IX. The Glorified Christ in Revelation

Michael Hardt

Fixing the eye on Christ glorified

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)

These two passages may somewhat surprise the reader. Nevertheless, they are closely connected with our theme – albeit in a sadly or at least very solemn manner. Christ is presented as the faithful witness. This is precisely what the church or 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 interfering with the rights of the glorified Christ (He is the Head of the Church, Col. 1:18) and also with those of the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph. 2:22). This already happened at the time of Ephesus[1].

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 separation. 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, heavenly Christianity is completely unknown. People are very comfortable and content with themselves, without realizing that they are spiritually poor, blind and naked (Rev. 3:17).

It is precisely in the address 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 testimony – Thyatira, Sardis and Philadelphia – have ceased, but our time is characterised by the condition of the seventh church, Laodicea; see Rev. 3:14 – 22). One has the impression that Christ himself is largely deprived of his rights in professing Christendom and that the glorified Christ is largely unknown. The temptation is to give up completely the matter of seeking to to be a witness to Christ and to the truth. Then the look into the open heaven tells us: there He 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)

The events of Revelation 4 and 5 will take place after the rapture, before the judgments come over the earth: The believers from Adam to the Rapture are already in heaven (these are represented by the 24 elders), but the seals have not yet been opened, this only occurs from chapter 6, verse 1 onwards. In this sense, we not only look up (to heaven) but also forward (to the future). In doing so, we are granted a view, which is overwhelming. 

The starting point for this scene is a question which challenges the whole of humanity and the entire universe. It concerns 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 and judged. Who would have the right to do this?

Although the question had been proclaimed by a strong angel in a loud voice, no answer is coming forward. And no wonder. In the course of the millennia of human existence on earth, 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 a weeping person is seen in heaven. But John is presented as a prophet here, 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 (Prov. 30:30; Micah 5:7).
  • He who comes from the tribe of Judah, the promised descendant from the tribe of David. 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”: When the book of Revelation mentions the “Lamb” it always uses the diminutive form (29x). This 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”: As can be seen at first sight, 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: 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 breath-taking moment. Finally, someone had been found who had both the power (as the Lion) and the dignity (as the Lamb) to take in hand things on earth and carry out God's will there! 

The result is impressive. One after the other, different groups of creatures react to this discovery, until finally the whole creation joins in:

  • The four living beings (which God uses to carry out the judgments; cf. 6:1.2) fall to the ground before the Lamb
  • The 24 elders also fall down before the Lamb.
    • They each had a harp, and they sing. They are able to sing because they have been redeemed.
    • 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 the tribulation period 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” (cf. v. 12).
  • Many angels: Now we also hear the voices of a vast number of angels (with the four living creatures). 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 entire creation joins in and ascribes praise to the Lamb (v. 13.14). Their fourfold doxology speaks of universality. When the lamb is seen in the middle, no one can remain silent. Every creature joins in to praise the Lamb!

Many things still need to happen before Christ starts his reign on earth: 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 the Lamb.

This look at the glorified Christ already brings us to rejoicing and adoration. In moments when we become aware of what is going on around us, how the will of God is disregarded and Christ is still despised in this world, 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)

As mentioned in the introduction, the New Testament reports of five occasions on which it is expressly stated that heaven has been or will be open 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).

Now we turn to Revelation 19, the last time the opened heaven is mentioned in the Bible. This passage refers an enormously important moment. One could say that it is the most important event that the world is about to experience. 

At his coming in grace, Christ been baptized in river 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 the character in which He will appear:

  • He sits on a white horse, which 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 diadems: He is the king who has deserved the reign and is worthy to carry it out (Satan the dragon had seven diadems (Rev. 12:3) and the Roman ruler had ten (Rev. 13:1), but Christ will wear “many” diadems). 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 appearing).
  • 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 – God and Man in one Person – and as such only the Father knows Him fully (Mt. 11:27) – but we may worship Him for this, today as well as at His appearing.
  • He is clothed in a garment dipped in blood: this indicates what will happen in the judgment that He will now execute: His enemies will find death (cf. Isa. 63:1-3).
  • His name is called: the Word of God. Christ is "the Word" from eternity (John 1:1) and once came into the world as full expression of the mind of God, to reveal Him. But then He comes to judgment. In this, too, He will be the expression of God’s mind. He will exercise judgment according to the word of God. In full agreement with this, we read that a sharp double-edged sword proceeds 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 (John 3:36).

The appearing described in these verses is, therefore, a terrifying one indeed. But we must remember that Christ had already come to this earth once before. Then He came in grace, as a man, born as a child. He had lived and worked on earth and had made 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 aspect 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 with all his heart. It says: "He has a name written on his robe and on his thigh". 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 honoured 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 executes the judgement – but they may accompany Him, for He wants to share His reign and triumph with them.

Thus, in Revelation 19, we also look – literally – at the opened 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 (and from our natural eyes). Here we see that Christ will not always remain hidden, but that heaven will open for Him to come from heaven. It is the day of His public glorification, He comes to appear before the world. Are all readers among those "who love his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8) and who will then be allowed to appear with Him?

 

49. The bright and 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)

In the previous devotion we looked at the event of the appearing of Christ in glory (Rev. 19:11-21). In this final one, we turn to our actual Christian hope: the moment when Christ comes to take us to Himself. That will be at least seven years before his appearance. He, the man Jesus, the offspring of David, is also God, the "Root of David". And He is the “bright and morning star” – an expression that only occurs here. We read about the morning star three times in the New Testament:

  • 2 Peter 1:19: Here is the expression "phosphoros", the one who brings light. He is not just a lamp that shines in a dark place, but He gives light.
  • Revelation 2:28: Here is the expression "aster" (for star, known from our word astronomy) and "proinos" (the morning).
  • Revelation 22:16: Here is also the word for star and the word mourning (in some manuscripts "orthrinos" for "early", "early morning" or “dawn”) – but this time combined with the word "shining" ("lampros"), which reinforces the brightness of the morning star.

It seems that here, on the last page of the Bible, the strongest term is used to describe the morning star. The morning star to be seen just before it becomes day. By most people he goes unnoticed, but to the eye of faith it is a shining or brilliant star. It is the harbinger of the dawn. Only the open and watchful eye sees Him and delights in Him. When the sun rises, everyone will notice – so will it be at His appearance as the "Sun of Righteousness" (Mal. 3:20). But we may expect Him, look for Him, express the desire ourselves "Come, Lord Jesus!" and encourage others to expect Him too and say "come". 

In doing so, we do not forget that many people will be lost if they have not first taken the water of life. We want to invite them to come and "drink".

Christian hope is not only ridiculed by the world, but it has also long been abandoned by many Christians. But those who wait for the Lord will not be disappointed. For He himself answers: "Surely, I come quickly!"


 


[1] The seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3 were initially addressed to seven assemblies that existed in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) at the time of John. But they also have a prophetic bearing, because Revelation is a prophetic book. These seven assemblies represent seven epochs in the history of the church, i.e. around 2000 years so far. For more details see "The Addresses to the Seven Churches" by Hamilton Smith.

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