John’s Vision of Christ on Patmos
By Fred O. Blakely
The Glorified Savior Was Shown as Holding the Churches in His Right Hand, and They Were Revealed to be Accountable to Him.
The apocalyptic writing of John at the close of the received canon of Scripture is well characterized in the first verse thereof. It is said to be “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him” (1:1). It concerns “the things which must shortly come to pass.” And the message was “signified” to John when he was on the isle of Patmos “for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (v. 9). “What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia,” the Lord said to the Apostle (v. 11). Although the churches of reference existed at that time, it is generally understood that the messages to them are intended for the churches of all ages. We, thus, do well to give careful attention to those messages, and seek to apply the principles therein set forth to our times and situations.
The Messages’ Source. It is essential that we adequately consider the source of the messages. That is clearly and forcefully set forth in the introduction. It is He “which is, which was, and which is to come,” and “the seven spirits which are before His throne” (v. 4). That is, the message is from God the Father; and from “Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness,” it is continued. He is also identified as the “first-begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth” (v. 5). That One is further identified as He “that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (v. 5). It is well for us to recognize that it is because of that washing in our Lord’s blood that we can come before the throne of the holy God, and worship and serve Him (7:14; cf. 1:5). As verse 8 declares, He is “the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending.” That is, He is He “which is, and was, and is to come, the Almighty.” Thus, as the heavenly voice asserted on the Mount of Transfiguration, we are to hear Him (Mt. 17:5; cf. Heb. 12:25).
The Involved Blessing. The blessing pronounced upon those who give heed to the message which John received is to be noted, and to be zealously sought. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein; for the time is at hand” (v. 3). That pronouncement, of course, is in full accord with the proclamation of our Lord during the days of His flesh, as would be expected. “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven,” He declared; “but he which doeth the will of My Father, which is in heaven” (Mt. 7:21). So are they wise, with that wisdom which is from above, who hear the Word of God and keep, or do, it. They are building the house of their lives upon the Rock. That is in contrast with the ones who hear that Word, and do it not. The latter are building their house upon the sand (Mt. 7:24-27).
Thus, as the Lord declared, “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it” (Lk. 11:27-28). God’s blessings are for those who are duly responsive to Him and His dear Son, not for the unresponsive ones. Thus the benediction of Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Here is a vital consideration which needs to be noted. If we are to “keep” or “do,” the Word of God, we must be able to understand it. That necessitates spiritual discernment. And the blessing of the Lord thus pronounced implies that God is ready to impart that understanding to those who are duly concerned for the promised blessing.
The Kingship and Priesthood. Having “loved us”, and “washed us from our sins in His own blood” (v. 5), Christ has elevated us to a high plane. He has made us “kings and priest unto God and His Father (v. 8). We, therefore, have been duly fitted to serve here and now as the representatives of the Most High. In our capacity as “a spiritual house, an holy priesthood,” we are to “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 2:5). As the Apostle goes on to remark, in elaboration on the situation, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (v. 9). In anticipation of that situation, the Lord Jesus—in the days of His flesh—similarly exhorted. “Ye are the light of the world,” He said. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven” (Mt. 5:14-16). They who are thus “rich in good works” (I Tim. 6:18), as they are done in Christ’s Name, are glorifying God.
The Sovereignty of Christ. The absolute sovereignty of Christ in the churches—and in the whole world, as for that—is figuratively depicted. He is represented as holding the churches in His right hand (v. 16; cf. v. 11). So His promise to the Apostles—and to us; as they, and we, were, and are, faithful to the commission received from Him: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Mt. 28:18-20). Mark’s account of the sequel to that promise is recorded in Mark 16:20. “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” Today we may confidently expect and claim that same fellowship with the risen and glorified Christ in our labors for Him. As I understand the situation, however, the miraculous signs are not promised to us today. Those were given to confirm and validate the New Covenant at its inauguration and inception.
As we proceed in the proclamation of the gospel, we need to rely implicitly on the promise of our Lord to be with us, and to give effectiveness to our labors for Him. It is with His kingdom and His glory that we are primarily involved. And we may be certain that He is for and with us, as we labor for Him. So can we say with David, “My times are in Thy hand” (Ps. 31:15). “I have the keys of hell [hades] and of death,” the Lord said to John. That was the Word of Him “that liveth, and was dead,” but now is “alive forevermore” (v. 18). That triumphant One is He who is our Savior and Lord. In spiritual recognition of His Person and triumph, let us be strengthened for the work to which He calls us. Seeing that He “ever liveth” and reigneth (Heb. 7:25), He is fully able to sustain us in the new life and labors for Him.