A poll conducted by the Barna Group just a few years ago indicated that while a vast majority of Americans believe Jesus was a real person, younger generations are less likely to believe Jesus was sinless or was God.
One group of scholars, who’ve looked into the changing cultural opinions about Jesus, wrote: “Frankly, it’s hard to escape the feeling that our culture has taken Jesus’ question ‘Who do you say that I am?’ and changed it to ‘Who do you want Me to be?’”
Nevertheless, Jesus is not the sum of our speculations about Him. He’s not the wimpy rabbi who roamed the hillsides of Israel saying nice things to people. He is not a good teacher who accepts everyone and judges no one.
In Revelation 1, John got a glimpse of the real Jesus—the Jesus who is coming back one day to reward the righteous and punish the unrighteous. Revelation 1:1–8 serves as the introduction to the book. Beginning with verse 9 John gets into the heart of the revelation about Jesus’s victory over His enemies and the establishment of His kingdom.
During his personal time of worship on “the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10), the Holy Spirit caught John up and projected him in his spirit into the future by means of a vision. Why does that matter? John was where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to be doing, when God’s revelation came to him. Same for us. Sunday is to be a time of worship when we hear from God.
And with “a trumpet [like] voice” (Revelation 1:10) John heard the Lord, instructing John to write down what he saw and to send it to the seven churches in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:11). These churches were selected because they were relatively close to the island of Patmos, because John had served as pastor in Ephesus before being exiled there, and because they represented what was happening in other churches in the first century.
Then in Revelation 1:12, John saw the exalted Christ holding seven golden lampstands. These were Jewish lampstands or menorahs. Each one had three branches on either side of a single shaft where oil lamps could be lit. The lampstands represented the seven churches in Asia, who, like lamps, were to light a dark world with the gospel.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Even in the midst of persecution, we should let our light shine, not hiding it or blowing it out, because Jesus stands “in the middle of the lampstands” (Revelation 1:13).
As John encouraged the believers in the seven churches that they were not alone in their suffering because he was a “fellow partaker” in their suffering, so, too, Jesus stands in our midst whenever we experience hardships or heartaches. Therefore, turn on your spiritual high beams and let your light shine all the brighter.
The image of Christ that John saw on the island of Patmos was not the one presented in the Gospels. In John’s vision Jesus is “one like the son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash” (Revelation 1:13).
“Son of man” was Jesus’s favorite title for Himself in the Gospels. It represents His humanity and His role as Messiah—the Anointed One who came to save His people from the power and presence of sin, who will one day establish a kingdom of righteousness.
What John is telling the persecuted believers in the seven churches—and us—that the presence of Jesus in their midst should give them strength; it should stabilize them in a topsy-turvy world; and it should convict them to maintain their purity of doctrine and way of life.
The fact that Jesus’s voice sounded like Niagara Falls cascading over the cliff helped John’s readers understand that Jesus’s word is powerful, authoritative, and irresistible. It should remind us of the purpose of Revelation—the desire of God to bless those who hear and heed His word (Revelation 1:3).
The Jesus that John saw is the same Jesus who prays for, protects, and provides for us. Our response should be like John’s—worship and obedience. But this will only be our response if we believe the Jesus presented in Revelation 1 is the real picture of Jesus.
The truth taught in Revelation 1 leaves us with a challenge and an encouragement.
The challenge asks: Who is Jesus to you? What kind of Jesus do you believe in?
Chuck Swindoll puts this question well when he wrote: “Do I know and adore the awesome, glorious, powerful Jesus portrayed in the Bible, or have I adopted a culturally [and politically] appropriate, mild-mannered, user-friendly Jesus after my own [or the media’s] imagination?”
Here’s the second question: What do you fear?
In the midst of your trials, difficulties, and suffering you are not alone. If you are part of God’s family you are surrounded by people who love you and will help you—many have survived what you’re going through right now. This was John’s encouragement to the churches when he said, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance” am with you.
But it’s not just fellow believers who stand with you during dark days, so does Jesus. If you believe in the Jesus presented in Revelation 1, He stands within the midst of your trial and is more than capable to meet your every need, to comfort your every hurt, to heal your every wound, to fight your every battle, and to bring victory to your every (seeming) defeat.
The whole book of Revelation tells us that Jesus is coming back again and He’s going to win. And because He is going to be victorious one day, so shall we.