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The Vision of His Glory
By Anne Graham Lotz
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Anne Graham Lotz
All rights reserved.
HOPE WHEN YOU ARE DEPRESSED by the Smallness of Your Life
His name is Leoni. He is one of an estimated thirty-five million abandoned children in a South American country who live in the streets, surviving by stealing, begging, and scavenging. Shortly after birth, he was left by his homeless mother on the doorstep of a nunnery, only to be reclaimed months later and taken by his mother to her home, the city streets.
In Leoni's country, parents who cannot support or raise their children for any reason sometimes abandon them, much like unwanted kittens or puppies. It is a matter of record that the abandoned children, who range in age from one to eighteen years, are starved, beaten, raped, and tortured, and sometimes under cover of darkness they are rounded up by the authorities to be shot like rats in a sewer. Always aware of these devastating horrors that constantly surrounded him, Leoni's days were spent begging for food to keep his drunken mother alive. His nights were filled with terror.
Three years after being reclaimed by his mother, Leoni and his mother were arrested by the police and taken to the juvenile courts in the capital city. Because his mother was pregnant with another child she would later abandon, Leoni was assigned to a government orphanage that housed about 550 other young children. Five months later he was transferred to another state orphanage.
What hope for the future does Leoni have? What hope does one small child have in the midst of thirty-five million small children who've been abandoned, attacked, shuffled from place to place? None, if hope is in his country's court system or the government orphanages.
But God has a future for Leoni! A Christian couple, moved by the sovereign grace of God, made his wildest dreams come true when they adopted him into their family. Now, for the first time in his small life, Leoni is loved and secure.
Does your life seem small to you? Perhaps as small as Leoni's actually is? Do you feel abandoned, worthless, lost in the shuffle of life? What hope is there for your future?
If your hope is in this world, there is none. But to those who are depressed by the smallness of their lives, God gives hope for the future through the vision of His glory. This vision begins to unfold in the first chapter of the book of Revelation, as we reflect on what God says through prophecy.
Finding Hope by Reflecting on What God Says ... through Prophecy
The book of Revelation begins by clearly stating its theme. "The revelation of Jesus Christ ..." The theme of Revelation is not primarily prophecy, or future events, as many suppose; it is Jesus!
Prophecy Was Received from God
The word revelation literally means to "unveil." In the book of Revelation, God uses prophecy to "unveil" Jesus, enabling us to see Him in a unique way. And when we see Him clearly, we see a vision of His glory that transcends our smallness.
When Jesus was alive on earth, He was so "veiled" that His own mother, His half brothers and half sisters, even His own disciples did not fully understand who He was. But we have a clearer view of Him. Through prophecy, God lifts the veil, enabling us to see Jesus in a way that those who walked and lived with Him on earth could not.
Through prophecy, God lifted the veil in the Old Testament so believers could worship Jesus Christ. For example, Adam and Eve could worship Jesus Christ, through prophecy, as the Seed of the woman who, in essence, would take away the sin of mankind and bring man back into a right relationship with the Creator.
Abraham could worship Jesus Christ through prophecy as the One through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Moses could worship Jesus Christ through prophecy as the Prophet like himself, who would deliver people, not from bondage in Egypt, but from bondage to sin and Satan. Isaiah worshiped Jesus Christ through prophecy as the "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace," and also as the Lamb by whose wounds we would be healed. Micah worshiped Jesus through prophecy as the Baby who would be born in Bethlehem. Zechariah worshiped Him through prophecy as the King of kings and Lord of lords who would one day rule the entire world!
Although these Old Testament believers and those who listened to them did not fully understand who Jesus is, through prophecy they were able to "see" Jesus in a way they could not otherwise have seen Him. Because through prophecy, God "unveils" Jesus Christ.
Prophecy Was Recorded by John
God not only unveiled Jesus Christ through prophecy in the past, but through the book of Revelation, He uniquely unveils Jesus as our hope for the future! This "revelation of Jesus Christ" was recorded by the prophet John, but, as Peter explained, "No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
What God gave and the Holy Spirit inspired, John faithfully recorded: "[God] made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ"(Rev. 1:1b–2).
Revelation is so thrilling because it is not just a prediction—a weather forecast—of what is to come. It is the prophet John's eyewitness account of the future! In this stirring account, he says he personally testifies to everything he saw! For you and me, the book of Revelation describes the future. For the apostle John, it was history! Nearly fifty times, John says "I saw." Almost thirty times he says, "I heard." What a personal testimony the apostle John had! If he had the opportunity to share a condensed version of it, perhaps he would express it something like this:
I was a disciple of John the Baptist for some time. One day I was standing beside the River Jordan with John when he pointed out a rather ordinary-looking man, exclaiming "Look! There goes Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the unique Son of God. There is God, walking the earth in a human body!"
So I left John the Baptist and followed Jesus. I was His disciple for three years. During that time I saw and heard Him in every conceivable circumstance. I saw Him create sight in a man born blind. I saw Him cleanse lepers, walk on water, feed more than five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. I saw Him raise Lazarus from the dead, and I heard the Sermon on the Mount. I saw all this with my own eyes!
But I will never forget that Thursday night when Jesus, the other disciples, and I had eaten a meal together in an upper room in Jerusalem. Afterward, He took us to a secluded spot on the Mount of Olives for prayer. But instead of praying, I went to sleep. He awakened me and asked if I would pray with Him. But—oh, how ashamed I am to admit it now—I went back to sleep. Again He awakened me, asking for prayer, and again I went back to sleep. The third time He came, needing me to watch and pray with Him. But since I was still sleeping, He left me undisturbed. When I finally woke up, I saw Roman soldiers placing Him under arrest, taking Him off for trial before the religious leaders.
I followed at a distance, and because I am a relative of the high priest, I was able to slip into the courtyard and watch the proceedings from there. With my own ears I heard Him accused of various false charges. In the end, I heard Him convicted of blasphemy—of claiming to be the unique Son of God.
Then I watched as they took Him to the Roman courts for trial. I saw Him slapped, spat upon, and scourged until the flesh was ripped from His bones and His body glistened with blood. In fact, His appearance was so marred, I could hardly recognize Him as a Man, much less my Master and Friend.
I heard the crowd that had gathered at the judgment hall begin to riot as they shouted in unison, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Then I heard, with my own ears, as seven different times the Roman courts said: "This Man is innocent. This Man is innocent. This Man is innocent." But in the end, I watched as the Roman governor, Pilate, washed his hands of responsibility and concluded: "This Man is innocent, but ... you can crucify Him!"
I followed at a distance as He was led out of Jerusalem to the place of execution known as Golgotha. There, with my own eyes, I saw Jesus of Nazareth crucified on a Roman cross.
I stood at the foot of the cross and watched for six long, agonizing hours as He hung on it. At one point He even noticed me and asked if I would take care of His mother, who was also standing nearby. At the end of those six horrifying hours, I heard, with my own ears, as He shouted with a loud voice, "It is finished!" And I saw, with my own eyes, as He bowed His head and deliberately refused to take the next breath.
I saw Jesus of Nazareth die on a Roman cross. There was no mistake. He was dead!
And at that point, my life fell apart! I was devastated! Everything I had hoped, all of my dreams for the future, my whole reason for living, had crumbled at that cross! Because I had thought Jesus was the Messiah. I had thought He was the Redeemer of Israel! I had thought He was the unique Son of God—God walking the earth in a Man's body! And He had died on a Roman cross as a common criminal! My whole world was shattered.
I went back to the upper room in Jerusalem with the other disciples. We locked the door and barred the windows, scared that the Romans, now that they had crucified Jesus, would seek out His disciples and put us to death as well.
In my confusion, anger, and grief, the hours ran together. Before I knew it, it was early Sunday morning and someone was pounding on the door.
I was terrified! I thought the Romans had come to get us! Then I heard a woman's voice. I opened the door and it was Mary. She was hysterical, saying something about graverobbers and the tomb being empty where Jesus had been buried.
I looked at Peter, and he looked at me. We must have had the same thought because we both ran through that open door, through the early-morning streets of Jerusalem, until we came to the tomb where Jesus had been laid. And sure enough! The stone was rolled away, just as Mary said!
I ran into the tomb, and I will never forget—never—what I saw with my own eyes. NOTHING! The tomb was empty!
Except for one thing. The grave clothes were still there! And there was something about them ...
I had witnessed the raising of Lazarus from the dead. When his sister Martha had finished unwrapping him, the grave clothes were a tumbled pile of filthy rags. But Jesus' grave clothes were different. They did not look as though someone had unwound them. The grave clothes were lying there as though the body was still inside! They looked like an empty cocoon, flattened and limp! They looked like the body had just evaporated right through them!
I stood there, looking at those grave clothes, and suddenly I KNEW that Jesus of Nazareth had risen from the dead! He was alive!
But now I was more confused then ever! I went back to the upper room in Jerusalem with the other disciples. Again, in fear, we locked the door and barred the windows. We talked about what we had seen, and we waited ...
Sunday afternoon, inside that locked room I suddenly heard, with my own ears, a very familiar voice. The Master's voice. My heart seemed to stop. But He said, "Peace. It is I. Be not afraid."
I turned, and with my own eyes, I saw Jesus of Nazareth standing before me. I saw the wound on His brow where the crown of thorns had been embedded. I saw the wounds in His hands and feet where the nails had been. I saw the wound in His side where the soldiers had thrust in the spear. I SAW Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead!
He was alive!
And for forty days following His resurrection, I walked with Him and talked with Him and listened as He spoke. Then one day, as the other disciples and I were standing with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, near Bethany, I listened to Him with my own ears as He taught us. Then with my own eyes, as He lifted His hands in blessing, I watched as His body slowly lifted up from the ground. I saw His physical body rise up through the air and disappear into the clouds. I SAW, with my own eyes, Jesus of Nazareth ascend into heaven!
While I was staring up into the sky where I had seen Him disappear, two men in white suddenly appeared and said, "Why are you standing around, staring off into space? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven."
And now I want to tell you that the same eyes and ears that saw and heard Jesus of Nazareth while He was on earth have seen Him come back!
Let me tell you something of what I have seen!
With my own eyes, I have seen worldwide pestilence, pollution, persecution, and famine so severe that they wiped out a third of the earth's population. I have seen wars fought that were so destructive the blood of those massacred rose to the height of a horse's bridle. I have seen stars falling from the sky and mountains falling into the sea. I have seen a beast rise up out of the sea who rules the world, and a false prophet who does miracles in his name. I have seen demons swarming over the earth, and I have seen angels. I have seen hell, and I have seen heaven. I have seen the sky unfold, and a white horse appear whose Rider is called Faithful and True, followed by the armies of heaven. I have seen Satan bound, and Satan loosed, and Satan thrown into the lake of fire forever and ever. I have seen the old earth pass away and a new heaven and a new earth come down.
And over it all, under it all, around it all, through it all, at the beginning of it all, and at the end of it all, I have seen Jesus Christ, absolutely supreme as the victorious hope of the ages!
As thrilling as this narrative is, John's actual personal testimony in the book of Revelation is even more vivid as he describes the glory of Jesus Christ, compelling us to worship Him. God uniquely revealed Jesus to John—and, through prophecy, He has revealed Him to us so that we might read and reflect on the vision of His glory and find hope for the future.
Prophecy Is to Be Read by You
What is your attitude toward prophecy? One attitude is to avoid it because it seems too difficult to understand, too controversial to discuss, too meaningless to be personally relevant. People with this attitude tend to feel more comfortable in the Psalms, the Proverbs, the Gospels, and the Epistles. They leave prophecy to the theological heavyweights such as the seminary professors or preachers or professional Bible scholars.
Others are so fascinated with prophecy they spend hours trying to interpret the symbols, count the numbers, and even make predictions based on their calculations. They tend to forget about personal holiness, obedience, and winning the lost.
Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that prophecy was given to ordinary people like you and me to give us hope for our future: "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near" (Rev. 1:3). Blessed! Blessed! BLESSED are those who do not give just a superficial reading to the book of Revelation, but who continually read, study, apply, and live by it!
And what is this special blessing? It is the blessing of seeing Jesus! It is the vision of His glory that gives hope!
How does reflecting on what God says through prophecy give you hope when you are depressed by the smallness of your life? It begins by helping you get your eyes off yourself.
When was the last time you read prophecy? As you read this book, would you also open up your Bible and read the book of Revelation along with it? Make the time to reflect on what God says through prophecy so you can refocus on who Jesus Christ really is. Let's begin this refocusing as John did, through praise.
Excerpted from The Vision of His Glory by Anne Graham Lotz. Copyright © 2009 Anne Graham Lotz. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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