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Previous: Revelation 1:4-5a

...from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. - Revelation 1:5b-d

Continuing the description of Jesus, John gives three memorable portrayals of our Savior. This begins a very long list of names and titles for Him in The Revelation. You might like to keep track of them as we go through the book. In the very first verse we already noticed one name (Jesus - "Savior") and one title (Christ - "Messiah").

He is "the faithful witness." The Greek word is martus, and it has two important meanings in this book. The first meaning is "testimony," as in a courtroom setting, where the witness tells what he or she has seen or heard. John 1:18 says that Jesus is the only one who has truly seen God the Father, and He has told us about Him. In John 8:38 He said, "I speak what I have seen with My Father."

The other meaning of martus is one who gives his life because of his testimony. Our word for this is "martyr." In every age there have been many Christians put to death for their faith. In most cases they could have lived if they had been willing to deny their belief in Jesus, but they would not give up their faith! Jesus Himself was a martyr. He was crucified for telling the truth about Himself. He was willing to die in order that we might live.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8 (Read the whole chapter for more about this).

His death was the fulfillment of God's gift of grace that we saw in the previous verse. Our first parents accepted God's forgiveness. At that point sin offerings were instituted, even though they were not made a formal law until Moses' time. We know this is true because of the offerings that Cain and Abel made. Cain's offering was not acceptable because it did not involve the death of an animal (Genesis 4). This was a constant reminder that "The wages of sin is death." (Romans 3:23).

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). This symbolized the end of the need for the sacrificial system. Before His death animal sacrifices were just a "covering" for sins until the Lamb of God would make the perfect offering.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. - Hebrews 10:4

26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. - Hebrews 7:26-28

Next, Jesus is called "the firstborn from the dead." This is an obvious reference to His resurrection. Jesus paid for our sins by His death, but each person must accept the gift of eternal life (John 1:12; Romans 10:9-10; Revelation 3:20). His resurrection was the proof that He was who He claimed to be and His death really was acceptable to the Father. The whole long chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 is devoted to the subject of the resurrection. It gives many convincing reasons to believe it, including the fact that there were more than 500 eye-witnesses. In verse 23 Paul called Christ the "firstfruits" of the resurrection, and added that believers will also be raised at His coming.

One more impressive title is given in this verse. Jesus is said to be "the ruler over the kings of the earth." This is primarily a preview of His glorious return, which will be mentioned in verse 7, and described more fully in chapter nineteen. When He comes to Earth again, it will be as "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:11-16).

In one sense Jesus already rules over the kings of the Earth, and in another way He is not yet "King of Kings" the way He will be at His second coming. You might remember that during His temptation, the Devil offered to give Him the earthly kingdoms if He would just worship him (Matthew 4:9-10). He could make that offer because on our sin-corrupted planet, evil is thriving. That is why the Devil is called the "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), and the "prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2). There is no comparison between the evil empires of this world system and the future righteous kingdom Jesus will establish. On the other hand, as God the Son, He is still sovereign over His creation. God does set a limit of what He will allow. Psalm 75:7 says, "But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another."

Jesus had told his Disciples that the Kingdom of Heaven was "at hand" (Matthew 4:17). He knew his offer to be King at His triumphal entry would be rejected. Nevertheless, He will come in great glory in the future to establish it (Luke 21:25-31; 22:18, 30). In Acts 1:6 they asked Him, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He told them they couldn't know the time, but when the Holy Spirit would come, He would enable them to be witnesses to the whole earth.

Evidently the Kingdom would not yet be established at that time. He would not yet reign on earth, and the Disciples would not yet reign with Him, but they would spread the message of the Kingdom, even as He had been doing.

That is why Jesus taught us to pray "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as [it is] in heaven." (Matthew 6:10). We still pray that way because even though His Kingdom does already exist in Heaven, and He is our King already, it still has not yet been established here on earth.

Jesus told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36-37).

Born-again Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). However, we are also citizens of our earthly nations. That's why Jesus told His disciples,

"Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."- Matthew 22:21

While we are here we are ambassadors, representing Christ and His Kingdom.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:20

During this time, we establish outposts of the Kingdom in our homes, churches, missions, and other Christian enterprises. We seek constantly to gain new members of the Kingdom by following His example of ministering to their needs and giving them the Gospel. There is much "Kingdom work" to do now even though it has not yet been established on earth.

Next: Revelation 1:5e-6


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