When We See the Glory of Jesus Christ
I call your attention to Revelation 1:12. John heard the voice of Jesus Christ, a great voice that sounded like a trumpet – loud, clear, majestic. He told John to write. Many speak against the written Scriptures, even against words and language, as too uncertain and unreliable to base our faith upon them. Jesus Christ did not think so, for to receive his word meekly is to receive him. By this one command the whole liberal scheme of criticizing and questioning the Scriptures is exposed as a colossal lie of Satan. The existential encounter with Jesus crowd must also be quiet and learn to read again. Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, the eternal and the incarnate Word of God, told John to write. Never forget this. The Scriptures are his living voice. They are the wisdom of God, for he is the Wisdom of God.
John turned to see who was speaking to him, and the first thing he saw was seven golden lampstands. These lampstands are the seven churches to which John must write. The Church and Jesus Christ are inseparable. Whatever else is happening in the world, we must remember what John saw. Imperial Rome was encompassing land and sea and preparing to attack the church. John saw the church shining and beautiful. He was an exile for his testimony to Jesus; he saw the church in her centrality and blazing glory. The church in her new covenant expression was small and weak. Satan thought he had her and was about to destroy her. The liar was deceived. Christ’s light beats Satan’s darkness every time.
In the midst of the seven lampstands stood the glorious Son of Man, the enthroned Mediator and King of heaven and earth (Dan. 7:13-14). His glory is the light of the church; he is what makes her shine, gives her glory, and strengthens her to overcome the world. Crucified in weakness, he is now clothed as Lord of all. His white hair symbolizes his wisdom, perhaps also his eternity. His feet were like brass, hardened to trample his enemies. His eyes shone like fire: penetrating, all-seeing. Nothing can escape his gaze. He knows the burdens of his people and the schemes of his enemies.
He held in his right hand – the hand of power – seven stars. John will soon learn that these stars are the angels or messengers, likely the pastors of the seven churches. They were strong and safe in the midst of every danger because Jesus Christ holds them in his hand. From Jesus’ mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, his gospel; his messengers have an invincible weapon. It is this sword with which he strikes the nations. A sword coming out of his mouth emphasizes the saving power of his word. The preaching of the gospel is God’s power unto salvation (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:16). Jesus’ face was shining like the sun in its strength. He was made very low for our sins; he is now exalted, extolled, and very high.
John could not look directly at him. He practically fainted. He who reclined upon Jesus’ bosom now fell at his feet – mesmerized, worshipping, the apostle unable to bear the glory of the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. But he laid his right hand upon John. How marvelous to think of his hand of power being the upholding, tender hand by which he supports and strengthens us!
He spoke his familiar encouragement, which must have warmed John’s heart: “Fear not.” Often John had heard him say, “Do not be afraid; it is I.” Jesus proclaimed his glory, his victory, and his salvation. “I am the first and the last:” Alpha and Omega, the Creator and the Consummator. “I live, and was dead, and I am alive forevermore.” I am life absolutely and eternally; I died for my church; I now live by the power of God my Father. My victory is so complete that I have the keys of death and hell hanging on my belt. Christ has conquered the two worst things facing us because of our sins: death and hell. Christ the crucified is now the owner of death and hell. He entered them for us, spoiled them for us. He died to kill them; he rose to rule them.
All our peace in the world, strength in our warfare, and confidence that we shall overcome the world comes from the glory of Jesus Christ. Our failure and inconsistency in looking upon our glorious Savior is the source of most of our fears and woes. John was concerned about the state of the church and looming persecution; Jesus showed him his glory. John’s personal circumstances were difficult; he literally had nothing and was a prisoner on a rocky island fortress. Jesus directed John’s attention to his glory. John saw powerful Rome and apostate Judaism united to overthrow the fledgling church; Jesus showed him blinding glory that must break the tidal wave of opposition to the everlasting gospel of peace.
We are like John, but unlike him also. The church today is huge in number and with far greater influence than we realize. Around the world, believers meet to pray and worship; the kingdom of priests offers up prayer day and night. We have a history of victory behind us, and if we would but see and believe Christ’s glory, a hope of more victory before us. He has not changed; he is not a museum relic but the living Lord of glory. All that he revealed to John remains true and imminent. All the agitations in the world that disturb us, when we turn to hear the voice of Jesus, we are encouraged that the church and her glory in Christ is the centerpiece of what our mighty Savior is doing in the world. The frenzy of God’s enemies is the reflection of their frustration of having no glory and therefore no future. They must grab all they can now, for tomorrow holds nothing for them. Jesus Christ does not hold them in his hand for good, and therefore, all they grab must vanish and prove ultimately dissatisfying.
And therefore, we must not be afraid of anything. Fear remains one of Satan’s best tools, but it is a waste of time and energy. Fear makes us forget that the devil must flee before the power of Jesus Christ working through the weapons he has given us (James 4:7). Men can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth (2 Cor. 13:8). Jesus Christ is the glory of his church, the light and life in the center of the lampstand. He and his church are absolutely inseparable, and he is glorious and invincible. The church may look fragmented and weak to us, but she is in reality “the queen standing at the King’s right hand in gold of Ophir” – precious, secure, and beautiful. He holds her and her pastors in his hand. Her full beauty is yet hidden with her Lord and will not be revealed until he is revealed from heaven (2 Thess. 1:7-10). Nonetheless, what John saw remains the historical reality that we now see by faith.
But why does the world look as it does if Jesus Christ is really so glorious? What, you mean why is there conflict with wickedness? Why are God’s people feeling as never before their need to “give God no rest” but pray to him day and night? Do you ask why the enemies of the church and word of God are filled with renewed venom against anything that even smells like God’s truth? And why some men in the West would rather burn up the whole world with their militarism and abolish national boundaries and build a global government of elitist control? The answer to these questions is clear and simple. The darkness hates the light. Jesus Christ – his glory, gospel, and kingdom – do not first bring peace on the earth but great conflict. Satan is filled with malice because he is defeated, and his servants prefer darkness to light because their deeds are evil.
This is our warfare. It is foolish and frustrating to forget this, to expect heaven on earth, to look for solutions on our side in political victory, a religion of cathedrals, cardinals, and centralization, or in isolation, guru Christianity, and in pietistic retreat. It is only in faithful Christian warfare that Jesus Christ shows us his glory, refreshes us with his glory, and, like John, teaches us that we are not really alone. The risen Savior is in our midst. His presence alone means that “more are for us than for them.” The darkness cannot prevail against his glory, against the faith that overcomes the world because it holds fast to Him.
We may feel ourselves exiled and alone, but we are not. Look, child of God, look, each congregation, look, Church of Jesus Christ, at the glory in our midst. Our circumstances can be very difficult (Acts 14:22), but our Savior has all power in heaven and earth. You may be walking in dark valleys of trial and suffering, but Jesus Christ is with you by his Spirit. Come before Jesus, and you will never lack sufficient help and wisdom. His power helps and upholds us. His love lifts us up and drives away fear. Our eyes sometimes drift fearfully toward what men are doing, but his tender eye is upon us! He marches and wars for us. He commanded John to write; he commands us to read and to believe. He is the Word of God. Through faith in his word, his Church will prevail, but to do so, she must see his glory, draw all her strength and wisdom from him, live before his face in humble dependence, and never forget that his glory is our salvation, our hope, and our glory.
“In like manner must all come to shame and be overthrown who rise up against this divine wisdom and the Word of God. Consequently no one should fear even all the wisdom and power of the world oppose the Gospel, yea, even if they plan to suppress it by the shedding of blood; for the more blood is shed, the more Christians there will be. The blood of Christians, as Tertullian says, is the seed from which Christians grow. Satan must be drowned in the blood of Christians, consequently there is no art that can suppress the Gospel by force.” (Martin Luther, Sermon on Matthew 22:15-22)