09/25/2016 – Revelation 21:1-7 – “He’s Ho-o-o-ome”

Click HERE to listen to the audio version.

Mark Wheeler

Revelation 21:1-7

Awaiting the Bridegroom: “He’s Ho-o-o-ome”

09/25/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

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

 

On the outskirts of a small town, there was a big, old pecan tree just inside the cemetery fence. One day, two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat down by the tree, out of sight, and began dividing the nuts. “One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me,” said one boy. Several dropped and rolled down toward the fence.

Another boy came riding along the road on his bicycle. As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery. He slowed down to investigate. Sure enough, he heard, “One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me ….”

He just knew what it was. He jumped back on his bike and rode off. Just around the bend he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along.

“Come here quick,” said the boy, “you won’t believe what I heard! Satan and the Lord are down at the cemetery dividing up the souls!”

The man said, “Beat it kid, can’t you see it’s hard for me to walk.” When the boy insisted though, the man hobbled slowly to the cemetery.

Standing by the fence they heard, “One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me.”

The old man whispered, “Boy, you’ve been tellin’ me the truth. Let’s see if we can see the Lord…?” Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet were still unable to see anything. The old man and the boy gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter as they tried to get a glimpse of the Lord.

At last they heard, “One for you, one for me. That’s all. Now let’s go get those nuts by the fence and we’ll be done….”

They say the old man had the lead for a good half-mile before the kid on the bike passed him.

 

We have invested the last four months, among several other one-Sunday sermons, in taking an overview look at the Book of Revelation – to see what it promises and how those promises effect our lives and faith today.

We have seen that this book could be viewed as a love letter from the Bridegroom Jesus to His Bride, the Church. While many see this book as confusing and uninterpretable, we are choosing to see it in its simple format of Jesus’ revelation of Himself to us, His beloved. We imagined what it would be like to be truly known by the One who loves us more than all the words in the world could say! We discovered, in Revelation 2-3, that Jesus knows us through and through – and He loves us anyway!

Since then, we have been looking through this ultimate account of Jesus’ apocalypse of what it means to truly know our beloved – to know Him by how He reveals Himself to us.

We have seen the Revelation of Jesus as the Perfect Priestly King, as the Warrior Judge, and as the Shepherd King.

We continue our journey through Revelation, not reading it to figure out every jot or tittle, but reading it to better know the One who sends us this book. He knows us, deeply, intimately, personally. How well do we know Him?

We are almost through this final prophetic voice, and we are going to slow down. The Bridegroom is arriving Home. How are we going to greet Him?

 

Look with me at Revelation 21. I invite you to hear the Word of God from Revelation 21:1-7 …. —-

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

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 water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

 

These seven verses describe, in some detail, how the book of Revelation is Gospel Good News. God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. John, the Apostle and Gospel writer, records that He who was seated on the throne (who is that? [Jesus])- He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Have you seen the news this weekend? Have you read about the shootings, the riots, the un-deniable evil and unmistakable ignorance? If you haven’t, you’ll get another chance tomorrow night while watching the first debate with our two primary presidential candidates. (We’re not going any deeper with that because then we have to argue about which one is evil and which one is ignorant….)

 

There will be a day when we will all hear Jesus’ words: “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega (that’s what this parament means), the Beginning and the End (Alpha and Omega is like saying the “A” and the “Z”).

 

Did you notice that our Call to Worship today sounded very similar to this passage from Revelation? But the Call to Worship came from the Apostle Peter’s Second Epistle (not from the Apostle John’s writings at all). And in context, even II Peter 3 came from somewhere else.

Listen again to this passage in its entirety (or at least from a longer portion of this letter):

1 Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?  Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

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. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 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 done in it will be laid bare.

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 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. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. ….

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

 

From where does Peter get his teaching about the Lord’s return?  [from the Old Testament Prophets and the Lord Jesus Himself through the preserved writings of the Apostles – directly from Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and many of the other New Testament Epistles written by Paul and others].

Neither Peter nor John made these things up – they are God’s Word, the great Reveal by Jesus Himself. Therefore, “They are trustworthy and true.”

 

Look again at Revelation 21:6-7. What does Jesus offer there?  [“It is done.” Where else have we heard words like that? – on the cross, “It is finished”, we are told He said, and He gave up His spirit. The work of salvation was accomplished on the crossnow, at the end of time, the waiting is done. What does He offer? With the Authority of the One who created all things (Alpha and Omega), Jesus offers a drink from the spring of the water of life. Any who drink from this springany who believe in their hearts and proclaim with their lips that Jesus is Lord, shall inherit this gift of eternal life.]

What do we have to do to inherit something? Simply be in relationship with the One who holds the Authority to give the inheritance away. Or to use the language of the book of Revelationbe the Bride which loves the Bridegroom.

 

There is much we might look forward to when we get to that place of paradiseseeing loved ones and enjoying pain-free dancing and running. But what we might be most excited about is simply being allowed to be with Jesus ….

 

The picture of “Satan and the Lorddividing up souls, “one for me, one for you” is silly and wrong.

This nut knows where he’s going, not because I am just so good and worthy, but because I believe the Good News of salvation by grace through faith. Thank You Jesus, for letting me be a part of this bowl of nuts!

 

Let’s pray:

We are thirsty, dear Lord, thank You for the free gift of the water from the spring of life. Refresh us again, right now, we pray, in Your Son’s name, the Lamb of God, the Shepherd King, Amen.

 

Resources:

Currie, Susan Porterfield; Revelation: Awaiting the Bridegroom; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2010; Pp. 75-83.

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09/18/2016 – Revelation 19:1-10 – “The Big Day”

Click HERE to go to the audio version of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Revelation 18-21

Awaiting the Bridegroom: “The big Day”

09/18/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

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

 

Close your eyes for just a minute and imagine any fairy tale or real royal wedding you can imagine. What images come to mind?

Great Britain has had a few royal weddings over the last few decades, so maybe some of you remembered what actually happened. My favorite royal wedding of all time takes place in my favorite movie of all time – any guesses? [The Princess Bride, duh]

What goes into preparing for these royal wedding days? They are big days. Huge days. Bridal preparations and family agreements and dowry arrangements and maybe countries to conquer and women to woo. And then finally we hear the Impressive Clergyman’s words: “Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togevuh today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam…. Then wuv, twue wuv, wiww fowwow you fowevuh and evuh… So tweasuwe youw wuv…

 

Keep that image in mind – or better yet, whatever image you came up with – as we approach today’s reading from Revelation.

 

We have invested these last several Sundays, among several other one-Sunday sermons, in taking an overview look at the Book of Revelation – to see what it promises and how those promises effect our lives and faith today.

We have seen that this book could be viewed as a love letter from the Bridegroom Jesus to His Bride, the Church. While many see this book as confusing and uninterpretable, we are choosing to see it in its simple format of Jesus’ revelation of Himself to us, His beloved. We imagined what it would be like to be truly known by the One who loves us more than all the words in the world could say! We discovered, in Revelation 2-3, that Jesus knows us through and through – and He loves us anyway!

Since then, we have been looking through this ultimate account of Jesus’ apocalypse of what it means to truly know our beloved – to know Him by how He reveals Himself to us.

We have seen the Revelation of Jesus as the Perfect Priestly King, as the Warrior Judge, and as the Shepherd King.

We continue our journey through Revelation, not reading it to figure out every jot or tittle, but reading it to better know the One who sends us this book. He knows us, deeply, intimately, personally. How well do we know Him?

Today we come very near the Big Day.

 

Look with me at Revelation 18 – 21. I invite you to hear the Word of God from Revelation 19 …. —-

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:

“Hallelujah!   Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for true and just are his judgments.    He has condemned the great prostitute    who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

And again they shouted:  “Hallelujah!   The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:   “Amen, Hallelujah!”

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:  “Praise our God,       all you his servants,   you who fear him,
both great and small!”

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:   “Hallelujah!       For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad       and give him glory!    For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,       was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

 

In the chapter immediately preceding what we just read we see Jesus’ final acts of war against the evil one (Satan), against his minions of evil domain (the beast, the false prophet, those who follow them), and against the effects of their rebellion. And, especially in today’s political climate of Presidential campaigning, it is super easy to start equating these images with particular personalities. We have been doing that for nearly 2,000 years!

I do not believe John (or Jesus) had any specific city or country in mind with these descriptions. He might have, and we can have that argument later (I am very willing to put my interpretation up against others, and I’m willing to be proven wrong here); but I believe he left it as he did so that we, in every culture of every time period, could see our own context as corrupt and in need of redemption.

 

He has conquered the enemy, and His Kingdom is ready for the celebration!

 

Look in your Sermon Notes Page at verses 7-8 where the Bride of Christ (that’s the Church, that includes our Church, so it’s talking about you and me) – the Bride of Christmakes herself ready” in ways that are about righteous acts. If we’re making ourselves ready for the Big Day – our Big Day – what will our lives look like? How is that different, perhaps, from what we had planned for this afternoon?

 

In our Call to Worship we read from Matthew 22 where Jesus tells a parable about a wedding banquet in which a king sends out invitations to his son’s wedding, but no one invited shows up; finally after a few attempts to get his guests to come he tells his servants to go out into the streets and invite everyone they see, both good people and evil people. And as a result, the wedding hall was filled with guests.

In this parable, what did these guests need to do to make themselves ready for the wedding? [They had to drop their current plans and go – no RSVPs, no gift shopping, and, apparently, not even any putting proper clothes on – by all appearances, the proper clothes were provided by the king!]

For the original invited guests, what keeps them from coming? [An unwilling spirit – they were invited, called, but they did not listen or obey]

This is, indeed, a parable which teaches us that God is the sovereign One who does the inviting, the calling; but we still have that freedom of choice, that free will, to decide to accept his invitation or not.

 

The closing line of this parable tells us that “many are invited, but of those few are chosen to stay”. We probably have this verse memorized in a slightly different version: “Many are called, but few are chosen”. Or, as we Presbyterians think we’re supposed to live it out: “Many are cold, but few are frozen” (and we think we’re the “frozen chosen”).

 

What are some ways we can get ready for our Big Day with Christ? Think of what God has given you (what garments has He already put into your care) in preparation for the Wedding Banquet: Let’s hear some creative answers to that? What “gifts” has God given you? What are you doing with those gifts?

 

This is not all happy news, is it? In both Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22 and in this prophecy in Revelation 19, there are people who miss out on the Banquet – people who do not get to heaven – and they’re not necessarily the people we think deserve to be locked out.

Who are the ones removed from the feast? They are those who refuse to honestly and truly receive the invitation – they might be “good” people, charitable, kind, caring; but they refused God’s invitation through Jesus Christ. They might even be people who have come to the party, but who do not take care of what they have been given – they might be church members, but who do not truly love Jesus.

 

As we close this message today, for those who are married, or ever have been, think back to how you met your spouse. Some here probably met your husband in high school, and fell in love and maybe waiting through adolescence and absence during college or war years, and after what seemed like forever finally tied the knot; and others perhaps met a little later in life and met in some unexpected forum, or maybe even through a website, and fell in love and married after only a few weeks or months.

But in all those cases, the waiting period was one of exquisite longing, creating an intensity of passion that burst forth in celebration at the wedding itself.

 

We are a people engaged to the Shepherd King, the Lamb of God, awaiting His return for the wedding festivities. We wait for His return in worship and in service – and in both worship and service we herald His coming. We also wait in longing, looking ever more eagerly for the Bridegroom to appear.

 

Does that describe you? Do you long for Christ’s real presence? Do you look for His return? Are you ready if it were to be today?

 

Let’s pray:

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns! We rejoice and are glad and give Him the glory! The wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride is making herself ready.” We love You, Lord, and we lift our voice to worship You. In Your Son’s name, the Lamb of God, the Shepherd King, Amen.

 

Resources:

Currie, Susan Porterfield; Revelation: Awaiting the Bridegroom; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2010; Pp. 63-74.

 

The Princess Bride; 1985.