Second Reading: Revelations 1:4b-8
Anticipating the End
4 May unending love and peace be with you, from the Living One who always was and will come soon, from his sevenfold Spirit who is always before the throne of the Living One, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the witness you can trust, the first one to be born out of death, and the ruler of every leader on earth. 6 Praise to Jesus, who loves us and freed us from our sins by dying on the cross! He turned us into a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father. May glory and power over every people be his forever! Amen!
7 Look! Jesus is coming in the clouds! Every eye will see him, especially those who shoved the spear into his side. Everyone on earth will cry because of him. Yes! Amen!
8 'I am the beginning and the end of everything!' says the all-powerful Lord God, 'the Living One who always was and will come soon.'
4 Grace and peace to you from the One existing (now), (who) was, and coming, from the seven spirits who (are) before his throne, 5 and from JESUS CHRIST, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To the (ONE) loving us and freeing us from our sins in HIS blood, 6 HE made us a kingdom of priests (in service) to HIS God and Father, to HIM glory and (ruling) power into the age of ages. Amen.
7 Look! HE is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see HIM and (especially those) who pierced HIM; and all the tribes on the earth will mourn on HIM. Yes! Amen!
8 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'the (One) existing now, (who) was, and coming, the Almighty.'
1:4 "Grace and peace" These two words sum up the gift of God. Grace is God's steadfast love. Peace is the sense that all is right in the world because God is present. Both come from the presence of God.
"from the seven spirits who (are) before his throne" Taking the symbolic meaning of the number "7," the seven spirits were actually a reference to the Holy Spirit, the fulness of "spirit."
1:7 "HE is coming in the clouds" was a clear reference to Daniel 7:14: "Behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man." (RSV)
"all the tribes on the earth will mourn on HIM" "on HIM" can mean "on account of what happened to Jesus on the cross" (a past reference). Or, it can mean "on account of what will happen in his coming judgment" (a future reference).
1:8 "freeing us from our sins" Some Greek texts read "washing us from our sins." This was clearly a reference to baptism.
1:7-8 These two verses contain a vision and an affirmation that have some parallel with speaking in tongues and its interpretation (found in Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12, 14). In both cases, there is a phenomena and a divinely-inspired response. Note the parallel becomes sharper in the 1:9-20 when John's vision had a heavenly interpretation.
Anticipation threaded through the book of Revelation. But beneath this attitude lay two outlooks on the world. First, the God of the book was a deity who exercised his prerogative in historic events. He was not a power of nature that could be appeased or manipulated. No! This God acted! He was alive in human history!
Second, the author dared to see events if they occurred in the very presence of this God. But, the only way he could witness the events in the presence of God was in worship.
Revelations was unique among apocalyptic literature because it fused the historical and liturgical perspectives in a Christian context. When John received his revelation, he saw God working in human events amidst the angelic worship in heaven. In fact, he and the communities to whom he wrote were part of that angelic praise.
Imagine, for a moment, the final judgment was in progress. You stood among the angels in heaven, praising God for all he was doing. How would you see the events of the end times, as they unfold in real time? The answer to that question will give you an idea of John's perspective.
John's greeting to the seven churches began with a call to worship. He invoked the name of God: 1) the Living One active in the past and coming in the end times, 2) the fulness of the Spirit, and 3) Jesus Christ. Then, John listed a short resume of Jesus: trustworthy witness, risen from the dead, and ruler over all earthly powers. Notice the outline of the Trinity. [1:4-5a]
The invocation had a result. Through his love and his liberating death, Jesus molded his followers into a priestly nation, a people set apart to worship the God and Father of the Christ. The end of invocation was praise, not to the Father, but to Jesus. [1:5b]
In his first invocation, John used a Jewish prayer form that began with God in heaven, came down to humanity, and returned to God in the highest. The Our Father with the so-called "Protestant" ending is a example of this prayer form. John's invocation was unique for its end point, however. It began with the triune God but ended with Jesus.
After the invocation, John defined THE event of God's activity: the coming of the Kingdom. He used the traditional imagery and spirit of Daniel 7. But, notice the reference to John 19:34, the piercing of Jesus. Everyone would see the coming of the Christ, even those guilty of his death. And all would mourn at the sight of his glory, from guilt, from dread of judgment, or both. [1:7]
Finally in John, the Living One confirmed his activity with a self-definition. He is the beginning and the end (the horizon of all that humanity can know or imagine). He repeated this definition with the same description John used for the Father in 1:4. Notice the two definitions ("Alpha-Omega" vs. "Living One who was and who will come") mirrored each other in meaning. [1:8]
In the light of these verses, the attitude of anticipation should lace Christian worship. To praise God is to wait for him to act. We should look forward to the Lord's coming, in certain knowledge that God has declared it so. Therefore let us pray and keep our eyes open for God to act!
How do you anticipate the coming of the Lord? How does such anticipation affect your worship?