DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO SIT AND READ? NOW YOU CAN LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD (OR) SUBSCRIBE TO MY AUDIO PODCAST
In a 2012 article for Relevant Magazine, author and speaker Matt Mikalatos made this troubling statement about the state of Christianity and Christians. He writes, “When Christians imagine Jesus, He is largely schizophrenic.”
I’ve observed what he’s talking about first hand.
Having spent most of my formative years in Church and most of my adult years in ministry, I can attest to the fact that we Christians are sometimes confused about the true identity of the savior of our souls.
Depending on how we’re feeling on any particular day, one version of our Jesus is perpetually disappointed with us because we missed Church last weekend, or because we haven’t had a single quiet devotional in the last month. On a really good day, however, (possibly after listening to “Oceans” by Hillsong) our happier version of Jesus loves us so dearly that He will forgive us for sleeping with our girlfriend and even answer our fervent prayers for a great parking spot at the mall.
Will the really Jesus please stand up!? …because we Christians seriously need a fresher Biblical vision of the resurrected king!
Fortunately, the last book of the Bible, Revelation does this for us in the most vivid of styles. The book was written by the apostle John during a period when Christians were being persecuted politically, socially, religiously, and economically. At the time of its writing, John himself is actually imprisoned on the Island of Patmos. You may be tempted to picture John as Jack Sparrow stranded on a long stretch of white sand beach, but you would be wrong. Patmos was a barren, volcanic island. To be exiled there was a common form of punishment for criminals and it involved exhausting physical labor under the watchful eye (and whip) of a Roman soldier, along with inadequate food, clothing, and slabs of rocks to sleep on.
Keep in mind that John is an older man at this juncture in his life and happens to be the last living apostle and father of the Church. The remaining 11 disciples/apostles have been violently martyred for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, imagine the pain and isolation this elderly apostle must have been suffering. Adding to the agony of his loneliness is the fact that the Church he loves so dearly was under attack from heretics who had finagled their way into her and began leading many astray with their false teachings. What may, however, have taken the greatest emotional toll on John was the fact that it had been several decades since Jesus ascended to heaven and had not yet returned like He promised He soon would.
John couldn’t possibly run any lower on hope. If anyone needed a fresh vision of Jesus, John was it!
Just when the night seemed the darkest, John hears a thunderous voice behind him one Sunday morning that scares the living daylights out of him. The loud booming voice he hears (which he describes as sounding “like a trumpet”) belongs to Jesus Christ.
This moment is huge!
Jesus has just disturbed normal because when John turns around to look in the direction of the voice he hears, he beholds a sight so terrifyingly awesome that he falls unconscious. But then ,Jesus walks up to him, gently picks him off the floor and John immediately regains his consciousness. When John finally looks face to face with the resurrected glorified Christ, four realities become inescapably clear.
- Jesus is no longed bloodied and bruised like one of the last times John saw him.
- Jesus is fully clothed in a blinding glory worthy of God Himself, or as I like to call Him, “Nuclear Jesus.”
- Though everything in John’s life and ministry seemed chaotic (and out of whack), Jesus had apparently always been in control of the affairs of the world and the Church and nothing has escaped His watchful eyes.
- Jesus had had dealt death a deathblow!
All four realities are summed up in the words of Jesus Himself in Revelation 1:17-19, “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.”
Through the rest of the book of Revelation, Jesus is going to grant John a spiritual experience that transcends the bounds of normal human comprehension. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, John will be shown astonishing events dating from eternity past, through our present, and further into our future; all of which intended to convey one clear message: JESUS CHRIST HOLDS ALL THE AFFAIRS OF THE WORLD IN HIS HANDS! Or as a pastor friend of mine recently expressed, “JESUS CHRIST IS IN CONTROL OF WHO’S IN CONTROL.”
Take that in for a moment and ponder its implication for your life and for what you’ve always believed about Jesus (and what you presently believe about Him).
In so doing, I find myself in awe of the “bigness” of Christ more than I ever have. I also now find myself filled with an assurance that no matter how out of whack, or even chaotic my life or our country and the rest of the world may seem at the moment, God is not flustered. Not only is He NOT flustered, but every event that has transpired and will transpire in my life, your life, in our nation, across the globe and pretty much in every corner of the earth (from the beginning of time, through this week, into our future to the very end of days) has been entrusted into the more than capable hands of Jesus Christ TO BRING HISTORY TO ITS CULMINATION
So, if you would, allow me to reintroduce you to the Jesus Christ who appeared to John on that lonely afternoon on the Island of Patmos, the Jesus you may not be familiar with. This will actually launch us into a new blog series titled, "7 LETTERS: BOOK OF REVELATION" in which we will make our way through the first 3 chapters of the book of Revelation and explore the seven letters of Jesus.
In John’s encounter with Christ in Revelation 1, there are Five Terrifyingly Awesome Divine features about Him that I am certain will give you the assurance you most desperately need to know that He’s still fully in control and perfectly holds the affairs of the world (and your life) in His hands.
1. HIS OUTFIT IS TO DIE FOR! (Revelation 1:13)
What’s the first thing you notice when you meet someone?
Much of the time, their smile and eyes catch your attention, but for some weird reason, many of us tend to pay attention to other people’s clothes first! This was no different for John when He sees Nuclear Jesus. Verse 13, “….among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.”
Talk about #whoareyouwearing!
You see, Jesus is no longer wearing the simple clothing of a carpenter. He is no longer in the bloodied single cloth he wore on the cross, nor is he wearing the thick linen damp with spices and ointments that was wrapped around Him in the tomb. Rather, He is dressed to impressed and clothed in the full glory of almighty God!
The robe and golden sash are an allusion to the clothing and role of the high priest in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 16:1-4, Aaron (Moses’ brother) was called to serve as high priest of Israel and instructed to wear something similar to what Jesus was clothe in.
The message was clear to John and should be clear to us. Jesus Christ IS our high priest who interceded on our behalf before God (Hebrews 4:14-16). This means, no matter how “junky” your life may presently be, you can approach God’s throne with great confidence because Jesus has already made your case before the Father – hence, you’re eternally welcome! In other words, you’ve been “clothe” in the righteousness of Christ so that you can now pass the “Dress code” when you stand before God. When God looks at you, He sees the covering of His Son on you that says, “This One Has Been Paid For. He May Enter!”
This is great news, my friends! Jesus broke the barrier, fixed the relational and spiritual rift between you and God and reconciled you back into a loving relationship with Him! It’s for this reason that you are able to pray with confidence to God! It’s also the picture that was being conveyed to John as He stared in awe and wonder at the “son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.”
2. WHAT DID HE DO TO HIS HAIR?!? (Revelation 1:14a)
I understand the worry about graying hair and the need to want to dye it to make yourself look younger, but perhaps it’s the Nigerian culture I grew up in, I find gray/white hair to be a “crown of splendor and glory” on those who wear it (Proverbs 16:31).
When I’m looking for wise counsel or for godly leaders and mentors, I prefer to start first with the grayed or white hair squad because I know (for the most part), they’ve “been there, done that.” I know we live in a culture today that reveres the young and derides the old, but in other cultures in the world and in Biblical times, white hair was always associated with wisdom and there was/is great respect for those who wear it. Think about it. Picture in your mind’s eye a white haired older man in a suit, or a grey haired woman in a business suit; doesn’t that image command a certain amount of respect? Even admiration?
Notice what Jesus’ head looks like in verse 14, “The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.”
The white hair on Jesus’ head is indicative of His eternality, which essentially means He’s been around so long that there is nothing He does not know (as you’ll discover through the rest of the book of Revelation). In fact, in Daniel 7:9, the same description is used for God the Father, who, in that account is referred to as the “Ancient of Days.” So Jesus is eternally smart. Not only is there nothing He does not know, but there is no thought formulating in your mind right now that He did not already know before you were born! (This should offer you great comfort because it means He truly understands how you feel).
3. DON’T LOOK HIM IN THE EYE! (Revelation 1:14b)
Jesus’ eyes are also very telling.
I’m not a master at this yet, but I’ve become fairly adept at being able to tell if someone is lying to me by watching their eyes closely. The eyes are truly a window to the soul. In this case, however, Jesus’ eyes are the one piercing even the strongest gaze. John says in verse 14b that His eyes were like blazing fire.
Well, that’s a terrifying sight to behold! Later on in verse 16, John adds “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”
Let’s face it, resurrected Jesus is scary. The power he bears can only possibly be measured on a nuclear scale, if that! Fire burns things away, and in some cases, it refines things to reveal their purest form.
The message being conveyed here, however, is that when Jesus looks at our lives, He sees beyond our public self, which is the image we present to the world (usually a more perfect version of ourselves). Jesus even sees beyond our private self, which is the role we play and what people know us as (Dad, mom, student, boss, etc). The Lord with the eyes ablaze with fire sees through any and every façade to who we truly are in our personal selves, the part of us that no one but us knows about. His fiery gaze searches and reveals the very depths of our souls, which is why He says in Matthew 10:26, “..for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” and why Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
There is great comfort in this knowledge (as well as some level of reasonable trepidation). This so, because it means that every false accusation ever made against you will someday be exposed by God for the lie that they were. God Himself will vindicate you! At the same time, however, His fiery gaze also means that all your secret thoughts and deeds, though presently visible in His sight, will someday be exposed in God’s presence so that you get a truly accurate picture of your true self.
This may be bad news for some of you (or good). Just sayin…
4. THOSE ARE SOME STRONG FEET! (Revelation 1:15a)
I can’t help but wonder how in the world John even had the time to look at Jesus’ feet?
His eyes alone would have been too mesmerizing to take one’s gaze off. But John manages to look away long enough to notice Jesus has no shoes on, and more importantly, that His feet looked like furnaced-fired bronze; verse 15a “His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace,”
Bronze is made from two materials, iron and copper. Iron on its own is strong, but it easily rusts. Copper on the other hand does not rust, but isn’t very strong. In Bronze, one complements the other and you end up with a stronger, very solid material. In Jesus’ case, it has the added feature of also being fiery.
This is intended to convey great strength, justice, and established footing! In ancient times, kings sat on elevated thrones. When subjects approached him, they would essentially be beneath the king’s feet. Jesus’ bronze feet represents His authority and ability to bring down judgment on those He deems guilty, which is what we will see him do all through the book of Revelation.
This is of great encouragement because it means that Christ will someday call every man and woman to give an account for their lives (and be held accountable for their thoughts and actions). So, is there an injustice in your life, community, culture, or overseas that troubles your soul? Certainly, fight in your own power to make things right on behalf of those who don’t have a voice. But know this, the true judge Himself will someday do the most honest evaluation and execute honest judgment on every living soul that has ever lived!
Let’s just say you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of those furnaced-fired bronze feet on that day!
5. HE’S SO LOUD! (Revelation 1:15b, 16b)
Verse 15b and 16b, “and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters…. and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword.”
John compared this voice earlier to sounding like a trumpet, but listening a little more closely, he picks up on the fact that it sounds more like the sound of rushing waters. Clearly, Jesus was only whispering when He sounded like a trumpet. His normal speaking voice apparently sounds like a mighty rushing wave. Ever heard those?
There’s also the detail about a razor-sharp, double-edged sword projecting from His mouth. In Ephesians 6:17, the apostle Paul refers to the Word of God as the “sword of the Spirit.” Here, we see the words coming out of Jesus’ mouth as a literal sword cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow, exposing the innermost thoughts and desires of all mankind.
Its impact on those who hear it is as powerful as being hit by a might ocean wave. Ever seen those?
The message here is this, the words of Jesus are authoritative, commanding, and earth shattering. When He speaks, not only will every living soul’s ear perk up, but its impact will call every single person to full attention. Incidentally, it’s this same voice that every believer will someday hear on the day when Jesus comes down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ rise first (followed by those of us believers still alive).
O What a day that will be!
It’s these Five Terrifyingly Awesome Divine features in the resurrected Christ that I now urge you as a Christian to always keep in the forefront of your mind – AT ALL TIMES.
Jesus Christ may have been tamed in pop culture, but the resurrected Christ of the Bible still roars as king, and someday every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, will say in His presence: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
May you know and always find peace in the true Jesus Christ.
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.