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Revelation 21 – “Heaven is Great but its Not the End of the World”

We’ve read of the destruction of Rome, the destruction of earthly kingdoms, earthly rulers, and of all that is evil. What is next? What is there to look forward to? We try to find comfort where we live and in our leaders but we are assured that these things are temporary…no matter how great they might seem. To put hope in the governments and ideals that surround us where we are is to put hope in something that is temporary no matter how great it may seem. These chapters are sobering reminders that we are not at home here. We turn the page from the destruction of all things and open a new chapter that reveals life, true life. Life that is worth hoping in. Life that is worth living out the reality of now as we anxiously await its coming. We turn to Revelation 21 to see what this looks like.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…and there was no longer any sea.” I’m a mountain man myself but the sea is a close second in things I love about the beautiful world we live in. It may sadden us to read that there will no longer be a sea. I got to sail this past summer for the first time. The 25’ catamaran I was on was fast as it cut through the Caribbean. I felt alive. Why would there be no more sea? The sea, for the ancient world, is where evil spawns. We see the beast come from the sea. While it is something to enjoy while sitting on a beach or sailing, it is a terrifying thing to be sailing in a storm or to have a tsunami kick up a horrifying wave. The sea is relentless. The fact that there is no more sea means that evil has been conquered.

The Holy City, New Jerusalem, prepared as a beautiful bride now comes down to earth, God’s creation. God’s dwelling place has been restored to the earth He created as He intended it to be in the beginning. When God created the earth, He intended to dwell with His creation. When sin came into the world, God and creation became separated. Throughout scripture we see God pursuing His creation and dwelling amongst His people in limited ways, awaiting the day when He and His creation would be joined together again. First in the tabernacle, then in the temple, in the Church (the Holy Spirit within us), and finally when all has been conquered, God will restore His creation to how He intended it to be and dwell again with His creation. “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” I began asking the question in high school, “Why would God put us here on earth if He intends for us to be with Him in heaven?” Revelation 21 and 22 points us to the answer. God is finishing what He started in His creation, making all things right again.

The Christian walk is not one about going to heaven someday but one of heaven coming to earth to redeem its brokenness. When we receive the Holy Spirit we enter into a time of “already but not yet.” We have the reality of heaven within us, and where we go we take that reality with us. Where Christian live the world should look drastically different. We don’t “do good deeds” in order to “go to heaven when we die.” We do good deeds because we have heaven within us and we make this the reality wherever we are. When we see the brokenness of this creation we redeem it for God because that is what God is doing and would have us do. We give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, etc. all because the is what God is doing with the brokenness of creation. We make this the reality where we live while we await God doing this fully in the end. We live out our baptism daily, the death, burial, and resurrection, putting to death the brokenness of the old creation in order that it will be resurrected when Christ returns.

In his book Surprised by Hope, N. T. Write articulates this reality well:

“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

One of the biggest realities that should to be emphasized and reemphasized is that “there will be no more death.” Why do we have hope in this life no matter what the world, governments, and rulers throw at us? Death has been conquered. Nothing can be taken away from us because we have life in Christ. The resurrection is our reality. All that has the seed of God planted within it will be planted in the New Creation and made new again. Praise God that death has been conquered in Christ and all things will be made new again. Praise God that He desires to be with His creation. Praise God that he would remove death from us so that we might be made new. Hope in God not in the things of this world. There are plenty of things that are good here but don’t mistake them as God.

I want to end as Kent did yesterday with my continuing assessment of Revelation. I got this from Randy Harris who is a professor at Abilene Christian University. God wins! Pick a side. Don’t be stupid.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

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Revelation 20 – Still a Picture

So up to this point in Revelation we have continued to recognize we are looking at pictures.  We see a red dragon, recognize that its a symbolic picture and seek to determine what truth is behind the picture.  We see a beast, recognize that it is a picture, and seek the truth behind the picture.  So now, we read about 1,000 years and a dragon and thrones, its a figure, an image that indicates a truth.  It’s also fitting that this is the conclusion of what we have been talking about (the fall of Rome) rather than something new.  

The first three verses show that Satan has indeed been defeated, is now chained and captive.  His defeat is complete.  Rome is destroyed.  The persecutor is no more.  Then verses 4-10 tell us what happens to the saints.  Although they suffered for a time, they have seen their enemy destroyed by Jesus and they now join him on thrones.  They are safe and secure from all alarms.  There is no more reason to fear or suffer.

The 1,000 years is not something that can be shown on a calendar.  Its a symbolic figure.  10=completeness.  10x10X10=1,000 or very complete.  So what we see here is that after the time of destruction of Rome is complete there will come another time when Satan will return to have another go at God’s people.  When?  Sometime.  Where? Somewhere.  The point is that although God defeated Satan and Rome, Satan will continue to wage war against the saints.  That’s why this book continues to matter to us today.  We need to know what the saints learned in Rome, that God will be faithful and will bring them through whatever trials face them.  God is greater than any force against us and God will be victorious and we can share in his victory.

However, the victory isn’t for everybody.  Now the celebration earlier in the chapter was figurative so this judgment is as well.  This judgment is still against Rome.  It’s telling us that Rome and the enemies of God and his people will suffer utter, irrevocable defeat.

I close with Ryan’s oft used assessment of Revelation because it certainly fits here as in other places: God wins, pick a side, don’t be stupid.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 12 – God Wins! Pick a side…Don’t be Stupid!

My Grandmother and I had a very unique relationship. She and I often discussed spiritual matters. She prayed for me to be a minister when my parents found out that they were having a little boy. She was a prayer warrior, gentle, caring, kind, and embodied the servant heart of Jesus. She was a saint of a woman. I thought I might be bias in my view of her but the packed chapel at her funeral told me I had a pretty good view of her.

When she was nearing the end of her life she and I would have very serious conversations about God, the church, spirituality, and what happens when we die. One day she had tears in her eyes as she looked at me and said, “Ryan, I don’t think I’ve been good enough to go to heaven.” I looked back at her, smiled, and said, “Of course you haven’t!” This response came as a shock to her and I finished, “If you could be good enough, Christ died for nothing!” She smiled back at me after being reminded of the grace and hope that we have in Christ.

I thought of that moment when I read Revelation 12. The woman represents the people of God. She represents Israel who brought Christ to the world and she represents the Church who continues to bring Christ to the world. The dragon wants to devour the baby. After giving birth, Jesus was taken up to sit on the throne with God and the woman went to the wilderness where she might be taken care of by God. The woman does not take care of herself but God takes care of her.

The dragon pursues Jesus to heaven and war breaks out. Satan is defeated and cast down to earth. “The blood of the Lamb triumphed over him.” The victory has already been won but the devil is still chasing after the woman’s offspring, the Church. This is the persecution the church undergoes. At the time in which this was written the Christians undergoing persecution would have felt like they were losing but they are reminded that they in fact have already won in Christ.

This victory has nothing to do with anything we have done. We cannot earn this victory or really even do anything to bring it about. Christ is already victorious! Too many Christians live in fear of the Church being overcome by the devil. Too many live in fear that they are not strong enough to fight Satan. Too many live in fear that they aren’t good enough to make it. Christ is victorious! Submit to his reign! Stop doing it on your own and give yourself to Christ.

I used to read this passage as an event that actually took place historically. I guess it could have…but that isn’t the point. The point is, when you look around and it seems like we might be losing, we aren’t. Christ has already won. When you think that you aren’t good enough, you aren’t. Christ made you good enough. In short…God wins. Pick a side. Don’t be stupid.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

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John 16 – Best Time to Live is Now

How incredible would it be to have lived in the time when God was speaking to prophets, leading Israel in a pillar of fire, and working powerful miracles against the gods of Egypt? What would it be like to love in the time of Jesus, walking with the disciples, seeing Jesus heal the sick, raise the dead, and feed the multitudes? Would we get out of the boat like Peter did? Would we bring a small boy with some fish and bread forward like Andrew to see what Jesus would do with so little? How powerful would it be to hear the words of Jesus from his own lips?! When would be the best time to live: Before Jesus, with Jesus, or after Jesus?

Jesus tells his disciples that it is better that he leaves so that the Advocate will come to them. Jesus has a very high view of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. Because the Spirit has come they will have strength to not fall away when they are put out of the synagogue or when people try to kill them. The reality of the Holy Spirit being inside of us is that God is within us. God was with Israel by placing his presence in the Temple. God was with Jesus by placing his Spirit on him. We receive this same Spirit when we are baptized. We no longer have to go to where God is because he has come to us. This reuniting with his creation is a small sample of the reality of us being with him in the New Creation after the resurrection.

A time is coming when the disciples will be alone. Scared. Rejected by the world. Scattered. It is going to be excruciatingly painful for a while but that pain will be a distant memory when their grief is turned to joy and the Holy Spirit is placed within them. They will then be in the new reality of God being with his people again anticipating the time when that reality will be fully realized in the resurrection of the Saints. Christ has conquered death. He has overcome the world. Take comfort in this reality. Even though the world may be celebrating the death of God, as Nietzsche in the 19th century famously claimed, “God is dead,” we know that this is not the reality. Things may look grim at times but take heart! Christ has overcome the world!

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Bible Blog, John

 

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Nothing is Certain but Death and Taxes…

“Nothing is certain but death and taxes” – Sometime after the fall of mankind Adam proclaimed this factual utterance. The consequence of sin is death and therefore the consequence of life is taxes. This quote has been around for a long time and it is difficult to track down its actual origins so I’ll just assume Adam said it.

We’re in the middle of the political season and the internet is being flooded with bloggers who are spilling out their factual opinions about the proper ways in which our country should be ran. Being the person with strong political interests that I am, I’d rather talk about something more important. Death.

I am currently in Wichita Falls, Tx where I gave the first 18 years of my life. Pretty much all of my family is here, living within a few miles of one another. We have had a lot of meals together and not just on holidays. We have come to another transition point in our family history. My Grandma Marjorie is coming to the end of her life.

While I’ll be sad that my precious Grandmother has passed from this life, I know that she will take hold of the promise that was given in the resurrection of Christ. As we looked at a few weeks ago in 1 Corinthians 15, if there is no resurrection of the dead then Christ didn’t raise either. The Gospel…the Good News…the Hope that we, as followers of Jesus, have…is that death, the consequence of sin, has been conquered on our behalf.

I was looking at my sweet Grandma and had 15:42-44 in mind. She is perishing. There is nothing honorable about the way she looks or what is going on in her body. She is incredibly weak and can’t really even open her eyes. This is the body she was born with. But! She will be raised imperishable, glorified, in power, with a spiritual body. She will be made new again, not with a body that any of us can conceive of, but with a body that has been glorified with Christ.

My Grandmother, who is weak and feeble, was clothed with Christ years ago. She has fought the good fight. She has finished the race. Being clothed with the imperishable, with immortality, “Death has been swallowed up in victory!” because of Christ. “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” “Thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

My beautiful Grandma is ready to be done with this life. She is a beautiful woman of God, warrior in prayer, and the embodiment of the servant Christ. Though she will be missed and this will be a difficult transition for our family, she has victory in Christ and in that we find peace.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Bible Blog, Hot Topics

 

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