While on the Isle of Patmos, John had a vision of New Jerusalem coming down “…prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). That vision of the future must have flooded his heart with joy! John was so overwhelmed that he fell down before the angel who showed him these “things to come.”
I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10, NKJV).
The testimony of Jesus is the spirit and purpose of prophecy, and He is to be our focus! Lest we too get caught up with any of the angels (messengers) of the Lord more than the Lord of Hosts, or get caught up in prophecy more than the prophesied One, let me inform you that the last book of the Bible is called “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” and not the revelation of the future, although it is filled with future events.
There are a lot of revelatory, descriptive titles of our Lord throughout the Book of Revelation: He is…
Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, the first begotten of the dead, the Prince of the kings of the earth, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Lord, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb as it had been slain, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, Faithful and True, the Word of God, the Rider of the white horse, the Christ, the Lord God of the holy prophets, the Beginning and the End, and the Bright and Morning Star! Halleluiah!
And there’s even more self-describing titles given within His seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor:
He who holds the seven stars, who walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks, He who searches the reins and hearts, He that is holy and true, He that has the key of David, He who shuts and no man opens, He who opens and no man shuts, the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God.
No depiction of Christ, however, is more important that the first one, although it’s the only title not specifically named! Jesus is the great High Priest. When John beheld the resurrected Lord in Revelation Chapter One, this is what he saw:
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
Three things I would like to point out here:
- The seven golden lampstands correspond with the lampstand in the earthly temple where the High Priest would make an annual atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people.
- Jesus has a garment that goes down to His feet, corresponding to the full-length garments the High Priests wore.
- The golden band also depicts the High Priest of Israel.
John surely understood why Christ was dressed as He was: He was now our great High Priest, tending to the lampstands (representing His people) just as Aaron had tended the lampstands in the Tabernacle.
Also, Gordon Fee writes,
John is deliberately borrowing language from the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), where it is used exclusively for the full-length tunic of the high priest; thus his readers would readily understand that Jesus, the “son of man,” is also being presented as the great high priest.
And one more Greek scholarly witness:
He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. This depicts Jesus as a priest (Exod 28–29). The term John uses for “robe” is used in the LXX (Septuagint) almost exclusively for the garment of the high priest (Exod 25:7; 28:4, 31; 29:5; 35:9; Zech 3:4. The term for “sash”, while used more generically in the LXX for belts of various sorts, is also used to describe the sash of the high priests (Exod 28:4, 39–40; 29:9; 39:29; Lev 8:7, 13; 16:4). Since John has just described believers as “priests” (1:6), a description of Jesus as High Priest follows logically.
Jesus is clearly being revealed as the great High Priest, not just in Revelation, but also in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hebrews Chapter Ten begins with,
Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
Did you get the point? The main point of Hebrews is that Jesus is now our High Priest! Throughout Hebrews we are told in many ways and at many times to look unto Jesus:
In the opening verses we see the greatness of our Lord:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…
Then for the next nine chapters we are shown why Jesus is so much greater than the angels, Moses, Aaron, and Melchedezek.
Hebrews Chapter Three begins with,
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house.
So when Chapter Twelve tells us to again look to Jesus, we are looking to the One who is our great High Priest. We are to both look to Him for strength and look to Him as an example of how to endure our hard seasons; our crosses:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls (Hebrews 12:1-3).
For the joy set before Him, He victoriously endured death by crucifixion. Beneath the crown of thorns, beneath the blood and the broken body, deep down inside, Jesus was rejoicing on that cross. He had the joy of knowing His death was opening up heaven for you and me. When He was on the cross, you and I were on His mind!
Similarly, Paul was not just looking forward to going to heaven one day. He did say, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” but in the same passage, he said that it was more beneficial for the believers for him to stay around longer, so that is what he would choose to do (Philippians 1:21-26).
Paul’s joy, as His Lord’s, was wrapped up in a heaven to come that would be enjoyed with many loved ones. He declared to the Thessalonians,
What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy (1 Thessalonians 2:19). I love the Amplified Version here: For what is our hope or happiness or our victor’s wreath of exultant triumph when we stand in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? For you are [indeed] our glory and our joy!
Paul also knew that as he endured his crosses, the Lord would turn them around for the salvation of many:
Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:8-10).
Jesus knew His sufferings would bring Him into the place where He would become eternally perfected (perfected in experience, not in character, which He forever is.) So He now and forever is a (human) High Priest, who has been “…tempted in all points like us, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And because of the things He personally experienced while here on Earth, He is forever and perfectly filled with sympathy, empathy, and compassion toward you and me. And He now takes all the things we go through and turns them around for good, redeeming the pain and restoring the brokenness, and not wasting a single broken piece of bread:
So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten (John 6:12-13).
Oh, the frugality and goodness of God!
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn…to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…Instead of your shame, you shall have double honor…everlasting joy shall be theirs (Isaiah 61:1, 3, 7).
While working at Brooklyn Teen Challenge, a summer intern came to me as the Campus Pastor. She said, “Pastor Charles, I am so distraught, I don’t know if I can take the pain much longer.” She proceeded to spend the next thirty minutes detailing a very hard situation. Her Christian parents, who were financially helping her go to a Christian college, found out she was planning on switching her major to Muslim Ministries and then devote her life to reaching Muslim women in Middle Eastern countries. Her parents were horrified. No way were they willing to let go of their hopes and dreams that she would settle down (in the United States), get married, and give them a bunch of grandkids to enjoy. With deep tears, Rachel concluded, “Pastor Charles, they’ve also cut me off. Not only will they not help me any more financially, but they have completely cut me out of their lives! Why would God allow this to happen to me?”
I just so happen to be studying Hebrews, so I opened the Bible up to Chapter Five and compassionately and slowly read out loud to her:
Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins. And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses (Hebrews 5:1-3).
I said, “Can’t you see, Rachel? God is allowing you, like the High Priests in Israel, to experience the same things the people you will minister to will go through. When a Middle Eastern woman accepts Christ, there will be a high possibility that her family will completely disown her. You’ll be able to effectively walk them through that type of suffering because you yourself have experienced it firsthand.” The light came on in her and she saw that God was actually using the pain to prepare her! She was overwhelmingly relieved when she saw what God was accomplishing!
Not long after that, her parents called her and completely apologized. They said that God worked on their hearts and they were willing to fully support her future ministry decisions, no matter what the cost. It is so good when we can get a glimpse of what God is accomplishing through our sufferings.
So let’s try to tie together Hebrews Chapter Ten through Twelve: The Pastor clearly is concerned for this group of believers. He stirs them up by giving them three examples to follow: their own past example, the examples of the Old Testament saints, and the example of Christ on the cross.
In their victorious past, they had compassion on their fellow prisoners, suffering with them, helping them in their time of intense need no matter what it would cost them personally. That took genuine faith, faith in the present goodness and power of God. As we look at the Old Testament saints’ walk of faith, we see our faith also needs to embrace faith in God’s redemptive ability, and faith in the glories to come in the future that our God is preparing for us.
As we look at our great High Priest, we see that His sufferings were all for a purpose, a redemptive purpose. The Captain of our Salvation, the Author and Perfector of Faith has shown us the way into living such a productive life that we too will be “bringing sheaves” with us as we joyfully and triumphantly enter the Promised Land of heavenly glory one day (Psalm 126:6). When we go through seasons of suffering, let’s look unto Jesus, the Author and Perfector of the ministry of the High Priesthood, a ministry of compassion, sympathy, and empathy.