08 Dec The Magnificent Christ
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” 9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
It’s been said that the book of Revelation is the book the people in the church most want to hear because it is a book that they don’t understand. I know this for a fact since Cathline keeps asking me to preach on the book of Revelation. But the book of Revelation is also the book preachers least want to teach because they also don’t understand. If you ever try to read the book of Revelation, you know why. For many years, every time a preacher said, “Open up with me to the book of Revelation,” I got very nervous. In my mind, the book of Revelation was equal to “Left Behind” series. How many of you know what I am talking about? If you have no idea what Left Behind series is, you are blessed. That series freaked me out when I was a kid. I had a recurring nightmare because of it. I was extremely afraid that one day I would go home from school and find no one at home. My dad and mom were raptured and all that was left of them was their clothes on the ground. It means that I was not raptured. I was left behind. So, every time I got home, the first thing I did was to make sure that my parents were still around. There were a couple of times when I got home and there was no one and I panicked. So, I ran around the house to make sure there were no clothes on the ground. Why would God rapture them naked and leave their clothes on the ground? I have no idea. But that’s what happened in the series. If you are my age and you grow up in church, you might find it hard to believe but the book of Revelation was not written to inspire the Left Behind series. The book of Revelation was also not written primarily for us to decipher the future and try to fit every event in the history of the world to the book. That is how many people approach the book of Revelation. They say things like, “This dragon represents the rise of the Soviet Union and the communist. And the 10 horns represent the league of European Nations from which the Anti-Christ will come.” And in doing so, they try to speculate on the day and time of Jesus’ second coming. But I think they miss the point.
The main point of the book of Revelation is not to give a specific timeline of history but to pull back the curtain of history and see the one who is in absolute control of history. It shows history from God’s perspective rather than our perspectives. It is not written to create confusion for Christian but to give them unshakeable hope. The book of Revelation was written for the purpose of giving hope to the people of God who were under intense persecution. Christians were being killed every day and many of them were tortured severely to abandon their faith in Christ. Some of them were torn to pieces by wild horses. Their hands and feet were strapped to different horses as the horses ran to different directions. Some were burnt alive. Others were thrown into a cage match with hungry lions. The audience of the book of Revelation did not know if they are going to be alive tomorrow. They were facing the risk of death every day. Their concern was not where they are going to eat after church or where anti-Christ will come from. Their deepest concern was if they are going to able to hold on to their faith in Christ. And to these people, God, through John, gave a magnificent revelation of Christ. The book of Revelation shows the victory of Christ over all his enemies. And Christ not only will win at the end but even in their present sufferings, Christ sees their tears and pains. Christ is not absent from his people. Christ is holding history at the palm of his hand and he has absolute control. And because of it, the people of God can have unwavering hope amid persecution.
So how does this book relate to you and me? We are right now have officially entered the Christmas season. They say that it is the happiest time of the year. How many of you love Christmas season? For many years, I hated Christmas season. It began in December 2004 when I found out that my ex was cheating on me with her ex. It was painful. And I had no one to comfort me. It was a Christmas season in Dallas and all my friend went back home to celebrate Christmas with their family. So I was all alone in my dormitory room for two weeks, broken-hearted, cried every night, while everyone else was laughing and enjoying the happiest time of the year. I hated Christmas. I was like the Grinch. And ever since that year, Christmas decided that it did not like me as well. I am not kidding. For many Christmas to come, everything that could go wrong to me happened during the Christmas period. Not anymore though. Praise God the curse of Christmas had been broken. Today, I am neutral about Christmas. I don’t hate it but I also don’t love it as much as most of you. Here is what I know about Christmas. Yes, it is a happy time of the year, but for some of you, it also highlights your brokenness. For some of you, you might be divorced, or your parents might be divorced. Or there might be an intense unresolved family issue. You might loss a loved one recently and this would be the first Christmas without that person. Some of you might have addiction problems. Others have chronic illness. Or maybe just like the audience of the book of Revelation, you are persecuted because of your faith in Christ. And Christmas makes it worse for you since everyone seems happy while you are reminded of your brokenness. So what should you do? The book of Revelation will answer that for you. What you need is not to escape Christmas. What you need is a clearer vision of Christ. What you need is to see the magnificent Christ in his incomparable glory. And that’s what I want you to see tonight. I am convinced that if the vision of Christ in the book of Revelation enabled the church of Christ to face intense persecution, the same vision of Christ will enable you to face your struggles.
Three things that I want you to see tonight. The ever-present Christ; The ever-glorious Christ; The ever-reigning Christ.
The ever-present Christ
Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
This is God’s description of himself. It is extremely powerful. By the way, when I say God, I also mean Jesus. In verse 8, it is God the Father who is speaking but Jesus uses the very same word in verse 17 to describe himself. God the Father is not Jesus but yet they are the same. Three and yet one. Another sermon for another time. Jesus says that he is the Alpha and the Omega. You might not know this but Alpha and Omega is the first and the last letter of the Greek Alphabet. In English, you might say that Jesus is the A and the Z. But Alpha and Omega sounds much cooler than A and Z. What does it mean for Jesus to be the Alpha and the Omega? Don’t miss this. Jesus is saying, “I am the origin and the goal of history. I am the beginning and I am the end of everything. I control the beginning and I also control the end. I am the first and I am also the last.” This is a mouthful. Let’s break it down.
“I am the Alpha.” Note that Jesus does not say “I am the Beta.” Jesus is not B, he is always A. There is nothing second about Jesus’ attributes. He was, is, and always will be first in everything. To say that Jesus is the Alpha means that Jesus is the uncreated one. Before there was a beginning, Jesus is. Jesus began the beginning. There is nothing or no one before him. Jesus is beginning-less. To say that Jesus is the Alpha also means that Jesus is self-sufficient and self-existent. He does not need anyone or anything else besides himself. He is cool on his own. Before he created you and me, he was fine on his own. He was never lonely or in need of you and me. He is not lacking in anything. He is the inexhaustible fountain that will never run dry.
What does it mean for us? It means that because Jesus is the beginning, we must start with him. All our thinking must start with him. You and I are not the Alpha. We like to think that we are the Alpha but we are not. Our lives did not begin with us and that’s why we can’t start with us. If we start with us, we will never know us. Jesus must be first in everything. He must be first in our theology, social life, philosophy, work, family etc. If we understand the concept of Jesus’ firstness, life would make a lot more sense. If Jesus is first, then he will be the first person we look to in everything. The problem is that all of us have natural gift to always put ourselves first and that’s the reason for many difficulties we are facing in our walk with Jesus. We enjoy thinking about “me” first. That’s why many of us spend lots of time in front of the mirror in the morning. But if we are going to make sense of life, we can’t begin with us but Jesus. We must begin with the beginning to understand the middle and the end. How we see the beginning will affect the rest of the story. If Jesus is the beginning, then everything must begin with him. We will never understand anything truly unless we begin with Jesus. Our alpha determines how we see everything else.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you believe in the evolution and the big bang theory as our origin. This will change how you see everything else. If you believe that the universe is the product of an accident, that some molecules just happened to exist out of nowhere and came together and resulted in a big bang explosion that created the universe, and that we existed by chance and we were originally apes who evolved, then you need to have the guts to admit that that life has no purpose. You are free to determine your own meaning in life and you are free to create your own truth. You must accept that ultimately life has no meaning. Life is nothing but a freak accident and therefore your life is an accident. But if your alpha is Jesus, if you believe in God who created everything else, then when you know Jesus you can find your purpose in life. Your life has meaning because there is a Creator who created everything with a purpose. When you start with Jesus as the Alpha, other things make sense. Are you with me? But it does not stop there.
“I am the Omega.” Jesus says that he is not only the first but he is also the last. With another word, Jesus is the goal of creation. Everything is created for him. Have you ever wonder why the universe is extremely massive? Just think about it. If our galaxy, the Milky Way, is the size of Australia, then our solar system would be the size of a cup of water. The earth would be the size of a speck of dust barely visible and you, it would take another million years of inventions for them to invent the microscope that can detect you. And today we know that our galaxy is just one of billion (twelve zeroes) galaxies that we can see. The universe is bigger than what our mind can comprehend. And the point of the vastness of the universe is not you. Let me put it this way. I hope all of you watched the Lord of the rings already. It is the best trilogy movies by far. In the movies, we have Hobbits. Hobbits are creatures that look almost like a human but a lot shorter. So Gandalf, a human wizard, visited the house of a Hobbit and he had a problem fitting in. Why? Because the house of Hobbits was built to fit the size of Hobbits.
The reason why the universe is so big while we are so small is because the universe is built for God. God is the goal of everything. We were created for God. Everything is oriented toward him. That means that all of our life, our question, our longing, our need, it all points to him. Everything in history is moving toward Jesus as the goal and the purpose of everything. Jesus is the one who gave us meaning in life. Timothy Keller says that there two ways we can approach God. First is to make God the end and everything else the mean, or second, God is the mean and everything else is the end. But if Jesus is the Omega, that means God must be our end and everything else is the mean to him. So if we give up on God because we do not get what we want in life, it means that God is not our Omega. We are still using God to get what we want. We are saying that there is something else that is more important to us than God.
I love suit. Let’s say one day you are about to walk across the street and you are busy playing with your phone. You do not look to the right and left and you hear the sound of green light to cross the street ticking and you start to walk. You do not realize that the sound comes from the other side of the intersection and not yours. How many of you have done that before? As you walk across the street, a car is about to hit you. But praise be to God that your pastor is there to save the day. I see what about to happen and I run and push you out of the way and I save your life. But I rip my suit in the process. And you come up to me and say, “Thank you for saving my life. You are the best pastor ever.” And I reply, “Yeah, yeah, but I can’t believe what just happened. I tried my best to be the best pastor and I saved your life but look at what happened. I ripped my suits. I did my best to save you and I ripped my suit.” Now, what would you think of me? You would think, “I am definitely moving to another church next week.” You would think that I love my suit more than you. Correct? By the way, this is just an illustration. You don’t need to move church. I would gladly sacrifice my suit for you. Maybe. So if we are still obeying God to get what we want, it means that God is not our Omega. But if God is our Omega, then we would gladly sacrifice anything for his sake. Everything else is the mean toward God. God is our happy ending. And do you know what reveals our true Omega? Unanswered prayer, pain and suffering. These reveals whether God is our Omega or not.
But pay attention to the logic. If Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, if Jesus is the beginning and the end, then Jesus is also in the middle. Or, let me put it a different way. If Jesus is the origin and the goal of of everything, then Jesus is also involves in all of the process between the origin and the goal. If the Alpha and the Omega is meaningless, then life right now is meaningless. Everything you are going through is meaningless. Your pains and struggles are meaningless. But if the Alpha and the Omega is meaningful, then every moment of life is meaningful. You might not understand why God allows this and that circumstance to happen in your life, but because Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, everything in your life has meaning. God has a purpose in your circumstances. And listen to what God says. “I am who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” God is the Almighty. He is all-powerful and he is in absolute control over every millisecond of history and your life. God is not only there at the beginning and at the end. God is always present in your right now. He is the ever-present Christ.
The ever-glorious Christ
Revelation 1:9-16 – 9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
The writer of the book of Revelation, Apostle John was sent to exile into an island called Patmos. He told us that the reason he was sent to exile was for the sake of Christ. He won’t shut up about Christ and he would rather be exiled than not talk about Christ. And on this island, John received the glorious vision of Christ. John had never seen anything like it before. As we are about to see, the vision of Christ that he saw is out of this world. And Jesus told John to write down what he saw and send it to the seven churches. That means the vision that John saw was given for you and me as well. Jesus appeared to John so that we might see what John saw through his writing. And this is how Jesus shows himself to us. Does Jesus still appear in visions and dreams today? I don’t see anything in New Testament that would lead us to believe that he does not. But I don’t think that’s the primary way Jesus shows his glory to us. Just like in this letter, Jesus appeared to John so that John can write about it to strengthen other churches. The primary way we behold the glory of Christ is through the written word of God. As we look at the Bible, the words come alive and the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our heart to behold the glory of Christ through it.
All of these descriptions of Christ come from the Old Testament. They are not something new. I can go into detail describing what each image represents but I won’t do that. If I do that, you will be home by midnight. Instead, I’ll give you a brief description of what these images mean.
Jesus is a man. John describes Jesus as one like a son of man. This is not only a picture of Jesus’ humanity, but it is also pointing to the messianic king whom God has given dominion and power over all creation.
Jesus is the high priest. The long robe and golden sash are the clothing of a high priest. It means that Jesus is not only a king but he is also our high priest who has entered the presence of God to offer the once and for all sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus is God. The descriptions of white hair like wool and snow do not only mean that Jesus is old. Jesus is infinitely old. This description of white hair is a picture of the Ancient of Days who has existed for eternity that appears in Daniel 7. It also points to the wisdom of Christ. White hair is often used in the Old Testament to describe wisdom. So if you have lots of white hair, you are blessed.
Jesus is all-knowing. Nothing escapes his eyes. He sees it all. His eyes are like a flame of fire that penetrates through every heart. He knows everything about us, including all the secrets that we lock inside.
Jesus is holy. His feet are like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, which is a picture of purity. Jesus is absolutely pure and there is not even a speck of impurity in him.
Jesus has all authority. His voice is like the roar of many waters and from his mouth comes sharp two-edged sword. His word has the power to cut and to heal and whatever he says is final and true.
Jesus is with his church. John tells us that the seven stars in his hand represent the seven angels and the seven lampstands represent the seven churches. Jesus is always among his people. He is always with them from eternity to eternity.
Jesus is the source of life. His face radiates like the sun shining in full strength. Light represent life. We are told that at the new Jerusalem, there will be no sun because the light of the glory of God will give light to the people.
What a description! This is the picture of the ever-glorious Christ. He is the fulfilment of all the Old Testament prophesies, and he is everything we hope him to be. There are nothing and no one that comes close to him. He is on a league of his own. Nothing and no one compares to Jesus. What happens when you see this ever-glorious Christ?
The ever-reigning Christ
Revelation 1:17-20 – 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
When John saw Christ, he did not feel peace. This is very different from what we often hear of those who had a vision of Christ. They often described that they felt happy, joy, peaceful when they saw God. But not so with John. John immediately fell at his feet and thought he was dead. Think about it. This is the same John who described himself as the disciple whom Jesus loves. This is the man who leaned his head on Jesus’ chest at the last supper. Now, I have many close guy friends. I have Edrick, Jejep, Josh and few others. Well, at least I think of them as my close friends. But let me tell you. If we go out to dinner and one of them try to lean his head on my chest, I am moving seat. I am not going to let any of them do so. John and Jesus was that close till John can lean his head on Jesus’ chest. But now at their reunion after 60 years, John fell as though dead in front of Jesus. Why? Because he was in the presence of the holy God. And when you are in the presence of the holy God, you see you for who you really are. When the prophet Isaiah saw God with his own eyes, he cried out, “Woe is me for I am a sinful man. I am coming apart. I am going to die.” And Isaiah was a good man. He was a prophet of God. But in the light of God’s holiness, Isaiah saw who he truly was. God is absolutely holy and he was absolutely sinful. This is what John experienced. But then something amazing happened.
Jesus reached out his right hand to John, touched him, and said, “Fear not.” Why? John had every reason to be afraid. He was a sinner in the presence of the holy God. It is only right for God to punish John for his sins. Jesus continued, “I am the first and the last, and the living one.” We talked about this, how Jesus is the origin and the goal of everything. But listen to what he said next. “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” This is breathtaking. Do you know what Jesus is saying? Jesus is saying, “John, the reason you don’t have to be afraid of me is because I died. I died for your sin. I paid the punishment for your sins. I became man so that I may took death upon myself. You don’t owe me anything. The price has been paid with my death. And that is not all. I died and behold I am alive forevermore. I not only died for your sin, but I also defeated death once and for all. I punched death in the face, and I will not die again. I am alive forever and ever. And because you put your faith in me, you have no reason to be afraid of me or death. I took the sting of death so that you won’t have to experience it. Death will only lead you to live forevermore. And I also have the keys of death and hades. Which mean, I have absolute control over it. I own death and hades. They exist to serve my purpose. I am the sovereign Lord over all. Fear not for I am the ever-reigning Christ.” WOW!
But that is not the end. In verses 19 and 20, Jesus told John to write everything that he saw, and he will see for the sake of the churches. Jesus revealed to John that the seven stars that he holds in his hand represent the seven angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands represent the seven churches. I love it. Remember that the church experienced intense persecution at the time. And Jesus was telling John that even in the midst of those suffering and pain, Jesus is in the midst of them. Jesus saw the hurting and struggling churches and he wanted to let them know that he is there with them. Jesus is never absent from his church. He is always standing in the middle of them, holding them and guarding them and enabling them to hold fast to their faith. This is remarkable. See, if you and I are in the midst of intense pain and suffering, what we want is for God to give a way out of that situation. Right? But apparently Jesus has a different solution. According to Jesus, what we need is not a way to escape our problem but a clearer vision of Christ. As long as we can see this glorious vision of Christ who is in the midst of us, then it doesn’t matter what kind of circumstance we are in, we know that there is nothing that can ultimately destroy us.
Church, do you hear that? No matter what kind of circumstances you are in today, what you need is to look to Jesus. Jesus is the origin of your life. Jesus is the purpose of your life. Jesus is the one who gives meaning to your present life. He is the all-powerful God who is working for you. And not only that, Jesus died for your sins. He did not just feel bad and sympathize with your situation, he came and gave his life for you. Jesus saved you. And Jesus is alive, reigning forever and ever. Jesus has the keys over death and hades. So, the question is, what are you afraid of today? Are you afraid of the future? Look to Jesus. Are you afraid of your problem? Look to Jesus. Are you afraid of sickness? Look to Jesus. When you see the ever-present, ever-glorious, ever-reigning Christ, you have absolutely no reason to be afraid. Fear not!
Let me end with this. If you have yet to put your faith in Christ, this promise is not for you. Instead, you have every reason to be afraid. Jesus has the keys of death and hell. And if you die tonight, Jesus will open the gate of hell for you and keep you there. Hell is not a myth. The Bible is clear that those who rebel against God will receive eternal punishment. So, I implore you, turn from your sins today and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. He is reaching out his hand to you to save you. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus has paid the penalty of your sin at the cross so that you may live. All you need to do is trust him and take hold of him. And the moment you do that, you have no reason to be afraid of anything. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ, not even death and hell.
For others of you, some of you are experiencing difficulties right now. You are experiencing pain and suffering and you wonder if you will ever get out of this mess. You want me to say, “Yes, trust God and God will get you out of this mess.” But I can’t. I can’t promise you that your trouble will end. I know there are other preachers who say that if you just have enough faith in God, then your life will be okay. Sorry to say but they are lying to you. For all I know, your trouble might not end in this lifetime. So I can’t promise you that. But I can promise you this. You might be in the fire right now but if you put your faith in Christ, there is another in the fire. Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? They refused to bow down to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar and they were thrown into a fiery furnace. The furnace was extremely hot that even the men who threw them into the furnace died in the process. But when Nebuchadnezzar looks into the furnace, he sees men walking around in the fire and not consumed by the fire. And instead of three men, he sees four men. There is another in the fire.
My friend, that another in the fire is none other than Christ. He has the key of death and hades. What does it mean? It means that Jesus went into the fire for us. Jesus doesn’t just look at our furnace and feel bad for us. He comes into our furnace and walks in the furnace with us. Jesus went through hell for us so that we will be saved from hell. Do you see that? Do you see Jesus took the punishment of sins for you? Until you see Jesus took hell for you, he won’t be walking through your furnace with you. But if you do see him took hell for you, what reason do you have to be afraid? Look to Jesus. Look to what he has done for you. See him for who he is. And fall down and worship him. There is no one like him. He is the Magnificent Christ.
- What is the main point of the book of Revelation? How should we read and interpret it?
- If Jesus is the Alpha, we must start with him. Why is it important for Christians to begin with Jesus?
- What does it mean for Jesus to be the Omega? Give some daily life examples.
- What is the primary way for us to behold the glory of Christ? How can we grow in this discipline?
- Read the description of Christ in Revelation 1:12-16. What strikes you the most about this description?
- “Fear not!” Explain why the word “fear not” is also applicable to us in our present lives and struggles.
- Split to small groups and take some time to share your fear and pray for one another.