I Am [Is] Coming Soon
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“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing My recompense with Me, to repay everyone for what He has done.” (Revelation 22:12).
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing My recompense with Me, to repay everyone for what He has done.” (Revelation 22:12).
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!
“Just wait until your father comes home!” Those words can bring two extremely different reactions, depending upon the father and his disposition to his son or daughter. It could be a word of woe and warning—or it could be a word of joy and promise. The father could be an iron-fisted tyrant with a terrible mean streak bent on meting out punishment for each and every offense and infraction. Or he could be the Ward Cleaver type who opens the front door to be greeted warmly with hugs and kisses from his wife and kids. It all depends.
Jesus’ words have a similar effect: “Behold, I am coming soon!” These words always have a double edge, frightening those who picture a wrathful Judge, but comforting those who know Jesus as gracious Savior, warning the unrepentant and encouraging the faithful. Still, they are spoken here primarily to comfort those who find it hard to hold on to their faith in a wicked world.
Because John’s message is about the ultimate triumph of good over evil, it is always relevant and all the more as the world slides further into chaos and corruption. On one level, Revelation powerfully confirms what we already fear, that is, our world and everyone in it is doomed. More profoundly, however, this book is about transcendent hope. It shows how infinitely greater God is than evil. By offering a vision of the new creation soon to be revealed, Revelation draws us on toward our blessed hope in Christ. Jesus was crucified, is risen from the dead, and ascended to the Father’s right hand. On the Last Day, He will return in victory and fulfill all the wonderful promises of glory for His suffering Church. In the meanwhile, He comes to us through His Word!
Jesus identifies Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” (verse 13). Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Jesus uses this name to say that He is the eternal, changeless God. This name assures us that He is faithful and will keep His promises. “I am coming soon, bringing My recompense with Me, to repay everyone for what He has done,” Jesus says. Jesus will bring with Him all the rewards that He promises to give to those who overcome: “the tree of life” (2:7), “the crown of life” (2:10), “a new name” (2:17), “authority over the nations” (2:26), their names in the “book of life” (3:5), “the name of the city of My God” (3:12), and “the right to sit with Me on My throne” (3:21).
Jesus will “repay everyone for what he has done.” This does not mean that salvation is by works. Though numerous other New Testament passages similarly speak about the faithful being rewarded, they never do so apart from grace and the work of the Holy Spirit. The unrighteous, on the other hand, will have no one to blame but themselves when they are condemned for their iniquity.
Jesus used language like this in His parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46). On the Last Day, Jesus will point to our good works to demonstrate the faith we held in our hearts. We will be judged worthy of our reward on the basis of the white clothes Jesus gives us (19:8). Since “faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26), the good works of believers will prove that they “have not soiled their clothes” (3:4). Jesus leaves no doubt that this is how we are to understand the basis for His final judgment. He says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life” (verse 14). The “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) of our own righteousness are gone. Believers “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). Not what you have done but what Jesus did for you gives you the right to the tree of life (22:2, 3) and access to the holy city (21:25-27). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
Not everyone, though, receives this ultimate blessing. Some will be excluded: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (verse 15). Outside the city is a cursed, unclean place where there are not only those who poison their bodies with their dangerous substances, but even worse, those religious sorcerers who have polluted souls with the venom of false doctrine and the toxins of tolerance, their calls for choice, and blanket acceptance of alternative lifestyles and religions. Outside, particularly, are those who, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).
This brings to mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 7: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’” (v. 22-23). Outside the gates will be those who have cried out, “the Gospel, the Gospel, we must allow everything for the sake of the Gospel,” and yet they’ve never actually proclaimed the Gospel. They were offended by the Good News that Jesus—true God and true man—took upon Himself and atoned for the sins and for all the sinfulness of all people when He offered Himself as the sacrifice on the cross. They were offended that this forgiveness is given by the grace of God through Word and Sacrament.
If you do not hear this Gospel in every sermon, every service, then please, I beg you, let me know. For my sake and for the sake of all in this congregation, tell me if you do not hear the Gospel—if you do not hear the forgiveness of sins announced, lest I be included in those who are assigned a place outside the gate on Judgment Day. I mean it! If you care about me and my eternal abode, if you care about your brothers and sisters in Christ who are sitting here with you, then do the caring and loving thing: confront and admonish me if you do not hear the Gospel.
Outside is where the vicious beasts feed on the unclean, just as the dogs licked up the cursed blood of Ahab and Jezebel outside the city. In order that no one might have to spend one second outside the gates, the Son of God came to go in our place. Jesus is the scapegoat upon whose head all sin is declared. He was sent outside the gate, and there, at Golgotha, the son of David experienced on the cross what He had said through him 1,000 years earlier: “Dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me; they have pierced My hands and feet” (Psalm 22:16). This is where Jesus shed His holy, precious blood... not that the wicked beasts might lick it up, but that men, women, and children might be among the blessed who “wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Revelation 22:14).
Christ is the fruit on the tree of life and whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood will live forever. Jesus is the Gate into the city. As He Himself said, “I am the Gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved” (John 10:9, NIV). Truly, the gates of this city are the proclaimed Word of the Gospel and the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. These are the only way into the kingdom of God.
This is good news! Certainty is found in God’s Word, not in the whims and schemes of man. God gives us His Word so that we not be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). God’s Word guards us so we will not be deceived by “everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (verse 15).
Verse 16 is the only time in the entire New Testament that the Lord uses His personal name to identify Himself: “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you about these things for the churches.” While the other names and titles by which He speaks of Himself display or point to the majestic grandeur of who He is, and what He has done for our salvation, His personal name, “Jesus,” points to His humanity and to His intimate relationship with you and me and all of God’s people.
Jesus identifies Himself to encourage you to receive Revelation as His Word. He uses names that you would associate with your Savior: “the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (verse 16). Jesus was David’s Creator, his root, or source from all eternity. But when He took on humanity, Jesus was born as a descendant, or offspring, of the same David. This one speaking is the Messiah, God’s Son and David’s son; David’s son, yet David’s Lord, the Morning Star, who heralds the coming of a new day.
In response, John adds another invitation: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’” (verse 17). The Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The Bride is the bride of Christ, the members of His Church (19:7). Along with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you and I have the privilege of praying for Christ’s return and inviting others who do not yet believe in Jesus to leave their sins and come to Jesus in faith. Everyone who hears this loving invitation with the ears of faith will join in to invite still others: “Come!”
This is one of the great evangelical calls of Scripture. It shines with God’s universal love for sinful people. The dogs, sorcerers, sexually immoral, murderers, everyone who loves and practices falsehood, are invited to wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb so they, too, may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. No one is excluded from the forgiveness earned by Jesus. Those who are barred from heaven exclude themselves by refusing to hear and believe. Those who come do so solely because of God’s grace in Christ Jesus.
The warnings and promises of Revelation are critical to the eternal destiny of souls. Just as Moses warned the Israelites not to add to or take away from the words of the Law, so also John warns His readers (see Deuteronomy 4:2). In the Old Testament, a prophet who spoke without the authority of God was to be put to death (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). A similar pronouncement is made here. Those who alter the words of John’s prophecy will forfeit their share of eternal blessings.
John’s warning, of course, applies to how we handle all Scripture. Rather than alter them to suit our own desires (2 Timothy 4:3-4), we are to take God’s Word to heart (Deuteronomy 6:6). Consequently, we seek to share God’s warnings and promises in a way that “correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Teachers who soft-pedal the threats of God’s law or trade away God’s promises of eternal salvation for temporal social benefits fall under the curse of this warning. Those who proclaim the truth share the tree of life and a place in the holy city.
Jesus promises those who contend for the faith that He will return quickly. This is our Lord’s answer to the martyrs who cry out, “O Sovereign Lord…how long?” (6:10). Our Lord’s answer is simple: “I am coming soon” (verse 20).
By its promises of sure victory for God’s saints, Revelation offers us a perspective from which we might view our own daily struggles. Jesus’ promises create faith, faith produces patience. Such patience views spiritual trials as Paul did: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
And so we join John and pray, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
Do you think that the Lord will not answer this prayer? Surely He will. Do you think that the Lord does not answer this prayer? Surely He does. For this is the Table Prayer of the Church as she calls upon her Lord to be present when He has promised to be. Indeed, the Lord Jesus has been answering it wherever and whenever the Bride has set the Table with bread and wine, and the called and ordained servant of the Word speaks the words of institution: “This is My body given for you. This is My blood shed for you." The same Lord who comes and speaks His word of absolution: "I forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.