Here’s an unlikely Easter Sunday message for you.
How many Easter sermons have you heard where a passage from the book of Revelation was the text? Most likely, the answer is “zero.” Yet, that is precisely where I plan to direct your attention this Resurrection morning.
John knew Jesus of Nazereth better than any living person (with the possible exception of His mother). He was part of the Savior’s inner circle of three. And among those three, he held a special place. Throughout his gospel, he cryptically refers to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.”
At the time of writing down the vision that contitutes the book of Revelation, John was most likely the only one of the 12 original disciples still living.
While exiled on the island of Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea, John receives a heavenly visitation—not by an angel—but by Jesus Himself.
Now John had obviously been with Jesus constantly throughout His three year ministry. And he had even seen Jesus on numerous occasions following the resurrection. This risen Jesus could walk through walls yet could also share a meal with him.
The last time John had seen Jesus was on a hillside just outside Jerusalem. After receiving some final instruction, he’d watched his friend ascend into the clouds.
Through other scriptures, we now know what happened immediately after that ascension. Jesus was crowned King of Kings and took His rightful seat of rulership—the throne at the Father’s right hand.
So, yes, John had seen Jesus in many settings and times, but until this day, he had never seen Jesus the crowned, ruling King. It was, to say the least, a startling sight:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet . . . Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.Revelation 1:10-16 (NASB)
Now much of the way King Jesus appears in John’s vision carries symbolic significance. I don’t believe that Jesus always has shining feet or a doubled-edged sword coming out of His mouth. Each of the things mentioned in John’s description carried prophetic significance about Jesus’ present, ongoing, and expanding rule as crowned King.
Nevertheless, there is a clear message here. As wonderful as Jesus was during His earthly ministry, and even after He received His glorified body at His resurrection . . . There is still no comparison to the might, glory, and majesty that Jesus now embodies as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
John is so overwhelmed at a mere glimpse of this King, that he collapses in a heap like a dead man. Suddenly the quaking John feels the warmth of a hand on his shoulder. He knows that hand.
Then he hears the voice of his old friend:
“Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.Revelation 1:17,18 (NASB)
In a single, compound sentence, Jesus manages to pack a lifetime’s worth of comfort and reassurance.
- “Do not be afraid.” There is no place for fear in the presence of such love and power.
- “I am the First and the Last.” In the Greek, “the Alpha and Omega,” the A-to-Z. He is the author and the finisher. All of creation began with Him and now is being remade through Him.
- I am “the Living One.” King Jesus is not only alive, He is Life itself. He is the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden. Connection to Him imparts blessed immortality.
- “I was dead.” He had to die. He had to taste death in order to defeat it. He had to die our death, so we could partake of His life.
- “And behold, I am alive forevermore.” And yet here he stands before us, gloriously alive, and will be so forever. And because He will live forever, those of us who have partaken of His life will live eternally as well. It was John who had recorded His words on another day, “. . . that whosover should believe on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
- “. . . and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” The one who holds the keys can release the prisoners.
He is “the Living One.” He is mightier than we can imagine. He is our King. And today you can feel that reassuring hand on your shoulder, too. Because He is your friend.