In the last episode, we explored the greatness of God in Revelation one. Our response is simple but challenging. Be a faithful witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is call to action. In this episode, we cover verses 9-20 of Chapter One. We begin by clarifying John’s audience and his example of faithful obedience.
John Writes Revelations To Brothers And Companions
Verse 9. I, John, both your brother and companion—so again, we’ve got believers—and these aren’t just believers. They’re believers who’ve been a companion with John in three things: the tribulation, the kingdom, and the patience or the endurance of Jesus Christ.
John is writing to these people. He said I have been a martyr. I have been a witness. At that point in time, probably his eleven fellow apostles are all dead. This is late in his life. He’s been exiled to the Island of Patmos.
I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. The martyr, martyreo of Jesus Christ.
So John was being a witness as God has called us all to do. He was being a witness for the word of God. He was being a king. He was being a priest. And because of that, the world exiled him.
Exile On Patmos
Now Patmos means “my killing”. It’s a sterile island. There are no trees growing on it. It’s about ten miles long and six miles wide. It has a total elevation of about 800 feet. And it is one of the places where the Romans sent people when they sent them in exile.
Exile is a form of execution; it’s a form of death. Socrates was offered exile from Athens or hemlock. He chose hemlock because he thought it was the lesser of two evils.
When Adam and Eve fell that day, they experienced death because they were exiled from the Garden. We, as humanity, have been exiled ever since. And one of our main longings is to get back to that garden.
So, he’s on Patmos because he has endured the tribulation patiently for the kingdom. And he says—
Verse 10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the last,”—Again, this whole idea of repetition over and over again. “I started all this [says God]; I’m going to finish it. This is all one historical story, and I’m in charge of the story. I’m the author. I know the ending because I wrote the ending. Don’t despair. I’m in charge of all these things.”
Now it’s interesting he says he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. If you go to Patmos today, which I have not done, apparently, they’ll point you to a cave and say, “John was in this cave when he got the Revelation.” And maybe he was. A lot of times, those traditions carry on faithfully for a long time.
Connection Between Things On Earth And Things In Heaven
But it’s interesting, it says he was in the Spirit because we opened and we saw the seven Spirits before the throne of God. And here, once again, is the connection between heaven and earth.
Last time, we talked about Michael coming and helping another angel escape the princes of Persia, and they fought for 21 days because God had dispatched an angel, this time a Spirit from heaven, to come and explain something to Daniel because Daniel had asked for an explanation. And the Spirit is fighting the prince of Persia. And Daniel is serving the king of Persia. So, somehow there’s an authority structure on earth, and it’s mirrored by an authority structure in heaven.
And here we see the seven Spirits before the throne of God, and the Spirit is also there with John. So there is a much bigger connection between heaven and earth than we really think. And that’s one of the things I hope we can really ingest as we go through Revelation, because it’s real. And hopefully this idea of being a king and a priest will get more real to us as we go through.
The Seven Churches
And I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia—again, this Roman province. To these seven churches: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.
I mentioned this last time, but you’re actually going in a clockwise circle as you go through these churches. Ephesus is kind of in the southwest. It’s the trading center; and it’s the first one. And then you go all the way around to Laodicea. They’re actual, physical cities. We’ll see those cities here shortly.
He’s saying, “I want you to hear this. I want you to write it down. And I want you to send it to them.”
The Spirit Who Spoke To John
Verse 12. Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
Now I just want to stop here and dwell on this because some of us in here have white hair. Are you ashamed of your white hair? You shouldn’t be ashamed of your white hair. Would Jesus have shown himself with white hair if it wasn’t a cool thing to have? Really, now, come on!
His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid his right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.
John Falls Down
So, here’s John. And John was the guy who called himself the beloved disciple. The night before Jesus was betrayed, he was at the Last Supper, and he’s leaning on Jesus’ breast. He has a special relationship with Jesus. And he sees Jesus in this circumstance, and falls down like a dead man.
Now John was on the Mount of Transfiguration. They fell down then, too.
So, when we see Jesus in his glory, I don’t think there are going to be high fives. I think we’re going to fall down.
This is one of the reasons God masks himself in our world. If he didn’t, no one would have a choice but to fall down. No one would have an option to do anything but to confess that Jesus is Lord because his presence is so overwhelming.
So he has masked his presence, where it’s still obvious, the heavens declare the glory of God. You look around everywhere and there’s order, and the image of God in everything we see. But we’re not compelled to see it like we are when we have his physical presence.
He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun—
And we’re going to see this more as we go through. But when we get to the end and there’s a new heaven and a new earth, it says that Jesus is so bright, you don’t need the sun. There’s a new energy source, and it’s a person. Because the sun is just a consuming fire, and it’s actually decaying over time. Jesus and God is a consuming fire that never decays. He’s like the sun in its strength.
Jesus Has The Keys To Hades And Death
Verse 17. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid—because I am that guy who loves you. I am the First and the Last. I have this all under control. I am the one who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forever more. Amen. And I have the keys—to two things: Hades and Death.
Now this is very interesting. Hades and death he has the keys to. This is a pretty big deal. Hades and death are two things we think about a lot. What are these things?
Let’s look at Revelation 6:8. This is another place where Hades and death are discussed in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 6:8. So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. These are the horsemen of the apocalypse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
Hades and death are connected in the four horsemen.
Let’s look at Revelation 20:13. This is now at the end of the revelation. It says:
The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. So somehow death and Hades are connected and have the dead in them.
In very short order, Hades is a Greek word that actually comes out of Greek mythology.
And interestingly enough, the New Testament takes this word that comes out of Greek mythology and incorporates it in as a word that’s the equivalent to the Old Testament word sheol. Sheol in the Old Testament is used for the place of the dead, the grave, death itself. It’s used in multiple ways, but one of the ways is the place of the dead.
In Acts, you actually see a quote from the Old Testament that takes the word Sheol and replaces it with the word Hades.
Now Hades had two compartments. One is called Tartarus, the word Tartarus shows up in the Bible as well, and is the torment compartment. The other one was Elysian Fields, and it’s the paradise compartment.
And apparently that model is accurate enough where the Bible just took it in and used it. So it’s a place.
But look where this place ends up. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Verse 14. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.
So, we usually think of Hades as being hell and hell being the lake of fire; and that’s not accurate. The lake of fire is actually the one thing that remains. Hades is a temporary thing.
And, in fact, when you see the word hell in the New Testament, it’s usually a translation of the word Gehenna, which is actually something else. It’s a valley in Jerusalem. You can go there. I’ve been to hell before. I’ve actually stood in Gehenna.
It’s the place where the refuse and the trash and the carcasses were put; and they always had it on fire to clean it. So it’s a picture of death. It’s a picture of the ongoing fire and worms cleansing the dead. And it’s a picture of—this is what sin gets you. And that picture can apply to multiple things.
What happens to death and Hades is they’re ultimately dispatched into the lake of fire. Why? What does that mean about death and Hades? They are no more. They are temporary.
When Jesus says, “I have the keys”, I think it’s kind of like when you watch a basketball game. And they start off, and they’ll say, “here’s the keys to the game”. And what do they list when they say that? Your rebounding or something like that. Well, why are they saying that? This is how you win. If they’ll do these things, they’ll win; if they don’t do these things, they’ll lose. “I know how to win [says God]. I know how to dispatch these guys. I have authority over sin and death.”
Is that a big deal? Who here likes death? Anybody for death? Death is the ultimate—it’s the last enemy to be vanquished. And not only death, but the place that death is associated with. They both go into the lake of fire.
So there’s going to be a lot of death that we’ll see in this book of Revelation. Lots and lots of it. Large swaths of the earth are going to die.
What should we never forget? Jesus has the key to death and Hades. This is just part of the game unfolding. He’s the first and the last. He was, he is, he is to come. The ultimate outcome is not in doubt, even though it may feel like it’s in doubt.
There’s going to be tribulation in this world. There’s going to be suffering. There’s going to be difficulty. And as that difficulty unfurls, we can’t forget where we’re headed and what’s going to take place.
He’s Got The Whole World In His Hand
Verse 19. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.
So, write down what you’ve seen. Write down what is. Write down what’s going to come. You see the parallel? Jesus was, is, and is to come. And he’s going to tell us what was, show us what is, and show us what is to come. And John’s going to write that down. History is as much of God as God is of history.
It’s all a package because God is in control. He created history. He’s going to see that history turns out, and it’s going to turn out with a resolution. He’s going to have a resolution that we are all going to like.
Verse 20. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the messengers or the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
So, once again we see a connection between heaven and earth. And God is holding these messengers in his hand.
Now I don’t really know about these messengers. We know the ekklesia was a gathering. We know that these churches had elders (plural). But, apparently, there’s also a spokesman who is going to be the one who reads this letter that has a particular elevated status in God’s mind. And he’s holding those messengers in his hand.
Now that’s an encouraging thought isn’t it? You know He’s Got The Whole World In His Hand, the old spiritual song? But he’s got these stars in his hand, and he’s holding them. And he’s got the lampstands there, the churches, and they’re right there in heaven with him. And somehow there’s a connection between the physical church on the ground and what God is looking at in heaven.
The scripture tells us that the angels watching over our children are in the presence of God looking in his face. There’s a real connection that we’re living on a daily basis between us and our kingship, and our priesthood and God.
Hebrews tells us we should daily enter the tabernacle that’s in heaven. And what we should go and do there is ask for help when we need it. And what we should do there is ask the high priest to sprinkle our conscience so we can be cleansed so instead of bearing guilt, we can go and serve.
We’re supposed to do that daily, on an ongoing basis because that tabernacle in heaven is real, and we can go there at any time.
So, we’re kings, spiritually, and we’re supposed to live it physically in this world. Just like there’s a star in heaven, there’s a candlestick in heaven, and there’s a real place on earth where that’s being manifest. And bringing heaven and earth together is ultimately going to take place in the new earth. We’re going to see heaven come to earth. That’s going to be the final resolution of history. That’s going to be the most exciting thing we’ve ever seen.
Meanwhile, we’re supposed to be bringing heaven to earth because we are a king in God’s administration, which is not of this world; but we’re in this world. We are a candlestick and a star in heaven, but we’re supposed to be doing our job on earth.
It’s pretty cool, isn’t it? What a linkage we get to make if we’re aware.
And how do we make that linkage? Be a witness. Hear, understand, do in the station that we’re given. Can you hear, understand, and do in a station you’re not in? Can you hear, understand, and do in a role you don’t have? Can you hear, understand, and do in a place you don’t live? You hear, you understand, you do right where you are.
And when you do that, we’re doing something phenomenal. We’re doing something amazing. We’re doing something that is as incredible as this book of Revelation. We’re apocalyptic.