“Searching the Seven Churches”
The Comfort of the Church – (Revelation Chapter 1 Verses 9-20)
We have been shown the characteristics of Christ and those characteristics are sustained throughout the entirety of the book of Revelation. He is one to who power and worship belong. This is what it means to be a Christian, to worship Jesus Christ. The person who fears Jesus has nothing else to fear. He moves in the midst of his suffering church, always. Through the age-long conflict against the evil of the world-power, I will be with you to the end of the age, he says (Matthew 28:20). This is of immense comfort to the church today, in the future, and to John here, “fear not” (v17), he is told. It’s an awe-inspired fear that has gripped John. For here before him is the one who transcendent over time, who governs all things and is the force behind and cause of all history. Jesus Christ is not straining to have his voice heard in the world, his voice sustains it. But it is trust in his utter and absolute sovereignty that dispels the fear and despair that would cause us to compromise with the world. The fear not’s of the Bible, they are for God’s people, the church, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). That is not spoken to Israel as a nation, it is spoken to God’s elect, the Israel of God, the church of God.
Why ought the church and John not to fear? Because here is the evidence of his sovereign power (v18). His completed work, his beautiful life qualifying him to be our substitute. His death and resurrection, these are historical factors upon which our faith is based. And the evidence of his sovereign power is this, that he has power over the realm of death. It has no hold on him. He defeated death. And it has no hold on those who trust him. So the church faced with trial, persecution, tribulation throughout the age, is tempted and caused to fear, what? Death! So he is telling us to be assured, I am the one who has the keys of death and hell in my hand (v18). I, Jesus, have conquered these realms. So that patient persevering endurance will be rewarded with victory over the grave. So John has to write, write what (v19-20)? This is not the same as verse eleven, this plural, “Write therefore the things” (v19). One, the things of the past, what has just been revealed to him. Two, the present, the present state of the church, which we are just coming to. Thirdly, afterward, the things that will fall out to the church in the New Testament age. John is also to send them to the churches, the seven churches, i.e., the entire, the whole church. For her edification and comfort. So she will be ready, prepared for the sufferings and trials, ready to overcome. If this book of the Bible is taught, and regularly, in spite of all the controversy, the church will ever be on a prepared footing for whatever is thrown at her. It must be taught, it is a sin not to send this book to the church today. May Ministers and leaders who fear to preach it be given repentance and courage to send this message from Christ to his people. When this is done the church will be living on the edge, not for the world, but for the world to come. We have another key here (v20), which enables us to understand what has been said, this interpretation comes from Jesus himself. So this book is relevant for every day and generation. It is not given for us to peer into the future, but to enable us to live today, one day at a time, in the midst of the afflictions, tribulations and persecutions we are faced with now. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)