At long last, we come to the end of John’s Apocalypse.
Let us take a moment to review:
In chapters 1–3, John gave us a picture of Jesus Christ in glory, writing letters to the seven churches of Roman Asia, calling them to courage and steadfastness in their practice of faith. Revelation 4.1–8.5 portrayed Christ as the slain Lamb worthy to break the seven seals and so reveal the divinely ordered course of history. In 8.6–11.19, seven angelic trumpet blasts herald the beginning of the New Age in which “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
Chapters 12–14 narrate the age-long conflict between “a woman, clothed with the sun” (the Church), “a great red dragon” (the devil) and his beastly minions (the Antichrist and False Prophet), and the woman’s child, “one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (Jesus Christ). Although the war between them was fierce, its outcome was never in doubt—Christ and the church win. Chapters 15–16 portray God’s unfolding judgment as the pouring out of seven bowls of wrath, culminating in the destruction of Babylon, that is, the world organized in opposition to God. Babylon’s destruction, the defeat of Satan, and the establishment of God’s Peaceful Kingdom in the New Heaven and New Earth are the central themes of 18.1–22.5.
Through these chapters, John has been communicating a single message: The certain end of history is the kingdom of God, so pluck up your courage and remain faithful to Jesus Christ. As Martin Luther so eloquently put it, “He must win the battle.” We live between the time of Christ’s first coming and his second coming. At his first coming, Jesus Christ offered all humanity the grace of a second chance to repent and get right with God. At his second coming, Christ will affirm each of our choices, either confirming us in our badness or renewing us in his goodness.
But, as Tom Petty sings, “the waiting is the hardest part.” We live between the times. We have Christ’s promise, “Surely I am coming soon!” And as we suffer along with the suffering world, we pray, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” Notice that the “Amen” we offer affirms Christ’s promise to return, not our invitation to him to do so. It is our way of affirming the truthfulness of his promise. He will come indeed. All we must do is wait.
At the end of the day, the life of the Christian is one of patient trust, that God will accomplish what he has promised at just the right time, which is rarely when we expect it. And it is a life of hopeful optimism, based not on an assertion that the world is getting better and better but that God will make all things new. And finally, it is a life of perseverance, of sticking with God when the circumstances are bad and the good side seems to be losing.
At the end of the day, it takes courage to be a Christian. So be brave and stick it out: Christ is coming soon.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”