God’s Commitment to Creation in Revelation

John develops the one true God’s identity in an impressive variety of ways in Revelation.  One of the most important is as “the One who is and who was and who is to come” (1:4, 8; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5).

The designation interprets the divine name found in Exodus 3:14, which associates the name of the God of Israel with the verb “to be”—“I am who I am,” or “I will be who I will be.”

According to Richard Bauckham, John’s interpretation of this designation is not a reference to God’s mere existence in the future, but to his identity as being on his way to the world to save and to judge.  It is a reflection of his commitment to creation, to reclaim it and to judge the agents of its corruption.

This interpretation is confirmed by the use, in 11:17; 16:5, of the abbreviated form of the designation: ‘the One who is and who was’.  At these points in the vision the eschatological coming of God is taking place.  It is no longer future, and the hymns which use the designation praise God for the occurrence of this eschatological fulfilment of his purpose.  Especially clear is 11:17: ‘We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.’  The achievement of God’s eschatological rule over the world is his coming.  Necessarily the future element in the designation of God is replaced by the thanksgiving that this rule has begun.

Thus John interprets the divine name as indicating not God’s eternity in himself apart from the world, but his eternity in relation to the world.  This is the biblical God who chooses, as his own future, his coming to his creation, and whose creation will find its own future in him (pp. 29-30).

Revelation depicts a number of scenes in which God is highly exalted, ruling creation with supreme authority and transcendent sovereignty.

But, unlike so much theological reflection, God’s sovereignty is not abstracted from creation or his concern for his world.  God’s sovereignty is displayed–and his very identity consists–in his commitment to his world and his coming to it in order to redeem, renew, and rid it of all that corrupts.


4 responses to “God’s Commitment to Creation in Revelation

  • joey

    Jeremiah 31:35-36 and 33:19-26: Here God is speaking of his commitment to Israel and he compares it to his commitment to the non-human part of creation. He is saying that they could be as sure of his word as they could be that the sun and moon will always be in the heavens. God means for creation to abide always. God has a covenant with creation. Note all of the prophetic texts that speak of the land. Psalm 96 would not be a true text after the world is destroyed, would it? If God does not keep his promises to even a rock he cannot be trusted.

  • S Wu

    I keep thinking about Genesis 1-3 and life in the Roman Empire when I come to Revelation. It seems to me that the eschatological hope for God’s people is dependent on the One who is “on his way to the world to save and to judge”.

    But I am also thinking about how we read Revelation today. Do you intend to blog on this?

    • timgombis

      Probably not, S. I was just struck by a number of passages in Bauckham’s book as I was preparing a lecture on Revelation last week. His discussion of Revelation certainly does make Revelation highly relevant for living in an age of empire today.

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