John’s Ascription Of Praise
February 19th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
JOHN’S ASCRIPTION OF PRAISE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-19-61 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning hour’s message entitled John’s Ascription of Praise. The text this morning is Revelation 1:4-6. The sermon next Sunday morning will be verse 7: "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so. Amen" [Revelation 1:7]. The sermon this morning will be the verses preceding that glorious theme – announced theme of the book. The sermon this morning is the dedication, the salutation, the ascription of praise: 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 forever and ever. Amen.
This is the most remarkable opening of any book in all the earth. In all literature, there is no opening like this, so sublime and so exalted. There is no book even in Holy Scripture that opens with a vista, and a glory, and a salutation, and a dedication, and an ascription of praise like this, in its marked solemnity, in its glorious point and peroration.
There are many salutations and addresses in the Bible and in literature. When the Hebrew strangers came into Egypt, Pharaoh’s steward said: "Peace be unto you" [Genesis 43:23]. When David sent his messenger to Nabal, he said, "Peace be unto thee, and to thy house, and to all which thou hast" [1 Samuel 25:6]. And when the great king of Assyria proclaimed a message to his empire he said, "Peace be multiplied unto you." The same kind of a salutation, you will find in the lands of the Levant today. "Shalom, peace unto you." But never was there salutation, or greeting, or address like this, "John to the seven churches in Asia: Grace and peace unto you" [Revelation 1:4].
Then he speaks of the foundation of that blessing and address in a trinity of trinities. He addresses it from the Tri-unity Godhead. First, from God the Father, "who is, and which was, and who is to come," the Trinity; and then from the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of God, seven in number, and "which are before the throne" [Revelation 1:4]. And then he addresses a trinity from Jesus: "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" [Revelation 1:5]. The salutation comes from the triune God: the Father Almighty, in His absoluteness, in His eternal character and existence and being, who is, who was, and who is to come; and from the Holy Spirit of God, in His plenitude and perfection, and in all of the manifestations of His labor and work; and from Jesus Christ in all of His virtue, in His blood-sealed testimony and witness, in the power of His resurrection from the dead, and in the administration of His kingdom, the prince of the kings of the earth [Revelation 1:4-5]. No salvation from any other; no ultimate blessing from any other. "There is none other name given among men, whereby we must be saved" [Acts 4:12]. And if we are begotten unto a lively hope in Christ, it is begotten because of His resurrection from the dead [1 Peter 1:3]. And if we have access unto God as a priest, it is through the blood of the Son of God [Hebrews 4:14, 9:26].
Then having sent this announcement, and having made this salutation, and having spoken this address, John bursts forth spontaneously into a glorious ascription of praise at the name of Jesus, at the mentioning of the name of our Lord. Then he says, "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 1:5-6]. While he is writing at the dictation of the Holy Spirit [Revelation 1:10], at the mention of the name of Jesus he can write no longer, he can be seated no longer. But he rises and then he falls on his knees, and he bursts out into a paean of praise to the only God our Savior, the Lord Jesus. "Unto Him that loved us, who washed us, who made us kings and priests; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" [Revelation 1:5-6]. It is as spontaneous as a mountain stream in its songful glory and crystal beauty, as it bursts forth from the mountainside and flows down to the plain.
John is not alone in this sudden burst of doxology and praise. He is one with all of the apostles in that. In the third chapter of the Book of Ephesians, Paul suddenly says, "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" [Ephesians 3:20-21]. And right in the midst, for no reason at all, just having named the name of Christ, Paul says in 1 Timothy first chapter, seventeenth verse, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be glory and honor forever and ever. Amen" [1 Timothy 1:17]. And Jude does the same thing. "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior" – the Lord Jesus – "be glory and majesty, and dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen" [Jude 1:24-25]. Isn’t that remarkable? Those men, writing along, speaking along, preaching along, saying along, just suddenly burst into those incomparably beautiful and glorious doxologies.
And that is exactly what John has done here. In giving greeting to the churches of Asia, from the Father Almighty, and from the Holy Spirit of God, and from Jesus, and at the name of Jesus, then he breaks into one of those paeans of praise. "Unto Him who loved us, and who washed us from our sins in His blood, who made us kings and priests unto God: to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" [Revelation 1:5-6].
Now this ascription of praise, this doxology, in those three things that he speaks of in our Lord, they are three great things, the component parts of our salvation: the motive that lay back of it, "To Him who loved us" [Revelation 1:5]; and the great act of atonement and salvation, "who washed us from our sins in His blood"; and the result of it, "and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory forever. Amen" [Revelation 1:5-6].
"Unto Him who loved us." "Unto Him who loved us." We would not have been surprised had it been, "Unto Him who pitied us, unto Him who had compassion upon us," but it is "Unto Him that loved us." And that thing is said first, before we are washed and cleansed. It would be explicable for God to love us purified, cleansed, and sanctified, but He loved us when we were unlovely. He loved us in the foulness and the iniquity and the wickedness and the sin of our depraved life. "Unto Him who loved us," and then "who washed us in His blood" [Revelation 1:5]. It’s easy to love people who are gracious, and fine, and cultured, and educated, and always just beautiful and gracious in manner. But to love vile sinners, harsh in their ways, unlettered and uncultured in all of their gestures, whose lives are filled with foul and dirty and unspeakable things, to love them–and in God’s sight, all of us are as filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. Our unrighteousnesses come up before His eyes; and yet, in our unloveliness, He loves us. "And to Him that loved us" [Revelation 1:5], you, us, me.
In John’s day a man didn’t count for much. The king did, the emperor did, Caesar did, the state did, but not a man. To the Roman Empire they were so many slaves to be sold, or to be used to serve the state and the emperor. Pretty much that same kind of a thing is today. What is a man? Just one man, an individual man, a soul, you? In China, in Soviet Russia, a hundred thousand men fed into the maw of a cannon would be like a speck, it would be like an infinitesimal inconsequential. And in our own civilization, in these long assembly lines in things, a man who screws on a nut or tightens a bolt, what is he if he dropped out and nobody ever heard or saw or thought of him again?
What is a man? I talked to a fine young doctor last Sunday night in this place right over there. And this week when I returned, one of the deacons in the church called me and said, "Did you know he committed suicide?" What is that to the world? Or what is that to us? The snuffing out of one life? Much less when we think of ourselves in the infinitude of the creation about us. "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man that Thou visitest him?" [Psalm 8:4]. What isn’t a care to God? And yet the Book says, "He calls all of His sheep by name" [John 10:3]. He knows you. And He knows you. And you are precious in His sight. And He loves us.
A remarkable thing, the use of that word, agapōnti, present linear action, translated here in the past tense: "unto Him that loved us" [Revelation 1:5]. The word that John used there is a present tense that goes on, this way, that way, always flowing outward and onward – "unto Him who loves us." Before the world was made, before we were born, in the days of His flesh, on His cross, resurrected and ascended into glory, to all of the limitless ages that are yet to come, and He loves us! Oh, the breadth, and the height, and the depth of the love of God in Christ Jesus! "For I am persuaded," said Paul, "that neither death, nor life . . . nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" [Romans 8:38-39]. "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood" [Revelation 1:5].
In the English language, all of our tenses are pigeonholed in time. You cannot say anything that is not pigeonholed in time. The English language is so made that everything you say has to be pigeonholed in a tense. It was yesterday, it is now, today, going to be. It’s a pluperfect, it’s a past perfect, it’s a future, it’s a past – you can’t speak in the English language except in time. Tense of the verb always pigeonholes it. It’s not that way in the Greek language. The verbs in the Greek language are kinds of action. They look upon a thing as a pinpoint there, or a pinpoint in the future, or the thing continuing on – different kinds of action. You see that in these two verbs; if you’ve never looked at it, you’d never know it in English. "Unto Him that loved us," the past tense. "And washed us from our sins in His own blood" – both of them past tenses in English. It’s not that way. When John wrote that he used a present linear verb for "loves." "To Him that loves us," all of the way through the centuries past and the ages and eons yet to come, "unto Him who loves us." Then he used an aorist verb: luō in its aorist tense, lusanti – "washed." Pinpoint – "washed." That one and only time: "and unto Him that loves us," through the continuing unending ages. "And who washed us," one great, mighty, atoning act in the days that are past, in the day of His cross. Washed us: if you are saved, you are saved instantaneously, there is a time when you cross over from death unto life. There may be many things leading up to it, a multitude of things that follow it, but we are washed instantaneously, we are cleansed like a dot, like a moment, like a point in time. And we are either saved or we’re lost. We’re one or the other.
"Washed us from our sins in His own blood" [Revelation 1:5]. That is, it’s something God has done for us. It’s not something we do for ourselves. It’s not something we work for. It’s not something we bargain with. It’s not something we buy from. He washes us, one great act, when He died on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. "Who washed us from our sins in His own blood." Just by faith, we receive it from God [Ephesians 2:8]. By faith, we take it. He washed us in that one great mighty act. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so our Lord lifted up, that whosoever looks in faith to Him, shall be cleansed and washed [Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14], one great mighty act – "Looking to Jesus," and we’re saved, and we’re saved.
My host this past week on the Pacific Coast is a retired Air Force chaplain, and the years of World War II, he was at the front working in field hospitals. And he described to me those American boys who were brought back to the hospitals. Tents, anywhere – a farmhouse, a barn – anywhere on those front lines where the men could be brought back, shot through the neck, their legs blown off, their arms blown off, half of their faces blown off, their bodies torn by shrapnel. He said the doctors had a little secret sign for the chaplain if a boy would live three minutes – three minutes. If the boy would live five minutes – five minutes; if he would live ten minutes – ten minutes; if the boy might live twenty minutes – twenty minutes.
And he said to every one of those boys as he knelt by the side of the bed, he’d say to the lad, "Son, son, are you saved? Are you saved? Are you ready to meet God? Son, do you realize you’re a sinner? And do you accept the free pardoning grace of Jesus? Do you?"
Then he’d have the boy pray with him, confessing himself to be a sinner, and asking God to save him for Jesus’ sake.
And I said to the chaplain, I said, "What if the boy couldn’t pray?"
Then the chaplain said, "I’d have him pray after me. You say after me the words, after me."
Then I said, "What if the boy were a Jewish boy, what did you do?"
He said, "I told him the same thing. That his Messiah had come into the world to die for his sins [Acts 3:25-26; 1 Timothy 1:15], and would he trust his Messiah and Savior."
And I said, "What response did you have? Did some of the boys refuse you?"
He said, "I never had a boy to refuse, not a one. Not one."
He said, "Every one of those boys would confess their sin, and would ask forgiveness for their sins, and would commit their souls to the saving grace of Jesus."
And he said to me, "I could not tell you the number of American boys that I have seen die, those airmen, with the light of the glory of God on their faces, at peace in committing their souls to Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood" [Revelation 1:5].
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
["Are You Washed In the Blood?" Elisha A. Hoffman]
It is not something that a man works for, nor is it something you buy, nor is it something that you are good enough to accept or achieve. It is something we receive from the gracious hands of Christ. "To Him who loves us, and washed us," one great, mighty, atoning act. "To Him who washed us from our sins in His own blood. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" [Revelation 1:5-6].
And the result of it, "To Him that loves us, and who washed us, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father" [Revelation 1:5-6]. What a citizenship Christ hath bestowed upon us! We are a king, a king. In that day Roman citizenship was a privilege of a few, comparatively few – and John was not one of the few. He was no citizen. The only man in the New Testament that we know of as a citizen was Paul [Acts 16:37-38]. All the rest belonged to the provincials. They were either slaves or tax-gatherers or common laborers. They were a subject, conquered people. But John says in Christ – we who were slaves, we have been lifted up to a citizenship in an eternal kingdom, and in it have been made kings [Revelation 1:6]. It is the most astonishing thing in the earth, the most astonishing thing a man can conceive of is to think that tax gatherers and fishermen and humble men who listened to Jesus, being set upon thrones to judge angels and the twelve tribes of Israel [Matthew 19:28, 1 Corinthians 6:3].
Why, it’s almost unthinkable and unbelievable. But that’s what God hath done for those who place their trust in Him. A new citizenship, born into the family of the blood royal and hath made us priests, kings and priests unto God [Revelation 1:6]. That is, He hath given us an assigned place of service. Free access to the throne of grace [Hebrews 4:16], a channel through whom God can bless the whole lost world, priests unto God. And any man who is a believer, that moment is made a priest of God. This is the great doctrine of the universal priesthood of all believers [Revelation 1:6]. You – you have an access to God, boldly to approach the throne of grace, you [Hebrews 10:19-22]. And you can receive from God those words, and those revelations, and those encouragements, and those helps, and those presences to send you out as a great and a wonderful Christian.
It isn’t just a great noble Christian here and there that is a priest. All of God’s children are priests, all of us – all of us. Our common garments are the vestments of our office. And every meal is a sacrament. And our houses are temples and our hearts are altars. And our lives are oblations. And the common pots and pans in our kitchens are bowls of holiness dedicated before the high altar of God; the universal priesthood of all believers, you, you. "Unto Him that loves us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, And has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" [Revelation 1:5-6].
He comes back to it. He started with Him: "Unto Him that loved us," and then he closes with Him: "And unto Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." To John, there was the exalted and uplifted Lord, the person of the Savior whom he loved, and on whose breast he leaned at the Last Supper and said, "Who is it, Lord, that betrays You?" [John 13:23-25]. To John, Jesus was so near and so dear and so real. Isn’t it a shame and a pity and a tragedy that to us, He is so far off? He is a paper character to most of us. He lived a long time ago and went somewhere, we know not whither. He is like a Julius Caesar or a Napoleon Bonaparte. We’ve read of Him in a book, but we’ve never met Him, and we don’t know Him personally. And we’ve never felt the vibrancy of His nearness in our souls and in our hearts and in our lives. It’s something far off. It’s like a fictional character playing on a stage, there comes on and goes off.
But not to John, every one of these things he identifies personally in Jesus. "Unto Him that loves us," not to the love of God as an influence or an attribute, "Unto Him that loves us," he personalizes it, the love of God is Jesus. "Unto Him who washed us from our sins in His blood," he places the atonement back to the flowing wounds and the riven side [John 19:16-34]. He even peers into the heart of the Lord and sees there the love that brought Him into the world [John 3:16], and that offered His life as a sacrifice for our sins [John 15:13]. And he overflows in this exaltation: "Unto Him that loves us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood" [Revelation 1:5]. The atonement to John was not a theological exercise; it wasn’t something that a schoolboy memorizes or a theological student learns and takes an examination on. To John, the atonement was the death of Christ, the flowing wounds, the tears that fell to the ground, the life that was poured out for us [Mark 14:24]. It was personal – it was personal. And out of his soul came that exalted, overflowing, spontaneous doxology of love, and remembrance, and adoration, and worship. I suppose the disciples, when they saw the blessed hands of Jesus pour water in the bowl and wash their feet, and saw that humble figure girded with a towel and washing their feet [John 13:4-5], I suppose they found in their hearts an unusual new love for the Lord.
But how would you express the love that they and we ought to feel when we think of the figure that washes us from our sins in His own blood? And as long as the atonement is a doctrine, and as long as theology is a book, it lies dormant and helpless! But if it ever can be quickened into life, and the atonement is the love of Jesus and theology is the living presence of our reigning Lord, then there’s life and the quickening presence of the power of God, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us, and made us kings and priests." To Him, not to a book, or a theology, or a doctrine, or a theory, but "to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" [Revelation 1:5-6].
I want you to see in this closing observation how the doxologies grow in the Apocalypse. In this first one, "To Him be glory and dominion." Two notes in it. "To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" [Revelation 1:6]. Now when you turn to the fourth chapter of the Apocalypse and look at the eleventh verse, it’s grown to three. "The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth forever and ever, and they cast down their crowns before the throne, saying: Thou art worthy, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are created" [Revelation 4:10-11]. It had gone to three. Start with two, now it’s gone to three. Now, let’s turn to the next chapter, chapter 5 and let’s look at the thirteenth verse: "And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying: Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever" [Revelation 5:13]. The two has gone to three, and the three have grown to four now. Now turn to the seventh chapter and the twelfth verse: "And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and about the four cherubim, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, Saying: Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God forever and ever. Amen" [Revelation 7:11-12]. The two went to three, and the three went to four, and the four finally consummated in the perfect number of seven, the fullness of praise and adoration.
But it just goes on and on forever and ever. As we know more of the Lord, and as we see more of the Lord, and as we understand more of our Lord, the doxologies grow, and they grow, and they grow, until they include all the gamuts, and all the scales, and all the notes, and all of the overtones of all God’s creation. And some day, when we get to glory and are unfettered and are free, and live in an angelic, celestial, immortal, seraphic body, raised from the dead, our doxologies shall extend through all of the eons of the eternities that are yet to come. "Unto Him – unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, who hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory, and honor, and power, and dominion," and praise, and love, and adoration, and worship, now and forever and world without end. Amen and amen [Revelation 1:5-6].
That is the fullness and the richness of the Christian life. Sweeter, better, richer, fuller, finer, deeper as the years multiply, and it never ends, through all of the ages yet to come, to join in the song of the ultimate and final Hallelujah, when we stand in His presence and are added to the great and celestial choir of God’s saints who are gathering in glory. Some of us already over the river, in through the gate, some of us nearing the portals, others of us in the pilgrimage, but all of us in the love and mercy of God who shall present us faultless some day in His presence with grace and great glory [Jude 1:24].
And while we sing our hymn of invitation, somebody you give his heart to Jesus. Somebody you put your life with us in the fellowship of the church. A family you to come – we had two families to join the church at the 8:15 o’clock hour. In the multitude of people this morning, at this hour, in this great throng in the balcony round, coming down the stairway at the back or the front or at either side, and in this throng of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, would you make it now? "Here I am, and here I come. Pastor, I’ve given my heart to God. In token, I give you my hand." On the first note of this first stanza, would you come? This holy, sacred hour, would you come? We’re still on this radio. Maybe you’ve listened to the sermon as you drove down the highway in a car, as you lay on a sick bed, as you sat in the living room, as you worked at the kitchen. If God has spoken to your soul this day, would you pause? Pull to the side of the road, bow your head over the steering wheel, and give your heart to God. Or kneel down right where you are by the side of the bed, or by the side of the chair, or by the side of the radio and give your heart to God, unto Him who loved us, and who washed us; in a great second the deed is done. We’re saved by a great committal to God. Not by our own works of righteousness which we can do, but by the committal and trust of our souls to God [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Would you do it now? As you listen on the radio or in the great throng of the people who share in this holy house this morning, this sacred hour, would you make it now? Would you come now? While we stand and while we sing.
JOHN’S ASCRIPTION OF PRAISE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Most remarkable opening of any book, even in Holy Scripture
B. Ancient addresses
1. Egyptian steward greeted Hebrew stranger, "Peace be to you"
2. When David sent messenger to Nabal, "Peace be unto theeâ€¦"
3. Assyrian king in his royal proclamations, "Peace be multiplied unto you"
4. The same heard today in those lands, "Shalom, peace unto you"
5. Never a greeting like this from John – peace rooted in grace
C. John speaks of the foundation of that blessing and address in a trinity of trinities – the salutation comes from the triune God
1. God the Father, "who is, which was, and who is to come", in the absoluteness of His unchanging nature and eternal existence
2. Holy Spirit, "the Spirit sevenfold", in His plentitude and perfection
3. Jesus Christ, "the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth", in His blood-sealed testimony, in the power of His resurrection, and in the administration of His kingdom
a. No salvation or ultimate blessing from any other (Acts 4:12)
D. The mentioning of the name of Christ causes John to break forth into an outburst of praise(Revelation 1:5-6)
1. He is not alone in this sudden burst of doxology and praise(Ephesians 3:20-21, 1 Timothy 1:17, Jude 24-25)
E. This ascription of praise speaks of the component parts of our salvation
1. The motive that lay back of it – "who loved us"
2. The act of atonement – "who washed us from our sins in His blood"
3. The result – "hath made us kings and priests unto God"
II. "Who lovedus"
A. Could understand His pity, or compassion
1. But He loved us when we were unlovely
B. In John’s day a man did not count for much
1. Same thing today
2. What is a man?(Psalm 8:4, John 10:3)
C. Agaponti, present linear action – "unto Him who loves us"(Romans 8:38-39)
III. "Who washed us"
A. The proof of His love
1. Lusanti, aorist – "washed us", that one and only time
B. It is something God has done for us(Numbers 21:9, John 3:14)
1. Air Force chaplain in World War II sharing Jesus with the dying wounded
2. Hymn, "Are You Washed in the Blood?"
IV. "Made us kings and priests"
A. Forgiving us, and more – added honor, official dignity
1. A citizenship Christ hath bestowed upon us
B. Kings – born into the family of the blood royal
C. Priests – a place of service; universal priesthood of all believers
V. "To Him be the glory"
A. He started with Him, and then closes with Him
B. To John Jesus was so near, dear and so real(John 13:23-25)
1. A tragedy that to us He is so far off, a paper character
2. To John the atonement was not a theological exercise, but the flowing wounds, the tears that fell, the life poured out
3. Out of his soul came this spontaneous doxology of love, remembrance and adoration(John 13:4-5)
C. Doxologies grow in the Apocalypse
1. Here in the first one there are two notes – glory, dominion(Revelation 1:6)
2. It grows to three – glory, honor, power(Revelation 4:11)
3. Then three to four – blessing, honor, glory, power (Revelation 5:13)
4. Four consummated to seven, the number of perfection – blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, might (Revelation 7:12)