Easter 7 • Revelation 22:1–6 (7–11) 12–20 • May 12, 2013

By Gerhard Bode

Introduction
In 1563, Lutheran theologian David Chytraeus (1530–1600) wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation in which he calculated the date of Christ’s second coming. Such theorizing by one of Luther’s own students may surprise us, yet Chytraeus’s prediction tells us something about how he understood the book of Revelation and its meaning for the church of his day. Chytraeus knew well that God alone has determined the date of the Last Judgment; it is not given us to speculate about such things. But that didn’t stop Chytraeus from indulging in a series of mathematical computations. He believed that the antichrist had been revealed, beginning in the year 1520 (when Pope Leo X issued the bull excommunicating Luther). Factoring in the various ages in world history with the number of Jubilee years after Christ’s resurrection, Chytraeus calculated that the world would end in the year 1695. Chytraeus was right about one thing: the book of Revelation was a book written for his own time.[1] In the same way, the book of Revelation is written for our time. God’s speaking to his people is true; the signs of what must take place are evident and the time is urgent. We, too, live in expectation of Christ’s glorious return, we eagerly pray for the fulfillment of all God’s promises.

The Restoration of Life with God
In the final chapter of Revelation John sees God’s paradise—the garden of Eden—restored. God’s people will live with him in the new heaven and new earth sustained by “the river of the water of life” (22:1). Once barred (Gn 3:22), access to the tree of life now has been restored. Death is no longer the future of human beings, but rather eternal life with God. In this paradise the curse of sin is no more (22:3); God’s gracious blessing, won by Christ’s work of redemption, has replaced it. God’s righteous “slaves,” gathered before the throne of the Lamb, will see his face and worship him forever, indeed, they will reign forever (22:3–5).

“I Am Coming Quickly”
In the epilogue, Jesus himself enters the conversation between John and the angel. Repeatedly he testifies that the prophecy of the book of Revelation is true, and that he is coming quickly. Jesus bears witness to the truth of this message, even as God himself is its author; God is faithful and will fulfill his promises (22:6–7, 12, 16, 18). Key to this fulfillment is Christ’s own promise, his final words in the Bible: “Yes, I am coming quickly,” to which the church responds: “Amen, come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20).

The Church’s Prayer in This Time
“Come, Lord Jesus!” is a bold thing for God’s people to pray, especially since it means also the coming of his judgment. But it is because we are redeemed sinners that, in faith, we can pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” We pray because he took our sin upon himself, and gave his resurrection life in exchange for our shameful death. We pray because he has promised to come quickly.

What a bold thing faith does when it prays, “Come, Lord Jesus! God, please reign among us! Pour out your Spirit upon us that we may believe! Send your Spirit to others that they may believe and have their names written in the Lamb’s Book. God, preserve us in your word! Put your name on us and wash away our sins! Feed us with Christ’s body and blood. Give us forgiveness, new life, and salvation. Call and make holy your church on earth and keep it with Jesus Christ in the true faith. Come, Lord Jesus, and judge us! Come, Lord Jesus, and lead us into your holy city, show us the tree of life, growing beside the river of life. There let us live with you and reign with all the saints forever and ever.” We pray because Christ reigns even now over his church, and yet he is coming again to fulfill what he has promised.

Conclusion
The book of Revelation is a book for our own time—a book for all time. Christians live in the days after Christ’s death, after his resurrection, and after his ascension. We live in the days before Christ’s glorious return, days filled with expectation and hope. With his own living voice, our Lord has promised that he will come again. Will he not come quickly?

Endnote
[1] Cf. Irena Backus, Reformation Readings of the Apocalypse: Geneva, Zurich, and Wittenberg (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 113ff.

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1 Comment

  1. Lucas Dawn April 30, 2013
    Reply

    Indeed, Jesus “come and judge us” (the church). The revelation of “what must soon take place” (in Rev. 1:1) is not really about the “end” of everything. In Rev. 2:16 Jesus tells the church in Pergamum that if it does not repent, he will come to them soon and “fight” against them with the “sword” of his mouth. This portrait of Christ alludes back to 1:16 where he has a sharp two-edged sword coming from his mouth. Then in Rev. 2-3 Jesus speaks words against the sin of most (five) of the seven churches, calling them to repent (through the written words of his prophet John). If they refuse to repent and turn from their sins (of being comfortable with false prophets and false messiahs, with wealth and power), Jesus will come soon with further words of challenge (through true prophets like John).

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