In verses 4 and 5 which we studied the last time, John pronounced a blessing on his readers: he wanted them to know God’s gracious help in their lives and his peace so that they would have that sense deep down inside that — despite all the troubles and trials of this life — all is well with my soul. And, of course, this grace and peace comes from the Triune God: from God the Father who is and who was and who is to come, forever the same and who is therefore always able to help us; and from the sevenfold Spirit who is fully equipped to help us in every way; and from Jesus Christ who is the faithful witness and who remained faithful to his Father in heaven even to point of death on the cross; and who was raised from the grave as the firstborn from the dead; and who is now the ruler of the kings of the earth and who rules over all things for the sake of his church on the earth.
John’s first readers were being persecuted for their faith; John himself, when he wrote this letter, was exiled on the island of Patmos; so he was suffering for the faith as well. And so, he was able to direct the thoughts of his readers to the Triune God we worship who is able to give us his gracious help to cope with whatever we have to face; and to give us this peace which passes all understanding.
Having described the Triune God in this way, John turns to praise in the rest of verse 5 and into verse 6:
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.
It seems that, as he’s written these things down, and as he’s thought about this great God we worship, and as he’s thought about the Lord Jesus in particular and all that he has done for us, it’s as if John’s heart has begun to swell within him and his soul has begun to sing; and now, he bursts forth with this great exclamation of praise:
To him be glory and power for ever.
Praise and honour to him! Power and might to him! For ever and for ever.
And in particular, he praises the Lord Jesus for three things: because he loves us; because he had freed us; because he’s made us a kingdom of priests.
And so, he mentions how the Lord loves us. And, of course, everywhere in the New Testament, it teaches us about the Saviour’s love and the greatness of his love for his people. Of course, the most remarkable thing about the Lord’s love for his people is the fact that we’re so unlovely and unlovable, because when we were born, we were born as sinners; and everyday we sin against the Lord and break all his commandments in thought and word and deed. And even though we now believe and want to live for him, we still sin against him every day; and every day we dishonour him; and we fall short of doing his will; and we let him down. There’s nothing good in us; there’s nothing loveable about us; but still he loves us. And his love for us is continuous. Did you notice that? John puts the verb ‘to love’ in what the grammarians call ‘the continuous present tense’, which means his love for us continues on and on and on and on; it doesn’t come to an end; it doesn’t run out; it doesn’t diminish over time: he loved us yesterday; and he loves us today; and we can count on him to love us tomorrow and for ever. And what an encouragement that was for John’s first readers — who were being persecuted and who were hated by the world — to know that the Saviour still loves them. And what an encouragement for us to know that — despite all the troubles and trials of this life, and despite all the uncertainty of this life — we can count on the Saviour to keep loving us.
Freed us from our sins
The Lord Jesus is the one who loves us. And, of course, he has displayed his love for us by freeing us from our sins by his blood. That’s the next thing John says. Now, the reference to his blood shows us that John is thinking about the Lord’s death on the cross, when his body was broken for us and his blood was shed for us. So, the Lord loves us continuously and for ever, but his love for us was displayed most clearly in this one particular way: he died for us.
Now, when John was writing these things about the Lord Jesus who has freed us from our sins by his blood, it’s possible that he had in mind the Exodus which took place in the days of Moses. Just think for a moment of God’s people in the days of Moses. Remember how they were living as slaves in Egypt. Think of how miserable their life was at that time; and how the Egyptians used to oppress them and beat them and treat them harshly. But then remember how the Lord came down to help them. He told them to slaughter a lamb; and to put its blood on the doorpost of their homes. And on the night they put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts, that very night they were set free from their slavery and they began the journey which was to take them to the Promised Land.
Well, it’s possible that John had the story of the Exodus in his mind when he wrote these words in verse 5, because Jesus Christ the true lamb of God who died and whose blood was shed for us. And by his death on the cross, he purchased the right to set us free from our sin and misery. He laid down his life on the cross as the ransom price to free us from the condemnation we deserve for our sins. And so, whoever believes in him, is freed from that. And just as the Israelites were set free from the misery of Egypt in order to go and live in the Promised Land of Canaan, so we’re set free from our sin and misery in order that we might live forever in the Promised Land of Eternal Life.
So, the Lord Jesus loves us and he has demonstrated his love for us by freeing us from our sins by his blood, shed on the cross.
Made us a kingdom of priests
John goes to to say that the Lord Jesus has made us to be a kingdom and priests. And perhaps John’s thinking of the Exodus again, because whenever the people left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, they came to Mount Sinai. And at Mount Sinai, the Lord said to the Israelites:
You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
They were to be a kingdom of priests. And that’s what the Lord Jesus does for us and for all who belong to him. He calls us into his kingdom so that, though we were once his enemies, he makes us his people. And, of course, he’s extending his kingdom throughout the world, as he calls men and women and boys and girls through the reading and preaching of the gospel into his kingdom of grace. And, as our King, he promises to guard us and to guide us and to defend us against the Devil and all his wicked schemes, so that, in due course, we’ll come into his kingdom of glory in heaven. So, he’s brought us into his kingdom.
And he’s also made us to be priests, which means we’re able to approach God in worship. In the Old Testament, only certain people could be priests; only certain people could offer sacrifices in the Temple. But now, the Lord Jesus Christ makes everyone who believes in him a priest so that we have the right and the privilege to come before God and offer to him a sacrifice of praise and to pray to him.
So, the Lord Jesus loves us continuously. And he has freed us from our sins by his blood shed on the cross. And he has made us a kingdom of priests, members of his kingdom of grace who are able to come before him in worship. And so, since the Lord Jesus Christ has done all that for us, then the only proper response is the one John has when he bursts out in praise and adoration:
To him be glory and power for ever and ever.
Praise and honour to him! Power and might to him! For ever and for ever.
Verses 7 and 8
Although John finishes verse 6 with an Amen, he’s not finished. ‘Look!’ he says in verse 7.
Look! He’s coming with the clouds.
He’s referring to the Lord Jesus.
Now, at the beginning of the book of Acts, we read how the Lord Jesus went up into the sky, until the clouds hid him from view. And the disciples were looking up as he left; and no doubt they were wondering what was happening. Well, two angels appeared and said to them:
Why do you stand here, looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.
hey were saying: he’s now in heaven; but he’s coming back; and when he comes back, he’ll come in the same way he left. How did he leave? He left with the clouds; and so he’ll come back with the clouds.
And when he comes back, every eye will see him. When he came the first time, he came in obscurity; only a handful of people — his parents, some shepherds, some wise men — knew about it. But when he comes again, it will be a public event and everyone will know about it.
And John refers to ‘those who pierced him’. Now the commentators think John is using that expression to refer to everyone who rejects the Lord Jesus. So, he’s not thinking only of those who nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross, but to everyone who despises him and doesn’t believe in him and who rejects him. And all people of the earth will mourn because of him. Who are the people of the earth? Probably John is referring to all those who belong to the earth as opposed to those who belong in Christ’s kingdom of grace. In other words, he’s referring again to those who don’t believe. And, when the Lord comes again, they will mourn; and they will mourn because of remorse and regret, because finally, finally they have come to see that everything they once disregarded and treated as nonsense is true; and it’s now too late, because the Day of Judgment has come.
And then the Lord God speaks. And he says:
I am the Alpha and the Omega.
Those are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet. And this is an expression when means he’s the one who rules over all of history, from the beginning to the end and including everything in between. And he is the one who is, and who was, and who is to come. In other words, he rules over the present and the past and the future. He is the Almighty God who rules supreme over all.
And that’s what the book of Revelation is about. We worry about what’s going on in the world; we worry that so many people don’t believe; we worry whether the church can survive because atheism and unbelief is so strong in the world; we worry because so many believers are persecuted for their faith; we worry about the way society is changing; we worry about the coronavirus; we worry about so many things. But God has given us the book of Revelation to teach us that he’s the one who rules over the entire course of human history; he’s the one who controls everything that happens on the earth. And the rest of the book of Revelation is about that. So, in chapters 4 and 5, we see into heaven where the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are enthroned over all. And in chapters 6 and 7 the Lamb is the one with the authority to open the seals, which causes trials and tribulations to come on the earth. Then, in chapters 8 to 11 the trumpets announce the judgments which God is going to send on the earth. Then in chapters 12 to 14 God protects his people from the devil’s wrath. Then, in chapters 15 and 16, he sends the seven bowls of wrath on the earth. And in chapters 17 to 20, he overthrows Babylon, the Beast, and the Devil. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are in control of all things that are happening in these, the last days. And when the time is right, the Lord Jesus Christ will come again, to destroy his enemies for good and to make all things new so that all who believe in him may live with him for ever in the new heavens and the new earth where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, but perfect peace and rest.
The Lord has given us the book of Revelation so that we won’t worry, but will rest in the knowledge that he’s the one who rules over all things. And the Lord Jesus Christ who rules over all things loves us. He loves us; and has freed us from our sins; and he’s brought us into his kingdom and we will worship him and serve him for ever.