The Revelation of Jesus Christ is a “pulling back of the curtain” to reveal both the unseen realities of the present (what is really going on in the world from God’s perspective) and the unseen realities of the future (what God will do as he directs all things to fulfill his sovereign plan). It is at its core a book about discipleship as it calls hearers to stay faithful to Jesus knowing that he is ultimately in control and will one day return to put all things right. (For a fuller introduction to Revelation and how to read and apply it, see the sermon guide for May 15, 2022 on Revelation 21:1-6.)
Revelation 21-22 are the final chapters of the book. They show us the great hope, joy, and future that await Jesus’ followers when he returns as King and Lord of all. At that time, there will be a new heaven and new earth, death will be no more, paradise will be restored, and we will be with God fully and forever in the beauty of his new creation. Today’s verses come from the epilogue of the book (22:6-21). As Revelation (and the entire story of the Bible) comes to a close, it leaves us with a final vision of Jesus and a final call to faithful discipleship. Three great truths are emphasized.
First, Jesus is supreme. His various titles speak to his sovereignty over all things and his centrality of place in all things. To declare, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (v. 13, forming bookends with 1:8, 17) is a way of saying, “I am the A to Z and everything in between; I am the beginning of history, the end of history, and I direct the entire course of history; I am Creator of all, Judge of all, and Master of all.” Next he says, “I am the Root and Offspring of David” (v. 16, echoing 5:5).
David was Israel’s greatest king but Jesus is the true and better David for he is both David’s “Root” as his Lord and God (cf. Mark 12:35-37; Psalm 110:1) and “Offspring” as his descendant (Matthew 1:1, 6), now come as the ultimate Savior-King who fulfills all the deepest hopes and yearnings of his people. He is also “the bright Morning Star” (v. 16). Just as this star appears to signal the night is over and a new day is dawning so Jesus is the great light of the world who brings a new day of salvation; and he who holds the seven stars of the churches in his right hand (1:16, 20) is also his people’s greatest joy and ultimate reward (2:28). While many throughout history have claimed and acted as if they had total power and authority (such as the Emperor Domitian when John wrote Revelation), ultimately Jesus alone is “Lord” (vv. 20-21; cf. 19:16)—he is Lord of history, Lord of the church, Lord of our lives, Lord over all.
Second, Jesus is coming back. Twice he promises, “I am coming soon” (vv. 12, 20; three times total in the epilogue, see also v. 7). While the day of his return will be unexpected (Matthew 24:36-44; Acts 1:7), from God’s perspective and in the context of eternity, it is near and imminent. And it is certain, for Jesus who makes this promise is “faithful and true” (1:5; 3:14; 19:11) and his testimony (vv. 16a, 20) is therefore trustworthy and reliable. He further promises that upon his return, he will reward each person according to what they have done (v. 12); this is not a reference to salvation by works for it is our deeds that reveal what we truly believe and what is actually in our hearts.
In light of this, Jesus’ disciples are reminded of our identity as those who through faith in him have been washed from sin and made right with God (v. 14; cf. 7:13-14), and as the bride of Christ, we are called to live in joyful expectation for his return (v. 17; cf. 19:7-8; 21:2). All this is in keeping with the overall thrust of Revelation: the sure and certain hope that Jesus is coming back—knowing how things will end, and knowing Jesus who is the End—spurs us on to follow him faithfully through all of life. And until the end, God’s heart and invitation for all to respond and receive the free gift of salvation in Jesus remains (v. 17b).
Third, grace gets the last word. As Revelation and the entire story of the Bible draws to a close, it ends with a blessing: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (v. 21). The word “grace” (Greek charis) means “gift” and in the Bible refers to God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Grace is Jesus coming the first time in servanthood and humility to save and rescue humanity from sin and death and give us eternal life with God. Grace is Jesus coming again in power and glory to make all things right and to renew and restore his world.
And, here in our text, grace—which includes God’s love and goodness, his favor and kindness, his forgiveness and mercy, his presence and power—is what sustains us as Jesus’ disciples in this time between his first and second coming. Thus the book ends with a final encouragement: the Lord Jesus by his grace and the power of his Spirit (v. 17) is right now with his people, leading, guiding, and strengthening us to stay faithful to him; so whatever our situation or circumstances, keep trusting and following him, obeying and relying on him, glorifying and living for him, with hope and joy and confidence, because he is coming back and he is coming soon!
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Gabe Fung serves as lead pastor of Spectrum Church Irvine in Irvine, Calif.
Gabe was born in England and grew up in Hong Kong. He previously served as a missionary in Australia with Youth With A Mission, and as a pastor with churches in Westminster and Irvine, Calif. He has a BA from Seattle Pacific University, and MDiv and DMin degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary. His central focus in ministry is helping people trust and follow Jesus in all of life and equipping them to help others do the same. Gabe is married to Maribeth and they have two children, Matthew and Amy.
I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.
Billy Graham, in H. Myra and M. Shelley, The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 106.
The Chess Painting
Bishop Kenneth Ulmer is the pastor of a church that meets in Los Angeles at the Forum where the Lakers used to play basketball. He tells the story of two men in a museum who see a painting of a chess game. One character in the painting looked like a man; the other looked very much like the devil. The man was down to his last piece. The title of the painting was Checkmate.
One of the two men looking at the painting was an international chess champion. Something about the painting intrigued him. He began to study it. He grew so engrossed that the man with him got a little impatient and asked what he was doing.
The chess champion said, “Something about this painting bothers me. I want to study it awhile. You go ahead and wander around.”
When the friend came back after a while, the chess master said, “We must locate the man who painted this piece. We must tell him he must either change the picture or change the title. I have determined there is something wrong with this painting, and I am an international chess champion.”
His friend asked, “What’s wrong with the painting?”
The man replied, “It’s titled Checkmate, but the title is wrong. The king still has one more move.”
John Ortberg, When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007).
Preaching angle: Jesus still has one more move—one day he will return as the rightful King and make all things right; only then will the epic story of the Bible and of history come to an end. Knowing and believing this gives us hope, strength, and encouragement to follow and serve Jesus faithfully through all the ups and downs, and joys and struggles that come our way in life.