Last week, we were introduced to the book of Revelation as a revelation and a prophecy. Revelation, though, is a bit of a conglomeration between a couple different genres. Today, we’ll look at this book as a letter from the apostle John.
So let’s dive right into it: Revelation 1:4-5.
Revelation as a Letter
John to the seven churches that are in Asia …– v. 4
If you write an email, you usually don’t begin by introducing yourself – you start by addressing the recipient (“Hey Tim!” for example). In ancient letters, it’s backwards. They started with who wrote it and then mentioned the recipients. So John wrote Revelation and sent it to “the seven churches that are in Asia.”
When looking at Revelation, it’s important to remember that it was meant to be received by groups of Christians who were committed to living the Christian life together. And they were promised blessings if they read, heard and kept what was written.
This is what we talked about last week (see “Intro to Revelation”). Revelation 1:4-5 clarifies what some of these blessings are.
Grace & Peace: The Underlying Needs
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace …– v. 4
We don’t always know what we need. And what we want doesn’t always actually align with what we need in reality. You might think you need a vacation, more money, better looks or just to catch up with things. As a church, we might think we need a better children’s program, different music or more convenient meeting times. We might get these things, but God knows and focuses on the needs beneath these desires.
God knows that every church and every Christian needs grace and peace. This is what’s offered in Revelation. We need God’s grace like our lungs need oxygen, and He knows this. Peace means “wholeness” – the tranquility that comes when all the pieces of your life are in place. Peace with God and peace with people is the Christian way of life.
What better gift could you hope for this Christmas than peace? What good is anything else if you don’t have peace? If you don’t have wholeness in your relationships with God and people, what good are beautiful decorations or delicious meals? If we don’t have a proper relationship with God, everything in our life is ruined like sour milk in a bowl of Lucky Charms.
Where Does Grace & Peace Come From?
Although they might not use the words “grace” and “peace,” everyone longs for them deep down inside. The desire for grace and peace is pretty common. What’s unique about Christianity, though, is that it knows the source of this grace and peace. As we read on in Revelation, we’ll see what these sources are.
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christthe faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.– vv. 4b-5
The first source of grace and peace mentioned here is “him who is and who was and who is to come.” This is a poetic way of referring to God the Father and harkens back to when He revealed Himself to Moses by His name “I AM.” God is not just present everywhere – He’s present everywhen. He stands apart from our timeline and exists eternally unchanging.
Everything we’re tempted to turn to for grace and peace is temporary. Christmas breaks, awesome jobs, spouses – these are all good things, but they’re so brief. The only thing that lasts forever is God Himself, and this passage invites us to have grace and peace forever by finding it in Him.
The second source of grace and peace is mysterious: “the seven spirits who are before his throne.” Do these spirits belong to Jesus (Revelation 3:1)? Do they represent something else (Revelation 4:5; 5:6)? Or does this actually refer to the Holy Spirit? The number “7” is often used to represent completeness and this section is bracketed between God and Jesus, so it would make sense. Zechariah 4:2-10 has imagery very similar to Revelation, but it refers more clearly to the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, do these seven spirits refer to the seven angels sent out to the churches (Revelation 2-3)?
It’s not conclusive right now what these spirits are. At any rate, it is a source of grace and peace. And this tells us that grace and peace come to God’s churches through supernatural means. We won’t find it naturally.
A third source of grace and peace is Jesus Christ. We’ll talk more about this next week, but for right now, it’s enough to say that Christ is the doorway to all the grace and peace available to us.
Jesus Christ is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Everything we long for as individual Christians and as a church will come only through Him. May God grant us grace and peace this Christmas.
- Why is it important to remember that Revelation was a letter to churches?
- What is grace? How would you define peace?
- Where do non-Christians turn for sources of grace and peace?
- What are the only true sources of grace and peace?
- What do you think the “seven spirits” refers to?
- Why does it matter that Jesus Christ is the only doorway to grace and peace?