Revelation 1:17-20 Part 1

We still have a bit of work to do at verse sixteen before we can move on to seventeen and beyond; but most of our time today will be spent in seventeen and eighteen.

But verse sixteen completes the most riveting and compelling description imaginable of the enthroned Jesus, the King of Kings. Here it is again:

“and having seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of His mouth, and His face as the sun shines in its power.”

As said previously, the view of our Lord that John described is the one that we, too, ought to have. He is no longer a babe; He isn’t serving bread and wine any longer; He isn’t now bleeding on the cross; and He isn’t “blessing” babies, walking on water, or being tempted by the devil.

He is now enthroned in the sanctuary of God, fully man and fully God, and appearing to John and being described with the same descriptions revealed to the prophets of old. His face as fiery light and shining as the sun in its power; clothed to the feet in white linen; wrapped at the chest with a golden girdle; eyes as flaming fire; His feet as bright bronze as in having been fired in a furnace; His hair as white as snow; and His voice as a trumpet, and then as the sound of many waters.

There are two things (at least two things) different in John’s description from what we’ve seen in earlier Revelations: 1) He is standing in the midst of the lampstands, and 2) a double-edged sword is protruding from His mouth.

The lampstands are the Churches; and the sharp two-edged sword is the Word of God, piercing to the marrow of men’s bones, destroying His enemies from one edge – and rescuing His covenant people from the other. He is “in the midst” of His Church; He is the Warrior-King – The King of kings!

Listen to Paul as he writes to Timothy in his first letter:

13) I charge thee in the sight of God, who giveth life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession;

14) that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:

15) which in its own times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

And hear what this apostle John writes here in Revelation of Jesus Christ, chapter seventeen:

14) These shall war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they also shall overcome that are with him, called and chosen and faithful.

So, John sees the bodily resurrected, ascended and enthroned Jesus. This isn’t some “mystical” vision; it isn’t just “spiritual”; and it isn’t just limited to the heavenlies. He has been given all authority in the heavens and the earth. And all the nations are given Him as His inheritance.

And it’s all “present tense” as John sees Him: For He IS Lord of lords and King of kings. And He is coming quickly, wielding a two-edged sword. (We’ll see these same words again very soon in chapter two as Jesus addresses the Church at Pergamum.)

Now, before we move on, let me just give you some insights about these things. These are primary elements in the underpinning of the Faith. And it’s very weighty stuff. To read about the Revelations of God in the older Scripture as the prophets of old were caused to see His glory and the glory of His sanctuary; and then to spend seven years in Matthew’s Gospel of Jesus Christ; and then to see John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ using the same language of the glory of God found in the prophets! The God-man, Jesus, was bodily resurrected and ascended to the throne, and is described by John with the very same language used by the prophets to describe their visual Revelations of God!

I’m constantly being alerted to these things and reminded to think on them, as for example in an article that I read recently about how school children are being urged by their public school systems to use quiet “mindfulness” during the summer months between school years.

Well, “mindfulness” is a psychoanalytic technique whereby one purposefully eliminates anything negative and thinks of himself at this present moment only. Subconscious “chatter” of the mind is taken away by consciously “residing solely in the moment”. It is a widely used practice of buddhism, and supposedly leads to wisdom and self-consciousness; and it is supposed to relieve anxiety and depression!

Now, don’t think for a moment that the school systems don’t know what they’re doing! They’re teaching eastern mystical meditative techniques to public school children.

At the root of the technique is the dualistic idea that the physical and external is evil, and the internal and spiritual is good. In mindfulness meditation one rises to the level of the internal spiritual and releases the negative physical. Internally there is peace; externally there is anxiety and depression.

I’m not opposed to mind control. But the control over our minds and emotions is rooted in external and objective Almighty God and His Law-word! That’s how the apostle Paul beat himself into submission….. by knowing God and His Word! Paul didn’t go “inside” himself to find peace.

The view of the incarnate God the Son on His throne in His sanctuary is objective reality. Rather than finding “positive things”, and reality, and truth inside sinful, fallen human beings; and rather than treating anxiety and depression by eradicating everything external by meditative techniques, our thought processes need to be turned to the Revelation of Jesus Christ as John describes Him. God has revealed Himself to man in all His radiant glory. It is His Revelation; and that’s where the minds of men (and women and children) have to be focused.

Internally there is only pain and horror and sin and depression and rebellion and guilt and separation from God. On the other hand there is rescue, and emancipation, and release from the prison of self, and extrication from sin and guilt in God’s Revelation of Himself.

And don’t worry about commandments One and Two! The first and second commandments have to do with idolatry. And whether it’s the “self” or some other man-made idol, any other idea of sovereignty is idolatry. But you may freely think upon Him, and contemplate Him, as He has revealed Himself to John. In fact, you must think of Him, as He is, from His view-point and from how He has revealed Himself. There is the source of your liberty from idolatry.

Let’s move on now to verses seventeen and eighteen. Here they are once again:

“And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead; and He placed His right hand on me saying ‘Fear not. I AM the First and the Last and the Living, and I became dead and LO, I am living into the ages of the ages, and I have the keys of death and hades.”

John’s immediate reaction was “on his face as dead”. It is the same response to the presence of Almighty God that we see in many other places throughout Scripture.

All through the older writings, the scene has the patriarchs and prophets of old “on their faces” before theophanic and angelic appearances of Yahveh.

The Roman soldiers were on their faces as dead at the very sight of the “Word messenger” of Yahveh at the empty tomb. Saul, on the road to Damascus, was blind and in the dust before the Presence of the resurrected and ascended Jesus.

These are all occurrences of obeisance………some not at all voluntary. In other words, many times in Scripture the position in which fallen mankind finds himself before the glory of almighty God is passive! He finds himself on his face because he can do no other.

The prophet Daniel, at the appearance of Yahveh, was made as dead. And God touched him and set him upright. The same kind of language is used here by John as the resurrected, ascended and enthroned Jesus appears to him; and He touched John and spoke to Him – strengthening him that he could hear and write the words. Otherwise the Presence of God in all His glory would be unbearable to John (or any other of fallen mankind).

And the reason for that is that man is “creature”. There is a Creator – creature distinction. Although man bears the “image” of his Creator, God is wholly “other”. He is the One Who brought us into existence “ex nihilo” – from nothing. And He did so by the Word of His Power.

The duty of “creature” is to be what the Creator made. That duty requires obeisance – complete submission. But man willfully goes about being obstinate toward his Creator! Man doesn’t want to be what the Creator made. He wants to think of himself as free of any cords and bonds and constraints of creatureship. He wishes to be “as God”.

We’ve been that way since Adam! The whole human race was cursed – and dead; and there is not one thing we can do about it. Man can’t reason his way into communion with God; he can’t work to merit communion with God; he can’t “accept” his way into communion with God……… he doesn’t want to! He is cursed and dead; and all he wants to do is do his own thing!

It is for these reasons that the brightness and glory and perfections and holiness of God is so devastating to humanity upon His appearance. Time and again in Scripture, men are left without strength, without the ability to stand, without sight and with body-rending fear – face-down in the dust at the very sight of the Revelation of His Person… and even at the appearance of word-messengers from His throne-room. Since they proceed directly from Him, even they bear much splendor.

Cursed mankind can’t hold together – they can’t “adhere” in the presence of such perfections. Therefore the strengthening of John by the touch of the Lord Jesus. In his own strength he would not have held together and remained man.

It’s the same catastrophic fear that cursed and fallen man has of death. For he knows (all know as a matter of fact) for he knows that he must encounter the glorious perfections and holiness of the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Jesus said to John “fear not”. Don’t be afraid. The touch – and then the words….. both strengthening John from His Creator/Savior. The One Who appears to him is in all His flaming brilliance; and it is perfectly obvious to John that it is the exact same kind of appearance as with the prophets. And it is also obvious to John that He is human! Verse thirteen:

13) and in midst of the lampstands like a son of man, having been clothed upon to the feet and having been wrapped at the chest with a golden girdle:

14) His head and hair white as wool, white as snow, and His eyes as flaming fire,

15) and His feet like burnished brass as in having been fired in a furnace, and His voice as a sound of many waters,

16) and having seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of His mouth, and His face as the sun shines in its power.

“One like a son of man”. And He has feet; and a chest; and a head with hair; and eyes; and hands; and a face with a mouth. It is the resurrected, glorified and enthroned Jesus. And He confirms that to John:

I Am the First and the Last and the Living, and I became dead and LO, I am living into the ages of the ages, and I have the keys of death and hades.

There is too much here for us to finish today; we’ll leave it for the last sermon in the chapter. But I leave you with this passage from Isaiah chapter forty four in preparation:

6) Thus saith Yahveh, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Yahveh of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God.

7) And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I established the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and that shall come to pass, let them declare.

8) Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have I not declared unto thee of old, and showed it? and ye are my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? yea, there is no Rock; I know not any.

9) They that fashion a graven image are all of them vanity; and the things that they delight in shall not profit; and their own witnesses see not, nor know: that they may be put to shame.

By quoting from Isaiah chapter forty-four, Jesus confirms that He is “the First and the Last”; He is Yahveh, God of Isaiah chapter forty four; He is the One Who called Israel into being; He is the Rock (of which there is none other); He is the One Who has declared that which is and that which is to be.

The Revelation to Isaiah that follows that in chapter forty four condemns all idolatry in all of Israel and the nations. He is alone God of all. And if any other is worshipped than the One that John sees, then it is an idol; and the one who worships is an idolator.