Christ in the Book of Revelation
J. T. Mawson
1. The Faithful Witness
It is of the utmost importance that we should see the place that Christ has in Scripture, for we cannot rightly understand any portion of God’s Word unless we see the part Christ has in it, for Christ is the subject of all Scripture. Some study prophecy, in order to become acquainted with coming events. You may study prophecy with that end in view and be as dry in your soul as the desert. You may know all prophecy and be able to explain every mystery in Scripture, and yet be as “sounding brass and tinkling cymbal”; but if Christ gets His place in your heart, you will read the Scriptures in order to learn of Him, then every part of it, the Revelation included, will yield its blessing to you, and you will be in the midst of your fellows for the glory of God and their blessing.
The Holy Ghost has come to show us things to come, but the things to come that He will show us are all in relation to Christ, they are His things. He is the theme of these things and the end of them, and happy shall we be if we keep that before us.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is presented first in Revelation in a threefold character; the Faithful Witness, the First-born from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. In that threefold presentation we see Him in the past, in the present, and in the future, in regard to the earth. He has been here, He is not here, He is coming back again. That is the testimony of the Lord, of which we are not to be ashamed.
THE FAITHFUL WITNESS
It should be a great comfort to every Christian to know that God has had a Faithful Witness in this world. We are all of us very conscious of our own unfaithfulness. The nearer we draw to God the more conscious we become of it, but the more we rejoice in the Faithful Witness. All God’s witnesses, from the very beginning of time down to this present, have been more or less unfaithful. They witnessed for God according to the grace He gave them, but not one of them could claim perfection, except this one blessed Man, Christ Jesus, and He is the Faithful Witness. It was when He was here in the midst of men that He was the Faithful Witness. He came from God to speak the things that He knew and to bear witness to the things that He had seen, as He said to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John. The things that He heard were the Father’s words; the things that He had seen were what God Himself is. No man hath seen God at any time the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” He made known in absolute completeness what God is, and maintained in word and deed what was due to God. We read the greatness of God’s power in the mighty and countless constellations that He has created, but if we want to know His heart and nature, we turn to the lowly Nazarene, despised and rejected of men. He was a Faithful Witness to that, completely, absolutely, and always. He declared before men what God is, and He lived as a Man in the full blessedness of that which He declared; He had no resources as a Man outside the God whom He revealed.
It was so from the very beginning of His life. He says in the 22nd Psalm, “I was cast upon thee from the womb; Thou art my God from my mother’s belly,” and His first recorded words are these—“Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” And the curtain drops at that moment upon His life at Nazareth, and we see no more of Him until He reaches His 30th birthday, and then we learn what sort of a life He had lived behind that veil, for as He came forth into public ministry, the heavens were opened and a voice from the excellent glory declared, “This is My beloved Son, in whom is all My delight.” So that for thirty years God had been able to look down upon Him, and in His every thought and word and deed He had found fullest delight. Does it not fill your heart with praise to know that God has found full delight in one Person here below, and that that Person is your Saviour?
I will read a few verses to illustrate His faithful witnessing. Luke 4:16-19, “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor: He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” He was anointed of the Lord for that mission; to bear witness to absolute grace. He came to make known a God that people did not know nor understand; He came to show what God could be to men, and that when He came near to them He came near to them in infinite blessing. So He read from the Old Testament Scriptures, but His witness to those people of Nazareth was a faithful witness. How popular He might have been that day if He had witnessed to one part of the truth only. They marvelled at the gracious words that proceeded out of His lips. If He had not been a Faithful Witness they would have made Him king, but He did not stop short of the full truth, He goes on to show them that the grace of God flowed out to the undeserving, to those who had neither merit in themselves nor claim upon God; that it could not be bounded by the limits of the nation of Israel; that it would burst every bound and flow out to the Gentiles, and that they whom the Jews despised would receive it even if Israel rejected it: and when they heard His faithful witness they took Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built to cast Him down headlong. His faithful witness not only manifested what God is, but brought to light what man is. He was the One who did both, for the simple reason that He was the light, and the qualities of that light are these, it reveals the sinfulness of men, and yet it shines for their blessing, for God’s grace is more than equal to the uttermost need that ever man had.
We see it in the 8th chapter of John. In that chapter He speaks of Himself as the Light of the world. There was a guilty woman brought into His presence, and her sin is laid bare before the Lord. His enemies thought they had got the Lord in a trap. If He did not sanction her being stoned, why, then, He did not uphold the law of Moses; if He did sanction her being stoned, He was no Saviour. His answer was direct, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” and He stooped down and wrote on the ground. The Son of God stooped to write in the dust of death the wonderful story of the love of God. If those Pharisees had understood they would have laid themselves in the dust at His feet and confessed their guilt, but they would not do that. Proud religionists they were! Self-righteous Pharisees! They go out one by one, from the presence of the Faithful Witness, refusing the light because it exposed them, and leaving the poor sinner alone with Jesus. He was the Law-giver, and the Law that they had invoked drove them out, but He had come as the Saviour, and grace that they despised drew her in. And He says, “Neither do I condemn thee.” The light that detected the sin in the self-righteous Pharisees, protected the sinner who remained in His blessed presence, and there we find Him, the Faithful Witness, manifesting what God really is as a Saviour-God.
This witnessing roused up the hatred of the hearts of men, and they plotted to destroy Him, and at length the time came when their plot developed and came to pass, and we find Him led with a rabble at His heels to Calvary’s Cross, crucified there as a malefactor by those to whom He came to show the grace of God. They would not have the Faithful Witness. Did the devil hope to extinguish that wonderful light when those dark waves of hatred beat upon Him there? If so, how terribly disappointed he must have been, for when men had done their worst, then we hear the Faithful Witness speaking. His voice rises above all the devil-lashed frenzy of His foes, and we hear Him saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Even in the presence of the supreme hatred of men we find Him still manifesting what God is, still letting the light of infinite grace shine forth, still showing how invincible is the goodness of God and how forbearing is His mercy, and because of His faithful witness He died.
We shall come in a moment to another side of His death, to the most important side of it, that side that has to do with the expiation of our sin, but He not only died to expiate our sins, He died as the Faithful Witness. Men crucified Him because of His faithfulness to God.
That is a wonderful passage in the 50th chapter of Isaiah. His Divine glory is brought before us. He speaks of Himself as the One whose arm is not shortened, whose hand is not weakened; He speaks of Himself as the One who stretches the curtain of night across the heavens and hushes the world to sleep, and then He says, “The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learner that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary; He wakeneth morning by morning; He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learner.” There we have the Faithful Witness, being wakened every morning by His Father’s voice, receiving from His Father’s lips His instructions for the day, going forth to fulfil those commands, no more and no less, faithfully witnessing for God in speaking words in season to them that are weary, and returning when the day was done to commune with His Father about it all.
What is the next thing? “I gave My back to the smiters and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not My face from shame and spitting.” The Faithful Witness was put to shame. The Man whom God delights to honour was treated with the utmost insult. They spat in His face, because He remained faithful to God. They crucified Him, because they would not have the light that He brought into this world. The first part of our witnessing to Him is that He has been here, and the second, He is not here. Why is He not here? Because men crucified Him. The Spirit of God is here now, and the 16th chapter of John tells us the very presence of the Spirit of God here in this world convicts the world of sin. That does not mean the Spirit of God is going about convicting individual sinners and making them repent and come to Christ. He is doing that, but the 16th of John does not mean that. It means that the Spirit is in the world because Christ is not, and He is not here because the world rejected Him, and that proves that the world is under sin. The rejection of Christ is the world’s crowning sin, and the presence of the Spirit bears witness to that. Sin dominates the world, and the only way to get from under the power of sin is to come to the feet of Jesus, and own Him as Lord, and when you come there you come under His dominion and are no longer under the dominion of sin.
THE FIRST-BORN FROM THE DEAD
He is not here. Where is He? He is risen, the First-born from the dead. Peter’s witness in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, to the Jews, was twofold. He pressed upon them again and again, “He went about doing good, but ye crucified Him.” That is your guilt. But “God hath raised Him from the dead.” That is God’s seal upon His faithful life of witnessing. In that same wonderful 50th chapter of Isaiah, which I have quoted, it says, “He is near that justifieth Me.” Who has justified Him? God.
The chief Priests and the Scribes and Pharisees thought they could keep Him in the sepulchre. They remembered that He had spoken of rising again from the dead. It was very remarkable they should have remembered it when the disciples had forgotten it. So they went to Pilate and asked his help. Pilate said, “Ye have a watch; go your way, make it as sure as ye can.” It seems to me there was a certain irony in that. So they sent a guard and sealed the stone, and I suppose the soldiers would be instructed as to how to deal with the rabble of Galilean fishermen if they came to rob the sepulchre. They were not told how to deal with an earthquake or an angel from heaven! The fishermen did not come, but the angel did, and the earthquake, and those Roman veterans for very fear fell down as dead men. What had happened? God had intervened; God had justified His Faithful Witness. God was FIRST at the sepulchre, and the stone was rolled away from the tomb, not to let Christ out but to let us look in.
He is the First-born from the dead; that means that others are to share His triumph. All they that sleep in Jesus will come out of their sepulchres according to the same blessed pattern, and we who are alive and remain at His coming shall be changed. We are looking for our Saviour, “Who shall change these bodies of humiliation, and fashion them like unto His own glorious body according to the power by which He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.” He is the victorious One; He has come out of the grave. God has triumphed over all the power of death and the devil in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. His resurrection is God’s answer to His faithfulness here upon the earth, and is also God’s great victory over death. He is the First-born from the dead, and when He comes to take up things for God in this world, He will take them up in the power of resurrection, and in such a way that no voice in the universe will challenge His right to do it. The voice of death is silent; death challenges the work of every other man, but He has overthrown the power of death; He is the Victor, and He has taken us up in resurrection power to share His victory with us. Never doubt the ability of our Lord Jesus Christ to keep you. You may be a very weak Christian; the more you feel it the better, for then you will rely upon His strength the more, and He is able to keep all whom He saves.
THE PRINCE OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH
That is future; He is not yet manifested as the Prince of the kings of the earth; He has no place in their counsels. Yet He is behind the scenes, and He makes the wrath of man to praise Him. All power has been put into His blessed hands, and so we take courage, though we see the tides of evil gathering force and threatening to overwhelm everything that makes for righteousness in the world. Our Lord is on the throne and He can say to these wild waves, “Thus far thou shalt come and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed”; and He will restrain them until He takes His household out of the world. The day is coming when He is to be manifested as the Prince of the kings of the earth. That will be a wonderful day, and when that day comes all the kings of the earth will have to take their instructions from Him. He will not need a Cabinet to advise Him, for Isaiah 11 will be fulfilled in Him. “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins” (vv. 1-5).
All the wisdom of God is in Him, and the kings of the earth will look to Him for direction, and in looking to Him for direction they will rule under Him in righteousness. God has spoken of Him, as we read in Psalm 89, as His Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. Oh! that the kings and rulers of the earth would recognize that today; there will be no peace until they do. He is to have universal supremacy. For every insult He will receive an answer in glory; for every sorrow He will have a joy. God will see to it that His Faithful Witness is rightly compensated, and in that day of His compensation all those who have sought in their measure to be faithful to Him will share His glory. He will say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” so that when God brings forth His Faithful Witness crowned with many crowns, He will see to it that all those who sought to be faithful to Him will be crowned as well. But they will cast their crowns before Him, for He alone is worthy to wear the crowns.
When He is presented as the Faithful Witness, the First-born from the dead, the Prince of the kings of the earth, there is an interruption. What was being declared is interrupted by a burst of adoration from the heart of the Church. Like a patriotic audience that bursts into applause as the orator describes the glory of the king, so the heart of the Church cannot be restrained at the Name of Jesus. She must sing aloud His worth. “To Him who loves us, and has washed us from our sins in His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the might to the ages of ages. Amen” (N.Tr.).
In the 2nd and 3rd chapters we read of a great deal of failure on the part of those who profess the name of Christ, and as we go on reading through the book of the Revelation, we find that the apostate Church develops at last into the great whore, and comes under God’s unsparing judgment. The Church is fast going to apostasy today—the outward profession, I mean, not the body of Christ, not that which is real. But at the beginning of the Book that sets forth failure, failure, failure— failure amongst those who are real as well as amongst those who are false—it is blessed to find that He loves us. His love is our refuge and our joy. Our failure has not changed Him one bit. We confess our failure, we say, in the words of the hymn:—
“Yet, Lord, alas, what weakness
Within myself I find,
No infant’s changing pleasure
Is like my wandering mind.
And yet Thy love’s unchanging
And doth recall my heart,
To joy in all the sweetness
The peace its beams impart.”
He loves us just as much today, in spite of our backslidings, as He did when first we came to His blessed feet, or when He was extended on the Cross for us; His love abides the same.
If we are to measure the greatness of it, it must not be by our experience of it; we must go back to the Cross, and so we read, “Unto Him that loves us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” He paid the mighty price Himself, and the price was His own blood. O wonderful Saviour! Wonderful love! And He has not only removed our sins by His own blood, but He has made us a kingdom. That means He has brought us under God’s dominion. It is no longer our desire to do our own wills like the world, rushing here and there seeking to please ourselves, but He has made us a kingdom, we are brought now under the dominion of grace, for grace reigns. And He has made us priests unto His God and Father. We have access to the presence of God Himself. So completely has the blood cleansed away the sins that we can stand in the very glory of God. We who were once saturated from the crown of our heads to the soles of our feet with iniquity are brought by our wonderful Saviour, who loves us, into the Holiest of all, and that is our place today.
After this interruption on the part of the Church, the proclamation of His glories is continued, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” It is a popular error that by the preaching of the Gospel, the world will get better and better, and thus will be prepared for the kingdom of the Lord. If the world is a converted world when the Lord comes, why should all kindreds of the earth wail because of Him? It would surely be glad to see Him, and would receive Him with acclamation. Why do they wail because of Him? Because they are not ready for Him. He will come as a thief in the night to the world. “When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them.”
What a day it will be for the world when He comes. The Church will have gone before that day. He may come for it tonight, but the world will not see Him when He comes for His Church. The last time the world saw Him was when He died on a malefactor’s Cross. The next time the world sees Him will be when He comes in the clouds of glory with myriads of holy ones with Him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Those who pierced Him, the Jews, will look on Him, and when they see those nail-torn hands and feet, and learn that He was wounded for their transgressions, they will begin to mourn, and the sight of Him will result in conversion, and no doubt some of the distant nations who have never heard of Him will join in that great repentance. The great majority will wail in terror at the sight of Him, and because of their sins and long rejection of His grace, His judgment will come upon them. I want to press this solemnly upon us here tonight; we either belong to the Church that sings her glad songs in His praise, or we belong to the world that will wail at the sight of Him. If you belong to the world come out of it, come to His blessed feet and join with us in the song of praise to His name.
Does anyone say, “We know that these things are written in the Scriptures, but then is He able to carry them out?” or, think, “It seems an extraordinary thing to say that this world that has been building up its political and social life all these centuries, and which, as we hope, has advanced and advanced, will, in a moment, at the coming of the Lord, collapse and come under the judgment of God.” Well, the Lord pledges His own Divine eternal Being on this. He says, “Even so, Amen.” The “Even so, Amen,” of the 7th verse belongs to the 8th verse. It is, “Yea, yea, Amen, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” It is the everlasting, self-existent, omnipotent God, who speaks. All will have to do with Him. The Scribes and Pharisees did not realize that when they despised and rejected Him; poor Pilate, in that brief hour of his power, did not realize that. He saw only a weak Jew at his bar, mocked and hated by the people. But all will awake to the fact that Jesus is the everlasting God, the Almighty, and the men who scorned Him will be compelled to confess Him, and so will you would it not be wise for every one to have to do with Him in this day of grace? I beg of you, I urge you, if any of you in this audience are still unconverted, have to do with this Person tonight. “Kiss the Son lest He be angry and thou perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him”
2. One Like Unto the Son of Man
(Read Revelation 1:9-20)
It was in a new, and to him an exceedingly strange character, that John beheld His Lord on this Lord’s day in Patmos. He had known Him as the Man of Sorrows, weeping with the afflicted, tenderly pleading with the sinful, and speaking words of comfort to the penitent. He had known Him in such blessed accessibility of grace that not a soul that had any need, feared to come to Him. He had seen the children come eagerly, with glad laughter in their hearts and mouths, to nestle in His enfolding arms with a confidence that even a mother’s could not have given. He had seen lepers come, loathsome creatures, offending his eye with their distorted bodies, and polluting the air with their corruption, and he had seen his Master, instead of turning from them with disgust, look upon them with great compassion and touch them with healing power. He had seen wonderful things, and heard words even more wonderful than the works; and the words he had heard and the works he had seen had alike taught him that His Lord was meek and lowly in heart; that He was full of grace and truth; that His delight was to minister to others, to bind up the broken-hearted and to put Himself at the disposal of all. He had learnt that the tenderest heart in the universe beat in the bosom of Jesus, and he had found rest in the hour of his greatest bewilderment in laying his, head upon that bosom.
The last time that John had seen his Lord was as he stood with the eleven at Bethany and watched Him, as with hands uplifted in benediction He was parted from them as He went up into heaven. John had not forgotten that face and those hands—pierced hands; and to see Him again as he had seen Him then was John’s great hope.
“But I shall see her again, just as she was, shan’t I?” sobbed a little girl to me, as I endeavoured to explain to her that her darling mother had gone to rest with the Saviour, and that she would see her again, brighter and more beautiful than ever she had known her on earth. The change of which I spoke made no appeal to her; “I want her just as she was” was her only desire and prayer. And may not “the disciple whom Jesus loved” have had that one desire filling his heart on this Lord’s day of which he tells? He was in the Spirit, musing, doubtless, upon all that he had learnt of the tenderness and grace of His Lord, and longing to see Him just as He had known Him.
And so he shall, and so shall we all; just as He was in the tenderness and grace of His heart, unchanged as to all that attractability that made Him everything to John and to us! Yes even though eternal glories dwell fitly on His brow we shall know Him as He was in all that made Him JESUS to us, for that must abide. At the end of the Book He assures our hearts of this by saying, “I, JESUS.” He would not have us forget that He is Jesus amid all the glories yet to be; nor could we, for glories such as those of which the Revelation speaks will come and go, and be superseded by others throughout the ages of the ages, but Jesus will remain “the same yesterday, today, and for ever.”
John was startled from his musings by a voice like a trumpet; it was not the voice of a lover wooing with gentle words, nor of a comforter soothing a troubled heart, but of a commander calling His army to attention. It was an alarm to arouse the sleepers; a call to action ringing out insistently for the ears of the indifferent. The Lord’s rights had been refused by Israel and the world and the churches were becoming careless as to them. They were letting their Lord and His interests fall into a minor place in their selfish love of ease, and that early defection has developed into an awful corruption in the midst of which we live today. Where can we look for whole-hearted devotion to the Lord? Many bodies we see, all professing His name, but where amongst them is there faithfulness to the Person, work and word of the Lord? Rich and increased in goods, and boastful of their gifts and powers and influence are many of them, but the Lord is outside of them, and the treachery that marks them is as black as the kiss of Judas. Hence we still need to hear the voice like a trumpet, we all need it, lest we sleep as do others, and become indifferent to the claims of our Lord. May we have ears that can hear it, and hearts and consciences to respond to it. This was the voice that commanded Joshua, saying, “Get thee up, wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned.”
The voice sounded behind the exiled apostle; he was recalled from his longing for the company of the Saviour in the coming glory to consider things as they were, and would yet be in the church and in the world, and to hear the Lord’s judgment as to it all.
The words, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,” belong to the 8th verse rather than the 11th. Still we may consider them here. The speaker is the A and the Z, the beginning and the end of all language. His voice was the first to be heard in the eternal silence. He spoke, and out of nothing the universe appeared; by the word of His power were all things created, and by that same word they are upheld, and will be until they have served their purpose. “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thy hands. They shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail” (Heb. 1:10-12). Other voices have spoken since He called the world into being; the devil has spoken, and his words have produced a kingdom of darkness, a world of pride; sin has spoken with a frenzied voice and built up a kingdom in rebellion against God and a world of misery; death has spoken with the voice of a tyrant, and the whole race of men is held in fear of him, and only the intervention of the Alpha and Omega could bring release from his awful dominion.
But none of these voices spoke first and none of them shall speak last. The great Alpha is also the triumphant Omega and He must have the last word about everything; and when the devil and sin and death have had their full say He will silence them for ever in the lake of fire, with every other voice that challenges the supremacy of God. When He shall say, “it is done,” then all shall stand fast for ever according to the will of God. Brethren in Christ, Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. Consider this well, for it means everything to us. He has spoken life into our souls. He has said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life; and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life,” and no other voice, past, present, or future, can undo His Word. Consider Him well in this character and it will give stability to your faith.
John turned to behold the One whose voice had broken upon his ear with such authority, and he beheld “seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks One like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” The first mention of the Son of Man in the New Testament is in the Lord’s own words: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20). And this awe- inspiring passage gives us the last. Is it possible that such lowliness and poverty could put on such majesty and power? Yes. For in both Scriptures the self-same Person is presented to us. John had known Him in His poverty and humiliation and had leaned upon His bosom then; he sees Him in His glorious majesty now and falls at His feet as one dead.
The Ancient of days and the Son of Man are one. We are here carried back to Daniel 7 where the vision of the Ancient of days is given in connection with the rising up and the destruction of the kingdom of the fourth beast, Rome, in fact, in its past and yet future forms. In this great power and the head of it, when it reappears, will be concentrated all the will of man; it will be the climax and the crown of his rebellion against God, and it will be specially energized and inspired by Satan and will make a definite attempt to banish God from the earth and hold the kingdoms of it against Christ. But the kingdoms of this world belong to Christ, and as the Son of Man He shall take them, that all people and nations and languages should serve Him. Judgment must precede the establishment of His kingdom; it will be introduced by judgments, and He it is, whom John saw, who will execute them. But He cannot judge the evil that is in the world and ignore it in the Churches; He cannot punish the godless world and allow evil to continue unrebuked amongst those who profess His Name. Hence His words are to the Churches. His own must see Him first in all the majesty of His holiness and the greatness of His justice.
So He appears: “Clothed with a garment down to the feet.” He came first to earth to minister to others. He was then the Son of Man with His loins girded for service and to give His life a ransom for many: now it is not service but judgment. “Girt about the paps with a golden girdle.” His affections are restrained by Divine righteousness. “His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow.” The dignity of eternity encircles the once thorn-crowned brow as a halo. “His eyes were as a flame of fire”: to search out every evil thing, and to trace from its origin to its climax every rebellious system that has reared its head beneath the sun. “His feet like unto fine brass as if they burned in a furnace”: indicating that He will march onward in the execution of Divine righteousness against all evil, until every enemy is subdued beneath His feet. “His voice like the sound of many waters”: the voice of majesty and authority. “Out of His mouth goeth a two-edged sword”: His word is a life-giving word to all who believe, but it will be a word of judgment and death to all who refuse to own His claims.
No wonder that John fell as dead at His feet when He beheld His Lord in this character. But it was well for him, and it is well for us, to know something of the majesty of the One with whom we have to do. How lightly we often treat His claims. How easy it is for us to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, and to lose the fear of the Lord. We need to be reminded that sin must come under His rebuke and judgment, that we may search our hearts and ways before Him. The fear of the Lord will keep our consciences active and make us very careful of our walk. Yet the Lord’s appearance in such majesty must not fill His saints with terror as it will the world. They have no need to call upon the mountains to hide them from His face as the godless will, for they know Him in another character; they know Him as the One who loved them and gave Himself for them.
How blessed is that which follows: “He laid His right hand on me,” says John. The hand of power was stretched forth to support him. It was laid tenderly upon him to still his terror, and the voice which he had often heard in former days thrilled his heart again as it gently bade him not to fear. The truth of His glory and His grace here revealed abide for us. He died in deepest humility to save us, He lives in glorious majesty to support us. We may rely upon Him. The hand that will wield the iron sceptre holds the weakest sheep that follows Him now; it is the hand that was pierced for them and it will never let them go. His very glory is on our behalf, and the righteousness that condemns the rebellious justifies and protects all believers.
He is the living One, who once was dead. Why? But He is now alive for evermore. Love carried Him into death. Power has brought Him forth from the grave. What a road He has travelled to His present place in glory. How great has been His triumph. And we can triumph in His victory. And the keys of Hades and of death are in His hand. He is Master of the whole dominion of death, and as we know Him thus the fear of death is gone.
So John was raised up and commissioned to write to the churches the things that he saw—the glories of the Lord—His holiness, majesty and authority; “and the things that are”—the history of the church on earth to the coming of the Lord for the real and the rejection of the unreal. We are in the things that are, though very near to the end of them; and the things that are to be after these—the judgments that are to fall on the earth until the will of God is established in it, which things we have from chapter 4 onward. May we give heed to His words, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” “ He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”