“What’s In a Name?”
o Opening illustration: Fruitstand
o Names can be confused, misused and abused
§ Abused for the name Christ
§ Abused for the name Christian
o Sometimes pressure from the outside can confuse one’s identity
· Revelation opens with two introductions
o John helps us to how best to hear/see the book that he is writing
§ Introduces his work as an apocalypse –first introduction
§ Providing a filter for us to hear or view the rest of the work
o What is Apocalyptic?*
§ A literary genre that was popular from the 2nd century BC to 2nd Century AD
§ A way of expressing their present struggle with the evil forces, and ultimate triumph of good
§ Specific characteristics:
o Rarely chronological
o Usually animals or beasts represent nations
§ Heads or horns represent rulers
§ The # 3 represents the spirit world
§ The # 4 represents the created order
§ The # 7 represents that which comes to completion
§ The # 10 represents inclusiveness
§ The # 3.5 represents the length of time that God allows evil to run its course
§ White = victory
§ Red = war, strife
§ Black = lack of something
§ Greenish grey (only in revelation) = death
· Angelic interpreter
o Someone always arrives to tell you what these visions mean
§ This is a book filled with images, art, visions, other worldly beings, poetry and wisdom literature
o Second introduction: Epistolary introduction
§ Name of writer, people addressed, the blessing
o Background of text
§ Ephesus was capital of Asia Minor
· Third or fourth largest city in the Empire
· Port city at that time
§ Romans connected all the major cities with roads
· Helped people travel safety
· Helped to spread Christian faith
§ Persecution at the time:
· Some emperors divines after death, some claimed title while living
o AD 81-96 –known by the tile Lord and God
o Romans had cultic centers
o Sacrifices were offered
o Offer sacrifices to goddess Roma and the emperor
o Not typical for living emperor
· This doesn’t sit well with monotheism
o Those who refused were put into concentration camps
o Economic persecution
§ Took you way from everything
§ Denied access to the market place, no jobs, etc.
§ Some Christians banded together, some people died, some wavered and recanted
o The predominate persecution in the late first century was economic persecution
Our Text: Rev. 1:4-8
· As we begin notice, this letter comes from a man named John, and he is writing to the seven churches of Asia Minor
o Another way of saying the whole church
· Trinitarian opening:
o References to God, as the one who is, who was, and is to come
o From the seven spirits before his throne, or the totality of God’s Spirit or the Holy Spirit
o And from Jesus Christ
· Unlike other apocalyptic works, the author of this work identifies himself as John
o Apparently known among the churches of Asia Minor
o He is one with authority that comes from God (Rev. 1:1)
· John, knows them and known by them
o Knows the power of a good name
o Three names ascribed to Jesus in our text
§ “The faithful witness”
§ “The firstborn from the dead”
§ “The ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5)
o These are new designations for Jesus
§ John is declaring that God, acting through His Son Jesus knows and understands their needs
· Jesus Christ is the Faithful Witness
o God’s Word in the flesh
§ The story of Jesus
o He has stood in their shoes
§ He too had stood before the Roman authorities and suffered under Roman rule
· Jesus Christ is the Firstborn from the dead
o The suffering endured by John’s audience was real
o In order to be a faithful witness, one may even have to give is life
o But even in death, they weren’t alone
§ Jesus had suffered and died
§ Death isn’t the final word
o Jesus defeated/conquered death
§ Those that cling to Jesus in and through persecution are reminded there is life on the other side of the grave
· Jesus Christ is the Ruler of the Kings of the Earth
o A title claimed by the Roman Caesars
§ John’s letter is a line in the sand
· Whose side are you on?
o John is reminding his audience of their primary allegiance
§ It wasn’t to the state or the emperor
§ Christian’s first and only loyalty was to God
· There is more than just new names for Jesus
o John reminds them of his work on their behalf
§ They were loved (1:5)
§ They were freed from their sins by his blood (1:5)
§ They were a kingdom and priests with a mission in this world to serve God (1:6)
· We too live in a time of crisis of suffering
o Jobs lost, economy is sick, bailout packages galore, war against terror
· Revelation still addresses our contemporary situation, through the redemptive work of Jesus
o He is the Faithful and True Witness
§ He too has suffered, was unemployed, homeless and often hungry (Mat. 8:20).
§ He is the Word of God come in the flesh (Jn. 1:14)
§ He is the Messiah, the anointed one of God – pictured as coming on the clouds (Rev. 1:7)
§ When it rains, it pours
· He is our umbrella, deflecting the rain/pain
· He is the continuing presence of God with us through the storms of life
§ As his disciples, we are called to share in his witness
· We have a story to tell
o He is the Firstborn From Among the Dead
§ People have always feared death
§ Death is the final frontier
§ We can lose everything in this life, and yet enter into the grave with his presence and his promise that death isn’t all there is.
§ Jesus is the only bail out we need.
· He has come to seek and to save the lost (Lk. 19:10)
§ There is life in the everlasting tomorrow
§ The one who is, who was, and is to come was there in the beginning and he is there in the end (Rev. 1:8).
o He is the Ruler of the Kings of the Earth
§ American politics won’t save you
§ Our president isn’t the messiah, but we know the one who is!
· The one who was given all power and authority on earth and in heaven (Mat. 28:18)
§ Even though we currently live in a time of uncertainties and economic woes we know the one who sits on the throne
· In Revelation chaps. 4 and 5 of the throne of God and the image of the conquering Lam is the definitive image of the book
· The answer to the question of who is in charge of all this mess is answered with a grand picture of God’s glory
§ He is sovereign and Lord over all creation. His name is Jesus
· So, we come back to our original question, what’s in a name?
o Our identity is tied to the names we associate ourselves too.
o John has pleaded with his audience to consider their associations
§ Would they be known as Christ-followers or Caesar loyalist?
§ Their identities, their names are bound up in the work and plan of God through the coming of Jesus and their adherence to His commands
o So, what name are you known by?
§ Are you defined by what happens to you, a victim of circumstance?
§ Where your name becomes whatever happens to you?
· Unemployed, bankrupt, divorced, dumped, abused, cheated, disliked, unloved?
· Or have you learned to make lemonade out of the lemons in your life, so to speak? Where you wear the proud name of Christ no matter what and wherever.
§ Maybe tonight we need to consider our associations?
· What name(s) do other’s know us by?
· My prayer is that we find the grace of God to be enough and wear the only name that matters, the only name that makes a difference, the only name that lasts—Jesus!
*excerpt from class notes, BIB/MIN 6307 Preaching Biblical Genre: Revelation