As I explained last Sunday, I am determined, at least whilst spending the rest of the week blogging about the atonement, to spend Sundays on a journey exploring the implications of the resurrection of Jesus.
I am writing this post one week before you will read it. These days I like to try and get ahead of myself in my blogging as much as possible. This morning I awoke earlier than usual. The house was quiet, and I felt God drawing me to meet Him in His Word in a similar way to that John Piper described so eloquently. I slipped downstairs whilst the rest of the family slept. I opened my Bible and began reading Revelation 1-3. As I was reading, I realised it had been some time since I had read this last book of the Bible. I got as far as verse 3 before I stopped.
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)
I hadn’t noticed that line “read aloud” before — it isn’t translated like that in the NIV. I am not a Greek expert, so I am not sure exactly why the ESV scholars translated it in that way. But, I thought to myself, why not obey that injunction? I went back and proceeded to read the whole of those first three chapters aloud to myself. There is definitely a power in listening to the Word read — even if the one reading it is yourself.
I was confronted again with just how Trinitarian the first chapter of Revelation is, but what struck me even more than that was the following words:
“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” (Revelation 1:4-7)
We see here once again, as so frequently in the Scriptures, the death of Jesus linked with His resurrection. It struck me that “even those who pierced him” will see Jesus. Then it hit me — how will they see Jesus? How do we see Jesus now? If I say the name Jesus, what image fills my mind? If you are like me, it is probably an image of the cross. Now it is not wrong for us to gaze upon the cross in our mind’s eye. But I would put it to you that it is not that image alone that will transform us. For we will not see Jesus again on a cross. Instead, we will see Him in all His glory.
I also turned this morning to the book of 2 Corinthians, which I am more and more convinced is critical for us to read and understand when considering these twin themes of the atonement and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. I cannot encourage you enough to read it through from beginning to end. Consider in particular these four verses carefully:
- “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- “. . . the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
- “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
- “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)
To me the conclusion of these verses is simple. We are supposed to gaze upon the glory of Jesus, the Risen Lord, and as we do so, we will be transformed into His image and live a resurrection empowered life.
When was the last time you spent time considering the risen Jesus — when was the last time you really gazed upon Him? I asked myself that same question and realized it was too long ago. With the words of 2 Corinthians in mind, I read aloud the best description of Jesus we have. Then it struck me. We do not have any other description of what Jesus looked like in the Bible. There is no description of Him as the teacher who walked in Galilee. There is not even a vivid description of the scene of the cross. Surely there is a message for us here. When we think of Jesus, we need to picture Him in the way He is described by John in this passage, and in the way He describes Himself:
“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 wool, as white as 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 his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
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, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
“. . . him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.”
“. . . the first and the last, who died and came to life.”
“. . . him who has the sharp two-edged sword.”
“. . . the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.”
“. . . him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.”
“. . . the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”
“. . . the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.”
Revelation 1:12-18; Revelation 2:1,8,12,18; Revelation 3:1,7,14
As I conclude this post, there is one other thought I would like to leave with you. As each message of the risen Jesus to the seven churches begins with a description of Himself, each ends with a description of what He will do for the faithful Christian who perseveres to the end. As I considered this Jesus and gazed upon Him, I also gained much encouragement from contemplating the plans He has for us to share in His resurrection. We already share in His resurrection, but there is coming a day when all the benefits of the resurrection will be ours to share. I would encourage you to read the whole of these three chapters aloud, and to underline the descriptions of Jesus you find there, and also of what He will do for us.