Here in verse 8 is one of the rare places in Revelation where God the Father himself actually is speaking. What he does is describe who he is by various names. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come - the Almighty." This verse is telling us who it is that stands behind the revelation: he is the true and genuine God. He’s eternal and unchanging and sovereign, as the true God must be. That’s an important matter - especially to believers who are going through difficult times.

We are studying the Book of Revelation, and thus far we haven’t answered an important question, namely, what was John’s purpose in writing the book? There are a lot of people who would say that the purpose is obvious: It was a book that was written to tell people who read it what’s going to happen in the future. Of course it does do that in part. Other people would say, "Well, no, it’s more important than that." I would agree with this to a greater degree: they would say it’s written to encourage people - those to whom John is writing, and perhaps people like ourselves as well, to bear up and be comforted in difficult circumstances.

Yesterday we looked at the first title John used to describe Jesus: "the faithful witness." The second title is "first-born of the dead." It’s perfectly evident why that occurs there. Jesus bore his witness, and he died for it, but God vindicated him by raising him from the dead, and that’s exactly what he would do for those who follow Jesus Christ even though they should suffer persecution. The believers in Asia needed to remember this and perhaps they even remembered Jesus’ having said that it’s "the one who stands firm to the end who will be saved." They needed to do that. We need to take that seriously.

The churches to which John writes are the seven churches in the province of Asia (Rev. 1:4). These were actual churches that lay at a more or less circular route. But there were more than seven Christian churches in Asia Minor. There was a church in Troas, for example; we learn about it in Acts 20. There was a church in Colosse; Paul wrote a letter to the Colossians. The letter to the Colossians also mentions a church in Hierapolis, and there were probably others.

We ended yesterday’s lesson with speculation as to the date Revelation was written. The late dating of a.d. 81-96 - from the reign of Domitian - is the traditional dating, because it’s been held from the earliest days of the church. The first hard evidence for this is from Irenaeus in his writing about the identity of the anti-Christ.