Jesus is coming to establish His reign and we need to prepare for His reign both now, and when Jesus comes by knowing who Jesus is, who we are, and where all things are heading.
Revelation 1:4-8: 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 6 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.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
How do you prepare for Jesus' reign now, and when He comes? I was talking to a believer who had a conversion experience very similar to mine where the fear of fire and hell was preached to cause a response. Is that how we should prepare people for His reign?
The problem is that fear distorts the gospel. It can convert people, but it cannot prepare them for the reign of Jesus now or when He comes. People need to know Jesus for true change.
In Revelation 1:1-3, we discovered the intended goal of Revelation was to reveal what was previously concealed about Jesus to His servants regarding what must take place soon.
As we continue, “Uncovering Revelation” verse by verse, in Revelation 1:4-8, God revealed more about Jesus to prepare believers for His reign then, now, and when Jesus comes.
The big idea is Jesus is coming to establish His reign and we need to prepare for His reign both now, and when Jesus comes. Revelation 1:4-8 shows we can prepare by knowing who Jesus is, who we are, and where all things are heading.
Knowing who Jesus is
To interpret the Book of Revelation, it is important to know about the four methods of interpretation:
The Preterists View. In this view, Revelation is seen as being a historical record of the events of the first century that was fulfilled soon after it was written. The full Preterists believe the entire book is in the past tense and that Jesus has already returned to Earth. The Partial Preterists see Revelation 1-19 in the past and Revelation 20-22 in the future.
The Idealists View. This view shows Revelation as a collection of allegories and stories designed to depict the struggle between God and Satan in which Christ and His church are battling against Satan and sin and one day Christ and His church will win. The problem is that they ignore some of the literal historical realities that are represented symbolically in the book.
The Historicists View. Here, Revelation is seen as a timeline of church history from the time of the apostles to the present day. They view it as being fulfilled in the course of Western Christian history. They ignore the global context and offer odd interpretations and applications of the text. For example, during the Protestant Reformation, many believed that the pope was the antichrist, and the Roman Catholic Church was the false prophet. Later they said it was Hitler, Napoleon, and others, and in the 1980s it was Gorbachev because he had a mark on his head. All are speculative interpretations. Nevertheless, we should think about how the cosmic war between Christ and Satan is playing out in every age in the church without stretching it too far.
The Futurists View. In this view, Revelation and most of the events are seen as being in the future in nature. They usually take a literal approach to interpretation which allows all the events of Revelation to be mostly actual events, from the Rapture of the church to the Second Coming of Jesus to a literal millennial kingdom.
To be clear, no view is perfect. The Futurist is the method that I would mostly use but not to the extent that it compromises the Scriptures. In this view, Revelation 4-22 describe events that are yet to happen. Since this is most of the book, what application would Revelation have offered to its original audience in the first century?
Revelation 1:4 reads, “John to the seven churches that are in Asia:” Who are these seven churches that are being addressed here? Some have interpreted the seven churches to be the seven ages of the church. In context, Revelation 1:10 lists the seven churches as Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
It is important to know that these churches were part of the Roman province of Asia Minor, a region that connected Asia and Europe, a crossroads of civilizations. Revelation was written to literal, historical, actual churches with a strategic location with a strategic value for evangelistic work. However, the application of the message is for all churches in all times in all places.
Revelation 1:4 continues with the greeting, “Grace to you and peace.” We see the same greeting in Paul’s letters. Grace, charis was a common Greek greeting, and peace, shalom, was a common Jewish greeting.
Culturally, since Christians were made up of Jews and gentile believers it made sense to combine both. Theologically, no longer was God the Father alone invoked to bless them, but also God the Son. It was about the deity of Christ. In Luke 9:20, Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
This was the divine title of the promised Messiah that most Israelites understood in the context of His dominion and glory that is yet to come. They could not picture Him suffering and dying for their sins. How could God die and live at the same time? It did not make sense to them.
The deity of Jesus remained disputed for several centuries even among Christians. Still, many Christians do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. Without the Trinity, we cannot know Jesus fully. Revelation 1:4-5 reveals truths about the triune nature of God:
First, the trinity reveals what God is like. God gives the first greeting in verse 4 , "from him who is and who was and who is to come.” This is a unique title for God the Father that shows up in Revelation 1:8, 4:8, 11:17, and 16:5. I believe the reason for this interesting title is to create the triune rhythm to point towards the triune God.
The “who is,” is the God of the present, present in the personal affairs of our lives. From the blinking of your eye to the beating of your heart, to inhaling and exhaling your breath, He is the rhythm that you may ignore but you can never ignore its effect on your lives. God is near and close and never distant.
The “who was” part tells us God has always been there for us. He has always existed. He was in Exodus 3:14 as “I am who I am.”
God is in the present, past, and now in the future. The verse says, “who is to come.” This is a different coming than the one mentioned in Revelation 1:7. There, Jesus is coming on the cloud; here God the Father is coming. Revelation 16:5 tells us the purpose of the Father’s coming, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments.”
God is coming to judge and His wrath will follow. In Daniel 7, you will find God the Father sitting on His throne of fire to judge. There, the coming of the Father in judgment brings about the coming of the Son. This is how God the Father will make the enemies of Messiah His footstool mentioned in Psalm 110. So, both the Father and the Son together are coming to judge and establish the reign of Jesus.
Second, the Trinity reveals how God relates to us. In verse 4, the second source of greeting is the Holy Spirit. It reads, “and from the seven spirits who are before his throne.” Why does the verse say seven spirits and not one?
For that we need to learn two principles:
One, there are 404 verses in Revelation and 278 of them contain reference whether directly or indirectly to the Old Testament, mostly Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. Anytime when clarification is needed for something in Revelation, go to the prophetic books. Isaiah 11:2 informs us that these seven spirits are the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit. It reads, “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him [the Messiah], the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord,” listing seven gifts.
Two, there are many numbers in Revelation so pay attention to them but do not read too much into them. For example, in verses 4-5, notes that there are three sources of greetings and three descriptions of God the Father and Son. We also have the number seven. There are seven churches, seven spirits, seven eyes, seven torches of fire, seven horns, seven bowls, seven lamps, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven angels, seven horses, seven plagues, so forth, and so on. Seven appears over 700 times in the Bible. All the number seven does is symbolize completion or perfection.
To see the function of the seven spirits, Revelation 5:6 reads, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”
Who is this lamb here that has seven spirits of God? He is the same Lamb that John 1:29 said, “takes away the sins of the world” – Jesus. In Isaiah 11:2 a sevenfold gift of the Spirit was prophesied to rest on Jesus about 700 years before Jesus came. Revelation 1:4 captures that and 5:6 further explains that the resurrected Jesus has the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth to do ministry on behalf of Jesus. This is how God relates to us every moment of our life through the power of His Spirit living in us.
Third, the Trinity reveals how we should relate to God. The greetings also come from the third source, Jesus, in verse 5. Notice, the rhythm of three again. The verse says, and from Jesus Christ who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. These three descriptions of Jesus have alluded to Psalm 89 with respect to the Davidic covenant that will endure forever because the eternal King Jesus will establish His reign.
The application is that the only way we can escape God's judgment and prepare ourselves for His reign is by knowing who Jesus is.
Knowing who we are
The end of verse 5 reads, “To him [Jesus] 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.” The triune rhythm continues here, too. The verse says Jesus loved us, freed us, and shed His blood for us because without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins and the wages of sin is eternal death.
In verse 6, we see the outcome of Jesus’s action where you can sense the triune rhythm to make us a kingdom, priest to His God and Father, and to him be glory and dominion forever.
1 Peter 2:9 describes who we are in a very similar way as a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and the people of His own procession.
The application is to know who we are. We are made to worship, saved to worship, and we will inherit the kingdom of God, heaven, to worship.
Knowing where all things are heading
“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.” Whether in the Preterists, Idealists, Historicists, or Futurists view, Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10-14 prophesized the same in the context of Israel. Verse 7 talks about a national revival for all the tribes of Israel before Jesus comes again.
This is the public second coming of Jesus but before this public event, there is another secret event of His coming, the Rapture. The second coming in verse 7 is not the Rapture, in which only believers will see Him as they will be caught up with Jesus.
The application for us is, before Jesus comes, we are called to prepare for His reign by sharing the gospel with our Jewish neighbors for God has a plan for them.
Zechariah 4:1-7 has the same imagery that we see in Revelation. Zechariah 4:6 said God will do it, not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit. That Spirit dwells in us and the triune God will do it through our witness.
Fear can convert people but knowing how Jesus loves and liberates by the shedding of His blood prepares them for His reign now and when He comes. Know who Jesus is , who we are, and where all things are heading.
Prepare for Jesus’ Reign by feeling, loving, and living the rhythm of the triune God. There is a rhythm of three woven into Revelation 1:4-8 to draw our attention to the triune nature of God so that we may know who Jesus is, what God is like, and how the triune God relates to us through the Holy Spirit.
Read God’s word to know who Jesus is, who you are, and where all things are heading. In verse 8 when God says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega” that does not mean God has a beginning and ending for He has none but human history does. God is bringing an end to human history. The repetition of “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” is Father’s way of telling us that this time around His Son is not coming alone to pay for our sins, but rather sinners will pay for their sins and for what they have done to the Son by rejecting Him and His plan of salvation.
If you are have not accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, do not ignore this message. Do not reject it. Confess your sins, and ask Jesus to come into your heart.
Whether we are prepared for His reign or not, God is coming with His Son to judge and subdue the earth and deal with sin and sinners. He is coming to end all things as we know them. For some, this means destruction, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. But for others, this means renewal and restoration of all things. This is the message of hope, justice, and promise.
1. In which area of the world were the seven churches located (v4)? Why was the letter written to them?
2. Who or what are the seven spirits in v4? Where are they? Compare Revelation 4:5 with Zechariah 4:2.
3. Discuss the triune rhythm in v4-6 and your understanding of the Trinity. List at least four ways that each description of God the Father and God the Son encourages you to prepare for Jesus and His reign now and when He comes.
4. Discuss the meaning of Revelation 1:6 by contrasting it with 1 Peter 2:5, 9, Romans 12:1, and Ephesians 2:2, 5.
Deeper Study Questions
1. Do you believe that Jesus loves you? Do you feel loved (v5)? Share how you feel loved or not loved by God.
2. Every believer is freed from the bondage of sin by the blood of Jesus. This does not mean we become sinless, rather we sin less by God’s grace. Share in what way and in what areas of life you see that the power of Christ has broken the power of sin in your life.
3. If Christ has indeed made us a kingdom (v6), how do you demonstrate in your daily walk that you are a kingdom person (belonging to the Kingdom of God) and kingdom work (serving the Kingdom of God)? Read John 18:36 to understand the difference between the Kingdom of God and any earthly kingdom.
As you study passages in Bible in your devotional time, record your observations. Compare, and contrast with Revelation 1:7, Zechariah 12:10, and Acts 2:22-23.