4 “To the seven churches in the province of Asia: 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,
5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
6 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,” Revelation 1:4-6
The book of Revelation is one of those mysterious books, like Daniel, that many Christians stay away from or it is the playground for conspiracy theorists and prophetic speculators. Regardless, Revelation is not easy to comprehend unless we take time to understand how people thought and how they believed in the era the book was written.
First of all, Revelation was written primarily for the persecuted church in the 1st century. The beasts, dragons, and other symbolism in the book were common symbols to these people and a number of these symbols were specific to the occupying and persecuting Romans. However, for all the interest in Revelation seminars, prophetic books, and highly speculative sermons on the topic, it is important for us to remember that foremost the book is about Jesus, our Savior.
A quick look at these opening lines of Revelation lays the groundwork for what John is laying out for the church concerning Jesus. The letter is addressed to seven churches in what is primarily modern day Turkey. There was a church in each city and when we read a little further on in Revelation we are introduced to the strengths and weaknesses of each of these churches.
Regardless of their problems, John the Revelator addresses them, “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.” The one who has always been and will always be is God. The seven spirits represents perfection (seven being a perfect number) and represents the all knowing, encompassing Holy Spirit. In verse 5, John, reveals the third person of the Godhead, Jesus who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
In verses 4 and 5 we are introduced to the Trinity who all have part in our salvation and our continual protection and guidance. Jesus is the faithful witness to the love of God by giving his life at Calvary. Remember, Jesus is the second person of the Godhead, and when he hung on Calvary’s cross for our sins, in a very real sense the Father also was on that cross as was the Spirit. The first-born from the dead simply means he is the preeminent one who has risen from the dead, and through his resurrection we have assurance of our own eternal life. It was at the cross that the power of Satan, to hold this world captive and in sin, was broken. Death, sin, and Satan were all defeated at the cross.
Look at these amazing verses in Colossians 2,
13 “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross,” 2:13-15
While we were still dead in our sins God gave us life through Jesus the Messiah. Our sins were forgiven and all of our indebtedness to sin, which separated us from God, was forgiven at the cross. The reason this could happen was because Jesus had triumphed over Satan (powers and authorities) making a complete spectacle of his lies and all he stood for.
Revelation 5 goes on to say, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve his God and father—to him be the power and the glory forever and forever, amen.” (v. 5b-6) Jesus, did not die on the cross to make the Father love us, but because the Father already loved us. It was through the blood of Christ that we are set free from our sins and become a kingdom of priests.
Our calling is to love God and serve him through loving others. To be a kingdom of priests is the result of being freed from our sins by God who loves us. In John 1 we are told,
12 “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (v. 12-13)
To be a kingdom of priests is to become the children of God.
Do not be afraid to study the book of Revelation, just remember that it is primarily about God’s love for us manifested through his Son Jesus Christ who carried away our sins at Calvary. Revelation is not a scary book, but instead the unfolding of God’s love and deliverance for his people in time of trouble.
Lastly, remember, the symbolism is often built upon Old Testament verses and books such as Daniel. Take time this winter to introduce yourself to this amazing and dynamic book—you will grow in your love of God.