Revelation 1:4-8 Part 1

As we begin this portion, let’s just read it one more time; five verses, four through eight;


1)    John to the seven Churches, the ones in Asia; grace to you and peace from the Is and the Was and the Coming, and from the seven spirits that are before His throne,

2)    and from Jesus Christ the Witness, the Faithful, the Firstborn from death and the Ruler of the kingdoms of the earth  --- To Him Who loves us and has freed us from our sins in His blood

3)    and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father – to Him the glory and the dominion into the age.  Amen.

4)    LO!  He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, all who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.  YES!  Amen.

5)    I Am the Alpha and the Omega, says Kurios God, the Is and the Was and the Coming, The Almighty.


We spent a lot of time on the first three verses of this letter from the apostle.  It is the title of the letter and very important for us at the beginning of this delightful endeavor.  Because we spent that time, I’m not going to use additional time in recap.

These next five verses deserve equal weight and rank from us, because they constitute John’s “doxology”.  And they continue to articulate, as the first three verses do, the profound and vital elements necessary to the understanding of the letter; and the very basis for the comfort and correction that are required for the Churches.

I’ve printed all new texts for you, and there’s another change from the one you had before.  In verse four I’ve changed “Being” to “Is”, and I’ll explain it when we get to it.  If you’re keeping the original and making changes as we go along, you can change that now.

As I promised before, I’m going to take some opportunities, from time to time, to compare and contrast our approach to the text with others.  And verse four presents us with a convenient occasion to do just that.

In the dispensational hermeneutic we heard that only the present dispensation, and the one to follow imminently, are of theological and prophetic significance.  So, since we’re now in the pre-kingdom age, or the Church age, only the letters and prophesies of the New Testament are substantive and meaningful for this present dispensation.   The “parenthesis” in which we now live is simply a period of time before the return of Christ, the restoration of Israel and the rebuilding of the temple. 

As we also learned, this leaves the newer revelations of God’s Word (especially John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ) open to almost any fanciful interpretation.

Cyrus Scofield, like one of his mentors, John Darby, was also a lawyer – although not in England; he practiced law in Kansas.  While there he came under the influence of James Brookes and Dwight L. Moody early on, and became an evangelical minister.  Steeped in the dispensationalism of Darby, Brookes and Moody, he became a fiery preacher of prophecy, and a prolific writer.

His most influential work is, of course, called the Scofield Bible.   Similar to the original Geneva Bible (which was the favorite Bible of most of our Reformed forefathers, and printed and distributed internationally before King James was even commissioned) the Scofield Bible has notes all through it explaining the text from his dispensational view.  And, at the point in the history of the Church in which we find ourselves, I would think that a great majority of Evangelical Churches (at least in this country) depend on it – at least for its interpretation of prophetic passages.

As long as we’re here at verse four, I thought I would just give you a quick glimpse of a dispensational approach to the first five words in the verse (verse four): “John to the seven Churches……”

According to Darby/Brookes/Moody/Scofield (in his Bible notes), the seven Churches of John’s letter represent the “seven phases of the spiritual history of the Church”.  In the “parenthesis” in which we live (sometimes called the Church dispensation), each of the messages of Jesus Christ to the Churches of Asia spiritually represent a period of time that the whole Church of Christ has gone through.

When we come to those messages we’ll try to point out some of Scofield’s representations.  But we’re now in the seventh period of the spiritual history of the Church (according to a number of current dispensationalists); and we’re faced immediately with the “rapture” and the second coming when Jesus sets up “the Kingdom”!

Well, of course that’s just fictional and arbitrary; and it comes from a very fertile imagination.  In the first place, the idea that the seven Churches represent the seven ages of the dispensational Church age (now over two thousand years) contradicts the words of John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ.  John’s words say that the prophecy has to do with “the things that are necessary to be done in quickness”.  And that that time is “near”.  So, in the words of John, directly from the mouth of God, the idea that the seven Churches represent (what is now) 2000 plus years of Church history is utterly false.

In the second place, it is impossible for dispensationalists to think of themselves as living in any other time except “end times” – that is, the “last days” of history!   I think that’s rather precocious.  One might come to the opinion that “preaching” rapture, and end times, and last days is the sure route to prophetic self-glory.  After all, it’s rather cocky to think that, after 2000 years of Church history, dispensationalists have all the prophetic answers. 

Further, the seventh Church to which Jesus sends a message is the Church at Laodicea; and He has nothing good to say about it.  Therefore, according to Scofield, the Church at the end of this Church age/parenthesis will be almost totally apostate!  Laodicea is the seventh Church – the last Church – in the dispensational Church age.  Therefore the dispensationalist “representation” of the end of the age is the apostate Church at Laodicea.

When apostasy is rampant, we’re in the “last days” and “the end of the age”.  The Church fails in history!  At the end of the dispensation of the Church age, the Church has failed! 

So the lush imaginations of dispensationalists breed an ineffective, delicate, effeminate idol, which is a pagan symbol, rather than the King of Kings/Lord of Lords Who rules the nations and is the Head of the Church; and Who said “the gates of hades shall not prevail against (His Church)”.

BC, or before computers, we used to have overhead projectors.  Those making presentations to groups would exhibit their renditions on sheets of clear plastic.  Underneath the presentation would be a very bright light, and the projector would pick up whatever was on the clear plastic sheets and beam it to a screen.

The plastic sheets would be laid on top of each other to refine or even transform what was on the first sheet.  For example, an architect could lay the floor plan , or outline, of a house or a building on the projector plate, and then, with additional sheets, completely alter the layout in order to explain his vision for the building.

What we have in the dispensational approach to this Scripture this morning is one tiny example of an entire overlay placed atop God’s Word (if I might use the overhead projector analogy), which forms a complete metamorphosis.  It doesn’t just “revise” what’s written; but it “mutates” it into something totally different!

You see, it’s not exegetical work; it’s something altogether different from what the Word says.  It is an uncanny and imaginative design (architectural design?) for the history of this creation, the failure of the Church and the ultimate end of the world and history.  And, then, it forces the Scripture into what the overlay says!  It is a premeditated design into which the Word of God must be made to fit.

But……. enough of that for now.  We’ll see more from time to time.  Let’s go to the text and see what it says.

It’s obvious, from the descriptions that follow in chapters two and three, that John has received Word from God, witnessed by Jesus Christ, to send Revelation of Jesus Christ to seven actual Churches in Asia.

They’re not symbolic Churches; they’re not representative Churches; they are actual Churches among which John has ministered, and to whom John had previously sent letters.

The number seven, which we will spend much more time on later, is highly significant in all of Scripture and, therefore has prominence in John’s Revelation.  And as we appeal to all the rest of God’s Word, it’s for us to remember that there is nothing different in the Revelation of Jesus Christ than what we find in other portions of God’s Word.  It’s just more imminent and more intense due to the “quickness” with which things are to take place.  But suffice it to say, at this point, that the term “seven” has to do with qualitative completeness.  It is of the nature of the “essence” of a thing.  It is a weighty and consequential number in the entirety of Scripture; especially in the prophecies of the older prophets; and, even more especially, in those prophets whose prophesies have to do with the throne-room/judgement-seat of God and God the Spirit.

So the fact that there are seven Churches to which John is commanded to send this letter means that “the whole” of the Church is to receive Revelation of Jesus Christ; the complete Church.  We’ve mentioned before that the letters of the inspired writers of the New Testament were all to be circulated among all the Churches in all the nations.  And this one is no different.  These seven Churches would have known, upon reading this, that this Revelation of Jesus Christ was to be circulated immediately to the entire Church of Jesus Christ.

John then pronounces the usual “blessings” from the apostles of Jesus.   It’s the same pronouncement that Jesus Himself used on occasion.

“Grace” is favor from God which, apart from Christ, is merited by no human being this side of Adam.  Jesus Christ is the One Who merited the favor of The Father; so those of human-kind who are “in Him” (Paul’s term) are favored because they are in Him.  And, as you can see, the whole Church of Jesus Christ receives the blessing of grace from God because it is Christ’s Church.  It isn’t favored because there are good people there.  There are good people there because they are favored by God!  It is God’s Son; it is God’s Church; it is God’s grace.  And it is never to be received by anyone who thinks they deserve it.

John says “grace and peace”.

You remember at that point in time when Jesus had arisen from death, and He appeared to His disciples in the upper room on the first day of the week.  His utterance to them was “peace”.  Our Lord had completed His work of atonement for the sin of His people.  And having completed that work, there was now reconciliation with God.

Before, God was estranged from us due to sin.  But, due to the atonement of Christ, He is now reconciled to us…..He has been “satisfied” by His Son’s atonement.  Before, we deserved only the wrath of Almighty God.  But, now, there is “peace” with God.  No more enmity; no more wrath; no more indignation; no more animosity; no more outrage at our uncleanness and our rebellion against the One Who created us.  Then, with that assurance that there is no more enmity between us and God, there is that subjective peace that passes all understanding.  The apostle Paul, for example, says, in Romans 5: “Let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

These are the words with which John blesses the Churches.  They constitute the Church of Jesus Christ, and they receive Christ’s due reward; grace…….. and peace.  In brief, all that God has done for us is compacted into these two words.

Now.  John, writing the words of God, witnessed by Jesus, witnessed by John, sends to the Churches (verses four through eight) what many might see as very “heavy” theology.  It isn’t easy to read; but, when explained, will become very clear.  And we remember that theology isn’t “abstract”; it is very practical.  It doesn’t need stories, and it doesn’t need illustrations.  It just needs to be read and explained.  And, when understood, brings incredible profit; and then it bursts forth in thanksgiving from the ones who have gained knowledge of our Lord.

To begin this, let me direct your attention to what I call the three “apo” phrases.  Apo, in Greek, means “from”.  It is a preposition.  So the three “apo” phrases are prepositional phrases.

This is John’s doxology and address to the Churches; and “grace” and “peace” are bestowed upon the Churches from……………. (apo).   The three prepositional phrases, all beginning with “from” are found in verses four and five.

 Grace and peace from “the Is and the Was and the Coming”; from “the seven spirits that are before His throne”, and from “Jesus Christ the Witness, the Faithful, the Firstborn from death and the Ruler of the kingdoms of the earth”. 

Going through a thorough exposition of all of the words in these three “apo” phrases is well beyond the boundaries of our time this morning; so I’m going to leave that until next Lord’s day.  But I do want to briefly introduce you to these three prepositional phrases from GOD’s viewpoint.

After all, this is His Word, given to Jesus Christ, Who showed it to His servant John, in order to send to the rest of His servants.  Revelation of Jesus Christ originated from the throne of Almighty God the Father, so should we not be reading it and learning it from His viewpoint?

In order to do that, we have to take another quick look at the temple complex, which is a human rendering of the reality which exists in the heavenlies.

Made by human hands, according to the explicit instruction from God to Moses, the portable tabernacle in the desert was to be a permanent structure in Jerusalem.  It would be built by Solomon about nine hundred years before Christ; and it was an earthly representation of that reality which it reveals.

It is the clearest foreshadowing of the coming of the Anointed One Who would make atonement for the sin of the world.  Because when one enters the tabernacle, the first thing there is the altar of whole burnt offering; the place of sacrifice.

The second thing is the Holy Place wherein sits three things: the table of showbread, the table of incense, and the seven lampstands.

Then, upon entering the Holy of Holies through the veil, one sees the Ark of the Covenant.  This represents the throne-room/judgment seat above the firmament.

If you were to lift the picture of the tabernacle to where the Holy of Holies was on top, you would then hold a man-made representation of God’s Holy Place above His creation, the creation below it, and the means of salvation through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

Seen from God’s viewpoint, it is 1) His throneroom, 2) the Holy Place with the seven lampstands (representing the Holy Spirit), and 3) the altar of whole burnt offering.  It’s just the opposite of the way we see it.

Now.  This view of God’s throneroom and His creation is very important to how we understand the verses in our text this morning.  Because the order that we see in John’s letter is from God; and it is from His viewpoint.

Grace and Peace to the Churches (verse four) come from (apo) “the Is, the Was, and the Coming (that’s one).  Then it is from (apo) “the Seven Spirits before His Throne (that’s two).  Then it is from (apo) “Jesus Christ the witness….”  (that’s three).

So, Revelation of Jesus Christ is from God; its viewpoint is from His throneroom/judgment seat; the entire Revelation is to be seen from His throneroom, for that’s where the Revelation originated.

Grace and Peace are pronounced upon the Churches from God the Father (from His Holy of Holies), from God the Spirit (the lampstands just outside the Holy of Holies), and from Jesus Christ the sacrifice for sin (just outside in the courtyard wherein is the altar of whole burnt offering.

God’s order, in Revelation of Jesus Christ, is from His Holy Temple.  And He pronounces Grace and Peace to the Church from God the Father, God the Spirit and Jesus Christ.  There is no clearer picture in all of Scripture of the tri-unity of God.

The fact that the entire Revelation of Jesus Christ centers itself around the Glory Cloud/Throneroom/Judgment Seat of God, seen by John, the servant of Jesus Christ, is breathtaking and exhilarating.  And there could not be anything more exalting of the glory of God than the majesty that is described here.  We will continue to do our best at explaining these things next Lord’s Day.