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The Faithful Witness

• Greg Boyd

Our focus scripture states that God relates to creation in time, through the past, in the present, and toward the future that is to come. He walks with us in relationship, as is demonstrated throughout the Old Testament. This eternality of God is applied to Jesus in Revelation, highlighting the divine transcendence of the slain lamb.

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Before diving into the primary text, Greg addresses the question of the identity of the author who identifies himself as John. Early church tradition claimed that this was the apostle John. Many modern scholars doubt this because he doesn’t introduce himself as “John the Apostle” and because the style of writing is so different. However, it seems logical to trust the early church tradition because they were in a better position to know who actually penned these words. We should also consider that John perhaps left off “an apostle” because he was writing to seven churches with whom he is already known and recognized as an authority, along with the fact that he would have been writing in a different style because the genre is apocalyptic.

The focus of this message lies on verse four which reads: “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come…”  The connotation is that God is who always was, always is, and always is to come. God’s eternality is a divine distinctive. Unlike all else we can experience or even conceive of, the creator never began and has no boundaries. This same point is repeated in verse eight. He is the “Alpha and Omega…” – the first and last letter of the Greek alphabet. We also see this same point in Revelation 4:8 and 21:6.

God’s eternity has tenses, as he is past, present and future. Around the time of Christ, philosophically inclined theologians began to interpret God’s eternity as tenselessness. God was viewed as being “above time” which means that there is no divine experience of before or after and, therefore, all reality in an eternal changeless moment.

We cannot have a personal relationship with a tenseless being. Interpersonal interaction requires give and take, act and response. While someone might believe God is, if that person enters into a personal give-and-take relationship with God, they are acting as though God is not timeless. It’s just how relationships work.

This sequential way of encountering God did not begin with John.  This is also found throughout the Old Testament. There we find two basic strands. First, when Moses was speaking to Yahweh in the burning bush, we read:

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” — Exodus 3: 13-14

Moses asked, “What is your name?” In the Ancient Near East, acquiring the name of a deity gave you some control over that deity. Yahweh replies, “I am who I am.” In its original Hebrew, this phrase has the connotation of, “I will be whatever I will be,” or  “I am whoever I chose to be.” We might paraphrase it this way: “Don’t ever think you will pin me down, control me, or use me to your own ends.”

The second strand is found in Isaiah where we read:

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let them proclaim it… — Isaiah 44:6-7

Who is like the Lord? God never began, is not bounded by space, and his existence is dependent on nothing else to exist. There is nothing in our experience that is like this. We cannot imagine of a first moment before there was no moment. The same is true of space. We cannot picture space that has an outer limit. We can fully understand God’s character, but in terms of understanding God’s infinite being we hit the limit of human conceptuality. This is God’s transcendence and otherness.

This designation of God’s transcendence is applied to Jesus Christ as seen in John’s first encounter with the risen Lord (Revelation 1:17-18). The resurrected Christ is here identifying himself with the one true God, beside whom there is no other. This is repeated in Revelation 2:8 and 22:13.

Though he’s a full human and he bore the sin and cure of the world on Calvary, the man Jesus shares in the Father’s “always was, is, will be” identity. Jesus shares in the eternal identity and glory of God! The Lamb is worshipped the same as the Father, because the slaughtered Lamb shares in the identity of the one who always was, is, and is to come.

The Lamb is “the faithful witness” who reveals the true character of God. Jesus bears witness to the truth, as he puts on display what God is like. This means three things. First, while the world is under deception, Jesus makes truth evident and therefore we are able to discern truth from deception. Second, we know who we are to follow. The lamb sets the standard, the model which we are to emulate. Third, we have a confident hope in the future.

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Topics: Fear, Hope, Trinity

Sermon Series: Do Not Be Afraid


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Focus Scripture:

  • Revelation 1: 4-8

    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 the kings of the earth.
    To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

    Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. So it is to be. Amen.

    “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

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One thought on “The Faithful Witness

  1. Sarah Houpt says:

    Greg, when you were talking about these visions you have, were the children in heaven, or just with Jesus period? Because the visions maybe taken the wrong way, probably an excuse to kill children to heaven…

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