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For a brief moment at this time of year, many are made aware again of the death and resurrection of Christ. The attention generally does not last long since Easter cannot be sentimentalised in the way that Christmas can. Christ crucified and risen, however, is the centre of our Christian faith. He has risen and is exalted to the highest possible position. In writing Revelation John was encouraging Christians who faced very hard times. His focus is on Christ in his triumph and glory.
1. The position Christ occupies
In greeting the 7 churches John wishes them ‘Grace and peace’ (v4), a triune blessing. The focus of attention is then on Christ (v5), in whom all of God’s redemptive purpose and all of history centre. Note the threefold position he occupies:
(i) ‘the faithful witness’. He is God’s final word to us (Hebrews 1:2). He reveals God’s way of salvation and is that way. He bears utterly faithful witness (John 18:37).
(ii) ‘the firstborn from the dead’. Christ is supremely the Risen One, having died and risen again for the salvation of his people. Without the resurrection there is no salvation (1 Corinthians 15:17). This event guarantees the work he performed on the cross. The ‘firstborn’ is the place of supreme honour, not of inferiority.
(iii) ‘the ruler of the kings of the earth. He wields supreme authority (Matthew 28:18), including authority over all who oppose him. The Messiah’s reign is God’s response to the rebellion of the nations (Psalm 2).
2. The salvation Christ provides
Believers facing persecution need to be reminded of what the Lord has done for them and so John draws attention to the rich gift of salvation. Three elements are described here:
(i) ‘him who loves us’. The origin of salvation is the redeeming love of God, a triune love. Christ loves those chosen in him before creation (Ephesians 1:4, Galatians 2:20).
(ii) ‘has freed us from our sins by his blood’. The King sets his people free from the bondage of sin. We are free because he has taken our sin (1 Peter 2:24).
(iii) ‘made us to be a kingdom and priests. Christ, Priest and King, makes us priests and kings. Already we exercise dominion in Christ (Romans 5:17). As priests we are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), giving ourselves in whole-hearted service to the Lord.
3. The honour Christ receives
These verses are a doxology – ‘to him be glory and power for ever and ever’ (v6). Glory belongs to God alone (14:7), and so belongs appropriately to Christ. Doxology acknowledges what he possesses, it cannot add to his glory. The term ‘glory’ sums up what God is – Christ is ‘the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being’ (Hebrews 1:3). His ‘power’ is infinite, sufficient to fulfil his will. None of his redeemed people will be lost. This is the voice of faith – ‘Amen’ means ‘May it be so’ – willing acceptance of his lordship.