The Faithful Witness

In the salutation to the seven churches, Jesus is called the Faithful Witness because of his self-sacrificial death – Revelation 1:5. 

The vision of John begins with salutations to the churches of Asia from God, the “seven spirits,” and Jesus, the “faithful witness.” The Son of God bore “witness” in his death, it is the pattern the “churches” are summoned to emulate as they give “testimony” in the midst of tribulation “for the word of God.”

That the term “faithful witness” refers to his death is demonstrated by the declaration that Jesus “loved us and loosed us from our sins with his blood.”

  • (Revelation 1:4-5) - “Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is coming, and from the Seven Spirits which are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the Dead, and the Ruler of the Kings of the Earth. Unto him, that loves us and loosed us out of our sins with his blood.”

He is also called the “firstborn of the dead” and the “ruler of the kings of the earth.” The former refers to his resurrection and the latter to his present reign. All three designations are derived from the eighty-ninth psalm:

  • (Psalm 89:27, 37) - “I also will make him my first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established forever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven.”

HIS PRESENT POSITION

That this opening declaration about Jesus refers to the victory he achieved in his past death and resurrection is confirmed by the declaration of the “one like a Son of Man” – “I am the Living One, and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades!

And so, his possession of absolute sovereignty over the earth was achieved through his death and resurrection. Similarly, in his letter to the Laodiceans, he describes himself as the “Amen, the faithful and true witness - (Revelation 1:18, 3:14).

The Greek term rendered “witness” is martus. It means “witness,” but from it is derived the English noun ‘martyr’. It refers to one who bears “witness,” gives “testimony” before others, and very often, in legal proceedings. John, for example, was exiled to the isle of Patmos for the “word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”

Not coincidentally, in Pergamos, the very same label is applied to the man named ‘Antipas,’ “my faithful witness,” the one who was slain for his testimony. Likewise, when the “fifth seal” is opened, John sees the souls of those who have been slain “for the word of God and for their testimony,” now underneath the altar - (Revelation 2:13, 6:9).

Later, the “Two Witnesses” (martus) are slain by the “Beast from the Abyss” after they complete “their testimony.” And the English noun “testimony” translates the related Greek term marturia.

After he is expelled from the courts of heaven, the “Dragon” departs to “wage war on those who have the testimony of Jesus.”

And later, after Satan is bound in the “Abyss,” John sees the souls of them “who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the word of God… And they reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Just like Jesus, their participation in his “reign” was preceded by martyrdom - (Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 20:4).

FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH

In his death, Jesus did not just bear “witness,” but he gave “faithful witness.” Like him, the martyr Antipas is called “my faithful witness,” and Jesus summons the church at Smyrna to become “faithful unto death” despite the “tribulation” they are about to endure. To that congregation, “faithfulness” means martyrdom – (Revelation 2:10, 2:13).

Finally, faithful Christians “overcome” the Devil by the “word of their testimony; and because they loved not their life even unto death.”

Consistently, bearing “faithful witness” is closely associated with martyrdom. This does not mean that every believer must suffer a martyr’s death, but it certainly stresses the need to be willing to do so - “for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”

Just as Jesus gave “faithful testimony” before the High Priest of Israel, the Roman governor, and on Calvary, so, too, his disciples are called to bear witness before a world system that all too often persecutes them, even when doing so means death. It is in this way that they “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.”


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