To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Last week we talked about what happens when the Triune God shows up, and how we practice this every week in Sunday worship with the Trinitarian invocation, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” We talked about how this God shows up in Christ. But it doesn’t end there. Our rehearsal of God showing up, calling us, and serving us doesn’t stop there. This week we’re going to look at our response. We practice this every week in the church as well. It’s traditionally called Confession and Absolution.
Isaiah, when He found himself in the presence of the Almighty, when he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, cried out in terror and despair, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)
We can pretend that we’re not sinful all day long. But coming face to face with the thrice holy God clears things up in a hurry. Suddenly, there is no place left to hide, no way to disguise our sin, no device or scheme left to excuse us. There are no others there to take the blame, or to compare ourselves against, just us, our sinful uncleanness, and the Holy One of Israel.
When we find ourselves in the presence of the Almighty week after week following the Trinitarian invocation, we too cry out in confession:
"We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve your temporal and eternal punishment. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we might delight in Your will."
This is our “wail on account of Him.” Some wail on account of the terror of coming face to face with God outside of Christ still lost in their sins. All too late, they realize that having rejected the One who has loved them and freed them from their sins, there is nowhere left for them to hide. They cry out for the mountains and rocks to fall upon them, as we will see later in Revelation 6:16. But not us. Not those who have been called by the Gospel, enlightened with His gifts, sanctified, and kept in the true faith.
We wail on account of Him who has redeemed us from sin, death, and the devil. We cry in terror, but it is a terror of the stark reality of our sin when juxtaposed with the holiness of the One who calls us righteous and holy. We wail in despair, but it is despairing of ourselves knowing that there is no hope in us, and instead placing our faith and trust in the One who is our only hope.
This is the One to whom John directs our attention: God who is faithful, who has promised to forgive our sins, to free us from them, who is our Faithful, Loving Kindness. In Him, we hope, and so despairing of all but Him, rejecting our righteousness for a righteousness not our own, we turn to Him in confession already knowing the answer: Forgiven. Already, and absolute. It’s why we call it absolution.
When Isaiah responded with confession, God announced the forgiveness of sins to Him. And that God who Isaiah saw in the temple was none other than the Person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus shows up in Revelation to John, John’s confession is a mute terror and despair. He cannot even stand, but falls as though dead (i.e., he faints, see Revelation 1:17). Jesus responds with absolution. “Fear Not!”
When we encounter the Triune God revealed in Christ, we too do the only reasonable thing every person who has ever met God can and has ever done: We kneel, (or stand, or fall on our faces) and confess. We already know the answer, but it’s crucial that we hear it announced again. And so, God sends a man to speak His Word of absolution, one who is under holy orders and who can do nothing but absolve our sins. One, who like John, knows the Word announced over us in absolution makes us a kingdom of priests, not because of what we do, but because of what God does through His Word.
And this Word does fantastic things. An encounter with the Word who forgives, creates in us what He loves. And in turn, we who are loved turn in love and service to our neighbors, from the greatest to the least. We unlovable people, who are loved in spite of ourselves and all we have done, love others we have never thought possible of love. We serve those we have never thought it possible to help.
This is all thanks to Him who loved us to the point of laying down His life and served us to the point of death itself. Yet He took His life back up again and promises to raise us again. So what do we have to lose then? Nothing, not even our lives, for they are secure in Christ. Glory, praise, dominion, and honor, then, be to the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Until next time, the grace and peace of Christ be with you.
This is a weekly article series working through the book of Revelation. It is followed every Friday morning at 8 am (CST) by a live devotion dealing with the same subject matter and often additional material for your edification. Tune in Friday mornings on Christ Hold Fast's Facebook Page to learn more and ask questions.