From Ranko: “In this lesson, some problematic changes have been introduced. The most problematic is introduced the last paragraph that was inserted stating that Rev 1:12-20 describe Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. This is opposite of what Revelation clearly shows. John is not taken in vision into the heavenly sanctuary until 4:1, where he is taken up to look through the door inside the heavenly throne room of the heavenly sanctuary.”
Lesson 2 *January 6-12
Among the Lampstands
Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 1:9-20; 2:1-7; Lev. 26:11-12; Ps. 73:2-28; Rom. 5:20.
Memory Verse: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21, NKJV).
Psalm 73 describes the Psalmist’s bewilderment as he observed the boastful pride of ungodly people. They lived in abundance and ease with their heads lifted toward heaven mocking, “How does God know?” Unfortunately, the prosperity of the ungodly is starkly juxtaposed with the suffering of the righteous. This injustice greatly distressed and troubled the Psalmist (Ps. 73:2—16). In his perplexity, he went to the sanctuary (73:16-17). There, in the presence of God, he acquired a deeper understanding of the matter. He left the place of his encounter with God with the determination: “It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all your works” (Ps. 73:28, NKJV).
Centuries later, an aged apostle found himself on a rocky prison island because of his faithful witness to the gospel. In his distress, he got news that the churches he was in charge of were suffering. It was at that critical moment that he had a visionary experience in a sanctuary setting where he had a special encounter with the resurrected Christ.
Similar to the experience of the Psalmist centuries earlier, this visionary experience revealed to John the mysteries of this life. This sanctuary scene provided him with the assurance of Christ’s presence and care for his people. This assurance he was to pass on to the churches in Asia as well as to the succeeding generations of Christians throughout the centuries until the end of this world’s history.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 13.
Sunday January 7
Read Revelation 1:9. What does John the Revelator tell us of the circumstances in which he received the visions of Revelation? Why was he on Patmos?
Patmos (modern Patina) was a barren, rocky island in the Aegean Sea; it was ten miles long and six miles wide across its widest part. Romans used it together with some other surrounding islands as a penal colony for banished political offenders. Early Christian authors living relatively close to the time of Revelation state unanimously that Roman authorities banished John to Patmos because of his faithfulness to the gospel. The aged apostle endured on Patmos all the hardships of Roman imprisonment. He was treated as a criminal, chained in fetters, given insufficient food, and forced to perform hard labor under the lash of the whip of merciless Roman guards.
John’s exile to Patmos led to the writing of Revelation as did Daniel’s exile in Babylon led to the writing of the book of Daniel. Therefore, in what way do you think their experiences helped them to relate to the situations of God’s people to whom they communicate God’s message?
“Patmos, a barren, rocky island in the Aegean Sea, had been chosen by the Roman government as a place of banishment for criminals; but to the servant of God this gloomy abode became the gate of heaven. Here, shut away from the busy scenes of life, and from the active labors of former years, he had the companionship of God and Christ and the heavenly angels, and from them he received instruction for the church for all future time”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 570.
The followers of Christ should never forget that whenever they find themselves in circumstances similar to that of John, they are not left alone. The Patmos experience always results in a revelation of Christ. The same Jesus, who came to John with the words of hope and encouragement in the midst of his hardship on Patmos, is still present with His people to sustain and support them in their difficult life situations.
Monday January 8
On the Lord’s Day
Read Revelation 1:10 along with Exodus 31:13; Isaiah 58:13; Matthew 12:8. According to these texts, what day in the Bible is clearly specified as the Lord’s? How meaningful this day must have been for John in the midst of his hardships?
“It was on the Sabbath that the Lord of glory appeared to the exiled apostle. The Sabbath was as sacredly observed by John on Patmos as when he was preaching to the people in the towns and cities of Judea. He claimed as his own the precious promises that had been given regarding that day”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 581.
The expression “the Lord’s Day” brings also to mind another day in the Bible called the “day of the Lord” (Isaiah 13:6-13; 2 Pet. 3:10). This is the day of the Second Coming when God will bring the history of this world to its end and establish His kingdom. This suggests that the apostle John received the vision of Revelation on the seventh-day Sabbath in which he witnessed the future events leading up to the Second Coming of Christ (cf. 1:7). That is the reason why the Sabbath became for him a foretaste of a life free from suffering, which he and the faithful of all ages will experience at the Second Coming.
“The Sabbath, which God had instituted in Eden, was as precious to John on the lonely isle . . . What a Sabbath was that to the lonely exile, always precious in the sight of Christ, but now more than ever exalted! Never had he learned so much of Jesus. Never had he heard such exalted truth.”—Ellen G. White, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 955.
Compare the two versions of the fourth commandment of the Decalogue in Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15. These two texts point to the seventh-day Sabbath as a memorial of both creation and deliverance reminding us that God both made us and purchased us. What implication does this twofold aspect of the Sabbath have for you personally? What special meaning does the Sabbath have to you when you find yourself, like the apostle John, in the midst of perplexity and suffering?
The first angel in Revelation 14:7 urges the inhabitants of the earth at the time of the end to “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water,” which is the language from Exodus 20:11. What does this tell us of the end-time significance of the Sabbath in Revelation?
Tuesday January 9
Encountering Christ on Patmos
Read Revelation 1:12-18. Compare John’s portrayal of Christ with the divine being in Daniel 10:5-6. How does Jesus appear in the vision? What is He doing?
John sees Jesus dressed in a priestly robe walking among the lampstands. The vision reflects the ancient Israelite temple in which the lampstands provided light (see 1 Kings 7:49).
The picture of Jesus walking among the lampstands points to God’s promise to ancient Israel to walk among them as their God (Lev. 26:12). In Revelation, the lampstands represented the seven churches in Asia to whom Revelation was originally sent (Rev. 1:20). In the symbolic walking among the lampstands, Jesus fulfills the covenant promise given to Israel; He will be continually with his people until he brings them to their eternal home.
Moreover, the picture of Jesus as a priest among the lampstands is drawn from the cultic practice in the Jerusalem temple. The daily task of an appointed priest was to keep the lamps in the Holy Place burning brightly. He would trim and refill the lamps that were waning, replace the wick on the lamps that had gone out and refill them with fresh oil and re-light them. In such a way, the priest became acquainted with the situation of each individual lamp. In the same way, Jesus is personally acquainted with the needs and circumstances of the seven churches.
Read Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19, etc. What does the statement, “I know” say about Jesus’ acquaintance with the situations and needs of God’s people in those churches?
Jesus came down to Patmos, first to provide encouragement to John. He identified Himself with the titles of God as ”the First and the Last” (see Isa. 44:6; 48:12). The Greek word for “last” is eschatos from which the word eschatology (“end-time”) comes. This shows that the focus of eschatology is on Jesus Christ who has the last word with regard to the final events. He is “the living one” and is in possession of “the keys of death and of Hades” (1:18). Keys are a symbol of power and authority. His faithful followers don’t need to fear because death and the abode of the dead are under his control. No matter what the future brings, He will always be with His people until the very end.
Do you sometimes find yourself on a “patmos,” surrounded by a sea of dire circumstances that cause fear in your life? What lesson does the scene of Jesus among the lampstands speak to you?
Wednesday January 10
Christ’s Messages for Then and Now
John lived the last part of his life in Ephesus. He was a pastor overseeing the churches in the province. While he was on Patmos, those churches started experiencing serious problems. However, the aged apostle could not provide them with guidance.
Read Revelation 1:11 and 19-20. Jesus also gave to John distinctive messages for the seven churches in Asia. What does the fact that there were more that seven churches in the province and that only seven were chosen suggest about the symbolic significance of these messages for Christians in general?
The messages that Jesus commissioned John to send to the seven churches are recorded in Revelation 2-3. Their meanings apply on three levels:
Historical application. Those messages were originally sent to the seven churches located in the prosperous city centers in Asia in the first century. The Christians there faced serious challenges from the pagan environment. Several cities set up emperor worship in their temples as a token of their loyalty to Rome. Emperor worship became compulsory for all citizens in those cities. Citizens were also expected to participate in the city’s public events and pagan religious ceremonies. Because Christians refused to participate in those events they faced losing their legal status, persecution, and even martyrdom. Commissioned by Christ, John wrote the seven messages to help them with the challenges of their pagan environment. An understanding of this historical context helps us understand the primary meaning of those messages.
Prophetic application. The fact that Revelation is a prophetic book and that only seven churches were chosen, points to the prophetic character of the seven messages. The spiritual conditions in the seven churches coincide with the spiritual conditions of Christianity in different periods of history. The seven messages are intended to provide, from heaven’s perspective, a panoramic survey of the spiritual condition of Christianity from the first century until the time of the end.
Universal application. While originally sent to the churches in Asia, the seven messages contain lessons that apply also to different Christians in every period in history. They were sent together as one letter and they had all to be read in every church (Rev 1:11). In such a way, they represent different types of Christians in any place and time. For instance, while the general characteristic of Christianity today is Laodicean, some Christians may, instead, have the characteristics of some other church. The good news is, God “meets fallen human beings where they are”—Ellen White, The Faith I Live By, p. 10.
Thursday January 11
Message to the Church in Ephesus
Read Acts 19. What do you learn here about the city of Ephesus and the beginning of the church there? What were some of the challenges of the pagan environment that Christians in Ephesus faced?
Ephesus was the capital and the largest city in the Roman province of Asia, located on the major trade routes. As the chief seaport of Asia, it was a very important commercial and religious center. The city was filled with public buildings such as temples, theaters, gymnasiums, bathhouses, and brothels. It was known also for magical practices and arts. The city was, however, notorious for immorality and superstition. Yet, the most influential Christian church in the province was located in Ephesus.
Read Revelation 2:1-4 along with Jeremiah 2:2. How does Jesus present Himself to this church? For what great qualities does Jesus commend the church? What concern does Jesus express about the members in the church?
In their early days, the Ephesians were known for their faithfulness and love (Eph. 1:15). Although experiencing pressure both from outside and inside the church, the Christians in Ephesus remained firm and faithful. They were hardworking and doctrinally sound. They could not tolerate false teachers in their midst. However, as the members emphasized sound doctrine and orthodox behavior, their love for Christ and their fellow members began to wane. Although firm and faithful, in the absence of love, their works became cold and legalistic.
Read Revelation 2:5-7. What three things does Jesus urge the church to do in order to revive their first love and devotion to Christ and their fellow believers? How are these three things sequentially related?
Prophetically, the situation in the church in Ephesus corresponds to the general situation and spiritual condition of the church in the first century. The early church was characterized by love and faithfulness to the gospel. But by the end of the first century, the church began losing the fire of its first love, thus departing from the simplicity and purity of the gospel.
Throughout history Christians have always found themselves torn between practicing sound doctrine and expressing love and compassion. Imagine yourself as part of a congregation whose love is waning? The members may not be rebuked of any open sin. They are doing what’s right, yet they suffer from formalism and coldness. How can Jesus’s counsel help such a church get out of such a situation?
Friday January 12
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Patmos,” pp. 567-576, in The Acts of the Apostles.
“The persecution of John became a means of grace. Patmos was made resplendent with the glory of a risen Saviour. John had seen Christ in human form, with the marks of the nails, which will ever be his glory, in his hands and his feet. Now he was permitted again to behold his risen Lord, clothed with as much glory as a human being could behold, and live. What a Sabbath was that to the lonely exile, always precious in the sight of Christ, but now more than ever exalted! Never had he learned so much of Jesus. Never had he heard such exalted truth.
“The appearance of Christ to John should be to all, believers and unbelievers, an evidence that we have a risen Christ. It should give living power to the church. At times dark clouds surround God’s people. It seems as if oppression and persecution would extinguish them. But at such times the most instructive lessons are given. Christ often enters prisons, and reveals himself to his chosen ones. He is in the fire with them at the stake. As in the darkest night the stars shine the brightest, so the most brilliant beams of God’s glory are revealed in the deepest gloom. The darker the sky, the more clear and impressive are the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, the risen Saviour.”—Ellen G. White, “John the Beloved,” in Youth Instructor, April 5, 1900.
“Looking down through long centuries of darkness and superstition, the aged exile saw multitudes suffering martyrdom because of their love for the truth. But he saw also that He who sustained His early witnesses would not forsake His faithful followers during the centuries of persecution that they must pass through before the close of time.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 588.
John the Revelator shares with the readers what he saw and heard on Patmos. As you read Revelation 1:12-20, what do you see and hear? How does the vision of the glorified Christ impact your daily life today and your walk with Him?
Somebody said that religion is something people try in their life after they have tried everything else. As we have deliberated this week about John’s experience on Patmos, what impact has this made on your decision, after all you have tried in your life, to try Jesus Christ?