Present Tense Jesus

"We cannot read WHAT IS TO COME without knowing who HE IS."

AGE 16, my youth pastor showed an end-times movie where the rapture of the church had happened and a girl, left behind, chose to stand for her faith and was decapitated for it on a guillotine. Terrified of what I’d just seen and with no idea the meaning of it, I swore I would avoid anything of that nature and for the next thirty-plus years did just that. I remember a speaker came who talked primarily about the book of Revelation, and I got up and walked out. I didn’t see any need to know that, given the church wouldn’t be here then, and I knew I was a member of it.

In recent days, the Lord has had me read a series of Scriptures which led me to John’s Revelation. Until three years ago, I had not ventured into the book at all. I did so then only because God dropped a minister’s book on Matthew 24 into my lap. That book set me free of my fear of prophecy. It did not increase my interest in Revelation. But in the beginning chapter of Revelation, there is a statement which sets the stage for what follows, and it bears consideration.

Revelation 1:4 says, “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.” John was in exile for his faith in Jesus Christ. It is recorded that he is the only disciple who was not martyred. Clearly, he had some communication since he was asked to write letters, but what we must notice above all is the particular phrasing, “which IS, and which WAS, and which IS TO COME.” This is a description of Jesus, along with what follows this verse, but before we are given the full picture, we are told to know that HE IS.

HE IS, present tense. He is living. He is risen. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. These are all what HE IS currently, and that is of primary importance. Because there are those who believe HE WAS but HE IS no longer. This is incorrect knowledge. HE IS the same yesterday, to day, and for ever, but HE IS those things (Hebrews 13:8). There are also those who believe HE IS TO COME in the future. This is incorrect also. He holds tomorrow, but He holds it TODAY. Before we can proceed with any knowledge of Jesus Christ in our present-day circumstances, before we can read the Word of God and apply it, we must set in our heart that JESUS IS. To read of the past must be done knowing who HE IS. You cannot read of the Old Covenant without that light or books like Job and the prophets. We will only understand them correctly when we know what is in the New Covenant and that HE IS the reason for them. We cannot read of WHAT IS TO COME without knowing who HE IS, else incorrect knowledge slips in and we, the church, who the letters of John are addressed to, will not be who He desires us to be and understand it.

This description of Jesus is repeated in Revelation 1:4 where it follows the words, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.” HE IS these things. That HE IS the Almighty comes immediately after. Then we see John’s instructions of this revelation spoke by Jesus Christ in verse 19, and a fuller image becomes clear. He speaks, “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” Notice again, John was told to write the THINGS WHICH ARE, present tense. This is placed first. And then write, the THINGS WHICH SHALL BE.

Before we, the church, can dive into what the revelation reveals of the future, and the events which shall happen, we must become the image of the church which IS TODAY what God has designed. Too many are skipping ahead into prophecies with an incorrect knowledge of our Savior, WHO HE IS, and of WHAT HE DID on the cross and in His Resurrection. We’re arguing over bits and pieces of doctrine, unable to come to any agreement because we’re not walking in the Spirit as we’re told to do. He is the power of love which unites us, who squabbled so much we had to form infinite denominations of what is ONE GOSPEL and ONE CHURCH.

These are the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. That all of us are needed to make the body, which is Christ’s, move and operate in the ways of the Spirit, that it takes those who prophesy and those who preach, those who help, and those who lay hands on the sick. It takes the heart and the stomach for God’s life to spread throughout our cities, states, and nations. One man alone cannot accomplish what two or three gathered together will do when walking in God’s presence (Matthew 18:20). And pay attention, 1 Corinthians 13 comes next. Without love, none of it works at all. You are spitting seeds into the wind and hoping they grow before they hit the ground.

What the seven churches mean is too long for one blog post, but in essence, none of it is chosen at random, nor were they mentioned because of their size, but there is a pattern which emerges, one spoken in Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 14. Here, before Him, were those who would form His body after He had risen, and He wanted them prepared for what they would have to face. Such is the reason for John’s revelation, not to scare us or frighten us or to create weird end-time movies, but so that when Jesus returns it is for the glorious church without spot or wrinkle which His Father has designed for His marriage. Not a church enraged and torn by strife, nor one confused and lost by splitting doctrines, not one consumed by the devil who has worked himself into its members, but one which gives him no place at all and changes everything around them.

Don’t fear, Jesus said. Don’t be troubled, I go to prepare a place for you, and I will return and receive you unto myself. Thomas questioned Him, I imagine with his brow furrowed. But, Lord, he said, we don’t know where you’re going, so how can we possibly know the way. Jesus then makes the statement which rings through the ages. I AM the way, I AM the truth, I AM the life.

Do you see it? I AM. Present tense. Not I WILL BE, nor I WAS, but I AM, because that is what they needed to know, that when the cross happened, when He was hanging there and they were scattered, the one WHO WAS and WHO IS TO COME, always IS.

“And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 22:10)

Suzanne D. Williams, Author