July 13, 2006
As we begin the last study of the first chapter of Revelation, for the first time we see John's reaction to all that he had seen thus far. It is important to note this reaction, and keep in mind that John was a spiritually mature servant, who had in his life not only suffered for the cause of Christ, but had seen glimpses of the supernatural, had witnessed miracles, and such things were not new to him. Why do I mention this? Because nowadays, everyone seems to be seeing angels, and demons, they see the saints and even Christ himself, and their reaction to the things they see, seems to be lighthearted. Some make jokes, others go into ridiculous detail of how God Himself praised them, and I have even heard a prominent evangelist say that they sat on Christ's lap in heaven, and braided His hair.
Again I beseech you, notice John's reaction to what he saw, and compare it to how some describe what they have seen, and draw your own conclusions.
Revelation 1:17, "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."
Throughout the Holy Scriptures, whenever the Lord reveals Himself to man in all of His glory, there is that constant wherein he falls as dead at His feet. When sovereignty reveals itself to a mere mortal, when we peer beyond the veil of the physical into the realm of the spiritual, and glance upon glory, we are stripped of all the preconceived notions we held concerning ourselves, we are stripped of our own opinions of ourselves, all pretense and illusion, and realize our nothingness in the face of an eternal God. When we come face to face with our creator, the true measure of our impotence, and undeserved ness, is shown to us with stark clarity.
What follows are the experiences of some of the faith's most compelling and inspiring servants, upon seeing the glory of God, and their reaction thereof. All have one thing in common all realize their own frailty and insignificance. Mind you, these are men which to us are as giants of the faith, men who experienced the fullness of God in their lives, and yet, in their humility they knew they could never stand before the one true God, in their own righteousness. If only some of our illustrious evangelists, and preachers could perceive this wisdom, perhaps reverence would be birthed in them once more, perhaps humility would be evident in them, perhaps they would return to the path they long ago strayed from.
Job 42:5-6, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
Isaiah 6:1-5, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory! And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said: 'Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
Daniel 10:2-9, "In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength. Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground."
Acts 9:3-6, "And as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' And he said 'Who are you Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' So he, trembling and astonished, said, 'Lord, what do You want me to do?' and the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'
So here are four men, separated by hundreds of years, having lived in different centuries, describing their experiences with the Divine, and what is amazing, even though they came from different backgrounds, having had different educations, all describe that which they saw, and their reaction to it, in very similar fashion. The beauty of God's word is that there is consistency, and confirmation throughout, if only we would take the time to seek it out.
Now here is John, the apostle beloved of Christ, standing before the glory of the Lord, and when he saw Him, he fell at His feet as dead. If he, one who was born again, one who was saved and deeply spiritual could not remain standing when the glory of the Lord revealed itself to him, what will become of a carnal man, a slave to sin and the spirit of this world the moment the Son of God will appear in the clouds shrouded in glory?
From a spiritual perspective, the moment Jesus reveals himself to man, enters his heart, and dwells within, all that is of the old flesh, all the desires and thoughts of this world, fall to the ground, and die away. It is that transformation that must take place in the heart of every man, the cleansing of the vessel, and filling thereof with that which is sovereign.
Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Only when we have undergone this transformation, only when the old flesh has been crucified with Christ, and we no longer live for ourselves, but Christ lives in us, will we live a life of constant victory. Any victory presupposes a battle, and tragically, many Christians today want victory without battle. They would rather not be tested that they may prove themselves, and live a mediocre existence, never fully realizing their spiritual potential, for fear of a few scars. It is those fearless few, that are willing to stand, that are willing to do battle against the darkness, that God equips for battle, that God holds in His embrace, and strengthens when their reserves have diminished.
Often, we take comfort in the idea that we are the children of God, and that He is our Father, and rightly so. However, God is not looking to run a day care center, but rather He is looking to lead an army into battle. More than ever, God is looking for mature Christians, God is calling out to the warriors, and when they answer the call, nothing is spared to ensure their victory.
Upon John's reaction to seeing Christ in all His glory, Christ laid his hand on John, and said to him, 'do not be afraid.'
Oh how deep the grace of our Lord! How limitless, burning, and unchanging His love! Although He stood before John in His limitless glory, He stretched His hand out to strengthen John. This love that Christ has for His own, was not limited only to John, for as the previous verse tells us, He held in His hand seven stars, meaning the entire Church. We must take heart, and draw strength from the knowledge that being equal in His sight, He will stretch out His hand, an strengthen all who need strengthening in His body, He will comfort and protect His own, lift them up, and help them to stand in the face of any adversity and trial.
In order to receive this grace, in order to be strengthened by His hand, and hear His glorious voice say to us, 'do not be afraid' however, we must make certain that we are of the Body, that we are of the Church, that we are born again, and sanctified by His shed blood. That is when we can truly rest in His embrace, knowing that He is the first and the last, and there is nothing standing in the way, blocking our path between Him and us. This is why Christ continued to emphasize the need for total submission, and righteousness throughout His ministry, and the need to remove all stumbling blocks from our path, that we may have a clear line of sight to Him, that He may reach out to us, unobstructed and guide us on the path of righteousness.
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."
Here, the Lord Jesus Christ, reveals Himself as God revealed Himself in the Old Testament by saying, "I am the First, and the Last," namely Jehovah, the unchanging God of all that is, the only One, the King.
Isaiah 41:4, "Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? "I am the Lord, am the first; and with the last I am He."
Isaiah 44:6, "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of hosts: "I am the First and I am the Last; besides me there is no God."
After revealing Himself to John as Jehovah, He reveals Himself to John as Life. To a cursory reader, it may seem that Jesus is simply confirming to John that He is alive, but upon deeper meditation, we realize He is not saying that He is merely alive, but that He is life, having the keys of death, possessing power over it. Although He died once for our sins, He now not only lives, and will live forevermore but also, has the power and authority over death itself, holding the keys thereof.
The grave had never held within its cold and unyielding embrace one like the Son of God until that time. Jesus had the power to die, then return to life, and live forever more.
Although He had brought to life those who had been dead before, such as Lazarus, Jairus's daughter, or the son of the widow woman, now He Himself is resurrected, lifted up from the depths of the grave by His own power, never to return to the grave again.
Today He lives, and is life, and stands at the right hand of the Father, desiring to be a friend and Savior to all who would receive Him. He possessed the power to return to life, and be lifted up to glory, to be at the Father's right hand, thereby becoming our Teacher and our Light. He is the Great High Priest, who intercedes on our behalf, bringing us the priceless gift of salvation. He returned to life, in order to make a way for us, to fulfill the prophecies of old, and to grant us access to the Holy of Holies.
Even more so, He became life that He may dwell in us, His temples, desiring to remain in us for all eternity. I, a wandering, lost soul, who by his very nature is sinful and living in darkness, can through Him become a child of God, competent and able to carry out every good work, and ready to enter into His rest whenever He may call me to do so; How great indeed the grace of God toward us, and how limitless His mercy toward His creation.
As we continue, I would like to take a little time and focus on the last thing Jesus said in this verse, namely that He has the keys of Hades and Death in his hand. Although there has been much speculation on what Hades is, without concrete Biblical basis, we must leave it in the realm of the unknown. Suffice it to say contrary to popular belief, I do not believe that the Hades this verse speaks of is the lake of fire, or the outer darkness that the Bible speaks of. Since I promised to keep personal opinion out of this study, it is as far as I will go with my assertion, and encourage you to further study this verse and see where God will lead you in your understanding.
We all know that keys are used to open doors, signifying that death, as well as Hades have doors that can be locked. Whoever possesses these keys, possesses the power, or authority over them as well. Before Christ, the power of death was in the hands of Satan, but when Jesus was raised from the dead, death lost its power, and the keys are now in the hands of our precious Savior. I realize some are now wondering how I can make such an assertion, namely that the power of death was in the hands of Satan, but I would not hazard such a presupposition without Scriptural basis.
Hebrews 2:14-15, "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, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
I pray now we have a deeper understanding of the paramount importance of Christ's death, and the necessity of His resurrection. Absent of the cross, absent of His shed blood, absent of His death and resurrection, we would still be subject to the fear of death, and bondage. This is why I am so fearful of the new teaching spreading throughout the modern day church, abdicating the sovereignty of Christ, for the sake of interfaith tolerance, and world acceptance. If we indeed renounce His sovereignty, then we of all people on this earth are most pitiable, for having been so close to the revelation of truth, out of fear of men's opinions, out of a desire to please men rather than God, we have abandoned all that would set us apart, that would make us unique, that would seal us for the day of ascension.
Revelation 1:19, "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."
That which is written remains, and cannot be disputed or counterfeited. That which is passed on by word of mouth, the tradition that passes from generation to generation, has no guarantee of truth, and is readily altered, and falsified to fit men's opinions and versions of truth. The danger arises when we receive men's opinions, and reject the conviction of God's word. Tradition, absent of Biblical basis, is nothing more than a mist, an empty teaching without substance that can only lead to darkness and death.
In His goodness God left us all we need to know, believe, and fulfill, in His written word, namely the truth that leads to salvation, sanctification and eternal life.
Once more John is instructed to write the things, which he has seen. He is not instructed to interpret the things he has seen, nor is he instructed to draw conclusions based on the things that he has seen. His instructions are simple, and straightforward, simply to write that which he sees, without adding or subtracting anything from them.
If only we would take this verse to heart, and understand the deeper meaning found therein, perhaps those quick to interpret God's word, and guess the mind of God would lessen in number considerably. There is an epidemic that is sweeping the church as a whole, and that is men's desperate need to put their own spin on the things, which God has spoken. There is wisdom in knowing your limitations, and never straying beyond that, which was given you to understand. Suppositions, educated guesses, gut feelings, and imaginings are dangerous when it comes to the things of God, for the preeminent desire of every shepherd and teacher, every evangelist and preacher should be to feed the sheep only pure food, not altered or adulterated by their own opinions.
John was instructed to write down three things: The things, which he had seen, namely Christ standing in the midst of the lamp stands, the vision that showed Christ in His glory; The things which are, namely the seven churches, their condition, the consequences and rewards for either their obedience or disobedience, covered in Revelation chapters two and three; And the things which will take place after this, namely all the revelation that is covered in chapters four through twenty two.
Revelation, as well as Scripture as a whole does not confuse issues, nor does it mix and jumble events together that we may not understand. If we read with wisdom, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with the preeminent purpose of lifting up His holy name, we will surely understand the truth clearly.
The things that are, meaning those things, which perfect and sanctify our spiritual lives, are the things we must seek out first and foremost. Of what use is my knowing the future things, if I do not know, and do not live the present things? I pray we study the book of Revelation with this question perpetually at the forefront of our mind. Those that know what the Holy Word of God says concerning the present things, the things that are, and live that which they know, will also come to know the future things in the measure that God allows it.
It is an important lesson to take to heart, seeing as human nature compels us to skip the basics, and plunge headfirst into the mature things without ever having built a foundation. We envision greatness, and grandeur, never having taken the time to be under discipleship, and learn the elementary requirements that God has for all His servants.
Revelation 1:20, "The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lamp stands: 'The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands which you saw are the seven churches."
By this verse, we understand that the seven stars, that Christ held in his right hand, as well as the seven golden lamp stands in whose midst He walked, were a mystery, something hidden, to John, until Christ gave him the interpretation. Who among men could understand the mysteries of God, if God Himself did not reveal their interpretation? In His goodness, Christ revealed the hidden meaning of the seven stars, as well as the golden lamp stands, not only to John, but to us as well: The seven stars, are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches.
There have been many questions, and much speculation regarding Christ's explanation of what John had seen. Who are the seven angels? Are they heavenly beings, or are they earthly beings?
Some have said, that the angels Christ mentions are true heavenly beings. Tradition has even given them names: Michael, Gabriel, Samael, Aniel, Raphael, Zahariel, and Orifiel.
Others have said, that the angels that Christ speaks of are not literal angels, because angels have no need of repentance, or to be faithful unto death, and so they surmise, that they are priests, and bishops of the aforementioned churches. This is important, because the letters are addressed to the angels of the seven churches, rather than the seven churches themselves.
Revelation 2:10, "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."
Revelation 3:19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent."
Yet another school of thought says that these cannot be priests or bishops, because at the time the church had not been divided into clergy and laymen, and so these 'angels' were a personification of Christian communities, the embodiment of the living unity between all churches.
Still others have said that the angels are enlightened individuals within the Church, which God has endowed with certain gifts.
In the face of such an abundance of opinion one cannot help but stand before God and with humility and faith ask for a greater understanding. When concrete explanation eludes us, we must stand on the words of Christ, and believe Him at His word. The messages were sent for to the seven angels of the seven churches, the guardians of these congregations. They could not have been sent to any one man, for we are all equal in the body of Christ, and no one is greater than his brother. We are each members of the same body, and our duty is to fulfill our responsibilities toward the rest of the body.
The fact that the angels of the seven churches are presented to us symbolically as stars makes us realize that they are in the light, just as we should be in the light, for as the starts shine in the midst of the darkness, we too must shine in the midst of this world. All who believe in Jesus, and are born again, are sons of light, and cannot help but radiate the light of Christ on this earth.
Matthew 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, 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."
1 Thessalonians 5:5, "You are the sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night, nor of the darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober."
Ephesians 5:8-10, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), proving what is acceptable to the Lord."
Once again, we are confronted with the number seven, a number that is preeminent throughout the book of Revelation, more than any other symbolic number. After the introduction in fact, the principal points of the book of Revelation, are divided into seven different parts.
Introduction: (Revelation 1:1-8)
Since we've already discussed the seven churches, in previous verses, and the next two chapters of Revelation deals exclusively with this topic, let us return to the seven lamp stands. Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, walks among the seven lamp stands, which are dependent of Him, meaning He can light them, or put them out, and even remove a lamp stand that is not reflecting His light properly.
Revelation 2:5, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen: repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place — unless you repent."
The tabernacle of meeting, in the Old Covenant, had no windows that it would receive no other light than that generated by the golden lamp stand with seven arms, which meant the light of God, or the light of heaven. It is as such with the tabernacle of meeting in the New Covenant, which must have no windows toward the world, no windows facing outward, but simply one facing upward, toward heaven, as was Noah's ark. Wherever you see 'windows' wherever you see the world creeping into the church, and the church adopting worldly methods to draw people in, know for certain that this is not God's tabernacle of meeting, but a different sort of tabernacle, one made by the hands of men, and not by the hand of almighty God.
The golden lamp stand of the Old Covenant was under the continual guardianship and care of the priests, who made sure that it was kept clean, and filled with pure oil of pressed olives that the lamp may burn continually.
Exodus 27:20, "And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil or pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually."
Leviticus 24:2-4, "Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually. Outside the veil of the Testimony, in the tabernacle of meeting, Aaron shall be in charge of it form evening until morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a statute forever in your generations. He shall be in charge of the lamps on the pure gold lamp stand before the Lord continually."
It is the same in the New Covenant as it was in the Old, namely, Christ, as He revealed Himself, walks in the midst of His Church, continually keeping it aflame with His love, that it may bring light to a world filled with darkness. The enemy's toil has, for a long time been to bring into the Church that which obstructs its light, that which lessens its purity, so that the testimony of the Body of Christ, would be lessened as a result. It is the enemy's joy to see men's opinions preached rather than Christ, and to see the Word set aside for fables and humanism. Lest we forget, we are complete in Him, and absent of Him we are but shadow and dust.
Colossians 2:8-10, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power."
May we take heed, and be cautious, that wherever we are, our golden lamp stand would burn brightly for all to see, that our new life, shrouded in heavenly light may be evident from near and afar, and that with humility and constant examination we keep ourselves pure as God desires us to be.
It is our responsibility as Children of God, to point the way to those who are seeking, those who are lost, those who are dying, and those who are hurting. It is our responsibility to reach out, and compel them to come into the eternal rest of our Father, to implore and beseech them to receive Jesus as they Savior, and accept salvation from God's hand.
As we end our study of the first chapter of Revelation, we enter into the individual messages to the seven churches, a study that has much to teach the individual, as well as entire congregations. The study will be extensive because there is much to be learned, but I promise in the end it will have been worthwhile, having attained a better understanding of God's expectations, His mercy, and His judgments.
Thank you again for joining me on this journey through Revelation, and as long as you keep reading, I will keep posting all that God would reveal.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.