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Revelation 1:4-8

Revelation is a book of overlapping genre—prophecy, apocalyptic, and also a letter. In these first verses of the first chapter, we see the exiled author’s greetings to his friends, the Christian ekklesiai in Asia Minor.

He sends grace and peace from a Trinitarian God—the Almighty One who is, was, and is to come; Christ the resurrected one; and the Spirit, who is seven, that is, full and complete, enough for all seven churches to whom he writes. We might even think of these seven spirits as ambassadorial expressions of God who are already at work in each of these churches. As John writes to them, we see that each church has its own challenges and burdens, and so the seven spirits may be able to move in special, individualized ways. The God sending peace is both One and Many, ruling over all and yet caring for each.

The greeting of peace is not insignificant. The revelator writes during the Pax Romana, a time of “peace” only if you were the favored and privileged of the Roman Empire, which the early Christians were not. Indeed, peace would have been hard for Christians to come by if solicited from the Empire. But the author sends peace from another source—a God who, in Jesus Christ, is “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” And this ruler does not bring peace with the might of imperial force, but by submission to such powers, with blood and with death. This one is the one who deserves glory and dominion forever. This one is the one who gives spectacular visions of an upside-down kingdom of which Christians may be a part and over which Christ reigns in his peculiar kind of power. This God of true peace exists before and after and within the false peace of the earthly empire—an all-times-and-all-places character that is so important it’s mentioned three times in this short passage. The Lord God was before the empire, is in the midst of empire, and will be once the empire falls. When it comes to the end of the earthly empire, the question is not if but when, whereas the reign of the Almighty is forever.

The indictments of