BEFORE THE OPENING VISION OF Revelation 1, which pictures the exalted Jesus in apocalyptic symbols that are reminiscent of the imagery of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7 (Rev. 1:12–16), John provides us with a brief encomium: “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!” (Rev. 1:5–6).
(1) For all the startling and even terrifying pictures of God and of the Lamb in this book, we start out with a declaration of Jesus’ love, his peculiar love for the people of God: “To him who loved us … be glory and power for ever and ever!” There is nothing that inspires our gratitude and awe more than the love shown us by the eternal Son of God on the cross. I believe it was T. T. Shields who penned the lines: “Was ever a heart so hardened, / And can such ingratitude be, / That one for whom Jesus suffered / Should say, ‘It is nothing to me’?”
(2) Jesus Christ “has freed us from our sins by his blood.” Some older versions offer instead “has washed us from our sins by his blood.” The difference in the Greek is only one letter; the NIV is almost certainly right. By his blood, i.e., by his sacrificial and atoning death, Jesus expiated our sins and thereby freed us from their curse. Not only so, but all the benefits we receive—the gift of the Holy Spirit, the promises of God’s enduring protection, eternal life, the consummating resurrection—have been secured by Jesus’ death, and all of them combine to free us from our sins—their guilt, their power, their results.
(3) Christ “has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.” There is a sense in which we are in the kingdom—the sphere of his saving rule. There is another sense in which Christ now rules over all in unconditional sovereignty (Matt. 28:18; 1 Cor. 15:25), and in that sense everyone and everything is in his kingdom. But insofar as Christians are the peculiar locus of the redeemed community and the foretaste of the universe-transforming redemption still to come, we ourselves can be thought of as his kingdom. Moreover, he has made us priests. Christians do not have priests other than Jesus their great high priest: there is but one mediator between God and human beings (1 Tim. 2:5). But in another sense, we are priests: all Christians mediate between God and this broken, sinful world. We mediate God to fellow sinners by faithfully proclaiming and living out the Gospel, and bear their needs in our intercessory prayers before our heavenly Father. Jesus Christ has made us a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.