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.