On Sunday Graham spoke on Revelation 1, focusing particularly on verse 10 and what it means to be in the Spirit. He then went on to explain what this letter meant for the church at the time and what it means for us now, particularly in the run up to Christmas.
John was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos. It was there that he received this great revelation. It is reported by one church historian, Eusebius, that John was released under the reign of the emperor Nerva.
We will look at John, Jesus and us.
We read of John that he claimed to be, “In the spirit on the Lord’s Day.”
(a) Lord’s Day
The early Christians were a mixture of both Gentiles and Jews, yet even the Jews switched their sabbath from what we call Saturday (7th day of the week) to the celebration of new life by making ‘resurrection day’ their new sabbath, the first day of the week.
Resurrection discovered on the first day of the week
Matthew 28:1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
Believers meeting on the first day of the week
John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’
Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.
Believers worshipping by their giving on the first day of the week
1 cor 16:1-2 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
Now and from then onwards the rhythm of the life will be different. The first day of the week is set apart by the followers of Jesus as the respite before renewing their work. On this day they would rest, gather, worship, give and be sent out.
(b) In the spirit
It is on this day of rest that John is ‘in the Spirit’.
Where was John? Though on the Island of Patmos, he was temporarily located in heavenly places with Christ and all the church.
‘In the Spirit’ could be used to describe the spiritual and mental state he was in, receptive to a revelation like Peter was in Acts 10:10.
Whether ‘In the Spirit’ in this context is describing the spiritual and mental state he was in, or not, I certainly think it refers to location – where he was.
See Ephesians 2:4-9
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
And it refers to the company he keeps…
See also Hebrews 12:18-24
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.’ 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
On the Lord’s Day, as the believer worships, he or she is in the spirit and is located with the church across the globe, and the Church Triumphant, in heavenly places in the presence of Jesus. Believers have been in prison cells, yet have spoken of the reality of such an experience.
Purpose of this letter:
Written during a time when the emperor was worshipped as a god. The Caesar cult insisted that Caesar was Lord and any who refused to acknowledge this and worship Caesar would be put to death. And many people did die for that one reason.
The followers of Jesus insisted that Jesus was Lord. This document, meant to be circulated claimed to be a revelation of the Lordship of Jesus. It was written in such a way that this treasonous document would not be understood by non-believing readers.
This is Jesus, the man who once was a child, the child who is celebrated at Christmas time. Here his true identity is revealed. The Christmas story is the story of the incarnation, and it leads us here to this revelation.
Revelation 1:8 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’
Jesus was declaring himself greater than Caesar, yes, but greater than any other. Than ANY other. This is the God who is beginning and end. This is the God who is more than we can imagine or comprehend.
See: Revelation 4:6b-11; 5:9-14; 7:9-12
And this is the God who loves the individual and who took the first step of coming among us as a human being.
The process of God becoming human flesh is known as incarnation. Christmas is not merely a festival, or a celebration of the baby who was called…
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Christmas is the celebration of incarnation, God on our side, on your side.