Greetings and Doxology Part 1 of 3 (Revelation Series)
by John Lowe
Book of Revelation
By: Tom Lowe
Lesson: I.A.2: Greetings and Doxology (Revelation 1:4-6)
Revelation 1:4-6 (NIV)
4 John, 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,
5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful, 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,
6 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.
This brief passage (as well as all of chapter 1), is all about God, and particularly about God the Son. The schedule of events, the character, and the consummation of the age are seen in relation to Him. God has no plans and no purpose for this planet which is not centered ultimately in His Son. He is the center of everything.
We have within this passage both a blessing and a benediction. Verse 4 begins a section containing letters to seven churches in Asia. They all face different circumstances and struggle with a variety of issues.
4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,
At the very beginning, a blessing appears to be flowing from John’s pen: “John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you.” This book deals primarily with judgment, yet God begins it with grace. In this book, wicked men get richly deserved judgment from God. The floodtides of His wrath, dammed back since Calvary, burst all their banks and pour forth in all their fury. Yet God began His Revelation by telling men they can have what they do not deserve—grace1! And peace2!
These three verses are the salutation part of John’s letter. Jesus told John to write to seven churches that knew and trusted John and had read his earlier letters (see 1:9, 113). These were churches in cities. The letter was addressed so that it could be read and passed on in a systematic fashion, following the main Roman road clockwise around the province of Asia (now called Turkey). “The seven churches in the province of Asia” does not refer to the great continent of Asia, nor does it refer to the whole of Asia Minor. These seven churches were located in the western end of Asia Minor, bordering on the Aegean and the great Mediterranean seas. The area referred to here is about the size of the state of Pennsylvania. Reference to “the seven churches which are in Asia” does not mean that there were only seven churches in that particular district. The Word of God clearly teaches us that there were at least three other churches in that area: The church at Colosse (Colossians 1:2), the church at Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13), and the church at Troas (Acts 20:6, 7).
Why did the Lord direct John to write to these seven in particular? It is possible that the number seven, as with the other sevens in the book, signifies completeness. Seven is used frequently in the book of Revelation—seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven personages, seven vials, seven doings, and last but by no means least, the seven new things. While the seven churches were actual churches, they also represented all churches throughout the ages. They are representative churches, chosen by the Spirit because of certain characteristics typical of the character of the Church of Christ—not only in the day when John wrote, but on down through the centuries until the church is raptured to meet the Lord in the air. There are numerous other places in Scripture where that number is used, such as, when referring to the seven feasts of Jehovah in Leviticus 23, and the seven kingdom parables in Matthew 13.
Someone may ask, “Why did the Holy Spirit name seven churches? Why not six . . . or why not name all of the churches in that locality?” Seven is the number of perfection . . . God’s number. The Lord God labored six days, and rested on the seventh day. It is the number of completion.
Grace and peace were standard greetings in the ancient world. “Grace” was the Greek greeting (charis); “peace” was the Hebrew greeting (shalom). The early church took these two greetings and used them together as a way of declaring that God had given these realities to His people. The common need among all the redeemed is GRACE AND PEACE. Without the grace of God, we would all burn in hell. Without the peace of God in our hearts, we would all be miserable. Grace is the source of all blessing. Peace is the rightful and happy possession of every born again, blood-washed child of God (John 14:274). Grace and peace, by and through “Him who is, and who was, and who is to come.” Here we have the source of the blessing. It is a blessing backed with all the authority of heaven itself, and a blessing bestowed by the Father, the Spirit, and the Son. We read first of all that the blessing is “from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come.” In the context, this can be none other than God the Father. He is presented to us as the One who transcends all time. He lives in the present, in the past, and in the prospective future. He cuts across all the ages of time. This clearly sets forth the eternal existence of Jehovah God. God has always been, God always will be. This is what in Hebrews so beautifully became: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The grace of God brought salvation down to man (Hebrews 2:95) and it is only through the grace of God that we have peace with God (Romans 5:16).
The Trinity—the Father (the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come), the Holy Spirit (the sevenfold Spirit), and the Son (Jesus Christ)—is the source of all truth (John 14:6-17; 1 John 2:27; Revelation 19:11).
All of time is encompassed in the Father—He is, was, and will be. This title is used only in Revelation (see also 11:17; 16:5). God is eternally present and therefore able to help His people in any age, in any situation. Note that the present tense is first, stressing that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the future is still in control of the present, even though it doesn’t seem like it. The pressures and stresses that the early Christians faced made the truth of God’s control over all history that much more meaningful.
The “sevenfold Spirit” has been identified by some to mean the seven angelic beings or messengers for the churches (see 1:207). Their names are not always the same but they are often called Uriel, Rafael, Raguel, Michael, Gabriel, Saiquael, and Jeremiel. They had the oversight of the elements of the world—fire, air, and water—and were the guardian angels of the nations. Others have interpreted this to refer to those angels that accompany Christ at his return (Luke 9:26; 1 Timothy 5:21). They were the most illustrious and the most intimate servants of God. Some think that they are the seven Spirits mentioned here. But that cannot be; great as the angels were, they were still created beings. But the reference to the Trinity here gives more weight to the interpretation that the sevenfold Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The “sevenfold Spirit” refers to the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and to the magnitude of His power. He is seen taking up a position before the throne because He is the executor of God’s purposes. The number seven is used throughout Revelation to symbolize completeness and perfection (see also 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). But this also pictures the sevenfold ministry of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Isaiah 11:2 and the seven lamps in Zacharias, which also describe the Holy Spirit (Zacharias 4:1-10).