Revelation is for us.
By “revelation” I mean both St. John’s biblion, as well as the entirety of God’s revelation.
Revelation is for us.
As far as when the events of St. John’s Revelation will take place, by now you will have noticed that I believe the Revelation is primarily about what Jesus Christ has already done. But what Jesus Christ has already done has cosmic significance for every time and every place, for what He did was establish a New Covenant with man, which means a New Heaven (one into which we can now enter) and a New Earth (one that is now redeemed and being redeemed). What He has done radiates out in the time-warp continuum reaching back to the Old Testament saints and to the farthest reaches of the future, from Tyler, TX to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
The fact that John is writing about things that happened in the first century smacks you in the face in Chapter 22. Of course, we remember that John’s original audience is 1st century Christians who are being persecuted and need to be reminded that Jesus Christ has indeed ascended into heaven where He truly reigns. John repeats his teaching that what has been revealed to him are “things which must shortly take place,” which is repeated here in verse 6 as a kind of closing parenthesis around his initial teaching in Chapter 1, verse 1, that these are “things which must shortly take place.”
In verse 7 of Chapter 22, Jesus Christ says to the suffering, martyred Church of the 1st century, “Behold, I am coming quickly” (verse 7). What a cruel hoax it would have been if the early Church heard these words repeated several times – “these things must shortly take place” and “I am coming quickly,” when 2000 years later none of this has taken place yet!
In verse 10, the angel tells John not to seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, “for the time is at hand.” What a contrast to Daniel 12:4 where Daniel is told “shut up the words and seal the book until the time of the end.” St. John is, in essence, being told that the end is indeed here, the last days. The 1st century, in which the Old Covenant was catastrophically destroyed and the New Covenant birthed, was the last days. This is why St. Peter, quoting the prophet Joel says, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh . . . .” (Acts 2:17), things which Peter says are fulfilled by Pentecost in A.D. 30. This is why the writer of Hebrews says that God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (1:2) and then goes on to list the mighty works of Christ by which the last days (New Covenant) have come.
Verse 12: “Behold, I am coming quickly.”
Verse 20: “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Revelation is for us. Some will say, “But if these things have been fulfilled, then they’re all past and not relevant to us.” To which I would say, “Then are you saying that by them not being fulfilled they have been irrelevant to the Church, including St. John’s audience, for 2000 years? And are you saying that the entire New Testament is irrelevant, since Paul’s letters were to 1st century churches and the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in the Gospels is past?”
Revelation is for us, including Revelation.
I believe that Revelation 22 is meant for me and for you.
Even though Revelation and Scripture end in a city, the New Jerusalem which is the Church, it also ends in a garden, which is the New Paradise. Adam was born in a Garden and driven away into a relative wilderness. We were born in the wilderness, but God has re-opened Paradise for busy-ness, the task of tending His Garden. “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” Jesus says to the thief on the cross, and the women mistake Jesus for the gardener after the Resurrection, in the garden in which the tomb lay. What God created good in Genesis 1 and Adam lost in Genesis 3, Jesus Christ has restored and completed in Revelation 22.
Jesus says, in effect, “I am the Tree of Life” (Revelation 22:2). “I am the Vine, you are the branches,” (John 15:5). If you have life in Jesus Christ, the Tree of Life, you will have life indeed, and have it more abundantly. If you eat of the Tree of Life, planted here in God’s New Garden of Paradise, the New Jerusalem, the Church, you will “bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:7).
“I am the light of the world,” Jesus says (John 8:12; the Revelation of John 22:5). No longer do we (even now!) walk in darkness, but we are in the light, as He is in the light. We shouldn’t forget that the highly theological and figurative John of the Gospel is also the John of the Revelation. It’s as if John is saying that this is the Lord’s Day, the New Day, because first there was evening and dark (the Old Heavens and Earth), and then there was morning (the New Heavens and Earth). And God saw that it was good, and there was evening and there was morning, the Lord’s Day.
Jesus Christ then, through the pen of St. John, commands us to keep the words of the prophecy of this book (verses 7 and 9). And what is the commandment that we are to keep? The first one that the angel mentions is “Worship God” (verse 9). In fact, the book of Revelation is all about worshiping God, and our lives are to be all about worshiping God. Remember: all of what St. John sees and hears and writes happens to him while he is in the Lord’s Day in the Spirit. Everything that St. John writes is an act of worship because it is his faithful response to the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
And what is our appropriate response whenever we see and hear the Revelation of Jesus Christ? It’s to fall prostrate before Him as if dead and worship Him, so that He might lift us up. I see this kind of worship as a kind of recapitulation of our death and life. We are dead in our sins, and when we come before God we are keenly, bodily, aware of this. But when we come before Him after having eaten from the Tree of Life and having drunk the Living Water, we are baptized with Christ and eucharistized with Christ and not only die with Christ but are raised with Him to new life and ascend with Him into heaven.
The book of Revelation is all about worship because the revelation of Jesus Christ always leads us to worship!
For this reason, the book of Revelation if filled with heavenly songs, the songs of the angels. And we are to join in with all the angels and archangels and all the heavenly host, singing with them with all of our might.
Our worship, though, is more than just singing songs and bowing down. One of the ways that we bow down or ascribe “worth ship” to God and acknowledge Him to be the Lord is simply to obey Him. And our obedience is how we reign with Christ: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” When we are united to Jesus Christ by dying to ourselves and denying ourselves, we will be raised with Him as well. Therefore, we must crucify ourselves, joining ourselves to the one who not only obeyed for us but also died for us.
Initial, progressive, and final.
Jesus Christ is coming quickly! Not only initially to the 1st century churches in Asia Minor and not only finally at His Second Coming, but also progressively, here and now, to us. And so He says not only to the 1st century churches of Asia Minor and the Church Triumphant in all her glory “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to His work” (verse 12) – He also says it to you. To you He says “Blessed are those who do My commandments that you may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (verse 13 – yes, I’ve changed the words a little).
Initial, progressive, and final.
But because our obedience is initial, progressive, and final, and we in the process of redemption and salvation, the Tree of Life that Christ offers us, which is Himself, is a Cross. Adam died by a tree, and Christ saves us by a Tree. That Tree is a painful one, but this pain is a good pain because it is by our suffering with Christ that we are united to Him that finally we might be done with sin and suffering and death. It is by hanging on the Tree of Life with Jesus Christ that we will be enabled to enter Paradise with Him. Ouch! It hurts like Hell in the beginning, but it feels like Heaven in the end.
Revelation is for us. It is all about worship and it contains what, along with the Lord’s Prayer, is to be our most basic and profound prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”
Let him who hears say, “Come!”
Let him who thirsts come!
I do not believe that when we pray to Jesus to come that He who died for us will be stingy or sluggardly. I do not believe that because Jesus Christ came to the 1st century Christians and will come finally and completely at His Second Coming that He will not also come to me this very day.
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
Whoever you are this morning; whatever you’re doing with your life; whatever your sufferings: Jesus Christ says, “I am the Tree of Life, and I am the River of Living Water. Come!”
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen!
Prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Points for Meditation:
- Consider learning to read the book of Revelation in light of what Jesus Christ has already done and in light of what it means to you, here and now.
- In what ways is Jesus Christ calling you to come to Him? How well have you obeyed His call to come? What will you do to come more faithfully?
He comes in many ways: Bible reading and meditation; prayer; public worship; fellowship with the saints; obedience; taking up your Cross and denying yourself; joyful celebration; loving service to others, etc.
Resolution: I resolve to come to Jesus Christ today. Having heard the commandment of the Lord to “Come,” and the reward that He promises for coming and worshiping and obeying, determine to come to Jesus Christ today! Find one specific way to come.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson