06/26/2016 – Revelation 1 – Awaiting the Bridegroom: “A Love Letter”

For an audio version, please click here.

Mark Wheeler

Revelation 1

Awaiting the Bridegroom: “A Love Letter”

06/26/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

My best friend in high school and college, Bruce – we were Best Man in each other’s weddings – spent one summer in El Salvador on a mission trip. While on that mission trip he met Karen, a college student from Detroit, MI; and they fell in love. They were both poor college students, so they spent the next year – remember this was before email or Facebook or Skype or any of today’s potential electronic ways to communicate – dating through the US Postal Service. Several letters a week, and a minimum of 6 days(!) before a reply to a question! 10 months of love letters.

I had to confess how in-awe I was of this relationship. I never met my best friend’s fiancée until I drove from SoCal to Davisburg, MI, for their wedding rehearsal! They celebrated their 34th anniversary this month. An entire life-together built on love letters!

 

This same deep longing and truth is conveyed to all of us in the multi-sensory vision given to the Apostle John, and then given to us as the last book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation. It is the communication that we, the Church, have received from our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

 

This Summer, in a very broken sequence of messages, because of guest preachers and mission trips, we will be taking an overview look at the Book of Revelation – to see what it promises and how those promises effect our lives and faith today.

 

The Apostle John was the youngest of Jesus’ 12 Disciples, and the longest lived. Toward the end of his life he was imprisoned on the Greek Island called Patmos, in the Aegean Sea. Our group who traveled in the footsteps of St. Paul 3 years ago took a side trip to Patmos one day. We saw a beautiful small island with a resort site in the harbor and tall beautiful rocky hills – but 2,000 years ago this was a barren, desolate island that the Roman government used as a place of banishment for criminals. Why was John there? His crime was that he was a Christian. He was probably in his late 70s or 80s, and God chose this time and this place to reveal Himself to John and to us.

 

I invite you to hear the Word of God from Revelation 1, and to identify why I am calling this a “love letter”…. —-

The revelation from 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. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

John,        To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”         and “every eye will see him,     even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”         So shall it be! Amen.

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

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

 

Remember that I said this series was going to be an “overview” of the book of Revelation. Because it is an “apocalyptic” book it is filled with creative images and signs. We are not going to spend a lot of time describing or defining those things. That’s not because they are un-important, it’s just because this series is looking for over-arching themes and general teachings instead of detailed minutiae.

However, if we run across something that really piques your curiosity, please write it down – we can have a discussion downstairs during the Fellowship Time and talk about some of those particular specific intricacies.

 

First, to address a major predominant premise, look at the opening phrase: “The revelation from Jesus Christ”. You know how the English language grows as our culture changes? Not only do we get new words in our dictionaries every year, but old words change meanings based on popular usagesometimes they come to mean the exact opposite of what they used to mean. For example: what does the word “literally” mean? My dictionary says it means “factually, accurately, exactly” and its antonym would be “figuratively”. But because “literally everyone” has used it wrong, it now means bothfactually and figuratively”!  The word “bad” now also could mean “good”.  Aggghhh!

Irregardless”, my point here is that the name of this book might someday change because of people’s mis-calling it “Revelations”! What is the second word of this book? Revelation! Singular. It is ONE revelation! (If we learn nothing else, this message just became worth it to me.)

 

The third word? In the NIV it says, “The revelation FROM Jesus Christ.” And the rest of the sentence implies that God, Jesus’ Father, gave this to Jesus who now gives it to John and to the Church.

One thing that I learned in seminary, and while studying all kinds of languages (from Latin based, to Germanic, to Semitic, to Swahilic) is that trying to translate prepositions may be the most difficult grammar piece to translate. So, the KJV, and probably most other English language New Testaments say, “The revelation OF Jesus Christ.”

How does that prepositional shift effect the way we read this book? Is it a revelation FROM Jesus? Or a revelation ABOUT Him? Or one that BELONGS to Him? Or what?

The Greek version (this book’s first version) says apokaluyis Ihsou ([the] apocalypse Jesus [in the genitive case] which could be “FROMorOF”)!

I wanted to say that because some of you read the KJV, or the NASB, or a Ukrainian translation with English interlinear and you’ll come to me afterward and tell me why the NIV is wrong. It’s not. It’s just different.

 

Either way, “The revelation FROM or OF Jesus Christ”: who is the book of Revelation about? [Jesus Christthe Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Lion and the Lamb, the Bridegroom coming for His Bride!

 

Last week we read from I Peter, and I asked if I believe that all the earthquakes and fires and global climate change and violence and worldwide political hoopla are signs that today is THE day when the end is coming? My answer is that I have no idea if today seems more like THE day than December 7, 1942, felt like THE day; or than September 11, 2001, felt like THE day; or than Passover in the 34th Year of our Lord felt like THE day…. But that we’d best heed Peter’s words and Be ALERT so that we may PRAY.

Today we are in Revelation, what is Wheeler getting off about? I just want us to be aware of what the Bible says about how we are to live lives of faith, how do we live like we believe what we say we believe, in Spokane, WA, or Kiminini, Kenya, in the 21st Century ad?

How is the Book of Revelation about LPC in 2016? What are we to do with this New Testament book of prophecy? Why do we care what these hard-to-understand words say?

To answer that, look at your Sermon Notes Page and follow along as I highlight some of those phrases. Hear, again, the Word of God to us:

The revelation from 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. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

 

  • This is God’s WordGod reveals Himself through His Son Jesus Christ
  • Blessed are those who read, hear, receive these words, if we take these words to heart
  • Because what He is revealing will soon take place, the time is near

 

I am a lousy letter-writer. I tried to do an annual Christmas Letter a few times – and I failed. Jennifer has received very fewlove letters” from me in these last 33 years.

But those bullet points from those opening 3 verses sound like “love letter” language to me.

  • The Bridegroom transparently opens Himself up for His Bride – He uncovers what was hidden – that is what “apocalypse” means, to unveil what has until now been behind a curtain.
  • If the Bride is available to believe these words of love, she will be blessed by the heart that is revealed.
  • And it is important because time is running out. II Peter 3:8 reminds us that God’s eternal clock doesn’t always run on our schedule – “a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day” – so be ready!

 

The close of this chapter in Revelation reminds us that Jesus tells John the Apostle to write about both “NOW” and about “LATER2,000 years ago, and about, perhaps, 2,000 years later?

 

What do we do in the mean time? How does the Bride wait? How did Karen wait so long for Bruce to fly to Detroit and pop the question?

Karen believed the love letters! And she’d read James 5, “Be PATIENT until the Lord’s coming…. Be patient and stand firm, because His coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another… the Judge (the Lord?), He’s standing at the door (that is really near).”

 

Do you trust God’s Word is trustworthy? Do you believe this is God’s Word?

Do we believe what this “love letterreveals to us about our Savior?

Can we put our lives into His waiting arms for one more day? One more hour? One minute at a time?

 

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Resources:

Currie, Susan Porterfield; Revelation: Awaiting the Bridegroom; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2010; Pp. 3-13.

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