John presents himself as a citizen of the kingdom of God. According to Jesus, the kingdom of heaven was at hand; it was near and in the hearts of his followers. Therefore, for John the kingdom was neither something future nor something put on hold. It was something very present, and he was a citizen of the King’s realm. (1:6, 9)
John presents himself as a citizen of the kingdom of God who was suffering tribulation. (1:9) Sure, John understood there would be great tribulation ahead. Additionally, the apostle waited for the realization of the Second Coming and rapture, but he clearly understood himself to be one persevering in the midst of great tribulation. The church was not escaping, but enduring the angst of the devil. In John’s case, his tribulation took the form of exile. He was removed from his family, separated from his church, and intentionally marooned on an island. For a husband, father, minister and missionary, this was heartbreaking.
So, how does one endure suffering while advancing the kingdom of heaven? One should follow the example of John. Despite, the tribulation of the anti-Christ and the injustice promulgated by man, John was not bitter. On this particular day, it was the Lord’s Day, and there he was found personally worshiping and enjoying communion with the Holy Spirit.
However, on this Lord’s Day, John’s worship became a bit more charismatic. Suddenly, John’s attention was arrested by a trumpet-playing angel. (1:1, 10) He was commanded to pick up pen and parchment. He was to transcribe what he heard and saw so that it might be of immediate benefit to the church of Jesus Christ — more specifically to the seven churches in Asia. (1:4, 11) Within this revelation, God would address some things that were far and distant, but John’s writing was to have “present day” relevance. (1:1) It was to address things that were “near.” (1:3) So relevant was it, that immediate blessing was promised to those who read, meditated upon, and applied this information. (1:2) Therefore, John’s Revelation was identical to other books in Scripture; it contained past, present and future truth. (1:19) While Revelation does give some glimpses into the last day, one must not miss the importance for John’s ancient day and this present day.
John’s attention began with a divine messenger, but soon it shifted to the glorious Son of Man. (1:12ff) Jesus appeared and the angel drifted back into the shadows. Therefore, within this first chapter, John’s readers are treated to his Christology. Within these opening verses, we are privileged to see Jesus as John saw Jesus. Revelation 1 presents the risen and victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Here is what John heard, saw, experienced and knew:
- Jesus is eternal; he is alpha and omega; he was, is, and is to come. (1:4, 17)
- Jesus is the Christ; he is the promised Messiah came to earth. (1:5)
- Jesus is the risen one; he was dead but conquered the grave. (1:5, 18)
- Jesus is ruling one; he is positioned on the throne (1:4)
- Jesus is the King of Kings; he rules over all earthly . (1:5)
- Jesus is the king of his church; he lords over the lamp stands. (1:4, 12, 20)
- Jesus is the king over all; he rules over death and hades. (1:18)
- Jesus is omnipotent; he will reign and have dominion forever. (1:6)
- Jesus is glorious; he is splendidly attired, and brilliantly holy. (1:4, 13-16)
- Jesus is terrifying, even to his beloved friend and disciple. (1:17)
- Jesus grants grace. (1:4)
- Jesus touches his friends in love. (1:17)
- Jesus instructs his friends not to fear or be terrorized. (1:18)
- Jesus gives peace. (1:4)
- Jesus gives love. (1:5)
- Jesus gives freedom from sin due to his bloody sacrifice. (1:5)
- Jesus promotes his friends to be kings and priests. (1:6)
- Jesus appropriately receives all worship and adoration. (1:6)
- Jesus is glorious news to some; he is the worst of news to others. He will incite much terror. He will not grant grace, peace and love to some. He will not touch tenderly but with a rod of iron. He will not rescue some from their sin, but hold them accountable. Ultimately, Jesus will cause his enemies to shake, wail and moan in terror. (1:7)
Therefore friends, what should we do with this information?
First, I believe we should focus on the two stages of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus first appeared in humility. He was born in a barn to a teenage girl from a backwoods community. He was a citizen of a Jewish nation, one that was subjected to Roman domination. He lived his first thirty years in relative obscurity. When his day in the spotlight arrived, he was beloved and followed by many, but he was disbelieved and slandered by many more, including those in his own family. Ultimately he was targeted, arrested and assassinated. There seemed to be one last opportunity for him to be released, but his nation preferred a rank terrorist named Barabbas over him. Jesus was despised and rejected by men. He was the man of sorrows. His first appearance came not with the majesty he deserved. However, Jesus’ season of humility and humiliation was purposeful and intended, but it was temporary. With power and majesty he rose from the tomb, conquered death and hell, spent some special days with his friends, and then he ascended to his throne in paradise. Once there he feasted with the saints in glory. From heaven he ruled over all the world, including his devil. Consistently, he watched his disciple on earth and conversed with the Father regarding their needs and desires. And sometimes, on special occasions, he visited his prophets on the planet earth. Such was the case with his friend John, and when Jesus appeared, there was nothing humble about him. He was clothed with the power and majesty he deserved.
Second, I believe we should also focus on the two groups found in Jesus’ kingdom. He has friends and foes. All will worship, but not all will worship willingly. How horrible it will be when the Rock falls on those who hate him. How wonderful it is with men submit themselves, kiss the Son, and find refuge in him. (Psalm 2)
Finally, let us praise, worship and adore the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Perhaps we can use the list of attributes found above to encourage our prayer time.