IX. The Glorified Christ in Revelation
46. The faithful witness
"And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness" (Rev 1,5).
"And to the angel of the assembly in Laodicea write: These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God:" (Rev 3,14).
The citation of these two passages may somewhat surprise the reader. Nevertheless, they are closely connected - albeit sadly or at least very seriously - with our theme. Christ is presented as the faithful witness. This is precisely what the assembly should have been (cf. Acts 1:8). It should have been a faithful witness, especially to the power of the new creation (linked to a glorified Christ). It should and could have done so by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning this is what happened. Let us think of the early days of the Christian Church as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Or also of the testimony which emanated from the young believers in Thessalonica.
But how quickly this testimony was abandoned. It was not long before clericalism was introduced, thus intervening directly in the rights of the glorified Christ (He is the Head of the Church, Col 1:18) and also in those of the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph 2:22). This already happened at the time of Ephesus.
At the time of Pergamos (approximately from 313 to 606 A.D.), people gratefully accepted the protection that the world was now offering (under Constantine) and joined with it, abandoning Christian hope and set-apartness. The clerical tendencies were also formalized (the works of the Nicolaitans were followed by the teaching of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2,6.15)).
In the further course of the history of the church this development has continued to a large extent - apart from the revival in the time of Philadelphia in the early 19th century. In Laodicea a heavenly Christianity is completely unknown. People are very content with themselves, without realizing that they are spiritually poor, blind and naked (Rev 3,17).
It is precisely in the Epistle to Laodicea that the Lord presents himself as the faithful witness. He has always been that:
- On earth He has faithfully witnessed to all that God is.
- On the cross He has shown the perfect ruin of the first man.
- Now He is in glory to testify that all blessings are available in connection with the second man.
We live in the time of Laodicea (not that the three previous aspects of Christian witness - Thytira, Sardis and Philadelphia - have ceased, but characteristic of our time is Laodicea). One has the impression that Christ himself is largely deprived of his rights in confessing Christianity and that the glorified Christ is largely unknown. The temptation is to give up completely to be a witness to Him and the truth. Then the look into the open heaven tells us: there is the faithful witness. He has never given up. And He still testifies loud and clear: there are still blessings available, and they come through Him!
47. The lion and the lamb
"Behold, the lion which is of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, has overcome so as to open the book, and its seven seals. And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God which are sent into all the earth:" (Rev 5,5.6).
Chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation allow us a special view into heaven. Strictly speaking, it is about the time after the Rapture, before the judgments begin to fall upon the earth (the heavenly faithful are already in heaven - seen in the 24 elders, but the seals have not yet been opened, this only happens from chapter 6,1 onwards). In this sense, it is not only looking up, but also looking down. Nevertheless, this view is enlightening, overwhelming and meaningful in view of the one who is already there in heaven.
The starting point for this scene is a question through which the whole of humanity and the whole universe is challenged. It is about the book with the seven seals, and the question is: "Who is worthy to open the book and break its seals? The book contains God's plan, God's counsel, for the earth. If this is to be carried out, everything that stands in the way must first be removed or judged. Who would have the right to do this?
Although the question had been proclaimed by a strong angel in a loud voice, the answer is still missing. No one answers. And no wonder. For through the millennia everything had been tried to get a grip on evil and to make the earth a place of blessing: whether monarchy or democracy, whether aristocracy or mob rule, whether conferences or associations - nothing had remained untried. And even if someone had been able to do so, who would also have the right to carry out God's counsel and for this purpose punish and eliminate the evil on earth? When the Lord once offered the accusers of a woman caught in adultery to throw the first stone (if they were without sin), no one wanted to start, but all went away (John 8:9). How much less could anyone be found who could take it upon himself to judge the world!
John weeps - it is probably unique that this happens in heaven. But John is seen here as a prophet, not in his privileges as a Christian. One of the elders gives him an answer (which shows that the elders, the heavenly saints, have understanding): "Do not weep! Behold, it has overcome...". With this, He refers to Christ, the Victorious One, under the following aspects:
- The Lion, that is the one from whom all retreat and no one stands in the way (Proverbs 30:30 and Me 5:7).
- The one from the tribe of Judah is: He is the promised descendant from David's tribe. Jacob had compared Judah to a lion (Gen 49:9). Judah will overcome, but only through Christ, the great conqueror.
- The root of David: He is not only true man (from the tribe of Judah ), but also eternal God and as such the root of David.
- He overcame in order to "open the book and its seven seals": He is the Victor and He will carry out the counsel of God. He will carry out God's plan for the earth.
Next, John reports that He saw Christ, not as a lion, but as
- A Lamb: In Revelation the diminutive form of "Lamb" is always (29x) used. It indicates that He had been despised in the past. But the lion who overcomes is none other than the Lamb.
- As it had been slain: At first sight it is clear that He is the one who suffered. Through the work on the cross He has acquired an additional right to take possession of the earth (which belonged to Him as Creator anyway).
- Seven horns: One horn speaks of power, the seven horns of perfect power or omnipotence with which He will subject everything to Himself.
- Seven Eyes: The text provides the explanation: "who are the seven Spirits of God, sent over the whole earth". Christ will execute the judgment and also the subsequent administration of the earth with perfect insight in the power of the Spirit of God.
John observes how the Lamb comes and takes the book from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne (God). That must have been a breathtaking moment. Finally, someone had been found who had both the power (as the Lion) and the dignity (as the Lamb) to "touch" things on earth and do God's will there! The result is impressive. Little by little, very different creatures react to this discovery, until finally the whole creation attunes:
- The four living beings (which God uses to carry out the judgment (cf. 6:1.2)) fall down before the Lamb
- The 24 elders also fall down before the Lamb.
- They each had a harp. Trumpets were used in the desert (to give signals and instructions), but in David's case we find the harp (to sing). The 24 elders are redeemed - they can sing.
- They also have golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints: These saints must therefore be believers other than the 24 elders. They are still on earth at this time, praying (they are believers, but they are not Christians). They are those who live in times of tribulation and believe in Christ (Rev 6; Rev 13). The elders also worship that God has redeemed other saints, not only themselves.
- They sing a new song: this new song is based on the solid foundation of the salvation that has been accomplished. They address the Lamb directly: "You are worthy", but speak about themselves in the third person ("they"). They look at Golgotha from God's perspective!
- Many angels: Now we also hear the voices of the angels (with the four living creatures), and in enormous numbers. They do not sing (they are not redeemed), but they do express praise. Nor do they address the Lamb directly, but they speak about the Lamb: "Worthy is the Lamb" and they express a sevenfold doxology.
- Then the whole creation attunes: "And every creature that is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, I heard them say, 'To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb the blessing and the glory and the honor and the glory and the power forever and ever! This fourfold doxology speaks of universality. When the lamb is seen in the middle, no one can remain silent. Every creature attunes!
Before the latter actually happens, much must still happen: the judgments of the seals, the trumpets and the bowls, etc. But the moment is anticipated here. The time has not yet come, but the lion is already here - in the form of the Lamb! The four living creatures and the 24 elders speak their affirming "Amen" and fall down and worship.
This look at the glorified Christ already brings us to rejoicing and adoration. In moments when we become aware of what is going on on earth, how the will of God is disregarded and Christ is still the despised one, we are especially grateful for this gaze: The lion is found, the lamb is there, He will take matters into His own hands and make sure that God's goals are achieved, also on and with this earth!
48. King of Kings and Lord of Lords
"And I saw the heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and one sitting on it, called Faithful and True, and he judges and makes war in righteousness. And he has upon his garment, and upon his thigh, a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords." (Rev 19,11.16).
We had seen in the introduction that the New Testament reports of five occasions on which it is expressly stated that heaven has been or will be "opened" or opened:
- At the baptism of the Lord Jesus (Mt 3,16; Mk 1,11; Lk 3,21)
- With Stephen (Acts 7:51)
- With Peter (Acts 10,11)
- At the appearance of Christ (Rev 19,19)
- In the kingdom (John 1:51).
So we come to the last of these passages in Revelation 19 (in the order in which they are arranged in the New Testament). It is about an enormously important moment. One could say that it is (perhaps apart from the great white throne) the greatest and most important event that the world is about to experience. Christ had come in grace and had himself been baptized in the Jordan. Stephen had seen Him glorified in heaven. And Peter was allowed to learn something from the consequences of this glory. Christ has been hidden from the eyes of the world for about two millennia and is only seen in faith - we have dealt with this in detail. Now the moment comes when heaven will open once more - not for the eye of a martyr, nor for the eye of faith, but this time "every eye" will see Him (Rev 1,7). He appears in power and glory, followed by a huge crowd of people (heavenly saints) and angels (Mk 8,38).
Verses 11 to 13 contain a number of characteristics of Him who comes out of the opened heaven. These show us what character He will come in:
- He sits on a white horse: the white horse speaks of power and victory (cf. Rev 6,2);
- He is called "faithful and true": He is faithful, that is, He does full justice to the relationships in which He stands: to God, to believers, to unbelievers (cf. Rev 3,7.14), and He is true, that is, He acts - even in judgment - according to all the truth, especially the truth about God.
- He judges and wages war in justice: the purpose of his coming is obviously judgment. He is the man whom God has appointed to judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31).
- His eyes are a flame of fire: He is omniscient and incorruptible in his knowledge and judgment.
- On his head are many tiaras: he is the king who has earned the reign and is worthy to carry it out (Satan the dragon had seven tiaras (Rev 12:3) and the Roman ruler had ten (Rev 13:1), but Christ will wear many tiaras). Finally he who once wore the crown of thorns will wear the crowns of rulers (this was not yet the case with the Son of Man in chapter 1, but will only be the case at the time of the apparition).
- He bears a name written which no one knows but Himself: Although He appears as the "Son of Man" (Mt 26,64), He is nevertheless the Son of God, and as such only the Father recognizes Him in the end (Mt 11,27) - but we may worship Him then (and today) for this.
- He is clothed in a garment dipped in blood: this indicates what will happen in the judgment that He will now exercise: His enemies will find death (cf. Is 63:1-3).
- His name is called: the Word of God. Christ is "the Word" from eternity (Jn 1:1) and once came into the world as such to reveal God. Now He comes to judgment. In this, too, He will be the expression of the thoughts of God. He will exercise judgment according to the Word of God. In full agreement with this, we read that a sharp double-edged sword emerges from His mouth: He will judge the nations according to the Word of God (cf. v.21).
- He treads the winepress of the wine of the wrath of God's wrath, the Almighty: His judgment will correspond to God's righteous wrath. On the Cross Himself, He had suffered the wrath of God vicariously (for those who accept Him). Whoever rejects Him remains under the wrath of God (Jn 3:36).
It is a frightening apparition. But we must remember that Christ had already come once before, and that He came as a man, born as a child. He had lived and worked on earth and had brought an incredible offer of grace. Even after He was crucified, He still sent His messengers to proclaim this grace for about 2000 years. And only after that does He come to judgment.
Another point of view is that this judgment is necessary so that the kingdom of Christ can be established and God's plan with the first creation can be fulfilled. Whatever is contrary to God's will must be removed so that the earth finally experiences a reign that brings peace and justice.
As terrible as this apparition may be to unbelievers, the believer sees another side and rejoices from the heart. It is said: "He has a name written on his robe and on his hip". This name is "King of kings and Lord of lords". He had once been the rejected one and had been crucified as "King of the Jews". Now He is honored and bears a name that expresses His dignity.
Christ will share this moment of triumph with the redeemed. They will appear with Him, "clothed in fine linen, white and pure" (v.14). They will not be judged - Christ himself does this - but they may accompany Him, for He wants to share His reign with them.
Thus, in Revelation 19, we also look - literally - at the open heaven. But this time with a completely different perspective than in the Epistles: there we saw what glories and resources faith recognizes in the glorified Christ, who is completely hidden from the eyes of the world. Here we see that Christ will not always remain hidden, but that heaven will open so that He may come down from heaven. It is the day of His public glorification, He comes to appear. May all readers be among those "who love his appearance" (2 Tim 4:8) and then be allowed to be at his side!
49. The shining morning star
"I Jesus have sent my angel to testify these things to you in the assemblies. I am the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely. He that testifies these things says, yes, I come quickly. Amen; come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22,16.17.20).
We have just dealt with the mighty event of the apparition of Christ (Rev 19,11-21). But our real hope is directed to an earlier time, or rather to Christ, who will come to take us to himself at an earlier time. He, the man Jesus (it says: "I, Jesus" and He is the descendant of David) is at the same time also God (the "root of David"). He is the morning star - an expression that only occurs here in the basic text. In the German Bible we read about the morning star three times:
- In 2 Peter 1:19: Here we find the expression "phosphorus", the one that brings light. He is not only a lamp that shines in a dark place, but He gives light.
- In Revelation 2:28: Here is the expression "aster" (for star, known from our word astronomy) and "proinos" (the morning).
- In Revelation 22:16: Here also the word for star is found, but this time in connection with the word "orthrinos", which means "early" or "early morning" and is therefore also used for dawn. In addition, the word "shining" ("lampros") is added here for reinforcement.
It seems that here on the last page of the Bible the strongest term for the morning star is used, and it is to be shown that it can be seen just before daybreak. This star goes unnoticed by most people, but to the eye of faith it is a shining or shining star. It is the harbinger of the dawn. Only the open and waking eye sees Him and enjoys it. When the sun rises, everyone will notice it - so will it be when it appears as the "sun of righteousness" (Mal. 3:20). But we may expect Him, look for Him, express the wish "come" ourselves and encourage others to expect Him too and say "come" (and invite unbelievers to drink the water of life for free).
This hope is not only ridiculed by the world, but has long since been abandoned by the majority of professing Christians. But the one who hopes will not be disappointed. For the Lord Himself answers: "Yes, I am coming soon!”
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