Revelation 1:4-8 - COMMENTARY:
This book opens with the Greek words, Apokalypsis Iesou Christou (The revelation of Jesus Christ). The first word, Apokalypsis (revelation), gives this book its title.
In verses 1 and 4, we learn that the one who received this revelation and wrote this book is John. We don't know which John. The early church thought of the author as John the apostle-John the son of Zebedee and the brother of James-John, one of the "Sons of Thunder" (Mark 3:17). Today, some scholars believe that it was another John, in part because the language of this book is so different from the language of the Gospel and Epistles of John. However, their arguments are not conclusive-and they offer no consensus with regard to the authorship of this book.
This is NOT "The Revelation of St. John," as some English-language Bibles have entitled it. It is "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things which must happen soon, which he sent and made known by his angel to his servant, John" (v. 1). God is the source of the revelation. God gave it to Jesus Christ, and Jesus made the revelation known by sending his angel to John.
Note further that this is an apocalypse-a revelation. While canonical scriptures include only a few examples of apocalyptic writings (Isaiah 24-27, 33; Daniel 7-12; Mark 13; Revelation), the genre was fairly common during the centuries immediately before and after Jesus' life on this earth. Other examples include the apocryphal works, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch.
We need to take the apocalyptic genre into account when reading and interpreting the book of Revelation. Just as we have learned to respect the differences between Biblical books of history, poetry, and prophecy, we need also to respect the distinctive qualities of apocalyptic writings.
• They are usually dualistic, making a distinction between this age (characterized by sin and evil) and the age to come (during which God will redeem his people and the world).
• They are typically rooted in crisis and foresee the coming judgment of God, the destruction of the present world, and the emergence of a new world in which the righteous will be vindicated and rewarded.
• They therefore have much in common with various prophetic books, and this book is identified as "words of...prophecy" (v. 3).
• They are usually pseudonymous (written under a fictitious name). However, the book of Revelation is not pseudonymous. It identifies John as the author, and no one (to my knowledge) has suggested that John was not the name of the author. We should note that the book of Daniel is not pseudonymous either.
• They also make extensive use of symbolism-often very strange symbolism:
- In the book of Daniel, the king has a dream about a great statue of gold, silver, bronze, iron, and clay (Daniel 2)-and Daniel has a dream of four unusual beasts (Daniel 7).
- In the book of Revelation, John has a vision of a Lamb "having seven horns and seven eyes" (5:6).
- He also has a vision of seven angels who have seven trumpets (chapters 8-10). The unusual thing about that vision is what happened when the angels blew their trumpets. For instance, when the first angel blew his/her trumpet, "there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. One third of the earth was burnt up, and one third of the trees were burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up" (8:7).
This book pronounces a blessing on those who read the book aloud and "and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is at hand" (v. 3). That last phrase, "for the time is at hand," is typical of apocalyptic writings, which tend to foresee a dramatic change in the near future. The book of Revelation foresees the destruction of Rome as ushering in a new age.
REVELATION 1:4-5a. JOHN TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES IN ASIA
4 John, to the seven assemblies (Greek: ekklesia-churches) that are in Asia: Grace (Greek: charis) to you and peace (Greek: eirene), from God, who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne; 5a and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
"John, to the seven assemblies (ekklesia-churches) that are in Asia" (v. 4a). In verse 11, Jesus will identify these seven churches by name-they are the churches located in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These seven cities are located in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). In chapters 2 and 3, Jesus sends letters to these churches.
There were other churches in Asia Minor, such as Troas, Colossae, and Hierapolis, but these aren't mentioned in the book of Revelation. We don't know why Jesus selects only seven churches to receive letters. It could have to do with the fact that the number seven symbolizes completeness for Jewish people. It could also be that these seven churches embody issues that Jesus particularly wants to address.
"Grace (charis) to you and peace"(eirene) (v. 4b). Grace (charis) is a significant word in the New Testament. Its' use in the New Testament has roots in the Hebrew word hesed, used in the Old Testament to speak of God's lovingkindness, mercy, and faithfulness.
Greeks often used the word charis to speak of patronage (the support of a patron, such as financial or political support). To Greeks, the word charis connoted generosity-generosity that demanded loyalty on the part of the recipient. It is easy to understand why New Testament authors would adapt charis to the Gospel. Christian charis (grace) is the gift of salvation by God to all who accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ. God, therefore, is the patron-the benefactor. We are the beneficiaries-those who depend on God's grace.
Peace (eirene) is also a significant word, occurring nearly a hundred times in the New Testament. It has its roots in the Hebrew word shalom, which is used frequently in the Old Testament. The LXX (the Septuagint-the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the Greek word eirene to translate the Hebrew word shalom nearly two hundred times.
Both eirene and shalom, as used in the Bible, mean more than the absence of violence-although they can mean that. Both words suggest the kind of well-being that is derived from a deep relationship with God-the kind of wholeness that comes from having the image of God, once shattered by sin, restored in the believer.
"from God, who is and who was and who is to come" (v. 4c). The grace and peace that John conveys has three sources. The first is "him who is and who was and who is to come"-God the Father. It seems ironic that John would use three measures of time ("was," "is," and "is to come") to define the one who is eternal-beyond time. However, this threefold measure helps us to visualize the extraordinary scope of the Father's eternal nature.
"and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne" (v. 4d). The second source of grace and peace is "the seven spirits who are before (the Father's) throne." In his letter to Sardis, Jesus will mention "the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars" (3:1-see also 4:5; 5:6). The phrase, "the seven spirits" probably refers to the Holy Spirit, although scholars are divided on this point. Because God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3), the scriptures regard the number seven as a symbol of completeness or fulfillment. If "the seven spirits" in this verse is intended to refer to the Holy Spirit, the number seven would be intended to convey the idea of the Spirit in all its fullness.
"and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth" (v. 5a). The third source of grace and peace is Jesus Christ. This verse tells of three attributes of Jesus Christ.
• Jesus Christ is "the faithful witness"-the one who knows God because he was "in the beginning with God" (John 1:2)-and who is therefore able to bear faithful witness to God. Jesus told his disciples, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).
• Jesus Christ is "the firstborn of the dead." This doesn't mean that Jesus was the first person to be resurrected from the dead. Elijah raised the son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17-24). Elisha raised the Shunammite woman's son (2 Kings 4:18-37). A man buried with Elisha, when he touched Elisha's bones, came to life (2 Kings 13:20-21). Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead (Matthew 9:18-26)-and the widow's son at Nain (Luke 7:11-15)-and his friend Lazarus (John 11:32-44). However, Jesus' resurrection was different, because it ushered in a new era with the promise of resurrection for all believers. Jesus is the firstborn of this new era.
• Jesus Christ is "the ruler of the kings of the earth." Earthly kings reign for a time, but Jesus Christ reigns for eternity. Earthly kings are mortal, but Jesus Christ is eternal. Earthly kings are human, but Jesus is divine. Not all earthly kings bow before Jesus' throne, but the day will come when they will be forced to acknowledge his preeminence.
REVELATION 1:5b-8. TO HIM WHO LOVES US
5b To him who loves us, and washed us from our sins by his blood; 6 and he made us to be a Kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be the glory (Greek: doxa) and the dominion (Greek:kratos) forever and ever. Amen.
7 Behold (Greek: idou), he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen.
8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Greek: pantokrator)
"To him who loves (present tense) us, and washed (aorist tense) us from our sins by his blood" (v. 5b). The use of the aorist tense emphasizes that Jesus' action to wash us from our sins is complete. Jesus has already done that once and for all time. However, this verse uses the present tense to speak of Jesus' love for us, because his love is ongoing-never ceasing.
Jesus told his disciples, "Even as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love" (John 15:9). Then he added, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
"and made us to be a Kingdom" (v. 6a). The kingdom of which we are part is the kingdom of God. The idea of the kingdom of God has its roots in the Old Testament. Israel understood Yahweh as having dominion over all (2 Chronicles 13:8; Psalm 103:19; 145:11-13; Isaiah 40:18-26; Jeremiah 10:7-16; Daniel 4:17; 5:21; 6:26-27), but saw that other nations worshiped other gods. Israel therefore saw itself as Yahweh's people and Yahweh's kingdom on earth-and looked forward to the messiah, who would usher in a more perfect world in which Yahweh would truly reign over all.
John the Baptist proclaimed, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2).Jesus repeated that message (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7), and also said, "But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28). Jesus was saying that his miracles demonstrated his God-given authority over earthly powers. He also pointed to his Second Coming as the time when God's kingdom would be fully established (Matthew 24-25).
Kingdom living is not something that will begin for us when we die and go to heaven. Kingdom living begins for us now when we acknowledge Christ as king and begin (however, tentatively) living by kingdom rules.
"priests to his God and Father" (v. 6b). Priests of Israel were descendants of Aaron (Exodus 28:1), charged with responsibility for the religious affairs of the nation. Presiding over religious rituals, to include sacrifices required by Torah law, they served as an intermediary between God and the people.
God told Moses to speak to the Israelites, saying, "you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6, emphasis added). The phrase, "a kingdom of priests," suggests that there is a sense in which the nation Israel constitutes a priesthood. The question then arises: Why would a nation with a substantial corps of priests need to be ordained to the priesthood as a nation? The answer is that, just as the priests were responsible for helping Israel to continue as a holy nation-so also God ordained the nation of Israel as "a kingdom of priests" to model holy living-to witness to Yahweh's glory and majesty and power-to draw people from other nations into a saving relationship with Yahweh.
The blessing of other nations appears first in the original covenant between Yahweh and Abram. In that covenant, Yahweh called Abram to leave his father's house to go where Yahweh would direct him. In return Yahweh promised: "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you" (Genesis 12:3-emphasis added). The responsibility of the Israelites to Gentiles was emphasized in various places in the Hebrew Scriptures. One example is God's call to Jonah to witness to the Ninevites.
Exodus 19:6 prepares us, then, to understand that all believers have a priestly responsibility. Other New Testament verses reinforce this idea:
• "You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).
• "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9).
• "You...made us kings and priests to our God" (Revelation 5:9b-10).
• "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over these, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him one thousand years" (Revelation 20:6).
"The use of the term priest to designate a particular class of ordained Christian ministers distinct from the laity is not found in the NT.... It was not until the end of the 2nd century that ministers who presided at the Eucharist were called 'priests' and not until the 3rd or 4th century that clergy as such were designated priests in contrast to the laity" (Boring, "Priests in the New Testament," NIDB, 613).
"to him (Jesus Christ) be the glory (doxa) and the dominion (kratos) forever and ever. Amen" (v. 6c). Glory (doxa) is characteristic of God, and refers to God's awe-inspiring majesty. God shared this glory with Jesus. Christ's glory is revealed in his presence with us, in his salvation work, and in judgment. We saw Jesus' glory revealed at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) and through his death and resurrection (Luke 24:26).
Dominion (kratos) involves applied power and might-power and might put to use to rule over others. Dominion belongs to God, who created heaven and earth-and who therefore rules over them. God shares this dominion with Jesus Christ. At the parousia (Second Coming), Jesus will return "in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27). Then "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).
"Behold, (idou) he is coming with the clouds" (v. 7a). The word idou (Look! or Behold!) alerts us that something important follows. That something is Jesus' Second Coming. The idea behind Christ's Second Coming has its roots in the Old Testament understanding of "the Day of Yahweh" or "the Day of the Lord" (Isaiah 13:6, 9; 58:13; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 13:5; 30:3). That day will bring judgment on the wicked and redemption to the faithful. The New Testament appropriates that idea and uses it in conjunction with Jesus' Second Coming.
Clouds are associated with the presence of the Lord in both testaments (Exodus 13:21-22; 16:10; 19:9; Mark 9:7). When Israel left Egypt, Yahweh guided them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (13:21). Later, a cloud covered the tabernacle, symbolizing the presence of God (40:33; Numbers 9:15; Deuteronomy 31:14). At the Transfiguration, God spoke from a cloud (Mark 9:7).
"and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him" (v. 7b). The Gospel of John reports a soldier piercing Jesus side with a spear (John 19:34), and then says, "These things happened, that the scripture might be fulfilled..., 'They will look on him whom they have pierced" (John 19:36-37). That alludes to the passage from the prophet Zechariah, who said, "I will pour on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they will look to me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and will grieve bitterly for him, as one grieves for his firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10).
A Roman soldier pierced Jesus' side initially, but each of us pierces his side when we live unfaithfully. When Jesus comes again, everyone will see him-both the faithful and the unfaithful-both those who believe and those who don't. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth among the unfaithful and the unbelievers (Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50).
"Even so, Amen" (v. 7c). This verse began with the Greek word idou (Behold! or Look!)-a word that signals the coming of something important. It closes with the Greek word nai (Yea! or Verily! or Surely!) and the Hebrew word amen, a word that is often used to introduce a weighty pronouncement. Both of these words (nai and amen) stress the importance of what has been said. So verse 7 begins and ends with words that emphasize the importance of its message.
"'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God" (v. 8a). This is the first of three attributes of God that John mentions in this verse. The one speaking here is "the Lord God" (Greek: kurios theos)-God the Father. This attribute will be mentioned twice again in this book-in 21:6 referring to the Father-and in 22:13 referring to the Son.
Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. God is saying, "I am A to Z-first and last-beginning and the end." Alpha and Omega represent completeness.
"who is and who was and who is to come" (v. 8b). This is the second of three attributes of God that John mentions in this verse. John introduced this wording in verse 4c (above). See above for comments on that verse.
"the Almighty"(pantokrator) (v. 8c). This is the third of three attributes of God that John mentions in this verse.
The word pantokrator combines two Greek words, pan which means all and kratos which means power or strength. While the Roman emperor would have seen himself as all powerful, John says that God is the one who is truly almighty. This would be an important word for the early church to hear-a church under persecution-a church that needs God's help.
BLB Commentary - Study Guide for Revelation 1:1-8 - Introduction; A Vision of Jesus
A. The introduction and prologue to the Book of Revelation.
1. (Rev 1:1-2) The writer of the Book of Revelation.
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
a. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: The ancient Greek word translated Revelation is apokalupsis (apocalypse). The word simply means "a revealing, an unveiling." What does the Book of Revelation reveal? It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This book is Jesus' Revelation in the sense that it belongs to Him, He is the one doing the revealing. It is also Jesus' Revelation in the sense that He is the object revealed; Jesus is the person revealed by the book. i. From the outset, we are given the most important truth about the Book of Revelation. This book does show us the Antichrist, it does show us God's judgment, it does show us calamity on the earth, it does show us Mystery Babylon in vivid detail. But most of all, it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ to us. If we catch everything else, but miss Jesus in the book, we have missed the Book of Revelation. ii. How we need a Revelation of Jesus! "The great fault of many professors is that Christ is to them a character upon paper; certainly more than a myth, but yet a person of the dim past, an historical personage who lived many years ago, and did most admirable deeds, by the which we are saved, but who is far from being a living, present, bright reality." (Spurgeon)
b. Which God gave Him to show His servants: This is an important reason why God gave this Revelation of Jesus Christ. He gave it to show His servants. God gave this revelation that it might be shown, not hidden. This is an apocalypse - a revelation, not apocrypha (something hidden).
c. Things which must shortly take place: This describes when the events of this book will take place - they will happen shortly, and they must happen shortly. This means that the Book of Revelation is a book of predictive prophecy. It speaks of things that will happen in the future - at least future from the time of its writing. i. Not all prophecy is predictive. But this prophetic book clearly is predictive. It describes things that must shortly take place. The time is near (Revelation 1:3) for the fulfillment of these things, but the time was not present at the time of writing. ii. Some would say that we should not be concerned with prophecy; that it is a frivolous exercise - but if God was concerned enough to talk about it, we should be concerned enough to listen. "Some tell us that what is yet future ought not to be examined into till after it has come to pass. I can hardly realize that this is seriously meant." (Seiss)
d. Shortly take place: When John says these things must shortly take place, what does he mean? How short is short? How near is near? Short and near are relative terms, and this is God's timetable, not man's. Yet for 2000 years, history has been on the brink of the consummation of all things, running parallel to the edge, not running towards a distant brink. i. Shortly is the ancient Greek phrase en tachei, which means "'quickly or suddenly coming to pass,' indicating rapidity of execution after the beginning takes place. The idea is not that the event may occur soon, but that when it does, it will be sudden." (Walvoord)
e. He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John: This describes how the message is delivered in the Book of Revelation. It is a book of signs: the angel sign-ified this message to John. It is a book that communicates in signs. i. Why does God use so many signs in the Book of Revelation? After all, they have been the main cause of difficulty with the book. Is God playing a game of "guess this mystery?" in Revelation? Not at all. The signs are necessary because John expresses things of heaven, which Paul said he heard with inexpressible words (2 Corinthians 12:4). John describes things he has seen, so he can only use symbolic images to explain them. To us, this book is prophecy. But to John, he simply recorded history unfolding before him, as he saw it. "John had visions from heaven; but he described them in his own language and manner." (Clarke) ii. The signs are also necessary because there is tremendous power in symbolic language. It is one thing to call someone or something "evil" or "bad." But it is far more vivid to describe the image of a woman drunk with the blood of the saints (Revelation 17:6). iii. Though it is filled with signs, the Book of Revelation is accessible to those who have an understanding of the first 65 books of the Bible, and especially an understanding of the first 39 books of the Bible, the Old Testament. The Book of Revelation is rooted in the Old Testament. It contains more than 500 allusions to the Old Testament, and 278 of the 404 verses in Revelation (that is almost 70%) make some reference to the Old Testament.
f. By His angel to His servant John: This tells us who wrote the Book of Revelation. It was His servant John, and the best evidence points to this being the Apostle John, the same writer of the Gospel of John and the books of 1, 2, and 3 John. i. By His angel: Many of the signs and visions of the Book of Revelation came to John through the supervision of an angel (Revelation 5:2, 7:2, 10:8 to 11:1, 17:7 are some examples).
g. Who bore witness to the word of God: In this prologue, we see that John knew this book was Holy Scripture, the word of God. We often wonder if the apostles knew they were writing Holy Scripture. At least in this case, John knew. i. He knew it was Holy Scripture because he calls it a revelation from God. He knew it came from the Father through Jesus, and not from any mere human. ii. He knew it was the Holy Scripture because he calls it the word of God, as an Old Testament prophet would say. He also calls it the testimony of Jesus Christ.
2. (Rev 1:3) A blessing to the reader and "keeper" of this book.
3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.
a. Blessed is he who reads ... and keep those things which are written in it: The Book of Revelation offers a particular and unique blessing to those who read and keep the message of this book. This is the first of seven beatitudes of Revelation (Revelation 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, and 22:14). i. Because they neglect the book Revelation, many people miss this blessing. For example, the Anglican Church virtually omits Revelation in its regular schedule of readings for both public worship and private devotions. This is a typical attitude towards the Book of Revelation. Many people believe that only fanatics want to dig deep into this book. But really, it is a book for anyone who wants to be blessed. ii. Fortunately, John didn't say that we had to understand everything in the Book of Revelation to be blessed. There are some difficult things in this book, that may only be understood as we look back at fulfilled prophecy. But we can be blessed by reading and hearing even when we don't understand.
b. This promise gives more reasons to know John believed this book was Holy Scripture. First, the words he who reads and those who hear show that this book was intended to be read publicly, just as other accepted Scriptures. Second, the promise of blessing itself shows that John regard this book as Holy Scripture. In the Jewish world, such a blessing could never be pronounced on a merely human book. i. All of these things together show that beyond doubt, the Book of Revelation claims to be Holy Scripture. A critic can agree or disagree with that claim, but it can't be denied that Revelation makes the claim.
c. Keep those things which are written in it: The Book of Revelation gives us much more than information
for prophetic speculation. It gives us things to keep. If we understand the Book of Revelation, it will change the way we live.
d. He who reads is in the singular. It speaks of one person who reads. Those who hear is in the plural. It speaks of many people hearing. The idea is probably from custom of the early church, where attention was given to the public reading of Scripture, which would often be explained. In our modern way of speaking, John might say "Blessed is the pastor who teaches Revelation, and blessed is the congregation who hears it." But most of all, pastor or congregation, blessed are those who keep those things which are written in it. i. "Neither must we only live up to the words of this prophecy, but die for it also, and be content to be burned with it, if called thereto; as that holy martyr, who when he saw the Revelation cast into the fire with him, cried out 'O blessed Revelation, how happy am I to be burned in thy company!'" (Trapp)
NOTE: There have been differing interpretations of Revelation over the ages. As evangelical churches having a literal interpretation of Scripture, SBC follows the "Futurist View": This approach believes that beginning with chapter four, Revelation deals with the end times, the period directly preceding Jesus' return. In the Futurist view, Revelation is a book that mainly describes the end times. In support of this view, we know the Book of Revelation speaks with clarity about the end times because of two central principles drawn from Rev. 1:1-3, specifically: (1) We believe that the Book of Revelation must mean something. This is a book that Jesus gave to show His servants something. It isn't a book of meaningless nonsense. It has a promise of blessing, not a promise of confusion, and (2) we believe that the Book of Revelation definitely claims to contain predictive prophecy. John made it clear: things which must shortly take place ... the time is near. John writes about events that were still future in his day.
1. (Rev. 1:4-5a) A greeting of grace and peace.
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5a and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
a. To the seven churches which are in Asia: This letter was originally addressed to these seven selected churches of Asia. This was the Roman province of Asia, which is the western part of modern day Turkey.
b. Grace to you and peace: "Grace represents standing; peace represents experience." (Walvoord)
c. From Him who is and who was and who is to come: John brings a greeting from God the Father, who is described with this title. Him who is and who was and who is to come speaks to the eternal nature of God. It has the idea of a timeless Being, and is connected with the name Yahweh found in the Old Testament (Exodus 2:14). i. The Greek construction of who is, who was and who is to come is intentionally awkward in the Greek. It seems that John searched for a phrase to communicate the Old Testament idea of Yahweh. ii. It is never enough to just say that God is, or to just say that He was, or to just say that He is to come. As Lord over eternity, He rules the past, the present, and the future. iii. The description Him who is and who was and who is to come applies to God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as much as it does to God the Father. In fact, the title Yahweh describes the Triune God, the One God in Three Persons. Yet it seems that John focuses on God the Father with this title because he specifically mentions God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in the following words of this verse.
d. From the seven Spirits who are before His throne: John brings a greeting from God the Holy Spirit, who is described with this title. The seven Spirits who are before His throne speaks to the perfection and completion of the Holy Spirit. John uses an Old Testament description of the Holy Spirit. i. The idea of the seven Spirits quotes from the Old Testament. Isaiah 11:2 describes seven aspects of the Holy Spirit: The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. It isn't that there are seven different spirits of God, rather the Spirit of the LORD has these characteristics, and He has them all in fullness and perfection.
e. From Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth: John brings a greeting from God the Son, who is described by who He is and by what He has done. i. Jesus is the faithful witness: This speaks to Jesus' utter reliability and faithfulness to His Father and to His people, even unto death. The ancient Greek word translated witness is also the word for a martyr. ii. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead: This speaks to Jesus' standing as pre-eminent among all beings, that He is first in priority. Firstborn from the dead means much more than that Jesus was the first person resurrected. It also means that He is pre-eminent among all those who are or will be resurrected. Jesus is the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29). iii. The use of firstborn does not mean that Jesus had a "birth date" and is therefore a created being, and not God. The ancient Rabbis called Yahweh Himself "Firstborn of the World" (Rabbi Bechai cited in Lightfoot's commentary on Colossians). Rabbis also used firstborn as a Messianic title. "God said, 'As I made Jacob a first-born (Exodus 4:22), so also will I make king Messiah a first-born' (Psalm 89:28)." (R. Nathan in Shemoth Rabba, cited by Lightfoot in his commentary on Colossians) iv. Jesus is the ruler over the kings. Before the Book of Revelation is over, Jesus will take dominion over every earthly king. At the present time, Jesus rules a kingdom, but it is a kingdom that is not yet of this world.
2. (Rev. 1:5b-6) A statement of praise to Jesus.
5b To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood- 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father-to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
a. To Him who loved us: What a beautiful title for Jesus! When loved is used, in the past tense, it points back to a particular time and place where Jesus loved us. It should be pointed out that many translations have loves us (such as NASB, NIV, and NLT), but there is something beautiful about loved us. It looks back to the cross. Every believer should be secure in God's love, not based on their present circumstances (which may be difficult), but based on the ultimate demonstration of love at the cross. This is worth praising Jesus about! i. Paul put it like this in Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The work of Jesus on the cross for us is God's ultimate proof of His love for you. He may give additional proof, but He can give no greater proof. ii. No wonder many believers are not secure in knowing the love of Jesus towards them! They look to their present circumstances to measure His love. Instead, they need to look back to the cross, settle the issue once for all, and give praise to Jesus, to Him who loved us! iii. William Newell on loved us, in Romans 8:37: "It is this past tense gospel the devil hates ... Let a preacher be continually saying, 'God loves you, Christ loves you,' and he and his congregation will by and by be losing sight of both their sinnerhood and of the substitutionary atonement of the cross, where the love of God and of Christ was once for all and supremely set forth."
b. And washed us from our sins in His own blood: This is what happened when Jesus us loved us at the cross. He washed us - cleansed us from the deep stain of sin, so that we really are clean before Him. This is worth praising Jesus about! i. If we understand our own deep sinfulness, this seems almost too good to be true. We can stand clean before God - clean from the deepest of stains. No wonder the same Apostle John would write, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). ii. In His own blood: If there was any other way to wash us from our sins, God would have done it that other way. To wash us in His own blood meant the ultimate sacrifice of God the Son. It wouldn't have been done unless it was the only way. "The priests could only cleanse with blood of bulls and goats; but he has washed us from our sins 'in his own blood.' Men are willing enough to shed the blood of others. How readily they will enter upon war! But Christ was willing to shed his own blood, to pour out his soul unto death, that we might be saved." (Spurgeon) iii. Notice the order: first loved, then washed. It wasn't that God washed us out of some sense of duty, and then loved us because were then clean. He loved us while we were dirty, but then He washed us. iv. In fact, washing proves love. If you had an old pair of pants, and got them covered in paint, you would only wash them and keep them for two reasons. First, you might wash them and keep them if you were poor. You can't, or won't, spend money on another pair of pants, so you wash them and keep them. Second, you might wash them and keep them if you really loved those old pants. Money isn't the issue. You could go down and buy a new pair of pants any time. But you love that pair so much that you spend the time and the effort to clean them, and use them again. God loves us so much that He washed us. God certainly is not poor. With merely a thought, He could obliterate every sinner and start over with brand-new creatures. But He doesn't. He loves us so much that He washed us. v. Some scholars believe that John wrote and loosed us from our sins. There is only one letter different between the words washed and loosed in the ancient Greek language. Both words are show up in ancient manuscripts, so it's hard to say which one John wrote. But we know that both are true - we are both washed and loosed from our sins.
c. And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father: This is status Jesus gives to those whom He loved at the cross and who are washed ... in His own blood. It would have been enough just to love them and cleanse them. But He goes far beyond, and makes us kings and priests to His God and Father. This is more than Adam ever was. Even in the innocence of Eden we never read of Adam among the kings and priests of God. This is worth praising Jesus about. i. We are kings, so we are God's royalty. This speaks of privilege, of status, of authority. We are priests, so we are God's special servants. We represent God to man and man to God. We offer sacrifice unto Him (Hebrews 13:15). We have privileged access to the presence of God (Romans 5:1-2). ii. Kings and priests: In the Old Testament, it was forbidden to combine the offices of king and priest. King Uzziah of Judah is an example of a man who tried to combine the two offices, and paid the penalty for it (2 Chronicles 26:16-23). But under the New Covenant, we can be like Jesus in the sense that He is both King and High Priest (Luke 1:31-33; Hebrews 4:14).
d. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever: In light of all that Jesus has done for us, shouldn't we praise Him? Shouldn't we honor Him will all glory and dominion forever and ever? When we say this, we aren't giving Jesus glory and dominion. We are simply recognizing that He has it, and honoring Him for it. i. To recognize the glory of Jesus is come out-and-out for Him. "Some of you are very like a mouse behind the wainscot. You are in the Lord's house, but you are not known as one of the family: sometimes you give a little squeak in your hiding-place, and sometimes come out at night, as the mouse does, to pick up a crumb or two, without being seen. Is this worthy of yourself? Is it worthy of your Lord and Master?" (Spurgeon) ii. To recognize the dominion of Jesus is to let Him rule over us. "Again, if we truly say, 'To him be glory and dominion,' then we must give him dominion over ourselves. Each man is a little empire of three kingdoms - body, soul, and spirit - and it should be a united kingdom. Make Christ king of it all. Do not allow any branch of those three kingdoms to set up for itself a distinct rule; put them all under the sway of your one King." (Spurgeon)
e. Amen: This word - in the ancient Greek language, brought over from the Hebrew of the Old Testament -simply means "Yes." It isn't a wish that it may be so, but it is an affirmation that, through God, it will be so Jesus will be praised. i. Jesus has done all this and more for you. You have much to praise Him for - so praise Him! "Would you not wish to be in heaven when your life on earth is over? The time will come when you must die; would you not desire to have a good hope of entering then into the felicities of the perfected ones? I am sure you would; but if you are at last to be numbered amongst the redeemed host on high, you must here learn their song. You cannot be admitted into the choirs above without having practiced and rehearsed their music here below." (Spurgeon).
3. (Rev 1:7) An opening description of the return of Jesus.
7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
a. Behold, He is coming: This is a command to look - to check it out. John moves from praising Jesus to describing His return. He wants us to behold the coming of Jesus. Jesus said that we should watch and wait for His coming (Matthew 24:42). It is something to keep before the eye of our mind, to behold. i. This wasn't a supernatural vision of Jesus' return. That supernatural vision will come later. This is description is based from John's understanding of Old Testament promises of the Messiah's return and Jesus' own words about His return. For example, John knew that Jesus was coming because Jesus said He was coming. Jesus said, I will come again and receive you to Myself (John 14:3). ii. "Christ has not gone to heaven to say there. He has gone for the church's benefit; and for his church's benefit he will return again." (Seiss)
b. He is coming with clouds: When Jesus comes, He will be surrounded by clouds. This will be true literally, because when Jesus left this earth, He was taken up into a cloud, and God said that He would return in the same manner (Acts 1:9-11). It will also be true figuratively, because multitudes believers are called clouds in a figurative manner (Hebrews 12:1). Clouds are commonly associated with God's presence and glory (Exodus 13:21-22, 16:10, 19:9, and 24:15-18), relating to the Old Testament cloud of glory called the Shekinah. i. Understanding this connection with the glory of God, it is fitting - and wonderful - that the multitude of believers is called a cloud. God's people are His glory. They are His "cloud," His Shekinah. ii. John didn't need a special vision to know He is coming with clouds. He knew this from the Old Testament (Daniel 7:13-14) and from Jesus' own words: I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64).
c. And every eye will see Him: When Jesus comes, it won't be a "secret" coming. Everyone will know. At His first coming, Jesus was somewhat obscure. During His earthly ministry, He never made front-page news in Rome. But when Jesus comes again, every eye will see Him. The whole world will know. i. John didn't need a special vision to know every eye will see Him. John heard Jesus Himself say, Therefore if they say to you, "Look, He is in the desert!" do not go out; or "Look, He is in the inner rooms!" do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:26-27)
d. Even they who pierced Him: When Jesus comes, it will be a particularly meaningful revelation for the Jewish people. Of course, it was not the Jews alone who pierced Him. But we know John has in mind the revelation of Jesus to His own people because this is an allusion to Zechariah 12:10. i. When Jesus reveals Himself to His own people, the Jews, it will not be in anger. By that time, the Jewish nation will have turned to Jesus, trusting in Him as their Messiah (Matthew 23:39, Romans 11:25-26). When they see Jesus, and His pierced hands and feet, it will be a painful reminder of their previous rejection of Him. It will fulfill the scene of Zechariah 12:10: And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. ii. John didn't need a special vision to know even they who pierced Him. He could read it in Zechariah 12:10.
e. All the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him: When Jesus comes, it won't be only the Jewish people who mourn because of their previous rejection of Jesus. Since there will be people saved from all the tribes of the earth (Revelation 7:9), everyone will have a part in this mourning. We will all look at the scars on Jesus and say "We did this to Him." i. John didn't need a special revelation to know all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. He just needed to remember what Jesus said at Matthew 24:30: Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
4. (Rev 1:8) An introduction from Jesus Himself.
8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
a. I am the Alpha and the Omega: In many translations, and in "Red-Letter" editions, these words are in red. This shows that the translators believed that these were the words of Jesus. John is finished with his introduction, and now Jesus introduces Himself. After all, it is His revelation (the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Revelation 1:1), so it isn't strange that He introduces it. i. Some have wondered if it is God the Father or God the Son speaking here. We suspect it is God the Son, Jesus Christ, and we believe this for many reasons. First, since it is Jesus' Revelation, it seems appropriate that He introduces it. Second, the titles Alpha and Omega and the Beginning and the End are titles expressly claimed by Jesus (Revelation 22:13). Third, though the title who is and who was and who is to come is used of God the Father in Revelation 1:4, it is also true of God the Son, and seems to be directed to Jesus in Revelation 11:17 and 16:5.
b. The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End: The idea behind these titles for Jesus is that He is before all things and will remain beyond all things. Alpha was the first letter of the ancient Greek alphabet, and Omega was the last letter. Jesus says, "I am the 'A to Z,' the Beginning and the End." i. If Jesus both the Beginning and the End, then He also has authority over everything in-between. This means that Jesus does have a plan for history, and He directs the path of human events toward His designed fulfillment. Our lives are not given over to blind fate, to random meaninglessness, or to endless cycles with no resolution. Instead, Jesus Christ who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End directs all of human history and even our individual lives.
c. Who is and was and who is to come: As shown in the comments on Revelation 1:4, this phrase communicates the idea behind the great Old Testament name for the Triune God, Yahweh. It reflects His eternal nature, and His unchanging presence. Jesus has this eternal nature just as much as God the Father does. Micah 5:2 prophetically expressed it this way: Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. Hebrews 13:8 expressed it this way: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
d. The Almighty: This word Almighty translates the ancient Greek word pantokrater, which literally means "the one who has his hand on everything." It speaks of the great sovereign control of Jesus over everything - past, present, and future. i. This great word Almighty is used ten times in the New Testament, and nine of the ten times are in the Book of Revelation. This book has a striking on God's sovereignty, the understanding that He has His hand on everything.