The Apocalypse

Image from St John's Apocalypse Vellum, beginning of the 14th century with miniatures, finely designed. Formerly belonging to the Carthusian house of Val Dieu or La Vaudieu, between Liege and Aix.

By Pamela Lewis

A Reading from Revelation 1:1-8 

1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.


The words “apocalypse” and “apocalyptic” have been getting a lot of use lately. There have been “apocalyptic wildfires,”  “apocalyptic droughts,” and some have likened the illness and death caused by the current pandemic to one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse, mercilessly wielding his scythe. The final book of the New Testament, as well as of the Bible, although full of dramatic and even harrowing imagery, is about more than what popular culture has made of it. The initial sentence of this book announces that it is the Revelation  “apocalypse”  of Jesus Christ, who received it from God, and made it known by sending his angel to his servant, John, exiled on Patmos. The revelation has been passed to us like a heavenly baton in a sacred relay.

Before John unfurls his compelling visions, he establishes for the reader the several truths about Christ. The seven churches in Asia, which Jesus identifies by name in verse 11, receive his grace and peace, attesting to their being the beneficiaries of God’s loving kindness and mercy.  Jesus, “the first begotten of the dead,” is not the first to resurrect from the dead, but is the first whose resurrection ushers in the resurrection for all believers. The vast scope of God’s eternal nature is summed up in the words, “from him which is, and which was, and which is to come,” the three measures of time that are the source of John’s grace and peace. While Jesus “loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” he continues to be a faithful witness. 

The gripping, cataclysmic scenes will follow, but John first establishes that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, in whom there is both completion and the yet-to-be.

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New YorkerEpiscopal Journal, and The Living Church.

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Today we pray for:

Diocese of Fredericton (Canada) and the Rt. Rev. David Edwards
Diocese of Freetown (Sierra Leone, West Africa) and the Rt. Rev. Thomas Arnold Ikunika Wilson
Diocese of Southeast Florida and the Rt. Rev. Peter Eaton


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