Summary: What has Christ done for us, and what responsibilities do we now bear? This is the subject of our study.
“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, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”
We often read the initial words of apostolic missives so quickly that we miss important truths. The Apocalypse is one such book that we must not read so quickly that we fail to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The prophecy is in the form of a letter—a letter from God that was written to be read in seven churches in the Province of Asia. John’s opening sentence might lead some to believe that these were the only churches then in existence in that Roman province, though that is clearly not the case. We know, for instance, that churches also existed in Colossae [COLOSSIANS 1:2] and in Hierapolis [COLOSSIANS 4:13]. It is also likely that there were then churches in Miletus [ACTS 20:17] and in Troas [2 CORINTHIANS 2:12]. What is important for us to know is that these churches were not dissimilar to any seven churches in this day. Some were commended; some were censured.
John begins this letter by pronouncing a divine blessing on the churches; then, he dedicates to Jesus Christ all that he is about to write. The purpose of this message is to encourage Christians by drawing attention to John’s initial description of what Jesus has accomplished for us as Christians. I am intrigued by the fact that John dedicates this book to Jesus Christ. It would not have been difficult to imagine that he would dedicate his book to the Father. Among modern worshipers, many of our brothers and sisters would perhaps dedicate such a missive to the Spirit of God. John is not ignoring the Father, for he will speak often of the Father throughout the letter. Neither is he ignoring the Spirit of God. In fact, John is Trinitarian in his theology since he states that the letter is from the Father and from the seven-fold Spirit (probably a reference to ISAIAH 11:2), as well as being from Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the book is dedicated to Jesus Christ.
In part, I believe this is because the letter is inspired by the Spirit of God. When the Master prepared to depart this earth, He prophesied that the Spirit whom He would send would guide the disciples into truth, glorifying the Son in all things [JOHN 16:13, 14]. Here, we see the Spirit directing John to glorify the Son, just as Jesus promised.
I claim no mystical insight into this book that attracts such incredible attention, but I do have a desire to glorify Christ the Lord by reminding each of us that though He is coming for us very soon, He has already richly provided for those whom He loves and whom He has redeemed. Focus then on the greeting John pens to seven churches.
GREETINGS FROM THE SON OF GOD — “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 the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” John pronounces a benediction for those who are reading this book—grace and peace emanating from the Triune God. Each Christian reading this book should take courage from the knowledge that God begins His missive by identifying Himself as the Triune God. Grace is mentioned as being given by the Triune God because we who believe are the recipients of His love and mercy. Peace is identified as flowing from the Triune God precisely because our sin is forgiven and we are accepted in the Beloved Son. What a rich heritage is ours as worshippers of the True and Living God.
While John presents the truth that the Triune God reigns in Heaven and rules over the earth, he quickly shifts his focus to the Son of God. Jesus Christ is identified as “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” This is not the only time John refers to Jesus as the “faithful witness.” In REVELATION 3:14, the Reigning Son of God is presented to the Laodiceans as “the faithful and true witness.” When John identifies Him as the “faithful witness,” he is undoubtedly referring to His confession before Pontius Pilate. Paul testifies that “in His testimony before Pontius Pilate [Jesus] made the good confession” [1 TIMOTHY 6:13]. Let’s review Jesus’ testimony before Pilate.