The Epistle of Jesus #1: Behold The Coming King
Key Verse: Revelation 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.Video Link
A old-time preacher was into this message about heaven. He was getting excited as he came to the conclusion and then called out in a fervent voice to the congregation. “How many of you want to go to heaven?” Of course everybody in that small church raised their hand high except one old guy who usually slept through the sermon. He didn’t raise his hand and so the pastor called out again, “How many here today want to go to heaven? There were amens and hallelujahs from all those with their hands raised, but not the old guy, who just set there, kind of bewildered at all the hands raised around him. Finally, the pastor got personal, called the man by name and asked him, “Brother don’t you want to go to heaven when you die?” The broke into a smile of relief and he said, “Well of course I do, but the way you was a preaching I thought you were trying to get up a group and leave this minute.”
Sometimes preaching or studying the book of Revelation can be like that. We look at the symbols, the warnings and the times we are in and begin to think we’re leaving right this minute. I believe in the immanent return of Christ meaning He can come back at anytime, but I don’t want to be looking for signs and events and then think His return is immediate. Immanent means at any time and that what we need to believe, but immediate can make you fearful or foolish and that is not what we need.
I’m praying for a different perspective and outcome as we go through the book of Revelation.
Greeting - Revelation 1:1-4
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. 4 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;
Purpose Revealing of Jesus
In the very first verse, John writes, that this is, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The word revelation is the Greek Word: ἀποκάλυψις, which is transliterated for us today as, apocalypse. It does not mean end of the world, cataclysm, or dooms day. It simply means the revealing or the unveiling. And so, John is saying that this epistle is the revealing of Jesus Christ. That is its first and primary purpose.
To really benefit from the Book of Revelation you need to understand and keep in the uppermost of your mind that purpose. The book of Revelation, the apocalypse, was not written to give us details of the future or help us name the anti-christ. (Hint: it wasn’t Donald Trump or Barack Obama. Nor was it one of the Roman Emperors or one of the popes, Mohammad or Hitler.) Revelation was not written so we could know the future, but it was written that we might know Him who holds the future. It was not written to know when the Lord is coming back but to know and rejoice in Him who is coming back.
It was written to give hope to those in John’s time suffering under the persecutions of the Jews, and the Roman emperors. It is also written for us when we go through persecution, pain and sorrow that we will know this is not the end, for Jesus is Lord and has the keys of death and hell. He will come and all pain and sorrow will be conquered. Finally, Revelation was especially written for those who will be caught in the Great Tribulation, those who put their faith in Jesus after the rapture, and specifically to the Old Covenant people of God, the believers of Israel, who will then recognize their coming Messiah, was truly the long rejected Jesus of Nazareth. This letter from Jesus to them will give hope and they will know that this time is not the end of the world but only the beginning of eternity.
John writes that the letter was “sent and signified by his angel (his messenger) unto his servant John” The word signified means “to show by a sign.” That’s important because John is saying, this vision is signified, proven with the things John saw, beginning with his vision of Jesus.
John as amanuensis for Jesus, Jesus’ epistle to the churches
I have entitled this series, The Epistle of Jesus, to focus on its purpose, to reveal Jesus the returning King. It was recorded by John in a sense writing as Jesus’ amanuensis, his scribe. In Revelation 1:11 Jesus commands, “What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches.” And the Jesus proceeds to supernaturally show in a vision, the Revelation you now hold in your hand. This is the only time Jesus told any of the New Testament writers to write. The Gospels, Acts, the Epistles and personal letters that make up the New Testament were inspired and supervised by the Holy Spirit but this book, this is the epistle of Jesus, given to John directly by the Lord.
John wrote while he was on the island of Patmos around 96 AD, which at that time was a Roman penal colony, a rocky, hot, volcanic island prison. It served the same purpose as Alcatraz or Devil’s island would centuries later. The members of the early church of Jesus had undergone persecution from the Jews in Palestine and anywhere the Sanhedrin had authority, then the church had to endure the persecution of the full power and authority of the Roman empire, under Nero, who blamed the new sect called Christians for the burring of Rome in 64 AD. Under Nero’s authority, both Peter and Paul were executed.
Now in 96 AD another emperor descended from the same family that had destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, begins to persecute the people of God. Emperor Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus; usually called Domitian. He deified himself and began referring to himself as Dominus et Deus (“Lord and God”). This of course put the followers of Jesus, those who would only name Jesus as Lord and God, in direct conflict with the emperor. The book of Revelation was written during this very dangerous and dark time.
It was dark for all the people of God but it was especially dark for the last apostle of Jesus, John. John now around 100 years old was the most important living person of the still young Christian faith. It was John who testified in his first epistle, 1 John 1:1-2, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
To control the Christians, Domitian, needed to shut up John and so he was sent to the rocky island prison of Patmos, hopefully to die but definitely to be shut up. But oh, my what a different outcome came from that island of isolation. Instead of controlling the last apostle, Domitian, unleashed the coming eternal King, Jesus. Domitian wanted worship as deserving a god, but instead he was killed the same year John wrote this epistle. Domitian wanted others to believe he was eternal, instead his life was measured in just months and John from that island prison revealed the only true eternal one, Jesus God’s own Son.
Lets go to verse 5 and we are going to see, listen and experience with John, Jesus Who was, Jesus He is and Jesus Who is To come.
Jesus Who Was - Revelation 1:5-8
5 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, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 7 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. 8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Jesus as John Knew Him
John in his greeting to the seven churches, address it from himself and from Jesus Christ. He then begins to describe and praise his Lord and Savior. In this opening section, John remembers the Jesus who was, the Jesus he knew, loved and has served for over 70 years.
Take note of the Jesus John knew and praises.
John says, He is the faithful witness. By this he means that Jesus was God the Father’s witness, the word witness is martyr in the Greek and it here is especially means that Jesus gave the ultimate testimony, his own life to be a witness of God’s truth and love.
John’s praise continues as he says that Jesus is the first begotten of the dead, a phrase which means the He is the first above all others who have been or will be resurrected from the dead. Jesus is above all. Jesus was not the first to come back to life, but He is and always will be the only one who in his own power conquered and overcame death.
He is the prince, the ruler of Kings of the earth. Many kings are seen in the book of Revelation, but just as Jesus is above all those who are resurrected, he is also above all kings and rulers. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
John praises Jesus for the three-fold work that He accomplished upon the cross: He loved us, washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests. A way of saying he has made us a kingdom of priests. (There is a three point sermon outline in just that phrase and by the time we are finished we all might wish I had just gone with it.)
John’s praise then crescendos, reaches its climax with “To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen!
Also, take note that the Jesus John knew, had promised to return.
John says, “Behold, he comes with clouds and every eye shall see him and they also which pierced Him and all the kindreds of earth shall wail.”
He finishes his thought with Even, so Amen, a doubly assurance, written in both Greek, the even so and Hebrew, the amen. Even so, Amen means it is doubly sure, doubly true to both the new and old covenant people of God. It is also a prayer to God. Even though his coming will cause many to wail, and others to have such aching regrets, even so, let it be.
Then John quotes the Jesus he knew. Revelation 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. Three times in this opening passage Jesus will claim the title of Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
In just the first 4 verses we are given a powerful, praiseworthy picture of Jesus from the apostle who know Him best and had served him longest.
And as we consider the Jesus John knew we must consider …
Do We Know This Jesus?
Do we know Jesus as the faithful witness who died on the cross for the truth of God’s promises? Do we know Jesus who went to the cross to prove his love for us, to wash away our sin with his shed blood and do we know Him who has made us a kingdom of priests through His death on the cross.
Do you know this Jesus, because if you do not then you will be one of those who instead of saying Even so, Come Lord Jesus, will be among those wailing when they think of Him coming in the clouds.
You must know Him as John did, as one who has had his sin washed in his blood or you will know Him as one who is guilty of His blood. Know him as Savior or know Him as judge. Know him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords or know him as the avenging captain of the Lord’s host, carrying the sword of God’s wrath.
Do you know Jesus today because waiting until he comes in the clouds will be too late.
Illustration: The Man Born Blind (?)
Do you remember the story of the man born blind that Jesus healed? It is one of the longest accounts of any of the miracles of Jesus. It begins with the apostles asking Jesus why was this man born blind. Jesus heals him in answer to their question. “This man’s blindness is an opportunity for God’s work to be revealed in him.”
Jesus then heals him, but he does not tell the man who he is. The man is sent by Jesus to wash eyes in the pool of Siloam and he can see. It is such a miracle and because it happened on the Sabbath, the Pharisees question and man, reject his explanations and kick him out of the synagogue. When Jesus hears this, he goes in search of the man and when he finds him, asks him. Do you believe in the Son of God? What a question! It is perhaps the most direct invitation Jesus ever gave to an individual. The man in utter sincerity says, “Lord, Who is He?” and Jesus answers you have seen him he is talking with you now.” And he said, “Lord, I believe.”
In a sense that story is true for everyone, The Holy Spirit through God’s word asks, “Do you believe in the Son of God? Do you know Jesus?” That man came to know Jesus and much more important than his sight being restored, his soul was saved. Today could be the day that if you don’t know Him, then he will show himself to you, through His word and my prayer would be that you would answer, “Lord I believe.”
Now John brings us into the events as there were happening to him. And he shows us Jesus in the present that day with him. He shows us the …
Jesus Who Is - Revelation 1:9-11
9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11 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.
(This is) Jesus As John Heard Him
John calls himself their brother and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. He is with them in the family of God, with them in suffering for God and with them in the work of the Kingdom or heaven and waiting for Jesus Christ.
He relates to them, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day.” Do you know what John was doing when Jesus gave him the greatest vision ever given to any one man? He was in church. He was worshipping God on Sunday, the Lord’s day. What an appropriate time to hear from Jesus. And that is exactly what happened.
John says I heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet, saying I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.
He is then commissioned by Jesus to write the epistle of Jesus. He is to send this epistle to the seven church in Asia, to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
John heard the voice of Christ as a trumpet, a voice you could not ignore, a sound you could not mistake. What a fitting sound for the voice of the returning King. Trumpets are thought the book of Revelation; in 4:1, the trumpet calls John up to heaven, in 8:2ff, trumpets signal that the wrath of God poured out on an unrepentant world. The trumpets of the Old Testament assembled God’s people to the tabernacle, proclaimed war, and announced the feasts and holy days of God. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we read 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise. In Matthew 24:31 it is another trumpet that sounds to bring Israel home to their God, 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
And now John hears Jesus speak in a voice like a trumpet and commissions him to write this book and send it to the churches who were suffering under the persecution of a pagan emperor who wanted to be god and was willing to murder any who would deny him the title.
John in the depths of his darkness, in the sorrow of his separation, in the blackness of his banishment, hears the voice of Jesus sounding a call of faith and hope. Just when he needed it Jesus called out and John heard that unmistakable powerful voice filling the emptiness of that desolate place, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I have not forgotten you, I have not left you alone and once more, I have a task for you. John, write what you will see and send it to others that they will know I have not forgotten them.
Do We Hear Jesus Now?
I wonder do we hear Jesus today? Do we hear Him in the depths of our sorrow, the isolation of our loneliest nights and the pain of our most hurtful days? When John had lost all that he had, his family, his friends, his church and was near to losing his life, he heard the voice of Jesus sounding behind him like a trumpet call of hope.
I have never spent time on the island of Patmos, I’ve never been imprisoned or banished but I have found myself alone, I have felt bound in cares and worries and cut off from those I love. It is at those times when I’ve most clearly heard the voice of Jesus calling.
When as a young foolish teenager I found myself stranded on a cliff face, I heard Jesus saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” On the day my heart literally failed and I collapsed, I heard the words of Jesus reassuring me that He held me in His hand and no man could take me from Him. Before my surgery to repair that heart, I took my little visitation Bible and put tabs on every scripture where God spoke of His love, care and protection. When I went into open heart surgery, I had LeeOra write Psalm 27 on my wrist. Psalm 27:11 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? I wanted the voice of my Lord and God to be the last thing I thought of when I went under and the first thing I could read as I woke up. Of course when I did wake up and looked at my wrist it was wrapped completely in tape and an IV neatly punctured the writing. But it didn’t matter. That was only ink written on my wrist, but God’s word, Jesus’ promise was written on my heart and just like the trumpet of Jesus’ voice when John needed to hear it, I heard it that day. For the child of God, it will always be that way.
Let me tell you without hesitation and without equivocation, that if you are God’s child and you are hurting, alone or afraid then listen. Listen because Jesus’ voice is calling out to you in assurance and strength. “I am the first and the last, the Almighty God, turn from your fear and hear to my voice.
Illustration: I hear the Voice of Jesus say
The wonderful hymn “I heard the Voice of Jesus Say” was written in 1846 by Horatius Bonar, a Scotts Presbyterian Preacher. The Third Verse says.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk,
Till trav’ling days are done.
Jesus voice still calls, we just need to listen and turn toward Him.
John on that incredible Sunday, worshipped the Lord he had known and in the midst of his worship, he heard His call and turned and then he saw the…
Jesus Who is To Come - Revelation 1:12-19
12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 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 with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 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. 17 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: 18 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. 19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
Jesus As John Saw Him
John turns and the Jesus he sees is the Jesus that will one day return to this earth. He does not see a wandering rabbi. He does not see a man of obscurity; he does not see a condemned man dying on a cross. No those were the Jesus that was, but this, this is the Jesus who is coming back.
Let’s look with John at that Jesus.
First John sees Jesus standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks, seven oil lamps on long stands and in the middle of those seven lamps, he sees one like unto the Son of man. Not a son of man, but the Son of Man, put a capital letter on those words because this is Jesus’ title. John recognizes him for who he is but just as it was for Mary when Jesus appeared to her so unexpectedly that first Sunday morning, this Jesus is different.
John looks and he sees that Jesus is wearing a long robe, down to his feet, and wrapped about his chest and down to his waist is a golden girdle or sash.
His head and hair are as white as combed wool, white as snow, John says. And his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like fine, pure, polished brass, glowing as if they had just come from the refining of a furnace. This shows Jesus as pure, holy, righteous and victorious.
John listens again and now the voice of Jesus is like the sound of a great, rushing waterfall, so intense that nothing else can be heard.
John looks and sees that Jesus holds seven stars in his right hand, seven stars that are the angels, the messengers, the pastors of those seven churches represented by those golden lamps. Then perhaps strangest of all, John sees a sharp two-edged sword going from the mouth of the Lord as he speaks. In these we see Jesus as the one who hold in protection and in judgment his own churches and with them the messengers of those churches. In love he holds them and protects them or in judgment corrects them out. They are His completely and absolutely.
His overall appearance, his countenance, John says, was as like the sun shining at noonday, in all its strength, power and glory. Again this shows Jesus in all his righteous, purity and holiness, darkness cannot stay in His presence.
This isn’t the Jesus, John had known 70 years ago, this was Jesus as he would return to take what was rightfully His as Creator, King and Judge.
John hears and sees the glory of the coming King of Kings and he falls at the Lord’s feet like as if he were struck dead. He is overcome, overloaded and overawed by what his eyes behold. He has seen the Sun in the Son of Man, in all his glory, all His power, all His purity, prepared as a captain of war to return for one final terrible battle and John’s senses can’t take it all in. Even greater than Moses at the burning bush, or Isaiah in the temple, or Ezekiel seeing the chariot of God, greater because now Jesus is fully revealed, this is the apocalypse, this is the revelation, it is Jesus no longer hidden in a stable, no longer obscured in a tiny village called Nazareth, or a tiny country called Israel. No this is Jesus coming in the clouds, this is Jesus that every eye shall see, this is Jesus that will cause all the people on the earth to cry out and wail. This is the Jesus John sees and he falls at the returning King’s feet.
And what does Jesus do, when he sees John fall? He is clothed in power, glory and splendor, he is arrayed for war, yet he reaches out and gently lays his right hand on John, His faithful servant, His loyal friend, His loving disciple. John feels Jesus touch and he hears Jesus’ voice say, “Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18 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.”
What John needed at the lowest place in all his long life, was to hear the loving voice of Jesus and to feel his gentle touch. He needed to hear his Lord say, “Fear not.”
Are We Ready for the Jesus Who Will Come?
As I prepared this message, my goal was not to explain all the symbols, or give you all their Old Testament associations. We will come to those things as we preach this series, but my goal, was for us to see Jesus in a small way as John saw him that day. To grasp the purpose of this epistle, that it is not to know more of the future, but it is to know more of Jesus.
For us to know Him as the one who died for us and washed our sins in his own blood shed on calvary, for each of us in the times of pain and hurt to listen for that voice that calls out to us and tells us to turn from our sorrow and turn to our Savior. My prayer and hope was for all of us to see the Jesus that is coming back, no longer hidden by the centuries of time that has passed or by my own familiarity with church and religion, but to see Jesus, King of Kings, Lord of Lord, Prince of Peace and Captain of the Lord’s Host.
In our lives we need our own apocalypse, something that strips away the veils of rut, routine and religion and lets us see the revealed King of Glory.
You and I will never share the experience of what John saw that day but this one thing we can share with him. When I have collapsed, when I’ve fallen then just like John I need to feel the touch of Christ. I need to hear the voice of Jesus, saying “Fear not. I am the first and the last. I am the one you trusted in, I lived, I died but now I live forever. I hold the keys of hell and death. Don’t fear because even the power of hell and death are under my authority.”
Yesterday, I heard that a close friend, a man I have spent untold hours with talking about life, God’s word and the Lord’s church, lost his wife in a terrible car wreck. I’m praying that he will feel the touch of his Savior and hear His loving voice.
I’m praying for my family in the loss of my mother, I’m praying for your family in the loss of those you loved and cared for, I’m praying for Jesus gentle touch on your shoulder and Jesus loving voice in your heart. As a pastor all I have are weak words of encouragement but I know Jesus and his words, and his touch are never weak or wavering.
Years ago when I was pastoring in the Houston area, I had a church member named Annie Champion. She was up in years and down in health. We were in and out of the hospital time and time again with her. And she was afraid, she knew the Lord but she was afraid of being alone. Once as I visited her in the hospital she told how she felt and I held her hand and prayed. I prayed for Miss Annie and asked the Lord to be with her when her family or I couldn’t be there. I prayed that she would know that Jesus was in the room even when the heart monitors were going off and the doctors rushed in to pound on her chest. I prayed that just as she could feel my hand right then, she would feel Jesus hand holding on to her.
The next time we visited she couldn’t wait to tell me what had happened, how that her heart had stopped and the doctors rushed to get it beating again, Then she smiled behind these big old glasses that magnified the joy she was sharing. She said, “Bro. Kris. He was here.” I didn’t know who she was talking about, I though she meant one of the good looking doctors she was always flirting with. “Who was here, Miss Annie?” She looked at me in surprise and she said, “He was here. Just like you prayed. Jesus was here and he held my hand, while they were beating on my chest.” I had forgotten but she hadn’t forgotten and when she needed it Jesus took her hand and gave her strength. “Fear not, he told her. Fear not.” When she passed away back in her home. I know Jesus came to her once again, said, “Don’t be afraid, Annie Champion. Then He put out his hand and led her home.
This morning are you ready for Jesus to come to you? Have you know Him in the past as your savior, do you hear his voice now in the present and are you prepared his return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Perhaps this is your time, this is the place to come to know him. Or perhaps it is a time and a place where you just need to feel the touch of Jesus, just as John did worshiping the Lord on that long ago Sunday. He’s here in the midst of His church and He ready to reach out.