Monday, December 26, 2011

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 2 - Revelation 1:4-6

John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)

How would you describe John’s role in this Book of the Bible?

John now addresses the seven churches that are specified by Jesus later in this chapter. John identifies himself, not as the author of the letter, but the scribe who has faithfully written everything that Jesus has commanded. He is concerned with getting the message across as it was given him and was very careful not to add or subtract anything from the message. Later in the book, we’ll talk more out why. If you want to peek ahead, look at Rev 22:18, 19.

Why do you think God speaks of grace and peace in these first few verses?

Grace and Peace – in the same way Jesus greeted the disciples after His resurrection, He greets us with Grace and Peace. In verse 17 He tells us not to be afraid. This is the greeting to the Church, His holy people. It is significantly different from the greetings later in the book, to those who don’t belong to Him. This is written shortly after Nero’s persecution of Christians, yet even in troubled times it is His greeting to us. This book is full of more trouble, but the message to the believer is still grace and peace.
Earlier we said that the message was from God. Now He reveals to us the triune nature of God. The message is from the Trinity.

Who do you normally think of when you see the phrase, “Who is and who was and is to come?”

How is the Trinity indentified in these verses?

The Father

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Rev 1:8 NKJV)

Generally, when I think of the One who is to come, I think of Jesus, but these verses clearly identify that this is the Lord God, the Almighty, the Father. The phrase, “who is and who was” is repeated in verse 8 with the additional references to the Greek letters.

What is the significance of using the Greek letters Alpha and Omega to describe God?

Alpha is the beginning of the Greek alphabet and Omega the end. This shows that God includes all of time. There is not a time He did not exist because He says that He is the first and the last. Three times (also in Rev 21:6 and Rev 22:13) He emphasizes that He is beyond all time and therefore has knowledge of all that has or will happen. With this concept firmly in place, the rest of the book can make sense.

Describe God’s kingdom in the these verses: Ps 145:1-2, 4, and 13.

How does God reveal His eternality in Ex 3:6?

How does this knowledge help provide us grace and peace?

I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
 One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
(Ps 145:1-2, 3, 13 NASU)

From generation to generation we have the same God and these verses describe His continuity through history. He is faithful to all His promises and to all He has made. As the Book of Revelation unfolds, it is important to remember this because His wrath will be revealed against some of His creation. We will see His promise fulfilled in the culmination of the Book when He restores all creation. Even as we view this Psalm with an eternal perspective, we need to view the Book of Revelation in the same way, not always in the same time order as it is written down. God reveals it this way because His kingdom is everlasting.

Moreover He said, "I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. (Ex 3:6 NKJV)

The Lord speaks in the present tense, not the past tense. Our God is beyond time and all is the present to Him. No wonder Moses hid his face, no wonder David said he would praise His name forever! When we contemplate the eternal nature of God, how can we do anything other than worship Him?
Do you remember the grace and peace He promised? We can have that grace and peace because we know that He knows exactly what will happen to us in the next five minutes as well as the next thousand years. God is never surprised. He doesn’t see either a tragic or a happy ending to a problem and say to Himself, “I didn’t think it would turn out that way!” He knows how it will turn out because He is in control.

The Holy Spirit

How do we know that the seven spirits before the throne is a reference to the Holy Spirit? See Rev 3:1 and 4:5.

The NIV translation never capitalizes references to God such as “He” or “His” like many other versions. I don’t know why, because it is a help to me. Several other translations capitalize the word spirit to make it clear that it is referring to God. However, to make sure we aren’t just taking someone else’s word for it, a little research will clarify that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit. In Rev 3:1, Jesus refers to the seven spirits as the seven Spirits of God. Again in Rev 4:5, there are seven lamps before the throne of God and they are also identified as the seven Spirits of God.

Why does God identify the Holy Spirit with seven spirits?

Seven is a sacred number to the ancient Hebrew people. The word is used often in the Bible to symbolize perfection, fullness, abundance, rest, and completion. This number was also considered holy or sacred by other cultures of the ancient world. It may have received its significance from the seven “planets” visible in the heavens-the sun and moon and the five planets known to the ancients.[1]

If seven represents perfection, abundance, and completeness, then how do the following verses describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives as sufficient for all we need?
1.      John 16:13

2.      John 14:26

3.      John 14:26 and 1 John 2:27

4.      Eph 1:13-14

5.      Acts 1:8

6.      Rom 8:14

7.      John 16:8

1.      He is the Spirit of truth. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. (John 16:13 NLT) He teaches what He hears from in front of the throne about the past, present and future.
2.      He is the Counselor (or Comforter in some versions). But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26 RSV) Believers certainly need counsel and comfort now as well as in the days ahead.
3.      He is the Teacher in John 14:26 (above). But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything—and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you—abide in him. (1 John 2:27 ESV) Just as He reminded the disciples of everything so they could accurately recorded the gospels, so He teaches us today. Wherever the Word is banned or hard to find, the Holy Spirit is able to keep the Church alive and functioning.
4.      He is the Earnest - the promise or down payment on our inheritance. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession — to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:13-14 NIV) There are times today when we need to remember that His Holy Spirit seals us forever, otherwise we would give up.
5.      He is our Power for witnessing. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Acts 1:8 NASB) His power is especially needed during times of persecution. For many, admitting allegiance to Christ will bring a death sentence, not only in the times of tribulation to come, but also in today’s world.
6.      He leads us. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom 8:14 KJV) He leads us in paths of righteousness so that we won’t sin. This is vitally important for us in today’s age. Think also how those living through the tribulation years will need His leading when the world will be much more evil than it is now.
7.      He convicts the world. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:8 NKJV) One way the Spirit convicts is through the Word of God. The book of Revelation is especially convicting when people finally realize that there will be a judgment and that they will be held accountable for their actions and rejecting Jesus.

Obviously there are more than seven functions of the Holy Spirit; however these are some that come to mind as they will be important for believes that are alive during the end times as well as for us in an ever increasingly evil age.

Jesus - The Son

What are the three titles given to Jesus in this passage?

See Isa 55:4 and John 18:37. Why is Jesus called the faithful witness?

Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. (Isa 55:4 KJV)

Long before the book of Revelation was written, Jesus was referred to as a witness. When He came the first time, He said that He was here to do the Father’s will. God the Father had announced through Isaiah that the Messiah would be a witness. He would speak what the Father wanted Him to say and would carry out that witness.

Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice." (John 18:37 RSV)

It certainly makes sense that if one of the reasons that Jesus was born was to testify to the truth, then we had better listen!
He knew what God wanted of Him and He obeyed, knowing that it would lead to a horrible and painful death. In the end times as described in the Book of Revelation, many will have the same choice, expressing faith that will result in death. We are called in times of trouble to remember He was a faithful witness and to follow His example.

What does Jesus’ title of Firstborn of the Dead mean?

How does this help people going through tough times?

While there have been several people who were raised from the dead, they all died again. Jesus is the first born from the dead because He was raised with a new and glorified body. He will never die again. Being raised from the dead was one of His rewards for being a faithful witness.
First born implies that He isn’t going to be the only one raised in this way. 1 Corinthians 15 expounds in detail about His death and resurrection as well as the fact that we can also look forward to this reward. God invented carrots - things to help get us through troubled times and this is one of them. But His rewards are eternal carrots, not temporal things with which we eventually tire. The issues in the Book of Revelation are eternal and can be applied whether there is tribulation or not. Rev 1:18 adds that Jesus holds the keys to death and this adds to our hope. We don’t need to fear the things of this life - especially death.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt 10:28 ESV)

We need to have an eternal perspective and remember that Jesus has been through it all and has come out victorious. This is at the heart of getting through all tribulations, now and in the future.

Explain Jesus’ title, Ruler of the Kings.

Jesus is the prince (or ruler in many translations) of the kings of the earth. He has the authority to rule and it was given to Him long before His first coming.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6 KJV)

I just love this verse. It clearly identifies the Messiah with the same attributes of God the Father! I sometimes wonder why people can’t see the truth in this verse and can’t admit that Jesus and the Father are one. Anyway, it was foretold thousands of years ago.

… [God] raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph 1:20-23 NIV)

He is at this time exalted above all rulers. We don’t see it yet, but we will see it take place in the book of Revelation when He steps forward to exercise His right as ruler of all things. He now reigns as head over the Church, which guarantees that no matter what happens, the Church will never disappear regardless of persecution now or in the future.

Praise to Jesus - The Gospel

What are the two most basic elements of the Gospel revealed in these verses?

He loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood. Every time we share the basic facts of who God is (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and that we are freed from our sins by the blood of Jesus, we are giving praise to Jesus. The gospel is always at the heart of the Bible and is the reason there is a Book of Revelation. However, we can become so caught up in His splendor (which is good) that we forget His purpose for coming the first time. When we share His second coming we need to point people back to the first coming so that they won’t fear His second.

What is our future because of His salvation? See also 1 Peter 2:9.

Verse six also summarizes our inheritance and our service. The Book of Revelation is full of kingdoms and demonstrations of authority. We have His reassurance before all this unfolds that we who know the Lord are not included in the demonstration of God’s wrath toward these kingdoms since we are His priests and in His kingdom.
Today we ordain ministers to do the “work of the Lord.” Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to go out and ordain ministers so that they would do all the work. We often overlook the fact that we are all members of the priesthood of believers.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9 NASB)

How is our ministry as priest different from the priest in the Old Testament?

Priests were the intercessors between man and God; they performed certain duties that the common man was not allowed to do, and even some of the priests could not do all things. Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies and then only once a year. We are called to intercede for people in the most significant ways. First of all, we have the privilege of praying for people, sharing the gospel, and hopefully leading them to the Lord. It doesn’t stop there since there is nothing in the Bible that says we can’t baptize or even lead in sharing the Lord’s Supper. I’m not advocating that we should all run out and start our own little churches, I’m only pointing out that we often limit our service to the Lord because we aren’t “ordained.” Whenever we serve others, whether it is preparing for a communion service, washing baptism cloths, or teaching children, we are being priests as well. This brings glory to Him when we use the power He has given us to be priests. Giving Him praise is the way it will be – forever and ever.
May you be blessed as you ponder the Trinity and His shed blood that has freed us from sin and given us the power to serve Him as priests. May fear be far from you as your ponder His victory over death and our promised eternity with Him.

[1] From Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers

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