After identifying the recipients of the letter, the apostle John greets his readers. "Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth."
Grace is needed if they are to hang in there in the face of persecution. Peace is that inner calmness of mind and heart that comes from a true knowledge of God. What follows grace and peace in John's greeting are wonderful reasons why those to whom he is writing need not be afraid, no matter what happens.
The three-fold phrase, "from him who is, and who was, and who is to come," anchors grace and peace in the eternal, self-existent God. This is where the true comfort is always found. If we go looking for it in the world or in other human beings we will be greatly disappointed. But if we look to God; the eternal, sovereign God who rules over history, we will find what we are looking for.
Grace and peace are also linked to "the seven spirits before his throne." This is best understood as a reference to the Holy Spirit. The New Living Bible translates the phrase: "the seven-fold Spirit" and this moves us in the right direction. The number 7 is being used to describe the complete and effective working of the Spirit. It may also be related to the fact that there are 7 churches, each empowered by the Spirit. There is probably also an allusion to Zechariah 4:2-7 and Isaiah 11:2ff . What is being emphasized it that this is where the true power of the church lies. There is no substitute for the work of the Spirit of God.
Finally, John ties grace and peace to Jesus Christ. This completes his trinitarian greeting. He describes Jesus in ways that are particularly suited to the struggles being experienced by the churches. Jesus is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth. They have nothing to fear. They can count on him. He has faithfully revealed his Father's word and done his will. He is the "firstborn from the dead" in that he has ascended to the throne of the universe by means of his death and resurrection. He has triumphed and inaugurated a new creation which will one day envelope the whole universe. Even now the kings of the earth are subject to him. It does not always seem that way, but this is the way it is. Jesus rules over men and nations and the satanic forces that try to use them for their own purposes. No one can stand against him.
Grace and peace indeed!