Visions of Jesus (Revelation 19:9-10)
Children's Lesson (click here)
I. Valid Visions?
Listen to this excerpt from the back cover of Tom Doyle's book entitled, “Dreams and Visions”, published by Thomas Nelson in 2012...
Pastor Tom Doyle has spent 11 years as a full-time missionary in the Middle East and Central Asia, spreading the word of Jesus Christ. Throughout his journey, he has encountered a staggering number of Muslims who were first introduced to Jesus through a vision or dream so powerful they eventually turned from their lifelong religion of Islam and embraced Christ as their Savior. Despite living in a culture where converting to Christianity can result in execution, these former Muslims have found the hope, peace, and inspiration that comes from knowing Christ.
Maybe you've heard about these visions of Jesus in the Muslim world. I can't necessarily speak to the validity of these visions, but as Doyle documents, the result of these alleged encounters is undeniable. But there are visions of Jesus that we can be sure about, and those visions are found in the book of Revelation. Turn to chapter 19 as we conclude our study of this strange but amazing book, AND, as we conclude our year-long study through the New Testament.
II. The Passage: “The Spirit of Prophecy” (19:9-10)
Listen to the account preserved by John in verses 9 and 10 of Revelation 19:
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”  Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Now, very quickly, let me just provide for you a simple, three-part breakdown of this short passage. It's important to remind you that this passage is the final part of a heavenly revelation that began in 17:1. And as 17:1 indicates this heavenly revelation is, not surprisingly, conveyed through a heavenly messenger. The Greek word for messenger is angelos. That's where the English word “angel” comes from in verse 1. So notice first that there is in verse 9 a...
1. Confirmation of the Revelation (v. 9)
The vision of the prostitute's misery has given way to a vision of the Bride's “marriage supper” (or at least an announcement of her imminent wedding). But notice that this event is not called the “marriage supper of the Bride”, but the “marriage supper of the Lamb”. That's important. And the angel simply confirms the authority and trustworthiness of this revelation at the end of verse 9... “These are the true words of God”! But in verse 10, we go on to read about some...
2. Confusion Concerning the Revelation (v. 10a)
It appears that these revelations about the harlot's judgment and the Bride's joy are so overwhelming and so transcendent that John is moved to worship the heavenly being who delivered the message, rather than the heavenly being who sent the message. Unfortunately, the same thing (this misdirected worship) will happen again a few chapters from now in 22:8. But thankfully we also find here in our main passage, in the middle of verse 10, a...
3. Correction Regarding the Revelation (v. 10b)
The angel is quick to set things straight, isn't he? “You must not do that!” Notice both parts of this correction: the second part is exactly what we would expect: [Don't worship me...] “Worship God”! But look at how that correction is introduced. [Why would you worship me...] “I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.” Brothers and sisters, we are fellow servants with angels! How? Because we hold to “the testimony of Jesus”.
And this is where John, obviously writing later, maybe reflecting on this strange episode, adds this final comment: “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Now, whenever I hear that phrase, I immediately think of an exchange I had with a dear sister in Christ at a Vacation Bible School at Camelback Bible Church, probably 25 years ago. I distinctly remember standing in the church kitchen, as a swarm of ladies was busy preparing snacks for 200 kids. I don't remember how the conversation started, and I don't remember exactly what I said, but her response to me, with such sincerity and conviction was this phrase: “Well remember, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Now, in all honesty... I had no idea what she was talking about. The phrase sounded familiar, but it also sounded so cryptic that I assumed she was somehow taking it out of context. Inwardly, I simply chalked it up as some kind of token phrase that this sister had learned and used every once in a while when it seemed to fit. But the truth was, I was the one who didn't understand the statement, and I was arrogantly assuming she didn't either.
Looking back now on that unexceptional and brief exchange, I believe she did know what the phrase meant. I'm the one trying to play catch up. And as I have, I've come to appreciate the profound beauty and power of John's short comment here (it's the kind of phrase you can read and just pass over without much thought). But what does it mean? “...the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Well let's break it down. Listen to other instances of that first phrase:
In the next chapter, John will see those who were beheaded for “the testimony of Jesus” (20:4). Who did the dragon attack in chapter 12? “...Those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (12:17) But these “conquered the dragon by the word of [that] testimony”. (12:11) We also learn at the very beginning of this book (in 1:2) that John * “bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” On that note, it's not surprising that we find a familiar word in the very next verse... “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.” (1:3) And if we were to jump to the very end of the book, to chapter 22, we would find that four times John talks about this Revelation as a “prophecy” (22:7, 10, 18, 19)(three times called “the prophecy of this book” and once called “the book of this prophecy”.
So how does this help us understand the statement, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”? Well, think again about the angel's correction in verse 10. How could John worship the messenger when the message itself was so clearly and so wonderfully about the Lamb, to the glory of God? Therefore, in light of that correction, John spells out this over-arching principle for both himself and his readers: “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”; that is, everything in this book is meant to bear witness to Jesus Christ! That of course should not be news to us. Why? Because the opening words of the book tell us that very thing. Revelation 1:1... “The revelation of Jesus Christ...”. It was given both through Him and about him. He revealed it, and it reveals him in a amazingly unique way.
III. Four Visions
Brothers and sisters, what does God want you to take from this book? What does he want you to share about this book? What should come to mind when we think about this book called Revelation? God has given us an answer through John: “...the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of (is what drives this) prophecy.” When it comes to this book, it's very easy to get lost in the weeds of strange symbols and apocalyptic timelines. It is very easy to seek mastery over these mysteries, instead of seeking the Master through these mysteries. But it is “the revelation of Jesus Christ”. It bears witness to Him, that we might bear witness to him as well.
You see, though we have confirmation that “these are the true words of God”, like John, we can suffer from confusion about this Revelation; the otherworldly-ness of the Revelation can somehow outshine the One revealed. But as with John, and through John, God graciously provides correction... “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Confirmation. Confusion. Correction. But are we listening? John saw. He listened. He received the correction... and wrote.
With the time we have remaining, I thought it would be wonderful to look at four visions of Jesus presented to us in this Revelation. Are there only four in this book? No. There are brief images of Jesus presented as well, images like the child born of the woman in chapter 12. But these four are the most dominant. And my prayer for all of us is that these visions of Jesus, as he has revealed himself in the Revelation, that they will serve to expand our understanding, inform our faith, deepen our worship, strengthen our devotion, assuage our fears, sober our outlook, inspire our choices, and embolden our witness. The first time we see Jesus in chapter 1 he is...
The Lord Among the Lampstands. Starting in verse 9 of chapter 1, and running all the way through the end of chapter 3, we are given a stunning glimpse of Jesus Christ as the glorified Son of God, standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands. The symbolic imagery used to describe Jesus here (e.g., white hair, flaming eyes, bronze feet, a face shining like the sun... these) uniquely communicate things like his divine power and purity, his supernatural insight, and his otherworldly glory. Add to this the way he describes himself in 1:17–18, “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.”
But as exalted as the vision is, John is not seeing Jesus far above, at the right hand of God. As Jesus himself explains, he is near, standing in the midst of seven churches. Yes, seven actual churches, but the number speaks of a divine completeness, as if these churches represented any and every church. So not only is our glorified Redeemer in our midst, not only is He present with his people, but as chapters 2-3 reveal, he is watching and guiding and correcting and encouraging us as our risen Shepherd, as our living Lord.
Does that reassure you? Does it sober you? Does it cause you to stop and check your heart toward the faith family and your efforts for His kingdom? It should. But in chp. 5, we also meet..
The Lamb Who Alone is Worthy. As all creation weeps in chapter 5 because it seems no one can open the scroll and carry out God's plan for ultimate justice, John beholds (in v. 6) “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes”. How do we know this is Jesus? It's confirmed a few verses later in 5:9... “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation...”. Before He is our Lord among the lampstands, he is the Lamb who alone is worthy, for the church only exists because of the cross. We would not be His people if we were not first ransomed by his blood.
It's so important to point out that this vision of Jesus is the vision that dominates most of the book. The Lamb is mentioned 26 times in the Revelation, beginning in chapter 5, and running all the way through chapter 22. In one sense we could say that everything Jesus does in this book he does as the Lamb, that is, as the one who ransomed us with his own blood; as our Redeemer. How beautiful is that thought: that the One who walks among the lampstands has already proven his love and commitment to us, to an extent that no one else ever has, will, or can. And so, no matter what happens, even if the world itself is ending (and it will), you can rest assured, believer, because he knows your name. It is written in “the Lamb's book of life” (21:27).
As we near the end of the book, in chapter 19, we behold another vision of Jesus, this time as...
The King Coming to Conquer. In 19:11, the imagery is familiar: a hero riding in on a white horse to save the day. Is this Jesus? Absolutely. He is “Faithful and True”, as we saw in chapter 3, he is (v. 13) “The Word of God”, and he has this name written on his robe, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” But that's not the first time we've heard that title. It was first given in 17:4, where John writes, “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings...”. Again, everything Jesus does in this book he does as the Lamb. Why is this vision of the rider on the white horse so important? Because it also reassures us. The Lamb who was slain, who is now among us as Lord of the lampstands, will one day return to overthrow every rebel power, every destructive reality, every cancerous lie, every person trying to play God, as they suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Will he do so in a massive, Michael Bay-inspired battle scene, pummeling the forces of sinful humanity who have gathered for war? Well, Jesus will use a sword... but it's the sword of his mouth; that is, it's his word. How powerful is Jesus? He simply speaks and every opposing force is upended, forever! But even before we meet the rider, as we've heard this morning, we are also introduced to...
The Husband Receiving His Bride. The fulfillment of the heavenly announcement in 19:6-8, that announcement of the Lamb's marriage, is found two chapters later in 21:2, where John witnessed “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This is confirmed in 21:9 when an angel invites John to get a closer look at the city: “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” What is symbolically represented by the splendor of the New Jerusalem? The splendor of a blessed and eternal union, the union of Christ and his Church. Please let this truth sink deep into your hearts: the love of the Lamb who was slain, the love of the Lord who stands even now in our midst, the love of the King who is to come, will find its eternal fullness in the love of our heavenly husband. Forever and ever, He will love and cherish. He will provide and protect. He will never leave us, never forsake us. Thus, we read this about the city that is in fact a bride (22:3–5)... “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”
Brothers and sisters, that is our happy estate with Jesus forever. Think again about this book, this prophecy. Four visions. The testimony of Jesus. Could John have been unchanged by what he was shown? Could you and I be unchanged by what we've been shown in this book? Let's ask God that that would never be true.
In fact, doesn't God's word also confirm for us in many places that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” in regard to everything God has revealed in his word? It's not just Revelation. It's every book of the Bible. So as we begin reading in the Old Testament, let's ask God to continue showing us visions of Jesus, even when they're harder to see right away.
More in Our Bible Reading Plan (2021-2022)
September 25, 2022Why Justice is Worth Singing About (Revelation 15)
September 18, 2022How to Conquer the Dragon (Revelation 12:11)
September 11, 2022The Heart Where Jesus is Knocking (Revelation 3:20)