Father Athanasios Mitilinaios
Revelation 1: 4-7
The three offices of Christ and the faithful: prophetic, priestly and royal.
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Therefore, glory belongs to the One who incarnated, who became a faithful witness, who shed His blood to wash us from our sins because He loves us. So to Him, Jesus Christ, be glory and power forever and ever, as we read at the end of John’s introduction to the book of the Revelation. Again, the Word of God took on flesh. The Word became flesh. He proved to be the Faithful Witness, “o martys o pistos,” and the Firstborn from the dead, only because He loved us. He shed His blood to wash our sins only because He loved us. There was no other reason God did this. God does not have any other motive outside of His love. God, desiring to express this love to us, gave His incarnate, His only Son to die on the Cross. But He did not only wash our sins, which pertains to the negative aspect of the love of God. Negatively speaking, He washed our sins. But God proceeded to go beyond this washing. Moreover, for those of us who believe and accept this washing by His blood, He makes us members of the royal priesthood: vasilion ieratevma , and thereby makes us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
My friends, this is an extremely important verse. It is extremely theological, a most theological verse. We need to give it our utmost attention. So, He has made us to be a kingdom of priests. Christ has made us a kingdom of priests to the Father, or to serve the Father, as the different translations say. In this verse, what becomes very clear and very evident is the substance and the purpose of Christianity. We see here that Christianity is not simply a religion, but a kingdom. This is the substance of Christianity. Christians are kings and priests. This describes the content of Christianity. If someone would ask you, “What is Christianity anyway?” You should answer, “It is a kingdom.” And if someone would ask you, “What is the purpose of the Christian community?” You should answer, “It is to make its citizens kings and priests.” “This sounds colossal. You may believe this sounds like a very high calling. It is a very high calling, indeed, as high as the heavens.
Now once we come to the realization that being a Christian means that I am a citizen of a kingdom, that I am a king and priest, then how can we ever say again that Christianity is one of the religions? How can we compare it to the man-made religions? Christianity is not a religion dreamed by men. It is a revelation, and therefore a kingdom. So, as a Christian, my purpose is not to use my faith to make my life easier and more pleasant here on earth. A Christian is not the person who pays his taxes, obeys the laws of the country, and raises a good and a nice family. It seems that this is how we have been taught to size up today’s good Christian: “a good and honest member of the society.” There is no question that this is a consequence of the Christian life. It is clear that a Christian will be a good person in the society. But is this why Christ came into the world—to make us good and honest people, like Plato used to say, to be good and honest, “kalos kai agathos.”? If this was the purpose of Christ’s coming, then He did not have to come into this world. The ancient Greeks could have helped us to accomplish these objectives – just to become good people. We have, and have had many good people, even before Christ. My friends, the mission of Christianity is not to make me a good and honest citizen, but to make me a king and priest of God, something that escapes the thoughts of all those outside of Christianity. Again, this escapes the imagination of even the greatest philosophers. Christians are super-privileged to have God establish a kingdom for them on earth. When we pray, we say, “Thy kingdom come.” By the way, this has nothing to do with a political, earthly kingdom. We have said this before. This kingdom is not of this world. We often see Christian political parties with an agenda to elect Christian leaders and Christian presidents. Many think that this would automatically make the earth a sort of a better place. The truth is that the kingdom of God is as far as the east is from the west compared to these Christian parties and Christian Coalitions.
So, we pray, “Thy kingdom come.” The Christians reign together with Christ. They become priests who offer their worship to the Holy Triune God. Now, Who is the source of these great privileges? Initially, the source of this privilege is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. While coming into the world as a human being, Christ was anointed by the Father. In saying this, we refer to the human nature, and not God the Logos who does not need to be christened by the Father, being equal, of one essence with the Father. “Jesus Christ” refers to the human nature. Therefore, the Incarnated Logos, Jesus Christ was anointed by God the Father with this triple office: the office of the Prophet, the Archpriest, and King. The Old Testament and especially the New Testament profess this triple office of Our Lord. We will not look into many verses other than the ones that we already interpreted last week. We mentioned the three descriptive titles, epithets, of Christ. “The Faithful Witness,” refers to the prophetic office of Christ, because He came to profess the truth and to talk about the truth, to prophecy. A prophet is not always someone who sees or foretells the future. This is only true in the narrow sense. In the broad sense, a prophet is he who talks about God. The word “prophet” in the broad sense can be found in the ancient Greek literature, even Homer saw a prophet as a person who prophesies or talks, and yes, a prophet can also talk about the future. We covered this earlier. The greater challenge of a prophet was not to foretell the future but to interpret the present. So, Christ is the Faithful Witness who came to bear witness to the truth, and He is the Teacher par excellence of heavenly things. Second, He is the Firstborn from the dead. This is characteristic of the Archpriestly office of our Lord, combining in His person the One who offers the sacrifice and the sacrificial Lamb, all in the same Person of Christ. We say this in the Divine Liturgy, “The One who offers and the One being offered,” and this is quite difficult to grasp, to be the One who offers the sacrifice and at the same time being the offering. Nevertheless, this is understood in the scope of the God-human nature of Christ. Third, the Ruler of the Kings of the Earth is characteristic of His royal office.
Combined, these three offices of Christ work out our salvation. These three offices – the prophetic, the archpriestly, and the royal –aid our salvation. With the first office, the prophetic, the true God is revealed. The second, the priestly office, is what lifts humanity to God – the oblation, or the anaphora. The priest during the prayer of oblation, or anaphora, lifts the Holy Gifts to God. He offers the Gifts to God: “Thine own of Thine own we offer to Thee…” But here we have the lifting, the raising - the anaphora- of the entire humanity. This anaphora was offered by Christ on the Cross. He offered this oblation by His Archpriestly office. He exercised His priestly office on the Cross. He lifted, raised, offered – we use all these words for the Greek word, anaphora – the human nature to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. With the third office, the royal office, nature becomes a true kingdom of God and ruled by God. The Holy Baptism and Holy Chrism that each faithful receives incorporate him in the Body of Christ, that is, the Church. [so that he becomes one body with Christ] In this manner, each faithful participates or takes on these three offices of Christ to a certain degree. Christ is a prophet, so the faithful becomes a prophet, to a certain extent. Christ is the Archpriest, and the faithful becomes a priest, to a certain extent. Christ is the king, so the faithful becomes a king to a certain extent. Therefore, this means that the Christian receives these offices from Christ, which Christ receives from the Father. Christ was anointed with the three offices, the triple office, and now we can see that St. John talks about this type of thing in Revelation, after the triple office of Christ, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father.
When did Christ make us a kingdom and priests to serve God? He did this after He proved to be the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. We find this position in the Old Testament as well. God Himself says through Moses, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel. (Exodus 19:6) Can we grasp the meaning of these words, my friends? God wants His nation to be holy. That is what prophet Isaiah says, You shall be called the priests of the Lord,…ministers of God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory. (61:6) So first you will become priests of God, second you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in this wealth you will be glorified, which means—and here is where the Jews totally misinterpret — no, this does not mean to dominate and extract all the wealth from the world and keep it in some banks. What a shame! This is how these blessed people of the Old Testament, how these pitiful people, God’s elect of the Old Testament, misunderstand the Scriptures. The true meaning is that you will become kings and priests, and the true meaning of the king and the priest will only be given to us in Christ Jesus. If I do not have the presence of Jesus Christ, and if I study the Old Testament without the light of the New Testament, I can interpret Holy Scripture according to my selfish, national or racist ambitions and interests. So, if I am a Jew and I reject the New Testament; I reject Jesus Christ. Then I can say, “Here it is. God tells me to be wealthy, to rule the wealth of the entire world, and to govern the entire world.”
But this is a horrible mistake, a terrible misunderstanding of the word of God, and the elitist group, the Zionists have been moving in this direction for years. They are worth many tears, because they will never rule the world, and they will not get much joy out of this wealth, because when they finally accomplish this, and they will accomplish it, they will bring the Antichrist; and then, they will be destroyed. Therefore, they will not enjoy any of these efforts. They are truly fighting the wind and the second Psalm describes their plight. God will laugh at them. The Lord has them in derision. (2:4) He is mocking them. This is an anthropomorphic expression. It is like God telling them, “You poor, pitiful people! You plot in vain all these centuries; all these efforts to become a dynasty, to lord it over the world! Now it is all over. The end is here.” So, This is not the spirit of the Old Testament verses. Let’s move on to see what the spirit of the New Testament is, and how St. Peter explains these verses with the light of Christ. St. Peter takes these Old Testament verses, and he renews them in the light of the New Testament. We read in 1 Peter (2:5-9), But you are a chosen people. Who? “You” means the Christians, not the synagogue. But you (the Christians) are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. So the holy nation and the royal priesthood are no longer for the Jews, but for the Christians! This is the new dimension under the light of the New Testament. So, you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people in God’s care, that you may declare the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light! Do you see here any hint of materialism and earthly, monetary riches? There is not a trace! This is why the people who would like to support and form Christian political parties, whether they understand it or not, while they are doing this consciously or not, fall into the same trap as the Jews. They act like people of the Old Testament.
So every baptized and chrismated Christian is a prophet, a priest, and a king. Now what does all this mean for me, the baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christian? First, about being a prophet, it is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and its many gifts. For this reason, St. John the Evangelist in his epistle is addressing the newly illumined, the newly baptized Christians and says, But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know everything. (1John 2:20) What, exactly, do they know? They know all those things that are necessary for one’s salvation. What does one need to know? One needs to know the delusion of the world, the methodology of the devil, the traps of his own self, and by being watchful, the path is opened so he can see his spiritual interest. So the Holy Spirit, which we receive by chrism, and we have this chrism of the prophet, the Holy Spirit is our internal teacher who opens our mind to understand the truths about salvation while helping us to escape the delusions of the world and to understand its schemes and its evil traps. Now, is this important? It is extremely important! I do not know if I should say it even louder so you can hear it again. Someone can see this in the people outside Christianity, or in people who are Christians but who have extinguished their Holy Spirit. They render their chrism useless because they live, think, and abide by the precepts of the world. How these people act in their everyday lives! Someone can see their outrageous, foolish, dangerous and reckless acts, and can question, “Don’t they understand? Don’t they see? Are they blind?”
Today a verse caught my attention, and this is the third time that I will mention it today from Psalm 118, I saw people persist in their foolishness, I began to melt inside. I was burning inside. Something was eating me inside! Truly, today, the widespread foolishness eats away, gnaws at the innards of the God-fearing individual. Unsurpassed foolishness! It is like a tree-climber who climbs the tree, sits on a branch, and suddenly takes a saw and cuts the very limb that is supporting him! He does it very naturally, not giving it any thought at all. Obviously, he is going to go crashing down! As a nation, we have been cutting our supporting branch. Our school systems have expelled God from their school grounds. They have expelled the guardian angels, and replaced them with police officers, metal detectors, and drug rehabilitation programs. The atheist teachers did all they could to take the fear of God out of their students, and now they fear for their lives from these fearless students. Our Christian children today are brought up by MTV and Blockbuster videos. Our times show strong signs of decadence, signs of a fall. The western world is slowly dying, and the average person today does not see this. They think that our times are simply the best, splendid. If you have any sensitivity, you melt inside. You burn inside to see all these people live their lives without a single thought for their eternal souls. These people are strangers to the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the people that are anointed with the Holy Spirit energize their chrism. They have the general prophetic gift to be able to see, to discern, even to use God-given common sense. People in the world today lack even this very basic common sense, and many times these individuals talk in the name of a deep and impressive philosophy. Philosophy of fools! Foolishness! What comes to mind is the scriptural verse stating that God turns those He wants to destroy into fools. And it looks like God is planning to destroy us, so he allows this widespread foolishness! This is because we have left God. I brought this up as an example to show what it means to have a prophetic spirit, to have the spirit of God to be my teacher, the spirit of God to become my personal teacher to illumine me and show me how to walk.
Now we will look into the gift for the office of priesthood, and here we need to make a clarification. This general priesthood that exists in the faithful, the royal priesthood, in which every baptized Christian is a priest, cannot substitute for the liturgical priesthood. It cannot replace the Sacrament of the Holy Priesthood. This is something that the Protestants have done. They acknowledge the general priesthood, but they reject the specific or liturgical priesthood, and this is why they have eliminated the mystery of priesthood. What a tragedy, because I must tell you that the Sacrament of Priesthood is the mystery of the Church. And the mystery of the Church is the mystery of Salvation! This is why the mystery (sacrament) of the priesthood takes place during and inside the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy can only come forth from the priesthood, and it can only exist and co-exist with the priesthood. We are talking about the specific priesthood. In other words, the bishop, or the archpriest, celebrates the Divine Liturgy, enabled by his priesthood, and at the same time, inside the Divine Liturgy, the mystery of priesthood is acquired. This is why the mystery of the Church and the mystery of the priesthood are almost synonymous. Yet, they have their distinct differences as well. This is extremely important. This mystery was spurned by the Protestants. So, in reality, because they spurned the mystery of the priesthood, they do not have a Church. The Protestants, and this includes denominational and non-denominational Christians, have no Church per se. They are not a Church. They are simply Christian communities. They talk about a Church, but they are living a lie or they use the term very loosely. We repeat that they are not a Church because they do not have the mystery of priesthood with this specific meaning.
As you can see, we place great emphasis in this area about the specific and the general priesthood. However, both the specific and the general priesthood are initiated by Christ; they are fulfilled in Christ, and they are offered to Christ. Both of these priesthoods – general and specific – are linked together to present the offering. For example, the faithful brings the bread, the prosforon, for the consecration. He prepares it, he kneads it, he shapes it, he bakes it, and now he brings it to the Church and he offers it. He offers it to the priest, who will present the final offering. So, the priest will celebrate the completion of the offering, but the first offering comes from the faithful. Therefore, the initial offering of the bread takes place when the layperson uses his general priesthood. The priest using his specific priesthood completes the final offering, or anaphora. As we can see, the faithful, with his general priesthood, offers the gift and the elements of the Divine Liturgy, but something more; he has this spiritual partnership with the priest. In other words, he offers through or by the hands of the priest.
In practice, it works as follows, so you will be able to understand it much better. Can the priest celebrate the Divine Liturgy by himself? Can he take a prosforon, enter the church, wear his vestments, and begin, “Blessed is the Kingdom, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit?” Can he do this without a layperson? No, he cannot! This is not for technical reasons, not because there is no chanter, or because there is nobody to help with the censer. That is not the case. Again, it is not for technical reasons, but for ecclesiological reasons. The priest is not allowed to celebrate the Divine Liturgy without having at least one faithful present, at least one lay person present—one more person. Again, the ecclesiological reasons are all these things I have been talking about. No, the priest, the bishop, or the patriarch cannot celebrate one single Liturgy by himself. You, the layperson must be present, because your general priesthood, combined with the specific priesthood, will complete the offering to the Lord. The laity must be present. This is why the laity partake Body and Blood, as the priest partakes Body and Blood. Please pay attention, because we are living in the “age of the dialogues:” dialogues with Protestants, dialogues with Catholics. Previously we talked about the Protestants, and now we must mention that the Roman Catholic Church does not allow the laity to commune the Blood of Christ, only the Body. What does this mean? It means that she gives privileges to the clergy, privileges above and beyond the faithful; this is why the Roman Catholic priest can celebrate mass every day in his room. His private mass can last anywhere from ten minutes up to an hour. So within ten minutes, the papist priest can receive his Holy Communion, and can go about his business. Our Orthodoxy has no knowledge of these things. This is because the papists, the clergy of the Catholics, ignore the lay people by practicing these erroneous innovations. The presence of the faithful, the presence of the laity, is of great, basic importance, and our Church expresses it by this method. “Yes, my priest, you cannot celebrate the Liturgy without at least one single lay person.” Do you see how important this information is? We must also mention that the very language of the Liturgy is written in the first person plural; “We offer.” “We ask.” “Let us ask of the Lord.” “Save us.” “Have mercy on us.” The entire congregation, the entire church, clergy and laity, presents the offering to the Lord.
St. Peter calls the faithful living stones, who build among themselves a spiritual house. St. Paul calls the faithful temples of the Holy Spirit. Temples of the Holy Spirit! Hold onto this thought. What does it mean that I am the temple of the Holy Spirit? My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This means that in this living temple of God, each faithful is for himself, for his temple, its guard and its priest. Every faithful is a temple of the Living God. St. Paul repeats this many times, but when he talks about a temple, he also insinuates a priest. Who is the priest? I am the temple, I am the priest, and I am the guard, the watchman of the temple of God. Now in the Old Testament the sacrifices had this meaning; they substituted for the guilty party. A man would bring a lamb and offer it as a sacrifice in place of himself – to avoid sacrificing himself. The blood of the animal would be poured out. The animal, which did nothing wrong, sheds its blood in the place of the guilty person. However, here in the New Testament, we have a sacrifice far and beyond those of the Old Testament. If they took a sheep and sacrificed it, they were right by God. Not now. In the New Testament, as a Christian, the sacrifice of worship that I must offer up to God is my own self, my own selfishness, and my own ego. Let us listen to how St. Paul expresses this. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. (Romans 12:1)
Present your bodies has a liturgical dimension. It is like presenting the holy bread, the prosfora, to God, like taking them to the north entrance. Long ago, the prosfora were offered at the Royal Door during the time of the reading of the apostle – the epistle reading. What is left from this as a reminder is that the priest comes out at this moment and incenses, because the priest used to incense the offerings of the faithful before he took them inside. This is called the presentation of the gifts. This is why St. Paul uses the word “present” here, present your bodies. Again, this of a liturgical dimension and it stems from the Old Testament. So, present not your wine or your bread, but your bodies. Your bodies are a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship. Therefore, I offer myself, and when I offer myself, I am a priest. St. Peter says (1 Peter 2:5), and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, of course, is the Mediator. Therefore, the sacrifice of the celebrant faithful is the sacrifice of the faithful with the general meaning of the priesthood, meaning all of us, all the laity. This sacrifice is primarily sacrifice of praise, “the fruit of the lips,” as St. Paul calls it. Through him [Jesus Christ] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:15) We also have the sacrifice of righteousness.
We read in Psalm 51, If you wanted a sacrifice, I would have given it to you. You do not delight in burnt offerings (animals thrown in a fire, etc.), because the sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise, you will not reject. Then you will delight in the sacrifice of righteousness, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. What is the sacrifice of righteousness? This entire verse tells us this – it is the sacrifice of repentance. It is a great sacrifice to God. We offended God with our sins, and we saddened, and grieved the Holy Spirit. Now we offer our sacrifice of repentance. Righteousness also means virtue. It is the sacrifice of virtue. I will place inside the altar with a charcoal-smoke offering, I will put my virtues inside the charcoals to become incense to rise to heaven. Don’t we always chant in our Vespers service, “Let my prayer rise like incense before you?” So, I do not offer you incense; I offer you my prayers. If you will, Lord, I offer you incense as well, along with my prayers. However, as the incense rises at this moment, let my prayer rise as well, and let my virtues rise in the same way. — My virtues, my holiness. What is the sacrifice of righteousness? It is the sacrifice of my virtues. My calling is to be a holy person. Third, we have the sacrifice of almsgiving. St. Paul says Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:16) Therefore, we have first, sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of the lips, chanting, singing to the Lord. Second, we have sacrifice of righteousness, and that is our repentance, our virtues. Third, we have sacrifice of giving and sharing, almsgiving, for the priestly office. All this comprises this general priesthood that we all have.
And now, I will talk about the office of royalty. During our baptism, we receive as betrothal the Seal of the Holy Spirit. The priest says very clearly, “the Seal of the Holy Spirit.” We are marked. What is this mark? This mark is the Cross by which the faithful is marked noetically thus receiving the Seal of the Holy Spirit. This I do with my own free will when I am baptized and when I become a Christian. When I receive this Seal of the Holy Spirit, then I become the person who accepts the betrothal, a promise, that I will become a king. Not a servant, but a king! Would you like to see this? In the book of the Revelation, Round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clad in white garments, with golden crowns upon their heads. (4:4) The number twenty-four is twelve times two, which denotes a great number. “Elders” means mature Christians, mature in holiness. There is so much greatness in these visions of St. John, and we will study them very closely when the time comes. These twenty-four elders were dressed in white, and they had crowns of gold on their heads. So, the faithful is not a servant, but is crowned with a crown of gold. He wears the king’s crown. He is a king! And the Lord says, “The righteous will sparkle, will shine like the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father.”
What does it mean, though, to have the royal office here on earth? I can understand the crown in heaven, that is OK, but what is the meaning of this royalty here on earth? It means to reign over my passions! It means to be the ruler of all creatures, the ruler of the entire creation. God told Adam and Eve to rule and dominate the entire creation, and He certainly did not mean the type of domination, or abuse rather, that goes on today, because this sort of domination is also digging our graves. When I conquer atomic energy, I open my grave, to go in from cancer, because radiation kills me. When I try to conquer the secrets of nature, and I set them loose to use them, they end up killing me. What we are eating today, what we’re drinking, what we’re breathing, all these things - they’re slow killers. Look at the number of pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies in your neighborhoods, and look at the statistics of disease control, the various types of cancers, all in the last hundred years. This is not the type of conquering that God had in mind. Being the ruler of nature means that I am the highest being of all creation, and there is not a single creature higher than I am. Everything is below me. I am the ruler of nature. We can see this in our past and present ascetics. They are lords of nature. Even the beasts and wild animals do obedience to them. St. Moses the Ethiopian, for instance, had some visitors, and being in the desert, he had no water. He ran out of water. He wanted to feed his visitors. He wanted to cook some vegetables for them, but he had no water. So very simply, he took his pot, went outside, and asked God very simply and very naturally, “Lord, please send me some water.” Immediately a cloud came, parked on top of his pot and rained enough water to fill his cooking utensil. He took it, boiled the vegetables, and treated his visitors. This is how man reigns over nature. I am the ruler of nature but I must recognize that above me is the absolute ruler, my God, who rules over all. We do not get ahead by ignoring God. In our arrogance, we do this. We want to unlock the secrets of nature that are killing us.
I am the lord of nature but I must also be the lord of my passions. I must govern my passions, and uphold myself with a royal, governing spirit – eigemon nous. “Eigemon” in Greek means, “king.” So,I need to uphold myself with a royal nous. So let my mind be the king and governor of my existence, not my emotions, so I do not become a prisoner or a slave of people, or become enslaved by some ideas or fads, so I do not become a slave of materialism. This is the meaning of having the office of king in this life. Revelation 1:7, Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. So, my friends, the One Who makes us kings and priests is coming. Behold, He is coming. He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, every one. Even those who speared Him, the Greek says, – all the people who speared Him. All the people of the earth will mourn because of Him. These two verses serve as the conclusion of the introduction of this book, but they also include the central theme of the entire book of the Revelation. What is the central theme of this book? It is the Second Coming of Christ, not the rapture, not the millennium, not the taking up of the Church, not the Antichrist. The central theme of the book of the Revelation is the Second Coming of Christ. Everything that this book will tell us will revolve around this theme – the second presence of Christ.
Christ is coming! Behold! With this “behold” the writer wants to get our attention. We find this “behold” in the Gospel very often, when the word of God wants us to zero in on some key event. Here, behold! Look! He is coming! But here in these verses, we have an awesome picture, Christ coming back slowly in the clouds while the entire earth sort of freezes and all people, every eye on the entire earth shall see Him. Moreover, people will begin to wail and to beat themselves. Here we have an awesome image, an awesome picture of the Coming of Christ, and a troublesome and fearful picture. Here we come face-to-face with two Christological prophecies, both from the Old Testament; and they are combined. The one belongs to the prophet Daniel, and the other to the prophet Zachariah. These two prophesies are what gave St. John the inspiration to synthesize this vision and prophecy, by which vision he closes his introduction to this book. When someone comes to the realization at some point in their life, when someone truly realizes, truly and not sensationally, and to have it be a heart-felt reality that Christ is coming back, then we develop the strong nostalgia, a strong love, a hope, that nothing in this life can hold us. We do not desire to die, no, or to just leave. Not so. Simply, Christ is coming! It is such a strong hope. Christ is coming back! This should excite us! We must place this reality deep in our being. This was the reality and the experience of the first Christian Church. With this reality, the Church lived and gave us the martyrs and the saints. With this reality, the Church will once again give us martyrs and saints. I pray for this with all my heart.