A Priori – Revelation 1:12-20

Almost everyone who picks up the Bible to read, does so with an “a priori.” “A priori” is a Latin term that comes up from time to time in debates, university lecture halls and other places where someone is trying to impress other people with his superior knowledge. Of course, I’m not referring to myself, because I only desire to expand your vocabulary. “A priori” comes from two Latin words which mean: “from” and “former.” An “a priori” argument is one which comes out of an earlier thought or position. HOWEVER, that earlier idea may or may not be true; it may not be anything more than a theory. So many “a prioris” are not a firm foundation upon which to build the following point.

As I say, almost everyone who talks about Jesus Christ, does so with a few predetermined ideas. Some think that He was a good, moral, religious teacher, like Confucius or Moses. Some believe that He is merely a fictional, imaginary literary character. Some say that Christ is dead, while others believe that He is alive. Some intellectually believe that He is divine; and others earnestly worship Him, because He is God. And some love Him with all their hearts, longing to see Him and to hear His voice. There are probably a couple dozen different “a prioris” with which people approach Christ and listen to this morning’s message.

But if any of those “a prioris” are wrong, then how can we move that person to the truth? The only worthwhile tool that we have is the Word of God, empowered by its Author, the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, most people who are in error also have a negative “a priori” when it comes to the Bible. But, forge ahead we must, because there are no other weapons for us to use. So what do the Apostles say about Christ, and what did Jesus’ enemies confess about Him? What did the Lord Jesus have to say about Himself? To a secular mind, these opinions are not very important, but when they all agree with each other, corroborate, compound and expound each other, even the skeptic must give them some consideration, despite his “a priori.”

I don’t suppose there is not a month which goes by that I don’t hear someone refer to the 43 verses of Revelation 2 and 3. That being true, we should probably look at these chapters from time to time to refresh our memories. And I’d like to do that today, but with a special purpose in mind – the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t have time to examine all the promises, rebukes and interesting comments that are here. And there isn’t any need today to study the history, geography and ethnicity of each of these churches. Let’s just train our eye on what the Lord Jesus reveals about Himself in these two chapters. With the Spirit’s blessing we might be given the means to cut through someone’s mistaken “a priori” about our Saviour and perhaps eventually lead that person to salvation in Christ.

First we see that Christ is the Head of each of His churches.

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; Unto the angel of the church of Smyrna write:” Unto the angel of Pergamos, Thyatra, Sardis, Philadelpia and Ladoicea write. As chapter 1 closes the Apostle John saw the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ: And John said, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” Earlier in the chapter, John saw Christ walking in the midst of those seven churches. We don’t have time to prove it, but I believe that the angels and stars to which these verses refer were the pastors of those seven congregations. And they were held in the hand of Christ. The suggestion of the chapter is that Christ has complete authority over those churches and their pastors. He holds them in his hand, and He writes to them, telling what they need to hear. God the Father, “hath put all things under (Jesus’) feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Ephesians 5:23 – “Christ is the head of the church; and he is the saviour of the body.”

No one can read the New Testament without seeing Christ Jesus’ superiority over everything and everyone. When He tells a tree to die, it doesn’t just die, within a day it is withered into a tall stick. When He tells the wind to be still, there is a perfect calm; when He quells a disease, there is no disease. Christ is worshiped by His saints; hated by His enemies, claimed His superiority and proved His authority throughout the New Testament. And that is especially true of those who become part of one of His churches. Furthermore, it needs to be remembered that the Lord has a particular love for His churches. We men have been exhorted, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”

When Christ has a message for His church then that church had better listen. And that message can now be found in the pages of the Word of God. Each one of the churches mentioned here had problems of various sorts. The answer to their problems were be found in the pages of the Bible. Unfortunately, the first problem in dealing with problems is recognizing that there are problems. But if those churches are too blind, or dumb, or rebellious to recognize they are running contrary to their Lord, they stand in jeopardy of losing their divine commission. There are thousands of churches which for one reason or other, are no longer churches of Christ. Some have cast aside the Word of God and picked up the translations of men. Some are attempting to worship the Lord through the practices of the heathen. Some are so filled with sin that the Holy Spirit has long since quit simply grieving over them. Christ is the head of His churches, and that means wonderful blessings along with heavy responsibilities.

With that said, there are things the Lord says about Himself in the introduction to each of these letters.

For example He calls Himself “the first and the last” and the “alpha and omega.” The alpha was the first letter in the Greek alphabet, while omega was the last. This would be equivalent to saying that Christ is everything from “a to z.” As Creator, the Son of God was before anything else ever was – He is the Creator of ALL things. And He is also the final Judge of all things. If there is a final big bang and everything in existence is destroyed/vaporized, the Lord would go on. In other words, this statement is a declaration of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is also the One who “was dead, but is now alive.” As are most of the things to which I am referring, this is something which only belongs to Christ. And there was only one thing which would have come to John’s mind when he heard this: The One who was dead and is now alive is the Lord Jesus. All the things used to describe the Author of these 7 letters apply to the One we know as “Jesus Christ.”

Revelation 2:12 says that Christ possesses a sharp double-edged SWORD. To the man unfamiliar with the Bible, this is a probably a statement without meaning. But to the Christian, with his Biblical “a priori,” there is an immediate image of Christ and His Word. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Revelation 2:18 is also meaningless to the uninitiated, but to the Christian it speaks about the Lord’s omniscience, glory and beauty. “These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass.”

In Revelation 3:7 we have words which ELEVATE CHRIST OVER all His CREATION. “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” “He that is holy” suggests that out of all creation, Christ is the only one who is truly holy. And out of all the people of the earth there is only one who is absolutely true. Christ Jesus is the way, the life and even truth itself. Furthermore Jesus is the only one who has absolute authority and power to open and close anything.

To the church in Laodicea, our Saviour called Himself the “Amen.” That is one of those uniquely religious words “amen?” It is a very special. For example, it was originally Hebrew and was merely transliterated into Greek, then Latin and then English. In it’s original Hebrew, the word was related to “believe.” It essentially means: “believe it because it is true” or “I believe it because it is true.” Amen – so be it. And Christ Jesus is the great “amen.” He is the faithful and true witness. These are all things that the Lord Jesus says about Himself in His greeting to each of the 7 churches.

What else do we have here about Christ?

We are reminded of His ABSOLUTE OMNISCIENCE – His perfect knowledge of everything. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and….. and….. and….. Eighteen times in these forty-three verses the Lord refers to His perfect knowledge of those people. This isn’t knowledge gleaned from observation, because God doesn’t learn things, the way people do. This is intuitive knowledge of the divine variety; it is known because God is God and knows all things. Tat Christ possesses divine knowledge is abundantly declared throughout the New Testament. For example, He didn’t commit himself to a certain group of men, “because he knew all men. And needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man.” The Lord’s closest disciples quickly recognized this, and it helped to cement Jesus’ deity into their minds. “Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.” “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen.”

These chapters teach us that Christ has AUTHORITY TO JUDGE SIN. To the church in Ephesus the Lord declared that He had authority to declare a church not a church. History tells us that particular church existed for only about a hundred years before it was gone. In fact most of the churches mentioned here had their candlesticks removed in short order. There are churches here in the United States that are well over 200 years old, and they will quite likely be here until th Lord returns. They are Baptist churches still preaching and teaching the eternal truths of the Word of God. Over and over again in these verses we are told that the One who is Holy and True, the One who is the Judge of Heaven and earth is offended by sin, even the sins of the professing Christian. “I have somewhat against thee, because thou has left thy first love.” “I have a few things against thee, because thou hast here them that hold (false doctrine).” It is easy for some person to be offended at some other person. We all have our opinions, our preferences, our principles and our standards. But sometimes WE are offended when it should be THOSE people who are offended at us. The important thing to remember in the case of these verses, is that we are talking about the only Being who really matters. First of all, the Lord is perfectly perfect – absolutely holy – the standard of all truth. To offend the Lord is to be wrong – dead wrong. And also to be remembered is that He has authority to judge the transgressor and the wicked. He holds the keys of death and Hell, and death and Hell are the consequences for sin. But the sin of Revelation 2:4 is nothing more than a relaxed love. It wasn’t a misplaced love – it wasn’t loving something which shouldn’t be loved. Nor was it a hatred of something which God said ought to be loved. It was simply a relaxed love; it was an affection where there should have been a devotion. It was fondness for the Lord when there should have been a fervor and a passion. It was a dying love, which should have been growing. Lord, isn’t that being a little picky? A little persnickety? A little overboard? Absolutely not – there are no relaxed standards when the Lord is concerned.

Verse 16 says that the Lord will come upon the unrepentant with the sword of His mouth, punishing them for their transgressions and sins. And that punishment will ultimately be capital. “And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” Other scriptures tell us that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” He was ordained of God to be the judge of the quick and the dead. “God shall judge the very secrets of men by the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Some of the things which we are told in these chapters are high and awesome. Some of them should be frightening and terrifying. But, fortunately for us, there are others which give us hope and joy.

There are great blessings in the Lord Jesus Christ which are described here.

In addition to the dire and troublesome images, these verses suggest the Lord’s unbelievable PATIENCE. “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” To the troublesome woman in the Thyatrian church, the Lord tells us that He gave her space to repent. And to the church in Sardis, a warning is given and a promise was made that He would come at some point in the future as a thief in the night. Again and again the Bible tells us that the Lord “is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.”

But that doesn’t simply mean that the Lord will withhold his hand of judgment. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” In the Garden of Eden there once were two important trees. One was forbidden to the two occupants, and apparently the other was not. But when Adam ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, the other became off limits as a result. Adam and his wife were driven from the Paradise of God and kept away by a fiery sword. But in the Lord Jesus Christ the effects of the fall have been reversed. Access to this tree of life in this passage speaks of salvation and glorification – Paradise.

This promise is just about everything that Paul taught in I Corinthians 15:51-57. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But there is more in verse 10: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” The crown of life belongs to the Son of God, and He gives it whomsoever He chooses. “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Love not them which have nothing eternal or substantial to offer, but rather love Him who is King of Life

In verse 1seven the Lord speaks about manna – the God-given food which sustained Israel in the desert. Along with manna, He promises to give God’s overcomers a new name, written down on a white stone. “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” These are evidences and promises of the blessings of salvation – they are gifts of Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” The name that is referenced in verse 17 is reiterated in Revelation 3:5. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” The white robe is woven from the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. That repenting believer’s name is already entered into the Lamb’s Book of Life. And he will be presented to the Father by our Saviour/Mediator – the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this, but verse 21 carries the promise that the saint of God will sit with the Saviour upon His throne: Glorification.

The point that I’m trying to come to this morning is that the claims of Christ are too important to ignore. Not only is Jesus Christ high and lifted up, but He must be seen and adored in that position. He is the eternal God, the alpha and omega. He is the creator and judge of all things. But perhaps with more practical importance to us, He is the Saviour to all those who repent of their sin.

Jesus ignored – means eternal death – the Lake of Fire. Jesus adored – means eternal life and peace with God. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” Is the Christ of Revelation 2 and 3 the God whom you worship?