Revelation has always confused me. I think that’s why I appreciated Chip Ingram’s sermon series about it so much. He explained it in a way that finally made sense! In my first post about it, I shared context for when it was written, an outline of the book, and the central message: hope!
In this post, I’ll get into the first chapter. The theme is trust in God: our future is secure!
Don’t be deceived—The future is certain!
The revelation from 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, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud 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.
In these opening verses, John opens with a word of hope from the Father: the future is certain. No matter what is going on in our lives, we can be assured that it won’t go on forever. We can focus on the finish line. Everything will happen as Jesus revealed.
I think this helps when my mind starts drifting towards worry over my kids’ futures. What if I don’t teach them enough, or prepare them for life enough? I can trust that God knows their futures just like he knows mine. He has a future for the whole world–that includes a plan for my kids’ lives.
Don’t be discouraged—God is in control!
John continues with a word of hope for His church.
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
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, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
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.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
In verses 5-6, he’s telling the reader, “God loves you, freed you from sin, and made you a kingdom and priest that will go on forever.” The term “faithful witness” means martyr, so John is referring to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Then, in verses 7-8, John is telling us that life won’t always be this way. Jesus will come in the clouds, and everyone will see him and recognize his authority.
Time is Linear
As much as it may feel like time is cyclical, it’s linear. Someday Jesus will come again, and life will be so much better than we can imagine. I’ve been finding that helpful to remember when the monotony of day-to-day responsibilities start to overwhelm me. And then I look for ways to shake things up and add in something fun–even if it’s just dancing in the kitchen while I make dinner!
Don’t be afraid—Your future is secure!
I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
The Church Family
John starts by pointing out what Christianity in a fallen world is supposed to look like (verses 9-11):
- We’re in it together.
- We’re companions in suffering.
- We’re part of the kingdom.
- We have patient endurance.
Not all church families succeed in these ways, but they’re good perspectives to focus on when it comes to our brothers and sisters in Christ!
In verses 12-18, John goes on to paint a picture using Old Testament images of holiness–symbolism that always went right over my head. Chip explained what each of them means:
- Robe and sash: what a high priest would wear.
- Face of the sun: brightness, overwhelming glory.
- Feet of bronze: judgment, righteous judge.
- Double-edged sword: used for judging, making things right, executing his will.
- Son of man: Daniel’s term for Messiah.
- Hair/head of white: wisdom, holiness.
- Voice: power.
- Right hand: authority.
This picture John painted shows Jesus as the King of kings; the all powerful, righteous judge; the redeeming one.
John also talks about seven lampstands, which represent seven churches. Chip pointed out that Jesus is in the middle of the lampstands, showing that he’s with them in the middle of the suffering and struggle. We’re not alone when times are hard.
With all of this, John falls at Jesus’ feet, to which Jesus reaches out to touch him and tell him, “Don’t be afraid.” In Him, our future is secure.
Trust in God Alone
When John wrote Revelation, he was living in a time that looked bleak for the early church. They were living through all sorts of persecution. Many were martyred; John was exiled. But this book gave them hope: the future is certain, God is in control, and their future was secure.
We may not be going through the same sort of trials the early church faced, but we can still see these messages of hope in our own lives.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying our spouse, kids, extended family, or close friends, or our wealth, health, or dreams. But when we place all our hope and trust in them, we’re going to be let down. All of them are out of our control and can disappear in an instant. Instead, our trust for the future needs to be in God alone.
I like how Chip summarized it: “When we surrender [to God], we realize we don’t control things anyway. We can offer them to God and ask him to help us be good stewards.”
Although it may seem like giving Him the power and control is restrictive, I actually find it to be very freeing. I don’t need to fight to hold onto control of every aspect of my life. I can give God control of my relationship with my husband, my kids, my career, my dreams. He’s guided me into places and opportunities I never imagined. Sometimes they’re challenging, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
So it’s a decision I keep making over and over again.
Guide my path, Lord. Speak through me. Act through me. Help me be a good steward of everything you’ve blessed me with.