The first readers of Revelations were little congregations who lived in fear, because they faced persecution. John also experienced hardship. He had been banished to an island – probably to do hard labour.
John greeted these readers with a blessing from God. He assured them that the wonderful blessing of grace and peace of the triune God were theirs.
How could John be so bold in the midst of such dreadful circumstances?
John was bold because he knew God was “the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come”. This is the God who revealed himself to Moses as “I am who I am”. John also proclaimed the Holy Spirit as the “sevenfold Spirit” (NLT) and Jesus as the Christ.
Jesus Christ is the faithful witness. The word John used for “witness” later came to mean “martyr”. Jesus is God’s witness who remained faithful to the end and He is the first martyr whom we can trust fully. Jesus is the firstborn from death. He died on the cross but He was raised from the dead to take his place on God’s throne. Therefore John and the little congregations could know that this Jesus rules over the kings of the earth.
Together with the Christians in those little congregations, we can be assured of God’s grace and peace for us, for in his great love Christ freed us from our sins by shedding his blood. As the Israelites were delivered from the Egyptian slavery to become God’s holy nation, we have been freed from sin to become God’s kingdom of priests.
It is interesting to note the connections between what John said about Jesus and what he said about “us”. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead and we are freed from our sins. Jesus rules over the kings of the earth and we are made into a kingdom. Jesus is the faithful witness and we are …. not witnesses (as could be expected), but priests! Priests serve God when they bring glory to Him – as the rest of verse 6 highlights. However, priests also have the role of being mediators.
Priests intercede before God on behalf of those who suffer and need help. This is the new identity the little congregations of Asia received through Christ. They were not driftwood on the vast sea of the world’s history. They were followers of the living Christ. They were called to continue with his work. He was faithful as witness to God’s righteousness and now they were called as God’s new kingdom to be faithful, as his priests in the midst of a world in need of God’s grace and peace.
Through the love of Christ, who freed us from our sins, we have also been made priests for God – mediators of his grace and peace in and for a broken world.
To think about or discuss: What should the role of priests of God be in a world with HIV and AIDS?