We are beginning a study of the book of Revelation, and I hope I can lift you into the super drama that is the book of Revelation. We are going to be looking beyond the shallow superficiality of this life into the great realities that underlie our existence. We are going to be looking at those great causes that produce the problems that have troubled our world since man was created. We are coming to the Revelation of John and you need to read by way of introduction, the first chapter
The Revelation came to John in the last decade of the first century during the reign of Roman emperor Diocletion. It was a trying time for Christians. They were facing opposition from the imperial power of Rome, persecution, and the effort to make them bow their knees to Caesar. Yet they had committed their lives unreservedly to the Lord Jesus Christ and now they had to make the decision as to whether they would succumb to the power and pressure of Rome or hold true to the one who said, “Be faithful until death,and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). To whom would allegiance be given? That was the issue then; that is the issue today.
Perhaps the forces that challenge us today are not the forces of political pressure and perhaps not of physical persecution; but, yet there is before us the power of a seductive world order, the seduction of the world that would lead us away from a firm commitment and allegiance to Jesus Christ. We, too, must daily face that challenge of allegiance, whether it be to Caesar or to Christ, whether it be to Satan or to God.
These people were confronted with a tremendous burden. They were a people who could easily have become depressed and discouraged. They were a people who were seeing those whom they loved being put to death and, perhaps, their faith was on the verge of weakening. Not only for that day did the book of Revelation come as a tremendous inspiration, but for each of us, in our time, it can do the same thing.
One commentator on Revelation said: “Whenever there is a world crisis, whenever the state exalts itself and demands an allegiance which Christians know they cannot pay without
abandoning their very souls, when ever the church is threatened by destruction, and faith is dim and hearts are cold, then the Revelation will admonish and exhort, uplift and encourage all who heed its message.”
One of the more effective expositors of the Bible in the early part of this century said of the book of Revelation: “There is no book in the Bible which I have read so often, no book to which I have tried to give more patient and persistent attention. There is no book in the Bible to which I turn more eagerly in hours of depression that to this, with all its mystery. ...”
The book does have some mystery. But it is, in fact, a revelation. God is trying to say something to us. What He is trying to say above all else is that the single great message and theme of the book is that God's people will be victorious and that things are not as they seem. It may seem to us as though Satan is in control of our world. It may seem to us that God has hidden Himself from the problems and pressure of our time and there is no one to whom we can turn.
Yet Revelation 17:14 describes graphically and symbolically the message of the book: “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” God will be victorious! The Lamb that was slain has become King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus reigns and with Him His people who are called and chosen and faithful shall reign and have dominion with Him. That is the message and theme of the book. But let us look at it as we enter the first chapter of Revelation.
After the opening words, we read: “John, to the seven churches which are in Asia; grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:4–5).
We are introduced immediately to God, the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit and it is from them that this Revelation comes. We are introduced to Jesus Christ in verse 5 who is
presented as prophet. He is a prophet, priest, and king to a discouraged people. It would be an encouragement to know they have paid their allegiance to One who is really in charge. Jesus Christ is spoken of as the faithful witness in his capacity as prophet, and His statements are true. In John 8:14, Jesus said, “... my witness is true. ...”
In a world of conflicting and uncertain voices there is one Voice we can listen to and know with certainty that we are hearing reality expressed, that this is the way things really are. Jesus is a faithful witness. He alone can be depended on to tell you the truth. Satan would deceive us and would blind us to the realities of life. but God is trying to say to us that through Jesus Christ there is a clear vision of what is true and what is to come and what our destiny is to be.
Jesus is presented not only as a prophet, but as a priest. He is referred to as the firstborn from the dead. That does not mean that he was the first person who was ever raised from the dead because the term "firstborn" is primarily a title of preeminence.
Jesus, among all those who have risen from the dead, is preeminent. That is the thought that is expressed in Colossians 1:18 where the apostle Paul says, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” And Jesus Christ has the preeminence as the firstborn from the dead in the realm of the priesthood.
In Hebrews 2:14 to 3:1, the writer said: "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself suffered, being tempted. He is able to aid those who are tempted. Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.”
Jesus Christ suffered and died that He might enable us to realize that He has been tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin. He is one who can be touched by the feelings of our infirmities. He understands us. He has been in the flesh. He has been tempted and tried and tormented and He knows our anguish. He knows our needs, and Jesus is the only one who can serve as our High Priest.
Jesus is not only presented to a troubled people as a prophet and as a priest, but He is presented as King. And this passage in Revelation 1:5 says not only that He is the faithful witness and the firstborn from the dead, but He is the ruler of the kings of the earth. That is an amazing statement and it violates the most popular interpretation of Revelation that is heard in our times. Jesus Christ is not one who one day is going to return to the earth and set up a kingdom and reign here for a thousand years. We are informed by the Revelation of Almighty God that Jesus Christ today, now, is the ruler of the kings of the earth. He does not have to wait until some future date to become the ruler. God is in charge and he has placed Jesus Christ in charge.
In Jesus, God fulfilled His promise spoken in Psalm 89:27: “Also, I will make Him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” Jesus rules now and He reigns now. In I Peter 3:22, Peter speaks of Jesus Christ as the One “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”
The world is subject to Christ. We are not under the ultimate dominion of the leaders of our nation. We are under the authority and dominion and power of the Almighty God through his Son, Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1:20-21, the apostle Paul speaks of the mighty power of God “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion and He is far above all rule and authority. That is true now and that is the reason why in Acts 2:29–35, after Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, the apostle Peter said, “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried and his tomb is with us to this day.
Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’ ” Jesus Christ now reigns at the right hand of God and He will continue to reign until every enemy is put under His feet.
In I Corinthians 15:24–27, Paul said, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For He has put all things under His feet. But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.” God has already done it. Jesus reigns and rules now! We do not need to wait until some future time.
Some people say, “Well, if Jesus is reigning and ruling in the nations of men, why is it there is so much trouble in the world?” It is because not all men have submitted to the reign of Jesus. The same was true in the Old Testament. God was reigning in the kingdoms of men but there were those that failed to realize it and failed to submit themselves to the reign of Almighty God. But, the fact continued to be that God was in charge.
King Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful ruler the world had ever known to his time. But, Daniel 4:28–37 says, “All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’ While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall
drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.’ That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.
“No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.”
Nebuchadnezzar learned that God rules in the kingdom of men and he said, "I lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me" (Daniel 4:34). I am convinced that we have got to take our eyes off the political intrigue and conflict and chaos of our world and lift our eyes to heaven to see that God rules and reigns in the kingdoms of men and that He is the one who shall bring His people triumphant to the end. We are not people who are slaves and servants to the world powers of this age. God has placed Jesus Christ on the throne.
Satan Himself did not quite understand the picture. In Matthew 4:8–10, Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness to tempt Him. It reads: “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.“ ‘ “
And Jesus made himself subject to the Father and consequently when he broke the bonds of death and rose to life again He said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus Christ had gained the victory apart from the temptations of Satan. By following the word of God He came to be the one who had all authority in heaven and on earth.
But God's power is not to make us cower. John could only burst into praise when he heard and expressed the truth of Jesus Christ as prophet and priest and king and he could only say: “... To him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5–6).
“To Him that loved us”—He who rules the world loves us! He loosed us from our sins. He washed us from our sins. We are told in I Corinthians 6:11 about some who had been bound by sin and who had found themselves slaves of sinful ways. Paul said, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is the one who cleanses us of all sins. Paul himself was asked by Ananias “... why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). That washing occurred in the blood of the lamb. In Hebrews 10:22, the writer said, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
We know our hearts are sprinkled by the blood of Jesus Christ. The brethren are told that they had “... boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus ... let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodes washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19–22). Jesus shed His blood in order to cleanse us from our sins. He loved us. Jesus loosed us from our sins, but He made us also to be a kingdom. Back in the Old Testament in Exodus 19:5–6, as the people of Israel approached Sinai there was a promise that God made to the people who
were about to enter into a covenant relationship to Him. God said: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” He made them a kingdom of priests and when God established a new covenant through Jesus Christ will all mankind, He did it that He might establish a kingdom of priests. He made us to be a kingdom and we enter that kingdom now in this life.
In John 3:5, Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, He cannot enter the kingdom of God." But you can enter the kingdom if you are born again, born into the kingdom.
But He not only made us a kingdom, He made us to be priests. In I Peter 2:9– 10, Peter expresses the grandeur of the whole thing when he says: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” He who rules in the affairs of men in the kingdoms of men loosed us from our sins and made us to be a kingdom and priests. Priests in the Old Testament were ones who stood between the people and God. But there is no one standing between us and God now. He has elevated us to the position of priesthood so that we now offer our bodes as living sacrifices to Him, holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service.
You see, we are now able to have immediate access to God because He loves us. The King of the universe is one that you may address at night as you go to bed, but call Him not, “the imperial majesty of the universe,” but, “My Father,” because He loves you and because the King of the ages is your Father in heaven. In Revelation 5:9–10, we see a vision of heaven itself: “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”
We now reign upon the earth as a kingdom and priests. you say, “I don't understand.” It is because we have been so caught up in the world's conception of power and authority and sovereignty that we do not understand what happens to the spirit. When we allow our lives to come under the dominion of God, whether we are faced with fire or persecution or nakedness or famine or sword, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. In Him is the power to reign, the power to transcend earthly power and to actually enjoy that dominion with God himself where we reign with Him.
We are not slaves and servants in this earth to the powers of this world. But, rather, we are sons of God. That is what Paul is trying to tell us in Galatians 4:3–7 when he says, “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are not longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
You are not slaves to this world. You are sons of God and you are heirs of what he has provided for you of His promises and His blessings. Go back to the Old Testament in Daniel 7:13–14, and there is a prophecy concerning Jesus Christ. Listen to the words: “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 be destroyed.”
It was when Jesus, one like the son of Man, came to the ancient of days, to the Father, that He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, and His kingdom will last forever. When Jesus ascended into heaven and began to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords, He established the kingdom, a kingdom that will never be shaken, a kingdom in which you can be a participant and where you can reign.
One like a Son of Man is seen in Revelation once again. This time as He is walking amidst the candlesticks or the lamp stands. In Revelation 1:12-13, John said, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lamp stands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”
We are told that the candlesticks or the lamp stands represent the churches in verse 20. And so we see in Revelation chapter 1, Jesus walking among the churches. The One like the Son of Man who now reigns at the right hand of God has condescended to walk with His people in His church. You also can walk hand in hand with the One who is the Savior of mankind, the One who is the creator of the universe, the One who is King of kings and Lord of lords and rules in the kingdoms of men. He is the One who is able to take you through life and lead you finally to an eternity with God.
In Matthew 28:20, Jesus said, “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” As long as the church continues in the world, Jesus continues to walk among His people, the church. We invite you to allow yourself to be washed in the blood of the Lamb. Allow the cleansing blood of Jesus to come and cleanse your conscience so that you might be born again of water and the Spirit. Have your body washed with pure water and your heart sprinkled from an evil conscience so that Jesus might purchase your from among men. Then you will be one of His people, His own possession, that you might reign with Him on earth, and finally be granted inheritance into the everlasting kingdom.