Series on Revelation, I The Vision, B The Pretext, Text:1:4-8, Title: Seven Spirits Speak


In our first study we saw that the Book of Revelation has a basic message to God's people-of every age. Beginning with the aged Apostle John fettered as a felon to the rocky Isle of Patmos down through the ages God's people have-been comforted by this moving picture of Revelation. It is God's sound film-with scene after scene revealing the sovereignty of Christ and the judgment of God over history, together with the comfort and success of His people and His church and His causes. The first main section shows Christ in the midst of Seven candlesticks or lamp-stands symbolizing his presence with His people in the midst of the conflict. But before we come to that we have the Introduction and the salutation and the call of the Apostle and the initial vision of Christ Himself. Today we look at the salutation in verses 4-8 of chapter I. The salutation identifies the source of this Book as the triune God and the subject as Jesus Christ. This is a unique introduction to a New Testament book, but like the majority of them it identifies the human author. The readers needed no further identification than the name John, because for the Christians throughout the province of Asia there was only one person who could speak with authority, namely, the Apostle. As members of the seven churches residing in the the western region of Asia Minor they knew the venerable John. So we read in verse 4, John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia. The recipients were real churches, so in spite of the fact that this is a prophecy, an apocalyptic work, it has an epistolary form. Like Peter and Paul John is writing to actual churches which had troubles and triumphs. Years ago there was a Peanuts cartoon in which Lucy asked Charlie Brown what he was reading. He said he was reading the Bible, the letters of Paul, and Lucy replied that she made it a habit never to read other people’s mail. These seven ancient churches were supposed to read each other’s mail. in chapters 2–3, these churches are addressed one by one, but  actually we are reading their mail throughout the entire book and as we look today at the source the subject, and the significance.

I The Source

We see the source in verses 4,5 and 8, Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth...“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” It might be-taken for granted that God is the source of this revelation but we should not do that. He reveals himself as the eternal unchangeable self existent one and as the triune God. As the Father He is the described as him who is, and who was, and who is to come. As the Son He is described as the ruler of the kings of the earth. As the Holy Spirit He is described as the seven spirits before his throne, The seven spirits refers to the Holy Spirit in the fullness and perfection of his work. Seven is the number of perfection and the dominant number of God's control and victory in this book. Now all the members of the trinity share these attributes, and we must at the outset make a plain distinction between the God who is and all the ideas of men about a God who isn't. A number of years ago a program was aired on national TV which purported to examine the roots of youthful rebellion in our land. Various topics were explored-drugs, sex, politics, and religion, and how the youth differed from their parents. Young people as well as their parents were interviewed. When they came to the subject of religion I can remember very clearly the words of one parent who could not 'understand' why the youth had no interest in religion, and she said, “I think faith is very important. It doesn't matter what your specific belief is as long as you have some faith.” What a terrible irony that one should put their finger on the very heart and soul of the problem and yet not even have the slightest inkling that they have done it. Young people are not fools. They have, thrown over their parents beliefs in the vast majority of cases precisely because they recognize that unless it does matter what your specific belief is there is no point in having belief or faith at all. They will be done with this psychological panacea that passes for religion. In dire contrast to that mumbo-jumbo, this book comes from the God who is there. The God who cannot be other than there because He is the Alpha & Omega who is and was and is to come. He is the unchangeable uncaused One. The One who is not becoming or changing because He is the “I am” who is the absolute Creator upon whom all things depend and therefore to Him all are absolutely responsible. And He is the Triune God who is able to bring out of nothing just exactly the kind of world we live in because he has in his triune being all the unity and diversity reflected in His creation. And according to Daniel 4:35, All the peoples of the earth  are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” This identification is to the point that He is the true and living God, the God who is really there and either you accept this testimony or you don't believe at all. John is a delivery man. He is delivering the words of the true and living God. This is the Lord’s message to His people.

II The Subject

The subject is revealed in the ascription of praise or doxology in verses 5-7, To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. Jesus is revealed here as our prophet priest and king. This is powerful and personal.

A Powerful

He is powerful because he is able to save to the uttermost all those who come to God by Him. The present translation obscures the subtle Greek nuances. Actually John says that He has freed us in the past, but He is loving us now. As a prophet He is the Faithful Witness according to verse 5. A prophet is one who declares the will of God and the truth of God to his people. Jesus brought the final Word of God to earth, the fulfillment of all that had previously been written. As a priest he frees us from our sins and is the first begotten of the dead. A priest is one who brings us to God. Jesus did this by his atoning death and resurrection, the last full and final sacrifice for sin. As a king he is the prince or ruler of the kings of the earth and the one who rules over us as he makes us a kingdom and priests to serve God. This threefold designation faithful witness or prophet, first born from the dead or priest, and ruler of the kings of the earth or king, is from the Bible. However it was popularized by John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and by the Westminster standards and it has become the common property of all those who seek to understand who Jesus Christ is from the Scriptures. I should like us to see that this description is actually a summary of the way Christ is revealed throughout this book of Revelation. The book presents Christ in conflict with Satan and the followers of Christ, His true church in conflict with the world. The book speaks of judgment, but throughout these judgments come as a terrorizing surprise to the unbelieving on the earth, yet His people are not moved by them. And we should not be moved by them because we have been told by the Word of God Himself, our faithful Witness. Throughout the book death is seen on every hand but while the death of the faithless is terrible to behold, the death of God’s people is beautiful as they are ushered into Christ's presence, forgiven, cleansed and happy. They know the truth is that He is their Priest the first begotten of the dead that has conquered death for them. Throughout the book the kings of the earth, the world powers are allied against the children of God as is prophesied in Psalm 2:1–9, Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?     The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”  I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” This basically an Old Testament commentary on what is happening in the book of Revelation. Christ is the king, not just over his people but the Lord over all that happens. He is the king of Kings, the prince of the kings of the earth. This subject is  not only powerful, almighty to save, but He is also personal.

B Personal

I should like us to see how very personal this Christ is. These offices of prophet Priest and King are not just technical Biblical-theological terms, but ways of understanding what He came to do and who He is. In the dedication to Christ we see the relation of His work to us, namely that, He loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father. Notice the repetition of the word "us." Impersonal or spectator Christianity is the curse of our age. It is epitomized in the attitude that regards church membership as conversion, and cooperation in visible “busy” religious activities as the work of the Lord. They are not. The Christ that is unveiled here is very personal. What He did He did for us, and unless we as individuals make personal decisions and personal commitments it means nothing to us. Impersonal Christianity looks at the church as something to help me accumulate Brownie points for involvement instead of as an opportunity for me to serve Christ by sacrifice. We make it an institution where belonging is the finish line rather than the starting line. People join churches for what they can get out of it, not what they can put into it. They frequently move from one church to another hoping to find one that is more  to their liking and sometimes end up in no church because the TV is more entertaining and exciting. That might seem very personal, but actually it’s just conforming to the world. it’s not about pleasing me. It’s not about pleasing you. It’s about Jesus truly caring about us. What matters to Him is that we serve as redeemed people, as priests and princes in His kingdom, or in other words commitment.

III The Significance

This text also contains a solemn warning in verse 7, Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. We have seen Christ revealed in this text as prophet revealing the truth, as priest offering up Himself to atone for our sins, and as king who rules. His kingship becomes most evident in His exaltation after His resurrection. The Westminster Larger Catechism reminds us in question 51 that, “The estate of Christ's exaltation comprehends his resurrection, ascension, sitting at the right hand of the Father, and his coming again to judge the world.” It also tells us in question 45 that, “Christ executes the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.” What we see in Revelation 1:7 is the last act of Jesus’ kingship. His coming is the final act of mercy for His people, and the final act of judgment upon unbelievers. In his description here John is drawing upon the prophecies of Daniel and Zechariah. We should note that this is good news to believers but to the ungodly it is bad news. When the Lord says, all the peoples of the earth will mourn, He is not talking about their being sad over how they treated Jesus. The mourning here is an outward display or lament but not necessarily an inner sorrow and genuine repentance. The mourners will beat their chests with their fists and rue the life they led. They will be filled with remorse but not with penitence when they see Jesus. What a contrast to the closing words of this book in chapter 22:20 and 21,  He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. This is the hour of decision and then will come the end of hope.