Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Wedding

Jesus has come, and we are saved. There is so much packed into that short sentence, lots of good things included. Today, we’re going to look at another of those good things. Today, we look at our future.

Listen as I read from the first verses of Revelation 21.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21.1-8


This is the future that awaits us. And notice how it is labeled. It’s a wedding! A bride is being presented to her husband. It’s Jesus and His Church. How appropriate. And I say that because weddings are all about happiness. I’ve told you that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness depends on the circumstances. So, when the circumstances change the happiness goes away. And that describes so much of life. But at this wedding, the happiness never goes away. Try to imagine being happy all the time, forever.

But why all the happiness? God explains.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

It’s out with the old. And why? Because the old doesn’t work. It never did, not really. Oh, it was okay as a temporary measure, but all of that will be over. The time will come when God will replace it all with what really works. Out with the old and in with the new.

But is life now really all that bad? Let’s consider our situation. We are actually doing pretty well, especially when you compare our situations with what most people have to deal with. We have all the basics: food, clothing, shelter - and we have them in abundance. But it’s not just the basics. We have lots more that makes our lives so much better than just okay. Compared to most of the people alive today we live in luxury.

However, consider how God describes our situation. What are the words that He uses? Mourning. Crying. Pain. Have any of us been exempt from what those words are all about? And where do these troubles come from? Death. In the midst of our abundance, we still have to deal with death. Remember the sobering words at the beginning of the book.

In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. Genesis 2.17

And from that day to this one, all of humanity has suffered under all the various forms of that death. Relationships shattered. Bodies broken. Hopes dashed and dreams destroyed. Lives ruined in a million ways. It’s death. So, yes, we have it good. And that goes way beyond our physical comforts. We are Christians. God has visited us, redeemed us and made us His dearly loved children. And yet, every day we have to deal with death.

But - and that’s a very important ‘but’ - there will be a wedding. And once that happens, once Jesus returns to finish what He started, it will all be changed.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Amen to that.

John adds this to the picture he paints.

To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Have you ever been thirsty, I mean really thirsty? You’re desperate for something to drink. Some cool spring water would feel so very good. There are deep longings within each one of us, good things that we desire so greatly, maybe even are desperate for, but do not have. We’re thirsty for those things, really thirsty. God knows that and has responded with one of His magnificent promises. He is going to give to us exactly what we long for. The day will come when we thirst for nothing. Nothing. God promises to satisfy.

There are a million things that could be included in a list of these longings, but here is what they are all really about. And here is the source of their complete satisfaction.

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

I have to say that the language sounds a little too familiar to have a punch any more. Church words. So, let’s change the image so that we can feel the reality behind the words. There are many ways to do this. Let me mention one that I think works well. Put yourself in this picture. The sky is a dazzling blue with the sun sparkling high in the sky. There’s a gentle breeze, and the temperature is perfect. It’s a beautiful day. There you are taking a walk barefoot in the soft grass, enjoying the feeling of the blades of grass slipping between your toes. And there’s someone with you, talking with you. It’s God. And you know it’s Him because you can see Him.  You can see Him as well as you can see me. If you were to reach out, you could touch Him. And you can hear Him clearly as He speaks. He’s explaining life, answering all your questions and posing some new ones for you to enjoy thinking about. And as you walk and talk, He guides you into experiences that touch something deep inside you. And it feels good. When the sun sets on this day, you lie on your bed,  having enjoyed a good day and knowing that tomorrow will be another good day with its own walking and talking and new experiences.

That’s just a small taste of what it means when it says,

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Let me add one particular from this promise that is really quite important. There will be no missing out. So many think that if they don’t experience some good desire during their lives here, they will never experience the happiness of that desire. They will miss out. Not true. There is no missing out. In the life to come we will not only enjoy what we’ve experienced here in ways that we’ve never even imagined, but we will also get to experience those things that we’ve longed for but never tasted. There is no missing out. Walking with God through the new heavens and new earth will be amazing, simply amazing.

Notice how this picture of our future comes to a close. God has important words for us. Listen again.

The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

What is this? It’s a call to action. It’s a call to fight. Actually, it’s a call to more than just to fight. It’s a call to win, to conquer. Getting from here, today, to there, whenever it happens, will not be easy. It will require a fight.

And what are we to fight against? We fight against sin in all its different forms. It might be sin that attacks us from the outside. And here, just think about that roaring lion, Satan. He never lets up. But there is also all the sin that attacks from within us, our own sinful habits. The call is to fight it. 

With the call there is also a promise.

The one who conquers will have this heritage …

All that the wedding is about is ours. But it is ours as we fight and win. The promise is to the one who conquers. And we can conquer! Jesus has given us His powerful Spirit. Being guided by Him, we can conquer. We can win.

But please notice that there is also a warning. And this warning to the Church at the end of the book is very much like the warnings to those seven churches at the beginning. If you refuse to fight and win, you are destined for the second death, hell. This is a warning that we all need to take so very seriously. Taking it seriously simply means endeavoring. It means continuing your fight against sin, in humble reliance on the grace of the Holy Spirit, until you win. And remember, you can win.

So, what have I done this morning? I’ve reminded you of one of the good things of Jesus’ Advent. This is one part of what it means when we say, ‘Jesus has come, and we are saved’. We have a great future waiting for us.

But does this make any difference today? Oh, yes it does. It fuels hope. It is as you embrace this picture of your future - the wedding and all that is included in it - that you will be able to fight. There will be times when your zeal will flag. There will be times when it will be really hard just to get up in the morning. And while you probably won’t tell yourself that it’s time to stop being a Christian, you just might tell yourself that it’s okay to coast. But talking about coasting is just another way of talking about not fighting. Those who don’t fight and win will have an abominable future. So, remember what Jesus said.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:13

The way that you endure, the way that you keep fighting, is by fueling your hope. Jesus has come, and we are saved. God has made a promise to you. Your future can be so incredibly good. But you must fight for it. So, that’s what you pray for. Acknowledge that, left to your own resources, there is no way that you will make it. Ask for what you need to fight on, things that the Spirit will certainly give you - if you ask Him for it. Tell Him, ‘I want to be at the wedding. Help me make it to the wedding.’ Ask and you shall receive.

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