20 The [l]mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the [m]angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands [n]which you saw are the seven churches. Revelation 1:20 NKJV
17-20 “Don’t fear: I am First, I am Last, I’m Alive. I died, but I came to life, and my life is now forever. See these keys in my hand? They open and lock Death’s doors, they open and lock Hell’s gates. Now write down everything you see: things that are, things about to be. The Seven Stars you saw in my right hand and the seven-branched gold menorah—do you want to know what’s behind them? The Seven Stars are the Angels of the seven churches; the menorah’s seven branches are the seven churches.”Revelation 1:17-20 MSG
“Write what you see into a book. Send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea.” Revelation 1:10 NIV
The book of Revelation opens with John being told he is receiving a vision, a revealing of Jesus Christ. That means everything we are going to read, study and find ourselves meditating with this year as a church family is about Jesus the Messiah. We will not just remember him at Easter and Christmas, or Passover and The Feast of Dedication, we will seek him and feast on the vision of who he is all year long from this precious text.
The book of Revelation is often one of the most misunderstood, misquoted, and misapplied books in the Christian Bible.
It has been used to oppose other Christians, other humans outside of our Christian faith, governments and many other persons or people groups in the name of God. It has been used to drive people with fear toward God, supposedly, and away from God. The words of Revelation have been a tool used by leaders to raise up one group of people and oppress another. These words have been twisted to imagine John having revelations evil and dark things that would take place thousands of years in the future.
Please be aware that this is all a horrible, terrible, inexcusable misuse of a text clearly intended to reveal Jesus in his beauty, majesty, tragedy, rise from death and destruction, transcending glory, and everlasting reign. Nearly everything you have read or heard taught about the book of Revelation in your lifetime is misled, misleading, missing the point, or blatantly wrong. Why would we do such a thing to an image and story of our Jesus? It is easy to be misled when we miss the focal point of the text.
The primary focus of most writing and speaking on Revelation is not Jesus, the author and point of the text, but the adversary or his minions on the Earth. What an anti-Christ thing to do! We need to begin today, as we have the last three weeks with this understanding in mind and ask the Lord to forgive us for being misled. We need the Lord to help us to come back to the simplicity of trusting Him and his word. Right now, let’s take a moment and reflect on this thought and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, we want to see you this morning. We want to know you in all of your beauty, suffering, power, and majesty. Help us to understand your word, your actions, your heart, and your mind. Give us understanding Holy Spirit. Give us wisdom. Give us yielded hearts and minds. Guide us into the truth, great Spirit of Truth, and show us the deep things of God revealed in the person of Jesus. Amen.
See the Body
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. I Cor. 12:12-14 NIV
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. I Cor. 12:27-29NIV
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4: 11-16 NIV
It may sound a little silly or a bit overly simple to say this, but when you see someone you see their body. It is no different with Jesus. When we see him, we see his body! John saw a physical representation of Jesus that is awe inspiring in Revelation 1. He heard a voice and saw an image that made him fall at to the ground like a dead man.
“17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.
“ – Rev. 1:17 NIV. What that image and voice conveyed to him is that a clearer image of his Body, the church, was the next part of the story. John was going to hear about the church and be given specific messages for specific local churches.
One great disservice we have done to this text is the concept of dispensational thinking. It is a theological term that has been used to propagate the concept of church ages based on the seven different churches. There is merit in seeing ourselves in these churches, hence the writing of the book and his preservation through the ages for many saints who never sat among the original audience to hear these words. It is valuable to look at the lessons from these seven churches and apply learning to our time, our season of life, and the history of the church before us. It is tragic to miss the local church, the physical representation of Jesus body in these cities, in the process.
John has just seen a flames-in-his-eyes Jesus and he was about to see and hear the vision of Jesus through these local churches he knew and had seen before with heaven’s eyes. John had seen the Book of Acts version of these churches, how the church relates to others in this world while doing the work of the Kingdom. Now, he was about to see the Book of Revelation version of these churches, how the eternal vision of God and his angels sees these churches doing the work of the Kingdom on this Earth.
The Body – His Church – Locally and Globally
Do not miss this, friends. When we read the Book of Revelation, we are seeing Jesus. When we see Jesus, we see the church which is his body. When we see the body, in the context of scripture we see it from two clear perspectives. The first application of this idea, Christ body is the church, is local. Every “book” in the New Testament is either a story about Jesus’ physical life on Earth (The Gospels), a story about the local church (Acts and the letters of the Apostles), or a story about the global body of Christ as the world-wide church (Acts through Revelation). The second application of the term “Body of Christ” is global.
It is our goal at Providence Chapel to give you the teaching and tools to minister to others. Our purposes as pastors, Becky and I have always felt this way about pastoring this church, is to equip you all and work with you. We are not here to simply minster to you and for you, though we are honored to do so. We are most honored to serve with you for the sake of the King! He is glorious. He is beautiful. He is majestic. He is awe inspiring. He is worthy. We live and we die for him. We encourage, and sometimes endure, each other for his greater glory.
The church does not exist to please us. We are the church and we exist to do his pleasure, bring his Kingdom on the Earth as it is in heaven. He is our pursuit, passion, and purpose. He is our aim and goal. We are not a missions driven organization. We are a Jesus driven family! As a result of pursuing Jesus and his vision of all humanity we naturally want to bring others into this one and only true way of life, the God filled life found in Jesus!
When we serve this area, Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties in Florida, we serve with other brothers and sisters in our local area. We are each atoms in the body, so to speak, connected together in this thing known as the local church which is a body part of Jesus. When others see us they should see Jesus. They should not see our political affiliation first. They should not see our social class first. They should not see our title first.
They should see Jesus. As a group, they should not see our denomination or lack thereof first, they should see Jesus. He is our statement of faith.
Jesus is our vision statement. He is our mission statement. Falling at his feet is our worship style.
- How he chooses to reveal himself to us is our favorite church décor.
- When he arrives is our church meeting time.
- When he shows himself among us through spiritual awakening or the human kindness of others is when we have the best meetings together.
- Where he leads us is where we meet.
- When he bids us go, is when we are done.
- What he says is what we do.
- How he leads is the pattern for our life.
- What he wants is what we desire too.
We love the poor and long for those rich in money and things to be rich in life through Christ rather than rich with worthless things like bank accounts.
We love the oppressed and want to see the charismatic leaders who oppress them bow to Jesus so that their amazing influence can be used for good.
We love the immigrant and want to see the citizens welcome them with open arms as they show them the way to belong in a new world.
We love the ones who have gone before and honor them, even though we may have to learn from their mistakes and critique their examples as we aim to be more like Jesus than ever before.
We are more connected in like mindedness to our Christian brothers and sisters who are Democrats then we are to “Conservatives” who do not follow Jesus. We are more alike our brothers who are suffering in China than our neighbors who deny Jesus is Lord while being very financially prosperous. We bear more resemblance to a Communist Party member in Europe than a toxic, un-Christlike, change-of-pace politician who uses faith and faith leaders to gain votes and weld power that opposes the very nature of Christ in the name of “Conservative-Christian Values.” We are the body of Christ, locally and globally. We are one in him and no one without him.
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. John 15:4-6 NKJV
Let us pray!
Holy Spirit, show us Jesus today. Show him to us, in us and through us. Show him to us in a way that forever changes us. Make us more like you, Jesus. Father, forgive us for taking your word for granted and misusing it. Help us to handle the Word of God with care, both the written word and the living word which is Jesus. Make us more like you, God. Take our hearts and minds and mold them to be more like Jesus. Open our eyes, hearts, and minds to see you and present you to others. Wash us clean, make us new, and use us for the glory of God. May it cover the earth like the waters of the sea!Amen