Text: Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20
Date: Easter VII + 5/8/16
St. John has helped our Easter rejoicing this year with the visions given him in the final book of the entire Bible, Revelation. In it we are given a sense both of what the life of faith in the risen, ascended and reigning Lord Jesus is to be like now in this life and what is the great hope and goal of faith in our own resurrection, the end of this world of sin and death, and the new heavens and earth of eternal life. This past Thursday was the fortieth day after Easter, the day on which our Lord ascended to the right hand of the majesty on high, taking His rightful place as ruler and king of the universe. Today we find ourselves somewhere between joy and bewilderment looking with the first disciples to recall and anticipate both the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and our Lord’s promised return and the Last Day.
In the final chapter of Revelation John is given a vision of what life will be like in the new heaven and earth of God’s making. Because the reality is far above all that we can ask or think much less understand, John is not given a complete picture. This makes me think that my oft stated comment about golf in heaven is probably too shallow a thought. I won’t count on it.
The first part of the picture clearly recalls the first creation and the Garden of Eden with the river of the water of life and the tree of life in the primeval paradise. (By the way the word “paradise” is an old Persian word meaning a parklike enclosure with lots of green grass…maybe like Wrigley Field or Comerica Park? Hey! Maybe baseball instead of golf?)
Do you remember the angel God placed with a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life after Adam and Eve sinned (Gen 3:24)? He is now relieved of his duties! Now delivered completely from sin we are confirmed in an eternal life of holiness with God.
So far an angel has been speaking to John. Now it is Jesus Himself speaking to us when He says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense [or reward] with me, to repay [or render to] everyone for what he has done.” These same words are repeated as the very last words, “Surely I am coming soon,” with the prayer of the Spirit and the Bride saying, “Come,” and as we say in the liturgy of the holy communion, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”
Who is this Jesus? We have known Him as the Incarnate Word, the Babe of Bethlehem; then as the twelve-year-old in the temple amazing the teachers and even His mother. Through our catechesis we have known Him as teacher calling us to be His disciples; then as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by His blood shed on the cross. Now we know Him “Ris’n, ascended, glorified!” Lord, Savior and King (LSB 534). Here Jesus proclaims His entire Person with a three-fold title. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Two of these titles have been applied also to God the Father. The other one designates only the Son.
As the second Person of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial with the Father, one with the Father, the Son of God together with the Father is “the Alpha and the Omega” and “the Beginning and the End.” While yet at one with the Father the title “the First and the Last” is given only to Jesus as the One who was made man and was crucified for us. So we are to believe, teach and confess that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Alpha and the Omega with the Father, that is, the Eternal One above and beyond all creation. At the same time, again along with the Father, Jesus is “the Beginning and the End,” that is of all creation. The Lord Jesus Christ alone, however, is the First and the Last as the Head of His body the Church. He is the bridegroom of the bride. So is the Church then our mother! Because only Jesus died and came back to life as the Living One He is the First and the Last. He is the firstborn of the dead. Now you and all who have died with Him by faith in your Holy Baptism are raised with Him now spiritually and at the Last Day physically in the resurrection. The Bible calls Jesus “the founder,” or author, and “the perfecter” or finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). That is, He is both the founder of the church as well as her end goal and purpose. With these three titles is described the entire doctrine of Christology, Who Jesus is.
Finally, there is the warning which we rightly apply to all scripture to the entire Bible not to add or take away anything in the text but to treat it as it is, the very Word of God. We do not allow any “wind of doctrine,” no political correctness or temper or mood of the changing times to change any word, teaching or doctrine clearly, or even not-so-clearly revealed in scripture.
This is the only time in the entire new testament that the Lord identifies Himself by his personal name, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things.” It is His personal name that points to His humanity and the intimate relationship He has with John and desires to have with you and every redeemed sinner. So are those who have gone before us in the faith and so will you be with them forever.
In response “the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’” This is both a prayer to the Lord for His welcome return and, at the same time, the invitation to all souls to believe in Him. And so our Lord’s last word and final promise, “Surely I am coming soon.” John’s response, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” is also the prayer of every Christian. It is the prayer of St. Paul in First Corinthians where he uses the Aramaic word, “Maranatha,” “our Lord, come” (1 Cor 16:22). This is to be the response of faith to the reading and hearing of this Revelation and indeed of the entire Bible. And so today, as the almost last word of our Easter rejoicing we say, Amen. Come Lord Jesus!