The Believers Response to the Return of Christ
Verses 6–21 of this chapter form the epilogue to the book of Revelation. Having taken the reader through the amazing sweep of future history all the way into the eternal state, all that is left for John to record is this divine postscript. By this point in the Apocalypse, all the glorious and gracious purposes that God ordained before the foundation of the world will have been attained. The devastating judgments of the Tribulation will have been carried out, and their memory will remain only in the torment of the damned. The Lord Jesus Christ will have returned in blazing glory, executed His enemies, and reigned on earth for a thousand years. All rebels, both angels and humans, will have been sentenced to their final, eternal punishment in the lake of fire. The present universe will have been “uncreated,” and the eternal new heaven and the new earth created, in which the King of Kings will be reigning with His Father. The holy angels and the redeemed of all the ages will be dwelling in eternal bliss with Him in the new creation, particularly in heaven’s capital city, the New Jerusalem. From His throne in the center of that majestic city, the brilliant, blazing glory of God will radiate throughout the re-created universe. Absolute and unchanging holiness will characterize all who dwell in the universal and eternal kingdom of God. They will constantly praise, worship, and serve Him throughout eternity in an environment of perfect peace, joy, and fulfillment.
In a series of rapid-fire, staccato statements that move breathlessly from theme to theme, verses 6–12 delineate the responses every believer should have to the imminent coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. These verses convey a furious rush of energy, a wild flurry of excited effort to call forth immediate reaction to the vital truth they communicate. The text is pregnant with urgency, pressuring every reader to take action based on the truths it presents.
It calls on believers to desire heaven, to desire holiness, to desire to see Christ vindicated and triumphant over His enemies, to desire the end of the curse, and to desire the glories of Christ’s earthly kingdom and the new heaven and the new earth.
After reading Revelation, Christians should love Christ more, long to see Him vindicated in His glory, live in light of the reality that they will one day see Him, disconnect themselves from the perishing world system, pursue heavenly realities, seek to be made like Christ, hope for their resurrection bodies, and anticipate their eternal rewards. They should also understand the fearful judgment that awaits non-Christians, and call those sinners to repentance and saving faith in the Lord Jesus.
But like Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:28), Daniel (Dan. 8:17; 10:9), and Peter, James, and he himself at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:6), John simply collapsed in wonder and worship.
One phrase ought to serve as a sober reminder as we go through today’s so-called worship wars: worship is not about us, but about God. So much of the current debate revolves around what we want, what we need, what we prefer, what we desire for a service to do for us. We even argue over whether a worship service should focus on evangelism, discipleship, or praise. In all these discussions the emphasis is squarely on us. No wonder we are confused; no wonder we lack the power we so desperately need and, at our best, desire with all our hearts. But if worship is not about us, what is it about?
Worship is about recognizing God’s primacy in all things. In the Bible, the most basic meaning of “worship” is “to bow down.” To whom do worshipers bow? The creator, sustainer, deliverer, savior, revealer, healer, judge, and covenant maker. In other words, they bow down to the sovereign Lord of all creation. For what purpose do they bow? To give glory to God, who alone deserves such humility and adoration.
But the truth it dramatically conveys is that people’s response to the proclamation of the truth will fix their eternal destinies. Those who hear the truth but continue to do wrong and be filthy will by that hardened response fix their eternal destiny in hell. On the other hand, the one who continues to practice righteousness and keep himself holy gives evidence of genuine saving faith.
Both of those passages express God’s wrath of abandonment (Rom. 1:18–32), when He turns hardened, unrepentant sinners over to the consequences of their own choices.
The rewards believers enjoy in heaven will be capacities for serving God; the greater their faithfulness in this life, the greater will be their opportunity to serve in heaven