REVELATION 48: “BECAUSE I SAID SO.”

opened bible on wooden surfaca
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

When we take these two declarations of Jesus together, they share a common theme: You can count on Jesus. You can rely on his word. Come to Him, be satisfied in Him, by reading his word. At the same time, understand this: all satisfaction in this life is only a foretaste of what is coming. So we, the Bride of Christ, say with the Spirit to world: Come and drink now, feed yourself on the Word of God, the Son of David, the One you can rely on. Don’t wait.

At the same time, we the Bride of Christ, also say with the Spirit: Come Lord Jesus, return soon!

To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer:
Download Revelation Part 48

 

Revelation #48. Revelation 22:16-17

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

We are considering the last things that Jesus has to say in His revealed word. We have covered three of his last seven statements. The next, the fourth, comes in the center of the chiastic structure of this little section. That means it is “highlighted,” or italicized, so to speak.

Jesus signs off with two titles. The Romans, intercepting this message, would not have known that “root and descendant of David” refers to the Messiah. Unfortunately, many modern readers don’t either. But that is why Jesus chose that title. To remind those persecuted Christians (without tipping off the Romans) that he is the Messiah who was prophesied by the Old Testament. It also reminds us that he is the God of all time. He is the descendant of David, yes, but he is also the “root,” or “source,” of David. He is both God and man. The second title is “bright morning star.” This is a bit more obscure. When Balaam was hired to curse Israel (while they were wondering in the desert between Egypt and the promised land), instead, he prophesied blessing over God’s people. Among other things, he said this, in Numbers 24:

17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.
18 Edom shall be dispossessed; Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.
Israel is doing valiantly. 19 And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion
and destroy the survivors of cities!” (ESV Numbers 24:17-19)

Once again, Jesus is the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies. Not only that, but Balaam’s prophecy above sounds a little bit like some of the events proclaimed by the book of Revelation. In addition, if the title “descendant of David” seems to emphasize the human nature that Jesus took into himself, “the bright morning star” seems to emphasize his Divine nature.

Remember, at the very beginning of the book, we learned that those who first received this prophecy were under a tremendous amount of hardship and stress. They were persecuted. They wondered if maybe the Lord had forgotten them. But Jesus sends them this sweeping vision of God making everything right, and of the eternal future he has for those who trust him. He is now saying this:

“You can count on what I say. This is from me personally: the Messiah, the one the Old Testament prophesied about so much. I am coming back, I have not forgotten you. I am in control of every part of history. Rely upon it. I give you my word as the Messiah, and as the Son of God.”

Let’s look at Jesus’ fifth declaration:

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

This is another passage that is hard to capture fully in English. The Spirit, is, of course, the Holy Spirit. The Bride is the church, and I think this refers to the church right now, before the Lord has fulfilled all that He promises in Revelation, because it is describing her desire for Jesus to return.

R.C. Lenski, a terrific Lutheran Bible commentator, renders the Greek more literally like this (I agree with it, which is why I share it with you. But in any case, Lenski is a far better Greek scholar than me):

And the Spirit and the Bride are saying, Be coming! And the one hearing, let him say, Be coming! And let the one thirsting be coming! Let the one willing take life’s water gratis!

(Lenski’s Commentary on the New Testament. Revelation 22:17)

It is important to know that these Greek verbs are in the present tense. This is not about the Spirit and the church saying, just once, “Come, Lord Jesus!” The Holy Spirit places the longing for the return of Jesus into the hearts of the people of His church. The Spirit, and the church, led by the Spirit, are continually longing for Jesus to return. They are always saying “Oh, I wish Jesus would return and bring us into the glory and grace and joy that we were made to have!”

Aside from the Spirit and the Bride, there is another set of “characters” in this little statement. There is “the one thirsting.” This person is called not just to ask Jesus to return, but to personally come to Jesus and drink. Then there is “the one willing.” This person, again, is not just asking something from Jesus, but is told to go ahead, and take the water of life for free, and drink of it.

After last time, when we had a warning about those who reject God’s plan, we now have a welcome for those –anyone – who is willing to come to Jesus.

Once again, these verbs are present tense. We are called to find satisfaction for our souls in Jesus continually. It is not a one time event called “getting saved,” or “conversion.” It is a continual lifestyle of coming back to the well – that is coming to Jesus every day, like children coming to a beloved parent for what they need. Once is not enough. “Be coming, be drinking.”

How do we do this? John Piper wrote a biography of a famous Christian named George Mueller. Mueller had a remarkable ministry from age 25 until his death at 93 – almost seventy years. He personally saved 10,000 orphans from the streets of 19th century England, and put them in homes that he built and set up. He inspired his fellow-citizens to also engage in orphan work, which, until then, had been largely ignored. He encouraged countless missionaries, and even mission-agencies. He served as a pastor for most of his life, also. He suffered the loss of his beloved wife, and all but one of his five children. In all his work, he took no salary, and asked for no contributions (not even for the orphan ministry) but asked for money from God alone, and God provided. Discussing his ministry, and all that he had been through, and what sustained him, he claimed that his secret was that his soul was perfectly satisfied in God alone, and whatever God had for him, whether difficult or easy.  In other words, he listened to the command of Jesus, and came continually to the water of life to drink. But how do we get that satisfaction? How do we come to Jesus and drink? John Piper quotes Mueller:

But in what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul? How shall we learn to enjoy God? How obtain such an all-sufficient soul-satisfying portion in him as shall enable us to let go the things of this world as vain and worthless in comparison? I answer, This happiness is to be obtained through the study of the Holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed Himself unto us in the face of Jesus Christ.
Happiness in God comes from seeing God revealed to us in the face of Jesus Christ through the Scriptures. “In them . . . we become acquainted with the character of God. Our eyes are divinely opened to see what a lovely Being God is! And this good, gracious, loving, heavenly Father is ours, our portion for time and for eternity.” Knowing God is the key to being happy in God. (George Mueller’s Strategy for Showing God)

I cannot say it often enough: Christians, read your Bibles! If you don’t like to read, then listen to them in an audio version. I love this next quote from Mueller, also, because he said what I have been saying also, for years:  don’t just read a chapter here and there. Pick a book, and read through the whole book (say, the book of Ephesians). Then pick another (say, Micah), and read through it. And so on. Piper writes the first two sentences below, the rest is all George Mueller:

Therefore the most crucial means of fighting for joy in God is to immerse oneself in the Scriptures where we see God in Christ most clearly. When he was 71 years old, Mueller spoke to younger believers:
Now in brotherly love and affection I would give a few hints to my younger fellow-believers as to the way in which to keep up spiritual enjoyment. It is absolutely needful in order that happiness in the Lord may continue, that the Scriptures be regularly read. These are God’s appointed means for the nourishment of the inner man. . . .Consider it, and ponder over it. . . . Especially we should read regularly through the Scriptures, consecutively, and not pick out here and there a chapter. If we do, we remain spiritual dwarfs. I tell you so affectionately. For the first four years after my conversion I made no progress, because I neglected the Bible. But when I regularly read on through the whole with reference to my own heart and soul, I directly made progress. Then my peace and joy continued more and more. Now I have been doing this for 47 years. I have read through the whole Bible about 100 times and I always find it fresh when I begin again. Thus my peace and joy have increased more and more. (George Mueller’s Strategy for Showing God. I added the bold  and italic formatting for emphasis)

I want to add something to that. This past week, I’ve been reading about George Mueller for my own enjoyment. Yes, I’ve used it in this message, but that wasn’t why I was reading it. I encourage you to also read biographies of Christians like him. They are very helpful and inspiring. Again, if you aren’t a reader, that is no longer an excuse. There are audiobooks for everything, nowadays. George Mueller’s biography is a good one to start with. Through the Gates of Splendor (about Jim Elliot) is another good one. Here I Stand (Martin Luther) by Roland Bainton, is another good one.

When we take these two declarations of Jesus together, they share a common theme: You can count on Jesus. You can rely on his word. Come to Him, be satisfied in Him, by reading his word. At the same time, understand this: all satisfaction in this life is only a foretaste of what is coming. So we, the Bride of Christ, say with the Spirit to world: Come and drink now, feed yourself on the Word of God, the Son of David, the One you can rely on. Don’t wait.

At the same time, we the Bride of Christ, also say with the Spirit: Come Lord Jesus, return soon!

ADVENT: THE SEASON OF “SECOND CHRISTMAS”

 

Advent1

The church season of Advent is all about anticipation and expectation: not about Jesus’ birth, but about his return to earth. Sometimes, we have the same sorts of conflicting emotions about the return of Jesus that we have toward Christmas: anticipation, joy, stress and a fear that perhaps we will miss out.

1Dear friends, this is now the second letter I have written to you; in both letters, I want to develop a genuine understanding with a reminder, 2so that you can remember the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the command of our Lord and Savior given through your apostles. 3First, be aware of this: Scoffers will come in the last days to scoff, living according to their own desires, 4saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation.” 5They willfully ignore this: Long ago the heavens and the earth were brought about from water and through water by the word of God. 6Through these waters the world of that time perished when it was flooded. 7But by the same word, the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

8Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

10But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. 11Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. 13But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.

14Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish. 15Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. 16He speaks about these things in all his letters in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.

17Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stability. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2Pet 3:1-18, HCSB)

2 Peter 3:1-18. Advent Week 1,2017

Remember when you were a kid, and it seemed like Christmas would never come? I sometimes enjoy the movie A Christmas Story. It really captures the combination of yearning, excitement and apprehension that some children feel about the holiday. In that movie, Ralph, a young boy, desperately wants a BB gun. He needs it. His heart will not be at peace until he possesses it. Throughout the whole movie he is aching for Christmas to come, but also a bit fearful that he’ll be disappointed.

Jesus also promised us a “second Christmas.” He said he would return some day. In some ways, I think we look at the return of Jesus the same way Ralph in A Christmas Story looks at Christmas. We want the gifts we might get: eternal life, an end to sorrow and suffering, being reunited with those we loved and have lost. Revelation 21:1-5 puts it like this:

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.”

That sounds exciting. That sounds like a present we could really look forward to. In fact, in my better moments, I yearn for this. I know my soul won’t be at rest until I receive it.

But at the same time, we have a certain amount of apprehension about second Christmas. What if, when it comes, we are disappointed? What if Jesus was just messing with us when he promised to take us to be with him (John 14:1-6)? What if we are wrong about the whole thing? I think our fears about his return fall into a few different categories. I fear that won’t enjoy the time leading up to it. The holidays between Thanksgiving and Christmas can get hectic and stressful. In the same way, the Bible indicates that the time before Jesus returns will be stressful.

Another thing we tend to worry about it, is this: will heaven really be all it cracked up to be? I mean, I might get bored, singing in the choir, after a thousand years or so. Is our “second Christmas” present really as good as we think it is?

Finally, I think some us worry about this: will we really get the present we want? Or will we be left out? Jesus promised, but what could be taking him so long? Is the promise really for me? Is he even coming back at all?

The apostle Peter, in his second general letter to Christians, addressed some of these issues in 2 Peter 3:1-18. When Jesus first promised to come back, the apostles and the early church expected him within their lifetimes. No one ever dreamed he would wait for 2,000 years or more. So many Christians had begun to doubt, or at least wonder, about this promise. They were excited, but also worried. Here are several points from what Peter writes, that might help us as we look forward to the second Christmas.

  1. Second Christmas (the return of Jesus) is going to come. Scoffers are mocking the promise of Jesus, saying he is never really going to come back. But Peter reminds us that God is not bound by the same rules of time that bind us. A thousand years might be like a day to the Lord, or vice versa. If that is the case, the church of Jesus Christ has only been waiting two days for him to return. It seems like forever – just like Christmas seemed forever away when you were a kid – but it is not forever. God doesn’t count time the same way we do, just like adults see time differently than kids. But he has not forgotten or changed his promise. He will come back. The time-delay is because of God’s mercy and grace (2 Peter 3:9 & 15). He doesn’t want anyone to miss out on a chance to receive the incredible gifts he is bringing. So he is giving the world a chance to repent of sins and self-centeredness, and receive him. We may be apprehensive, but we are dealing with a loving and gracious God.
  2. It really will be good. In fact, it will be better than we can fully understand. This world is full of things that disappoint us. Remember that Christmas present you yearned for as a kid? How much joy does it bring you on a day-to-day basis today? By the time we are adults, if we are wise, we have learned that lasting joy does not come from temporary things. However, heaven is the opposite of temporary. We are promised eternal life, eternal joy. C.S. Lewis, among several other great Christian writers, suggests that our deepest desires are signals to us of what will be fulfilled in heaven:

Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object.

Heaven is not a place where we wear robes and sing in a choir all day. It is the place where our entire purpose for existence is consummated. Our deepest desires are mere echoes of the great Reality that awaits us on the other side of time. Let me give you a specific and surprising example: A lot of people wonder if there will be sex in heaven. The biblical picture we have is unclear. But what is quite clear to me is that the joy and pleasure and intimacy with another person that we want to experience through sex is a pale, weak shadow compared to the stunning fulfilment we will find in heaven. The kinds of questions we raise about heaven are like a little child who is on his way to visit his grandparents, and wants to know if he will still be able to talk to them on the phone when he gets there. We are promised that it is better than we can ask or imagine. C.S. Lewis puts it this way:

These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.

  1. This Gift has been promised to us, and we can rely on the promise. Peter says the earth and sky will be consumed in fire, but: “In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13)” Again this is the same promise reiterated in Revelation 21, quoted above. It is unimaginably good; better than we could ask or conceive of.
  2. The expectation of second Christmas should affect how we live today (2 Peter 3:14).

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

Let’s understand something clearly. Too many people get the cart before the horse. We don’t make efforts to be blameless and at peace with God in order to get to heaven and receive these promises. No. It goes like this: because we have these promises, and because we believe Jesus has given them to us out of his grace, our response to get ready for the life he offers. We don’t try to act right in order to receive God’s grace – we receive God’s grace first, and as a result, we make every effort to be blameless and at peace with him. The promise of Christmas can have a wonderful effect on young children. Sometimes, it is because they think they must be good in order to get good presents. But more often, it is the knowledge that at this time of the year, there is plenty of goodness and to go around. They are going to get goodness, and their response is often to be good in return. Ours should be the same, whether we are adults or children. The Lord has promised good to us (Jeremiah 29:11) – let that goodness flow back to him in a response of gratitude.

The fact is this: if we really are looking forward to the return of Jesus as the ultimate Christmas present, it should affect our lives. Worries that might otherwise be a big deal, don’t have to be so dominant. Things that others to do hurt me, don’t have to be unforgivable. God is being generous with me at Second Christmas, so I can spare some of the goodwill, and be generous with love and forgiveness toward others. There are a lot of things we get all tied in knots about, that simply won’t matter very much once Second Christmas comes.

  1. We can be secure in grace. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

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

Peter writes that we should be on our guard. We are not invincible. We might be carried away by the opinions of others, or our own love of sin. However, though we are not invulnerable, we can be secure – Peter himself calls our position secure. He tells us to grow in grace. What does that mean? I think it means that we grow in our understanding of how powerful and incredible God’s grace and love are. Because of what Jesus has done, there is no sin you commit than cannot be forgiven if you repent. There is nothing that can keep God’s love from you. Second Christmas is coming, and it is good, and the promise is yours simply by trusting that it is for you. These verses are about the end of the world. But they are not meant to scare us – they are written to encourage us, and comfort us.

Enjoy Christmas this year. But keep your eyes on the real promise – the Second Christmas, the return of the One who came the first time as a little baby. To focus our thoughts right now, let me close with two more quotes from C.S. Lewis and the weight of glory:

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so someday, God willing, we shall get in.

Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nublae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites us to use. We are summoned to pass in through nature, beyond her, into that splendor which she fitfully reflects.