Greetings and Doxology Part 2 of 3 (Revelation Series)
by John Lowe
5 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,
This blessing of grace and peace comes also from God the Son—the ruler of the kings of the earth. This is reminiscent of Psalm 89:27: “I will make him the first-born, the highest of the Kings of the earth.” That was always taken by Jewish scholars to be a description of the coming Messiah; and, therefore, to say that Jesus is the ruler of Kings on earth is to claim that He is the Messiah. Proud earthly monarchs have sought, and still seek, to rule the world, but “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). He has three titles which, taken together, reveal His relationship to the present age.
The blessing is from “Jesus Christ, who is the “faithful witness.” A witness is essentially a person who speaks from first-hand knowledge. That is why Jesus is God’s witness. He is uniquely the person with first-hand knowledge about God. He came to earth to be a witness to a dark and degenerate world, and His witness was both unprecedented and unpopular. He witnessed to the name of God. Jesus taught men a new name for God, the lovely, intimate, heartwarming name of Father.
“Faithful witness” is a title that was first conferred upon Christ by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 55:48). Our Lord said that He came into the world to bear witness to the truth (John 18:379). While on earth he was the Father’s faithful witness of the truth. He never lacked courage nor did He ever compromise. The path of our human testimony is strewn with failure and even wreckage. But Christ was faithful unto death.
He witnessed to the nature of sin. Yet the full horror and criminality of sin were not fully revealed until Jesus came. Sin shredded His back and crowned Him with thorns; sin hung Him on cruel nails amid the sneers and laughter of mankind; sin broke His body and broke His heart; sin wrung from His lips the “orphan cry” as He hung upon the cross. Sin was revealed in all his naked, unmasked horror when Jesus came.
He witnessed to the need for righteousness. The Law of Moses did that too, for the very slopes of Sinai quaked when the Law was given. But Sinai’s demands are dwarfed and exceeded by the demands for righteousness gently but firmly revealed on the grassy, sunny slopes of the Mount of Beatitudes. Sinai dealt with sin’s fruits; the Sermon on the Mount dealt with sin’s roots. Moses dealt, for the most part, with the deed; Jesus dealt with the very desire.
He witnessed to the nearness of judgment. The Lord Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven. In Matthew’s gospel, for example, where we have the most complete record of the Lord’s public utterances, for every verse in which He mentions the abode of the blessed, there are three verses in which He refers to hell.
Perhaps the most important thing for you and I is that as the faithful witness, He brought the news of salvation.
Jesus is seen in all His sovereignty. He is the Faithful Witness of the truth from God, who sent Him to earth to die for sins. Both Jesus and the believers are called “witnesses.” The word “martyr” comes from the Greek word for witness. Jesus was a “witness” as the first to die. This would have comforted believers who were suffering for their faith. Those who would die for their faith in Christ, the martyrs, would “witness” through their deaths. Jesus Christ is the preeminent “faithful witness” because he died and because He was the first to rise from the dead (see also Colossians 1:18). Christ’s resurrection assured the same for all believers—that Jesus is the Son of God (Messiah). He shows us all how to stand firm for the faith even when faced with persecution. Others had risen from the dead—people whom the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles had brought back to life during their ministries—but later those people had died again. Jesus was the first to rise from the dead in an imperishable body (1 Corinthians 15:2010), never to die again.
He is the firstborn from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-30), implying priority and sovereignty. He is the leader of all who will rise from the dead through Him to everlasting life. He was raised never to die again and exalted to a position above all, awaiting the day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:8-1111).
When Paul speaks of Jesus as the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:1512), he means that to him belongs the first place of honor and glory. If we take the expression “firstborn of all creation,” in this sense, it means that Jesus is Lord of the dead as well as Lord of the living. There is no part of the universe, in this world or in the world to come, and nothing in life or in death of which Jesus Christ is not Lord.
We live in a day of conflicting claims for various religions (they can’t all be true), and the desire to be tolerant of all others (if it’s true for you, it’s true). Yet how do we as Christians determine what we believe? We regard Jesus Christ as our faithful witness (1:4-5). He is the only religious leader who has risen from the dead.
So when you read John’s description of the vision, keep in mind that his words are not just good advice; they are truth from the King of kings. Don’t just read his words for their interesting and amazing portrayal of the future. Let the truth about Christ penetrate your life, deepen your faith in Him, and strengthen your commitment to follow Him—no matter what the cost.
Jesus is also portrayed as the commander of all the rulers of the world—an all-powerful King, victorious in battle, glorious in peace. Satan had tried to tempt Jesus with an offer of ruling all the nations of the world if Jesus would bow and worship him (Matthew 4:8-9). Jesus refused and, through obedience to God and through death on the cross, He gained ultimate leadership. Psalm 89:27 says, “I will make him my firstborn son, the mightiest king on earth” (NLT). Jesus was NOT just a humble earthly teacher; He is the glorious God. When He returns, He will be recognized for who He really is. Then, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
The last part of verse 5 along with verse 6 make up the doxology. This doxology concludes the prologue to this book. John was writing to believers experiencing persecution; yet he assured them that Jesus not only continuously cared for and loved them but also had set them free, no matter how they might feel. Jesus had set them free from their sins by his blood, that is, through his death on the cross. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that “cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). “Without the shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). We are redeemed by the precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-23). Certainly, in this day of liberalism and modernism, we should cry out as never before that it is the blood of the Lamb that washes away our sins.
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.
The blessing has hardly been uttered when the saints reply with an answering benediction. The benediction tells of the grace that comes to us. It is grace that endures “forever and ever.” The Saints respond to the blessing with the cry, “To Him who loves us (1:5).” He continues to give proof of His love in that He continues to save any and all who come to Him through Christ. Paul prayed that we might be able to comprehend that love in its four dimensions (Ephesians 3:17-1913). In his love, God called Israel to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:1-6), but the Jews failed God and their kingdom was taken from them (Matthew 21:4314). Today, God’s people (the church) are His kings and priests (1 Peter 2:1-10), exercising spiritual authority and serving God in this world.
The benediction rejoices in grace that emancipates. “To him who . . . has freed us from our sins by his blood” is the joyful shout of the saints.
He breaks the power of canceled sin
And sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood avails for me.
The benediction speaks of grace that elevates. Jesus “has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father” is the additional response of the redeemed. It is a quotation of Exodus 19:6: “You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In his love, God called Israel to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:1-6). He has bestowed upon us all the majesty of a prince and all the ministry of a priest. He has given us power with man and power with God. What more could we want than that! That’s the grace that comes to us through faith in the Son of God.