by Roger McCay
21 February 2021
Sermon Passage: Revelation 1:4-8
Link to Audio Version
Two young girls were talking, as little girls do. And one said she had ten pennies. The other girl looked at her hand and only saw five. She said, “You only have five pennies.” The first girl replied, “I have five pennies and my father told me he would give me five more tonight. So I have ten.” She understood that her father’s promise was as good as done.
I find it interesting the number of folks delving into the book of Revelation recently. Maybe I’m just a little more aware of it, as I’ve started preaching through the book. But it seems there is an increased interest in the book, with online articles, studies and such. And isn’t it interesting that First Baptist, here in this small town, started a sermon series on Revelation on the same Sunday we began ours?
I suppose this makes perfect sense. People are looking for hope and answers in uncertain times—the coronavirus and all its fallout: people dying, people suffering (including loved ones); businesses failing; months and months of having to keep our distance and hole up. Add to that political turmoil, a loss of confidence in our elected leaders, national turmoil both in rhetoric and violence. War lingers, and we’ve still got thousands of deployed soldiers. Then there are the many ongoing issues in our country, like the destruction brought on by drug-use, human trafficking, domestic violence, the regular legal murder of children by their mothers, and so on. It’d take a long time to list the troubles of our nation. And that was just a general overview of events here in the U.S. A cursory look at the big picture of the world is similar (with some differences, of course). In addition to all that, some are forecasting an oncoming global depression. Then there’s the persecution of Christians across the world, which currently sits (according to Open Doors) with about 1-in-8 Christians living in countries “where they might suffer [high,] very high or extreme levels of persecution.” In hard numbers, statistically, that means “On average, every day, 13 Christians are killed for their faith, 12 churches or Christians buildings are attacked, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested, detained or imprisoned, and 5 Christians are abducted for faith-related reasons.” Every day! Those are our brothers and sisters, my friends. And then, there are our own personal, daily struggles and burdens.
It’s all pretty overwhelming. Such tribulation is discouraging. It can lead to depression and anxiety, and there is a noted increase in folks struggling with those issues. Sometimes it just seems like evil’s got the upper hand, that evil is winning. It’s like Elijah the prophet felt so long ago, crying out to the Lord, “I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” Or as some say today, “It’s all going to hell in a handbasket.”
But is evil really winning? Can evil ultimately win? The scriptures tell us “No.” Of course not. Which is, perhaps, why people are digging into Revelation. Revelation is about the victory of the Lord, and the victory of his people. It’s about hope—hope grounded in the very character of God, guaranteed by the Almighty. His promise of victory, justice and glory is as good as done.
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve examined certain details of our invitation to journey through the Apocalypse with confidence and anticipation. Two details we considered were the “From whom,” and the “To whom.” We saw the book was from the Lord, passed on through the Apostle John. It was written specifically to seven churches in first century Asia (in the mid-60s AD), but was also written with meaning for Christian’s in all places and times.
In our passage today, Rev. 1:4-8, John greets the churches, who were experiencing and facing even more tribulation (v. 9). He greets them with a blessing from the Trinity, a doxology for the Son, a promise of what is soon to come, and a guarantee from the Almighty. Today we’re going to marvel over the Lord (from whom the message comes and in whom its elements are secure).
Verses 4-5 are remarkably Trinitarian, from whom John passes a blessing of grace and peace. John doesn’t just say, “from the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son,” however. He give descriptors, using symbolic, prophetic language.
The Father is described as “him who is and who was and who is to come.” This is a way of rendering the Lord’s name for himself in Ex. 3:14-15, “I Am Who I Am.” It also reflects, as some suggest, the “twofold and threefold temporal descriptions of God” (self-designators) found “in Isaiah (Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 44:6; [and] 48:12), which themselves likely are reflections on the divine name in Exod. 3:14.” With such a rendering, John calls attention to the eternal nature of the Father, the principal cause and determinative end, who is always present and active in his creation. For churches facing persecution and tribulations, such assurance was much needed. As Robert Mounce puts it, “An uncertain future calls for One who by virtue of his eternal existence exercises sovereign control over the course of history.” Indeed this rendering of the divine name is repeated in v. 8, forming bookends (who sends on one end and who seals on the other): bookends to the blessings, worship, and promises of vv. 4-8; bookends emphasizing the eternal nature of the blessings and realities encapsulated in the passage and extending through the book—realities existing by the will of the eternal Father, the Lord God, the Alpha and the Omega (the beginning and the end), the Almighty. The Father stamped his name upon this Word, the book of Revelation, as an invincible guarantee, much like we see in the OT: “Thus says the Lord,” and “I am the Lord.”