Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: The final book of the Bible will show you a powerful picture of Jesus.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We are in the book of Revelation, and we see this glimpse of the resurrected, glorious, ascended, majestic, reigning Christ resplendent in glory, God says to us today, “This is My Son."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Wednesday, August 2, 2017.

Can you imagine if your church received a letter directly from Jesus? Several churches did and these letters open the book of Revelation. We’ll be exploring these letters with Nancy in several series into the fall. We began the first series this week called, "A Vision of the Glorified Christ."

Nancy: Well, if you’re just joining us in this series, let me encourage you to be reading in the book of Revelation. In this series we’re going to go through the first three chapters. I want to challenge you every day for say the next 30 days to consider reading the first three chapters of the book of Revelation. Perhaps even memorizing portions.

We’re going to take our time going through this because it has ministered so richly to me, and the Scripture promises a blessing to the one who reads it aloud, so I’m reading it to you. But it also promises a blessing to the one who hears these words and the one who keeps them. I want you to be blessed.

So over these next days, be reading in the book of Revelation letting God speak to you. Don’t let me do all the work for you. Don't let me spoon-feed you. You get into God's Word for yourself.

People sometimes say to me, "I wish I could get out of the Scripture what you do." You can! You spend the hours. I spent an hour or two or three many days for the last multiple months living in the book of Revelation, soaking in it, saturating in it. I'm hesitant, actually, to be teaching because I feel like it is a little premature because there is so much deeper I'd like to go, but you have to teach it some time. So I'm jumping in and I want you to jump in with me. 

If you’re joining us just now, we’ve taught through the first eight verses of chapter 1. We’ve seen the prologue, the introduction. We’ve seen a description of Christ that John gave. Some names of Christ. His ministry on our behalf.

Now we come to the ninth verse of Revelation chapter 1, and John introduces himself. He says,

I, John [the apostle 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.

Let’s stop there and unpack that just a little bit. First, John identifies himself as your brother and partner. He’s saying, “I’m one of you. I’m not some big exalted apostle. I am one of you. I’m your brother. I’m part of your family spiritually, and I’m your partner.” I think that John was able even at the age of ninety, as he was there about when this vision was given to him, to comfort and encourage fellow believers who were suffering because he had been there. He had persevered. He could relate.

Let me just say that your troubles, whatever they may be, whatever they may have been in the past, whatever they may be today, whatever they will be in the future, actually will provide for you an opportunity to speak into the lives of others that you might not otherwise be able to reach. There are some people you can touch with your life message because you’re a partner in those sufferings. People that I can’t speak to in the same way that you can.

He says, “I am a brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus.” Now in these next phrases he gives us something of a setting, something of the scene or the context for this revelation. We said that John is an old man now. He’s about ninety years of age. He is in exile. He has been banished by the Roman government to the island of Patmos.

Now Patmos is a small, rocky island in the Aegean Sea. At its greatest point it's about ten miles long and six miles wide. It's a small island. It’s about forty miles off the coast of modern day Turkey. Apparently, it was a Roman penal colony. So John and others who were the prisoners of the Roman government were banished to places like the Island of Patmos.

Why was John there? The Roman government said he was a criminal. John tells us why he was there. It was because of his faithfulness to the truth, to the Word of God, and to the testimony of Christ. He was there under circumstances that were beyond his control.

You ever find yourself under circumstances that are beyond your control? You say, “What did I do to get here?” The fact is, you may have done nothing except be obedient to God and faithful to His Word. And sometimes that lands you on an island called Patmos, as it did with John. Here he is faced with harsh conditions. He’s in desolate, isolated, restrictive circumstances, and you think, Some reward for all his years of faithful service.

Do you ever feel that way about your island of Patmos? "Some reward for all my years of faithful service! I tried to be a faithful wife. I've loved my husband; I've loved my children, but look at what's happened to me. Look at how I've been abandoned. Look at how I've been left—desolate, isolated. Look at my restrictive circumstances."

This penal colony would have been a place, probably, of hard labor. We don’t know the details of what John had to do, but we know this was not a five-star hotel. He’s under difficult circumstances, but—and here comes one of my favorite phrases in the first chapter. Verse 10: John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” Where is John? He’s a prisoner. He’s in exile. He’s on this harsh, barren, bleak island. He’s on the island of Patmos, but where else is he? “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.”

I love that phrase. Now some commentators say that Lord’s day means actually “Day of the Lord”—that future day of judgment. But most commentators believe that the Lord’s day here is a reference to Sunday, to the first day of the week. This is a powerful testimony when you stop and think about it.

Here’s John in the midst of these bleak circumstances and on the Lord’s day . . . Talk about a place where there’s a limited church selection—the island of Patmos. He probably didn’t have a whole lot of choice about where to go to church. He’s cut off from other believers, cut off from fellowship, but what is he doing? Where is he?

He’s in the Spirit. That is he’s in a spiritual frame of mind. He’s under the control or the influence of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Lord’s day, and he’s all ears. He’s ready. He’s prepared for God to speak to Him.

In that place, the island of Patmos, and that spiritual condition, "in the Spirit," he meets with God, and God meets with him.  

I believe that one of the reasons that people don’t hear from God on the Lord’s day, or any other day for that matter, is their hearts are not spiritually prepared. They’re not tuned. They’re not attentive. Their hearts, their ears are not inclined toward the Lord.

Now for the most part throughout my life I have been blessed to be in churches where the Word of God is preached, where Christ exalted, and where I can worship with like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ. But I hear from a lot of people who are really frustrated with their church situation. 

I’ve had occasion from time to time to be in some pretty desperate church situations myself. Where you would describe the atmosphere as cold, indifferent, little life. Even in the best of churches . . . I have to confess that I have this great, unfulfilled longing in my heart for a greater expression of the Spirit of God—to make Himself and His presence known in His Church.

There are many times where I have gone to church reminding myself of what John says in Revelation 1, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day."

Ladies, I don’t care how alive or dead, how cold or warm your church may be, if you are in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, it will make all the difference in the world. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. There have been some days, honestly, when I dreaded going to church. Now fortunately that’s not generally the case. Most days I truly do look forward to going to church. But there are times when through different circumstances I am not looking forward to it.

If you were honest, you would say the same thing. That’s when we need to remind ourselves of what John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” If you’re in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, you will hear from the Lord. You will meet with Him. By God’s grace, no matter what church I’m going to, no matter what the climate, no matter what the circumstances, I can be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and so can you.

John says, verses 10–11,

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 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.”

Now this is a dark period for the church, as we’ve already said. John is an old man. He’s an exile. He’s incarcerated. But God is not through with him. God still has a mission and a purpose for him in that season and in that place. And his mission is to proclaim to the churches what God has shown him.

Ladies, regardless of your circumstances, whatever island of Patmos you may be on, God has a purpose for you. He wants to show you things in this season and in this situation of life that you could not see in any other situation. He wants to use you to shine the spotlight as John did for us on Christ, on His eternal plan. He wants to use you to give hope to others who are struggling and who need perspective.

Aren’t you glad that John was in the Spirit on that Lord’s day when this vision was given to him? Think of the hope that we get today because he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. Think of the hope that God can use you to give to others if you are in the Spirit not just on the Lord’s day, but every day is the Lord’s day.

You may feel that you are stuck in some small place. Maybe you feel isolated. You have little spiritual input, few spiritual friends. Maybe you feel there’s no way that God can use you where you are. Maybe you’re at home with three toddlers and you feel stuck there. You feel imprisoned there. You feel like you can’t get out to really “have a ministry.”

Maybe you’re home schooling young children. Maybe you’re in a work environment where conditions are harsh and there are no believers. Maybe you are living alone in an apartment or a retirement home. Maybe you’re physically incapacitated. Maybe you’re incarcerated as many of our listeners are, by the way. (Some of our strongest prayer supporters for this ministry are women who are doing the ministry of intercession behind bars.) Maybe you’re in some small place, some place where you feel that you are isolated. It’s a bleak environment.

Think of John. He was banished to Patmos. There were no Bible studies there. No small group fellowships that he could be a part of. No place to teach. No place to preach. No church for him to lead. But he was in this desolate, remote place by God’s sovereign appointment. God had put him there, not the Roman government, ultimately. And God has put you where you are. It was in this place that John saw the greatest, most personal glimpse of God’s glory. This is where he got a vision of heaven. And it was in this place, this out-of-the-way penal colony, this bleak, removed, isolated place that God gave John his greatest ministry.

Ladies, there is no place, there is no circumstance that you can find yourself in today or ever where God cannot make Himself known to you and where God cannot use you to make Himself known to others. Wherever you are God can reveal Himself to you. Wherever you are—you say, “I don’t have any ministry.”

John could have thought that on the island of Patmos—"Who can I minister to here?" Well, look he’s ministering to us today. He ministered to those churches in that era. He has ministered to all churches through all eras because he was willing to be where God put him and to see himself as being there by God’s appointing.

God can use you. God can make Himself known to you wherever you are. There were others throughout the Scripture. John isn’t the only one who saw God when they were in the midst of a most difficult place. I think of Hagar in the book of Genesis who under less than ideal circumstances was pregnant with Abram’s son. Abram who was the husband of Sarai but he got his servant girl Hagar pregnant to try and help God out.

The Scripture says that Sarai, the wife of Abram, dealt harshly with her and Hagar fled from her. And then the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water. Where? In the wilderness (Gen. 16:6–7, paraphrased). “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me’” (Gen. 16:13).

Ladies, there are some places where you will get to know God for who He is in a way that you would never otherwise have seen Him if you had not been willing to go into that bleak, desperate wilderness of a place. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—where did they get the best vision of Christ that they ever had in their whole lives? It was in the midst of that fiery furnace.

When did Isaiah see the Lord high and lifted up? In the year that King Uzziah—the most powerful man in the land—in the year that he died, in the midst of that tragedy Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord.”

I don’t know what you’ve experienced this year, what hard place you may be in, what loss you may have suffered, what fiery furnace you may be walking through right now, but I want to tell you God will meet you there. He will show Himself to you. He is the God who sees and truly here in this place you can see Him who looks after you.

Verse 12, John says, “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man.” John responded to what he had heard. He heard this voice speaking to him like a trumpet saying write what you see in a book and then John turns to see the voice that was speaking to him. He wants to know more. He responds to what he hears and God shows him more.

It reminds me of Exodus chapter 3, verse 3, where Moses saw that burning bush and the Scripture says, “And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why this bush is not burned.’” Some of us see amazing things, we hear things from the Lord and His Word and through His people, and we just walk on.

But blessings come to us who stop to explore, stop to examine, stop to look, stop to say, “Lord, I want more.” What is this?

Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight." When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am” (Ex. 3:3–4).

From that came this great vision of God.

John turned aside to see the voice that was speaking to him. When God speaks to you, don’t just rush on. Don’t just move on into your day. Stop! Turn aside. Say, “Lord, I want to hear more. I want to know more.” And God will give you more as you respond to what He has shown you.

Then in the paragraph following here back in Revelation chapter 1, as John turns aside to see the One who is speaking to him, what he sees is a vision of the Christ that he has just described in the previous paragraph. The previous paragraph though was not a vision. It was just John’s description of Christ. Now John sees a vision and the sight is impossible to describe. There are no words that can describe what he is seeing.

So in verses 13–16 he uses the word “like” six times. It was like this. It was like that. Trying to describe something magnificent to someone who cannot see. And John says it was like this. And he gives details of what he sees of the resurrected Christ, but it’s imagery that’s intended to be symbolic.

Now commentators differ, and I’ve read quite a few of them. They differ as to the exact meaning of each of these symbols, but they all agree that this is a description of the majesty, the splendor, the greatness, the glory of the resurrected Christ who is active and alive and who presides over His Church here on earth.

John says,

I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 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. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters (Rev. 1:12–15).

Let me stop there and we’ll move on later into the rest of that paragraph. But let’s just look at some of that picture of the resurrected, reigning, glorious Christ. It says that he was clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. This is the attire of royalty. It’s the clothing of a king, a judge, a high priest, someone in a position of authority. It suggests the right to rule, the right to judge His people and speaks of Christ who represents us before the altar of God as our great, merciful high priest.

This clothing was similar to that of the high priest in the Old Testament, a long robe, a sash around his chest. And Christ as our great high priest offered Himself as the once-for-all-time sacrifice for our sins. As our high priest He is able to help us when we are tempted according to Hebrews chapter 2. Hebrews 7 tells us He intercedes for us in heaven. This is the One—our High Priest, our King, our Judge who is clothed in the long robe.

Then the hairs of His head were white like wool, as white as snow. This is a symbol I think of the eternity of Christ. He is forever. He always has been. He always will be. Ageless. And then also a picture of His purity and His wisdom. The word white in the original language suggests a bright white. White like a bright light. John is seeing the glory of Christ. It’s resplendent and he has here this white hair, this shining white, this glorious white hair. He’s eternal, He’s holy, He’s wise.

His eyes were like a flame of fire. It reminds me of that verse in Hebrews chapter 4, verse 13, that says, “No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” He has infinite knowledge. He sees everything. He knows everything. Those eyes are piercing, penetrating eyes. Nothing is hidden from him. He’s the One who knows every detail about each of these churches and about each individual in each of these churches. He sees not just what others see, but He sees behind the scenes.

He sees into the hearts with those eyes like a flame of fire. He sees all hidden sin and He sees every humble, quiet act of service. Eyes like a flame of fire. This is the One who is going to speak to these churches and he knows what he’s talking about because His eyes see everything.

Verse 15, “His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace.” Bronze is a symbol of strength. Refined in a fire has to do with the fires that purify. He’s a God of purification, of judgment. The sin offerings were consumed on the brazen (the brass) altar. In the book of Revelation we will see Christ judging the churches, judging the believers. Now that’s not an ultimate judgment. That’s a remedial, restorative judgment. But we’ll also see Him judging the unrepentant, unbelieving world with that final cataclysmic judgment.

“His feet are like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace,” and those feet walk among the lampstands, among the churches. “And his voice was like the roar of many waters.” As John saw and heard this sight, it may have reminded him of the roar of the waters crashing up on the rocks on the island of Patmos during a storm. The roar of many waters.

Maybe it makes you think of standing at the bottom of Niagara Falls. That roar of many waters. There’s that deafening roar. It drowns out all other sounds. You have a hard time hearing the person who’s standing next to you because the roar of those many waters overpowers, overwhelms all the other sounds around it.

As I’ve been meditating on this passage, I’ve thought how unlike that is in so many of our churches today where the voice of Christ in His church and in His people is often barely heard, barely heard in the church, barely heard in our lives. You know why? Because it’s drowned out by so many other sounds and voices. When you a get a vision of Christ, His voice drowns out all other voices, all other sounds. It’s a voice of supreme authority, supreme power.

Psalm 29:3-4, “The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.”

This scene must have taken the apostle John back to another scene years earlier—the Mount of Transfiguration where Peter, James, and John saw the transfigured Christ. They heard His voice. “There came a voice from heaven saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him’” (Matthew 17:5, paraphrased).

As we are in the book of Revelation and we see this glimpse of the resurrected , glorious, ascended, majestic, reigning Christ, resplendent in glory, God says to us today, “This is my Son. I’m pleased with Him. Listen to Him.”

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been offering hope to anyone feeling stuck. When John the author of Revelation was trapped as a prisoner on an island, He focused on Jesus and saw amazing things. The same is true if you feel stuck in a situation that is less than ideal.

Nancy’s been in a series called "A Vision of the Glorified Christ." It’s the first of many series we’ll cover this year on the letters to the churches in Revelation.

Nancy, I’m excited for listeners to take your challenge and be meditating on the first three chapters of Revelation for themselves.

Nancy: Me, too. And to make this study richer, I hope you’ll get a copy of the booklet that our team has developed called Ears to Hear: Learning from the Churches in Revelation. This is a resource that is only available at Revive Our Hearts. We'd love to send you a copy when you make a donation of any amount to help support the outreaches of Revive Our Hearts aound the world. This is a tool that will help enrich your personal Bible study in these three important chapters in the book of Revelation. It will encourage you to make these letters to the churches in Revelation a part of your life with practical applications.

You can make a donation online at ReviveOurHearts.com and we’ll send Ears to Hear, or call 1–800–569–5959. We’ll send one booklet per household for your donation of any size. 

Leslie: Well, the gospels give us a colorful picture of Jesus, but as we’ve heard today, Revelation shows Jesus to us as well. We’ll continue looking at Jesus through the pages of Revelation tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you find greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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