Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: When biblical writers encountered the holiness of God, all they could do is fall before Him. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says this response is a model for us.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: You can't come into the presence of God holding onto the filthy rags of your own righteousness or your own sinfulness. You can't cling to your sinful habits and say, “O God, I love You. I'm going to worship You this morning.” You can't do that. He's a holy God, and oh that there would be more falling down on our faces before Him!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Thursday, August 3, 2017.

Before John wrote the book of Revelation, he saw incredible, cosmic wonders, but the most important vision was of Christ Himself. The letters to the churches, which are found in the first few chapters of Revelation, will show you Jesus in a new light. That's what we're exploring in the first of several series on these letters. Now, let's get back to "A Vision of the Glorified Christ."

Nancy: G. Campbell Morgan was a great Bible teacher during the 1900s. In one of my favorite quotes of his, he said, “The supreme need in every hour of difficulty and distress is for a fresh vision of God.”1 The supreme need, the greatest need in every hour of difficulty and distress . . . Anybody in here today have any difficulty or distress in your life at the moment? If you don't, you will have.

The supreme need . . . what you need, Anni, in your little girl's situation. What you need, Amy and Ginger, in the things that God has been doing in your family. "The supreme need in every hour of difficulty and distress is for a fresh vision of God.”

“Seeing Him,” he went on to say, “all else takes on proper perspective and proportion.” Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, the old song says. Things of earth—big and huge and overwhelming as they may be—will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Well, what John is being given in the first chapter of Revelation, and what I'm telling you about today from God's Word, is a fresh vision of Christ. That's what we need. We need to see Him. We need to believe that He is who He is, and so let me just back up a little bit here to verse 9 in chapter 1.

John says, “I'm your brother and your partner in the tribulation and the kingdom” (v. 9, paraphrase). By the way, those are like two extremes. The tribulation is the hard part. The kingdom is the great and glorious part, and what's in-between? The patient endurance.

What gets you from the tribulation to the kingdom? Patient endurance. You say, "Give it to me fast!" No, patient endurance. You don't endure until you have a long time and hard things to go through. He says,

[I'm a brother with you, and I'm a partner with you] in the tribulation and the kingdom [and all that comes in-between] and the patient endurance that are in Jesus. I was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.[And then he says, I was not only on the island of Patmos, but] I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard . . . a loud voice like a trumpet saying, "Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches . . ."

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, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. [This is Christ, our great High Priest.]

The hairs of his head were white, like wool, as white as snow. [A picture of all wisdom, eternity, purity.] His eyes were like a flame of fire. [We talked about His piercing, penetrating eyes, how He sees all. He knows all.] His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace [He purifies, He judges, He is all strength], and his voice was like the roar of many waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful, and God says, “This is my Son. Listen to Him.” Now, he goes on in verse 16 to expand on this vision of Christ, and as we read this, I want to remind you of the uniqueness of Jesus. He is not a god among other gods. He is not just a religious leader. He is God alone. He stands alone above all gods—little, lower case "g"—of the universe. He is not just something that we could add to our panoply of gods. He is unique. There is none like Him. There is no other god like Him, and it says in verse 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 (vv. 9–16).

Now, you just get the impression as you live in this passage that words failed John to describe what he was seeing. It was so brilliant, so blinding, this sight of the glorified Christ. Now, John knew Jesus. He had lived with Him for three years. He knew Him on this earth.

He'd even seen a glimpse of His glory on the mount of transfiguration, but now John was seeing Christ in a depth and in a way that he'd never been privileged to see before, a way that we will one day see Christ. When we see Him, we will be transformed into His likeness. We will be like Him. We will see Him as He is.

Now, let's look through these different symbols here. It says, “In his right hand he held seven stars.” The right hand, in the Scripture, and in other uses as well, is a symbol of power—the right hand of the majesty of God. It's a symbol of control.

Verse 20, which we'll look at later in this series, tells us that the seven stars that Jesus holds in His right hand are the angels of the seven churches. We'll talk about what those are, but they're some type of messenger, some type of spiritual leader.

The Scripture's saying Jesus holds those leaders, the leaders of the churches. He holds them in His right hand. There's control. There's authority. There's power over them.

“From his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword.” What Jesus is going to say to the churches, which we'll be examining in depth throughout this series, chapters 2 and 3, the letters to the seven churches—what Jesus is going to say to these churches is penetrating. It is incisive. It is insightful.

What He says is like a sharp, two-edged sword. His verdict that He pronounces on the churches is accurate. There's no disputing it, and then this sword coming out of His mouth . . . I think that's a picture, too, of how He defends His Church against those who attack it. Throughout Revelation you see how He uses the sword that comes from His mouth as His Word to conquer His enemies.

In Revelation chapter 19, one of my favorite parts of the whole book, in fact of the whole Bible, we see Jesus as He comes riding victoriously on a white horse, and it says, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations” (v. 15).

In that passage, chapter 19, the kings of the earth and their armies have gathered together against the Lord, and here comes this man on the white horse with a sharp sword coming out of His mouth, the Word of God.

In fact, that's the name given for the Man on the white horse. “The name by which he is called is The Word of God,” (19:13) and with that sword, He strikes down His enemies. It says that all those who made war against Him “Were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse,” (19:21).

Ladies, the Word of God is powerful. It's powerful in your life. It speaks into your life. It speaks into your heart. It penetrates. It pierces.

It tells you what you need to know, but it's also powerful for you to use against the enemies of God. Use it against Satan when you're tempted as Jesus did when He was tempted. Enemies are defeated by the Word of God.

When you're reasoning with your unreasonable, irrational adolescent or three-year-old or someone else, whoever that may be, use the Word of God. Your own words are not powerful enough to defeat the enemies of God.

When you get into discussions about the legitimacy, the validity of Christianity, don't rely on your own words. The Word of God is powerful. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” (Romans 10:17) that sword that comes from His mouth. The Word of God is sharp. It's powerful. It's effective. 

Then it says, “His face,” or in some translations, “his countenance was like the sun shining in full strength,” (v. 16). Imagine that. John is looking at this vision. It said it's like looking at the sun. You can't do that for very long—you shouldn't do it very long. It's brilliant; it's blinding; it's dazzling. His face, His countenance—all the individual features of the faced combinded—was like the sun shining in full strength. It's noonday. This is not dawn or dusk.

All we can see of Christ now is dawn or dusk, but one day we will see Him in His fullness, His radiance, His glory, His beauty. This is the glory of God as seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

You know, the sun can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how it's affecting you. The sun can warm. It can bless. It can cause things to grow, but it can also blind. It can burn. It can destroy, and we see Christ and His presence doing both in the book of Revelation.

We see Him destroying His enemies who refuse to repent. He gives them every opportunity to repent, but they refuse to repent even when He sends initial judgments to provoke them to repentance. They still refuse to repent, and ultimately, that blinding glory of God is what destroys them.

Yet we have those who do believe, who do repent. On them He shines the beauty of His face and the beauty of His countenance, and we are transformed. We are blessed, and we are warmed. We are encouraged in the presence and the glory of the living Christ.

Second Corinthians chapter 4, verse 6, “For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” where? “in the face of Jesus Christ.” His face—that's where we see the glory of God.

That's what John the other disciples had seen on the Mount of Transfiguration where is says, "His face shone like the sun" (Matt. 17:2). Or in Luke's acount, "The appearance of his face was altered" (Luke 9:29). That was a glimpse of God's glory that John is now seeing in its fullness.

Now, the churches are represented by these lampstands. Jesus is standing in the midst of the lampstands, and they are the churches. The stars in His hand are the angels or the leaders of those churches.

The churches are supposed to shine light into the darkness of this world, but the churches have no light of their own. Christ is our source of light. We have no light apart from Him. He shines the light of His face on us, as His people and His church, and that is what we are supposed to reflect, as the lampstands, into the world.

So, you have Christ, the light, shining on those churches, who are the lampstands; and the light, Christ, on those lampstands, is supposed to be shone into the darkness of this world. So how does John respond to this awesome vision? Verse 17, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.”

John is overcome. It's too much for him. He's overcome with fear, with awe, with reverence. The vision of the glory and the holiness of Christ is more than he can bear in his sinful humanness, and if we could see it as it is, it would be more than we could bear in our sinful humanness as well.

This was true of others in Scripture. There are a number of accounts that are similar. Let me read to you a passage from the book of Daniel, who had a very similar vision. I'm reading in Daniel chapter 10. He says,

I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen with a belt of fine gold . . . around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightening, his eyes like flaming torches. [Does this sound like something we've been reading?] His arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude” (vv. 5–6).

I think this was an Old Testament appearance of Christ, a Christophany, theologians call it.

And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves.

So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you." And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling (vv. 7–11).

He trembled in the presence of the Lord. Isaiah 66:2

This is the man to who I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

God meets with those who tremble at His Word. If we ever really could hear His Word for what it is, we too would join Daniel and John in trembling before Him. It was Ezekiel also. You read it all through the book of Ezekiel. He had these amazing visions of the likeness of the resurrected Christ.

Chapter 1 he sees this amazing vision of the glory of Christ and he says, "Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I feel on my face" (v. 28). Four other times in the book of Ezekiel it is recorded that "he saw the glory of the Lord." And what did he do each time? He fell on his face. This is a picture of the fear of the Lord, of reverence, of humility, respect, and awe for God.

In our generation we've had such an emphasis on what theologians call the immanence of God. That means His nearness, His closeness.

He is a personal God. That is true of God. But we've had such an emphasis on God's immanence, His nearness, that in many cases, we've lost our focus on the transcendence of God, the greatness, the glory, the majesty, the awesomeness of God.

As a result, in Christian circles today, in some of our churches and in many of our Christian gatherings, there's a lightness and a triteness and a casualness (Is that a word? It is now) about God. You'll even hear humor used in ways that I think are very inappropriate.

Now, nothing wrong with appropriate humor, but there are some things that are not ever a laughing matter. The glory of God is one of those, and we have lost largely in our country, I think today, a sense of the awesomeness of God, the trembling in the presence of God.

We have so often a flippant response to spiritual matters, and you hear it in the ways people talk about God and about spiritual things.

I keep a file on my computer of humor—emails people send. Sometimes I will have occassion to use those. I was looking at some of those recently and found some that relate to church. Some are funny, and some are not funny.

You need to be careful what you laugh about. There's a flippancy today, a treating God as if He were just like the guy next door. He is not the guy next door.

He lives in us, but it's the glory of God that is the glory of the resurrected Christ. If we had any concept of how holy, how powerful, how awesome He is, we would tremble in His presence. We would be on our faces.

I believe in times of revival, this is one of the marked characteristics of true revivals. There's this awesome awareness of the presence of God that caused men and women to be prostrate on their faces, down on the ground before God under conviction of sin, conviction of His holiness. You rarely see that kind of trembling in our Christian circles today, but when God comes and moves in revival, when we see Christ as He is, we will have that kind of awe and reverence.

Psalm chapter 2, “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way” (vv. 11–12, NIV). You see there immanence, and you see transcendence.

Serve Him with fear. Rejoice with trembling. That's the transcendent God, and then because of His mercy and His grace, kiss Him. Draw near. Come close to the mercy seat because He has shed His blood so that we can draw near to that holiest place.

It's awesome that we can come into that holy of holies where no one but the high priest once a year dared to come before the cross at peril of their lives. We don't come bouncing in.

One song I have a problem with today, I confess it, and I know a lot of Christians sing it and love it . . . "Come just as you are." There's a sense where that is true, but there's a sense in which that is not true. You can't come into the presence of God apart from coming through Christ.

You can't come into the presence of God holding onto the filthy rags of your own righteousness or your own sinfulness. You can't cling to your sinful habits and say, “O God, I love You. I'm going to worship You this morning.” You can't do that. He's a holy God, and oh that there would be more falling down on our faces before Him!

Yet that transcendent God is immanent. He is a personal God of mercy and grace. We see here in Revelation chapter 1 how, as John falls on his face before the glorious, resurrected Christ, Christ reaches out to reassure His servant, just as He had with Daniel years earlier.

So it says in verse 17, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, 'Fear not.'”

Again, this is a similar experience to the one that John and Peter and James had had with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration years earlier. Matthew chapter 17, “When the disciples heard this,” when they heard the voice from heaven speaking, when they saw the glorified Christ, “they fell on their faces and were terrified,” just like John is now on the island of Patmos.

But back on the Mount of Transfiguration it says, “Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Rise, and have no fear'” (v. 7). Don't you think John must have remembered back to that moment? It had been like sixty years earlier, but how can you ever forget an experience like that?

Now he's reminded of that as Jesus comes and lays His right hand on John and says, “Fear not.” This is a God who is awesomely holy, who's blindingly dazzling, who is majestic and transcendent, but He's a God who draws near through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Christ places His hand on us in mercy and grace and says, “Fear not.” Yes, there's an appropriate way to fear the Lord, to have reverence for Him, but that fear of the Lord in an appropriate sense delivers us from having to cower in fear before Him.

Do you know what I mean by the difference between those? We don't have to dread His punishment because we're in reverence and awe over His holiness and because He has extended a hand of mercy and grace to us through Christ.

So Christ says, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Rev. 1:17).

I AM—that's an Old Testament name for God—the first and the last. That's an Old Testament name for God. You find it a number of times in the book of Isaiah. Jesus is saying, “I am God. I am Jehovah.”

These are names of God, and Christ is claiming deity. He is before all other gods. “I am the first and the last. I am the living one. Yes, I died, but I am alive forevermore.” He takes John back to what John remembered so well. He had been there at the cross, and He reminded John, “I died.”

It was a sacrificial death. It was not just the death of a good, religious leader who suffered for his faith. It was the death of the Son of God who laid down His life as a sacrificial lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. But as John knew and Jesus reminds him here, Jesus did not stay on that cross. Three days later, He was raised from the dead.

“I am alive forevermore.” Jesus is victorious over death, and He says, “I have the keys of Death and Hades.” He holds the eternal destiny of all men in His hands. He holds my destiny. He holds your destiny, and He holds the keys to our victory over death.

So yes, we tremble before Him, but then He lays His hand on us in mercy and grace, and He says, “Don't be afraid. I AM. I am the first and the last. I died. I'm alive forevermore. I have the keys of death and Hades.”

As I was meditating on that passage this morning, I thought of that song that you've probably sung in your church, "In Christ Alone." I won't read all the words, but they just ministered to me this morning again as I thought of how we need a new vision of Christ and awareness of Him in the midst of every life circumstance here and now and then and there forever. Christ is our only hope, and that's what this song says.

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness

Scorned by the ones He came to save.

'Til on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied.
For every sin on Him was laid,
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain.
Then bursting forth in glorious day.
Up from the grave He rose again.

As He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me.
For I am His, and He is mine,
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.

No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I'll stand.

Keith Getty & Stuart Townsend

Ladies, you need Christ now. You need Him today. You need Him tomorrow. You need Him the next day. You need Him more than you need breath itself, and you'll need Him forever and ever for all of eternity.

He is the One who appeared to John, who speaks to us today and says, “Fear not. I am the first and the last and the living one. I died for you, and behold, I am alive forevermore. I have the keys of death and hell.” Amen? Amen.

Leslie: That's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth in a series called, "A Vision of the Glorified Christ." It's part of a multi-series study we'll be tackling this year on the early chapters of Revelation. Now, when I think of this book, my mind often immediately jumps to strange and confusing images of beasts and dragons. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been effectively showing us that this book is about more than that. It's the revelation of Christ in His glory.

Nancy: And because of that revelation of the glorified Christ that we're given in the first chapter of the book of Revelation, we realize that we can trust Him no matter what. In this final book of the Bible, as we read about plagues and violence and political upheaval, you can't help but think about the acts of violence that fill our headlines today. But I want to reassure you that no matter what is going on in this world, Jesus is more powerful. He is on His throne, and He is in control.

Through the course of this study, my prayer is that you'll get to know this powerful, wonderful Savior even better. Our team has produced a booklet to help you do just that. It's called Ears to Hear, and it's based on the letters to the churches in Revelation that we'll be studying over these next several weeks. I hope you'll get a copy and connect in an even deeper way with these beautiful rich passages.

Leslie: When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we'll say thanks by sending your own copy of Ears to Hear: Learning from the Letters to the Churches in Revelation. Just donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com or call 1–800–569–5959.

Is it possible to love Christ yet not love the church? The book of Revelation answers that question, and Nancy will address it tomorrow. Please be back with us for another Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to keep pointing you to Jesus. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1G. Campbell Morgan, A First Century Message to Twentieth Century Christians (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004), 24.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.