Pay Back Time

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
‭Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭12‬-‭13‬ ‭NLT

As if John needed another reminder, Jesus took over from the angel to tell him that the time was short. Jesus said that He will be returning soon. The angel had given the same message to John just a few verses earlier. But Jesus said more. He said He will be rewarding all people “according to their deeds”. 

What will these rewards be? They will not, of course, be anything that is materialistic. No elaborate engraved clocks for the mantelpiece here! Neither will Jesus be rewarding us for the good deeds that we do for their own sake. These come under the category of “works”. But we know that our salvation is based on God’s grace alone, not anything we claim to do for Him. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it”. In many ways, it will be reward enough to leave this life, with all its difficulties, and instead be with Jesus in Heaven. But Jesus has more for us when we get there. Jesus gave us a hint with the parable of the talents. Matthew 25:21 (AMP) reads, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master’”. So there is one reward we will receive, the joy of knowing that Jesus will be pleased with what we have achieved. Perhaps the closer we are to Jesus in this life, the closer we will be to Him in the life to come. Rewards enough.

When will Jesus repay people “according to their deeds”? After Jesus comes again there will be a time when we will stand before Him, to be judged. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” Note that the judgement here is for the deeds not for salvation. That comes later at the event we refer to as the Great White Throne judgement, when the Lamb’s Book of Life is consulted and everyone’s life is replayed in God’s presence.

Jesus finishes his conversation by reminding John of His eternal presence. He is the Beginning and the End. There’s something reassuring about knowing that God is more permanent than anything around us. One day this world will end in a puff of smoke, but God will still be there. As I write the war in Ukraine still rumbles on. But God is still on His throne. We may have questions – lots of them – but knowing that our God is always present, always has been, and always will be, somehow makes the questions not quite so important. But because God is the Rock on which we stand, that is in itself an answer to our deepest yearning. Knowing God is who He says He is, somehow empowers us pilgrims to get on with the life, the calling, that He has assigned to us. The prophet Habakkuk declared before God the following, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk‬ ‭3‬:‭17‬-‭18‬). He also knew that God is the Beginning and the End. And that was all that mattered to him.

Dear Father God. You are the Alpha and Omega. Your presence is eternal. And we are so grateful that even though much comes against us, only You are relevant. Thank You for the joy that fills us. Amen.

It Is Finished

“And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:6-7‬ ‭NLT

These two verses encompass several encouraging messages from God Himself. 

First of all, God said, “It is finished!”, but what was He referring to? We will remember the final words of Jesus from the Cross, as recorded in John 19:30, “When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” At that time, Jesus was declaring that His redemptive work on the Cross had been completed. Through His sacrificial death at Calvary, we can now bring our sins to the foot of the cross, leaving them there in repentance, with the assurance that we are cleansed from our sins and can adopt His righteousness. The divine exchange. But this time, in our Revelation verse, it is God Himself who said “It is finished!”. Perhaps we can refer back to Ephesians 1:9-10, “God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfil his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” In Revelation 21:6, God was declaring that His plan to establish His Kingdom, under the rule of Christ, was complete. The “right time” had finally arrived. All the prerequisites complete. All the divine boxes ticked. The “plan”, the “it”, is finished.

Secondly, God reminded John that He was “the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End”. He was saying that He was eternal. He was there at the beginning and will still be there at the end. But because He is the eternal God, He has no beginning and end. This is a difficult concept for us to get our time-bound minds around. God has always been with us, and always will be. We enter the realms of eternity and infinity when we try and think through the implications of the One who is “the Beginning and the End”. 

We pilgrims have much to look forward to. Not only will we join God in Heaven, we will find ourselves also becoming a part of God’s eternal plan. John in his vision was shown a glimpse of these far-in-the-future events, and doubtless he struggled to articulate what was happening. But with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and the occasional angel who popped into his vision, he was able to say all that God wanted him to say.

Of course, we as pilgrims mustn’t focus too deeply about what is going to happen, to the exclusion of all else, because we need to be concerned about what is happening in the here and now. Our faith must take us to people and situations where the love and grace of God can make a difference. Situations where the Gospel can be shared, and our family, friends and neighbours shown the way to eternal life. But we must also occasionally glance upwards to check in with our future Heavenly home and our Heavenly Dad. It is there we will find the Source of our faith. The eternal God, the Beginning and the End.

Dear Father God. There are no words available to totally describe who You are. But in our limited humanity, we worship You today, our Eternal God and Father. Amen.