The Focus of Revelation: Part 2

Norbert Lieth

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Rev 1:4-6).

The seven churches are the congregations to which the seven missives are addressed. Since the number seven is a number of perfection, it indicates the total church of all times.

The seven Spirits are a picture of the fullness of the Holy Spirit; of His sevenfold ministry (Isa 11:2), which is also represented in the seven-branched candlestick, the Menorah (Zech 4:2-6). “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isa 11:2).

Some are of the view that these seven Spirits are seven angelic beings, since angels are also described as spirits in Scripture (Heb 1:14). And, because they are before the throne, they appear to have a subordinate position. This cannot be said of the Holy Spirit, who is God. (At the same time, one could also say that the seven Spirits before the throne are in fact equated with God, since John wishes the churches “grace” and “peace” equally from the Father, the Son, and the seven Spirits.) According to verse 20, if the seven stars represent the angels of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks stand for seven churches, the seven Spirits might point to seven special angels sent out into the whole world (Rev 5:6). Both interpretations—the fullness of the Holy Spirit or seven angelic princes—seem possible.

In the very first chapter, Revelation makes the primacy and uniqueness of the Lord Jesus clear: He is the One who is, who was, and who is to come. He is God from eternity. He was in this world. And He will come again (Rev 1:7). When He calls Himself “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Rev 22:13), He makes Himself God, for this is a divine title: “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (Is 44:6b; cf. 41:4; 48:12). God revealed Himself in Christ Jesus (Rev 4:8; 11:17).

Jesus is the faithful witness who, as a human being on this earth, served God the Father devotedly (Isa 55:4; John 4:34; Luke 22:42). As such, He is the firstborn from the dead, who will never again die (Col 1:18). He is the prince of the kings of the earth, the future ruler on the earth.

Through Him we receive “grace,” a divine favor without our participation. By this grace we receive “peace” with God. He gives us His love in this way, for He gave Himself for us and shed His blood for our forgiveness.

And this Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is coming again: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Rev 1:7).

Even the Old Testament prophet Daniel writes that the Lord will come with the clouds (Dan 7:13). Christ Himself also testifies that He will return with power and glory in the clouds of heaven (Matt 24:30; 26:64). A cloud took hold of Him as He rose from the Mount of Olives to heaven (Acts 1:9-11), and He will come down again the same way (Zech 14:4).

All will see Him—also and especially Israel; to be precise, “all kindreds of the earth” (Rev 1:7). This formulation derives from the prophecy in Zechariah 12:10-12: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart…”

Therefore, Revelation points to Israel in particular, to the people of the Jews “which pierced him.” God will pour upon them a spirit of grace and supplication, and they will lament over the Lord (Zech 12:10; Matt 24:30), whom they despised for two millennia.

John receives the visions of Revelation on the “Day of the Lord”: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea” (Rev 1:10-11).

Many see the “Day of the Lord” as a reference to Sunday as the day of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. It is more likely, however, that John is referring to the day of the Lord’s judgment mentioned several times in the Scriptures, which he experiences in the Spirit as a prophet. He has seen this day (cf. Rev 4:2). Therefore, John is to write down after verse 11 what he sees “in spirit.” The “Day of the Lord” is repeatedly proclaimed as the day of judgment in the Old and New Testaments (Joel 1:15; 2:31; Isa 13:6-9; Mal 4:5; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Pet 3:10). In Revelation, this day finds its fulfillment.

In the New Testament, the day of resurrection is always considered the “first day of the week” (Matt 28:1; Acts 20:7, et al.). If John meant the day of resurrection, he probably would have used this formulation as he did in the Gospel of John, and as the other biblical authors of that time did (John 20:1, 19). It was only later in the history of the church that the term “the Lord’s Day” was equated with Resurrection Day (Sunday). The biblical context is always the key to interpretation.

Literally, it should read, “I was in the Spirit on the day belonging to the Lord,” or, “I was in the Spirit on the day of the Lord.” It is the day that belongs to the Lord and which God has given to His Son, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him” (Rev 1:1). Revelation is the Day of the Lord and belongs entirely to the Lord Jesus.

“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son…And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man” (John 5:22, 27). As the “Son of man,” the Lord Jesus, of all people, is also introduced in connection with the “Lord’s day” in Revelation 1:10. Christ Himself affirms that this future day belongs to Him: “For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day” (Luke 17:24).

Thus, the “Day of the Lord” is the day that belongs to Him, and John goes through this day “in the Spirit” as a prophet. The phrase “in the Spirit” aligns with the prophet Ezekiel, who experienced the same thing: “Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me” (Ezek 11:24). And, “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones” (Ezek 37:1).

“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps [chest] with a golden girdle [sash]” (Rev 1:12-13).

The term “Son of man” isn’t found a single time in the apostle Paul’s letters to the church, but certainly in Daniel 7:13, and over and over again in the Gospels (in which the Lord speaks to the people of Israel); also once in Acts 7:56, as the last words of dying Stephen to the Jewish people. Hebrews 2:6 also mentions the “Son of man,” but this is a quote from Psalm 8 and addresses mankind in general.

The title “Son of man” refers to the earthly rule of the Lord. Revelation is addressed to the church, but has as its great theme the judgment of the world and of Israel (Rev 1:7).

This Son of man is “clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (Rev 1:13-16).

This description of the Lord Jesus reflects the appearance of the Lord in the Old Testament (e.g. Ps 93; Dan 7:9; 10:5-6; Ezek 1:1-2, etc.). Revelation is the link and eventual fulfillment of all Old Testament prophetic statements. Theologian Robert Haldane once said, “The nation of Israel cannot be deprived of what He [God] committed to do for them.”

John sees symbols for what the Lord is, for His majesty, His offices, and His attributes. The long robe expresses dignity. The golden belt around His chest points to the heavenly, divine, and eternal high priesthood. His white head and white hair are like the white light that was visible in the Shekinah, the cloud of the glory of God in the tabernacle. But white also points to His incorruptible righteousness—like the white throne of judgment (Rev 20:11). His eyes like a flame of fire indicate that His gaze penetrates and judges everything. Only what is “fireproof” can exist before Him: gold, silver, and precious stones. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor 3:13). “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13).

His feet, like shining brass, as if glowing in the fire, are reminiscent of the altar of burnt offering. God Himself is a consuming fire that consumes everything ungodly. His voice, like the sound of many waters, means that His Word fulfills and dominates everything. When Christ speaks, everything else falls silent.

The seven stars in His right hand symbolize the seven churches that are written of in Revelation (Rev 1:20). What the Lord holds in His right hand belongs to Him; He alone looks after it. Jesus is the right arm of the Lord, the arm of deliverance, and eternal salvation. “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (Isa 53:1). No one can tear His possession out of His hand (John 10:28-29).

The double-edged sword that emerges from the mouth of the Lord symbolizes the sharpness of His Word. It separates and cuts. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). His Word will also judge the nations (Rev 19:15). And His face, which shines like the sun in its power, makes us think of the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus: “And he was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matt 17:2; cf. 2 Pet 1:16-21).

This Old Testament imagery also shows us that Revelation has to do with Israel’s salvation and the return of her Messiah Jesus in glory.

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev 1:17-18).

Have you ever seen someone fall to the ground from a heart attack or an epileptic seizure? Something like this happened to John, and Ezekiel and Daniel reacted in the same way to the heavenly glory (Ezek 1:28—2:2; Dan 10:9). No person can stand before the living God. No one will be able to stand upright in front of Him. No one will be able to justify himself. No one will be able to assert himself. Since the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, death itself must fear Him.

But now we see the Lord’s reaction to the one who believes in Him and is His servant: “And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not” (Rev 1:17). Everyone redeemed by Jesus Christ can count themselves blessed. Such people need not be afraid of God. They are set upright and comforted.

He, who is the first and the last, and of a divine nature (Rev 1:8); who rose from the dead; who Himself lives from eternity to eternity; who holds in His hands the power of death; to whom the Revelation belongs; and who has power over all future events—He preserves and consoles those who belong to Him. They do not have to be afraid. Their life and death are in His hands. They are not left to fate. They belong to Him and are in His world.

For believers in Jesus Christ, that means whatever happens, whatever you have to go through, do not be afraid!

And so John receives the command, “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches” (Rev 1:19-20).

Verse 19 forms the self-division of Revelation: “the things which thou hast seen” comprises chapter 1; “the things which are” chapters 2–3, and “the things which shall be hereafter” chapters 4–22. It shows us that we are called and appointed to proclaim the whole counsel of God, His Gospel, and the biblical prophetic Word of His return until He comes. “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).

Midnight Call - 06/2019

ContactAbout UsPrivacy and Safety