Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 9 2013 - Revelation 1:1-20 – Do not be afraid

The Book of Revelation was written against the background of a church facing persecution. John, the recipient of the revelation and author of the book, had been exiled to the island of Patmos for his preaching of Christ. Separated from the churches he loved and to which he had ministered, he must have wondered whether they would survive the persecutions they were now facing. No doubt such anxieties were turned to prayer as John was "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day" (Revelation 1:10).

Jesus Christ responds to John's anxiety by granting him a wonderful vision of himself in all his risen glory. He is "the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth" (1:5). The powers of this world may have put Jesus to death, but he has the last word; he is risen from the dead and is Lord over all creation and ruler over all human history. As if that were not enough, John learns that Jesus walks among the churches and holds their future in his right hand. John may be separated from the churches he loves but they can never be torn from the presence and power of Christ.

This awesome vision of Christ terrifies John; "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead" (1:17). But Christ had not appeared to strike John down but to raise him up, for we read, "Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades'" (17-18).

The message given to John is the message he now writes to the churches; "Do not be afraid. The risen Christ is with you and you remain in his hands. You may face persecution, even death, but Jesus has conquered death and will give eternal life to all who trust in him. Do not be afraid."

We may not be facing persecution, but we also need a fresh vision of Jesus to encourage us and to empower us for the mission he has entrusted to us. He "has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father" (1:5-6).

To remind us that the risen Christ is with us, I close with the lovely hymn of Timothy Dudley-Smith, based on this passage:

He walks among the golden lamps
on feet like burnished bronze:
his hair as snows of winter white,
his eyes with fire aflame, and bright
his glorious robe of seamless light
surpassing Solomon's.

And in his hand the seven stars,
and from his mouth a sword:
his voice the thunder of the seas;
all creatures bow to his decrees
who holds the everlasting keys
and reigns as sovereign Lord.

More radiant that the sun at noon,
who was, and is to be:
who was, from everlasting days;
who lives, the Lord of all our ways –
to him be majesty and praise
for all eternity.

Lord Jesus, help us, with the eye of faith, to see you in all your risen power and glory and to know that you are faithful to your promise to be with us to the very end of the age. Take away all our fears. Raise us up and empower us for the mission you have given us of making you known, until that day when you will come in power and glory, and every eye will see you and every creature worship at your feet.

Peter Misselbrook