The Question and Its Answer

February 13, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: Revelation 1–3, Psalm 43, Ecclesiastes 12.

Here is the great mystery of our faith:

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17–18)

Jesus is the one who was before all, and he is and forever will be. And Jesus is also the one who died. And Jesus is also the firstborn from the dead (Revelation 1:5)—he who died now lives again.

As Jesus said of another truth of our faith: with man, these things are impossible, but with God, all things are impossible.

In Revelation 3:11, Jesus said, “I am coming soon.” Now, some take this to mean that the book is a lie; others take it to mean that Jesus came back in some mystical way and will not return physically to reign on the earth. I take it to mean that “soon” in the eyes of the Almighty who is first and last and reigns forever and ever is not exactly the same as “soon” in the eyes of feeble humans with our limited understanding. The Lord may return any day now—and so it has been these past twenty centuries. We wait expectantly, calling out in our hearts (and sometimes with our lips as well) “Lord, come soon!” And in the interval, this time between the times, we do our best to wait faithfully so that he does not come like a thief and surprise us (Rev. 3:3).

Psalm 43 serves as another reminder that the Psalms are not some haphazard collection. They were put together in the order they are for a reason. Psalms 42 and 43 are distinct, but they share a refrain and a common line. Whereas 42 functioned as a lament and stated the troubles facing the author, 43 turns and asks justice of God. The contrast is helpful. There is a time simply to let God know our sorrows and our frustrations, and then to instruct our souls to praise him in the midst of those sorrows and frustrations. There is also a time to plead with him to deliver us, and to instruct our souls to praise him as we wait for that deliverance to come. Those may seem like small distinctions, but they matter. We know they matter; else the Spirit-inspired editor of the Psalms would not have placed these two here next to each other to contrast with each other in this way.

Reading the final chapter of Ecclesiastes and the first chapters of Revelation together is like reading the question and its answer all at once. Ecclesiastes 12 contains some of the most evocative language on the close of life and the vanity of this-worldly existence to be found anywhere in all the literature of all the world. It is a sad passage, meditating on the way all things fade away. Revelation 1, on the other hand, is as clear a declaration that this world is not all there is as anyone could ask. The eternal king of all rulers stands forth to declare that he—he who died and now lives again—is coming soon and will set the world aright, and those who trust in him will receive eternal rewards and even reign alongside him. The world around us is fading, it is true, but there will come a day when it is renewed, when all the things that faded blossom again into gloriously new life. The Preacher could not see that day, but that he longed to could not be clearer from the text.

So together with him we say, “Lord, come soon.”