“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Vision of Christ – (Revelation Chapter 1 Verses 9-20)
John is charged with writing to the churches, with the intention of grounding them in a strong confidence in Christ. Who is now the enthroned cosmic office-bearer as a consequence of his victory over sin, death and hell. Throughout these verses, it becomes clear that Christ is now our enthroned Prophet, Priest, and King. He rules throughout the universe through what we have found is the millennium proper, that is the period from Christ’s ascension to his final, visible return in glory. What John is given to see is for the church, for her comfort and consolation. This word of assurance that is given to John is with us now for the same reason, in the midst of our distresses and tribulations, our cares and despairs. So we must hold this word before our minds, that this Christ is the same all-glorious sovereign, reigning Christ now. Here John is commissioned to write (v11). What we have in the book of Revelation is the history of the church’s inner warfare through the New Testament age. But notice it has already begun here, John is in exile on Patmos as a result of Emperor Domitian’s persecution. This persecution contains the seed of the conflict between the church and the world-power, a conflict that will continue throughout the age. There is a thematic parallel in the book of Revelation, seen in the picture of the two cities, depicted as two women. The harlot Babylon and the bride of the Lamb, the new Jerusalem. The former is destroyed and the latter is established forever. But here notice John’s not one of these ivory-tower theologians that now and again throw books into the church, who have no experience what life and ministry’s like on the streets of a hostile world. John here bears his own cross (v9). He is one of us, this our calling beloved (Philippians 1:29; 3:10). Note the three key words in this verse nine, tribulation, kingdom, and patience. It is because of the kingdom, the rule of King Jesus we are enabled to endure with patience, perseverance (Matthew 24:13). We share in the same tribulation as our brother John here and we share in the same victory (v5). Endurance reveals that grace is operating. It’s only the grace of perseverance that proves your spiritual experience was genuine.
John’s experience (v10), he is in a state of prophetic and spiritual ecstasy, taken over by the Holy Spirit. Which is not simply subjective but objectively real. This was common with the Old Testament seers, they too were given visions (Isaiah 6:1ff). They were privileged to see what could not be perceived by the natural eye. It was on a Sunday, what came to be known as the Lord’s Day, when the early church began to meet together for worship. The Christian Sabbath, why? Because that was the day the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. It replaced the seventh day Sabbath, becoming a celebration of the resurrection, of the fact that we worship a risen Saviour! When Jesus left behind in the tomb the grave clothes, he left behind something else, the old Saturday Sabbath. And so the Lord of the Sabbath instituted the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day. John’s commission here is to write (v11). And to send to the seven churches. If you get a Bible map and trace these seven churches you will see that it forms a circle, more or less. Remember that the number seven is the number of completeness, this is the fulness of the church, and who stands in the middle? Jesus Christ. You see here that the authority for holy writ is Jesus Christ, it is he as God who speaks in Scripture. John writes not for himself but for the church, and not be left as a closed book, but sent, and read, and obeyed (v3). Where does this put Pastors, elders and leaders who will not open this book to their congregations because they deem it to be too controversial? It is still to be sent to the church in its entirety today.
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)ers