John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
(Revelation 1:4-8 ESV)
The Greeting of the Revelation to John in verses 4-8 is pretty lofty stuff. God is definitely on the Throne from the beginning. Even his one mention of God’s love is in the context of a long, heady theological statement. In John’s Gospel (probably written by a different John from John of Patmos), love appears 20 times, mostly in the context of a love that is acted out in deeds. This is more of a statement of truth than of action.
To comfort to any of you who come from a liturgical background (you Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics… even a few Methodists out there), think of the opening to the Revelation as if it was a Creed of the church. You should all be able to recite the Apostle’s Creed from memory. But for the Baptists, Congregationalists, and most of the Presbyterians in the audience, here it is:
Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae… Oh, sorry… silly me. Vatican II.
God the Father
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
The Holy Spirit
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
The Creed is a nice, tight, orderly, Trinitarian document that undoubtedly addresses a lot of the heretical stuff that was rattling around the Empire about the time the Creed was organized (I’m not sure it was “written,” exactly). That was sometime before 390 AD.
Look at what John of Patmos has left us:
God the Father
is and was is to come,
He has seven spirits before his throne
Is the faithful witness,
He is the firstborn of the dead
He is ruler of kings on earth.
To him be glory and dominion forever and ever.
Christ loves us
Christ has freed us from our sins by his blood
Christ made us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father
The Holy Spirit
He is coming with the clouds,
He will evidence Christ (and every eye will see him)
He will speak to hearts (those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will
John might as well have said, “let us confess those things most commonly believed among us,” as we do in church when we recite the Creed.
So what is the purpose of all this theology? Is it not to move hearts? Take a moment and read each phrase of both “creeds” above slowly. Give yourself the time to take in what the phrases are saying.
When I did this exercise just now I was struck afresh by two lines in particular. “He has made us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father.” Wow. The church is designed to be a whole kingdom of intercessors, pleading before the Father. But if we’re a kingdom of priests, then who are we interceding for? The rest of the world. Can it be that our main business in prayer should be to bring the case of the unrighteous before God? Can it be that we are to love the ungodly – those who have rebelled and have no consciousness of their sin? And can it be that our purpose would be to beg God to call them in?
The other phrase that got me is a companion to the first. God is going to use his Holy Spirit to pierce the hearts of those who pierced Christ. All the “tribes of the earth,” John says, will wail. Oh, he isn’t saying we shouldn’t pray for them, though most of us would be glad to leave them “out” of the church. But he has the door wide open here. ALL are welcome, as the sign in front of your mostly-empty church says. If the church were praying and acting as it was called to do, it would be the halls of the governments of this world, the barracks of military encampments, the courts and congresses of the earth that would be mostly empty. Do not pray, dear friends, for sinners you’d never invite to join you! That is hypocrisy of the worst kind. But do pray earnestly and call them, invite them, go to their houses and offer rides, feed them, clothe them, house them, if that’s what it takes to turn your prayers into action. Only GO, and give them Jesus.