Hello, again! Earlier this week, I shared part one of our study on the first chapter of Revelation. Today, we’ll pick up where we left off and finish discussing what we learned together in our Stepping Stones class. I hope these devotional thoughts will be a blessing to your day.
I, John… was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.” (Revelation 1:9, 11)
As John enters the prophetic vision, he hears a voice booming behind him: “I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (Revelation 1:11). This detail is significant. You see, in our Western way of thinking, we look at the future as something that is ahead of us – something that we walk into. But Hebrew thought pictured the past as ahead of us, because past events are fully spread out in front of our perception; while the future, on the other hand, is situated behind us – something that we walk backwards into. So the fact that the voice comes from behind means that Jesus is reassuring us: “Have no fear of the future. I am already here! I am the First and the Last. I am in complete control.” (Compare with Isaiah 30:21.) What an encouraging promise!
John next describes Christ in His priestly vestments walking among seven golden lampstands. In the ancient Hebrew sanctuary, the priests were responsible for maintaining the sacred seven-branched flames of the candelabra at all times. Here, we see a picture of our ultimate High Priest doing the same thing with the heavenly candelabra – representing the universal church of God’s people. These lampstands, of course, signify the seven churches which we are about to study in depth. As we read about these seven churches, we’re going to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of God’s people. We’re going to see trials and hardships beyond description, as well as horrific failures on the part of God’s church. But the good news is that Jesus will still, in spite of everything, choose to walk among His people and carefully nurture their flames. Jesus sticks with His people through it all.
As John attempts to take all of this in, he is overwhelmed and falls down as if dead. And this is John we’re talking about, the Beloved Disciple who walked with Jesus Christ as His constant companion for three and a half years. We can even venture to say that John was Jesus’ best friend while on earth. Yet, when John encounters the glorified Christ, he is so overcome by the explosion of power and glory of Christ’s presence that he simply falls to the ground as though he were dead! (We sometimes focus so much on the familiar humanity of Christ that we forget about His breathtaking power and holiness, don’t we?) But, then, look at the next words we read. “Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!'” (Revelation 1:17-18). If John falls nearly-dead at Jesus’ feet, then that means that the glorified King of the Universe is now kneeling down to place His comforting right hand on John. He offers the reassuring words, “Don’t be afraid, John! It’s Me – your friend Jesus. The One who you saw die on the Cross and then come back to life… and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
That, friends, is the promise that Jesus wants to leave us with as we venture into Revelation 2 and 3. It is also the promise that Jesus wants to give us before we rush into our day today. Every problem or challenge we face today should be placed in perspective of this mind-blowing promise. Christ has duked it out with Death and Hell, and He has emerged as the winner! Don’t you think He can handle the problems we face in our lives today?