Easter Revelation

Jesus, Res.Easter in Revelation? Why not? It was written by John, the beloved disciple, who was among the first to see the empty tomb. Many years after the resurrection, while John was an old man in chains for his faith, Jesus visited him as the glorified, risen Lord.

The story is told in Revelation chapter one.  John was incarcerated in a prison colony on the Isle of Patmos, Ancient Rome’s equivalent of our Guantanamo Bay. If not discouraged, he must have felt alone. He is the last of the twelve disciples. Judas, of course, hung himself just before Jesus was crucified. The rest of those who walked and talked with Jesus had been beheaded, dragged to death, crucified, or martyred in some other horrific way for preaching the good news. The gospel had spread with phenomenal success–from Palestine to Europe, to Africa, to India and beyond–but at the terrible cost of the lifeblood of John’s closest friends.

Picture John on this particular day, perhaps on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea that separated him from all other believers. He was worshiping God for it was his Sabbath, “the Lord’s Day.” He surely must have been praying for the struggling Christian churches that he raised up, the believers that he addressed in his letters as “my little children.” They were suffering, even dying because Rome saw the new faith as a threat to its power. He was well aware of their suffering, of the numbers who died for their faith. He was their spiritual father, but he was old and far away.

Perhaps, he had just recently received a letter with the devastating news that Antipas, the leader of the Christians in the city of Pergamum—an elder that some say John personally ordained—had locked horns with Roman authority and lost. Because Antipas would not back down on teaching that all the idols of the city were demonic false gods, his final holy prayer rose to heaven on black smoke from the altar of Zeus. This hero of the faith was burned alive inside a hollow bronze bull, his last prayers and words of encouragement for his precious flock of believers echoing eerily from the eyeholes, nose, and gaping mouth of this statue. [1]

Can you imagine John’s thoughts that day? Perhaps he thought of Jesus’ last words to his followers: “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” But where was he in all this trouble? What would happen to the church in Pergamum? What about the others? Would all the little flames of faith, lit at such high cost, simply sputter and die out? I’m sure that John was trying not to doubt. I picture him praising God for what he knew was true—what he has seen with his own eyes—and as he did, the presence of the Spirit, the Comforter, wrapped around him. Suddenly, he was startled by a command to write to seven of those little bands of believers, including Pergamum. This was no still small voice, no Spirit-whisper inside his head. The words blared in his ears with the shock of a sudden trumpet blast, louder than the roar of the waves crashing on the rocks below.

When he turned to look, he saw seven golden pedestals topped with seven burning oil lamps. His mind would most likely have flashed to the seven lamps of the ancient Tabernacle in the desert and its replacement, the Temple in Jerusalem. The voice told John that the lamps represented the seven churches, the seven groups of believers he was to write to.

Walking among those lampstands, John saw a figure that looked like a human priest–but not really. His priestly garment gleamed golden with reflected light. His hair and beard were dazzling white, blindingly bright as snow under midday sun. The eyes blazed with fire in a face shining with the full glory of the sun. Even his feet glowed like bronze in a furnace.

John may have been startled by the loud voice, but not by what he saw. This Being was awesome but not a terrifying unknown extraterrestrial. He had read of him many times—the “Son of Man” described by Daniel and Ezekiel. Just as John was wishing that sunglasses had been invented, the “Son of Man” Being spoke. Not only was he bright, but his words were downright intimidating. John could see the words as well as hear them, see them coming from his master’s mouth with the flash of a double-edged sword.

I wonder how quickly he made the next connection. Son of Man?  That was one of Jesus’ most common ways of referring to himself while they were together on earth. This was Jesus! The Risen Jesus, and he held seven bright stars in his right hand. If John had been praying for the little church groups he loved, this was a direct answer to his prayers. The glowing Jesus told John that these stars represented the “messengers” to the seven churches. Despite the persecution, all his pastors or messengers were nestled in the safety of his hand. Even Antipas–and whoever would carry on his work in Pergamum. He had definitely not forgotten his people.

John fell at His feet in a dead faint, but the shining Being touched him and spoke tenderly, telling him not to be afraid of the terrible things that were happening. There was a greater reality. By his death, Jesus had conquered death. By his resurrection, he had secured eternal life for all believers.

Picture him telling you that when you hear horrific reports in the nightly news. Terrorist attacks? Fear not. Evil regimes saber rattling? Fear not. Monstrous outbreaks of disease? Devastating floods or earthquakes? Fear not. Disaster, disease, and death striking close to home, assaulting the ones we love most. Fear not. Personal crises that threaten to flatten you to the ground. Fear not.

Ask our glorious risen Savior to imprint this Revelation image on your mind: The Son of Man, risen and glorified, ever present with his beloved children, walking among the flickering flames of his churches, helping them dispel the darkness, and constantly whispering, “Do not be afraid.”



[1] Rick Renner CBN web presentation on Pergamum. The Double Meaning of Antipas.