Updated: May 2
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches… When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
“And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” Revelations 1: 9-18
John, the youngest of Jesus’ chosen twelve, who called himself “the beloved,” has grown old unlike most of his fellow disciples and is now in exile because of his faith. This vision of Christ in the first chapter of Revelation takes place in John’s present time.
Listen to John’s vision of the coming Christ, the Son of God; not as a baby in manger or a broken man hanging on a cross now but Christ in all his glory. Remember, here is a mere son of man, John, witnessing with his human, limited eyes the Son of Man, Christ. We make a mistake when we try to envision the true natural nature of God through our poor eyesight. When you envision God, the Father and the Son, what do they look like?
John’s vision of Christ is not just a spirit devoid of form. There is so much detail here. I want you to try to grasp how these pieces of puzzle in Christ’s pure form were echoed throughout the entire bible, both Old and New Testaments. John is trying so hard to put into words what his earthly eyes are seeing. Can we see through the eyes of the Trinity that Christ himself has a body that works like our bodies? “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, …”
Christ is wearing a robe. We will hear more about his robe further in; it is white but later it will be dipped in blood. Here John is allowed to see his dear beloved friend, Jesus, as the almighty Christ for a second time in his old age. Remember, he along with his brother, James, and his fellow apostle, Peter, were witnesses to the Transfiguration.
His hair and face are glowing, brilliant white, full of light.Do you remember how Moses' face glowed with light when he came down the mountain after witnessing God's glory? And his eyes are like blazing fire. Remember Pentecost and the burning bush with its refining fire of affliction. But soon we will witness, in John’s words, God’s wrath as fire of destruction.
Feet of bronze glowing in a furnace, a gold sash? What does bronze represent for the Israelites? Remember the hard-hearted, stiff-necked beloved people of the Lord? Remember the prophet, Isaiah, who was sent to implore his people back to their Living Lord? For I knew how stubborn you were; your neck muscles were iron, your forehead was bronze. Isaiah 48: 4. There is so much more to God’s story for his chosen people as Revelations continues. Bronze will be refined as silver and gold are refined. Remember Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace when the three young men refused to bow down to a golden image? Remember how they survived the fire?
And a voice of rushing waters from a mouth like a double edged sword! Remember water and its destruction in the time of the flood. Remember the parting of the Red Sea for the fleeing Israelites escaping slavery? Now remember water’s redemption as Living Water in Samaria?
Christ, in the fullness of time, born as a mere man in the form of Jesus, brought the broken creation his light and life full of grace and mercy through his words, His Word. Christ, as God’s Son, now in the fullness of time, will bring judgement, the other side of the sword, to the broken creation and its source of perversion - sin and the fallen angel, Satan.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4: 12
Remember our discussion of Christ emptying himself as the Son of Man when he came incarnate, in the flesh, to the broken earth? There is no discussion, no argument as to his divinity here in His Second Coming. He who is, and who was, and who is to come, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth, the First and the Last, the Living One, who holds the keys of death and Hades.
In Matthew 24, Jesus reveals to his disciples a detailed and very frightening prophecy of what is to come when he, the Son of Man, returns “at the end of the age.” When questioned as to when this prophecy would come about, when these dear friends of Jesus could expect to see him in all his glory return, Jesus answered, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. I believe that Christ, again with His Father in heaven and sitting on his right side, now knows the very day and hour of that fateful time.
Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? Have you ever been "in the Spirit?" What does that mean? What were the circumstances?
What in Christ's appearance surprises you?
Do you believe in evil? Do you know of anyone who has succumbed to evil? What do you think has led he or she to that place in their heart?
Does the idea of judgement please you or frighten you?
The Seven Churches
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches." Revelations 1: 19-20
Revelation's chapters 2 and 3 address the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, now present day Turkey, that were seeded after the diaspora of the early Christians following persecution by the Romans. Can you remember the discussion of what the word “diaspora” means? It is a greek word for the scattering and sowing of grain for crops. These seven churches were the result of Christ’s Word being carried to a broken creation by the work of the disciples and Paul. What structure do you see in each church’s description? Each of the churches, the seven lampstands, is given an angel who will deliver a personal message of blessing and rebuke.
In each message to each church, Christ begins with the phrase, "I know..." This personal and intimate statement expresses a relationship between God's Son, now in the heavens, and each small band of struggling Christians held captive on the earth. This is followed by either a compliment or a criticism of that church's heart. The churches vary greatly in their spiritual health. Next, Christ exhorts each church to either mend its ways or to continue in its good work. These words come straight from the mouth of Christ to his beloved followers, the young Christians sown like wheat upon the earth. Jesus' parable of the sower has taken root:
“A farmer went out to sow his seed...But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." Luke 8: 5-15
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Can you find the seven attributes of Christ among the messages? Each church is likewise given a promise for eternity to its overcomers:
To the one who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Remember how Adam and Eve were barred from the Garden of Eden so as not to be able to eat from the tree of life? The one who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death, I will give some of the hidden manna. Here is again Christ as the bread of life. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. Remember how Jacob and Peter received new names?
I will give authority over the nations— that one will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. The one who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white... Remember what Christ is dressed in? The overcomer will be his bride in white.
... I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. The one who overcomes, I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. To the one who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Some of the imagery and language of the messages to the seven churches is difficult for us to understand. But we get the meat of the praises and warnings coming from the mouth, the double-edged sword of Christ.
What does the number seven signify? Remember, our first mention of the Trinity’s delight with the number seven came within the context of their breathing us into being with their very Ruach:
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2: 2-3
Seven is a holy number that combines the Trinity with the four elements of their creation. There is much said about four in Revelation: the four living creatures in the throne room, the four horsemen given authority by God, the four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, the four winds. There are seven lampstands, seven stars, seven spirits, and seven horns of the Lamb. There will be seven seals, seven angels with trumpets, seven mysterious thunders, and seven bowls.
Seven signifies completion in its very number. In the Old Testament, Moses was directed by God on the mountain to proclaim seven holy feasts of the Lord. Take a moment to read Leviticus 23. All of these feasts were to be fulfilled by Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection and are now, at this time of Christ’s Second Coming, to be completed for the rebirth of the creation’s new life in eternity with its holy family, the Trinity. Seven: completeness, fullness, contentment, my cup runneth over…
The Second Coming of Christ will bring destruction to the broken creation that has been seduced by Satan and mankind’s sin ever since the Garden of Eden and the eating of the apple from the tree of knowledge. This is known as the Great Tribulation and it will last seven years. This time of God’s Wrath will be divided into two halves, each three and a half years long. How long was Jesus given his father’s authority to preach, teach and heal, to usher in the kingdom of God? Three and a half years.
These beautiful if not also flawed, seven churches are in our past now, but they are in John’s present when he sees Christ in his vision of Chapter 1. They, these churches, are also in our present now, as we worship and serve our God in our Christian churches today. Remember, Revelation is like a telescope that operates both as to time and place.
What will happen to the churches in the end times? Have you ever heard of the rapture? As Christians, we are taught that we will by "raptured" to God in the end times. The Greek word for rapture means to seize or carry away by force, to snatch away. Interestingly, the word, rapture, never appears in the Bible in regard to the church and the bride. But we will be taken up to Christ when he comes again. Jesus prophesied to the disciples before his arrest:
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other…” Matthew 24: 30-31
And Paul, after Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection and calling to him on the road to Damascus, after he has proclaimed himself a disciple of the Lord tells us:
According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4: 5-17
When will this happen?
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Matthew 24: 36-42
During the end times, the Great Tribulation, that seven year period, the Trinity will accomplish several necessary elements of their original plan. The church, Christ’s beloved, will be gathered up to him in the heavens to become his bride. The Trinity will redeem the beloved chosen people, God's daughter Jerusalem, the nation of Israel. The Lord made a promise, a holy covenant to the Patriarchs, beginning with Abraham, and the Lord does not and cannot break his word, his holy Word. God's covenant to Abraham will be brought into fruition. The Lord, the Trinity will judge the unbelieving, godless inhabitants of the earth. And, lastly, Satan will be finished for all time and eternity. Christ is coming again to finish what must be done.
Do you have a church home? What makes it a home for you?
Can you find your church within one of the Seven Churches of Revelation?
Have you been embraced by a church?
If not, why? Have you ever been hurt by a church?
Have you been hurt by a Christian?
Have you ever been guided by the Holy Spirit to confront and counsel a fellow Christian? What was the result?
Let’s reverse the question, has anyone ever felt the need to counsel or confront you as a Christian? What was the result?
Does the gathering of Christ’s elect please or frighten you? Were you taught about the rapture as a child? What did you think about it then?
Have your feelings as an adult changed? Will it be awful or awesome?
The 29:11 Story
All the men and women on the 29:11 Story have been invited by the Lord to come and sit at his table with him. The Lord has knocked on each and every heart of every man and woman, every child, ever born and ever died as part of his creation. The Holy Spirit has whispered and breathed fresh joy on all. But some have turned away and refused to eat, to open and to smell the delicious air of the Trinity. We, those of us who do sit at his table, open our hearts, and inhale the Spirit, will become in time the beautiful Bride of Christ.
Follow the 29:11 Story from the creation of Adam and Eve, throughout the rest of humanity’s story which is the Lord’s Story to where you find the pure, white Bride of Christ. She is the church, all the church. She will be taken up in the clouds, in the twinkling of an eye and washed white in the blood of the Lamb.
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. James 5: 14-15
When my son was diagnosed with cancer, we were very active in a big church. I called and requested that his name be put in the bulletin for prayers. The answer, “We have a policy not to request prayers in the bulletin, you can write his name on a slip of paper and put it in the small chapel.” My stunned response, “I really want and need the entire church to pray for my son.” Again, “I’m sorry, the church is too big to list everyone who requests prayer so we have a policy not to list names in the bulletin…”
When I found the need for a healing ceremony as I searched Christ’s Word for comfort, I called the minister and asked him to come to visit my son and pray over him. His response, “You know that won’t heal him. We do symbolic healing services the first Wednesday of the month in the chapel.” My entreaty, “We will be in Birmingham for surgery then.” “I’m sorry…”
When my precious 12 year old boy was being confirmed with his fellow friends, he slipped and fell when his crutches hit the marble floor as he was trying to walk up to the front of the church. After the service, several friends came and said, “We had no idea that William was sick.” “I didn’t know that your son has cancer.” “Why didn’t we know this was happening in your family.”
Together, one day after we left one Sunday morning after service, we agreed that we needed to find a new church. Before we left, I and a friend went to the staff meeting to explain our departure. “You can’t just walk into a staff meeting and request to be heard. You have to be on the agenda.” We came back the next week, on the agenda. With the Holy Spirit, I explained that the church had been given a gift with my son and his cancer. It was a lovely gift, a chance to unite and pray and love a child and a family in a Christian embrace. “We’re sorry you feel this way…”
Our new church that we embraced was the one that embraced us. It was the first one we visited. When William’s cancer returned, our new minister, Hal, said, “We’re walking with you…” We found our home there. So many churches in our Christian community embraced William as he fought his demon. “My church has his name on our bulletin.” “We pray for him every Sunday morning.” “Our youth group prays for him every Wednesday evening.” Christ’s Bride in waiting is so loving and generous. She is being refined in the fire of affliction; she will be so pure.
What surprised you today?
What new connections in the Bible did you make today?
What questions do you want to explore further about today's study?
Read all of Matthew 18. What can you glean from it regarding members of our church? What must we be like to be counted as Christ’s body of believers?
How does your church and other churches you’ve attended measure up according to Christ’s desires?
In the passage in Revelation 1, where is John when he sees Christ? Where is Christ? When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me.
Who do you remember who Jesus gave the keys to heaven to? What does that mean? Read Matthew 16:19.
What happened to the other disciples? Read John 21. How did Peter die? What does the arisen Jesus mean when he answers Peter’s question concerning John? Did that happen? Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21: 20-22
Was John alive when Christ returned?
Please read Revelation 2-3 carefully now
What warnings do you find? What praises?
Read Exodus 25: 31-40
The Greek word for rapture is harpazó. Read Revelation 12: 1-5. Who was raptured in this passage?