Grace Changes Everything

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The Last Words of the Covenant

In his last words, in the last book of the Bible, Jesus promises to return soon: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon’” (Rev. 22:20). Jesus is not distant and inattentive but will soon return to bring both judgment and salvation. As Phillips says, ‘His primary emphasis here is to encourage his faithful disciples who are suffering in the world.’ In verse 17, the Spirit and the bride called out to the beloved Lord, saying, “Come.” He answers now, “Surely I am coming soon.”

Skeptics point out that nineteen centuries have passed since Jesus promised to return soon, yet still he has not come. The idea, however, is that Jesus will return without delay. At the very moment when God’s redemptive timeline has run its course, the Savior will immediately come to gather his followers. While there remain people of his to be saved, Jesus’ coming is delayed, and for this reason the witness of his gospel occupies Christians’ attention. Meanwhile, with every day Jesus’ coming has been brought nearer. We know that in terms of God’s prophetic calendar we are on the brink of his glorious coming. Philip Hughes writes: “It is an event that is always imminent, hence the need always to live in the expectation of his appearing.”

“Steve Wilmshurst compares the situation of believers awaiting Christ’s return with that of the French Resistance fighters during World War II. During the four years of Nazi occupation, many of the people had started cooperating with the enemy. But small bands of brave fighters waged continuous guerrilla warfare. They sabotaged rail lines, raided military bases, and gave information to the Allied forces, whose coming they eagerly awaited. The Resistance did not know when British and American troops would finally land on their shores and parachute into their fields, but they had been given coded information to anticipate the event. On June 1, 1944, the BBC broadcast the first coded message, hidden in its normal programming. It read: ‘Stand by; we are coming soon.’ Jesus has likewise transmitted to his church the message that he will come soon, in order to encourage his church in its long fight against evil.

“While believers await the appearing of Christ, John gives clear instructions in Revelation’s sixth beatitude: ‘Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book’ (Rev. 22:7). To ‘keep’ God’s Word is to receive it in faith, hold fast to it in hope, and obey it in action. The French Resistance fighters never thought that they alone could oust the German invaders, but were looking for deliverers to come. While they waited, however, they sought to do all that they could, upholding the cause in true faith and preserving their consciences from the stain of compromise. In a similar way, Christians await Jesus’ return as we keep the Word of truth.

“We keep the prophecy of Revelation by acting on the same conviction that kept the French Resistance fighting during WWII. Wilmshurst writes that they fought under the certain conviction ‘that this terrible occupation will not, cannot, last forever. One day their enemies will be destroyed and liberation will come.’”[1]

We are reminded that it is those who keep the words of this book that will be blessed. As one writer notes, ‘It is not in reading, or wondering, or talking, but in keeping, that the blessing comes.’
With the saints of all the ages, we join in the final prayer of the Bible, “Come, Lord Jesus”. This week we urge you to come as we consider Revelation 22:6-21. Are you ready for Jesus’ return? I do hope so. See you this Lord’s Day as we hear ‘The Last Words of the Covenant’.

I wish we’d all been ready,

[1] Adapted by Richard Phillips from Steve Wilmshurst, The Final Word: The Book of Revelation Simply Explained (Darlington, UK: Evangelical Press, 2008), 271-2 in Richard Phillips, Revelation: Reformed Expository Commentary (New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2017), 679-82.