Posted by: cghearn | 09/28/2014 | 12:00 pm
Download: In The Midst of Power – Rev. 1:12-20
What kind of power does the church have?
The word for church in the NT Scriptures is “ecclesia” which many of you have become familiar with because that’s what we call our small groups. Why is this word so important?
This word literally means, “out call” or called out. In the times before this word was used in the New Testament it meant (and I’m quoting from Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament), “The term ἐκκλησία was in common usage for several hundred years before the Christian era and was used to refer to an assembly of persons constituted by well- defined membership. In general Greek usage it was normally a socio-political entity based upon citizenship in a city-state.” What would happen was that a messenger would be sent out to the houses of those who were part of the membership of this entity and call them to come and assemble.
The passage that we’re going to read through seems to have two primary elements to it and that is the glory of Jesus Christ and the power that he gives to local churches.
In the west, we often times have problems when someone says the word, “church” because we immediately think of a building with a cross on top and maybe even a bell that rings every hour. There’s nothing wrong with that, some of the old churches that dot our countryside are quite beautiful. But what should enter our mind?
I had a fellow pastor that I knew on one Sunday, when all the little children were gathered together they had them draw pictures of what they thought when they heard the word “church.” As the pastor went by looking over the shoulders of the kids, he was excited to see that every one of the kids was drawing groups of people instead of the building in which they presided. The thing is, that if somehow the building is destroyed, the church would still be here living and serving in covenant with one another.
Doctrine of sermon:
Each individual congregation has super natural power because the God of the entire universe stands with us.
Each individual congregation has supernatural power because Christ is in their midst.
Christ is in the midst of these churches…but maybe we should say that the churches are in the midst of Christ. Doesn’t that just give you chills knowing that Christ stands in our midst this morning?
The first thing that I need to say is that these lamps were what we would call today, Menorahs.
–Turn with me to Exodus 25:31
Each individual congregation that is truly recognized as a biblically qualified congregation, although it may bear the same nature as another congregation, is still a separate entity recognized by Christ. Many have said in our current day that the church is only invisible, not visible, and also not separate from one another. If that’s so, why were there 7 lampstands rather than only one? We know that according to the passage that the lampstands symbolize 7 actual congregations adjacent to the island of Patmos. So, each separate church, that seeks to obey God’s will, with its own separate elders, and its own separate services is both condoned and recognized by the authority of Christ.
- Son of Man – A few things here is that first, this is Christ. Throughout the gospels, Christ’s name for himself that he used more than any other name was, “son of man.” Second, everything that John just described meant that Jesus was really shiny and bright. You don’t have to go too much deeper than that. Finally, the sash around his chest; in old times, if you wore a sash/belt around your waist, it indicated that you were ready for travel. If you wore it around your chest it was meant to show rest and festivity.
- Seven Stars – Notice that Christ is carrying the seven stars in his right hand. The right hand was meant to symbolize power. So Christ is even responsible for the power that angels have which are what the stars are symbols for.
- Basically what John is stating here is that Jesus was extremely bright. So bright in fact that John couldn’t even get a good look at his face. When he says, “his face was like the sun shining in full strength” what he’s really saying is that he couldn’t even look fully on Christ. This of course is to know God’s glory.
I can remember when I was a boy, we were learning about the solar system and it just so happened that there was an eclipse going on during that time. We all got to go outside and waited for a few minutes until the eclipse began. Then, one by one, we were given a special mask to wear that would protect our eyes as we watched the moon slowly move its shadowy figure in the way of the sun; because even when the sun’s light is almost entirely cut out, it’s still too bright to look into directly.
One of the reasons that Revelation is such a great read for Christians is that it has a very heavy focus on Christ. Everything in this book written by the apostle John has a very Christ-centered theology.
Imagine what the church would and could do if we truly understood Christ’s power; I believe things would look incredibly different…
Each individual congregation has supernatural power because the concept of God can be terrifying.
We see that John does what every prophet has done when faced with the glory of God.
- Daniel 8:17, “So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face.”
- Ezekiel 1:28, “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”
It was about 2002 when my wife and I had been dating for a little while and she informed me that she was terrified of the idea of something staring into the window at her. So, me being the very considerate boyfriend that I was wanted to take full advantage of this fact. We lived out on about 35 acres at the time and it got completely pitch black at night. I remember one night, we said goodnight to each other, as she walked out to her car, I snuck out of the house behind her. I then proceeded around the back side of the garage so she wouldn’t see me and I managed to sneak right next to her window without her noticing. I then stared directly at her outside of the window and finally got what I was looking for which was a scream that would make horror movie actresses pale in comparison.
Can you imagine being John and experiencing this? He wasn’t scared to the point of screaming, he was scared to the point of nearly falling dead!
–Turn to John 3:19
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
When I was a boy, I was afraid of the dark. I used to have night terrors constantly in the middle of the night so much so that I couldn’t sleep alone. I remember jumping onto my bed from a few feet back so that whatever monster I had imagined lived under my bed wouldn’t get me! Silly, I know; but what happens when we’re older? We avoid the light and seek out the dark crevices of life to hide ourselves in because we as men and women do not welcome divine light into our lives. We prefer the darkness to the light and we discover that we’re actually the monsters under the bed. When I worked in the prison, every day I was around child molesters, serial killers, rapists, and drug lords. We imagine them to look like monsters having fangs, claws, and forked tongues; the truth is they look like every day average men. But God intrudes on the darkness and encourages us to live fully in His light.
Jesus according to this passage has power over death and hades (which was the Greek understanding of hell). This means that at the end of our age, the only thing standing between our entrance into heaven or hell is Christ. Christ is the rock of ages that directs the currents of time to either side of him…one side into the light of glory and the other into an eternity separate from him.
If we’re going to stand in his presence, even in this moment, we must come out of the dark and stand in the light.
Each individual congregation has supernatural power because we are designated as Christ’s light in the world.
Each individual lamp casts its own light which Christ has given to us out into the darkness of the world much like the stars in the sky at night stand out against the blackness. But then there’s the problem facing us of interpreting what Christ meant by the 7 angels. I figure there are two primary ways to interpret this:
- There is literally an angel designated to each individual church – This idea doesn’t hold much weight for two reasons. First the Greek word angelos which John uses in this passage can be translated as either angel or messenger. Second, later Christ is going to address each one of these angels to tell them something which doesn’t make sense. Certainly God doesn’t need to send letters to his angels in order to communicate with them.
- These 7 stars are simply specific messengers in each church – This seems the most likely and the overarching view by many theologians is that these 7 stars are the bishops of their local congregations.
- This interpretation also makes sense because Christ is holding these stars in his right hand. He also picks John up when he falls as a dead man with his right hand. In antiquity, the right hand was a symbol for power and what does Christ do with his right hand? He lifts John up and gives to the leaders of the church his magnificent power.
I remember a story a fellow pastor told me one time of going deep sea fishing. Although I’ve never gone deep sea fishing, I could imagine the scene. He caught a marlin (a swordfish) while he was strapped in to a chair on the back side of the boat. What proceeded for the next few hours was a fight that he said felt like it would never end. Soaked with sweat and with his back feeling like it would give out the Marlin finally was pulled into the boat. At first, the man felt victorious until he realized that the boat had been reversing the entire time bringing the large fish into closer and closer proximity with the boat. He thought he had pulled the fish in, but it was the reversing boat underneath him that did almost all the work. Living in the light of this understanding with God is the key to a healthy relationship with Him and that is that He’s doing all the work.
But to live in this kind of power and understanding is to be in God’s light. To live in accountability and confession towards one another is of utmost importance inside of a church because the church does not give us the ability to hide. It casts light, much like our Lord on everything it comes into contact with.
Christ has come to empower the local church in being a light in the world, but we as believers must in turn be willing to dwell in the light.
Doctrine of sermon:
Each individual congregation has supernatural power because the God of the entire universe stands with us.
Illustration: Christ is not the candlesticks; he is not the wick; he is not the lamp itself; without the flame the lamp may be very beautiful but it is ultimately useless.
Application: Satan doesn’t desire to sit by idly and play in the dark. He desires to take center stage, twisting the teaching of the church to be both man-centered instead of Christ centered and secondly to allow men to join him in the blackness.
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 125.