Many years ago, Annette Stiff, one of our elders, gave a children's address I will never forget. She brought a sprig of a bush from her garden. It had blossoms on it: mauve, lilac and white.
"What kind of bush is this?" she asked.
Eventually the right answer came out - it was a "yesterday, today and tomorrow bush" and she explained how each individual blossom transitions from purple to white, usually over a period of three days.
"We are like the blossoms," she said, "but God is like the whole bush!" He knows us at every part of our lives and He is the same - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."
John's view is the same: He is an old man (a white blossom) but God is the One who is, was and is to come. I think it's significant that John starts with God's role in the present because it's the present that vexes us most!
But today, yesterday and tomorrow is not John's only triplet. He is also, more subtly making a reference to the Trinity. As we have seen he has described the Father as timeless and unchanging, but he also talks about the Holy Spirit and the Christ the Son.
In many translations, the phrase "Seven Spirits" is translated "Sevenfold Spirit" which is quite helpful in conveying what is meant. Seven is a number of perfection, when God's Spirit is described as "Seven Spirits", John is really saying that God's Spirit is always perfectly present and near.
And John is still "tripletting" when he describes Jesus! Here are the three introductory points John would make about Him:
* He is the faithful witness - He accurately revealed God to us.
* He is the firstborn from the dead - He finished His mission and triumphed.
* He is the ruler over the kings - and by implication He is coming to reign!
In the midst of trouble and hardship we need a big and erosion-resistant view of God. John provides this for us.
- An unchanging Father through our todays, yesterdays and tomorrows
- A Spirit is a supernaturally and amazingly always present
- The Son who reveals God, conquers our greatest fear and is our champion.