Expository Sermon on Revelation 1
Bellevue SDA Church 12/01/2018
©2018 by Maylan Schurch
(To hear the audio for this sermon, click the white triangular “play” button at the left of the line below.)
Please open your Bibles again to Revelation chapter 1.
This is probably going to be the next-to-the-last sermon in our year-long “Red Print” series. All year, we’ve been going through the Gospels, reading some of the words Jesus actually spoke, and trying to draw principles from them which we need to live by.
And the book of Revelation has some “red print” in it too. Not only does the first verse in the book call it the “Revelation of Jesus Christ,” but Jesus Himself shows up from time to time. And when He speaks, Bibles who print the words of Christ in red in the Gospels will print those Revelation quotes in red as well.
And Revelation chapter 1 contains the only description of what Jesus looks like in the entire Bible. And it’s a post-resurrection description that’s so bright, it almost hurts your eyes! And I’ve often found that description so intimidating that I miss what chapter 1 is really saying.
But this week, I didn’t miss it. Instead, as I read through this chapter, a sentence came into my mind: “He has you covered.”
I’m wondering if maybe “He has you covered” might be one of the most comforting sentences we could probably here. Back when I was a 10-year-old kid, playing army with my best friend Bobby, fighting imaginary Nazi soldiers out behind my dad’s barn, once in a while I felt it necessary to lunge toward the enemy with my plywood machine gun. And Bobby would say, “Go ahead. I’ll cover you.” What he meant was that he would watch, and if he saw the Nazis giving me any trouble, he would let them have it with his own plywood gun.
So for the next few minutes I’m going to go through Revelation chapter 1 and look at some powerful and deeply comforting ways Jesus has us covered. Let’s start with verse one.
Revelation 1:1 – 3 [NKJV]: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
If you like to take sermon notes, here comes what you could call Sermon Point One. What’s one important way Jesus has me covered?
Jesus tells me what my future holds.
About a mile west of where Shelley and I live is a major intersection, and right there close to the intersection is where a psychic has set up business. We’ve been living in that neighborhood since 2005, and I think that this psychic’s studio has been there all that time. Other small businesses will flicker and fade, but not the psychic.
People desperately want to know the future. And Jesus was very aware of this. Back in the sermon on the Mount, He urged us to not get obsessed about tomorrow, but live for today. But then later in the same book, he spoke the prophecies of Matthew 24, and gave a rough outline of events until His return.
Here in Revelation 1, verse one, John writes down the main purpose of this entire book – Jesus wants to show His servants things which must “shortly” take place.
And as far as I can tell, the word “shortly” needs to be understood from the perception of the individual who hears it.
During Thursday night’s church board meeting, somebody mentioned the name of Harley Wellman, one of the founders of our congregation. Harley was a deeply enthusiastic leader in our church, with a twinkle in his eye and an ability to motivate people to dare new things for the Lord.
And Harley, and Herb Brown, and other dear departed saints who did so much to found and build our Bellevue church, often read and heard the verses where Jesus said He would be returning soon. But Harley and Herb and others have passed to their rest. But to their perception, Jesus’ return will have happened just an instant after their death. Of course, Jesus has not really returned yet, and Harley and Herb and others are at rest, but to their perception, the time is not long. The time is short.
And in the book of Revelation, this “Revelation of Jesus Christ,” the Savior gives us still another outline of what will happen until He returns. It’s like He’s saying to us, “Are you worried about the future? Are you concerned what will happen? Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.”
Yesterday morning, people living in or near Anchorage, Alaska were jolted into a period of uncertainty by a 7 magnitude earthquake. Many of you remember Abe and Roopa Ninan and their three wonderful kids. Last night I emailed them to see how they were doing, and Roopa replied. She gave me permission to send her reply to our church email list, and I did that. I also asked if I could read it to you this morning, and she said yes. Here’s what she says:
“It was about 8:29 this morning as Mathew and I were getting ready to head out to school when the rumblings and the shaking started. The whole house was rocking- literally! We just held on to the bed posts, prayed and stayed together with the dog. Michael was at school. Abe & Rachel were on their way to Fairbanks for a school activity. It was a nightmare to say the least. We instantly lost power and I could hear things falling and breaking of glass and it was still dark, I knew this was not a small one. The epicenter was very close to us.
“We were shaking and couple hours later when I felt it was ok to drive, I went and picked up Michael. He was happy to see me. Neighbors came out and checked on each other and we assessed the damage.
“Lots of damage inside the house, but in reality it’s the small things. God truly protected us! When we saw the damage at our friends’ place, we knew God shielded us. Power returned 4 hrs later and we started the cleaning process.
“The ongoing rumbles are giving me anxiety, but I am staying strong and trusting the Lord. The boys and I are trying to sleep on the couch huddled together.
“Please thank everyone who checked on us and for praying for us. Bellevue church will always be HOME for me. Love you all! – Roopa”
In Matthew 24:7, Jesus predicted earthquakes, but urged His followers not to be disconcerted. When my dentist gets ready to numb the area around a tooth that needs working on, she’ll tell me in advance. She’ll say, “Just a little pinch coming.” It actually stings more than a little pinch, but because she has forewarned me, I am ready for it.
So now that I know that Jesus “has me covered” by telling me what the future holds, what should I do? Well, verse 3 tells me how.
Verse 3: Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
When John first wrote the book of Revelation, it was carried around to these churches by a messenger. When it arrived at a particular church, the people would gather together, and somebody would stand up and read it out loud. The Greek word for “read” here is anaginosko, and that’s exactly the same word used back in Luke 4:16, where Jesus “stood up to read” a passage from Isaiah.
So right here at the start of the book of Revelation, John tells us that we will get a triple blessing. We’ll be blessed if we read it, if we listen to it, and if we “keep” what’s written in it. That word “keep” is the same Greek word used when we are urged to keep the commandments. It means to “guard” or “take care of.” Jesus tells us about the future, and it’s our responsibility to listen carefully and follow through on what He says to do.
There’s another way Jesus “has us covered” in this chapter. Let’s start with verse four.
Verses 4 – 6: John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
So what’s the second way Jesus has us covered?
Jesus not only tells me what my future holds, but gives me royal duties higher than any earthly ruler.
Does Jesus have the authority to give us these high positions? Of course He does. Verse 5 says that He rose from the dead, and that He rules over the kings of the earth. And further down in this chapter we will see John describe the Savior’s stunningly powerful appearance.
So if Jesus has made us kings and queens and priests and priestesses representing God, what is that going to look like this coming week?
I was listening to a radio interview or a few days ago, and the person who was being interviewed was some kind of social media expert. He was talking about YouTubers, those people who make YouTube programs they think other people might be interested in.
This interviewee said that it was easy for these YouTubers to get addicted to the attention people give them. Somebody might make one YouTube program that gets a lot of attention, but maybe his or her later programs don’t get as much response. And this can make the YouTuber desperate. He or she finds it difficult when the spotlight turns away.
So if Jesus considers His followers extremely influential, what’s that going to look like? Does it mean we will get a lot of attention? Well, if we look at Jesus’ own life, we get a clue as to what that was like. Nowadays we talk about “following” somebody on Facebook. But Jesus got a lot of literal followers. People followed Him around.
But notice something really significant. Back in Matthew 9, some people carry a paralyzed man into Jesus’ presence, and He says to the man, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Evidently, his sins must’ve been worrying the paralytic more than his paralysis was.)
Well, as always, there were some religious leaders present who were jealous of Jesus. They told Him that He was blaspheming against God, because He had claimed to be able to forgive sins. Jesus said to them [and I’m paraphrasing], “Okay, just to show you that I have power to forgive sins, watch this.” And He says to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And the paralytic promptly gets up and walks home.
And immediately, in Matthew 9:8, the people respond. The verse says, “Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.”
Do you see what happened there? Jesus had behaved in such a way that when He did His miracles – that is, when He exercised His power – the people didn’t glorify Him. They glorified God. They knew who was supplying the power. It wasn’t that Jesus was a magician, or a sorcerer. The power didn’t come from Him, and He didn’t claim that it did. His power came from God.
And I think that’s what we need to keep firmly in mind as we think about our royal, priestly role for God. I know people in this congregation whose influence in the lives of others is powerful and magnetic. This normally doesn’t happen overnight. Most of the time, it takes a lot of consistent, friendly, selfless, God-honoring living to influence somebody else. It takes patience. But God is patient too. Jesus is patient.
I think it would be a good idea for us to pray in the morning, before we leave for whatever we are going to be doing, “Lord, please work through me today. Lead me to someone who needs You.” And then, wherever we are, whoever were talking to, whoever we are texting or emailing to, let’s remember that we are not only ambassadors for God, but priestly royalty. People may be saved or lost depending on the image of God which I reflect.
And people need the Lord so desperately. Earlier this week I heard another radio interview as I was driving along in my car. In this interview, a man, who had formerly been in prison but who was exonerated and now is free, said that what had brought him through those 17 years of incarceration with such a good attitude was what he called “high magic.” He says that even now, he goes through those magic rituals for four or five hours a day. He claims that we lose too much energy from our bodies, and we need to save it.
He went on to talk about some other unusual ideas like that, and what was most bloodcurdling was that he quoted the Bible once in a while. It’s like he was gathering into his magic system all of the important religions of the world and their ideas. He gave me the impression of somebody who had assembled this gigantic spiritual salad bar, and spent his time walking down the line, sampling this and sampling that, and never throwing himself wholeheartedly into anyone system, but creating his own.
When I hear somebody like that, I say to myself, “How sad it is that this person doesn’t know the Jesus of Revelation 1. Here you have a God who loves us, a God who has washed away our sins if we will allow Him to, a God who rules over the kings of the earth, and a God who invites us to become kings and priests and queens and priestesses for Him.
And what is so comforting is that Jesus has us covered. I don’t have to be the one to design and build my own system of salvation. A lot of people have tried this, and it doesn’t work out. But if I know about a God who loves me, and a Savior who died for me, and who not only promises me eternal life, but also puts me to work to help others get to know him – if I know about a God like this, and the power He promises, that I can be one of the most incredibly happy persons on the planet.
And now let’s meet the glorified Jesus Himself, and hear some of what He has to say in this chapter. And we’ll learn one more way in which He has us covered.
As I read, notice where He is, and notice what He says.
Verses 7 – 20: Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
As I mentioned, the picture of Jesus in this chapter almost hurts your eyes to look at. But what He looks like is actually not as important as where He is and what He is doing.
So where is He? He is standing in the midst of seven what you might call floor lamps. Down at the end of the chapter He tells us that those lampstands are the seven churches He has mentioned, and those stars that He has in his hand are the “angels” or “messengers” of those seven churches.
And what’s so encouraging to me is that Jesus is among His churches. For centuries, many Bible scholars have decided that those seven churches are seven phases in church history, and that we are that last phase, the Laodicean phase.
But Jesus is close. John does not see Him far away, watching these churches from a distance. And Jesus is no ordinary mortal. He tells us He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He was alive, and then He died, and then He came back to life.
So what is a third way in which Jesus has us covered?
Jesus not only tells me what my future holds, and not only gives me royal duties higher than any earthly ruler, but Jesus in all His glory is with us right now.
We can’t see Him the way John saw Him, but Jesus loves and cares for all His churches, just the way He cared for those seven. In Matthew 18, verse 20, He told His disciples, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
So He is here. I don’t know what shape the Anchorage Seventh-day Adventist churches are in, but in a later email Roopa said this: “Our churches here in Eagle River and Wasilla have damages. Significant in Eagle River where church is cancelled.” Yet through this crisis, Jesus is there.
And like any “emergency services” person, He comes equipped to help. He comes with a couple of important keys on His key ring – the keys of the grave and of death. He knows where the keyhole is, and He has the power to turn those keys, and fling wide those doors.
Here in Revelation, it’s clear that Jesus is not only the provider of its message, but He is also the center of its plot. Jesus is all the world to me, and to you, and to anyone who has come to know Him.