Revelation 1:9-11, The Kingdom and Patience of Jesus Christ

I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.  I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia:  to Ephesus, to Smyrna, the Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”  (NKJV)

John uses an interesting phrase in v. 9, where he mentions “the kingdom and patience” of our Lord.  I don’t know that I ever hear or read those four words together in any discussion of “the kingdom.”  In fact, when I first typed the verses to begin this post, I left out the words “and patience” myself.  We’re so used to hearing about just “the Kingdom.”

John isn’t the only one who mentioned “the patience of Christ.”  In 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Paul also referred to it.

Why did John use the words “and patience”?  Why did the Spirit lead him to use them?

After the Lord’s resurrection, Scripture says that He was exalted to the right hand of God in heaven.  I don’t know that there’s much disagreement among Christians about that’s where He is right now.  The discussion centers around the idea of what He is doing there.  Perhaps most Christians believe that He’s ruling from there, in what’s called His “Heavenly Session.”  His Kingdom is now, in the church.  It has nothing to do, except perhaps providentially or incidentally, with the rest of the world.

What does the Scripture say?  Romans 4:3.

There are some eighteen references in the NT to our Lord at God’s right hand.

Matthew 26:64, Jesus said to him, “It is as you said.  Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Along with the next reference, this verse happened during one of the “trials” of our Lord before His crucifixion.  The high priest had just asked Him if He were the Messiah.  Among other things, Jesus answered that the High Priest would one day see Him sitting at the right hand of “the Power” and this would be irrefutable proof of who He was.  He didn’t say “God” because the Jews were very careful never to say that for fear of breaking the third commandment about taking the name of the Lord in vain.

Mark 14:62, Jesus said, “I am.  And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

The high priest and the others who heard the Lord were offended because they recognized that Jesus was claiming to be the One to referred to in Daniel 7:13.

Luke 20:41-44, And He said to them, “How can they say that Christ is the Son of David?  Now David himself said in the book of Psalms:  ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool.”‘  Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then His Son?”

Religious officials had been questioning Jesus about various Scriptures, trying to get Him to say something that they could use against Him.  When they finally quit talking, the Lord used their own Scriptures against them.  Quoting Psalm 110:1, He asked, in effect, “How could David’s God be David’s Son?”

Luke 22:59, Jesus said, “Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”

Like the first two references, this is a detail from the questioning of our Lord. Regardless of what His enemies do to Him, they won’t have the final word about Him.

Acts 2:33, 34, in his sermon explaining what had just happened on the Day of , Pentecost, Peter said of that One whom his listeners had crucified, “therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.  For David did not ascend into heavens, but he says himself:  ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand….”‘  Another reference to Psalm 110:1.

Acts 5:31, Peter, this time speaking to the Sanhedrin and referring to that One whom they had recently murdered, “Him God exalted to His right hand to be a Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
Leaving aside the reference about “repentance to Israel,” Peter told the Sanhedrin that they might have crucified Jesus, but God has glorified Him.

Acts 7:55, 56, Here is the account of Stephen’s witness before the Sanhedrin.  It became evident that his message would be rejected and so Luke concludes his account, But he being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look!  I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”  This is the only reference to Jesus standing at God’s right hand.  Some have suggested that He stood in order to welcome home this first martyr of the church.

Romans 8:34, Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

We’ll have more to say about this verse later.

Ephesians 1:20, In this discussion of the greatness of His power toward us who believe, v. 19, Paul goes on to tell us that this is the same power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.  The power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that raises us from spiritual death.

Colossians 3:1, If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

If we’ve been raised from spiritual death and made spiritually alive, then we should live like it.

Hebrews 1:3, Who [Christ] being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sin, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

That One who died on the Cross wasn’t just another criminal, but was God incarnate, and His death on the Cross was the only payment that could be made for sin, and that had to be made for sin.  Afterward, He sat down.  This is something the OT priest could never do; his work was never done.  Christ sits, because there is nothing more that needs to be done for our redemption as far as its being paid for.  There is still the work of the Spirit, applying the benefits of that death to us and bringing us to faith in the One who died for sinners.
Further, it seems to me, if the Lord is truly reigning as some believe He is, this verse should say something to the effect that “He sat down on the throne of the Majesty on high,” not that He sat down at its right hand.

Hebrews 1:13, But to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool?”

Here the writer asserts the superiority of the Lord Jesus over angels, because none of them has ever gotten the promise he quotes from Psalm 110.  This is in keeping with the writer’s desire in this chapter to show the superiority of the Lord over things in the OT that his readers would have held in high regard:  Moses, Aaron, the priesthood, etc.

Hebrews 8:1, Now this is the main point of the things we are saying:  We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

We have a High Priest who isn’t dependent on an earthly lineage or earthly service, one who never ceases to be High Priest because He lives forever, and One whose work in offering a sacrifice for sin is done.  Indeed, He Himself was that sacrifice, something no mere earthly priest would be or could be.

Hebrews 10:12, 13, OT priests had continual sacrifices to offer, sacrifices which could never take away sins.  But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.

 Hebrews 12:2, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God.

The Cross was no walk in the park for our Lord.  For all our learning, I don’t think we understand any more of what really happened on that implement of agonizing death than an infant has of the suffering of his mother in bringing him into this world.

1 Peter 3:22, where Peter tells us that, after His resurrection, who [Jesus] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and power having been made subject to Him.

With the possible exception of Peter’s statement, none of the verses we quoted speak of our Lord as sitting as King on the throne, and even here, His reign is over angels and other spiritual beings, cf. Ephesians 6:12.  Indeed, He is never called “King” except in reference to His Second Coming.

Jesus is called “King of Kings” or some similar title in four verses:  1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 1:5; 17:14 and 19:16.  Even in His own description of His judging the nations in Matthew 26, and sitting on the throne of His glory to do so, it is only after He has returned to this earth in His glory, v. 31.

Later in Revelation, we’ll see our Lord’s promise to faithful believers who are in an unfaithful church, To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throneRevelation 3:21.  He made the same promise to His disciples when He was still with them, So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you that in the regeneration when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” Matthew 19:28, see also Luke 22:30.
Here He makes a distinction between sitting on His own throne, and sitting with His Father on His, the Father’s, throne.
I really can’t see how this might be or is “fulfilled in the church”.

Well, if He’s not ruling, then what is He doing?

Ah.

Romans 8:34, Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us, emphasis added.

Paul says that Jesus is interceding for us.  I expect we keep Him busy.

When the High Priest had finished sacrificing on the Day of Atonement, he took some of the blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled it on the Mercy Seat.  This foreshadowed both the sacrifice and the intercession of our Lord.  Hebrews 9:24 says, For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us, emphasis added.

The right hand of the throne is a place of honor.  We see this in Solomon’s life, when he had a throne placed at his right hand for his mother, 1 Kings 1:19.  He wasn’t making her co-regent or anything like that.  He was simply honoring her.  For her, it became a place of intercession for Adonijah, one of Solomon’s brothers.  So it is for our Lord.  This world rejected, and rejects, Him;  God honors him, cf. Philippians 2:5-11.

Our Lord is doing something else, as well.

Hebrews 10:12, 13 says that He is waiting:  But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies be made His footstoolemphasis added.  The word translated “waiting” means “to expect from the hand of another.”

After the resurrection, the disciples asked Jesus, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6.  It seems to me that this would have been an excellent time, if it were true, for the Lord to have explained to the disciples that God was done with Israel and there would be no kingdom for her.  But that’s not what He said:  “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority,” v. 7, emphasis added.

He simply told them that the time of the setting up of the kingdom was up to the Father.  That’s true for Him, as well.  It’s up to the Father.

Revelation 1:9, “Stone Walls Do Not A Prison Make”

I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.  

The title of this post is taken from a well-known phrase in the last stanza of a poem written by Richard Lovelace, an Englishman, in 1642.  He was in jail for opposing the idea that bishops should not have civil authority.  His poem has the viewpoint that, because of his love for a woman and her love for him, those who wine and dine festively, or the fish who swim in the sea, or the birds who soar through the air, didn’t enjoy the liberty he did.

While John certainly never knew this poem, he did know the liberty of which it speaks.  Though imprisoned himself, he had a freedom in spirit that the world knows nothing about.

Indeed, although the Lord could have brought it about any other way He chose, without John’s experience on Patmos, we might not have the Revelation.  It’s a testament that, in the words of Psalm 48:14, God will be our guide, even to death, though it wasn’t yet time for that for John.  Still, Psalm 23:4 indicates that the paths of righteousness of 23:3 may lead through the valley of the shadow of death.  Unless the Lord comes back first, they will lead through that valley.

Revelation 1:9 opens the second part of the chapter, which deals with the vision John saw that opens the book.  Verses 1-8 give us the verification of the truth, accuracy and authority of the book.

Our verses tell us –

What he was suffering:  tribulation.

Literally, “the tribulation,” that is, a particular one.

Perhaps a look at the mental and religious climate of the times might help us to understand this phrase.

“Religion” was the binding factor of ancient society, with each nation or region having its own gods.  Rome was faced with the fact that it was an international empire with a multitude of peoples, civilizations, languages, customs, histories and religions.  Rome tried to solve this problem and give a sense of unity to such diversity by personifying the State under the name of the goddess Roma.  Rome still tolerated other religions, although considering them to be inferior, seeing this as a logical and reasonable way to foster unity.  Rome felt that one more god, the imperial god, wouldn’t bother the polytheism of the day.  She even went so far as to recognize the unusual stubbornness of the Jews, who would not worship any god but theirs.  Gradually, however, the emperor became the focus of worship, with this finally become mandatory under Domitian, during whose reign John was imprisoned.

For a time, Christianity was viewed as merely another sect of Judaism and shared in Roman toleration, as we see in the life of Paul, who used his Roman citizenship more than once to his advantage.  Yet the violent hatred of the Jews for the “sect of the Nazarene” showed that these two beliefs differed radically.

Rome generally frowned on any club or society, viewing them with suspicion because of the ease with which such organizations could hide or foster unrest.  Clubs had to register, they could not have a leader and they could not meet more than once a month.  It’s doubtful that local assemblies of believers followed any of this.

There were several other puzzling aspects of this new belief, as well.  Christianity was neither a local or national religion, but spread rapidly among all the nations of the Empire.  Worse, it spread among all classes, even among the countless slaves, who were always a possible source of trouble.  At the same time, it wasn’t long before even members of the household of Caesar named the name of Christ, cf. Philippians 4:22.

Furthermore, Christians kept aloof from much of ordinary society.  The worst thing about them, though, the thing that finally led to their attempted destruction, was their absolute refusal to give the customary reverence to the Emperor.  To the Roman, this was no big thing; it was merely showing loyalty to the State.  We might call it “patriotism.”  The first-century Christian viewed it as an act of blasphemy, with a narrowness the Roman officials couldn’t understand, though the records show that they tried to reason with them.  It all boiled down, especially in the eyes of the Christian, but finally also to the Roman, if in opposite directions, to this:  Who is superior, Christ or Caesar?

As we mentioned above, emperor worship rose gradually.  Julius Caesar was the first to be deified after his murder in 4 BC, and his adopted son and heir was called “son of god.”  Emperors after him had varying attitudes toward this practice, most accepting it, though some didn’t take it very seriously.  Domitian was the first to demand divine honor and saw in Christianity a threat to his claim.  Serious, widespread persecution began during his reign.

It’s true that Nero had persecuted Roman Christians in about 64 AD, blaming them for the burning of Rome, but his persecution, though cruel beyond words, was confined to Rome and believers suffered for supposed crimes, not for their faith.  After Domitian had become Emperor, he executed his own cousin, Flavius Clemens, and banished his own wife, who was also his niece, Flavia Domitilla.  They had become Christians.

It was under the persecution by Domitian that John was sent to Patmos.  And we know that John suffered as a Christian because he was imprisoned for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

I’m afraid we’re headed in that direction ourselves.

Revelation 1:8, Alpha and Omega

“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.” (NKJV)

“Red-letter editions” of the Bible have these words in red, indicating that they were spoken by the Lord Jesus.  While I do agree that the Lord spoke these words, John didn’t have two colors of pen when he was writing.  The idea of highlighting our Lord’s words in red was originally a marketing tool, developed by one company to distinguish its editions of the Bible from its competitors’ editions.

This verse is a very bold statement by our Lord, especially if He is nothing more than the religious figure many seem to believe Him to be.  He is no longer that One who walked along the dusty roads of Israel, for the most part ignored except for what He could provide in the way of food or healing for His audience, cf. John 6:26.

These are the words of deity, echoing what the LORD said in Isaiah 41:4, “I, the LORD, am the first; and with the last I am He.”  Or Isaiah 44:6, “I am the First and the Last….”  Many times, the New Testament takes OT verses which refer to the Father and refers them to the Son.  Our Lord Himself did this in Revelation 1:4.

Another example is found in Hebrews 1:10, where the writer quotes Psalm 102:25-27, “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,” and, taking this reference to Jehovah, applies it to the Son, v. 8.  Some have taken verses like this and used them to teach that Jesus is the only God there is.  Others have seen the difficulty in this and try to teach that Jesus is only “a” god.  The problem with that is, well, then, how many “gods” are there?  Either view denies any idea of a “Trinity.”

Without wanting to get too deeply into the discussion, the only illustration I’ve ever found that does justice to the idea of a “Trinity” in the Godhead is found in a cube.  A cube consists of height, length and width, all the same measurement.  But the height isn’t the length or width, the length isn’t the height or width, and the width isn’t the height or length.  But the cube at one and the same time consists of height, length and width.  If you take away any one of these things, you no longer have a cube.

Likewise, the Godhead consists of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father isn’t the Son or the Spirit, the Son isn’t the Father of the Spirit, and the Spirit isn’t the Father or the Son.  If you take away any one of these, you no longer have “God.”

Our Lord also calls Himself, “the Almighty.”  There are those who will knock on your door and tell you that Jesus is only ever called “Mighty God.”  He’s never referred to as “Almighty.”  Leaving aside the problem of “how many gods are there?”, Jesus refers to Himself as “Almighty.”   

We live in troubling times.  But can’t we trust Him who is “First” and “Last” and “the Beginning and the End” to be everything in between?

Revelation 1:7, “Behold, He Is Coming With Clouds”

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, even they who pierced Him.  And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.  Even so, Amen. (NKJV)

The Second Coming of Christ is a major topic in Scripture.  Indeed, it was promised to the disciples at the very moment when the Lord Jesus was disappearing from their sight and they hadn’t even really had time to begin to digest all that He had said to them in the 40 days He had been with them after His resurrection.

In Acts 1:9-11, we read,  Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.  And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?  This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

There is one difference.  When Jesus left this world, it was a private affair.  Only the eleven saw Him leave.   When He comes back, it will be very public.

Every eye shall see him.

Before fairly recent technology, it wasn’t seen how this could happen.  Now, with all the electronic devices, the internet, and the ubiquitous IPhone, it becomes more clear.  Still, there are places where these things aren’t available.  Though I won’t be dogmatic about it and mean no disrespect to Him, my own view is that He’ll orbit the earth once or twice on His way in to this world.  There have been some who have taken exception to this idea.

However it happens, I believe that what’s left of the world will come to a standstill as its King comes to take His rightful place among those whose last remark about Him was, “We have no king but Caesar,”  John 19:15.

Even they who have pierced Him (emphasis added).

A common view, perhaps the majority view, is that God is done with Israel as a nation.  The church has taken her place and all those OT promises to Israel are somehow “spiritually fulfilled” in and to the church.  Certainly, there’s nothing in our verse in Revelation that indicates anything about Israel’s spiritual condition at or as a result of our Lord’s return.  If it weren’t for other Scriptures, it might easily be said that Israel will only be judged and condemned for her rejection of her Messiah.

One of those OT Scriptures which casts light on this subject is Zechariah 12:10,11.  There God says, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplications; then they will look of Me whom they pierced.  Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for him as one grieves for a firstborn.  In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem….”

To strengthen and clarify His statement, God continues in 13:1, “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”

This is when, and how, all Israel will be saved, Romans 11:26.  This doesn’t mean every Jew that’s ever lived, as some say that we believe, but only those Jews alive at that time who have gone through the judgment of their King.

“the judgment of their King”!?

We read of this in Ezekiel 20:33-38, “As I live,” says the LORD God, ” surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you.  I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out.  And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and I will plead My case with you face to face.  Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you,” says the LORD God.
“I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; I will purge out the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel.”

Then God goes on to say that every Jew in the land will then serve Him, vs. 39-44.

This event sheds some light on Matthew 25:31-46, the judgment of nations, when the Lord Jesus, on the throne of His glory, v. 31, judges those nations on the basis of how they have treated “His brethren.”  Those who believe that the Gospel is about nothing more than doing something about social ills take the references to clothing and feeding simply to mean that we’re supposed to take care of the poor and homeless.

While it’s true that Scripture does indeed tell us to take care of the poor and needy, that’s not what Matthew 25 is about.

Joel 3:1, 2 tells us what it is about.  There God says, “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem” [at which time Ezekiel tells us He will judge them and “purge out the rebels.” Having done that] “I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat;  And I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel” (emphasis added).  These are the “brethren” to which our Lord refers in Matthew 25.

And all the tribes of the earth shall mourn because of Him.  

Revelation indicates that when our Lord returns to this world, there won’t be many people left.  We’ll get into this as we get further into the study.  And those who are left will not be happy to see Him.

Remember, while Matthew tells us that some nations will care for and protect Jewish people, Zechariah 14 tells us that the armies of the other nations have gathered against Jerusalem and have apparently conquered it. It seems that most of, if not all, Jerusalem lies in ruins and her people have been subjected to terrible atrocities.  When it seems that anti-Semitism has won, and Israel has finally been destroyed, suddenly her Lord will appear.  Along with some other things, what we mentioned above will happen.  Things will finally be set right – things over which politics and mere religion have no power.  Indeed, politics and mere religion are and will be the cause of most of these troubles.

Even so, Amen.

While what happens in this world affects the true believer, even at its very best this world has no hope for him or her.  This world can never be “home” for the true believer.  If we understand this, then we must also understand that the only hope we have is in the return of the Lord Jesus.  This is regardless of what we believe will happen when He returns.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Revelation 1:6, “Kings and Priests”

And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen. (NKJV)

For the most part, we live in the moment.  That’s all any of us really have.  The past is over with and done, and we have no guarantee of the future, even to our next breath.  So this, right now, this is it.  That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t plan for the future, but simply that we realize, as James 4:15 says, If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.

And we live in the flesh, that is, our natural bodies.  This means that we see and know and experience what our physical bodies are able to see and know and experience, abilities which can diminish or be destroyed.  And even in this world, we know that there are things we can’t see or hear, things in the light spectrum or as sound, things which animals or other creatures can see or hear.  When it comes right down to it, even with all the advances mankind has made over the centuries, I’m not sure we really know any more about our environment than an ant knows about its.

This is especially true about this thing we call salvation.  Without getting into any of the other things we could think about, when was the last time you heard a sermon or read something on our verse today?

What does it mean:  “kings and priests”?

The second word is easy:  “priests”.

This simply means that, through the Lord Jesus, every single believer has direct access to God.  This is called, “the priesthood of the believer.”  This is something largely lost in the denominational view of the church that has sprung up over time.  But there is no NT office known as “priest” which divides believers into “laity” and “clergy.”  This is an idea which was born out of the effort to mold NT believers by an OT pattern.

There are men who are called as pastors and such, but that doesn’t give them a monopoly on God’s presence.  Through the Lord Jesus, the humblest believer in the pew has the same access to God as the man behind the pulpit.  The believer out in the middle of nowhere has the same access as the believer in the most ornate cathedral, and perhaps more, because we tend to get distracted by all the glitter and pomp and ceremony in such places.

Through the Lord Jesus, we can come directly into the presence of God.  We don’t need saints or ceremony or our Lord’s mother.  There is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5.  Through Him alone, we come to God.

But we must come through Him.  There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved, Acts 4:12.  Without Him, we are shut out from the presence of God.  With Him, we are completely welcome.

The other word is a little more difficult:  “kings”.

After all, look at John himself.  He was no “king” as the world counts it, but a criminal, exiled onto a tiny and barren island in the Aegean Sea.

To the Corinthian church, Paul wrote, For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

There aren’t many among the world’s intelligentsia and elite who name the name of Christ in truth.  There are a few, but not many.  For the most part, God’s people are made up of those whom the world ignores or hates.

So what does it mean?

“Kings”?

I think it’s a promise.

It’s a promise for the future.

Without getting into all the discussion about the future – I do that enough, as it is – let me just say that Scripture says that this world isn’t the end-all and be-all of our lives.  There is coming a time when wickedness and error will be put away, and righteousness and truth will be all there is.  And Scripture seems to indicate that believers will have a key role in the administration of things in that future time.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about all the troubles they were having in their midst, Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?…Do you not know that we shall judge angels? 1 Corinthians 6:2, 3.  Cf. also our Lord’s parable in Matthew 25:14-30.

But I think it’s also a promise for the “right now, this is it.”  It may be that, with the Psalmist, we can say that the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, Psalm 16:6.  This was a reference to the division of the land early in Israel’s history, as also seen in v. 6, with the reference to inheritance.  But it may be that, like Daniel in the lions’ den or his three friends in the furnace, Daniel 6 and 3, we have to spend some time in less than pleasant places.

God said to Israel, “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel:  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.  For I am the LORD your God…,” Isaiah 43:1-3a.  While it’s true that the whole chapter is addressed directly to Israel, I think we can take shelter under a corner of the promise in these verses because God refers to “everyone who is called by My name,” v. 7.  While that also refers to descendants of those in vs. 1-3, are not true believers also called by the name of Christ-ians?

The promise in Isaiah doesn’t mean that Israel won’t suffer as it goes through the river or the fire.  And it doesn’t mean that believers won’t suffer in this world.  As I write these words, and as you read them, many are suffering in ways that words can’t describe.  Many throughout church history have suffered.  And the idea of “kings” doesn’t mean that we “rule” these things.  We still live in a world in which Satan is its “god.”  As his presence becomes increasingly evident, as it has recently in the political and social upheavals, I expect things will get worse for Christians.

Some Christians seem to have the idea that life should be “without a care,” as a “gospel” song I’ve mentioned before says.  It should all be health and good times.  But Scripture and life itself tell us that that isn’t so.  I think Paul gives us the idea in Romans 8 when he wrote, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Some Christians seem to think that God’s love can’t possibly include such things.

But Paul continues:   As it is written:  “”For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 8:32-39, emphasis added.

The word “kings” does have a promise for the future, but it has a promise for the present.  It means that God has made it so that we can rise above whatever our circumstances might be.  Sometimes when one is asked how they are doing, they’ll reply, “Under the circumstances….”  That’s a terrible place to be.  God intends for us to be above the circumstances.

There’s nothing that life can throw at us that, by the grace of God, we can’t catch.

Revelation 1:5, “To Him Who Loved Us…”

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.

For the most part, the Revelation is a book about judgment, of the outpouring of God’s wrath on this sinful and rebellious world.  This world scoffs at the idea of God’s justice and wrath.  There is coming a time, however, when even it will be forced to admit that it exists.  There is coming a time when men will cry out to the mountains to fall on them and hide them “from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of His wrath has come and who is able to stand?” Revelation 6:16, 17.

“The wrath of the Lamb”!

Who ever heard of a lamb being wrathful?  That most inoffensive and defenseless of creatures!  Rising up in anger!

John describes something unheard of, something unexpected.  This most certainly is true in our time.  We have a “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” and truly, as He walked the dusty roads of Israel, our Lord was gentle.  Hebrews 7:26 describes Him as “harmless”.  In much of our teaching and preaching, we have Him standing on the sidelines of His own creation, anxious to bless us, but He can’t do anything unless and until we let Him.  We have reduced Him to little more than a supplicant at the throne of the human will.  He has little relevance to our culture.  Even many of our churches seem concerned only with programs and personalities.  And, by and large, we seem to be getting away with it – if you don’t count the mess our world and society is in.  Yet even in our Lord’s life, to those who rejected His teaching and authority, there were flashes of anger, cf. Matthew 23.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2, behold, now is the day of salvation.  We live in a time of salvation, not of wrath and judgment, certainly not as Revelation describes it.  This is one reason why, from chapter 4 onward, I don’t believe it describes things that have already happened or are happening now.

Granted, even during that time there will be salvation, Revelation 7:9-17, just as there is some judgment in our day as God lets us reap what we’ve sown, individually and as a culture.

Verse 5 shows us how salvation is even possible.  It’s not because of something we’ve done or figured out.  It’s not because of our religion or good works, but because of the grace and mercy of that One who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.

(There is so much I’d like to say about this, but limited space makes it impractical.  I have done a whole series of posts under the title, “The Kindness of God.”  If you do look it up, the last post will be listed first.  At least, that’s how it comes up for me.  Just scroll down to the first post.  They build on each other, from first to last.)

washed us  from our sins in His own blood.

I talked to a lady who didn’t like all the references to “blood” in the Old Testament.  And, indeed, our faith is sometimes describes as “a bloody religion.”  Folks just don’t understand what it’s all about.  Without the shedding of blood there is no remission, no forgiveness, Hebrews 9:22.  It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul, Leviticus 17:11.

God didn’t ask for animal sacrifices just for the sake of bloodshed.  He was teaching Israel something, using the sacrifices as an object lesson.  He was teaching Israel the truth of something about sin, that those who committed sin were subject to death.  If it’s said that the animal wasn’t guilty, there’s a second lesson: substitution.  The animal was a “substitute” for the guilty Israelite.  It died.  He didn’t.

When the Israelite brought a sacrifice, he was required to put his hand on the head of the animal, cf. Leviticus 1:4.  In this way he identified with the animal.  It was a confession that he, the Israelite, deserved to die, but the animal was taking his place.

All these countless sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice: the death of the Lord Jesus.  He committed no sin.  He did not deserve to die.   We commit nothing but sin, even in the providing of daily necessities, cf. Proverbs 21:4.  We do deserve to die, Romans 6:23.

The OT animal had no say, no choice, in the matter.  The Lord Jesus had every say, every choice, in the matter.  When it had become obvious, even to the slow-witted disciples, that the Lord Jesus was about to be arrested, He told them that He could ask the Father for more than twelve legions of angels to come and protect Him, Matthew 26:53.  Considering what just one angel could do, 2 Kings 19:35….

Our Lord was no helpless, unwilling victim.  He could easily have escaped, as He had done at other times, Luke 4:28-30; John 8:59; 10:39.  Though He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, Isaiah 53:7, no power on earth could have put Him on that cross if He had not been willing to go, cf. John 19:10, 11.  No power on earth could have kept Him away from it, either.

This doesn’t mean that He enjoyed it or looked forward to it.  It is not without reason that Scripture says that He endured the Cross, Hebrews 12:2, emphasis added.

He was willing to go through all because He loved us, and because there was no other way for us to be saved.

But salvation is more than just an escape from hell.  It’s more than just the fulfillment of earthly desires for health and wealth and all the things the prosperity false prophets talk about.  Indeed, salvation may lead to our losing those things, Matthew 16:24; Philippians 3:7, 8; Hebrews 10:34.  Even in this country, we’re beginning to see that, with all the furor over gender and marriage issues.

No, no.  Salvation isn’t about deliverance from hell;  It’s about deliverance from that which would send us there:  our sins.

When the angel came to Joseph to explain to him what was going on with his fiancee, he said that the Son she would bear would “save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21.

That is the issue.

Sin.

Sin is not defined by current social trends, but by the Word of God.  Current social trends emphasize and legalize sin.  It’s a sad commentary that so many religious organizations go right along with these things.  We expect this from the world.  Those who profess to be God’s people should know better.  It’s a shame – and a sin – that we allow the world to define the narrative, and not the Word.

To be saved from sin doesn’t simply mean to be forgiven for them.  The angel said that the coming Savior would save His people from their sins, not in them.

To be saved from sin means to turn from it, to reject it.  This is called repentance, which is the other side of the coin of salvation.  But this isn’t simply asceticism.  It’s not enough that we “don’t drink or chew or have friends who do.”

There are those who teach that repentance is a “Jewish doctrine.”  At the risk of being misunderstood myself, these folks misunderstand the Bible’s teaching on salvation by grace through faith.

What does the Scripture say?

When the Gospel first went to Gentiles and they were saved, this led to a confrontation with those who believed that the Gospel was only for Jewish folks, Acts 10.  In Acts 11, these folks finally realized and admitted that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life,” v. 18, emphasis added.

As Paul’s recorded ministry was beginning to wind down, he called for one last meeting with the leaders of the church at Ephesus, Acts 20:17-38.  He was about 30 miles away, at Miletus.  We could make this trip in a half-hour or less.  It probably took them a couple of days.  And it probably took a couple of days for Paul’s message to get to them.  We tend to forget that folks in this time traveled on foot or animals.  They didn’t have fast cars and freeways – or phones.

When the elders finally got to Paul, he reminded them of his own ministry among them.  For three years, he had been among them, and “did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears,” Acts 20:31.  He said that his method and message was that he “taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” vs. 20, 21.

This last verse gives gives us the two sides of that coin of salvation I mentioned earlier:

repentance toward God….  

It’s His Law, His Word, we’ve ignored or rebelled against.  We can’t keep doing that and be saved.  That is not legalism.  We’re not saved by keeping His Word, but we can’t be saved if we continue to disobey it.

faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

It isn’t our obedience that saves us; it’s the obedience of the Lord Jesus.  He is the only one Who could ever truthfully say that He pleased the Father in everything, John 8:29.  If He had fallen short in even one tiny little thing, He couldn’t be the Savior.  And we couldn’t be saved.

But it isn’t only His life that saves us.  His life provided the righteousness we need if we’re ever to stand before God uncondemned.  We have sinned; we have fallen short.  We stand under the judgment of God:  “the soul who sins shall die,” Ezekiel 18:4.  So, not only did He live in our place; He died in our place, as well.

That great debt we owe to God’s justice – that debt we could never even begin to pay?

He paid every last penny.

There is no debt left.

Does this mean that we can live as we please – without regard to God’s word?

Not at all.

The Mosaic Law was entirely external, with no provision to help the Israelite obey it.  Cf. Deuteronomy 29:4.  But believers don’t fall under the Old Testament Law.  We’re saved under the terms of the New Covenant.  True, it’s revealed in the Old Testament, but it goes far beyond the Old Testament Law.  The New Covenant provides help for the believer.  It’s an internal covenant, with the Word of God being put into our minds and hearts, and the Holy Spirit given to us to enable us to live by that word.

It’s not without reason that the Psalmist wrote, He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, Psalm 23:3.