Among the Lampstands


(Spectrumbot) #1

This week’s lesson is brought to us by GoodWord from Walla Walla. To listen to the audio conversation, please visit the GoodWord website.

Host: Brant Berglin

Guests: David Thomas and Alden Thompson

Opening Question

Have you ever had a dream that was so meaningful to you that you wrote it down and shared it with others later?

Introduction

We’re told throughout the New Testament that the Spirit of God works in the Body of Christ—the Church—and that Christ loves His church and leads it. Revelation 1:9–3:21 shows just how intimately Jesus is involved in keeping the light of the church burning in the world as a witness for Him, for that is what the imagery of the Lampstands seeks to show us.

The Text:

Revelation 1:10

The commentary affirms Saturday as the “Lord’s day” John was referring to. Without question, Jesus is the “Lord of the Sabbath.” The book of Revelation’s overarching theme from the Old Testament prophets, however, suggests that John’s visionary experience is a fulfillment of or climax to the “Day of the Lord,” the prophetic time of judgement, vindication, and redemption for God’s people and destruction of their enemies. (see Isaiah 13:6-9, Ezekiel 30:3, Joel 1-3, Amos 5:18-20, Obadiah 1:15, Zephaniah 1:2-18, and Malachi 4:5for specific use of the term)

In what ways does Revelation parallel the specific prophecies of the Day of the Lord given in the passages above?

Revelation 1:11

Revelation was originally sent to seven literal congregations in once-thriving cities of Asia minor, with specific instructions and information about their spiritual condition, appropriate for their 1st century context. Christ’s command to John here is to write “what you see” (visions), but as we’ll see later, he records what he hears (auditions), as well as some of his own actions.

If Revelation was originally written to literal congregations, to what degree would their first-century understanding of Revelation be an aid in interpreting the book? How might it be a hindrance?

Revelation 1:12-18

The risen Christ is characterized several ways in these verses, some from Daniel 7, and each is repeated in one of the seven churches. This suggests that certain aspects of character or figure are more important to those churches and their specific situation. The lesson well points out that Christ is able to meet each church where it is. Jesus is also sufficient for each church.

One important result of this application of the character of Christ to individual congregations is that we also today find aspects of God or His son that mean more to us, or make more sense than others. At various times, God may present himself to me more like a loving or disciplining father; at others, as a comforting friend; at other times He’s a teacher or guide, or even as a judge.

Of the various pictures of Jesus in ch. 1, is there one that means more to you than the others?

The clothing imagery of the “one like a son of man” is that of a daily-ministering priest, wearing a robe with a golden sash, probably a blue robe symbolizing the law of God (rather than white like as we typically picture, probably), and the candlesticks among which he walks is the first “introductory sanctuary vision” before a series of seven, in this case the seven churches. Christ is doing the work of a priest walking among candlesticks making sure the light of the church continues to burn. The daily work of the priest was to trim the wicks (like John’s pruning analogy from John 15), fill the lamps with oil (perhaps the Holy Spirit; see the 10 virgins in Matthew 25), and keep the sanctuary lighted.

This passage also reveals the close tie between heaven and earth; as Jesus walks among candlesticks in the heavenly Sanctuary (on the “south” side, not coincidentally), He is also on earth walking among the candlestick-churches who are now to be the “light of the world.” (Matt 5:14)

If keeping the church’s testimony lit and burning in the world is the work of Christ, what is my role in cooperating with his priestly ministry?

Closing Comments

The introductory vision of Christ sets the stage for the rest of the book. Images of Christ here will appear later in Revelation. Chapter 1 concludes in vs. 19 with John again being commanded to write what he has seen (the vision of Christ), the things that are (the messages to the churches), and the events that happen after the churches are reproved and encouraged. What a prophetic adventure it will be for both John and us!

Photo by Zbysiu Rodak on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9338

(Ray Smith) #2

Is it possible that there is a third option, that the Lord’s day was actually the first day of the week in honour of the resurrection? When John wrote his gospel account he made many references to the Sabbath. Why did he change his terminology in Revelation 1?

It is interesting that John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, saw the vision of Christ and immediately fell at Christ’s feet like a dead man. In response, Christ claimed his death and resurrection as the basis of his authority. He is the living one. He was dead but is alive forevermore. He has the keys of death and of Hades.

The new covenant is not built on Christ as Creator which of course he is, but it is built on the death and resurrection of Christ. Is this why the apostolic fathers and early church fathers used the term “Lord’s day” to mean the resurrection day, the first day of the week?

Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, does not give one word of instruction to his Gentile audience on keeping holy any specific day of the week, neither the seventh day or the first. The same is true of John and Peter.

Eastern Orthodox Christian churches claim from the beginning of the Christian era to have honoured both days.

The closest Paul gets to any teaching on the Sabbath is that it is but a shadow of what is to come. Our reality is Christ. He gives us rest, rest for our souls. The created beings in Revelation 5 worship the Lamb who was slain, the same Christ we see in Revelation 1 who was dead and now is alive forevermore.

As new covenant believers we have been raised to newness of life because Jesus rose from the dead and it happened on the first day of the week. Maybe this is why the early church chose to celebrate the resurrection on a weekly basis as they met together to break bread.

Worship in Revelation 4 is because God is the creator. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders are those who worship.

Christ is the focus of worship in Revelation 5 because he was slain and purchased us with his blood. The whole of God’s creation takes part in this worship.

No matter what day a person chooses for corporate worship, it is Christ crucified, buried, risen and living in us and we in him that is the basis of the new covenant of grace. It’s not a day, but Jesus Christ.