May 18, 2016 • Life for Leaders
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Years ago, I had the privilege of singing with the choir of Irvine Presbyterian Church in a performance of Handel’s Messiah. With outstanding soloists and a professional orchestra, it was quite a presentation and I felt honored to participate. After completing the Christmas portion of the Messiah, we closed, as you might expect, with the Hallelujah Chorus. We sang one of my favorite portions of the whole oratorio, “The kingdom of this world, Is become the kingdom of our Lord, And of His Christ, and of His Christ; And He shall reign for ever and ever, For ever and ever, forever and ever.” The majesty of words and music conveyed, as powerfully as anything I know, the coming kingdom of God, who will reign forever and ever and ever.
If, someday, we will reign with you, Lord, how should we live right now?
If you’re familiar with the Hallelujah Chorus, or if you’re familiar with the passage from Revelation on which it is based (Rev 11:15), then you are well aware that in the future kingdom, God will reign forever and ever. Christ will join the Father (and the Spirit) in ruling together over the cosmos for all time. This is glorious, but not especially surprising. It’s what we’d expect from the broad sweep of the biblical narrative, in which God is ultimately sovereign over all things, not to mention dozens of passages that proclaim God’s eternal kingdom.
We might not expect, however, what we find in Revelation 22:5. There it says, not that God will reign forever, though this is surely implied, but that we “will reign for ever and ever.” To be clear, the text says that, “they will reign for ever and ever,” pointing back to God’s “servants” in verse 3. These servants are the people of God who inhabit the city of the future. This would include you and me, if we belong to Jesus Christ by grace. The fact that we will serve God is wonderful but not particularly surprising. The fact that we will reign alongside God is more of shock.
Though, if we had been working our way through all of Revelation, not just chapters 21 and 22, we would already have seen evidence of our future reign. In Revelation 2:26, for example, the risen Christ says, “To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” Later, Christ says, “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev 3:21). This vision of the future reign of God’s people fulfills the prophecy of Daniel, where we read, “But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever . . .. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High” (Dan 7:18, 27).
The precise nature of our future reign perplexes some commentators. They wonder who will be the subjects of our reign if all people in the new earth are the Lord’s servants. John’s vision does not fully satisfy our curiosity here. But it does inspire and enlarge our imaginations about our future destiny as God’s co-rulers. Moreover, with this vision in mind, we are encouraged to think about how we should live today in light of our future. To what extent, as servants of God, are we to share in God’s reign today?
In the next couple of devotions I want to pursue this question with you. For now, let me encourage you to reflect on the following.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you respond to John’s vision of our future reign? Is this surprising to you?
As you think about our future reign, what do you envision?
If we are to reign along with God in the future kingdom, what difference might this make in our lives and work today?
Gracious God, what we read today is indeed a surprise, even if we’re familiar with the idea. The fact that we will one day reign along with you is an astounding thought. Yes, we will be your servants. But, in your majesty and mercy, we will also share in your reign. What a wonder!
Help us, Lord, to be encouraged by this vision. And help us to know how it might shape our lives today. If, someday, we will reign with you, how should we live right now? Give us wisdom, Lord. Amen.