Living as a child of God has never been an easy thing to do in this world. However, it seems now it is more difficult than ever before. As a Christian, it is easy to feel discouraged and want to give up contending for the faith (Jude 1:3). However, you and I can find encouragement in the word of God to stand strong as we strive to live as salt and light in this sin filled world.
Writing to churches that were under persecution, John the apostle penned the book of Revelation. To encourage these believers, he writes that this letter was not only from him but also from Christ. In chapter 1 verse 5 of this book, John writes that the letter is from “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (NASB). John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to describe Christ with these titles because he was writing to men and women who were facing government sponsored persecution. Reminding them of who Christ was and what He faced on this earth was a way for John to encourage these believers.
First of all, notice that he calls Christ “the faithful witness”. The Lord came and declared boldly the message of God everywhere He went and proclaimed the good news of the Gospel. He never backed down from the task in spite of being threatened, rejected, and ignored. He did exactly what God the Father sent Him to do and did it exactly the way God directed Him to do it. He was our example by being completely faithful (Hebrews 3:2). When we face persecutions and difficulties in this world, we can encourage ourselves and one another by remembering that our Lord completed His mission. Because He was a faithful witness, we should seek to follow His example.
Furthermore, we see the extent to which He was faithful. Not only was He a faithful witness but he was also “the firstborn of the dead”. Now, in some parts of the world being a witness for our Lord may be a matter of life or death. There are brothers and sisters in other countries who have died and will die proclaiming the good news of Christ and living out their faith. The situation in the day that John lived was very similar. People were killed for professing faith in Jesus. That is not the case in this country today. However, people might choose to not associate with us at school or work. If we take a bold stand for Jesus, family or friends might very well shun us or label us “Bible thumpers”. However, we know that just as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we also will live forever in heaven. His resurrection from the dead proves that God is also going to resurrect us (Romans 8:11). Therefore, whatever happens to us in this world, we can be encouraged that we have a home waiting for us in heaven.
Lastly, John reminded these believers that governments of this earth do not have the final say. These believers were suffering from officially sanctioned, legal government persecution. John reminds them, then, that the king does not have the final say but in fact Jesus Himself is “the ruler of the kings of the earth”. They may have power and authority over us for a time, but in the end they, like everyone else, will answer to our Lord. We may see people in authority on this earth make decisions that are sinful according to the word of God but we can be encouraged that God is ultimately in control of them. He does not cause anyone to sin but, in some mysterious way, He is able to use sinful men and women to accomplish His purposes in spite of their rebellion. As we see laws made and policies enacted that we know are wrong, let us remember that God is still the Lord over the entire universe.
We face a time in our nation that is similar in many ways to the situations that the early Christians faced. We can be encouraged by these words just as those early Christians were.