Shout for Joy! Filled with Praise! (vv. 4-6)
Grace and Peace (v. 4)
There were more than seven churches in Asia, but these were on the main highway. The seven churches were actual congregations, and the letter is at the same time applicable to all the churches in Asia Minor, and to the whole world to this minute. The Almighty God greets us with “grace and mercy.” Grace is God’s kindly heart to us, his plan to do us good, his saving kindness in his Son (Tit. 3:4). Peace is the harmony we have with him because he is reconciled to us through the person and work of his Son (Rom. 5:10). Peace with God is not something we achieve by works – peace is a blessing the Lord gives us because of his love removing sin’s stain. Sin is a barrier to peace with God. If we are serving the idols of our hearts, the Lord asks us, “Should I be inquired of at all by them” (Ezek. 14:2)? With all the difficulties facing these believers, “grace and peace” gave them comfort and reassurance. Whatever men do to us, the God of heaven is working good for us and smiling upon us. This is enough for us.
From Father, Spirit, and Son (v. 4)
“From who is, was, and is to come,” the always existing one, the “I AM” brings us back before the burning bush (Ex. 3:14). The “I AM that I AM” who destroyed Egypt’s firstborn and delivered his people now pledges to destroy the persecuting power of apostate Judaism joined with Roman Emperor worship. Same eternal God, same Christ, and same covenant promise, there is an important difference. The Spirit has been poured out upon the church in fullness. Some have thought that since “seven Spirits” is an unusual description of the Spirit and is listed before Jesus Christ, this is not a reference to the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it refers to the “seven angels” of the “seven churches,” but angels are rarely called “spirits.” Angels are never the source of grace and peace. I take “seven” as the Lord’s way of telling us emphasizing how complete we are in Jesus Chris by the Spirit. He had the “Spirit without measure” (John 3:34), and “seven” is the Scripture’s number of fullness. God’s grace and love overflow in the church by the indwelling Spirit. He is the bond of the union between Christ and us (Eph. 1:14). Since he is with us, we must overcome, for “greater is he who is in us” (2 Chr. 32:7-8; 1 John 4:4)
Glory and Security in our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 5)
And from Jesus Christ – he is the Mediator of all these blessings. He is the “faithful witness.” This is an important theme in Revelation – that we bear faithful witness and “love not our lives unto death” (1:9; 2:13; 6:9; 11:7; 12:7,17; 20:4). How could the first century believers be expected to give a faithful witness when it meant their death? How could they hold fast against raging persecution from Jerusalem and Rome? Our Lord is the faithful witness. He “witnessed the good confession before Pilate (1 Tim. 6:13). He did not deny himself, his Father, or his people. Trusting his Father’s word, he endured to the end, loved us to the end (John 13:1). In his strength, because he overcame and gave the good witness, we can overcome. Our Lord calls us to no suffering he has not already endured and overcome, so that as pray to him day and night for strength and walk in obedience to him, we can also be faithful witnesses.
Is there really power for this? Yes, for our Lord is the “first begotten from the dead.” He was dead, but he is now alive (1:18). Our Lord sanctions the title given him by his apostle (Col. 1:18). Think of the scariest, darkest, most dangerous house or cave you can imagine. Death is far worse, but our Lord Jesus spent three days under its power, dying to the power of sin. He exhausted death’s strength – its bitterness, pain, fear, and horror as being the wages of sin. He fully paid them. He searched all the dark corners of the cave of death and shined his living light in every corner. The house of death for the believer is alight with the splendor of Jesus Christ in our flesh. He overcame. He rose from the dead as the first of a great harvest of raised men and woman. Death will not win – it will not win over you, child of God. Resurrection is your future – endless life with God forever. Think what this means. We have nothing to fear from death. It is a defanged monster, a hornet without a stinger, for Jesus Christ bore its sting for us. Now we live on earth in the unique position of being unafraid of death. The threats of men do not keep us from our duty. Like Daniel when threatened, we go right back to it. If we die, we die, humanly speaking, for our home is not here. We have a few days on this battlefield to learn the power of Christ, and then we are off to be with him and to be crowned and to dwell in the light of God’s presence. Christian, rejoice and be secure in the death killer, Jesus Christ. He gives this freedom from the fear of death to you. It is one of the brightest diadems in his crown: DEATH DESTROYER.
In Psalm 89:27, we have the background to this “ruler of the kings of the earth.” This Psalm is a celebration of David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ. He will overcome his enemies (vv. 20-23). The covenant mercies of the Father will be with him always (v. 23), and his kingdom will rule over all (vv. 24-25). He cries in faith and hope, “My Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (v. 26). Because he humbled himself unto the death of the cross (Phil. 2:6), he is now “King of kings and Lord of lords,” the “highest of the kings of the earth” (v. 27). He is a not a King in waiting – now he is Lord and Christ (Acts 2:30-36). It is a remarkable declaration of mediatorial dominion. Jesus Christ is the King and his is the kingdom that left Pilate dumbfounded (John 18:37; 19:11-12). He is the King that empowered his faithful first-century servants to endure the malice of Satan (Rev. 12:17). He is the reigning King today – not politicians, think-tanks, men and institutions trying to rebuild Babel. They are but Satan’s dupes (2 Tim. 2:26). The true King is at the Father’s right hand. He will reign there “until all his enemies are made a footstool for his feet” (1 Cor. 15:24-26; Heb. 10:12-13).
Praise the Savior Now and Ever (v. 6)
Let us sing and praise! To Jesus Christ be glory and dominion, now and forever! Revelation is a book calling us to worship while we war. What has our King done for us? He loved and washed us. The King loves you, humble and hated believer. Yes, our lives as his servants can be very difficult. Even today, some of his people live in brutal conditions made worse by the heartless brutality of Satan’s thugs who give them not a moment’s peace. The world spews its filth on us, but we are washed. Our sins stain us, but we are washed in his blood. Our sins do not define us, as bad as they are. Washed in the precious blood of the Son of God, we are clean. Let us keep our robes clean (Jam. 1:27). What Christ did for us on Calvary is too precious to be sullied by worldly thinking and living. He has given us an impeccable righteousness that nothing can dirty (Rev. 7:9,13,14). Let us praise him! Live for him! Confess and flee our sins and boldly profess his glorious name!
Our righteous, reigning King has made us a kingdom of priests. This is a collective designation – we are receiving a kingdom (Heb. 12:28), and like our Savior, we reign praying, ministering his gospel to the nations. It is quite a magnificent elevation he has given to us – not an earthly elevation, for we have this kingdom with suffering (Rev. 1:9). Our dominion is not yet without sin and warfare. We pray through it, overcome by lifting up our hearts and needs to him who reigns over all, and join with him in ruling through praying. It is one of the most startling truths revealed in this letter – that our prayers rise up as incense to the Lord, and he takes those prayers and throws them back on the earth in the form of deliverances for his people and judgments upon his enemies (Rev. 8:3-4). May we come to view our prayers in this way and pray this way – as coming to our Father in the name of the Son, as co-heirs with him, partakers of his kingdom and of his prayer-warfare! This is the reason so often we lose to sin and the world – we are slow to realize that we win only by “praying without ceasing.” Praise the Savior for this kingdom and priesthood! Praise him for his grace that washes our robes so that we are fit to rule and to pray with him! Praise him that he rules over all!
Theme: My Son Is Coming on the Clouds (v. 7)
Coming on the Clouds to Judge Israel (Mark 14:62)
“Coming on the clouds” is symbolic language for judgment from the God who dwells in heaven and rules over all. In 2 Samuel 22:12, David uses the image to celebrate his deliverance from Saul. “He made darkness canopies around him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies...the Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered his voice.” Describing the impending judgment upon Judah, Jeremiah prophesied: “Behold, he shall come up like clouds, and his chariots like a whirlwind” (4:13). Zephaniah prophesied of the day of judgment upon Jerusalem: “That day is a day of wrath...A day of clouds and thick darkness.” The theme of Revelation, therefore, is the reigning Savior coming from heaven to judge his enemies. It is stated in the same words of warning that Jesus gave to the Jewish high priest about thirty years earlier (Mark 14:62). The Jewish nation of the first century did see Jesus Christ, the Savior whom they rejected and crucified, coming in judgment upon them. The great sign that he is in heaven will be this judgment upon Israel and the removal of their place and nation (Matt. 24:30).
Ascended to Reign (Dan. 7:13-14)
Daniel 7:13-14 is the background of v. 7. “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. Then to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel prophesied the ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father. Then, he received universal dominion, the bestowal of his Mediatorial kingdom (Acts 2:32-36; Eph. 1:19-23; Heb. 10:12-13). This dominion was given in the first century, as Daniel earlier interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: “in the days of those kings” (Dan. 2:44-45). During the days of the Roman kings, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Having humbled himself unto death, he was exalted to the Father’s right hand (Luke 24:26). He is now King of kings. As King, he brought down the Jewish nation, just as he warned (Matt. 23:34-36; 24:21-22,30,34; Mark 14:62). The glorified Jesus of Nazareth, as a reward for his obedience, suffering, and death, now rides on the clouds in judgment upon his enemies. He is the Lord of heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18-20).
Those Who Pierced Him Will Mourn (Zech. 12:10)
Our Lord’s “coming on the clouds” does not indicate a distant future judgment. This is inconsistent with the indications of immediacy that are contained in vv. 1 and 3. The present tense “coming” (e;rcetai) and the imperative “behold” (VIdou.) directed John’s readers to expect immediate help from heaven. There is nothing in the text that would suggest “prophetic foreshortening,” as if John saw these events so vividly that it was “as if” they were to occur soon. A distant coming in judgment fails to meet the immediate crisis facing the churches in the 60’s A.D. Rome and Judea were torn apart by wars during this period, natural disasters regularly occurred, and persecution of the churches by Jews and Romans intensified. In those “days of vengeance,” a promise of a coming of Christ thousands of years in the future would have been practically irrelevant and psychologically devastating, given the promise of immediate deliverance from heaven that John gives throughout his prophecy.
Whom did Jesus come to judge? “Those who pierced him” (Zech. 12:10-14; John 19:37). This phrase modifies or specifies “every eye.” “All those who were such as pierced him and because they were such (oi[tinej) shall actually see him whom they pierced on Calvary” (Lenski 50). The New Testament assigns primary guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to the Jews (Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28; 1 Thessalonians 2:15). When the leaders crucified the Lord of glory, they shouted, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matt. 27:25). The Roman leaders were certainly participants in this evil deed, and they are included in Christ’s judgment. However, their involvement in the death of Jesus Christ and the persecution of the apostles and early church was instigated by the Jewish leaders. At the time John wrote, the tribes of Israel were scattered over the face of the known “world,” and did through the destruction of Jerusalem suffer their final estrangement from Jehovah and excommunication from all the ordinances of worship that they so long enjoyed. Hence, the universal language indicates the terrible judgment that is to fall upon all the tribes of Israel. The judgment upon Jerusalem and its temple was not as much upon buildings as it was upon the people who looked to them as evidence of God’s favor.
The immediate effect of Christ’s judgment upon its recipients will be mourning. ” Wail” (ko,yontai) signifies “to beat one’s chest in sorrow.” Many thousands of Jews in the generation leading up to A.D. 70 wailed unto repentance. They realized the evil they had done in crucifying the Lord’s Anointed. They repented and embraced Jesus Christ as Lord (Acts 2:27ff.). The vast majority did not wail in repentance, and thus soon wailed under the wrath of the Lamb. First-century historians have recorded the incredible hardships that beset the Jewish nations in the 3 ½ years between A.D. 66-70. Over one million Jews were butchered, both by the Romans and their own countryman. The streets in Jerusalem ran with blood. This is the startling message of Revelation. The apostate Jews will look on Jesus Christ not as the Suffering-Servant to whom they did as they pleased but rather as the reigning King who will bring on them all the curses of the covenant for their rejection of their Lord (Matt. 21:43).
Signed: The Almighty God (v. 8)
Could those believers prevail against the combined power of the persecuting power of apostate Judaism? They all knew what the Jewish Sanhedrin had done to the Lord Jesus, then to Stephen and thousands of other believers. And already the sickening aroma of burning persecution was spreading to other corners of the Roman Empire. Paul’s situation was well-known throughout the church, and already he was in Rome, the home of the beast, waiting for disposition of his case. Peter would soon be there. It looked like the contest was too strong and that Satan would prevail. The church had only spiritual weapons; Judaism and Rome political and military ones. They must live by faith in the Almighty Lord, who “is.” He makes reality what it is; he rules over all. He “was,” the eternal, sovereign God who ordains whatsoever comes to pass. He is “to come;” his will and kingdom must prevail over his enemies. The only inevitable in history is the victory of Almighty God, and his Christ. Do you believe He is the glorious inevitable in your life? In history? Do not separate who he is from what is happening in the world. He is doing all that we see. He raises up the beast and giving him power to make war against us, so that he may crush him. This letter is for us. The living Savior who is King over all is for us. The victory he won at Calvary is for us, if we will live by faith in the Son of God. Signed, the Almighty God. Trust me.
We must at least glance that this little word at the end of verse 8: pantokrator. If once it ever enters into our soul, a great revolution takes place in us. The word means “all power.” God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he holds sway over all things. The dragon, the beast, the harlot, the UN globalists, Russians, Americans, Chinese, Soros, Gates, Schwab – all are under God’s sway. None would be able to move one inch apart from his bidding. The fires of persecution are under God’s power. There is no other power in this universe than the Almighty Creator God. Everything else with any power is given its power by God. And so, the weight of the world does not lie upon our shoulders but upon the Almighty’s and his enthroned Son (Is. 9:6-7). Fear? Anxiety? Man-pleasing? Anger? Here is the fire hose that quenches all these fires in the human soul. Our God has all power. Nothing can happen to thwart his plans, interrupt them, or overturn them. Nothing can happen in our lives, however, painful, that his power will not give us the support we need to endure. Let us worship him, trust him, and devote ourselves to depending upon him. Whatever he calls us to endure, he will show us that he is the one enduring it with us, supporting us as we endure, and giving us grace to overcome and quench the hottest fires that Satan can hurl at us. We must, however, trust his strength, and not our own.