John to the Seven ChurchesRevelation 1:4-5Theme: Who, what, when, where, and why.This week’s lessons teach us the various theories concerning the authorship and date of the Book of Revelation.
LessonYesterday 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. Do we do that today? Do we ourselves actually stand firm to the end? Even when we are in danger from those who hate the gospel? Do we resist sin? Sin is treated lightly today. Nobody wants to take it seriously. Karl Menninger even wrote about it. He wrote a book called Whatever Became of Sin? We’re always under pressure today to adopt the politically correct stance on moral issues and to treat as normal behavior, sins that the Bible says will bring the unrepentant to judgment. As far as the name of Jesus is concerned, well, the name of Jesus may be tolerated. Christians may be able to worship in private, as long as they keep it there, but woe be to them if they try to bring it into the political or social realm. It’s precisely with affirmations like the following that provide such hostility from those with whom we work: “Jesus is Lord.” “He is the One Way, the One Truth.” “The Bible is inerrant.” “The gospel is the way in which you’re saved; you must believe in that to pass from death to life.” And yet we have to be faithful to that if we are to be faithful to Jesus.
And then, finally, John refers to Jesus as “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” That probably comes from Psalm 89. As a matter of fact, the idea of the first-born probably comes from the same psalm, even though Paul was the first to use it explicitly of Jesus, in Colossians. Psalm 89 says that the one who is appointed by the Father, to be the firstborn, is also appointed to be the King of kings. We read in verses 27 and 29: “I will also appoint him [that is, Jesus] my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth. I will establish his line forever, his throne, as long as the heavens endure.”
In the context of this testimony on the whole of the gospel, we can’t overlook that what is ascribed to Jesus here as a blessing – the ruler over all of the kingdoms of the world – is the temptation that Satan laid before him at the very beginning of his ministry. Satan had come to him offering him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor if only Jesus would bow down and worship Satan. Jesus wasn’t uninterested in the kingdoms of the world. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and he is to possess them and indeed he does, but he wouldn’t take them on the devil’s terms. He wouldn’t rule with Satan. He knew that the way to the kingdoms of this world was the cross, followed by the Resurrection, and that only if he pursued that path would he reign with the blessing of the Father, and with those who had been given to him by the Father from before the creation of the earth. The point of course is that that is also the path that sets before us. Many want the kingdoms of the world, without the suffering. They want it by the world’s own means, by political manipulation, and by compromise. But it doesn’t come that way. The kingdoms of the world come by the faithful testimony and the sufferings of those who are the disciples of the Lamb and who will, by the grace of God, one day reign with him.
Study Questions

What is significant about Jesus’ title “ruler of the kings of the earth”?
How are the kingdoms of the world won?

Further StudySpend time reading and meditating on Psalm 89.
ReflectionDo we stand firm today? Or do we make light of sin in order to get along and keep the peace?

Study Questions
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