“The Announcement of Glory” (Revelation 1:17-20)

“The Announcement of Glory” (Revelation 1:17-20)

The Announcement of Glory

The Announcement of Glory

Brad Mills / General


Jesus has commissioned John to write his vision down into a book and send it to seven churches located in Asia Minor. He is writing from the island of Patmos, where he was likely banished for disrupting emperor worship.

On the Lord’s Day, probably reflecting upon the saints he pastored some fifty miles away in Ephesus, he was “in the Spirit”. John received this vision of the Son of Man in his majestic glory. Aspects of the image reflect Christ’s role as our Prophet, Priest, and King. His authority, purity, and wisdom are on display as he stood in the midst of the churches.

The view was stunning and magnificent and it left John literally floored. He fell down at the feet of Jesus as though dead. But as Friedrich Nietzsche would say (and Kelly Clarkson would plagiarize), “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” Oftentimes, that is simply not true. But in the case of our text this morning, it proves to be an accurate summary.

What John saw struck him with fear, but what he felt and heard brought reassuring comfort.

Read Rev 1:9-20.

I. The Reassurance of Christ’s  Humanity  (17b)

Notice the first thing Jesus does after John has fallen at his feet. He doesn’t tell him to get up. He doesn’t tell him to stop worshipping him. He places his hand upon him and says “Fear not”.

Jesus was full of compassion. Throughout his three-year ministry he healed the unclean by touching them. He could have healed everyone from a distance, but more often than not he touched them. Why did he pick up little children and bless them?

The fact that Jesus, in his humanity, can touch makes his compassion all the more powerful.

Dr. Dacher Keltner points out just how important touch is:

A pat on the back, a caress of the arm—these are everyday, incidental gestures that we usually take for granted, thanks to our amazingly dexterous hands. But after years spent immersed in the science of touch, I can tell you that they are far more profound than we usually realize: They are our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion.

Keltner talks about a study he conducted about ten years ago.

Here’s what we did: We built a barrier in our lab that separated two strangers from each other. One person stuck his or her arm through the barrier and waited. The other person was given a list of emotions, and he or she had to try to convey each emotion through a one-second touch to the stranger’s forearm. The person whose arm was being touched had to guess the emotion.

The research proved that we are very good at communicating purely through touch. Touch is more critical to expressing love, gratitude, and compassion than facial and vocal communication. Touch can build trust and a sense of safety, reducing stress. Touch impacts our ability to cooperate with others.

Touch can even increase our generosity. Speaking of which, while your passing the offering bag, would you mind placing your hand on the person’s shoulder and thanking them for their generous gift!

“Fear not,” confirms that John was terrified when he fell down at Jesus’ feet. It is a proper response when standing in the presence of holiness. But the communication that followed was meant to strengthen his faith. Even though it was the appearance of Jesus that filled John with fear, it was the presence of Jesus and the touch of his hand upon him that relieved his fear and reassured his faith.

Although we don’t experience the physical touch of Jesus today, he has sent to us his Holy Spirit as a guarantee that he is with us and that we will enjoy his physical presence for all eternity. By his Spirit, Jesus has shown compassion and love to all who come to him by faith.

› The reassurance of Christ’s humanity leads to…

II. The Confidence of Christ’s  Victory  (18)

The glory that John saw was a glory that the second person of the Trinity had before creation. In his high priestly prayer Jesus prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (Jn 17:5). It was a glory three of the disciples had glimpsed at his transfiguration (Lk. 9:28-36), and all but Judas would see that glory in his resurrection and ascension.

Jesus refers to himself as “the first and the last” which is identical to God’s revelation of himself to Isaiah on several occasions (Isa 41:4; 44:6; 48:12). If Christ is “the first and the last” then he is also everything in between. He’s the beginning, middle, and end. He knows all past, present, and future events perfectly.

There is nothing about you that Jesus does not already know. You cannot hide from his presence. But there is also a tremendous comfort for the believer who longs to be fully known by God. He knows you and is willing to receive you regardless of your past. You can be fully forgiven by the One who paid for every past, present, and future sin that you have committed and will commit.

Jesus gave up the glories of heaven, and was born in a manger. He didn’t cling to his authority and title, but lowered himself to the status of a household servant and washed his disciples’ feet. He humbled himself to the point of death (Php 2:8).

But his death was followed by his resurrection three days later. He is “alive forevermore” seated at “the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3). From there Christ remains the head of the church and preeminent in everything (Col 1:18).

He has “the keys of Death and Hades.” In his resurrection Jesus conquered death. As such he has been given all authority and power to judge the nations (Acts 17:31). That judgment will take place upon Christ’s return, when he sits upon his glorious throne (Mt 25:31).

Jesus not only has the authority over life and death in this world, but he has authority over our eternal destinies. At Christ’s return some will enter everlasting judgment while others will enter into his glory (2 Th 1:7-10).

John was encouraged by these words of reassuring comfort. But do they comfort you? Are you encouraged by the sovereignty of our Lord and the redemption he’s accomplished? Does Christ’s defeat of sin on the cross bring you freedom? Does his defeat of death in his resurrection bring you hope? These truths certainly should comfort everyone who has been united to Christ in his victory.

› Not only will you be forgiven, but you will also be used by him.

III. The Significance of Christ’s  Commission  (19)

Many scholars have suggested that this verse provides a threefold outline to the entire book. His initial vision is “the things that you have seen”, followed by his letters to the seven churches describing “those that are”, and then chapters 4-22 would refer to “those that are to take place after this.”

But if you were convinced by the idea of the cyclical format of Revelation, this outline is not helpful. John is commissioned to write everything that he has seen, and that will include things that he had already seen, things that were currently taking place and things that will take place in the future. This is simply a reiteration of his commission to write his vision down. This isn’t a subtle clue about how to read Revelation chronologically. If that were the case, you bump into a problem in chapters 4-5 which clearly deal with events that pertain to the past, present, and future. This was a common formula of speech, even outside of Scripture, to refer to all of history.

Jesus is reiterating his commission for John to write down what he sees in the vision. Having been banished to Patmos, John was likely struggling with a sense of uselessness. He was unable to shepherd the flock God had entrusted to him. The tension he felt would have been stretched to its limits. But Jesus brings to him a task that would have an even greater impact. The book of Revelation would not only shepherd believers in Ephesus, but the universal church until Christ comes again.

It’s interesting to think about how God has made us. What generally restores a person who is struggling with despair is the exact opposite of what they think they need at that moment. Many of us want to isolate ourselves from those who have offended us. We think space and distance will help us to heal, but it is in fact the opposite. Distance from perceived threats only widens the gap between them.

However, distance can make the heart grow fonder when tremendous effort is made toward filling the emotional need. Physical distance can enhance the intimacy between partners when various forms of communication remains strong.

In John’s case, his commission would have overcome any distance he felt from believers by providing him with a deep spiritual connection to Christ and his bride. Imagine the comfort he would have felt knowing that what he was seeing would be a source of encouragement and strength for so many future believers around the world.

As we are gathered this morning to study this very same revelation, we are the recipients of his faithful work. And we too, have been promised a blessing for hearing and keeping the words of this prophecy (Rev 1:3). That is the commission we have been given. We have been called to hear and obey God’s word. As we benefit from John’s obedience, let us bless others by our own obedience to this word. Let us read it and keep it with great interest even now!

› For that reason, it’s important for us to understand…

IV. The Relevance of Christ’s  Interpretation  (20)

Jesus immediately clarifies the meaning of two of the symbols. The lampstands represent the seven churches and the stars represent their angels.

We’ve seen the connection between the seven lampstands and the candlestick that was in the Tabernacle. In the Tabernacle there was a single lampstand with seven lamps. However, in Revelation, the lampstands are all separate. I like what Michael Wilcock suggests,

The Message of Revelation 1. Scene 1 Opens: The Church Centred on Christ (1:9–20)

Perhaps we are meant to see in them the church as she appears in the world, congregations located here and there, which can be isolated and indeed destroyed (2:5). But on the heavenly level, the church is united and indestructible, for she is centred on Christ.

This latter symbol of stars/angels may apply to the pastor or local elder shepherding the congregation. But it is unclear why Jesus would call them “angels”. Although the word permits reference to a human messenger, that is not its use in Revelation. These angels serve as representatives of the church assigned by Christ, who holds them in his hand (16). So their tasked with doing his will.

Admittedly, we know very little about these angels with unique roles. But we might see them as supporting the Church in their tribulation. Once again, it is comforting to know that members of Christ’s Church have been given the promise of heavenly protection.

Jesus had experienced the ultimate form of tribulation in his separation from the Father. His humiliation in life and death are unparalleled in human history. But John also understood tribulation and his readers would certainly know tribulation soon. What built them up to persevere was their unity in the sufferings of Christ. Because those who suffer with him will also rejoice with him!

1 Peter 4:12–13 ESV

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Wilcock wraps up his commentary on this section by pointing back to what John said in v9 regarding his partnership with believers in “the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus.” Wilcock, regarding every believer, says:

The Message of Revelation 1. Scene 1 Opens: The Church Centred on Christ (1:9–20)

He is able to face the tribulation, because of what he knows of the kingdom: to confront the storm, because his foundations are deep in the rock. ‘The tribulation and the kingdom’ produce ‘the patient endurance’. That is the object of the book of Revelation.


What John saw struck him with fear, but what he felt and heard brought reassuring comfort.

For those who know Christ as John knew him, this vision and announcement will provide similar reassurance and comfort.

Do you know this Jesus? Have you felt his hand of compassion and heard his words of forgiveness? Have you been assured of your access before his holy presence? Is that the eternity that fills you with hope? Do not delay your expression of faith and repentance! Fall on your face before him this morning in recognition of your sin, and then declare your faith in him as your Savior and King!