I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the book Revelation the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure why, initially. I think it followed my Immanuel sermon a few weeks back. I continued to think about the presence of God being with us (Immanuel = God with us). So my mind went to Revelation. God with us in Christ, as seen through the pages of Revelation.
I’ve continued to think a bit more about John’s apocalypse as I’ve been preparing some material for a New Testament course I will teach.
As I’ve reflected on the book, I’ve had a fresh thought. It is this: The book of Revelation is about the coming presence of Jesus.
Now, of course, if you are aware of studies in eschatology, or last things, you would know that parousia is the general Greek word we use to discuss Christ’s return, or coming. The word actually means presence. Interestingly, the word parousia doesn’t show up in Revelation. Rather a different root word for “coming” is used. That word is erchomai. As in:
Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen. (1:7)
Or in the words to the church of Philadelphia:
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. (3:11)
But as I have chewed on this for a little while, I am beginning to see more and more that Revelation is about the coming presence of Jesus.
In a short survey of the book, let me show you how the presence of Jesus comes through Revelation:
Jesus’s presence comes to John in this great revelatory vision.
Jesus’s presence comes to the seven lampstands, the churches of Asia Minor.
Jesus’s presence comes to the people of God in the midst of empire oppression under Rome.
Jesus’s presence comes to defeat the great beasts, empire, Satan, death and hades.
Jesus’s presence comes to renew all things at his final coming and presence.
Reading these five points above, I hope you can see that Jesus’s presence was not just an “ethereal” experience. Rather, Jesus’s real, authentic presence came amongst his people – to reveal, to instruct, to deliver and save, to defeat the enemy, and to make all things new. The real person, the Lord Jesus Christ, came and his presence altered people and situations.
John was convinced of that. I am convinced of that.
And now we await the final coming of Christ’s presence, him truly coming to renew all things.
I am making everything new! (21:5)
Look, I am coming soon! (22:7)
So I offer that Revelation is about the coming presence of Jesus. Even more, his presence amongst God’s people of old – in all kinds of situations and scenarios – reminds us that Christ is committed to being present amongst all that we encounter as his people today – present in the midst of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Try reading Revelation afresh with that lens. I believe it will take us beyond all the “end times” banter we hear about this book.
Happy New Year.
Image: Vision of St John the Evangelist