Category: Revelation (page 1 of 7)

The New Order

“The old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”¬† ~Revelation 21:4-5

The last two chapters of Revelation contain very familiar descriptions of heaven. These are the phrases that make it into our church songs and our popular lexicon: streets of gold, pearly gates, book of life, river of life, crystal sea, no tears.

There are some descriptions of the City of the Lamb in these verses that are not as familiar. Some of the descriptions are even surprising: coming down out of heaven to earth, the bride, Jerusalem, gates never shut.

These final two chapters show us where all things are headed. We see the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s goals. We get a picture of the finish line. And my favorite phrase is about the old order of things passing away and the new order being eternally established by our victorious Lord.

The old order — the broken way that things run in this world. Sin and death, power and threat, violence and division and strife — that’s the old order of things. That’s the way the world works. We know that’s how it works. But God says I am making everything new!

The old order is grief and loss and heartache and tears; the new order is no more death or mourning or crying or pain!

The old order is wealth and power and poverty and despair; the new order is access to the springs of life without cost — God’s everlasting blessings are free!

Right now the world operates by division and exclusion, racism and discrimination; the City of the Lamb has gates on every side and they’re never shut; it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re coming from, men and women from every tribe and language and people and nation are welcome; everybody’s invited, nobody’s left out, and the doors are always open!

Today we live under constant threat and fear and dread and anxiety; but nothing impure will ever enter the City of the Lamb — no bad people, no night, nothing to be afraid of!

Today we’re all impacted in some way by sickness, disease, and disabilities; tomorrow we all drink freely from the water of eternal life and the tree of life heals us and all the nations!

The old order is isolation and loneliness, separation from God and distance from each other because of our sins and failures and brokenness and guilt; in the beautiful City of the Lamb we will  see his face; his name will be on our heads; God will live with us; we will be his people and God himself will be with us and be our God; and we will reign in perfect love and joy and peace for ever and ever! Amen!

Peace,

Allan

Living for the Lamb

We’ve made the book of Revelation too complicated. I love what Randy Harris says about it. He claims the whole book of Revelation is super easy. It’s only got three points:

1) God’s team wins.
2) Pick a team.
3) Don’t be stupid.

Revelation reminds us of the promise and shows us the hope. Revelation reveals to us God’s ultimate goals for his people and all of creation and shows us what it looks like when it’s ultimately fulfilled.

Revelation gives us one of the most stunning, creative and beautiful pictures of Jesus Christ and his eternal Kingdom in the whole Bible. It’s a masterpiece. Yes, some of it’s pretty wild. But the overarching point is about the conflict between good and evil. It’s about the cosmic clash between the kingdoms of the world and the Kingdom of God. And it tells us — no, it shows us! — that the best and only hope for us and the world is Christ.

Our God’s mission is to bring all things in heaven and on earth together in Christ. As children of God and followers of Christ, we join him in that mission. We’ve given ourselves to that mission. And Revelation shows us that mission when it’s finally and fully accomplished.

The vision in Revelation informs and empowers the Church’s mission. We know what God has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus and we know where this whole thing is headed. We’re compelled by the current realities and the future realities to teach and heal, to encourage and comfort, to sacrifice and serve, to show the love of God and to share the victory of the Lamb with others here at home and to as much of the rest of the world as we can.

Every time a church is planted, every time a hungry child receives a meal, every time a missionary is trained and sent, every time a sick person is healed, every time a sermon is preached, every time a homeless man is brought into Christian community, every time a Bible is opened in another language, somebody is brought face to face for the first time with the power and love of Jesus Christ. Somebody gets the idea that this world belongs to God, not to the forces of evil. Somebody begins to believe that there are promises and there is hope because the Lamb of God is on the eternal throne and the situation here is not all there is.

Peace,

Allan

Victory of the Lamb

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation!” ~Revelation 5:9

The Lamb of God has been slain, but he has not been conquered. The Lamb has been killed, but he’s not hurt. The risen and glorious Lord Jesus is holding the world’s salvation in his hands and he is standing — standing victoriously! — in the center of the eternal throne. Because he died. Jesus conquers not by violence, but by humble sacrifice; not by threat, but by suffering; Jesus’ victory comes not through force, but by his willing death.

That’s one of the jokes, right? It’s the irony of the Good News of the Gospel. The Bible calls it the foolishness of the cross: that the sinful structures of this world — the beast — and the evil forces of sin and death and Satan are conquered by a little lamb. This is how God works.

Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but he doesn’t reign as a prowling, predatory lion — he’s a Lamb. The Lamb of God is not worthy because he’s divine or because he’s powerful; he is praised by all of creation because he gave his life for all of creation. Christ Jesus is worthy of all worship and glory and honor and praise, he’s worthy of ruling the universe in love and peace, because of his sacrificial death on our behalf.

Because he has purchased people for God with his blood. Not just A People. This is not just a victory for one particular group of people, this isn’t salvation for just one nation or one tribe or even for twelve really special tribes. The Lamb of God shares his victory with men, women, and children from every tribe and every language and every people and every nation! No partiality! No discrimination! Everybody’s invited and nobody’s left out! We are all more than conquerors through the Lamb who loves us! The Suffering Servant who came to seek and save the lost. The humble King who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Peace,

Allan

Song of the Lamb

“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. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.” ~Revelation 5:1-4

God sits on his throne in heaven and holds in his right hand his eternal plans for the salvation of the world. The scroll is full — it’s got writing on both sides. The seven seals indicate that the scroll is official. It’s authentic. This is the real deal, it has authority. But the seals also make sure only the authorized party can open the scroll and read it. Only someone worthy, only someone with the right credentials and the right status can open it up and put whatever’s inside into effect.

So this is God’s plan to undo and overthrow sin and death and Satan and everything that separates us from God, everything that’s attacking us and destroying us and the world. This is God’s divine decree to deliver and rescue and save all of creation from the forces of evil. God’s holding it right there.

And this dramatic scene turns tragic when no one is found who is worthy to open it.

After searching all of humanity, the living and the dead, not one person is found worthy to execute God’s redemption. Not Abraham, not Moses, not David, not Elijah — nobody is worthy to preside over the salvation of the world. And John begins to weep uncontrollably. John is filled with despair. He’s distraught, he’s overcome with sorrow because it looks like God’s gracious plans for his people won’t be realized. John cries out loud because he knows the world is messed up and no human is going to fix it.

I don’t know what makes you cry. I don’t know how you are personally impacted by the brokenness of the world and by the fallen nature of humanity. I don’t know how your sin and the sins of the people around you affect you. I don’t know how hunger and poverty and disease and death and violence and hatred and war and corruption impact you. I don’t know what makes you cry.

But imagine if the only hope we had was in ourselves. What if the only chance we had to fix everything depended on us?

“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!’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne… He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.” ~Revelation 5:5-7

Only one is worthy to bring God’s salvation to earth. Only one is worthy to rule the world in perfect love and peace. Only one is worthy to defeat sin and destroy death forever by the Word and power of God. And when it’s announced that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is worthy, all of creation breaks out in glorious song.

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a Kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth… Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!… To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever!” ~Revelation 5:9-13

The Lamb of God has been slain, but he has not been conquered. The Lamb has been killed, but he’s not hurt. The risen and glorious Lord Jesus is holding the world’s salvation in his hands and he is standing — standing victoriously! — in the center of the eternal throne!

The Song of the Lamb gives us a picture of the reality. God is sitting on his throne and the risen Jesus is standing right in the middle of the room with him. We see who’s really in charge of the world. God is sovereign over the world because it’s his — he made it! The Father and the Son are reigning supreme. They are the ruler over everything that’s happened in this world and over everything that’s going to happen. No matter what it looks like or feels like, to you or to anyone else, we know our loving and gracious God is in control.

Peace,

Allan

Here’s Looking at You

My kids tell me I’ve ripped this off from the movie “27 Dresses” which, as God is my witness, I’ve never seen. But when I’m at a wedding and the bride makes her appearance at the back of the church and begins to walk down that center aisle, I do turn my attention to the groom. I want to watch the groom as he sees his beautiful bride. Because the way that groom looks at the bride is the way our God looks at his Church.

Scripture tells us that God wants to be much more to us than just a mighty king with loyal subjects. He wants to be the groom to the bride. He wants a relationship of intimate love with us as profound and eternal as that between a husband and a wife. God calls himself the groom throughout the Old Testament.

“‘They broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 31:32

Jesus calls himself the groom in the Gospels and compares the Kingdom of God to a massive wedding feast.

“How can the guests of the groom fast while he is with them?” ~Mark 2:19

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son… All things are ready! Come to the wedding banquet!” ~Matthew 22:1-4

And at the end of time, when everything is finally made right and all of our Father’s plans have culminated in the new heavens and new earth and perfectly righteous relationships with him and one another, there’s going to be a wedding feast to end all wedding feasts!

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” ~Revelation 21:2

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” ~Revelation 19:9

This coming feast celebrates finally the intimate and permanent union of God and his people. This is how history ends. This is what God is doing.

When God uses a metaphor to help us see him better, it also helps us better understand how he sees us. God calls us his Father, he calls us his children, and then Jesus says, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more…?”

If God is our groom, then he must really love us. He must truly delight in us.

What does the bride look like when she walks down that aisle? How does her groom see her? Have you ever watched the groom?

When the groom sees her, he’s absolutely delighted. You can see the love in his eyes. You can almost feel the commitment in his heart. You can sense the complete devotion to her in the deepest part of his soul. He’ll do anything for her for the rest of his life, he’ll stop at nothing to protect her and provide for her and please her, he’ll dedicate his whole existence to loving her forever — you can see it in the way he looks at her!

How dare our Lord use a metaphor like that! How dare the Scriptures tap into this really powerful image and its accompanying emotions!

Could it be that he really loves us like that? That he really loves you that much? That God is that committed to you?

How different would your life be if you lived every day — hour by hour, moment by moment — in the awareness of God’s great love for you? He’s looking at you right now. He thinks you’re beautiful. He’s proud of you. And he loves you more than our words can describe.

Peace,

Allan

Central’s Resurrection Video

(Here’s the link to the video — “We Believe” — that goes with the following thoughts from the end of our sermon here at Central this past Sunday. Thank you to everyone who participated.)

“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. 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!'” ~Revelation 21:3-4

resurrectionblur

Some of us are battling the challenges of old age. Some of us are bravely struggling against cancer. Some of us are mourning the death of loved ones. Some of us were born with disabilities that have impacted every single minute of our lives. Some of us have been limping for years because of something that happened a long time ago. Maybe your life is marked by some kind of tragedy, some past event. Maybe something really dark. And it still impacts you; it’s shaped your whole life. Some kind of violence or abuse, I don’t know. But there’s a wound in your soul, a deep scar. It’s this cloud that’s hanging over you every day — it’s there when you wake up in the morning and it’s there when you go to bed at night. For years. It’s always there.

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice in what I will create… the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard no more.” ~Isaiah 65:17-19

No more fight. No more struggle. No more disappointment or depression. No more battling every day trying to forget and move on. Perfect healing forever. The Lord says, “Write this down. These words are trustworthy and true. It is done!”

We put undo hope in things that can’t deliver. We don’t rely on God like we should; we put more trust in ourselves and our stuff. It’s not because we purposefully downplay or reject the promises of God in Scripture. I think it’s because we don’t slow down enough to allow ourselves time to really reflect.

resurrectionart

Imagine your own resurrected body. Perfectly healed. Inside and out. Top to bottom — body, spirit, soul, heart, mind — all of you, made perfectly new, completely whole. Can you see that? Whatever the ailment, it’s gone. Whatever the physical limitations, whatever the emotional issues, they’re gone. Whatever walls there are between you and your spouse and between you and your children are gone.

Imagine sitting across the table from that loved one who died years ago and eating and drinking together. And laughing. Imagine introducing me to your grandmother. I can’t wait for you to meet mine. Imagine all the cancer and all the worrying about cancer gone. Imagine the guy in the wheelchair running and jumping and rejoicing. Imagine the friend with Alzheimer’s looking right into your eyes and knowing exactly who you are and remembering perfectly everything you’ve ever done together.

Imagine my daughter not wearing hearing aids and hearing my voice clearly, her almost-surgically-repaired feet made completely whole and not killing her every day, being able to communicate everything she wants to communicate to me, and me being able to understand everything about her the way I want.

And imagine nothing between any of us.

“He said to me, ‘It is done!'” ~Revelation 21:6

Peace,

Allan

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