A little more than a week ago, one of my posts reflected on a passage from Revelation (1:4-20) in which the Lord is celebrated by the host of heaven as the One “who IS, and was, and is to come.” This is different from the way in which God is praised by the beings He has created, who honor Him as the One “who WAS, and is, and is to come.” And the message, I suggested, is that from heaven’s perspective…
The most important thing of which we need to be aware is that God IS the LORD of the NOW. He’s holding us at this moment. He’s the Master of this day. He is the Victor over every power and every challenge that threatens us.
In today’s reading New Testament reading, which comes from Revelation 11:1-19, we add a new wrinkle to that divine timeline, because here the beings around God’s throne worship Him as the One “who is, and who was”…but there is no reference to the future — because (as all of heaven declares to the Lord) — “you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.” (Revelation 11:17)
Now, Revelation is a complex book, and it lies beyond the scope of this post to describe exactly how these words fit into the broad sweep of its eschatological drama. At the very least, however, I think we can say with confidence that they point forward to a time when we won’t have to wait for a future in which God’s promises are fulfilled, because — as an earlier verse in this reading puts it: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
That was incredibly good news to the original readers of Revelation — who, we must recall, were suffering intense persecution at the hands of a cruel empire. And it should be incredibly good news to us, too. Very few of us will ever suffer the kinds of torment at the hands of our government that the early church (as well as Christians in certain parts of the world today) endured. But all we have to do is read the latest headlines to be reminded that “the kingdom of the world” is filled with violence and hate and death; and it often seems too powerful for us to do much about. But we have this promise that a new kingdom is coming — one that’s filled with peace and love and life. And part of what it means to follow Jesus is to orient our lives around that ultimate destiny rather than the real-but-temporary suffering that surrounds us.
Of course, that leaves the question of how one lives for that kingdom in which “time shall be no more.” And that, too, is beyond the scope of this post. But I will say this: I don’t think we “retreat” from the world. And I don’t think we “fight” the world (at least, not with the same “weapons” of violence and hate and death that the world uses). Instead, we “serve” the world — with the kind of humility and grace and self-sacrificing love that Jesus modeled for us. Because when we do that, “God’s kingdom comes and God’s will gets done on earth as it is in heaven.” And we move one step closer to that day, when the One “who is, and who was” will reign forevermore.
May trust in His present and future reign sustain you today. And may His power make it possible for all of us to be a kingdom of light that shines with hope amid the darkness of our time.