June 15, 2008 on 6:07 pm | In REVELATION FOR BEGINNERS | Comments Off on THE GOSPEL IN REVELATION–1:4-6

One might wonder why Revelation spends so much time on Jesus in chapter 1. Why not get right into the “good stuff,” like the Mark of the Beast and the Antichrist, etc.,–perhaps because it is more important to know Jesus(which is who the gospel is all about) than it is to know all the last day events (though the latter are certainly important to know as well). Knowing Jesus is a priority—if you don’t think so, consider these scriptures: John 17:3—“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Matthew7:22, 23—“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Furthermore, in Revelation 14:6, 7 the “everlasting gospel” is embedded in the first of three angels’ messages broadcast to the whole world just before Jesus comes (see ch. 14:14-20). That means it is still relevant for today’s world, even though there is much secularism and what is called a “post-modern” philosophy (I don’t disbelieve in God, I just don’t find religion necessary—I can do fine on my own, thank you).

But I promised we would find the gospel in a nutshell in the next few verses, so here we go.
Some commentators think verses 4-6 are part of an early Christian hymn. Since we don’t have hymnals from that time, I suppose that can’t be proved. But the structure does seem somewhat poetic, especially verses 5 & 6. Verse 4 introduces the Trinity concept—the Father (“Him who is and was and who is to come”); the Holy Spirit (the 7 spirits before the throne, 7 indicating completeness); and from Jesus Christ. We could profitably spend time on each of these three, but we’re looking for the big picture here. In verses 5 & 6 is where we can see the “gospel in a nutshell.” I see in these verses a parallel structure and poetic form. Keep in mind that poetry in the Bible doesn’t rhyme in sound (like “Mary had a little lamb, it’s fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go). Biblical poetry has its rhyme in thoughts, i.e. the same thought is expressed in different words. For example, here is Psalm 34:3: “Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” You can see almost the same thought in the second phrase as in the first, the main idea of both phrases expressing the thought of exalting God. So the “rhyme” is in thought, not sound.

Note how three descriptions of Jesus in verse 5 are followed by three actions of Jesus, showing how these descriptions impact our lives spiritually. It says Jesus is 1) the Faithful Witness, 2) the Firstborn from the dead, and 3) the Ruler over the Kings of the earth. What are these talking about? First, the word for “witness” is the Greek “martyros.” You can easily see that is where we get our word “martyr,” i.e. one who witnesses to the death, one who dies for his convictions. Second, “firstborn from the dead” refers to His resurrection, followed by His return to God to begin His intercessory ministry in our behalf in the heavenly sanctuary. Thirdly, He is exalted to be ruler over the earth, with the actual physical possession taking place after the other work is done.

Now, how do these three descriptions impact us? Note the correlation with the three actions. 1) He loves us—that’s what motivated Him to become a faithful witness, giving up His life so we could live eternally. See John 3:16—“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” 2) He washed us from our sins in His own blood—that’s what happened when He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven to begin His intercessory ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, “He ever lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25. He symbolically washes us from our sins when we confess them to Him—“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. 3) He has made us kings and priests to His God and Father—He now calls us to be like Him, to join Him in interceding for others (a priestly role) and promises us we can sit with Him on His throne some day—Revelation 3:21 (“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne…”).

To summarize all this, we could say Jesus came and lived a perfect life climaxed by His death on the cross, He rose again and intercedes for us, and He is coming back to take us to be with Him (that is another subject). We can’t tell the whole story in detail here—for a more complete picture of this, read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

But now to come back to that first beatitude in Revelation pronouncing a blessing upon those who keep what is written in this book—this implies we are not interested simply in more information, but what difference it makes (which is what “postmodern” man is more interested in than simply a stated truth). In the case of these three verses, it means accepting the gospel message personally. If we haven’t, then the rest of the book could be scary. Jesus once said to listeners in His day (see John 5:39, 40), “You search the scriptures, thinking to find eternal life in them. But they are actually pointing to Me—and you won’t come to Me to receive that very life which only I can give.” Is it possible to be a Bible student and yet not be saved? Apparently one can be a Bible student and yet miss the whole point and purpose. If you’ve already accepted Christ as your personal Savior, then “Praise the Lord.!” If not, why not now? There is a great gift awaiting—the gift of eternal life with Jesus in a better place. The promise is sure, “Believe on [have faith in, trust in] the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31.

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