The future is used three times. -achri ou an yxo- until I will
come (2:25), -yxo os kleptys- I will come as a thief (3:3),
- eiseleusomai pros auton- I will come in to him (3:20).
Many people think in terms of one coming when the Lord came by incarnation as a baby. And then they expect nothing else to happen till the second coming which is delayed, and could happen anytime. That is obviously not the language John uses.
He introduces seven comings of the Lord with - idou erchetai meta ton nephelon- behold he comes with the clouds (Daniel 1:7). Matthew uses this same imagery of coming with the clouds, combined with the imagery of portents in the fall of Babylon (Isaiah 13:6-13) to refer to the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Matthew 24:27-30).
John then explains that the Lord keeps coming again and again. -ego eimi to alpha kai to omega- I am the alpha and the omega, -o erchomenos, o pantakrator- the one who keeps coming as the omnipotent one (1:7). He then illustrates this with the possibility of a present coming to the church in Ephesus (2:5), and the church in Pergamum (2:16). There is a future sudden coming (as a thief) in mind for Sardis (3:3), and a promise of coming to help in Philadelphia (3:11).
The coming to the church in Laodicea is a coming to eat with any individual -ean tis akousy tys phonys mou kai anoixytyn thura- who hears the Lord's voice and welcomes him. I take it this refers to receiving him in faith at communion (3:20) in a church which is -oute psuchros oute zestos- neither hot or cold, but -chliaros- luke warm enough to be spat out (3:15-16).
Some of these translations may be unacceptable, but there is no way to fit these eight references to the Lord's coming into one second coming in our future. It is interesting that the Nicene Creed does not speak of a second coming.
"He will come again in glory to judge the living the dead and his kingdom will have no end." In any generation of the church in any country we expect our Lord to intervene, as he has done in the past, to judge the behavior of those who are still alive and those who have already died, and his reign will go on for a long long time.
What did John have in mind as he used this word? He is not using it as in scholastic theology as one of the attributes of God. It obviously refers to the reign of our Lord. -ebasileusen kurios o theos pantokrator- the Lord who is God reigned as omnipotent King (19:6).
I wondered when this particular act of reigning (aorist tense) occured?
Here the almighty reign is seen in -o gamos tou arniou- the wedding banquet of the Lamb (19:7). Was this marriage some future end time event, or was John using metaphorical language to describe the continued relationship between the Lord and his churches?
In view of Revelation 2-3, which I read yesterday, I was inclined to this second model. And based on the idea of coming in to eat with believers (3:20) I decided to try this as a metaphor for the marriage union between the Lord and his people whenever they gather for communion in his name.
I wondered how the word -pantokrator- almighty was used elsewhere in the New Testament. There is one use of the word in 2 Corinthians 6:18, where it is part of the translation of a quotation from the Septuagint of Isaiah 52.
But John decided to use it as the key refrain throughout his book. And in each case it is not a future end time event.
In the introduction the word refers to the continuing interventions of the Lord (1:8). It is then used in the continuing worship of heaven (4:8, 11:17). It also part of the continuing song of God's servants on earth (15:3, 16:7). John uses it to describe our King in his continuing battle against demonic forces (16:14), and in the exercise of his fierce wrath among the nations (19:15). And finally the word -pantokrator- omnipotent is at the heart of the continuing worship of heaven (21:22).
By the way John deliberately used this word in the construction of his book it seems he was not engaged in writing wild-eyed apocalyptic revelations purported to be dictated from heaven. Nor was he trying to be eschatalogical in the sense of giving a blueprint model for the -eschaton- end times.
On that Sunday in exile on the island of Patmos (1:9) he wanted to encourage his fellow servants (1:1) and the Spirit revealed to him a series of pictures of what their - pantocrator kurios- was doing right then. And would keep doing in any -ekklesia- church anywhere in the world. So I can add, "He is doing it right now. Hallelujah," (19:6).
But then, what time frame did John have in mind for - oisousin tyn doxan kai tyn timyn ton ethnon eis autyn- they will bring the glory and honor of the nations into the city ? (21:26). He introduces this city (21:23) as -tyn polin tyn agian Ierousalym kainyn- the holy city which is the new Jerusalem (21:2).
I had always thought (learned from C.S.Lewis) that this was one of the many joys of heaven. We will be able to enjoy the best that every nation has to offer. I imagined this must be time frame of -eidon ouranon kainon kai gyn kainon- I saw a new sky and a new land mass (21:1) and this was because -o gar protos ouranos kai y proty gy apylthan- the first sky and the first land mass went away (21:1).
But today I wondered about the present participle in the next verse - tyn agian Ierousalym kainyn eidon katabainousan ek tou ouranou- I saw the new holy Jerusalem continually coming down from the sky, heaven (21:2). Could this be a metaphorical description of what was continually happening in Johns' day, and still continues in our experience?
This seemed possible from the quotation John included from Isaiah. -idou y skyny tou theou meta anthropon- see the tent, lodging, dwelling of God is with humans now (21:3) and in the future -skynosei met auton, kai autoi laoi autou esontai- he will make his dwelling with them, and they will be his peoples (21:4 - the Textus Receptus and Vulgate did not like this plurality of nations, and changed the plural - laoi- to the singular -laos- How could heaven as the eternal state be pictured as a plurality of nations?)
So I decided to try out a model of the universal Church as the new and holy Jerusalem. In one sense -speripatousin ta ethny dia tou photos auty- the nations are enlightened by the Church's light, but equally -oisousin tyn doxan kai tyn timyn ton ethnon eis autyn- the believers will bring the glory of their own nations into the Church (21:26).
But I wonder if John was not leaving us to figure out that both models apply. As every tribe and nation comes into the universal Church, their culture is healed by the water of life and the tree of life. The result is -eis therapeian ton ethnon- resulting in the healing of nations(22:1-2).
But it is also true that the good and beauty of each nation's culture is brought in to enrich heaven.
When nations like China, Russia, Egypt, and Greece, have a long history stretching over millenia I wonder how the culture of the whole period could be brought in to the glory of heaven. This is solved by John's vision of a continual process of heaven coming down to enlighten a nation in every period of it history, and every item of glory being continually brought into heaven with those who die.
So in this case I don't have to pick one model or another. I can let the music of both vibrate together. And anyone who can convey that to me by inspired imagery is a superb writer. No wonder his book got picked for the Oscars (the Canon of the New Testament, for those of you who didn't know!).