“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17b-18)
Across the earth people are enduring waves of violence and hatred. We Christians are experiencing persecution at the hands of radical Religious terrorists as well as those who seek to suppress our faith, branding it as intolerant. In times such as these we would all like a word of comfort and hope to sustain and encourage us. The Apostle John provides such a word. Though written 2000 years ago, it is timely and relevant for it is a message from God Himself.
John wrote to churches undergoing persecution, just as he was undergoing persecution, confined in exile on the island of Patmos in the Aegean sea off the coast of Turkey. The message he sent them was a divine message from Jesus. He described Jesus as one like the Son of Man along with images that attempt to provide a description of the one who spoke, all borrowed from Daniel 7 and 10. These images tell us that Jesus is Almighty God possessing all power and glory. It is no wonder that John was shaken by such an awesome vision. But neither he nor we need to be afraid of the Son of Man: He loved us enough to die for our sins. And so we best pay heed to what John has to say because a divine message is of vital importance to the Church and to all mankind.
John described the churches as lampstands. This is an image meant to call to mind the 7 branched lamp that stood in the Temple. That lamp symbolized Israel herself who was called to be the light to the Gentiles. The image now is applied by the vision to the seven churches and, since 7 is the number of perfection, to the church as a whole. The church is the light of the world. The vision of the Son of Man standing in the midst of these lamp tands is one which ought to provide great comfort to those undergoing persecution: Jesus is with them in their time of trial. He holds the keys to death and Hades which means He is in total control of all that is going on. No calamity or trial, not even death, will overtake the people of God without His authority. He is with His loved ones to provide them with all they need to witness for Him as they persevere.