For many Bible scholars, it is strange that John Calvin did not write a commentary on the book of Revelation. He did not even take the time to preach systematically about it, as he did with many Bible books. Martin Luther concluded that it was “undeciphered prophecies, with no certain interpretation, they are nothing but hidden and silent prophecies, which has not yet brought the profit and the fruit that it should bring to Christendom.”
Revelation is not as enigmatic and strange as Luther and Calvin thought. Fortunately, the Reformation did not end with these two men, despite how much they accomplished.
Man has always liked to create a god in his image, a god that suited his passions, delusions, immorality, and madness — a too-human god that is easy to manipulate. But the last book of the Bible reveals to us a God above man, transcending him infinitely. This God — YHWH, I AM THAT I AM — took the initiative to reveal Himself to deluded man.
It is God who reveals Himself to man, and not man who, through his searching, discovers God. This God reveals Himself the way He wants, when He wants, and where He wants. This God, through Jesus, despite His absolute transcendence and power, encouraged John on the island of Patmos: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17, 18).
This God consoles and guides us in the midst of our sorrows and uncertainties. To all those who suffer, God says, “Fear not. I have the keys of death and hell.” The keys are God’s power and sovereignty over all living beings. God is sovereign because He leads our lives according to a well-defined purpose. We know where we are going: to be with God in His eternal kingdom. We are not abandoned nor forgotten.
The last words of the Bible comfort and assure us that the One who gave His life for us on the cross of Calvary will come without delay. God is the Lord of time and history, so time is always for Him the present time, the time of expectation. We need not be anxious, but rather prepared for His second coming. We are walking toward God, for the consummation and restoration of all things. God will not only come but, in the present, already works and directs all things. Nothing is out of His control.
Today, more than ever, we are privileged to interpret our existence, not from below by human effort and false hope, but from above — from God in His providence and sovereignty. Knowing that He has the keys of death and hell, we find comfort and strength and need not fear.