Come, Lord Jesus!
September 4, 2022

Come, Lord Jesus!

Series:
Passage: Revelation 22:6-21
Service Type:

Come, Lord Jesus!
Revelation 22:6-21
by William Klock

So here we finally are at John’s epilogue to Revelation.  You can’t stay on the mountain overlooking the New Jerusalem forever.  At some point the vision of God’s glorious future has to end so that we can get back to the business of getting there—being the “on earth as in heaven” God has called to make his kingdom known in the present.  God has a wonderful future in store for his people, but he’s given us Jesus and the Spirit so that we can be his people in the present, so that we can fulfil his mission that will eventually bring about his new creation.  And so in these final verses John finds himself back on Patmos, still in exile for the sake of Jesus.  But it’s not over.  His angel guide is still with him.  And the angel speaks.  Look at Revelation 22:6.

 

“These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

 

John knew that all of this was trustworthy and true, but this is for the benefit of those seven churches to whom Revelation is addressed—and to all the other churches that would read his letter down through the ages.  These words are faithful and true, because they proceed from the one who is faith and true.  Remember back to John’s vision of Jesus, riding out on a white horse to conquer, the sword of gospel truth proceeding from his mouth.  John wrote there that he is faithful and true and if he is faithful and true, so is his word.

 

The angel takes us back to the very beginning.  It’s not just John in exile.  The whole purpose of this vision was to show the churches in his care what was to come and, in doing that, to exhort them to stand firm in faith and to hold tightly to Jesus as the storm came.  Tribulation.  Perseverance.  Kingdom.  Those are the key themes of Revelation.  The angel reminds John that the very God who spoke to his people through the prophets of the old covenant, now speaks to him—to show them what must soon take place.  In verse 7 the angels speaks the words of Jesus himself:

 

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

 

What does that mean?  “I am coming soon.”  What does he mean when he says that these are the things that “must soon take place”?  We discredit the one who is faithful and true when we twist his words to say that he was talking about events that would take place thousands of years in the future.  Such a prophecy would do little to encourage the beleaguered saints of the first century.  What John has seen here is what was barrelling down on them as he wrote: persecution and tribulation, but also judgment on their persecutors—on apostate Jerusalem and pagan Rome.  They would know the storm, but they would also know God’s vindication.  This is what it looks like for Jesus’ people to take up their crosses and to follow him.  They would know their own calvary, but because their Lord was with them, they would also know their own Easter.

 

And, through the angel, Jesus repeats the blessing with which the whole vision started:

 

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.  (Revelation 1:3)

 

What does that mean?  How do you keep the words of this prophecy?  I think we struggle with how to keep the words of John’s prophecy, because we so often forget what a biblical prophet is.  We too often think of a prophet as being one who foretells, when the fact is that a biblical prophet is really one who forthtells.  In other words, the biblical prophets proclaim the counsels of the Lord.  Sometimes that includes future events.  But whether it does or not, the real concern is always faithfulness and obedience to the Lord here and now.  So John’s vision of the future isn’t meant to give Christians merely a future hope, as if today doesn’t matter.  You know, just circle the wagons and wait for Jesus to come.  That’s not keeping the prophecy of this book.  Jesus point in coming to John was to reveal the true nature of the battle between the beast and the lamb, between Babylon and the New Jerusalem.  It's to remind us that as God has vindicated his son, so he will also vindicate those who are in his son.  And it’s to remind us that what God has done in Jesus and the Spirit, he will bring to completion through Jesus and the Spirit.  To keep the words of this prophecy is to stand firmly for Jesus in the face of opposition—even martyrdom.  It’s to be a people characterized by the fruit of the Spirit and by the Beatitudes.  Ultimately, it’s to be a people who not only pray “on earth in heaven,” but to be a people who live out the values and life of heaven here on earth—a people who are new creation in the midst of the old and give witness to their—to our—faith and hope in Jesus, what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will one day complete.  It’s to be those people charging out into the world to conquer the nations with the gospel, the good news about Jesus.

 

And then something that might seem odd at this point.  Look at verses 8 and 9:

 

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

 

This is the second time John falls down to worship his angel guide.  Why would he do that?  How would he not know better?  John knew that only God is worthy of our worship.  The angel speaks the words of Jesus, but after just having seen a glorious vision of the lamb, there’s no way John could mistake this angel for Jesus.  What’s going on?  I think the problem is in our translation.  The Greek word translated “worship” sometimes does mean just that, but specifically it means to prostrate oneself before another.  You can do that as an act of worship, but throughout Scripture we also see it done as an act of reverence or submission.  When the angels came to visit Lot in Sodom, this is the word used to describe his falling down before them.  It’s the word used when Joseph’s brothers fall down before him, as well.  And back in Chapter 3, Jesus promised the Christians in Philadelphia that the Jews would do the same before them.  So John isn’t necessarily falling down to worship the angel.  He knew better than that.  The angel pronounces a blessing and in response John falls before him in reverence—not in worship, but acknowledging a superior.  And it’s at this point that the angel rebukes him.  Giving such reverence to an angel may have been appropriate in the old covenant, but Jesus has changed everything.  The angel reminds John, “You and I are fellow servants”.  The angel isn’t worried that John is taking away from the glory of God, but that John is giving his own honour as a son of God to an angel.  Jesus has elevated the status of fallen humanity.  He has made us his brothers and sisters and, in his ascension, has raised our humanity to God’s right hand.  The angel is sort of reminding John of those wonderful words in the book of Hebrews: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace.”  Brothers and Sisters, there is no longer anyone between us and the throne of grace if we are by faith in Jesus the Messiah.

 

In verse 10 Jesus, through the angel, exhorts John:

 

And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.

 

The angel contrasts John’s vision with Daniel’s.  Repeatedly the prophet Daniel was told to seal up his vision, because his vision was “for days yet to come”.  The events that Daniel saw were not soon to take place, as the events that John saw were.  Daniel was seeing things that would not happen for several hundred years.  This highlights again that what John saw was not a vision of events thousands of years in his future.  He certainly wasn’t seeing events that still haven’t happened yet in our time.  Consider that what Daniel saw was a few hundred years off.  He wasn’t told, “these things are soon to pass”.  He was told that they were for days yet to come, so he should “seal them up”.  Why would the angel tell John that the events he saw were soon to come and that he shouldn’t seal them if they were to happen thousands of years in the future.  That doesn’t make any sense.  No, what John was seeing was—except for these last couple of chapters—the events that were shortly to unfold as the Lord’s judgement fell on Jerusalem and then on Rome in order to vindicate his people and prepare the world for the spread of the good news about Jesus.  “Don’t seal it up.  Send it to the churches, because this is the encouragement they’re going to need in the days soon to come.”

 

We get a sense of urgency in verse 11, too:

 

Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”

 

Jesus is saying, “The time is so short, there’s hardly time for repentance!”  Of course, there is always time for the sinner to repent, but Jesus’ point here is the imminence of his coming in judgment.  It’s a last call to the unrepentant in Jerusalem and Rome: I’m coming so soon, the evildoer might as well keep doing evil and the filthy might as well remain in his filth, because there’s hardly any time to repent.”  Again, of course there is, but (first) reminding them just how urgent things are might finally move them to repentance and (second) we need to remember that John wasn’t writing to the unrepentant, to the unbelieving Jew or the pagan Greek, but to the Christians suffering under their unrighteousness.  It wouldn’t be forever.  They would be vindicated.  The short time has implications for them: let the righteous still do right and the holy still be holy.  Remember, many of John’s fellow Christians were facing a crisis.  Some would be tempted to think that maybe they’d made a mistake in choosing to follow Jesus.  Maybe the mainstream Jews had it right all along.  Or maybe Caesar and his gods were really where the power was.  They’d be asking, “If Jesus really is Lord, why is he letting these awful things happen to us?”  And so Jesus is saying, “Don’t give up!  I will vindicate your faithfulness.  This is what it looks like to take up your cross and to follow me.  And as he vindicated me in my resurrection, so God will vindicate you.”  And he says it yet again in verses 12 and 13:

 

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

 

Jesus says it so many times—not only here, but throughout the Gospels—that I’ve just never understood how so many folks try to push what he says into the far future.  Brothers and Sisters, if we believe Jesus and if we trust that the Spirit has given us his words faithfully through the Evangelists, we discredit our Lord when we try to make his words mean what they so clearly do not.  “I am coming soon,” he says yet again.  Remember the audience: those little churches of Asia Minor being harassed by unbelieving Jews and pagan Greeks and Romans—and behind them the great dragon, the old serpent, the devil.  Jesus exhorts them to stand firm in the midst of the storm, because he is coming soon.  He will judge the enemies of his people and he will vindicate them for their faith.  The devil’s days were numbered.  Those little churches will be that multitude that no one could count, from every tribe and nation, standing before the throne and before the lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands, crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)  They are not us.  They are the saints of the apostolic Church, martyred for their faith in Jesus and resurrected.  John calls it the first resurrection.  When John saw them and asked who they were, he was told, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).  They live before the throne as a witness to you and me of the faithfulness of God and the lamb, that we might, ourselves, wash our robes in the blood of the lamb and carry on the faith they witnessed so profoundly.

 

And Jesus follows this with the statement in verse 13:

 

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

 

Jesus reminds his people of who he is.  When he introduced himself in the first chapter of the book he ended that introduction with similar words:

 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  (Revelation 1:8)

 

The title is applied both to God and to Jesus, highlighting their unity, but it’s spoken there and then again twice here in Chapter 22 as an announcement of his authority.  The Lord was there in the beginning and everything that exists, exists by his grace and is sustained by him; he shares his power with no one; and as the end of all things, his sovereignty over all will never end.  John had the witness of the Scriptures, the long story of the Lord and his people, as evidence of the sovereignty, the power, the authority, and the faithfulness of the Lord.  That itself was reason to believe and trust his promises even as the storm was about to break over him, but here Jesus appeals to his very being: “I am the beginning and the end.  I am responsible for it all, I sustain it all.  Couple that with my record of faithfulness and you have every reason to trust me.”

 

And so Jesus issues his last and final benediction here in verses 14 and 15:

 

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.  Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

 

John reminds his readers of that earlier vision, back in Chapter 7, of the martyrs gathered before the heavenly throne.  They had washed their robes in the blood of the lamb.  They may die in the storm to come, but they bear the name of Jesus on their foreheads, they are marked as his own by baptism and by the Spirit, and they have the right to pass through the gates of the New Jerusalem.  Even as they face death, they do so in hope.  In contrast are those on the outside—those without hope: dogs and sorcerers, the sexually immoral and murders, idolaters and liars.

 

Aside from “dogs”, that’s all pretty straightforward.  In John’s day dogs weren’t cute pets, they were feral beasts that roamed the city after dark looking for garbage to eat.  They were disgusting and unclean and the rabbis compared gentile idolaters to them.  That might be the sense here.  But “dog” is used specifically in Deuteronomy to refer to homosexual prostitutes.  The profit from their work was not permitted to be brought into the temple and, given that John is talking about a similar context, it makes sense that this is what he means by “dog”.  John echoes the words of St. Paul written to the Church in Corinth:

 

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

 

Brothers and Sisters, this is a call to repentance and faith—again, to stand firm in the face of opposition.  Through John, Jesus is urging these Christians not to give up and not to give in to the forced around them.  They have been washed by Jesus and he will care for them, even as they are martyred for their faith.  They will be tempted to turn back, but they have every reason to stand firm, to remain holy, to witness Jesus and his death and resurrection knowing that one day it really will be on earth as in heaven.

 

Continuing, look at verses 16 and 17:

 

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things 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 the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

 

Again, these are the words of Jesus and again he gives his credentials—he gives reason to trust in him.  He is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy that a root shall grow out of the stump of Jesse.  He is the bright morning star.  In other words, as Paul would say, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12).  And then Jesus gives a final invitation.  The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come”.  Here is the water of life for the thirsty—water given without price, the water of life by the grace of God.  I like the way Tom Wright explains this:

 

“It is the spirit that enables the bride to be the bride.  It is the spirit that enables the martyrs to keep up their courage and bear true witness.  It is the spirit that inspires the great shouts and songs of praise.  The spirit goes out from God’s throne and, breathing into and then through the hearts, minds and lives of people of every nation, tribe and tongue, returns in praise to the father and the lamb.  This is as trinitarian as it gets, and the bride is caught up in that inner-divine life, so that when she says, ‘Come!’ to her beloved we can’t tell whether this is the spirit speaking or the bride, because the answer is both.  The spirit of the Messiah enables his bride to be who she is, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.”[1]

 

Brothers and Sisters, this is the longing of faith, full of hope because the bride knows the faithfulness of the groom.

 

And then the end.  First John gives a warning:

 

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

 

To modern sensibilities, it’s kind of an odd way to end things—and not a little harsh.  But John knew these were the words of Jesus and he was sending this letter to the churches expecting it to be read as scripture.  John may have been looking back to Deuteronomy.  When Moses gave the law he also stressed that it was to be preserved without addition or subtractions—and he holds out the slaughter at Baal-Peor as a warning or curse against anyone would would tamper with God’s words.  So John is on firm footing in giving his warning.  This is a message of hope given by Jesus himself and it needs to stand as it is.  It’s power and authority do not rest with us or with any translator or copyist who might think it'll go down easier or serve its purpose better with this or that changed.  It’s power and authority rest with Jesus who spoke these words and with the Spirit who uses them to create and to build faith in us.

 

That’s the end, but John can't leave us on that note.  He reminds his readers again of Jesus’ promise:

 

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.  (Revelation 22:20-21)

 

John reminds them of Jesus’ promise: “I am coming soon.” And he adds his own “amen”.  “Truly,” he writes.  He trusts Jesus’ promise and he calls out himself, “Come, Lord Jesus”.  And there’s no sense in John’s last prayerful summons that he is doubtful or fearful.  He knows the days ahead will be difficult, but he knows that Jesus will fulfil his promise.  And, Brothers and Sisters, he did.  As we’ve made our way through this book, we’ve seen the faithfulness of Jesus to his promises in the historical record.  He came in judgement first on Jerusalem and then on Rome.  He vindicated the martyrs.  He prepared the nations to hear the gospel.  And ever since, his people have been riding out in the world to proclaim the good news of his death and resurrection and wherever it goes it conquers.  We have seen his faithfulness at work.  We have seen with our own eyes the power of his word and of his Spirit. And so we carry on the mission he has given, knowing that the promises of his new creation, his promises of that day when the gospel will finally conquer all, when all will be set to rights, when every tear will be wiped away, we carry on in faith knowing that those promises will be fulfilled just as surely as the promises he made to the Chrisitians of Ephesus and Smyrna, Pergamum and Thyatira, Sardis and Philadelphia and Laodicea were fulfilled.  And with them we offer our own “Amen” and we offer our own prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus”, knowing that he will surely finish what he has begun.

 

But in the meantime, Brothers and Sisters, we gather together and he comes to us today in both word and sacrament.  He speaks to us as we read his word, to teach and to exhort and to encourage us to stand firm in the face of the world’s storms.  And we meet him at his Table as we eat the bread and drink the wine.  Here he reminds us that he is with us as we recall and participate in the events of that great exodus from sin and death accomplished by his death on the cross and his rising from the tomb.  Here he reminds us that we are his covenant people, his lovely bride, his New Jerusalem.  Here he exhorts us to stand firm in faith as the “on earth as in heaven” people—a people full of hope, a people full of new creation, and awaiting the day when that new creation will be fulfilled—when the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.  Until then, knowing that Christ has died and that Christ is risen, we look forward to the day when Christ will come again.

 

Let’s pray: Almighty and everlasting God, you have given your Son, who died on the cross and rose from the grave to deliver us from sin and death, and you have given us your Spirit as a down payment on the life of the age to come.  You have made us your temple and you dwell in our midst.  As we recall your mighty and saving deeds, as we recall not only your faithfulness, but the faithfulness of the martyrs, may we too be faithful.  Fill us with your grace, strengthen our faith, and teach us to live in hope so that we can be the kingdom people you call us to be as we await the fulness of your new creation. Through Jesus we pray.  Amen.

[1] Revelation for Everyone (London:SPCK, 2011), 206.

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