Seventh Sunday of Easter

Revelation warns believers of a false paradise

young person peering through hole in wall
Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash; licensed under CC0.

May 29, 2022

Second Reading
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Commentary on Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

When caught in between waiting and pain, human souls long for either a word of hope or a song in the Lord’s land. With suffering comes the forfeiture of witnessing and mission on the part of a believer. Revelation 22:12-14 seems to be that song or word needed in times of hopelessness, suffering, and pain. Many times, and in many seasons, people don’t think that their intentions, actions, and thoughts can lead them into an alien space. Christianity and those who practice and claim it as a source of their being and faith can at times lose their bearings. Instead of doing the will of God, desperation leads to hopelessness. But the Word of God in Revelation calls on Christians to always remember the power of the Gospel. 

The world is not supposed to understand Christians, but Christians are called to understand the empire and never to bow down to Caesar. When one leans into a space of longing, pain, and sorrow, the sense of sharing those with others who are not walking at your pace becomes impossible. Those are the moments when Christ steps in to walk with us and speak with us in heavenly melodies.  

Jesus reminds believers in Revelation 22:12-13, he is not far distant but close to where they live, walk and work. The one who has come to die for the redemption of the world, promises us that he will come again to be the judge of the world. The word soon complicates our hearing and longing because we want a Jesus we can touch and laugh with, but for reasons oblivious to human hearts, we forget that Jesus Christ came to us already, and he did this in his Death and Resurrection. 

Jesus is already in us and around us, but we miss his voice because at our very best we are practical human beings. Yet the Holy Spirit speaks through our faith, and faith is an everyday song. The “here and not yet” message of Revelation summons believers to live with a deep sense of the urgency of Jesus’ second coming, a teaching rarely heard in most Christian Churches. Yet, Easter is not complete without reminding people of the second coming of Jesus Christ.  

The reward Jesus brings is for those who have suffered on behalf of their faith in Jesus Christ, and the punishment is for those who have not aligned their lives with the teachings of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. At the beginning of chapters, readers are admonished to worship only God and not Caesar, and John himself is shown the vision of heaven where angels and elders are falling in adoration, worshiping God who is in the center (1:5-6; 4:1—5:14). Hence, the declaration words of the Risen Christ clarifying or perhaps repeating all the titles aligned with him are a reminder to readers that the world, creation, and its creatures are all sandwiched by God. Nothing is out of God’s purview, and hence the warning is appropriate as it calls on believers to be sensitive to the spirit. 

In this eschatological reality, Christians are called to embody the values, practices, and virtues befitting of a Church. In other words, Christians are called to live a counter-cultural way because their lives reflect the Jesus way. Believers’ words and actions should honor God, the one who came in the form of Jesus to redeem and rescue the human soul. In line with this, readers of Revelation 22 are encouraged, exhorted, and assured that God is real, that Jesus died and rose from the dead, and at any moment, Jesus is going to come back. While Christians have built wealth and come to believe in Wall Street’s financial determination, Revelation warns believers of a false paradise. Instead, the real paradise is the one we find in Revelation 22:1, which in similar ways is portrayed in Genesis 2:10.  

In a season of COVID–19 variants, HIV/AIDS, and many political upheavals, Christianity becomes a lonely voice of hope, and a means to access where God resides. This proclamation of hope and living according to it is done by focusing on mission, prophetic preaching whereby powers of darkness are silenced and confronted, and worshiping God so that honor is given to God and not political parties and their leaders. 

In a time of hopelessness, the redeemed ones are referred to as “those who wash their robes,” meaning those who witness to Jesus Christ will lead others into the city of God. The metaphor of the city refers to a transformed place where humanity celebrates reconciliation in all its forms, health, love, joy, peace, trust, and security. The wicked ones who remain opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ will remain out of the city and will not have access to the blessings of God. In our empire worldview, the rich and the politically privileged have in many ways become enemies of the Gospel, and consequently enemies of God. It is painfully hard to see and experience the presence of God when people are hard-pressed with economic, political, sociological, social, and climatic pressures, yet the promises of God in Revelation propel believers to remain faithful and serve God’s mission. 

The language of steadfast or enduring faith is not welcomed in societies such as North America because our source of comfort and definition of faith is determined by affluence, political and economic security, as well as financial savings. Revelation’s message counters false forms of security and summons Christians to transfer their lives to God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

While John is the voice through whom Jesus speaks, the message of Revelation 22:16-17 is inclusive of the entire eschatological community. Angels, miracles, signs, and wonders are revealed to believers on a daily basis. Each believer should have the sensibilities to discern God’s miracles and hear the voice of the Holy Spirit (verse 16). The invitation message in verse 17, seems to be a double calling to those who have come to doubt and even lose faith. Yet, each Lord’s Supper celebration, we echo these words as we are invited to come to the Lord’s table to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. There is a mystery in these words because the invitation to come is perhaps not an individual, but a communal summoning. In a world of great individualism and individual salvation, Revelation’s message lifts up a God who is communal and invites believers to hope together as one family. 

John’s vision, God’s prayer, and Jesus Christ’s cry are all communal and the metaphor of the Church as a city illustrates that the Church should at all costs maintain unity, diversity, inclusion, and love of all people, including the ones we may not like. The message of Revelation unfolds as it summons the Church to see the world from the perspective of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Hence, the testament of Jesus in Revelation 22:20-21 encloses the evangelical, spiritual voice, and Gospel of Jesus Christ, the one who speaks through John. The ending part of verse 20, where we read the words “Come, Lord Jesus,” signaling perhaps that other divine angels accompanied Jesus as he was speaking through John. 

The ones who witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection are also with him in Revelation, and as a witnessing team, they too sing a hymn of hope when they say “come, Lord Jesus,” in verse 20b. In response to this hope-filled acclamation, John, who is one of the witnesses, gives a grace-filled blessing to the witnesses then and now. 

In each context, Christians are summoned to witness to the faithfulness of God, and witnessing manifests itself in giving hope, comforting, and loving others when you yourself are in the furnace and storms of life. Like in the days of John, witnesses are rare in the 21st century, the Church has been silent about teaching believers to embody their faith through witnessing. In the context in which John and his audience lived, living one’s faith and bearing witness to Jesus was costly, but it is what they were called to do, and it is God’s expectation on us living in the 21st century.