A Blessed Invitation
April 10, 2016 | Randy Smith
A Blessed InvitationRevelation 19:1-10
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Pastor Randy Smith
It's good to be back with you this Sunday.
As you might have already heard, over the past seven years I have enjoyed taking my daughters with me on trips to America's National Parks. Late on Tuesday night, Natalie and I returned from visiting The Everglades and Dry Tortugas, both National Parks in southern Florida.
If you've heard about my trips, you know they can be pretty unconventional. We camp in remote locations and do some intense hiking. Our food often consists of peanut butter and tuna fish. Kind of crazy, but that's the way we like to do it (and at least my daughters pretend to!).
When I returned home, one person asked, "Did you kill yourself or did you have a relaxing time?" My response was, "I relax by killing myself!" As a matter of fact, Carrie Fitchett mentioned to me as she was recruiting people for the upcoming trip we have planned for Greece that a few people expressed interest, but off the record just wanted to make sure that this trip wasn't going to be a typical Pastor Randy vacation!
To me, the destination is important, but I try to make as much fun and adventure that I can in the journey. I think that's biblical because the Christian life works in the same way.
According to the Bible, our destination is God in heaven (Phil. 3:14). No doubt about that. But we all know that the moment we are saved is not the moment we are transported to heaven. So what do we as Christians do with the decades we have in-between?
I've seen Christians pursue basically three routes. One is they look forward to heaven, but try to squeeze as much as they can from this world. They don't act like Christ. They love the things that heaven opposes. They don't anticipate heaven, but they fear death and hell and feel they have this "get out of jail free card" that will guarantee Paradise when they depart from this world.
The second group emphasizes the greatness of our future home but to the exclusion of life here on earth. Basically they are found only "treading water" until they die. Forced into a holding tank, they remain unstained from the world, but do nothing as an ambassador of Christ to change the world. As an alien in a strange world, they are just buying time so they can one day experience heavenly bliss and get on with their lives.
And the third group I believe lives as our Lord expects. They know they are strangers here on earth and they look forward to heaven. They indeed seek to keep themselves from the worldly corruptions, but they also realize that life here on earth is a gift from God. They realize the promise that coming to Christ now allows them to experience "life indeed" as Jesus promised (Jn. 10:10). They know that eternal life begins not when we die physically, but the very second we die to self and receive Christ. They are useful servants for the King, engaged in the causes that our Lord desires. They anticipate the final destination, but they also enjoy the journey now with the unsurpassing joy and peace of Jesus along the way.
1. The Journey
So let's consider the journey, our first point.
This has been the story of Revelation thus far. The people of God are serving Him faithfully. Because of that, there are mountain peaks of joy and valleys of sorrow. It's not a steady road. It's a roller coaster filled with wonder as to what's around the bend and high-speed adventure along the way. My friends, we were built by God for this and when we don't get it from God, we will seek to find those desires met through the second-rate pleasures of this world. And our last chapters in Revelation have strongly warned us against that!
The Christian life is a struggle. It's striving. It's persevering. And it's doing all of this with the confident expectation that serving God in not in vain and that those aligned with Him will win in the end. The drama has been intense throughout Revelation, but when we arrive at charter 19 we see the rewards for being a follower of Christ.
Does the world seem more attractive to you than Jesus? Listen to verse 2, "For He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality." Does it seem like anti-God forces are prevailing? Verses 2 and 3, "'He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.' And a second time they said, 'Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.'" How does all of heaven respond? Verse 1 they sing, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God." In verse 4 the four living creatures worship God saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!" In verse 5 a voice from heaven cries, "Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great." In response we read in verse 6, "Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.'"
2. The Destination
Let's go to the second point, "The Destination."
Regardless of what your position is of the rapture of the church, at this point in Revelation all of God's people are or are just about to be safe in the arms of God. Those who have died are already there and the rest on the earth will be gathered with the Lord when He returns, an event we will cover the next time when we conclude chapter 19.
Yet as we move on in chapter 19, we are given a picture of what God's redeemed people will do in heaven. It's the first thing mentioned in Revelation and it's one of our first events with Jesus. It's spoken of in verses 7-9 and is commonly called the "Wedding or Marriage Supper of the Lamb." I'd like to devote the rest of our time together this morning to explain this marvelous festival once we are all gathered together at our heavenly destination.
First some background. It is the divine "Marriage Supper" so let's consider human marriage for a moment. God is the One who created marriage. In Genesis 2:24 we read, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." Yet why did God create marriage? Procreation? Yes. Companionship? Of course. Yet what was God's primary purpose in creating marriage between one man and one woman? Paul tells in Ephesians 5. After quoting Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh," He says in verse 32, "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church."
There it is! God's primary purpose of marriage is to image forth Christ's marriage to the church that is called the bride of Christ. That's why everything we see as it pertains to marriage falls within this paradigm. God hates divorce - Malachi 2:16 - why? Because Jesus would never divorce His church and the church would never divorce Jesus. Couples are "one flesh" in marriage, why? Because we are one in union with Christ. Men lead their wives, how? Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Wives follow their husbands, why? Ephesians 5:24, "But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." Why no adultery? Would we cheat on Christ by running after other gods? Why no fornication? Do we share intimacy with Christ before we come to Him in marriage? Why no polygamy or homosexuality? Because marriage reflects the union between Christ and the church - one man, one woman. In a nutshell, our marriages are to show the world the Gospel. When people observe our loving and committed relationships, they are to see Jesus and the church.
Yet when we get to heaven, we read in Mark 12:25 that we "neither marry nor are given in marriage." Why is that? Because the symbol on earth is done and in heaven we experience the full reality of our marriage to Christ. The shadow gives way to the substance. A sign is no longer necessary once we arrive at our destination. And what is the first thing we do in heaven? We celebrate the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Here's another interesting connection. In the Jewish culture, the wedding basically has four stages.
First there was the betrothal. The betrothal was much like our engagement period, but it was much more binding. Actually the only way out of a betrothal was a certificate of divorce and the only acceptable reason for that divorce was impurity on the part of the spouse. That's why Joseph initially sought to secretly pursue this route when he first learned that Mary was pregnant (Mt. 1:18-19).
The second stage was the acceptance period. To see if the proposal was accepted, the young man would pour a cup of wine and wait to see if his beloved partner would drink it. If she drank the wine, the young man would leave and the woman would have to wait for his return.
Third, the man would use this time to prepare a place for both of them. Often it was a honeymoon room attached to his father's home. The father would set a date for the wedding when he felt the son was prepared. Often it was a year. During that time the bride would be preparing herself for the groom's return.
Lastly, when the habitation was ready, the groom would come and collect his bride. He could come at any time, but often he would shout and blow a shofar to let her know to be ready. Together with his friends, he would collect the bride, return to their home and there would be a week-long wedding party. After that, the marriage supper would begin.
Did you observe some Christian parallels? The wine symbolizes Jesus blood. We consume it as a reminder during the Lord's Supper (Mt. 26:28). Our relationship with Jesus is based on a blood covenant. Jesus, the bridegroom, initially offered us this symbolic wine and we drank it to become united with Him.
Our Lord after His ascension left us and is with us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He said in John 14, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also" (Jn. 14:2-3). Jesus promised to return for us.
In the meantime we patiently wait as His bride. We keep ourselves pure and devoted to Him. We prepare ourselves, growing in Christlikeness, as we await His return. Like the bridegroom, says Jesus, only the Father knows the day and hour of His return (Mk. 13:32). Yet we wait, ready for His return since we do "not know when the appointed time will come" (Mk. 13:33). Unlike the foolish virgins from the parable in Matthew 25, we are prepared for the shout and trumpet of Christ.
As the Jewish bride would be adorned in white garments, we too will be clothed in white garments. In Revelation 19, verse 8 we read, "It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."
What are these garments? The verse says it is the righteous acts of Christians. We have two possible interpretations of this verse. Some believe these garments represent our faithfulness to persevere with Christ up until the end. Surely this fits the context of what we have been learning in Revelation. Those in heaven have not defiled themselves by committing spiritual adultery with the world. As verse 10 says, Christians are those who "hold [to] the testimony of Jesus."
Another option is not so much what we do but being clothed in what Christ has done for us. The verse starts off by saying, "It was given to [the church]." Salvation is a gift. We are pure with all our sins forgiven clothed in His perfect righteousness. Christ will have no enemies at the banquet. The only ones there will be those who have given Him their lives and are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. As Paul says in Ephesians 5, "No spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be hold and blameless" (Eph. 5:27).
Also what we can't miss with these fine linen garments that are bright and clean is the immediate comparison with the description of the world. The world that opposes God we learned has been described as a harlot. She seeks to prostitute God's people away from their relationship with Christ by making them spiritually drunk with the wine of her deception (Are you drinking "wine" from the world or "wine" from Christ?). Remember, she appeared very attractive. 18:16, "She who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls" (cf. Rev. 17:4). She looked beautiful, but there was nothing to her substance. She is brought down, 19:2, "For [God] has judged the great harlot." The façade is stripped away. Her ugliness is revealed. Yet we see here that God will reward His faithful servants and they will be the ones to be shown to be truly beautiful.
Just as the Jewish couple would enjoy a marriage supper at the start of their marriage, when all the saints are gathered in heaven, they too will enjoy a marriage supper with their Savior. It will be a blessed time. 19:7, "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." 19:9, "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."
A supper in Jewish thought always represented close fellowship and intimate communion. This supper represents a blessed and consummated divine marriage that will last for all of eternity. It's an invitation where we are welcomed not as spectators, but as a beloved bride bought and taken in by her husband. This future wedding supper is the culmination of the Lord's Table when Jesus said, "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom" (Mt. 26:29).
The great preacher C.H. Spurgeon so poetically said, "Even now the Lord Jesus Christ is no stranger to some of us, and we are not strangers to Him. Yet there shall come a day when we shall see Him face to face and then we shall know Him with a clearer and fuller knowledge than is possible for us today. What that bliss will be, I cannot tell. Oh, the ineffable brightness when we shall see the face of Jesus! Oh, the unspeakable sweetness when we shall hear His voice! Oh, the amazing bliss when He shall manifest Himself to us in all His Glory! And there will come such a day for all whom He has redeemed, for all who trust Him and rest in His atoning Sacrifice. That will be the marriage supper of the Lamb!" (The Marriage Supper of the Lamb, No. 2428. Delivered on September 1, 1895).
So much to look forward to! So many reasons to be excited and confident about the future! And in knowing our destination, may we as His bride be found pure, inviting others to the banquet and enjoying the journey until the day the bridegroom calls every single child of His to our heavenly feast with Him.