Sep 24, 2020

A Trinitarian Greeting

Revelation 1:4–5

“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 of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” (vv. 4b–5a).

Having identified himself as the author and noting that Revelation is a work of apocalyptic prophecy, John offers an opening greeting to his readers that includes a blessing and a doxology (Rev. 1:4b–6). Both of these are theologically rich and remind us of essential truths about our Creator.

Today, we will consider the Trinitarian benediction in Revelation 1:4b–5a. John prays for his audience to receive grace and peace “from him who is and who was and who is to come” (v. 4b). This language clearly echoes Exodus 3:14, where God gives His covenant name to Moses, which means “I am who I am,” or “I will be who I will be.” In keeping with much New Testament usage, which calls the God of the Old Testament “Father,” this is the first person of the Trinity, the eternally unbegotten Father.

Next, John says the blessing comes from “the seven spirits” before the throne of the Father (Rev. 1:4b). The number seven symbolically emphasizes the divine fullness of the Holy Spirit and is probably taken from Isaiah 11:2, the Greek translation of which gives seven attributes of the Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity.

Finally, the second person of the Trinity, the eternally begotten Son of God, gives the blessing. John refers to “Jesus Christ,” identifying three truths about His person that comforted his original audience (v. 5a). He is the “faithful witness,” who died for His fidelity to God’s truth. Note that “witness” translates the same Greek word from which we get the term martyr. Many of John’s first readers were facing martyrdom, and Jesus is the chief example of the faithful martyr.

John also calls Jesus “the firstborn of the dead,” a common way that early Christians expressed their belief that Jesus is the first of God’s righteous people to be resurrected and who guarantees the resurrection of believers (1 Cor. 15:20; Col. 1:18). This gave hope to the original readers of Revelation that even if they died for their faith, they would live again because they were united to Christ. As the church father Athanasius of Alexandria comments, “Since Jesus has risen, we too shall rise from the dead from him and through him.”

This Jesus is “ruler of kings on earth” (Rev. 1:5a). Many first-century Jews believed that evil angels reigned over the powers hostile to Israel. However, the true Sovereign over all earthly rulers is Christ Jesus our Lord. His people need not fear even the worst their enemies will do, for Jesus is King and will set all things right in the end.

Coram Deo

The truths given in today’s passage about Jesus Christ are the same truths we need to hear today. If we follow Jesus in bearing witness to God’s truth, we may suffer and even die. However, we will one day rise from the dead, and Jesus, the ruler of all kings, will vindicate us. No matter how dark things may seem to get, we are on the winning side if we trust in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For Further Study