Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
(Revelation 19:6-10 ESV)
John is confronted with the angels of God gathered around God’s throne, he does what any believer might do. He falls down in worship himself. The only problem is that he bows down to one of the angels, who reminds him not to worship a servant of God. “Worship God,” the angel says.
The statement the angel makes seems to snap John out of focusing on the wrong thing. When shepherds saw angels, they “were very afraid.” When Gideon saw the army of God (angels), he took courage. In each case of an angelic appearance, the startled human rather quickly came to his senses and realized that these beings are God’s messengers.
It was probably the angel’s mention of the testimony of Jesus that flipped the switch so John could understand what he was doing. It appears that the angel was using John’s own phrase. The wording, “the testimony of Jesus” was probably something this believer had said many times. He may have even originated the phrase.
John hears his own words and suddenly remembers the rest of his own phrase (my guess): “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” There it is. Simple. Elegant. Everything that had been foretold in the 18 chapters that preceded was explained in one sentence. John didn’t understand the meaning of the seven lamp stands or the mark of the beast any more now than he had five minutes before. But he understood one thing now: everything he had “seen” was about Jesus.
Another of the lectionary texts for today has Jesus saying to the disciples, “Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
(Matthew 16:9-12 ESV)
It wasn’t about feeding five thousand. It wasn’t about feeding four thousand. The miracles of Jesus were never about what they were about. The parables of Jesus were never about the things they seemed to be about.
When you know Jesus personally, he absolutely changes how you look at life. Surrender your life to Christ and you will begin to see things you never saw before; like how angels can be all about testifying to Jesus, even as they tell you of great things that are about to be. Did you know that bread can be about more than sustenance?
Was the feeding of the four thousand and the five thousand a warning against the teaching of the Pharisees? Sure. But it was so much more than even that. You see, if they had looked a little more deeply, they would have seen Jesus himself in the breaking of the bread.
Has something happened to you recently? You met a person or had an interview, you found out someone was praying for you, or you had coffee with a friend and an idea came up that you want to follow up on? Maybe you find yourself writing and you don’t know why you’re writing what you’re writing and yet you sense that it isn’t you writing it? Maybe that’s Jesus at work. If the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, then maybe those chance meetings and the things you are experiencing are Jesus at work.
Do you not yet perceive?