the LORD and the king (1 Chron 27:20). Responses here were to fall in reverence before the Lord.

 

Now when we come to the book of Revelation we find there is a lot of bowing down before the Lord: “the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne (4:10), “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (5:8), “All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.” ( 7:11 ). In other words all those around the throne who have a clear view of the Lord fall before Him to worship Him. It is a natural response of the creature to the Creator. When John sees this figure his response is most extreme: When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. The sound and sight of the Lord of the Church was so overwhelming it took all of John's strength away.

 

A lot of the time we feel (relatively) strong and when we feel strong and don't see the Lord, we feel self sufficient and full of life. As I have grown older I have come to realize just how much I took life and health and strength for granted when I was younger. Younger people in particular are vulnerable to this feeling in invincibility, and the temptation is to think we can manage, we can cope, and even we can live without God. Faced with this awesome figure, the truth literally hits John and he realizes he is nothing and collapses. That really is the only way to put it. He falls before Jesus and has absolutely no life or energy in him.

 

This is a life draining experience for him and he is utterly weak. In that what he feels and does is a perfect demonstration of the truth or reality of the situation. As Jesus had once said to him with the others, “apart from me you can do nothing(Jn 15:5). We sometimes think that Jesus was just referring to service because he had just said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit and we focus on the fruit element. However, branches only stay alive because they are linked to the main vine. Here is a truth that many never realize: if it wasn't for Jesus none of us would be alive. The writer to the Hebrews knew this when he spoke of Jesus as, “sustaining all things by his powerful word (Heb 1:3)

 

We only have life because Jesus sustains it. Moreover, as Christians, we only have spiritual life because Jesus imparts it. When John falls before Jesus it is an expression of the awe he feels at being face to face with this one who he once knew but now realizes is far more than just a man. It is also symbolic of the recognition that all life comes from Jesus and without him we are lifeless. We need him to speak life into us.

 

How do these things impact us practically? We have considered here the way people respond to revelations of God. How much of a revelation have you had? How has it impacted you? Has it changed your life? Does it stir worship in you? If you have negative answers to these questions, it is perhaps symptomatic of the low level of spiritual life that so many of us experience at the beginning of the twenty first century, especially in the West. Negative answers to these questions should provoke prayer in us that cries out to God for a deeper experience and revelation of Him. May it be so!

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 18

Meditation Title: The Overcomer

     

Rev 1:17,18  Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

 

One of the things about prophecy that is helpful is that so often it is repetitive. It is as if the Lord knows that listening means we don't always pick up everything first time round and so elements of the prophecy are repeated. In the two verses above are echoes of what has already come in this chapter and what will be seen in the chapters ahead. There is a unity of truth in these chapters that binds them tightly together.

 

John has just fallen at the feet of the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus, the head of the Church. All life and energy seems to have gone out of him at the sight of this glorious being, and so Jesus simply reaches down and places his hand on John and speaks over him. It is as if he is imparting a blessing on him. It is his right hand that he uses, the hand, as we've said before, that is seen in Scripture as the hand of authority, the hand that is used to convey orders, instructions and blessings, the hand that brings the will or reign of God, establishing the kingdom. In touching John he brings power and life. It is not said but it would have been so, for that is what happens when someone ‘lays hands' on another in Scripture. But even more than this it would have imparted reassurance and encouragement to John. He has just seen this figure who seems so different, so distinct, and, like others that we saw yesterday, he would have felt immensely unworthy and quite insignificant. By touching him Jesus bridges that gap. Being touched by this being and still living means he does not have to fear death from him. It is very reassuring.

 

Jesus' opening words confirm what John will be feeling – fear – as he reassures him, “Do not be afraid Fear of the Lord is a common response to a divine encounter and so the encouragement not to be afraid is often found – a concordance will show you many such times, and in the New Testament two of the earliest are from the angel Gabriel, first to Zechariah (Lk 1:13) and then to Mary (Lk 1:30). Again and again in such encounters the Lord has to bring reassurance. Now Jesus describes himself.

 

First he declares, “I am the First and the Last.” In verse 8 we have read, “I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to comeand there we noted that Alpha and Omega is the same as first and last. There it was God Almighty who made that declaration. Here it is the Lord of the Church who says it. Here there is total identification of the Son with the Father. Here he identifies himself completely as part of the Godhead.

 

Then he identifies himself by saying, “I am the Living One”. This will have a link to what follows but it is also a further identification with the Father who was known in the Old Testament as the Living God, e.g. “For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have (Deut 5:26). The emphasis on ‘living' was in contrast to the dead idols and dead gods of the pagan nations. The emphasis is on a God who is alive and active . God does things! e.g . “This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites (Josh 3;10). Jesus thus comes as a member of the Godhead who comes to do ! This is the living God with whom we have a relationship, remember.

 

But he adds to this, “I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” which was a testimony of what he had been through, and if we had been in any doubt that this was Jesus, this should remove it, for only he could say this, only he had been crucified and had risen from the dead after three days. This is the unique identifying mark of Jesus. When he says this he is claiming a uniqueness, but he is also taking away the fear of death because, he is saying, I have been through death and I'm still here. Death is not the end!

 

And then he adds, “And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Because he has been through death and has fulfilled the perfect will of God, he has been raised up from death and raised up from the earth to reign at his Father's right hand and there he now has the power and authority to decide when a person shall die and cease on this earth, and what their eternal destiny shall be. If you hold the keys, it suggests that you have the access to open the doors into something so Jesus has the access into death and into Hell. He is the one who decides when and where!

 

Although all of these descriptions reveal the glory of the ascended Son, they also are used to comfort John. John has fallen lifeless before his Lord and perhaps wonders if death faces him, and so in all of these things it is almost as if Jesus is saying, “It's OK John, I decide when people die and your time isn't yet!” You and I may go through apparently life threatening circumstances but Jesus is the One who will decide when we leave here and go to join him. I have witnessed a number of people who I was convinced were dying. All the signs were there, yet they lived on, despite the signs. It was as if Jesus simply said, “It's all right your time is not yet.” Can we rest secure in this knowledge, that Jesus, the one who has overcome death, is our Lord and he alone is the one who decides when we will leave here? Be at peace over death.

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 19

Meditation Title: The Extent of Revelation

     

Rev 1:19    "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.

 

One of the difficult things about receiving a prophecy is remembering it and being able to take in what was being said. In a day of tape recorders I know that this has been made easier but even then it is very easy to miss the import of some of the things being said. When a prophecy comes simply as words it is especially difficult, which may explain why so much of this book of the Revelation is about what John had seen . We can't emphasise enough this particular characteristic of this prophecy because that is one of the things that makes it unique and so important. This is why John was told, “Write, therefore, what you have seen

 

Verses 12 to 16, that we have already considered, start it off. They are a vision of a person and a vision is something that is seen. We remember more what we see and hear than if we just hear something. At the very outset, the content of this book is about what John saw . We may have taken this for granted so far, but it is a crucial feature of the book. John sees Jesus and the descriptions of Jesus are as significant as the words he speaks. Chapters 2 and 3 are fairly traditional prophecy in as far as they are spoken words that are recorded – and no more – but from chapter four everything becomes vision again. All of the ensuing prophecy, right through to the end, involves things that John sees. Some of the things seen are very obvious and the understanding of what they mean is also obvious, but some things need more thinking about.

 

It is this prophecy-by-vision element that we may take for granted but it is what is so significant and makes it go graphically memorable. It is because it is graphic that John can remember it and write it down. He has to write it down because he has to send it to the churches. If the Lord had spoken merely words, it would have been that much more difficult for John to remember as he came to write it down, and it certainly wouldn't have been so easy for us to take in as we read it. As it is, it is a book full of pictures, which is perhaps why so many young people find it so easy to take in. Revelation is a staggering picture book.

 

Having told John to write what he has seen, Jesus seems to qualify that and suggest that there is both a present and a future element to this book. Now the future element may not surprise us, for that is what prophecy is so often about, but it is the ‘present' part that may surprise us. What was there about the present in what John was shown? Three things we will suggest.

 

The first part of the book of Revelation that was about the then-present, was chapters 2 and 3 that spoke directly into the seven churches of Asia Minor . While we may suggest, as we have, that seven is a perfect number and therefore this may be a symbolic way of referring to the whole church and saying that these are things that the church world wide needs to take note of, they were nevertheless letters to specific churches at that point of time in history that were struggling with specific problems, specific heresies and specific groups of people. Without any doubt those seven letters were to those seven churches that existed at that moment in time and so it was very much part of the “ what is now”. The ‘now' being that point of history.

 

The second area of ‘now' seems to be the revelation of heaven as seen in chapters 4 and 5. Now there is a difference here from chapters 2 and 3 because there is nothing to tie the heavenly vision to a specific point of history. In other words, there is nothing that says that it showed what was happening in heaven two thousand years ago – but on the other hand, it doesn't deny that. We can surmise that what John saw in heaven was happening then but it also has an eternal nature to it and so may be what we will find in heaven today. The fact that the Lamb is seen to be the only one who is worthy to receive and unroll the scroll of the end times (5:1 – 6:1) may have been happening at that point in time or it may be a symbolic picture of what is true of heaven generally.

 

The third ‘now' sense about Revelation is that it was all given to John at that particular point of history on Patmos . At a particular point of history John saw all these things. The revelation itself is part of the “what is now”. So some nineteen hundred years ago John could have said, “This vision is being given now.” Once we have come thus far we can go no further, for everything else was future. From this point we are in the hands of various interpreters and some or all of them could be true. Perhaps the chapters that follow were fulfilled in the next century, perhaps in the centuries of church history, and perhaps at the very end. We will only know the truth once we get to heaven!

 

So what is the point of the book if it leaves so many questions? How far can we go with this revelation? Well, we can speculate some more about how it applies in history and there may be some value in that, but the greatest value is coming away with the sense that however and whenever it is being worked out, it is all being worked out under the sovereign hand of Jesus. This is God's will being revealed and, as so often with prophecy, much understanding will not come until it has happened! Yet we can know that it is only being worked out as He decrees. The present and the future are not chaotic and random. God is working out His will because He alone knows how mankind will respond to Him. He is in control and we may rest in that. Marvel as you see it being worked out but, above all else, be at peace in the fact that God is in control and He is working out His will for the earth!

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 20

Meditation Title: Church Structure

     

Rev 1:20    The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lamp stands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches.

 

It is important not to build a doctrine on a single verse, and so sometimes we are left to speculate because Scripture isn't always clear. We call these meditations rather than studies because we allow our minds to open up devotionally down avenues that study might otherwise preclude. Our verse today is Jesus explaining what John has just seen. It is a very simple explanation as it stands.

 

The seven lamp stands are actually the seven churches and, as we've commented previously, the purpose of lamp stands is to give out light. As we said previously, just as Jesus said, “I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12), so he also said to us, “You are the light of the world.” (Mt 5:14). We might suggest that Jesus' light shining through us to the world is his love and goodness and truth. A question that arises is, is this what my church is like? Does my church ‘shine' Jesus' love and goodness and truth into the community? Is my community changed by my church? Is the darkness in society dispelled in some measure at least by my church? Sobering questions in a point of history where the church has been marginalised and is largely ignored by the world because until recently, in most places, it hasn't ‘shone' like this. That part of the verse is quite straight forward and scripture is in harmony about us and light, but it is what actually came before that which is not so clear.

 

Remember, in Jesus' hand were seven stars and now he explains that these seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. Because no further explanation is given, commentators have been left to speculate about the exact meaning of this word, ‘angel'. We have commented in a small measure on it before but let's consider it in more detail now. Let's assume first that is means exactly what it says – they are angels. What are angels? They are not dead people as some modern films would have us to believe. They are spirit beings who are sent to serve (Heb 1:14 ), and they are created beings (Psa 148:2,5), and they largely appear on earth at God's bidding as divine messengers (e.g. Gabriel – Lk 1) .

 

Now in the book of Daniel we find an angel coming to Daniel and explaining, “the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia(Dan 10:13) and a bit later he adds, “Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come(Dan 10:20) There in those descriptions we find what appear to be ruling angelic beings, those apparently given authority over certain areas. While it is certainly only speculation, some have wondered if God appoints angels to serve him in certain specific geographical areas of the world, and now specifically in our verse above, to serve him by guarding over the local churches. If this is so of every church, then church structure is Jesus the head of the church, an angel to guard it, and elders to lead and protect it.

 

An alternative that has been suggested is that ‘angel' here simply means a leader of the church. In today's world in certain parts of the Church, we find that men go to college, get a degree in theology and then apply to a denomination and are appointed by the denomination to be a leader over a local expression of the church. (We describe it like this because in the early church, it appears that in any one town there was only one church comprising all the Christians in that town, not lots of splinter groups from different denominations).

 

In the early church Jesus was the one who raised up leaders. We find Paul describing this: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (Eph 4:7,8), i.e. Jesus gave gifts to men to lead out in different ministries as he then went on to explain: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (Eph 4:11). Where those ministries were focused on a local church, some of them were used by Christ to lead the church and were referred to as elders, overseers or bishops (see 1 Tim 3:2-, Titus 1:6,7). Thus some speculate that these stars are the elders of the local church, answerable to the Lord of the church who holds them. Each of the letters is addressed to this ‘angel' or leader and they are seen as accountable for the shortcomings of that church. It would seem that they have been directly involved in the life of that church, and ‘leader' seems a more likely meaning in this case.

 

A third suggestion is made by commentators, that these ‘angels' are simply personifications of the prevailing spirit of each church. They are, if you like, a summary of all that this church feels and does, an equally plausible explanation. The key point to hang onto in every case is that they are in Jesus' hand and are clearly answerable to him – as every one of us is. This is where it becomes personal. The reminder we have here is that each and every one of us is answerable to Jesus. Where we unwittingly fail him, we have to fall back on the work of the Cross. Where we are conscious of failure, we are called to obedience, a simple act of will without excuses. He is the Lord of the church, so awesome a figure that John nearly lost his life when he saw him. Yet when he comes, he comes as both a priest and one who has experienced what we experience and so he understands. Yet, still, we are accountable to him.