There have been times in my life where I have had an overwhelming sense of God’s presence. These encounters are vivid and life changing. I can recall at least three times (I am sure there are many more) for certain when my surroundings seemed to fade away and the presence of God was with me. The first occurrence was in Bible College. I was in Chapel service and it was a regular chapel service; I had been to dozens of them in my time at school. This specific evening I was feeling convicted that I had allowed spiritual pride to creep into my life. I was not only convicted of pride but I also had a burdening conviction for unrepentant sin in my life. I began praying for brokenness and repentance during the time of praise and worship. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. Suddenly it seemed as though the music of the praise band started to fade in my head, I then had a sense that I was alone in the presence of God. I began to weep and cry over my sin and I spent the next few moments in what seemed to be the actual presence of God. It was beautiful, it was awe inspiring, it was scary and it was freeing.
The second time was at a staff meeting at my church in PA. Yeah, I know a staff meeting isn’t the place where you would normally have an encounter with God (are there really such things as normal encounters with God?). Every Monday the Pastoral staff would gather for lunch. We would eat, talk and end with a time of prayer. We did this like clockwork. On one special day after we had finished our lunches we went into prayer like we always did; except this time nobody started the prayer. It was silent for a few moments and at first it began to feel a bit awkward. Then a few moments turned into minutes and the minutes turned into about a half an hour. I spent this time in complete silence and I sought God and his plan for my life, ministry and family. I can’t even begin to explain this time spent in the holy presence of God. When we concluded we all just looked at each other and didn’t really say much to each other but we all knew that we had spent time in the presence of the King. It was invigorating.
The third was at the funeral service for my friend Thom Potts. Once again it sounds strange to have an encounter with God at a funeral but it was a funeral like I had never been to before. The service began with a time of praise and worship. As soon as the few men began playing, the presence of God was immediately sensed by us all. Carrie and I both recall the amazing time of worship we experienced. In our time of grief and celebration Jesus showed up and ministered to us all.
Today we will look at the Apostle John’s encounter with Jesus Christ on the Island of Patmos. This is an unusual encounter but it is one that has a lot of impact on both John and all believers of his time and even for us today.
Read Revelation 1: 9 - 20
Revelation is an extremely difficult book to understand. I will admit if his epistle wasn't true it would make for great science fiction reading. It is a difficult book to understand because it has a lot symbolism and many different ways people have interpreted it. Regardless it is a wonderful book and a general reading of it may confuse the average reader but the story is clear “God wins”! Today I would like to look at a small portion of the Apocalypse of John as He encounters Jesus in His full glory.
The word Greek word for Revelation is translated as Apocalypse. When many of us hear this word we tend to think of the end of the world. We think of it as the conclusion of all things. However the word itself in John’s time (and for us) simply means “unveiling of something hidden.” It is believed to be a book that unveils God’s plan for history.
Verse 9: The Apostle John writes this letter from the island of Patmos. It was a rocky island located in the Aegean Sea. It was an exile island where people were sent who banished for religious or political reasons. The Apostle John tells us he was sent there for preaching the Gospel.
Verse 10 - 11: John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day – Some have suggested “In the Spirit” meant that John was taken from the Island of Patmos and transferred to the throne room of Heaven (we see this in Chapter 4). Others suggest and probably more rightly that John was in a trance like state or he had a holy vision or revelation.
Early Christians recognized Sunday as the day Jesus rose from the dead thus the Lord’s Day was recognized as Sunday. Pagans would also set aside a day to honor the emperor, and in response Christians chose the first day of the week to honor Christ.[i]
John hears a loud thunderous voice telling him to write down what he is told and send it to the seven churches. According to D.A. Carson, “The cities were both postal and administrative centres. It has been reckoned that at the time of John’s writing this area had the greatest concentration of Christians in the world.”[ii]
Verse 12 – 16: John turns around to see the person who is speaking to him and I am certain he is not prepared for what he is about to see.
In the next few verses John gives the reader a vivid description of the risen and glorious savior. These verses are filled with symbolism and give us a glimpse of our Savior in his full glory in the heavenly places.
The number 7: The number seven is significant in this passage and in the Bible for that matter. In this passage there are seven lamp stands, churches, stars and angels. Seven is the number of completeness. This is something we should keep in our minds as we continue along.
Verse 17: John’s response was probably no different than yours or mine would be if we encountered Jesus in His full glory. He falls at Jesus’ feet as if dead. In fact his response is very similar to the reactions of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel when they had visions of Jesus as well.
Verses 17b – 20: Jesus reassures John. “Do not be afraid”… These are words Jesus uses over and over again to comfort his people. We must note John was living in a time of persecution and persecution was going to get worse and Jesus tells him not to be afraid. He comforts John and restores his confidence so he can hear the words that he is about to speak. He assures him that he is the one who was at the beginning and has no end; he has conquered death. He lived, he died and he lives again. He holds the key to death and Hades which means he has the power over death and Hades and the Bible is clear that this power belongs to God and God alone.
John is then commanded to write down the things he has seen (the vision of Jesus), the things he is about to hear (the letters to the church) and the things that take place after this (the future and heavenly glories).
So how does all this translate for us today? For starters it should cause us to pause and ponder the greatness of our savior. It should pique our interest as to what Jesus has to say to the Church universal (which is what we will begin next week). On an individual level it should speak about the magnificence of Jesus. We can see He is sovereign over the world. He is present in the Church today. He is our high priest who makes intercession for us. He is our judge. He is the head of the Church. He is pure. His Word is powerful. He has all power and authority over death and Hades. He was once dead but is now alive. He is the King who is seated on the throne in heaven. If you skip ahead and read the conclusion you see Jesus is victorious over evil and because of this you are as well.
[i] The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 76
[ii] New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Re 1:9–20). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.