Greetings from the Throne

The next paragraph in the Book of Revelation presents greetings to the “Seven Assemblies of Asia” from the “Throne,” namely, from God, Jesus, and the “Seven Spirits of God.” The greetings stress the current reign of the Son of God over the affairs of the Earth, but his sovereignty is based on his past sacrificial death and resurrection. The recipients of the Book are identified as the “Seven Assemblies” located in key cities of the province.

It begins with God, the one “Who is and Who was and Who is coming.” The phrase expands the self-designation of Yahweh given to Moses from the “burning bush”: I AM WHO I AM.

Pen - Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash
[Pen - Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash]

This phrase occurs three more times in the Book, but each time with
 additions and one deletion that reflect theological developments as the Book’s visions progress.

  • (Revelation 1:4-6) - “John, to the seven churches in Asia: Grace and peace to you from Him who isand who was, and who is coming, and from the Seven Spirits which are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the Faithful Witnessthe Firstborn of the Dead, and the Ruler of the Kings of the Earth. Unto him, that loves us and loosed us out of our sins with his blood, and he has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Fatherto him be the glory and the dominion unto the ages.”

Like Moses, John received his commission while separated from God’s people. Just as Yahweh freed His people from Egypt and summoned them to become a “kingdom of priests,” so Jesus has “loosed” his people from their sin and made them a “kingdom, priests” – (Exodus 3:14 19:4-5).

The application of terms from the history of Israel to the “Sven Assemblies” is consistent in Revelation. The Exodus theme reappears in the Book’s subsequent visions - (e.g., Revelation 4:8, 11:17, 16:5).

The “Seven Spirits” are not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. Here, and in Chapter 4, they are linked to the “Throne.” The image is derived from a passage in the Book of Zechariah: The “Seven eyes of Yahweh go about all the Earth” - (Zechariah 4:10, Revelation 3:1, 4:5, 5:6).

RULER OF KINGS


The designation, “Faithful Witness,” refers to the obedience of Jesus in death, and “Firstborn of the Dead” to his resurrection. “The Ruler of the Kings of the Earth” is his present status. The terms are derived from three Old Testament passages:

  • (Psalm 2:2-9) - “The KINGS OF THE EARTH set themselves against Yahweh and his anointed one.”
  • (Psalm 89:27) - “I also will make him MY FIRST-BORN, the highest of the Kings of the Earth.”
  • (Psalm 89:37) - “His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established forever as the moon and as a FAITHFUL WITNESS in heaven.”

The label, “Kings of the Earth,” links the passage with these three messianic Psalms. They foretold what Jesus would become following his death and resurrection. His sovereignty over the “Kings of the Earth” is reiterated later in the Book since his reign is a present reality - (Revelation 11:15, 12:10, 17:14, 19:16, 20:4).

To him who loves us, and by his blood, loosed us from our sins.” His sacrificial death redeemed the saints of the “Seven Assemblies” and demonstrated his love for them. “Loosed” is a literal rendering of the Greek verb, one which has the basic sense of “free, deliver, loose.”

The point is not so much the forgiveness of sin as it is liberation from its bondage.  More commonly, the Bible refers to being “forgiven” or “cleansed” from sin. The probable Old Testament passage behind the clause is found in Deuteronomy, a verse linked conceptually to the passage from Exodus that is used in this same verse:

  • (Exodus 19:4-6) – “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples: for all the Earth is mine: and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.
  • (Deuteronomy 7:6-8) – “Yahweh your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, above all peoples that are upon the face of the Earth… Because Yahweh loves you, and because he would keep the oath which he swore to your fathers, Yahweh brought you out with a mighty hand, and delivered you out of the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

Moreover, Jesus “made us a kingdom, priests to his God.” The Greek verb rendered “made” is in the aorist tense and points to a past event, in this case, his death. The priestly role is a present reality and calling for the “Assemblies.”

Thus, the mission that Israel was called to do but failed to carry out has fallen to the church, or at least to the “Seven Assemblies of Asia.” The term “kings, priests” signifies how the saints participate in his present reign, namely, as human vessels who mediate his light in the world - (Revelation 3:21, 5:10, 20:6).

To him be the glory and the dominion.” The doxology reiterates the theme of God’s rule and alludes to a passage in the Book of Daniel:

  • (Daniel 4:34-35) - “I, Nebuchadnezzar, uplifted my eyes and blessed the Most-High, and glorified him who lives forever, WHOSE DOMINION IS AN EVERLASTING DOMINION, and his kingdom lasts from generation to generation.”

HIS COMING


The declaration of Christ’s sovereignty stands in sharp contrast to the claims of the Roman Empire. God reigns supreme through his appointed ruler, Jesus, regardless of the pretensions and persecuting activities of the World Empire, in this case, Rome - (Revelation 1:7-8, 7:9, 10:11, 13:7).

The declaration that “he is coming with the clouds” alludes to the passage in Daniel where the “Son of Man” was seen by the Prophet “coming with the clouds of the heavens.” In Revelation, the verb tense is changed from an imperfect (“he was coming”) to the present tense (“he IS coming”). Hence, the prophecy was coming to fruition in Jesus - (Daniel 7:13-14).

Every eye will see him…all the tribes of the Earth.” The term “every eye” includes the “Seven Assemblies.” The “tribes” mourn because the “Son of Man” was pierced on their behalf. The passage combines clauses from Daniel and Zechariah that refer to “tribes” - (Daniel 7:14, Zechariah 12:9-12, Revelation 5:9, 7:9-17).

In Zechariah, it was not the hostile nations that mourned, but the “tribes” of Israel. Here, it becomes “all the tribes of the Earth.” Thus, Revelation has UNIVERSALIZED the prophecy that originally was applied to the twelve tribes of Israel.

As the Book will declare, by his lifeblood, the “Lamb” has redeemed men “from every nation, tribe, people and tongue,” and not just from the nation of Israel.

I am Alpha and the Omega.” The one speaking at this point is the “Lord God Who is and Who was and Who is coming.” In the Book, His voice is heard only here and in the city of “New Jerusalem” near the end of John’s visions. “Alpha” is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and “omega’ the last, and so, God begins things and brings them to their intended conclusion.

The term translated as the “Almighty” represents the Greek noun pantokratōr. It signifies one who possesses might and sovereignty. In the Greek Septuagint, it translates the Hebrew term rendered “hosts” as in “Yahweh of hosts.” Thus, His might reassures the “Assemblies of Asia” that He will complete what He has started, and He possesses the power to do so.

In the greetings at the start of the Book, the “Seven Assemblies” are in view. From the start, Revelation is addressed to the marginalized congregations in the province of Asia, and the salutation anchors the visions of Revelation firmly in the past death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.



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