Dystopian futures and apocalyptic stories have always been popular stories to write and tell. It seems that there has been a resurgence in this genre over the last few years. Series of novels, television shows, and movie franchises have been built around various forms of the future. Within these story arcs, it normally goes horribly wrong for humanity and culture as a whole. Within the last few years, we’ve been inundated with stories of colonies fighting against one another (like The Hunger Games trilogy of novels) or zombie apocalypses (like The Walking Dead television show). It is common that our manmade apocalyptic stories reveal the evil within our hearts and how humanity works to destroy itself. So, we write our stories with a twinge of hope in a band of heroes who will save the day.
The biblical apocalypse we find in The Book of the Revelation is the answer to our fears and gives a perfect portrait of our hopes. Within so many stories that we write, tell, and televise, there is a hero. It is the character that by some stroke of luck or by the building of a coalition, evil is defeated so the oppressed can be liberated.
But when we look around the world today, it is hard to imagine that there is a group of heroes that can actually do what we watch in the movies or read in our novels.
All of our dreamt-up heroes in action movies and apocalyptic stories are mere shadows of the one, true hero: Jesus Christ. In the first chapter of Revelation1:9-20, we are given a mysterious vision of our hero and how He works to bring righteousness to His people.
The physical appearance of Jesus shows His glory and power. White hair and eyes of fire along with feet that appear to be like burnished bronze from a furnace all indicate the purity or holiness of Jesus. He is most definitely in His glorified state. Even His voice is distinct from that of a human as it is like the sound of cascading waters and having a sharp double-edged sword coming from His mouth. Similar to the description of the trumpet like volume (v. 10), John is describing Jesus’ presence as awe-inspiring to him and to us. His final descriptor is that of the radiance of Jesus’ very face shining like the sun at midday. In every way possible, from His hair to His feet, the presence of Jesus is extraordinary. It should propel us into worshiping Him. It is John’s reaction in such a manner that he falls in an almost dead-like state before the Son of God. The comforting reaction of Jesus can cause us to love Him even more. The King of glory touches the shoulder of the old apostle who is imprisoned for his faith.
The first words of Jesus directly to John are “Don’t be afraid!” It is a moment unlike any other for John. Throughout the Bible, the call to be strong and don’t fear begin early with God speaking to Moses in Exodus 14. Moses shares that message with Joshua. We see the message carry through the Old Testament for those who are faithful. Jesus Himself used a similar statement with the apostles already in Matthew 14 when He came to their boat by walking on the water. Now, the Lord tells John this message once again. He can say this because He can say “I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Nothing is outside of Jesus’ sovereignty.
The chapter ends with the directive to John to write down what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this. Some take the three phrases as a matrix for the dispensations of world history and church history. Others interpret it simply as John recording the divine revelation that is being given to him. In either case, Jesus directs for this apocalyptic vision to be recorded for the rest of the church so that the churches – both the specific seven to receive letters and the church universal – will benefit from God’s gracious self-revelation to us.
for more on Revelation 1-3, check out the expository notes and leader guide that I published with LifeWay Christian Resources in January Bible Study 2019: The Letters to the Seven Churches; Revelation 1-3 – Leader Guide & CD