Revelation is known as a pretty hectic book. It’s full of dragons, beasts from the sea with 10 horns, armies, plagues and all sorts of apocalyptic stuff. It’s pretty hard to understand it (with this eschatology, it’s hard to know what’s literal, what’s figurative, what’s the timeframe etc). For me, I think that John’s account is merely a description of an experience that he had which can’t be adequately expressed, ever. And his vision was not the full, veracious, reality of the end; we just won’t know the true nature of that time until it happens, and no experience of John’s can ever fully explain the Joy of heaven of torture of condemnation.
There’s a lot that stands out about how awesome God is, and how everything ultimately proclaims him. But just for now I’m talking about a couple of things from the final chapter; revelation 22.
“Behold, I am coming soon. My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:12-14
That really hit me. It needs a bit of clarification. As to what Jesus says RE saved according to what we have done, I think we need to look at the doctrine laid down (particularly in Romans) about how we have Jesus’ clean track record. James can also help with this. He ISN’T saying that we are saved by works rather than Grace. The idea of “washing robes” remind me of an image in Zechariah 3, where the priest is given washed garments, and is made pure. It’s like the biblical version of the story where Jesus takes our dirty, stained, Tshirt and gives us his own sparkly, never been stained, awesome (and I dare say much more comfortable!) one.
But what stands out (beyond the Zechariah 3 image, which I love) is this “that they may have the RIGHT to the tree of life”.
I often forget how awesome this is. But something about the phrasing of it really hit home how I, as a sinful person have NO right to the source of life. I have no right of access to God. I have no right to salvation, or even just life on earth. But this passage is saying that Jesus is coming back, and that he has given those who are in him that RIGHT. The right to have a relationship with God, the right to life, the right to eternity of this life of relationship with God is something I now have in Christ. God is constant, he never changes. We can be sure of this; it is, because of Jesus, our right to see God. That seems presumptive, or cocky. But Jesus is saying that if we accept the water of life that he freely offers, we have that right to be in God’s glory for ever. Nothing else can take that away. Satan can’t flip the situation, we won’t be forgotten, we won’t be deceived. As long as we are in Christ, then the God of eternal Justice will fight for our right, and we will be more than conquerors.
Jesus has just made an amazingly strong statement, an assurance that faith, and the gift of Grace will stand fast through all tests and powers.
How does John respond? I think in the way that we so often fail to do, after thinking about Revelation or the end of the world, or judgement. We get scared of what will happen, whether we are ready, and we fear the terrifying nature of the day Jesus returns. Which is fair enough, and we should consider this.
I’ve been challenged to respond in the same way John does, with a simple yet profound and completely trusting call;
“Come, Lord Jesus”.