“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
“Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. ”
— Revelation 1:4-7 (NRSV)
These scripture passages remind me of the words of an old favorite Gospel chorus:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”
And, it is interesting to note that this is the message of the book of Revelation, also. Here, continually, Jesus Christ is held before us as Savior, Lord of history and the center of our hope. A study of the book of Revelation ought to bring to us a clearer vision of Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t, we have missed the point of it all. It is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1), and he appears in it continually. He is the Son of Pan, the Lamb, the White rider. He is always the central character. If we were to spend a lifetime studying this book (and you easily could) and miss the vision of Jesus Christ that lies at its heart, we would have wasted our time. John wrote this book to encourage people encountering persecution to “turn their eyes upon Jesus.”
From time to time, in the pastorate, I was asked to lead a study on the book of Revelation. And, I don’t mind doing that. But, the things people often look fro from such a study — a knowledge of the future in advance — is not at all what the book is actually about.
How we need to learn this lesson. How many of us have our vision bound to the cares and concerns of this life? How many of us have been tempted to despair? How many of us are, frankly, too concerned with ourselves? “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.”
We so need to learn to look beyond our problems, our circumstances and ourselves — to the One who alone can help us. This is something that the discipline of public worship does for me. Worship is a time when I turn my mind to a reality greater than myself. John describes Jesus as “him who loves us.” This is who He is to us: the one who cares about us, even when no one else seems to care. Our lives matter to Jesus Christ.
This assurance helps us to cope with life. We know Jesus Christ cares about us. It is very important to us now — as it was in the days in which John wrote the book of Revelation — to have our vision of Christ renewed.
First, look at who Jesus is. He writes that He is “the faithful witness,” “the first born from the dead,” and “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” He is the faithful witness to God’s truth. His life and His words reveal to us the truth about God. He came so that we might know of God. Then, also, He is the Resurrected One. He is the one who has conquered death. The resurrection of Jesus is, in a sense, the beginning point of Christianity. It is our belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior based upon His resurrection that sets Christianity apart from all other religions. And, then, Jesus is the “ruler of the kings of the earth.” That is, He is the rightful ruler over all. He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Paul writes in Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Second, look at what Jesus has done for us. He has “released us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom ….” Jesus has freed us from the grasp of sin. By forgiveness He breaks the power of the past over us. He makes it possible for us to begin again. By cleansing and empowerment He breaks the power of sinfulness over us. He makes it possible for us to no longer serve sin. He sets our hearts free. And, how did He accomplish this? John writes that it was “by His blood.” Never forget that our salvation came at great cost! Jesus laid down His life for us. He redeemed us that we might be His people. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” 2 Corinthians 5: 19, 20 (NRSV).
Thirdly, look at what Jesus has yet to do for us: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him ….” In the past Jesus suffered death for our salvation. In the future Jesus is coming in power and glory. His first coming was in humility, His second coming is in power. John states the fact here as if it were happening that very moment: “Behold! He is coming!” Jesus comes to judge the world and to gather His people to himself. So we await, expect and pray for the coming of Jesus. He comes to end the night of darkness! He comes to redeem His waiting people.
This is the Jesus Christ whom we know. We know Him as King of Kings. We know Him as the Resurrected One who has conquered death and sin. We know Him as the One who laid down His life for us. We know Him to be our coming King. So, let’s turn our eyes from the passing trails and sorrows of life to see anew the unchanging realities of Christ.