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A Happy Glorification: "They Shall See His Face, and His Name Will Be on Their Foreheads"
Revelation 22:1-5
We Will Worship, Behold, and Reign with Our God
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Published April 6th, 2017; Updated April 6th, 2017
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Revelation 22:1–5
Revelation 22:1–5
Revelation 22:1-5
Καὶ ἔδειξέν μοι ποταμὸν ὕδατος ζωῆς
Then he [the angel] showed me the water of life,
λαμπρὸν ὡς κρύσταλλον,
bright as crystal,
ἐκπορευόμενον ἐκ τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἀρνίου.
flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb
ἐν μέσῳ τῆς πλατείας αὐτῆς καὶ τοῦ ποταμοῦ ἐντεῦθεν καὶ ἐκεῖθεν
in the middle of its street, and from this place to that place [i.e., on either side] of the river
ξύλον ζωῆς
was the tree of life
ποιοῦν καρποὺς δώδεκα, κατὰ μῆνα ἕκαστον ἀποδιδοῦν τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ,
producing twelve [kinds of] fruit according to each month,
καὶ τὰ φύλλα τοῦ ξύλου
and the leaves of the tree
εἰς θεραπείαν τῶν ἐθνῶν.
[were, i.e., existed] for the healing of the nations.
καὶ πᾶν κατάθεμα οὐκ ἔσται ἔτι.
And there will no longer be anything accursed.
καὶ ὁ θρόνος τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἀρνίου ἐν αὐτῇ ἔσται,
And the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
καὶ οἱ δοῦλοι αὐτοῦ λατρεύσουσιν αὐτῷ
and his servants will worship him.
καὶ ὄψονται τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ,
And they will see his face,
καὶ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τῶν μετώπων αὐτῶν.
and his name will be on their foreheads.
καὶ νὺξ οὐκ ἔσται ἔτι
And night will be no more
καὶ οὐκ ἔχουσιν χρείαν φωτὸς λύχνου καὶ φωτὸς ἡλίου,
and [therefore] they will have no need of light of a lamp and light of the sun,
ὅτι κύριος ὁ θεὸς φωτίσει ἐπʼ αὐτούς,
for the Lord God will shine on them
καὶ βασιλεύσουσιν εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.
and they will reign forever and ever.
As it has always been, life flows forward from Life.
Life in this temple-city flourishes.
The presence of God and of the Lamb among men.
God is Light in this temple-city.
We will reign with God and the Lamb forever.
Revelation 22:1–5 and Hope: They Shall See His Face, His Name Will Be on Their Foreheads Nugget We Will Worship, Behold, and Reign with Our God Abstract All the biblical themes––not just literary devices, but true realities of this history wherein God creates and re-creates creaturely life––climax in Christ when we shall be in the presence of God and behold his face, having his name on our foreheads, worshipping and reigning with him forever. We can truly hope and expect for this to happen in the future. Introduction One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Revelation 22:1–5. I often find myself turning to it monthly if not weekly. The reason I do this is because this passage fills me with much hope. If you’re like me, you probably feel the weight of sin and failure often. You’re wanting to be more and more like Christ, but you continually fall into sin, which then causes––at least for me––much seeming despair. And in this feeling of spiritual pain, I try to take Peter’s words to heart when he says, “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:13). So that’s what we are going to do today. Look to the end of this history as described in Revelation 22. Pre-Note on Interpretation Many people often read Revelation through a detective lens trying to crack codes about the future. However, I think we should stop trying to read Revelation as a “code” and read it more as a capstone to the biblical narrative wherein all the biblical themes find their culmination. So with that in mind, try to see many biblical themes in this text and see why the use of those themes in this text causes hope. [1] Aim My aim today is to try to excite hope in you. That is, for all you who are weary and find yourself at loss in vain acts and thoughts, I want to help you see that all of this history is heading somewhere glorious for the Christian. In other words, I want to have you guys get your eyes off of your circumstances and set them on Christ––who we will one day see. I want you guys to hope in all of the future promises that await us in glory which were rooted and secured in Christ and his work. Definition of Hope “Christian Hope is a moral phenomenon; but it is so derivatively, and the derivation is one of the clues to its Christian character.” And, “hope rests on God’s faithfulness, and God’s faithfulness is triune.” Further, “Christian hope is expectation; but it is expectation which is instructed by past and present mercy.” [2] The Text In the text we see a number of progressions of the description of what John saw. I broke down the overarching progressions by thought/concept. In the temple-city––God’s dwelling place with man (21:3)––as it always has, life flows forth from resplendent Life––God: “Then he showed me the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1). And from this water of life, we see more life, the Tree of Life––on both sides of the river. And this tree bears fruit always. From the throne of God, Life gives life, and gives it abundantly––life is everywhere in this place all the time. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. The description progresses. There will be nothing cursed in this place. Positively, God and the Lamb will be there and there is an inclusion: God’s servants will be there and they will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Further, there will be no more night and therefore there will be no need for created, derivative light. Why? Because God, who is Light, will shine on them. And finally, God’s servants will rule forever and ever. So Why Is This Hopeful? All the biblical themes––realities of this history wherein God creates and re-creates creaturely life––are heading somewhere happy for the Christian. God’s presence, garden, the atonement, sonship, Light over darkness––all these things will find climax in the consummation, namely, in the revelation of Jesus our Lord. Life truly is coming wherein we will be in the presence of our God worshipping and reigning forever. This gives us a happy expectation for what really is to come. Let me say that again, this really will happen. Therefore, we really can hope for it. Hope for the Sinner Now let’s focus on two particular things here that should give us unshakeable hope: seeing God, and having his name on the forehead. 1. 1. From the beginning of the fall, man was separated, cast out, from God’s presence, but because of all the works of God in the economy of salvation whereby God’s perfection becomes present, we are redeemed by the Redeemer and perfected by the Perfecter in order that we might be brought into his unmediated presence. Death and darkness are swallowed up and Light and Life prevails to give life and to shine light. And here, in this temple-city, the saints––holy ones of God––are in the presence of God and of the Lamb. They will necessarily worship him. Further, all of history consummates here in an epochal event: they shall see his face . Note that again, you shall see his face. This typically would be an awful thing for it would mean certain death (Exod 33:20), but here, we don’t see that happen––we worship and reign with him instead. And that is a happy reality. But I don’t think this is the only case for hope. 2. 2. There is a progression from the phrase, “and they shall see him,” to “and his name shall be on their foreheads.” Now looking throughout the canon, we see that this is identification that these are God’s people who bear his name. But I think there is more to this. I think this may also be a sign of not just identification, but also transformation. Throughout Scripture, God’s name is not merely something attributed to him nor is it whimsical. Rather, it is self-proclaimed and further, God’s name is identical with his being. [3] When Moses asks to see God, God says that he will pass before Moses and proclaim his name, Y HWH . Further, elsewhere in Scripture, we see that Christians will become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). Also we see that for those who see God’s glory, they become transformed (e.g., Moses; Exod 34:30) and we know that, as John says elsewhere in an epistle, “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2). And elsewhere it says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). And notice this, Revelation 22:5 says something strikingly similar to what happened to Moses: “the Lord God will shine on them.” Further, throughout Scripture we see that people become what they worship, and here in our text, the servants of God worship God. Thus, I think there is some ground here to say that in the sight of God wherein we worship him, there is not only an identity being made known, but a transformation whereby we become like our Master. (Note: this is not to say that the Creator-creature distinction will be destroyed.) And notice something here, it is not just the throne of God, but it is also the throne of the Lamb. The name we receive on our heads is the name above every name––Y HWH , Jesus, our Lord. We become like our Federal Head, our covenantal representative, our elder Brother who lived in our stead and died in our place, Jesus––of whom the fullness of deity dwells, who is the Son of God, who is the exact representation of the divine nature (Heb 1:3). Conclusion This is my message for you guys: live with full expectation that all these things really will happen. Don’t just think this will happen, but fully know and expect these things will happen: Life and Light will conquer, You will enjoy the presence of God and of the Lamb worshipping him, seeing his face and having his name on your forehead basking in the glorious, never-ending light of Y HWH our God. This reality, grounded upon the works of God in Christ, should cause a moral phenomenon called hope. And as John Webster helps us know, hope causes a change in lifestyle that holds steadfast to God’s word, as Jesus says, “Only hold fast what you have until I come” (Rev 2:25). So in all your troubles, know that one day you will be in God’s presence seeing his face in Christ and you won’t be destroyed because of what he has done, and thus you’ll be transformed to be like him and will reign with him forever (2:26–27; cf. 22:5). In your despair and troubles, know the words of Christ well: “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). So I think Revelation 7 is a good place to close here: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve [worship] him…. and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Let’s just read our text of inquiry one more time: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Know that your loving Father and his Son through their Spirit will shelter you with divine presence in the glory that awaits us. And so, as pilgrims longing for that coming day, we sing: Haste thee on from grace to glory, Armed by faith and winged by prayer, Heaven’s eternal days before thee, God’s own hand shall guide us there. Soon shall close thy earthly mission, Soon shall pass the pilgrim days, Hope shall change to glad fruition, Faith to sight, and prayer to praise. [4] [1] See Brian Tabb’s forthcoming volume, All Things New , in the NSBT series. [2] John Webster, “Hope,” in Confessing God , 195, 199, 203. [3] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics , 2:99 . [4] “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.”
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.