Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and Stephen said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them;” and when he said this, he fell asleep.(P) The word of the Lord.
The Lord is king, let the earth rejoice, let the many islands be glad. Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne. (R)
The heavens proclaim his justice, and all peoples see his glory. All gods are prostrate before him. (R)
You, O Lord, are the Most High over all the earth, exalted far above all gods. (R)
I, John, heard a voice saying to me: "Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates.
"I, Jesus, sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star."
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Let the hearer say, "Come." Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.
The one who gives this testimony says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!(P) The word of the Lord.
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: "Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Since the Second Sunday of Easter, we have been reading some key passages from the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament and of the Bible. Today, being the seventh and the last Sunday, we read from the same book, and even more so, the end of the book. Before we proceed any further, we shall recap briefly what we know so far. We know that the book was written by John, an apostle of Jesus Christ, while he was on the island of Patmos during the persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor, Domitian, between 81 and 96 AD, and that the book contains John's vision of the Risen Christ in symbolic and figurative language.
According to John, on the Lord's day, Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him to write down whatever he saw and heard, and to send it to the churches facing persecution, Revelation (1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19). John was then carried away to heaven where He saw "God sitting on His throne", and "a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain". He also saw many elders, living creatures, angels around the throne of God and the Lamb and heard them crying out that the Lamb alone was worthy to receive "power and riches, wisdom and strength, honour and glory and blessing", Revelation (5:11-14).
Then, he saw a great crowd of people, from all races, languages and nations, assemble before the throne of God. Those were the people who had "endured all tribulations and trials on earth" and "washed their robes and made them white with the blood of the Lamb", and they were singing glory to both God and the Lamb day and night. Those people would no longer be hungry nor thirsty, but only find rest at the springs of life-giving water which God would provide, Revelation (7:9, 14b-17).
And then, John witnessed the new heaven and a new earth, and the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. He heard that from then on, God would dwell for all eternity with His people and where there would be no more death or sadness or pain, Revelation (21:1-5). Further describing the holy city of Jerusalem, he said that it was bright and radiant, with massive wall, gates and is guarded by the angels on all sides. Inside the city, he saw all the creatures, angels, patriarchs, apostles and all people, that is, all those who kept the Law of Moses and the Teaching of Jesus Christ but did not see any temple. At the same time, John realized that such a city did not require any temple built by human hands, because God Himself is the temple and with all the redeemed people for which Jesus Christ came, the city shines already with the glory of God, Revelation (21:10-14, 22-23).
Today's text brings us to the end of the vision in which John reports of words he heard from the Risen Christ: Behold, I am coming soon, Revelation (22:12-14, 16-17, 20). I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, Revelation (22:12-12). This was not the first time that John was told of the imminent return or second coming of Jesus. Already, he had been told four times Revelation (2:5-16 3:11, 22:7). However, and once again at the end of His appearance to John, Christ put a strong emphasis on His return.
Besides, He also made two great declarations:
These two declarations imply at least three things:
John records further of Jesus saying, "Blessed are those who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates," Revelation (14). To whom "those who wash their robes" refer? Similar phrases have already appeared in the book. In chapter 7 verse 14, John identifies those wearing white robes and standing before the throne of God, and serving Him day and night in His temple as people who were true and faithful while on earth. And in Chapter 19 verses 7-8, we learn that the robes, which are variously described as "white" or as "fine linen", are the righteous acts of the saints. So, referring to those believers who keep God's word and please Him by their righteous lives, Jesus said that they are "blessed" for they are entitled to two things: They have the right to the "tree of life" and the right to enter "the city" through its gates.
Ordinarily, "the tree of life" refers to the Tree that existed, along with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in the Garden of Eden, Genesis (2-3). Eating of the tree of life meant accepting God's ultimate rule and deciding to live accordingly. But when humans disobeyed God by eating from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil God made the tree of life off-limits to humans, Genesis (2:9, 2:16-17, 3:3, 3:22-23, 11). In other words, because of sin, we lost the right to the tree of life.
But now, the obedience of Christ has restored our access to it forever. Thus, the Cross or the tree on which Jesus died becomes the tree of life in the midst of the Kingdom of God. Every person who is abiding in Christ and obeys His teachings will have the right to the "tree of life", meaning, the gift of eternal life, and will also have full access to the holy city, the New Jerusalem, through the gates guarded by the angels, just as John had seen in his vision.
John, then, quotes Jesus as saying, "I, Jesus, sent my angel to give you this testimony to the churches. I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star", Revelation (16). In this statement, Jesus, the historical Jesus known to John, makes clear three important things:
John then addresses words of encouragement to all those who read the Book of Revelation, saying, "The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Let the hearer say, "Come." Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water", Revelation (17). Here, "the Bride" refers to all the prophets, the apostles and the people or the Church of God; "the Spirit" refers to the One who is operative in all of them; "the hearer" points to the one who is privileged with reading and hearing the word of God; and "the one who thirsts" points to the one who longs for righteousness.
Thus, John encourages all who have already responded and become Christians, and all who desire Christ's grace and righteousness, and all who feel their need of salvation and to join with the Spirit and the Bride in yearning for the coming of Christ and to drink of the living fountain. No one is excluded. Since Jesus died for all mankind, whoever wishes for salvation is invited to come and take the water of life freely, "without money or price" just as the Prophet Isaiah foretold and as Jesus Himself said, "He who comes to me shall not hunger; and he who believes in me shall never thirst", John (55:1, 6:35).
Finally, John repeats the words with which he concurs, saying, "The One who gives this testimony says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen! Come, Lord, Jesus!, Revelation (20). Here, Jesus simply reiterated the truth of his return and John responded to Jesus' "Yes" with his own "yes": Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! meaning "I believe O Lord, Come".
As we conclude our study of the six extracts from the Book of Revelation for the past six weeks of the Easter Season, it is only proper to know the overall message:
Trusting then in His promises, let us, today and every day, lift up our voice to with one accord: Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!(P) Amen.
God Bless You!