Amen has become little more than a Christian sign-off to God, an appropriate way to let the Almighty know that we have deemed the conversation over. It is a sign we are now discontinuing communication with Him so we can move onto other areas of our lives.
We also use the word as a helpful tool for signaling to others when prayer time is over. That’s the great thing about saying amen - everybody knows when it’s okay to open their eyes and resume life as normal.
But that's not what amen really means.
It really means “I agree” or “May it be so.” It’s an affirmation of something that has been said or done, but it’s more than just a verbal assent to a factual statement. Amen has a certain weight behind it. When you say "amen," you are pledging your support for whatever has just been proposed. You are saying that you so whole-heartedly and mightily agree with it, that it’s your intense desire – even passion – to see it come to pass. Perhaps we should be a little more careful with that word.
You find amen at various points in the Bible.
In Deuteronomy 27, the chapter of curses God laid out for disobedience, the people were instructed to shout “Amen!” after each individual curse as their whole-hearted affirmation and agreement. The people echoed the word in 1 Chronicles 16 when the ark was brought into their presence and David’s great psalm of thanksgiving was sang. It’s said throughout the psalms as the people’s excited response in praise of God, and then when you get to the New Testament, you see Paul closing many of his letters with the word.
In each of these cases, “Amen” isn’t just a Christian sign-off; it’s a sending out moment. It’s the word by which we signal our passionate agreement with what has been said, and our determination to go out from that moment of reading or worship into the world to live out what has been expressed.
But one of the most interesting places you find the word is at the very end of the story. You find the word twice in the last two verses of Scripture:
“He who testifies about these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ ‘Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!’ The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen” (Revelation 22:20-21).
These are also two great reasons to say “Amen” today:
1. The second coming of the Lord Jesus.
The closing verses of Revelation might seem an obvious place to say amen, but let’s think about all the implications of doing so, because it’s not like Revelation is a sweet, cuddly book of the Bible. It’s full of dragons and beasts and demonic tattoos. It’s about pestilence and destruction and bowls of wrath being poured out.
Despite all those things, John put out a resounding "amen" at the end. May it be so! Bring on the locusts! And bring them on because the coming of all those things means that Jesus is drawing every closer. That’s what John is really saying amen to, for he knew that the coming of Jesus would make all those other things, and indeed all the pain of our present situations, fade into the distant background. May it be so.
2. To affirm the authority of the Word.
We see the second use of the word at the end of the text. At the very end. It’s the last word in all of Scripture, a way of closing the entire canon. And it is the only response that we can really have to the word of God.
Sometimes we treat the Bible in segments. We like the gospels very much because we see them as the “grace and love” books. But all that stuff about war in the Old Testament? We don’t care for it too much. So we center ourselves in those passages of Scripture that taste the best – that are the most spiritually palpable. But the Bible doesn’t work like that.
It’s not like God was mean and angry in the Old Testament and then somewhere in the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew, someone pulled Him aside and convinced Him to lighten up a bit. There is one God – perfectly unchanging for all time. The God of Abraham is the God of Paul; the God of Amos is the God of John.
And if we really want to know this God, which is the true focus of Christianity, we must know all of Scripture – not just the easy parts. We must escape the cafeteria line approach to the Bible where we learn a few favorite verses here and there, and instead, began reading it for what it is – the continual revelation of God.
That’s why “amen” is the appropriate response at the end of Scripture. It’s because we say, with John, that we agree and support the entire thing. We affirm the truth contained in its pages; and we look to it as the basis for life and godliness. Sure, we need to grow in understanding certain parts of it, but we must accept it as it is. The whole thing. Not in a piecemeal fashion.
There are only two options with Scripture: either we say amen to its entirety, or we entirely reject it. No taking it in parts; no dividing it in pieces. And the commitment we have to meditation, memorization, and dwelling inside the richness of its pages will affirm which choice we have made.
May it be so. Amen.