God is the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty Creator of all things who now sits on the throne at the center of the Cosmos.
In Revelation, God is the “Almighty,” the “One Who sits on the throne,” and the “Alpha and Omega.” But above all, he is presented as the “One Who is and Who was and Who is coming.” This is more than a declaration about His nature, for the appellation is modified at key points to mark the consummation of the present age.
John recorded greetings to the churches “from He Who is and Who was and Who is coming.” The phrase recalls the self-designation of Yahweh from the “burning bush” – I am who I am. Like Moses, John received his commission while in exile. And just as Yahweh freed His people from Egypt and summoned them to become a “kingdom of priests,” so Jesus has “loosed” his people and made them a “kingdom, priests” – (Exodus 3:14 19:4-5).
But John does something odd in his grammatical structure. Per Greek syntax, the pronouns in the clause should be in the genitive case since they follow the preposition apo or “from,” yet John uses the nominative form. Similarly, in English, after the preposition “from” the appropriate masculine pronoun is “him” or “whom” rather than “he” or “who.” What John wrote would have grated on the ears of his first Greek-speaking audiences.
John has done this deliberately to make the clause conform to its other occurrences in the book. Most likely, this was so his audience would not miss the literary connections.
For example, the appellation is repeated at the end of the opening salutation. The one speaking is “He who is and who was and who is coming.” In this instance, the clause is in the nominative case and spelled precisely the same as in the first instance, and properly so. The fact that John has written the phrase correctly the second time indicates that his previous “grammatical error” was deliberate.
In the vision of the “throne,” the “four living creatures” around it cried out continuously, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is coming.” Here we find the same clause, again in the nominative case, only the first two verbs have switched positions, possibly for stylistic reasons.
When the “seventh trumpet” sounded, the Day of the Lord arrived, and the time of judgment. After the horn sounded, John heard the “twenty-four elders” declare:
- “We give you thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and didst reign” – (Revelation 11:17).
Here, the final clause has been dropped, there is no mention of His “coming.” That is because He no longer is doing so, He has arrived and “taken His power.” The sounding of the last trumpet marks the time of the final judgment.
After the “third bowl of wrath” was emptied, the “angel of the waters” declared God “just,” and the one “who is and who was, the Holy One, because you have judged.” Again, the final clause is omitted, He no longer is “coming.” The “seven bowls of wrath” collectively “complete the wrath of God”’ pictorially, they represent the final outpouring of God’s “wrath” on the wicked – (Revelation 16:5-6).
Later, the “Beast” becomes a pale imitation of God. In chapter 13, one of its “seven heads” received a death blow that was “healed.” Like Jesus, the “living one who became dead and lived,” so the “False Prophet” called the “Beast” the one “who received the stroke of the sword and lived.” In this way, it attempted to mimic the death and resurrection of Jesus – (Revelation 13:3, 14).
In chapter 17, the “Beast” is the one “who was and is not and is going to ascend from the abyss and go to destruction.” And his death and “resurrection” so awed the “inhabitants of the earth” that they “wondered after the beast that was and is not and will come” – (Revelation 17:8-11).
But Revelation has added a twist. Though the “Beast was and is not,” and he will in the future “ascend from the Abyss,” rather than “coming” as God does, he is going to destruction” – He is “going,” not “coming.” His future arrival will mean his ultimate destruction, along with the “False Prophet.”