Eternal God, you revealed to the disciples the everlasting glory of Jesus Christ. Grant us, who have not seen and yet believe, the gift of your Holy Spirit, that we may boldly live the gospel and shine with your transforming glory, as people changed and changing through the redeeming presence of our Savior. Amen.
Revelation 22:12–21 NRSV
“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
Why does John present Jesus rehashing do much of the description of Jesus from chapter 1?
The first thing that needs to be noticed about this passage is how similar the language is to chapter 1; John introduces the book and concludes the book calling Jesus “the alpha and omega” and reminding us of his coming. John’s phrases are not coincidental in the least, he is deliberately focusing our attention on Jesus to remind us of his first vision of the glorified Jesus. Anyone can be forgiven for loosing track of Jesus as we read John’s visions, they are somewhat traumatic. If you have this is John’s way of reminding you to put Jesus front and center. The structure of the book is a metaphor for life, it is easy in the high’s and low’s of life to get focused on the wrong things, putting situations and events front and center where they do not belong. The thought should be running through our head that Jesus begins and ends our day, our lives and world events.
We do a disservice to Revelation to read it as a blueprint of the future. So many preachers this weekend will be talking about how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine lines up with the passages of “Gog and Magog” in Revelation, as if John wants us to have a script of world events and this is a flawed approach. Like so many other situations on the world stage, Russia’s aggression reveals that the systems of evil are alive and well in the world. Babylon still has influence. But that does not mean these are events predicted by John. Saying these events are predicted by John takes our focus away from Jesus and places it on the Book of Revelation. We begin to loose focus on walking with Jesus through the events we experience and place it on trying to figure out what will happen next. And that is not a good place to be; yet it happens again and again. Preachers trying to argue that certain events put us on a specific place in the timeline of Revelation unwittingly elevate the words of the book beyond their intended purpose. The purpose of the book is to remind us of the glorified Jesus and his desire to see evil destroyed and creation renewed. We are called to focus on Jesus in the midst of the evil of this world, not to try to pinpoint where the evil fits on a map.
Therefore, since “we do not know at what hour the thief will come,” we are commanded “to watch and to gird ourselves and to keep our lamps burning,” letting our godly behavior shine even for our neighbor. Therefore, let us not cease to beseech God with a contrite heart to “save us from all our pursuers,” lest our souls, having been defeated by them, be snatched away unprepared “with no one to rescue or to save.”Andrew of Caesarea
The call of the Gospel is to keep our focus on Jesus while life is distracting us with the temptation toward ease and comfort or pelting us with stress. Part of the gift of Scripture is to see Jesus as he truly is, which helps us understand he can take care of us. This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday, where we are reminded of the first glimpse the disciples had of Jesus’ true identity. It is in the moment on the mountain Peter, James, and John came to an awareness of Jesus’ true identity and in the Gospel record this event happens immediately prior to Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. Jesus was glorified immediately before he suffered; the disciples witnessed Jesus’ real nature as they entered stress and suffering. These events only made sense to the disciples after Jesus was glorified in the Resurrection. This is Revelation in a nutshell, we see Jesus glorified and then are forced to walk through the suffering and then we see Jesus glorified again. We walk the path from Transfiguration to Resurrection each year during Lent. This year with the threat of war (to say nothing of your own local trials) some of the realities of the journey are more obvious, but the message has not changed. The message of Revelation is that the evil of this world will be great and seek to tempt or terrorize you, but our objective is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus so that we can anticipate his return with singular focus.