Reader: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,”
Response: “the First and the Last.”
Scripture: Revelation 22:12-16
“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”
As we have mentioned many times over, the season of Advent begins with the end of all things, the final Judgment. These coming weeks unfold backwards if you will! The end of the season culminates in the birth of the Savior. Is there a reason behind this rather puzzling pattern? I can think that one explanation might be to underscore the entirety of God’s plan of redemption. Beginning the Christian Year, Advent, with a focus on the end of time and the return of the Lord bringing final Judgment puts the birth of Jesus into a proper context. It helps us grasp a greater significance of this glorious birth. This baby’s cry, first heard in a manger in Bethlehem, to his final earthly cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, to his final words in John’s Revelation, “Yes, I am coming soon!”, we see the entire story of God’s redemption. Such theological movement through these days gives to us a truer context when we celebrate the birth of the Savior.
In this pericope, John quotes Jesus’ words of hope and consequent completion of our salvation. Note that inherent in his words is the truth that faith reveals itself in deeds. Our works, while not saving us, can indicate the seriousness of our confession. Our actions on earth are related to the rewards we receive in heaven. Paul says the same thing (Rom.2:6) in that God “will render to every man according to his works.” The quality of one’s life indicates what one truly believes.
We are all quite familiar with the idea of the Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Jesus restates the idea two additional times for greater emphasis―the First and Last, the Beginning and the End. What is being said here? Among other things, Jesus is affirming his eternal being without beginning and without ending. He is unlimited by any sense of time. Death on earth did not bring an end to Jesus. Death on earth does not bring an end to those who die in the Lord. His use of “I am” hearkens to the name he gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai, further affirming his deity.
The reference to the blessing of those who “wash their robes” applies to those who have been faithful to their commitment to Christ in the midst of great persecution and have resisted the pressure to deny their faith. The reward is entrance into “the gates of the city” (the eternal dwelling place of God) and eating from “the tree of life,” another way of saying receiving the blessing of immortality in the presence of God.
With the phrase “Outside the city are the dogs . . .(an impure or malicious person),” John is not intending to give us a literal description of where the evildoers are located, his point is to contrast the fate of the faithful and the fate of the wicked. In Rev. 21:8 John gives us almost the same list of those “who love to live a lie” with their fate ending in a lake of burning sulfur, a second death. Life and death are very real with very real consequences in how people respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ concluding words via his angel remind us (the “you” is plural) again of his human roots through the line of David and the Davidic covenant in regard to his eternal throne.
The reference to “the morning star is a promise that the long night of tribulation is all but over and that the new eschatological day is about to dawn.” ―Robert Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, (Grand Rapids: William Eerdmans Pub., 1977), p.395
Why this last reference to David? The angel of Jesus is telling everyone again that the life we live in this world has massive consequences in the next eternal world. There are no “do overs.” This life is it. The earthly world of David’s kingdom, which represents us, is wed to the greater David’s (Jesus’) eternal kingdom. While Jesus is the creator of King David, he is also heir to his throne, an eternal one (2 Samuel 7:16). And we likewise are heirs of Christ’s eternal kingdom.
Since life and ways in this world are always uncertain, these great truths of Scripture are meant to give us God’s promises, giving us certainty for the future and hope for the present. Rest today in his presence. He has things under control.
Music: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” Anna Hawkins
Prayer:Grant unto us, Almighty God, Thy peace that passeth understanding; that we, amid the storms and troubles of this our life, may rest in Thee, knowing that all things are in Thee, under Thy care, governed by Thy will, guarded by Thy love; so that with a quiet heart we may see the storms of life, the cloud and the thick darkness; ever rejoicing to know that the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee. Guide, guard, and govern us even to the end, that none of us may fail to lay hold upon the immortal life. ―George Dawson, Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.341