Without question, the book of Revelation has proven to be problematic for many Christians. Apart from the various interpretive grids and eschatological models within the big tent of evangelical theology, there is the issue of the disorders, persecutions, and devastations experienced on the earth before the celebrative scenes recorded in chapters 19–22. We can see from the individual letters to the seven churches in chapters 2–3 that life on earth (even for the church of Christ) until the return of Christ is fraught with challenges and threats.
In Revelation 2:10, Jesus tells the impoverished church in Smyrna: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.” The letters to Pergamum and Thyatira shed light on the depths and extent of doctrinal compromise that can and will occur in the church. Yet, with all the portentous content of John’s cycle of visions, the message of Revelation is supposed to be a blessing to all who read and hear it (1:3). Let us therefore look at four things from John’s very descriptive introduction that provide the substance and foundation of the blessedness of Revelation’s message and of Christian hope in spite of what befalls us until the Lord’s return.
First, Jesus is portrayed as “the ruler of the kings on earth” (1:5). This is a healthy and helpful reminder of Jesus’ sovereign rule over all of human history. This does not mean that all human rulers consciously submit to Christ’s rule or reflect His righteousness, either in their character or their governance. It does mean that whatever happens on earth is under His sovereign rule and according to His sovereign purpose.
Second, John affirms that He who is ruler of the kings of the earth “loves us” (1:5). By “us,” He means believers. Yes, some in the church in Smyrna would be imprisoned and would experience tribulation. There is nothing that we can or will experience in this life that will negate the love of Christ toward us (see Rom. 8:31–39).
Third, Christ has “freed us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:5). The atoning blood of Christ is efficacious in that what it secures and accomplishes is perpetual. The aim of our sanctification is to conform our thoughts, words, and deeds to what His blood accomplished. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Fourth, Christ “made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (Rev. 1:6). The final chapters of Revelation portray the consummation of the kingdom of God.
Christ has made us a kingdom of priests. This is not what we are striving to become; it is the motive for our striving. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).
Yes, the imagery and language of Revelation can be daunting, but here is our hope and blessedness: our Savior is the sovereign Ruler of the kings of the earth, and it is He who loves us, and He has freed us from our sins by His blood and has made us a kingdom of priests to God. And there is nothing that can or will negate that.