This Sunday saw the kick-off of City Church’s new series going through the book of Revelation. If you missed DW's introductory sermon, you can hear it here.
A few of us will be blogging alongside the series. We're hoping to shed more insight on this final and intriguing book of the Bible and get us thinking about what it means for us today.
So, what do you think about when someone mentions the book of Revelation? The end times and Armageddon, something akin to your favorite sci-fi film? Maybe you've never really engaged with it because you've been put off by some of the supernatural imagery which seems difficult to apply to your day-to-day challenges and concerns. Maybe you even find it frightening, all that talk of judgment and torment. Or perhaps its final description of the new heaven and new earth fills you with hope. If you’re new to the Bible perhaps you've never even heard of it.
Well on Sunday, we heard about how Revelation is first and foremost a 'revealing' or 'disclosing' to us of who Jesus is. It seeks to show us all something that is truly relevant and simple, to make something clearer and not more mystifying and hard to understand. There are many themes in the book- worship, battle, suffering, heaven, truth versus deception to name a few- but all of this only makes sense in the context of who Jesus is.
As we progress through Revelation you may notice the breadth and depth of ways in which Jesus is described, each and every one of them telling us something about his nature, character and purpose. And it does this from the very outset. In Revelation 1:1-8 we are told that He is Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of kings on earth, the one who loves us and frees us, the one to whom glory and dominion belong forever, the one who is coming back, who every eye will see.
As I read through Revelation in preparation for this series, one of the names that most struck me is found in chapter 1 verse 8:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who was and who is and who is to come, the Almighty.”
This is the only place in the Bible where God reveals himself as the Alpha and Omega and in the three times it appears in Revelation it seems to relate to both God the Father and His son Jesus. We know that the book was written in Greek and Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet while Omega is the last. So it’s like God saying, ‘I am the A and the Z, I was there from the beginning, I’m present now, and I will be there at the end. That is how immense and totally sovereign I am.’
When we understand what it means, we can see what an incredibly visual way this is of God showing how he rules the whole of history- there’s a lot of letters in an alphabet, and for us there’s a lot of time between Creation and the end of time when Christ returns, but God is the Lord of it all. The complete, all-encompassing way that God both is in his very being, and is the way in which he operates, is echoed throughout Revelation in the repetition of the number 7, which to early readers was a number that represented completeness.
For me, there is something deeply satisfying in knowing God as the Alpha and the Omega. It reminds me of the ‘completeness’ or the ‘fullness’ of God who is working his purposes out in everything, who leaves nothing undone. Many a time I have been frustrated when time and money have apparently gone to waste or when a project I've poured my heart and soul into have had to be abandoned half way through or, even more frustratingly, tantalizingly close to the end. I've experienced that uneasy sense in relationships where hurt and bitterness have left things feeling unresolved. And I've wept over a world where the innocent suffer from other people's mistakes and there just seems to be no justice or restoration of things to how they should be. Yet, this all-powerful God is always operating to tie up loose-ends and to right wrongs; His very nature as Alpha and Omega means that all his plans come to pass and there is nothing and no-one left outside of them. He is the creator, sustainer and finisher, who is coming back to redeem the brokenness in this world.
Like many revelations of who God is, the implications for us are enormous. We have a God who is so comprehensive that there is simply no room for any other god in our lives; everything that is necessary for us and the world around us is found in the Alpha and the Omega and as such he is worthy of our full worship and attention. In Proverbs 19:21 we are reminded, ‘Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand’. In the light of God working throughout history, our own imperfect and incomplete plans are secondary to His purposes and we can look forward to the fulfillment of all plans that coincide with His will.
Furthermore, we are told in Ephesians 1:23 that this fullness or completeness of Christ lives and is at work in the body of the church. Until he comes again, as our final Omega, He is working out His purposes through us, and seeking to restore and make whole what is broken through our prayers and actions. As we journey through the book of Revelation together may He reveal to us even more clearly His complete and perfect plans and our place within them.
We’d love to hear your comments on this blog, and to discuss questions that you have about Revelation. Join City Church on the Table for the discussion thread here.
Looking for some inspiration? Here are some questions to ponder this week- you could spend 20 minutes doing all of them or just focusing in on one.
- What preconceived ideas of the book of Revelation do you think you have? Take a moment to bring these to God and ask him to reveal Himself to you afresh as we go through the series.
- Reading through Revelation 1:1-8 what ways in which Jesus is described stand out to you? What encourages you? What would you like to know more about?
- Ask God to show you the plans and purposes He has in the world around you as the all-encompassing Alpha and Omega of history. It could be in your community, workplace, home or even in your heart. Spend some time praying about these things and asking God to help you to align your plans with His.