Tuesday

23 April 2019

Revelation 1:4-18

... and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. (vs. 5-6)

Psalm: Psalm 33

Background

The first chapter of Revelation offers us an introduction and a summary of some of the key issues of the text. John calls his book a revelation describing both its content and the type of literature it is. John is also identifying himself as a prophet, although it is unclear what this series of letters predicts or to what it points. For some, it is the persecution of the church by the Roman Empire; for others, the end of the world and the return of Christ in victory and judgement. John chooses seven churches to which he writes (although there were more than seven churches in the Roman province of Asia) asking them, and us, the question, "What is the spirit is saying to the churches?"

Our attention is drawn to the numerous titles ascribed to God and Jesus within these eighteen verses. Verse 4 refers to God as the one "who is and who was and who is to come", echoing Exodus 3:14 where God is described as "I am who I am". God is the God of the past, the present and the future. This is reiterated in verse 8 in the famous phrase, "I am the Alpha and the Omega". Since alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, this divine title declares the sovereignty of God in a similar manner to other titles in Revelation: "the beginning and the end" (21:6), the first and the last (1:17).

The titles for Christ include: faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth, the son of man, the first and the last, and the living one. These titles reflect Jesus work and earthly existence. On earth he was the faithful witness to the nature of God; in his death he became the firstborn of the dead. In his death and resurrection, he has become the risen head of the church. 

As Methodists, we are familiar with the term the "Priesthood of all believers". We uphold an understanding of the ministry of the whole people of God, as is noted in the Deed of Union: "Ministers hold no priesthood differing in kind from that which is common to all the Lord’s people." More recently, the Church affirmed: "no priesthood exists which belongs exclusively to a particular order. All believers, both individually and as a group, are charged with the task of entering into the ministry of Christ and bringing others to God through him" (1982 Faith and Order report). To participate in the resurrection of Christ is to accept the invitation to be part of God’s holy people (1 Peter 2:9), a people who belong to God and live our lives in a way that enables people to see the holiness of God. The titles for Jesus invite us to ask the personal question "Who is Jesus for us?"

 

To Ponder:

  • What do you really believe about Jesus?
  • How would you describe Jesus to someone?
  • How does your life (and the life of the church you belong to) enable people to see God?
  • What does the phrase "enter into the ministry of Christ" mean for you?

Bible notes author

Deacon Eunice Attwood

Eunice is a Methodist deacon. She is a tutor in Pastoral Theology at the Queen's Foundation in Birmingham, and a member of the Centre for Ministerial Formation since 2012.

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