Bucky Kennedy, evangelist
Some time ago I heard a well-meaning person say, “Jesus was the victim of man’s sin and therefore had to shed His blood on the cross.” The person was right in the sense that Jesus’ bloody death on Calvary’s cross had to take place in order for our sins to be forgiven.
But, Jesus was no victim. Jesus gave His life as payment for our sins. He willingly went to the cross with full disclosure as to its purpose.
We need to understand that the cross was not the result of a deal by which Satan set the price for which God had to pay for the souls of men to be delivered. No. Jesus went to the cross knowing He would be buried and rise again three days later. He even told His disciples this would take place.
Jesus saw the cross as the pathway to victory, a victory that would come at a very brutal and painful price, but it would be an overwhelming victory.
John had been sentenced to exile on the small island of Patmos by the Emperor Domitian. Patmos was an island to which the Roman government sent criminals in order to work in the island’s rock mines. It was on this isolated island of misery the Apostle John would be given the revelation of things to come.
The voice of victory
In verse 10, John describes the voice he heard while in the spirit as the sound of a trumpet and in verse 13 it was the sound of many waters. When John heard, he turned. We read in Proverbs 10:23, “Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.”
I think it is worth noting John doesn’t let his circumstances distract him from seeking God, nor keep him from hearing His voice. Our enemy loves using the noise of adversity to drown out God’s voice of victory.
The glory of victory
John had seen Jesus rejected, ridiculed, tortured, and beaten beyond recognition. John saw Jesus struggle to walk and breathe under the weight of the cross and he watched as soldiers gambled for the garments of Jesus. Now John sees Jesus in royal splendor. No longer does He have the look and dress of a servant, now everything about Him displays the divine demeanor of a king.
The Christ of victory
I love the picture of verses 17-18: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.””
John’s humility meets the comfort of Jesus. In affirming His identity to John, Jesus also lets it be known He is eternal in His existence and complete in His victory over death and the grave. Jesus was not born a man to become God but He has always existed in equality with God and became a man so men could be set free from the power and penalty of sin through His sacrificial death and then live in righteousness by virtue of His resurrection (see Philippians 2:5-8).
In having the keys of death and Hades, Jesus lets John know He has secured victory throughout all of eternity for anyone who would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Death no longer has the power to take any believing, blood-bought, child of God.
A given victory
John saw Jesus in the middle of the seven lampstands, which Jesus tells John are the seven churches. Jesus is the ever-present champion of the church.
I think it is of no coincidence that John heard before he saw. Jesus is going to deliver messages to these seven churches and He will leave them with these words: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Victory is something the church has in the person of Christ, but we must make ourselves available to hear in order to appropriate this victory to the glory of God. A believer deaf to the voice of Jesus is one who is distracted and defeated by the noise of the world.
Phil Cross wrote a song made popular by the Southern Gospel group The Cathedrals. The song is entitled “The Champion of Love” and since its introduction over 25 years ago many well-known Christian artists have recorded it. As I studied this text I kept thinking about the first verse and chorus,
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention? I want to introduce to you
In this corner of the good and the right, stands a champion robed in white
His height exceeds the heavens, His weight outweighs the world
His reach reaches everywhere, His age is evermore”
He is higher than the highest (higher than the high), greater than the great
No one will ever take His crown away
He’s more mighty than the mightiest, He reigns from above
He’s the all-time undisputed, undefeated champion, of love (love, love)