Wednesday, July 7, 2021

13. The Revelation: The Unfolding of the Vision (Revelation 1:12-16, 20)

Yesterday, we began looking at looking at the present work of Christ which discloses seven aspects of the Lord’s ongoing ministry to His church. Today we consider aspects 5-7:

5. Christ Controls His Church

"In His right hand He held seven stars … the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches..." (1:16a, 20a)

As the head of His church (Ephesians 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18), Christ exercises authority in His church. In John’s vision, Christ is holding seven stars in His right hand, identified in verse 20 as “the angels of the seven churches,” which symbolized those authorities. That He held them in His right hand does not picture safety and protection, but control.

The Greek word translated here as “angels” is the common word for angels, leading some interpreters to conclude that angelic beings are in view in this passage. But the New Testament nowhere teaches that angels are involved in the leadership of the church. Angels do not sin and have no need to repent, as the messengers, along with the congregations they represented, are exhorted to do (2:4–5, 14, 20; 3:1–3, 15, 17, 19). Dr. Robert L. Thomas notes a further difficulty with this view: “It presumes that Christ is sending a message to heavenly beings through John, an earthly agent, so that it may reach earthly churches through angelic representatives.”

It is better understood as “messengers,” as in Luke 7:24; 9:52; and James 2:25. Some suggest that these messengers were representatives from each of the seven churches who came to visit John on Patmos and took the book of Revelation back with them. But since Christ is said to hold them in His right hand, they were more likely leading elders and pastors, one from each of the seven churches.

These seven men demonstrate the function of spiritual leaders in the church. They are to be instruments through which Christ mediates His rule. That is why the standards for leadership in the New Testament are so high. To be assigned as an intermediary through which the Lord Jesus Christ controls His church is to be called to a serious responsibility (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9).

6. Christ Protects His Church

"...and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword" (1:16b)

Christ’s presence also provides protection for His church. The “sharp two-edged sword” that came “out of His mouth” is used to defend the church against external threats. Here, though, it speaks primarily of judgment against enemies from inside the church (2:12, 16; Acts 20:30). Those who attack Christ’s church, sow lies, create discord, or otherwise harm His people will be personally dealt with by the Lord of the church. His word is potent (Hebrews 4:12–13), and will be used against the enemies of His people (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8), so that all the power of the forces of darkness will be unable to prevent the Lord Jesus Christ from building His church.

7. Christ Reflects His Glory through His Church

"...and His face was like the sun shining in its strength." (1:16c)

John’s vision of the glorified Lord of the church culminated in this description of the radiant glory evident on His face. John borrowed this phrase from Judges 5:31, where it describes those who love the Lord (Matthew 13:43). The glory of God through Christ shines in and through His church, reflecting His glory to the world (2 Corinthians 4:6). The ultimate result is that He is glorified (Ephesians 3:21).