This being Easter Sunday in the States, I suppose it’s only fitting that we see the gospel here in this passage.
Most people don’t think of Revelation being a book about the gospel. But it is. And we see it laid out beautifully here by John. He says,
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, 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 made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.
Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth shall mourn because of him. So shall it be. Amen. (4-7)
Some things to note about the gospel.
First it comes from God in Trinity.
It comes from God the Father, who is, and who was, and who is to come. This title reflects the name God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, the great I AM. The Eternal One.
It comes from the seven spirits before his throne, which seems to be a figurative way to speak of the Holy Spirit. Many scholars think this alludes to Isaiah 11:2, where the Holy Spirit is called 7 things: the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the LORD. Seven is also the number of completeness or perfection in the Bible, which shows the Spirit’s perfection and completeness as God.
The gospel also comes from Jesus. And it’s interesting what John calls him, for in these titles we see the gospel itself. John calls him the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
The word “witness” comes from the Greek word where we get our English word “martyr.” Initially, the Greek word simply meant “witness,” but even in John’s time, we start to see a change in meaning to “someone who bears his testimony to the point that he’s willing to die for it.” (See Revelation 2:13).
So John seems to show Jesus as the one who died as a martyr for us.
But Jesus is also the firstborn of the dead. This does not mean, however, that he was the first one ever to rise from the dead. Jesus himself raised several people from the dead. The word “firstborn” has the idea of preeminence. In other words, Jesus is the preeminent one of all who have ever risen from the dead. Why?
He tells us in verse 18.
I am the living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
While all those Jesus raised from the dead would later die a second time, Jesus never did die again and he never will.
But not only is he preeminent over all who ever rose from the dead. He is preeminent over all who will rise in the future. Why? Because he alone has the keys of death and Hades. He alone gives eternal life to whoever he pleases.
And now, he is king forever, the ruler of all other kings of the earth.
So from God in Trinity, we have this gospel of grace and peace.
What exactly is this gospel?
That God loves us.
That Jesus died for our sins and set us free from them. We are no longer slaves to sin, nor are we condemned for them.
More, we have been made part of God’s kingdom. We are now God’s priests, with direct access to God, and charged with serving him and ministering to the world on his behalf.
And one day, Jesus will return and judge this world.
How can we know these things for sure? Because of what God says in verse 8.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
In short, God is in control. He is the beginning of all things and the end of all things. And all things are in his hands.
And because of that we have hope.
That’s the message of the gospel. That’s the message of Easter. And that’s the message of Revelation.
To Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (6)