The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.- Revelation 1:1-3
Unlike Paul, whose letters follow the standard epistolary form beginning with the author, the recipients, and the greeting, John begins with Christ. This is not John’s letter but is the word of God and revelation of Christ through his angel to his servant, John. That is a very important point for his readers to remember because ultimately their relief from persecution will come from God and his power.
Notice that from the very beginning John makes it clear that the things he is talking about are not going to happen some day thousands of years in the future. Instead, “to show his servants what must soon take place…because the time is near” (1:1,3). So many people read this today with an eye toward the future or the “end times” but John makes it clear that these things will soon take place. Why is that important to his readers? Because they are undergoing persecution and are looking for relief. This letter is an encouragement to stand firm because God is powerful and ultimately he is in control. The TNIV translates 1:3, “blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophesy,” however that is only implied in the text because at that time reading was done out loud.
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you 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.
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 for ever and ever! Amen.
Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
– Revelation 1:4-8
John introduces himself and gives the standard epistolary greeting of “grace and peace.” It will not be until verse 11 that he introduces his audience, the widest audience of any letter in the New Testament, the seven churches of Asia (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea) but also the widest audience of any letter ever written as these seven churches represent every one of the Lord’s churches. However, John still identifies this letter as from someone other than himself, “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.” (Rev 1:5).
Why is this important? Because those who are undergoing such intense persecution over whether or not they will worship the emperor are reminded of three things in verse 5 that will help them overcome through their persecution: that Christ is faithful, that he is firstborn from the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth. Christ, the faithful one, calls his persecuted followers to remain faithful. Christ, the firstborn from the dead, reminds his followers that there is hope beyond the grave for those who love him. Christ, the ruler of the kings of the earth, reminds his followers that there is one greater than the rulers who persecute them and even they will answer to Christ one day.
John follows that by speaking of his return in the present tense because it is so certain that we can even speak of it as if it is happening even now (Rev 1:7). Speaking of future events in the present tense is not new to John. Jesus did the same thing in John 14:3 which the NIV translates as future tense but in reality is present, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I
will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Again, this is an important reminder for those who are facing death to remember the assurance of his return. They are not dying in vain and they do have hope!
Finally, we are reminded that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the A and the Z, the first and last. Additionally, he is the one who always has and always will be, “who is, and who was, and who is to come.” Not only that, Christ is “the Almighty!” There is no power on earth that can withstand him. Not even the Romans or Domitian. Ultimately, Christ will have his way and “even those who pierced him” will see and if those who pierced him will see his return, so will those who pierced his followers. A better day is coming as we will soon see.
Message for Today:
The message for today is that it all starts with God. On our own we are nothing but we are a part of a bigger plan with a bigger purpose. Also, no matter what we face if it stands in opposition to Christ we have the assurance that we will be the victors, even over death. So stand tall and stand firm because Christ is fighting our battles for us and in the end we will see the one who is faithful coming on the clouds! So be filled with grace and experience his peace even in the midst of suffering and shame. What blessed assurance!