Revelation 21: 1-5 and 22:1-5
Pastor Chris Tweitmann
Eleven months ago, we set out on a journey together in worship: to read the Bible, from cover to cover. Our primary tool for undertaking this task was The Story – an abridged, chronological and seamlessly woven together narrative account of the Scriptures. The hope was this would enable many of you to understand God’s Word more fully and to engage with it more easily.
Our goal in making this pilgrimage, was to gain a sense of the whole Story of who God is, who we are and how our stories are inseparable from the grander narrative the Lord is shaping through this world – His creation. For when we know the ways God spoke to our ancestors, that’s how we start to hear God’s voice, now. When we more clearly perceive how the Lord was present and working in the lives of those who’ve gone before us, we can begin to recognize the Spirit breaking into and guiding our path today.
This Sunday, we come to the final chapter of The Story. We began in January with the book of Genesis; and we conclude here in November, with the book of Revelation. Revelation is a vision attributed to John, given to him on the island of Patmos during a time when the early Church was undergoing great persecution. It begins with seven letters to seven churches. Each church is evaluated by Jesus for its weaknesses and strengths and given instruction as to how it should move forward. Following this there is much talk of angels and horsemen, a dragon and a beast, seals being broken and a lake of fire. There is judgment, the casting out of evil and the image of a beautiful city in a restored garden.
People can get really worked up about the book of Revelation. There always has been a fascination with studying it – breaking it down, deciphering its multiple images and descriptions and constructing a linear timeline of what John describes. We will not indulge in any such needless speculation this weekend. Listening and trusting Jesus, who admonished us that “No one knows the hour or the day,” we will instead seek to appreciate how this, the final book of the Bible, helps us to understand the shape of things to come as well as how to live into that future.
We profess to live on the other side of the reign of sin, evil and death. Through both the Cross and the empty tomb, our Father’s relentless quest to get us back has been realized through the Son, Jesus Christ. The Body of Christ lives through the Church – brought to life, carried forward and maturing through the Holy Spirit. And yet, the world around us appears unchanged – very much the same as it ever was.
Thousands of people die from starvation everyday. Countless others are brutally killed or tortured as wars continue to break out. Acts of violence erupt all around us – be it the rage of a lone gunman, rioting in neighborhood streets or even just the devastating wake of a hurricane. Death and decay still seem to rule the day. Creation groans as do our very bones as they age and break down within us.
Is anything different since Jesus came? Will things ever change?
Come and be encouraged. The whole story we’ve been reading and experiencing during this past year leads us to the ultimate picture we are given in this final book of the Bible. The seed that was planted in Genesis reaches full bloom in Revelation. What is promised at the dawn of time comes to fruition with the end of time and the beginning of eternity.
As the veil is lifted for us by John, let us catch a glimpse of things happening now which are not immediately obvious – of our future in Christ which is certain and is even now permeating our present. Knowing the plans God has for the future can help to fortify our faith today and profoundly shape our day-to-day lives now.
Yes, the darkness is still all around us but it cannot and will not overtake the Light. Even though The Story may not appear to be moving in a particular direction, the Author is still in control, tailoring whatever happens, whatever comes to pass towards the promised, anticipated and soon to be celebrated conclusion of all things being made new. Thanks be to God!
Grace to you!