Stewards of the Mystery of the Glorified Christ

Stewards of the Mystery of the Glorified Christ

Stewards of the Mystery of the Glorified Christ.

“A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ and as stewards of the mysteries of God. Think of us as Messiah’s official underlings and as those who are entrusted with the mysteries of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1).

SERVANTS: (Greek, “hyperetas”); literally the under-rower, the lowly person pulling the oars on the lower deck of the ship; the underlings; the subordinates who have special orders. A servant of Christ is one who is content to decrease while Christ increases, who considers it a privilege to serve Jesus in a way that is hidden, humble, and full of trust in God’s purposes.

STEWARDS: (Greek, “oikonomos”); literally the manager of a household responsible to dispense what is needed; the custodian in a home given the responsibility to carefully distribute the necessities when needed; managers; caretakers; trustees, or those entrusted with important responsibilities from the owner of the house. In this context, to responsibly take care of the revelations of God and disperse the knowledge of God’s mysteries in a way that would honor the owner’s wishes; to carefully explain the revealed secrets of God’s in a responsible way; to guard the sanctity of what God has decided to reveal. A competent and faithful steward would be one who “holds the mystery of the Faith with a pure conscience.” (1 Timothy 3:9), since we are also called to be “stewards of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 3:2).  So if God has anything to do with it, these stewards of God’s mysteries must “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15).

MYSTERY: (Greek, “mysterion”); a sacred secret hidden in the heart of God until the appointed time of revelation; a truth that can only be known by divine disclosure; spiritual insights into God’s way of thinking and planning; hidden truths revealed by God that are beyond human intellect and reason; divine knowledge that can only be understood through the Holy Spirit; God’s thoughts and plans revealed to believers and hidden to skeptical doubters and those who choose not to believe.

“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, ‘Fear not! Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One. I died, but look – I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.’” (Revelation 1: 17-18).

The author of Revelation is the apostle John, an original member of the Twelve, the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” John was a fisherman transformed into the Apostle of Love. He was one of the Zebedee brothers, with James, and was most likely the last surviving apostle. John, the bishop of Ephesus, had lived and ministered with Jesus for three years, and was one of the inner circle that witnessed the glorious Transfiguration. John was also named St. John the Theologian in church tradition, and was the author of the Gospel of John and his three epistles. John might have been the human author of Revelation, but it seemed he essentially took dictation while Jesus did the talking during John’s worship on the island of Patmos during the Lord’s Day.

During the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, between 90-96 AD, St. John found himself in solitary imprisonment, exiled on the lonely island of Patmos. This small, rocky island was a Roman penal colony during the persecution of Christians led by Domitian, inhabited only by prisoners and slaves. The island was basically a rock-quarry, six miles wide and ten miles long, and was fifty miles offshore from John’s home and center of ministry in Ephesus. A prisoner on Patmos had to find a cave to live in, and spent the day chipping out rocks and building materials for the Roman government to use for pagan temples and royal structures. John was banished to Patmos because he wouldn’t stop preaching the Good News and leading many new Christian churches in that area. In John’s words, “I was exiled on the island of Patmos because of the ministry of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev. 1:9).

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, John wrote the concluding book of the New Testament, Revelation, an amazing report of what he saw and experienced during imprisonment. It is full of other-worldly symbolism, unclear prophecies, and is loaded with mysteries. And so, Revelation has a wide number of interpretations. The very name of this book implies a mystery, a revelation of something mysterious. The Greek word for “revelation” is “apocalypse,” meaning the removing of a veil, the revealing of something mysterious. But in the midst of all the apocalyptic visions and dramatic unveilings, it is important that we keep returning to the full name of the book itself: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” John’s vision is above all concerned with the unveiling of the glorified Jesus. John’s revelation is a fully Christ-centered book, primarily concerned with the revealing of Christ.

In the Spirit. John was privately “worshiping in the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day (1:10), and it seemed he was in some type of supernatural trance with a clear vision into God’s world. Other translations report that John was in the spiritual realm, or that he became in union with the Spirit. In any case, John was primed to receive a special vision of the heavenly Jesus and whatever would follow from that unique revelation. While worshiping, John heard a voice behind him, and when he turned to see whose voice it was, he saw the glory and splendor of the risen Christ. It seems true sometimes that we have to turn around, we have to turn our heads and redirect our attention to see Jesus and His message for us. Sometimes we move too fast and need to turn around to see what’s behind us. John’s vision was unforgettable and shocking, and later he wrote it down in detail. It’s important to note that Jesus revealed Himself before He revealed anything else. That should be the first thing we want to see, the person of Christ, before anything else.

Despite the many mysteries reported in John’s vision, including the mystery of the seven churches in 1:20, the mystery of the seventh angel in 10:7 and the mystery of the Harlot in 17:5-7, we need to keep in mind that, as the first chapter of Revelation says, “This is the revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave Jesus to show His servants the things which are taking place now, and the things which will take place after these things.” (1:1, 19). Jesus comes first, and He will be our Guide through the rest of what He wants us to know.

First in John’s vision was seven golden menorahs, seven golden lampstands, and standing in the middle of the lampstands was the Son of Man. John is saying something profound here. He is noting that Jesus was the fulfillment of Daniel’s ancient vison during which Daniel saw, “the Ancient One sat down to judge. His clothing was as white as snow, his hair like purest wool.” (Dan. 7:9). Daniel’s vision continued with Daniel seeing “someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into His presence. He was given authority, honor and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey Him. His rule is eternal – it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.” (Dan. 7:13-14).

Because Hebrew scholars believe that Daniel’s son of man vision refers to the Messiah, Jesus loved to use that term in his self-descriptions. When He calls Himself Son of Man, He is identifying with all humanity, while also claiming to be the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophetic vision, the true Messiah. Jesus even described His ultimate return in glory in words that refer directly to Daniel 7, “And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens , and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matt. 24:30).

John’s vision of Jesus is strikingly similar to Daniel’s vision of the special Messenger from Heaven, a pre-incarnate Christophany, in Daniel 10: “I looked up and saw a man dressed in linen clothing, with a belt of pure gold around his waist. His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people.” (Daniel 10:5-6).

John sees a Jesus that is fearsome and practically unexplainable.. “He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came forth from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance.” (Rev. 1:13-16). John reacted to his other-worldly vision the same way that Daniel reacted to his… he fainted dead away, flat on his face. Who wouldn’t?

John’s vision of Jesus brought to the surface many symbols of Christ’s attributes. John’s description in many ways represents eternal truths about the glorified person of Christ, who seems to reveal Himself best in metaphor and symbol and imagery. Christ’s white hair represents His eternal wisdom and purity, His status as the divine Elder who commands universal respect. His robe that reached to His feet points out His priesthood, as does His gold sash. Jesus appears, then, as the High Priest who boldly walks into God’s presence and obtains forgiveness for His people. Christ’s eyes of flame symbolize His eternal knowledge, able to judge rightly, able to probe and peer into the hearts and minds of each person. His blazing eyes know impurity when He sees it. In noting Christ’s voice, John was trying to describe the indescribable. His voice was so pervasive and continuous and unrelenting, it was like the sound of a waterfall, or maybe ocean waves, which signify in Scripture the sound of multitudes of voices speaking at the same time. The voice of Jesus was a sublime mystery… somehow His voice was understandable, yet it was in heavenly surround-sound. Christ’s feet were like polished and refined bronze, representing His ability to stand firm beautifully and permanently. The face of Christ has absorbed the uncreated Light of glory for all eternity, and so, like in His transfiguration, Jesus’ brilliant countenance shot forth dazzling sunbeams, too bright to stare at, like the pulsing brightness of the noonday sun at its height. His right hand held seven stars, representing the seven pastors or shepherds of the churches in question, and they stand for the human messengers of each church as shining lights. Jesus is seen by John as standing, perhaps walking, in the midst of seven golden menorahs, seven lampstands. They represent the seven churches in Asia that will soon be addressed by Jesus. Each lampstand is kept lit by oil, by the Holy Spirit, in order to bring light to a dark world. And there is Jesus, then as now, in the midst of the churches, present wherever believers gather in His name. Immanuel, God-with-us.

The two-edged sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus represents the Word of God and the power of His message, a sword that can do heart surgery when skillfully wielded by the soul’s surgeon, Jesus Christ. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12).

After witnessing this mind-boggling appearance of the risen Christ, this is the moment when John fainted, and Jesus’ right hand helped John regain his consciousness. The first words Jesus says to John are, Don’t be afraid. Fear not. This is me, John, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Living One who has conquered death and is alive forever and ever. And I hold the keys to the unseen realm and to death. I hold all authority and have the power to release souls from judgment. And as John observed later in Revelation when thinking about the keys in Christ’s hand, “What He opens, no one can shut; what He shuts, no one can open.” (Rev. 3:7). Christ’s brief self-description here was certainly an encouragement and eye-opener, and provided all the reassurance John needed to focus on the task at hand… to write down all the prophetic messages and visions revealed by the Living Word. John, the saintly secretary of the Lord, taking dictation for all posterity. Thanks be to God.

John’s Beatitudes.  At the beginning of the book (1:3) John offers three beatitudes, three blessings to all those who receive these words. You will be blessed, John promises, if you do three things in response to this revelation. You are in a favorable position, you will be joyfully fulfilled and satisfied, if you do these three things: If you read these words aloud in your assembly; if you are fortunate enough to be one of those who hear them read; and if you keep yourselves true to what is written in this message. So these three things… if you read it aloud, if you hear it read, and if you heed the words, treasuring them in your heart and obeying them. John seems to highlight the fact that these words in his revelation must be read aloud, not secretly or privately. These are words that were meant to be read orally and openly. You will also be blessed if you hear these words, because they are straight from Jesus to you. Finally, you are to be congratulated, happy you will be, if you keep these words, think about them, take them in and embrace them in your life. There is power in reading Scripture aloud in a group setting, and we need to heed John’s advice: When we experience the blessing of hearing the Word, it needs to be translated into one’s life and kept sacred as you live them out. Listen to the Word, and allow it to influence you for eternity.

Another Thought: “The Son of Man is not only pure, He is purifying, with “eyes pouring fire-blaze” (verse 14). The important thing about fire is that it penetrates and transforms. The holiness of Christ gets inside us, and when it does, it changes us. Christ’s gaze penetrates and purifies. He doesn’t look at us, He looks into us. When He does, we’re changed. That’s the hope of our exposure to him in the pages of Revelation. And it will be a transforming hope if only we will keep from shielding our eyes from His gaze.” (Eugene Peterson,  Reversed Thunder).