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, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. 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 1:4b - 8 (NRSV)
Today is Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday, as well as Thanksgiving week, and the Sunday before Advent begins. If you try to follow the Christian Calendar year and have your devotional life tied-into the seasonal themes…..you’ve got a lot to think about just about now. How do you possibly tie together all the images here? Perhaps our text does just that.
But, in order to think this through, we’re going to have to put away time and think more in terms of eternity.
Now, usually, when a preacher asks you to forget time for a moment, what he really means is, I hope you brought your lunch because I’m gonna go long. Not so today (I hope), but I do want you to put “time“ on the back-burner.
Instead, I want you to do your best to see time as God does, in terms of eternity. Some have described it as watching the parade from a helicopter, instead of on the ground. God can see the beginning and the end.
This explains our text, the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. It appears twice, this formula about the God who was, is and is still to come. You always do well to pay attention when God speaks; but when he says something twice, write it in ink, memorize it and live by it every single day – it’s important!
Jesus is identified in our text by three titles:
1) Faithful Witness
In Greek the word for “witness” is “martus” from which we get the word martyr. And the connection is not by chance. In the early church to be a faithful witness was to end up a martyr. Jesus is titled as the faithful witness because he told God’s plan of redemption and victory over sin faithfully – and he was killed for it.
But the faithful witness wasn’t just in the time frame of first century Palestine; it began in eternity, forever in heaven. Jesus is always the faithful witness.
2) Firstborn of the Dead
Jesus was not the first to rise from the dead – Old Testament prophets, and even some during the crucifixion of Christ came out of the graves temporarily. Jesus even raised Lazarus from the dead.
But all of them died again. Jesus was the first to be raised from the dead – never again to die. This is also referred to as the “firstfruits”. The first in a harvest is seen to be promise of the rest.
3) Ruler of Kings of the earth
The title reminds immediately of “King of Kings, Lord of Lords.” Jesus is supreme among all the leaders of every age; that is without question.
John writes that “glory and dominion” are to be given to this Christ, the risen firstfruits. Now, if this is so, and we are thinking in terms of eternity (not time) this morning, when does giving glory and dominion begin? Actually the phrase is “glory and dominion forever”. When does eternity start?
We normally tend to think in a linear direction –
• now is earlier than later;
• up is higher than down;
• old comes after young.
But God sees eternally. So, tell me – when does “forever” begin? You’re right if you are thinking – it doesn’t begin. It has always been, and always will be!
• The reign of Christ is already upon us;
• Christ the King is already among us;
• His advent was just so He could fellowship with us;
• and the reasons for Thanksgiving are so many it will take
eternity to offer up our praise and glory to the one who is dominion!
The Comfort of John’s Message
There are three realities about the message John delivers here.
First, there is the last word of the text, “Almighty”. This tells us that God is in charge (with a capital “C”)! God sees the end from the beginning; there is no question He is in charge from creation until eternity!
Secondly, in the middle of the text it says He loved us enough to free us with the sacrifice of His own life to cleanse us from our sinful condition, and calls us to be a kingdom; together we are a priest unto God, calling all nations and peoples to serve him. And He is coming back for us.
Thirdly, from the beginning of the text, we find that grace and peace are His gifts to us. Peace comes from the grace of God, and wherever the true grace of God is present there is reason enough to have peace.
More than twenty years ago I walked down our street with Carrie, my younger daughter. She was only five or six. Some aggressive dogs began a very threatening advance towards us. Carrie’s little body tensed and her hand grabbed mine like a vise grip. I put my body between her and the dogs and told her to relax, nothing was going to happen. And nothing did; we simply continued our walk.
It is like that with God’s grace providing peace. His glory and dominion are standing between me and all the things that tend to make me nervous – stock market, housing market, job market – they’re no more than snarling toothless dogs when I’m walking hand in hand with my elder brother, Jesus. Together we’re walking to the Father’s house.
This Thursday I’m going to have plenty of thanksgiving. And it won’t just be for turkey!