Images Of Jesus In RevelationErwin W. Lutzer | December 28, 2003
Selected highlights from this sermon
What is the image you have of Jesus? Do you picture the baby in the manger? Perhaps the gentle healer, the miracle worker. Maybe you envision Him as He gave theSermon on the Mount. Or you may picture His beaten and bloodied body on the cross.
But have you pictured Him as He’s revealed in the book of Revelation: full of power, full of glory, and ready to judge the world? In this message, Pastor Lutzer shows us an image of Christ most of us don’t think about: Jesus as the ultimate judge of mankind.
So who is Jesus? This has been a brief series of messages entitled Rumors About Jesus, because we’ve talked about some Jesuses, if I can put it that way, that are not able to save. We have to be careful. It is not enough to say that I believe in Jesus. We have to believe in the right one because the Bible says that many Antichrists - many Christs - are gone out into the world.
We’ve also noticed that the Jesus of the New Testament cuts a clean swath. He distinguishes Himself from all other options because there is no one else like Him. But also what we need to know is that there is more to Jesus than simply the Jesus of the Gospels. We often hear it said, “Well, you know, Jesus came to teach us to love one another,” and that’s true, but that’s not all that He is. He is much more than that.
One day I was riding on a plane and the person next to me was a pacifist, a Christian pacifist. He believed that nobody should ever go out to war because Jesus told us to love our enemies, so that’s what we should do. We should just love our enemies, and if they shoot us, let them shoot us. And when I disagreed, he told me that he could not believe that I was a follower of Christ. Actually I’m giving you the censored version. It was much clearer than that.
Well, I’ll tell you what he told me. He told me I was going to hell. Okay? But the reason he said that is how can you, as a follower of Jesus, believe in something like warfare? Well, I want you to know today, that I tried to point out to this brother, as the plane was landing, that Jesus is not a pacifist, as we shall see today. Yes, He did give us some instructions on how to live in this world, most assuredly, but at the end time, He is not a pacifist. However you fall on the side of those issues, we are taking a different look at Jesus today.
If you have your Bibles, the first passage is the first chapter of Revelation. I hope all of you have your Bibles today because I’m going to be reading and pointing out some very, very significant things. I’m going to be reading two very compelling and gripping descriptions of Jesus. And I’m going to be commenting on the first one, and then we’ll move to the second. And then we’re going to give you some observations that will wrap it up, and this will end this series all too hurriedly and all too quickly, but it will be on Jesus in the book of Revelation.
But nonetheless Revelation 1:12-16! John is writing this. He said: “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. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and this face was like the sun shining in full strength.”
Who is this Jesus? This is not the Jesus of the crucifixion. This is the Jesus now of the glorification. It’s the same Jesus, needless to say but an entirely different picture. It’s not the Jesus of poverty, but the Jesus of power. It’s not the Jesus that comes as a Savior, but as we shall see in a few moments, a Jesus who comes as a judge.
Let’s look at the description very briefly. His robe! He’s walking among the candlesticks. The candlesticks represent the churches to which He is going to dictate seven letters to seven different congregations. And so Jesus is walking, and His robe is all the way down to His ankles, like the robe of a high priest. His breastplate, a golden sash around his chest, we read, again reminding us of the high priest. His hair, white as wool! In Daniel 7 this description is applied to God Almighty, and here it is applied to Jesus because Jesus is God. It’s symbolic of the fact that He is the Ancient of Days.
What a figure John was able to see! His eyes are like blazing fire. It has to do with fierceness against His enemies, and also supernatural intelligence. You’ve met someone who, when you look into their eyes, it’s as if they can see right clean through you. Well, Jesus can! His eyes are like blazing fire.
His feet are like bronze, glowing in a furnace, and it is with these feet that He goes among the congregations. It is He who goes up and down the aisles of Moody Church. It is He who passes the offering plate. It is He who sees all things and He evaluates the congregations, as we see here in the book of Revelation.
And then you’ll notice in His right hand there are seven stars, and later on they are interpreted as the seven angels of the churches, the angels, perhaps meaning the lead pastors of the churches. Ultimately the leadership of the church is in His right hand, the text says, as He walks along. And out of His mouth, we’ve just read a moment ago, comes a two-edged sword, and this is the kind of sword that is used in battle. Could I say it’s the kind of sword that kills? And His face, the Bible says, is like the sun shining in its brilliance, or like one translation says, “The sun shining in its strength.”
I hope I have my statistics right, but somewhere I read that one pound of energy heat can actually take twenty million tons of rocks and turn those rocks into lava – 2,500 degrees. One pound of energy – twenty million tons of rocks. But did you know that the sun radiates four million tons of energy every single second? Have you ever thought about how bright the sun really is? I mean it heats the world 93 million miles away, and John is saying, “I saw Him,” and it says His face was like the sun shining in its brilliance. This is Jesus. No wonder John says, “I fall at His feet as if I were dead.”
Well we have to pause here and remind ourselves that this is the Jesus of the New Testament with whom John was a very close friend. It’s generally believed that it was John, you remember, who would lean on Jesus Christ’s breast, as they as a group of men sat actually on the floor with their feet extended, one next to the other. John - Peter, James and John were Jesus Christ’s most intimate friends when He was here on earth. And in those days they were buddies, if we could put it that way. But now it’s entirely different. Now when he begins to realize who this baby in a manger really was, King of kings and Lord of lords, with this graphic description, suddenly John falls down and says, “I was as if I were dead in His presence,” which is actually the only proper response that one should have in the presence of Jesus. If Shakespeare were to walk into this room, we might stand. If Jesus walked into this room, we’d be compelled to kneel. So John here falls on his face.
What’s going on in the text? Well, Jesus Christ is indicating His authority most assuredly, but also in the text, if we were to take and read it, we’d see that our accountability is to Him. As I mentioned, He is the one who is going up and down the aisles of the church. He is the one who evaluates seven different churches, and comes to the conclusion as to what their strengths and weaknesses are, and where they should repent.
Some time ago at an elders’ retreat we took the letters to the seven churches. We read them and studied them and then we came up with our own letter as to what we think Jesus would say about Moody Church, its weaknesses and strengths, because Jesus is constantly evaluating us, and we are accountable to Him.
And then you’ll notice the words of Jesus to John. Now I am in verses 17 and 18. He 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.” You talk about authority. He’s got the keys of Death and Hades.
You’ve heard me say that here at The Moody Church we have a number of different keys. There are some keys that will only get you into the building. And then there are other keys that will take you a little further into the office area. And I have a key that gets me into the building, into the office area, into my study. It is called a “G” key. In fact, I have it right here. I noticed the other day that somebody was in a dilemma and needed a closet opened, and it worked. I said to the trustees one time, “What does the G stand for?” and they said God. (laughter) Here it is!
Jesus has the key of Death and Hades. It’s one thing to have a key that will let you into a building, but He’s the one who has the keys to all of eternity. And when He swings a door open for you so that you can go to heaven, that door is swung open by His hand. If that door is closed so that you go to Hades, it is closed by His hand, but nobody ever evades Jesus. Nobody! (applause) You can’t get into eternity and bypass Him.
Visualize a castle, and as all of the hordes of humanity go into it, at the other side there are only two doors. There is one that leads to Hades, and there is one that leads to Paradise, and Jesus opens and closes each one. Be an atheist, belong to any religion of the world, you will never, never get past Jesus when you die.
Now that’s one picture of Jesus here, but now let’s go to Revelation 19, a second picture of Jesus. And once again I’m going to read this powerful, powerful text that just takes your breath away. It says in Revelation 19 (I’m beginning at verse 11.): “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Now just think about this person riding on a horse. You say, “Well, is it a literal horse?” Well, this was a vision that John saw. The horses are coming out of heaven. If it is literal they are horses that God miraculously created, or else perhaps it is symbolic, but the symbolism is powerful and can’t be missed. You’ll notice His character. He is the one who is faithful and true, the Bible says. He’s the one who is filled with integrity. He’s the one who is able to administer justice, and His agenda is to be a warrior. You’ll notice He comes with a warrior. And when it says that His robe is dipped in blood, it may be His own blood symbolically speaking that He shed on Calvary, or it may anticipate the blood that He Himself will soon shed when He comes against the armies of the world that are arrayed against Him.
And then we go on in the text, and again it says: “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Is this the Jesus we hear about at Christmas? Is this the Jesus that seems to be replaced by Santa Claus? So Santa Claus comes along and says, “I’m taking the place of Jesus.” This is the Jesus of Christmas. This is the same Jesus born in a manger, and then exalted to highest heaven as God, a very God!
Now what I want us to do in the next few moments is to look at this text a little bit more carefully. We hurried over it far too quickly. And what I want you to see, first of all, is that when Jesus returns, and this now is the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ… Now I have to tell you that there are some folks, God bless them, who believe that this event is the same as the Rapture of the Church in 1 Thessalonians 4 where it says there’s going to be a shout in heaven and the saints are going to be raised up and meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air. That’s the Rapture of the Church, and some people say, “Well the Rapture and this glorious appearing and other descriptions of it, which are in the Scriptures – at least a half dozen descriptions – are the very same events.” Well, I’m sorry but I don’t see that at all. This is an entirely different event. This is not Jesus Christ coming in the air where we go to meet Him. This is Jesus Christ coming not for His saints, but with His saints, as we shall see in a moment. (applause) I don’t have a quorum, but I’ll take that. (laughter)
Now notice what it says. Jesus is not coming alone. It says in verse 14: “And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.” Now who are these armies that are following Him? And who is dressed in white linen, clean and white? Well, in order to understand that we have to go back in the same chapter and find out because it tells us. One of the good things about reading the Bible is that when you come to a puzzle usually the pieces of the puzzle are somewhere in that passage, or another passage. In this case it’s all in the same chapter.
You’ll notice it says in verse 6 of the same chapter: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.”
This is a reference now to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. We’re talking about believers who have trusted Jesus who have been raptured and who have glorified bodies and who are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. This is a very select group that you can become a member of through faith in Jesus Christ, to be sure. But it’s certainly not an indiscriminate group – it doesn’t matter what you believe, it doesn’t matter as long as you are sincere. No, no, no! We’re talking about people who have been redeemed by Christ.
So there’s this Marriage Supper of the Lamb and what a glorious time it is. It says that the bride (that’s us) has made herself ready. But when do we make ourselves ready? We make ourselves ready because by this time we’ll have gone through what is called the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ where our deeds are evaluated. I’m talking about born again Christians now where our deeds are evaluated. The issue is not whether or not we’ll go into heaven because most assuredly we will. The only issue is how faithful have we been with what God gave us, and we’ll be judged on that basis. Arguments that Christians have that are totally unresolved here on earth will be resolved there. Issues of sin that we’ve not dealt with on earth will be dealt with there, where we will be cleansed and our lives will be properly adjudicated so that we will be ready for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
And so notice what the text says now: “For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready. It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure, for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints. You say, “Wow! This is a difficult passage. I thought that the only way to get to the heaven is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The answer is, “Of course, the only way to get to heaven is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.” That’s why no other religious leader is the ticket to heaven. But in addition to the righteousness of Jesus Christ, having been cleansed at the Judgment Seat of Christ and where our works have now been purified through the fire (This has nothing to do with purgatory.) but our works have been tested by fire, as the Bible says, we are now going to be in a position where our righteous acts will also be a part of our wedding dress.
And by the way, since I’m in the text, it says in verse 9: “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” Who are the invited guests? It’s not the bride herself. It’s those who are invited, probably Old Testament saints who will also be invited, but they’re not the bride. The bride are the believers who trusted Christ as Savior since Jesus has come, and the church, the Body of Jesus Christ has formed. So this is going to be one glorious experience. The Bible calls it the Supper of the Lamb. Hang onto that term because the word supper is going to be used in the text in just a moment, and I want you to see the contrast.
Alright, now we read the text in verse 14: “And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.” Who are they? Those are believers who have experienced the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. They are believers who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood and they are returning with Him to earth to fight along with Him in battle.
Now, imagine, the Bible doesn’t say anything about the fact that these armies have any weapons because at that point we’ll have an indestructible body. Our bodies will have been glorified. They’ll be like the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, not subject to war, not subject to hand grenades, not subject to hand-held weapons or bombs. In fact, eternal bodies that will live forever! No more cancer, no more pain, no more heartache, no more blood clots and all the other things that people struggle with. So here we are now. We are coming with Jesus Christ and we’re going to reign with Him, and we’re coming to earth.
Alright, so my first observation as we’re concluding this - that Jesus does not return alone but He returns with us who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood and He comes to earth.
Second, He comes to conquer. Now, when I read verse 17 there are some churches in America who would never read this publicly because they would say it offends people’s sensibilities, and I understand that. This is very graphic now, but since it’s in God’s Word I think that it’s okay to read it: “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.’” It’s almost as if He is inviting the vultures to gather because there is going to be a great battle, and there are going to be so many carcasses that the wild birds are going to have plenty to eat. That is very strong, isn’t it? And it does offend our sensibilities, maybe because our sensibilities have to be put more in line with God’s Word.
But notice this: We talked about the Supper of the Lamb. Now we have the Supper of God. And who is it that Jesus Christ is going to fight against? This is the Battle of Armageddon, the last serious battle that is going to take place in the world because all the armies of the earth are going to be gathered together at Jerusalem, the Bible says, and they’ll be brought together there. And they’ll be fighting one another because Jerusalem is going to be the place of great contention and warfare. And then suddenly in the middle of this they will see the sign of the Son of Man coming out of heaven. It’s this event. And all the armies are going to say, “You know, let’s unite and let’s fight against Jesus.” And they’ll put down their differences and they’ll say, “Together now we have a common opponent and that is Christ who is coming to rule. Let’s fight against Him.”
And so the armies of the world gather in Jerusalem. The Bible says in another passage relating to the same event (Zechariah), “His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof.” It’s going to split in two toward the north and to the south so that there’s going to be a very great valley, and you’re going to have all these topographical changes that take place when Jesus Christ returns to this earth. And so He’s coming.
And you’ll notice that the armies of the earth are warring against Jesus. Verse 20: “And the beast was captured.” Who’s the beast? He’s Antichrist, as we learned earlier in the book. He was captured and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. Remember the false prophet played the part of the Holy Spirit in the unholy trinity that Satan sets up during the Tribulation period. You have the dragon that plays the role of God the Father; you have the beast that is opposite Jesus – Antichrist; and you have the false prophet who draws no attention to himself but does miracles that enhance the beast. So Satan tries to set up his rival worship and say, “I’ve got my trinity too.” Well, two members of his trinity are in deep trouble at this point – deep trouble.
“And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image.” Tremendous delusion at the end of time! And could I throw this in at no extra cost? There’s a lot of delusion today – a tremendous amount of delusion as everybody makes up their own theology and everybody believes what he wants to believe and thinks that one belief is as good as another. Tremendous delusion! And you’ll notice then that the two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Is anyone in hell today? Nobody’s in hell today. Hell is empty. The first two occupants are these people, and they are thrown alive into a lake of fire.
Now let’s get the sequence here. Satan still is bound for a thousand years. This is in chapter 20, and there are reasons for that, that we can’t go into because God wants to show that human beings are going to be evil, even during the period of the Millennial Kingdom, and so forth, and eventually though Satan joins them. And I’m in verse 10 now of chapter 20. “And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Literally the Greek text says, “into the ages of the ages.”
So there’s no question as to who wins the battle. To try to take down Jesus and the armies of the earth to fight against Him will be something like taking a peashooter and shooting at an aircraft carrier and saying, “Well, maybe if I shoot it really hard, the aircraft carrier is going to go under.” No, no, no, save your ammunition. Jesus wins this battle, and then hell is populated by a whole host of others – millions, millions! And that’s in verse 11 and following where the dead – the small and great – stand before God. God resurrects people who lived before the time of Jesus and since the time of Jesus, and they are going to receive their doom. And there are those who did not come under the protection of God’s righteousness. They did not respond to God’s revelation, and so we can see these hordes of humanity in our own minds. Every religion in the world will be represented. There will be Buddhists there. There will be Hindus there. There will be followers of Islam. There are going to be Catholics there, and Protestants there, and a whole host of people that you and I may think are redeemed, and they’re going to be there because the thing that they are going to have in common is that even if they were good people, and some of them were good people, they weren’t good enough for God who is holy and demands perfection. And because they never received His forgiveness, His pardon, and the righteousness that Jesus can give them, they are doomed. The Bible says that they, too, are thrown into the Lake of Fire.
There are two books that are mentioned here. There’s the book that contains all of their deeds, because you see this is going to be so meticulously just, that God is going to judge on the basis of what they did with what they knew. And so, you know, oftentimes, especially in university campuses you have people saying, “Well, what about all those who haven’t heard about Jesus, or those who belong to another religion?” Listen, some dear folks who don’t know very much, for them, their punishment is going to be like heaven in comparison to some people who are listening to this message who have light but who turn against it. It is going to be so meticulous that throughout all of eternity we are going to sing, “Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.”
You say, “Wow! Are you saying that the passage we read and the way in which this ends up, that all of this is under the leadership, the authority and the direct intervention of Jesus, the baby in the manger, whom we think is so cuddly that He could never do anybody any harm?” The answer is yes.
I hope I’m being clear today, but the less people know about Jesus, the more they love Him. Christmas baby that’s not going to hurt anybody! Lovely story about a mother and Joseph, and there they are and there’s the manger and there’s the shepherds! I mean, what harm is there to that story? And when they find out that we’re talking about the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who not only is a Savior but also is a judge, and who is going to come and bring righteousness to the world with a great battle with bodies strewn all over the place, they say, “Is this Jesus?” And the answer is, “Yes, this is Jesus. This is Jesus!”
Now I have some good news after all of that difficult news, and that is to tell you that this Jesus today, because these events haven’t happened yet, is still a Savior. He said, “I have the keys of hell and of death.” He has the key to Paradise. He could be there on the cross, writhing in agony and the thief could look at Him and simply say to Him, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And imagine Jesus had the authority to say, “Today, you’ll be with Me in Paradise.” Wow! Jesus said, “I’m swinging that door open for you.”
And then there were religious leaders in His day to whom He made very, very clear that many shall say to Him on that day, “Lord, haven’t we prophesied, and done miracles?” And He says, “I’ll say to them in that day, ‘I never knew you. You are workers of iniquity,’” and for them He closes the door.
He is the one who has ultimate, total authority over eternity, and you and I must – must – meet Him either because He swings open the Door of Paradise, or else He closes the door and opens the door that eventually leads
(Shall I say it?) to the Lake of Fire. Wow!
So I guess I’m ending this message now. But I do need to ask you, “Have you trusted Him as your Savior? Have you called out to Him and said, “Jesus, be my Savior; I desire to be with You someday in Paradise?” Have you opened your life to Him and responded to Him, or have you kind of neglected Him, saying, “Well, you know, there are other options out there.” Yes, there are, but they don’t work.
Our Father, we have preached this message with fear and trembling, knowing that eternity awaits, and with eternity comes the final wrap-up of history. And we think of the fact that those who have trusted Christ as Savior are going to be a part of these events with Jesus, but a whole host of others will be opposing Him. Grant, oh God, that we shall have both the strength and the courage to say, “Jesus, be my Savior.”
So if you’ve never trusted Christ as Savior, and you are here today in this sanctuary, or you’re listening on the Internet or by radio, why don’t you right now say, “Jesus, be my Savior.” Tell Him that you are trusting Him to open the door of Paradise for you. He’s the only one who can do it. No other keys are floating around.
Oh Father, save those who know they need to be saved but never have been. Bring them, God, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.