When You Feel You're at the End
When You Feel You're at the End
There are two places Anna and I have a collection of pictures. We've intentionally put them in a rather inconspicuous location. It could seem disgustingly ostentatious for anyone to have splashed in their face pictures of Jack and Anna with people. It could seem like , and I don't do it.
Five letters are framed, and those are from three Presidents and two others most people on this planet would know of. Those personal letters are real treasures.
The book of Revelation is a personal letter from Jesus to his church. What could be more treasured than a letter from Jesus?
This week Anna and I prayed with a young woman whose husband is about to trash his family for no valid reason other than a horrific entrapmentemotionally and mentallyon the Internet. It is characteristic of the insanity of our time.
This week a couple in our church that are, devoted to the Lord, got the message one member of their family murdered another member of their family. There was no logical explanation. There never is for murder. It exploded out of nowhere and burst upon the family.
I received a contact from a man who launched upon a project with all of his heart, and the thing collapsed in front of him. When it was closely examined it was discovered it was a sorry oversight on his part. You feel the pain.
A couple facing a murder in their family, the guy with the collapse of a great vision, a young woman whose husband is about to ruin their home. Things happenwe face them all the timewhen you feel you're at the end.
This letter opens the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to his servants. I'm a servant to Jesus. It's a letter to me. He sent it by his angels through his servant. John becomes the mailman. He's also the amanuenses, or the stenographer taking the letter. The way the Lord approached him where he was is such a picture of circumstances like ours that we can identify with him. It shows much of the character and person of Jesus but is a personal letter. I want to fix that in our minds because it's going to be a great challenge for us to capture the prophetic significance of the book and gain the personal implications for our lives. The book of Revelation often becomes an object of sensation or speculation. Jesus was writing to his people not to tell them, Here's a whole bunch of stuff you can guess about until I come again. It will be fun to try and figure out which chart is right. More likely he said, I want to tell you things that will help make your life work in the middle of a world that has every kind of challenge you can imagine, and I want you to see the victory. I want you to know I'm there when you feel you're at the end, whether it's the end of time or the end of your rope.
This passage gives us the reason Jesus reveals himself. It's not a revelation of information; it's a revelation of Jesus. It's not a revelation of prophecy; it's a revelation of Jesus. "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants." It is of him and it is from him. The traits of his person are manifest in a marvelous vision John records at the beginning because it's Jesus we're looking at. As we study the whole book of Revelation it's easy to become disjointed in our perspective. You mention Revelation and you're less likely to have anybody say to you "What did you capture of new things about Jesus in that book?" than you are for somebody to say, "What do you think 666 really is? And who are the two witnesses? And when's the rapture going to happen?"
The reason Jesus reveals himself is to help us keep things in perspective. "The revelation that was given that he might show things which will shortly take place," end of verse three, "for the time is near."
We read those words and say, Well, I believe Jesus is coming soon, but he wrote those words nineteen hundred and twenty years ago, John thought he was coming. He didn't come then. Paul thought he was coming; didn't come then. People in the last generation thought he was coming. I think he's coming. In fact, I really feel he is coming in my life, but who knows. "Things that must shortly come to pass."
To keep things in perspective the Lord wants us to gain a heaven perspective. Life lived in the continuum will stampede and distress you when pressure comes.
Whatever you're going through is brief in comparison to what your life is ultimately about. Your life is not about your present financial or domestic stress. I'm not suggesting to be passive about life's realities. I'm not suggesting the Lord is indifferent toward problems. He's saying: I want you to see me and to see that whatever you're going through is not what your life is ultimately about. He wants us keep things in perspective.
He comes to say: I'm committed to seeing you through it all. "Blessed are those who read this." "You want a blessing? Keep reading this often." Stay in this book, and it will keep your eyes above it all. He says: I have signed it myself. This signature of Jesus on the book is of no small significance. He not only is saying: This is personal to you, but I'm endorsing everything I've said here.
He says: I want you to rest your life on this, and I am the life giver. I will support you. I am the resurrected one, the first and the last. Death can't keep me down, and when you come to the end it can't keep you down either. I'm going to see you through it all. I made you kings and priests unto God. There's a promise of dominion as long as we walk in worship. Kings who war with victory; priests who through their worship, draw the authority to function as kings.
The content of the message proceeds from here. In verses 920, John describes an encounter that gives us the message Jesus reveals. It's saying six things.
We can never be in a place where Christ's love won't find us
The first we derive from the words, "I was in an island that was called Patmos." He was under persecution by the Roman government.
There is something particularly significant about those words, "The island called Patmos." Patmos was not a place. I was on a cruise with a group of believers and we went to Patmos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It's a dot on the face of this planet. It was a Roman penal colony. It's less than four miles square. He said: It's in a place calledin an island called.
You only say that when people haven't heard of it. It's become famous to us. Cruise ships go there because it's a nice port, it's an interesting stop in the Aegean. People know of Patmos today; they didn't then. That's the terminology he used. If you're visiting friends back in Ohio and you meet folks at dinner who came to your friend's house and they say, "Where do you live? " you don't say, "I live in a place called Los Angeles." You say, I live in Los Angeles," because it's known.
Here is Jesus visiting John, and John is not giving interesting information. This message is revealing the Lord Jesus saying: You can never be in so forsaken a place my love won't seek and find you. That's the heart of this message.
You may feel you're in a place called confusion or despair or that you're isolated on an island called rejection, but John is reporting the revelation of Jesus Christ, Jesus came to me when I was on an island off in the middle of nowhere.
We can never be bound so that the Spirit can't lift our soul with hope
Second thing, verse 10, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day and I heard behind me a loud voice with a trumpet."
John's location was not only in a penal colony, but under the scepter of the world's imperial power of that time, Rome. There's no escape. There's no circumstance that can alter his. He is under control, under the heel of Roman imperium This is what he says: I was there at the end of the world and at the end of anything I could do with no way out, but on this day I transcended that. I went into the Spirit on the Lord's day. I may have been on Patmos, but I want to tell you about a day I got in the Spirit.
Whenever you feel you're at the end, you can identify your surroundings and say these are the limits, or you can transcend those limits by saying, "Father God, I come to begin to worship you and get in the Spirit." That will begin to transcend any circumstance you're in. It's not a matter of happy talk. It's not a matter of good feelings. It's to move into the realm of the Spirit through worship.
There's two ways to interpret that phrase, and John's probably referring to both. "On the Lord's day" is the first day of the week, called because Jesus sanctified the first day of the week by reason of his resurrection. It was on a Sunday and he says, "I was in the Spirit."
"On the Lord's day" also reflects the day of God's judgment and visitation, the day that he comes to crush his enemies and to release his own. John's going to capture a vision of that eventual entry of God's delivering power over this whole planet and of his people. So, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day."
John is saying what Jesus wants us to see in this. You can never be bound that my Spirit can't lift your soul with hope. "Got a problem? Get in the Spirit."
We can never lose when Jesus writes the end of our story
Thirdly, John says, "I heard a voice like a trumpet saying, 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. What you see, write in a book.'" He tells him to direct the book to the congregations that had been John's scope of oversight. Alpha and omega are the A and the Z of the Greek alphabet. Jesus says: I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. The One who is, who was and who is to come. The Message says, "The one who was, who is and is about to arrive." The glorious Lord says, "I am the One who is" "Write it in a book." He's making a statement: Your history can't be written until I, Jesus, have the last word. He's saying: I am here as the one who is the beginning. I'm the author and the finisher of your faith. I am the Creator; the consummator of all things. Between the creation and the consummation I am the Redeemer of whatever you're going through. I am the A to Z, the first to last, and wherever you are in the middle of that seems like the end, it's not the end of the story yet. I'm going to write the end of your story. I'm going to write it my way no matter what the circumstance is, and you're not the loser.
John isn't saying: I had a personal visit from Jesus and I'm here at this local Christian banquet to tell you how I the apostle heard from God. To the contrary, in verse nine he says, I'm John your brother and your companion in tribulation.
We go through tough stuff together, and I'm another member of the family, and I want to tell you how Jesus treats the members of the family. The only logic for him reporting this is to let us know the way Jesus reveals himself and what it's intended to mean to us.
We can never fear because Jesus is closer and more powerful than we think
Read verses 1216.
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes like a flame of fire; his feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters. He had in his right hand seven stars; out of his mouth went a sharp sword; and his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead, but he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last."
As John writes these words and describes this encounter with Jesus, the last time he saw Jesus personally was on the Mount of Olives, in the year a.d. 30. Sixty years have gone by. It was Jesus who, though resurrected, is still there in the aftermath of Calvary. Though the wounds have healed as he blesses them there on the mountain, there are still the agony points that are manifest, wounds he will carry throughout eternity, the ordinariness of his garb, the humanness of his presence. In that glorified humanity there is still a commonality that is of this earth. That's the last time he saw Jesus.
Suddenly he said, "I heard a voice that sounded like a blast from a trumpet and I turned around" and he describes what he saw, and words seem to fail him. He labors to come up with a descriptioneyes like fire. He says: Oh my god, if you could have seen the way his hair was. And he's describing the splendor of the majesty of the reigning Christ, who at the right hand of the throne of all power is above the Lord of all. "I am he that was dead and now alive, and am alive forevermore." The one who says: I have the keys of death and of hell. He said: I fell down. I was overcome with a sense of the majesty of the Savior.
There's a great significance in this encounter because no one knew Jesus any better than John. He was the closest friend to the Savior during his earthly ministry. This most familiar person turns to see him now and is overwhelmed. I hear in this a message of Jesus to those of us that know him well, and when we face times that we think we're at the end, the Lord says: You may think you know me well, but you haven't seen anything yet. Hallelujah.
There is a way in which Jesus calls you and me in the midst of our circumstance when you feel you're at the end to lift up your head a little higher because: I'm more powerful than you think and closer than you think.
We can never face anything God's power cannot take us through
There are two other statements when it says, "His feet were as fine brass," "refined in a furnace of fire". Those feet once wounded have become feet of dominion. The figure of brass in the Scripture denotes strength, as the tempering effect of the fire causes the metal to be prepared for a shield or guards of other parts of the body for warfare. Brazen gates describe the defense of a city. In that time nothing would depict strength more than the concept of brass that has been fired in the furnace. I couldn't help but wonder about that last vision of Jesus, as he went up, that the last thing noticeable as he disappeared were the feet that had been pierced. Now he sees these feet and there is a brazen quality. They're not brass feet; they're feet that appear as brass.
There is a glory and an authority that the Savior who sits on the throneall principalities and powers under his feethas called us to completeness in him, to a place seated and secured in Christ. He says: As you find your security in me, then those feet begin to manifest through you. Whatever the attacks of the adversary, you'll crush the serpents and the scorpions under your feet.
Walk in the trail of the One who has gone through the fire. The message is that going through the fire, as he did, with him you discover what he found going through it.
I was speaking with a young pastor who was facing tremendous difficulty because he felt forsaken. I was calling him to rest his case with the Lord. He wasn't angry at God. He felt he couldn't trust. I reminded him that almost simultaneously with Jesus saying, "My God why have you forsaken me?" only a few words later he says, "Into your hands I commend my spirit." In this moment of his greatest sense of aloneness comes the moment of his greatest abandonment of trust and rest in the Father.
When you go through the fires no matter what it is that would cause you to say, "I'm at the end and God's not even around in this situation anymore," the Lord says: If you'll abandon yourself and trust me, then you will go through that fire and you will find a pathway of dominion like my Son's. There is nothing you face that is unanticipated by my plan or unsurpassed by my power.
That's what the Savior went through at the cross. It was the Father's plan and the Father's power that brought him through, and he says: That's how my feet got this way. I want you to walk with me and learn the same thingthere is never a plan to disregard or neglect you. No matter how alone or confused you seem in the midst of life, my plan transcends it and my power will take you through it.
We can never be lost because Jesus holds us in his right hand
We come to the final point. The right hand of the Savior is mentioned. In his right hand were stars and those stars, were people. Not stars in terms of famous personalities. It's stars in the sense of the radiance that is invested in people of the kingdom of God, a radiance that is intended to light the darkness of the world. Philippians 2 says: We shine as lights in the world, in the midst of a crooked and perverse circumstance. One former President spoke of a thousand points of light, the Lord has millions of them.
What John discovers when he sees that hand with the stars is that same hand reaches over to him. Just when Jesus seems to be out of reach to us, he says: I have you firmly in hand. As we sing, "He's got the whole world in his hands," probably the favorite verse to most of us is, "He's got the baby in his hands." And, "He's got you and me, brother, in his hands. He's got you and me, sister, in his hands."
This book of prophecy we call the Revelation of Jesus Christ is intended to come to people who are not talking about the ultimate end. Whether it's the end of time or the end of your rope, the Savior says I'm here. I'm here no matter how remote you seem to yourself, out of touch. No matter what you think I may have been like in times past, you ain't seen nothing yet. I'm here in the middle of your circumstance to put my hand on you, to show my glorious power, to walk you through the fire. I'm here. I've come to show you that compared to what your life is ultimately about this is only a brief time. I'm going to take you through it. In the middle of our time, space, problems, Jesus is here.
Jack Hayford is chancellor of The King's College and Seminary, Van Nuys, California, and founding pastor of The Church on the Way. His most recent book is The Spirit Formed Church (Regal, 2004).
(c) Jack Hayford
Preaching Today Tape #246
A resource of Christianity Today International
Jack Hayford is chancellor of The King's College and Seminary, Van Nuys, California, founding pastor of The Church on the Way, and former president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. He is author of Rebuilding the Real You (Charisma House).