Archive for the 'Revelation' Category

The Spirit and the Bride say “Come!” Revelation 22:17

Monday, November 6th, 2017

I do love a good wedding! One of the perks of being a minister is going to so many weddings. and so many receptions of course! The whole day is always wonderful. The bride more beautiful than ever, the groom looking smart for once, the guests happy and smiling, the delicious food at the reception of course. But I guess my favourite part of every wedding is the bit where I get to say, “I now pronounce you man and wife” and the groom finally gets to kiss the bride! That wonderful moment where all the months or even years of waiting and preparation are eventually over – the two have become one – husband and wife are married.

The Bible tells us we are looking forward to a very special wedding. A marriage not of an ordinary man and a woman. Rather a marriage truly made in heaven. That wonderful event which the book of Revelation calls “The Marriage Feast of the Lamb” – the glorious day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns and is united to His Bride, the church.

REV 19 6 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. 7 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.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 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.

What a wonderful day that will be – the wedding day between the Lamb Jesus Christ and His Bride the Church!

21 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. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 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.”

There are so many blessings waiting for us on that glorious day of the marriage feast of the Lamb when Jesus will come back to take us to be with Him. Some preachers have nothing better to do than to create sermons with 8 points all beginning with the same letter, neatly divided into 25 subpoints. Less gifted preachers just borrow those points and subpoints and describe the day when Jesus returns like this.

1 It will be a day of Reunion,
Reunion with Christ Himself
Reunion with other Christians and with our loved ones

2 It will be a day of Rewards
The day will itself be a great reward,
it will be a full reward,
it will be a sure and certain reward,
it will be a satisfying reward,
it will be an inestimable reward,

We could list some of the amazing rewards which Christians will receive on that day when Jesus returns:
- being with Christ, John14:3; Phil. 1:23; 1 Th. 4:17
- seeing God and Jesus face to face Rev. 22:4
- being glorified with Christ, Rom. 8:17-18
- sitting in judgment alongside Christ, Mt. 19:28
- reigning with Christ, 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:4
- having a kingdom, Mt. 25:34; Lk. 22:29
- having an eternal home in heaven, 2Cor. 5:1

3 It will be a Day of Rejoicing,
We will rejoice over our new status – the redeemed of the Lord will return with rejoicing
We will rejoice over the rewards we receive;
We will rejoice when we see again the souls we have helped to win

4 It will be a day of Restoration
Paradise regained – delivered from the limitations of this life

5 It will be a day of Resurrection
the dead in Christ will rise first
followed those of us who that are still alive

6 It will be a day for Revelation
bringing to light the hidden things of darkness

7 It will be a day of Regrets for some
Jesus will return like a thief in the night,
His coming will be unexpected,
That day will bring judgement as the sheep will be separated from the goats

8 It will be the day of Retribution
with God’s punishment on evil and wickedness

The return of Christ will indeed be an amazing day, count the 8 points – a day of reunion and rewards and rejoicing, of restoration and resurrection and revelation and regrets and retribution. The day when we look forward to receiving the crown of life, the crown of glory, when we receive our inheritance in Christ. The wonderful day of the Lord. And hear the inspiring and encouraging promises Christ Himself makes!

7 “Behold, I am coming soon!; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” …..
12 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” AMEN COME LORD JESUS!

What a wonderful hope we have in Christ – the happy certainty of the Day of his return. As a bride looks forward to her wedding day, we should be looking forward to Christ’s return and praying for his return. We should be ready for Jesus’s return and anticipating his return. No wonder we read:
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
Of course we are longing for Jesus Christ to return – at least I hope we are! But wait a minute. Did anything in that passage in Revelation 22 surprise you? Strike you as strange? How about verse 17? 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”

As Christians, as the Bride of Christ, we cry out “Come Lord Jesus”. But why should God the Holy Spirit also be saying “come”? How is the Holy Spirit affected by the return of Christ? Just what part does the Holy Spirit play in the return of Christ?

Let’s step back for just a moment to think about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Church, the bride of Christ. When we think of the work of the Holy Spirit we think about the Spirit who is the Lord, the giver of life, who gives us new birth and new life. We maybe think about spiritual gifts as the Holy Spirit equips the church to serve Christ. We think especially about the communicating gifts like prophecy and tongues which enable Christians to communicate with God and God to communicate with us. But my guess is that we often forget about one whole area of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and of the church. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, making us like Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit is to get us ready for heaven! The Spirit preparing the Bride so that she will be ready to meet her Bridegroom on her wedding day!

We know that Christ has died to make the church his bride.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

But how exactly does Christ make us holy? How does he get rid of our stains and wrinkles and blemishes. Because we know very well that so far in this life we Christians are anything but holy and blameless.

This is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit! Making us holy. The Spirit inside us who bit by bit, day by day, is changing us to make us more like Jesus. To prepare us for heaven. A long hard process of transformation which begins in this life but won’t be finished until that wonderful day when Christ returns.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

This transformation is like the metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a butterfly. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians and in the life of the church.

The Holy Spirit helps us develop the character of Christ Himself in us!
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The Spirit helps us to know God better and better so that heaven will not be too much of a shock for us when we get there.

Ephesians 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

The Holy Spirit also helps us when we pray:

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

More than these things, the Holy Spirit himself gives us a foretaste of heaven.

Romans 8:23 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. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?

Christians have already received the firstfruits of the Spirit – the foretaste, the appetiser, the first instalment of heaven. More than that, the Holy Spirit within us is God’s guarantee to us that he will keep his promises.

Ephesians 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

So we can be absolutely certain that one day we will receive all the blessings God has promised us – because we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts now as first instalment and guarantee of our inheritance.
Romans 8:15 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.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 ¶ Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

So the Holy Spirit within us helps us look forward to heaven.
2 Corinthians 5:4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

The Holy Spirit is working in us preparing us for heaven, preparing the Bride of Christ to meet her Bridegroom. No wonder not only the Bride, but also the Spirit cry out “Come, Lord Jesus!”

We might even say that the Holy Spirit is the BRIDESMAID – helping the bride to be ready for her big day.

But then there is something even deeper in this passage. Something mystical and profound revealed by the phrase, “The Spirit and the Bride say come.”

From eternity God has been three in one and one in three, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
In the Incarnation – God became man, In one sense that introduced a distance between Son on the one hand and Father and the Holy Spirit on the other, because God the Son has experienced humanity in ways which the Father and the Spirit have not.

On Calvary, when sins of world were laid on Son he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Our sins caused a deep division in the Holy Trinity as Son of God took upon himself the alienation of rebellious sinners which we all experience.

At the Ascension the Father and the Son were reunited – but then Father and Son sent the Spirit into the church to accomplish the work we have been talking about tonight – the sanctification of the church, the work of first fruits and guarantee.

So perhaps there is a great longing actually WITHIN the Godhead for these last days to be over. For the Bride to be ready for her Bridegroom. A longing for the day when Christ will claim his Bride. A longing within the Holy Spirit of God for the process of sanctification to be completed. For the battle against human sin to finally be over. For the Holy Trinity to be completely united once again. No wonder not only the Bride but the Spirit says “Come”
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

Postcards of Heaven Revelation 21:1-22:5

Monday, October 30th, 2017

1 Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”

We don’t know what heaven is going to be like. But we have had some hints already in the Book of Revelation. Back in chapter 7 we were given a glimpse of the saints in glory and of all the blessings of heaven in three wonderful pictures.

Life in God’s presence

Revelation 7 15 Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

They are before the throne of God. Now we see in a mirror darkly. Then we will see face to face. We will be in God’s presence in the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies. We will see Jesus face to face! This is the heart of our Christian hope.

and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
As Richard Baxter puts it.
My knowledge of that life is small, The eye of faith is dim,
But it’s enough that Christ knows all, And I shall be with him.

Life in God’s presence, where

God will meet all our needs

Revelation 7 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat.

A place of everlasting joy

Revelation 7 17 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Life in God’s Presence. All Our Needs Met. A Place of Everlasting Joy. This is our hope!

Since chapter 7 we have seen the victory of the Lamb who was slain over the Dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil. We have seen that Jesus Christ is not only the Lamb but is also the Commander of the Armies of Heaven, the one who is faithful and true and whose name is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His victory is certain, the church will be triumphant, and those who share in that victory will be blessed forever. And here at the climax of the Book, Revelation gives us three more postcards of what heaven will be like.

Revelation 21:1 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. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 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.”
5 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.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Behold – I AM MAKING EVERYTHING NEW!

Revelation 21:1 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.

A new creation. The old order of things has passed away. The new has come. CS Lewis ends the final book in his series about Narnia, The Last Battle, like this:

“The things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say
that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

All things new! Everything is transformed, not so much by God’s actions but simply by God’s presence.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 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.”

God will be with us and we will be with God. Face to face in glory. And that will take away all the suffering and pain we have experienced this world. No more death or mourning or crying. And then we have an amazing postcard of heaven – which is two pictures in one.

THE BRIDE – WHO IS THE CITY

. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

The Bride and the City are both pictures of the church, the people of God, the children of God. Together all believers will make up the Bride of Christ and at the same time the City of God, the New Jerusalem. Now we find out more about this glorious bride.

9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

The Bride and the City are both pictures of the church, the people of God, the children of God. Together all believers will make up the Bride of Christ and at the same time the City of God, the New Jerusalem. The Bride, beautifully dressed for her wedding. A breathtaking image of holiness and virginity and anticipation.

9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

Some people pay great attention to the details in this description of the Holy City. The gates being the 12 tribes of Israel and the foundations being the 12 apostles. These features remind us of the continuity between God’s plan of salvation begun in the Old Testament with the nation of Israel, brought into reality by the ministry and Jesus Christ continuing in the Early Church, and brought to fulfilment in glory in heaven. We can also notice the riches of the city, so much gold and so many precious gems. But never mind the details – just take in the big picture. Because it is a VERY BIG picture.

15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.

12,000 stadia is 2,400 km. That is about as far as it is from here to Moscow. Or to Athens. 2,400 km is a long way. So this heavenly city is 2,400 km long by 2,400 km wide by 2,400 km high. That is big. Very big. Very, very big. The volume of that city will be about the same as the volume of the moon. That is big. Very big. Very, very big. But of course the heavenly city has to be big. God lives there!! The Bride and the City.
Next we have a second postcard of heaven.

GOD’S DWELLING PLACE

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The heavenly city is remarkable for many reasons, as much for what it does not contain as for what it does.

NO TEMPLE
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
The city doesn’t need a specific place to go and meet with God. Because God Himself is there. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are everywhere in the city.

NO SUN OR MOON
23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
The sun and the moon are the great lights which have lit the world and marked out day and night and times and seasons throughout the world for all of time. They have brought growth to crops and safety to travellers everywhere. But in heaven they won’t be needed. There won’t be any darkness and there won’t be any night – because in the heavenly city the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

And there won’t be any need for walls or gates because God will give his safety and security and peace to the city forever.

25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.

And there is one more thing there won’t be in that glorious city – ever.

NO SIN

27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

None of the things which spoil life in this world will ever enter heaven. I jumped over these verses from earlier in Revelation 21

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

No more sin. Just the spring of the water of life and a relationship with God as Father and children. As part of this Holy Bride, in this heavenly city where God dwells, we will truly experience heaven as is revealed in the third postcard:

PARADISE REGAINED

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God by disobeying his only commandment, they were banished from the Garden of Eden and the whole of creation was cursed. Now in the new creation, that curse is removed. Through Jesus Christ, Adam and Eve’s descendants may once again drink from the waters of life and eat from the tree of life. Paradise regained.

All things new. The Bride and the City. God’s dwelling place! Paradise regained

Believing in heaven is not running away from life – it is running towards it!

When we looked at Revelation chapter 7 I quoted these words from Richard Baxter.
“Why are not our hearts continually set on heaven? Why dwell we not there in constant comtemplation?…Bend thy soul to study eternity, busy thyself about the life to come, habituate thyself to such contemplations, and let not those thoughts be seldom and cursory, but bathe thyself in heaven’s delights.”

All things new. The Bride and the City. God’s dwelling place! Paradise regained. Let US bathe ourselves in heaven’s delights!

Six Pictures of Unseen Reality Revelation 19-20

Monday, September 25th, 2017

The book of Revelation is written in apocalyptic language. It looks ahead to the coming end of days in language which is more often pictorial and symbolic rather than literal. It points to events which are going to happen and at the same time to events which are already happening in the lives of the original readers at the end of the first century, and to the kinds of events which will continue to occur in the life of the church until Jesus returns in glory.
Some parts of Revelation are very difficult to understand. Chapter 20 mentions the thousand years, the millennium, and Christians have been arguing about what exactly that chapter means for almost 2000 years. We will think about the millennium next week but before we do that I think it is important we do not lose sight of the central truths that chapter proclaims which are easy to understand. So this evening we will pick out six points from Revelation chapters 19 and 20. We cannot see it, but the Bible reveals to us the way the world really is. Six pictures of unseen reality.
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,

Jump to v 6
6 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.
7 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.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
9 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.’

Here is the message at the heart of the Book of Revelation. Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Our God reigns! It doesn’t usually appear like that. We see so many problems and so much suffering in the world, and for folk in the church, and often in our own personal lives. But too often we don’t see the full picture. With Big Ben we only see the hands moving – we can’t see all the vast mechanisms going on inside that giant clock. Even more so with the universe. We can’t see the wood for the trees. But the book of Revelation gives us a look “behind the scenes” of the history of the world at what is really going on. In Revelation 19-20 there are six separate pictures each introduced by the words “I saw.” Six pictures of unseen reality. They aren’t photographs, they are only paintings or pictures. In fact it may be best to see these as cartoons where figures are symbolic representations of reality. In political cartoons we see the bulldog and that is usually a representation of Britain. We see and eagle and that is America, and a bear represents Russia. So we won’t dwell on specific details in these pictures but just get the overview – what is going on unseen behind the history of the world?
THE COMMANDER OF THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN
The first picture introduces the hero of the whole story. We met him earlier in chapters 5 and 7 as the Lamb who was slain, but in this chapter He is revealed in all his glory.
Revelation 19 11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron sceptre.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Last week we saw from Revelation 12 that there’s a war on. A heavenly battle between the dragon, that ancient serpent, the devil, and the brothers and sisters of the child, those who hold fast to the testimony about Jesus. Here is something we need to remember in all the battles we may be experiencing. We are not alone in our war against the world, the flesh and the devil, against the temptations in our own lives and all the evil in the world around. We are not alone. We are just a tiny part of the armies of heaven who stand behind the on who rides on the white horse, the one who is faithful and true, the one who is named The Word of God. We are following the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! And the commander of the armies of heaven leads us and protects us and wins the victory every time on our behalf. And we are not alone because we ride alongside the armies of heaven, the saints in glory, the saints around the world and all the armies of angels. So we are not alone. If God is for us, who can be against us?
HIS VICTORY IS CERTAIN
Revelation 19 17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in mid-air, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.’

Here is the truth the devil wants us to forget. The truth that the commander of the armies of heaven is indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords and His victory is certain, 100% guaranteed! The outcome of all the battles we and Christians everywhere may be fighting is already known and decided. The birds of prey are already circling ready to devour the corpses of those who will be defeated.
One particularly striking moment from our holiday in Tanzania was the point where we noticed a tree with maybe a dozen birds on the top. They were vultures. And looking in the sky we could see more vultures circling overhead. Then we looked down to the river bank and saw a group of lions stalking their pray. The wildebeest hadn’t noticed the lions creeping up on one of their calves. And the lions had not struck yet. But the vultures were already gathering. The outcome of the contest was obvious. And in the last battle, the outcome is certain. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords will be victorious! Because the Lamb who was slain has already won that victory on the cross. And Christ shares that triumph with all who trust and follow him. Victory is certain!
HIS ENEMIES ARE DOOMED
Revelation 19 19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
Sometimes it seems as though there are so many powers at work against God. The beast, the false prophet, the kings of the earth and all their armies. Let’s not get bogged down in the detail of who the beast represents and who the false prophet is. There have been beasts and false prophets in every generation and there will continue to be different beasts and false prophets until Jesus returns. Nations and organisations and individuals who fulfil these prophecies by rebelling against God and leading the world astray. Don’t spend your life worrying about whether the mark of the beast is your credit card number or your google password. Keep focussed on the big picture. Which is that in the end all of God’s enemies are defeated, captured and punished. All God’s enemies are doomed! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is triumphant! All the human beings who rebel against God will be judged. But more than that
THE DEVIL IS CONDEMNED
Revelation 20 1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient snake, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations any more until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

Christians have always been confused about the meaning of this thousand years, the millennium. Churches have split over the meaning of Revelation chapter 20 and we aren’t going to solve this conundrum tonight. We will come back to the millennium next week. For tonight, let’s stick with the big picture. And that is that the devil is defeated. The devil is doomed. The devil may seem so powerful to us, and we should not underestimate how evil and sneaky the dragon, the ancient serpent, actually is. He deceived adam and Eve and he will try to trick and deceive us. But look behind the scenes at the unseen realities of history and see that the devil is defeated. The Lamb who was slain is victorious. The devil is doomed and condemned and judged. One day the devil will be history – thrown into the Abyss and out of the picture forever! Praise the Lord! And in that day,
THE CHURCH WILL BE TRIUMPHANT

REVELATION 20 4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

The church will be triumphant. When will these things happen? If you think there will be a period of a thousand years of Christ’s rule on this earth BETWEEN the Second coming and the Final Judgment then you are a PREmillennialist. If you think there will be be a period of a thousand years of the kingdom coming and the church ruling the earth BEFORE Christ returns then you are a POSTmillennialist. If you think that this period of a thousand years is all symbolic with no literal significance in human history then you are an Amillennialist – like me, and so I congratulate you. But different Christians have held all of those views over the centuries and we don’t want to miss the wood for the thousand trees. The central point is that in the end Christ’s enemies will be destroyed and the church WILL be triumphant. The church will reign with Christ and the devil and the beast and the false prophet and all the powers of evil will face eternal judgment in the place God has prepared for them. The church will be triumphant!
Revelation 19:6 ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 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.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’
…. Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’

One final warning. JUDGMENT DAY IS COMING
Revelation 20 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Here is the dark side of hope. All have sinned and fallen short of the judgment of God. All will have to give account of their lives and their deeds before the judgment throne of God. All will be found guilty. All will face eternal judgment – the second death. And there is only one hope for any of us – only one way of escape. And that is the Lamb’s book of life. Only those who are saved by the blood of the Lamb will escape eternal punishment. Only those who put their trust in Jesus and his death on the cross, the Lamb who was slain who takes away the sins of the world. That is the dark side of hope.
So these six glimpses of unseen reality present a terrifying picture for people who do not know Christ. But for those who hold fast to the testimony of Jesus they bring us hope and assurance and joy and encouragement.
The commanded of the armies of heaven is king of kings and lord of lords and his victory is certain. His enemies are doomed, the devil is condemned and the church will be triumphant. But Christians should be doing everything we can to warn everybody – because judgment day is coming!
‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!

There’s a war on! Revelation 12

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Revelation 12 was not written to try to convince comfortable Christians that there is a spiritual war on. The Christians reading the Book of Revelation at the end of the first century didn’t need any persuading. Revelation 12 was written to persecuted Christians to explain to them why their brothers and sisters were being brutally persecuted, imprisoned and even martyred for their faith. The imagery of battle and warfare may seem remote or even irrelevant to us – but that’s just because our Christian lives are easy!
Actually we can glimpse signs of the spiritual battle even in North Springfield. So many of our neighbours are closed to the gospel. Behind closed doors there are social and financial and moral problems we are scarcely aware of. And the battle against the world and the flesh and the devil is real for everyone who seeks to follow Jesus in this world which is running away from God faster and faster.
Revelation 12 reveals what is going on behind the scenes of this fallen world. It reveals the battle between the Dragon, the Child, and the Woman.
Revelation 12:1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.’ And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
This is all symbolic language, apocalyptic language and we need to interpret the symbols. Throughout the Bible and other Jewish literature of the period the Dragon is a picture of the devil or Satan. He will appear again, particularly in Revelation chapter 20. The dragon is the devil, Satan. Verses 3 and 4 and then 7 to 9 describe for us how the devil and one third of the angels rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven.
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient snake called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
So the devil was exiled to earth. And those one third of the stars swept out of the sky were angelic beings who we know now as evil spirits or demons. The devil and the demons were hurled to the earth.
There are other parts of the Bible which are understood to say similar things about the origin of the devil. In particular there is a prophecy in Ezekiel 28 which talks about the King of Tyre but contains elements which clearly refer to more than a human king and instead to some kind of angelic being.
Ezekiel 28 11 The word of the LORD came to me: 12 ‘Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: “This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
‘ “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl.
Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.
14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you.
You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created
till wickedness was found in you.
16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned.
So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub,
from among the fiery stones.
17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom
because of your splendour.So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.

We find similar echoes in Isaiah chapter 14
12 How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.

So here in Ezekiel and in Isaiah we find the background to the idea in Revelation 12 that the devil was an angel who was cast out of heaven because of pride.
9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient snake called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. …
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. …
But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!

Now they have been cast out of heaven and hurled to earth the devil and all his demons continue to wage war against the woman and the child. The woman could symbolise the nation of Israel, or the church, the community of faith. Or the woman could represent the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. But the child clearly has only one meaning. The child is a symbol for Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Revelation 12 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.’ And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
The child is the one who will rule all the nations. The woman’s other children are those who put their trust in Jesus. And the devil continues his war with the woman and all her children. That is the battle which is going on behind the scenes even today – the war against the dragon.
17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

I wrote about this in our Newsletter this month. We enjoyed a lovely week staying a log cabin in the woods, but two things in South Wales caught my eye. The first was the dragons. Some were red, some were green: dragons on road signs, pottery dragons, carved dragons, slate dragons, the symbol of Celtic Wales is everywhere. We were staying very close to a Wildlife Park, a Dinosaur Park and an “activities park”. And the signposts you had to follow to these attractions were all marked with the logo of the dragon. I remember seeing years ago a disused church where the stained glass windows had been replaced by a striking mosaic of a dragon, `The Dragon Theatre’. The dragon had driven out the church.
And that was the second thing that struck me - the number of disused churches and chapels. Turned into an antiques shop, a “bargain basement” shop, a theatre and a couple of homes. Buildings sold off with no `live’ church among them. Everywhere church buildings have been converted to houses or flats or shops. It was a deeply depressing reminder of how far the churches have declined since the days of Methodism or of the Welsh Revival. Driving around London the picture is even more gloomy – church buildings which are now places of worship for Moslems or Hindus or Sikhs as well as other which have become temples to those great gods of Money and Entertainment.
This is the battle which `The great dragon …. that ancient serpent, called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray’ is waging against `those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus’ (see Revelation 12). In many places the enemy appears already to have won - the church has been extinguished.
So there’s a war on! The battle against the dragon, the devil and all his demons. But the Book of Revelation is all about the victory of the Lamb who was slain. The lamb has defeated the dragon! But what do Christians need to do to share in that victory? Three very challenging things – all in verse 11.
Revelation 12 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
THEY OVERCAME HIM BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB
Evelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’

We are victorious because of the lamb who was slain. The devil is a very powerful enemy. He has sneaky ways of attacking us: greed and pride and anger and lust and apathy and complacency. None of us can stand against the devil in our own strength. But the devil has been defeated by the blood of the Lamb. Jesus’s death on the cross did not only deal with the problem of our sin by making the way for us to be forgiven. By his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus the Lamb of God also completely defeated the devil and all the powers of evil.
1 John 3 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
Hebrews 2 14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Colossians 2 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
The devil and all the powers of evil have been defeated by Christ’s death on the cross. Our task is to live out our lives depending on Christ’s victory and Christ’s strength.
THEY OVERCAME HIM BY THE WORD OF THEIR TESTIMONY
The Book of Revelation was written to encourage Christians to stand firm in the face of fierce persecution, and be bold in their testimony about Jesus. Every time we bear witness to the victory of Christ on the cross and to the difference Jesus has made in our lives is a victory over the devil. Every time we tell people that we are Christians and that they need Jesus too, the devil is driven back. But every time we remain silent, the devil wins. It’s as simple as that. Thousands of people in North Springfield already belong to the devil – they are already doomed. The devil doesn’t need us to fail as Christians or for us to fall into great sins. The devil knows he can never get us back. All he wants is for us to stay silent about Jesus and he’s already won.
17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.
All we need to do is keep God’s commands and hold fast to our testimony about Jesus. There is the battleground. Speak out and we win and Jesus wins. Stay silent and we lose and the devil wins.

THEY DID NOT LOVE THEIR LIVES SO MUCH AS TO SHRINK FROM DEATH
Nothing is won without sacrifice. People who say the Christian life is easy haven’t read their Bibles. Following Jesus Christ is costly. It costs our money and our possessions. It costs time and effort, in prayer and in witnessing and in loving other people. Living as a Christian means sacrifice and footwashing, taking up our cross daily and following Jesus. This is not an optional extra for super-keen Christians. This is the basic starting point for disciples of Jesus.Doing what God wants us to do instead of what we want to do.
And if God wants us to lay down our lives for Him, as Jesus did, then that is what we must do. That is our victory over the devil. I remember a discussion I had with clergy from other denominations. We were considering whether whether baptism is actually necessary for salvation? The Roman Catholic priest said it is. “Except of course for the Martyrs.” It doesn’t matter if the martyrs had been baptised in water or not. They were considered to have been baptised in their own blood. Are we ready and willing to be baptised in our own blood? They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Remember the examples of the Christians in Smyrna.
Revelation 2 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Remember the example of Christians who are enduring persecution around the world even today. There’s a war on, a spiritual battle against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
And we have our part to play. To live in the victory of the Lamb who was slain. To overcome by the blood of the lamb, by the word of our testimony. By being prepared to die!
Revelation 12 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

The Saints in Glory Revelation 7:9-17

Monday, September 4th, 2017

C.S.Lewis once said, “Aim at heaven and you get the earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Christians don’t think enough about heaven. Revelation gives us a number of glorious pictures of heaven.

Last week be began by looking at the Lamb of God who is at the centre of the throne of God in heaven, and

THE VICTORY OF THE LAMB
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’ (Revelation 5:12)

The Lamb is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the only being in the whole of heaven and earth who is worthy to open the scroll and pronounce God’s judgment. The Lamb who is worthy for who He is, God the Son, the Word, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the one who holds the keys of death and hell, the Firstborn over all Creation, the visible image of the invisible God, the radiance of God’s glory, the heir of all things. The one who is before all things and in whom all things hold together. The one in whom all the fulness of God dwells in bodily form.

Then the Lamb is also worthy because He is Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Revelation 4 11 ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’

And the Lamb is worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise because He is the Lamb, looking as if it had been slain. He is worthy as the Saviour of those He has redeemed.

Revelation 5 9 … ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’

Jesus Christ is the Lamb who was slain, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World, who brings us victory over sin, victory over death which is the consequence of sin, victory over the devil and all the powers of evil. The Lamb has triumphed!
Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain.

Rev 5:13 ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!’
The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world has triumphed! Right now He is standing at the centre of the throne of God. And He shares that victory with all of us who put our trust in Him. When this mortal life is over we will share completely in that triumph. Until then we are living life in the overlap – in the tension between the already and the not yet of the Kingdom of God. For now we are torn between the pull of this world and the pull of the next, the battle between what already exists and the glory which is yet to come. But in the middle of the suffering and temptations of the present we can look forward to the promise of the future. Because God has promised that one day we all will all share

ALL THE BLESSINGS OF HEAVEN

Revelation Chapter 7 gives us three wonderful pictures of what heaven will be like.

Life in God’s presence

Revelation 7 15 Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

They are before the throne of God. Now we see in a mirror darkly. Then we will see face to face. This prospect of being in God’s presence and of seeing Jesus face to face is at the heart of the Christian hope of eternal life. If it doesn’t fill us with joy and hope, we have missed completely missed the point of salvation.

‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple;

The word for Temple there is actually naos, the word for the Holy of Holies. We will still be serving God. Heaven will be filled with all kinds of purposeful activities we cannot imagine. But sometimes in this life we can find ourselves frustrated at how far we fall short of God’s glory. In heaven our worship and service of God will be made perfect.

and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

Here is a wonderful echo of the Old Testament promise of Psalm 91

Psa 91 1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
So we have this wonderful promise of everlasting life in God’s presence. Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines which I often quote at a funeral.
My knowledge of that life is small, The eye of faith is dim,
But it’s enough that Christ knows all, And I shall be with him.

Life in God’s presence – PAUSE AND REFLECT

Then we have a second picture of heaven
God will meet all our needs

Revelation 7 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat.

One 17th century author put it like this: “I am assured that though I want here, I have riches there; though I hunger here, I shall have fullness there; though I faint here, I shall be refreshed there; and though I be counted here as a dead man, I shall there live in perpetual glory.”

We have so many needs in this life. Physical needs. Mental needs. Emotional needs. Social needs. Spiritual needs. God will meet all those needs in heaven. What do you need in life? Not – what do you want? Not – what would you like? Not – what do you desire? But what do you need? God will meet all those needs! In heaven we will have reached the end of our journey.

Light after darkness, gain after loss; Strength after weakness, crown after cross;
Sweet after bitter, hope after fears; Home after wandering, praise after tears;
Sheaves after sowing, sun after rain; Sight after mystery, peace after pain;
Joy after sorrow, calm after blast; Rest after weariness, sweet rest at last;
Near after distant, gleam after gloom; Love after loneliness, life after tomb;
After long agony, rapture of bliss; Follow the pathway, leading to this.

So we look forward with eager anticipation to the end of the journey where God will meet all our needs.

PAUSE AND REFLECT

And then we have this third wonderful picture of heaven as

A place of everlasting joy

Revelation 7 17 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

The Good Shepherd who leads the flock and cares for the flock and protects the flock will lead them to springs of living water. Too often Christians are satisfied with the riches of this world and are not thirsty enough for the living waters of God’s Holy Spirit.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Whatever sorrows we may face in this life, God will wipe all those tears away. Bereavements, illnesses, disappointments, hurts, fears. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. We will be in a place of everlasting joy. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis said this. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

A place of everlasting joy – PAUSE AND REFLECT

BUT WE’RE NOT IN HEAVEN YET.

One day each of us will be there in the multitude, wearing the white robes and waving the palm branches and singing in a loud voice,
‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’
We will be there listening to all the angels and the elders and the four living creatures praising God, singing,
‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’
But we aren’t in heaven yet! Things will get harder before they get easier. Much, much harder!
Revelation 7 13 Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’
14 I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’
And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple;

The blessings of heaven are only for those who have come through the times of tribulation. The blessings of heaven are for those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Their joy comes from sharing the victory of the Lamb who was slain, and for some that victory will only come through martyrdom.

The apostle Paul knew exactly what it meant to suffer for Christ. And he wrote in Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. (Message)

Life in God’s Presence. All Our Needs Met. A Place of Everlasting Joy. This is our Christian happy certainty of heaven. We should definitely think about heaven much more than we do!

In his classic devotional book titled The Saint’s Everlasting Rest, English Puritan pastor and author Richard Baxter (1615-1691) wrote:
“Why are not our hearts continually set on heaven? Why dwell we not there in constant comtemplation?…Bend thy soul to study eternity, busy thyself about the life to come, habituate thyself to such contemplations, and let not those thoughts be seldom and cursory, but bathe thyself in heaven’s delights.”

Life in God’s Presence. All Our Needs Met. A Place of Everlasting Joy. This is our hope!

The Victory of the Lamb - Revelation 5

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Power. Wealth. Wisdom. Strength. Honour. Glory. Praise.

These are all thing which very many people spend their lives chasing. And there is nothing wrong with any of them in themselves. As long as they are ascribed to a person who is truly worthy to receive them. The problem with human beings chasing after power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise is that no human being deserves these things. We are not worthy! The truth is that there is only one person worthy of these things and that is God Himself. So it is that in this glimpse of heaven in Revelation chapter 5 we see ten thousand times ten thousand angels, more than one for every inhabitant of the United Kingdom, raising their voices in praise in verse 12.
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’

The Book of Revelation has moved beyond the Letters to the Seven Churches to give visions of heaven. Visions of the things which will be fulfilled at the end of time when Christ has returned in glory and at the same time are visions of what is already true in God’s eternal Kingdom. Visions of the one who is so great and so beautiful and so marvellous that they are worthy of all the things we aspire to but fall so far short of. Visions of the exalted victorious Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Lamb who is worthy.
WORTHY TO JUDGE THE EARTH
Revelation 5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’
The scroll holds the announcement of God’s righteous judgment on the earth. But no human being is worthy to open the scroll and pronounce God’s judgment. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. No human being who has ever lived, no saint in heaven, not even the highest arkangels in glory are worthy to open the scroll. But there is one who is. The Lion of Judah. The Root of David, the heir to all God’s promises to David, the Messiah, Jesus Christ the Lord is worthy to open the scroll and to act as Judge of All.
In our sermons on John’s Gospel in chapter 5 we looked at the little parable of The Son, God’s Apprentice. Jesus said this. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Jesus knew that God had entrusted all judgment to Him. And here in Revelation we are reminded why that is the case and why the Lamb of God is worthy to open the scroll.

WORTHY FOR WHO HE IS
Sometimes we think so much about the wonderful things the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished for us by his death and resurrection that we forget to praise Him for Who He Is. The Son of God. The Word of God. The Creator and Sustainer of everything that exists. The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. The One who holds the Keys of Death and Hades. King of Kings and Lord of Lord. The Risen Christ who appeared to John as One Like A Son of Man in Revelation chapter 1. Christ is worthy because of who He is, as Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1 describe Him. The firstborn over all Creation, the visible image of the invisible God, the radiance of God’s glory, the heir of all things. The one who is before all things and in whom all things hold together. The one in whom all the fulness of God dwells in bodily form. This is why Jesus is indeed worthy of power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!’

WORTHY AS CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
Revelation 4 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11 ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’

God the Creator of Heaven and Earth is indeed worthy of all glory and honour and praise! This is how Colossians 1 describes this wonderful truth.
Colossians 1 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:19 tells us For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
And chapter 2 verse 9 repeats it. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
So Colossians tells us that the Son of God is indeed God. And this is even more clear in Revelation 5. Let me emphasise this point as strongly as I can, in case it has slipped past you. The praise which is being offering in heaven is praise for the Lamb of God, the Lamb who was slain.
Revelation 5 6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.
The Lamb is at the centre of the throne of God. So although the Lamb takes the scroll from the one sitting on the throne, the fact that the Lamb is at the centre of the throne of God tells us beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lamb is Himself also God. The Lamb is God and God is the Lamb, Creator of Heaven and Earth.
This is assumed throughout the Book of Revelation, but made absolutely explicit in Revelation 22 1:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
The throne in heaven is the throne of God and of the Lamb. There in verse 1 and verse 2. This Lamb at the centre of the throne of God is indeed God! He is worthy to open the scroll because of Who He Is, and also because of His mighty acts of Creation. But even more than that, the Lamb looking as though it was slain is

WORTHY AS SAVIOUR OF THOSE HE HAS REDEEMED
Revelation 5 9 And they sang a new song, saying:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’

Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World, accomplished so much for us when He died on the cross for us. He brings us victory over sin, victory over death which is the consequence of sin, victory over the devil and all the powers of evil. The Lamb has triumphed!
5 Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’
6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.
The Lamb is victorious! So He is worthy to open the scroll, because he has died. He was slain. It is so comforting to know that the future of the universe and the eternal destiny of each one of us, rests safe in the hands of Almighty God. But it is even more reassuring to remember that God is not some callous merciless tyrant but a loving heavenly Father. And the one who will be responsible for bringing God’s judgment on the world is none other than Jesus, the Lamb of God who was slain. The Lamb who gave His life to be a sin offering. The one who is completely worthy of all power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise all because of his suffering and his weakness and his death.
‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
1 Corinthians 6:19 You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.
We belong to God now. He has redeemed us. We owe him absolutely everything!
Mark 10 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
Persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Let’s not forget – God is not a 21st Century Middle-Class Englishman. The Church is made up of people from every place and every class and every race and every time. And Christ died for us all – not just for you and me!

10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’

The true church is much more than a club or a society or an organisation. The true church is more even than just a family. The church is a kingdom of priests and our destiny is to serve God forever.
So the Lamb who was slain is indeed worthy! Worthy because of who He is. Worthy as Creator of Heaven and Earth. Worthy as Saviour of those who He has redeemed.
All heaven praises the Lamb seated on the throne.
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’

And the earth and every single living creature in the whole of Creation echoes that praise!
v.13 ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!’
And that is how we should respond to the Lamb who was slain for us. Bow down and worship – for this is your God!