The Great Jesus (Revelation 1:5b-7)
Revelation presents Jesus has the Lord above all other lords and rulers. Only he could take the scroll to loose its seals. He will gain victory over those who make war with him. He will judge all men—the living and the dead. In this paragraph, John shows us some reasons why Jesus is great.
Jesus is great because he—
Cherishes His People
John says that Jesus “loves us.” In the original, “loves” is a present active participle—the present denotes continual action. The idea is that Jesus not only loved us in the past, but he continues to love us.
Jesus has great love for us. His love was demonstrated through his sacrifice at Golgotha (John 15:13; Ephesians 5:2). Jesus’ sacrificial love stands as the standard by which we are to love one another (1 John 3:16). Abiding even until now, Jesus’ love is so full and complete that nothing on earth or in heaven above can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39).
Clears His People
Jesus clears his people from their sin—he “has freed us from our sins by his blood.”
Being freed from our sins indicates that sin is slavery. Jesus taught that whoever committed sin became a slave to sin (John 8:34). Paul well described the slavery of sin (Romans 7:13-25). Anyone struggling with addiction well understands this truth. They desperately want to give up whatever sin besets them—alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, something else—but the addiction has a grip and the addict simply cannot give up the sin without help. In fact, the first step in any recovery program is an acknowledgement that the addict is powerless over the addiction and needs a High Power—Jesus—to free them from addiction. Yet, all of us know the power sin has in our lives—by surrendering our sin to Jesus, we can find peace and freedom.
Creates His People
Jesus had made us a kingdom of priest to his God and Father. “Made” in the aorist tense points to a completed action in the past. John here points us to the creative work of Christ in establishing his church and calling from the world sinners to be his people.
We are a kingdom. John has already pointed out that Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth (verse 5); here in verse 6, we are told that Jesus himself as a kingdom. We are a part of the kingdom of God’s Son (Colossians 1:13). John identified himself with the Christians in Asia Minor as a partner in the kingdom (Revelation 1:9).
From my childhood until now, I have heard many sermons that we are now in the kingdom of God and do not need to await a kingdom to come at the end of the age. That is, I firmly believe, biblical truth. However, I fear that because we have spent so much time combatting the error of premillennialism that we fail to grasp the reality of the kingdom. It’s not enough to understand that we are in the kingdom. We must live in the kingdom. As we live in the kingdom, King Jesus reigns supreme in our hearts. As we live in the kingdom, we seek to follow the teaching of our King instead of the teachings of men. As we live in the kingdom, our lives are transformed to reflect the glory of the King.
We are priests. During the Reformation, Martin Luther revived in Christendom the truth of the priesthood of all believers. Luther, because he was seeking to reform the Roman Catholic Church, taught that the priesthood of all believers could approach the throne of God themselves without going through a specific priest. While that is most certainly true, I am not at all convinced that’s what John had in mind when he penned these words.
The Jewish idea of a priest (and John draws extensively upon Old Testament imagery throughout Revelation) was one who offered sacrifices to God. The Christian is a priest, for he offers sacrifices to God. We offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). There has been some discussion as to whether or not the end of this verse should be translated “your spiritual worship” or “your reasonable service.” Neither translation accurately portrays the original. The Greek term for “worship” or “service” meant a priest’s service in the temple. Thus, the idea in this passage is that we offer our bodies as living sacrifices just as priests offered dead sacrifices in the temple. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15). “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, or such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16). “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Comes to His People
When Jesus comes in the clouds, every eye will see him. Because Acts 1:9-11 mentions the Second Coming as being in the clouds, many have said that this refers to Jesus’ Second Coming. However, the context of Revelation causes me to think John references Jesus’ coming in judgment upon the Roman Empire. In the Old Testament, clouds often referred to divine judgment (e.g., Isaiah 5:30; Jeremiah 4:13; Ezekiel 30:3). There is no good reason to think that the clouds mentioned here could not refer to God’s judgment upon Rome. Every eye will see the Lord—all would “see” the Lord through the judgment he inflicted upon Rome.
The people of earth would wail on account of the Lord. The term “wail” means to smit the chest as a sign of grief or remorse. Throughout Revelation, we see the people of the earth wailing because of the Lord’s judgment. Everyone hid themselves from divine wrath and called to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:18). The kings of the earth wail when they see Rome’s judgment (Revelation 18:9). The people wail for two reasons: One: They themselves wish to escape divine wrath, and Two: They are troubled when they see judgment carried out upon the sin—city—which they loved.
Because the Lord Jesus loves us, has freed us from our sins, and has made us priests, he deserves “glory and dominion forever and ever.” Jesus receives glory through worship (Revelation 5:9-10). Jesus has dominion, for he is “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5).
May we—through our worship and our lives—ascribe to the Lord Jesus “glory and dominion forever and ever!”
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.