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THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST

Previous: Revelation 1:3

-Salutation 1:4-5d

4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, - Revelation 1:4,5a

As we continue our study of Revelation, we should mention that the original books of the Bible were handwritten on scrolls. These scrolls were made of papyrus or parchment, Papyrus was manufactured by processing the pith from the papyrus plants in a manner similar to the way modern paper is made from wood pulp. Parchment was a later improvement because it was made from more durable animal skins. Sheets of these pages were glued or stitched together, and then rolled up for storage. These rolls were called "scrolls," and they were read by unrolling a page at a time, while rolling up the other side. The words on the pages were handwritten with great care. Chapters and verses were added much later for convenience, and are not considered "inspired" by God.

Our word "paper" is derived from the Greek word papuros. Our word "Bible" comes from the Greek words ta biblia, meaning "The books."

The writer of the book is John, one of Jesus' Twelve Apostles. He names himself at the beginning of this letter so that the readers will not have to go to the end of a bulky scroll to discover his identity. He had already stated in the first verse that Jesus was the true author of the prophecy, and it was simply entrusted to John by an angel to record. John and his brother James were known as the "Sons of Thunder" (Mark 3:17) before Jesus called them to be with Him. The two of them and Peter formed a leadership "inner circle" among the Disciples who were with Him at special times, like His Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1 ff) and prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before He was crucified (Matthew 26:36 ff). He is often called "John the Beloved" because although he never identified himself by name in the writing of his Gospel, he did refer to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23). At the time of the writing of this book he was the last living representative of the Twelve Apostles.

The letter is directed to "the seven churches which are in Asia." These were seven local congregations in the seven cities that are mentioned in Chapters 2 and 3 of the book. They were very different from one another, as is the case among churches today. Being unique, they were given differing messages about their conditions.

These messages may also apply to different denominations of churches that exist today. Some are like the Apostolic Church at Ephesus, others like the persecuted church at Smyrna, and so on.

The messages also prefigure different periods of Church history. We will analyze these historical periods when we study the messages given to each one in Revelation 2 and 3.

There is something significant about the number seven in the Bible. From the seven days of creation in Genesis (Genesis 2:1-3), through the seven angels having the seven last plagues in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 10:7; 21:9 ff), the number is used consistently to symbolize completeness or perfection. In fact it is found 36 times in the 22 chapters of the book.

Symbolism is used frequently in this prophetic book. But symbolic language is not necessarily difficult to understand. It may deter those who are not sincerely seeking the truth, but for those who follow good rules of interpretation, and take the time to study the whole book, and the whole Bible, the symbols will become clear and very meaningful. Many of the symbols we will encounter are explained in Revelation itself, and the rest can be discovered by comparing Scripture to Scripture.

John's salutation to those who would read the letter is similar to the formula that the Apostle Paul often employed. It starts with the words, "Grace to you and peace." These profound words encapsulate the essence of the Gospel. First, grace means "undeserved favor." This one word alone is shorthand for the whole process of salvation. God created sinless humans and placed them in a perfect environment, but in order for them to love Him of their own free will, He decided to give them the ability to choose good or evil. When they chose to disobey His will, and eat the forbidden fruit, they failed the test and broke the one simple rule the Lord had given them.

However, instead of forsaking His creation, God provided the most amazing solution to their sin problem. His One and Only Son would be sent to Earth to become a man in order to pay for their sin (and ours) by His own sacrificial death on the Cross. (Genesis 3:15; John 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17). And in the meantime, while waiting for that salvation to be accomplished, God provided a temporary covering for their sin. They did not deserve such love and provision, and neither do we. But that is what Grace is all about.

Those who experience God's grace by receiving Christ as their Savior may then enjoy peace! The Gospel promises peace with God because of Christ's work (Romans 5:1), and also the peace of God, which passes all understanding! (Philippians 4:7)

This incomparable gift of saving grace and peace come from God Himself. In this salutation God is seen in His triune nature: as the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ the Son. The Father is said to be, "Him who is and who was and who is to come." Theologians describe God as "omnipotent" (all-powerful), "omniscient" (all-knowing), and "omnipresent" (everywhere-present at once). He is not limited by time the way we are. He exists in the "now." But He always did exist. And He will exist into eternity.

Likewise this grace and peace come from The Holy Spirit. Here He is described, using the symbolism of the number seven, which we just considered. The wording is, "And from the seven spirits who are before His throne." This expression does not occur in the rest of the Bible, and here in Revelation it does occur - three more times, and we will study them more when we get to those passages (Revelation 3:1; 4:5; and 5:6). In all of these, the wording is "seven spirits of God." The meaning surely is, God the Holy Spirit, in all of His perfection.

Thirdly, this salvation comes from God the Son: The Lord Jesus Christ. We might have expected a different order - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, in this book Jesus is central, and He is about to be displayed in the rest of this introductory chapter in ways that He had never been known before.

These benefits of grace and peace are a further proof that the study of eschatology (end times) should not cause fear and distress, but should result in peace of mind.


Next: Revelation 1:5


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