(1: 4) “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace unto you, and peace, from Him Which is, and Which was, and Which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne;”
The inscription of vs. 1-3 is followed by a salutation (vs. 4-6), which indicates to whom the book was originally sent. In v. 1, we had a hint that the Apocalypse was delivered to the visible church of Christ. Here we have a more particular list of Christian assemblies. The “seven churches of Asia” will be enumerated in v. 11.
Prof. Charles R. Erdman writes: “This ‘Asia’ does not refer to the continent of that name, nor to Asia minor, but only to the small Roman province of which Ephesus was the capital. The fact that in this province there were other Christian churches besides those named by John, ch. 1: 11, indicates that the number seven is used as a symbol. It was the sacred and complete number. The seven churches addressed were, therefore, representative of the whole church in all the world and in all ages. Thus John is addressing the entire book to the church universal.”
The next part of John’s salutation consists of the apostolic greeting, “grace to you, and peace.” The greeting is made in the name of the Father (Him Which is, and Which was, and Which is to come) and of the Son, (v. 5). There is also, mentioned ‘the seven Spirits which are before His (The Father’s) throne.’ The general opinion is that these seven spirits represent the Holy Spirit in His sevenfold operation, as intimated in Isaiah 11: 2. Victorinus, an early commentator on Revelation (c. 300 A.D.) held that interpretation, and most modern expositors follow suit. Those who maintain this view understand the prayer of ‘grace and peace’ as being made in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Another interpretation, however, identifies the seven spirits as the angels mentioned in Rev. 8: 2, which stand before God’s throne and have charge of the trumpets. This places the seven spirits in the realm of created beings, which view seems closer to the truth. The fact that they are before God’s throne identifies them as servants (see 1 Kings 10: 8)–a position which cannot be occupied by the Holy Spirit, Who is co-equal in dignity with the Father and the Son. Moreover, angels are sometimes called spirits (Heb. 1: 7; Psalm 104: 4); and are mentioned in connection with the coming of Jesus Christ, as His heavenly assessors (Mark 8: 38; Luke 9: 26, 12: 8; 1 Tim. 5: 21).
(1: 5) “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,”
In Isaiah, it is written of Christ: “Behold, I have given Him for a Witness to the people, a Leader and Commander to the people” (Isa. 55: 4). Our Lord’s office as Divine Witness is mentioned in the context of the New Covenant (Isa. 55: 3), and therefore we are driven back to John’s testimony that ‘there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost’ and ‘three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood’ (1 John 5: 7-8). Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross was the ratification of the New Testament, by which we are saved.
There seems an allusion in this verse to Psalm 89: 27: “Also I will make Him my firstborn, Higher than the Kings of the earth, My mercy will I keep with Him for evermore, and My covenant shall stand fast with Him.” Christ is called the first-born from the dead, because His resurrection was accompanied by the birth-pains of death (Acts 2: 24). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6: 23); but as Christ knew no sin, death had no power over Him. Therefore, it was not possible for Him to come under death’s power. He was therefore released as one first-born, bearing the keys of death and of hell. His resurrection manifested Him as the Son of God (Romans 1: 4), Who alone has power over death, and Who alone can give men life.
However, Christ’s resurrection also manifested Him as the Second Adam, the Lord of creation. Universal lordship, once forfeited by Adam, has been regained by Christ. Now, not only does Christ have lordship over the Genetic creation, but His Divinity as Son of God gives Him the right to rule and reign over all mankind. Hence He is the Prince of the Kings of the earth; and is seated at the right hand of God, waiting till His enemies be made His footstool. God’s eternal love for His elect resulted in Christ’s sacrificial death, whereby we are loosed (or washed) from our sins. Moreover, His death is revealed to be substitutionary in nature. He gave His life a ransom (=redemption price) for (=in the stead of) many (Matt. 20: 28).
(1: 6) “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
A more accurate translation is: “He made us to be a kingdom and priests unto His God and Father.” Here we have a reference to Exodus 19: 6: “And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Under the Old Covenant the realization of that kingdom was conditional upon obedience to the law. But as the blood of calves and of goats could never take away sins, Christ shed His precious blood on Calvary’s cross, that the forfeited kingdom might be established, not by law, but through grace.
The kingdom is now being built, and Christ is the cornerstone thereof. When He returns to gather His elect, His kingdom will be established. Those who have been redeemed by His blood will then constitute a holy priesthood, and will reign as kings with Him on earth. This is clearly stated elsewhere, in Rev. 20: 6. Also, see Isaiah 61: 6. As I understand it, the nature of this priestly kingdom is twofold, having reference to things both present and future. In the present dispensation, Christians are seated in heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2: 6), and offer up spiritual sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2: 5). In the “age to come,” we shall no longer be seated in heavenly places, forasmuch as Christ will then be here among men. Hence we shall be seated with Him on earth, and will constitute a true priesthood, even that mentioned in Isaiah 66: 21.
John’s salutation is closed by a doxology of praise, in which he declares that the Kingdom of God is eternal, that His glory and dominion will extend throughout all ages. God’s sovereignty and dominion have no end. The present age is “man’s day,” for it is the time when man is judging, and God is silent. But when this age ends, there will be a worldwide manifestation of God’s sovereignty in the person of His Son JESUS CHRIST. Thus we see the coming Millennium as the commencement (or preparatory stage) of an age of glory without end.