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The Introduction to the Revelation



John, to the seven churches which 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 from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:4–6.


The book that Jesus commanded John to write begins here in verse 4. The salutation is from John, the youngest of the original 12 disciples of Jesus and the longest living of the original Apostles of the Lord. The book is addressed to the seven churches of Asia. These churches are identified later in verse 11.

Asia in the address refers to Asia Minor, which is a large oblong peninsula projecting westward from the continent of Asia into the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded on the north by the Black Sea and the West by the Aegean Sea. The Asia Minor of the New Testament is considered to be the south-western part of the peninsula, the capital of which was the city of Ephesus. Seven churches are addressed by Christ, but we know from the New Testament and history that there were far more than seven churches in this area, as well as in all of Asia Minor.


Grace and peace


As with most Apostolic letters, John greets his readers with the blessing of grace and peace.

Grace is the benediction of grace and the mercy of God upon the readers. Albert Barnes in his Notes on the New Testament comments on the use of the word grace in Apostolic letters:


This word properly means, favour. It is very often used in the New Testament, and is employed in the sense of benignity or benevolence; felicity, or a prosperous state of affairs; the Christian religion, as the highest expression of the benevolence or favour of God; the happiness which Christianity confers on its friends in this and the future life; the apostolic office; charity, or alms; thanksgiving; joy, or pleasure; and the benefits produced on the Christian's heart and life by religion—the grace of meekness, patience, charity, etc. . . . It seems to be a word including all those blessings that are applicable to Christians in common; denoting an ardent wish that all the mercies and favours of God for time and eternity, blended under the general name grace, may be conferred on them. It is to be understood as connected with a word implying invocation. I pray, or I desire that grace, etc., may be conferred on you. It is the customary form of salutation in nearly all the apostolic epistles.


Peace is the benediction of safety and prosperity under the protection of God. We read in Genesis 43:23 the benediction Joseph pronounced on his brothers, “Peace be with you, do not be afraid,” which became a customary greeting among the Jews and was eventually brought into the correspondence of the Church. Again we look to Barnes for an explanation of how “peace” was used as a greeting by the Apostles.


Peace is the state of freedom from war. As war conveys the idea of discord and numberless calamities and dangers, so peace is the opposite, and conveys the idea of concord, safety, and prosperity. Thus, to wish one peace was the same as to wish him all safety and prosperity. . . . But the word peace is also used in contrast with that state of agitation and conflict which a sinner has with his conscience, and with God. The sinner is like the troubled sea which cannot rest, Isaiah 57:20. The Christian is at peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1. By this word, denoting reconciliation with God, the blessings of the Christian religion are often described in the Scriptures, Romans 8:6, 14:17, 15:13, Galatians 5:22, Philippians 4:7. A prayer for peace, therefore, in the epistles, is not a mere formal salutation, but has a special reference to those spiritual blessings which result from reconciliation with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.


So, we learn that in addressing the seven churches, John greets them in typical Apostolic manner and with the blessings of grace and peace that arise from the content of the Revelation as it is given by Jesus Christ. There are elements within the vision intended by Jesus to minister grace, or God’s blessing, that is produced in the heart of Christians, and peace that comes only through reconciliation with God.

As we venture through the Revelation we will experience many things that are difficult and tragic, but even in these things we find that God will and does minister grace and peace to all that place their faith and trust in Him—those that keep those things which are written in the Revelation.


God’s Benediction


But notice, while John presents himself as the writer, he plainly states that this benediction comes directly from God; not God in generic Christian expression, but particularly the Triune God, the Godhead.

Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come. God is presented as the eternally self-existent One. In this case, God means God the Father,  the First Person of the Godhead. The name attributed to the Father in this greeting is an amplified expression of the name God revealed in Exodus 3:14, “I AM THAT I AM”. The sense of eternal existence, past, present, and future, is implied in the original Hebrew words.

And from the seven Spirits who are before His throne. This is the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. There is only one Holy Spirit of God; His presentation here as the seven Spirits denotes the fullness of the Holy Spirit in all of His working with mankind throughout history past, present, and in the future. It is the Holy Spirit that unites the Father and the Son in this message of grace and peace to the seven churches. The significance of the expression “seven Spirits” and the parallel phrase “seven churches” is to be understood as embracing all the churches of that time and of all subsequent times so that they together are one body in Christ. Ephesians 4:4, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling.”

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. This is clearly Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Godhead. Inasmuch as Jesus Christ is the immediate source of the Revelation, He places Himself behind the Father and the Holy Spirit in this greeting. Jesus presents Himself in a threefold manner:

First, Christ is the faithful witness. This is what He was in the days of His flesh as seen in the following texts.


No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. John 1:18.


O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. John 17:25.


For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. John 18:37.


Second, He presents Himself as the first born from the dead. In this statement Jesus states the truth of His resurrection.


But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:20.


And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. Colossians 1:18.


Third, Christ identifies Himself as the ruler over the kings of the earth. This is the nature and authority to be revealed at His second coming. We see this prophetically in both the Old and New Testaments.


Also I will make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. Psalm 89:27.


And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:16.


We previously mentioned that the earth symbolizes the realm of the material as opposed to the spiritual. As much as the unregenerate feel they are kings over their own lives, they are yet under the jurisdiction of the King of Kings. As bold as the unregenerate might be in their rebellion and defiance of Christ’s rule, eventually they all will give account to Him and be subjected to the consequences of their defiance.

With the salutation, the book John is told to write begins with the Apostle John addressing that book to the seven churches of Asia. Then it appears that Jesus takes the pen from his hand momentarily to inscribe the benediction of the Godhead. This was done to assure us that this book is not the product of John’s imagination; it was done to show us that he was indeed on holy ground and in reading this book we too tread on holy ground as we “keep those things which are written in it.” This book comes directly from the mind of God, through Jesus Christ, to His chosen angel, to His trusted and loyal servant, the Apostle John.


The Acknowledgment of Praise


To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Verses 5b–6.


The acknowledgement is addressed directly to Christ alone and the subject of the acknowledgement is redemption. As with the description of Jesus, the acknowledgment also is threefold: (1) To Him who loved us, (2) and washed us from our sins in His own blood, (3) and has made us kings and priest to His God and Father.

First we see the great attribute of Christ—His love—which is always to be the first point of our praise. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. It is wonderful that God so loved the fallen world of sinful mankind, but for God’s servants, that love is very personal. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” John 15:9.

That love was—and is—so deep and powerful that it drove Jesus to give His life to make atonement for our sins. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . .  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:7, 9.

The cleansing from sin is real and experiential, it not just a doctrine or a theory. “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11. The washing of His blood sanctifies us; it makes us holy as He is holy. It justifies us, it declares us to be innocent of any sin we have committed in the past so that there can be and will be no judgment pronounced on us for those sins.

And by means of that same blood He “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.” Because we have been loved and washed in the blood of Christ, we reign as kings over sin that would try to impose itself on our lives. In Matthew 25:34 Jesus taught us there is a kingdom that God prepared for us from the very foundation of the world. In Luke 17:21 Jesus taught us that the kingdom of God is within us—in the very heart or spirit of the redeemed. In 1 Thessalonians we find that when we walk worthy, i.e. have been washed in the blood of Christ, God calls us into His own kingdom and glory. In Romans 5:17 the Apostle Paul tells us that through the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, we will reign in life through Jesus Christ.

And as kings, washed in the blood of Christ, we are also called to act as priests. “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4–5. The revelation that Christ has made us kings sets us up for a fundamental principle regarding the Book of Revelation. Between verse 5 and verse 6 we find that there are two kinds of kings: the kings of the earth and kings unto God. Here we see that in the Revelation there is a material realm as indicated by the “kings of the earth” and a spiritual realm as indicated by the “kings unto God.”


The Viewpoint of the Prophecy


The viewpoint of the prophecy is given in verse 7, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.”

Behold, He is coming with clouds. The New Testament looks forward to the coming of Christ in visible power and glory. That He comes with clouds is indicative of His deity as seen in the revelation of God at Mount Sinai and with the Israelites.


And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way. Exodus 13:21.


Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. Exodus 16:10.


For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. Exodus 40:38.


Clouds were present at the Transfiguration of Christ. “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them.” Matthew 17:5.

And, Jesus’ own words from the Olivet Discourse describe His coming on the clouds—a divine attribute. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30.

The clouds also identify Him as the Being seen by Daniel in Daniel 7:13 “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him.”

And every eye will see Him. It is the perfect will of God that every child of Adam’s fallen race will have at least one look at Him who gave His life a ransom for all. “The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. For the redeemed, this is an event if inexplicable joy. For those that reject Christ’s work of salvation to them it is an event of indescribable terror.

Even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. The words “All the tribes of the earth” show that the final judgment of the world is indicated in the person of Christ. There is a sense in which all people pierced Christ; we are responsible for His death because He died to redeem us from sin. But there is a sense in which a greater judgment falls on those who reject Him because they have despised His work and His sacrifice that could have saved them from sin and eternal death.


And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10.


Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Matthew 24:30.


The return of Christ is an event certain and imminent. It behooves us to accept the salvation He made possible and be ready for Him. He will return in the clouds as here described. Perhaps many of us today will be alive when that happens; but, if He tarries and the day of our death comes for us first, we will still see Him when He returns.


Be Ready


This simple introduction to the Revelation is not as simple as it first appears. It is not just the Apostle John stating his credentials; it is an inscription from the pen of God that validates all that is to be seen in the Revelation. In it we see the majesty and manifestation of God’s power and authority over His creation.

And in the closing of this introduction we meet the Christ whose coming is immanent and read the implied warning: BE READY.