Revelation 1:4-8 – “The Announcement of the Glorified Christ”

John: To the seven churches in Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits, before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests, to his God and Father—to him be glory and dominion 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 tribes of the earth, will mourn over him. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” -Revelation 1:4-8 (CSB)

“Elvis has left the building!”

“Ladies and Gentlemen: The President of the United States!”

“Santa Clause is comin’ to town!”

“You may kiss the bride!”

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An announcement is defined as a formal, public declaration of fact.[1] We recognize announcements in so many contexts and for so many purposes in the course of life. Announcements are given in a wide array of concerts, speeches, services, traditions, ceremonies, and special occasions. As they are given, announcements not only call us to recognize changes in the nature, status, or character of individuals, policies, happenings, or events; vitally, they also call us to recognize facts – truth, rightly expressed.

After the introduction to the Revelation of John in verses 1-3, we are presented with the great announcement of verses 4-8. There is a shift indicated at the onset of verse 4 as John begins to fulfill the command of the Lord to write of His testimony of Christ and all that He saw in what was revealed to him. What is the great announcement of verses 4-8? What is presented is a four-fold announcement of the coming of the glorified Lord, Jesus Christ.

The first announcement is that of grace and peace (vv. 4-5). Grace comes from the Greek word χάρις (charis, pronounced “har-is” with a hard “h”),[2] meaning the unmerited and unearned favor of God.[3] Grace means that God takes an active role in our lives, looking after and caring for us as His people despite our own sinful nature. He provides all of the good, necessary, and beneficial things of life – physical, material, and spiritual – according to His own perfect knowledge and understanding. Grace is grace because, as sinful, fallen, imperfect people, we do not deserve the favor of God. We didn’t earn it – and we never could (see Romans 3:23). Yet, God loves us and bestows His grace on us because He loves us.

Peace comes from the Greek term εἰρήνη (“eirene,” pronounced “ih-ray-nay”)[4] and means a state of concord, harmony, good order, and well-being.[5] Peace means that, as human beings, we have harmony with God. By placing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are forgiven of our sins, redeemed for the plan and purpose of God, and no longer in opposition to God through a life enslaved in sin. The peace of God not only establishes harmony between Him and His people, but His peace at work in our lives also establishes an inward peace that transcends our often challenging, stressful, and overwhelming circumstances, as well as outward peace in our relationships with others. Because of the peace of God – a peace which, as the Bible reminds us, passes all understanding – we no longer have to live under the tyranny of fear and uncertainty which marks life apart from God. Our lives are secure in Him. Our future is secure in Him. Even our eternity is secure in Him. Because of this remarkable blessing of peace through Jesus Christ, we no longer have to dread and worry. This is also what the Apostle Paul meant when he instructed the church at Philippi, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV).

These blessings of grace and peace are remarkable, but from where do they come? John answers that question in verses 4-5. Grace and peace emanate from “the one who is, who was, and who is to come.” Who is this one? The triune God. God is eternal and unchangeable; thus, He “is,” He “was,” and He “is to come.” Eternality and immutability (meaning God does not change) are attributes of God the Father, but they are equally attributes of God the Son (the Lord Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit. John extends this character to each Person of the Trinity in the words which follow: “…and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (vv. 4-5).

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While the reference to the Lord Jesus Christ and His attributes in the conclusion of verse 5 is clear, the language of the “seven spirits” often confuses readers of Revelation. Simply put, this reference represents the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, in all His fullness. The imagery John uses to describe the Holy Spirit reflects a similar passage in Zechariah 4:2-6, where the prophet Zechariah saw a solid gold lampstand boasting seven lamps.[6] In his commentary on this passage, Dr. Paige Patterson explained, “Zechariah inquired as to the meaning of the vision. After the usual humiliation suffered as a result of the angel’s evident astonishment at Zechariah’s ignorance, the prophet is informed that the vision is “the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” The revelator is thoroughly familiar with the Old Testament and uses this verse as the ideal identification for the Holy Spirit. Zechariah has provided the author of the Apocalypse with the perfect picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to the seven congregations to whom the prophecy is addressed. While there is but one Holy Spirit, he does not invest himself incrementally in the churches but is always available simultaneously, in his fullness, to all seven congregations.”[7] Thus, the language of the announcement reflects not seven distinct spirits of God but rather the Holy Spirit in all of His fullness available at all times to each of the seven churches. This breathtaking description powerfully reminds us of the majesty, glory, and unparalleled nature of our God, unceasingly at work in each of our lives and in each and every day.

The second announcement is that of the great Savior and Redeemer (vv. 5-6). There are five magnificent truths declared of the Lord Jesus Christ in verses 5-6. First, Jesus is the faithful witness. He is wholly trustworthy, dependable, and steadfast in His truth, His presence, and His person. In a world where so many institutions, policies, and people are increasingly fleeting, where “fake news” and accusations of “fake news” abound, precious little seems to last, and still less seems certain, the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is everlasting, ever trustworthy, and ever dependable. Second, Jesus is the first to arise from the dead. The word “firstborn” comes from the Greek word πρωτότοκος (prototokos, pronounced “pro-toe-toke-ohs”)[8] and conveys not just the literal order of birth but also the preeminent status associated with being the firstborn in this sense.[9] That is, Jesus isn’t just the firstborn in the literal sense of being the first to be resurrected; rather, He is supreme and preeminent in the resurrection as the risen, triumphant, only begotten Son of God.

Third, Jesus is the prince of all rulers of the earth – the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. He was raised from the dead, exalted to the right hand of God, and given all authority to rule over the earth and all in it. While the world may seem chaotic and out of control at times, we can rest in the comfort Christ is still in control, has always been in control, and will always remain in control, even when we can’t see that in the moment. Christians often struggle with the question of why Christ doesn’t just come now and straighten everything out (which, it should be noted, is precisely what is depicted and prophesied in the coming chapters of the book of Revelation). However, the Lord, in His grace, mercy, and perfect knowledge, is delaying His return for a central and gracious reason: so that more people might be saved, added to His church, and live eternally with Him and the fullness of His plan for His people be completed. While I believe that there will be a final opportunity for the lost to be saved during the years of the Great Tribulation (and will explain why I hold that conviction in future studies), that will be the last great opportunity for human beings to be saved through faith in Christ. Jesus delays His coming now in grace and mercy to advance the Gospel and invite the lost to be saved.

Fourth, Jesus has redeemed us. As John so eloquently wrote, He “loves us and has washed us from our sins in His own blood” (v. 5). The word “love” is in the present tense in Greek. Why is this important? It means that Christ always loves us. He loves you and I today as He has loved us in the past, and He will love us tomorrow as He loves us today. His love is unconditional, unending, and unchanging. The Lord Jesus doesn’t just love us when we are good or when we are “on our game.” He loves us on our bad days, as well. He loves us when we succeed, and He loves us when we fail. He loves us when we’re easy to love…and He also loves us when we’re hard to love. And He loves us still today. And in that love is found the fifth magnificent truth of Christ as our Savior and Redeemer: He has exalted us. In His grace and by our faith in Him, He has made us kings and priests. By “kings” is meant a kingdom – a rule, authority, and responsibility that involves oversight, management, and governance. As believers, we shall rule and reign as co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 6:3). However, we shall also be priests, meaning that we, as believers, have open access to the presence of God at any time. As followers of Christ, we require no human intermediary to enter the presence of Almighty God. Through Christ, we offer our own prayers, praises, worship, and thanksgiving unto God, both corporately as an assembled church congregation and individually as distinct followers of Christ. Though you may feel weak, unconnected, and unimportant in this life, you, dear friend, need no appointment and require no reservation to enter the presence of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Through forgiveness and redemption in Christ, you are His child, and He is your God, inviting you into His magnificent presence at any and all times.

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As if these awe-inspiring and magnificent truths are not enough to overwhelm us already, this glorious announcement continues. The third announcement is that of Christ’s return and second coming (v. 7). The very theme of Revelation is the coming again of Jesus Christ. He is coming again, and when He comes, verse 7 explains that two things will happen. First, every eye shall see Him. And second, every person who has rejected Him will mourn because of their rejection. In His coming and return, the glory of Christ will shine forth so abundantly that no one will be able to avoid it, ignore it, or deny it. As we will see in spectacular detail in Revelation 21, the glory of God is so bright that it outshines the sun itself (Rev. 21:23). Add to that the innumerable host of angels and believers who will accompany Christ in His return, and we begin to grasp the imagery of what that great and glorious moment will be like. Indeed – every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Romans 14:11).

The fourth and final announcement of this remarkable passage is that Christ is the Almighty God (v. 8). The Lord Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. By invoking the beginning and ending letters of the Greek alphabet, the Lord declares that He is the beginning and end of all things. In time, He is the beginning and the end. In history, He is Lord of creation and Lord of consummation. In His Word, He is the Lord of Genesis and the Lord of Revelation. Further, He is, once more, the Lord who is, who was, and who is to come – the everlasting and unchangeable God. And, finally, He is, in every sense, the Almighty. The “Almighty” is a word often used to describe the divine, but it is also one that many fail to fully grasp or understand. “Almighty,” coming from the Greek word παντοκράτωρ (“pantokrator,” pronounced “pan-toe-crah-tore”),[10] means the “All-Powerful, Omnipotent One” and is used only of God Himself.[11] The Lord is the One who controls all things, rules all things, and governs all things. He holds all power, even over the universe itself, controlling not just the massive cosmic events of all ages but also the very smallest of details – the atoms, protons, neutrons, and electrons that are the building blocks of matter itself. He governs every circumstance, event, and happening throughout the universe and its history as Almighty God.

In light of the glorious image of God we are given in these verses, one key question remains in response: what does this mean for us, personally? If God has declared and announced these truths to the entire world through His Word, then how are Christians, in responding to His Word, to live faithfully in light of these declarations?

What these truths mean to us, as followers of Jesus, is a most magnificent and wonderful thing. If we are a follower of Christ, saved by our faith placed in Him, He promises us that He works all things out for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. This is true even when we can’t see it in the moment. And this is true even when we can’t understand it in the moment. In our human frailty, we are so often afraid, uncertain, frustrated, and doubtful. Yet, in those moments of human weakness and struggle, the Lord calls us to be reminded of who He is – and who we are in Him. He is the Alpha and Omega, the One who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. And we are His children. We are not forgotten, abandoned, forsaken, or misled. We are heirs and joint heirs with Christ, who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood – not to leave us, forget us, or forsake us – but to make us a kingdom and priests to our God.

Elvis may have left the building…but Almighty God has not, never has, and never will.

“So it is to be. Amen.” (v. 7).


[1] Cambridge University Press, “Meaning of ‘Announcement’ in English,” Cambridge Dictionary, dictionary.cambridge.org, 2022, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/announcement

 

[2] Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Re 1:4.

 

[3] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1079.

 

[4] Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Re 1:4.

[5] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 287.

 

[6] Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 59.

[7] Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 59.

 

[8] Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Re 1:5.

 

[9] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 894.

[10] Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Re 1:8.

 

[11] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 755.

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