Monday, June 24, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 4, He Who Was, And Is, And Is To Come

In the beginning of Revelation, the Lord commands John to write a letter to seven churches which were literal churches in his day. Each of these churches also symbolically represents a period of time in church history, as we will see as we move through the first three chapters. We will be talking about which church ages are past, which church age we are currently in, and the one church age which is yet to come---although it could be argued that the final church age is not a "church' at all, for it is the apostate church that will be present during the end times.

We begin this morning with John's greeting to the seven churches and with a doxology about the preeminence and eternal existence of the Lord. "John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth." (Revelation 1:4-5a)

No matter how far we go back into eternity past, God is there. No matter how far we go into eternity future, God is there. It's difficult for our human minds to grasp the concept of anyone or anything that did not have a beginning, but God has always existed. He never had a beginning. He will never have an end. So John speaks of His existence as one that is continuous and ongoing in every age: He was, He is, He is to come. To put it another way, he's saying, "The Lord always did exist. The Lord exists now. He will always be existing."

We can say these same words of the incarnation of God the Son. He was: He lived on this earth in a human body. He is: He rose from the dead and is alive in an immortal human body. He is to come: This is a twofold prophecy, for He will return in the clouds to call His church out of this world, then at a later date He will return to the earth itself to rule over it forever from the throne of David.

John speaks of the seven spirits which are before the throne of God. The most popular and accepted theory about this is that since the number seven in the Scriptures is used to symbolize things that are complete or perfect, the seven spirits represent the Holy Spirit in the completeness and perfection of His ministry. The second most popular theory is that these seven spirits are seven angels of very high authority who minister before the throne of God. We can't say with any certainty what John means by speaking of the seven spirits, but we can rest assured that anything God does is perfect and complete. He keeps all His promises. He carries out all His plans. He speaks of future events as if they have already come to pass, because when God makes a promise, it is as good as done.

John calls Jesus Christ "the faithful witness" and "the firstborn from the dead". Christ faithfully showed us the heart of God by the things He said and did. He said the things God told Him to say and He performed the works God told Him to perform. Because of His faithfulness to God's instructions and to God's plan of salvation for mankind, "God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name." (Philippians 2:9) And because Christ was obedient to the Father's will, He rose from the dead to prove that He was who He said He was and to prove that God accepted His sacrifice on our behalf. This is why John refers to Him as "the firstborn from the dead", because He rose from the dead never to die again, and because He is the first of many who will do so. We who have trusted in Him for salvation will also someday rise from the dead in bodies like His, never to die again.

John refers to Jesus as "the ruler of the kings of the earth". Because God the Father has given Him the name that is above every name, a day is coming in which "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11) At this present time we don't see Christ treated on the earth as the One who has the name above every name. In fact, His name is often blasphemed by unbelievers. We don't see Him seated on a throne, crowned with many crowns (Revelation 19:12), with every knee bowing at the mention of His name. But God the Father has promised Him this authority, and anything God promises is as good as done, so we can truthfully and legitimately already refer to Jesus Christ as the King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:16) The Old Testament prophet Zechariah foresaw the day in which the Lord---the greatest King of all---would reign over the earth forever. "The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His name the only name." (Zechariah 14:9) In that day there will be only one Lord; idolatry will be cast down forever. In that day there will be only one King; His kingdom will last for eternity. The prophet Daniel received a vision of the King and of the eternal kingdom which would do away with all the kings and kingdoms that came before, and he said, "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever." (Daniel 2:44)

The Apostle John concludes the doxology with words of praise for the King of kings and Lord of lords: "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father---to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!" (Revelation 1:5b-6) We know Christ loves us because He shed His blood for us to save us from our sins. What greater way could anyone prove their love for us than by giving their life in our place? Now that we belong to Christ, we are the children of God. We are part of the royal family. We are co-heirs with Christ of the great inheritance God has in store for those who love Him. We didn't deserve this great honor and we didn't earn it. We have it only because of the Lord's great love for us and because we have accepted the sacrifice He made on our behalf.

No wonder John breaks into praise at this point. Blessed be the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us! Amen!

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