He Who Is

God is the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty who sits on the throne at the center of Creation

In Revelation, God is the “Almighty,” the “One Who sits on the throne,” the “Alpha and Omega.” And He is the “One Who is and Who was and Who is coming.” This last phrase is more than a declaration about His nature, and the appellation is modified at key points to mark the consummation of the present age.

John writes greetings to the churches “from He who is and who was and who is coming.” This recalls the self-designation of Yahweh to Moses from the “burning bush” - I am who I am.

Like Moses, John received his commission while in exile. And just as Yahweh freed His people from Egypt and summoned them to become a “kingdom of priests,” so, now, Jesus “frees” his people and makes them a “kingdom, priests” – (Exodus 3:14 19:4-5, Revelation 1:4-6).

NO GRAMMATICAL ERROR

But John does something odd in the grammatical structure of the sentence. Per Greek syntax, the pronouns should be in the genitive case since they follow the preposition apo or “from.” Rather than “from HIM who is,” it reads “from HE.”

Thus, John uses the nominative form of the pronoun or “he.” Similarly, in English, after the preposition “from” the appropriate masculine pronoun is “him” or “whom” rather than “he” or “who.” What John writes would grate on the ears of his Greek-speaking audience.

This grammatical “error” is deliberate. It makes the clause in chapter 1 conform grammatically to its other occurrences in the book. Most likely, this is done so his audience will not miss the literary connections.

For example, the appellation is repeated at the end of the opening salutation. The one speaking is “He who is and who was and who is coming.” In this instance, the clause is in the nominative case and spelled precisely the same as in the first instance, and properly so. The fact that John has written the phrase correctly the second time indicates that his previous “grammatical error” was no mistake.

HE REIGNS NOW

In the vision of the “throne,” the “four living creatures” around it cry out continuously, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is coming.” The Almighty reigns supreme from the center of the universe - (Revelation 4:1-11).

And in chapter 4, the clause is again found in the nominative case, but now, the first two verbs have switched positions, possibly for stylistic reasons.

Later, when the “seventh trumpet” is heard, the Day of the Lord arrives, the time of final judgment. At that time, John hears the “twenty-four elders” declare - “We give you thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and reigned” – (Revelation 11:17).

Only now, the final clause is dropped - there is no mention of His “coming.” And that is because He no longer is doing so - He has arrived and “taken power.” The sounding of the seventh trumpet marks the day of judgment.

After the “third bowl of wrath” is emptied, the “angel of the waters” declares God “just,” and identifies Him as the one “who is and who was, the Holy One, because you have judged.”

Once more, the final clause, or “he who is coming,” is omitted. Collectively, the “seven bowls of wrath… COMPLETE the wrath of God.” They represent the final outpouring of God’s “wrath” on the wicked and “Babylon the Great”; again, the time of final judgment – (Revelation 16:5-6, 17-21).

In chapter 17, the “Beast” is the one “who was and is not and is going to ascend from the abyss and go to destruction.” This is a parody of the appellation for God. Here, “was and is not” refers to the death and subsequent restoration of one of the Beast’s “heads” – (Revelation 11:4-7, 13:1-3, 17:8-11).

But there is a twist. Though the “Beast” will “ascend from the Abyss,” rather than “coming” as God does to reign, he is going to destruction” – He is “going,” not “coming.” His future arrival will mean his destruction. Despite appearances, the “Beast from the sea” is a defeated foe, along with the “Dragon” who empowers him.

VICTORY

The description of God as the one “Who is and who was, and who is coming” does more than identify Him as Yahweh, the God of Israel who spoke to Moses from the Burning Bush.

The literary links inform us that a much larger story is being told. John is not simply praising God. Very graphically, the book of Revelation presents us with the cosmic war that has been raging since the fall of Adam, one that will continue until its consummation at the end of the age. The book’s vision is much larger than the seven churches of Asia or History’s final few years.

Only, the pivotal battle has been waged and won already in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the “ruler of the kings of the earth” who “loosed” his people from the dominion of sin and constituted them a victorious “kingdom of priests” - “the faithful witness and the firstborn of the dead.”

Ever since Jesus has reigned from the Divine Throne, opening the “sealed scroll” and thereby implementing the plan of redemption.

In the book, Satan and his servants are still active but can only operate within the parameters set by the “Lamb” – only when and within the limits allowed by him. Thus, for example, the “Beast” cannot launch its “war against the saint” until authorized to do so (“and it was given to it to make war on the saints”).

In His Son, the God “who is and who was” is “coming” - with condemnation for His enemies and vindication for His saints. But when the final day arrives, no longer will He be “coming.” Heaven will declare, “It is finished,” and New Jerusalem will descend to earth inhabited by His people forevermore.


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