How important to instill that fact at the outset of what is going to be disturbing news about the world. See the contrast: believers are blessed with God’s grace and peace but this book is going to describe a world that gets the opposite: His wrath and judgment!
The Seven Churches
We see he is addressing the 7 churches in Asia just as Jesus commanded him to (see verse 11). John is doing what he is told to do. By writing this letter to these churches he is obedient to Jesus Christ (see again verses 1-2).
Grace & Peace
Notice that He gives a familiar N.T. greeting: “Grace to you and peace”. So often in the NT letters start with and end with this kind of blessing. Why do they do this? Here’s some reasons I think this phrase is important:
- It’s a way of framing the reader’s mind. “Let’s start by reminding ourselves with the incredible blessing we have in God’s grace and peace.” The angels declared peace unto mankind at the Incarnation (Luke 2:14). Jesus’ first words to His disciples after His resurrection were “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Now concerning the prophecy of His return the first words again invoke peace for and towards the believer. For a believer to read that it’s a way of preparing them by reminding them of the grace and peace that are now continually flowing to them from God. All of life for us should be seen from the vantage of God’s grace and peace.
- And that’s who this grace and peace come from: God. Not John. Grace is God’s unmerited favor towards us; it is His attitude of kindness and graciousness towards us. Peace means tranquility, calmness, not at war. It speaks of the new terms of our relationship we have with God in Christ.
- How important to instill that fact at the outset of what is going to be disturbing news about the world! See the contrast: believers are blessed with God’s grace and peace but this book is going to describe a world that gets the opposite: His wrath and judgment!
The Triune God
We have this grace and peace from God – notice the lengthy and detailed description of who this grace and peace comes from: the Trinity. The Father, the Spirit, and the Son all together, in complete harmony of purpose give grace and peace to believers.
Let’s take each One individually. First, John mentions in verse 4 that this grace and peace is from “Him who is and who was and who is to come.” That is God the Father. This description alludes to His eternality. He is without beginning and without end; He is timeless.
Second, John tells us this grace and peace is from the Holy Spirit, see how he says “from the seven Spirits who are before His throne.” This is a unique way to refer to the Holy Spirit. It’s unique that the Holy Spirit is included in a greeting as just about every time I can think of in the NT only the Father and Son are mentioned in salutations. So, this may raise the question of whether or not John is actually referring to the Holy Spirit here or not. But, I think two reasons assure us that the Holy Spirit is referred to here.
- First, He is included as 1 of the 3 here who gives grace and peace. Notice the word “from” mentioned 3 times in verse 4 and the first part of verse 5. The reason is because John is saying grace and peace to you FROM the Father, FROM the Spirit and FROM Jesus.
- Second, notice that this seven-fold Spirit’s position in the passage – notice where He is mentioned. He is couched between the Father and the Son in these verses as One giving grace and peace. This is another clear indication of His individuality as one of the Divine Persons John refers to.
So what is up with the phrase “from the seven spirits before the throne”. This unique reference is explained in Isaiah 11, the 7-fold ministry of the Spirit. It could be the appearance in the vision of the Spirit to John – 7 spirits but 1, like the trinity is 3 but one.
“Before His throne” , the position of ministering on behalf of the Father, and, ministering with equal Divine authority.
Then we come to the 3rd Divine Person in the Trinity is described in this greeting. Notice three differences in the description of Jesus Christ as compared to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus is identified outright – by name, whereas the Father and the Spirit are described symbolically (v. 4). John doesn’t say, “from the Father and the Holy Spirit.”
- The order is different. Normally it goes Father, Son Spirit. This time it goes Father, Spirit Son. I think the reason is our last point:
- John says a lot more about Jesus than either the Father or the Spirit. The description of Jesus is much longer
Why would John cram short descriptions of the Father and the Spirit in one verse and spend 2 whole verses on Jesus? Why does He get all the ink? Because the focus of this revelation is Jesus Christ, and John wants us to be focused on Him. Verse 1 did say, “The revelation of Jesus Christ….” The word “see” or “saw” occurs 8 times in the first chapter. What we find beginning in chapter 1 and extending through the entire book is John describing what he saw about Jesus Christ.
So since John under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, used valuable ink and papyrus to describe Jesus so much we ought to take the time to look closely at our Savior. Let’s break it down into Three Titles and Three Traits.
First we see Jesus is RELIABLE. He is the Faithful Witness. Here we have the first office of Jesus Christ: Prophet. The ultimate, consummate prophet of God – God in the flesh actually, who came to give the true witness of God. This refers to His ministry while He was on the earth. This is the first title of Jesus listed in these verses because it speaks to the trustworthiness of Jesus. He only spoke the truth all the time. Everything Jesus said on earth was trustworthy (John 12:49-50), and, everything He reveals to John in Revelation can be trusted.
Note: the only credential of John in verse 2 is that he is a witness; John bore witness to the truth.
Application: Because Jesus is reliable we need to be convinced of what this book says is true. Jesus is the One revealing these things and because of His integrity as the Faithful witness we believe everything He says.
Application #2: Because Jesus is reliable in His character, and He is the Faithful Witness, we need to be people of the highest integrity in everything we say and do.
Secondly we see Jesus Christ’s RANK: He is The First-born from the dead. Here now we have an intimation towards His current office of Priest. He was prophet, now He is Priest in Heaven interceding on our behalf with God. In the Greek, the word for “first” emphasizes that Jesus is first in rank, not first in sequence. It means that Jesus has supreme rank over all who ever will be raised. Nobody is higher than Jesus – Philippians 2:9, “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name.”
Application: As God organizes the universe, Jesus is first in rank over all things. As you organize your life, is Jesus first in rank over all things? Jesus should have first priority in the life of every believer. What does it mean that Jesus should have first priority in your life?
Thirdly we see Jesus described as the RULER: The Ruler of the kings of the earth. Now we see the future office of Jesus Christ: King, when He will come to rule the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. This title shows us the total sovereignty of Jesus. In 19:16 we see the title given to Jesus, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” He is the authority over all authority. When He returns at His 2nd Coming, He will rule on the earth for 1000 years as King, and, then from then on into eternity
Application: Because Jesus is the supreme ruler, the response of every believer is submission to His authority. There is nothing in your life that is out of Jesus’ Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction simply means the scope and range of legal authority. I remember those old shows on tv where the bad guy would rob a bank in one state and get into a high speed chase. They would be racing the cops to the state line because if they could get over that line they would be free from the legal authority that those cops had. There is no limit to the range of authority Jesus has on the earth or in our lives. He is ruler over everything.
Now notice that John while continuing to describe Jesus shifts contexts. In other words he slides from the divine greeting to a doxology. Starting at the end of verse 5 and into verse 6, “to Him who loves us and freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father – to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Doxologies are praise responses to the wonderful truth of God. They are words that ascribe glory to God. Whenever you find a doxology in Scripture it is always immediately after some glorious truth told about God.
For example, in 1 Timothy 1:15-17, “15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”. Verse 17 is the doxology, and it comes immediately after Paul states that trustworthy statement that Jesus came to save sinners.
So what glorious truth causes John to give this doxology? Three things: 1) He loves us, 2) He has freed us from our sins, and 3) He made us a kingdom and priests.
First, He loves us: Oh the Deep Deep Love of Jesus [Read the hymn]. This is in the Present tense. He loves us now – not just in the past. Not just in your past. His love is persistent and consistent. He didn’t love us and then stop loving us. That’s human love. His love is an abiding love that is unconditional and unrelenting. He knows every failure and shortcoming and yet verse 5 is still in the present tense – it says His love remains. Nothing can separate us from His love (Rom 8:35-39).
Application: It’s time to be convinced that you are loved. You are loved with the most supreme love by the One who is supreme over all. (Chapter 3, verse 9)
Second, He freed us from our sins by His blood: Jesus Paid it All, All to Him I owe, Sin had left a Crimson Stain, He washed it white as snow. (Read 3rd Stanza?) The first emphasis I make is that He is the One who has freed us. We didn’t free ourselves and we never could. He is the One who has rescued us. He is the One who has delivered us. Some translations say He “released us”, or, that He “washed us”. The atoning work Jesus did has set us free from the penalty and the power of sin, and, washed us clean from its filthy stain. He did this by shedding His blood. Here is the exchange: He gave His life so we could have life. By His death we are set free from sins. ***This is why He deserves the doxology and not us.
Application: Know that your sins are forgiven and you are not bound by them any longer.
Third, He made us to be a kingdom and priests. He says 2 things about us: we are made into a kingdom and we are made into priests. This is stated again in chapter 5:10, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” First Peter 2:9 says we are a “ROYAL –priesthood.” Colossians 1:13, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”
We have a new citizenship, and we belong to a kingdom now. Colossians 1:13 says, “For He [the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
We also are made holy – we are priests. Priests had access to God’s presence in the OT. In the NT, Jesus said He was the only way a man could go to the Father in John 14:6. Hebrews 4:16 invites believers to enter God’s presence by approaching His throne. Chapter 10:19 says believers have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place – the presence of God. Jesus has made every single believer into a priest who has access to God.
Priests also offered sacrifices. As priests, we offer sacrifices too. But not animals. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” John is a priest because of Jesus, and What did John do here in revelation as a priest? His doxology is a sacrifice of praise, it is the fruit of his lips that openly profess and praise Jesus’ name.
“To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” This is glorious truth and if you are a Christian your heart should respond like John’s. Doxologies should not be foreign to you.
What is your take-away today? Are you going to see life from the grace and peace you now have from God? Does the integrity of Jesus as the Faithful Witness make you trust Him completely? Does His integrity compel you towards a higher integrity in your own life? And are you ready to believe here and now that you are loved?