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The Lion-God: Examining Jesus in the Book of Revelation

The most common difference that many people invoke in subject of the Old and New Testament is the great contrast between God’s Judgment and His mercy. The Old Testament is widely seen as the God of Israel’s strict legalistic laws which required swift retribution on anyone who transgressed. The New Testament is viewed through the lens of Christ and therefore perceived as the Son of God’s sacrifice of love aimed at pacifying the anger of his furious Father.

Any such slanted view should be immediately discarded when one encounters the Risen Christ of the Book of Revelation. This New Testament book is so parallel with the Old Testament apocalyptic writings of Zechariah and Daniel, that Biblical Scholars might have difficulty knowing its place in the canon if it were not for its mentions of Jesus.

It should be no surprise that in this book the language of Christ is so judgmental that it might be mistaken for an Old Testament declaration. During his time on Earth, Christ repeatedly made reference to his oneness/union with the God of the Old Testament saying “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.” (John 8:19) and “I do nothing of myself; but as the Father taught me.” (v28) And then finally Jesus makes the statement, “I do always those things that please him.” It would be unnatural and impossible for the Son who always pleased the Father to not display the same sternness, fury, and anger concerning those things which are not acceptable in his sight.

Henceforth we examine the exalted Savior. Following his resurrection Jesus confided to his disciples that, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” After accomplishing his purpose on earth Christ is then received by Heaven until the times of restitution of all things. It is here, on high where we first witness his splendor of his of fully glorified appearance.

In his vision, the Beloved Disciple John describes Jesus saying, “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 pops with a golden girdle. His head and hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and is feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and 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. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and last; I am he that liveth, and was dead, I am alive for evermore." (Rev 1:13-18)

Verse 17. The reaction of John the Disciple to Christ is almost as stricken as the appearance itself. This is because if there was anyone who most easily recognize the humble Savior it would be him. Three time in in his gospel he referred to himself as the disciple that Jesus loved. (John 19:26, 21:7, 21:20) He was the same John whom we read “lied on Christ’s breast” during the Last Supper. But by his own testimony ho confides that when he saw the One whom he had spent countless hours, that he “fell at his feet as dead, from fear”

This image of Jesus is not likely to be seen on our annual holiday greeting cards. Nor is it likely that this is the usual mental picture that we conjure up when giving thought to the Man of Galilee. But it should be known and understood that this fearful Christ, not the weak Servant, is the one in which all men must give an account to.

(Chp 1 v13) Here we have a gloriously arrayed Christ in apparel somewhat similar to the Old Testament priests. While it cannot be verified that he is in Priestly apparel attire it can be certain he is responsible for priestly duties. One of the most clear prophecies of the OT of the Messiah was Psalm 110, in which God speaks saying, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizidek.” The book of Isaiah states, “(He) made intercession for the transgressors.”

(V14) This description is unmistakably similar to what we read in the OT prophet Daniel. He wrote concerning his vision, ”I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire." In Jewish culture and scripture, the aging of ones hair was a sign of beauty, glory, and righteousness. This would appear exceedingly so for one as the eternal Christ whose locks are now whiter than snow or wool.

Probably the most penetrable traits of Jesus in this description is these eyes are described as “flames of fire.” Fire has always been used throughout scripture to denote judgment, refining, and consummation. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Baptizer proclaimed, "he that cometh after me is mightier than I; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (3:11) Using that same reference in the subject of purification, he goes on to say in the next verse, ‘he (Jesus) will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Christ’s/God’s fire is able to refine and/or consume. In this context these eyes of fire will be used in judgment by he whom will search and try the reigns of the heart.

(V15) The same feet that were pierced now are said to be like fine brass burned in a furnace. As discussed in the previous topic fire is revealing judgment. In this passage John uses the language of furnace. Jesus himself implied the meaning when explaining the parable of the wheat and tares. He said, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do not iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gashing of teeth.” (Mat 13:41-42) We gain a fuller understanding when we read the OT prophet Zechariah (14: 3-4) which wrote, “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations; and his feet shall stand in that day.” Christ in this appearance is ready to stand for judgment. “Woe to the World, the Lord will come! Let earth bereave and weep!”

(V16) The emphasis in this verse is found in the sword which proceeds out of Christ’s mouth. In the first recorded song of the Bible, Moses sung and wrote, “The Lord is a man of war.” (Ex. 15:3) Why would Jesus be only different than his Father?

We discover in numerous places that the sword that Christ’s holds is the word of God. This same word that is able to convict, condemn, cut asunder the soul that despises God’s grace.

The second most poignant appearance of the Christ is found in Revelation chapter 19. This description is the only one in the subtext of his second coming. We read, “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 flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew but himself. (13) And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood and his name is called the Word of God. (14) And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (15) 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 fineness and wrath of the Almighty God."

In this we see much of the same language as from the first appearance. But we also see the vengeful nature of Jesus much more. We read that he is coming to judge and make war. As discussed earlier such characteristics are contrary to the mental Jesus that unbelievers and even many in the church associate. The same Lord who once told his disciples; "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword," is now brandishing weaponry himself which he is said to be used to “smite the nations”

Even more profound is the vesture of Jesus which is said to be “dipped in blood.’ Whose blood is this? Such a rhetorical question was asked in the prophecy of Isaiah; “Why is his clothing so red; The Lord answers, “I have trampled the nations like grapes, and no one came to help me. I trampled them in my anger, and their blood has stained my clothing; (For the day of vengeance is in my heart." (63:2-4) The merciful Jesus who shed his blood for the sake of redemption will now mercilessly shed blood for the sake of his wrath. How terrible is this Savior?

Much too can be gleaned by a sufficient study of Christ’s message to the 7 churches. In these not only are we given the specific words of Jesus concerning his person, but his gentle words of commendation, fiery discourse of rebuke, and the loving promises to the obedient. These declaration truly reveal how absolutely jealous for his sake Jesus is for those whom belong to him.

To the messenger of the church of Pergamos, Jesus familiarly introduces himself as “he which hath the sharp sword with two edges.” As we know, the reference to the sword is an allusion to the word of God in judgment. It is interesting why Christ would use this language to believers. It would take an unlearned man in the things of scripture to know; just as the disciple Peter spoke, “judgment must begin at the house of God.” As long as the church exists on earth Christ will always purify, chastise, and rebuke those in his own house.

We go on to verse 13 in which we find this church’s commendation. Jesus says, “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith.” Even though this church was directly in the midst of the anti-Christ, the omniscient eyes of Christ beheld their good works and faithfulness. The loving Savior overlooks no righteous deeds done through love for him.

Though just as sure as his exhortation is his rebuke. He says in verse 14, “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam; v15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolations, which thing I hate.” Just as today false teaching which were leading true believers into sin had infiltrated this church. Christ was adamant about his intolerance and hatred of the presence of false teachings. He goes on in verse 16 to declare a fearful ultimatum which was to be immediately obeyed: “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” God’s judgment upon believers has always come in one of four divine chastisements; sickness, tribulation, death, and loss of reward.

The church of Thyatira encounters Christ as, “The Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass.” The description of Christ remains fearful even for the elect messenger of the church. Our stained-glass images of Gentle Jesus holding a lamb in our churches are not present in this book. It’s very important that we realign our perception of Christ with scripture and nothing else.

Possibly the greatest commendation come to this church. In verse 19, Jesus states, “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last be more than the first." Unlike the church of Ephesus which had left their first love, Thyratira had exceeded even their initial fervency for faith and good works. This was extremely pleasing to the Lord.

Though again, we discover blemishes in this church body. Verse 20 reads, “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” V21 Again the problem is false teaching. This repeat offence and its rebuke confirm how disheartening wrong doctrine is to the heart of Christ. Its detriment is even more apparent in his warning. V22 "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.” Jesus tells his own that he will bring great affliction upon those who continue in their wrong practice. This orthodox/strict Christ is less likely to be recognized as his erected pacifist persona.

The most gregarious statement is found in the following verse. The same Jesus who told his disciples; “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, “ now states in verse 23, “I will kill her children with death.“ It is difficult to interpret whether this is a spiritual in which Christ refers to or a literal death. But in any case these words only reinforce this unseen nature of Christ. The One who wept over the death of a friend is the one who inflicts the same upon his enemies.

“He that hath the seven Spirits of God; and the seven stars” is the introduction to the Church of Sardis. Seven being a biblical digit denoting perfection and completion throughout this book, Christ reveals introduces himself as fully divine and fully sovereign over the body’s affairs.

Sardis is the 1st of only two churches which receive no commendation. Jesus says, “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” This church apparently was naming the blessed name externally but internally was begetting no spiritual life.” After commanding a repentance-watching doctrine practice-unto the things in which the church has received, Christ then warns the church in verse 3 saying, “if therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”

Jesus spoke on this same topic as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. He urged his disciples to faithfully and patiently watch (for) and be prepared for his return. In chp. 12 v 43-46, he says….” These words reveal that many souls in the congregation but outside the true church body (will) be found spiritually dead on the day of his second coming.

The second/other church to receive no commendation is that of Laodicea. Jesus Christ refers to himself as “ the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” In the first two descriptions/titles, Jesus gives assurance as to his perfect and absolute testimony concerning all things. In the reference of, “the beginning of creation of God,” he infers his inherited right/privileges over all creations.

Christ diagnosis the spiritual condition of the church in verse 16 as “lukewarm.” He says “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out my mouth.” I interpret this lukewarm of the church as being neither zealous or refreshing as a church which believes in the living water should be. Such a condition results in Jesus using (distasteful) imagery as spew to illustrate discontent.

The cause of Laodicea’s apathy is revealed in verse 17. Jesus says, “Because thou says, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” It has been documented that Christ in the Gospels spoke more about money than either heaven or hell. Purposely, he knew what the effect of covetousness would have had on his church body. He goes on to fiercely condemn the believers in this matter stating, “Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked.” Such a sharp rebuke should instantly cause all who call upon his name to tremble in self-examination.

Finally we document the church in Ephesus. Likewise. Similar to the Church of Sardis, Jesus is abdicated as “he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand.” He then furthers this description by adding, “Who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” Not only is Christ sovereign over the church but He is also ever-present in the body. In the gospel of Matthew Jesus spoke, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” This truth can be comforting and comfortless simultaneously. The Christ is always in the presence of of his people in both perfect grace in affliction and perfect accountability in their transgressions.

The list of things in which this church is commended for abounds. Verse two reveals the labors, patience, and intolerance of false apostles that the church has diligently practiced to the approval of Jesus their Lord. Jesus says in verse three, “(thou) hast patience, and for my name sake hast labored, and hast not fainted.” It would seem, to the carnal eye that all these works would be without rebuke. But unto him with eyes of fire, we discover this is not so.

The churches spot is detailed in verse 4. The words of Christ state, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” The church who is the Bride of Christ is found by her bridegroom as performing all the wifely duties, but not with the same passion that she once had. This is unacceptable to a husband that “loved the church and gave himself for it.” He requires not only faithfulness but fervor. Anything less can be considered adultery. This thing is so serious that Christ threatens to remove the church out of its place v5, if the command of repentance is not obeyed. (Jesus the Merciless Holy King and Envious Lover)

There exist two churches that in their (spiritual) check-up, receive no rebuke. The church of Philadelphia and Smyrna are lauded by their Savior for their faithfulness and works in the midst of tribulation. To the church of Smyra, Jesus encourages the believers that despite their physical poverty they were spiritually rich. This church also was exhorted to remain steadfast despite great persecution which would include imprisonment and possible death.

Christ told the church in Philadelphia, “I have loved thee.” For a church that was said to have little strength, Jesus approved/commended them for keeping his word and not denying his name. He also promised to set an open door before them that no man would be able to shut. The door (being also himself) would minister the entrance into his external kingdom.

As discussed earlier, each discourse to the church is concluded with a beautiful promise. The Savior who wounds with his words is also able to heal with them as well. The churches of Laodicea and Sardis were found completely void of commendable works. But Christ in his passion promises, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcome, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” To Sardis he says, “The same shall be clothed in white raiment, I will confess his name before my Father.”

The final analogy of this study concerning this is Christ furious over the church’s sanctity, jealous over it’s faithfulness, and steadfast in his love for those whom he called to himself.

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