Christ: Witness, Firstborn, Ruler

Revelation 1:5-6: …And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood; and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father…

Training to Become a Faithful Witness

The Lord Jesus Christ is the faithful witness. That is a characteristic of His humanity. He was faithful from the beginning to the end, even to His death on the cross. As servants or slaves of the living God, as stewards, it is required that we, too, be found faithful (1 Cor. 4:1-2). When the Lord comes back, He will reward the “faithful and wise servant” (Matt. 24:45). It is not easy to be faithful, but it requires us to exercise the wonderful life of Christ that is within us. To be a witness does not just entail speaking about Christ, but we must put our life into it. Our testimony is not just what we speak, but how we live. To live, to be a testimony of the Lord Jesus and a faithful witness, means that we are willing to die in many small things. Even in small tasks, are we faithful or does the Lord have to wait two months for us to get around to it? When the Lord speaks, do we react immediately and say, “Amen, yes, I’ll do it now”? This is a training to be faithful.

The word about being faithful is not an easy word. Many who started out well ended up terrible. They were not faithful; they quit or they stuck to their own opinions instead of obeying the word of the Lord. But John was one who “bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw” (Rev. 1:2). John bore witness not just with his word, but with his life. That is why he ended up in Patmos right at the beginning of the book of Revelation: because he was faithful to the word.

The apostles were all very faithful. It is not easy to find faithful servants. We must all learn from the Lord how to be a faithful witness. We like to proclaim that the Lord is the King of the saints, and that He has been appointed as head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:22) – yet we do not listen to Him; we are not faithful. The Lord said that if we are not faithful in the small things, how can He entrust us with the bigger, weightier things (Luke 16:11)? What sort of testimony must we keep? This testimony encompasses our entire way of life. That is what it means to be a witness. When the Lord was on this earth, wherever He went and whatever He said (even without words), in His entire living, He was a faithful witness to the Father. No wonder the Father proclaimed, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17, 17:5)! Those who follow Him must also be faithful.

Christ, the Firstborn from the Dead

The Lord is also the firstborn from the dead. This is mentioned repeatedly throughout the New Testament. What does it mean to us? He is the firstborn from the dead, and we are His many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Are we like Him, and like Paul who desired to know the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10)? The church was born of the resurrection from the dead – thus the church should not be dead. Unfortunately, Sardis was a dead church. But our Christ is risen from the dead, and we have been born again – regenerated through His resurrection (1 Pet. 1:3). Through Christ’s resurrection, He was begotten as the firstborn Son of God: “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3-4).

How important is resurrection to us? Are we daily experiencing the power of His resurrection to swallow up the death that is in us? If our body resists doing God’s will, that is not sin but death. Sin entails doing something evil. But death is something that weakens us so that we are unable to do anything. If we are sick, we will not be able to do anything but lie in bed. That is weakness, and weakness to the uttermost is death. In our experience, the Lord often tells us to do something now, but we procrastinate. “No Lord, I’ll do it next time, tomorrow.” Tomorrow never ends because there is always another tomorrow! But now means today. We like to put things aside, but the Lord never put aside what the Father asked Him to do. He was always on time, always obedient to the Father in whatever He said, always doing what was well-pleasing to Him. The Father will never force me to do anything. That is why the Lord said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37; cf. Is. 55:1). If we are not thirsty, He cannot force us to come and drink. If we wash our robes, then we have the right to the tree of life (Rev. 22:14). What does it mean to have the right? It means that we can choose whether we will do it or not. Just because we have the right does not mean we will exercise it. We choose not to come to the tree of life because the power of death is working in us.

As the firstborn from the dead, Christ is “the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). If the church has no power of life, she cannot do anything. An electric car with a dead battery is useless and cannot go anywhere. This is exactly how death renders us. Because of death, we are not able to carry out what God wants us to do. It is good to hate this death that is in us. Tell the Lord, “No Lord, You have destroyed him who has the power of death; You are resurrected and You swallowed up all death. Like Paul, I want to know the power of Your resurrection.” To us – to the church, His body, Christ is the firstborn from the dead. Paul realized this; that is why he said, “O wretched man that I am” (Rom. 7:24). Did Paul say this because he was sinful? No – he asked, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?“ (Rom. 7:24). The sinful things that Paul should not have been doing, he was doing – due to the law of sin. But the good that he should have done, he did not do – due to the law of death (Rom. 7:13-20). Paul felt more wretched about death than about merely doing sinful things. If we sin, we can confess, take the blood, repent and have forgiveness. But if we do not do so, we cannot carry out the good things that we should do. How can a dead man do anything? To get a dead man to do something is impossible. So Christ is the firstborn from the dead in relation to His church, who is His body to carry out God’s will.

Judging What Needs to Be Judged

Finally, in Rev. 1:5 Christ is the ruler over the kings of the earth. He is sitting on the throne, with the book and the seven seals and all that is written there, in order to rule over the nations as a Man, and He wants us to be His co-rulers. Do we not desire to rule with Him? We had better start to do so now by judging what needs to be judged! Of course, this does not mean that we would go out and physically fight and argue with people. But we must spiritually judge what needs to be judged, including the entire evil that is transpiring in the U.S. If we do not judge it, if it does not stir us up and bother us, that is not normal. We should tell the Lord, “No Lord, I don’t accept this.” Paul said in 1 Cor. 6:2-3, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that shall pertain to this life?” We must learn now to judge the world. There are so many things to be judged. If so many evil things are going on in this world and we are indifferent, that is not good. In our heart, we must be one with the King, the ruler over the kings of the earth, the righteous Judge who is sitting on the throne, who hates lawlessness and loves righteousness (Heb. 1:9). Tell the Lord, “We are going to exercise the authority You have given to Your church to bind and to loose.” The church has this authority.

It is hard to imagine an ambassador who does not stand up for what his nation is doing. Today, we are God’s ambassadors on this earth. What is Zion doing on this earth? We represent God’s kingdom, the heavenly kingdom. We cannot be indifferent. We have a spirit that is one with the Lord to judge – just like what Paul wrote concerning the brother who sinned in the church in Corinth. Paul was exasperated that the Corinthians did not even judge that brother. He said, “I indeed, as absent in the body but present in spirit, hve already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed” (1 Cor. 5:3), and he was ready to cast him out (v.5). In the same way, we must tell the Lord who is sitting on the throne, “Lord, I do not agree with this, with what is happening in the world today. Lord, I am one with Your judgment.” We represent Him on this earth to judge. Are we sitting on the throne with Him today, or are we comfortably sitting in a nice meeting hall week by week?

Let us learn to be one with the One sitting on the throne who has the scepter of righteousness. He is the Son of Man and He is our King! He will make all of His enemies His footstool (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 10:13) – but how will that happen? As the body of Christ, we are here not just to preach the gospel, but to take the kingdom out of the hands of Satan. When it comes to the kingdom, there is always a reference to the spiritual battle. Let us learn to fight this battle today because the kingdom of God is quickly approaching!