International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 27, 2016
Purpose: To exalt Christ as the alpha and omega of God’s creation
Bible Lesson: Revelation 22:12-21
Key Verse: I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 22:13)
Background Scripture: Revelation 22:8-21
Revelation 22:12-21 (CEB)
(12) “Look! I’m coming soon. My reward is with me, to repay all people as their actions deserve. (13) I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (14) Favored are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right of access to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. (15) Outside are the dogs, the drug users and spell-casters, those who commit sexual immorality, the murderers, the idolaters, and all who love and practice deception. (16) “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to bear witness to all of you about these things for the churches. I’m the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star. (17) The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who is thirsty come! Let the one who wishes receive life-giving water as a gift.” (18) Now I bear witness to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy contained in this scroll: If anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues that are written in this scroll. (19) If anyone takes away from the words of this scroll of prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and the holy city, which are described in this scroll. (20) The one who bears witness to these things says, “Yes, I’m coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (21) The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This is our final lesson of this quarter, and we are looking at the final chapter and verses in the Bible. Most commentators call this section the “Epilogue” and consider that it begins in Revelation 22:6. So in Lesson 12, we covered the first two verses of the Epilogue, verses 6-7. One of the features of this epilogue is the different speakers. At times the speaker is the guiding angel of 17:1. Also, Christ speaks a few times, as does the author himself. It would have been nice if John had identified the speakers as he did in verse 16 (“I, Jesus”). However, he seems to have assumed that the different speakers would be obvious to his readers.
In Revelation, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega, stand as symbols for what is first and last in creation. Creation had its beginning in God and Christ and will have its conclusion in this same divine reality. Yet the ending in Revelation is not a final end to everything. As we have seen, the end is a new stage in creation: a new heaven and new earth. While the first heaven and earth pass away, something new and amazing take their place. If this is an ending, it is an eternal one.
The ending in Revelation is one of completion and fulfillment. God’s Spirit was at the beginning, creating the universe. God’s Spirit will bring this creation to its fulfillment in a new creation.
The above introduces the concept of eternity. Eternity is one of those huge concepts nearly impossible to comprehend. Perhaps we should admit that there are things in this universe that are beyond our limited human comprehension. For example, what existed before God created the universe? How long will eternity last?
Eternity is one of those holy mysteries that we cannot comprehend or explain. Yet we can respond to a holy mystery with awe, wonder, and praise. In other words, we can respond by worshiping the One at the heart of the mysteries of the universe and by trusting in this One’s eternal love.
Through our faith in the One who is, who was, and who is to come, we can see that death is none other than God’s loving, eternal embrace. Our lives had their beginning in God and will have their completion in God. We are part of the new creation that God is bringing about. Therefore, we can live with the joyful reassurance that our lives continue in the eternal grace of God.
One of my favorite more modern hymns is one that I think helps us understand these verses. It is called a “Hymn of Promise.”