Grace and Peace
“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)
“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:4–6).
John is writing to the seven churches of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, which churches are subsequently named in chapters two and three of Revelation. They are the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. More will be said about each of them in turn.
The standard Christian blessing at the beginning of a New Testament letter is “grace and peace.” That greeting is used again here—grace to you, John says, and also peace. Usually, in the other epistles of the New Testament, the grace and peace are said to be from the Father and the Son, causing some to wonder why the Holy Spirit is unmentioned. Jonathan Edwards suggests, and I think he is correct, that the Spirit is not usually mentioned by name because the Spirit—proceeding from the Father and the Son as the Nicene Creed says—is the grace and peace.
Now if that is the case, this expression of it is a significant variation. The grace and peace are cited as being from three sources here, not just two. The first is presumably the Father, the one who “is, and was, and who is to come.” Second, there are seven Spirits who are said to be before the Father’s throne. The seven may indicate fullness or perfection, or it may be a way of communicating that the grace and peace to the seven churches are from the seven Spirits, that is, the Holy Spirit. And then third, the grace and peace proceed from Jesus Christ, who is identified in three ways. He is the faithful witness (martyr), He is the first born from the dead, and He is the prince (archon) of the kings of the earth.
A doxological blessing is then declared concerning Jesus Christ. “Unto Him who loved us . . .” He is the one who loved us and He is the one who washed us from our sins in His own blood. The verb for washing here is striking and clear. The image used by hymn writers—that of being washed in the blood of Christ—is therefore a biblical image. This is the same one who, after that cleansing, made us kings and priests together with Him. He is the one who should consequently receive glory and dominion forever. And an amen is added to it.