“Jesus Christ – King of Grace and King of Glory”
(Revelation 1:4-8 – Christ the King – November 21, 2021)
Revelation 1:4-8 – 4Grace 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, 5and 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, 6and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. 8“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.”
Dear Redeemed in the name of Christ our King, who gave Himself for us:
Queen Esther approached the throne of the Persian king. Everyone in the empire knew you could not enter his royal court without first being called. The penalty for this intrusion was death, unless the king graciously held out his golden scepter and spared your life. But Esther had an important mission to speak in behalf of her fellow Jews, uncover a wicked plot against them; and with the help of the king to spare her people from being destroyed. Above all trusting her heavenly King, who always works His power over earthly kings for the good of His people, Esther approached the throne. To her relief she found favor before the king, who by the providence of God helped to spare His people – the nation through whom Christ was yet to come (Esther 4-5).
In our text we meet a far greater monarch than King Ahasuerus who once ruled a world empire. We are brought before throne of the King of heaven Himself. As described here, He reigns with all power as “the ruler over the kings of the earth.” He reigns as “the Almighty,” with unimaginably great power over the universe He created. He dwells eternally, as “Him who is and who was and who is to come.” As Judge of all, it is He who “is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him.” But who are we to stand before His throne? He is holy and sinless, but we are miserable sinners, who have nothing to bring before Him but our life of unholiness. By all rights, the penalty for our intrusion should be the wages of our sin – death, judgment, and hell (Romans 6:23).
But behold! Here we see the King of heaven has raised His golden scepter to us! He speaks words of welcome: “Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come.” We have found favor in His sight; our life has graciously been spared. How can it be? We find the answer as God reveals Himself to us in “Jesus Christ–Our King of Grace and King of Glory.”
1) He rules an eternal Kingdom as the Son of God
First, we see that He rules an eternal Kingdom as the Son of God. Jesus lives and reigns on high, together with God the Father and God the Spirit – the Triune God.
Our text begins: “Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come” (vs. 4). Here we see God the Father, who exists in eternity without beginning and without end. From His heavenly throne, He proclaims a message of grace and peace to us sinners. For by the saving work of His Son, He graciously has saved us from our sins. He has replaced all fear of condemnation with the peace of His forgiveness, paid for by the blood of His Son.
“And from the seven Spirits who are before His throne” (vs. 4). Here we see God the Holy Spirit, described in Scripture as a sevenfold Spirit (Isaiah 11:2). He too proclaims grace and peace to us from heaven’s throne; for it is the work of the Spirit to proclaim the truth of God’s salvation in Christ to us through the Holy Scriptures.
“And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth” (vs. 5). Here we see the Son of God, who came from His eternal Father in heaven to win that grace and peace announced from the heavenly throne. It is the Son of God who has “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” It is the Son of God who entered creation and humbled Himself for a time, to live and die and rise again for our salvation.
Yet as the Son of God He rules an eternal Kingdom, together with God the Father and God the Spirit. Jesus’ eternal rule is stated in verse 8 as He says: “‘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.'” These words reflect the description of the eternal Father in verse 4. Yet they equally describe the eternally begotten Son, who came to us from His Father (John 1:1-14; Revelation 1:17-18; 22:13).
As the Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus rules an eternal Kingdom by the will of His Father. This was foretold in the prophets. In our Old Testament Lesson in Daniel 7:13-14, the prophet reports a vision He was given of Christ’s Kingdom: “And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”
As the eternal Son of God in our flesh, it is His heavenly throne before which all nations shall stand at the Last Day for judgment. How can we approach His throne, sinners that we are? It is because He has come to redeem us for His Kingdom of Grace.
2) He has come to redeem us for His Kingdom of Grace
Here let us focus on verse 5, where it describes Him as “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.” These words remind us of all Jesus has come to accomplish in order to win our salvation and bring us into His Kingdom; and all He continues to do as our gracious and powerful King, who works all things for our good.
First, He came as “the faithful witness.” During His ministry, Jesus faithfully spoke all that His Father gave Him to speak (John 12:49-50). This included the painful truth that, as sinners by nature, we could not belong to His Kingdom. As Jesus taught, flesh born of sinful flesh cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (John 3:5-6). Every sin of ours is rebellion against the Law of heaven’s King. Sin leaves us at enmity with God, unable to please Him by our best works (Romans 8:7-8). If God had left in our sinful condition, we would have had to come before His throne at last, trembling under the curse of judgment, death, and hell. But Jesus also proclaimed the gracious truth of the Gospel – that while we were still sinners, God sent His Son in our flesh to die for us (Romans 5:8). As Jesus testified in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
As “the faithful witness,” Jesus spoke the saving truth in love, even to the end. We see this in our Gospel Lesson in John 18:33-37, as Jesus stood on trial before Pontius Pilate. When asked if He were a King, Jesus answered that He was, but that His Kingdom is not of this world. In His Kingdom of Grace, He gathers believers to Himself through the truth. Jesus told the Roman governor: “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
For His faithful witness to the truth Jesus received the death penalty. That is how the Son of God, who came to redeem us for His Kingdom of Grace, is next described as: “The firstborn from the dead.” For heaven’s King, who rightly could have condemned us sinners to eternal death, in mercy chose to take our place. By the unjust judgment of earthly rulers, Jesus was condemned and crucified. Even more so, God was judging and condemning His own innocent Son instead of us. On the cross, the Father would pour out all His wrath and punishment against our sin on Jesus. So heaven’s King suffered and died for every way we rebelled and broke the Law of His Kingdom.
And having won our salvation, He rose from the dead. As our King of Grace, Jesus lives to free us from all condemnation by forgiving us. He lives to wash us of all sin in His Baptism. He lives to unite us with Himself by faith, as children of God and heirs of His eternal Kingdom. He lives to stand before His Father in our behalf, interceding for us. He presents us before heaven’s throne as those whom He has cleansed of all sin by His blood and clothed in His own holiness.
Therefore in Christ, heaven’s King has raised His royal scepter to us; He has received us into His Kingdom of Grace. We shall not die; but as Jesus lives, we shall live (John 14:19). As “the firstborn from the dead,” He guarantees that we will follow in eternal life.
Now as our ascended Savior and King, Jesus lives and reigns over all things for our good. Ephesians 1:20-23 tells us that God the Father “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion.” In His exalted position at the right hand of His Father, Jesus governs all things for the good of His Church. Therefore He is described as “the ruler over the kings of the earth” (vs. 5). Earthly rulers and authorities may stand opposed to Christ and the faithful witness of His Church in this world; but by the rule and authority of our heavenly King, His Gospel shall prevail. Not even Satan can overcome His Church, for it is built on the Rock of Christ and His eternal truth (Matthew 16:18).
In His Kingdom of Grace, Jesus has made us “kings and priests to His God and Father” (vs. 6). As royal children of our heavenly Father through faith in His Son, we live and reign with Him by faith (Revelation 20:6). It may not always appear so in this world, as we still have enemies on every side, and we still suffer trials and tribulations. Yet already, God has been pleased to give us the Kingdom; all things have been made ours in Christ (Luke 12:32; Corinthians 3:21). It only remains to be seen when He comes to take us to His eternal Kingdom of Glory (Revelation 22:10).
As His royal priesthood, heaven’s King invites us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Queen Esther once approached an earthly king, seeking help and deliverance from enemies; and her faith in the grace and providence of God was not disappointed as He spared His people. How much more can we come boldly before heaven’s King, now that He has overthrown every evil plot of Satan against us, and redeemed us for His Kingdom; now that He has defeated even the last enemy which is death?
Do we find ourselves fearful of what is going on in the world around us? Are we anxious about what the future holds for us and our loved ones? Do we find ourselves struggling with temptations and trials, weakness and pain? Whatever may vex us, let us take it directly to the Lord in prayer. Heaven’s King has raised His golden scepter to us, welcoming us to cast all our cares on Him for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). As beloved children of our heavenly Father, whom He has redeemed by the blood of His Son, how will He not answer our prayers for our highest good (Romans 8:32)?
3) He will come again to bring us into His Kingdom of Glory
As we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), every prayer will be fully answered when Jesus comes again to bring us to His Kingdom of Glory.
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him” (vs. 7). As He once ascended on the clouds, so shall He return in great glory. Every knee shall bow before Him and confess Him to be Lord, to the glory of the Father (Philippians 2:11). Unbelievers, who pierce Him and crucify Him anew by unrepented sin, will mourn; for they will be shut out of His Kingdom forever.
But for us who already live and reign with Christ by faith, His coming will be cause for joy. When we see Him coming on the clouds in power and glory, Jesus says in Luke 21:28: “Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” He comes to deliver us from every tribulation and bring us to that blessed Kingdom He is preparing. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain (Revelation 21:4).
At last in His Kingdom of Glory, we shall be gathered with all believers – with Esther, with all the people of God through the ages who have been delivered through faith in Christ. With our robes washed and made white by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14), we will appear before the throne of Him who is God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Revelation 22:10 already pictures you and me gathered in that blessed assembly, as it says: “They shall reign forever and ever.” And who can express the joys that shall be ours when we share in the never ending riches of His Kingdom?
Therefore, as those whom He has redeemed for His Kingdom of Grace, as heirs of His eternal Kingdom of Glory, we say: “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.”