As we pick up in verses 4-8, we notice that Revelation is a letter which was originally written to seven churches in modern-day Turkey who were facing terrible persecution. If we keep this in mind, it may help keep us from approaching the book as if it were some sort of science fiction novel. This was written to real Christians who, in many ways, were just like us. John is writing to these churches to encourage them and, as he does, he begins the way many letters of his day began: with blessings spoken over the recipients. In this case we find John wishing blessings ("grace and peace") to come not simply from Jesus or God the Father, but from the whole Trinity: from the Father, from the Spirit and from the Son. After noting how grace and peace come from each member of the Godhead individually, we note John’s response: “To him be glory and dominion forever and ever Amen.” In those simple words, John teaches us something very important: Orthodoxy should always lead to Doxology. In other words, doctrinal truth should always lead to praise.
1. We can’t help but feel that the name for the Father in 1:4 echoes that of Exodus 3:14-15. In what ways do you believe these two descriptive names are similar in meaning? In what ways do these names for God provide comfort and assurance for His people?
2. We know that the “seven spirits” do not refer to a created being(s) because “grace and peace” comes from God alone. Accordingly, the phrase is understood to refer to the Holy Spirit in, as theologian Vern Poythress puts it, “sevenfold fulness.” In seeking to discern what the phrase means, we looked at Zechariah 4:1-10, Revelation 4:5 and 5:6. What conclusions did Pastor Doug come to regarding the reasoning behind the designation of the Holy Spirit as “seven spirits” based upon the reading of these three passages? Are there any other observations you might make? How does this example set the stage for how we read the book of Revelation and seek to understand it moving forward?
3. As noted, the terms to describe Christ come from Psalm 89. Look it up. Up until verse 38, things are pretty easy. The Psalm is describing God’s faithfulness and speaks of the One who will be established upon the throne of David forever. At verse 38 though, the whole tone of the Psalm shifts: “But now you have cast off and rejected; you are full of wrath against your anointed.” What do you think is going on here? Verse 46 says “How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?” Old Testament professor Marvin Tate says that the explanation for the whole Psalm lies in the section of verses 39-52. He says that it is a lament that “reflects the perplexing experience of the contradiction between old promises and understandings of the ways of God and the actuality of the developments in history.” For the writer of the Psalm (Ethan the Ezrahite), he knows the promises of God regarding the throne of David but the high hopes and promises of God seem to be crushed by the actual events of the day. This being the case, how might this Psalm have been the perfect choice for John to use to describe Jesus in the book of Revelation taking into consideration the situation facing the letter’s recipients?
Reformer Martin Luther had a different take on the Psalm. He saw verses 39-52 as a description of Christ as He bore the penalties of our sins. Do you see how Luther might have seen Christ in these verses?
Augustine, on the other hand, understood these verses to be referring to the destruction of Jerusalem. Might he have had a point?
Three different takes from three different individuals who are highly esteemed as those who believe the Scriptures to be the inerrant Word of God and who seek to be faithful in their interpretations of it. What might we take away from this in terms of our own approach to difficult texts?
4. In what ways might we be called “priests to his God and Father”? see 1 Peter 2:4-9; Hebrews 13:15-16; Romans 12:1.