Ever notice how despondency has a way of selectively focusing on certain aspects of life and conveniently overlooking others? When my heart is heavy, I often fall for selective focus. I need to hear the call of the psalmist to: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (psalm 100:4).
During times like these, my prayers tend to be more focused on my burdens rather than reciting His blessings.
I know that the Psalmist admonishes us to “pour out our hearts before Him.” I follow the invitation to “cast all our care on Him because He cares for us.” Yet I must learn to give the worship of praise a higher place in my time with God!
One of the greatest remedies for a heavy heart is praise to God for who He is, what He has done and what He promises to do.
We have been saved by God “to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:6). The early church continuously offered praise God (see: Acts 2:47). Praise has a paralyzing effect on the enemy as the old song puts it: “The powers of darkness fear when this sweet chant they hear: may Jesus Christ be praised!”
Join the apostle John in praise to the Savior:
“Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spiritsbefore his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6).
After communicating grace (divine favor) and peace (spiritual well being) from Jesus Christ, identified in a threefold description as: the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth, John offers praise to Christ for His saving work based in His love for us (demonstrated in His death for our sins) and for opening up privileged status for us before God.
In these verses, we enter a doxology to Jesus Christ. Doxology is “to praise” or “ascribe glory to.” This is the first of a number of doxologies in Revelation. But the praise increases as you move on in the book.
- 1:4 “To Him be the glory and dominion”
- 4:11 “To Him be the ‘glory and power’”
- 5:13 “To Him be ‘blessing and honor and glory and dominion’”
- 7:12 “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might” are ascribed to Him.
Praise in the storm:
The worship of praise becomes even more significant when you consider John’s circumstances. John has been banished to a desolate and dangerous island because of his vigorous and persistent testimony for Jesus Christ. He is elderly and separated from those He loves and from His place of ministry. But John bases his praise in the person and work of the One who transcends all circumstances.
John’s faithful witness caused him to be on the island of Patmos and could have resulted in his death. The world’s king banished him there. How timely is the revelation of Christ as the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth? This revelation of Jesus leads him into praise.
Loved: An unchanging basis for praise
What is the first point of praise for John? Notice it and never forget it! Verse 5—“to Him who loves us.” John never got over the wonder of the love Christ had for him.
The Apostle John is also known as the apostle of love. Throughout his gospel he will repeatedly refer to a certain disciple as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2-9; 21:7, 20, 24-25). This self-designation, wrote D. A. Carson: “…implies not arrogance (as if to say ‘I am more loved than others’) but a profound sense of indebtedness to grace (‘What a wonder—that I should be loved by the incarnate Word!’) (The Gospel According to John, p. 473). It was from John’s writing that we also received the most familiar text about love: John 3:16– God’s love for the world.
It was John who recorded the message of Martha and Mary to Jesus in John 11:3 when they said, “Lord, behold he whom you love is sick.” And when Jesus wept at the graveside of Lazarus, John recorded the observation of the Jews, “Behold how He loved him.” It was John who wrote of Jesus, “Having loved His own who were in the world He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). It was John who recorded twice the new commandment “to love one another as Christ has loved us (John 13:34-35, 15:12).
In his first letter known as 1 John, it was John who wrote, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God” (I John 3:1). And, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” “And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love…” “We love, because He first loved us (I John 4:9-11, 16, 19).
The Apostle John never lost the wonder of God’s love! Jesus Christ is worthy of praise as the “One who loves us.” In a world full of people starved for love, this is a message of great hope!
Greatest theological truth:
The great theologian, Charles Hodge, when asked for the greatest theological truth he had ever learned said, “Jesus loves me; this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
On what does John base his belief in the love Christ has for him? Certainly not on his wonderful circumstances. For John there is something more firm than the shifting circumstances of life (verse 5).
All other ground…
John could sing the song we sing: “My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In ev’ry high and stormy gale My anchor holds within the veil. His oath, His covenant, His blood Support me in the whelming flood; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand—All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.”
The praise builds:
“To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” Here is the proof of His love. Some translations have: “washed us” instead of “released us.” In the Greek language, it is a difference of one letter, but not a change of pronunciation. This is a typical scribal mistake where the truth is not affected either way you translate it. Both are true. Did He wash us? Yes! Did He release us? Yes!
When John thinks of the love of Christ, it’s the death of Christ that is the greatest demonstration of that love. “By His blood” simply refers to “His death—His life poured out in death for us.
Capture the depth of this praise:
John did not allow his difficult circumstances to dictate his belief in the love of Christ for him. Rather, he saw what we need to see: that in the death of Christ on the cross we have an active, historic, objective evidence of God’s love that is as real and yet greater than all the tragedies of life that seem to deny His love for us.
John was not given to whimsical measurements of God’s love based on circumstantial or sentimental change. He knew that identification with Jesus, as one of His disciples, would reap the hatred and persecution of the world. Jesus forewarned him of this. John did not need to feel loved to know that he was loved. He did not need cushioned circumstances to know that he was loved. All he needed was to keep his eyes fixed on the cross!
“Through all the immediate distresses, persecutions, and even banishment, John is convinced that believers are experiencing Christ’s continual care. Moreover, in the past Christ’s love was unmistakably revealed in his atoning death, by which he purchased our release from the captivity of sin” (Alan F. Johnson, E. B. C. vol. 12, p. 422).
Redemption includes release:
The idea of “released us” or “loosed us” from our sins reminds us that Jesus did not only die to keep us out of eternal judgment, His saving work is meant to release us from the bondage of our sins. I sincerely question the person who says they want Christ to save them from the eternal judgment of their sin, and yet they want to continue in their sin after turning to Christ.
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
“He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Think about it:
If you’re comfortable in your sin or your former manner of life, you need to evaluate your relationship with Christ. Is He really your Savior and Lord? Or, do you treat Him as an insurance policy in case eternal punishment is a reality?
John ascribed honor and power: to Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood. “Ours were the sins; His was the blood. Let no man wonder hereafter if salvation is sufficient” (Donald Barnhouse, Revelation, p. 24).
At great cost you have been redeemed—that you might be released from the bondage of your sin. “Joy floods my soul, for Jesus has saved me; freed me from sin that long had enslaved me. His precious blood He gave to redeem. Now I belong to Him” (Norman Clayton).
Loved and loosed.
Is that not cause for praise? As the late Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Carry those two words home with you: let them lie upon your tongue to sweeten your breath for prayer and praise!” (Loved and Loosed: Spurgeon’s Sermons on the Second Coming, p. 107).
A kingdom and priests:
But that’s not all. “This transformation simultaneously involves the induction of blood-freed sinners into Christ’s ‘kingdom’ and priesthood” (A. F. Johnson).
In verse 6, John added, “…and He has made us to be a kingdom, priest to His God and Father.” At salvation God not only releases you from the sin enslaved life, He also grants to you a privileged place of honor and distinction in His kingdom as a priest of God. He translates us out of the power of darkness and places us in the kingdom of His dear Son (see: Colossians 1:13).
Our corporate identity is as a spiritual kingdom with Christ as our king. In our individual identity we are priests to God. This may be a new thought for you, but the New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers. According to 1 Peter 2:9, we are a royal priesthood, i.e. “the King’s priesthood.” In the Old Testament, the priests were a minority group within the people of God. They had a distinguished access to God that was not enjoyed on the same level by all the people of God. But in this age, every individual believer enjoys this access to God as a priest of God.
In the Old Testament, the primary function of the prophet was to represent God to men. But the priest was to represent man to God, especially in the sacrificial system.
Now all believers according to 1 Peter 2:5 “are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Hebrews 13:15 identifies one of those sacrifices: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” And, 1 Peter 2:9 affirms this role: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
As priests of God, we offer the sacrifice of praise to God; We declare His excellencies. Our speech is distinguished by the gratitude with which we speak of all that God is and of all He has done.
After God led the children of Israel out of bondage to the Egyptians “Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own (treasured) possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel” (Exodus 19:3-6).
God released Israel from the bondage of slavery that they might enter into a privileged standing with Him. Sadly, however, Israel persisted in unbelief and disobedience and did not gain this standing before God.
And we who “were separated from Christ and excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise—having no hope and without God in the world, once were not a people and had not received mercy and were living in darkness”… we, by nothing but the unmerited grace of God, have seen a great light and have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light! Although formerly we were far away, we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Now we are the people of God bearing these titles of distinction and honor, not by physical descent from Abraham but by coming to Jesus Christ. In Matthew 21:43, Jesus made the stunning pronouncement to Israel, “…the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” (see additional note below)
When God delivered Israel out of Egyptian bondage, He instituted the Passover as a perpetual reminder of God’s deliverance and of their distinction as His people.
The Lord Jesus has also given the church a perpetual reminder of the fact that He loved us and released us (not from physical bondage to Egypt) but from our sins and He did this by His blood. Because of what He has done, we belong to His kingdom and we are priests to His God and Father. We have privileged standing and access to God Himself.
For all that our Savior has done, we join with the Apostle John in saying, “To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” He loves us. He loosed us. He made us. To Him be the glory!
Application: “You are not your own; you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20)
Additional note on the kingdom:
Robert Mounce in his commentary on Revelation stretches things too far when he suggests that, “The early church understood itself to be the true Israel and the inheritors of all the blessings promised to their spiritual predecessors” (1 Peter 2:5, 9) (Revelation, N.I.C.N.T., pages 71-72). John Stott makes a similar mistake in saying that, “The Christian church is the new theocracy. Christ reigns over us. We are his kingdom. Moreover, as in the old Israel so in the new, the members of God’s kingdom are priests, enjoying intimate access to him and offering him the spiritual sacrifice of our worship” (What Christ Thinks of the Church, p. 12).
The Church has neither absorbed Israel’s future nor negated it. Both New Testament and Old consistently reveal a distinctive future for ethnic Israel. And even though certain spiritual aspects of the kingdom are being richly enjoyed by the church, as A. F. Johnson says, “ … this does not mean that it is identical with the kingdom of God. Neither do the new people of God replace the ancient Jewish people in the purpose of God.” (E. B. C., v. 12, p. 422)
Old Testament prophecies like Isaiah 60; Jeremiah 31:27-40; Zephaniah 3:11-20, and Zechariah 12-14 all predict a time of spiritual, social, political and economic blessing for Israel such as has not yet happened. In Romans 11:25-28, Paul seals the matter: “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” 28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.”
Remember: Israel’s election is not based on their attraction to God, but on God’s loving choice of them. In this present age, we bear titles of distinction originally communicated to Israel, but this does not negate Israel’s future.
See also: Kingdom theme in Scripture:
“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! 2 I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:1-2)
“Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming” (Psalm 147:1).