Grace For The Journey
I read about a little boy who was looking at a bunch of puppies. His father was with him and he was going to buy him a puppy. The father asked the little boy which puppy he liked the best. The boy looked at all the puppies and he saw one puppy whose tail was wagging excitedly back and forth. The little boy pointed at that puppy and said, “I want that one, the one with the happy ending!” The Book of Revelation is the Book with the happy ending. It is the happy ending of the Bible, and the happy ending of God’s plan and program for mankind.
Several weeks ago we began a series of studies through this last book of the Bible, a series entitled, “What Is The World Coming To.” God wants us to understand this book. You remember that the word translated “revelation” in verse one is a word that means “unveiling.” The Book of Revelation is an unveiling of Jesus Christ. This morning we will look at verses 4 to 8 of chapter one.
The book of Revelation is the only book in the Bible that explicitly promises to bless all who read it or hear it. Verse 3 says, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy.” We are in for a blessing as we study this Book; and we pick up this morning with some blessings that come right out of this passage before us. From verses 4-8, we are going to examine a few of God’s truths that bless Christians.
1. We Are Blessed By His Strengthening Comfort – Verses 4-5.
Remember that the Book of Revelation is written primarily for the purpose of encouraging Christians who were undergoing suffering for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Under the Roman Emperor Domitian, Christians were pressured to worship the emperor and to acknowledge his supreme lordship. It was not easy being a Christian in those days and many died as martyrs for their faith. God uses John to write a letter to strengthen and comfort these Christians by reminding them that H is in control and that they can persevere in their faith as they look toward the future.
Verse 4 begins by saying, “John, to the seven churches which are in Asia …” The seven churches in Asia are seven churches all in the vicinity of Ephesus, the area now known as modern Turkey. There were more churches in John’s day than these seven. We read of the churches of Colossae and Troas, for example. So why does John single out these seven? You will remember from last time that the Book of Revelation is presented to us in signs and symbols. It is a “divine picture book.” One of John’s favorite numbers is the number seven. He uses the number seven 54 times in throughout the Book. The number seven emphasizes perfection, completion, and wholeness. It is very likely that John intends the Book of Revelation to encourage not just the seven local churches in Asia Minor, but also to encourage the full and complete Body of Christ, Christians in all locations and all time.
Verse 4, and the first part of verse 5, begin to tell us about the strengthening comfort God provides, “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, and from Jesus Christ …” This is a beautiful blessing – Christians receive and enjoy “grace and peace” from our relationship with Christ. Nearly 20 of the books of the New Testament begin this way – “Grace to you and peace.” A pastor friend went on a mission trip to Brazil a couple of years ago. He said that the Brazilian Christians greet one another in this way. When we meet someone, you and I say, “Hello, how are you doing?” When we leave, we say, “Goodbye.” Coming or going, they said, “Grace and Peace.” The order is important . . .
You cannot have real peace
In life without God’s grace.
God gives us the gift of His grace,
Which makes possible perfect peace.
Some of us desire peace – peace in our homes, peace in our marriages, peace in our finances, and peace in our relationships at work. The Bible teaches that peace, the kind of settled peace that flows from a joyful heart, that peace is possible only by a right relationship with God. I
f you want to receive
The blessing of
God’s strengthening comfort,
You must receive God’s grace.
You must turn to God
And open your heart
To Him and follow Him.
Look at verses 4 and 5 and you will see the preposition “from” following “grace to you and peace.” Note that it occurs three times. You may wish to circle the three times it occurs because it occurs three times for a reason – You have here a reference to the Trinity.
1) Grace to you and peace from, here’s the first “from,” “From Him who is and who was and who is to come.” That is a reference to God the Father, the eternal Father.
2) Then, the second, “from,” from “the seven Spirits who are before His throne.” Here is a reference to the Holy Spirit. Remember that John loves the number seven. Seven emphasizes perfection, completion, and wholeness. John is also very likely alluding to Isaiah, chapter 11. Isaiah 11 is what is called a Messianic chapter, or a chapter that speaks of the future messiah, the anointed one, the Lord Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 11:2, the Bible says that “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 of the fear of the LORD.” Isaiah is prophesying about the ministries of the Spirit that rest upon the messiah and, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, there are a total of seven of these ministries of the Spirit.
1) Then you have the third “from” in verse 5, from “Jesus Christ.” Normally the order of the Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but John places the order as Father, Spirit, and Son. Remember the Book of Revelation is an “unveiling” of Jesus Christ. It is a “Him-book.” It is about Him, about the Lord Jesus. John is emphasizing the glory and splendor of the risen Lord Jesus Christ and saving his best thoughts for last as He writes of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Saving One sent from God. We have here a reference to the Trinity, the first blessing God gives us: “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, and from Jesus Christ.”
That brings us to the next blessing. We are blessed by God’s strengthening comfort. Secondly:
2. We Are Blessed By His Saving Christ – Verses 5-6.
The word “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. The word “Christ” is a title. It is a word that means “Messiah” or, “Anointed One.” Jesus of Nazareth is “the Christ,” God’s promised Messiah, or the One specially anointed by God. His name, “Jesus,” means “Savior.”
When John gets to verse 5
And starts talking about Jesus,
He gets carried away!
First, John gives us three titles about the saving Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 5 says, “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness …” Jesus He is the faithful witness. Jesus bears witness to the Father. He “declared” the Father to man. Because He is one with the Father (John 10:30), Jesus could say to Philip in John 14:9, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” He is the faithful witness.
Verse 5 continues with, “… The firstborn from the dead …” The word “firstborn” means, “first in rank” or “first in importance,” first “in a long line of others.” Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. This is a reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not the first person to come back from the dead. We read in the Old Testament of the miracles of Elijah and Elisha. We read in the New Testament of the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus, who came back to life.
So, what does this word “firstborn” mean? When Lazarus came back to life, for example, what eventually happened to Lazarus later? He died. As soon as he came back to life, he began to slowly die again. We do not know how many more years he lived, but eventually Lazarus died again. But when Jesus came back to life, He came back as the “firstborn” from the dead, first to come back in a glorified body, a body that the Bible talks about in 1 Corinthians 15 as an “incorruptible” body, a glorious body that will last forever. And every Christian who has died and whose soul has gone on to be with the Lord will one day receive a glorified body like unto the Lord Jesus’ body. That is the promise of the resurrected body. Jesus got His first. He is the firstborn from the dead.
Verse 5 goes on to say, “… And the ruler over the kings of the earth.” I think John is reminding Christians of all ages that Jesus is ultimately the One in charge. For the Christians in John’s day, he is saying, “The Roman Emperor may be the king of the earth, but Jesus is the ruler over the kings of the earth.” And he says the same to us today. Jesus Christ is the ruler over every leader of the earth.
Then you have three wonderful ministries of our Saving Christ. You see them there at the end of verse 5 and the beginning of verse 6, “… To Him who loved us.” The word “loved” is a participle that is actually in the present tense. It should really be translated, “To Him, the One Who continually loves us.” The Lord Jesus Christ continually loves us. Oh, think about that . . . He continually loves us. He loves us more than any earthly person can love us. Most of us love one another conditionally. We love until we get hurt or we love if expectations are met. But He continually loves us completely, with no conditions attached. Jesus Christ loves us continually.
- No matter what you have done, Jesus loves you continually.
- No matter what you are doing, Jesus loves you continually.
- No matter what you will do, Jesus loves you continually.
Some of you are thinking, “I have sinned a terrible sin. Surely Jesus cannot love me.” You need to be reminded . . . Jesus loves you with unconditional love. He is ever-loving.
Verse 6 continues, “… and washed us from our sins in His own blood …” What a powerful and wonderful truth! Jesus Christ has washed us from our sins in His own blood. The Bible says in 1 John 1:7 that, “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” Some translations have that Jesus Christ “freed us” or “loosed us” from our sins. The Greek words translated “washed” and “loosed” both sound exactly alike and that is probably why translations differ. Both ideas are accurate descriptions of what Jesus has done for every believer.
When I received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, He “cleansed me” from sin pollution, and “set me free” from sin’s penalty. As I stand before God in Christ, my sinful soul has been “cleansed” or “made whiter than snow” by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As I live from day to day, Jesus “looses me” or “sets me free” from sin’s power. One day, when I get to heaven, Jesus will forever “set me free” from sin’s presence.
Verse 6 continues, “… and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.” Jesus Christ has made Christians “kings” and “priests.” We reign with Him as “kings!” In some sense, we already reign with Him now as we have entered into His kingdom by salvation, but in a greater sense we will reign with Him on earth during His millennial reign, the one thousand year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20.
Christ has also made us “priests.” Nowhere does the New Testament teach that we have to go to any man in order to go to God. We do not need to go to a priest in order to go to God. Christ has made us priests ourselves. By faith in Christ Jesus, because we are saved and positionally righteous in Him, we may boldly approach the very throne of God and talk to Him anytime we wish, because Christ has made us priests to His God and Father (Hebrews 4:16). That just causes John to get a little happy and he shouts a doxology there at the end of verse 6, “… To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
We are talking about God’s truths that bless Christians. We are blessed by His strengthening comfort, by His saving Christ. Thirdly . . .
3. We Are Blessed By His Second Coming – Verse 7.
Verse 7 says, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” The word “Behold,” is an attention-getter. It occurs 25 times in the Book of Revelation. It means, “Pay attention! Check it out! Do not miss this!” John seems to be making the first of several allusions to the Old Testament Book of Daniel, chapter 7. In his vision of “the Ancient of Days,” his vision of the coming messiah, Daniel says in Daniel :13, “And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!”
Jesus said He would come back with clouds in Matthew 24:30. The angels said He would come back with clouds just as He had ascended into heaven in a cloud in Acts 1:11, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” His return will be visible. That truth is reinforced by the next statement, “… And every eye will see Him … Every single person will see the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns, everyone. How is that possible? Certainly the technological advances that we enjoy today will help. But do not forget, it is a supernatural return of the Lord. In a way physics cannot explain, every single eye will look up and will see Him when He returns. Everyone – not just those living, but those who have died will see Him, too. Remember what Jesus said to Caiaphas, the High Priest, in Matthew 26:64, “Hereafter, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” This affirms what John is led to say here, “… even they who pierced Him.” This seems to be primarily a reference to the Jewish nation. John alludes to Zechariah 12:10, “They will look upon Him who was pierced and mourn.” Taken with other passages in the Bible, many of the Jews will recognize the Lord Jesus was indeed the Messiah and they will mourn with a view toward repentance. But note that John adds, “… And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Jew and Gentile alike will realize that we are all guilty of the death of Christ Jesus. It was our sin that crucified Him. All who died without Christ, all who are in the depths of hell, even there they will see Him return, but it will be too late for them. They will bow the knee, but not as God’s children. All the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.
But for the believer, Christ’s return is good news. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming, and He is coming to reign on earth. He is coming to set in order this fallen world. Be blessed by His second coming. Then, finally . . .
4. We Are Blessed By His Sovereign Control – Verse 8.
In verse 8 you have a reference to the sovereign control of God, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” He is “the Alpha and the Omega.” The alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. This is God’s way of saying, “I am before all things” and “I outlast all things.” So, fear not. I am in control of everything in your life.
That is always a good reason to be encouraged in our lives. God is in control of everything. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is before all things and He outlasts all things. You need not worry about that problem you brought with you to our study time today. Trust God and be blessed by His sovereign control.
Then God is identified as the one “who is and who was and who is to come.” This phrase occurs nine times in the book of Revelation. Again, it speaks of God’s sovereign control over everything. He has been – always; He is – always; He will be – always. And He is “Almighty.” He can do anything and He will do whatever He said.
This concluding statement is God’s way of saying, “What I have been telling you is absolutely true: Behold, HE IS COMING!”
The contemporary Christian group Newsong has a song about the Second Coming called “Fingertips and Noses.” If you have not heard the song, you would naturally conclude that it sounds like a pretty odd name for a song about the Lord’s Second Coming. But the song is about a teacher in Kentucky who was teaching children in a special needs class. She was teaching them about Jesus Christ who is coming again. Here are some of the lyrics . . .
Up in the hills somewhere in Kentucky
In a little old school way back in the nothing
Where special kids born with special needs
Are sent to learn life’s ABCs
Their teacher, Mrs. Jones, tells them all about Jesus
How in the twinkling of an eye He’s coming back to get us
About streets of gold and pearly gates
How they want to go, they just can’t wait
And she can’t keep them in their seats
They’re all at the windows straining to see
And it’s . . .
Fingertips and noses pressed to the windowpanes
Longing eyes, expectant hearts for Him to come again
All they know is that they love Him so
And if He said He’d come, He’s coming
And they can’t keep their windows clean
For fingertips and noses
When you think about the Lord’s Second Coming, what is the attitude of your heart? Are you looking with anticipation for the return of the Lord Jesus? Is your heart like these little children, faces and hands pressed against the glass of the windows, looking up, longing for the return of Jesus?
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!