Summary: The Big Idea: Resurrection is the basis of our hope and the impetus behind our service to God
"You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble—you might like to dance.
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You might be a socialite with a long string of pearls.
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord;
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
Words that may be familiar to some of you; they come from that great theologian Bob Dylan, in his 1979 song “Gotta Serve Somebody”. Like him or not, Bob states a point of truth; we all have to decide who or what we will serve. As theologian Paul Tillich said, we must decide what our ultimate concern is in life. We come together today, because we serve the Lord. Amen?
Today is the second Sunday of Easter (there are seven). This season of the year is of the highest importance to the Christian, because the whole of our faith and our hope lies in the resurrection. If you do not believe in the resurrection, you are not a Christian; the two are inseparable.
During the Sundays of Easter, we want to get to know Christ better. As we draw nearer to him, we naturally learn how to better serve him; a goal worthy of our Savior and fitting for the season we celebrate. OYBT Revelation 1.
The opening verses give us great insight for the launch of our study; in particular, a pronouncement of who Christ is and what his resurrection accomplished for us.
[The Resurrection is the basis of our hope and the driving force behind our service to God. We begin with a look at who the Christ of Easter really is. . .]
WHO IS THE CHRIST OF EASTER? (1:5a): John assigns three titles to Jesus Christ as he greets his readers. The titles are descriptive and reveal God’s full power manifest in Christ, so there can be no doubt of his position and superiority.
The faithful witness: This designation has two meanings that affirm the nature and scope of Christ’s faithful witness
Jesus was faithful in bringing God’s truth to humankind, and
Jesus was faithful to God’s truth, even to the point of his resulting death.
The Greek word for witness (martus) has come over to English as martyr, one who suffers death for allegiance to a cause. Throughout Revelation, the word is associated with the penalty of death that results from a firm and constant witness.
The firstborn of the dead: Colossians 1:18 declares Christ sovereign over the church by virtue of his resurrection from the dead. If faithful witnessing should result in a martyr’s death, the believer is to remember that Jesus, the ideal martyr, is the firstborn of the dead.
The ruler of the kings of the earth: Earlier, Satan tempted Jesus with “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor (Mt. 4:8)” if he would only worship him. Instead, Jesus was faithful unto death, raised from the dead and given all power in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18).
So the question is, can you trust your life to him? In whom else would you trust? Remember, you’ve gotta serve somebody. . .
[The Resurrection is the basis of our hope and the driving force behind our service to God. Lets’ turn our attention to the work this Christ of Easter has done for us.]
WHAT HAS HE DONE? (5b-6) The first of several doxologies (4:11; 5:9, 12-13; 7:10, etc.) focuses on Christ alone; the redemptive work of Christ is central to the drama about to unfold in the book.
He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood: Notice the subtle change of tense; Christ’s love for us in ongoing, a continuing reality that at a point in time expressed itself as a redemptive act of Calvary.
Christ purchased our freedom (forgiveness, pardon) with his blood. Nothing else can free us from sin’s bondage and misery. Nothing.
What manner of love is this? John was besieged by this love, as demonstrated elsewhere in his writings. He has, perhaps, a clearer understanding of Christ’s love than any of his peers has (cf. the disciple whom Jesus loved (gospel), how great the love (1 Jn 3:1), etc).
He made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father: The kingdom Jesus established for his followers echoes the promise God gave to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai; that if they followed his commands and obeyed him, he would make them into “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:5-6, cf. Is. 61:6).
The early church understood itself to be in succession to Israel and thus the inheritors to the blessings promised to them. Note that they did not replace Israel, they merely attached to their royal line (with Christ as Ruler over all kings).