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The year is AD96 or thereabouts. The location is Patmos, a remote island-prison outpost of the mighty Roman Empire. The ageing Christian apostle John has been exiled and imprisoned on the island because of, in his words, “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
In worship John hears a loud trumpet-like Voice, and turning, encounters someone he describes as being “like the Son of Man”.
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. (Rev. 1:12-16 NASB)
This magnificent Person has a likeness to the Son of Man, a resemblance to the Christ John had come to know so intimately during their brief years together, now decades past.
So frightening, so alarming, so startling is the appearance and manner of this Person John’s immediate response is to faint:
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead (Rev. 1:17).
It’s not quite the reaction we might imagine from the apostle who had laid his head so intimately upon Jesus’ breast just hours before his Friend’s death by crucifixion (Jn. 13:23). Given their history together we might expect John to rush impulsively into the arms of His dear Lord and friend, as any true friend separated by years of time and distance might do.
John had been there at the River Jordan the day John the Baptist proclaimed “Behold, the Lamb of God!” From that day on he had followed Jesus (Jn. 1:35-37). He referred to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved” (Jn. 21:7). He had watched on in awe as Jesus performed miracles, healings, and resurrections and sparred verbally with the Jewish religious authorities. He had been present at Jesus transfiguration on the mountain (Mar. 9:2), was at His trial (Jn. 18:15), was the only close male disciple present at His crucifixion (Jn. 19:25-27), and was one of the first to discover His resurrection (Jn. 20:2-4).
And when Jesus showed up unexpectedly on a Galilean beach it was John who recognised him from a distant fishing boat before any of the other disciples did (Jn. 21:7). If anyone knew well the form and face of the Son of Man, it was the apostle John.
What prompted John’s strange reaction to the familiar yet unfamiliar Christ who now stood before him? This was Jesus Christ as John had never before seen him – His Presence so overwhelmingly formidable, so intensely commanding, that John’s flesh and blood body simply collapsed in shock and fear.
Because this was the Risen Lamb.
More often than not the image we have in mind when contemplating the Lamb of God is that of the sacrificial Lamb of Isaiah 53 who “poured out Himself to death”:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth (Is. 53:7).
Jesus embodied this prophetic picture of humble submission as He willingly endured the mock trial, examination by Pilate, torture, taunts and public spectacle of His crucifixion. He was the meek, silent and spotless Lamb of God, foreshadowed by the Old Covenant sacrificial system, who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29)
But there is another face to the Lamb of God, one we may not be so familiar with. This Lamb does not meekly submit – He rules all creation. This Lamb is not silent – He has a Voice that echoes like the sound of multiple waterfalls. His is the powerful Voice John encountered on Patmos which so thoroughly shocked him he could no longer stand. It was not until the Risen Lamb placed His reassuring hand upon His friend and servant, saying “Do not be afraid” that John could function to watch the unfolding vision to come, the mysterious scenes we now know as the book of Revelation.
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.” (Rev. 1:17-19)
For centuries, scholars, Bible students, laymen, and Christians of all stripes and tribes have argued, anguished, and endlessly speculated about the meaning of the book called Revelation. Its apocalyptic chapters have been the subject of movies, novels and documentaries. Countless books have been written and sermons preached by those who believe they know the interpretation of the events it describes.
It’s not my intention to enter that great field of debate. I make no claim to understanding either the timing or the meanings contained in the book of Revelation any more than the next serious Bible student. But I do wish to highlight in this series of articles something that is rarely acknowledged in the never-ending discussion surrounding the events described in Revelation. It is this:
This book is, first and last, about Jesus Christ, the Risen Lamb. He is the central character and the One in absolute control of everything that unfolds throughout its chapters. It is not the mysterious events that should be our primary focus as we read through the pages of Revelation – it is the Person introduced in the very first chapter, who John described in such awe-inspiring detail and whose breathtaking Presence so thoroughly overwhelmed him. If we pay close attention, we will find it is this Person who is repeatedly referenced throughout Revelation and who is its magnificent focus.
There is an important key in the very first verse that is so often overlooked when trying to understand the events of Revelation. Let’s take a look:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John… (Rev. 1:1)
This is more than a book; it is more than a letter. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, a panoramic prophetic record, the most important purpose of which is to reveal the risen Jesus Christ. Within its pages we are to behold the Lamb in all His unmatched authority and glory. If we miss that crucial point, we have missed the key to all the events described in the following chapters.
Secondly, this is a revelation that belongs to Jesus Christ alone. It does not belong to me, or you, or our pastor, or our favourite commentator, or even to the apostle John. This revelation belongs to the One to whom it was given, Jesus Christ. In turn, Jesus gave an angel messenger an assignment to communicate this revelation to His faithful witness John, an elderly apostle in exile on an inhospitable island prison at the backside of the Roman empire.
The revelation therefore belongs to Christ, reveals Christ and will be fulfilled by Christ. Through His disciple and scribe, John, He has chosen to share its mysteries with His faithful servants. A firm understanding of this foundational truth is vital if we hope to gain insight into what the Holy Spirit is revealing about Jesus Christ through these pages.
Something we often overlook is that there is a particular blessing available in the words of this book.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near (Rev. 1:3)
The original Greek word translated ‘’heed’’ here carries the connotation of holding fast, guarding, preserving and watching over. So, this revelation was shared with the intention of providing blessing, but only upon those who value its message and guard it as revealed truth.
So, who is this Jesus Christ, the Risen Lamb, and why does He want His servants to know Him as He is revealed in Revelation’s pages?
That’s what we will be exploring in Part Two of “The Lamb” to follow next week. Stay tuned.
Related Article: The Lamb Part Two
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