Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Revelations 1:4-8 A Royal Priesthood

Revelations 1:4-8 A Kingdom of Priests

KEY TEXT: Rev 1:5-7 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

KEY THOT: In this passage, we see Jesus as He is now in his exalted and glorified state. John conveys his greeting to the seven churches from the Triune God: Father, Spirit and Son: “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come (Father), and from the seven spirits who are before his throne (Spirit), and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness (Son), the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” (Rev 1:4-5). Revelation is a message from the Triune God—Father, Son and Spirit. And therefore must be taken seriously. In this greeting, John describes Jesus Christ as the One who “loves us, and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father”. 

We learn four things about what Jesus has done for us; (1) he loves us; (2) he has set us free from our sins; (3) he has made us a kingdom; (4) he has made us priests to the Father. This is to be understood as sequential: the Gospel starts with Jesus’ love for us and it ends with us becoming priests unto God his Father. Let’s break this down:
  1. he loves us”: Jesus took on flesh because He loves us and wants to show to us what the love the Father has for sinful humanity. That was and is his motivation for coming first and also for coming again.
  2. he has freed us from our sins”: It was through his atoning sacrifice at the Cross that he became a sin-substitute for us, reconciling us to God by forgiving and cleansing us from sins. 
  3. made us a kingdom”: Forgiveness of sins is not the end but the means of a greater end, viz., that we might become citizens of God’s kingdom. He has given us a passport to enter into His kingdom now, not later. Once we have been forgiven of our sins through faith in his atoning sacrifice, we have become kingdom people, under new Management and new Law. Satan has no more power over us and we can now choose to obey the Father. And that brings us to the last step in the redemption journey.
  4. priests to his God and Father”: The final step in our redemption journey is that as kingdom people, we have become priests who serve God. 1 Peter 2:9 describes the church as a "royal priesthood" which is the end-goal of salvation, becoming a serving priesthood. This is the reformers and Luther's rallying cry: "the priesthood of all believers".
The OT priests give us some idea of what is involved as priests of God. Firstly, OT priests offer animal sacrifices, but NT priests offer “a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb. 13:15). This sacrifice of praise is worship to God. We worship God with our lips—speaking, singing and even shouting. We cannot offer the sacrifice of praise with our mouth shut: “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord” (Eph 5:19, NET). Secondly, priests also bless the people through their prayers as they emerge from their offering of sacrifices. Which means that we are to bless others through our prayers for them. “Praying ministry” is blessing ministry—not only insiders but also outsiders. Finally, priests teach the law. We must not only study God’s word but we must practise and teach it. Ezra was a priest who “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). That is what priests do---study, do and teach. And that is what we as believers are to do. 

Father, thank You that You have made us a kingdom of priests, so that we might worship You with the fruit of our lips through the sacrifice of praise, blessing-prayers and in teaching Your word. Amen.

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