The Expository Files

The Glorified Christ

Revelation 1:5

When you think of the book of Revelation what are the first images that come to your mind? Probably the dramatic symbols written by John and their proper interpretation. Also the application of those messages to your daily life.

Let’s go beyond our first impressions to the Person of the book. The person of this book is not the apostle John who saw the visions and recorded them. The person of this book is not the great red dragon or the beast from the sea. The person who is at the center of this book is Jesus Christ.

“John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: 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 Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. ‘I am the alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the end,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’.” Rev. 1:4-8

One of the great keys to understanding the book of Revelation (in fact, understanding the New Testament and the whole Bible) is the truth about Jesus Christ, revealed in the dignified language of this final book of the New Testament. Reverently consider what is said of Him in Rev. 1:5.

Jesus Christ Is “The Faithful Witness”
A witness is one who testifies, so the chief expectation of a witness is to tell the truth. In our system – civil and criminal courts and investigative hearings – witnesses are qualified in terms of three things: Reputation, Competence & Knowledge.

If someone has a bad or questionable reputation – if they might be considered incompetent in some way – or if they do not really know about the matter under consideration – they are not regarded as good witnesses.

These requirements must be met: Reputation, Competence and Knowledge. Witnesses can quickly be impeached if they lack these qualifications. When Jesus Christ is judged by these three standards the conclusion is, He is the perfect witness. Let’s examine Him by each of the three qualifications:

As to REPUTATION – Even the Roman official whose permission was sought to execute Jesus said: “I have found no guilt in this man,” (Lk. 23:13). Honest readers of the Bible today conclude that Jesus suffered no mark against His reputation. Peter said of Him: He “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him,” (Acts 10:38). Pilate’s wife said: “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him,” (Matt. 27:19). Quoting from Isa. 6, 1 Pet. 3:22 says, He “committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth.” Judged based on reputation, Jesus is qualified as The Faithful Witness.

COMPETENCE is another standard applied to witnesses. Competence means mentally capable; having those skills of judgment, reaction and capacity for mature decisions. The temple guards who came to arrest Jesus – observed, and then confessed the maturity, the competence they saw in Him.

They said, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks,” (Jno. 7:46). Now these were the officers of the chief priests and Pharisees; men not likely to entertain any prejudiced in favor of Jesus. They had never heard anybody speak such deep and profound things. Their confession of His competence was similar to the observation made after His “sermon on the Mount” – “He taught them as One having authority, not as the Scribes,” (Matt. 7:29). Jesus proves Himself to be a faithful witness – in His spotless reputation; in His impressive competence . . .

And, in His KNOWLEDGE. The question here is, does the witness know what He is talking about? In the first chapter of Colossians Paul describes Jesus Christ in many ways, with words and phrases chosen by the Holy Spirit to put before us the Incomparable Christ (Col. 1:13-20). Look at that first phrase in verse 16: “…by Him all things were created…” Jesus was there when all things were created – but not an inactive observer; rather an active, divine participant in the work of creation. “…By Him all things were created…” Jesus possesses the perfect knowledge of One who was active in the creation of all things.

I ask you to consider, therefore, Jesus Christ as the faithful witness. He enjoys spotless reputation, perfect competence, and the highest kind of knowledge. Now remember – the chief expectation of a witness is – to tell the truth. Jesus has absolutely no other experience – I mean, He has never told anything that wasn’t the truth! He is, and ought to be so regarded by us today – as The Faithful Witness.

I was doing some work on another subject for another lesson the other day - and I had reason to look up the word “Martyr” in Easton’s Bible Dictionary. I found this entry:

Martyr — one who bears witness of the truth, and suffers death in the cause of Christ (Acts 22:20; Rev. 2:13; 17:6). In this sense Stephen was the first martyr. The Greek word so rendered in all other cases is translated “witness.” (1.) In a court of justice (Matt. 18:16; 26:65; Acts 6:13; 7:58; Heb. 10:28; 1 Tim. 5:19). (2.) As of one bearing testimony to the truth of what he has seen or known (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8, 22; Rom. 1:9; 1 Thess. 2:5, 10; 1 John 1:2). [1]

Jesus Christ lived by the truth of God and died because of that loyalty. All that He did; all that He was; all that He said was because of His resolute loyalty to the truth of God. He bore witness to what He knew was true and right and that standard has been conveyed to us – through His chosen men – written in the New Testament. Jesus said one time: “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father…,” (Jno. 8:38). There’s your FAITHFUL WITNESS. “I’m telling you what I know to be true…” “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father,” and then in this same context He said: “…if you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine,” (Jno. 8:31).

Our pressing need today – as individuals made in the image of God – is to accept Jesus Christ as The Faithful Witness. He faithfully testified the truth

of God and His life exemplified that standard. He caused His testimony to be written for our learning and for our living today. You need someone in your life who will tell you the truth about yourself. You need someone in your life who will tell you the truth about God. You need someone in your life who will tell you the truth about how you ought to think . . . how you ought to speak . . . what you ought to do . . . and how you should prepare for death. Jesus Christ is that Faithful Witness.

In a quotation cited by Trench, these eloquent words about the Faithful Witness:

“A faithful witness, because He gave faithful testimony concerning all things which were to be testified by Him in the world.

A faithful witness, because whatever He heard from the Father, He faithfully made known to His disciples.

A faithful witness, because He taught the way of God in truth, neither did He care for any one nor regard the person of men.

A faithful witness, because He announced condemnation to the reprobate and salvation to the elect.

A faithful witness because He confirmed by miracles the truth which He taught in words.

A faithful witness because He denied not, even in death, the Father’s testimony to Himself.

A faithful witness, because He will give testimony in the day of judgment concerning the works of the good and of the evil.”
(From PORTRAITS OF JESUS IN REVELATION, by Weldon Warnock, FC Lectures, ’94).

“The Firstborn from the Dead”
Jesus is called “The Firstborn of the dead,” Or in some translations: “The Firstborn From The Dead.” Now, if we only had the word “firstborn” there might be an impulsive conclusion about someone being the first to be born. In this context in Revelation chapter one – and particularly, in reference to Christ - we should read the entire phrase: FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD, or FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD. The same expression is found in Colossians chapter one:

Col. 1:15 – the firstborn of all creation.

Col. 1:18 – firstborn from the dead.

Here in Rev. 1:5, in the King James, the expression is: First begotten of the dead. That word “begotten” carries the idea of primacy, priority; the first. The truth conveyed is this simple: Jesus arose from the dead, never to experience death again! Thus He is called “The Prince of Life” in Acts 3:15. And “the first fruits of those who are asleep,” in 1 Cor. 15:20. Hades held him for only a few hours and Peter announced this on the Day of Pentecost when He said: “God raised Him up again . . . since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power,” (Acts 2:24). Lazarus rose to die again. Christ rose to die no more. Scripture was fulfilled in this epoch event. Psalms 2:7 has God saying: This day have I begotten Thee – quoted by Paul in Acts 13:33, and referred to in Romans 1:1-4. Jesus was the first of the dead, to rise to life – never to die again.

This truth about Him is not only what we believe; it is our hope, as Paul said in 1 Thess. 4:14 – “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”

“The Ruler Over The Kings Of The Earth”
No ruler on earth is really supreme and absolutely autonomous. None. Men may acclaim their leaders to be sovereign; they may afford their human leaders the praise and titles that would express the language of final authority and elevated power. Yet - No ruler on earth is really supreme and absolutely autonomous.

God is in control and God has said concerning Jesus: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Ye Him,” (Matt. 17:5). God gave to Jesus Christ “all authority” in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). Jesus is “The Ruler Over The Kings of The Earth!”

Let me ask you: Where are those men, who according to historical account, sought to dominate the world? Where are those who tried to build the Tower of Babel? Men like Nimrod? Pharaoh? Nebuchadnezzar? Cyrus, Alexander the Great Constantine? The Herods? Nero? Hitler, Stalin? They all died; their kingdoms fell; the dreams of their grandeur written in history books – but never achieved. Jesus Christ obtained by the cross and the will of God – what men have sought out by sin. He is the Ruler of the Kings of the earth. God raised Him from the dead, to His right hand and Phil. 2:9 describes this as God highly exalting Him, and bestowing on Him the name which is above every name. Everything is under the rule of Christ. Men function in civil governments on earth and in time. Men and nations compete; dictators rise and fall. Men treat their fellows with cruelty; advance their egocentric desires, sometimes in the name of religion – and eventually die and suffer the outcome of their sin. But everything is under the rule of Christ. In ultimate reality – no man or group of men can ever overrule Christ.

The world is in the hands of Christ, and His disciples take great comfort in that truth. This does not cancel the free moral agency of men and women. People make wrong choices; there are victims of sin. There are things happening in the earthly realm we may not fully understand while we are here. But in the heavenly realm, Deity remains in control.

If – in moments of trial – you should entertain any doubt about this; if you should think someday that perhaps men have ultimate control, read again from Psalms, chapter two. When nations rage and people plot vain things . . . When the kings of the earth set themselves against what is right and take counsel together against the Lord . . . Verse 4 says: “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.”

Jesus Christ is today the faithful witness; the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. One more thing from the book of Revelation – this statement of praise to Christ, in chapter five and verse 12: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing,” then in verse 13: “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

What is your present attitude Jesus Christ? Are you living under His authority today? Have you obeyed Him, being baptized into His death? Are you walking in Him - - the faithful witness; the firstborn from the dead . . . the ruler of the kings of the earth??

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 11.12; December 2004