In the Office of Readings we have been drawing from the Book of Revelation which, more than just a tour-guide of the last days, is a book of glory describing the Risen Lord Jesus Christ as King and Lord of all History. In the opening lines of the Book is a magnificent description of Jesus from which we can glean a number of titles and teachings about Jesus. Such a magnificent prologue cannot fail to inspire us. Let’s look first at the passage and then at 11 titles and teachings about Jesus contained in this opening vision of the book. Viva Christo Rey!
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 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 girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued 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 upon me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades (Rev 1:7-18).
Here is a portrait of the risen Christ in all His glory. The vision is of a high Christology. The Christ that is encountered here is the Lord of glory who has attained His glorious kingdom and who is the Lord of history and King of the Universe. Let us look at the manifold description of Jesus the Christ.
I. The Recapitulating Christ – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
To recapitulate means to subsume many things under one heading. Thus the Bible says of him, Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth (Eph 1:9-10).
Alpha and omega really means more than beginning and end. If Christ were to speak this today he would say, “I am A and Z.” In other words, “I am the alphabet of God.” What is an alphabet? It is an ingenious manner of storing accumulated wisdom and knowledge. Jesus is the accumulated wisdom of God. He is the Word of God. He is the refulgence of all wisdom and knowledge. He knows all things.
II. The Resurrected Christ – 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
It had been some years since John had seen Jesus. Now he turns and sees Him. But what is He like? One like a Son of Man. Jesus is forevermore God and man, yet man with a glorified and transformed humanity. Jesus did not merely wear his manhood for a while and then discard it. Jesus will keep His humanity for all eternity. There is a man, one of us, in the glory. Truly His humanity is glorified, but it is humanity as well as divinity. He was resurrected in a body; He ascended in a body; He is coming back in a body, literally and visibly. Here is the resurrected Christ, the Son of Man.
III. The Reigning Christ – clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash round his breast
Here are regal robes, the dress and splendor of a king, the dress and splendor of a magistrate or a judge. The portrait here is not of Jesus Christ as savior per se, it is of Jesus Christ as judge, as King, and as Lord and Ruler. We must all face Jesus one day as Judge and sovereign Lord. The scriptures are clear:
- Romans 14:11-12 For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So each of us shall give account of himself to God.
- 2 Cor 5:9-10 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.
IV. The Righteous Christ – his head and his hair were white as white wool
This text speaks of His righteousness, wisdom, and purity. Jesus is purer and cleaner than new-fallen snow or bleached wool. He is wiser than any human knowing. His wisdom is righteous, whereas so much of our knowledge is used for sinful ends and foolish, passing endeavors. Yes, before his wisdom all our knowledge is as foolishness. Oh the holiness, wisdom and the blessedness of Jesus Christ! The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether (Psalm 19:9).
V. The Revealing Christ – his eyes were like a flame of fire
The text means that He has a penetrating vision, like fire that penetrates and burns. Today we might say “He has eyes like an x-ray.” He sees right through you. He knows about everything you’ve ever done—every thought, every word, every deed. You can fool others but His eyes are like a flame of fire. He knows; you will not fool Him. Scripture says, Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we render an account (Heb 4:13). You can fool an earthly judge but you will not fool this Judge. He sees through and through. He cannot be deceived. His eyes are like the flame of fire. He is the revealing Christ.
VI. The Relentless Christ – his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace
This means His coming and His judgment will be unstoppable. Brass is a weighty and a hard metal; it does not give way. Here then is unrelenting and sovereign judgment. Here are strong feet that tread in justice. “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” Yes, Jesus is going to judge and His judgments, like fire-hardened brass, will not give way; they will not be malleable. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son (John 5:22-23). Many people have not understood that Jesus is not only the savior; He is also the judge. He must be respected for this.
VII. The Resounding Christ – and his voice was like the sound of many waters
A likely background to this text is Psalm 29: 1-4 Ascribe to the LORD, glory and strength. … The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders: the LORD is upon many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
Yes, here is the resounding power of Christ. See how what is ascribed to God in the Old Testament is here ascribed to Christ. He is our majestic Lord and God. The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 25:30-31). And again here, For the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29).
It won’t do any good to talk back. Can you imagine standing at the foot of Niagara Falls and arguing with it? When He comes again He shall speak and what power there shall be! He is the regal Christ. This verse speaks of his majesty.
VIII. The Regulating Christ – in his right hand he held seven stars
Jesus doesn’t just have the whole world in his hand. He’s got the whole universe in his hand. He is the one who regulates it all. He regulates, runs, and rules all of creation.
Scripture says of Jesus,
- Col 1:15-17 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
- Eph 1:9-10 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.
The book of Revelation also defines the stars as the seven Churches. Rev 1:20 states, The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. Thus we see here the governance that Christ has over the Church. He regulates and rules the Church as Scripture says of him, And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Col 1:17-18). Thus even in this context we can see how His regulation of the Church flows from His regulation of all things.
So Jesus Christ is our regulator and ruler. All things are under his control. Fear nothing. There is no panic in heaven—only plans.
IX. The Revenging Christ – from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword
Here is a word-picture that brings to mind Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The sword that is in His mouth is His Word. And what is He going to do with this sword? He is going to divide the nations with it; He is going to declare what is true and what is false in us and in the whole world. Everything will be judged and avenged by His Word. Either it is conformity with His Word, or it is not. The truth will be avenged because it will be seen by all for what it is—the Truth. And what is false will be separated out and seen as false. In this sense the truth will be avenged.
Note again, Jesus is not just savior, He is judge. And if you won’t let Him save you, then He must acknowledge that and condemn you to the consequences of your free choice against Him, against His Word, and against the truth and values of His Kingdom. He will not force you to live in his Kingdom with its values. But neither will He compromise the truth of His Word. There is no third way given. Either we accept the invitation of salvation that Jesus gives, or we will experience the ramifications of the choice of our self-exclusion.
Yes the Word of God is a sword or surgeon’s scalpel that will cut and divide the good flesh of the body from the bad and cancerous flesh. Scripture says elsewhere,
- Rev 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them [the Nicolaitians] with the sword of my mouth.
- Rev 19:11-15 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
- 2 Thess 1:7-10 And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
So for those who love God, there shall be vindication and triumph. But for those who hate the truth and hide from the light, there shall be blinding glory—that they experience as wrath and destruction.
X. The Resplendent Christ – and his face was like the sun shining in full strength
Oh the brightness of his face! Oh the brilliance of his glory! For the saints, His shining glory is a beauty to behold. They glory in the light and reflect that wondrous light!
- Psalm 50:1-2 The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
- Psalm 18:28 You O Lord light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
- Psalm 37:6 He will bring forth your vindication as the light, and your right as the noonday.
- Psalm 43:3-4 Oh send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me to thy holy hill and to thy dwelling!
- Psalm 97:11 Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.
- Psalm 104:1-2 Thou art clothed with honor and majesty, who covers himself with light as with a garment.
- Prov 4:18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
But for the wicked, the light is blinding and it exposes their wickedness.
- Psalm 90:8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
- John 3:19-20 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
- Acts 22:6 And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Who can describe the glory of the coming savior? The light of Jesus is the very light of heaven: And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb (Rev 21:23).
XI. The Reassuring Christ – When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
Our world today needs a new vision of the holiness of God. Look at John: he knew Christ and lay his head upon His chest at the Last Supper. But now, despite all their history, when he beholds the glorified Christ he falls on his face as though dead. For as the Scripture says, But, God said, “you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20) Too frequently today God has been trivialized. Look at John’s experience. Jesus will reassure him, but the glory is awesome, He is Holy, Holy, Holy. Here is the glorified Christ, awesome in power and majesty.
Yet Jesus says, “Fear not!” He is the reassuring Christ. But notice what it is that He tells John not to fear: death and the power of evil one. Thus the awesome power and majesty of Jesus becomes the basis for “fearing not.” His resurrection is the source of His glory and also the reason we should not fear. Thus Jesus does not hide His glory in order to reassure John; He lets His glory shine forth to reassure him! Jesus has the power to save. Hallelujah!
Viva Christo Rey!