3 times in the book of Revelation we get this phrase – “Who was, and is, and is to come”.
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“Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne” (Revelation 1:4)
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:8)
“Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’” (Revelation 4:8)
These look like they simply say God is eternal. He existed in the past, (“he was”), he exists in the present (“he is”), and he will exist in the future (“he is to come”).
Here”s where a quick peek at the Greek™ pays off.
“who is” = “ὁ ὠν” (the verb “to be” in the present tense)“who was” = “ὁ ἠν” (the verb “to be” in the imperfect tense)“who is to come” = “ὁ ἐρχομενος” (the verb to come / to arrive in the present tense)
We notice straight away that the third one is different, and it”s not what we might have expected (“who will be” = “ὁ ἐσται” (the verb “to be” in the future tense).
The verb is the verb “to arrive” or “to come”, and not the verb “to be”This is not a statement about God”s existence for eternity future, but a statement about God being the one who will come to this earth (as judge and as saviour), who will come to deliver his people who are waiting for him.The tense is present, not future. This is not saying anything about God will do, but is saying something about God in the present. He is a God, today, who is imminent, who is coming, who is on his way.
So a better translation might be “who is, and who was, and who is to arrive”, or my preferred one: “who is, and who was, and who is coming”.
Footnote: So what do you make of Revelation 17:10, where that same verb sequence occurs: “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while.”
I think that Revelation 17:10 and 17:11 are somewhat misleading, tensewise. If you assume that 5 have fallen and one is, then Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius have fallen and Nero is. The other who has not yet come, but when does come, must remain for a little while, should thus described rule before the second coming of Christ. Then the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition would have to be equated with one of the 5 who preceeded Nero and returns as the 7th king, both incarnations being the 8th.
But that is odd, because it is so ambiguous. Nero Caesar gives 666. Why should John just point to 1 out of the 5?
Well, the situation changes, when the number of the beast is 616, since then Caligula is implied, so that the reference is unambiguous. But 17:11 could also be understood in a general sense, as was, was not, will be again, which is not the same as was, is and will be, by the way.
As for what that means… things are created, they last and they are destroyed. In the last phase there is an element of chaos, but at least during the lasting it is, well, bound for a 1000 years or what have you. So, obviously God rules during the lasting, but destruction and creation also follow his plan. Actually, it is God who tells the beast to destroy the great city.