Summary: In today's lesson, the analysis of the greeting as set forth in Revelation 1:4-8 shows us that Christ is its grand and glorious theme.
Last week I started a new series of messages that I have titled, “Christ’s Message to the Seven Churches.” It is based on the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation.
These chapters deal with Christ’s message to seven churches that were located in Asia (which is in modern western Turkey). These churches existed in a time of growing cultural opposition, religious intolerance, and doctrinal error. And each church received a message from Christ to remain steadfast and faithful. And while the original messages were directed to the seven churches, Christ’s priorities for his Church apply to all churches in all times.
Last week we looked at the prologue of Christ’s revelation. Today I would like to examine Christ’s greeting to his churches.
Let’s read Christ’s greeting to his churches in Revelation 1:4-8:
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, 5 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 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 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.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:4-8)
This past week my wife Eileen forwarded an email to me. She had received an email from a well-known and reputable company saying that her service with them had been cancelled. The email was addressed to her, the body of the letter was well-written, it was sent by the Senior Vice President of the company, and everything seemed to be in order. The only problem was that she had never had any business dealings with that company. The email was of course fraudulent and a scam.
One of the challenges that we have today is determining the authenticity of ancient documents. One way we are able to determine the authenticity of a document, such as the Revelation of Jesus Christ, has to do with its reception. The seven churches of Asia received it as the Revelation of Jesus Christ, as it was given to his servant John the Apostle. But another way we are able to determine the authenticity of a document has to do with its theme.
In today’s lesson, the analysis of the greeting as set forth in Revelation 1:4-8 shows us that Christ is its grand and glorious theme.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Writer of the Greeting (1:4a)
2. The Recipients of the Greeting (1:4b)
3. The Message of the Greeting (1:4c)
4. The Authors of the Greeting (1:4d-5a)
5. The Theme of the Greeting (1:5b-8)
I. The Writer of the Greeting (1:4a)
First, let’s look at the writer of the greeting.
Last time I said that the Book of Revelation is an apocalyptic book, a prophetic book, and an epistolary book. That is, the Book of Revelation is also a letter.
The ancient letter-writing format consisted of first giving the writer’s name, then the recipient, then a greeting, followed by the body of the letter, and a closing. The Book of Revelation follows that ancient custom, although with some slight variations.
Verse 4 begins with the word, “John” (1:4a). Earlier in verse 1, John identified himself as Christ’s “servant John.” He never does identify himself as “the Apostle John.” Although some scholars think that someone other than the Apostle John was the writer of the Revelation, most do believe, as I do, that the writer of the Revelation was in fact the Apostle John.
However, one commentator’s note on this is helpful:
If we are unable to achieve certainty in this matter, it remains that in no other book in the Bible is the identity of the author of so little importance. The book is not “the revelation of John,” but “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him [John]” (1:1), and its content is further described as “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (1:2). The authenticity of that claim is settled not by the name of the person who wrote it, but by the nature of his work, which in the providence of God completes the Scriptures as its crown.
II. The Recipients of the Greeting (1:4b)
Second, notice the recipients of the greeting.
Following the ancient letter-writing format, John then stated the recipient. The Revelation of Jesus Christ was written “to the seven churches that are in Asia” (1:4b). The Asia that is mentioned here is not modern Asia, but Asia Minor.