Saturday, 19 March 2016 16:46

5. Workers in a foreign land * Revelation 1:4-6

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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 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,

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.


*** To the sevem churches in the province of Asia ***: These churches were located in the Roman province of Asia. Today, this region is part of Turkey.

*** Grace and peace ***: We see this form of greeting in Peter and Paul's letters (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2). 'Grace' is the common Greek greeting word charis. 'Peace' is the common Hebrew greeting shalom, and here in the original Greek text the word used is eirēnē. For early Christians, this is a meaningful form of greeting, always stated in this order. First grace, then peace. As they say "hello" they recognize the blessing of Jesus' grace, and the following blessing of peace that comes after receiving His grace. It is clear that this grace and peace come from the Trinity, in equal measure: "from him who is, and who was, and who is to come", "from the seven spirits before the throne", "and from Jesus Christ".

*** From him who is, and who was, and who is to come ***: As we can read, the grace and peace come from the Trinity. The first person in this sentence is God the Father. Revelation 4 starts by describing a scene in the throne room, and God the Father is sitting on His throne. Jesus has not arrived in that room yet. In verse 8 we see the four living creatures around the throne crying "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." God the Father revealed His name to Moses in Exodus 3:13-17: "I am who I am". The verses in Exodus also mention the part where He WAS also the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was the God who made a covenant with those men, for generations to follow. So the people could rest assured that I AM WHO I AM, the one WHO WAS the God of the forefathers, would also be the one WHO WOULD COME and deliver them from their "misery in Egypt". God's name was still relevant in the time of John, and it is still relevant today. God is in charge of the plan that can set humanity free once and for all. And this is the message of freedom He is giving to Jesus, and that John needs to pass along to the churches.

*** From the seven spirits before his throne ***: the second person in the sentence is the Holy Spirit. We read that the Holy Spirit is present before the throne of God. Going back to the Greek version of the Old Testament (Septuagint), in Isaiah 11, we read about what happens when the Holy Spirit rests on Christ. But before we read about what happens, we have a seven-fold description of the Holy Spirit: Spirit of wisdom, of understanding, of counsel, of might, of knowledge, of godliness, and of fear of God. Zachariah 4 talks about 7 lamps which were the eyes of the Lord "which range throughout the earth". In Revelation 4:5, we see the seven Spirits of God portrayed as seven torches of fire burning before the throne of God. In Revelation 5:6, we see Him portrayed as seven eyes sent out to all the earth. When we look at all these texts, we can paint the scene: the Holy Spirit, in His fullness, standing in front of the throne of God, ready to go down to Earth and start His activities.

*** From Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth ***: now we have the third source of grace and peace. This section is a very clear reference to Jesus. In John 18:36-37, we read the conversation Jesus had with Pilate, where Jesus mentions the three titles stated in this Revelation text: He came to "testify to the truth", and that was the reason He "was born", and that He has a "kingdom". These three titles are terms from Psalm 89:27 and 37, used to describe David's descendent, God's "first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth", who will be established on the throne as "the faithful witness in heaven". The word translated as witness is the word martus. This word also came to mean "martyr", as in the one who witness unto death. We then have here, Jesus Christ, the one who witnessed the truth unto death, the Son of God who was raised from the dead, and by doing so became the sole and supreme ruler of this Earth.

*** To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood ***: Christ loves us in a continuous way. The act of freeing humanity has already been completed with His death at the cross.

*** And has made us to be a kingdom and priests ***: in Exodus 19:5-6, we read that God's chosen people would be for Him "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation". In 1 Peter 2:9 we read that God's chosen people are a royal priesthood and a holy nation. By His blood, Christ promoted His followers to the status of kingdom and priests. Christians are made "citizens of God's household" (Ephesians 2:19). Earth is no longer their home (Philippians 3:20), they belong to Heaven. The acceptance of Christ's teachings and Him as our personal savior is the documentation necessary to become a citizen of Heaven. Citizenship starts at the moment of this acceptance. Even though Christians today still live in a foreign land, the land of the citizens of this Earth, they already possess all the rights and duties of one who is a citizen of heaven. The text is clear in stating what is our duty, our job: Jesus made us priests. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul clarifies this job a bit more. The job of a representative in a foreign land: "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled with God." As priests, we are to appeal to others to be reconciled with God, in the name of Jesus Christ. In other words, we are to preach the message. Now let us look further into this priesthood job, and learn how exactly we get started. Exodus 29 has all the step by step details given by God, and Leviticus 8 tells the story of when the consecration of Aaron and his sons took place. We know Aaron was the high priest, and his sons were priests. In our case, Jesus is the High Priest (Hebrews 8:1), and we are made priests.

- Becoming a priest: let's see how the sons of Aaron became priests and let's draw a parallel to our reality today:
1) Aaron's sons acknowledged the sacrifice that was ready to be offered - Exodus 29:1-3 (we acknowledge the teachings of Jesus and His sacrifice).
2) The sons of Aaron were publically washed by water - Exodus 29:4 (we are baptised with water).
3) They were then dressed in priestly tunics - Exodus 29:8 (in Isaiah 61:10 we read: "For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness").
4) Lastly, they were ordained by the sacrifice offered - Exodus 29:9-34 (Christ's death ordained us and made us priests).

In Exodus 29:44-45 we read that after Aaron and his sons had been ordained, God consecrated them as priests, and told them He would then come and live with the Israelites and be their God.

*** To him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen ***: The glory and power belongs to the one who is the faithful witness, ruler of kings, firstborn of the dead, loves us, and freed us from sin. It belongs to Jesus Christ.

*** Overview ***: John is writing to the Cristians of Asia, and he describes the Trinity individually in the fullness of their existence in relation to humans and the Trinity's divine activities. God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son equally greet and bless the churches with grace and peace. Jesus's sacrifice gave us the gift of belonging to heaven. There is nothing we can DO to receive it. We just need to truly accept it. And BECAUSE we received this gift, we are called to DO the work of priests. Doing the work does not turn us into citizens of heaven. Doing the work help us spread the message so others can have the opportunity to also choose Christ, and become citizens as well. John emphasizes the transformational powers Jesus' love: His death gave us freedom from sin, gave us heavenly citizenship, and made us priests. And that is why Jesus deserves eternal glory and power.

   
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