Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Greetings (Revelation 1:4-5)

The greeting is unusual in that John mentions each member of the Trinity. It is also different from other greetings in that the description of each divine person is not the same as elsewhere. Usually, the first person is identified as the Father, the second person is identified as Lord, and the third person (the Holy Spirit) is not mentioned. Nevertheless, the blessings desired are the same – grace and peace. We should bear this in mind later when we think of the seven churches individually. Whatever state they were in, John wanted them to receive grace and peace from God.

John chooses to highlight some features of each of the divine persons, and that is a good example to follow when speaking about or to God. He mentions that the Father is eternal, that he has always been and always will be – this description is connected to the Old Testament name for God, Yahweh. In saying this about the Father, John is not only stating the length of the Father’s existence but also his unchangeableness. He is reminding his readers that the Father is totally reliable.

John then mentions the Holy Spirit and the use of the number seven may be connected to the description of the work of the Spirit concerning the Messiah in Isaiah 11:2: ‘And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.’ Seven is the number of perfection.

We should observe the position that the Holy Spirit is said to have – he is before the throne. Normally, if someone is before the throne, they would be worshipping, but that is not what is suggested here. Instead he is depicted as waiting to go somewhere on behalf of the throne. I would say that what we see here is an example of the Holy Spirit as the heavenly Helper. Because he is perfect, he can help all of God’s people simultaneously.

Then Jesus is mentioned third, and three things are said about him in addition to calling him the Messiah. The three could be consecutive or they could be simultaneous. If consecutive, he was the faithful witness when he was on earth as he taught people about God, then he became the first to rise from the dead as head of the new humanity, and then when he ascended he became the ruler of all kings. If simultaneous, it would mean that in heaven he is the faithful defender of his people, that he is gathering in his people as the head of the new humanity, and that he remains the ruler of all earthly kings, whoever they are.

There are three applications we can note. First, in our greetings, remind others of God – that is what John does here, especially of his covenant faithfulness. Second, remind others of what Jesus has done and is doing, whatever the circumstances they are facing, because that is how peace will be enjoyed. This does not mean that we ignore the descriptions of the Father and the Spirit – they would approve of the three features of Jesus that are mentioned. Third, it is usually the case that when God gives grace, he gives peace as a major component of his grace.

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