The Bible’s final words

Dec 7, 2015 by

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I have a thing about endings. For me, the last few lines of a book or TV show or movie make or break it. The final words are the capstone, a revelation of what the writer believes was really the heart of her story. They are the words that linger, a bridge between the world of the story and the world we return to inhabit. I’ve been known to nurse a grudge for years against writers who blow an ending. (Eight years later, I still haven’t quite forgiven J.K. Rowling for the epilogue to Harry Potter.)

Lucky for me, the Bible nails its landing. The last two verses of Revelation to me are the best imaginable conclusion to the sort of story the Bible tells:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Even so. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Even so.

The first two-thirds or so of the Bible are so profoundly, painfully human in their depiction of the world. They tell the honest truth about our violence, our fear, our suffering, our guilt, our struggle to imagine a God not made in our own distorted image. And then suddenly the page turns, and we are introduced to Jesus. He is the God we never expected, a gentle warrior for life whose humility and compassion sweep us off our feet. Eventually he departs the scene, and those who witnessed his life, death and resurrection spend the rest of the scriptural pages marveling at what they saw in him and struggling to comprehend what it means.

However marvelous the event, as readers 2,000 years after the fact, we could easily end up feeling like outsiders to a story that unfolded long ago and in a galaxy far away. Except that in the very last few lines of the story, the hero who had long since left the stage steps back out for one final line: “Yes,” he says, “I am coming soon.” And just like that, we are suddenly cast forward into a new story.

With Jesus’ final words, the ending of the Bible becomes the fresh beginning of a story that is now taken up in the lives of those who live beyond the cover. The Bible is revealed to be only the first two parts of an epic that is still being written. That story now continues in us. But even more, the story continues in him — the hero who is returning from his sojourn to the lands of heaven to continue his healing of earth.

Like the ending of the Bible, the Advent season casts us backward and forward at the same time. We remember and celebrate Jesus’ coming in first-century Palestine. But we also start leaning forward. We recall that the one who came chose the final words, “I am coming.” And we realize that he is not just behind us but still ahead of us. His story is still being written — in us, in our children and our children’s children. It is our world with fewer donkeys and more driverless cars that he is coming to heal and redeem.

The joy of Advent is not just in the echo of memory — it is in the hope of new songs still to be composed. The question of Advent is whether we are ready — waiting, reaching, watching, longing — for the sound of his quiet footsteps approaching our door.

I have a new favorite song right now that I find myself listening to over and over again. The title lyrics are based on the Bible’s closing lines. Although it’s not a Christmas song, the words and melody are a reminder to me this season of Advent’s bidirectional meaning and its call for the church to lean forward into the story still unfolding:

Even So Come” (Passion, ft. Kristian Stanfill)

All of creation, all of the earth
Make straight a highway, a path for the Lord
Jesus is coming soon

Call back the sinner; wake up the saint
Let every nation shout of your fame
Jesus is coming soon

Like a bride waiting for her groom, we’ll be a church ready for you
Every heart longing for our King, we sing,
“Even so come, Lord Jesus, come”

There will be justice; all will be new
Your name forever, faithful and true
Jesus is coming soon

Like a bride waiting for her groom, we’ll be a church ready for you
Every heart longing for our King, we sing,
“Even so come, Lord Jesus, come”

“Even so come, Lord Jesus, come”

Meghan Larissa Good is pastor of Albany (Ore.) Mennonite Church. She writes at MudPieGod.com, where this first appeared.


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