Monday, July 9, 2018

An Encounter with Jesus

胡偉南(William)牧師. 2018年7月8日

“An Encounter with Jesus” – Revelation 1:9-20

The sermon reading this morning is our sermon text. It comes from a book that for many Christians is avoided. And if you are not a Christian and the bible is new to you, know that the book of Revelation is known for its discussion of prophesy and the future. That part of Revelation is not what we will look at today. We will not talk about the future this morning so please don’t fear.

Back in April, the youth fellowship and I started on a journey through the book of Revelation. I began what I hoped would be a sermon series on Revelation, as Pastor Nelson is going through Mark. And I was going to encourage the youth to read along with me, and with you through the book of Revelation.  Then came Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and at last no more special days!  We just finished 4th of July celebrations! 

July 4 is about independence and freedom and it occurred to me that Revelation was written by John who was exiled on an island. He was basically under house arrest. He was a prisoner. He did not have freedom.  Why did John lose his independence?  For being a follower of Jesus Christ, and not just a follower, he worked to spread the message of Jesus. 

Patmos was a prison island. Most of the prisoners “worked under the whip” They were in quarries (or mines on an island 70 miles off the coast of Turkey). John was older, so he may not have had to work in the mines, (but he was cut off from his friends.[1]) Another commentator said he probably did work in the mines sleeping on a bare floor with no pillow and blankets. John was exiled as a criminal. Another word for exile is banishment. Banishment under Roman law meant the loss of civil rights, as well as the confiscation of all your property.[2]

The worst thing that can happen to an individual is to be cut off from his friends. He was cut off from other believers. While on the island, John is given a vision. Whether he was dreaming, or actually physically transported, John was given a picture of Jesus. And before we look at the passage, I want us to think about the idea of a picture. For many of us we used to keep pictures in our wallets of our loved ones! 

God did not give us an actual photo album, but we can see the pictures painted by the writers of scripture.  For Revelation, the author John, a 1st century person, is writing down what he sees as he is given a vision of the future and a vision of heaven.  We need to understand he lived 2000 years before now. Keep that in mind as we struggle through the book. In response to this, one of our youth says, “oh I wouldn’t write anything down, I would take pictures with my phone!” So whether you carry your pictures in your phone or purse/wallet, think of pictures.

Pictures are things that can be seen.  There is irony here in that in the 1st century you would find temple after temple with various statues of idols, these statues and idols could be seen. But for Christians they worshipped a God of spirit. Critics during their day criticized Christians for not having a visible God, in Roman times Christians were accused of being atheists because they did not have a VISIBLE god[3]. Today we know the word “atheist” as a person who does not believe in any God - but people could criticize us today for being a form of an atheist.  Christians don’t worship a real god, just look at how they live, they live as if there is no GOD. But in Romans times, the Christians had no visible God but lived in such a way that there was no doubt that they believed in their God, even giving their life for Him. So at issue then and today is that God is invisible but one day we all will see him visibly. Look at Revelation 1:7

Look! He is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see Him,
including those who pierced[l]Him.
And all the families of the earth[m][n]
will mourn over Him.[o][p]
This is certain. Amen.

Every eye will see HIM!  Look! 

In our passage today, we will see five pictures from this text.
Our first picture is a snapshot of a follower of Jesus.

Please turn on your bibles to Rev. 1. Let us read from Revelation 1.
Revelation 1: 9  I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of God’s word and the testimony about Jesus.[q]

The first picture is that of the writer of the book, a follower of Jesus. Who is this John? The primary view is this is John the Apostle. But John does not use that title. He writes, this is your brother and partner in the tribulation. 

One commentary writes, “[John] He knew that there is partnership in suffering for Jesus. He is not alone. He is no LONE RANGER. His Lord had suffered and his brother James was martyred. Paul and Peter were likewise dead. John knew that many share as partners in the Lord’s work. He could therefore take heart; we suffer as family.”[4]

At our prayer meeting, one of our church family has a burden for the persecuted church. So we pray for our persecuted brothers. Back in April and on Friday night youth fellowship- I reminded the youth, that Revelation was written to encourage the persecuted and warn the complacent. Revelation like the other NT books are situational. We read the books in light of the situation of the original audience.[5]  And the original readers of Revelation were going through persecution. John was going through persecution.
The first picture is of John a follower of Jesus, who endured persecution, but he didn’t do it alone, he suffered as a member of God’s family. Followers of Jesus will face persecution in his name, but we do not suffer alone.

And even though Revelation is a book about future events, “Revelation contains more OT references than any other NT book.”[6]And that brings us to our next picture from our passage. This is a picture of the church and Jesus- tied into ideas from the Old Testament (OT).
12I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven gold lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man,[v]dressed in a long robe and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest.

The last verse in Chapter 1 ties in that the lampstands represent the seven churches written about and to in the book of Revelation. These churches represent all churches on earth in some form. The lampstand image is found in the Old Testament.

Verse 12 is taken from Exodus 37:17-24 and Zech. 4: 10. In Exodus Moses had “constructed a seven-branched lampstand for the tabernacle –the tabernacle was to be the dwelling place of God!”  and Zechariah had a vision of seven-branched golden lampstand that represented the “eyes of the Lord, which range throughout the earth.”[7]

v. 12 introduces us to the lampstands and they are representative of the churches and in another sense, it is in the church that the Lord dwells today. And in verse 13 we read that among those lampstands indeed stands Jesus! 

13and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man,[v]dressed in a long robe and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest.

Among the lampstands is the ONE! The one is likened to the Son of Man! Son of Man is Jesus’ favorite self-designation. It occurs 81 times in the Gospels. It identifies Him as the heavenly Messiah who will receive an eternal kingdom.[8]

The title Son of Man goes back to Daniel 7:13-14, which is Daniel’s vision:
13“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a]coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14)

We will look at the church and Jesus a little later in the sermon, but for now I want to continue to show the OT’s influence on Revelation.

Also in 13 we see the outfit that Jesus is wearing and that will make us recall the OT.  “A long robe with a gold sash wrapped around His chest.” This is the clothing of the priest in the Old Testament (Ex 28:4).
4These are the garments that they must make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a specially woven tunic,[a]a turban, and a sash. They are to make holy garments for your brother Aaron and his sons so that they may serve Me as priests.

Jim Richards writes, 
“In OT worship, the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies to worship God, interceding for the people and offering a blood sacrifice for people’s sins. In the same manner, Jesus entered Heaven’s most holy place and offered His own blood that our sins might be forgiven, acting as our High Priest. Yes even today, Jesus is our Savior, Mediator, and Intercessor-our High Priest.[9]

Richards goes on to write, “Instead of High Priest, which was a perfect image for people in the first century, perhaps we can better understand His role if we think of [Jesus] as our attorney, the One who defends us for the sins we have committed. He is the one who intercedes for us in Heaven’s court, arguing on our behalf, saying we are forgiven. We should not be punished.”[10]

I have served on a Special Grand Jury. Our only job is to back the prosecutor and a part of me is saddened by corruption, by sin, and these poor people don’t have anyone to defend them in our session. But our job was only to agree or disagree with the prosecution. These folks will get their day in court and they will have an attorney. But I doubt their attorneys will be effective but the Jesus as our attorney will set us free!
2My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. (1 John 2:1)

For there is one God
and one mediator between God and humanity,
Christ Jesus, Himself human,  (1 Timothy 2:5)

We are all in need of an advocate.

The first picture was of John a follower of Jesus, who suffered persecution as a member of Jesus’ family.

The second picture shows the NT church, which cannot get away from the OT. Churches are places where God dwells, where his priest still serves him!

A third picture we see from this passage is the Living God!

17When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. He laid His right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last,18and the Living One.I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades. 

Jesus tells John, he is the first and the last. The protosand the eschatos. He was with God in the beginning and all things were created through Him! And he will be there at the end of time, the eschaton.

He was with God in the beginning.
3All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created. (John 1:2-3)

But not only is Jesus alive, see in verse 18- Jesus says, “I was dead.”  [look], HE is alive forever and ever!  Holding the keys to death, Jesus gives us life! John had fallen like a dead man, but Jesus laid His hand on John.  What a picture for us. In the same way, we are spiritually dead before Jesus touches us. I remember hearing about a young man who was spiritually dead, and somehow during the day, some one gave him a Gospel Tract, and he read it and, in his bedroom, he came to become a Christian. He read about God, and man’s sin, and how Jesus came to die for man’s sin, and the man responded. I am of the generation of Chinese immigrants who came and mostly started grocery stores, laundromats, and restaurants. A deacon at my church shared he was in his 40’s when he became a Christian. He told me his life was filled with working, but it was stressful, and he had to take pills to work the long hours. He was spiritually dead, but discovered the Gospel. My professor at seminary who is now preaching at a Baptist church up near the Arboretum shared that he grew up in a culture of Christianity and had even been preaching a few years, while reading through the book of Romans discovered that he was spiritually dead and became born again! He went on to say, after that he no longer had any doubts about the living Jesus.

The Living God picture is so rich as we read of John’s description of Jesus from head to toe. We see this inverses 14 and 15.  We start with 14, “His hair is described as white like wool, white like snow.” White hair is by definition a picture of old age.  

As Daniel Akin writes,
“We respect the process of aging, less and less. A person is admired if he can keep looking young, not if he has the dignity of age. The bible says it another way. Proverbs 16:31 says, “A white head is a crown of glory.” and we read in the law “You will rise up before the white head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God, I am the Lord (Lev. 19:32).”[11]

I think about life, and what living is about. And I can’t help but feel that we start truly living in our retirement years. We took our daughter to VBS at the Quarries Church and out there they use parking lot attendants, and you don’t have to look hard to see that many of the helpers were white haired. Those parking lot attendants in the hot sun were older, retired. When I volunteered for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief when I was in California many of my fellow volunteers were retired. It’s a shame that culture today emphasizes youth. I remember a pastor when he retired. One of the older members of the church in their 90’s is quoted as saying, “I thought he had another 5 years left.” But I appreciate that pastor who in retirement has traveled the globe doing God’s work, and if I am correct has visited churches on 3 continents. I hope that when I retire I can do the same.

The picture is of the Living God. And from the rest of the description we can learn much of life. (Read Rev. 1:14-15 - His head and hair were white like wool—white as snow—and His eyes like a fiery flame. His feet were like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of cascading waters.)
I like Jim Richard’s run down of verses 14 and 15. You can follow along :
“His hair represents wisdom
His eyes are omniscient. He knows and sees all things.
His feet as brass are a symbol of judgement
His voice speaks to his supreme authority, a deafening roar like Niagara Falls, but with a clear, unmistakable message
His countenance is the Shekinah glory of God,
He calms our fears,
He brings us life!
He is the living Lord
He is the coming Lord and will appear again one day![12]

Connelly writes, “Jesus the risen, glorious Lord, walks among his churches. Jesus protects them, cares for them, watches over them, corrects them. He walks past and through and around the church you are a part of. He examines the leaders and the hearts of every person. His eyes see every secret. He speaks with the sharp sound of his Word.”[13]

We have seen the Living God in this third picture. The second picture was of the NT church informed by the OT and the first was a snapshot of a follower of God, John who was persecuted as a member of Jesus’ family. 

The fourth picture from this passage concerns Jesus hands and in his hand he is holding something (look at verse 20):

20 The secret of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and of the seven gold lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels[y] of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands[z] are the seven churches.

What is Jesus holding in his right hand? He is holding seven stars which correspond to seven angels. I like the interpretation that these angels are said to be the pastors of those seven churches. Not only is Jesus in His church but He also holds the pastors in His right hand. That is, He holds them close.

Douglas Connelly writes, “The word angel can also mean messenger and may refer to the pastor or elder who has responsibility to shepherd God’s flock in your local church. If this is the case, Jesus pays special attention to the person who shepherds you week after week. If you are a pastor, be encouraged by that. The Lord Jesus holds you close to his heart. If you receive ministry from a pastor, the fact that Jesus holds pastors so close should encourage you to pray more for your pastor. Support pastors in the work God has called them to do.”[14]

The last picture is of the word of God:

Earlier in Chapter 1 we read in v. 3 The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep[f]what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near!

And in verse 19
19 Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this. (Rev. 1:19)

Many commentators tell us that V. 19 is an outline of this book.
Write what you have seen - this is the past.
What is- is the present
What will take place after this - is the future.

We can see the past- Rev. 1
The present for the original readers is Rev 2-3
And what is to come, or the future is Rev. 4-22

In this last picture, we see that John was asked to write what Jesus was to show him. The message was from Jesus to Christians via John! From the time of Moses – God has asked men to write down his message to us.
When I went to the SBC Annual Meeting, two reports struck me. One- we baptized close to 7 million people but at the same time we lost seven million people. What is the issue? We were challenged at the annual meeting: is baptism the end goal for churches? A solution concerned discipleship and bible engagement. The question is not only are we reading God’s word but does God’s word inform how we make decisions in life?

And as one who promotes discipleship and bible engagement, someone gave me some good practical criticism concerning my teaching and my preaching. They said that they want more, they want to grow deeper. Basically, can I give more of God’s Word? I am convicted to go deeper in the word, to find not only meaning but to work out application for us today. 

16All Scripture is inspired by God[a]and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Going back to Rev. 1:19, we are given an outline of the book. Chapters 2 and 3 are to represent the present age. What can we learn from Chapters 2-3? But I want to encourage you to keep this fifth picture of God’s word and it will bless you.

Today we saw pictures from Rev. 1:9-20, the first was of John a follower of Jesus, partner in persecution, we suffer together as a family. The second picture are images from the OT that give us insights into Christ and the Church. The third picture is of the Living God who gives us life, the 4th was a picture of Christ holding the pastors close to Him and the last was a picture of the Bible.

The Bible, the church, the tradition of the OT, all these pictures are photobombed by Jesus. RememberJesus standing among the lampstands. The lampstand is like a candle holder.  The purpose is to bring light. The connection is beautiful: churches are to bring light. But think about this, how much brighter are two lamps versus one. How about 100 vs 1?

It was a former American President who had a campaign called a thousand points of light[15]
The purpose was to promote volunteerism. It’s an idea borrowed from the Bible.

16In the same way, let your light shine[a]before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Mt. 5:16)

A 1000 points of light as individuals, but if the lampstand represents the church, How much brighter when there are many churches, together- doesn’t this sound familiar? By God’s hand we are all here worshipping in a Southern Baptist Church. We are not just a denomination. We are a Convention, meaning each individual church has local autonomy. We follow Jesus, who’s local representatives are the pastors. We cooperate with other churches. Perhaps no where can this be better done than in a church like Hyde Park.

But as a Southern Baptist church, we work together in the Southern Baptist Convention in cooperation with close to 40,000 other congregations. All our tithing goes to the Mother church and a portion goes off to the Convention. Our special missions offerings like Lottie Moon, 100% goes help further missions. The convention has the largest mission sending agency in the world called the International Mission Board.  Our Taiwan Short Term Missions is in conjunction with the work of an IMB missionary. And that is what makes being a part of our mother church so special because we are better together. We cannot help but see how much further our light can shine when we shine together. During missions emphasis time, if you walk to the other side of the church, you can see pictures of NAMB and IMB missionaries. You can take the missionary photo/card and pray for them. They are your missionaries. WE shine brighter when we are working together to serve the Living God.

This morning I turned on the t.v. and listened to Dr. Bowman. It was the sermon from June 24, 2018, and he spoke of persecution. Oh- it would have really helped me in my first picture, if you get a chance and check out his series on the Sermon on the Mount.

What picture do you have of God? Of Jesus? Of the Church? Of the Bible?
I hope your picture of Him is clearer today, but when you go home what is your picture of Jesus? How about when you go to work? 

Are you one to lose focus of the Living God? Commit to having a deeper relationship today. If that is your wish, please seek out the pastor, myself, deacons, Sunday School teachers or perhaps a Christian friend. And I hope that your next picture will be of you having a closer  relationship with Jesus Christ. (brightly shining His light, giving glory to God the Father)

[1]Connelly, Douglas. “The Book of Revelation Made Clear”. P. 20.
[2]Ibid, 19. 
[3]Need to double check where I read this! (sorry) either Connelly or Jim Richards.
[4]Akin, Daniel. “Exalting Jesus in Revelation”. Location 625 Kindle ed.
[5]Duvall, J. Scott and J. Daniel Hays. “Grasping God’s Word”. P. 285.
[6]Ibid, p. 292. 
[7]Akin, Location 657, Kindle ed.
[8]Akin, Loc. 672, Kindle ed.
[9]Richards, p. 8.
[10]Ibid, p. 8-9.
[11]Akin, Loc. 687, Kindle ed.
[12]Richards, p 9.
[13]Connelly, p. 22-23.
[14]Ibid, p. 22-23.