Can you believe we are about to do our final Encounter today? We have been looking at various encounters for almost three months now. But my prayer is that this series will be dynamite underneath us to propel us into greater depths and deeper waters with the Lord in the future. Actually all encounters we may have with the Lord on earth are just trailers for the biggest encounter of all time---the main event---still to come! He is coming on the clouds! And all those who are Heavenborn will be Heavenbound!
So to conclude here, I thought it would be appropriate to look at an encounter in the Book of Revelation. By the way, it is not Revelations, but Revelation, which means “uncovering.” Many have avoided this book because either they are scared to read of the end of the world or simply because it seems to be a mystery book filled with riddles. Someone has said that the devil keeps people away from Revelation because he doesn’t want people to hear of his doom and have hope. John himself says that reading, hearing and keeping this book brings a blessing (Rev. 1:3). Actually the book of Revelation is the only book in Scripture which promises a direct promise of blessing! Isn’t it sad that the one book that promises a direct blessing to all those who read hear and follow it should often be left unread!
A lot of people have made their study of Revelation into creating a calendar. However, in Rev. 1:3, we learn the primary purpose of this book is not to create a calendar, but to create your character. It was written to encourage persecuted Christians to persevere because Jesus Christ is coming to judge and to reign. After Good Friday, it’s Resurrection Sunday! A Sunday is coming! But you have to hold on and you have to stay faithful.
The reason why such encouragement was needed was due to the severe persecution of Christians about 100 AD. In fact, “the Roman emperor Domitian called himself ‘savior’ and ‘lord,’ claiming divine worship from Roman citizens. He hated the Christians, whose worship of Jesus used these same words, so he persecuted them. He may have been the direct cause of John being exiled to the island of Patmos.” Some of the forms of persecution used included “exile, imprisonment, social ostracism, slander, poverty, economic exploitation, violence, and the constant threat of judicial action.” Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, scorned Christianity as a “depraved and extravagant superstition.”
Religiously, Romans accused Christians of atheism, because they did not worship their idols, but an invisible God. They were also accused of practicing cannibalism (because they misunderstood what communion meant). Socially, they caused controversy when they taught that all men were created equal, making the socially elite very uncomfortable. Economically, Christians made the priests, merchants and craftsmen even more uncomfortable as they taught idols were works of men and worthless causing them to lose business. Even if there were any natural disasters, they blamed the Christians for their lack of worship to their pagan gods.
The church was also struggling. At least one pastor in Pergamum was killed (Rev. 2:13). The churches struggled with lack of love for the Lord, toleration of sin, wrong doctrine being taught, lukewarmness and compromise. Not much has changed don’t you think?
Right in the middle of this was John the Apostle. He was the last remaining apostle. He met Jesus when he was around 20 years old, followed Him closely for 3 some years, became a major leader in the church and now after all his companions were dead, he was in his 90s and final days. He himself has stood faithful for this long, but at the time of the book of Revelation, he too was banished to an island called Patmos. It has been almost 70 years since Jesus rose from the dead. With the apostles dead and everyone struggling, the church desperately needed a word from the Lord. They needed an encounter with the Lord. You see, you can never have enough encounters with the Lord. Even John at age 90 or so, still needed an encounter.
Today, we are going to look at a passage found in Rev. 1:9-20, but we will focus primarily on the encounter itself, which is found in Rev. 1:12-17. Hey, have you ever wondered how Jesus looks like? I know we have lots of European paintings and pictures of out there and I will avoid my soapbox on what I think of them here, but in our encounter today, we have really the only description in Scripture of the portrait of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, it is laden with symbols. Let’s first look over very briefly the context in Rev. 1:9-11.
Look at Rev. 1:9. John begins by identifying himself for the third time already (Rev. 1:1, 4). Notice his humility. Interestingly, he has never mentioned his name in either his gospel or his letters until now. He does not call himself an apostle or one of the three closest if not the closest disciple ever lived, but a brother and partner in the tribulation. Wow! He’s been walking with the Lord for 50 years and in his 90s he sees himself as someone who is a fellow-struggler, sharing in the sufferings of God’s people.
Notice also his heavenly mindset. John sees this suffering as part and parcel of being a follower of Christ. This is why he says it is in Jesus. Persecution and perseverance through it is what it means to belong to His Kingdom and to belong to Jesus. If they crucified our Lord, will they do anything less for His followers? He sees the suffering but notice also mention of the kingdom and patient endurance. It may be hard to feel like you are in God’s Kingdom and reigning victoriously when you are being persecuted, but that does not lessen its truth and one day they will experience it completely, if they patiently endure.
He says he was on the island of Patmos. Patmos is a barren, volcanic island in the Aegean Sea, at its extremities about ten miles long and five to six miles wide. It was a common place for Romans to send their criminals. He remained there in exile until Domitian’s death in ad 96. But John’s crime was preaching the Gospel. The terms “word of God” and the “testimony of Jesus” are synonymous. There is no preaching the Word of God without talking about the Son of God right?
Look at Rev. 1:10. This is awesome! You can bind up the man of God and throw him in some remote island, but you cannot bind the Spirit of God or the Word of God. God can turn prison cells into praise cells! John says he was “in the Spirit.” This must be some sort of visionary experience, beyond the experience of the human senses and the natural. In other words, he wasn’t thinking or imagining this in his mind. He had an out-of-body experience.
He says it was on “the Lord’s day,” which probably means it was on a Sunday, the day Jesus resurrected. And as he is transported in this vision, he hears a loud voice like a trumpet. Sometimes Hollywood messes with our view of Heaven. They picture it as this quiet place where you sit on your cloud and you float away, strumming your harp. But here this is one of almost 20 references in the book of Revelation to a loud voice, and each time it is to announce something significant that is about to happen. Heaven is pretty noisy!
Here Jesus speaks to John and tells him to write what he’s about to see to seven major churches in Asia Minor. These key churches were selected because they were all postal towns and in a circular fashion, a messenger can get these letters out quickly and efficiently as possible (see map). Some church fathers said that John was there for 18 months and would have been there longer if Domitian was still alive.
Now we get to the encounter itself. What we learn from this encounter is Jesus Christ’s seven-fold present ministry to His people and then we will talk about our response to Him by looking at John’s response.
Let’s go through them now. Seven descriptions are given, which give us five words of comfort Jesus gives His people:
I. I am present among you (Rev. 1:12-13, 20).
The first thing John sees someone in the midst of seven golden lampstands. According to one commentator, the “lampstand was not a candleholder but a stand on which lamps were set. The lamp was normally an oil lamp with a single hole through which the wick protruded.” Lampstands, are a picture of the church, which gives light in a dark world.
Thankfully, this is one time where we get the interpretation of what the lampstands mean. Don’t you wish all of Revelation was like that? We know from Rev. 1:20 that these seven lampstands represent the seven churches to whom he is writing this letter.
Remember the church is struggling and asking, “Where are you Jesus?” The first thing Jesus shows John is that He is right there in the midst. This is solidified with the fact that He was like “a son of man.” Whenever you see that, it is a reference to Jesus’ humanity, where the term “son of God” is a reference to His deity.
What Jesus is saying is that he is very much right in the middle of their lives. Does He see you? Yes, He’s in the middle of it. Does He hear you? Yes, He’s in the middle of it. Does He feel it? Yes, He’s in the middle of it!
Sometimes we pray, “Lord, be with me or be with so and so…” We really do not need to pray that. Perhaps it would be better to pray, “Lord, I know you are here, open my eyes to see you. Drop the scales from my eyes to see you.” We do not worship a well-meaning martyr or a religious hero or a nice teacher who passed away. The story of Christianity is not that Jesus lived and died, but that He died and He lives! His enduring presence was what He promised, when right before He ascended He said, “I will be with you until the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20) and again, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
Some of us need this assurance today. Perhaps your prayers feel like they are hitting the ceiling and coming down. Your walk may be down to a crawl or non-existent at all. Your love may have gone cold. Maybe the oil has run out for your lampstand. Look at Ex. 27:20-21 (this is where these laws and regulations we have been struggling through come into play for us). It was the job of the high priests to make sure the lamp is burning brightly consistently. Beloved, we have a great high priest, who is in the midst of the lampstands wanting to pour oil again when we have run out. The OT priest would trim the lamps, remove the wick and old oil, refill the lamps with fresh oil, and relight those that had gone out. I am with you, He says. I am right in the middle. I have always been and always will be.
II. I am praying for you (Rev. 1:13b)
Along those lines, we have this image here of Jesus wearing a long robe with a golden sash around his chest. Such robes are often wore by royalty, but most likely it refers to Jesus here as a high priest. This is confirmed by the sash across His chest, which the high priests often wore in the Old Testament (Ex. 28:4; Lev. 16:4).
Let’s go to Hebrews for a second. Look at Hebrews 2:17-18. We learn there He is a merciful and faithful high priest who made the greatest offering for sin. He is called the “high priest of our confession” (Heb. 3:1). Flip over to Heb. 4:14-16. He is the sympathetic high priest. One last verse in Heb. 7:24-25. He is the praying high priest, which is where I was going with in our passage.
Do you remember in Exodus 17:8-16, Moses was up on a hill and the Israelites were fighting in the plain. Every time Moses held his arms up, the Israelites were winning. When his arms would fall, they would be losing. Finally Aaron and Hur had to come and hold up Moses’ hands and they eventually won.
Loved ones, our Risen Lord’s hands are always raised in intercession for us before the throne! His arms never grow weak nor weary. He does not need anyone to hold it up. With a mighty hand and outstretched arm, He is always praying for us. We are not going to lose. We will come forth victorious!
This is major encouragement! Yes, John is banished to Patmos. Yes, a pastor has been killed in Pergamum. But look above. Look higher. We have the great High priest whose name is Jesus…is praying for you! And don’t you think there is not a prayer more heard in Heaven than the one uttered by the Son of God before the throne of God?
Illus: Have you ever gotten a prescription from the doctor and you look at it and it looks like your 2 year old scribbled something on a piece of paper? You cannot read it all, but it has always amazed me how at the pharmacy, the pharmacist can take one look at it (do they take classes on doctor’s handwriting?) and know exactly what it says?
Sometimes I feel like that’s what happens in prayer. We send it up to Heaven, but sometimes we don’t know what we are praying for or we pray for the wrong thing or our prayer time is so full of distractions. In other words, it is like a bunch of scribbles. But like the pharmacist, our Lord intercepts those things, seals it in His blood and says, “Father, accept these prayers for my sake.” He understands those groans of our soul that no one else understands. He makes sense of our cold words and the broken heart that sometimes leaves us with no words at all. Like the high priest who would have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel engraved on the outside of his robe on the chest region, as though he could keep them close to his heart (Ex. 28:21), our Lord has our names engraved on his heart and on his hands (Is. 49:16) and is ever praying for us.
The third word from the Lord is:
III. I am purifying you (Rev. 1:14-15).
We might be led to think of His presence and praying in our lives and be tempted to be lax in our need for responsibility. We will that this is not the case. John goes next to the top of his head to the bottom of His feet. Let’s look at these descriptions in Rev. 1:14-15.
His hair being white like wool and snow is a reference to Dan. 7:9-12, where similar language is used to talk about God the Father as judge. As we saw His humanity in being called “the Son of Man,” here we see His deity, as the white hair symbolizes his eternal wisdom, purity and truthfulness. He is omniscient—all knowing. Look at his eyes. It emphasizes penetrating insight. John Macarthur says here, “His searching, revealing, infallible gaze penetrates to the very depths of His church, revealing to Him with piercing clarity the reality of everything there is to know.”
In other words, nothing is hidden from Him. With everything that is done in the dark, He turns the lights on. Sin is like mold, in that it grows in the dark, but here Jesus says I see it all…very clearly! He is not only omniscient, He is also omnipresent…seeing all.
Not only that, look at Rev. 1:15. His feet is like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace. Robert Thomas notes that, “The purity of the metal is emphasized by its shining or glowing quality and by its comparison to a furnace in which impurities are removed from molten metal. Figuratively, then, it is a picture of moral purity.”
This is also perhaps referring to “kings in ancient times sat on elevated thrones, so those being judged would always be beneath the king’s feet. The feet of a king thus came to symbolize his authority. The red-hot, glowing feet of the Lord Jesus Christ picture Him moving through His church to exercise His chastening authority.”
This allusion to the voice of God may be taken from Ezek. 1:24 or 43:2 where it says, “Yahweh’s voice is like the roar of rushing waters.” It gives the idea of power, strength and authority. John may have been thinking of the waves that crash on the island of Patmos. His voice is like a giant waterfall that drowns all other voices around. Jesus will have the final word. It does not matter what your mom or dad or friends think of you that day. All that will matter is what Jesus thinks. This matters today as well. What does Jesus think of me?
The Lord says, all the garbage you are facing, I am using it to make you into gold. Did you know that penicillin is made from mold? Our Lord does not waste anything. He takes our crosses and makes them into crowns. So the question is never “Why” but it is always “What.” The Bible also teaches that the Lord disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12:6). Our Lord’s love is not a pampering love, Pastor James Macdonald says, it is a perfecting love. He is ever working to make us into His image. He is taking the tangled messes of our lives and weaving them to make a beautiful tapestry for His glory.
This is comforting because they are assured that their scars are being turned into stars eventually. Do you feel like the waters of life are over your head, almost drowning you? They are still, under His feet! The Emperor they are so scared of will be beneath his feet as well. Hold on and be faithful, or you will join him! He is omniscient, omnipresent, and here, omnipotent—all powerful!
Two more words from our Lord. We will move more quickly through these.
IV. I am preserving and protecting you (Rev. 1:16a-b)
John moves from Jesus’ head and feet, back up to his hands. The right hand is the hand of power. We know from Rev. 1:20, that the stars are the angels of the churches. Angels mean “messengers.” This is more likely a reference to the pastors and leaders of the church.
Jesus is saying, you are in better hands than All-State. Rome is not in control. The Emperor is not in control. You are in my hand of power. I am in control. I am preserving you and nothing is going to happen unless I say so. You cannot control your future. Jesus said, “no one can snatch us away from my hand” (John 10:28). In fact, you are better than being in His hand. You are His finger! This is encouraging for me. I have heard people say sometimes about their lives, “I’m just trying to keep it together.” I cannot keep it together. Instead, I look to the Lord who is holding me in His hands.
Not only does He preserve us, but He also protects us.
His two-edged sword is used to defend his church from external attacks and speaks primarily of enemies that would come against the church. The word for sword here itself occurs often in this book (Rev. 1:16; 2:12, 16; 6:8; 19:15, 21.) It was a “large, broad Thracian sword used often in cavalry charges like a scythe, quite different from the Roman “short sword” …of Eph. 6:17 or Heb. 4:12.” The latter is more of a dagger than a sword. The former is a quick death and devastating judgment. It is a warrior image.
Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). The idea is that His word is potent (in that it is like the dagger mentioned in Heb. 4:12), but if you come under this sword that is not limping on His side, but protruding powerfully and forcefully out of His mouth, you have no shot.
Many have tried to snuff out the church and the Bible.
I remember the story of the French philosopher Voltaire, whose mission in life was to get rid of all the Bibles in the world. He is dead and gone, but the Word of the Lord endures. Today his house is being used as a Bible printing press! Praise God. The Lord preserves and protects His people.
V. He is praiseworthy! (Rev.1:16-18).
John closes this description with the Lord’s face being full of radiant glory. This is similar to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2). Remember John used to lean against Jesus’ chest. That was the Lord of grace. Here is the Lord of glory!
This is why John responds in Rev. 1:17. Many have used this to explain their experience of being “slain in the Spirit.” How many of you have seen people fall backward after some religious experience on television or in person? But here is the difference. In Scripture, after an encounter with the Lord, every individual falls face forward, not backward. There is only one place where someone falls backward and that happened in the Garden of Gethsamane in John 18:6. Soldiers who came to arrest Jesus fell backward in judgment after Jesus said, “I AM HE.”
This is the proper response to such an encounter. In utter humility, lying prostate before Him. John is actually deathly afraid. This is why Jesus says, “Fear Not!” But wait. Notice something here. What was in Jesus’ right hand in Rev. 1:16? Seven stars right? But here He lays His right hand upon John. What happened to the seven stars?
Beloved, Jesus drops everything for the one who drops before Him! Amen! John had seen His Lord’s hands pierced and now holding the seven stars. But here, as though this fallen one mattered more than the seven stars, as though there were no stars, He placed His right hand upon him. Then the same voice that sounded like Niagara Falls earlier that commanded him, now comforts him. John Walvoord states that, “the very sovereignty of God revealed in the earlier verses, though the terror of the wicked, is the comfort of the saint.”
Jesus says, He has power over three things. First of all, power over time. He is the first and last. He also has the power of sin as He is the living one who died and is alive forevermore! He also has the power over death. See, its not Rome or the Emperor who can open up the door of death and kill you. Jesus has the keys!
Notice then in Rev. 1:19, that the response of worship always leads to assurance and then responsibility. True worship will lead to true work for the Lord. John was not told to stay there lying down, but he had work to do. Devotion always leads to duty. The more you see Jesus for who He is, the more you love Him and the more you want to serve Him.
As we wrap up this series with this last encounter, I want more of what John experienced in my life. I want to be overwhelmed by His love. I want to gaze at His beauty more and more. I want to be obsessed and possessed by the Son of God. Most of our problems come because we have such a low view of Jesus Christ. As a result, we have a low view of sin and we allow it into our lives. We have a low view of ourselves, because we do not understand that it is Jesus who makes me who I am. He is the One who gives us significance and security. We have a low view of others, because His heart is not burning and breaking within us. God is looking for men and women who want Jesus to captivate them. He wants people who desire to be taken and shaken by Him. He wants people who desire to have sin and self blotted out, until Jesus alone remains.
I love what Charles Spurgeon says here, “’I fell at his feet as dead.’ He was not dead, but he was ‘as dead;’ that is to say, he could see no more, the blaze of Jesus’ face had blinded him; he could hear no more, the voice like the sound of many waters had stunned his ear; no bodily faculty retained its power….It is an infinite blessing to us to be utterly emptied, stripped, spoiled, and slain before the Lord…To lie at Jesus’ feet is a right experience; to lie there as sick and wounded is better, but to lie there as dead is best of all…But as for the death of all within us, that is of the flesh and of fallen nature, it is beyond measure desirable, and if for nothing else; my soul would pant more and more to see Jesus. May that two-edged sword which cometh out of his mouth smite all my besetting sins; may the brightness of his countenance scorch and burn up in me the very roots of evil: may he mount his white horse and ride through my soul conquering, and to conquer, casting out of me all that is of the old dragon and his inventions, and bringing every thought into subjection to himself. There would I lie at his dear conquering feet, slain by his mighty grace.”
As I close, I want to encourage you to read one of my favorite books of all time. It is by Hannah Hurnard and it is called “Hind’s Feet on High Places.” It is similar to Pilgrim’s Progress, where the whole story is an allegory, filled with symbols that stand for something.
For instance, the main character’s name is called Much-Afraid. She has a limp and a disfigurement on her face and live in this valley called the Valley of Humiliation. Her parents want her to marry a guy called Craven Fear. She works for someone called the Shepherd. The Shepherd has feet like a deer and lives among the mountains.
One day, Much-Afraid asks the Shepherd to help her live among the mountains where He lives. He sends her two companions since she is disabled to help her. They are called Sorrow and Suffering. She goes through an adventure struggling through deserts, floods, forests, enemies of pride, resentment, loneliness, etc.
However, before the trip, the Shepherd asked her to do something important. He gave her a bag and told her wherever and whenever she gets into trouble, to call upon His name and then He will come and rescue her. After He rescues her, she must pick up a stone and put it in her sack to help her remember how great He has been to her. These stones would be called the stones of remembrance.
Towards the end, a lot has happened, which you can go and read. But one day the Shepherd comes to her and asks her to empty the contents of her bag. She does so, but notices that each and every stone had now been transformed into precious jewels. He then took the jewels and made it into a crown and put it on her head.
Beloved, the day is coming for us too. The journey in this world, this valley of humiliation, will be over. We will see Him. This will be the greatest encounter of all time. And when He places that crown on our head, I want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Nothing else will matter. Actually the crown does not even matter either. I will gladly throw the crown down at His feet and worship Him…forever. Come Lord Jesus!
Kendell H. Easley, Vol. 12, Revelation, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference, 17 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998).
Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 80 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002).
John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11, 38 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999).
M.S. Mills, Revelation : An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Re 1:9 (Dallas: 3E Ministries, 1997, c1987).
Rev. 5:2, 12; 6:10; 7:2, 10; 8:13; 10:3; 11:12, 15; 12:10; 14:2, 15, 18; 16:1,17; 19:1, 17; 21:3
G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation : A Commentary on the Greek Text, 208 (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B.Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999).
Dallas Theological Seminary, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 122, 122:244 (Dallas Theological Seminary, 1965; 2002).
John Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 47 (Chicago, Il: Moody, 1966).
 C.H. Spurgeon, “The Glorious Master and the Swooning Disciple”
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/sermons18.titlepage.html accessed 26 April 2009.
 Hannah Hurnard, Hind’s Feet on High Places, 228-229 (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1975).