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Faith in a Hostile World

Published: 4 months ago- 21 January 2024
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Big Idea: John receives a vision of Christ so that he may persevere in faith in a hostile world.

I read an article during the week with the title, “Church without God:”

A piece on how the non-religious and the atheists have discovered the benefits of church without the inconvenience of a God.

One quote from the article said, “They enjoy things like testimonies and sing-alongs but nothing supernatural.”

Now there could be all sorts of jokes about us being Presbyterian so we are used to having church with nothing supernatural. That would actually be very sad if it were the truth.

We worship God the Father and the Risen Lord Jesus Both are a reality beyond the comprehension of our natural eyes and hearts. But in them is the hope of forgiveness and eternal life.

Why do we need the supernatural?

Because we need a better vision.

A better gospel clarity. And in our passage today, we are given an eye full of the glory of Jesus and the good news of salvation through a vision of a Faithful Witness to the Awful Saviour with the Good News.


In the opening verses of our passage we learn of the faithful witness.

Read v9

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Here is a message of hope for anyone who finds living the life of a follower of Jesus challenging.

John is a [brother] a fellow follower of Jesus. He is a [partner in tribulation, patient endurance], he knows the pain of living in a world that delights in things like church without God, that rejects the life-saving news of the gospel

And his experience of opposition is very real. On the prison Island of Patmos Sounds like a Greek Island – actually like Alcatraz.

Jesus told John (and the other disciples) they would be his witnesses, telling people about Jesus.

Now here he is in exile. Taken out of the game, because he was doing the very thing Jesus had called him to do – it’s on account of preaching the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

My Bible college principal was fond of reminding us as students that God often buries his messengers but never his message. You will face opposition as a proclaimer of the gospel.

Here, the apostle John, the disciple Jesus loved, is living a life of faithful service to God and it has resulted, not in health, wealth and dazzling smile but in trouble, hardship and isolation. I understand that John was the only disciple who died of old age. But he did not avoid trouble.

I tweaked my back on Tuesday evening. Uncomfortable, interrupts my sleep, stops me going to the gym. So all week I’ve been a bit grumpy and annoyed by the inconvenience. Not my usual happy, shiny self. That’s been my response to an inconvenience.

Look at John’s response to hardship. Read v10a

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.

John’s response to this hardship is worship. The Lord’s day is Sunday – resurrection day. In the Spirit – depends who you read; read James 4:8 draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Meditation and prayer and reflection on belonging to God through faith in Jesus. John was seeking delight in his Saviour.

I hurt my back and I’m discombobulated. John is arrested and exiled and he sees it as an opportunity to draw near to God.

While he is in the Spirit … v11 he hears a voice telling him to write to the 7 churches of Asia. More than seven Asian churches. Seven in Revelation complete – for all the churches; for us. In the midst of suffering for the gospel instead of bitterness, there is blessing.

The governing Roman authorities of the day may have felt they had struck a blow.

Rather they set the scene for the blessing to be communicated to the churches; for God’s people for the rest of history.

Jesus is the faithful witness. Doesn’t matter if his people are in the middle of a city or sitting on an island. As his people trust in and worship him he will work through them for his glory.

Do you need encouragement? I do. It’s not my power, my cleverness, my gifting or my ability.

Jesus is the faithful witness – he will work through us to his glory as we live in trust and worship of him, whoever we are, wherever we are.

And we can rest in our trust of Jesus because he is …


Sarah and Sam tell me that I show my age when I express my interest in the English language; specifically the use of words.

But it is strange to me that if something is exceedingly good it is described as awe-SOME. But if something is not to our liking it is awe-FUL.

How could something with FULL awe be less impressive than something with SOME awe?

This is how I’m using the word AWFUL, according to its original meaning, something which is full of awe.

Our awe-full Saviour; full of supernatural awe. On display here for our hope.

Read v12

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,

The golden lampstands are the churches (v20). While the golden lampstands are precious and shining there is one more glorious whose light shines more brightly.

Read v13

13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.

16b his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

John sees walking among the lampstands … One like a son of man who has the appearance and bearing of royalty.

In the Roman Empire of John’s day the longer the robe the higher the rank.

The one like a son of man is wearing, a long robe and Read v14-15

14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.

It sounds like John has a fertile imagination, or maybe he is having a fertile hallucination.

All the descriptors of the one like a son of man here come from the OT prophet Daniel.

Where we meet God, the Ancient of Days. His hair is white like wool. And he sits in complete authority over all the scary and powerful kingdoms of all the world.

And before him, in his fiery throne room enters one like a son of man. The one like a son of man is given all authority and dominion and power to rule over a never-ending kingdom.

This is how Daniel describes the one like a son of man.

Daniel 10:6-8

His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw … this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength.

Notice the similarities with John’s vision. Notice too that …

Daniel, the one who stood before the ruler of the Babylonian Empire, who spoke the message of judgement to the ruler of the Medes, who faced down a den full of lions … Is overwhelmed by the awe-full vision of the one like a son of man.

And yet here, in John’s vision, the one like a son of man has gained more authority and awe.

Read v14-15

14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.

This is not an identikit picture trying to describe what Jesus looks like. This is a resume of his authority. The one like a son of man, now described as having white hair shares the authority of the Ancient of Days

The message to John is clear. The Risen Lord Jesus, the Son of Man, crucified, dead and buried now resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father rules over all.

In the face of opposition from an Empire which in John’s day had ruled the world for 600 years (400 to go); under increasing pressure of the full weight of Roman displeasure; Here is a message of Hope.

The one who ultimately rules does not walk among the Senate of Rome but he walks among the churches of God.

I don’t know if you worry about who will be the next leader of the free world. Or you have concern about the push from Russia? Or the plans of China? Our world is in a very shaky space at the moment. Maybe that causes fear or uncertainty.

The Australian government does not command the same fear or respect as a world-conquering power and yet it can feel as though the opposition to the gospel, the church, freedom of speech and thought, and the Christian approach to life is ever-increasing at home.

Where is our hope? Our hope is Jesus, the Son of Man who has authority over all. In fact the worse the opposition the greater our delight and confidence because this passage tells us that Jesus has the most authority and more power and we are safe in his hand.


16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

He holds the churches safe in his right hand, the hand of power of authority. His is the Word of judgement and salvation – signified by the double-edged sword.

He is our awe-full Saviour, Jesus. He walks among us, is here with us. Our unwavering hope rests in his awe-full authority. We need the supernatural. We need this better vision.

We see that really is …


I’m a little bit jealous of John, feeling (v17) the right hand of Jesus on his shoulder.

I don’t know if you have perceived such a comfort. But here is an objective and eternal hope on offer to all … whether you feel it or not.

Read v17b-20 “Fear not, [a command, don’t be afraid in this uncertain and sometimes hostile world; or maybe even uncertain and hostile mind that throws up doubt and despair] Fear not I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades [The crucified, resurrected and exalted Lord Jesus who has defeated sin and hell and so has authority over our worst enemies of death and judgment]. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen [a hand on the shoulder is comforting in the moment, but a letter can be read and reread], those that are and those that are to take place after this. [this is true for all the coming days] 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

The mystery is that Jesus is among his churches. Despite the rejection, hostility, and opposition of the world the church’s security is found in the power and love of Jesus.

Despite our sin and rebellion Christ Jesus through his death has paid the debt and declared us right.

A church without God sounds terrible. Where’s the hope, where’s the assurance?

Yesterday, after four nights of bad sleep and three days of annoying discomfort caused by my sore back I went to see my medical practitioner. I entered with pain but I left rejoicing – that is not an overstatement.

He identified the cause. Applied his knowledge and know-how. Cracked, massaged, stretched and said come back in a few days we’ll sort out the rest. The relief and the promise have given me hope.

The truth of our passage today can apply great spiritual relief to the troubled soul.

Fear not, the one who has all authority, who has defeated sin and death holds his people in his powerful, eternal hand.

Relief from fear of the world, from despair of our situation is truly and only found in Him.

Timothy Keller The truth of the gospel is that you are more sinful than you can imagine, more loved than you ever dared to hope.

We need that better vision.