With this reading we take flight for days of soaring through the last book of the Bible – the Revelation to John. By turns, the ride will mystify, illuminate, exhilarate, and even inspire us. Sometimes it will do all of these at once!
In English, the word “revelation” refers to knowledge that was previously unknown. For example, it came as a revelation to me when my mother recently told me my nose was not truly broken when, at age four, I fell off my toy chest while trying to change my clothes and landed on my face. For many years I believed, mistakenly as it happens, my nose had been broken then. There was plenty of pain and blood, a “butterfly stitch,” and a lasting scar to support my belief!
“Revelation” in this book’s title translates the Greek word “apocalypsis,” the first word in the original text (Revelation 1:1). “Apocalypsis” means revelation or disclosure of knowledge, or of a person’s character or purposes. We get our English word “apocalypse” from this word. However, we often use “apocalypse” to refer to strange or cataclysmic events, and we tend to associate it with the end of history or time. There is much in the Revelation to John to support this use and association.
Yet, while on our wild, mystifying, and exhilarating flight through the images, symbols, and events of the Revelation to John, we must also keep in sight the “revelation” meaning of “apocalypsis.” John received from Jesus what Jesus knew of God – knowledge of God’s character and plans, especially in and through Jesus. This book then reveals the ultimate nature and saving purposes of God Almighty, the creator, redeemer, and ruler of the universe. This God is – to use the beginning and ending letters of the Greek alphabet – Alpha and Omega. He is the first, the last, and everything in between of the entire cosmos, of all time and space.
Hence, as we read Revelation, and as we live, we should fall on our faces – truly broken by sin and death, now raised and healed in Jesus – to reverence this glorious God, our Alpha and Omega. For, with saving power and love, God is the first, last, and everything of your life and mine, of all the times and places that mark our lives. He is worthy of all our worship and love.