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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 1:4-7


4. 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,
5. 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.
7. 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.

Grace and Peace from the Trinity

Isle of Patmos
“Grace and peace”, was Paul’s salutation in all 13 of his letters to the churches, as well as to Titus. Curiously, he added “mercy”, when writing to Timothy. Peter uses “grace and peace” in his second epistle and Jude adds mercy and love to peace. John in his second letter also adds mercy, but now in Revelation, he gives the simple greeting, which we find most commonly in the epistles. I simply want to point out that it is important to understand that in the Word of God, these greetings are not just customary, but carry the full weight of divine blessing.

This book is addressed directly to seven churches in Asia Minor and they are literally the first recipients of it. However, it is worth noting that there were more than seven churches in this Roman province in John’s day. Given the symbolism and the prophetic nature of the book, we can easily surmise that only seven were chosen to serve a wider purpose. Seven is the number of perfect completeness and I believe that these churches represent the church of all ages. I think that their characteristics are the same as those we find in different churches in every period of history. I also tend to think that each one represents a dominant type of church in seven historical periods, the Laodicean church standing for the dominant church of our times. I will write more about this, as we come to chapters two and three.

This book is a revelation, a fitting close to the entire Bible, the main purpose of which is to reveal to us the essence and nature of God. From the opening book of Genesis and the final book of Revelation, the Bible clearly depicts the godhead as a trinity. If anyone is unable to discern that fact, he has nothing with which to start a true study of God’s Word. He probably lacks the indwelling Spirit of Truth, whom Christ promised would teach His disciples all things. If so, he is unregenerate, therefore still at enmity with God and not able to accept by faith, the things that are beyond his understanding.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’… so God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Ge.1:26, 27). In the first chapter of the Bible, God reveals Himself as a triune being, and in 11:7-8, we see exactly the same terminology.

As John begins this last book of the Bible, he sends a greeting in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is He “who is and who was and who is to come”. He is eternal, unmeasured by time, but still fills every area that concerns time, historically, presently, and in the future, throughout which He carries out His eternal purposes involving mankind. The description of the Holy Spirit, as “the seven spirits”, is a mind-boggling term. Divinity is infinite and almost impenetrable by the use of human language. Therefore, John must find the best way possible to communicate, what he has seen.

When Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah to come, he wrote in 9:6, “His name (singular) shall be called…” and then gave four names, in order to convey the idea of His divine operations. Likewise Isaiah 11:2, depicts the Spirit, which will be upon the Messiah as “The Spirit of the Lord… of wisdom and understanding… counsel and might…. knowledge and the fear of the Lord”, seven in one. John may have this scripture in mind, when he writes of the seven-fold Spirit.

The person and work of Jesus Christ

This book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ and John gives a description, beyond the one that we have in the Gospels, thereby delivering to us the most complete revelation of His person possible. He is… 1) The faithful witness: He is perfectly faithful in revealing the Father to His disciples, to show the truth of Himself, to live and teach the word of God, and to accurately portray the true condition of mankind and of every individual.

Jesus used this term, the faithful witness, to describe Himself to the Laodicean church. He said to His disciples in the Gospel of John, “I am…the truth” (John 14:6). He said to Pilate: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:37). It is truth that conquers in the final countdown. All else will crumble, fall, and be swept away in the kingdom of darkness. There are no exaggerated reports in his book. He records the faults and falls of men, as well as their successes. He never colors bare facts to make them more attractive. He never overemphasizes one side in order to create a false impression. He spoke of hell as well as heaven, persecution as well as happiness, grief and woe as well as joy and gladness, wrath and hatred as well as love and mercy.

2) Jesus Christ is the firstborn of the dead. Jesus Christ is the last Adam—the last progenitor. There will be no other. “The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven” (I Cor. 15:47). Conceived in a virgin overshadowed by the power of the Highest, he brought new, heavenly life into a condemned and hopeless race. He challenged death, willingly shedding his blood and descending into the grave. Millions had gone down before him. None had ever returned.

On Easter morning, the bars of death, which had held every human subject since Adam, were suddenly torn open. The last Adam came out with a holy disdain for the grave and lives forever, triumphant over it. He is the first-born of the dead. It is his life that comes into the human spirit at new birth and quickens it forever. A miracle takes place. The man is supernaturally recreated. Only this way, does he enter the kingdom of God. Even his mortal flesh will take on immortality, for the physically dead in Christ will rise again.

3) Jesus Christ is the Prince of the kings of the earth. Peter warned of false prophets who “deny the Master (or Sovereign Lord-NIV) who bought them.” (2 Pet. 2:1) The Greek noun is very strong here—despotees—our English derivative being despot. It means absolute ruler, a very improper and infamous title applied to any man, but a totally legitimate one for the prince of the kings of the earth. Men rule as despots and their subjects are oppressed. He is despot and justice and peace prevail.

Jesus Christ is not up for election. His majesty does not rise and fall with public opinion.   “Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:9-11). The writer of Hebrews quoted another prophetic word applying to the kingly Messiah: “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Heb. 1:8). Eternity will offer no challenger, no contestant, no candidate, and no combatant to his unending rule. It will find neither flaw nor failure in His administration. “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace” (Isaiah 9:7).

4) Jesus Christ is the one who loved us and washed us from our sins. Joseph had become a firm and righteous ruler, but he was neither harsh nor vengeful. It must have been through his terrible years of slavery that Joseph learned the secrets of the love of God. He found that only through hardships and difficulties are men forced to take an honest look within themselves. His own suffering, over 13 years of slavery and prison, became useful in dealing with others. When they first appeared before him, he longed for his brothers. Underneath a rough exterior, he loved them. He intended, not only to save his family from starvation, but also to bring their souls into right relationship with God. 

The cross revealed the depths of our corruption, but it was the greatest manifestation of love ever displayed. Love bound Christ to the cross and His blood washed away all our sinful stains. Joseph was torn from his fathers hands, but the heavenly Father gave his Son willingly: "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son" (John 3:16 NIV). The weight of these words ought never to be lightened by familiarity. They incomparably exceed the most sublime thoughts ever spoken or penned by mere men. There is passion in those words; a love moved to action. 

Paul tried to express it: "Christ died for the ungodly... One will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us... While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son." (Ro.5:6-10).

5. Jesus Christ made us priests to His Father. Jesus did nothing, but what He had seen and heard from the Father. His earthly ministry was all part of a glorious plan, conceived in the mind of God before the world began. The whole of creation was brought forth for His pleasure (see Rev.4:11). The ultimate purpose of Christ was not only to save us, but also to initiate a nation of priests, who would serve, worship and fellowship before God. 

As a matter of course, we become beneficiaries, but only when we submit to God and come in line with His will and purpose. Jesus prayed, concerning His disciples: "Yours they were, and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word." (Jn.17:6). Before Christ came into their lives, they belonged to the Father. They were given to Christ that, through Him, they might learn to keep the Father's word. Jesus came to this earth, first of all, out of love for His Father and secondly, out of love for the human race. He has shed His love upon us and showered us with unspeakable gifts, in order that we might minister joyfully before Him. He takes no delight, you see, in having a company of dutiful slaves, but He is looking for free, loving, exuberant people to surround His throne.

John busts forth in an expression of praise to God from the heart, giving Him His rightful glory and dominion throughout eternity. Every true Christian knows this kind of spontaneous response to a declaration of truth. John then adds an amen, a word that gives absolute authority to all that He has stated. The word amen is used by the church everywhere, regardless of the native language, because there is no other in the world, into which this Hebrew term can be properly translated. When Jesus wanted to forcefully affirm any statement, He used this word twice, "Amen, amen!" (often translated into English with less impact, "truly, truly" or "verily, verily")

Patmos and the seven churches
6. Jesus Christ is coming again. John's revelation of Christ produced a passion for His return, which found expression at the end of the book: "Come, Lord Jesus!" Exiled on Patmos Island, the old apostle's eyes were focused towards the onset of a new world. The church, to which he writes, is to live in anticipation of a great future event, far surpassing anything recorded in the past 2000 years. In his epistle, John called it "this hope" for, "we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is" (1 Jn.3:2,3). Paul instructed his convert Titus also to focus on "the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:13).

The day will come when the world will be in the hands of the one that it crucified. Multiplied millions will weep and wail, when they awaken from temporal delusions to eternal realities. He, who they doubted, ignored and hated will be revealed to every eye. Smitten souls and guilty consciences will be overwhelmeed with grief and despair. The Lamb is a terrible sight when viewed from the wrong side of redemption. Kings, presidents, intellectual giants, generals, the rich, athletes, slaves and free men will cry for the rocks and mountains to fall on them. Our apocalyptic book predicts their words: "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb" (6:16). 

The clearer the thought of deserved condemnation, the more glorious are the thoughts of God's mercy and grace. True worshippers have apprehended the greatness of redemption. They have been transported from the doorstep of hell to the portals of heaven. They have been transformed from the stinking nature of fallen Adam into partakers of the life of God's Son. Their praise gushes from a broken heart. They await the day, when the life-changing seed within them, now buffeted in a hostile environment, blossoms into eternal perfection, at the first sight of Christ in His glory. The Lamb will bring them home to the Father. 

Again, John adds an amen, thereby closing what we could call the Gospel revelation of Jesus Christ, for these are the things we learn of Him in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The apostle will then show us Christ in His heavenly glory, something essential for all Christians to see, especially in our times. I have much to say about this in the next article.


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