“In April of 2008, I had to drive to Fort Wayne, Indiana, for work, so I went to Enterprise to rent a car. They gave me a big, brand-new, comfy Chrysler 300 to drive—and I loved it! In fact, I enjoyed feeling large and in charge so much that I blew right past the first tollbooth. You see, I'm not used to stopping for tollbooths, because I have an I-PASS in my own car—a little device that signals I've already prepaid my tolls.
After passing the first tollbooth, I thought about it: Oh! This car doesn't have an I-PASS! But just as I started to worry about it, I thought, This car belongs to the rental-car company—not me. So they're probably responsible for any tolls. That must be what your rental money goes toward covering.
When I got on 294, I drove past another toll, thinking, Even if I am responsible for the tolls, there's only a few tolls between here and Indiana—maybe $4 round trip. I'm sure there's some threshold where they don't even bother sending you a bill for the tolls. I mean, it wouldn't be worth their time to send me a bill for only $4. Nothing's going to happen!
After I returned home from my business trip, a month or two went by. Nothing happened—and I knew nothing ever would. But then, in October, I received a piece of mail that read: "Notice of Toll Violation."
I was right, to a degree. The Tollway Authority wouldn't bother sending me a bill for my measly $3.90 in tolls. But when you add in a $20 fine for every one of the 5 tollbooths I drove past, they did bother sending me a bill for $103.90!
I about had a heart attack. They had me dead to rights. They had a photo of my rental-car's license plate. They even knew the exact lane number I was in. The fact that months had gone by and nothing had happened didn't mean that nothing was ever going to happen.
In a passage concerning the return of Christ, Peter says: Get a clue, people! Just because the Lord hasn't come back yet, don't think for a minute that he won't! The Lord isn't being slow about his promise, as some people think. No—he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”
Kevin Miller, executive vice president, Christianity Today International
If I want to get a doe tag for the hunting season I have to prepare ahead of time
Last year hunting license went on sale June 18, 2018
I’m not normally thinking about hunting in the middle of summer, but I have to prepare in the summer so I can get a doe tag in the unit I’d like
In order to go to the doctor for my biannual checkup I have to prepare in advance
They want me to get blood work done a week before my appointment
I went on Thursday to have my blood drawn in preparation for my appointment
Some of us have been preparing to pay our taxes on Monday
Those of us who own our own businesses have to make quarterly tax payments, so we don’t have a huge tax bill in April
If we don’t make quarterly payments, then we have to put money aside each month in order to have it available to pay taxes at the end of the year
We have to prepare to have our vehicles inspected, especially if it doesn’t pass inspection and needs to have work done on it
We can’t wait until the inspection has expired to have it inspected, otherwise we could be without a vehicle
As John finishes writing his letter to the seven churches, it is mentioned three times that Jesus is coming soon. For John, he wanted the readers of his letter to realize that Jesus could come back at any moment and they needed to live in that anticipation every day. If they failed to live with the anticipation of Jesus’ imminent return, then they may not be prepared for His return. John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Jesus’ return is near, so be prepared.
We will see in these final verses how we can and should prepare for Jesus’ return.
GOD (Revelation 22:6-21)
Osborne provides an excellent outline for Revelation 22:6-21, so I’ll be using his five main points as the headings for five points this morning [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 780-98]
Authenticating the Book (vv. 6-7)
The angel repeats the same words as the Lord, found in Revelation 21:5, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
The angel and the Lord were both referring to the entire book of Revelation and not just the preceding vision or the following content
PRINCIPLE – God’s promises are “trustworthy and true” and He will fulfill them.
These two terms are attributes of God
He is completely trustworthy
He never fails us
He never says one thing and does another
He never over promises
He always keep His promises
He is always true
He never says anything that is false
He never lies
He doesn’t try to hide the truth
What we have seen and studied in Revelation will happen (we may not know when, but we can trust the Lord to fulfill His promises and His prophecy)
My Next Step Today Is To: Acknowledge that God is trustworthy and true through my adoration of Him.
Adoration is the first part of prayer in the acrostic A.C.T.S.
Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication
It is praying back to God, His perfect character traits
How the prophecy of Revelation was communicated
John shared this at the beginning of the Revelation and restates it differently here
Revelation 1:1, The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw – that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
John says here that it came from the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets
Is the Holy Spirit being referenced here or is it the spirit of the prophets?
“As for the debate about whether πνεμάτων (pneumatōn) refers to the Holy Spirit or to the prophets themselves, one cannot do better than Swete (1911: 303), who says it means ‘the natural faculties of the Prophets, raised and quickened by the Holy Spirit.’ Fee (1987: 696) puts it another way: it refers to ‘‘the prophetic Spirit’ by which each of them speaks through his or her own spirit.’’” [Osborne, 780-81]
It is how we refer to the authors of the Bible who were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to write down what we find in the Bible today
2 Peter 1:21, For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
It was sent through the Lord’s angel and given to the servants of the Lord
Servants obviously refers to the prophets and the Apostle John
It also refers, on a broader scope, to all believers, especially since the word “servant” is used throughout Revelation referring to believers
It all focuses on what must soon take place
We could take quite a bit of time unpacking this idea
It has been over two-thousand years since Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and John’s writing of Revelation
How could John’s statement about the events of the apocalypse coming soon be valid for us today?
2 Peter 3:8-9, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
God’s timing is perfect and what may seem a long time to us is a short time in the scope of salvation history
What we must do as followers of Jesus Christ is wait patiently for our infinite God to fulfill His perfect plan – we can do this because He is trustworthy and true
Jesus then reiterates the angel’s words by saying that He is coming soon – His return is imminent
Jesus speaks a blessing over those who keep the words of the prophecy in this book
The Greek form of the word “keep” helps us to understand that it is a continual, ongoing observance and not a onetime event [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 379-380]
Dennis Johnson explains it well, Scripture is not a passive cadaver, waiting for curious medical students to dissect it in their quest for information. It is a living, double-edged sword that proceeds from the mouth of the triumphant Son of Man and pierces the thoughts and intents of our hearts. It is a hammer that shatters, a seed that grows, rainfall that never returns to its Giver without accomplishing the mission on which he sent it. Scripture has a job to do in us. (Triumph of the Lamb, 334) [Johnson cited by Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 351]
The prophecy that has been written in Revelation has come from God and Jesus Christ and so it is authentic – we can trust in it and know that it is true
1st – this is the first thing we need to do to prepare for Jesus’ return – continually keep the words of the prophecy found in Revelation
Angel’s Commands (vv. 8-11)
First command [Worship God and Jesus only] (vv. 8-9)
John identifies himself as the one who heard and saw all of the things written in Revelation
His reaction to this overwhelming revelation is to fall down and worship
His reaction is correct – to worship!
John just heard Jesus say that He is coming soon
He also heard Jesus speak a blessing over those who continually keep the words of the prophecy found in Revelation
Perhaps he simply got caught up in the words of Jesus and forgot that it was an angel in front of him and not Jesus
This is not the first time he has done this and been rebuked for doing it
Revelation 19:9-10, Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of the prophecy.”
Our reaction to hearing that Jesus is coming soon and that He will bless those who continually keep His words, should be to fall down and worship
Whom John falls down in front of to worship is not correct
As he did before, John falls down at the feet of the wrong person
The result is the same – he is instructed not to do it!
The angel does exactly what he should have done – point John to God and Jesus
He reminds John that he is simply a fellow servant
In fact, the angel, John, the prophets, and everyone who keeps the words of this book (all believers) are servants of God and Jesus
We saw last week that we will not be sitting around on clouds doing nothing, but we will be worshiping God and serving Him perfectly for all eternity
PRINCIPLE – God and Jesus alone are worthy of worship!
Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
“Historian Joseph Loconte notes that many people today are still obsessed with angels, particularly angelic beings who seem tailor-made to meet our every need. Dr. Loconte writes:
Take, for example, Angels 1O1: An Introduction to Connecting, Working, and Healing with the Angels, written by metaphysician Doreen Virtue. We are informed that, in contrast to the ideas of sin and guilt in some religious traditions, angels love every person unconditionally. They help everyone who calls on them, regardless of their religious faith or lack of it. ‘They look past the surface and see the godliness within all of us,’ she writes. ‘So angels aren't judgmental, and they only bring love into our lives. You're safe with the angels, and you can totally trust them.’
[Angels] make no demands on us; rather, they wait to be summoned to help us overcome every difficulty. [Virtue claims], ‘You never have to be afraid that the angels would ever ask you to do anything that would make you feel afraid.’
With her appearances on CNN, Oprah, and The View, Virtue's message—shared by many other authors in the field—clearly has a large audience. ‘I've discovered that the quickest and most efficient route to happiness is through connecting with the angels,’ she writes. ‘So whether you need help with your health, career, love life, family, or any other area, the angels can help you.’ Yes, even your sex life can be improved with a little angelic assistance, whatever that might mean.
Joseph Loconte, The Searchers (Thomas Nelson, 2012), pp. 98-99
We know from scripture that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14)
Akin expresses it beautifully when he says, “to take a good thing (like an angel) and turn it into a god thing is to make it into a bad thing (an idol).” [Akin, 351]
Tim Keller says, “Worship is pulling our affections off our idols and putting them on God.” [https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1997/june/2441.html]
2nd – the second thing we need to do to prepare for Jesus’ return is to make sure that we are worshiping God and Jesus only
My Next Step Today Is To: Sacrifice any idols that have taken the place of God and Jesus in my life.
These could be good things (hobbies, sports, etc)
Have they become god things in your life (have they taken the place of prayer, studying God’s Word, attending church and Bible studies, etc.)
The first command of the angel was to worship God and Jesus only
Second command [Do not seal up these prophecies] (v. 10)
It’s pretty straight forward, don’t seal up the words of the prophecy of this book
The revelation of Jesus Christ to His servants is something that God wants us to know
It is not to be sealed and hidden
All the way back in Revelation 1:1 the Greek word for revelation is apokalypsis which is where we get our English word Apocalypse (it literally means “unsealing” or “unveiling”)
That has been our theme for the entire book of Revelation – Jesus Unveiled
By the time John wrote down the revelation of Jesus, it no longer needed to be sealed or veiled, because the time was near
This was not always the case
There was a time when God wanted and needed certain visions to be sealed
Daniel 12:4, 9-10, But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge . . . He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
Daniel’s words express what the angel’s third command was
Third command [Choose right or wrong] (v. 11)
This command is a warning to those who are unsaved
Only God knows the time of Jesus’ second return
We are told in scripture that His second coming will be like a thief in the night (Rev. 16:15; Matt. 24:43; 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Pet. 3:10)
This sudden second coming will not allow time for people, whether righteous or evil, to make a change
Our character has been set by a lifetime of habitual action, whether righteous or evil [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 406]
This command is also an encouragement to those who are doing what is right and living holy lives (they are to continue with those actions and behaviors)
3rd – the third way we can and should prepare for Jesus’ return is to choose right instead of wrong, because we never know when He will return.
The final major section of this passage has some additional sayings (some attribute them all to Jesus, while others attribute some to Jesus and some to John)
Additional Sayings (vv. 12-19)
Jesus (vv. 12-16)
Jesus is coming with His reward (vv. 12-13)
Jesus says the same words as He did in verse 7, “Behold, I am coming soon!”
He explains that He is coming with His reward
When we think about a reward it is something positive, right?
We find someone’s wallet and returned it to them with everything inside and they give us some of the money
Bounty hunters track down criminals and are rewarded with money
When Jesus is talking about coming with His reward it is both positive and negative
He will reward everyone, righteous and evil, based on what they have done
If they have been doing wrong and vile things, they will be rewarded a certain way
If they have been doing right and holy things, they will be rewarded differently
We will see in verses 14 and 15 what part of those rewards will be
PRINCIPLE – God will judge everyone for the deeds performed in this life.
We know from both the Old Testament and the New Testament that God’s desire is for everyone to take care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan (He is aware of their circumstances and knows whether or not we are helping to meet their needs)
We also know from Matthew 25:31-46 that if we feed the hungry and thirsty, invite the stranger in, clothe those who need clothes, look after the sick, and visit the prisoner, that we are serving the Lord through this
Those who do these things will be rewarded with entrance into God’s kingdom
Those who do not do these things will be rewarded with eternal fire in hell
Jesus also commanded us to share the Gospel with those around us
We need to be aware of the deeds we are doing on earth, or not doing
Serving the Lord by serving others and sharing the Gospel is outward evidence of a transformed life
4th – the fourth way we can prepare for Jesus’ return is to make sure we are doing what He has called us to do here on earth.
Jesus is able to judge our deeds accurately, because He is eternal
That is one of His many attributes and it is expressed here in Rev. 22:13 in three ways
Alpha and Omega
First and the Last
Beginning and the End
Jesus and God have been there throughout our entire lives and have seen, heard, and know every action, word, and thought
Scripture speaks about the fact that God and Jesus will judge human beings based on what they have done
Jeremiah 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”
Romans 2:6-8, God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
“The reward will be spiritual blessedness to the righteous but judgment for those who are evil.” [Mounce, 407]
Jesus’ blessing and warning (vv. 14-15)
Reward for the righteous
This is the seventh and final beatitude in Revelation
Wash their robes
The form of the Greek word for “wash” is important (it is a participle in the present tense)
This represents a continual action and not a one-time act
It can be translated as “those who keep on washing their robes” [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 420]
It means that the followers of Jesus Christ confess their sins regularly
All of us realize that while we are followers of Jesus Christ, we are still tempted and sometimes give in to those temptations, which requires our agreement with God that we have failed
1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Confession should be a part of our regular prayer time with the Lord
Those who continually strive to be in a right relationship with God and Jesus, through confession of sin, are given the right to the tree of life
Right to the tree of life
Sometimes we like to demand our rights, without fulfilling our responsibilities
We know that eternal life is by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, but we see here that it is not without the human responsibility of confession of sin
A daily “righting of the ship,” so to speak
Keeping a short list with God
Going through the gates into the city is another way of expressing the right to the tree of life, which gives us free and unhindered access to the presence of God
That is not the case with those who have rejected God and Jesus Christ
Reward for the evil
Their reward is to be separated from God for eternity, which is expressed as being outside (it is referring to being outside the great city, the New Jerusalem)
John lists six types of evildoers who are excluded from the great city [Easley, 421]
Dogs – term used for various impure persons (male prostitutes, those with a distorted view of the Gospel)
Practice magic arts – “sorcerers,” use of witchcraft, spells, and drugs to extend personal power and pleasure
Sexually immoral – “fornicators,” those who violate the sacredness of marriage
Idolaters – worshiping anything in place of God
Everyone who loves and practices falsehood – they are devoid of truth
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but representative of the kinds of evildoers who will be rewarded with eternal separation from God
Every person has the choice to decide whether or not to be among those inside the city or outside the city – the choice is ours
Jesus’ testimony (v. 16)
Jesus again identifies Himself as the One who originated the revelation
He then gave it to His angel, who in turn gave it to John so that he could communicate it with the churches
Jesus uses a two-fold description of Himself that may seem complicated, but is not
“As the Root of David, he is the One from whom David himself came and to whom David owes his existence and purpose. As the offspring of David, Jesus became a man in the incarnation and was born to the line of David as promised by the prophets.” [Patterson, 383]
He also refers to Himself as the bright Morning Star
This is a word of hope for all believers
The dark night of tribulation is almost over
The morning star is an indication that night is almost over
God’s final fulfillment for eternity is almost here
Numbers 24:17, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.
There seems to be a transition in speakers from Jesus to John
John (vv. 17-19)
Passing on the message to “come” (v. 17)
It seems as though John may be passing on information from other sources
Akin sees verse 17 as “a fourfold invitation to all persons of the world to come and be saved.” [Akin, 354]
The Holy Spirit invites them to come
The church (bride) says come [The Great Commission]
Anyone who hears the Gospel and responds to it should extend the invitation to others
The person who is thirsty is invited to come
Isaiah 55:1, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
John 7:37, On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”
Whoever wishes is invited to come and take the free gift of the water of life
PRINCIPLE – God continues to offer His salvation to the very end.
John is concluding his letter to the churches, so what we see communicated here is not another vision of the end times
It is John encouraging the readers of his letter, which includes us, to come to Jesus Christ for salvation
The Holy Spirit is the One who prompts us, in our spirit, to respond to the Gospel
The body of Christ (the church) has been commissioned to share the Gospel with those around them
Anyone who has heard the Gospel and responded is encouraged to share the Gospel with others
It’s not too late
Admit, Believe, Choose
Revelation 3:20, Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
My Next Step Today Is To: Open the door of my life to Jesus Christ, so I can be in a right relationship with God and spend eternity in heaven.
After John passes on the message about coming to God and Jesus Christ, he warns his readers about tampering with the prophecy he has shared
Warning about tampering with the prophecy (vv. 18-19)
The warning is for everyone who hears the words of the prophecy in Revelation (believers and unbelievers)
Adding to or taking away
The punishment, from God, for anyone who adds to the words of the prophecy is that He will add the plagues described in Revelation to them
I’m reminded of two examples in Scripture where an individual said or did more than God had instructed
Read Genesis 2:16-17; 3:2-3
Read Numbers 20:6-12
If someone takes away any of the meaning that God has intended through His prophecy then He will take away their share in the tree of life and the holy city
The warning is for those who do this willfully and not out of ignorance or lack of understanding
“Nobody fully understands the Bible or can explain everything in it; and those of us who teach the Word sometimes have to change our interpretations as we grow in knowledge. God sees the heart, and He can separate ignorance from impudence and immaturity from rebellion.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 2, 624-25]
After sharing Jesus’ sayings and sayings from others, John closes the book with some final words
Final Words (v. 20-21)
Plea for Christ’s Return
John reminds us once more that Jesus has testified to the words written in the book – it is His revelation and He is coming soon
John says a quick prayer of agreement with Jesus – Amen. Come, Lord Jesus
My prayer is that we can all say those words with John (have the congregation recite those words in unison)
John then closes with a benediction
It’s the grace of God through Jesus Christ that allows us to enter the great city, enjoy face-to-face fellowship with God, eat the fruit of the tree of life, and drink from the river of the water of life
We can agree with John – Amen!
We’ve had quite the journey through the book of Revelation. We have seen throughout this journey that Jesus has been unveiled. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He will return one day, very soon, and take us home to be with Him. He has been preparing a place for those who have believed on Him. We must prepare for His return. We saw four ways to do that today.
“In April 2012 Time magazine ran a cover story titled ‘Heaven Can't Wait: Why rethinking the hereafter could make the world a better place.’ In the next issue, Time printed a letter to the editor from Marc Herbert from Walnut Creek, California, who wrote:
Your story [about heaven] says that 85 percent of Americans believe in heaven. That's incredible. They think of heaven as quiet and peaceful, with no need to do anything. [That] sounds pretty dull to me. What do you do with all of that free time? And it goes on forever and ever!
Time, "Mail: Rethinking Heaven" (4-30-12)
This is certainly some people’s view of what heaven is going to be like. It will be everyone just sitting around with nothing to do FOREVER AND EVER! That sounds pretty dull.
Making the most of every opportunity
I take my vehicles to the dealership to be inspected, to have the oil changed, and to have other maintenance done on them
Because I have to go to either Mechanicsburg or Hanover, I always take something with me to do
It’s normally a bag full of commentaries that I’ll spend time reading while I wait for the maintenance on my vehicle to be completed
I don’t want to waste time or lose time while I’m there, so I prepare ahead of time
Visions of heaven
Some people’s idea of heaven is that we will be worshiping God and singing songs continually
That sounds pretty exciting to me, because I love to sing and to worship God
For some of us the idea of singing songs and worshiping God continually gets us excited, because we love to sing
Others of us may hear that vision of heaven and cringe, because we don’t like to sing or think that we can’t sing
That vision of heaven is not appealing
Perhaps the idea of sitting around with no need to do anything is very appealing
Most, if not all of us, work hard every day
Even those of us who have retired realize that we’re busier now than when we were working
As we study Revelation 22:1-5 today, we’re going to see what it will be like when we are with God and Jesus for eternity. Fortunately, we will be in a perfected body and the effects of sin will no longer plague us. We won’t worry about whether or not we can sing or if we’ll get bored just sitting around with nothing to do. John helps us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Eternity with God is greater than we can imagine.
GOD (Revelation 22:1-5)
John had just received a broad view of the New Jerusalem with all of its dimensions and materials along with four items that will not be in the New Jerusalem, because of the presence of God and Jesus. Now the angel gives him a view of some of the things that will be in the New Jerusalem
Nourished By God (vv. 1-2)
River of the water of life
The first thing the angel shows John is the river of the water of life
This is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden, A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters (Genesis 2:10)
Three of the prophets of Israel foresaw this incredible river at three different times surrounding the Israelites exile [Wilcock, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Revelation, 211]
Before the exile – “In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house and will water the valley of acacias (Joel 3:18)
During the exile – read Ezekiel 47:1-9
After the exile – On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter (Zechariah 14:8)
When Jesus was speaking to the woman at the well in Sychar, He told her this, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:13-14)
What we see in Revelation 22:1 is essentially the fulfillment of what Jesus said to the woman
It’s the eternal benefit of those who are followers of Jesus Christ
It is described here as being clear as crystal
Have you ever swam in a lake, river, or the ocean where you can see forever?
I used to go snorkeling in the ocean when we lived in Florida and I always enjoyed seeing the fire coral (bright orange or red) and the different fish
When Judy and I went to Hawaii, years ago, we rented snorkel equipment at Hanauma Bay (show the pictures of Hanauma Bay) – I was able to swim behind a sea turtle and with all kinds of tropical fish
Some of the streams around this area in PA are clear enough that you can see the trout floating in them – which can be frustrating when they won’t bite on any of the tackle you have
There are some lakes here in the United States and in other countries that boast crystal clear waters (show pictures of the lakes)
I can only imagine what this river of the water of life will look like – it will be perfectly clear – nothing will obstruct our view – it will be perfectly pure
The source of this perfect river
We see that the source of the river of the water of life is the throne of God and of the Lamb
It’s not that God and Jesus are both sitting on the throne in a physical sense
“Once more God and the Lamb are juxtaposed (side-by-side), continuing the major Christological theme of the unity of God and Christ as deity.” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 769-770]
It’s the idea that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are three in one – what we call the trinity
“The river, flowing as it does from God’s throne, can only portray that eternal life is entirely due to God’s gracious gift.” [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 414]
We cannot work our way to heaven and to the river of the water of life
It is a free gift of God that requires our repentance from sin and turning to Him as Lord of our lives
Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
The source of this great river is the throne of God and the Lamb, which then flows down the middle of the great street of the city
Where it is flowing
How this river flows down the middle of the street is not exactly explained
Does it split the street in half or does it flow beside the street?
Is there ground between the street and the river where the tree of life is growing?
We don’t really know for sure
What comes to mind for me is the River Walk in San Antonio, TX (show picture of the River Walk), because there are walkways on both sides of the river that cuts through the city
How it’s structured is of less importance than the fact that it is the river of the water of life beginning at the throne of the God and the Lamb
Along this river is growing the tree of life
Tree of life
This tree of life is on both sides of the river
Whether it is a single tree or an orchard of trees is not important
We don’t have to know definitively, because the principle or promise is more important
PROMISE – God will provide for His people eternally.
This is the fulfillment of God’s promise found in Revelation 2:7b, To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Ezekiel spoke about fruit trees also, Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47:12)
We see here that there will be variety of fruit with twelve different crops
Imagine for a moment that twelve of your favorite fruits will be available all the time
Apples, pears, peaches, apricots, figs, grapes, mangos, cherries, oranges, dates, bananas, and kiwi
We also see that there will never be a time when we will have to wait or go without, because it will yield its fruit every month
“Both the abundance and the variety of fruit are being emphasized. God’s provision is ever new and always more than adequate.” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 399]
It’s always easier to claim the promises of God for the future
We certainly believe that God will provide for us in eternity, but do we claim that promise for ourselves today?
Do you believe that God’s provision is ever new and always more than adequate?
In a culture that constantly tells us that we “need” more and more things, it can be difficult to feel like God’s provision is ever new and always more than adequate
But we can trust that it is both new and adequate
God is all-knowing and sovereign, so He knows what’s best for us
He knows what we need and when we need
His timing is perfect (never early and never late)
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim the promise that God’s provision is always adequate and on time.
The fruit on the tree of life is diverse and never ending, but it’s leaves are also important
It leaves are for the healing of the nations
If all sickness and disease are not present in heaven, then why does John mention the leaves of the tree of life being for the healing of the nations?
It is symbolic of the fact that healing has already taken place both spiritually and physically through the death of Jesus Christ
“The meaning is that all will enjoy full, wholesome, robust health. Just as the death of Christ made possible the water of eternal life (spiritually), so his death also provides the leaves that completely remove all the consequences of sin forever (physically).” [Easley, 415]
Osborne reflects on the fact that the physical healing means that we will not be hungry or experience any kind of disease and that spiritually we will be in a right relationship with God [Osborne, 772]
That segues perfectly into the worship of God
Worship Of God (vv. 3-5a)
No longer any curse or night (vv. 3a, 5a)
The curse is reversed
What we see here is reversal of the Fall in Genesis 3:14, 17, So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, ‘Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.’” . . . To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.’”
We see this predicted by the prophet Zechariah, “As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.” (Zechariah 8:13)
The abolishment of night means that the effects of sin will no longer be around
We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the glory of the presence of God and Jesus means that no light source will be needed
It will be perpetually day
The sun will not be needed
The light of a lamp will not be needed
God’s glory is all that will be needed to provide light in the New Jerusalem
With no night and a perfected body we won’t need to sleep, so what will we do with all the time on our hands?
Servants of God will serve Him (v. 3b)
We will certainly worship the Lord
We saw multiple times in Revelation that the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures and those surrounding the throne of God, worshiping Him
Read Revelation 4:8-11
Read Revelation 5:8-14
We will also serve Him
The Greek word for “serve” has a double meaning, both “service” and “worship” [Osborne, 773; Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus In Revelation, 340; Easley, 415]
“As we seek to serve the Lord here on earth, we are constantly handicapped by sin and weakness; but all hindrances will be gone when we get to glory. Perfect service in a perfect environment!” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 2, 624]
Eternity will not be dull or boring, because we will worship and serve the Lord perfectly
Easley calls this “faultless active usefulness” [Easley, 416]
PRINCIPLE – We will serve and worship God perfectly in eternity.
Of course we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to worship and serve the Lord
His desire is for us to worship and serve Him now, while we’re on earth
We won’t do it perfectly, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it
How is your worship of God right now? (Where is your focus when you’re worshiping, either individually or corporately? Is it God or something else?)
How is your service for God been lately? (Have you been thinking that someone else will step up and serve? Perhaps God is calling you to step up.)
Are there any changes that God has been prompting you to make concerning your worship of Him and service for Him?
My Next Step Today Is To: Allow the Lord to make any necessary changes to my worship of Him or service for Him.
Right relationship with God (v. 4)
We will see God’s face
This will be something new for followers of Jesus Christ
God explained it to Moses when He said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)
Moses was allowed to see God’s back only
John 1:18, No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
In our perfected bodies, we will be able to look upon the face of God and still live
“Now, in the new holy of holies, the entire priestly community will experience the greatest blessing of all: they will see the face of God. Moses was not allowed to see God’s face, but saw only his back (Exod. 33:20, 23; cf. John 1:18, 1 John 4:12), but God’s people have always longed to see the Lord (e.g., Pss. 11:7; 17:15; 27:4; Matt. 5:8; 1 John 3:2; Heb. 12:14). The old priestly blessing/prayer for the Lord to ‘make his face shine on you’ and ‘turn his face toward you’ (Num. 6:25-26) finds its ultimate fulfillment here. God’s people will also bear his ‘name,’ meaning they will belong to him, imitate his character, and live safely in his presence (see 2:17; 3:12; 7:3; 14:1).” [Scott Duvall cited by Akin, 341]
Easley sees this as the second blessing of eternity and calls it “immediate divine presence.” [Easley, 416]
We will be His
“In Exod. 28:36-38 Aaron wore a gold plate on the front of his turban and on his forehead inscribed with the words, ‘Holy to the Lord.’” [Osborne, 774]
We have already seen the sealing of believers with a mark on their forehead throughout Revelation
Rev. 3:12 – victorious saints will have the name of God, the name of New Jerusalem, and Jesus’ name written on their forehead
Rev. 7:3 – an angel is going to “seal the slave of our God on their foreheads”
Rev. 14:1 – the 144,00 have the name of God and Jesus written on their foreheads
The writing of God and Jesus’ name on believers foreheads is an indication of ownership
We are sensitive this kind of imagery, because of the history of slavery in our culture
So, to hear that we are owned by God can make some people cringe and pause
But this is a voluntary submission of ourselves to God and Jesus as our Lord
In ancient times, when a slave was given their freedom, they could voluntarily offer themselves as a bond servant to the owner of the household (this required the servant to have an awl punched through their ear to show everyone that they had voluntarily chosen to be a bond servant)
That is the imagery here for us as bond servants of God and Jesus Christ
Our voluntary submission to God and Jesus, as bond servants, guarantees our safety and protection
The curse of sin is gone
The effects of sin are gone (no more night)
Easley calls this the third blessing of eternity, “eternally guaranteed reward.” [Easley, 416]
Finally, we will reign with God
Reign With God (v. 5b)
This imagery has been spoken of throughout scripture
2 Timothy 2:1-2a, Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.
This is part of a believer’s hope for eternity
It is mentioned in Revelation also about the saints reigning with Christ during His thousand year reign (Rev. 20:4-6)
We can claim the promise that God’s provision is always adequate and on time
While our worship and service here on earth is flawed, we can and should ask the Lord to make any changes needed so that our focus is on worshiping and serving Him
“His Italian mother named him after the gospel writer Mark in the hopes that he too would tell the gospel truth. But 13th Century Europeans found it impossible to believe Mark's tales of faraway lands. He claimed that, when he was only seventeen, he took an epic journey lasting a quarter of a century, taking him across the steppes of Russia, the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, the wastelands of Persia, and over the top of the world through the Himalayas. He was the first European to enter China. Through an amazing set of circumstances, he became a favorite of the most powerful ruler on planet earth, the Kublai Khan. Mark saw cities that made European capitals look like roadside villages. The Khan's palace dwarfed the largest castles and cathedrals in Europe. It was so massive that its banquet room alone could seat 6,000 diners at one time, each eating on a plate of pure gold.
Mark saw the world's first paper money and marveled at the explosive power of gunpowder. It would be the 18th Century before Europe would manufacture as much steel as China was producing in the year 1267. He became the first Italian to taste that Chinese culinary invention, pasta. As an officer of the Khan's court, he travelled to places no European would see for another 500 years.
After serving Kublai Khan for 17 years, Mark began his journey home to Venice, loaded down with gold, silk, and spices. When he arrived home, people dismissed his stories of a mythical place called China. His family priest rebuked him for spinning lies. At his deathbed, his family, friends, and priest begged him to recant his tales of China. But setting his jaw and gasping for breath, Mark spoke his final words, ‘I have not even told you half of what I saw.’
Though 13th Century Europeans rejected his stories as the tales of a liar or lunatic, history has proven the truthfulness behind the book he wrote about his adventures—The Travels of Marco Polo. 1300 years before Marco Polo wrote about China, another man, the Apostle John, went on an amazing journey to heaven itself. At times we jaded postmoderns shake our heads in disbelief at the Apostle John's vision and other biblical witnesses to the glory of heaven. But the biblical writers who describe heaven would declare to us, ‘I have not even told you half of what I saw. Heaven is more joyful, more glorious, and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.’ May their God-inspired testimonies and descriptions move us to long for God's gift to us in Christ—the glory of heaven.”
Dr. Robert Petterson, "All Things New: Our Eternal Home," sermon given at Covenant Presbyterian Church (11-8-09)
God With Us
“For his first sermon in an elementary preaching class, Lawrence, an African student, chose a text describing the joys we'll share when Christ returns and ushers us to our heavenly home.
‘I've been in the United States for several months now,’ he began. ‘I've seen the great wealth that is here—the fine homes and cars and clothes. I've listened to many sermons in churches here, too. But I've yet to hear one sermon about heaven. Because everyone has so much in this country, no one preaches about heaven. People here don't seem to need it. In my country most people have very little, so we preach on heaven all the time. We know how much we need it.’”
Bryan Chapell, The Wonder of It All (Crossway, 1999); quoted in Men of Integrity (January/February 2001)
Lawrence was not lamenting the fact that he didn’t have much, but rather he was rejoicing in what he will have in heaven. And yet, as we’ll see today, there are going to be some things that will not be in heaven.
Doing without growing up
I remember when I was growing up, that we usually only used milk on our cereal, we didn’t drink glasses of milk very often
I also remember not having much soda or pop (depending on where you grew up) – we would have it occasionally when guests came for dinner (it was always a treat)
I’m sure there were other things I didn’t have growing up that other kids my age had
Things I had to do growing up that my children don’t have to do
I had to get up to change the channel on the television, because remotes weren’t invented yet
I had to go to the phone on the wall and use the rotary dial to make a phone call at a per-minute cost, because I didn’t have unlimited cell phone service
I had to go to the library and look through the Encyclopedia for information about anything, because I didn’t have the internet
I had to walk across the yard or down the street to see my friends and connect with them, because I didn’t have a cell phone or social media
I turned out just fine without glasses of milk, a lot of soda, my own Atari system, a remote control, the internet, and a cell phone (of course I have most of things today)
Doing without now
We are very blessed as a family – God has taken care of us in so many ways
While we don’t own a home or any property, God has provided through Idaville Church, a wonderful place for us to call home
We don’t have cable, satellite, or antenna television, and I don’t miss all the commercials and negative news articles
We don’t live around our parents or siblings, so we have to do without those close relationships that others enjoy on a more frequent basis
Things we didn’t have growing up
Let’s all take a moment and remember the things we did without as children growing up – think about the conveniences that have been invented in your lifetime
I’m not having you do this today to make you feel sad or angry
My guess is that many of us have the things, today, that we didn’t have as children
Doing without now
Are there things we’re doing without today, even though we could very easily have them?
Are there things we have today that we could do without?
Seth just told me this week as they’ve been looking at a place to rent, that he and Emily are going BIG!
I didn’t know what that meant at first, but he said that they are considering not having internet at their next place, but only using an antenna for television
John’s vision of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21:22-27 lists four things that will not be in the New Jerusalem. The reason these four things will not be there is because of God’s presence – God will be there and therefore these four things are not needed or present. So, John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – God’s presence provides protection from impurities.
GOD (Revelation 21:22-27)
God’s Presence (vv. 22-24)
No temple needed
This is a continuation of John’s vision concerning all of the dimensions, measurements, and materials used in the New Jerusalem
He has just described for his readers what is included in the New Jerusalem and now he is sharing with them what is not included or seen there
Biblical background concerning God’s presence with His people
Throughout Biblical history we see that God’s presence was found in the form of a cloud that covered a specific meeting place (this was for the Israelites)
Tent of Meeting – Read Exodus 33:7-11
Tabernacle – Read Exodus 40:34-38
Temple – Read 1 Kings 8:1-11
Ezekiel’s vision of the New Temple Area
In Ezekiel 40-46, the prophet explains in great detail the New Temple Area
His vision was obviously in the future and many believe it is talking about the New Jerusalem
While Ezekiel is outlining a New Temple, it does not contradict John’s vision, in Rev. 21:22, of there being no Temple
“For John there is no temple because symbol has given way to reality. The temple is replaced by ‘the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb.’” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 395]
God’s presence will be with His people in a new way
Jesus explained this to the woman at the well
John 4:19-21, “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”
Paul also expressed that the physical temple had been transformed into a spiritual temple found in the lives of every believer (2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21-22)
1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
“We must remember that the major religious feature of the temple was that God resided there. The entire Book of Ezekiel ends with the new name of the eschatological city, ‘the Lord is there’ (48:35). It was his Shekinah presence in the Holy of Holies that made the temple sacred. But now he physically resides among his people (Rev. 21:3), and the entire city has been made into a Holy of Holies.” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 759]
PRINCIPLE – God’s presence will be with His people eternally.
As followers of Jesus Christ we have the presence of God with us through the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit lives within us
We may not always feel like God is with us, but feelings can change so quickly
Many people go to church as a way to “be with God” and there’s nothing wrong with that (the church is certainly a scared place)
Matthew 28:18-20, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
Jesus promised to be with us as we fulfill the Great Commission
God has promised to be with us while we are here on earth
Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Psalm 23:4, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promise that He will be with me here on earth and in eternity.
Just imagine some day when God will be with us both physically and spiritually – He will be the temple, we will be in His presence for eternity – we will be able to say “God is with us!”
With God’s presence in the city, there is no need for any source of light
No light source needed
God’s glory is all the light that’s needed
There will be no sun to light the day or moon to light the night
The prophet Isaiah predicted this, The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end (Isaiah 60:19-20)
We see in scripture that those who were in the presence of God reflected His glory
Read Exodus 34:29-35
Matthew 17:1-3, After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
“If the light of God the Creator has dawned, of what use are the created lights, the sun and the moon? Of what good is their pitiful reflected light when he who is light itself (John 1:5) is present?” [Oswalt cited by Osborne, 761]
The Lamb is its lamp
John spoke, in his Gospel, about Jesus being the light
John 1:9, The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
John 8:12, When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 3:19, This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
This is our human condition – we love darkness instead of light (sin instead of righteousness)
We are born that way from the time that Adam and Eve rebelled against God
God had a plan to deal with the darkness of sin in our lives – it was Jesus!
Jesus was born into this world without the human condition of sin
He lived a perfect life, without sin
Before Jesus came, God required the Israelites to sacrifice a perfect lamb, without blemish, as a way to cover over their sin (not to take it away)
Jesus was the perfect Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world
When He died on the cross, it was the perfect and final sacrifice that God required for sin
Jesus met and fulfilled God’s standard for us
John recorded Jesus’ words in his Gospel, Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12)
The light of life is eternal life
It means our names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life (that information is important, as we’ll see in verse 27)
That is the primary source for any human being that wants to experience living in God’s presence, both physically and spiritually, for eternity
My Next Step Today Is To: Follow Jesus, so I will never have to walk in darkness, but will be able to spend eternity in God’s presence.
Nations will walk in the light of God’s glory and the Lamb’s lamp
The prophet Isaiah spoke about God’s glory and the nations being attracted by it
Isaiah 60:1-5, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.”
The nations will bring their splendor into the New Jerusalem
The “nations” is simply a reference to the fact that the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem will be diverse in culture, language, background, etc.
Believers from every nation will be represented
The splendor that is mentioned here can also be defined as “glory”
Keener (The NIV Application Commentary, Revelation, 498) and Osborne (763) both emphasis that what the nations are bringing into the city is not literal wealth or riches, but rather the glory they had received on earth, and now they are offering it to God, whose glory is far greater still
God’s presence and His glory shining in the New Jerusalem means that we have His protection
God’s Protection (vv. 25-26)
No need for closed gates
The glow of city lights
How many of us are familiar with the glow of city lights on the horizon as we approach the city on the interstate
You know that there are multiple lights shining that produces the glow in the sky
In ancient times the cities were poorly lit, so there wasn’t the same type of glow in the sky that we see today
The need in ancient times to close the city gates
Since light sources were primarily torches and/or oil lamps in ancient times, the streets of the city would be dark
They would shut the city gates every night in order to provide protection for their citizens
Those who lived outside the city knew when the gates would close and they had to be outside the gates before they were shut, otherwise, they would be locked in for the night
Most crime happens under the veil of darkness
People, by nature, don’t want others to see the wrong things they’re doing, so they wait until it’s dark to do those certain things
On March 3, 2019 the introduction I shared for Revelation 20:11-15 was about Dennis Lee Curtis who, as a robber, had a “robber’s code” in his wallet when he was arrested. One of the codes he lived by was that he would only rob at night
One example I’m reminded of, from Scripture, is Judas Iscariot when he left the last supper and then directed the Pharisees and the temple guards to arrest Jesus in the garden – this was done at night
We see in the New Jerusalem that there will be no need to shut the gates on any day, because there will not be any night
God’s glory and the Lamb’s lamp will provide light continually
Evil will not have a time period where it will be able to function outside of God’s glorious light
PRINCIPLE – God will protect His people from evil, forever.
As we learned in Rev. 19 and 20, the beast, the false prophet, Hades, death, and Satan have all been thrown into the lake of burning sulfur – evil is gone
The idea that night is no longer here is another way of saying that evil is vanquished – it’s gone!
This principle is also an incredible promise for us as followers of Jesus Christ
The rod was a heavy stick used to fend off attacking animals – it was used to protect the sheep from being devoured
The staff is the one we think of today with the hook on the end – it was used to pull straying sheep back to the flock
God is protecting us from evil, even while we’re on earth
He is our Good Shepherd – He is protecting us from Satan and his minions and He is pulling us back into relationship with Him and other believers, when we stray
Perhaps you don’t feel like God is protecting you from evil or temptation
You feel like evil and temptation are always right there and you find yourself giving in
Paul encouraged the Corinthian believers with these words, No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
God always provides a way out, but we don’t always take it
“A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbour came by in a canoe and said, ‘The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.’
‘No thanks’ replied the religious man. ‘I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.’
A short time later the police came by in a boat. ‘The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.’
‘No thanks’ replied the religious man. ‘I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.’
A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. ‘The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.’
‘No thanks’ replied the religious man. ‘I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.’
All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, ‘Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.’
‘Yes you did my child’ replied the Lord. ‘And I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.’
So God always provides, but we don’t always recognize it as His provision
Glory and Honor will be brought into the city
With the gates always open, there is unlimited access
There is no need to keep the “inhabitants of the earth” (the title given in Revelation to unbelievers/unrighteous) out, because they have been thrown into the lake of burning sulfur
Isaiah 60:11, Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations – their kings led in triumphal procession.
The nations that are coming, and bringing their glory and honor, are those who are followers of Jesus Christ
“Verse 26 suggests that endlessly in heaven the saints will have opportunity to bring praise to God by offering up to him the best of our accomplishments.” [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 403]
This is a reminder that everything we have accomplished on earth is a result of God’s providential hand at work through us
With evil gone we see the final thing that will not be in the New Jerusalem – any kind of impurity
God’s Purity (v. 27)
John notes two groups that would be considered impure, but this is not an exhaustive list
He is connecting several themes that he has already mentioned earlier in the letter
Those who have done what is shameful
Shameful could also be translated as “abominable”
It would then refer to those who sided with Babylon the Great, the Great Prostitute
John’s imagery in Revelation is that they committed spiritual adultery with her, meaning that they worshiped her instead of God – they gave in to every kind of shameful practice associated with the Great Prostitute
Those who have done what is deceitful
It’s individuals who have done things in a way that was not truthful, leading people down the wrong path
It also includes those who have spoken lies and through that have led people astray
While nothing or no one who is impure will be in the city, the city will be populated by those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life
Those who follow Jesus Christ will have the light of life and will spend eternity in the New Jerusalem where God’s presence will be experienced both physically and spiritually
PRINCIPLE – God’s eternal home will be completely pure.
I hope you’re looking forward to that
Spring is coming and those who garden are already thinking about their gardens
Last year, Sherl Shaffer gave me some great advice about how to keep the weeds under control in our garden (multiple layers of newspaper covered with a thick layer of mushroom soil mulch)
I was able to do that with 3 of the 6 raised beds we have, and it worked wonderfully
The other 3 beds had lots and lots of weeds
I would tell Judy and Pastor Marc that I was going to do some garden therapy
Having to worry about weeds in our gardens is a result of the fall of Adam and Eve
I can’t wait to be part of God’s eternal home that will be completely pure – no weeds!
God is with us
We all know that to be true when it comes to eternity, but we don’t always believe or feel that here on earth
He promises to never leave us or forsake us
Claim that promise for yourself today
God has given us the light of life through His Son Jesus
Jesus explained that we can have the light of life (eternal life) by following Him
If you’ve never made the decision to follow Jesus, I encourage you to do that today
You will experience God’s presence with you here on earth and in eternity someday
How we react to hardships and difficulties shows the world what we truly believe about God – have we really claimed the promises that God is with us and that He will protect us from evil and temptation?
Our testimony through our actions and words could be what draws our family, friends, and coworkers toward a relationship with God – as they see the glory of God reflected in and through us, they will be drawn to it
“The sense that we will live forever somewhere has shaped every civilization in human history. Australian aborigines pictured Heaven as a distant island beyond the western horizon. The early Finns thought it was a distant island in the far away east. Mexicans, Peruvians, and Polynesians believed that they went to the sun or the moon after death. Native Americans believed that, in the afterlife, their spirits would hunt the spirits of buffalo.
The Gilgamesh epic, an ancient Babylonian legend, refers to a resting place of heroes and hints at a tree of life. In the pyramids of Egypt, the embalmed bodies had maps placed beside them as guides to the future world. The Romans believed that the righteous would picnic in the Elysian Fields, while their horses grazed nearby. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, ‘The day thou fearest as the last is the birthday of eternity.’
Although these depictions of the afterlife differ, the unifying testimony of the human heart throughout history is belief in life after death. Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal—that this world is not all there is.”
Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Tyndale, 2004); submitted by Bill White, Paramount, California.
Gold at the End of the Rainbow
Like many of you, I drive to work every day. And because this commute has become so routine to me, I tend not to think too much about it. My mind switches to autopilot as I make my way to work.
But the other day, during my daily commute, I realized suddenly just how amazing this activity, which I so often take for granted, really is. I sit comfortably in the front of this machine, and by simply adjusting the angle of my foot, propel myself at incredible speeds from one point to the next. Imagine how far this technology has come.
Could you imagine someone from 100 years ago suddenly finding themselves here today, looking at one of our vehicles? Wouldn’t they be amazed? Imagine the mingling feelings of confusion and wonder as they watch cars zipping by on the nearby road. Things have changed so much in just a hundred years!
As incredible as human progress has been, even just in recent centuries, it all pales in comparison to the drastic difference between what we know now and the New Jerusalem, which John describes in stunning detail in Revelation 21:9-21.
BIG IDEA: What God has in store for us, His people, is unbelievably beautiful.
In this passage, John is given a vision of the New Jerusalem, and he describes to us the structure of this city as well as the materials of which it’s made.
Today, we’re going to talk about the vision, the structure, and the materials, and what each of these reveals to us about God and His people.
VISION (v. 9-10)
Angel (v. 9)
Principle #1: Eternal life with God is the fulfillment of all of His promises to His people.
My Next Step #1: Consider how God has fulfilled (and is fulfilling) His promises in the world and in my life.
Materials (v. 11, 18-21)
(v. 18): “The wall was made of jasper..”
Due to the limitations of language and his own understanding, John may not actually be talking about Jasper.
Mounce notes that “In antiquity, the designation ‘jasper’ was used for any opaque precious stone,” so the reference could be to any of a number of stones.
Both Mounce and Courson (and many other scholars) agree that the description, “clear as crystal,” would suggest that the stone John is attempting to reference is actually a diamond.
So what is the significance of this stone? Why a diamond?
Courson helps us to understand the metaphorical value of this stone: “A diamond would be a fitting description of the city wherein dwells the Church--not because as the bride of Christ we deserve diamonds, but because, like diamonds we are simply chunks of worthless coal made brilliant by heat and pressure.”
1 Peter 4:12-13 elaborates on this truth.
Like a diamond shines only as it reflects the light around it, we as the Church shine only when we reflect the glory and presence of God around us.
Precious Stones (Foundations)
(v.19-20) “The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone…”
Each of the 12 precious stones decorating the foundations of the city is named.
These include: Jasper, Sapphire, Agate, Emerald, Onyx, Ruby, Chrysolite, Beryl, Topaz, Turquoise, Jacinth, and Amethyst.
Some have attempted to interpret the meaning of each stone, but I won’t. What I will consider, however, is the significance of this particular grouping of stones.
Osborne presents 3 theories, which we will consider.
Theories Regarding the Precious Stones:
Connection to the High Priest’s breastplate
8 of the 12 stones listed are also among those worn on the breastplate of the High priest, as mentioned in Exodus 28 and 36.
The 4 stones which differ between the two lists can be explained by limitations of language (the same stone having different names, etc.) or knowledge at the time (maybe the true stone had not been discovered at the time).
Mounce believes that this similarity to the breastplate of the High Priest suggests that “the privileges reserved for the high priest alone under the old covenant are now freely given to the entire people of God.”
Possible connection to Zodiac
The list of stones here in John’s description of the New Jerusalem is the exact reverse order of the 12 jewels linked with the 12 signs of the Zodiac in ancient Egyptian and Arabic lists.
Osborne sees this as indicating John’s intentional rejection of any “pagan speculations about the ‘city of the gods’ behind the celestial city.”
Due to the difference with the signs of the zodiac and the breast plate of the high priest, we cannot be certain of either, and it is best to see this list as a general depiction of the glory of the people of God, of many different types, and yet reflecting God’s glory.
Though none of these theories is definitive, the connection to the High Priest has clear implications.
In Revelation 1:6, 5:10, and 20:6, God’s people are portrayed as priests of God.
So this is how God views us according to His covenant through Christ
This means that we, like the High Priest, have direct access to God at all times.
(v.21) “The 12 gates were 12 pearls, each gate made of a single pearl.”
In the ancient world, pearls held incredible worth and were considered the most luxurious of all jewels.
We see an indication of this in Matthew 13:45-46, in which Jesus tells of a man who sold everything he had to possess a single pearl.
Courson again attempts to draw out some significance regarding the use of this particular material:
“The pearl represents God’s people. How do I know? In Matthew 13, Jesus told the sotry of a man who sold everytying to purchase a pearl. That’s just what Jesus did. He gave everything He had--even His very life--to purchase us. This makes us the pearl--a fitting description, since a pearl is nothing more than an irritating grain of sand or a tiny parasite coated by the lustrous nacre of an oyster. We’re irritating indeed, parasitic beyond question. But God robes us and covers us and thereby makes us trophies in order that all of creation throughout eternity might marvel at His grace.”
Gold (City and Street)
(v. 9) “...city of pure gold…”
(v. 21) “The great street of the city was of gold…”
Here on earth, gold is extremely valuable, but in heaven, gold is used as casually as asphalt.
“Whatever you value most on earth,” says Courson, “will be as commonplace as asphalt in comparison to the glory of the New Jerusalem.”
This also reminds us of the priests of the Old Testament (1 Kings 6:30) who ministered in the Temple. (Mounce)
Like them, the servants of God in the New Jerusalem walk upon gold.
This is yet another reference to our priestly status in God’s city.
When God looks at His people, He sees priest in His Kingdom.
The presence of gems, pearls, gold together
Similarity to Isaiah 54:11-12
In this passage, which speaks of “gates of sparkling jewels” and “walls of precious stones,” Isaiah is describing the restoration and transformation of the “daughter of Zion” from abandonment and fear to fulfillment and joy.
The desolate city in this passage is transformed into a city decorated with gold and jewels, the bride of Yahweh.
The serves as an incredibly apt metaphor for the life of one who has been redeemed by Christ, and even more so as the redeemed Church.
Connection to the prostitue of Babylon
The prostitute of Babylon is described in Revelation 17:4 and 18:16 as wearing “gold, precious stones, and pearls,” the same elements we see composing the New Jerusalem.
The distinction, however, lies in the statement, found in Rev. 18:6, that “in one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin.”
Here we are reminded of the elements which distinguish the prostitute from the bride.
The prostitute (the world) tempts us with instant gratification, which ultimately won’t last nor satisfy.
What God offers through Christ, however, is the long-term, intmate relationship enjoyed exclusively by a wife.
This adds to our understanding of God’s faithfulness, as well as the security and intimacy He offers us.
Principle #2: When God looks at you, He sees something precious, valuable, beautiful, and capable of reflecting HIs glory.
My Next Step #2: Reflect upon how God sees me as an individual and us as the Church.
“In the 2007 film The Bucket List, two terminally ill men—played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman—take a road trip to do the things they always said they would do before they ‘kicked the bucket.’ In anticipation of the film's release, Nicholson was interviewed for an article in Parade magazine. While reflecting on his personal life, Nicholson said:
I used to live so freely. The mantra for my generation was ‘Be your own man!’ I always said, ‘Hey, you can have whatever rules you want—I'm going to have mine. I'll accept the guilt. I'll pay the check. I'll do the time.’ I chose my own way. That was my philosophical position well into my 50s. As I've gotten older, I've had to adjust.
But reality has a way of getting the attention of even a Jack Nicholson. Later in the interview, Nicholson adds:
We all want to go on forever, don't we? We fear the unknown. Everybody goes to that wall, yet nobody knows what's on the other side. That's why we fear death.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we do know what’s on the other side! It’s our eternal home. In fact we will feel more at home than we have ever felt before. John explains vividly what that eternal home is like in Revelation 21 and 22, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I enjoy taking a vacation and spending time in other parts of the country
We’ve been blessed to see much of the United States as a family
But there’s something about coming home
After being gone for a week or two, it’s good to get home and climb into my own bed
I enjoy getting back into a regular routine
It’s comforting to know where everything is
It’s nice to just sit on the couch and enjoy watching some television or reading a book
I can just relax, because I’m home
Perhaps we’re all the same
We enjoy taking a vacation, but we also look forward to getting back to the comforts of our own homes
Some people talk about taking a vacation from their vacation, so they can get stuff done around the house (others take “staycations”)
Hospital and/or nursing home stays
Some of us have had lengthy stays in the hospital, rehab center, or a nursing home
When I visit people in those settings, inevitably they share their desire to go home
As family members, who take care of those in the hospital or a nursing home, we know how our loved one wants to be at home instead of there
Even those who are nearing death will express their desire to be at home when they die
We can all agree that there is just something comforting about being in our own home, where we can let our guard down and just be ourselves
There are some incredible parallels and differences between the beginning of the Bible (Genesis 1-3) and the end of the Bible (Revelation 21-22) [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 326 and Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Volume 2, 621].
Heaven and earth created (1:1)
New heaven and earth recreated (21:1)
Sun created (1:16)
No need of the sun (21:23)
The night established (1:5)
No night there (22:5)
The seas created (1:10)
No more seas (21:1)
The curse announced (3:14-17)
No more curse (22:3)
Death enters history (3:19)
Death exits history (21:4)
Man driven from paradise (3:24)
Man restored to paradise (22:14)
Sorrow and pain begin (3:17)
Sorrow, tears, and pain end (21:4)
The Devil appears (3:1)
The Devil disappears (20:10)
John explains that a time is coming when we will live with God in a perfected state. The effects of sin will no longer be around, because God will make everything new. While none of us have ever experienced what the Garden of Eden was like, in its perfection, we will one day enjoy that perfection forever. John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – We will live for eternity in “Eden” (paradise).
GOD (Revelation 21:1-8)
Made new (vv. 1-2, 5a)
What John sees in verses 1-2 and then hears in verse 5a is that everything is being made new
It’s kind of a small chiastic structure with verses 1-2 and verse 5a both using the word “new”
The center of the structure would then be what we find in verses 3-4 and we’ll get to that in just a minute
John sees a new heaven and a new earth
In Revelation 20:11 we saw that the earth and sky fled from Jesus’ presence when He sat on the great white throne to judge
We now see this restated again in the fact that the first heaven and the first earth had passed away
There are two lines of thought concerning whether God will renovate/renew or completely recreate/replace heaven and earth
Those who hold to the belief that God will renovate the current heaven and earth use Romans 8:18-23
Read Romans 8:18-23
All of creation is waiting to be liberated from the effects of sin, so it makes it sound like once they’re liberated they will return to their original state
It’s a renovation – getting rid of the old and restoring it to its former glory and perfection
While we certainly understand the reason behind why there needs to be a new earth, why does there need to be a new a heaven
Courson and Wiersbe both point to Job 15:15 to help us understand that even the heavens are not pure in God’s eyes
The spiritual realm is the unseen part of this world, which would encompass the heavens
In the book of Job we see that Satan appears before God (God asks him where he has been)
He’s been going throughout the earth
So, a new heaven is in order, because Satan has polluted it just like he did with the earth
Now when we talk about heaven in this sense, we are not talking about God’s eternal, perfected home
That’s what we’ll see next
But before we get there, we have to look at the second line of thought
If we take Rev. 21:1 literally, in light of how we would define “passing away,” then a totally new creation would have to take place
Isaiah 65:17, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”
Taken literally, it seems as though a new heaven and earth with be created, replacing the old heaven and earth
The previous heaven and earth will not even be remembered anymore
2 Peter 3:10-11a, But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way . . .
While there are passages in Scripture that speak of a refining fire that would renew by burning off the impurities, it seems like the fire Peter is talking about is more intense than just a refining fire
Peter seems to be talking about total destruction of the old heaven and earth
While scholars may disagree about whether God will renew or replace the old heaven and earth, they do agree that God will provide a new reality that is perfected, without the “discoloration by sin” [Akin, 328]
“As the new covenant is superior to and replaces the old (Heb 8:7-13), so the new heaven and earth provide a setting for the new and eternal state.” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 381]
Why would John mention that a body of water is no longer around? (that’s what most of us would think when reading it literally)
We have to remember how John’s audience would have understood this reference to the sea
A little Biblical background can help us
Isaiah 57:20, But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.
Revelation 13:1, 6-7, And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name . . . He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
The original readers of this letter, in John’s day, saw the sea as a place where evil resided – they were fearful about the sea, especially when it was unsettled
Osborne cites Beale’s work on the five uses of “sea” in the book of Revelation – 1) the origin of evil, 2) the nations that persecute the saints, 3) the place of the dead, 4) the location of the world’s idolatrous trade activity, and 5) a body of water, part of this world [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 730-31]
Osborne concludes that the reason John mentions the sea in this passage is for us to understand that evil will not be a part of the new heaven and new earth – that will all pass away [Osborne, 731]
The old order of things have passed away and John has seen the new order established
With the new order established, John now sees the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God
The Holy City, the new Jerusalem
Once again, scholars see two primary viewpoints concerning what is represented by the new Jerusalem
An actual city
The Holy City of Jerusalem was defiled during Old Testament times and was renewed
The Antichrist and his hordes will also defile it during their short reign
Matthew 24:14-16, And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
The description of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21:9-21 makes it sound like it is an actual city with walls and a foundation
“The perfect passive participle of the verb hetoimazō, meaning ‘prepare’ or ‘make ready,’ calls to mind the promise of the Lord to his disciples, ‘I am going there to prepare a place for you’ (John 14:2). The perfect passive participle indicates that this place, having been prepared, now descends, looking like a bride prepared for her husband.” [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 363]
Throughout Revelation, Babylon the Great, that great prostitute, has been used to identify political and religious evil that will flourish during the reign of Antichrist (the political and religious evil is carried out by human beings)
The fact that the new Jerusalem is identified as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband is in direct contrast to Babylon the Great, and expresses the purity and holiness of God’s people
Some scholars connect the bride of Christ imagery found here with the bride imagery found in Revelation 19:6-8 (where it is more obvious that the bride represents God’s saints, His people, Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)
There is no reason why the new Jerusalem cannot represent both an actual city and the people who live there
“Just as Babylon in Revelation represents the people of Rome and not simply its location, and just as ‘Jerusalem’ in the Old Testament usually included the people and not simply the site, ‘new Jerusalem’ undoubtedly includes the people of God.” [Keener, The NIV Application Commentary, Revelation, 486]
While there may be discussion about whether or not it represents a place or people, the fact that it comes from God and not humans is without question
Coming down out of heaven from God
God is the One who has been preparing our eternal home
He, at one time, would walk and talk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day through the Garden of Eden
When sin entered the world, He had to separate Himself, physically, from this world
Now we see that, with sin and its effects gone, God is returning to His original plan of having earth as the eternal home of His people [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 394]
That is first part of the matching units in the chiastic structure
The second part is found in the first half of verse 5
John hears God speaking from His throne
We see again the word “new”
John has already seen the new heaven, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem, but now He hears it directly from God, Himself
God created the new Jerusalem and has sent it down to earth
God is reaffirming what John saw when He says, “I am making everything new!”
While there is discussion about what the new Jerusalem represents, the greater point of this passage, and the center of the chiastic structure, is that God will live with His people again
God with us (vv. 3-4, 5b-7)
John first saw something, but now he hears something too
A loud voice (v. 3)
We’ve seen this concept of the loud voice before
The significance of the loud voice is that it will be clear what is being said, no one will misunderstand
Everyone will hear it, no one will miss out
This voice is coming from the throne, but it is not God speaking, because we saw in the first half of verse 5 that God speaks there and in verses 6-8
This is perhaps an angel, one of the four living creatures, or one of the 24 elders that are surrounding the throne – we’re not told
The message is a message of hope for all followers of Jesus Christ
The message (v. 3)
PRINCIPLE – God promises to physically live with His people again.
The Greek word for dwelling is skēnē (skay-nay’) and literally means “tent” or “tabernacle”
God made a promise to the Israelites if they were obedient to Him
Leviticus 26:11-12, I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
We see throughout the exodus from Egypt and into the building of the Temple in Jerusalem that God’s presence was with His people through His Shekinah glory
His presence was evident through a pillar of fire at night and a cloud during the day as they wandered through the desert
At Mt. Sinai His presence covered the top of the mountain with a cloud
At the Temple in Jerusalem His presence descended in the form of a cloud
At Jesus’ transfiguration, God’s presence was in the form of a cloud
While God showed His presence through His Shekinah glory in Old Testament times, in the New Testament times He came to physically dwell among humanity for a short time
Jesus was God in the flesh
John 1:14, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God came to dwell among us, through Jesus Christ, so that He could fulfill His redemptive plan for humanity
Jesus was born as a baby, grew up to be a man, ministered throughout Palestine for three years, willingly gave His life on the cross to take our punishment for sin, was buried, and came alive again in three days (all to fulfill God’s plan)
“God will no longer dwell high and lifted up above his people but will now ‘tabernacle’ in their midst.” [Osborne, 734]
This is a fulfillment of Leviticus 26:11-12
It’s also not a temporary dwelling, but a permanent and eternal dwelling with His people
We will live for eternity in “Eden” (paradise).
We will be His people and He will be our God
About half of the English translations of the Bible have “peoples” instead of “people”
John uses the plural (laoi) here unlike all the other OT and NT passages that use the singular (laos)
The significance of this is that John seems to be indicating that God’s people, in the new heaven and new earth, will be from every nation – a diverse group of people
This will be a fulfillment of prophecy through Zechariah
Zechariah 2:11, “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.
This should not come as a surprise to us, since we already know that there are followers of Jesus Christ around the world
What an incredible day it will be to have God dwelling with us, physically (we will see Him face-to-face)
As if, that isn’t enough, we see in verses 4 and 5b-7 the benefits associated with that
The benefits of God dwelling with us (vv. 4, 5b-7)
The effects of sin are gone (v. 4)
PRINCIPLE – God will remove the effects of sin
God will wipe every tear from our eyes
Think about God taking a handkerchief and gently wiping every tear from your eyes
This reminds me of a father caring for his child when they’re hurt
These would be tears shed on earth as a result of suffering for the name of Christ, but also tears from pain experienced on earth
No more death
We already know that death has been thrown into the lake of burning sulfur
With death removed there will no longer be any mourning or crying
“Death is only a comma to a Christian – not a period!” [Adrian Rogers cited by Akin, 329]
No more pain
Think for a moment of everything that you have been through in this life, so far
There are all kinds of painful situations that we have experienced that cause us to mourn and cry
The loss of a child (either before birth, after birth, or as a teenager or adult)
A spouse that has been unfaithful
The death of a parent
A loved one that has turned away from the Lord or has never turned to the Lord
Financial, emotional, physical, and relational struggles and pain
All of that will be no more, because the old order of things has passed away
That’s what we see when God speaks and tells John to write down the words found in verses 6-8
The words are trustworthy and true
We can take it to the bank
We can believe God’s words with every fiber of our being
God is faithful, He’s kept every promise He’s made
The promise He makes first is that it is done!
It is done (v. 6a)
God as completed everything that He set out to do
Every one of His promises have been fulfilled
“There are in a sense three stages: At the cross Jesus said, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30), meaning God’s redemptive plan for his sacrificial death. Then in Rev. 16:17 the voice from the throne said, ‘It is over,’ meaning that the events of the eschaton ending this present evil order are finished (cf. 10:6; 11:15, 18; 12:10; 15:1). Finally, God here says ‘They are over,’ meaning that all the events of world history – including the world’s destruction and the inauguration of the final new age – are at an end.” [Osborne, 738]
Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End
God was there at the creation of this world and He will be there at the end of it
God will also be there at the beginning of the new heaven and new earth and will live with His people for all eternity
God said this of Himself at the beginning of Revelation
Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Water of life (6b)
This is another benefit of having God dwelling with us
The tree of life will be a part of the new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem
The river of life will run through the city and we will have access to this water
PRINCIPLE – God promises eternal life to those who seek it.
John 7:37-38, On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
“What does a thirsty man do to get rid of his thirst? He drinks. Perhaps there is no better representation of faith in all the Word of God than that. . . . So, dear Soul, whatever your state may be, you can surely receive Christ, for He comes to you like a cup of cold water! (“Good News”) [Charles Spurgeon cited by Akin, 331]
Notice that it takes initiative on our part to quench our thirst – we have to come
Also notice that there is no cost for drinking from the spring of the water of life
This is the first of three images used concerning salvation, the second is the idea of an inheritance
An inheritance is something that is given to those who are part of the family
This inheritance includes drinking from the spring of the water of life and having the effects of sin removed, but it also includes what is mentioned in each of the seven letters to the churches [Akin, 332]
Rev. 2:7 – Ephesus – Access to the tree of life
Rev. 2:11 – Smyrna – Not be hurt by second death
Rev. 2:17 – Pergamum – Given hidden manna, a white stone, and a new name
Rev. 2:26-27 – Thyatira – Authority over the nations and the morning star
Rev. 3:5 – Sardis – Clothed in white garments, name never blotted out of the book of life, Christ will confess you before His Father and His angels
Rev. 3:12 – Philadelphia – Pillar in the temple of My God, write on you the name of My God, the name of the new Jerusalem, and My own new name
Rev. 3:21 – Laodicea – Sit with Me on My throne
“After the great Chicago fire of 1871, evangelist Dwight L. Moody went back to survey the ruins of his house. A friend came by and said to Moody, ‘I hear you lost everything.’ ‘Well,’ said Moody, ‘you understood wrong. I have a good deal more left than I lost.’ ‘What do you mean?’ the inquisitive friend asked. ‘I didn’t know you were that rich.’ Moody then opened his Bible and read to him Revelation 21:7 – ‘He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God.’” [Wiersbe, 622]
The third image solidifies the second image
Adoption into God’s family (7b)
God promises to be our God and we will be His children
Romans 8:15, 23, For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” . . . Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Galatians 4:4-5, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
We know that God will be with those who have overcome, but He will be separated from those who gave in
Separated from God (v. 8)
We see a short list, that is not exhaustive, of those who will be separated from God, the new heaven and earth, and the new Jerusalem
PRINCIPLE – Living with God means bravely embracing His ways instead of the ways of the world.
It is important to note that what John is writing here is still coming from God – He is the One that’s saying that hell exists and that individuals choose to go there
Cowardly – those who deny Christ openly when confronted with persecution (rootless ones in the parable of the sower in Matt. 13:21, when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away)
Unbelieving – unfaithful and lacking in trust
Vile – abominable acts, like worshiping beast/emperor
Murderers – those who killed the saints
Sexually immoral – spiritually and physically immoral
Magic arts – deceptive tools of demons
Idolaters – worshipers of any false god
All liars – false prophets, those who falsely claim to follow the truth
Their eternal destination is the fiery lake of burning sulfur, which is the second death
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim the promise that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I will live for eternity with God in “Eden” (paradise).
My Next Step Today Is To: Receive eternal life and the promised inheritance by becoming God’s child through adoption. (Read John 1:12-13)
“He was just a little fellow. His mother died when he was just a child. His father, in trying to be both mommy and daddy, had planned a picnic. The little boy had never been on a picnic, so they made their plans, fixed the lunch, and packed the car. Then it was time to go to bed, for the picnic was the next day. He just couldn't sleep. He tossed and he turned, but the excitement got to him. Finally, he got out of bed, ran into the room where his father had already fallen asleep, and shook him. His father woke up and saw his son. He said to him, ‘What are you doing up? What's the matter?”
The boy said, ‘I can't sleep.’
The father asked, ‘Why can't you sleep?’
In answering, the boy said, ‘Daddy, I'm excited about tomorrow.’
His father replied, ‘Well, Son, I'm sure you are, and it's going to be a great day, but it won't be great if we don't get some sleep. So why don't you just run down the hall, get back in bed, and get a good night's rest.’
So the boy trudged off down the hall to his room and got in bed. Before long, sleep came--to the father, that is. It wasn't long thereafter that back was the little boy. He was pushing and shoving his father, and his father opened his eyes. Harsh words almost blurted out until he saw the expression on the boy's face. The father asked, ‘What's the matter now?’
The boy said, ‘Daddy, I just want to thank you for tomorrow.’
When I think of my past and the fact that a loving Father would not let me go, reached down in his divine providence, and lifted me off of the streets of Harlem, when I think of what he has done for me and then think that he is planning a new thing for me that will surpass the past, let the record show this night in this place that Benjamin Reaves testified, Father, I want to thank you for tomorrow!”
“In Words We Live By, Brian Burrell tells of an armed robber named Dennis Lee Curtis who was arrested in 1992 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Curtis apparently had scruples about his thievery. In his wallet the police found a sheet of paper on which was written the following code:
This thief had a sense of morality, but it was flawed. When he stood before the court, he was not judged by the standards he had set for himself but by the higher law of the state.
Likewise when we stand before God, we will not be judged by the code of morality we have written for ourselves but by God's perfect law.”
I’ve probably shared this personal story with you before
I was traveling back from the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Ohio’s, Christian Youth In Action training at Cedarville University, when I got stopped by a local police officer in a small town
I knew the speed limit through the small town was 25 miles per hour (MPH) and had been going that speed until I saw the 35 MPH sign
What I didn’t know was that the local police officer was sitting right before the 35 MPH sign
Long story, short, he cited me for speeding
I took the citation and finished my trip home
In my humanness, I could have asked God why He allowed that to happen to me, because I was returning from helping young people learn how to teach children about Him – I was doing something good
I went back to pay the fine in person and tried to convince the clerk that I didn’t need to pay the court fees, because I wasn’t going to court to contest it
I obviously didn’t understand how the court system works – I guess it still had to come before the judge, so they had to charge the court fees
Changing the oil or working on the car
I’m doing a good thing when I change the oil in my car, but I don’t wear my best clothes to do it
There are certain clothes that I wear when I’m working on our cars, especially when I’m changing the oil
They are stained from previous use for the same purpose
Even though they have been washed, I still consider them to be filthy
They also have holes in them and could be referred to as rags
I’m doing good things while wearing these filthy rags
We all probably have some filthy rags we wear?
Perhaps we all wear certain clothes when we clean the house or work in the yard
Maybe we have certain clothes we wear to mow the lawn or work on our vehicles
All of us have perhaps questioned God in the past about why He allowed something difficult to come into our lives while we were doing something good
It’s easy to question God, when we’re returning from helping at the food pantry and our car breaks down
Maybe we took someone to a doctor’s appointment and then we find out a week later at our doctor’s appointment that we are dealing with some medical condition of our own
God doesn’t accept us solely on the good things we have done, but on the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for us on the cross
God sees us through the righteousness of Jesus Christ
Our good deeds are an expression and result of the transformational power of the Gospel
We do good, because we love God, not to gain favor with Him
What John sees after Satan is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur is the judgment of the dead, which would include those who were just devoured by fire from heaven. Some books are opened that probably contained all of the deeds they had done. But those deeds didn’t cut it. Their name had to be found in the Book of Life. John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Our “righteousness” falls short.
God’s judgment isn’t based on whether or not our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds. Isaiah 64:6 says, All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Our own “righteousness” isn’t sufficient to avoid God’s judgment and eternal punishment.
GOD (Revelation 20:11-15)
Judge (v. 11)
Great white throne
The Greek word μέγαν (megan) has been used throughout the book of Revelation
It is referring to something that is large or loud
A loud voice
This is the throne where the final eternal judgment will be handed down
Perhaps the word “great” is used to differentiate it from the thrones mentioned in Revelation 20:4
It is also possible that this throne was much larger than those thrones, because of who is sitting on the throne and the task they will have in judging humanity
This throne has great significance as does the color associated with it
Most scholars agree that the color is representative of the purity of the One sitting on it
The One sitting there is holy, pure, without blemish
That is why they are able to judge humanity
It also represents the glory and majesty of the One occupying this throne
The color white has been used to represent purity and holiness throughout the book of Revelation
Rev. 1:14 – Christ has white hair
Rev. 14:14 – Christ sits on a white cloud
Rev. 19:11 Christ returns on a white horse
Rev. 4:4 – celestial beings wear white
Rev. 3:4, 5; 6:11; 7:9, 13 – the triumphant saints wear white
Rev. 19:14 – the saints return with Christ on white horses
We are given a description of the throne, but not the One who is sitting there
God/Jesus seated there
Because of the description of the throne, we know that only two individuals could occupy it – God and Jesus
PRINCIPLE – God is holy (God the Father or Son of God)
1 Samuel 2:2, “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”
That God is holy, means that He is completely pure, without sin
The same is true of Jesus Christ, He is completely pure, without blemish, which is why He was the only One who could take our punishment for sin
2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
That’s the awesome reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
We cannot take care of our sin problem on our own, we have to have a substitute
Jesus willingly took our place on the cross – He bore all of our sin in His body on the cross
Because of that ultimate, selfless, sacrifice on the cross, God sees us as righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ, when we repent of our sins, turn to Him and follow Him
That’s why He is able to sit on the great white throne and judge justly, because He is holy!
Is it God or Jesus sitting on the great white throne?
Naturally we would answer that it is God sitting on the throne
Because the Father and the Son are One, we could say that they are both sitting on the throne
Jesus sitting on the throne to judge has some great Biblical backing
John 5:22, 26-27, Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, . . . For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
Acts 10:42, He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.
2 Timothy 4:1, In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:
There are other passages as well that talk about Jesus being the One who is given authority to judge
While John simply mentions him who was seated on it, we can know with confidence that he is referring to Jesus
As this scene unfolds, we see that the Earth and sky flee from his presence
Earth and sky flee
“The Morgan sea gypsies are a small tribe of 181 fishermen who spend much of the year on their boats fishing in the Andaman Sea from India to Indonesia and back to Thailand. In December, though, they live in shelters on the beaches of Thailand. In December 2004, in the hours before the killer Tsunami crashed ashore, the Morgan sea gypsies were living on those beaches. They were in harm's way and would have likely all perished—had they not listened to their elders.
For generations, the elders of the tribe had passed along one piece of wisdom. The tribe's 65-year-old village chief Sarmao Kathalay says, “The elders told us that if the water recedes fast it will reappear in the same quantity in which it disappeared.”
And that is exactly what happened. The sea drained quickly from the beach, leaving stranded fish flopping on the shore. How easy it would have been for those who live off of the sea to run down where the water had been minutes ago and fill every basket available with fish. Some people did just that in other areas of South Thailand. Not the Morgan sea gypsies. When the water receded from the beach, the tribal chief ordered every one of the 181 tribal members to run to a temple in the mountains of South Surin Island. When the waters crashed ashore, the 181 sea gypsies were safe on high ground.” (Craig Brian Larson, Arlington Heights, Illinois; source: "How 'Sea Gypsies' Survived the Tsunami," Associated Press, as seen in) [https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2005/january/15717.html]
No place to hide
When the sixth seal was opened, the inhabitants of the earth hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountain
Read Revelation 6:12-17
“John sees a great white throne and One seated on it from whom the earth and sky fled away, and yet there was in the end no place to seek asylum. The One who sits on the throne is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. One cannot avoid the presence of an omnipresent God nor seek asylum from an omniscient and omnipotent God.” [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 359]
There will be no place for unbelievers to hide from the judgment of God
Preparation for the new heaven and the new earth
That’s what John sees next in Revelation 21
Isaiah 51:6, Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies, my righteousness will never fail.
Read Romans 8:18-22
2 Peter 3:10-12, But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
John tells us that there was no place for the Earth and sky to go – judgment and destruction has come
We see from verse 11 that Jesus is the Judge, but who is being judged and what are they being judged on?
Judgment (vv. 12-13)
Who all is being judged?
There are two beliefs that we’ll look at briefly
The minority belief
They believe that both believers and unbelievers are being judged at the great white throne
They point to the book of life being mentioned in verse 12 as one indicator that it is talking about believers and then verse 13 would be referring to unbelievers
They also reference Revelation 20:4 as only the martyrs being raised to life to reign with Christ for a thousand years
So, where is the judgment of the believers?
The majority belief
Most scholars hold to the belief that only unbelievers are being judged at the great white throne
They distinguish between the “Judgment Seat of Christ” (The Bema Seat of Judgment) and the “Great White Throne Judgment”
They use Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; and 2 Corinthians 5:10 as references to the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers
They definitely believe that all of humanity will stand in judgment before Jesus Christ, but they only see unbelievers represented in Revelation 20:12-13
There is also the idea that when it is speaking about the dead, it is referring to the spiritually dead (unbelievers)
I lean towards the majority belief, that only unbelievers are being judged at the Great White Throne Judgment
If we remove the modern Bible translation paragraph headings and read it like John’s audience would have, then what we find in the context is important
The vast, innumerable army that Satan rallies after being released from the Abyss are all devoured by fire from heaven
Satan in thrown into the lake of burning sulfur with the beast and the false prophet, then John sees the great white throne and Jesus sitting in judgment
It seems in the context that Jesus immediately judges those who have been devoured by fire from heaven
It is these spiritually dead, together with the spiritually dead who physically died in the past, that are being judged
PRINCIPLE – We will all stand before Jesus in judgment.
So, whether the great white throne judgment is only unbelievers or both believers and unbelievers, the principle remains the same
We see this Matthew 25:31-33, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
We’ll see more of Jesus’ teaching about this in just a moment
There is no escape from judgment – no one is exempt
Dead standing before the throne (vv. 12a, 13a)
It seems logical that the dead mentioned in verse 12a are referring to those who have just been devoured by the fire from heaven
Then in verse 13a we see unbelievers, who physically died in the past, being resurrected for their final judgment
It doesn’t matter if they died by drowning in the sea, without their body being recovered, or if they died on land and had a proper burial
From wherever they died, they will be resurrected to stand before the great white throne and Jesus Christ
John also sees that some books are opened
Books were opened
One of the books is identified as the book of life, which will play an important role when unbelievers are punished in verse 15
The other books are not specifically identified
The fact that “books” is plural means that there are multiple books being referenced
Some commentators identify them as the “books of works” simply because the unbelievers are being judged based on what they had done
That’s what we see in the second half of verses 12 and 13
Judged according to what they had done (vv. 12b, 13b)
Let’s return, then, to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25
We already know from Jesus’ teaching in verses 31-33 that everyone, both believers and unbelievers, will stand before His throne and He will separate them
What we see next is Jesus addressing those on his right, first, then those on his left
The righteous (Matt. 25:34-40)
He calls those on his right blessed and invites them to enjoy the kingdom prepared for them since the creation of the world
He then lists the things they had done for Him without even thinking about it (fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, invited strangers in, clothed the naked, looked after the sick, and visited prisoners)
The righteous wonder when they had done these things for the Lord and he tells them that if they have done it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters, they did it to him
The unrighteous (Matt. 25:41-45)
Those on his left he calls cursed and tells them to leave him and enter into the eternal fire prepared for them
Their deeds did not include feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, inviting strangers in, clothing the naked, or visiting the incarcerated
The king tells them that if they did not do it to one of the least of these, they did not do it to him
The final verse of Matt. 25 says, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (v. 46)
PRINCIPLE – Jesus will judge unbelievers on their own righteousness.
When unbelievers stand before Jesus at the great white throne, they will be judged on their own righteous acts
Unfortunately, they will realize that their righteous acts are nothing more than filthy rags in Jesus’ eyes
Our good deeds, our righteous acts are not what gets us into heaven, where we will have eternal life
Our name has to be written in the book of life
John 14:6, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
God’s standard requires a perfect sacrifice for sin
Jesus was that perfect sacrifice
No human being is perfect, because we are all born with a “want to” to sin
Romans 3:10-12, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Romans 5:8-11, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Our names will be written in the book of life if we believe that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life
My Next Step Today Is To: Repent of my sins and believe in Jesus as the way and the truth and the life.
If we decide to reject God’s perfect plan of reconciliation, then we will stand before Jesus some day and be judged on our own righteousness
Our “righteousness” falls short.
Once the verdict comes down, “guilty,” then the punishment is announced
Punishment (vv. 14-15)
Death and Hades punished
Death and Hades are both “personifications of the realm of evil” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 722]
Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire
The lake of fire is the second death – spiritual death, complete separation from God for eternity
The book of life is the primary source for determining whether or not a person goes to heaven or hell
The “books of works” simply lists the good and bad things individuals have done, but they have no authority when it comes to salvation, eternal life, and entering heaven
Only the book of life has that authority
Is your name in the book of life?
Have you repented of your sins and turned to Jesus as the way and the truth and the life?
Have you been justified by believing that Jesus took your punishment for sin when He died on the cross, was buried, and came alive again?
Your own righteous acts will only be written in the books of works and not the book of life
Take time to make sure your name is in the book of life today!
Our righteous acts should come from a heart that has been transformed by the power of the Gospel
We don’t do good to gain favor with God, we do good because of what God has done for us
James talks about faith and action working together
They are not mutually exclusive
James 2:15-17, 21-22, Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. . . . Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
As followers of Jesus Christ we will be judged on our faith and actions working together (James and Jesus both said it)
Where are you with faith and actions working together?
Jesus gave us a short list in Matthew 25 of some of the things we should be doing to show our faith in action
Feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, inviting strangers in, clothing the naked, and visiting those in prison
This is just a starting point for us as believers
Are you involved in at least one of these activities on a regular basis?
My Next Step Today Is To: Show that my faith and actions are working together by serving others in some capacity.
As I mentioned last week we have responsibility as believers to share the Gospel with those in our sphere of influence
We also have the responsibility to take care of those who are in need
We have teams that serve at the Gettysburg Soup Kitchen and the Upper Adams Food Pantry
We are collecting items throughout this year for Operation Christmas Child
There are shut-ins who just want someone to talk to and visit with
There are children, youth, and adults who are looking for someone to disciple them or teach them
There are many other opportunities to serve those in our community
“After moving to a new state, I walked into the Department of Motor Vehicles to get my new driver's license. Imagine my surprise when the guy behind the desk said he couldn't help me because my license was suspended.
I said, "There must be some mistake. I've never done anything to deserve that."
The civil servant was very civil and said I had to clear up the problem with the State of Massachusetts before he could help me. I hadn't lived in Massachusetts for 10 years, so I couldn't imagine what was wrong. But five long distance phone calls later, I found that it was no mistake—the law had finally caught up with me. When I'd moved from that state a decade before, I owed part of an excise tax of two dollars.
Blissfully unaware that I was a scofflaw, the tiny little bill began to work hard accruing penalties and interest. That bill had to be settled—and I had to pay for a new Massachusetts driver's license and registration for a car that had long ago become scrap metal—before I could become legal in my new home state. The price tag was nearly $300.
The whole thing made me a lot embarrassed. It wasn't so much the money that bothered me. It was knowing that I was guilty—on the wrong side of the law for all those years without even being aware of it.
How shocking it will be for those who stand before the God of the Universe one day and realize, for the first time, that he holds them accountable.”
The Sleeper Cell
“As a kid, I loved Mission Sundays, when missionaries on furlough brought special reports in place of a sermon …. There is one visit I've never forgotten. The missionaries were a married couple stationed in what appeared to be a particularly steamy jungle. I'm sure they gave a full report on churches planted or commitments made or translations begun. I don't remember much of that. What has always stayed with me is the story they shared about a snake.
One day, they told us, an enormous snake—much longer than a man—slithered its way right through their front door and into the kitchen of their simple home. Terrified, they ran outside and searched frantically for a local who might know what to do. A machete-wielding neighbor came to the rescue, calmly marching into their house and decapitating the snake with one clean chop.
The neighbor reemerged triumphant and assured the missionaries that the reptile had been defeated. But there was a catch, he warned: It was going to take a while for the snake to realize it was dead.
A snake's neurology and blood flow are such that it can take considerable time for it to stop moving even after decapitation. For the next several hours, the missionaries were forced to wait outside while the snake thrashed about, smashing furniture and flailing against walls and windows, wreaking havoc until its body finally understood that it no longer had a head.
Sweating in the heat, they had felt frustrated and a little sickened but also grateful that the snake's rampage wouldn't last forever. And at some point in their waiting, they told us, they had a mutual epiphany.
I leaned in with the rest of the congregation, queasy and fascinated. "Do you see it?" asked the husband. "Satan is a lot like that big old snake. He's already been defeated. He just doesn't know it yet. In the meantime, he's going to do some damage. But never forget that he's a goner."
The story [still] haunts me because I have come to believe it is an accurate picture of the universe. We are in the thrashing time, a season characterized by our pervasive capacity to do violence to each other and ourselves. The temptation is to despair. We have to remember, though, that it won't last forever. Jesus has already crushed the serpent's head.”
Carolyn Arends, “Satan’s a Goner: A lesson from a Headless Snake,” Christianity Today (February 2011).
I’ve mentioned before that every individual is drawn to addictive behavior, but it manifests itself differently in each person
For me, my addictive behavior manifests itself in two primary ways: work and video games
Modeled or not
My father was a very hard worker, so a strong work ethic was modeled for me, which probably played a major role in how I look at work and my addictive behaviors concerning work
My father never really played video games, so that part of my addictive behavior was not modeled for me, but is part of who I am
The desire to play video games was something that sat dormant in my life until I began playing them
In both situations, I have a choice whether or not to give in to those addictive behaviors
I obviously can’t blame my father for being addicted to video games, but I also can’t blame my father for being addicted to work
I have a choice!
I would guess that there are individuals here today who are also addicted to video games and work
Addictive behaviors manifest themselves in many other ways also (alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, hunting, fishing, shopping, hobbies, and many other ways)
We have a choice
I’ve met with individuals who blame their parents or other circumstances for their addictive behaviors as adults
Certainly the environment we grew up in and circumstances that were beyond our control have greatly influenced who we are today, so I’m not marginalizing those things
But, too often we allow those things to continue to control us and shape us as adults, when we have a choice
A first-grade boy was talking at lunch about how some people eat cats and dogs, which caused a girl in his class to think about her dog that had passed away. She couldn’t stop thinking about her dog and it was making her sad. The teacher shared with her that we have control over our thought life. We can decide what we’re going to think about. God can help us control our thoughts. We have a choice to take control of our thought life.
John explains that Satan is released after a thousand years and he picks back up, right where he left off, with deceiving the nations. Amazingly, there are innumerable people who will follow him and reject God. John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – The “want to” to sin is inside all of us.
GOD (Revelation 20:7-10)
Satan’s release (v. 7)
After the thousand year reign of Christ, Satan is released from his prison (the Abyss)
Was it a literal thousand years or figurative?
It could be either one
It could represent a thousand literal years
It could also be figurative for a long period of time
Both represent the passing of many years, which helps us understand the main point/principle
Why does God allow Satan one final grasp at power?
Akin provides a twofold answer [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 311]
“To demonstrate the evil intentions of Satan that consume him now and forever.”
“To reveal that even in a near perfect environment with no Satanic temptation, man is capable of and willing to rebel against his gracious and loving God.”
PRINCIPLE – Human depravity is not a result of our environment or circumstances.
Every one of us is born with the “sleeper cell of sin” inside of us
The “want to” to sin is there from the beginning, waiting to come alive
“Perhaps the most reasonable explanation for this rather unusual parole is to make plain that neither the designs of Satan nor the waywardness of the human heart will be altered by the mere passing of time.” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 371]
We see from this long period of time, when Satan’s influence and temptation are not a factor in humanity, that human beings still rebel against God, and given the opportunity, will turn to evil instead of good
Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
So we can blame whomever we want for how we’ve turned out, but the reality is, WE have chosen our path, we have chosen whether to follow God or reject Him
There is no one else to blame, but ourselves
Satan is released from the Abyss and immediately begins to do what comes natural to him – deception!
Satan’s deception (vv. 8-9a)
Deceive the nations
PRINCIPLE – Satan is determined to deceive people concerning God.
“Whenever the devil is around, he will deceive the nations.” [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 377]
The amazing thing is that we, as Christians, are just as susceptible to the deceptions of Satan as anyone else
He uses false teachers within the body of Christ to twist the truth, just a little bit, so that in some cases we don’t even realize what’s happening
We begin to follow a certain preacher or teacher and can easily begin to believe everything they say without testing it against Scripture
Jesus was teaching the Jews one day and telling them that the truth He was sharing with them would set them free
They obviously didn’t understand, because they responded that they had never been slaves, because they were Abraham’s descendants
They camped on the idea of slavery instead of the truths that Jesus was sharing with them about who He was – the Messiah, the Son of God
Jesus finally says this, Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:43-44)
These Jews, who were God’s chosen people, had been deceived by Satan and we know, from the Gospel writers, that they convinced others that Jesus was not the Messiah
They were, themselves, false teachers
We can protect ourselves from false teaching and Satan’s deceptions by doing what the Bereans did
Acts 17:11, Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
What did the Bereans do?
They didn’t just take Paul’s word for it
They studied the Scriptures for themselves
As a Christian, we have the Holy Spirit living within us to help us understand Scripture
God will definitely answer, “Yes,” to our prayers for wisdom in understanding His Word, the Bible
They did it every day
Share the illustration from Greg Speck at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember – asked for 3 volunteers to come up and share what God taught them that morning from studying His Word and one answer to prayer from the weekend
If I don’t read my Bible and pray, will God love me any less? (No)
“I don’t read the Bible or pray, so God will love me more. I read the Bible and pray, because I love God.” [Greg Speck, FamilyLife Weekend to Remember, Man-to-Man session, February 17, 2019]
My prayer is that all of us will read God’s Word and pray every day, not because we have to, but because we love Him
My Next Step Today Is To: Protect myself from Satan’s deceptions by reading God’s Word and praying every day, as an expression of my love for God.
Satan was released and immediately began to deceive the nations, but who were these people that were being deceived?
Who are the nations that John sees as this point?
There are two primary viewpoints concerning who the nations are
Some scholars believe that the army assembled in Revelation 19:17-21 that were destroyed did not include every unbeliever on earth (Osborne)
There were military personnel (kings, generals, mighty men, horses and their riders), but there were also free and slave, small and great
There may have been unbelievers who had not taken the mark of the beast and had not worshiped the image of the beast
The “nations” would then be those individuals and their children that were born during the millennium
Other scholars believe that the nations would be represented by the children born during the millennium (Akin, Courson)
These children would be born to believers who have not yet received their glorified bodies
They could also be the children of unbelievers who had not taken the mark of the beast or worshipped his image
Either way, these individuals have not had the opportunity to determine whether or not to follow the Lord
They have been “living in enforced righteousness and peace because there’s no other choice.” [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, New Testament, 1783]
When Satan is released and they understand what sin is, then they have a choice to make
Will they follow Jesus or reject Him
We see that there is such a large number who rally to Satan’s side that they cannot be counted (In number they are like the sand of the seashore)
Satan goes to every corner of the earth in his search to deceive the nations
Four corners of the earth
The four corners of the earth simply means that Satan goes throughout the entire earth
There is no place where his deception is not present
Gog and Magog
Old Testament background
Genesis 10:2, The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javen, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras.
Ezekiel 38:2, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.
Ezekiel 39:1-2, “Son of man, prophesy against Gog and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north and send you against the mountain of Israel (Magog would be a territory/region to the north of Israel)
Gog from Magog was used by God to discipline Israel during Old Testament times
They would have been a pagan nation
In Revelation, the reference to “Gog and Magog are symbolic figures representing the nations of the world that band together for a final assault upon God and his people.” [Mounce, 372]
We already know that they are pagan, since they have chosen to follow Satan instead of God
They will be deceived by Satan
John explains why Satan is deceiving the nations – there is a reason and purpose behind his deception
Reason why he is deceiving them
Satan is gathering an army for battle, because he still believes he can defeat God
They marched across the breadth of the earth, which adds to the imagery of Satan deceiving the nations in the four corners of the earth
Satan’s deception is complete and thorough
So, this army gathers in Israel and surrounds God’s people who have encamped in Jerusalem (the city he loves)
“Here in Revelation the task of the saints is not to take the battle into their own hands but to encamp before the Lord and trust him.” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 714]
PRINCIPLE – We can trust God to fight our battles.
What kind of battle are you engaged in right now?
Perhaps it’s relational, financial, emotional, spiritual, or physical
It may be that we are fighting battles on multiple fronts – which is spreading us thin
During those battles we can trust God, because He is in control (omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent)
Psalm 56:3-4, When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
Isaiah 59:1-2, Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
Numbers 11:21-23, But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?” The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”
Jeremiah 32:26-27, Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
Take a moment to write down the battles you are currently facing
Are any of them too hard for the Lord?
Have you encamped before the Lord? (this means have you taken time to tell the Lord what battles you are fighting)
Are you trusting Him to fight your battles or are you fighting them yourself?
My Next Step Today Is To: Encamp before the Lord and trust Him to fight my battles.
That’s exactly what the saints in this final battle are doing (they’re encamped around the Lord and trusting Him)
What we see in the second half of verse 9 and verse 10 is that God is fighting the battle
Satan’s defeat (vv. 9b-10)
The vast, unnumbered army that Satan has rallied is defeated soundly when God sends fire down from heaven that devours them
Just as we saw at the battle of Armageddon in Revelation 19:17-21, the battle is won by the Lord in a very quick moment
None of the saints have to engage in battle, because the battle is the Lord’s
Satan’s final defeat
Satan is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur
PRINCIPLE – God is greater than Satan!
We can and should rejoice in this fact
That is the God we serve
He is all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present, unchanging, sovereign, and much more
Satan joins his cohorts, the beast and the false prophet, who have already been experiencing eternal torment for a thousand years
Again, we see that Satan, the beast, and the false prophet will continue to experience this eternal torment (they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever)
I don’t want us to miss an important part of this passage
Those who are born during the millennium or live through the tribulation and had not taken the mark of the beast and did not worship the beast are given the opportunity to receive or reject Jesus Christ
Like every one of us, they have the “sleeper cell of sin” inside of them
The “want to” to sin is inside all of us.
Each individual has to make the decision for themselves as to whether they will accept or reject Christ
Jeremiah 17:9-10a, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind . . .”
God understands our heart and knows whether or not it is for Him or against Him
God provided a way for us to deal with the “sleeper cell of sin” in our lives
He sent Jesus from heaven to earth to die on a cross to take our punishment for sin
John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
If you would like to make that decision today, please fill in the circle on the back of your Communication Card under the “Send Me Info. About: Becoming a follower of Jesus”
We learned today that we can protect ourselves from being deceived by studying God’s Word and praying daily as an expression of our love for God
We also learned that God will fight our battles for us, if we allow Him to
The Great Commission
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been commissioned to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them God’s Word
We have a responsibility to share the Gospel with those in our sphere of influence
The result of not sharing the Gospel could be that they will suffer the same fate as Satan, the beast, and the false prophet – eternal torment in the lake of burning sulfur
They have the same “sleeper cell of sin” in their lives that we do, but do they know there is a way to deal with that sin?
“Valerie O'Connor, a high school student in Britton, Michigan, isn't in the habit of shoving her 63-year-old grandfather out the door into the snow. But her grandpa, Okey Howard, is glad she did. He was on fire at the time.
A February 2002 ice storm left many Michigan residents without power, so Valerie's grandfather had borrowed a kerosene heater from a friend to keep pipes and family members from freezing.
Unfortunately someone must have put something other than kerosene in the heater. When Mr. Howard lit the heater, it exploded, spewing burning fuel onto his arms, hands, and upper body.
Valerie saw her grandfather completely engulfed, so she pushed him out the door into some snow and rolled on top of him to smother the flames. She suffered minor burns on her legs.
"I knew something had to be done," Valerie said later. "After a moment of shock, I just reacted."
Though badly burned, Mr. Howard had the presence of mind to stumble back into the house, where he used a large extinguisher to put out the house fire.
Valerie rode with her screaming grandfather in the ambulance to the hospital. Mr. Howard said later, "I thought I was going to die. It was like hell."
If a teenager is willing to risk her own life to save her grandfather from a fiery death on earth, how much more should we be willing to risk sharing the good news so others can avoid a fiery eternity. Because of her great love for her grandfather, Valerie put her fears aside and dove into action so he could be saved.”
Clark Cothern, Tecumseh, Michigan; source: Jeff Steers, The Exponent (2-12-02)
The Final Meal
“I came across a book written by a cardiologist at the University of Tennessee that corroborates an important aspect of the biblical message. In the course of their emergency room work, Dr. Maurice Rawlings and his colleagues interviewed more than 300 people who claimed near-death experiences. What made Rawlings' study distinct is that the interviews were not conducted months or years later but immediately after the experiences had allegedly occurred – while the patients were still too shaken up in the immediacy of the moment to gloss over or to re-imagine what they had experienced.
Nearly 50 percent of them reported encountering images of fire, of tormented and tormenting creatures, and other sights hailing from a place very different from heaven. In follow-up interviews much later many of these same people had changed their stories, apparently unwilling to admit to their families, maybe even to themselves, that they had caught a glimpse of something like what the Bible calls hell.
Dr. Rawlings concludes, ‘Just listening to these patients has changed my life. There is a life after death, and if I don't know where I'm going, it is not safe to die.’”
Dan Meyer, “The Light at the End of the Tunnel,” Preaching Today No. 238
Hell is a real place. There is life after death. We know from Scripture that those who are faithful and true to God and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will be with them in paradise (heaven). Those who reject God and refuse to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will be separated from them for all eternity.
In Revelation 19, John’s vision is of two great meals that God will provide – one for those who are faithful and true to Him and one for those who are unfaithful and reject Him.
How many of us are familiar with the phrase, “Call me anything you like, but don’t call me late for dinner?”
Dinner bell at Judy’s parent’s farm
The small farm where Judy grew up in Ohio has a bell in the backyard
I don’t know how often it was used to call her and her brother for dinner
I know when we lived in her parent’s house that we used it as a form of communication to let each other or our children know that they needed to come back to the house
It was always a little scary to ring the bell, because wasps enjoyed making a nest up inside the bell – we were never sure whether or not we’d be greeted by some wasps when we rang it
Calling our children for dinner
More recently we call our children for dinner by calling their name when they’re in the house
I’ll whistle off the back porch if they are in the garage or outside somewhere
Other times we pick up our cell phone and text or call them
Being called for dinner
How many of us have ever been called to dinner by a dinner bell (either a triangle or an actual bell)?
Perhaps it wasn’t a dinner bell, but a whistle from our father or mother
Maybe it was just Mom hollering out the back door
Do you remember what happened when we didn’t come right away?
I’ve heard stories of children that didn’t come right in for dinner when they were called
The result was that when they eventually came in for dinner, their dinner was water and a piece of bread or a cracker
It didn’t take too many times of eating bread or a cracker and drinking water to learn that you’d better come running when called for dinner
How have we called our children to dinner?
Perhaps we’ve whistled
Maybe we’ve hollered out the back door, up the stairs, or down the hallway
Some of us have probably used technology to our advantage and either called or texted our children
A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Marc shared with us about the wedding supper of the Lamb, which God will provide for those who have been faithful and true to Him. We’re going to be looking at another great meal today that God will provide, but the circumstances behind this meal are completely different. This meal will involve those who have been unfaithful to God and have rejected Him. Revelation 19 reveals to us that every person will be included in one of two meals that God will provide. We have to ask ourselves this question . . .
BIG IDEA – Will we eat or be eaten?
GOD (Revelation 19:17-21)
A call to dinner (vv. 17-18)
It is another angel from heaven
This angel is standing in the sun
The position is important, because it would have been the highest point in the sky [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 356]
As we’ll see in a moment this position would be important as the angel calls the meal attendees to gather
The splendor of the angel would be magnified in the fact that it is superimposed in front of the sun
It would have given the angel an incredible glow or radiance that would be appropriate for God’s messenger
This would have given the angel the appearance of “shining” with God’s glory
God’s glory radiating from Jesus and another angel has already been seen in Revelation
Christ’s “face was like the sun” (Rev. 1:16)
Mighty angel whose “face is like the sun” (Rv. 10:1)
The angel is crying in a loud voice
This loud voice will be clear and understandable to the those who are being addressed
They will not question whether or not they heard this angel correctly
They are being invited to the “great supper of God”
It’s God’s supper in the sense that God is the One who is providing it
John doesn’t keep us in suspense, but immediately identifies who the meal attendees will be
The meal attendees
It is the birds flying in midair
The position of the angel who is calling them to dinner makes sense – it is standing in the sun (the highest point in the sky)
We don’t normally think of songbirds eating dead, rotting flesh
There are certain birds that come to mind when we think of dead, rotting animals being eaten
Vultures, Buzzards, and crows
Kites, Caracaras, Eagles, and Marabou Storks
The vultures and buzzards are the ones we see circling high above their meal and eventually descending to eat
The sense here is that the angel is at the highest point in the sky and is crying out to these scavenger birds that are circling
The meal is being prepared for them, but what will the meal consist of?
It will be the flesh of a great army that is gathering, which includes all sinners
No sinner will be exempt
John begins by identifying those who have a military background (kings, generals, mighty men, and the cavalry – horses and their riders)
The flesh of all people makes it clear that no one is exempt
The next two pairs of terms make it clear that it includes every socio-economic group (free and slave, small and great)
Those who reject Jesus Christ will be eaten by scavenger birds as part of their punishment and destruction
What John sees next is what I’m calling meal preparation
Meal preparation (v. 19-21a)
Preparing a meal
I’m not like Judy when it comes to meal preparation
She is able to move smoothly through the kitchen and add the right amount of spices and seasoning without thinking about it or having to measure it out
She can have multiply things going at the same time, without worrying about whether or not something will be overcooked
I prefer to have everything staged and all the ingredients laid out prior to starting
I measure out all the ingredients exactly, because I don’t trust myself to add a sprinkle of something here and a dash of something there
I prefer to work on one dish at a time so I don’t ruin it, which means that not everything is ready at the same time
You’ve probably guessed that I don’t cook very often
I am a seasoned and skilled eater, though
What John sees next in vv. 19-21a is the preparation of the great supper of God for the scavenger birds
He sees the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together
The ingredients are being laid out in preparation for the meal
The kings, generals, mighty men, horses and their riders and the rest of those who have rejected Jesus Christ are gathering together – being prepared
This reminds us of the sixth bowl that was poured out in Revelation 16:12-16, The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. . . . Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
Two ingredients will be thrown on the grill, so to say
The reality of what will happen to these two ingredients will be far worse than simply being grilled
The beast and the false prophet will be thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur
We see again a description of the false prophet and what he did – performed many miraculous signs on behalf of the beast
These signs helped to deceive those who accepted the mark of the beast and worshiped his image
The signs that the false prophet performed allowed these unbelievers to justify what they had already chosen to do – reject Jesus Christ and continue to live their lives in rebellion against God
We can be prone to the same things today
We know what God’s Word says, but we continue to search for an “authority” that will allow us to justify what we want to do, say, or think
But we see that this kind of justification only leads us to destruction
We are deluded and deceived, because we have already made up our minds about what we want to do, think, and say
We can very easily take the “mark” of the world/culture and worship images that are not God
Our standard has to be God’s Word, the Bible, taught in a way that’s not taken out of context or read and interpreted with preconceived ideas and thoughts
We have to ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom to know exactly what God is telling us in His Word
My Next Step Today Is To: Ask the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom to understand God’s Word as He meant it to be, so I will not be deluded and deceived by the false prophets of this world or culture.
The false prophet will be held accountable for leading God’s creation away from Him
PRINCIPLE – God will punish those who continue to rebel against Him, and especially those who lead others away from Him.
The beast, who is a “Christ” wannabe, and the false prophet, will be thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur
It is important to note that they are thrown into the lake, alive
The punishment that the beast and the false prophet will experience is eternal torment
We will see that three other groups will be thrown into the “lake of fire”
The devil (Rev. 20:10)
Death and Hades (Rev. 20:14a)
The unbelievers (Rev. 20:14b)
With these three groups, nothing is mentioned about the fact that they are thrown into the lake of fire, alive
“The connotation is conscious punishment in the lake of fire, and it may well be that John expected the reader to remember that with respect to the other three groups.” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 690]
Any individual who dies in a state of rebellion against God or accepts the mark of the beast and worships him when Christ returns will experience eternal torment in hell
It breaks my heart to hear people say that they’re fine with going to hell (my guess is that they either don’t know what they’re wishing for or are in denial concerning what it means)
Most of us have experienced what it’s like to be really thirsty – desiring a cool drink of water, but not being able to have it right then
Perhaps we just have to wait until we get home, or until the next rest stop comes on the turnpike, or the next exit on the interstate
It’s a relief to feel the cool, moist liquid slide down our throats and satisfy our thirst
Now image that we would never be able to satisfy that longing to quench our thirst
Jesus taught about the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, in Luke 16:19-31
Let’s pick up the story in Luke 16:22-31
We see in this story that the rich man is in hell and is continually in torment
There is a chasm that cannot be crossed
Notice, too, that Abraham tells the rich man that his five brothers have Moses and the Prophets (their scriptures, individuals in their day and age who are telling them about God)
If these five brothers will not listen to God’s Word through His chosen messengers, they will not listen to someone who returns from the dead (something supernatural)
We have God’s Holy Word today, the Bible
There are pastors, evangelists, and teachers (all Christians) who are telling us about God and Jesus Christ
We have to listen to them, instead of seeking a supernatural experience from God
If we die or Christ returns and we are still in rebellion against God and reject Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, then we will be eternally separated from God and experience eternal torment
I’m not sharing this today to try to scare anyone into heaven, I’m sharing this because this is truth and reality
God will punish sinners when Jesus comes the second time and His punishment will be complete and permanent
But every person has the chance to change their eternity
You can change your eternal address today!
Sin (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:23)
God’s love (Rom. 5:8)
God’s redemption plan (1 Peter 3:18a, For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God)
John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
My Next Step Today Is To: Cross over from death to life and receive God’s eternal life by believing in Jesus Christ.
God’s punishment for rebellion and rejection of Christ will be eternal torment
Final preparations are then made for the great supper of God
The kings, generals, mighty men, horses and their riders, and the rest of the unbelievers are killed
As I mentioned last week, Jesus’ army is present at the battle, but only as spectators
We see that the final meal preparations are done quickly
The rest of the beast’s army are killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse
This reminds us again that God’s words, through Jesus Christ are powerful
His words were powerful enough to speak the world into existence
His words are powerful enough to transform anyone’s life
His words will be powerful enough to defeat Satan’s army
The table is set, the meal is ready, and the guests have arrived
The meal (v. 21b)
The scavenger birds don’t waste time
They feed on the flesh of all unbelievers who refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords
Will you eat or be eaten?
Wedding feast of the Lamb
This is reserved for those who have remained faithful and true to God and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
You can put your reservation in today by believing in the Word of God and Jesus Christ
You can cross over from death to life and not have to experience eternal torment in hell
Great supper of God
Don’t wait because we’re never guaranteed tomorrow
God may require your life today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or sometime in the future
If you die in a state of rebellion against God and you haven’t believed in Jesus Christ, then you will be eaten (food for the birds) as part of the great supper of God
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are all commissioned to share the Good news of the Gospel with those in our sphere of influence
We all have the responsibility to invite our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers to the wedding feast of the Lamb
Don’t hesitate to share the Gospel with them today or this week
It’s the difference between enjoying an incredible banquet meal with Jesus or being the meal for birds
“In their book Crashmaker: A Federal Affaire, Victor Sperandeo and Alvaro Almeida paint a graphic picture of hell. The villain, Alan Stillwell, has a nightmare in which he meets the philosopher Voltaire in perdition:
Voltaire's countenance appeared white, not because it was dead, bloodless flesh, but because it was a mask of the most intense, living fire. So, too, flames enveloped his whole body—if, indeed, what Stillwell saw beneath the fire could properly be called a body at all. Twisted and deformed, it mocked the shape of a man. As black as charcoal, shimmering in reds and oranges with the incandescence of combustion, the thing seethed with ulcers of molten flesh that suppurated to a white heat, spit out jets of fiery matter, then collapsed upon themselves, only to burst forth in some other spot.
At the margins of these migrant craters emerged orange ribbons—no, Stillwell saw to his horror, worms. Standing on end, the creatures writhed in the flames, then melted into a translucent yellow liquid that poured back over the body and ignited, the bluish tongues of fire from this foul fuel spawning more of the awful parasites that then bored their way back into the body. As Stillwell watched, his mouth agape, chunks of Voltaire's black flesh crumbled in showers of sparks, revealing bones almost transparent in their white heat. The fire all around consumed the flesh before it fell far. But when Stillwell looked again, the body was once more intact—always destroying itself, yet always whole. A fool's cap of the most intense flames crowned the [philosopher's] head, but not because his hair itself was alight. Rather, in the manner of a wick drawing on an inexhaustible reservoir, the follicles sucked from fissures in Voltaire's skull liquefied brain that burned with a fury born of the unhappy combination of the intellectual brilliance of his mind and the perverse purposes to which he had put it.
Somehow, Stillwell could bear to look on all that. What he saw in Voltaire's eyes, though, shook [him] to his core: all the depravity of man the philosopher had unleashed during and after his lifetime. And, underlying that monstrous crime against humanity, its true cause: Voltaire's overweening pride . . . .[Voltaire confesses,] ‘My own reason enchained me, too, in disbelief. I ridiculed the Absolute. I imagined myself capable of giving new laws to the world, even of dethroning God. But what help were my pithy skepticism, my witty unbelief, all the blasphemies of my facile pen when at length I found my name inscribed in the Book of Eternal Death? Oh, then to erase, to amend! Alas, too late. I pulled down the Prophet, Priest, and King from the Cross without knowing that, in so doing, I would nail myself there in His stead, to become defenseless before the supreme tribunal, with no Savior to forgive my transgressions, no Church to reconcile me with my Creator.’
Stillwell shuttered, as if a dagger had been driven into the soul he knew he did not have. ‘Why do you want to save me?’ he probed.’ ‘Save you?!’ the spirit shrieked, shaking with fury. ‘I long for your damnation! To work for the salvation of souls my own sins have corrupted is part of my punishment. How it tortures me to fear that you might be saved, whilst I must remain forever [here].’”