It is amazing how so frequently we fail to notice the things around us. Even simple words which we have used for decades, whose meanings we overlook until one day we suddenly see something significant behind the words. Just a couple of examples.
Some months ago I was thinking about the word “alphabet.” We think of it as a term expressing the letters from A to Z. Of course when we eventually get around to thinking about it, we notice that the word ‘alphabet’ is made up of two parts, Alpha, [ἀ] [ἄλφα] and Beta, [β]. They are the first two letters of the Greek alphabet. There is a similarity to the Hebrew alphabet where the first two letters are Aleph and Beth. It’s amazing how often we use words without noticing their significance.
Another thing I hadn’t really noticed as one who has studied some New Testament Greek over the years, was the connection between the Greek letters Omicron and Omega. In English we can see them as both having the letter “O” with “micron” and “mega” following it. “Micron” of course means small and “mega” means great. It helps to understand that ‘omicon’ has a short [small] sound like the ‘o’ in ‘cot’. ‘Omega’ has a long sound like the final ‘o’ sound in ‘lego.’ I had used the words for decades without noticing how their word structure emphasises their meaning. Thinking about two of these words [alpha and omega] got me thinking about their relevance for today.
“Alpha” and “Omega”
Someone once joined these two letters together in short sentences in Revelation 1:8, 21:6 and 22:13. His name was Jesus. This is what He said in Rev 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” He is the eternal, all powerful one who has existed from all eternity.
But the significant verse before that described a future event concerning Him, Rev 1:7 “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” It is obviously a reference to Jesus, the One who was crucified on the cross and whose side was pierced as He hung on the cross. His second coming will be a public, world-wide event that no one will fail to notice.
The event described is more certain to occur than the possibility that any of His numerous critics [or any of us] will be alive tomorrow. “History” is “His Story” to be fulfilled according to His timetable, not ours. “Coming ready or not” was the cry in our childhood game of “Hide and Seek.” But Jesus is playing no game. He came and died so that we might be forgiven and have eternal life as we trust in Him. That was no game 2000 years ago! It was deadly serious! It cost Him His life, willingly given up for us, on our behalf, for our eternal benefit.
It has great implications for all of us. We are implicated in that death whether we like it or not, and whether we like it or not, our response to that death is obligatory for all of us. As St Paul wrote, “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.“ 2 Cor 5:15. In simple terms, He died for us so that we might live for Him! We need to be ready, for He is “Coming, ready or not!” Not a game, but a coming reality. In His love, He graciously gives us warning.
The final reference to Alpha and Omega is found at the end of the Bible in its closing verses. Jesus again is speaking, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Rev 22:13. But this is not just a declaration about His identity. He follows those words with an explanation of what His identity [who He is] means for every human ever born. He is the origin of all things and He also is the One who brings human history, as we know it, to an end. It is no use anyone proclaiming, “I am an atheist!” or “I am an agnostic, none of this applies to me.” Clearly it does. No one is exempt! Proclaiming “There is no God!” frequently and loudly in lectures and in books by an avowed atheist, doesn’t make Him cease to exist! He is the eternal “I am!”
Jesus went on in this passage to give both promises and warnings. Here are the promises, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Rev 22:14. In other words, they have come to trust in Jesus’ redeeming death for them [His blood shed for them on the cross as the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Rev 13:8.] Through that faith they had gained access to God [to the tree of life] and were able to enter the gates of heaven.
There follows a severe warning. It describes those who have not washed their robes in the blood of the lamb and who thus fail to gain access to God or to enter into heaven, “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Rev 22:15.
Humans, in the first chapter of the Bible, lose their access to the tree of life through their rebellion against God and become spiritually dead!
Humans in the last chapter of the Bible still having no access to God or to the tree of life through their ongoing rebellion against Him. In spite of all God, has done for humans through Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, session at the right hand of God, and His life-giving bestowal of the Holy Spirit into the lives of all who turn to Him in faith and love, some humans still resist His love and remain spiritually dead! Such people would fail to hear and act on the cry if He were to give it, “Coming ready or not!” The truth is that He is coming at a time when no one expects it and there will be no such warning cry from His lips. He promises that He is coming, and we have to be prepared at all times for that certainty.
The cry of some humans, “Come!”
Jesus’ second coming is certain, but no one knows exactly when. It is the cry of every believer of every age that He “come” [and hopefully in their lifetime.] John the writer alludes to that as he writes, “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Rev 22:17.
The bride of Christ consists of all those who have come to Christ and are bound to Him in a covenant relationship. They and the Spirit through them, cry out for His promised coming. In the meantime all who are thirsty can find satisfaction in Him.
There is a final warning that Jesus words be taken seriously. These prophecies of Jesus through John were not to be despised or rejected or altered in any way [verses 18-19]. They were meant to be acted on.
The prophecy and indeed the final chapter of the Bible ends with a promise of Jesus that He is coming soon, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Rev 22:20.
John ends his book with these words, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Most believers at some time in their lives have said the same words, “Come Lord Jesus” especially when they were going through difficult times. We read in 1 Corinthians these words from the lips of believers in those challenging days, “Maranatha!” meaning, “Come Lord Jesus.” 16:22.
The challenge of the coronavirus and the challenge of Jesus’ Second Coming
It is amazing when you think about it, how we make such great preparations for avoiding the coronavirus which is challenging many nations at this time. We change our lives completely by being willing to live in isolation and to live under strict restrictions, lest we or our loved ones be affected. However this virus, like other viruses, will eventually cease to be a challenge. By contrast the promise of Jesus’ Second Coming will never go away. It needs to be prepared for. What a wonderful promise then is one of the last verses in the Bible where this incredible invitation is offered to those who realise they are spiritually empty or thirsty, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes, take the free gift of the water of life.” Rev 22:17.
It only needs a step of faith to “come” to Jesus and to take hold of the free gift of the water of life in Him. Every day is one day closer to His sudden coming. Are you ready?
Blog No.351 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 23rd April 2020