The pastor of the church where I attend, serve, and preach from time to time began last week working his way through preaching on the book of Revelation. This past Sunday he preached on John’s greeting to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 1:4-6 that were, in my view of the book, about to be forced to undergo Nero’s 42-month persecution. He did a wonderful job expositing the text and I even kidded with him that it was “a really great postmillennial message,” him being a premillennialist while I am a postmillennialist. He laughed, although with a few exceptions the differences between the two views largely come beginning in chapter six. It is not my intention, however, to write an article on every message in this series, but since there is so much agreement on this passage, I decided to bring out a few practical, devotional things about this passage in relation to the postmillennial perspective.
Here at the beginning of the book, John prays that these first-century churches may receive both grace and peace from not only God, but the seven Spirits before his throne and from Jesus Christ. Here we have the full-scope of the Godhead, the seven Spirits being the full assurance of the Holy Spirit, giving the saints grace and peace for what they are about to suffer, though Philadelphia was promised to be spared from it. John roots this grace and peace in the fact that Jesus Christ is “the faithful witness,” using the word μάρτυς, mártus, which later developed our word martyr since the witness of the early Christians was often sealed by their own blood. In verse 9, John uses the related word μαρτυρία, marturía, to say he was on Patmos “because of the word of God and the witness of Jesus.” Our perseverance, ύπομονή, hupomone, is rooted in the perseverance of our Lord and comes from the grace and peace given by all three Persons of the One God.
John, therefore, from the latter half of verse 5 to verse 6, launches into a doxology of praise, saying, “to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” In other words, “Long live the King!” The foundation for this praise, however, is so critical. John begins by saying, “To him who loves us,” using the present participle αγαπωντι, ágapônti, followed by the aorist participle λύσαντι, lúsanti, “having freed us,” and he ends with the aorist indicative εποίησεν, epoíesen, that we already are made into a kingdom of priests. We are continually being loved now by God, we have been set free from our sins, and we are at this moment serving in Christ’s advancing kingdom “until the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). It is not a far-distant future; Christ’s kingdom began with his ascension to the right hand of God in the year 30 (Acts 2:29-35; Revelation 12:5), and the old age soon passed fully away in 70 with the destruction of the temple (Matthew 21:43; Hebrews 12:26-28).
It is important to consider John’s words about Christ being “the faithful witness” and him being on Patmos “because of the word of God and the witness of Jesus.” The Christian Church does not conquer by carnal means, Paul saying, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does” (2 Cor. 10:3). The Lord also said before Pilate (John 18:36):
My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.
The Lord’s kingdom is advanced through the perseverance, or patient endurance, of his saints. John says in Revelation 1:9 that he is our brother and companion in three respects: in suffering, in the kingdom, and in perseverance. As the gospel goes forth, it goes forth into a hostile world, many of the same things that took place in the first century occurring throughout the rest of history, subsequent generations of Christians enjoying the fruit of past generations hardships and turmoil, until the whole world is enjoying that fruit (Revelation 22:2). Past generations of Christians have given up their homes, families, and lands for the sake of the gospel so subsequent generations may enjoy the fruit of eternal life (Mark 10:29-30). The Father promised the Son, “I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8). Paul also says that Christ “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25-26), after which he will come again “when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power” (1 Cor. 15:23-24).
I also hope that you would consider getting a copy of my new commentary, The Great Unveiling: A Postmillennial Commentary on the Book of Revelation. It is available in both paperback and e-book formats on Amazon (purchase here). Regardless of the view you may hold on Revelation, I hope you will find it encouraging and devotional in your walk with the Lord.