But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades." Revelation 1:17-18
This week we took a break in our series on the book of Revelation to hear from a guest speaker, Pastor Dave Hill of Abundant Grace Church.
The message Pastor Hill gave was one of hope, of growing strong in faith, and of renewing our belief when all around us the world is saying it can’t be done. “Faith does not mean you never doubt,” he told us, but if we open our ears, "God will faithfully speak to us again so we can believe anew.” And just as we explored in the blog post last week, Jesus himself tells us this in Revelation, saying that he “stands at the door and knocks”, and if anyone hears him and opens the door, he will “come in to him and eat with him” (Revelation 3:20).
But why should we need him to? Why is it necessary for Jesus to knock again and again at the doors of our hearts? Why do we keep shutting him out?
I think the answer lies in the world around us, in the straight up evil that we see. There is so much death, so much pain, so much suffering. People being murdered, being raped, being robbed, dying of neglect and abuse, dying of disease, victims of war and famine. And, partnered with this, the vast indifference of so many others, people living in comfort and contentment, choosing ignorance, choosing blindness, choosing to believe that it doesn’t matter.
This is not an easy topic, and yet, we need to grapple with it, because for so many of God's children the suffering of this world is not just a topic: it's the reality of daily life.
But there is still hope.
Amazingly, wondrously, we can still have hope.
Revelation tells us that Jesus Christ is the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of the kings on earth, the Alpha and Omega who is and who was and who is to come (Revelation 1:4-8). Indeed Jesus' first words to us in Revelation are to 'fear not', because he has overcome death with such finality that he can claim to hold the very keys to it. And as the first and last, the one who is alive forevermore, He is going to bring a mighty reckoning to redeem the world from the evil that we have wrought in it.
Vicky Griffiths, in one of her posts, put it like this:
“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.”
Do you have faith for that? I know sometimes I struggle to. But, as Pastor Hill put it, even if our faith seems small, and the world seems to be falling apart at the seams, God is able to take our small faith and enlarge it. If we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, that is, in itself, a powerful thing! Because we know that Jesus’ resurrection is proof from God that he really does hold the keys of death and Hades, that he really is alive forevermore. Because of this there will be a day of judgment, and we will be declared righteous through our belief in Him (Acts 17:30-31).
There are terrible things happening every day. There is injustice everywhere. But one of the recurring themes of the Book of Revelation is that this will not always be so. From the prophets (Daniel 2:44, Zechariah2:10-13) to the New Testament (Luke 13:23-29), God tells us that this world will NOT last forever.