Revelation 1:4 – Who Is, Was, To Come – Jesus?

John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from God, who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne. — Revelation 1:4. — World English version of the Bible

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. — King James Version.

The World English Bible version evidently supplies the word “God” before “who is.”

Revelation 1:4 is sometimes referenced by a few trinitarians and the phrase “who is and who was and who is to come” is attributed to Jesus. Actually, the context shows that the phrase is being attributed unipersonally to the God of Jesus.  In the context, “God” is presented as one person, that one person “gave” to another person, Jesus, the revelation. “This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him.” Did Jesus give to Jesus the Revelation of Jesus? No, it was another person who was not Jesus, and the other one person was the One that Jesus refers to later as “my God.” (Revelation 3:13) When Jesus referred to God as “my God,” was he speaking of one person, or more than one person?

Then, in Revelation 1:2, this unipersonal “God” is again distinguished from Jesus: “[John] testified to God’s word, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

In Revelation 1:4, John begins to write as though a letter to the seven churches. He identifies himself as the writer, but then begins to identify others from whom the message is given. He first identifies “God, who is and who was and who is to come.” John does not identify the one “who is and who was and who is to come” as Jesus, for he goes on in Revelation 1:5 to add another person, Jesus, saying, “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” In doing this, John distinguishes Jesus from the unipersonal God spoken of in Revelation 1:4. However, in Revelation 4:8 we find the One who is, was and is to come spoken of and described in Revelation 4:1 and the “one sitting on the throne.” Now notice in Revelation 5:6,7:

Revelation 5:6 Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth.
Revelation 5:7 He came and took [the scroll] out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne. — Holman Christian Standard Version.

Therefore the one sitting on the throne is not Jesus, because in Revelation 5:6,7, we find Jesus depicted as the Lamb slain, who is found worthy to take the book from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne.

In Revelation 1:4, John identifies 3 different sources from which he received the message of his letter to the churches: (1) from the One who is and who was and who is to come, (2) and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne, (3) and also from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness. Therefore, John identifies at least two persons which the message is from, the Father, the God of Jesus, and Jesus, the Son of the Most High. In many translations, the seven spirits are spoken of as though persons, although it could be rendered as “from the seven spirits that/which are before his throne.” If one should view these seven spirits as persons, then these seven spirits would be seven more persons from whom the the message is received, thus making up nine persons altogether.

Some have claimed that the word “and” [Greek, kai] in Revelation 1:5 should be translated “even”, with the thought that this would mean that Jesus is the One who is, was and is to come in Revelation 1:4. In actuality, such an idea would make Jesus the “seven spirits” that were just mentioned before in verse 4. It would not refer back to the one spoken of as the one “who is and who was and who is to come”, since there is another “kai” — and — in between this phrase and added “kai” — and — of verse 5. Nor could we say that “kai” before the seven spirits means “even” in this sense, because it would conflict with the idea that these are spirits are before the throne of the One “who is and who was and who is to come,” since it would make these seven spirits the very one sitting on the throne.

What we would really have if “kai” should be rendered “even” would be:

John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from the one who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne; even from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

Those who promote the idea that kai is being used as cumulative usually disregard the “seven spirits”, or else they will try to make “kai” before the seven spirits also mean “even”, which would, in effect, mean that the seven spirits would all be before the One on the throne, but at the same be the One on the thone who has the seven spirits before him. Regardess, trying make kai before the seven spirits to mean the one who is, was and to come, and trying make Jesus himself the One who is, who was and who is to come as well as the seven spirits would certainly not give any reason to believe in the trinity doctrine.

Additionally, notice the word “from” that appears before “kai.” This is the Greek word “apo” — from — which appears before “Jesus”, just as was done before “God”, and again before “the seven spirits”, which further indicates that “kai” is not being used here to express a cumulative force regarding one being spoken of before, but rather it is fully a further addition showing another involved from whom the message was be given.

Sometimes some will point the to latter expression of verse 5 in an effort to prove that Jesus is the one who is, who was, and who is to come, for it reads: “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” We have here an example of Kai being used as a cumulative list of descriptors of the one originally spoken of. However, in this case, there is nothing before each title that designates that there are separate persons being spoken of, as such as the word “apo,” as we find in the earlier phrases.

The greeting of Revelation 1:4,5 is similar to John’s greeting in 2 John 1:3:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

Here John speaks of two personages “from” whom he prays for Grace, mercy and peace, (1) from the God the Father, and (2) from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father. To translate “kai” here as “even” would make the Son of the Father actually the Father of whom he is he Son. We might also note that John, all through his three letters, also refers to “God” as one person, not three, and that unipersonal “God” is consistently distiguished from the Son of the unipersonal God. Likewise, from the beginning to the end of the Revelation, when one rightly attributes who is being spoken of or quoted, “God” is presented as one person, and is distinguished from Jesus, the Lamb, the Son, etc.

However, we need to also point out that most trinitarian scholars do not claim that Revelation 1:4 is speaking of Jesus. Many do claim it is referring to the Father.

There are some, however, who in some vague manner who see all three of their assumed persons being spoken of. John Gill writes:

Some understand [the phrase in Revelation 1:4] of the whole Trinity; the Father by him “which is”, being the I am that I am; the Son by him “which was”, which was with God the Father, and was God; and the Spirit by him “which is to come”, who was promised to come from the Father and the Son, as a Comforter, and the Spirit of truth.

This application, however, would actually seem to leave Jesus, who is spoken of separately in Revelation 1:5, out of the alleged trinity.

Gill continues:

Others think Christ is here only intended, as he is in (Revelation 1:8) by the same expressions; and is he “which is”, since before Abraham he was the “I am”; and he “which was”, the eternal Logos or Word; and “is to come”, as the Judge of quick and dead.

As already shown, this would be in conflict with Revelation 1:5; additionally, we should note as we have shown elsewhere that Revelation 1:8 is not quoting Jesus, but rather the God of Jesus. Thus the appeal to Revelation 1:8 does not support viewing the expression in Revelation 1:4 as being applied to Jesus.

However, Gill continues:

But rather this is to be understood of the first Person, of God the Father; and the phrases are expressive both of his eternity, he being God from everlasting to everlasting; and of his immutability, he being now what he always was, and will be what he now is, and ever was, without any variableness, or shadow of turning: they are a periphrasis, and an explanation of the word “Jehovah”, which includes all tenses, past, present, and to come.

We agree with John Gill that it does apply to the Father, but only as the Father is depicted as the unipersonal God, not as the “first person” of an assumed trinity that has to be imagined beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6), assumed, added to, and read into the scriptures. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not once, from Genesis to Revelation, ever presented as more than one person.

         

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