Our Glorious God; Rev. 1:4
Revelation 1:4, "John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be to you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne."
These seven churches are identified when we get down to verse 11. They are all located in the Roman province of Asia. The province was established in 27 BC under Augustus as a senatorial province. Originally this area had been part of the kingdom of Pergamum and when king Attalos III died in 133 BC he bequeathed this area to the Romans.
"Grace be to you, and peace" – God is the one who gives this to us freely, based on His own character. God's grace is given to all, believer and unbeliever; that is called common grace. His saving grace is extended to believers through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and grace for living the Christian life is extended to all believers. Paul basically coined this greeting, and grace is the foundation; peace is the consequence. Peace is the sense of contentment, tranquility, stability that he has when he is walking with the Lord, walking by means of the Holy Spirit, learning and applying Bible doctrine on a consistent basis.
What is interesting to note is the grammatical structure of this verse. He is going to use the preposition APO [a)po], which is translated "from" and means "from the ultimate source of," three times. This indicates that there are three distinct sources of this grace and peace. Grace and peace come only from God. You can't get grace and peace from a creature. But which person of the Trinity are we talking about here? The first person who is identified is "from him who is, and who was, and who is to come." We have taken note of the particular uniqueness of this phrase. We must understand that this is a title for someone. Because this speaker identifies Himself as the Alpha and the Omega many people think from a knee-jerk reaction that this is Jesus Christ, because in verse 11 Jesus Christ appears to John and says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega." This is true of every member of the Trinity, so we have to pay attention to usage. When we have this phrase, "from him who is, and who was, and who is to come" in the book of Revelation, it refers to God the Father, especially when it is followed by the word PANTOKRATOR [pantokratwr], "the Almighty. Only God the Father is referred to as "the Almighty" in Revelation. This is a Trinitarian greeting and it is indicated by the word "and" – "and from the seven spirits [clearly the Holy Spirit], and from Jesus Christ." So if the third person is Jesus Christ and the second person mentioned is the Holy Spirit, the first must be God the Father. So the term "him who is, and who was, and who is to come" is a term relating to God the Father and is reminiscent of the title that God uses for Himself and He revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, the sacred tetragrammaton. It derives from the Hebrew word hayah, the verb to be. So it means "I am the one who is; I am the self-existing one." So this refers to the Father because no man has seen the Father at any time, the only-begotten of the Father has explained Him. We will see the Father's face, though, in eternity future—Revelation 21:3 ,4; 22:3, 4. So the book ends with us seeing the presence of the Father.
Then with the second title, "the seven spirits who are before his throne" we have noted that references to the seven spirits are frequently made to Isaiah 11:2. But there are only six titles of the Spirit in Isaiah 11:2 and the best reference goes to Zechariah 12:1-10 which is imagery used again in Revelation 4 & 5, indicating His fullness and His power. In "the seven Spirits which are before his throne" who does the "his" refer to? It refers back to God the Father. Jesus Christ doesn't have a throne in the book of Revelation. He is not presently sitting on His throne. We see this in Revelation 3:21 where we have a promise: "To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." Where is Jesus today? Seated at the right hand of God the Father.
Revelation 1:5, "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests to God and his Father;" This is the designation to Jesus Christ. Essentially, in 1:5, 6 we have a nutshell Christology. This summarizes in a nutshell the career of our Lord Jesus Christ as prophet, priest and king: His past ministry at the first advent, His present ministry during His session, and his future ministry at the second coming when He rules as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
This begins with the Greek word "and" [KAI/kai] which is used 1128 times in the book of Revelation. This gives a tremendous sense of movement in the book. The grace and peace extend from the three members of the Trinity. They are co-equal. The third person from whom grace and peace derives is Jesus Christ. There are numerous titles for Jesus Christ given in the book of Revelation. He is designated as the Lamb, John's favorite title, some 28 times. He is called Jesus Christ; He is called the King of kings and Lord of lords; He is called the titles that we have here and numerous other titles as we will see.
The first title, "the faithful witness," focuses on His first advent. This is the Greek phrase HO MARTUS HO PISTOS [o( martuj o( pistoj]. The main noun here is MARTUS; He is the witness. The word MARTUS in Greek is the basis for our word "martyr," and a martyr in English is one who gives his life for something. But originally the word meant in Greek a witness. The second phrase, HO PISTOS, is used as an adjective in the second attributive position, indicating a modifier of the noun "witness." He is the faithful witness; He is the dependable witness. This refers to what was accomplished during Jesus Christ's life and ministry during the first advent. It indicates for one thing His deity. In Lamentations 3:21-23 in the Old Testament we are told, "This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope [confident expectation]. It is of the LORD'S mercies [loving kindnesses/chesed] that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."
"This I recall to mind" indicates the fact doctrine must be recalled. It is stored in our soul by the Holy Spirit and He is the one who reminds us of doctrine, but we have to recall that, we have to focus on that when the Holy Spirit brings that to our attention. As a result of focusing on those principles and promises it changes our mental attitude; it changes our focus. As a result of recalling pertinent doctrine we therefore have confidence. That is the main idea of both the Hebrew word and the Greek word. We have confidence in the midst of difficulties. This is part of the witness of Jesus at the first advent. He lived His life in dependence on the Holy Spirit. He pioneered the spiritual life that we utilize in the church age. He was the first person in human history to be indwelt by God the Holy Spirit and to be filled by God the Holy Spirit as the basis for the spiritual life. As a faithful witness He pioneered that for us. He showed us that no matter how unjustly we may be treated, no matter how harshly we may be reviled, no matter how bitterly we may be rejected, we can have peace, stability and happiness based on our walk by means of the Holy Spirit. Though Jesus Christ was bitterly reviled and rejected, culminating in His crucifixion, He still had perfect happiness and perfect peace. That is based on recalling doctrine. Therefore we have confidence no matter what the circumstances may be.
Chesed is the key word in the Old Testament for God's grace, His love, His faithfulness, and His loyalty. The Lord's gracious, loyal, faithful love never creases. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. No matter how much we may fail Him, no matter how much we may disappoint Him, His mercy never ceases, His compassion never fails. He is always the same. So the attribute of faithfulness is always associated with God. It is part of His immutability, He never ever changes. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. His life was a witness to the Father and as a result of that His life was taken from Him. 1 Corinthians 1:9, we have the emphasis on faithfulness as an attribute of God, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Hebrews 10:23, "Let us hold fast the profession of our hope without wavering; (for he is faithful who promised)." Revelation 19:11, when Christ returns at the second advent John sees Him and says, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war."
These names and symbols all have their roots in Old Testament passages, terminology and images. For example, both the titles "faithful witness" and the title "firstborn" have their roots in the Davidic covenant, God's promise to David that one of his descendants would reign eternally on God's throne, that God would give David an eternal dynasty. Psalm 89 was a psalm that was a meditation on the Davidic covenant, a contemplation. As the writer thought about the Davidic covenant he wrote this praise hymn to God. In verse 36 he writes, "His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven."
The second title is "the firstborn from the dead" – HA PROTOTOKOS TON NEKRON [a( prwtotokoj twn nekrwn]. The first word HA PROTOTOKOS is the word translated "firstborn" or "preeminent one." It is not simply first in time but first in quality. It is a genitive construction indicating the source, "out from the dead." It is a plural genitive which is the standard way in which this is expressed throughout the Scriptures. It is a collective noun indicating those who were dead and all of those who were buried. This terminology is also found in Colossians 1:18, "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence."
Jesus Christ paid the penalty for man's sin on the cross between 12 noon and 3 pm when darkness covered the face of the earth and God the Father imputed to Jesus Christ all of the sins of mankind. Jesus did not become a personal sinner. He is still in hypostatic union perfectly righteous, but He is imputed judicially our sins. Hr doesn't become a sinner experientially but He becomes sin judicially. Again and again in Scripture we have to watch this whole theme of the Supreme court of heaven and justice, that the judicial penalty for sin is spiritual death, that Jesus Christ is judged by God the Father, that the Father is viewed as the judge. Jesus Christ is called the righteous judge at His return. There is this imagery of the courtroom laid over all of human history. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins and then He died physically. He had to die physically so that He could demonstrate that the greatest consequence of sin, which is spiritual death, was conquered by payment of a penalty. With Christ's resurrection which is the firstfruits of resurrection, according to 1 Corinthians 15, and that necessitates all the other resurrections. The first part of the harvest was the guarantee of the rest of the harvest, so that Christ's resurrection is a guarantee of the remainder of the resurrection. Then when the last believer is raised from the dead and given a resurrection body we will read that "death is swallowed up in victory." This victory is accomplished and signified by Christ's resurrection from the dead. This is why the resurrection is part of the foundation of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4; Acts 26:23; Romans 1:4; Acts 2:29ff.
Then we come to the third title given to Jesus in Revelation 1:5, "the ruler of the kings of the earth" – HO ARCHON TON BASILEON [o( a)rxwn twn basilewn]. The head of the Athenian state was called the ARCHON. He is the ruler, from the root ARCHE meaning first or beginning, the preeminent one. So it came to be the name of the one in ultimate authority in Athens. So here it now means the ruler, the ruler of the kings of the earth. Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the one who rules over all the political powers of the earth. What we will see is that Jesus Christ rules over history, and in the letters to the seven churches we will see that this represents various trends, cycles of history that play out down through the ages. The message of hope in this book of Revelation is that Jesus Christ is the ruler of the kings of the earth. Cf. Psalm 89:27.
Jesus Christ is all of these things by virtue of what He accomplished.