A Word for Today | Revelation 1:5
The apostle John opens the book of Revelation by offering us grace and peace from “Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” (Rev. 1:5). Not many of us would describe Jesus in these terms. But the apostle sees these descriptions as essential to understanding Christ in His person and work.
First, Jesus is “the faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5). This means that Jesus perfectly reveals God and His salvation to a darkened world. Jesus revealed God’s holiness in the moral perfection of His life, God’s wisdom in the searching teaching of His parables, and His power in the miracles by which He cast out demons, healed the sick, and stilled the storm. But it was in dying on the cross that Jesus bore faithful witness to the grace and peace of God that sinners need. Christ’s atoning death revealed how terrible is the sin by which we have offended heaven, so that only the death of God’s perfect Son could gain our forgiveness. At the same time, He gave testimony to the marvel of God’s grace in that the Father and Son designed this sacrifice to free believers from their sin. The grace John proclaimed is received only through faith in the gospel Jesus declared, through which we gain peace with God and are blessed with the peace of God in our souls.
Second, Jesus is “the firstborn of the dead” (Rev. 1:5). This speaks of Jesus as the one who conquered death by His resurrection and now rules as Lord over life and salvation. Moreover, as firstborn in the resurrection, Jesus guarantees that there will be a second, a third, and so on – all who are joined to Jesus in saving faith will be resurrected with Him into glory. Furthermore, it is by His resurrection that Jesus conveys grace and peace to His people today. Christ is enthroned at the right hand of the Father, ensuring by His unending high priestly mediation that there is always grace for sinners who believe.
John’s third description of Christ celebrates His royal authority: “and the ruler of kings on earth” (Rev. 1:5). This follows the teaching of Psalm 89:27, which says, “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” What a blessing it is to know that the true Sovereign reigning over history is Jesus, the Lord of grace and peace. Alexander Maclaren writes: “His dominion rests upon love and sacrifice. And so His Kingdom is a kingdom of blessing and of gentleness; and He is crowned with the crowns of the universe, because He was first crowned with the crown of thorns. His first regal title was written upon His Cross, and from the Cross His Royalty ever flows.” Hallelujah! What a Savior!
In Christ’s Love,
 Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 17:124.