Within this simple greeting can be found a neglected doctrine of paramount importance: the Trinity. The greeting is from each member of the Trinity: from Him who is and who was and who is to come (the Father), from the seven Spirits who are before His throne (the Holy Spirit), and from Jesus Christ (the Son). Before we have even begun to plumb the depths of the amazing statements made concerning Christ in the verses to follow, His divinity is already in plain view before us.
the faithful witness
Among the unique titles of Jesus, He is called Faithful and True (Rev. Rev. 19:11+). Here, we see His character as God, Who cannot lie (Num. Num. 23:19; Rom. Rom. 3:4; Tit. Tit. 1:2; Heb. Heb. 6:18). Where God is involved, other witnesses are unnecessary, for God bears truthful and reliable witness of Himself (John John 8:14). The witness of Christ was faithful in that He finished the work which the Father had given Him (John John 17:4), manifesting the Fathers name to His disciples (John John 17:6) and resisting the temptation to circumvent the cross (Luke Luke 22:42-44). In His incarnation, Jesus provided a witness of God to man (Isa. Isa. 9:1-2; John John 1:14, John 1:18; John 12:45; John 14:8-9; Col. Col. 1:15; Col. 2:9; Heb. Heb. 1:2; 1Jn. 1Jn. 1:2).
firstborn from the dead
He is the firstborn from the dead that in all things He may have the preeminence (Col. Col. 1:18). He thus establishes the pattern for all His brethren who will also rise from the dead (Rom. Rom. 8:29). The term firstborn (πρωτότοκος [prōtotokos] ), emphasizes not His generation, but His position (Ps. Ps. 89:27) [the LXX uses the same Greek term (Psalm 88:28 in the LXX)].1
The Greek term πρωτότοκο [prōtotoko] could refer either to first in order of time, such as a first born child, or it could refer to one who is preeminent in rank. M. J. Harris, Colossians and Philemon (EGGNT), 43, expresses the meaning of the word well: The firstborn was either the eldest child in a family or a person of preeminent rank. The use of this term to describe the Davidic king in Ps. 88:28 LXX (=Ps Ps. 89:27 EVV), I will also appoint him my firstborn (πρωτότοκο [prōtotoko] ), the most exalted of the kings of the earth, indicates that it can denote supremacy in rank as well as priority in time. But whether the proto- element in the word denotes time, rank, or both, the significance of the -tokos element as indicating birth or origin (from τίκτω [tiktō] give birth to) has been virtually lost except in reference to literal birth. In Col. Col. 1:15 the emphasis is on the priority of Jesus rank as over and above creation (cf. Col. Col. 1:16 and the for clause referring to Jesus as Creator).2A connection with Psalm Ps. 2:1 is seen in that Christ is here firstborn from the dead (begotten, Ps. Ps. 2:7 cf. Acts Acts 13:33; Heb. Heb. 1:5; Rom. Rom. 1:4) and ruler over the kings of the earth (Ps. Ps. 2:8). It was at His resurrection that His divine Sonship was made manifest and attested by the Father (Acts Acts 13:33; Rom. Rom. 1:4).3 Although not the first to be raised from the dead, Christ is the first to be resurrected to obtain a glorified body never to die again (1Cor. 1Cor. 15:35-44). 1K. 17:17-23; 2K. 2K. 4:32-36; 2K. 13:20-21), and He Himself raised others during His earthly ministry (Mtt. Mat. 9:23-25; Luke Luke 7:11-15; John John 11:30-44).4 Yet all of these who were resurrected prior to Christ continued to age and eventually died again.5
Christ is indeed the first begotten of the dead , notwithstanding that such raisings from the grave as that of the widows son, and Jairuss daughter, and Lazarus, and his who revived at the touch of Elishas bones (2K. 2K. 13:21), went before. There was for them no repeal of the sentence of death, but a respite only; not to say that even during their period of respite they carried about with them a body of death. Christ first so rose from the dead, that he left death forever behind Him, did not, and could not, die any more (Rom. Rom. 6:9); in this respect was the first-fruits of them that slept (1Cor. 1Cor. 15:20, 1Cor. 15:23), the Prince of life (Acts Acts 3:15).6
The resurrection of Christ is unique because He is the first instance of that transformation which the resurrection effects. It is more than a resuscitation of mortal flesh, such as took place in the cases of Jairus daughter or of Lazarus, for they underwent no essential change of the body. . . . they were restored to their friends; but there is not a hint that they were made physically immortal, or that death did not overtake them at some later date.7
ruler over the kings of the earth
The rule of Jesus over the kings of the earth is by divine right, not by the willing acceptance of the kings themselves (Ps. Ps. 2:1; Dan. Dan. 2:34-35, Dan. 2:44-45; Dan. 7:11-14, Dan. 7:24-27). For the world will reject the reign of God. The arrival of Gods kingdom on earth is a major theme of this prophecy given through John and culminates in the destruction of the armies of the kings of the earth at the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. Rev. 19:11-21+). While it is true that Jesus is the ruler over all men today , most do not realize this to be the case. A time is coming when the knowledge of the Lord will extend over the face of the entire earth and there will no longer be difference of opinion regarding Who is in control (Isa. Isa. 2:3; Isa. 11:9; Mic. Mic. 4:2; Zec. Zec. 14:8-11).
who loved us
Loved, (Ἀγαπῶντι [Agapōnti] ) is a present participle, He is loving (present tense) us. The love of God for us is demonstrated in many ways, but chiefly, in the way in which He gave His Son on our behalf: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John John 3:16). The so in this oft-quoted verse is not only speaking of the degree of Gods love, but the way in which it was manifestedby the giving of His Son.8 This is made clear by the context of the passage, and especially the preceding verses: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life [emphasis added] (John John 3:14-15). In his epistle, John also explained the giving of Jesus on the cross as a demonstration of Gods love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1Jn. 1Jn. 4:9-10). This love of God is not restricted to the Father giving the Son, but includes the Son giving Himself (Eph. Eph. 5:2). Our love of God is not natural, but in reaction to His first having loved us (1Jn. 1Jn. 4:19). The degree of Gods love for us is fathomless. Yet God desires our finite minds to attempt to comprehend it as best we are able. The depth of His love is demonstrated by an ongoing study of what is said concerning the relationship between the Father and the Son (John John 1:1; John 17:5, John 17:25) and the agonizing cost to God in order to redeem us (Mtt. Mat. 27:46; Mark Mark 15:34). This cost is all the more amazing when our condition as enemies of God is considered (Rom. Rom. 5:6-10). Our inability to worship God correlates with our ignorance of His Word. For it is by His Word that we come to an ever deeper understanding of the intimacy between the Father and the Son and the painful rent in that fabric necessary to secure our undeserved redemption. Emotional worship experiences in and of themselves can never substitute for a response based upon a Scriptural understanding of His love for us, as limited as it may ultimately be.
NU has freed (λύσαντι [lysanti] ) whereas MT has washed (λούσαντι [lousanti] ) - a difference of a single Greek letter. Scripture describes both as being true of the believer who has been set free (Mtt. Mat. 20:28; Gal. Gal. 3:13; Gal. 4:5; 1Ti. 1Ti. 2:6; Heb. Heb. 9:12; 1Pe 1Pe. 1:18; Rev. Rev. 5:9+; Rev. 14:3-4+) and washed, a picture of spiritual cleansing (Ps. Ps. 51:4; Isa. Isa. 1:16-18; Eze. Eze. 36:25; Acts Acts 22:16; Eph. Eph. 5:26; Tit. Tit. 2:14; Tit. 3:5; Heb. Heb. 1:3; Heb. 9:14; 2Pe. 2Pe. 1:9). The imagery of the immediate passage, in His own blood , argues for the latter as does internal evidence elsewhere in the book (Rev. Rev. 7:14+). Whereas loved us is in the present tense, washed us is in the aorist tense. The provision for our redemption, His death on the cross which washes away all our sin both past and future, is accomplished and its full merits are applied in full the moment we believe. Yet He continually loves us.
in His own blood
A bloodless gospel is an ineffectual gospel. For it is by the spilling of blood that God has chosen to atone for sin (Lev. Lev. 17:11; Heb. Heb. 9:22).9 Why did God choose blood for this purpose? Ultimately, we may never know, for the secret things belong to the LORD our God (Deu. Deu. 29:29). Scripture reveals that the use of blood for atonement is related to its life-giving qualities (Gen. Gen. 9:4). The life of the flesh is in the blood (Lev. Lev. 17:11). Life in this verse is Hebrew נֶפֶשׁ [nep̄eš] , the same term which is translated soul where Scripture records the once-for-all atonement made by Isaiahs Suffering Servant: Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin [emphasis added] (Isa. Isa. 53:10). By His blood atonement, Jesus was prophesied to sprinkle many nations (Isa. Isa. 52:15), thus fulfilling the many OT types pointing to Him. It was by blood sacrifice that the first man and woman were covered in response to their sin (Gen. Gen. 3:21). It was by blood sacrifice that the first men were to approach God (Gen. Gen. 4:4). It was by a blood sacrifice that God established His covenant with Abraham (Gen. Gen. 15:9-21). It was by blood placed on the door posts and lintel that the Jews were covered from the destroyer Who passed over Egypt taking the firstborn of each family (Ex. Ex. 12:23). It was by the sprinkling of blood that the Mosaic Law was ratified between God and the Israelites (Ex. Ex. 24:8). Ever since the bloodless offering of Cain (Gen. Gen. 4:3-5), man has attempted to approach God by some other means than that which God Himself has established. These would try to circumvent the single path which God requires: Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John John 14:6) This necessity of blood offering is offensive to man, and we believe intentionally so. For it is a messy business and continual reminder of mans lack of righteousness (Rom. Rom. 3:23) and his desperate need of the righteousness of God, a righteousness which is freely given rather than earned (Rom. Rom. 3:21-26; 2Cor. 2Cor. 5:21; Php. Php. 3:9). Yet many prefer to continue in the way of religion rather than relationship, offering up their own puny works in a vain attempt to justify themselves before a perfect and Holy God (Rom. Rom. 10:3). Religion preserves our pride, whereas relationship requires us to cast it aside. See Hide and Seek.
1 The verb [τικτωο [tiktōo] , Strongs: G5088] which is one of the components of [πρωτότοκος [prōtotokos] ,Strongs: G4416) first-begotten or born, is everywhere in the New Testament used in the sense of to bear or to bring forth, and has nowhere the meaning beget, unless James Jas. 1:15 be an exception.M. R. Vincent, Vincents Word Studies (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group, 2002), s.v. The verb [.
3 I should rather put this passage in connection with Ps. Ps. 2:7, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten Thee. It will doubtless be remembered that St. Paul (Acts Acts 13:33; cf. Heb. Heb. 1:5) claims the fulfillment of these words not in the eternal generation before all time of the Son; still less in his human conception in the Blessed Virgins womb; but rather in his resurrection from the dead; declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. Rom. 1:4).Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 12.
4 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 1:5.
5 He was not the first who rose from the dead, but the first who so rose that death was thenceforth impossible for Him (Rom. Rom. 6:9).Vincent, Vincents Word Studies, Rev. 1:5. Those who were raptured, such as Enoch (Gen. Gen. 5:24) and Elijah (2K. 2K. 2:11), did not taste of death.
8 The Greek adverb οὕτως [houtōs] can refer (1) to the degree to which God loved the world, that is, to such an extent or so much that he gave his own Son . . . or (2) simply to the manner in which God loved the world, i.e., by sending his own son . . . Though the term more frequently refers to the manner in which something is done, . . . the following clause . . . plus the indicative (which stresses actual, but [usually] unexpected result) emphasizes the greatness of the gift God has given. With this in mind, then, it is likely (3) that John is emphasizing both the degree to which God loved the world as well as the manner in which He chose to express that love. This is in keeping with Johns style of using double entendre or double meaning. Thus, the focus of the Greek construction here is on the nature of Gods love, addressing its mode, intensity, and extent.New Electronic Translation : NET Bible, John 3:16.
9 The following verses may be studied for further insight into the atoning characteristics of Christs blood: Gen. Gen. 9:4; Ex. Ex. 12:23; Ex. 24:8; Lev. Lev. 17:11; Isa. Isa. 52:15; Zec. Zec. 9:11; Mtt. Mat. 26:28; Mat. 27:4; Luke Luke 22:20; John John 19:30; Acts Acts 20:28; Rom. Rom. 5:9; 1Cor. 1Cor. 10:16; Eph. Eph. 1:7; Eph. 2:13; Col. Col. 1:14, Col. 1:20; Col. 2:14-15; Heb. Heb. 9:12, Heb. 9:14, Heb. 9:22; Heb. 10:19, Heb. 10:29; Heb. 11:28; Heb. 12:24; Heb. 13:12, Heb. 13:20; 1Pe. 1Pe. 1:18-19; 1Jn. 1Jn. 1:7; 1Jn. 5:8; Rev. Rev. 1:5+; Rev. 5:9+; Rev. 7:14+; Rev. 12:11+.