Notes on the Apocalypse #2
The second introduction, or the second feature of the introduction, of the book of Revelation is actually a Triune salutation. John writes:
“Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits before the 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 freed from our sin with His own blood and has made us kings and priests to our God.”
There are several significant details in the salutation. In the first place, it is a Triune blessing. Grace and peace come to the people of God from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is not so clear on the surface, because of the way in which each Person of the Godhead is spoken of, or from the order in which each member of the Godhead is mentioned.
John describes the Father as “Him who is and who was and who is to come.” He is the everlasting God. The One who has no beginning and no end. Though the Father is not mentioned by any particular name, and though this same description is applied to Jesus in verse 8, the construct necessitates this interpretation. The Father has already been mentioned at the beginning of the book by the name “God.” It is surely taught in Scripture that the Father and the Son are each God in every way that makes Him God. Deity is clearly attributed to the Spirit as well, in such places as Acts 5 where it is said that Ananias and Saphira have lied to the God by lying to the Holy Spirit. But, in the realm of redemption (i.e. the work of the economic Trinity) the Father is often referred to simply as “God.” The other confirmation is the reference to the Spirit and the Son in the subsequent verses.
John goes on to say that grace and peace come from the “seven Spirits who are before His throne.” Why is the Spirit spoken of as the “seven spirits?” It would appear, by the close proximity of the description of the churches to whom this prophecy is given, that the Spirit is to be understood as the perfect gift to the church. John is writing to the “seven churches.” It is the “seven spirits” given to the “seven churches.” The number seven obviously has a symbolic meaning. God created in six days and rested on the seventh. It is the number of completion, perfection or wholeness. According to Solomon, there are six things that God hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him. Surely there are more than seven things that are an abomination to the infinitely holy God. Surely God hates all evil. This is the point of using the number 7. Again, it is said by Solomon, “For the righteous falls seven times and rises again.” The righteous may well fall many more times that seven–even as much as seventy times seven–but the point is that no matter how complete his falling may seem he will rise again. So, in the book of Revelation the Holy Spirit of God, who works His perfect work in the church, is termed the “seven Spirits.”
The second Person of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ–the One whom this revelation is all about–is mentioned in the third place in this salutation. Note the way that John gives Him a three fold description. He is “the faithful witness, the first-born from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.” This is interestingly a description of His role as Prophet (i.e. the faithful witness), Priest (i.e. the first-born from the dead), and King (i.e. the ruler over the kings of the earth). He is the center of all revelation, and so, it is fitting that a further description of His work is attached to this salutation. The reason He is not mentioned in the second place in this greeting is because the Spirit wants us to recognize that the blessings of God comes through the Person and Work of Christ. While the book of Acts is really the “Acts of the apostles of Jesus Christ by the Spirit, ” this is the Revelation of Jesus Christ .” He is the One who has loved us and freed us from our sins by His own blood. The Father and the Spirit were not the Agents of that most necessary means of providing forgiveness. It is only by the blood of the Lamb. This is a glorious salutation. Grace and peace only come from the Father and the Spirit through the dying love of Christ.
“…in the realm of redemption (i.e. the work of the economic Trinity) the Father is often referred to simply as â€œGod.â€ ”
I agree with this statement, so by what follows please do not think I am trying to be argumentative!
In reading through The Institutes I was surprised that Calvin repeatedly states that the use of “God”, when it is not qualified by any other modifiers, refers to the Trinity. I was surprised the first time I read it, and kept on being surprised as I read it more.
Have you come across the reasons Calvin had for this assertion? In the context it seems like the major reason was to refute those who denied the deity of Jesus. Or, do you know any one else who holds to Calvin’s view and might give more support for it?
Thanks for your web-ministry,
Thanks for the comment! I need to look into it, but I think that Gordon Clark, Loraine Boettner and Robert Reymond would probably disagree with this point. Whether or not Calvin agrees that the context demands our taking it this way, I cannot say. It may be that he would accept the description (who is and was and is to come) and the context (the reference to the Spirit and the Son) as suitable grounds for drawing this conclusion. I think it is important to note that the phrase “who is and who was and who is to come” is applied to the Son just as I believe it is first being applied to the Father. While in His mediatorial role Jesus Christ is subordinate to the Father, in His divine being He is not. I am basically following Edwards at this point. I would recommend Edwards’ sermon, “On God the Father.”
I hope this is somewhat helpful. I know it is an extremely difficult issue. Let me know if you find anything out that may be helpful in explaining it further or correcting it.