In a good, well-oiled classroom, there are rules and procedures.
In a perfect world, these procedures are followed flawlessly by students which decides what type of environment they will see in the classroom. These rules and procedures are created by a teacher so the class will go smoothly and students will have their needs reached. It’s when these procedures are not followed that the class begins to break down.
Just as in a classroom, the universe has a set of rules and procedures. The laws of physics govern the universe as do rules in a classroom. Additionally, an innate sense of morality governs every human being. The universe is bound by physics. Humans are bound by morality.
Just as rules in a classroom are created by teachers so too are the laws of physics and morality are created by a mind. This mind is personal and created man in His own image. And gave us the ability to steward creation with Him and for Him.
It is when we turn away from these set rules that chaos and brokenness enters into this “classroom.” Only the teacher can ultimately fix the classroom…
by showing mercy where mercy is needed.
Grace where grace is needed.
Love where love is needed.
Wrath where wrath is needed.
And discipline where discipline is needed.
The good Teacher knows when to do all of these. So too does the mind of the One who created the universe. And instead of some abstract concept to fix the issue, this Mind answered our brokenness with a concrete response.
Who is Jesus? The answer to this question can be both challenging and comforting. In reality this year has been quite challenging and often divisive with very little comfort. We have been reminded of the need for good leaders to bring us through chaos. Scripture points us to such a Ruler. Revelation 1:5-6 reads,
“…from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen… Then I [John] turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lamp stands, and in the mist of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”
JESUS IS THE RULER OF THE KINGS
John’s vision of the “one like a son of man” (see Dan. 7:13-14 and Mark 10:35) in the opening chapter of Revelation reveals both Jesus’ kingly (“a long robe”) and priestly nature (“a golden sash around his chest”). In this vision Christ’s “feet were like burnished bronze.” Roman generals were often depicted by burnished bronze statues standing tall with their small, inferior subjugates underfoot. The church needed a reminder that Jesus is “the ruler of the kings!” Today, we need such a reminder too. Our King, Jesus, was prophesied in Isaiah 9:6a:
“For to us a child is born, to us a song is given;”
THE RULER IS GIVEN
Who doesn’t like a great gift? Each Christmas, services and celebrations prominently feature this prophecy from Isaiah 9 depicting the baby born to become king. This promised Messiah would be the greatest gift ever given to Israel. Through this Jewish Messiah, the whole world would be offered the gift of salvation (Eph. 2:11-13). Humankind needed salvation from the mess we created (Gen. 3). Unable to properly rule ourselves, this King would be and is exactly who we need. Isaiah 9:6b continues,
“and the government shall be upon his shoulder,”
THE RULER IS IN CONTROL
Nothing catches God off guard. He is never surprised by anything. Time and time again, Scripture reminds us God places and displaces people in power (Dan. 2:20-21; Romans 13:1-2). But what about evil rulers? God doesn’t create or cause evil, but our Creator remains in complete control (Job 1:6-12). John Piper declared, “This is the very air we should breath… Christ is triumphant in his reign over the kings of the earth. All developments today are steps to a decisive triumph.” God can use any evil rule or intention to work by his power for his glory and our good to fulfill his perfect plan (Romans 8:28; 9:17). What a promise! Isaiah 9:6c reads,
“and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
THE RULER IS NAMED
During Biblical times names had even more significant meaning than they do today. A name defined who you were and what was expected of you. This Ruler is named “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Jesus the “Wonderful Counselor” rules through wisdom, Jesus the “Mighty God” won the war over sin and death, Jesus the “Everlasting Father” watches over us as his children, and Jesus the “Prince of Peace” brings calm to our chaos. Furthermore, Isaiah 9:7a promises,
“Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David”
THE RULER WON’T STOP
Christ cannot be stopped. His plans never fail and they never will! Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7:16). God promised David his throne would be established forever. This throne wouldn’t be earthly but everlasting. Genealogies are all the rage these days. The New Testament opens in Matthew 1:1-17 by tracing King Jesus’ earthly lineage to King David. Currently, Jesus reigns at the right hand of the Father in Heaven waiting one day to return for his people, completely restore his creation, and dwell with his people for eternity (Rom 8:34; Rev. 19-22). Isaiah 9:7b concludes,
“and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
THE RULER LEADS THE WAY
This Ruler is a righteous King! Christ’s rule is defined by justice and righteousness. Justice and righteousness cannot be separated in God’s Kingdom (Amos 5:21-24). Revelation reminds us that we live in “the already, not yet.” While we long for an eternity marked by justice and righteousness, we work towards these ideals today. For this reason we participate in our government, we lead in our world, and we submit to the rule and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives each and every day! Restoration is here. His name is Jesus. Follow the Ruler today.
Who is Jesus? How will we react to Jesus? These questions drive the Book of Revelation. The book, a blend of apocalyptic, prophetic, and letter writing, purposes to encourage the church to remain faithful in the midst of ever-growing persecution. Gerald Stevens asserts, “I have told my students that if they get the first chapter of Revelation correctly, the have mastered the rest of the book… Its central context is the church. Its central figure is the Son of Man.” Revelation 1:5-6, 10-11 reads,
“…from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen… I [John] was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, saying, ‘Write what you see in a book and send to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
JESUS IS THE FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD
The title “firstborn” means the highest in rank, the utmost, or superior! Nowadays, we use the term mostly to refer to firstborn children. In biblical times the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn were great. However, when John uses the term “firstborn of the dead” in Revelation, this special title points us to Jesus’ resurrection power! Jesus wasn’t the first person to rise from the dead. In 1 Kings 17:17-24, Elijah prays for God to raise a widow’s son from the dead and the Lord answers. Furthermore, Jesus displayed numerous resurrection miracles during his earthly life and ministry including raising his friend Lazarus from the grave (John 11:1-44). Jesus’ firstborn status is meant to remind us that he conquered the grave and now offers us new life by following him (John 3:16). In Colossians 1:15-16, the apostle Paul reminds us,
“He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.”
THE FIRSTBORN IS CREATOR
Creators wield power over their creation. As creator he left the riches of heaven to come to earth, fully God and fully man, to meet us where we are (Eph. 4:9). He is a personal God. Jesus Christ makes God visible to us. Paul employs the same Greek word for “firstborn” used by John in Revelation. Here the term again drives home the point that Christ is preeminent in his creation. “Jesus is not only the agent of creation but is also the goal of creation,” reminds Clinton Arnold. This Creator deserve our praise and perseverance. Colossians 1:17-18 continues,
“And he [Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”
THE FIRSTBORN IS SUSTAINER
Praise God we do not serve an inactive God! Our Creator does not sit away in heaven disinterested in his creation. His people are on his mind (Jer. 29:11). In fact, the word “synistemi,” translated “hold together,” means both to “establish” and to “stand near.” Jesus is the head of the church. He guides us. He leads us. He keeps us. He told his disciples it was better he left (death, burial, resurrection, and ascension) so the Helper, the Holy Spirit, would come (John 16:7; Acts 2). God’s very presence ministers to us and helps us in our time of need (Rom. 8:26-28). Colossians 1:19-23 concludes,
“For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
THE FIRSTBORN IS OUR RECONCILER
Sin infected and affected the world we live in (Gen. 3). Sickness, disaster, and injustice were not realities in the Garden of Eden. Sin had cosmic ramifications. It broke our relationship with God and with others. This year is a firsthand reminder of the brokenness of our world, but there is hope! Revelation reminds us that hope is active and our future is promised (Rev. 21-22). Restoration is here. His name is Jesus. Will you follow him today? Isaiah 53:5 reminds us of the price he paid to reconcile us to him once and for all,
“But he was pierced for our transgression; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Who is Jesus? How you and I respond to this question identifies who we are. When opening up the Book of Revelation, the last book in the New Testament and the Christian Bible, the answer to this question directly impacts the way we read and receive its writings. Revelation is a unique book in the New Testament, a blend of an apocalyptic writing (Rev. 1:1), prophecy (Rev. 1:3), and letter (Rev. 1:4) to the church. Revelation 1:4-6 reads,
“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 faithfulness witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
JESUS IS THE FAITHFUL WITNESS
Jesus is the key to reading and receiving the words of Revelation! As John opens the book, he declares, “Jesus Christ the faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5). Jesus is the Faithful Witness! A faithful witness is committed to God’s work. In fact the Greek word for “witness” (martys) is where we get the modern day word for the Christian martyrs, those people who give their lives for the sake of Jesus. Jesus laid down everything for the glory of God and the good of his people (John 3:16). In other words he truly was the “Faithful Martyr.” As he approached his eventual betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, Jesus prayed in John 17:1b-5,
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorifying me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
THE FAITHFUL WITNESS IS MOTIVATED BY GOD’S GLORY
Contextually, Jesus was born into a Jewish world that had developed a remote view of God. The religious people of his day would never had directly addressed God out of fear of blasphemy. However, Jesus taught his followers to pray, “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9). We serve a relational God. Jesus prayed “that they know you” (John 17:3). The phrase “know you” is written in the present tense suggesting an ongoing relationship and taken from the Greek word “ginosko” which is a highly relational term. This relationship is rooted in and mirrors the eternal community of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. One God. Three Persons. God the Son, Jesus, was fully dedicated to carrying out the will of God the Father no matter the cost! He used his authority for God’s glory. He laid down his rights for the sake of others. He continues his prayer in John 17:6-16,
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
THE FAITHFUL WITNESS PRAYS FOR OUR PERSEVERANCE
Monasticism, or the practice of living a religious life separate from the world, is a man-made invention not a God-given design. Jim Cymbala challenged, “Sitting safely in the shelter of Bible discussion among ourselves, or complaining to one another about the horrible state of today’s society, does nothing to unleash the power of God.” Darkness is darkness because of the absence of light. Jesus told us we are this light (Matt. 5:14). The Christian life was never meant to be lived in isolation from the world. Otherwise, how will anyone hear? God’s people are set apart for holiness (1 Peter 1:16) by the work of the Holy Spirit to grow more into the image of God day-by-day, but this “separation” is best practiced through persevering “infiltration.” Jesus concludes his prayer in John 17:17-26,
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them, and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, who you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made know to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
THE FAITHFUL WITNESS PRAYS FOR OUR OBEDIENCE
“Ideally, however, the church itself is not made up of natural ‘friends.’ It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income level, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything of the sort… In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake,” observes theologian D. A. Carson. Jesus concludes his prayer by praying for our obedience (specifically our unity). This obedience to pursue and live in unity as “one” people for the glory of God makes the message known to the world around us. Our aims undergird our belief. Our good works result from faith empowered by the unmerited grace of God (Eph. 2:8-10). We now have the opportunity to be faithful witnesses just as Jesus was and is the Faithful Witness until we one day meet him face to face in glory (Rev. 22:4). Restoration is here. His Name is Jesus. Follow him today.
For nearly two decades, Dean Ross led in the field of para-church events. First with Abandon Productions followed by The Restoration Collective, his ministry was and continues to move forward in assisting the church, proclaiming Jesus, and mobilizing people. Within the last decade, the Lord began to pivot his life and ministry towards the local church, pastoring, and church planting.
Welcome to The Collective Blog!
The Restoration Collective is excited to share these pastoral thoughts from Pastor Dean Ross of the Family Church in addition to other leaders in our city.
Restoration is here! His name is Jesus! Join the artists of The Restoration Collective in proclaiming this truth through our first collaborative worship EP entitled “Songs of Restoration.” This project, birthed out of the local church, features original songs “Restore”, “Nothing But The Blood (Makes Us Alive)”, “All”, and “Bone and Blood” from collective artists Brett Weller And The Congregation and Jonathan Turner Band.