Sermon: The Alpha and the Omega, The Almighty: Revelation 1:4-8

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 41:4, 8–13

In verses 1-7 of Isaiah 41 we have a description of Cyrus the Great, leader of the rising Persian Empire, who would soon conquer Babylon. We also a see a description of how godless men typically respond to such threats – they fashion for themselves idols to worship thinking that they will somehow help. But God speaks to his people to assure them that he is Sovereign over all, even over the king of Persia. In verse 4 he speaks ,saying, “Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he.” Verse 8: “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off’; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” (Isaiah 41:8–13, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Revelation 1:4-8

In Revelation 1:4-8 a similar message is communicated to God’s chosen people living in an equally threatening world. There we read, “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:4–8, ESV)


If you’ve been with us the past four weeks I think you can understand why I have picked up with verse 4 instead of covering verses 1 through 3 again. A lot has already been said about those verses concerning the genre of Revelation (it is a letter crafted in apocalyptic and prophetic form), the chain of transmission (the revelation was given by God, to Christ, to his angel, to John, who wrote to the churches), and concerning the expectations concerning the timing of the fulfillment of the things communicated in this book (the visions in Revelation pertain to things which would “soon take place” from the perspective of John and his readers). Verse 3 also pronounces a blessing upon those who read and hear and keep what is revealed in this letter. Those are all very important observations from verses 1-3, but they have already been presented thoroughly in sermons past.

Today we continue on with the prologue (or introduction) and we see that the prologue to the book of Revelation does exactly what you would expect a prologue to do. In it the author introduces himself, he identifies his audience, he greets them, and then he introduces the theme of the book, setting the stage for all that will follow. That is what a prologue is to do. It is the place for introductory remarks which will set us off in the right direction, preparing us to receive all that will come in the following pages.


In verse 4 the author introduces himself as “John”. This is John the Apostle. He was one of the 12 disciples who walked with Jesus. In fact, he was one of the three disciples who who enjoyed an especially close relationship with Jesus  – Peter, James, and John. This is the man who wrote the Gospel of John, and also 1, 2, and 3 John. He is probably an old man by the time he writes the book of Revelation – 80 to 90 years old – and in verse 9 we learn that he was writing from the Island of Patmos – a small Island in the Mediterranean Sea about 200 miles to the east of Athens, Greece and about 40 miles to the west off the coast of Turkey. He was not vacationing there. The Romans has sent him into exile. The island was not uninhabited. There was a colony there. But for John it was a place of tribulation. He was in exile because of the word of God and his testimony for Jesus Christ.


The audience is also identified in verse 4. John addresses his letter to the seven churches that are in Asia. When we hear “Asia” we tend to think of, what we would call, Eastern Asia – China, Mongolia and Japan. But the churches mentioned in Revelation were in fact located in what is today called Turkey. Turkey boarders the north east corner of the Mediterranean Sea. It boarders Syria and Iraq to the north. It is across the Mediterranean to the east of Greece.

The seven churches addressed in this letter were seven real churches. Later in chapters 2 and 3 the letter will specifically name Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. How important it is to get used to the thought this this letter was written to real churches made up of real people who were experiencing real challenges.

The temptation when studying the Bible to assume that the people mentioned in it, or the people originally addressed, were very much different from you and me. True, they lived long ago. True, they dressed different and they spoke a different language. But they were people! They had thoughts like we have. They had emotions like ours. They worried, I’m sure. They knew what it was to fear. And remember that these people who made up these churches had a lot in common with you and I, for they were Christians. They viewed the world as we do. They believed in one God. They knew their sin. They saw Jesus as the Christ, the one who paid for sins, and they believed upon him. Their faith is our faith. And with the faith comes unique challenges that are common to those who believe upon Christ.

Notice that the letter is addressed to seven churches. At first this may seem inconsequential. But as the letter progress it will become clear that these seven churches, though real and particular churches, also serve to represent all churches.

There are a number of reasons to think this. One, remember how the number seven is used throughout Revelation to symbolize completeness, or perfection. Also, notice the repeated statement that appears at the conclusion to each letter to each particular church. Seven times we will read, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The idea communicated in this repeated phrase is that although what has just be said has been said specifically to Ephesus, for example, it is really said to all the churches (plural). The Spirit speaks to all the churches through what has been said specifically to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, etc. It is also important to remember the connection between the letters to the churches in chapters 2-3 and the body of the letter in chapters 4-22:9. The body of the letter communicates truths – paints a picture of how things really are – not just for those seven particular churches in Asia Minor, but for all churches. The visions seen in the body of the letter are not disconnected from the concerns that Christ had for the seven churches addressed in chapters 2-3, but serve as remedy to their struggles. The idea is this: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, you are all being challenged in different ways. Different things are threatening you (chapters 2-3). Let me show you how things really are and where everything is heading so as to strengthen you in the faith so that you might persevere (chapters 4-22:9).  

The point I am trying to make is that though seven particular churches are addressed in Revelation, they are addressed in such a way so that what is said to them in fact speaks to all churches living at all times and in all places. The problems and challenges these churches were experiencing were not unique to them, but are common problems experienced by churches the world over. Ephesus took doctrine seriously and would not tolerate false teaching in her midst, but she had lost her love. Smyrna was a faithful church, but she was being pressed hard by persecution. Pergamum had allowed false teaching to creep in. Thyatira was being seduced by sexual immorality. Sardis was on the verge of death – they were a sleepy and lethargic church. Philadelphia was faithful but was also being threatened by persecution. And lastly Laodicea was lukewarm in her prosperity. She enjoyed the riches of the world, but really she was “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).  These were real challenges being faced by real churches made up of real people, but they are challenges common to churches the world over.

Why have I taken the time to say this all of this now? Why I have labored to make the point that, though these seven churches were actual churches, they represent all churches? The reason is this: The prologue (what comes before the letters to the churches), the body (what comes after the letters to the churches (4:1-22:9)), and the conclusion to the book of Revelation are to be understood as a remedy to the various challenges faced by these churches. Their problems were many and they were diverse, but the remedy was one and the same for them all. They all needed the same thing, which was to have the veil pulled back so that they might see their present struggle – what ever form it took – in light of the way things really are. They needed revelation. They needed truth. They needed to see their struggles – be it the result of poverty or wealth, persecution or peace, false teaching or hard-heartedness – in light of reality as God sees it and knows it. They needed new eyes – eyes able to see in light of the spiritual and eternal. Friends, the struggles faced by these seven churches were not unique them, but are common to us all. And the remedy given to them is also for us. That is the point I’m trying to make.


Notice the way that John greets these churches. He greets them in verse 4 saying, “grace to you and peace”. That is what we need, friends. We need God’s grace, and we desire inner peace. This is true always, but especially when facing extreme difficulties. We need God’s grace – we need his favor and his blessing. And we long to be at peace inwardly. It is possible, friends, to be at peace inwardly even if the world around us be in turmoil.

The Theme of the Book Introduced – The God Who Reigns

But where do we find this peace? How can we possibly be at peace inwardly with so many threatening and scary things pressing in upon us? It’s in verses 4 through 8 that John begins to show us the way. It is here that the theme of the book of Revelation is introduced. It is here that the pulling back of the curtain begins. It is here that John begins to show us how things really are so that we might order our lives according to reality, and not merely according the appearance of things.

Notice that in verse 4 it is not really John who greets the churches, saying “grace and peace to you”, but it is God who greats them with grace and peace. The texts actually says, “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth… (Revelation 1:4–5, ESV)

It is the Triune God who greets the churches. And here is the ground for all of our hope and peace. God is our hope. God is our peace. It is he who speaks to us. It is he who has saved us. It is because he has extended his gracious hand to us that we are able to walk in this world in perfect peace, having no fear of anything that is frightening. It is the Triune God who greats the churches. This letter is really all about him and the victory that he has won for us – that is what this book primarily reveals.

And notice the language used to describe the Triune God. It is very descriptive.

God is here referred to as “him who is and who was and who is to come”. Think about that description for a moment. We are not only encouraged to fix our eyes upon God, but specifically the God who is and was and who is to come. What does this phrase say to us about our God? It reminds us that he is the eternal one. He is the self-existent one. He is the unchanging one. And he is the God who is near.

Without a doubt this phrase is a reflection upon the divine name given in Exodus 3:14. Do you remember how God had called Moses to be the instrument through whom he would free his chosen people from the persecuting powers of the beast, that is, of Egypt? God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and called him to the task. “Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13, ESV). And “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you’’” (Exodus 3:14, ESV).  This is the name that God revealed to Moses – he is the “I am”. He is the one who is. He simply exists. He always has been, and he always will be. He is the eternal one, the self-existent one, the unchanging one. He is the God who is near. He is the one “who is and who was and who is to come.”

Notice that the Spirit is mentioned next, and he is referred to as “the seven spirits who are before [God’s] throne.” The Spirit is before the throne of God because it is the Spirit who does God’s bidding. He is referred to as the seven Spirits for at least two reasons. One, seven is the number of perfection. Two, seven corresponds to the number of churches mentioned. It is the Spirit who perfectly empowers the people of God as they live in the world in these last days. It is by the Spirit that the people of God come to have grace and peace.

After this it is the Son who is mentioned. This is a strange order, I know. Typically we list the persons of the Trinity as Father, Son, and Spirit, but here it is Father, Spirit, Son. It’s hard to know why the persons of the Trinity are listed in this way. Perhaps one reason is that everything comes to focus upon the Son and the victory he has won through Jesus, who is the Christ. Concerning him we read, “from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.”

Notice that there things are said of Jesus. One, he is “the faithful witness”. He was a faithful witness even to the point of death. Here Christ serves as an example to the churches in Asia Minor. Some of them were being threatened with persecution. Christ is set before them at their example. He was a faithful witness, as they too should be. Two, he is the “firstborn of the dead.” This also would be very encouraging to Christians under attack. Christ defeated death. He rose again. And he rose again, not only for himself, but so that those who believe upon him might follow in his path. Be faithful unto death, is the message, for Christ has won the victory over death. Three, he is called “the ruler of kings on earth.” Oh, how encouraging this must have been to the saints who were suffering under powerful rulers. Christ, in fact, rules over them, for “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.”

The churches are greeted with grace and peace, not from John, but from the Triune God. And the description of the Triune God emphasizes the reality that he is all powerful, unchanging, faithful, and sovereign over all. He has won the victory for all who believe upon him.

Friends, this is what we need to hear. We need to be reminded of this realty, that God reigns. We need to see that Christ is victorious. And we must be comforted by the truth that God is ever present with his churches through his Holy Spirit who is perfect in every way, who fills and empowers the churches so that we might stand strong, though the whole world be against us.

Are you struggling in this world? Do you lack peace? I know it might at first sound trite, but look to God. Look to the Triune God and see him for who he is in all of his power and glory. See him for who he is, and believe upon him. Live according to the reality of who God is and what he has accomplished for you and for me. Do you see how the book of Revelation begins to pull back the veil for us even here in the prologue. From the beginning the book pulls back the veil so that we might begin to see things as they really are. And where do we start? We start by fixing our eyes upon God himself, being reminded of the truth concerning who he is – Father, Spirit, and Son.

The Theme of the Book Introduced – The God Who Is Worthy of all Praise

But notice where the prologue leads us. It leads us ultimately to praise. In verse 5 things give way to doxology. There we read, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5–6, ESV)

Here is another major theme found in the book of Revelation – Christ is worthy of all praise. He is to be worshipped. Do you want to have peace in this world? Worship God and the Christ whom he has sent! See him as infinitely worthy. See him as worthy of all your affection, all your obedience, all your devotion. Trust in him alone. Worship him alone. This is right. It is the purpose for which you were created – to love and adore the God who made you. Worship him alone, and forsake all forms of false and misdirected worship.

This doxology section actually accomplished two things. One, it gives all glory to God and to his Christ. But do you see that it also manages to remind us of who we are in him? It is he that deserves all glory and dominion forever and ever. But it is also he who “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.”

What a glorious thought this is! We are loved by Christ! If this does not bring comfort to a troubled soul, I don’t know what will. The Triune God has already been set before us as all powerful, supreme over all things, eternal and unchanging. And here we are reminded that he loves us in Christ Jesus. He loves us and has freed us from our sins. We are by nature slaves to the evil one because of our sins, but in Christ we have been set free. The price paid for our freedom was the blood of Christ. We have been set free – delivered from the slavish kingdom of darkness and transferred into the glorious kingdom of Christ. We are citizens of his kingdom now. We reign with him. And remember that he is the King of kings. He reigns supreme. And in this kingdom we are all priests to his God and Father. Under the Old Covenant only the high priest could enter into the most holy place once a year. In Christ we all have access to the Father as beloved children – he has opened up the way for us! A priest intercedes on behalf of others. This is what we do in Christ’s kingdom. We are to intercede for others. We are to serve as Christ’s witness, imploring others to be reconciled to God. We are a kingdom of priests by virtue of Christ’s finished work.

Friends, do you see how the prologue of Revelation, after setting our minds upon the truth of who God is, also says a word concerning the truth of who we are in Christ? He is the Almighty! And we are loved by him. We are free in him. We are have been ushered into his kingdom wherein we all function as priests to our God.

Please tell me that you understand the power in all of this. The world looks as certain way when viewed from a merely human and earthly perspective. Revelation from the start endeavors to open our minds the reality of things. Though things may seem out of control and unstable, God is in control and he is unchanging. Though powerful kings and forces may threaten, Christ is the King of kings. Though it may seem as if you have been abandoned, in fact you are loved. Though God might seem distant, really he is near. You have access to him, and you have the privilege of bringing others also. Things are not always as they seem.

The Theme of the Book Introduced – The God Who Will Bring all Things to His Desired End 

Let us now look at verses 7 through 8 and see how they bring comfort by revealing how things will go in the end. God will indeed bring all things to his desired end.

In verse 7 we read “Behold, he [Christ] is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:7–8, ESV)

Here in the prologue we have set before us a vision of the end. How important it is for us to live in the here and now with the end in view. We tend to be short sighted. We tend to only see what is right before us. But we live life much better when we live it with the end ever in view. We must take the long view.

In the end Christ will return. In the end Christ will judge all. Even those who pierced his hands and feet with stand before him. The tribes of the earth that go on living in rebellion against God will wail on account of him. Even so, “Amen”, let it be so. For God is the Alpha and Omega. He is the A to Z, the beginning and end. All things are from him and all things are to him. He was in the beginning, and will be in the end. He is supreme and absolute. He is the Almighty.


Live life in light of reality, friends. Know who God is. Know who you are. And know where all things are heading. Live life in light of reality. Trust in Christ. Know his grace, and know his peace. Amen.

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that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
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