Last Words: Tolerance in Thyatira

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:18-29).

Regardless of church denominations, Jesus always deals with individual congregations. He looks at each congregation apart from the others. This is what’s represented by His eyes of fire. He sees past the outward works to the very heart of everything.

Words of Commendation

Jesus begins His message by reminding the church that He sees and knows the true condition of the church and the believers who comprise it. He is the one who has “eyes like a flame of fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” In this context, His feet remind the church that He is coming again to both judge and conquer His enemies.

As with the other churches, Christ knows the works of the church: “your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.” Notice here in addition to knowing the love, faith, service, and endurance, the Lord know that the church is growing spiritually (“your latter works exceed the first”). They are growing in the works He has just mentioned. That is the mark of a true church.

Words of Warning

As with most of the churches, Christ proceeds to give a warning: “But I have this against you.” In this case, the church at Thyatira tolerates “that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” Whether there was an actual woman in the church named Jezebel, there are a few things that are apparent:

  • She “calls herself a prophetess.” This would seem to imply that she had assumed a title or office that the Lord did not confirm. Throughout Acts and the NT letters, it’s clear that the Lord appoints offices of ministry and leadership, and such appointments are acknowledged by the elders of the church. This doesn’t seem to have been the case here.
  • She “is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” Whether the ‘sexual immorality’ mentioned is physical fornication is debatable; often the term is used in Scripture to denote spiritual unfaithfulness to God. While physical fornication can’t be ruled out, it seems the stress is spiritual in nature, especially if you combine both phrases. This person was turning people in the church away from Christ to others. (That this is a good interpretation is supported by Paul’s comments in 1 Cor. 10:14-22.)

A word of caution is in order here before proceeding. This passage and the corresponding OT passages referring to Jezebel are often taught in the context of a “Jezebel spirit,” implying that women alone are susceptible to it. It is just as often used to spiritually abuse women and justify excluding women from leadership.

However, the point of this passage is not on the gender of the person involved. “that woman Jezebel” is mentioned to represent one (male or female) who turns the faithful away from worship of the true God. (Note that Balaam was mentioned in two previous letters, but one rarely hears of a spirit of Balaam directed against men.) The emphasis of the passage is that she assumed an office of leadership that the Lord did not put her in. Many men do likewise. We should not push the passage beyond what it intends to teach.

The Call to Repent

Christ has given her time to repent, he tells the church. However, He says, she refuses to repent. The sin is open and willful. (The fact that Christ charges the church with tolerating her shows that the church is aware of her and what’s going on.) Since she has not repented, Christ pronounces judgment against her and those with her. Notice that His strongest condemnation against Jezebel is not the sin itself but her refusal to repent.

  • He “will throw her onto a sickbed.” This phrase probably means more than just a normal sickness, probably a pestilence, plague or something. Note that he does not say, “Unless she repents” (as he does with “those who commit adultery with her”). He has given her plenty of time to repent and she has refused.
  • For those “who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation.” Most likely, this refers to people who have been under Jezebel’s sway for a time, perhaps even co-teachers with her now. Christ qualifies the judgment with “unless they repent of her works.” (We take “those who commit adultery with her” and “her children” to be the same.) He will cast them into great tribulation, in order to wake them up and give them a chance to repent. If they refuse to repent, Christ will “strike them dead, an expression that means “cut off.”

The judgments seem severe, but two things must be remembered. First, Christ always gives time to repent. Second, His goal is the purity of His church and He takes that very seriously. His judgments are always in keeping with the nature and severity of sin. But judgment can be avoided through true repentance. They will also serve as an example to all the churches. He says, “All the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.”

A Final Word of Encouragement

Now, Christ speaks to the “rest” of the church, to those who “do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan.” The phrase deep things of Satan is particularly appropriate if the heretical group is engaging in idol worship, since false gods are nothing more than Satan’s counterfeits. It may be that Jezebel taught that she had access to special knowledge or power through knowledge of these dark realms. But “the rest” the church (perhaps even a minority) had stayed true to Christ.

To those in the church, Christ says, “I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come.” He need not give them any new commandments, since they are adhering to what He has commanded them previously. And John tells us that “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). That minority in the church is to hold fast to what they know, believe, and practice until the Lord comes for them. For those that do, He promises, “I will give authority over the nations.” The faithful are promised to rule the nations with an rod of iron.

This doesn’t mean that such a ruler will be cruel or vindictive, only that his power will be unchallenged. If judgment must be pronounced, it will be done in Christ’s authority. And Christ’s authority is the Father’s authority, “even as I myself have received authority from my Father.”

Finally, the faithful are promised “the morning star.” This may refer to Christ Himself. Thus, the faithful believers will see Christ personally, who will reward them for their faithfulness. It may also be a promise of eternal light that vanquishes the spiritual darkness surrounding them. Both are great promises and neither excludes the other.

One thing this passage reminds us is that in every congregation, Christ has a remnant of faithful believers who hold fast to His teachings. While He does charge them to not tolerate unfaithfulness, in the end he says to remain faithful. That is our call today: Remain faithful in the midst of spiritual darkness.

Next: Soiled in Sardis


Unworthy but Worth it

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? (Matthew 16:26)

As we reflect on Christmas, perhaps the question comes up, “What’s this all about anyway?”

Gifts? Family? Giving?

All of those are good, but Christmas is about more than that. We know that, of course, but still we ask the question. Oh, we know the right answer: Christmas is about Jesus coming to earth. God became baby to live with us and eventually to die for us.

Would I have done that? Would you have done that?

Christmas is the biggest shopping season of the year. Americans are expected to spend an average of $700 on Christmas gifts. Nationwide the total is expected to be about $756 bilion (yes, with a ‘b’). That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of money for the average family/person to spend.

Now consider what the Father spent to get us.

The word ‘value’ signifies whatever someone is willing to give in exchange for something. We talk about “the best value” and “fair market value.” When we consider buying something or engaging in some activity, we often say, “It’s worth it to me,” or “It’s just not worth it to me.” The key question is, “Will what I get in exchange be worth what I gave for it?” That’s a question that only the buyer can answer.

So, think again about God spent to get us.

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1: 18-19).

It’s true that we aren’t worthy of His mercy and grace. We couldn’t earn salvation on our best day, or in the best lifetime. But God thinks you and I are worth it. He gave His Son to get us. Imagine that. Sinful, disobedient, rebellious us.

The Christmas story is about God becoming a baby. The message of Christmas is, in addition to “I am with you,” one of “You’re worth it to me.”

Remember that the next time you are tempted to doubt His love, care or concern with you.

Last Words: A Divided Church

And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: “The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:12-17).

Often, even those congregations who have been faithful to Christ can and will go astray. At such times, a course correction is needed. It is during such times that the Word becomes even more valuable, as it highlights the problems–and gives the solutions. The church at Pergamum was one such church.

Pergamum was located about 65 miles from Smyrna. It was the official capital of the province of Asia (though Ephesus and Smyrna claimed the title as well). It was known for its beauty and wealth, it’s great library (almost 200,000 volumes), sculptures, and temples. Notably, there were three temples dedicated to the emperor cult, along with temples to Dionysus and Asclepius, and an altar to Zeus. The city got its name from its invention of vellum (Greek, pergamene, “from Pergamum”), a writing material made from animal skins.

Christ identifies Himself to the church as the one “who has the sharp two-edged sword.” This is particularly appropriate for several reasons, not the least of which is that Rome had given the rare power of capital punishment to this city. At that time the symbol of state authority was the sword. Christ is reminding the church that the are first and foremost citizens of His kingdom, and that He needs no other sword other than His mouth (His word). It’s also a reminder to the church that:

[T[he word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

The word of Christ penetrates to the very core of the believer’s being.

Words of Commendation

As in all the messages, Christ begins with His knowledge. In this case, He knows their faithfulness in midst of what He terms “Satan’s throne” and where “Satan dwells.” With the many temples to pagan deities and mandatory emperor worship, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ was a risky thing indeed.

Yet the church had not abandoned the faith: “You hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you.” We are not told who Antipas was, whether the first or the most notable of those to be martyred. Martyrdom for one’s faith always strikes close to home for the ones left behind, and causes a deep soul-searching. What would I do if it were me? That the church held fast to faith is answer enough to that question.

Words of Warning

At the same time, Christ through His knowledge reports that all is not well: “But I have a few things against you.” The church had in its midst some who were leading believers astray. He names two groups:

  • Some there who hold the teaching of Balaam. This pagan prophet was paid to curse Israel, but was unable to do so (Num 22-24). Instead, he devised a plan to draw the Israelite men after pagan women and entice them to sacrifice to pagan gods and thus incur the wrath of the Lord (Num. 25:1ff; 31:16).
  • Some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Little is known of this group, outside of John’s references to them (here and in 2:6). As I mentioned in a previous post (Last Words: Our First Love), it’s best to see them as a group who sought to mix the true faith with pagan religions and even attempting to contact the demonic realm. They thus lived immoral lives.

It could be that the groups are closely related. In any case they are causing some in the church to be led astray from full and pure devotion to Christ. Since Balaam is mentioned, it may be that some in the church continued to celebrate pagan holidays, or even attend events at pagan temples, which often involved sexual immorality. It’s also probable that such people cited their Christian freedom to live in this manner.

Christ doesn’t say the church officially approved of such teachings, but the sense is that the church allowed or tolerated it. This is certainly the case in many churches today, where almost anyone can teach, and the teachers are held to low or no standards of conduct.

The church, then, is to repent of this toleration–and the implication is that the church should discipline and/or remove those teachers. If the church does not repent and act, the Lord Himself will come and fight against these false teachers “with the sword of my mouth.” The sense of this seems to be that He will send judgement against them, and since the church is told to repent, there may well be discipline for the church as well.

Words of Promise

Christ closes by encouraging the believers who remain faithful to Him (“the one who conquers”). He promises to give “some of the hidden manna.” Instead of attending pagan feasts and eating spiritually contaminated food, Christ will give the overcomer the true manna that will satisfy. The white stone mentioned here may be an allusion to the practice of giving a white stone as an invitation to a pagan temple. Thus, Christ extends the invitation to the conqueror to come to His temple and eat at His banquet.

The “new name” Christ mentions may be an allusion to an Egyptian story that many ex-pagan Christians would be familiar with. the goddess Isis plotted to learn the secret name of the supreme god Re to gain his hidden power for herself. The one who knew the hidden name would receive the power and status of the god who revealed it. Hence the name was jealously guarded by the god. In the context of this message, then, Christ is offering Himself and the power of His name to Christians tempted to compromise their loyalty to Christ to gain the favor of the pagan gods.

This is a strong word of warning and hope. The church at Pergamum was divided, as we are today. There are many in the church who have strayed from Christ, committing spiritual adultery as it were. Yet, the Lord never leaves Himself without a witness. There is always a group within the church (as there is today) who stands faithfully with Him. Let us be in that group, drawing the rest to Christ, endeavoring to hold fast to His name til the end.

Next: Tolerance in Thyatira

Last Words: Faithful Unto Death

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: “The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:8-11).

Sometimes the Lord gives us a message to strengthen us when we are facing or about to face hard times. In this case, Jesus gave such a message to an entire church, the church of Smyrna. Smyrna was about 40 miles north of Ephesus, and by the time that John wrote Revelation it was known for emperor worship. Every Roman citizen had to burn a pinch of incense and say “Caesar is Lord.” The Christians of course refused to do so, citing their own confession, “Jesus is Lord” (Rom. 10:9). Thus, believers were constantly in danger there.

As with the letter to Ephesus (and all seven letters), Jesus identities Himself using elements from John’s vision. Here, He reminds the church of two things “the first and the last” and “who died and came to life.” In this way, Christ claims the titles of both Lord and Savior. Thus, He is the Sovereign One, able to save and protect those in His care.

Words of Commendation

Unlike the messages to other churches, this message contains only words of commendation. Jesus reminds them, “I know.” He knows the trials and tribulations that His saints are enduring. He also knows the the poverty of His saints—yet in Him and thru Him they are rich. He values faithfulness in His followers, and as He reminded the people during His earthly ministry, it’s far better to have treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20).

Finally, Christ knows the false words that are being spoken about the saints by their enemies. They claim to be Jews yet are nothing more than a synagogue of Satan. He knows the truth. It is common for the world to slander believers. Satan is called the accuser of the brethren for a reason (Rev. 12:10).

The Warning of What’s to Come

Jesus plainly tells the church that they are bout to suffer–the implication is that they are about to suffer more than they have up to this point. Some will be put into prison and “tested.” The sense is of both a test (to determine where their true loyalties lay) and as a refining of silver or gold through fire.

Since, in the Roman world, prison was more a prelude to trial and execution, Jesus exhorts the church to be “faithful unto death.” Christ has said that “some” will be thrown into prison and tested, probably a large number of that community of faith. Thus, not only must the individuals remain faithful, but the church as a whole must not be overcome but a spirit of fear or unbelief.

The Promise

Jesus gives the church a promise–but it’s not one that we often like to hear today. He says, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” He doesn’t promise that those who are thrown into prison will be physically delivered. He doesn’t promise to restore or increase the church’s economic status. He promises that the one who overcomes (by acknowledging Christ even unto death) will receive the crown of life. That is the ultimate prize that one can run for (1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). The one who receives this crown will thus have overcome the “second death,” meaning the ultimate death, separation from God eternally.

The good fight that we are to wage is not for a better life, more money, bigger ministry, or happy family. It is to remain faithful to Jesus no matter what. Only a life of self-denial will produce such faith.

Next: A Divided Church

Last Words: Our First Love

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Rev. 2:1-7).

The first message that John receives is addressed to the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was the capital and largest city in the province of Asia. Like Corinth, it had a cosmopolitan feel. It was the center of commerce, government, and religion–and all three tended to mix freely. Preaching and living the Gospel in Ephesus thus was no easy task.

Christ begins His message to this church by introducing Himself as the one “who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.” Holding the stars in His right hand indicates both protection and authority–Christ has ultimate authority over the churches, and thus speaks words of life and protection. Walking among the lampstands reminds the church that Christ is always present, always seeing what is happening. It is much like Susannah Wesley once told her young son John, “As best you can, fix the image of the Holy God in your mind. Whatever you do, remind yourself, ‘What am I about to do? God sees me.”

Words of Commendation

Being the all-knowing One, Jesus begins with what He knows about the church. He knows of the church’s hard work and patient endurance under tribulation. He knows that they hate evil workers in their midst disguised as shepherds. Unlike many who view God as one who simply sees what we do wrong, Jesus wants the church to know that He sees the good in them as well. Those words are meant to strengthen and encourage them.

Yet a Few Things

However, Jesus being the Truth, must speak truth to the church. He says, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” What does this mean? Many have discussed this over the centuries. Some see it as referring to love for each other; others see it as their initial fervent devotion to Christ which was lost. Either is possible, and perhaps both are in view. One cannot truly love others unless he first loves Christ, and the evidence of love for Christ is love for the brethren (John 13:35; 1 John 2:9-11; 3:11-15).

Jesus tells them to engage in a specific plan to remedy the situation:

  • Remember. They are to reflect on how they were before–their love for Him evidenced by their love for one another.
  • Repent. They are to “repent,” that is, change their thinking about the situation. Repentance is first of all a change of mind, followed by the evidence of changed behavior.
  • Do. They are to “do the works you did at first.” The idea of “first love” seems to suggest that their service now is one of “going through the motions.” Christ wants them to return to service motivated by love for Him and others.

The Warning

If the Ephesians did not repent, Christ promises, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” What does this mean? First, we must remember that the message is addressed to the church as a whole, not to individual believers. The lampstand gives light, and the mission of the church is to bring the Light of Christ to the world through faithful witness. Removal of the lampstand, then, would mean that the church would continue in their meetings, their works, their service, but their witness would be gone.

As a final word of encouragement, Christ reminds them, “Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” This group of people is difficult to identity. But with other clues from Revelation (vv. 14-15), it’s best to see them as a group who sought to mix the true faith with pagan religions and even attempting to contact the demonic realm. They thus lived immoral lives. Christ reminds the church in this way that full devotion is required–though it should be motivated by love.

The Question Today

How many churches today stand at the same crossroads? Perhaps they began with full devotion to Christ, serving and loving out of an abundance of His love for them. But now, they are simply going through the motions, because “that’s what Christians do.” Though the warning was spoken to a specific church, we as individual believers can ask that same question of ourselves: What motivates my service? Following the rules? Gaining recognition? Or seeing Christ glorified through loving others?

Though many view this in terms of an emotional feeling, it has more to do with the disposition and direction of the heart. Is my heart pointed toward Christ and others, or toward myself? As we seek Him, we will feel our heart anchor more and more in Him.

That is the question of the ages. Let us keep our witness and not lose our lampstand.

Next: Faithful Unto Death

Last Words: The Author and Judge

When people die, they often leave behind a last will, detailing messages or bequests to loved ones and friends. With this post, we begin a series looking at such a message. In Revelation, Jesus gave messages to the Apostle John for seven churches. The messages contain statements of inheritance, encouragements, and warnings.

Before getting into the individual messages, we’ll talk about the Author. As with every last will, the author is identified first. In this case, the Author is Jesus. He tells John what to write in a vision. Here is how John describes the scene:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that 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 are the seven churches
(Rev. 1:10-20).

Jesus Christ: The Author

The first thing we notice is that John is “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” Most likely, he was engaged in personal worship on a Sunday–the first day of the week. The words imply that he was transported to a realm of prophetic vision, similar to Isaiah or Ezekiel. At first he sees nothing, only a voice is heard, telling John to write down what he sees in a book, and send the book to seven specific churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. (Since the individual messages were contained in that same book, it was intended that each message should be read by every church, given as instruction and example.)

After turning to see who spoke to him, John sees one standing in the middle of seven golden lampstands, holding seven stars in his right hand. The person identifies Himself to John as Christ, in words that John will recognize: “the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Not only is Jesus referring to His death and resurrection, but He is claiming equality and unity with God (“the first and the last,” a title belonging only to God). His description of “one like the son of man” echoes back to Daniel. It is a term of divinity, though it refers to a human Messiah. It was Jesus’ favorite term for Himself, but was rarely used by the early church, except when connecting the suffering of believers to Jesus’ suffering and glory.

Jesus Christ: Righteous Judge

Jesus here is described in terms of authority as Righteous Judge. This image is consistent with the whole theme of Revelation, that of the Lord bringing final judgement on the world and overthrowing evil. Look at the details John includes here:

  • The long robe – The robe brings a picture of both the priests of old and a judge (and the OT priests were called upon to be judges). Jesus is thus the Great High Priest who fulfilled the priesthood of Aaron and is given full authority to judge by the Father.
  • White hair like wool and snow – White hair was a sign of dignity. Elders were respected for their wisdom and judgement. Here Jesus is described in terms similar to Daniel’s prophecy of the Ancient of Days.
  • Eyes like blazing fire – Christ’s eyes are piercing and penetrating. He scrutinizes everything; there is nothing that can be hidden from His sight.
  • Feet like shining bronze – In OT prophecies shining metal is related to the appearance of the glory of God, and metal that has been refined in the first often represents the purest and strongest of metals, indicating Christ’s triumphant judgement of unbelievers.
  • Voice like many waters – This symbolizes the majesty and power of Christ, just as we see His majesty in great waterfalls.
  • The right hand – John identifies that Jesus held the seven starts in His right hand. The right hand is the place of power and protection. One of two details in the vision that are directly identified by Jesus, the stars represent the angels of the seven churches.
  • The sharp double-edged sword – John often uses this symbol in Revelation. As Jesus is described as the Word and God “spoke” creation into existence, the imagery is wholly appropriate. A sword is a symbol of both judgement and war. Jesus will make war with His enemies, and bring judgement to the world.
  • The face shining like the sun – Jesus is seen in His brilliance and glory. The image may be similar to the image that Peter, James, and John saw when Christ was transfigured (Matt. 17:1-8).

Jesus is thus seen in all His glory and righteousness. It’s a glory that not only judges but protects. He walks among the seven lampstands (which He identifies as the seven churches), indicating an intimate relationship. He holds the stars in His hand, indicating His protection of and authority over the churches.

No wonder John fell at His feet as though dead! He had seen the inward reality of Christ, and yet lived to tell the tale. When we are prone to question God about all the evil in the world, this image of Christ should remind us that in the end, all will be made right. All accounts will be settled. All unrighteousness judged.

Next: Our First Love