google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Gems in Revelation - Part 123
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Gems in the book of Revelation

Part 123 - Revelation 1:5

Who Jesus was and is

Unlike the other writers of New Testament epistles John does not have to direct the bulk of his writing to the problems in a church - with the exceptions of the seven letters to individual churches in his chapters 2 and 3. So he concentrates on Jesus tackling many things the other writers do not.

Here he is interested in describing the Messiah with 3 strong and powerful descriptive phrases: faithful witness, first born from the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. Thus we have a great gem cut with 3 faces.

He is the faithful witness. ‘Witness’ translates a Greek word from which we get the English word ‘martyr’. The only other person who died for his faith named in this book is Antipas (2:13) and he also is called a ‘faithful witness’. He is uniquely identified with Jesus, having given the ultimate witness to the most important event of all that Jesus did here on earth.

What an accolade! There is nowhere in scripture the faintest suggestion that we should seek martyrdom. Yet if it becomes a strong possibility or a certainty for us we are not to do anything other than to welcome it. That is a tough statement to make. Our attitude towards it will depend very much on where we live and the implications of the culture and society we are in. some of us, living in a safe and secure environment, will never really have come to terms with the possibility - and why should we? Others, living in an unsafe environment will have been forced to confront the possibility and probably be shocked that there are those of us who never have! We can only live where we live and it is not sensible to try and do otherwise than face to problems of our place. If we are safe as can be, let us rejoice. If we live in a very unsafe part of the world and are unable to get out or have deliberately decided that we should not do so because of the work we are able to do for the kingdom and its Lord then let us live on, trusting in him, whatever the future may hold for us.

The second title John gives to Jesus is ‘firstborn from the dead’. This is a statement of both time precedence and status seniority. Isaac bought the birthright from his elder brother Esau and then tricked him out of their father’s blessing. Thus he secured a larger share of the estate when Isaac, their father, died. We do not know quite how it worked in those very early days. It was formalized later so that the senior son took a double share of the estate on the death of the father (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). Jesus has the time precedence. The Jews thought, on the basis of Ezekiel 37:11-14 and Daniel 12:1-2 that all the Lord’s people would eventually be resurrected. What they did not expect was that one person would be resurrected ahead of everyone else, thus demonstrating that it would happen when the end of the age came.

Jesus was the first born from the dead. We shall eventually be resurrected as he was at some unknown date in the future. WOW! The third title John gives to Jesus is ‘ruler of the kings of the earth’ which clearly means he will one day rule all this earth of ours and all who live on it. This is very much in line with the things that the other New Testament writers say. For instance Paul says, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11).

John has taken the idea from Psalm 89:27 “I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” Such things seem to be strange things to say when only a tiny minority of the current kings, emperors and presidents of the nations of the earth would allow Jesus any place in their decisions. But this is no surprise. Ethan the Ezrahite, who wrote the psalm, complains that not all is going well for the king of David’s line that he is prophesying about. He says “You have exalted the right hand of his foes; you have made all his enemies rejoice. Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword and have not supported him in battle. You have put an end to his splendour and cast his throne to the ground. You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with a mantle of shame. How long, LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?” (Psalm 89:42-46).

We must remember 2 things: first that the sort of rule that Jesus founded and rejoiced in was never a rule of power and might and domination but one of modesty, humility and love. That sort of power is slowly making its way across the world even in these days. Second that one day this world will come to an end. When it does Jesus will come to the fore and then he will be the king of all the world. Oh, for that day!

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