Stephen Caswell © 2004
Christ – The Head Of The Church
The Church of God apart from the Person of Christ is a useless structure. However ornate it may be in its organization, however perfect in all its arrangements, however rich and increased with goods, if the Church is not revealing the Person of Christ, lifting Him to the height where all men can see Him, then the Church becomes an impertinence and a sham, a blasphemy and a fraud, and the sooner the world is rid of it, the better.
G. Campbell Morgan
When we commenced the Book of Revelation we saw that it centers round Jesus Christ and His return. This book is so relevant today because Christ’s return is very near. Today we will be looking at two things; The Ministry Of John, The Ministry Of Jesus Christ.
Firstly, The Ministry Of John
a. God’s Word 3 Essentials to John’s ministry, God’s Word, God’s Power, God’s Day.
Revelation 1:9: 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.
Firstly, John served the Lord. In verse 1 we read that John was a servant of Christ and the Church. John ministered to the family of God referring to himself as John your brother. In verse 2 and verse 9 we see that his service was tied to preaching God’s Word and testifying for Jesus Christ. John worked tirelessly for the kingdom of God. Sharing the Gospel is the most important thing we can do. John obeyed the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, to make disciples. Are you sharing the Gospel with others? Are you witnessing for Him? What is more important than the kingdom of God?
Secondly, John suffered for the Lord and the Gospel. He served the Church and was a companion with them in suffering. As an apostle he experienced the same tribulation that other believers went through when they shared God’s Word. John suffered for his faithfulness to the Lord. The Roman authorities arrested John and exiled him on the Isle of Patmos to stop him preaching God’s Word. But this didn’t stop God’s plans from being fulfilled. While John was on Patmos God gave Him this Revelation. Are you suffering for the Gospel? Are you prepared to suffer for Christ should it come to that?
b. God’s Power
Revelation 1:10: I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.
John was about 90 years old when he wrote the Book of Revelation. He just kept right on serving God. Through suffering and trials he persevered. How did he do it without burning out? What was John’s secret to 60+ years of fruitful ministry? The Holy Spirit.
On the Day of Pentecost John waited in Jerusalem for the power of God that Christ promised. From that day on John served the Lord in the Holy Spirit. He served, suffered, lived and worshipped God in the Spirit’s power. The Spirit was the key to John’s life. On the Lord’s Day, John was in the Spirit. Christ tells us to worship in spirit and in truth. In spite of his exile and suffering John was in the Spirit. His heart was right with God. This would indicate that John was walking with Jesus Christ. He was filled with the Holy Spirit not living in his own strength. John had the right perspective on life.
Are you serving the Lord in the Spirit’s power? If you’re not you will burn out. How can we draw on the Holy Spirit’s power? Jesus talked about the abiding life in John 15. Christ said that without Him we can do nothing. How true this is! We either live in the Flesh or walk in the Spirit. It’s one or the other. The abiding life is a life of faith. Colossians 2:6 says: As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him. The only way to receive Christ is by faith in Him, and the only way to live in the Spirit is by faith in Him. Prayer, God’s Word and Faith in Christ are all involved in the abiding life. In fact it’s impossible to live in the Spirit without them.
Abiding, Not Striving or Struggling
Missionary pioneer J. Hudson Taylor of China was working and worrying so frantically that his health was about to break. Just when his friends feared he was near a breakdown, Taylor received a letter from fellow missionary John McCarthy that told of a discovery McCarthy had made from John 15 — the joy of abiding in Christ. McCarthy’s letter said in part: Abiding, not striving or struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power … this is not new, and yet ’tis new to me.… Christ literally all seems to me now the power, the only power for service; the only ground for unchanging joy.
As Hudson Taylor read this letter at his mission station in Chin-kiang on Saturday, September 4, 1869, his own eyes were opened. As I read, he recalled, I saw it all. I looked to Jesus, and when I saw, oh how the joy flowed! Writing to his sister in England, he said: As to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult; but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been perhaps the happiest of my life, and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul.…
When the agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory): But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith but by resting on the Faithful One. As I read, I saw it all!.. As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured into my soul!
c. God’s Day
John was right where God wanted him to be. He was living spiritually. He was ready to listen on the Lord’s Day. What was the result? God spoke to him; even on Patmos.
He was ready to receive revelation from God. God can’t speak to us when we are busy. We need unrushed time alone with Him every day. We need time with God’s people to hear the Word together. John sets a good example for every believer. God could speak to him and through Him. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. He was ready.
In The Lord’s Army
There was an ex-soldier that only went to Church at Easter and Christmas. After this had happened for about 3 years the minister challenged him. He said you should be in Church every week to hear God’s Word. When are you going to join the Lord’s army? He replied, but pastor I am in the Lord’s army. I’m in the secret service.
· Anzac Day - We remember the soldiers who died for our freedom. Lest we forget.
· Lord’s Table - We remember the Lord’s death till He come. Lest we forget.
· Lord’s Day - We remember our risen Lord on the 1st day of the week. Lest we forget.
Sadly, the Lord’s Day has become just like any other. People have forgotten the Lord. Very few people are in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day any more. They’re on the sporting field, working, or doing something with their family. On Sunday, people no longer rest from everything else to remember the Lord. When it’s all said and done Church is a time to remember, praise, thank and worship our God. It’s important because God is important! Believers have replaced the Lord with the gods of sport, money and pleasure. 2 Timothy 3:4-5: says that in the last days men will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. What’s the result? Believers don’t hear God’s Word much today! While they are busy with other things God can’t bless them. God can’t empower them with His Spirit because they don’t spend unrushed time with Him each day and on Sunday. Today the Church has forgotten God!
Secondly, The Ministry Of Jesus Christ
Now we are reminded of Christ’s ministry. He is our Prophet, Priest and King.
a. He Is Our Prophet
Rev 1:10-11: 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.
1. Christ Speaks To His People
In verses 11 and 19 we read that Christ has a message for the 7 Churches. John was told to write the message and send it to the 7 churches. The 7 churches were 7 literal churches in Asia or modern day Turkey. John had ministered to many if not all of these Churches and had spent considerable time at Ephesus. Each church received special words of commendation, warning and rebuke from Jesus Christ in chapters 2 and 3.
But the message isn’t just for them. The 7 Churches represent 7 Church ages beginning with Ephesus and finishing with Laodicea. Church history agrees with this. And finally these 7 types of Churches have been present through out Church history. Christ has a message for us. Will we listen to Him? Will we obey Him? Will we submit to our Lord?
2. Christ Shows Us His Plans
Revelation 1:19: Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.
God doesn’t want us to be in the dark. He has revealed His plans to the Church. This appears to be the divine outline of Revelation. What John was told to write was first a record of his experience, the vision he saw in chapter 1, now history. Then he was to write the present message of Christ to seven churches, chapters 2&3. Finally, the main purpose of the book being prophetic, he was to introduce the events preceding, culminating in, and following the second coming of Christ in chapters 4-22. Revelation 4:1: After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.
b. He Is Our Great High Priest
Revelation 1:12-13: 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.
1. He Cares
The Lord Jesus Christ appears as a King Priest in verse 13. The garment He wears is a priestly garment. The golden belt around His chest shows that He sympathizes with us. The belt was over His heart showing that He ministers with compassion. The term Son of Man also emphasizes His humanity. Because Jesus Christ became a Man He understands our weaknesses. The New Testament tells us that He is always interceding for us at God’s right hand. Hebrews 4:15-16: For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Christ walks amongst the 7 Churches showing He cares for us.
2. He Sees
Revelation 1:14: His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
His head and hair were white like wool, picturing His eternity, as the Ancient of Days and also the wisdom and purity of His judgments. Christ’s wisdom is perfect, complete.
He never requires instruction. Christ knows us better than we know ourselves. His Eyes are like a flame of fire and this speaks of perfect knowledge, infallible insight, and inescapable scrutiny. They can search out anything and pierce through any sin. Remember that Christ walks amongst the 7 Churches. Revelation 2:1: To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
Here we see Jesus Christ in the midst of His people. He sees our worship, our service, our conversations, our lives and witness. He knows the motives of our hearts and sees all of our relationships. Nothing is hidden from the God we serve. Hebrews 4:12-13: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
3. He Judges
Revelation 1:15: His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
Since Christ knows everything He is able to judge righteously. The Lord walks amongst the Churches. Having seen their works and service, He is ready to judge them. Since brass is a consistent type of judgment, this supports the view that it is the judicial office that is primarily in view at this time. The bronze altar in the temple was related to sacrifice for sin and divine judgment on it. In chapters 2–3, Christ judges the seven churches. As He stands in their midst, He examines their spiritual condition with His eyes of fire and hands down His verdict. Christ is still doing this today. It matters not what men or denominations think of a church; what does Christ think of it?
1 Peter 4:17: For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Yet we can take heart because Christ judges with mercy. He chastens His people so that they might repent and be restored. His desire is to reward His servants, not to see them ashamed on the final Judgment Day. Revelation 3:11: Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
c. He Is Our King
1. He Is Lord Of The Church
1:16, 17a, 20: 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. 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.
He Rules over its leaders. He holds His messengers, probably pastors in His right hand. This is a sign of sovereign ownership. Jesus Christ is in charge of pastors. We are accountable to Him. The Lord of the Church places His ministers where He wants them to be. The word angel ἄγγελος can also mean messenger. In fact angels are the Lord’s messengers whether human or spirit beings. The letters to the 7 churches are addressed to these 7 messengers who were then responsible to read it to the Churches.
He Commands His people. The Churches are described as 7 lampstands. Lampstands were used to hold the light not to be the light. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. He shines through us. Churches are commanded to present His light to the world. Matthew 5:14-16: You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Are we presenting the light of Christ to others?
In chapters 2 and 3 we find that Christ commands and instructs His people. The sharp two edged sword that comes from Christ’s mouth reveals His authority. His Word is powerful as we read earlier in Hebrews 4:12. Ephesians and Colossians both tell us that Christ is the Head of the Church. Ephesians 5:23: For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. If Jesus Christ is our Lord and the center of our lives, the circumference will take care of itself.
He Receives Our Worship. After John saw Jesus Christ in all His splendor and glory he fell at His feet in worship. John was overcome with wonder at the sight of the risen Lord. The appearance of Jesus Christ was brighter than the sun shinning in its strength. John fell at the Lord’s feet as though he were dead! And this is the apostle who leaned on Jesus’ breast! He knew Christ and was loved by Christ. Yet John reverenced the Lord. A vision of the exalted Christ can only produce awe and fear.
We need this attitude of respect today when so many believers speak and act with undue familiarity toward God. What the church needs today is a new awareness of Christ and His glory. We need to see Him high and lifted up as Isaiah did. There is a dangerous absence of awe and worship in our assemblies today. We are boasting about standing on our own feet, instead of breaking and falling at His feet. For years, Evan Roberts prayed, Bend me! Bend me! and when God answered, the great Welsh Revival resulted.
2. He Is Lord Of Eternity
Revelation 1:17b: 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.
Jesus Christ: the meeting place of eternity and time, the blending of deity and humanity, the junction of heaven and earth. Jesus Christ is not the Lord of the present only, He is the Lord of eternity. He was Lord in the past, He is Lord now and will be in the future. He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Revelation 1:8 says: 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. Everything in the universe begins and ends with Jesus Christ. He made it all and sustains it. He alone is constant, unchanging. Hebrews 13:8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Sufficiency Of Christ
Can you imagine the number of words it took to write a thirty-volume set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica? It must be an awesome number, but an even more amazing thing is that only twenty-six different letters were used. The authors did not have to go outside of the alphabet to assemble that massive collection of knowledge. It provided for them everything they needed for this one task. Jesus Christ called himself the Alpha and Omega, and we do not have to go outside of him for anything that we need. He is God’s everything — for all situations.
3. He Is Lord Of Life
Revelation 1:18: 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.
Jesus Christ is also the Lord of life. He said I am the Resurrection and the Life. Because Christ rose from the dead so will we. He has conquered death because He is the Lord of life. Death will never touch Him again. He died once and for all for our sins. Fear not! is a great encouragement for any child of God. We need not fear life, because He is The Living One. And we needn’t fear eternity because He holds the keys of hades and death.
The One with the keys is the One who has authority. If you have the keys to a building you have authority to enter it. You can open it or lock it up. We have the keys our car because we own it. If you have ownership, you are in charge. Jesus Christ is Lord of life and has conquered Satan’s hold on death. Hebrews 2:14: Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.
We saw the Revelation of Christ with His Church. He’s our Prophet, Priest & King.
· Firstly, He speaks to His people as a Prophet. The Lord has shown us His plans. He has counsel for us to obey. Are you listening to the word He has for the Churches? The Word He has for you?
· Secondly, Christ serves His people as our High Priest. He cares about us. He sees our trials, our lives and service. Christ walks amongst the Churches and judges us righteously. He wants to reward us. What testimony will Christ give about your life? Are you living for Him? Will He reward you for faithfulness?
· Thirdly, Jesus Christ is sovereign over all as our King. He is Lord of the Church, Lord of Eternity and Lord of Life. Are you submitting to His rule? Is He the Lord of your life? Do you reverence and honor Him? Have you fallen at His feet in worship, awe and wonder like John did? Are you serving Him? Suffering for Him? Are you living in the Spirit’s power? Without the Spirit’s power we will burn out!
Revelation 22:20-21: He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.