And this may be why, when speaking to the various congregations through their angel, in five out of the seven letters he states that he “will come” – or more precisely maybe, “will have to come” if the people in the congregation will not change, “repent” with the old word. He will have to make his presence felt to help them overcome a difficult (inner) situation or to strengthen their resolve. In the first letter he even will have no choice but, coming, to remove their lampstand from its place if they do not “repent” (2:5). In the third letter he would come if the congregation doesn’t keep out the teaching of the (to us unknown) Nicolaitans; if it doesn’t hold fast what it has, in the fourth (2:11 and 25). The fifth letter carries the call to be awake – otherwise he will come “like a thief” without anyone knowing at what hour he will come upon them (3:3), in the sixth letter he urges them to “hold fast” as he is coming soon (3:11). Only the second letter with its “be faithful unto death” and the seventh with its “I stand at the door and knock” (2:10 and 3:20) do not need this “I will come”. – In most of the letters we find expressed the need not to persist in the situation as it is, the need to change, to “repent”. We will come back to this aspect in the next contribution.<3
In this opening vision of the Revelation to John, within the liturgical setting of the “Lord’s day”, Christ’s coming is spoken of with a more, let’s say, “pedagogical” intention – to help the Christian congregations on their way, to prepare them for the dawn of an all-encompassing apocalypse which will go far beyond what human beings have yet experienced on earth by “changing heart and mind” in specific ways. Throughout the visions of the Revelation to John we find Christ’s presence described in a series of different manifestations.
Awareness of His Presence
The transformation of Christ throughout the apocalyptic process, we might say, does reflect a growing awareness of his Presence: a “Coming”, an “Arrival” in new forms, new manifestations until his Presence will have been fully established.
Before looking at these seven manifestations, let’s first remember what the Apocalypse is about. It describes the way heaven and earth, which both have become corrupted by what is described in the book of Genesis as the “Fall” and have continued to grow apart since then, are rejuvenated and will penetrate each other to create a new world. “A “new earth’, made new by what has come from above, joins a ‘new heaven’, which itself has been rejuvenated by what happened through Christ on earth.4 But this can only happen when what is “of the Fall” in the end becomes fully separated from what is to be “of Christ”.