Lord, I praise You as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the firstborn of the dead and the Faithful Witness. I praise You, too, for your unending care for Your church. Help me to love Your church in the same way You do; help me empower Your church throughout the nations of the world to proclaim Your gospel! In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Revelation 1
The book of Revelation begins with an astonishing vision of Jesus. In 1:10–11, John tells us he first heard a voice and then turned to see a man of enormous power and authority. He is clothed in a long robe and a golden sash—both symbols of kingly authority—and His hair, feet, and eyes shone with a bright light. John would have recognized immediately that he was seeing the Ancient of Days as described in Daniel 7:22. Overwhelmed by the sight, he falls on his face, and it’s then that the man reveals Himself. He is the one who died and rose again, the conqueror of death. He is Jesus.
9 As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow;the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire and its wheels were all ablaze.10 A river of fire was flowing,coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated,and the books were opened.
What is perhaps most astonishing about the vision, however, is where the resurrected King Jesus is standing. John tell us in 1:12–13 that He is standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands, which according to 1:20 are seven churches. Now, it’s important to remember that numbers are very significant in Revelation; in particular, the number 7 seems to refer to completeness. So the fact that John saw seven lampstands means that it’s not just seven particular churches that are being referenced, but rather all churches.
But why are the churches symbolized by lampstands? Because God always intended His people to be a light for the world, a witness and testimony to Him. So the churches are represented here by their main mission in the world—to bear witness to King Jesus and His saving gospel!
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last,18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’
- The important thing to see here is the amazing fact that when Jesus reveals Himself to us in the book of Revelation, His main focus and concern are local churches. Think about that! The Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the ruler of the universe, walks among His churches and holds them in His hand. And it’s not just the church in the abstract or the church universal that’s the focus of His care. The lampstands—as well as the stars in His hand—represent seven particular local churches. True, they also represent all Christian churches throughout history, but it’s important to remember they also represent particular churches of the day—filled with people who weren’t so different from us. And all the while, the crowned and enthroned Jesus walks among them and holds them in His hand.
- Have you ever considered that? Have you thought about how deeply and particularly Jesus the King cares about your local church and what’s happening there? Your church is not on its own; you’re not flying under the radar. Jesus is intimately familiar with you and the other Christians who make up your church. And why? Because He created your church, constituted it, and made it an embassy of His kingdom in this rebellious world.
- What does Jesus’ care for His churches mean to you? Does it mean you need to commit to a local church? Does it mean you need to pray for the Lord to give you a heart for His church? Does it mean you should pause for a moment and thank Jesus for giving you a faithful church?
THE LOCAL CHURCH
Watch how much Jesus loves the church and so should you (4:35).
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- Do a brief study of Matthew 16:13–20, 18:15–20, and 28:16–20. You might think of these three passages respectively as showing the creation, the chartering, and the commissioning of the church. Who builds the church? What are “the keys of the kingdom”? What mission does King Jesus give to His church until He returns? Here are 25 simple ways to live on mission in your neighborhood.
- Take a few minutes and list some of the things about your own local church for which you are grateful. Spend some time in prayer thanking Jesus for His goodness to your church, even if maybe there are even more things about your church you wish He’d fix!