Read: Revelation 22
Congratulations. You’ve made it to the end. Now you can go back and start over.
The spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let he who hears say, “Come.” And let him who thirsts to take from the living water for free say, “Come.” These closing petitions show us definitively that the book of Revelation is the quintessential Advent book. The word, advent, means–coming. The prayer to Jesus, that he should come; ‘come, Lord Jesus’; ‘Thy kingdom come’ expresses the fervent desire of men and women everywhere throughout the world who feel themselves to be exiles; strangers and pilgrims in this vale of tears.
The leaves of the tree that stands between the road and the crystal clear river that flows from the throne of God is for the healing of the nations. A more lovely and moving sentence is hard to imagine.
The final point of interest that I would like to take you by as your tour guide through this mystical revelation is found in v. 11.
“He who is unjust, let him be unjust still. He who is filthy, let him be filthy still. He who is righteous, let him be righteous still. He who is holy, let him be holy still.” And this verse is sandwiched between two verses, one on either side, that states once more, emphatically that Jesus’ return is imminent. The time is short. And because his arrival is so near, let everyone continue doing exactly as he has been doing. The logical sequence of this is puzzling. Jesus is coming, so don’t do anything to change. This message seems to be diametrically opposite to the substance of every other and previous prophetic message, which has always been, ‘repent.’
To repent means to change. But here John says, don’t change. It is as though John is overhauling and revising the whole thrust of prophetic speech. Don’t change.
How could anyone fail to recommend change to those behaving badly?
I don’t believe that our Lord is simply looking to stick it to the bad guys and is, so, encouraging them to complete their degradation into evil so that his vengeance upon them would appear just. I believe that what is being expressed here is that while the prophetic call to repent is a nice idea, it is an ideal that never has been achieved and that it will not be short of our Lord’s return.
The prophets called for repentance. But, who ever repented? A handful of people, perhaps; for a time. Was theirs even adequate repentance?
The call to repent was always couched in a sense of urgency brought about by impending dead-lines. Repent…before it is too late.
But what has become of ‘too late’ now that Jesus has broken the power of death?
Jesus too called sinners to repentance. His very first preached sermon was that message. Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus actually had copied that sermon from his mentor, John the Baptist. Jesus was a plagiarist! Jesus bid people to repent. But they didn’t. They killed him. And then it was too late to repent, because he was dead. It was too late to take it back. It was too late to say ‘I am sorry.’ Their transgression wasn’t going anywhere. They killed God and now there was nothing that they could do about it.
When Jesus rose he blew the top off of ‘too late’. Apparently nothing is ever too late now. Repentance followed the resurrection. Repentance arrived after it was, apparently (but not actually) too late.
I think Jesus figured, ‘if you can’t get people to repent before it’s too late…how about, after it’s too late?
God will show up at the last day. Jesus will come in the clouds and make true and full repentance possible. Up til then we are, at best, ‘play-repenting.’ We are sorry, but not that sorry. We are sorry, but not as sorry as we should be and as we will be when we realize the magnitude of our guilt and sin. We will fall on our faces, stunned, when Christ comes again.
Repentance will come to us in time.
This intriguing line and sentiment expressed in Revelation 22:11 suggests something that would dismantle a commonly held misconception. That misconception runs something as follows: When Jesus came the first time (his first advent–his incarnation–his life and time on earth), he was a really nice guy, patiently peddling forgiveness. But when he comes again, he will have exhausted his patience, and–no more Mr. Nice-guy. Nobody states the idea as crassly as what I just wrote. But that idea is woven into most ideas about judgment. Death comes. The whistle blows. Time is up.
Is it inconceivable that there is a place for repentance after it’s too late? After the time is up?
The mention of such an idea as what I wrote in that last sentence is enough to give people fits. If you take away the dead-lines, what will motivate people to act now?
To that I answer, ‘maybe nothing.’ But–maybe nothing ever has worked. Or, maybe dead-lines ever worked. Maybe dead-lines produce frantic action, but not the righteousness that our Lord would promote. Maybe real change is only possible after being bowled over by a true vision of a Lord who moves and rearranges dead-lines for us because he loves us that much. Maybe it will take the second coming of our Lord to really open our eyes. Would that be surprising, if that were so? And if it takes all of that for us to truly repent, wouldn’t Jesus do all of that for us?
Why is ‘too late’ such a big thing with us?