Jesus Comes With Encouragement
1. To whom does John now write, and who today should find his message to be of absorbing interest?
WHAT follows next should be of absorbing interest to everyone associated with the congregations of God’s people today. Here is a series of messages. They have particular application as “the appointed time” draws near. (Revelation 1:3) It is to our everlasting benefit that we heed those pronouncements. The record reads: “John to the seven congregations that are in the district of Asia: May you have undeserved kindness and peace from ‘The One who is and who was and who is coming,’ and from the seven spirits that are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ.”—Revelation 1:4, 5a.
2. (a) What does the number “seven” signify? (b) During the Lord’s day, to whom do the messages to the “seven congregations” apply?
2 Here John addresses “seven congregations,” and these are named for us later in the prophecy. That number, “seven,” is often repeated in Revelation. It signifies completeness, especially in connection with the things of God and his anointed congregation. Since the number of congregations of God’s people worldwide has grown into the tens of thousands during the Lord’s day, we can be sure that what is said primarily to the “seven congregations” of anointed ones also applies to all of God’s people today. (Revelation 1:10) Yes, John has a vital message for all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses and all who are associated with them, everywhere on the face of this earth.
3. (a) In John’s greeting, where do “undeserved kindness and peace” come from? (b) What expression of the apostle Paul is similar to John’s greeting?
3 “Undeserved kindness and peace”—how desirable these are and especially when we appreciate their source! The “One” from whom they flow is the Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself, “the King of eternity,” who lives “from time indefinite to time indefinite.” (1 Timothy 1:17; Psalm 90:2) Involved here, too, are “the seven spirits,” which term indicates a fullness of operation of God’s active force, or holy spirit, as it brings understanding and blessing to all who pay attention to the prophecy. Also occupying a key role is “Jesus Christ,” of whom John later wrote: “He was full of undeserved kindness and truth.” (John 1:14) Thus, John’s greeting has the same elements that the apostle Paul mentioned in closing his second letter to the Corinthian congregation: “The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the sharing in the holy spirit be with all of you.” (2 Corinthians 13:14) May those words apply also to every one of us who loves truth today!—Psalm 119:97.
“The Faithful Witness”
4. How does John go on to describe Jesus Christ, and why are these descriptive terms so appropriate?
4 After Jehovah, Jesus is the most glorious person in the universe, as John recognizes, describing him as “‘the Faithful Witness,’ ‘The firstborn from the dead,’ and ‘The Ruler of the kings of the earth.’” (Revelation 1:5b) Like the moon in the heavens, he has been firmly established as the greatest Witness to Jehovah’s Godship. (Psalm 89:37) After he kept integrity down to a sacrificial death, he became the first from among mankind to be raised to immortal spirit life. (Colossians 1:18) Now in Jehovah’s presence, he is exalted high above all earthly kings, being invested with “all authority . . . in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18; Psalm 89:27; 1 Timothy 6:15) In 1914 he was installed as King to rule among the earthly nations.—Psalm 2:6-9.
5. (a) How does John continue to express appreciation for the Lord Jesus Christ? (b) Who benefit from Jesus’ gift of his perfect human life, and how have anointed Christians shared in a special blessing?
5 John continues to express appreciation for the Lord Jesus Christ in these glowing words: “To him that loves us and that loosed us from our sins by means of his own blood—and he made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—yes, to him be the glory and the might forever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5c, 6) Jesus gave his perfect human life so that those of the world of mankind who exercise faith in him may be restored to perfect life. You, dear reader, can be included in this! (John 3:16) But Jesus’ sacrificial death opened the way for a special blessing for those who become anointed Christians like John. These have been declared righteous on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Renouncing all earthly life prospects, as Jesus did, those of the little flock have been begotten by God’s spirit, with the expectation of being resurrected to serve as kings and priests with Jesus Christ in his Kingdom. (Luke 12:32; Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 20:6) What a grand privilege! No wonder John exclaimed so affirmatively that the glory and the might belong to Jesus!
“Coming With the Clouds”
6. (a) What does John announce about Jesus’ “coming with the clouds,” and of what prophecy of Jesus may John have been reminded? (b) How does Jesus ‘come,’ and who will experience great grief on earth?
6 Next, John jubilantly announces: “Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief because of him. Yes, Amen.” (Revelation 1:7) No doubt John was here reminded of Jesus’ earlier prophecy concerning the conclusion of the system of things. Jesus there stated: “Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:3, 30) Thus, Jesus ‘comes’ by turning his attention to the executing of Jehovah’s judgments on the nations. This will result in momentous changes on earth, and since “all the tribes of the earth” have ignored the reality of Jesus’ kingship, they will indeed experience “the anger of the wrath of God the Almighty.”—Revelation 19:11-21; Psalm 2:2, 3, 8, 9.
7. How will “every eye,” including those of the disobedient ones, “see” Jesus?
7 During Jesus’ last evening with his disciples, he told them: “A little longer and the world will behold me no more.” (John 14:19) How is it, then, that “every eye will see him”? We should not expect that Jesus’ enemies would see him with physical eyes, for the apostle Paul said, after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, that Jesus now “dwells in unapproachable light,” and “not one of men has seen or can see” him. (1 Timothy 6:16) Evidently, John meant “see” in the sense of “discern,” just as we can see, or discern, God’s invisible qualities by means of his creations. (Romans 1:20) Jesus “is coming with the clouds” in that he will be just as invisible to the naked eye as the sun is when it is behind clouds. Even when the sun is hidden by clouds during daytime, we know it is there because of the daylight that surrounds us. Similarly, though the Lord Jesus is invisible, he will be revealed like ‘a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not obey the good news about him.’ These too will be compelled to “see him.”—2 Thessalonians 1:6-8; 2:8.
8. (a) Who were “those who pierced him” in 33 C.E., and who are such ones today? (b) Since Jesus is no longer here on earth, how can people ‘pierce him’?
8 Jesus will be ‘seen’ also by “those who pierced him.” Who might these be? When Jesus was executed in 33 C.E., the Roman soldiers pierced him literally. The guilt of that murder was shared by the Jews, for Peter told some of these at Pentecost: “God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.” (Acts 2:5-11, 36; compare Zechariah 12:10; John 19:37.) Those Romans and Jews have now been dead for close to 2,000 years. So those who ‘pierce him’ today must represent nations and peoples that display the same hateful attitude that was shown when Jesus was impaled. Jesus is no longer here on earth. But when opposers either actively persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses, who bear witness to Jesus, or passively consent to such treatment, it is just as though such opposers were ‘piercing’ Jesus himself.—Matthew 25:33, 41-46.
“The Alpha and the Omega”
9. (a) Who now speaks out, and how many times in Revelation does he do so? (b) When Jehovah calls himself “the Alpha and the Omega” and “the Almighty,” what does this mean?
9 Now, wonder of wonders! The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself speaks. How appropriate this is as a preface to the visions that are about to unfold, since he is our Grand Instructor and the ultimate Source of Revelation! (Isaiah 30:20) Our God declares: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, . . . the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8) This is the first of three times in Revelation that Jehovah himself speaks from heaven. (See also Revelation 21:5-8; 22:12-15.) First-century Christians would quickly have recognized alpha and omega as the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Jehovah’s calling himself by those two letters stresses that before him, there was no almighty God, and there will be none after him. He will bring to a successful conclusion, for all eternity, the issue of Godship. He will be forever vindicated as the one and only almighty God, Supreme Sovereign over all of his creation.—Compare Isaiah 46:10; 55:10, 11.
10. (a) How does John next describe himself, and where was he confined? (b) The scroll written by John must have been forwarded to the congregations with whose cooperation? (c) How is spiritual food often provided today?
10 Confident that Jehovah will direct the outcome of matters, John tells his fellow slaves: “I John, your brother and a sharer with you in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in company with Jesus, came to be in the isle that is called Patmos for speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9) A prisoner on Patmos for the sake of the good news, enduring tribulations with his brothers, hoping firmly to have a share in the coming Kingdom, the aged John now sees the first of the visions of Revelation. No doubt he was encouraged greatly by these visions, just as the John class is stimulated today at seeing their fulfillment. We do not know how John forwarded the scroll of Revelation to the congregations, since he was in confinement at the time. (Revelation 1:11; 22:18, 19) Jehovah’s angels must have cooperated in getting this done, just as they have so often protected faithful Witnesses of Jehovah who serve under bans and restrictions today, so that these have been able to get timely spiritual food to their truth-hungry brothers.—Psalm 34:6, 7.
11. What privilege, similar to that appreciated by John, does the John class greatly treasure today?
11 How deeply John must have appreciated his privilege of being used by Jehovah as His channel of communication to the congregations! Similarly, the John class today treasures greatly its privilege of providing the household of God with spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) May you be one of those strengthened by this spiritual provision so as to attain to the glorious goal of everlasting life!—Proverbs 3:13-18; John 17:3.
[Box on page 21]
Obtaining Spiritual Food in Difficult Times
During these last days, when Jehovah’s Witnesses have suffered so much persecution and hardship, it has been vital for them to receive spiritual food in order to stay strong in faith. In most cases, adequate sustenance has been provided, often thanks to some remarkable demonstrations of Jehovah’s power.
For example, in Germany under Hitler, Witnesses mimeographed and distributed copies of The Watchtower, which was officially banned by the cruel Nazi authorities. In Hamburg the Gestapo raided a house where such mimeographing took place. The house was small, and there was nowhere to hide anything securely. The typewriter had been left in a cupboard, and the bulky mimeograph equipment was stored in a potato bin in the basement. Moreover, behind the bin there was a suitcase full of magazines! Discovery seemed inevitable. But what happened? The officer who opened the cupboard did so in such a way that he did not see the typewriter. As for the basement, the householder reports: “The three officers stood in the middle of the room, mind you, right there where the bin stood with the suitcase full of Watchtowers behind it. But none of them seemed to notice it; it was as though they had been struck blind.” Thanks to this remarkable providence, the household was able to continue supplying spiritual food in difficult and dangerous times.
In the 1960’s, there was a civil war between Nigeria and the breakaway province of Biafra. Since Biafra was completely surrounded by Nigerian territory, the only link between it and the outside world was an airstrip. This meant that the Witnesses in Biafra were in danger of being cut off from their supply of spiritual food. Then, early in 1968, the Biafran authorities assigned one of their civil service staff to an important post in Europe and another was assigned to the Biafran airstrip. These two happened to be Jehovah’s Witnesses, and now they were at both ends of the only link between Biafra and the outside world. The two recognized that the arrangement must have been from Jehovah. Hence, they volunteered for the delicate and risky task of channeling spiritual food into Biafra. And they were able to do this all through the war. One of them commented: “The arrangement was beyond something that humans could have planned.”
[Chart on page 19]
Symbolic Numbers in Revelation
Number Symbolic Meaning
4 Signifies universalness or foursquareness in symmetry.
6 Signifies imperfection, something not normal, monstrous.
7 Signifies divinely determined completeness, as to
Jehovah’s purposes or to Satan’s.
10 Signifies allness or completeness in a physical way,
as to things on earth.
12 Signifies a divinely constituted organization either in
the heavens or on the earth.
24 Signifies Jehovah’s abundant (doubled) organizational
arrangement. (Revelation 4:4)