The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Rev 1:5

Jeff "Miztah" Rogers By Jeff "Miztah" Rogers, 15th Nov 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Religion

"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood."

Revelation 1:5 Jesus: Witness, Firstborn, King

NOTE: If you would like to subscribe to these studies leave me (in a note below the article) a good e-mail address and you will receive each study as it is published. This is the third installment in the study of the book of Revelation. If you missed the previous two studies you can view them by accessing the account where all of the studies will be published. There are many people who have newly subscribed to receive the studies and you may have also missed the opening volleys. The studies are listed in reverse date order with the older ones further down the list. This should be the case throughout the study so that if you ever want to review any previous portions of the study you can always access them here at this link.

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:4-7

In the last study we saw that John began the letter with a general greeting from the triune Godhead. In verse four he mentioned that this greeting was for the grace and peace of God to be upon the readers and hearers of the letter. In verse four he declares that this greeting is from God the Father, the ever eternal one who is, was and is to come, and from God the Holy Spirit as manifested through the seven Spirits (or characteristics) of God. We left off at verse five where John includes Jesus in this greeting.

“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” Revelation 1:5

Continuing this introduction John saves Jesus for last in the list of the Trinitarian greeting. I believe that the reason for this is that you always introduce the honored guest in that order. Always ending with the one you intend to give the floor to when you are done with the greeting. This is appropriate royal protocol. So John saving Jesus for the last part of the greeting is doing so, to put it in modern vernacular, because he is about to hand over the microphone to Jesus so that he can have his say. But before handing over the microphone, so to speak, John gives us a regal description of this one who comes to the audience with Grace and peace.

John describes Jesus as a faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Just like a good emcee at a formal banquet here John goes out of his way to give an appropriate introduction to the one and only savior of the world. His first descriptive term of Jesus is that he is “the faithful witness”. This is a critical role for the rest of the book for included in the Revelation of Jesus Christ is the witness that he bears against Israel as he signs and seals their indictment, produces evidence against them and finally convicts and carries out the judgment and justice that is coming to this rebellious nation. This role as the faithful witness was foreshadowed for us in another who called himself “The Son of Man”. This title was shared by both Jesus and Jeremiah.

“Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” Jeremiah 42:5-6

Jeremiah is giving a prophecy of judgment and in the midst of this prophecy he declares of his own ministry that whatever God says, whether good of evil, we will carry it out. In keeping with this foreshadow the ultimate destruction of both prophecies was the destruction of the City of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temple.

The second description in John’s introduction is that Jesus is the “Firstborn of the dead” (ESV). Again here we note that John does not speak in a vacuum. The concept of the “Firstborn” is a common Old Covenant position in society wherein those who were the firstborn sons were entitled to a place of privilege in the family, and a place of largess when it comes to inheritance.

“Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:” Genesis 49:3

Even if the firstborn was hated by his Father he had reserved to him specific rights as outlined in Deuteronomy.

“If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.” Deuteronomy 21:15-17

So Jesus as the Firstborn had the rights to the inheritance of the God of the universe. But this role of firstborn is a particular covenantal position in this case as he is the “Firstborn from the dead.”

“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” Colossians 1:18

This is a covenantal position as it also harkens back to the Passover Lamb that was slain in order that the firstborn might live. This was an inaugural event for the Old Covenant as God was bringing Israel out of Egypt. This is also the inaugural event of the New Covenant where Christ through the shedding of his own blood (that is through death) he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29

As Colossians 1:18 says, this place of being the firstborn from the dead gives him the preeminence. This is clearly one of the themes of the book or Revelation that Jesus is the preeminent one. Four times in the book of Revelation Jesus is describe as the first, four times he is describes as the beginning, and four times he is described as the Alpha. All these indicate that he is the preeminent one.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 1 Corinthians 15:20

But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 1 Corinthians 15:23

1 Corinthians 15 refers to Christ in his resurrection from the dead as the firstfruits. It is this preeminent position of the firstborn that gives Christ Jesus the title that is the ownership of the New Covenant. It is also what leads to the bestowing of the next description that John gives of Christ.

“and the ruler of kings on earth.” (ESV) Revelation 1:5b

Here in this descriptive phrase we have a wealth of doctrine, a cornucopia of understanding, and a plethora of spiritual meat on which we could chew and chew and never have a loss of taste and divine flavor . One of the amazing roles of Christ that was predicted over and over in the Old Testament was that of KING. The book of Revelation declares Christ to be the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, he is the King of the saints, and here he is the king or “Ruler of the kings on the earth. The KJV uses the word “Prince” I chose to cite here from the ESV because I believe the ESV renders the Greek word “archon” correctly. The word actually means: “to rule or take precedence – properly, a preeminent ruler (chief); a commander with authority (influence) over people in a particular jurisdiction”. This I think comes much closer to describing Christ in the overall context of the entire book of Revelation than does the KJV word “Prince”.

One thing to begin chewing on with this description that John gives us is that we need to remember to keep this in the first century audience context. John is declaring that Jesus “IS” present active tense, the ruling king over the kings of the earth. John is not telling us what Jesus might someday become. Not at all, but he is telling us what and who Jesus was already in the first century as these events were about to unfold.

It is an error in many teachers theology today that a large number of people have been led to believe that Jesus will someday become king, but that he is not yet taken on that role. In our last study I made reference to Acts chapter 2 and Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost as we were looking at the ”Throne” mentioned in verse 4. I encouraged you to read that passage to get a peek at the ascension of Christ to his throne as King. Let’s take a closer look.

22“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:22-36

This is an amazing passage and makes it very clear that Jesus had already ascended to the throne as king even at this early date on the Day of Pentecost.
Note: Via my highlights.

1. Verse 24: “God raised him up”. This is not only resurrection language, but it is coronation language. Kings are “Raised up to the throne”.

2. Verse 25: David declares that Christ would sit at God’s right hand. At first glance it appears that David intends this for himself, but as we continue to read we see that it is in reference to God’s “Holy one” who would not be abandoned in the grave (Hades) nor would he allow his soul to see corruption.

3. Verse 29: David is dead, buried and his tomb is still with us. This is curious, why would Peter point over to David’s grave and remind the people that David is still dead and buried. If you wanted to you probably could have dug up the bones of David. This goes to the very prophecy of Christ being the one who will eternally sit on David’s throne. Look at 2nd Samuel 7.

“And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.” 2 Samuel 7:12-17

Here we have the great prophecy of the messiah who would sit on David’s throne forever. But notice the opening remarks that God gives to the prophet Nathan to tell David. God tells David the time frame for the entire fulfillment of this messianic Kingly prophecy. It is that these things would happen while he was sleeping with his fathers. In other words, this prophecy would come to pass while David is still dead.

Peter in Acts 2:29 is not wasting words, he is not waxing poetic, Peter is not simply being verbose for the sake of being verbose. No Peter’s words are inspired by the Spirit of God and it is with a distinct purpose that he points to David’s tomb and tells the Jewish audience on this High Holy Day that “David is still dead”. That means it fits with the timing of the fulfillment of the prophecy that God would raise up one from his loins to sit forever on his throne.

4. Verse 30: Peter proclaims that David was a prophet. I know that he was king in Israel, but by his proclamations that he makes about the Messiah, he is being prophetic. So what does David say prophetically? That God by way of an oath would put one of David’s descendants on his throne.

5. Verse 31: Peter interprets this prophecy for us by telling us what David meant was “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ,”. So the fulfillment of David’s prophecy of one sitting on the throne, according to Peter was the resurrection.

6. Verse 32-33: This Jesus God raised up, … Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God. Here we have Peter telling us that this resurrection was indeed the mechanism that God used to bring about the coronation of Christ to the exalted position at the right hand of God as King.

7. Verse 34: Peter reminds his audience that David never went to heaven, (See John 3:13). For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand. But the invitation was clearly made to Christ to sit at God’s right hand.

8. Verse 36: Peter wants all the house of Israel to know with certitude… “know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ”… God has made Christ both Lord and Christ. Another way of translating this is that God has made Jesus to be both KING and Messiah.

Clearly the 2nd chapter of Acts is declaring for us the coronation of Christ Jesus in the first century by way of his Resurrection from the dead. You see how his place as the “Firstborn of the dead” dovetails and meshes perfectly with his description of his being the “Ruler of the kings of the earth”. His introduction of Jesus is indeed majestic and glorious. I could go on and on, but if I did many would cease reading the studies as they would indeed become huge. Remember I said that in this study we were going to allow the text to speak, and we were going to seek to see how Christ is central in that very text. I think John is making the case for the centrality of Christ here in his introduction and greeting. We will look at Christ next time from the standpoint of his love for us and the freedom we have obtained by his blood which has made us to be Kings and priests. Not only is Christ NOW---TODAY---(not some ubiquitous time in the future—but now) the King of everything, seated at His Father’s right hand, but he shares his rule with us.
For next time:

“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5c-6


David, Firstborn, Jesus, King, King Of Kings, Witness

Meet the author

author avatar Jeff "Miztah" Rogers
Lived in many places in the U.S.. Served in the Air Force for 21 years. retired from active duty in 2002. Traveled extensively, lived 8 years in Europe. I write about the bible, faith, and new ideas

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author avatar Ivyevelyn, R.S.A.
16th Nov 2011 (#)

Thank you, Miztah. Please add me to your readers:

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