The original readers of Revelation were suffering a range of pressures to give up their Christian faith – the pressure of physical persecution, including the real threat of being killed because of their faith, the pressure of economic hardship resulting from their faith, the pressure to embrace human corruptions of the faith, and the pressure to conform to the lax morals of those alternate religions.

To these suffering believers Revelation gives the assurance – Jesus is a Saviour worth trusting, despite the hardships experienced because of allegiance to his name.

Revelation 1:5 teaches us that Jesus Christ is ‘the firstborn from the dead’. Jesus is elsewhere called ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’ [1Corinthians 15:20] and ‘the firstborn from among the dead’ [Colossians 1:18]. These references to Jesus’ resurrection validate both his claims to equality with God [Romans 1:4] and the integrity and justice of his substitutionary death for our sins [Romans 6:8-11; 1Corinthians 15:12-22]. Our Christian hope is grounded in Christ’s resurrection [1Peter 1:3] which is a demonstration of the incredible power of God that is active on our behalf in Christ [Ephesians 1:18-2:6; Philippians 3:10].

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also mentioned in Revelation 1:18: ‘I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! I hold the keys of death and Hades’ and in 2:8 ‘who died and came to life again.’ This is the Saviour the Christian trusts – the one who has conquered death, and whose victory over death guarantees the same victory to those who believe in him.

Revelation 1:5 also teaches that Jesus Christ is ‘the ruler of the kings of the earth’. The phrase ‘kings of the earth’, along with ‘the inhabitants of the earth’, are two ways in which Revelation refers to those who are opposed to Christ and his Church. It is the kings of the earth who, symbolically, gather together against Christ and the redeemed [16:14,16; 17:9-14; 19:19]. But their opposition, although subjecting the redeemed to the pressures mentioned above, is both limited by Christ in the present and doomed to ultimate failure. Just a Psalm 2 anticipates, just as Isaiah 11:4 expresses, so great is our Saviour that he brings these ‘kings of the earth’ to nothing simply by ‘the rod of his mouth … the breath of his lips’. Or, as Paul states in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 ‘whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and the splendour of his coming’.

Revelation 1:5 next describes Jesus Christ as ‘him who loves us’. This powerful Saviour who is Lord of both death and the ‘kings of the earth’ – those two enemies in whose presence the redeemed appear both powerless and vulnerable – is the one who loves us. The conqueror of death, the ruler of the kings of the earth, is on our side – he is for us. As Paul states in Romans 8:35-39, nothing can ‘separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

This love of Christ for the redeemed is confirmed by a further statement in Revelation 1:5 – that Christ ‘loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood’. Scripture repeatedly teaches that the love of God for us is expressed in the death of Christ. God ‘so loved the world’ that he gave his only Son [John 3:16]; God ‘demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us’ [Romans 5:8]; God ‘loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ [1John 4:10].

By the blood of Christ we are freed ‘from our sins’. They no longer have the power to separate us from God [Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22]. They no longer have the power to condemn us [Romans 8:1]. The redeemed stand before God with their ‘robes’ ‘washed’ and ‘made white in the blood of the Lamb’ [Revelation 7:14]. In addition, by the death of Christ, the accusations of the evil one have been disempowered and rendered invalid [Romans 8:31-34; Revelation 12:10b].  By the blood of Christ the redeemed stand guilt-free, sin-free, in the presence of the holy God.

Here in this one verse, Revelation 1:5, we are taught that all the enemies of the redeemed are overcome by Jesus Christ – a Saviour, the only Saviour, worthy of our trust.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2015