Text: Revelation 1: 4 - 8
Title : A Magnificent Greeting and Response
Last week, in our introduction to this fascinating book of the Bible we considered Chapter 1 and verses 1-3. We discovered that the Revelation to John is in fact a revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is from Him and about Him. To put it another way, the message of the Revelation is about God and His greatness. The fact that John was shown what must soon take place, indicates that God directs history, the present and the future.
We noted that this Revelation was given to John via an angel for the benefit and encouragement of the suffering church in the last times . At this time the church was suffering persecution under the reigns of Roman emperors Nero and Domitian. A specific blessing is attached for all who read, hear and keep what is written in this Revelation.
In this next section (verses 4-8), which the ESV entitles “Greeting to the seven churches” we note (i) to whom this letter is addressed (v.4a) (ii) we find a benediction (vv.4b-5a) and (iii) a doxology (vv.5b-6) and finally an announcement of Christ’s second coming (vv. 7-8).
A benediction is what God says to us by way of a blessing, and a doxology is what we say to God by way of thanksgiving and praise.
1. The Letter addressed to seven churches in Asia (V.4a)
The letter from Jesus comes via an angel to John and it is addressed to “the seven churches that are in Asia". This Asia was a Roman province. This territory is today a part of the modern state of Turkey, now known as Asia minor. Modern Asia is the largest and most populous continent , including India and China (60 % of the world population: Wikipedia).
The names of the seven churches in Roman Asia are provided for us in verse 11. They are subsequently individually addressed in chapters 2 & 3.We shall make a closer study of these in due time. Taking a look at a map we note that these churches are distributed in the province of Asia in a circular fashion. The list begins with the church at Ephesus, the church perhaps closest to the heart of the apostle John. It is said that he was the pastor of the church at Ephesus, and that he had close ties with the other 6 churches mentioned here. The fact that seven churches are mentioned is significant. The number seven plays a very significant role in this book. It symbolizes completeness.
The seven churches in Revelation are a description of the church in every age and therefore relevant for our own church today.
2. A Benediction : ( Vv. 4b-5a)
The first words from Jesus to John are in the form of a benediction or a blessing: “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come…” . The contents of this blessing are "grace and peace." GRACE is God's favour given to those who do not deserve it, pardoning their sins and giving them the gift of eternal life. PEACE follows GRACE. William Hendriksen says: "PEACE, the result of GRACE is the reflection of the smile of God in the heart of the believer who has been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ."
What a wonderful blessing is here pronounced upon the seven churches of Asia and upon the entire church in the world! To appreciate the full significance of this blessing we must keep in mind that the church is living in a troubled world. This is what the book of Revelation shows us. The church is born into, and surrounded by spiritual darkness. It is a world of malice, envy, perversion, strife, war, bloodshed, terrorism and destruction.
To the church in this troubled world the Lord God speaks a word of grace and peace! Note that this grace and peace is dispensed in a Trinitarian manner :
(i) FIRSTLY : “From Him who was and who is and who is to come”. This person referred to here clearly stands apart from the seven spirits’ and from ‘Jesus Christ.’ Who is this person? It is the Lord God who is also described in verse 8 as the “Alpha and Omega, who is and who was and who is to come.”
(ii) SECONDLY: “and from the “seven spirits who are before His throne”. This rather unfamiliar expression refers to the Holy Spirit. The number seven, again makes reference to the fullness and perfection of His work and influence in the world and in the church. To prove this assertion we must consider some other texts. The church in which the Holy Spirit is fully manifested is also indicated by the same number. Note then that there are seven churches in Asia, and there are seven candlesticks and seven stars, (Rev. 1: 11, 12, 16, 20). And the Lamb (whose Spirit He is) has seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God (Rev. 5:6). In Rev. 3:1 the Lord Jesus is said to have the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars“. Again, in Rev. 4:5 we read “…from the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God…”. There can be little doubt that the phrase "the seven Spirits which are before his throne" refers to the Holy Spirit, who has given to the church at Pentecost after Christ had ascended to His heavenly throne. From John’s Gospel we learn that the Holy Spirit is given as the indwelling Spirit (Jn 14:17) for the help, comfort and peace of the church (Jn. 14:16,26; 16:7). He is the dispenser of the peace of God and of Jesus Christ.
(iii) THIRDLY: “… and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” The Lord Jesus is now mentioned as the third part in the dispensing of this wonderful grace and resultant peace. Regarding Him we learn three things:
a. He is the faithful witness: As faithful witness He came to bear the testimony of God’s truth. To Pilate He said: “For this purpose I have come into the world- to bear witness to the truth.” (Jn. 18:37). Jesus did not come to teach His own ideas. “My teaching is not mine, but His who sent me.” (Jn. 7:16); “…I speak of that which I have seen with my Father…” (Jn.8:38); “…I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me...” (Jn. 8:28). Jesus remained a faithful witness until His death on a cross, and so in life and in death you may rely on His Word: "Grace to you and peace!"
b. He is the firstborn of the dead: This refers to Christ’s resurrection. The resurrection is the ground of our hope. Because He lives, we who trust in Him shall also live, even though we must first die (Jn.11:25,26). That thought fills us with joy and peace. Herman Hoeksema says: “For, mark you well, He is not merely risen: He is the first begotten of the dead! And the firstborn is he that "opens the womb" and prepares the way for all his brethren. Thus Christ was in the womb of death, was born from death, opened the womb of death for all those whom the Father gave Him. And it is He, standing in that spot of glorious light, Whom you see from your present darkness, Who calls to you: "Grace and peace to you!" 
c. He is the ruler of kings on earth: Christ is ruler of kings on earth! What an affirmation! This is a confirmation of Psalm 2 (a Messianic Psalm), where God says to the rebellious kings of the world (Ps. 2:6-12): “As for me I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill… therefore O kings be wise; be warned , O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way.” Christ is in charge of this world. How the seven churches needed to know that, and how we need to know that today! No Nero, Domitian , Hitler, Stalin, Lenin- no ruler will ultimately resist Him whom God has anointed as King and set up on His holy hill. The church which is in Christ is perfectly safe. Her salvation and her final victory are certain. Jesus did remind His people in Jn. 16:33 : “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.", and therefore we may believe these words: "Grace to you, and peace!"
3. The Doxology : ( vv. 5b-8)
As the church receives this benediction or blessing of grace and peace from her Lord so she joyfully responds and confesses what she believes about the Lord Jesus Christ, her Saviour: “To Him who loves us, and has freed us (lit. washed us) from our sins by (lit. in) His blood, and made us a kingdom and priests to His God and Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
The doxology affirms:
(i) The love of Jesus for us.
(ii) The fact that He has freed us by washing our sins away. We are freed not only from the past guilt of sin, but also from the present power and corruption of sin. “The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2)
(iii) The fact that we belong to a new kingdom and are under a new rule.
(iv) The fact that we occupy a new priesthood – a new system of worship in which we do not worship idols, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. A priest is one who is completely consecrated to God’s service. The church is a worshipping priesthood. At the coming of our Lord Jesus, when the eternal kingdom of glory shall be ushered in, when all the elect shall have been gathered in, and when the body of the Lord shall be complete, when we will have received our resurrection bodies, and when all things shall be made new, and when the tabernacle of God shall be with men in the new heavens and the new earth, then shall this kingdom of priests be fully realized.
With this in mind we can say: “unto Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen!” He is, of course always glorious apart from us, and He has dominion , even now, but from our perspective we are not quite there yet in terms of our experience. Since the victory is accomplished, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the endgame. Jesus shall reign! Don’t give up.
4. Behold, He is coming! (vv.7-8)
Our text closes with a solemn assurance of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail (or mourn) on account of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, says the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
This refers to the final coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
· It will be a personal return. He Himself will come.
· It will be a visible return. "Every eye shall see him."
· It will be a time of universal wailing , when all those who did not trust in Him in this life will know that they now stand judged before the Lord of glory. There will be a sense of anguish, misery and wasted opportunity. Repentance has been left too late. (Hell is truth known too late!). Who can speak of the misery of those who have rejected the Son of God? Oh my friend, do you have peace with God?
· It will be a day of utter joy and bliss for the believer.
· It will be an event that will mark the end of history as we know it.
· It will be a sudden, catastrophic event ( Matthew 24:29-31; 36-51).
All this is very certain. The word of Him who is the "Alpha and Omega”, the beginning and the end shall stand. He determines all things in such a way that His word is accomplished, His design is fulfilled, His end is reached. He is coming, surely and irresistibly.
Peace, therefore, to you who look forward to the coming of the Lord in the midst of the conflict and sufferings of this present time! Behold He comes! Amen !