“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
-The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
When we were missionaries in Swaziland, we actually lived a few hours away from Kruger National Park and Game Reserve. We really wanted to see the big cats. I had seen them before, but never in the wild. My mind raced through what we could see: leopard, cheetah, and the biggest of all, the lion. What if we could see a big male with the huge black mane?
By dawn, we were already traveling up the dirt roads on a camera safari looking for the big cats. First, we saw giraffe, zebra, kudu, bontebuck, and lots and lots of impala….but, not cats, not even a house cat. The next day, we started all over. At dawn, we drove up the road and saw our first cat, a young male lion walking beside us on the road. Only the thickness door of the VW station wagon we were driving separated us. He was our big cat. He was magnificent. He walked beside us as we snapped pictures for well over a minute then took a hard turn and disappeared into the brush. We could go home happy.
Since that began our day, we chose to stay in the wild looking for whatever else we could find. Maybe an African wild dog or a leopard, or some elephants, rhino, sable, or eland would be out there. We had lots of work to do for our African Photo Safari. By the time it was late morning, we saw cars stopped on the side of the road. We got as close as we could, stopped, and pulled out the cameras and binoculars. There it was, an alpha male with black mane and his pride surrounding a kill. A hippo kill! We were only a few yards away as we watched this master of the African plain guard his kill from all other predators. I had seen a lion before, but nothing like this. When threatened by people getting out of their cats, he charged (right into my binoculars…roll up the window, I screamed!! Satisfied that no one nor anything else needed to be put in its place, he returned to his hippo kill, grabbed the creature with his jaws, picked it up, and moved it with a power that had never experienced before. Yes, I had seen a circus lion and a zoo lion, but nothing like this. It was like seeing a lion for the very first time.
We have here the account of John going through much the same thing, but with much, much more awe as he sees Jesus for the first time, again.
Think about this...
John walked with Jesus for 3 years. There is wide belief that the John writing this book is John the Apostle. John, the one whom Jesus loved, the youngest of the apostles. This man was one of the best friends Jesus had while on earth. In order for us to understand that from a relationship viewpoint, John was the man to whom Jesus entrusted with His mother, Mary. He also asked Mary to take care of His friend as well. You did well for me, now do the same for John.
This was the John who knew Jesus better than anyone alive at this point in church history, and yet we discover that the Jesus John thought of was quite different than the Jesus that revealed Himself in Revelation 1. He looked to Jesus, but this time in a whole new way for him. His view of Jesus was incomplete. Although John saw Jesus as the Messiah on earth, He was so much more. His glory had been cloaked while He was on earth. And even though John was one of the few who saw Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, this Jesus was not only the glorified Christ, but the reigning Christ.
Maybe you are here this morning and your view of Jesus has been small and incomplete. We are often taken by all that Jesus did for us. And it is a lot. But this is not all Jesus is to us. I want you to look to Jesus and see Him not only for who He was; not only for what He did, but also for who He is. Jesus is Savior. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the reigning King.
1. Look to Jesus for the Promise of Blessings (Rev. 1:1-3)
This is a direct revelation from God given to John to let us know what God is doing. John was the one whom He spoke through who had been banished to the Isle of Patmos off the coast of modern-day Turkey, then known as Asia Minor. It was His testimony concerning Jesus Christ that we are told caused him to be physically tortured. Tertullian (early church historian from the second century AD insisted he was). He was soon afterward dispatched to the Isle of Patmos because of his influence with the church that had by now become trouble for the Roman government.
This was written to the churches in Asia Minor (see v. 11). Persecution was a daily reality for the church. John added that it would be worth their while to read this message from Jesus. He told them, “The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed” (v. 3). Seemingly there is a double blessing for anyone if they will but hear and read the message found in this revelation from Jesus that He trusted John with. Certainly, that same blessing extends to each of us today.
7 blessings statements found in Revelation
1. The Blessing for Reading and Hearing this Book (Rev. 1:3)
2. The Blessing for dying in the Lord faithfully (Rev. 14:13)
3. The Blessing for remaining alert (Rev. 16:15)
4. The Blessing for an Invitation at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9)
5. The Blessing for the First Resurrection (Rev. 20:6)
6. The Blessing for the Keeping the Prophetic Words (Rev. 22:7)
7. The Blessing for Washing your Robes (Rev. 22:14)
All of these blessings are given by the One who is worthy to bestow them because He is the One who suffered and died to make our ultimate blessing found in eternal life through trust in Him. Then that same blessing is recorded and sent out to the churches by one who also suffered deeply for the testimony he gave before the Roman government concerning Jesus. The promise of blessing through those who suffered as the Gospel (Jesus) and for the sake of the Gospel (John).
You see, the promises of God are yes and amen. They are yours unless God in His sovereignty chooses to say, "No."
2. Look to Jesus for Victory over Struggles (Revelation 1:4-8)
Representing the local churches, John wrote to the 7 churches in Asia Minor. Under Domitian here are the kinds of persecution they all faced daily in the Roman empire under the reign of the mad man.
St. John, who was boiled in oil, and afterward banished to Patmos. Law was made, "That no Christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion."
Pagans blamed the Christians for famine, pestilence, or earthquakes afflicted any of the Roman provinces.
Christians were brought before the magistrates, a test oath was proposed, when, if they refused to take it, death was pronounced against them; and if they confessed themselves Christians, the sentence was the same.
Dionysius, the Areopagite, was an Athenian by birth, and educated in all the useful and ornamental literature of Greece. Appointed bishop of Athens.
Nicodemus (of John 3:16 fame) was executed.
Timothy was the celebrated disciple of St. Paul, and bishop of Ephesus, where he zealously governed the Church until A.D. 97. At this period, as the pagans were about to celebrate a feast (called Catagogion), Timothy, meeting the procession, severely reproved them for their ridiculous idolatry, which so exasperated the people that they fell upon him with their clubs, and beat him in so dreadful a manner that he expired of the bruises two days later. --Quoted from Foxes Book of Martyrs
In What Kind of Struggles Does Christ Bring Victory?
- Struggles with difficult people – from government persecution to those who would take matters into their own hands, people are hard to get along with
- Struggles with wrong belief – the Nicolaitans, Jezebel, the error of Balaam (compromise of lifestyle and beliefs)
- Struggles with challenging circumstances – uncontrolled challenges, self-made problems, difficulties brought on by acts of nature, poverty and loss brought on by a bad economy
Yet, in all these things we are made more than conquerors who loved us! (Romans 8:37)
3. Look to Jesus for Concern for His Church (Revelation 1:9-18)
Jesus is now ascended. He sees His churches and He has great concern for them. Many of you heard Pastor Tommy teach us on the churches of Revelation all mentioned here in v. 11. Each one of these churches has its own struggles. Most from within, and two from without. No matter what the issues that they faced, Jesus saw each church and knew that each needed His help. That help would come as correction, reproof, and instruction.
The good news is threefold:
1) JESUS CHOOSES TO BE WITH HIS PEOPLE (v. 13)
These words came directly from their loving caring shepherd who was among them (v. 13) and wanted more than anything to change this world through them. We can only think that they heard and we are here today because they heard the words or correction or encouragement. Because representing every church through the ages, they were called to change the world.
Here is where John experiences the ascended Jesus for the very first time. Note the similarities to Daniel 7:9-10:
9 “As I kept watching, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was white like snow, and the hair of His head like whitest wool. His throne was flaming fire; its wheels were blazing fire. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from His presence. Thousands upon thousands served Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was convened, and the books were opened.This is the Jesus we serve. The one who is an incredible, glorious, majestic and in control of all things.
Let's break down verse 16 so we can look at the perspective of God
(v. 16a) The stars are the leaders (angels as in messengers) of these churches that the messages of Revelation 2 & 3 are addressed. The spiritual significance is that the angels are messengers who are responsible for the spiritual welfare of these seven churches and at in the right hand of the Son of Man, indicating possession, protection, and sovereign control.
2) JESUS CHOOSES TO MAKE ALL THINGS RIGHT (v. 16b)
(v. 16b) When someone comes against the church, there will be consequences.
This verse continues with the image of a sword coming out of Jesus’ mouth. Rather than being a symbol of the Word of God (different word than what Hebrews 4:12 uses. This sword was typically used by the Roman legions for one purpose, devastating judgment upon those who would harm His people. Rather than a threat, this was a promise to His people of ultimate and complete victory at the hands of our omnipotent and sovereign Savior.God can take care of His own. God can take care of you. God reminded us in Romans 12:19,
“Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.”This then is the Jesus that John sees for the first time again… he is so overwhelmed in awe of the ancient of days that he falls at Jesus’ feet as DEAD (v. 17a)
So, the next time you and I are wallowing in pity and having a big pity party, You can rest assured that the meek and mild Jesus is now the One to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess. Yes, our Lord Jesus will take care of it all. You can rely on that. He will win with overwhelming force.
Take note, this is not Karma, this is judgment. Revelation has a singular purpose, the rule and reign of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ over all that was, is, and is to come.
3) JESUS CHOOSES TO TAKE OUR JUDGMENT (v. 17b)
Listen to these beautiful words to John, the beloved apostle:
He laid His right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades. Revelation 1:17b-18 (HCSB)Jesus was dead. Why? He died to take our judgment. He took our place. He paid our time. He was our substitute.
Think about this, that judgment that will come is real. Judgment is not symbolic or allegorical. The proof is the cross. Jesus is the lamb who was slain. He is the One who took our judgment that kind of judgment, on Himself. Maybe now you can begin to understand why the death of Christ was so horrible. Because our sin was. The only answer to sin is judgment. It is for my judgment that Jesus took my place on the Cross. It is from that Cross that he cried out It is finished, the price has been paid! He tells you today that He took your place as your Savior. You needn’t see His judgment, today, you can experience His grace, His care, His concern, and His love for you. Jesus didn’t stay dead but rose three days later and He and he alone holds the keys to death and Hades.
Because He lives, you too can live, forever. He made a way for you!