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"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the Kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
– Revelation 1:5-6
THE Saviour having appeared in a vision to St. John, in "the isle of Patmos," he commanded him to write appropriate epistles to "the seven churches in Asia," to reprove their evils, correct their errors, and encourage their hopes. He therefore introduced the subjects of his address by an affectionate salutation in the name of the triune Jehovah; and having distinctly specified the Father and the Holy Spirit, he solemnly adds in the text, "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness," &c. These words strikingly illustrate the mediatorial character of Jesus Christ - the exalted privilege of his believing people - and the personal influence of redeeming grace. Let us observe,
This is admirably described by the Apostle in the words before us; in which he faithfully represents the various offices that he executes, as the Mediator of the new Covenant.
(a) He is the prophet of his church. Hence he is denominated "the faithful witness." A witness is one who either reveals what was previously unknown, or attests what has been already announced. In both these respects Jesus Christ is "given to be a witness to the people." He has distinctly revealed the true character and will of God - the astonishing scheme and work of redemption - and the only way of salvation and eternal life, John iii. 16-18. The writings of Moses and the prophets were fully accomplished in him, for they "testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." The comparative darkness of the law is passed away, and the meridian light of the gospel now shineth. The Sun of Righteousness hath arisen on the moral world, to give light to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death. As a teacher come from God, he "spake as never man spake;" and as an immutable witness, he still externally reveals and personally attests divine truth, both by the medium of his word, and the influence of his Spirit, Rom. viii. 14-16; 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. The testimony of Christ is invariably true, for he is the faithful witness whose veracity is infinite, and fidelity infallible. He has brought life and immortality to light by truth, and makes then wise unto salvation, Isa. liv. 14.
(b) He is the High Priest of our profession. This is evidently intended, when he is called, "The first-begotten of the dead." His death and resurrection were important parts of his priesthood, and essentially connected with the salvation of sinners. An atonement was absolutely necessary, and therefore Jesus Christ, in matchless love, "took upon him the seed of Abraham to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." By his sacrificial death, he fully atoned for our iniquities, and opened a new and living way to the Father, Heb. x. 18-22. He also rose again for our justification, and is now "the resurrection and the life, having obtained eternal redemption for us." He is therefore emphatically "the first begotten of the dead," because he is the first who ever rose to die no more; and his resurrection clearly demonstrates the efficacy of his sacrifice, and is the strongest pledge of the blissful immortality which awaits his people in the world to come, Luke xxiv. 46, 47; 1 Cor. xv. 20. As the High Priest over the house of God, Christ is our "Advocate with the Father," and the altar which sanctifieth both the giver and the gift. Through him alone we have access to the throne of grace; and our persons and services are accepted by virtue of the life and death of Him, who once suffered for our sins, and now "ever liveth to make intercession for us," John xiv. 6; Heb. iv. 14-16.
(c) He is the Sovereign of the universe. His dominion is supreme and unlimited, reaching through all space, and extending to all duration. He is therefore justly acknowledged "the Prince of the kings of the earth!" for by him "kings reign, and princes decree justice." As essential God, his kingdom ruleth over all things, and he only sways the sceptre of universal empire, and sustains supremacy of character, as "the King of kings, and the Lord of lords." And as "the Mediator between God and man," he has founded a kingdom of grace, in which he triumphantly reigns for the salvation of mankind, Dan. ii. 44; Matt. iii. 2. This kingdom is spiritual in its character, and perpetual in its duration. All other empires are worldly and perishing; but the kingdom of Christ "is not of this world, and shall never be destroyed." The Almighty King of Zion reigns universally in the world - mediatorially in his church – spiritually in the hearts of his people - and eternally in the glory of heaven, Heb. i. 8; Rom. xiv. 17; Matt. xxv. 34. His reign is infinitely wise, holy, just, merciful, and gracious. What a transcendently glorious and amiable Sovereign! Let us therefore consider,
"Unto him that loved us," &c. This inspired description of the nature and properties of Christian salvation is highly appropriate and comprehensive, and distinctly specifies,
(a) The divinity of its origin; - "Unto him that loved us." God is unquestionably the source of all possible good, and from him every blessing descends. When he beheld the miserable and perishing state of mankind, he remembered us, in infinite mercy, and graciously sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world, John iv. 9, 10. Jesus also loved us, and "gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." What unspeakable love has he manifested to fallen sinners! Consider his amazing incarnation, sufferings, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and intercession at the "right hand of the Majesty on high," 2 Cor. v. 14, 15; viii. 9. His love contains unfathomable breadths, and lengths, and depths, and heights, which neither angels nor men can perfectly comprehend! This spontaneous and unparalleled love is the originating cause of all the ineffable blessings of present and eternal salvation, Eph. ii. 4-6.
(b) The excellency of its character; - "And washed us from our sins." All sin is moral contamination. It not only contracts guilt, but also defiles every power both of body and soul. Hence it is called, "uncleanness, corruption, defilement, the pollution of the world, and filthiness of flesh and spirit," Mark vii. 21-23. From these stains of guilt and depravity Christ saves all his faithful followers. The work of grace is already begun in their hearts. Their iniquities are freely and fully forgiven, and they believingly participate the cleansing efficacy of the blood of sprinkling, 1 John i. 7. Present salvation therefore includes both the justification of our persons through the righteousness of Christ, and the sanctification of our nature by the spirit of holiness, Jer. xxiii. 6; Titus iii. 5. Pardon and purity are equally necessary, and are actually enjoyed by those who have "tasted that the Lord is gracious," and are saved "by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost," I Cor. vi. 11, Tit. ii. 14.
(c) The efficacy of its medium; - "And washed us in his own blood." This is the only possible way in which sinners can be saved: "for without shedding of blood, there can be no remission." Every spiritual blessing is attributed to the blood of Christ. We are redeemed, justified, adopted, washed, and ultimately glorified, through "the blood of the everlasting covenant," Rom. iii. 24, 25; 1 Pet. i. 19; Rev. vii. 14. This medium of salvation was typified by the whole sacrificial dispensation of the Jews, which was a shadow of good things to come. But Jesus Christ has now personally "opened a fountain for sin and uncleanness," and saves his people not ceremonially by the blood of legal sacrifices, but meritoriously by his own "most precious blood," which was shed for them, Heb. xii. 24. This blood possesses not only an atoning virtue, for the expiation of sin, but also a cleansing efficacy, which purifies the soul; for "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all unrighteousness."
(d) The dignity of its subjects; - "And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father." Divine grace both saves and dignifies its possessors; it raises them from the ruin and misery of sin, to a state of glory and virtue. They are anointed spiritual kings, having already received a kingdom of grace; and are the legitimate heirs of the kingdom of heaven, Col. i. 13; Heb. xii. 28. They are also consecrated priests, "to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." They receive this honour that cometh from God only, and participate all the inestimable dignities and privileges of the glorious gospel of peace, 1 Pet. ii. 9, 10. The believing recipients of salvation are thus divinely honoured and blessed; and are made by the blood and Spirit of Christ, "a royal and holy priesthood unto God and his Father." Surely, "happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord." This will lead us to notice,
"To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." This lively description of supreme majesty and power to the Redeemer, may be regarded as,
(a) The language of adoration and love. The believer discovers inexpressible perfection and glory in the person and character of the Saviour, and therefore regards him as the object of his intense desire and devout attachment. A personal apprehension of his infinite grandeur and goodness deeply affects the minds of Christians, and fills them with unutterable raptures of wonder, love, and joy. The believing contemplation of his divine glories, redeeming works, and saving offices, powerfully attracts and captivates their hearts, and triumphantly subdues them to the sceptre of his kingdom. They gladly embrace him as an object altogether lovely and glorious; readily acknowledge the supremacy of his glory and dominion; and joyfully "count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord," Gal. vi. 14, 1 John iv. 19.
(b) The language of gratitude and praise. Aparticipation of the unsearchable riches of Christ is invariably accompanied with grateful and affectionate dispositions of the heart. The doctrine of salvation by grace necessarily excludes boasting, and inspires the profoundest gratitude and thanksgiving. Though the obligations of believers to the Redeemer are infinite and indescribable, they sensibly feel their overwhelming influence, and often gratefully exclaim, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits;" "Unto Him that loved us," &c. Their unfeigned gratitude is practically displayed, by their love to the Saviour's person - obedience to his word - zeal in his cause - praise for his goodness, and joyful anticipation of his kingdom, Psa. cxvi. 12-14; 1 Pet. i. 8, 9.
(c) The language of adoration and delight. Jesus Christ is inexpressibly glorious and precious to them that believe. He is their "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." He is the object of their confidence - the author of their salvation - and the source of their happiness; they exultingly glory in his cross - devoutly honour him as they honour the Father - supremely adore the perfections of his character - and greatly delight in the exercises of his worship, Prov. iii. 17; Phil. iii. 3. The text is their triumphant felicity and song in the house of their pilgrimage; and will ultimately constitute the blissful theme of their ceaseless hallelujahs in the "house not made with hands eternal in the heavens." Let all the redeemed, therefore, believingly and piously add, Amen.
This subject displays the exalted dignity of the Redeemer - unfolds the nature and method of salvation - and affords ample consolation to them that "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth."