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Grace to You and Glory to Him
Wednesday AM Bible Study
January 28, 2009
Every word of this wonderful book ought to be savored by us—even its opening words of greeting. They have much to teach us about the grace that is ours in Christ, and the glory of Christ that will be on display. How good God is to begin this awesome book with these words of encouragement and hope to those who love Him! It begins with . . .
I. A DEDICATION FROM THE TRUINE GOD (vv. 4-5a).
A. The dedication opens with an identification of the human instrument God used to give it (see also vv. 1-2). We shouldn't pass by this too quickly. The man who is being used to give this message to us—the apostle John—is not some second or third-hand witness, or some self-appointed prophet. He had intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus while He walked on this earth; and was a first-hand witness to His glory.
B. The book is dedicated to the seven churches which were in Asia. These are specified for us in verses 11; and are mentioned again in verse 20 and in great detail in chapters 2- 3. Note that, while there is but 'one body' (Eph. 4:4) in the plan of our Lord, He knows and values each individual, local gathering of His people.
C. His greeting is one of "grace and peace". What a wonderful greeting to give to the churches at the beginning of such a book filled with terrors for the unbelieving world! It all, in the end, means good news for God's people. The greeting of 'grace' comes first; and because of God's grace, we can have 'peace' with Him (see also Romans 5:12). This book describes the full realization of that grace and peace for the saints.
D. Note how the whole triune Godhead is involved in bringing about this grace and peace:
1. Grace and peace first come from God the Father, who is (that is, as an ever-present and relevant reality), who was (that is, as He who is from the beginning), and who is to come (that is, who will be everything that we will ever need—see also 4:8). If we receive grace and the peace that follows from it, it is through the initiative of Him who planned it long ago, and who lives to see that it is realized in us, and who will always be there to maintain it on our behalf.
2. This grace and peace is also from the Holy Spirit who takes the initiative of the Father and applies it to our need. Note that He is here spoken of in the plural—"the seven Spirits". This may refer to the completion of the Holy Spirit in His perfection and holiness; or it may refer to the seven-fold ascription in Revelation 7:12; or it (most likely) refers to the unique sufficiency and closeness of the Spirit (in His seven-fold care) for each of the seven churches in all the wholeness of His being (see 1:20; 3:1; and also how each message to the seven churches is a message from the Spirit to all [2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22]). He is said to be "before [God's] throne" (see also 5:6); which suggests that He is intimately connected to the Father's sovereign purposes as much as to each individual church.
3. This grace and peace is made effective to us by the ministry of the Son of God. He is here called a "faithful witness", and "the firstborn from the dead" and "the ruler over the kings of the earth"—presenting Him to us in His tri-fold ministry as our Prophet, Priest, and King.
II. A DOXOLOGY TO JESUS CHRIST (vv. 5b-6).
A. John now gives particular attention to Jesus Himself. Note how he affirms that Jesus is He who "loves" us. In the original language, this is in the present tense. He didn't simply love us in the past and thus became moved to give Himself for us; but rather He loves us even now (see Romans 8:35-39). He also gave Himself to "free" us or "loose" us from our sins through His own blood (see Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 12:11). What's more, He has made us "kings" and "priests" to His God and Father (see Rev. 5:9-10).
B. Reflecting on these gracious acts of our Lord Jesus toward us leads John into a doxology of praise to Him. To Him will be glory and dominion forever and ever! The book itself describes how that full salvation will be fully realized (see Revelation 20:4).
III. A DECLARATION OF THE RETURN OF CHRIST (v. 7).
A. John now affirms the great theme of this book—the Lord's coming in great glory. We're told:
1. He is coming with clouds (see also Matthew 24:30; Daniel 7:13; 1 Thess. 4:17). This highlights the divine glory of His return.
2. He will be seen by all. Every eye will see Him—though perhaps not all at once. Some will behold Him after their resurrection unto judgment (see Revelation 20:11ff). But every eye will indeed see Him—even the eyes of those who once crucified Him (see Zech. 12:10-14).
3. He will be wailed over by all the tribes of the earth at His coming. The word that is used refers to 'beating-down'; and in the middle voice (as here), it refers to a 'beating-down of one's self' in mourning. This dreadful response to the Lord's return is described for us in Revelation 6:15-17.
B. In spite of the dreadful wailing that His return will inspire from the ungodly, John affirms, "Even so, Amen" (see also Revelation 22:20). It will be a day of dreadful judgment for some, but the fulfillment of the hope of God's people. May we among those who "love His coming" (2 Timothy 4:8).
IV. A DIVINE ENDORSEMENT OF THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK (v. 8).
A. John does not express his own thoughts or wishes in this book. They are words that possess the authority of God Himself. Note how Jesus Himself steps into the picture, and places His own seal upon the message of this book (see also Revelation 22:7, 12-13, and 16).
B. Jesus describes Himself in terms that are identical to that of the Father (see John 1:18). He is the Alpha and the Omega (that is, the A to Z; and some manuscripts also have "the Beginning and the End"), "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty". Given the description the Lord gives of Himself, John would not dare to present such an endorsement unless it truly was from the Lord (see also Revelation 22:18-19).
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This book describes the ultimate salvation of God's saints. And it has—as it where—Jesus' own signature on it. It begins with "grace" (1:4), and it ends with "grace" (22:21). Let's trust Him fully, and rejoice in the glorious victory of grace this book sets before us!
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