In Revelation 11, St. John continues his theme of the destruction of the Old Covenant and the birth of the New Covenant. The Mystery of God has been accomplished (or revealed), as the gospel is preached (Revelation 10:7). What is this Mystery? It is the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to St. Paul, it is the tearing down of the dividing wall between God and man and between Jew and Gentile, and it is God making peace with the world through His Son (see Ephesians and Colossians).
When St. John begins his letter plainly telling his readers that the things he writes must shortly take place, he means it. He really means, as we read here in Revelation 11, that “the kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ” and that “He will reign forever and ever” (verse 15). He really means that the Almighty Lord has taken His great power and begun to reign” (verse 17). And he really means that “the Temple of God was opened” (verse 19).
When Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, He sat down at the right hand of the Father and began to rule. His kingdom has already been established, or else He was a liar when He said, even before His Ascension, that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. As the writer of Hebrews went to great lengths to explain, when Jesus Christ ascended, heaven was, indeed, opened. Christ has entered the true Temple of heaven and serves there as our High Priest. These are things that have already happened.
The fact that St. John is referring to the destruction of the Old Covenant and the birth of the New Covenant is marked by the “flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm” that were signs of the coming of the Old Covenant on Mt. Sinai. But now we are in the New Covenant, for Jesus Christ has ascended to heaven and has begun to rule in His holy Temple.
And we are that holy Temple. We are the body of Jesus Christ, the holy Temple, because we are truly united with Him and He truly dwells with us through His Holy Spirit.
If you believe these things (and you should), how do they make you feel?
I confess that, even though I came to believe these wonderful things a long time ago, much of the time, even when clearly reminded, they remain intellectual truths only. They remain hidden in some sulcus (furrow or groove) or gyrus (bump) in my brain somewhere. I remember and am happy for a moment, but then go on like the 9 healed lepers as if nothing really important has happened.
And I wish I wouldn’t do this. But I need help not only in being reminded that Jesus has ascended to heaven but in remembering that He is there reigning over heaven and earth. I need help remembering that I am seated in the heavenly places with Him and that He is there interceding for me. I need help remembering that I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, especially as a part of the Church.
More specifically, I need you. I need you to help me remember these things and to live as if they were really true (because they are!) I need you to faithfully read and study and meditate on your Bible as if it contained the very words of God – because it does. I need you to be familiar with what God has told us about Himself and what He has commanded us so that when I begin to talk excitedly about my most recent favorite passage from Scripture I don’t get blank stares or questions about how the Cubs are doing (don’t ask).
I need you to sing to Jesus Christ as if He really took away your sins. I need you to sing the Sanctus (“Holy, Holy, Holy”) and the Gloria (“Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace good will to men”) and the Agnus Dei (“O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world”) and all of our other holy music as if you really believed what you were singing. I need you to sing as if you were really in the presence of Jesus Christ.
I need you to worship with all of your might. I’m not too crazy about liturgical dance in our culture, but like King David maybe we could at least worship with all of our might (children: I’ll promise to spare you the sight of Dad dancing before the Lord with all our might if you promise to worship Him every evening with all your might!)
I need you to go out and evangelize others, to tell them about the Good News of Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and session because you can’t help but speak of the things you have heard and seen God do in your life. I need you to roll up your sleeves and forsake a few more units of pleasure in your life (what economists call this “marginal utility,” and it’s related to the Law of Diminishing Returns) and get out there and make disciples of all of those who desire to follow Jesus Christ.
I need you to endure your suffering as if you are suffering with Jesus Christ, and I need you to give thanks in His Church when He blesses you. I need all of you to act as if Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and ascended into heaven and has opened heaven for you and me to enter into.
I need you, in other words, to be the Church. I need you to really live as if you are the Body of Christ, so that I can be a more faithful disciple. You are one of the primary ways I see Jesus and one of the primary ways that He feeds me each day. And sometimes pastors have a special need for you because we don’t always have someone outside of us to remind us of what we have just preached and taught.
I’m not saying “I need you” to do these things the way a parent might say to his child “I need you to go mow the lawn,” meaning “Go mow the lawn – or else!” I’m saying “I need you” to do these things because I really need you to do these things if I’m ever going to remember them and live as if they were true. I need you to constantly remind me of Jesus Christ – His Resurrection, and His victory over sin, death, and Satan, and His kingdom, and blessed reign.
You and I together are His holy Temple. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us: we are the Kingdom of Heaven. We are called to live as if we are, and I need you to live as if you are so that I can, too.
An imaging study of the brain has identified the brain region that is involved in anticipating rewards (in the mesolimbic region, which is involved in the processing of emotions). It’s amazing how this reward center promotes memory formation. Apparently, if your brain thinks it’s going to get rewarded for remembering something (such as not having your hand burned when you remember that fire burns or in not having a very unhappy wife when you don’t remember your anniversary) then it gears up to do a good job of remembering. “Anticipatory activation” suggests that the brain actually prepares in advance to filter incoming information that streams in from the world so you can focus on what’s important and remember it.
The soul also remembers the things it believes will result in a reward. Since there is no greater reward than Jesus Christ Himself, who is heaven, let’s do a better job of reminding each other of His Resurrection, Ascension, and Reign – by living joyful, obedient, shared lives.
Prayer: Almighty God, we ask that as Your only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into the heavens, so we may also in heart and mind ascend there with Him, and that by faithfully living as His holy Church we may by Him continually live with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
- Reflect on how well your life has been a living reminder of the death, resurrection, ascension, and reign of Jesus Christ. Find one way in which you can more faithfully reflect Him in your life.
- Go listen to the Hallelujah Chorus. Feel free to join in at the top of your lungs!
Resolution: I resolve to find one way to help someone else remember Jesus Christ and His reign today.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson