Jan 26, 2015

Jesus The Resurrected - Revelation 1

Most know of Jesus Christ from the gospel accounts, which paint a detailed picture of the One who came in the form of a man to die for the redemption of “whosoever will” (John 3:16).  Yet the Lord who Is, and Is to come has been “transfigured” (Matthew 17:1-9), transformed into His eternal form, revealing the characteristics that those who “love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8) will associate with Him to know in the eternity to come.  The opening chapters of the Revelation which John received from Jesus give us a description of Jesus the Messiah as He will be seen at His second coming, and throughout all eternity. 

In Revelation 1:4-8, we receive a vivid picture of the resurrected Lord.  Verses 1-3 establish that this revelation comes from Jesus Himself.  The words and prophecy contained within are promised to be a blessing to those who hear and keep the words that follow.  We are also told that the time of the events that are mentioned is “at hand”, or imminent.  The description of Jesus begins in verse 4:

-          The One who Is, Was and Is to come (Psalm 90:2, 102:25-27, Isaiah 57:15, Micah 5:2) (vs. 4)

-          The Faithful Witness (Psalm 89:35-37 see addendum)  (vs. 5)

-          The Firstborn of the dead (Psalm 89:27, John 11:25-26, Acts 26:23, Colossians 1:18, 15:20-23)  (vs. 5)

-          The Ruler of the kings of the earth (Psalm 72:11, Matthew 4:8 Satan offered this to Jesus if He would worship him, 28:18, 1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14, 19:16)  (vs. 5)

-          He who loves us (1 John 4:7-19, 13:1, 34-35, Romans 8:37, Ephesians 5:2, 25-27)  (vs. 5)

-          He who washed us from our sins in His own blood (Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 1:18-19)  (vs. 5)

-          He has made us to be a kingdom of priests (or kings and priests) to His God and Father (Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 61:6, 1 Peter 2:5-9)  (vs. 6)

-          To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever (Daniel 4:34, Philippians 2:11, 1 Timothy 6:16, 1 Peter 5:11, Jude 1:25)  (vs. 6)

-          Behold, He is coming with the clouds (Acts 1:11) and every eye will see Him (Matthew 24:27, 30) and they also which pierced Him (Zechariah 12:10-12, John 19:37) (vs. 7)

-          All tribes of the earth will mourn over Him (Matthew 24:30) (vs. 7)

-          I AM the Alpha and Omega (Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, 48:12, Hebrews 12:1-2) who Was, Is and Is to come, the Almighty (Genesis 17:1, Revelation 4:8, 21:22)  (vs. 8)

Note that the first two descriptions above refer to the eternal and all-powerful God in the heavens.  The second two refer to the eternal God who took the form of man (Jesus) and has attained authority over death and authorities on earth.  The third pair of descriptions are statements of the personal savior of men and women throughout history, Messiah Jesus, who loves “His sheep” (John 10:11-16) and set His believers free from the debt and power of sin through His own blood.  (Matthew 26:26-28, Romans 3:25, Ephesians 1:7)

The seventh part of this section describes the result of Jesus Christ on those who believe.  They are to become a kingdom of priests or kings and priests to God the Father.  It is uncertain which is exactly meant.  The passage in Greek would seem to indicate the best reading as being “a kingdom of priests”, and the weight of other mentions in scripture (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9) would seem to indicate that it should read as a “kingdom of priests”.

Following that passage is the praise “to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever”.  This is then followed by the promise of His coming “with the clouds”, “every eye will see Him” including those who pierced Him.  All the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him, and by this point in history, the reason to mourn will be so great as to be overwhelming.  This mourning comes from ages of death, loss, suffering, pain, injustice, etc.

Finally, the passage ends where it began, and not without reason.  All things in the end return to the One who was the beginning of all things.  This short passage is in effect an overview of the history of Jesus Messiah as written in scripture.  From creation and the beginning in Eden, to His “theophanies” (the appearance of Jesus Messiah in the Old Testament, before His incarnation), to the accomplishments of His earthly ministries, and finally how this age ends, with His coming and appearing to all mankind, their mourning for the One they crucified and rejected, and His re-establishment before all souls of Who He really is, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of all history.

Revelation 1:9-11 then becomes a preface for the following descriptions of Jesus Christ as He is today, waiting at the right hand of God, spiritually overseeing the churches of His sheep.

In Revelation 1:12-13 John sees seven lampstands, which we are told in verse 20 are the seven churches to whom he is sending this letter.  Note that believers are to be lamps to the world (Matthew 5:14-16).  In the midst of these lampstands is one “like the Son of Man”.  (Daniel 7:13, John 5:27)  Son of Man is a specific title of Messiah, the divine savior provided by God as first mentioned in the Old Testament.  It is an important description for those who would say that Jesus the Christ came in spirit only, and not in the flesh.  He is both God and man, and the scriptures clearly proclaim both.

The description of the One “like the Son of Man” is as follows:

-          He is clothed with a robe reaching his feet (vs. 13)

-          Girded about with a golden girdle (wrapping around the waist) (Revelation 15:6) (vs. 13)

-          His head and hair are white like wool or snow (vs. 14)

-          His eyes are like flames of a fire (Daniel 7:9-10) (vs. 14)

-          His feet look like “burnished” bronze, glowing in the fire of a furnace (Daniel 10:2) (vs. 15)

-          His voice is like the sound of many waters (Ezekiel 43:2) (vs. 15)

-          His right hand holds seven stars (this is the angel for each of the seven churches vs. 20) (vs. 16)

-          Out of His mouth comes a sharp, two-edged sword (Isaiah 49:12, Hebrews 4:12, Revelation 2:12, 16, 19:15) (vs. 16)

-          His face is shining like the sun in the fullness of its’ strength (Matthew 17:2, Jesus at the transfiguration) (vs. 16)

-          At this point in the vision, John does what other believers have done when they realized they were in the presence of God Almighty.  John falls at His feet like a dead man. (Exodus 33:18-20, Isaiah 6:3-5, Luke 5:8) (vs. 17)

-          Jesus here is described as the Living One (Job 19:25) (vs. 18)

-          I (Jesus) was dead – Behold – I AM alive forever more! (Hebrews 7:16) (vs. 18)

-          I have the keys of Death and Hades (vs. 18)

This last statement becomes the emphatic declaration of the power and authority over all things that Jesus Christ now possesses.  In 1 Corinthian 15:21-28 we get the explanation of the great plan of God from Eden to the end of the age.  The last enemy to be defeated is death.  (1 Corinthians 15:26)  Jesus set the “captives” free as part of His work after His death but before His resurrection. Ephesians 4:8-10 describes this momentous event as a fulfillment of the prophecies uttered in Psalm 68:18 and Isaiah 61:1.  This power Jesus has over death is confirmed in 2 Corinthians 5:8 and 2 Timothy 1:10.  This is why death no longer has any “sting” over God’s people. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).  Finally, we see the end of the angels Death and Hell/Hades in Revelation 20:14.
By Michael S. Heiser
We all know why co-signing a loan is required.  The bank assumes that the person who is being loaned the money may not be able to repay it.  Their commitment or ability is in question.  In the Bible, God typically swears by His own character when entering a covenant since there is no one above Him who qualifies to co-sign the agreement (Hebrews 6:13).  There is a fascinating exception to this in the Book of Psalms. 
Psalm 89:35-37 repeats the covenant between God and David from 2 Samuel 7 with an addendum at the end that is not found in 2 Samuel 7.  I’ve italicized the key phrases and arranged the verses to show their parallelism, labeling them by letters:1
A.       I have sworn by My Holy One;
B.      I will not lie to David.
C.      His descendants shall be forever.
C.      His throne (His dynastic descendants) shall be as the sun before Me.
B.      It (David’s throne) shall be established forever like the moon,
A.      And a witness in the clouds will be faithful.
God swears a covenant oath to David and promises that David’s descendants will forever have the right to sit on Jerusalem’s throne.  The promise is guaranteed by an unidentified witness in the clouds (God’s “Holy One”).  Why would God need someone to witness an agreement He initiated?  Who in heaven (“the clouds”) has that authority?
It was common in polytheistic religions of the ancient world to have gods witness the covenant agreements made by other gods.2  But there are no other gods in Israel’s faith equal to or above the God of Israel.  Yet Psalm 89 requires an equal to Yahweh who will uphold the covenant.  Who is this witness in the heavens who will be faithful to the covenant of David’s eternal dynasty?  Who will make sure God’s promise comes to pass and never fails?
The New Testament answers these questions in Revelation 1:4-5:
                John says to the seven churches that 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 that are before His throne, and from      Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
Jesus, as the son of David, has fulfilled the Davidic covenant of Psalm 89.  Since the New Testament presents Jesus as true deity incarnate (true God in flesh), and equal in nature with the God of the Old Testament, Jesus fulfills the role of witness-guarantor eternally.

1.         English translations disagree on this passage for very technical reasons.  This is my own literal rendering, though the NASB comes closest to my translation.

2.        For examples see Heiser, “Ancient Semitic Inscriptions – How Can They Assist English Bible Study?”  at http://michaelheiser.com/Psalm89.pdf.