This sermon is number 2 in a series of 20
The Book Of The Revelation - Part 2
"The Greeting To The Seven Churches"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2007 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now do turn with me to Revelation chapter 1 please, and our title this evening is 'The Greeting to the Seven Churches', and we'll be looking at verses 1 to 8 of chapter 1, but we will read from verse 1 where we began last week.
Verse 1 of Revelation chapter 1: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty".
Now I said that I would not cover the ground that we touched upon last Monday night, save to recap a little. We looked at the title of this book, which is not as some editions of the Bible have it 'The Revelation of St John', but rather it is 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ' - it is about Him and it is from Him. Then after looking at the title we looked at the recipients of this book, verse 1 tells us that it was given to His servants, the servants of Christ, to show the things which must shortly come to pass. We also looked in a bit of detail at who the author of this book was, none other than the Apostle John - the same author of the fourth Gospel, and 1st, 2nd and 3rd epistles of John the beloved apostle who ministered many years in the city of Ephesus. Then we also looked at verse 3, and we witnessed the fact that this is a book with a benediction, and John pronounces a blessing upon those that read it - that is in the singular, the one who reads it publicly - those, plural, who hear it, and everyone who keeps the things that are written therein, for the time is at hand. The benediction that is upon this book, we saw, is also the motivation for us reading and studying it. We all need, we all - I hope - want a blessing from God, and there's a special blessing, I believe, in these last days for those who take note of the teaching of the book of Revelation.
We also mentioned the fact that many people approach this book with fear and trepidation. It's a bit mysterious to them, and that usually is because of several of the misunderstandings concerning this book that I believe are often derivative from false methods of interpretation that are applied to it. We looked at three false methods and one true method of interpreting this book. I'm not going to go into it tonight, get the recording. Then finally we looked at the message that this book holds, and I quoted a man by the name of H.B. Sweet, and I'll do it again because he very succinctly grasps the message of this book. He says: 'Revelation in form is an epistle', a letter, 'containing apocalyptic prophecy' - apocalyptic simply means something that is being unveiled and revealed, and characteristic to apocalyptic literature is the signifying through signs and symbols. It is prophecy, apocalyptic prophecy, through these signs and symbols there is a message about the future. Here's how he ends his quote: 'in spirit and in inner purpose this epistle, apocalyptic prophesy, is pastoral'. We must always remember that as we're going through this book: this book has a message to people in John's day who were suffering, persecuted for their faith - and, coincidentally, it has a message for us today, those of us who might well be suffering for our faith, or suffering indeed in any way.
Now this evening we're going to begin looking at the sender of this book, he's mentioned - the Authorised Version in verse 4 has his name in capitals, 'JOHN', and we'll not take time to look at his identity, we've done that already. John is the sender - who are his addressees? Well, verse 4 tells us: 'John to the seven churches which are in Asia'. Now, if you look at the screen you will see there is an old map of Asia, and of course Asia is not what we understand to be Asia today. Asia in the ancient Roman Empire was roundabout where modern Turkey is, and certainly the part that we are interested in was West Asia, that is Asia Minor, an imperial province of Rome.
Now if you look at verse 11 you have there designated the names of these seven churches, the second half of the verse tells us they were: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Let me say right away that there were most certainly more than seven churches in Asia Minor, we know that from the Scriptures. I'll give you two for instance: there was Colossae, the letter of Paul to the Colossians proves that; there was Miletus, as Acts chapter 20 shows us, and there were various other churches, we'll not take time to mention them. So the fact that John mentions seven, the Lord Jesus is inspiring him to do so, it's obvious that these seven in particular were representative of something that John wanted to communicate - and we will see that very clearly when we turn to chapters 2 and 3 and look at those seven churches in detail, but they are chosen for characteristics that the Lord Jesus wanted to highlight.
Now it's interesting when you note that Paul the apostle also wrote to seven churches - I'll let you work out what they were. Of course, he didn't write the same letter to them, and to some of them he wrote several letters, but it's interesting isn't it? Now if you were to look at verse 7 again, and then home in on this map, you would see that if you read verse 11 and then followed the map in the order that it is written, each church as John writes about it, you would roughly follow a journey on a circle, roughly now. Now that's interesting, let me show you another map just to make that clear - I know it's a strange looking circle, but the point that I think is being made is: John, right throughout this book has, as one of his major themes, completeness. There are seven churches here, and seven of course is the biblical number for perfection and completeness - I'm only posing the question: could it be that this circular movement as we travel round the seven churches as he has them in verse 11 also speaks of completeness?
Now, add to that the fact that in the vision that we will look at, God willing, next Monday evening in verses 12 and 13, the Vision Of The Glorified Lord, we read: 'I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands; And in the midst of the seven lampstands one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle'. These seven lampstands are the seven churches - now, where is Christ in relation to them? He is in the midst of them, they are around Him. Now I know this is only a picture, but it tries to graphically bring to our minds that vision that John saw, and the relation to the churches - and I know the lampstands aren't correct in that picture, but it gives you the idea of the circular seven churches with the Lord in the midst.
Then we come to the salutation, if you look at it: 'John to the seven churches', here we have it, 'Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne'. Now of course this greeting, 'Grace and peace', corresponds to the customary greeting that often was in letters in this particular age, and also corresponds directly to how Paul addressed his letters, and how John also did in his second epistle. Now 'grace' was a Gentile, a Greek greeting. Of course we know in a Christian context, 'grace' means 'undeserved favour', the gift of God that we cannot earn nor merit - but grace is also something that we need to get through the Christian life, that is what we derive our strength from: the free gift of God.
The second greeting is 'peace', and if 'grace' was the Gentile greeting, 'peace', 'Shalom', is the Hebrew greeting. Right away we see that John is bringing together both Jew and Gentile in the church of Jesus Christ as he writes to these seven churches. Peace, shalom, speaks of the calm that we need along with grace to face suffering, sorrow, and even death for the cause of Christ. Now please remember the context of this book: it is being written to persecuted Christians who needed grace, who needed peace - and, praise God, even in the age in which we live tonight, those two commodities are the rightful claim of every child of God. If you're a Christian here tonight, do you know, in spite of what you're going through, that you can have the grace of God that Paul was told of, the grace of God that was sufficient for his need? The grace of God that can enable your weakness to display the strength of God, and glorify His name! Can you hear tonight what God's Spirit said to the apostle: 'My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness'? Now that is what these believers needed to hear. They also needed peace, and praise God we have Christ's peace! Philippians tells us to be anxious for nothing, but in all things by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make our requests made known unto God; and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, transcends all understanding, will rule our hearts and our minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.
This book, this letter is from a persecuted Christian, John on the Isle of Patmos for his faith in Christ; to persecuted churches, the seven churches in Asia Minor, with a message of hope, grace, peace! Isn't that wonderful? Now we might well ask: who has the authority and indeed the ability to give such a message to such people in such a predicament? Well, that leads us to the source, or if you like the signature of this letter. Look at verse 4, the grace and peace is 'from him which is, and which was, and which is to come', and we'll stop there. First of all we see that this peace is given by - and forgive this terminology, but you'll understand why I'm using it - the ghost writer of the book of Revelation, because though John is the penman, this message is coming from God Almighty. We saw that in verse 1, let me remind you of it, this is: 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ', about Jesus Christ, 'which God gave to Christ', and then we saw Christ gave it to an angel, that the angel might give it to John. This is a divine message!
Now I want you to know right at the beginning of our study this evening that we are going to encounter many Christian doctrines as we look at this portion of Scripture tonight, many fundamental and important truths from the word of God. Here's the first one: the great truth of the inspiration of holy Scripture. This message that we are reading, that is in our hands in the 21st-century, is the living Word of God. Listen to what 2 Peter chapter 1:21 says about divine inspiration, specifically it talks of prophecy: 'the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost'. Paul to Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:16 says: 'All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness'. The doctrine of the inspiration of holy Scripture. Now inspiration did not violate personhood - let me explain that. We can see that John the apostle was the man that wrote Revelation because the writing, though very different in places, is also similar to his three epistles and to his gospel. You can see his character and his personality in it - but God's inspiration used those characteristics, those personality traits, in order to get across what God wanted to say.
So we believe in what is called the plenary, verbal inspiration of holy Scripture. That means: plenary, every word of the verbal Scripture, that is every word of the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts that were given to the authors of those books, are divinely inspired by God. Let us never lose that, for we are living in a day where in many places it has been lost. The ancient designation is given to the source of this letter, God is described as 'him which is, and which was, and which is to come'. Now there is a lesson for us: these Christians who were facing fiery trials from the Emperor Domitian, they were taking security in the One who was the source of this letter, that is the unchangeable God - the One who was, and is, and ever shall be the same. There is another doctrine: the doctrine of the immutability of God, the unchangeableness of the Almighty.
I want you to note one difference in this designation of God in verse 4 from the original ancient name for God. You see the original name goes like this: 'The One who was, and is, and ever shall be', that's not how John has it. He has it: 'The One who was, and is, and is to come'. I want you to note that, because right away we are seeing that John is emphasising the prophetic nature of this book. This God that is inspiring, who is the source and signature to this book, He's coming! He's not just the One who ever will be eternally in His nature, but He's coming, He's going to enter history again.
We see also hear another doctrine, the doctrine of prophecy. We saw it in verse 1, you will remember that this letter was to show Christ's servants things which must shortly come to pass, things which must shortly take place. Then in verse 3, the blessing is upon those who hear the words of this prophecy, this is prophetic literature. Then in verse 4, as we've seen, God is designated as the One who is to come, and also the same in verse 8. This is a prophetic book, don't let anybody tell you it's not.
Now we encounter in this ancient name for God another biblical doctrine, the doctrine of the triune Godhead, that is that we believe in one God, one substance, three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see here this triune Godhead displayed: the One who was, and is, and is to come - and then we have mentioned to us the seven Spirits, this letter is also from the seven Spirits which are before the throne. So we have the Father, and we have the Spirit. Now let's pause there and look at the Spirit for a moment. The Spirit is spoken of as being the seven Spirits, now you've got to realise right away that this is, as we've said, apocalyptic literature, and it's filled with symbolism. People get distressed at the Holy Spirit being spoken of as seven Spirits, and they try to explain it as being some other spiritual beings that are before the throne, and I don't think that's the case at all. This number seven, as we've already seen, is found I think over 50 times in this book of Revelation. It speaks of perfection, it speaks of completeness, and as it speaks of the Holy Spirit here, it's speaking of the fullness of completeness that is in the Spirit of God.
If you have a margin to your Bible, if it's a study Bible, it might even render the seven Spirits of God as 'the sevenfold Spirit of God'. Now, let me show you what I think this actually means when it says 'the seven Spirits of God'. Turn with me to Isaiah 11, verse 2 of Isaiah 11 reads like this, speaking of the One who was to come, that is Messiah in His first coming to earth, that's already happened, it says that: 'the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him', there is the first description of the Holy Spirit there, 'the spirit of the LORD', which is the name for Jehovah, so it is 'the spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him', one; 'the spirit of wisdom', two; 'the spirit of understanding', three; 'the spirit of counsel', four; 'the spirit of might', five; 'the spirit of knowledge', six; and 'the spirit of the fear of the LORD', seven. It's speaking, I believe, of seven characteristics of the one Spirit of God. If you had time, and we don't tonight, you could go into Zechariah chapter 4 and see that the Holy Spirit is represented there as the seven branches of the Jewish menorah, the candlestick, the lampstand.
Now the seven Spirits of God in their completeness, in their perfection and fullness - look at their location - are found before the throne of God. Now that is significant, I believe, because anyone who is found before a throne, it speaks of the government of that particular throne going out from it. Here we have the Father, and here we have the Spirit, and the Spirit is acting governmentally on the earth on behalf of God, and He's doing it via the church - for it is the Spirit, along with the Father, who is sending out this message to the church. Now, do you want evidence for that? All you need to do is go home and read the Acts of the Apostles, because that could better perhaps be titled the 'Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles', the 'Acts of God via the Holy Spirit in the Apostles'. We see through the first 30 years of the church's infancy that the Holy Spirit was being manifest in governmental authority from the throne of God in the early church.
Now I'm tempted to ask the question: is the Holy Spirit governmentally working here in the church of our age, in our generation? Is He allowed to work? Or is it, as I fear, that men in their wisdom and their ingenuity have usurped the Holy Spirit's authority in their local assemblies?
Well, we must move on. We have seen God: the One who is, who was, and is to come. We have seen the seven Spirits, which of course is the Holy Spirit - and both God and the Holy Spirit, the Father and God the Spirit, have sent this message; and now we encounter another person in the Godhead. The only reason He is third in this instance is that there is going to be a long description of Him in the rest of this portion of Scripture. Verse 5: 'And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth', we'll stop there. Jesus Christ, this message comes from Him, and is about Him.
I remember when we had our gatherings over in the old building, that one evening after a Monday night meeting, or before it, or before Sunday or something, I lifted a little booklet that was pushed under the door about the book of the Revelation. The long and the short of it was, this author - who remained nameless, but I know who he is because sometimes he comes to this meeting - he actually propounded that the book of the Revelation was not inspired. His reasoning for doing that was, he said it portrays Christ as a mere man apart from God. He was implying that the book of Revelation is not trinitarian, and because it's not trinitarian it should be rejected. Now that man is not here tonight, but if he were - just in case any of you are thinking along the same lines - you need to read the fact that this book is not only a book with a blessing, it's a book with a curse. In Revelation 22, we read at the end of it: 'If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book'. It's bad enough to take something out of the book, but to take Revelation out of the Bible is an entirely different and more serious sin.
Now let me say that this is a falsehood, because Revelation - just like John's gospel - is one of the clearest representations and presentations of the doctrine of the Trinity. Sure, even the literary structure which is before us - just like right throughout the Bible - is, here in Revelation, triune: 'The One who was, the One who is, the One who is to come'. There are more triune designations, 'Holy, Holy, Holy', the Trinity is right throughout the book. Now let me show you another trinity, though it is a three in relation to our Lord Jesus, in verse 5 and part b He is described as being 'the faithful witness'. He is the dependable witness - and I remember His words to Pilate in John's gospel 18:37, 'To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth', that's why He came the first time. That's what He did faithfully, and in all of His doing of it, He never lacked courage, nor did He ever compromise - praise His holy name!
Then He is described secondly as 'the first begotten from the dead', or 'the firstborn of the dead' - now that doesn't mean that He was the first person raised to life again, because He wasn't, He raised three Himself. But He was the first to rise from, now mark this, the mass of men who had died, in order that He would die no more, now that's different. Lazarus was raised, he died again. The widow of Nain's son was raised, he died again. Jairus' daughter was raised, she died again - but Christ has risen to die no more in the power of an endless life!
So this speaks of another doctrine, the doctrine of the resurrection. He is the firstborn from among the dead ones. He is pre-eminent in His position of resurrection. Now, can I say just in passing that there is going to be a similar selective resurrection for the Christian, like Christ's resurrection. Philippians 3 and verse 11 tells us about it, Paul says: 'If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead', literally 'unto the resurrection out from among the dead'. So that teaches us, as we will see as we go through the book of the Revelation, that there is not going to be a general resurrection when the graves are opened and everybody just comes out at the one moment, there are several resurrections - and Christ, because He is the pre-eminent in position as the firstborn from among the dead, has led the way for all who believe in Him.
But it also speaks, the fact that Christ has risen, of the pre-eminent order of the resurrection. First Corinthians 15:20 says not that Christ is the firstborn from among the dead, but He is the firstfruits - that means that when the Jewish farmers were gathering in their harvest, they would take the firstfruits of the harvest and offer it up to God. Like a resurrection there's going to be harvest day, and Christ has been the firstfruits of that resurrection, and we will follow Him - isn't that wonderful - because He has risen first! As He said: 'I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Believest thou this?'. My favourite hymn says:
'Soar we now where Christ has led,
Following our exalted Head.
Made like Him, like Him we rise,
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies'.
He is the firstborn from among the dead, pre-eminent in position, pre-eminent in order. The third description we have of Him here in verse 5 part b is He is described as the Ruler over the kings of the earth, that is the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Mark this well: how foolish it is to say that the doctrine of the Trinity is not in the book of the Revelation, this attribute of divine sovereignty is only attributed to God. In Daniel 2 and verses 20 and 21 we read: 'Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: and he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding'. That's the Old Testament record, the New Testament record gives the same, Romans 13:1: 'For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God'. Here we see Christ as the Ruler over the kings of the earth, don't tell me He's not God!
The faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth - how do you think that related to those suffering saints? Think about it for a moment: faithful witness, they needed an example of a faithful witness, didn't they? They needed courage, they needed not to compromise in the face of fiery persecution. The firstborn from among the dead - many of them were being martyred, sent to the stake, fed to the lions. They needed to know that this is not the end, but be faithful even to death. They needed to know, though Domitian was asking them to bow and acknowledge him as lord and god, that there was One who is the Christ of God who is far above all, over all the kings and emperors of the earth. It's wonderful, isn't it?
But I want you to see also in these three names of the Lord Jesus Christ that, first of all, faithful witness speaks of how He began this age. What am I talking about? Well, He came as the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us, and He witnessed to God, He displayed Him. Then we see that He died, but He became the firstborn from the dead - He rose again! He ascended to heaven, and that's the present, that's where we are now. How is it all going to end? He's coming back as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Those are the three offices of the Lord Jesus Christ: the faithful witness, He is God's Prophet; the firstborn from the dead, He is a man in the glory at the right hand of God, a Mediator for us, a Great High Priest, Prophet Priest; and He's coming again as King, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Well in verse 5, at the very end, is it any wonder that John bursts into a doxology of praise? Can I just say that it's wonderful to have a spirit that naturally and spontaneously bursts into praise? We don't have too many like that these days! How could you not praise God after getting a glimpse of the One who was, and is, and is to come, of the seven Spirits before the throne, of the faithful witness, the firstborn from among dead ones, the ruler over the kings of the earth? He cries, look at it, 'Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood'. Why does he do that? Apart from the obvious, as I've stated. I think it is because he knows that this One who he has just seen and had described to him by the Holy Spirit is not an august and distant Deity who is administrating His rule passively without care or feeling, but this Christ is the One who loved us and washed us from our sins in His very own blood!
Now I know I say this all the time, and I'm probably going to get sued by whoever wrote the song, but I hate it: 'From a distance God is watching us...', He's not at a distance! He's at blood-nearness, flesh and blood. Incidentally, the tense here is not 'loved' in the past, it actually speaks of the present continuous action, 'He loves us'. He loves us, and 'washed' is in the past - completed work! He has loved us, but He does love us, but His washing of us is something that happened a long time ago! There is an order here, now mark it carefully, and this is precious: He loved us before He ever washed us - now that's mighty. Romans 5 and verse 8 says that it was 'while we were yet sinners', while we were still in our sin Christ died for us - add to that fact that He was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, and we were in Christ then.
The price that He paid was His own blood. Do you know what this letter is? It is a letter from a loving, life-giving Lord. Can I ask you tonight: is He your Lord? Is He your Saviour? Let me speak for a moment about His blood. Verse 5 tells us it washes, it cleanses us from our sin. Those stains that make you unworthy to come into the presence of a holy, righteous God in heaven, washed away by the blood of Christ. Chapter 7 and verse 14 says the same, and then we find in chapter 5 and verse 9 that this blood that Jesus shed on the cross, it redeems us, it has bought us back from the slave market of sin. Verse 11 of chapter 12 tells us that it is that same blood that washed us and redeemed us that causes us to overcome the devil. Do you need to be washed from your sins tonight, and have the assurance of salvation? There is only one way - water will not wash it, whether it is baptistic water, it'll not do anything - only the blood of Christ will wash it away. Do you want to be redeemed? Not redeemed by your tradition, or by your religion, or by money, you're redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. You must trust in that blood. If you're a Christian and you're struggling with sin, you need to hear tonight that you've died with Christ, and His shed blood has allowed you to have His righteousness. You can overcome the devil himself by the blood of the Lamb and the power of your testimony.
We need, all of us, to be depending upon the blood of Christ. There's another doctrine - theologians call it 'soteriology', the doctrine of salvation. It's wonderful, isn't it? To save us at such a price was more than we ever deserved, but do you know what the mighty thing in this portion of Scripture is? That's not where God stops, for He doesn't just leave us saved, but verse 6 shows us - look at it: 'He hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father'. He has enrolled us in service. We have salvation, but now He calls us to serve, and not to serve an earthly sovereign but the Sovereign, the God of all heaven.
Imagine what this meant to these first Christians. They meant nothing in the present day world system of Rome, but they meant everything to God for they were the servants of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords - and that's what you are. Though they were the enemies of Imperial Rome, and we might be the enemies of our godless society today in a moral sense, if we are children of God we are members of a greater Kingdom - and your margin should read 'a kingdom of priests'. Verse 6: 'unto God and His Father' - by the way, there is the Trinity again - 'unto Jesus Christ's God and Father'.
Now here we have another doctrine in this phrase 'the kingdom of priests', because this is the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. It's not heard often these days, and so I want you to turn with me - my time is always running away from me - to 1 Peter chapter 2, in verse 5 we read, Peter says to believers: 'Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices' - a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices. Now go down to verse 9: 'But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light'. Now keep your Bible open there. We have become a kingdom of priests through the Lord Jesus Christ, and Peter says in verse 5 that we're holy priests, he says in verse 9 that we're royal priests. Now the priesthood was something that was only available to Israel, and now he's talking to Gentiles here as well as Jews, and he's telling them that they are a holy priesthood and a royal priesthood. Now don't make the mistake of interpreting the church as taking the place of Israel, that's not what it's saying, there are many Scriptures that still have to be fulfilled in the nation of Israel - but what it is saying is that we who were not a people have become a people by the grace of God. Look at verse 5, as holy priests what do we do? We offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Now, what are those spiritual sacrifices? Well, Romans 12 verse 1 tells us to offer our bodies, we are to offer all our persons to the Lord Jesus. Have you done that? Everything you are and have, that's how you worship as a holy priest: give yourself to God. Hebrews 13 verse 16 says: 'Do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased'. We are to buy our possessions in giving to others, worship God in a holy sacrifice. Hebrews 13:15 says: 'Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually'. How do we offer our sacrifices as holy priests unto God? We give everything that we are, body, possessions and praise! Do we do that?
Verse 9 of 1 Peter 2 says that as royal priests there's something we do also, we 'shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light'. So if we operate as holy priests through worship, practical service, what Peter is saying here is that we operate as royal priests in witness. We tell others of the wonderful Saviour whom we have! Can I just say in passing that the priesthood is not the domain of professionals. There is no clergy/laity system in the word of God, for that matter there isn't any one-man ministry at all. We are all priests before God, men and women. As holy priests we worship, as royal priests we witness - and a priest is a person who speaks to God on behalf of men, and he's a man who speaks to men on behalf of God, and that's the two sides of this responsibility. As holy priests we go into the church, the assembly, to worship; and as royal priests we go out to witness. The problem is, because it has become a professional job for ministers and pastors and the rest, the saints of God have ceased doing it and decided, 'We'll pay somebody else to do it on our behalf' - that's unbiblical.
Do not sink beneath the dignity of your calling as a holy priest. The only conclusion that we can have is found in verse 6 at the end: 'to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen'. He alone is worthy! Look what He has done for us: saving us, calling us to serve Him. Glory speaks of His intrinsic value of who He is in Himself, the Lord Jesus. He deserves our honour, He deserves our worship and our praise. 'Glory and dominion' is His - dominion speaks of His essential attributes, that is: He ought to have our lives, He ought to have dominion in His church, and eventually He's going to control the whole universe.
That will become manifest in verse 7: 'Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen'. This is the theme of the book, it's what it's leading up to in chapter 19, where the Sovereign Lord comes to dispossess His enemies from the earth. This blessed One that you have just seen is coming! Here's three things about this coming: one, it is an undeniable certainty. 'Behold, He is coming with clouds'. In Acts chapter 1 we read that the apostles gathered and saw the Lord Jesus go up into heaven in a cloud, and the angel said: 'This same Jesus that you have seen go in this manner, shall so come again in like manner as you have seen Him go with clouds' - is that not what it says? 'Behold, He cometh with clouds'. The scoffers may say, as Peter said in his day, 'They say, 'Where is the promise of His coming? The fathers have died and sleep, they spoke of His coming, and He didn't come and they died''.
My friend, His coming is an undeniable certainty, it is also a universal sight. Every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. Matthew 24 concurs with this in verses 28 and 29, that this is not an invisible coming, this is different from John 14, and 1 Thessalonians 4, and 1 Corinthians 15 where there is no indication in those passages that anyone other than the raptured saints of God will see the Lord - but this is the revelation of Christ to the whole world! Even they that pierced Him will see Him, and that's significant that John should use the word 'pierced', because it was he in his record of the cross in John 19 who spoke of the Saviour being 'pierced', and those looking upon Him who pierced Him. Zechariah 12 and verse 10 says: 'I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn'. What does that mean? The house of David will mourn His coming, those who pierced Him - it's not talking about the four Roman soldiers that were over His crucifixion, it's talking about the people, the nation, His own who He came to who would not receive Him. The individuals that pierced Christ literally died long ago, they will have their comeuppance at the Great White Throne - but the nation accepted the guilt, 'Let His blood be upon us and our children's children'. Peter, when he preached at Pentecost in Acts 2, he said: 'Ye men of Israel, ye took the Prince of Life and slew Him'.
How could it mean anything but the nation of Israel? A true revelation to them, praise God, they will repent at the sight - but for others it will be a coming of unprecedented sorrow. Look at the end of the verse, all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. He comes to judge the earth, to set up His kingdom. My friend, will you be among those who weep and wail when Jesus comes again, because you have never been washed from your sins, you have never trusted Him as your Saviour? Praise God, the believer doesn't have to wail, but he says just like John: 'Even so, come. Amen'. Is that how you approach it?
In verse 8 we have a change of speaker, it is now the Lord Jesus speaking, and He calls Himself the 'Alpha and Omega', which is the first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet, 'the beginning and the end'. Now please, again, note the Trinitarian doctrine of the Godhead - there can't be two Alpha's and Omega's, there can't be two beginnings and endings, so there must be one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Think about an alphabet for a moment, because in an alphabet - A to Z as we would call it, although it's A and O here - an alphabet is an ingenious mechanism whereby we can store and communicate, as far as we are concerned as human beings, all knowledge. All human knowledge can be stored and communicated by 26 letters, at least in our English alphabet. It can be arranged into almost endless combinations to convey what we want.
What this is speaking of is that Christ is not only the beginning and the ending, but He is the Supreme Sovereign Divine Alphabet, there is nothing outside His knowledge. Colossians 2: 'In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge', that's why He is called at the end of verse 8, 'the Almighty' - El-Shaddai, the Omnipotent God! The book of the Revelation is the consummation of all things by the Alpha and Omega, by the beginning and the ending. Someone has called it, and I like this, 'Revelation is the Grand Central Station of the Bible, because it's here where all the trains come in'.
'What trains?', you say. Trains of thought, trains of thought that began in the book of Genesis and followed through to the other Bible books, such as the concept of the scarlet line of redemption, the nation of Israel, the Gentile nations, the church, Satan and the adversaries of God, God's people, the Antichrist, many many more trains - and they're all coming together. I wish I had time to show you tonight. In Genesis you have the commencement of heaven and earth, verse 1 chapter 1, 'In the beginning God made heaven and earth'. Here in chapter 21 of Revelation we have the consummation of heaven and earth. Genesis chapter 3 we have the entrance of sin - praise God, in Revelation 21 we have the end of sin, the end of the curse. In Genesis chapter 3 we have the dawn of Satan and his activities, in Revelation 20 we have the doom of Satan and all His adversaries. In Genesis chapter 2 and 3 we have the tree of life relinquished, rejected, and then in Revelation 22 the tree of life is regained. In Genesis chapters 2 and 5 death makes an entrance - praise God, in Revelation 21 death makes an exit, gone forever! In Genesis 3 sorrow begins; in Revelation 21 sorrow is banished - we could go on and on, and on and on - all of it due to what? The Revelation of Jesus Christ, it's all in Him, He is the total message of this book. Indeed, He conveys the whole revelation of the truth that God wants man to know, it's in Him! There is nothing revealed before Him, there is nothing after Him, there is nothing without Him - He is the sum total of all of God's revelation to mankind.
William MacDonald put it well: 'The one He is who spans time and eternity, and exhausts the vocabulary of excellence. He is the source and the goal of creation, and it is He who began and will end the divine programme in the world. He is the Almighty'. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'The Book Of The Revelation' series, entitled "The Greeting To The Seven Churches" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit 'donations' from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word. [Read guidelines...]