Revelation 1:1-8 A Divine Summons to Hear

Revelation 1:1-8 A Divine Summons to Hear

Exposition of the Church:

In this passage, God summons the churches to listen to his word. John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ transports us before the throne of God. He shows us God’s word to us in the present world and the plan God has for applying the work he accomplished in Jesus’ first advent in and thru the church. God even promised great blessing to those who read, listen, and heed the words written in the book (3). The question is, do we read, hear, or heed the book? Or better, do we read hear and heed any book of the Bible? Any sermon? Any word from the Lord?

There are all sorts of distractions from reading John’s Revelation. To start, it is hard to hear the Revelation’s words on its own terms with so many doomsday preppers, predictors, and prognosticators around today. I admit that I have been embarrassed to speak about John’s Revelation in public because I feel that the church’s misreading of it is a major black eye. It’s embarrassing.  Nevertheless, this is the Word of God. And it needs to be vindicated, preached, and believed. For 100 years, evangelical, protestant reformation churches have largely been under the shadow of poor interpretations of Revelation. These interpretations obscure its meaning, push it off into the distance to an age and events of the future with which we have nothing to do.

Pushing its meaning off into the future destroys the message of revelation because the Revelation is not about far off events, but historic, accomplished, inaugurated, and present realities today. Its about facts of life which we need to hear or be damned forever. In fact, I go so far as to say that there is not one verse of Revelation that is not directly applicable to the church today, or to the church in every day- from the day it was written until we all enter glory at the Resurrection.

I don’t have time to prove all of this today, but I do have time to call you to the introduction of the book in Rev 1:1-8. This calls us to the fundamental point of the whole book. That point is: Listen to God’s prophetic word.

It is my belief that the American church- and our church, Pilgrim, included- has largely lost our Spiritual sensitivity to the Word of God. This text calls us to regain that sensitivity. Rev 1:1-8 is a Divine summons to hear God’s Word!

I need to define “Spiritual sensitivity.” Jesus just threw-down with you. I as his minister just called you out and called you deaf. I hope you realize that. This is no joke, nor gimmick. “Why?” You ask. That is what the Word of God does to us in this passage. God has a mouth to speak, but we have lost our “ears to hear.”

Let me explain. In verse 3 John blesses those who “read, hear, and heed” the prophetic Word of God. This Bible phrase goes back to Isaiah’s calling as a prophet, who was quoted by Jesus himself as saying, “You will keep on hearing but not understanding. You will keep on seeing but will not perceive.” (Isa 6:9f, in Matt 13:14ff). Those are the symptoms we all suffer from today. There is audible hearing, but deafness of mind. Then he gets to the heart of the reason why, “For, the heart of the people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes…” (13:15) And then he concluded by summoning, calling, roaring out above the noise, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears because they hear!”  This means that the real problem is a heart, nature, evilness problem!

When Rev 1:3 says, “Blessed are those who hear…” he says the same thing. This comes from the prophets of the OT because men and women in the church may have some true Spirituality, understanding, knowledge, but it is deeper than that. It is hearing that results in living and vital faith. That’s what we’ve lost. Hearing that results in change of mind, hearts, lifestyle, deep seated behavior, and the hope of seeing people converted- has all been lost.

Ill: I am particularly distracted by sound in conversation because I have lost a lot of my hearing due to a pernicious ear infection. All know that when you are concentrating sometimes you need silence around you because you canot hear yourself think. The loud dominant sounds of children crying, bass fropm neighbors drums, loud parties, whatever, distract you because they overwhelm your senses. They dominate your senses. The noise drowns out the subtlety of your concentrations. The sounds all jumble into white noise, and you cannot hear yourself think.

That’s what’s happened to the Word of God. We cannot hear it above the noise. I am not going to go into an explanation of media ecology silliness or how facebook is evil and ruins our ability to listen. Those have not ruined our ability to listen to the word of God, other things have. More basic things have made so much noise that they have drowned out the word of God. Things like stress, business, and sin.

Here is the answer! In this chapter, the Lord rises above the noise and calls out with his voice like a “Trumpet” and “many waters” (10, 15). He has a “sharp two-edged sword” coming out of his mouth (15). He speaks and calls to John, “Write in a book,” (11) and John writes and summons us to Listen!

Exposition of the Text

Divine: Notice the way John starts Revelation. It’s a letter, just like any other letter in the NT. It has all the marks. 1-3 Author, 4 Recipients, 4b-5a Greeting, 5b-7 Blessing toward God, 8 Bonus Author, From Jesus.

But also notice how this letter is different. No other letter is like this in the Bible. Look at how Jesus is a direct author. He verbatim spoke the words in 1:17-3:22. Also, he is the Divine messenger to John. In 1:1 notice that the Revelation/disclosure of God’s message is Jesus’ message. Look at that, Jesus is the actual discloser, reveler, unveil-er.  That’s because Jesus’ is the Logos the Word of God. In John 12:49 Jesus told his Disciples that he speaks the Father’s Words. Jesus is speaker, and discloser of God’s message. He is the voice of the Trinity!

Look also at verse 4-8. He stresses again, God is the author. The Father, the Spirit, the Son. This is The Triune God’s letter.

>Here’s what you should get out of this: The word of God is God’s message, listen to it!

There is no difference between this text and any other text of the Bible, except that it makes explicit what other passages assume. All the Bible assumes that God is the ultimate author, and it all needs to be read, heard, and heeded. That’s what our passage it explicitly about, listening to God’s word.

App: Let me give you a test. When you hear a sermon, are your listening for the exegesis, then ignoring the application? Do you listen to get the interpretation and then ignore the rest? Or another way to put it: Do you listen to the Bible parts of the sermon, but when I lifts my eyes from the page of scripture and look into your soul and say “Believe, repent, etc..” you think, “Well that’s not the word of God. That’s just a man’s interpretation and application.” Then you have deaf ears.

I am not saying I am God, but as his servant, and by you calling me to do so as you pastor, you are saying, this dude speaks for the Lord Jesus Christ. He is an undershepherd of the great shepherd. My preaching of the word caries ministerial authority. That means the authority is not mine, but God’s! It’s His message!

Notice in our text, God the Father Son and Spirit speak thru Jesus in 1:1a. But then Jesus reveals it thru an Angel (1b), and then thru a man, John (2)! Are Angels God? No. and men God? No. Then why does God use them? Because he chooses to use preachers. He chose to use messengers. If you won’t listen to God’s messenger you don’t listen to God.

Objection: Now, you may say, “You’re just trying to solidify your power and lord it over us and get us to do whatever you want.” I say to you, you have deaf ears. You don’t hear what Jesus is saying. You desperately need this message my friend. This is exactly the message to us today. We must hear God’s word and not reject it.

Summons to Hear Jesus: The main point in this text is that Jesus overcomes our deafness! He does it by this summons today. He says, “blessed are those who hear” (3). That’s the heart, the brain, the nervous system of this text. That’s the call to action and the reason. Jesus’ voice can rise above the noise and speak into your life. You will hear Jesus because his trumpet-rushing-water-voice will be heard.

To hear is to hear about Jesus. He states, “Blessed are those who hear…” (3) and means that we are already blessed. How? In verse 2 he said it is the “Testimony.” And verse 3 it is “Prophecy” In Rev 19:10 the Angel defines this word to hear, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of Prophecy.” Jesus is the Revealer, but also the Content of the Revelation. Revelation is fundamentally about how Jesus’ Gospel applies to your life, and the church’s life in every age.

In verses 5b-7 we read how this is. Look at Jesus, and that’s what he gives to us. Those who hear with our hearts do so because in Jesus we have forgiveness, rule, priestly service to God, and God’s presence and Work among us! The only way to hear the Word is by knowing Jesus!

If you really want to know the book of Revelation, you must know Jesus. If you want to know any book of the Bible, you must know Jesus. Why? Because the Bible is not just an academic object of study, it’s the message of Jesus and how he accomplished salvation for all who believe.

That’s why I tell you, there’s not one shred of a verse in the whole book of John’s Revelation from which the Lord Jesus’ blood does not drip. If you don’t get that, you won’t get any part of anything about Revelation, or about any sermon I ever preach.

This passage is not just about “Reading Revelation for some esoteric blessing” but it is about how you approach every single passage of the Bible. It is about how you approach God almighty in worship, in private, on the home, in the prayer closet, in public. Revelation calls you to be sensitive to the Word of God. Look at it with your believing eyes. Hear is with trusting and repenting ears. Taste and see that the Lord is good with your sensitive tongue. Touch this book with fingers of faith. It is not strange, fake, or future. This book is real, living, and roaring at you to pick it up and listen to it.

Point: The church has largely lost her hearing. We need Jesus to speak and revive our ears!

That’s why I chose Revelation. I see this as not just a problem outside Pilgrim and the PCA, but in our own ranks, and my very own heart. I hope you see that this is a sensitive issue, and a frightening one. I don’t want you to leave thinking, “I am hopeless, I cannot hear!” My point is that you listen to God’s word. Hear it. Resolve to listen, because Jesus is speaking to you today.

Not just unbelievers, but every Christian has insensitivity, Spiritual deafness. The sin nature remains, distractions remain, and we all will fight this until the day we die. My goal with this sermon and this series of sermons on Revelation is that we become a people who hear God’s word.

None of you are exempt. You have all lost your hearing. I can prove it.

You are distracted. You are distracted by detractors and persecutors of the faith. They say to you, “You cannot possibly believe that.” They shame you into disbelieving because they cannot hear it themselves. They call or treat you as backwards, silly, having a crutch in religion. This distracts you from hearing the Word.

Stress at work, in the home, and the cares of this life choke out the word of God. You cannot even get a second away from the stress to think about God’s word, let alone read, hear, and heed it.

You have sins in your heart and life which are inconsistent with the Word of God, and you cannot deal with them because either you want to continue in them secretly, or they would cause such a mess that it would ruin your life as you know it. Sin distracts you from hearing the Lord more than anything else. Whatever sin it is, it all has the same effect. You think “I am believing one thing, but doing another, and need to stop, but I really don’t want to and know one knows about it, so I will just keep on going with it.” Meanwhile the Word is telling you “repent.” And you don’t change any behavior, therefore you’re not hearing the word! The more you do this the easier it gets. And eventually you get callouses on your heart. You heart becomes “dull” and you’re caught in the clutches of deep secret sin.

Ill: Like that loud music that drowns out everything and makes your thoughts white noise, so things in this life, persecution, and sin drown out the word of God. Jesus compared it to seeds spread on the field, some were choked out by sun, others by poor soil, others by birds, and only some took root and lived in the good soil (Matt 13:1-23). What he showed by this is that the problem is a soil-problem. With hearing, the problem is not with your physical ear, but your heart and soul.

Ill: While on vacation we sat with and conversed with some people at breakfast. They were and elderly couple. They had the normal slow life charm of the American southwest. They were good old fashioned family people. In our conversation I brought up that I was a minister, and this led to them telling me they left the protestant reformation church in which they grew up and joined the LDS. Their reasons were that they saw too much variation in the protestant church, and wanted something more morally stable. They joined LDS because they had a “united moral stand on social issues.” Now, that’s a cultic united front, but that’s another issue. What amazed me was that when I dug a little deeper I found that the real reason was not that one religion seemed more attractive over the other, but that these people never had a sense of the true religion in the first place. They really exchanged one works salvation for another one that was more consistently works based. They had dull, deaf, dead ears to the Gospel. I kept trying to explain the difference between the Gospel and all other religions it that they say, “Do this and that and you’ll be saved, but the Gospel says- Jesus paid it all. It is finished, and unless we look to him and not our works, we’re left in our own de-merit. We die, and will never be reconciled or restored.” And then something frustrating as all get-out would happen. They would say, “O yes, Jesus died for us as an example, and now we obey him.” They could not see it that there was a difference, even when I said it flat out- “Those are totally different views of salvation.” We left before it got out of hand, but the take away was what I have experienced in so many Gospel conversations before, deadness and dullness of heart, deaf ears to God’s Word.

It is my belief that the American church- and our church, Pilgrim, included- has largely lost our Spiritual sensitivity to the Word of God. This text calls us to regain that sensitivity. Rev 1:1-8 is a Divine summons to hear God’s Word!

Deafness to God’s word is the plight of the whole world, and only the voice of Jesus and his Cross will set our ears free to hear, our eyes to see, and our hearts to burn with faith. Let’s resolve ourselves to hear him, trust him, and rest in his power to revive our Spiritual sensitivity to the Word of God.