Monday, February 18, 2013

St. John’s Apocalypse – Revelation Chapter One

Historically and for better insight to John’s commission, John and his brother known as James the Greater, was called by the Messiah to come and follow Him from the Lake of Genesareth. At the time of his calling, John was about 25 years old and a commercial fisherman by trade. By all accounts, John had not taken a wife. From this point on, John faithfully followed Christ through all His endeavors right up to the cross of Golgotha. From the bloody cross, Christ further dispatched John to take care of His mother Mary for the rest of her life. With this charge instilled in his heart, [1]John took flight from Jerusalem with Yeshua’s mother Mary, after the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman General Titus in 70 A.D. Mary was 63 years of age when she died in Ephesus completing the charge that Christ asked of John the Beloved. Through the evangelistic ministry of the Apostle Paul, he had preached and established small churches of believers in Asia Minor and Greece. John the Beloved soon followed and became Shepherd and Elder of the Church of Ephesus and Bishop over all seven churches of Asia. At this time of John’s life, the city of Ephesus was of Grecian influence and territory under Roman Empire rule.

Living up to his name of “Sons of Thunder” given to him and his brother James because of their boisterous and thunderous preaching, John the Beloved was apprehended by the Proconsul of Asia and dispatched to Rome to stand before Emperor Domitian.  The Romans attempted to silence John by dropping him into a large vat of boiling oil. Miraculously, he survived and found himself on the Greek Island of Patmos, a prisoner of the Roman State.

John the Beloved began writing about a vision he was given from God about 62 years after the ascension of Christ around 95 A.D. I feel that God was proving to the Roman Empire and especially to the Emperor Domitian that a person’s life is not over until God says so. Nevertheless, miraculously survived the ordeal and alternately, sent to the prison Island in the Sporades for prophesying the future. This prophesying was deemed an act of divination, which was witnessed by Roman officials as defiance and therefore constituted a crime by the Roman Empire State. However, the real reason John was placed on the Island was that he was continually proclaiming Yeshua as the Messiah. In this period of history there was in place a law demanding Emperor Worship causing Domitian to be furious with John. John was seen as one who led others away from this false worship of the Emperor and pointed them to a usurper such as Christ. John writes:

“(1) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: (2) Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” Revelation 1:1-2 KJV

John states that he was so impressed upon by the angel sent from God to bare record of the Word of God and of the testimony of our LORD and Saviour, [2]Yehoshua. After spending a lot of time in this Book of Revelation, I have concluded that this is the major theme of the book - our testimony of Yehoshua and what He has done for us to be given freely to others, in short, the Gospel of Christ. The Revelation continually stresses that it is imperative for every child of God to be able to give to every man a reason of his beliefs. It is very simple for a person who believes in something strong enough to give an account of that very thing and maybe it will be a strong enough belief system that the individual would not hesitate to give up their life for it. There have been many people throughout history that have given their life over much less important ideals or questionable loyalties. Where John finds himself at the time of this writing is proof enough of John’s loyalty to the Kingdom of God. I feel in the coming days, we also will be tested for our loyalty to Almighty God and His Son, the Prince of Kings on Earth.

“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” Revelation 1:3 KJV

Here John is simply stating that happy is the person who is ‘in the know’ because if one heeds the warning they will know what to do when the time arises. The true believer will not be taken by surprise or caught off his guard. The things that are written are to be expected and taken seriously for our own safety and our families well being. When we see these events begin to unfold, we that are ready will know that prophecy is being fulfilled right in front of our eyes. John writes, “Must shortly come to pass” and “for the time is at hand”. I ask, just what is John implying? From my experience of years reading and studying history, I have concluded that John was given the vision of the apostasy of the church and the fall of the [3]Western Roman Empire 27 B.C. – 476 A.D.  Much of the vision was about to begin and is already history to us as we will see as we go verse by verse in this exposition of the Scripture. As we will discover, there is also a point in which the Scripture become futuristic for us here and now. There is a dividing point when John writes about his future and then moves to our future.

“(4) John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven [4]Spirits which are before his throne…" Revelation 1:4

As we can read, this is an official calling from Christ to John. Christ is explicitly making remarks of the full authority from which this message transferred from the Throne Room to John’s prison home. Make no mistake, this is an official document written by John from the Prince of the Kings of the earth with all its weight and gravity of divine intervention. The LORD [5]Yehoshua is sending this message, especially intended for those pastors who are born-again into the Kingdom of God. This document was sent to the pastors through John to be a warning signal as events transpired involving the called out, the Church. This document was also for our admonition to help encourage us to keep the faith given to us by God and not to compromise our beliefs by the wiles of the devil. We are encouraged to hold fast as the Day of Judgment is soon approaching. Our LORD [6]Yeshua was deeply concerned with what He saw in John’s future and was trying to prepare us to keep and receive our just rewards of joy, happiness, and fullness of His spirit.

(5) And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (6) And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6 KJV

[7]Christ, once again, desires to remind all of us from where our blessing of salvation comes from and to remind us of our destiny. This admonishment is repeated many times throughout the Bible, through the writings of John and others like the Apostle Paul. This is purposely for the reason that so many Christians lose sight, faith, and hope of Christ’s intervention and return due to external pressure from the powers of the world, the believer’s enemy. After all that John and the other Disciples had been through and still going through, I feel that the LORD Yehoshua was bolstering and encouraging John’s faith to let him be assured that what he was going through would be worth it all when his life came to its end. This is why John was exclusive in receiving this official document of eschatology from his LORD, to let him know that his efforts for the Kingdom was well received and appreciated for impeccable service to God. I am sure John recognized the fact that it was not time for him to come home for God still had more things for John to do. The LORD Yeshua saw fit to place him aside strategically and alone for some quite time so that John would be able to concentrate on the task. This writing task would require all of John’s strength, attention, and contemplation to succeed.

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindred’s of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7 KJV

John is comforted with the LORD Yeshua’s confirmation that He will return as promised. We should recall that Disciple John was present along with 500 plus eyewitnesses to the ascension of Christ. Christ reminded John to contemplate on whom it was and why it was that He was placed on that old rugged cross. The first point is the Jew’s rejection of the Messiah and of whom they will recognize on His return. Secondly, the ultimate sacrifice of all the sin of humanity for all generations. This action will ultimately appease the Almighty Father and establish the Kingdom. From this standpoint, we as born-again believers will be with Christ, post rapture – post Marriage Supper of the Lamb, in the clouds returning to earth to setup and establish the Kingdom of God.

(8) “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1: 7 – 8 KJV

In this statement, Christ affirms that He and the Father are one in the same. Many Scriptures confirm this statement throughout the Bible. This is a deliberate attempt to put to rest the atheists question.

“And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority?” Matthew 21:23

“I and my Father are one.” John 10:30 KJV 

The conclusion of the matter is Christ’s final and ultimate authority by which this document of Divine intervention arrived to John. This is the answer to the question asked many times in the past and is still being questioned today by skeptics and atheists alike. In the end, when all mankind stands before this final authority they all will be instant believers but unfortunately for them it will be too late to act on this knowledge. Belief in His name [8]Yehoshua, or not will be irrelevant. The fact remains we all have been informed and for some, a warning.

“For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.”
John 5:26-27 KJV

“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, what thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”  Revelation 1:9-11 KJV

“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw 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.” Revelation 1:12 – 16 KJV

John’s vision of Christ is one of ultimate judicial power. I have to pinch myself here and remember what is pictured here is not the Bema Seat of Christ which is still in the future for all born-again Christians. Christ was seen standing, not seated, as presiding over the churches and commenting on the performance of each. However, with each critique the church is issued a warning and a blessing also. Christ is admonishing why their performance filled with apathy and coldness, or the opposite, on fire with love and devotion to Christ. Whatever their hindrance, they are also encouraged to do better and be blessed for their efforts.

“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 the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks, which thou sawest, are the seven churches.” Revelation 1:17-20  KJV

Through much study, I have somewhat concluded Mystery of the Seven Stars. I have discovered that other commentators claim the Seven Stars are pastors of each church named. This raised a flag for me when upon hearing this preached from the pulpits on occasion. If we consider verse four and verse 17, we have to account for the seven Angels at the Throne mentioned which are sent throughout the world to give messages to God’s own. I found this through searching the Bible and considered the fact that the Bible is its own best commentary. Here are some verses of Scripture to help us see some light on this subject.

“For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 2:7

Paul the Apostle said, “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.” Galatians 4:13-14

Paul makes excuses for him not being an angel. He is a messenger sent from God yes, but he is no angel and used his infirmities to point this out.

“Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.” Haggai 1:13

“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:2-3

So, we can see through the Scripture, and there is more, that there is sufficient evidence that the Mystery of the Seven Stars is none other than the angelic messengers of each church mentioned, overseeing the seven churches. For the benefit of doubt, if the seven stars are representative of the seven pastors, it would have to be in the future tense and this could be the reason for other commentators mentioning that this is the case. Yes, the man of God is God’s messenger, there is no doubt, but he is by no means an angel. We, as born-again Christians are never destined to become angels or actual stars for that matter; but assuredly, we will be like unto them both, possessing a glorified body. One good reason for this assumption is that John is still alive, still in the flesh and subject to error and failure; therefore, the reason for the letters in the beginning.  These dispatched letters seem to be none other than report cards from Heaven to the pastors in charge of keeping them from falling apart on earth and thwarting the Apostle Paul’s ministry. We build on each other’s ministry. According to the supporting Scripture, the wise Saints will become as shinning stars in their future and after their death, providing they perform well on earth. As John receives the letters to the churches we have to keep in mind that all these pastors are alive and have opportunity to bring about change to correct their predominate errors. It is evident that Christ deems that these letters are warranted because of the seriousness of the state in which the church is found.

If this is the case, then I find it curious that the first letter and all the letters came to the first pastor of the first church mentioned. His name was John and he had 62 years after Christ’s ascension to build on the ministry of Christ. As I stated before, it seems these letters are nothing short of a report card of sorts pointing out the graph of performance. As we can see, John and the pastors of the other churches are still alive and have an opportunity to bring about change that would please the Overseer and increase performance and possibility of better rewards. This should very well be a warning to you and me as we still have opportunity. The letters alone tell all of us what is expected of Christ and His Kingdom. What is missing here is the story of each church and the conditions in which they found themselves, and how they dealt with adversity and joy together at the same time. Each of the pastors has their own story to tell just as you and I do. Whether the outcome is on a positive note or a negative one, I do believe we will conclude that there will be no excuse when we find ourselves in front of God at the Bema Seat of Christ. This writing is just part of the reason to discover just what it was that caused the problems and the outcome of the mentioned churches.

[1] John’s Hebrew name is ‘Yohanan’, which interpreted means “Yahweh is gracious”.
[2] “Yehoshua”, Christ’s Hebrew name.
[3] It is noted by scholars the time of John’s writing herein is about 95 A.D.
[4] The Seven Angelic messengers
[5]  Christ’s Hebrew name “Yehoshua”, in English, it is the same as Joshua of the Old Testament.
[6] “Yeshua” is Christ name from the Jewish Talmud. It is a short version of Yehoshua. The name ‘Jesus’ is Greek for “Iesous”.  The name Jesus first appeared in translations of the Bible in 1629. The spelling changed throughout the many translations, until the final change was agreed upon in 1629.
[7] Christ = Messiah = The Anointed one.
[8] Hebrew meaning of His name ‘Salvation sent of Yahweh’ Christ states He comes in His Father’s name, thus Yehoshua is His real name John 5: 43.

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