The book of Revelation is a book that shows us that when we have an encounter with Jesus, we are encountering the Alpha and Omega. In this article we will look at John’s powerful encounter with Jesus Christ.
JOHN INTRODUCES HIMSELF
Revelation 1:9-11 “I, John, both your brother and companion…” As we look at how John introduces himself, we see a very humble man. John was the oldest living disciple at this point. He is revered as one of those original apostles who walked with Jesus, yet he introduces himself as a brother and a companion. There is no sense of hierarchy or pride. One of the great differences between today’s church and the church of that day was the fact in John’s day they didn’t have a division between “clergy” and “laity”. He would have been the leading clergy of his day, yet he simply wants to relate as a brother and a companion.
Revelation 1:9 “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…”
THE WORD TRIBULATION
I don’t want people to get confused by the word tribulation here. John is not referring to the Tribulation period. He is referring to his own suffering and trials that he was going through being a prisoner of Rome on the island of Patmos. The emperors of Rome had already begun intense persecution of the church at this time claiming many lives.
He also refers to the kingdom. This is not speaking of an earthly kingdom but rather is speaking of the spiritual kingdom over which Christ rules. The only way one can be a part of that kingdom is to be born again. John 3:3 Jesus told Nicodemus these words. “Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” So, John is referring to a spiritual kingdom.
In this kingdom we are required to have patience. Revelation 1:9 “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…” The NIV says “patient endurance”. We faithfully endure the troubles and trials and suffering of this life, with hope of the coming of Jesus Christ. John had to endure trouble in his life as we will in ours.
John goes on to explain his situation. Revelation 1:9 I, “was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” John had done nothing wrong to be in prison. All he had done was to proclaim the word of God and had been faithful in his testimony of Jesus Christ. He was a witness to Christ death, burial, and resurrection. We are blessed to live in the day we live in and the country we live in because we don’t have a lot of persecution in the USA. But in those days thousands had refused to recant their belief in the Word of God and the person of Jesus Christ and had been executed. John needed to know that God was in control. The experience he had with the Alpha and Omega would convince him that God was indeed in control.
IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD’S DAY
Revelation 1:10 says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day…” These are interesting phrases that we need to understand. Christians began to meet together on what they called The Lord’s Day. The Lords Day is Sunday. They called it The Lords Day because the first day of the week is the day that Jesus was resurrected.
Underneath the law Jews did not meet on Sunday, but rather the celebrated the Sabbath. Let me just say that nowhere in the entire New Testament are we told to observe the Sabbath. In fact, all the other nine commandments of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament. Only the commandment regarding observing the Sabbath is not in the New Testament. The bible tells us that we are not to esteem one day above another.
Romans 14:5 talks about the weak and the strong and not to get hung up on judging each other. It says “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” As believers we should never allow this to be something we argue about.
There are denominations out there that insist that you worship on Saturday. Obviously, John was worshipping on Sunday. Colossians 2:16-17 “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” This verse shows us that the most important thing is Christ. He was Lord of the Sabbath and He is Lord on Sunday. So don’t let people judge you about worshipping on Sunday just as you wouldn’t let them judge you in regards to what you eat. We are free to worship as God directs us.
It was obviously the custom of those in the early church to meet on The Lord’s Day. In 1 Corinthians 16:2 Paul instructs them to bring their offering on the first day of the week. “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” They collected offerings on the first day of the week.
The scripture tells us that he was “in the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day. That phrase in the Spirit means that he was seeking the Lord. He was engulfed in the Spirit. In other words, he had entered into the manifested presence of God. He could sense and feel the Holy Spirit around him as he was in prayer. Revelation 1:10 “…and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, [g]“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” The voice is the same voice that John would have known as one of Jesus disciples, yet it had a substantial change as that voice now carried complete authority. It is a voice as a trumpet. Trumpets speak of authority. Trumpets speak of kings. And when John heard these that voice behind him, it was powerful. And the voice identified itself as deity. The Alpha and Omega. The first and the last. Those terms refer to a being that is deity. No one knows the end from the beginning except God.
And John is given instructions by Jesus: Revelation 1:12 “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.” Jesus told John to write the book of Revelation and as he did so he was following the expressed command of Christ.
We can see that early on these seven churches are introduced. They are important. In Revelation 2 and 3 we find that there are letters by Christ to each one of those churches. The Alpha and Omega had some important things to say to each church.
THE LETTERS TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES HAVE THE FOLLOWING APPLICATIONS:
Primarily they refer to the following four groups:
- The Seven Churches of John’s day.
Obviously, these letters were read and understood by those individuals in those seven actual churches. These were real churches made up of real individuals. If you had lived in those days you could have found where the churches and visited them.
- The Seven Types of Churches that exist today.
As we start examining these letters and comparing different churches, we could by analysis say that one church has the characteristics of the church in Laodicea while another church resembles the church in Philadelphia. We can and we should do that. All of God’s word should apply to us. 2 Timothy 3:16 NKJV “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We can’t remove the application of Christs words from ourselves or the churches that we attend. Since these letters are in scripture and are inspired, they are profitable to instruct us.
- The Seven Types of Churches that existed all through church history.
Every church that ever existed can receive the instruction of Jesus as they apply what he said to the situation they find themselves in.
- The Seven Characteristics that can exist in a Christian.
In any given church there may be one person who is red hot for Jesus and another who is cold, and another who is lukewarm. Thus, we have to take the Word and apply what it says to each individual Christian. We all should take Jesus counsel, and commendations and criticisms and apply it to our individual lives. This was written for you and me. Those are the primary four applications of the letters to the churches. Secondarily, they can also be viewed from a prophetic standpoint.
- The Seven Church Ages.
The Seven Church Ages are prefigured as aspects of the professing church that would successfully rise to prominence before the second coming. It is startling as you study this to see how powerful this is. Obviously, the Alpha and Omega can see all of church history before it unfolds.
Note: There is validity in this approach if these periods are seen as broad, imprecise descriptions of the church through history, allowing for generous periods of overlap. If one accepts these seven letters as descriptive of the flow of church history, it does not require that we see them as exclusive, rigidly sequential ages.
As well, we must remember that every age has had some characteristics of all seven churches. Though certain historical periods are marked by the conditions spoken of in these letters, we could never say that “only one letter” applies to us or our age.
- Ephesus: 30 to 100 AD; “the backslidden church”
- Smyrna: 100 to 312; “the persecuted church”
- Pergamum: 312 to 606; “the licentious church”
- Thyatira: 606 to 1520; (continues to Tribulation); “a lax church”
- Sardis: 1520 to 1750; (continues to Tribulation) “a dead church”
- Philadelphia: 1750 to 1900;(continues to Tribulation) “a favored church”
- Laodicea: 1900 to the end; (continues to Tribulation) “a lukewarm church”
THE SEVEN LAMPSTANDS EXPLAINED
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,”
As John turns and sees Jesus, he sees that Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, is walking in the midst of seven Golden lampstands. And so, we have to ask ourselves, what are these lampstands? And it is easy to be very convinced of what the lampstands are because they are explained at the end of the chapter. Revelation 1:20 “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.”
A lampstand is a very appropriate image to represent the church. While Jesus Christ was in the world, he said, “I am the light of the world.” How interesting that he told his disciples I Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world.” As believers we are to light our light shine into the world that they might see our good works. We are to take the light of the gospel to a darkened world. Now a lampstand has no light in and of itself. It doesn’t originate light, but it gets its light and its power from the electricity or the oil that flows through it. In the same way we get our power from Jesus. We get our ability to be a light from the Holy Spirit that flows in us.
And it is interesting that there were seven churches. The number seven has to do with completeness or perfection. When we go to study the seven churches we will see that there are a lot of imperfections in the church. We also need to see that God will use the church and its light to do his complete and perfect work.
And of course, there is someone walking in the midst of the seven lampstands. This to me had to be powerful for John as he was concerned about these churches. And seeing Jesus walking in the midst had to show that Jesus loved those churches, that he was with them. I am going to be okay if Jesus is with me!
John’s description of Christ as the Alpha and Omega (phrases from Revelation 1)
- “…someone like a son of man.” Indicates he was human in his appearance, the son of man was one of the favorite titles that Jesus used to refer to himself. It is used of the Messiah in all four Gospels as well as in Daniel 7:13
Daniel 7:13 “I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.”
Jesus is not some strange looking supernatural being he has the appearance of a man.
- “…dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet.” This was typical of the long robes of the High Priest as they ministered in the Holy Place of the temple. Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our High Priest. Hebrews 4:14-15 “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 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.”
“…with a golden sash around his chest.” A symbol of strength in the ancient world. The average workman only wore a shorter and looser fitting tunic. It symbolizes authority. In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
- “His hair and his head were white like wool, as white as snow…” This reminds us that Jesus is not a new thing. He has always been, from antiquity. Reminds us of the vision of Daniel 7:9 where Christ is called the Ancient of Days.
“I watched till thrones were put in place,
And the Ancient of Days was seated;
His garment was white as snow,
And the hair of His head was like pure wool.
His throne was a fiery flame,
Its wheels a burning fire;”
White hair signifies age and wisdom.
- “…his eyes were like blazing fire.” The Greek construction is literally, “his eyes shot fire” indicates that Jesus was indignant over something. When the church is not what it should be we can be assured Christ is indignant.
- “…his feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace” Bronze speaks of judgment reminding us of the brazen altar of the tabernacle where sin was judged.
- “…his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.” In other words it cannot be ignored when he speaks in judgment. Imagine being by Niagra Falls and not hearing the water fall. Many cannot or do not or will not hear his voice today because they are listening to other voices. However, we can be assured that they will hear it in that day.
- “In his right hand he held seven stars.” In verse 20 the Lord himself interprets what those stars are v. 20 “the seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches.”
There are two different views of the Angels. I don’t really think this is a super important thing to try to figure out. Some believe that the angels are pastors or teachers. We do know that angels are divinely appointed and sent by God. Pastors and teachers ought to be led by God and sent by God, so that is a possibility.
The other view is what I lean toward and that is that is an angel. Angels are supernatural created beings and that each church or church age has an angel. Is it that every church has a supernatural angel like Jesus said that each child has a guardian angel? I don’t know.
If a church has failed in its mission, we certainly can’t blame the angel. We do know that sometimes answers to prayer are held up by supernatural forces. It is a comfort to me to think that when the fight is on. God has and angel.
- “…out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.” The two edges may refer to grace and judgment. Signifies deity and his power to judge.
Hebrews 4:12 “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.” I think this is a figurative expression not that Jesus has an actual sword coming out of his mouth.
- “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” Matthew 17:12 speaks of the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus face shone as the sun. There is no mistaking the fact that this is indeed the same Jesus the disciples knew.
JOHN’S REACTION TO THE ALPHA AND OMEGA
Revelation 1:17-18 “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying [i]to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of [j]Hades and of Death.”
Even though John had walked with Jesus and even laid his head over on Jesus shoulder, he had a completely different reaction to the Jesus he now met. He was overwhelmed to the point where he fell at his feet as dead. I can imagine that what happened next calmed the fear in Johns heart. He was afraid for the churches. But now he sees Jesus as Lord over the church.
This is what Jesus does. He laid his right hand on John – signifies his presence with the church Matthew 28:20 “And surely I am with you always.”
Four reasons why Christians shouldn’t fear in the following phrases.
“Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last.” signifies the eternal nature of Christ and that he is in control.
“I am He who lives and was dead…” This refers to his death burial and resurrection. Christ has conquered even the most difficult of enemies.
“I am alive forever and ever!” Brings hope to us as our decision to follow Christ is eternal.
“And I hold the Keys of death and Hades.” The keys were evidently purchased by his blood. Hebrews 2:14-15 “by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” If he holds the keys to death and Hades. We do not have to be afraid.