Three New Ways to See Jesus
by Jacob Hudgins
The book of Revelation challenges us to see Jesus in new ways. The one we know as a sacrificial lamb is actually a lion (Rev 5:5-6). The “prince of peace” is also a warrior on a white horse (Rev 19:11-16). This redefinition of Jesus begins very early in the book. John’s opening greeting is “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 kings on earth”(Rev 1:4-5). Let’s explore these three titles as three new ways to see Jesus.
Jesus is the faithful witness. He has testimony to give. He tells Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”(John 3:11-12). Jesus faithfully recounts the heavenly realities he has experienced. But witnesses have a special sense in the book of Revelation. They are people who have a testimony to give about Jesus (Rev 1:2, 11:3) and often are persecuted or killed for their witness (Rev 2:13, 6:9, 17:6). The word witness is the word for martyr. When we faithfully tell others about Jesus—and suffer for it—we are following his example. He is the faithful witness.
Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. Firstborn is a position of power and authority, but it also implies other children. We would not bother distinguishing an only child as the firstborn. Paul says that Jesus is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”(1 Cor 15:20). Firstfruits are the first part of the harvest that promises further crops. Jesus’ resurrection does not just establish his power; it also promises that we too will be resurrected after our deaths. John pictures Jesus emerging untouched from the grave—and that behind him, in our due time, we too will emerge from death to eternal resurrected life.
Jesus is the ruler of kings on earth. Revelation pictures Jesus as ruler frequently. He is “king of kings and lord of lords”(Rev 17:14, 19:16). The judgment that is coming on the beast and Babylon is administered by Jesus. This is a new way to see Jesus because it often does not feel that Jesus is ruling the kings on earth. They appear to be living for themselves, answering to no one. Yet when each power falls, we are reminded that “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever”(Rev 11:15). Jesus will avenge the evil committed on earth because he has all authority. When we feel overwhelmed by injustice and corruption in our world, we do not need to simply focus on the spiritual. We need to remember that Jesus’ authority extends to the physical realm and the centers of power of our world.
Revelation deepens our understanding of Jesus and his power. Will we be faithful in bearing witness to who Jesus is and what he has done? Will we rest our hope fully in his promise of resurrection? Do we trust that he is in charge when the world appears out of control?