Jesus figures significantly in this first chapter of Revelation. There should be no wonder; this is the “revelation of Jesus Christ” as verse one tells us.
John greets the seven churches of Asia Minor with a grand praise of Jesus, their common Savior:
Jesus the Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. (1:5)
Now, stop for a moment. Think how provocative that flourish of praise is. John is ascribing a power to Jesus that is equal or even surpasses the Caesar. Is this god of the Christians more powerful than the Caesar who rules all other regional kings of the Mediterranean? What a dangerous way to start a book to people persecuted for their seditious beliefs!
Lest there be a misunderstanding, this is a different kind of king. Yes, he has conquered kingdoms. He holds in his hands trophies of powers that have been vanquished.
He touched me with his right hand. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “I am the first and the last and the living one. I was dead and look! I am alive forever and ever. I have the keys of death and Hades. (1:17-18)
Jesus is not a king like Caesar. He certainly desires the hearts of those who address him as king, but he is not seeking more soil and greater riches. He has conquered a power greater than Caesar himself. His greatest victories are spiritual.
John not only says great things about Jesus in this chapter, he even has a vision of Jesus as well:
So I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. As I turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the middle of the lampstands “one like a son of man,” wearing a full-length robe and with a golden belt across his chest. (1:12-13)
As we start this book, it is important for us to note where Jesus is in this vision. He stands in the midst of seven lampstands, which verse 20 tells us signify the seven churches to whom this book is written. Thus, as we start this book we see Jesus standing in the midst of his suffering people.
Jesus is a mighty king but also a compassionate comforter.