#FunFactFriday — Because TGIF!
Did you know?
Revelation 1:5 refers to Jesus Christ as the “Firstborn of the dead”
John, to the seven churches that are in [the province of] Asia: Grace [be granted] to you and peace [inner calm and spiritual well-being], from Him Who is [existing forever] and Who was [continually existing in the past] and Who is to come, and from the seven Spirits that are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful and trustworthy Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who [always] loves us and who [has once for all] freed us [or washed us] from our sins by His own blood (His sacrificial death)— and formed us into a kingdom [as His subjects], priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the power and the majesty and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The title “firstborn of the dead” for Jesus is of great theological importance, especially with Easter in the background.
The Greek word for “firstborn” that John uses is prōtotokos, a word that refers to birth order—the first child born.
The word “firstborn” in this verse refers to the special status of Jesus Christ, firstborn as the preeminent son and heir.
In referring to Jesus as the firstborn of the dead, John draws from Psalms 89:1, which celebrates the kingship of David with phrases like “the firstborn,” “the highest of the kings of the earth,” and the idea that the Messiah’s throne will be a “faithful witness in the sky.”
Calling Jesus firstborn portrays him as the heir of David, exalted and lifted up as the representative of his people.
Numerous other times in the New Testament Jesus is referred to as prōtotokos, firstborn:
See Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18 (first born of the dead); Colossians 1:15
In I Corinthians 15:20, Jesus is called the “firstfruits” because His resurrection and the resurrection of believers are related events. Jesus was “the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23), as our representative.
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. His resurrection caused us to be raised spiritually (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 2:6), and at the same time guarantees that we will be raised bodily.
As “firstborn of the dead,” Jesus is first both in time and preeminence. As the first to be raised from the dead, Christ is the founder and initiator of the new era God is bringing about through Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
“Firstborn” therefore refers to the high, privileged position that Christ has as a result of the resurrection from the dead. Christ has gained such a sovereign position because He is the inaugurator of new creation by means of His resurrection.
Jesus’ resurrection from death opens the way for all who trust in him to follow him in a resurrection like his when he returns. He is the firstborn of the resurrection plan.
We can draw all this together to see that there are two central ideas in the title “firstborn of the dead” in Revelation 1:5. First, the allusion to Psalm 89 shows that Jesus fulfills all history as the messianic King descended from the line of David.
Second, being the “firstborn of the dead” means that Jesus is both the first to rise and the first in supremacy. He is the first to rise from the dead and thus the first of the new creation. He is also the inaugurator of the new creation and the rightful heir to it all.
Through the victory of His death and resurrection, Christ will ultimately triumph over all enemies, including death itself. Christians who have died physically will live eternally through their risen Lord. Christians have a sure hope that one day we will follow Christ into the resurrection and new creation, and, because we are in Christ, will reign with him as the firstborn of God, heirs of all things in heaven and on earth.
Grace & Peace!