in him

Once at the beginning of Revelation, once partway through, and once at the end, God and Christ make parallel statements about their nature. First in chapter 1 verse 8:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Then in chapter 21 verse 6:

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”

And finally in chapter 22 verse 13:

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Revelation 22:13

Alpha () and Omega () are the A and Z of the Greek alphabet. Together they form the frame of the other letters. Every other element of the Greek language is ordered between them. The analogy is to how we must envision God in relation to his creation: he encircles it, frames it, contains it, and binds it. All life is “in” God. Paul says of God,

Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:27-28

And of Christ,

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17

Only the Bible’s God can be truly described as “outside” and “above” creation. Every other version of the divine is in one way or another interlaced with the world we see. Every other god is made in the image of man.

So creation is “within” God, and he “surrounds” creation. He is its frame. Scripture uses similar terminology to speak of Christians. They are “in Christ.”

…in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him… Philippians 3:8-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing… in him we have received redemption through his blood… in him we have obtained an inheritance… in him you also… were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit… Ephesians 1:3, 7, 11, 13

In him, in him, in him. I imagine myself as a child, or a baby, clutched close to the chest of Jesus and enveloped by his arms. Paul makes the imagery even more dramatic when he says that Christians are in Christ in that they are members of his body:

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit… Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:12, 27

Also in 1 Corinthians, earlier in the letter, Paul says one of the most startling things in scripture:

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 1 Corinthians 6:17

The intimacy of the union between the church and her husband is so profound that the apostle can speak of her being “in him,” “members of his body,” and “one spirit with him.” From this union comes our salvation (Romans 6:5). Mentally and spiritually, this concept is deep waters–as Paul says, “this mystery is profound” (Ephesians 5:32)–and certainly worth contemplation for its own sake. It also implies certain things about our life as Christ’s church, individually and as an entity.

Firstly, we are not at liberty to sin, but only to honor God. Paul says, “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:12-13). He uses this line of thought to condemn the sexual union of Christians and prostitutes in 1 Corinthians 6 verse 15: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?” Note well the intense obligation, as well as the overwhelming grace, conveyed by that verse.

Secondly, we must patiently expect to enter all the sufferings and all the glories of Jesus–all his death and all his resurrection–since we are one in body and spirit with him.

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him also suffer for his sake… Philippians 1:29

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:5

…we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified in him. Romans 8:16-17

Jesus himself said,

Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. John 15:20

The death and the new life of Christ are ours by faith in him: death to sin, to the world, to the accusing finger of the law; new life to God, to love, to hope, to glory.

Thirdly, the simple and gentle truth is that we are never alone. The typical language is that we are “in” Christ, and Christ’s Holy Spirit is “in” us. The presence of the Lord surrounds us on all sides, regardless of our feelings or the little hells in which we find ourselves. “Abide in me,” he tenderly calls to us, his children, his bride. Our sole struggle in this world is simply that.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5