Final Words of Remembrance
June 26, 2016 | Randy Smith
Final Words of RemembranceRevelation 22:1-21
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Pastor Randy Smith
As we draw things to a close, I hope you have enjoyed our study through the book of Revelation. It's been an epic journey, examining the details as to how the Lord one day will bring this world to an end. Yet beyond the typical timeline facts that consume most Bible readers regarding Revelation, we learned many practical life lessons such as preparation for the world's opposition to the teachings of Christ and the need for the church to be faithful to Christ and the future blessedness for those who preserve with Christ.
Overall, my goal, which is the book's goal, has been to exalt Jesus Christ as the One who stands supreme over all things and is worthy of our deepest affection and worship. Revelation is clear. Truly following Christ will not be easy in this world, but those on His team are on the winning team and those with Him in the end will be victorious.
After spending considerable time dealing with backsliding churches and compromising Christians and persecution on the church from the world and Satan, John closes this book in chapters 21 and 22 with the best description of heaven found in the entire Bible. It's almost as if he's saying after you persevered to the end through a rough ride in this world that continually sought to pull you away, you will be rewarded with an eternal home that is far beyond your imagination. Those who have opposed Christ will be in hell, the lake of fire, but you will be with Christ forever in heaven.
So as we look forward to our 8 baptisms and take all of chapter 22 this morning, I would like break this sermon down into two parts. The first part will be "Heaven's Description" and the second part will be "God's Declarations."
1. Heaven's Description
Let's begin with "Heaven's Description."
When Revelation chapters 21 and 22 talk about heaven's description they interchange several categories.
Take for example heaven's inhabitants. Revelation is clear as to who will be in heaven and who will not be in heaven. Who's not there? 21:8 says, "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." We see the same in 21:27. "And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." And then again in 22:15, "Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying."
These verses are great because they teach us about God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. God is sovereign as those in heaven are only those whose names have been recorded in God's book of life. And man is responsible as those who are in heaven have given evidence in their lives that they have walked with God. They are not marked by immorality, deception, idolatry, superstition, etc. Again, we are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. True biblical faith in Jesus Christ will result in lives that are continually conformed to the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
So specifically who will be in heaven? Some great descriptions are included in these two chapters.
21:6, says heaven is for those who thirst for Christ. 21:7 says heaven is for those who have overcome the world and its continual pull to draw their hearts away from Christ. I think the best answer is found in 22:4 which says, "They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads."
Stay with me on this. All people are sinners that have violated God's law. God because He is perfectly holy and just must punish sin. All humans therefore deserve the lake of fire. Yet God in His love and mercy sent Christ to pay the penalty for sin. We can receive His complete forgiveness by faith in Him.
Yet what is that faith? What is true biblical belief? It is not merely intellectual assent. Rather it's a reliance upon Christ. It's a dependence on Him that commits one's entire life into His loving arms. It's living for Him. It's a desire to be like Him. Ultimately, it's a desire for Him. Listen, salvation and consequently heaven is not for people who use Jesus to get out of hell. Salvation and consequently heaven is for people who want Jesus who love Him and desire to spend eternity with Him. As 22:4 says, heaven is for people who have resisted the identification with Satan (remember Satan's mark of 666?) and have chosen to be identified with Christ (receiving His "mark" on their foreheads). Heaven is for people who want to see His face (as verse 4 says) and have fellowship with Him throughout eternity.
As for the description of heaven, some of our best clues come from these two chapters. 21:1, it's going to be a recreated earth. 21:3, it's going to be a dwelling place of God. 21:11-21, it's going to be of indescribable beauty. 21:23, it's going to be illuminated by the glory of God. 22:1, there will be the river of the water of life. 22:2, there will the tree of life. Overall it will be a paradise that exceeded the Garden of Eden. The curse will be removed (22:3). And we will forever be directly in the presence of God.
21:1, the sea is gone. That means evil and darkness are removed. We already learned that sin and those who love sin will not be present. And everything we despised from this present world will be absent as well. 21:4, "And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
2. God's Declarations
In verse 6-21 of chapter 22, the writer breaks away from heaven's descriptions and provides an epilogue for the book. The goals of the author are to authenticate this book as divine revelation from God and prepare his readers for the Lord's return. I am calling this second point, "God's Declarations." It's as if God reveals the prophecy and then God picks up the pen Himself and affirms everything with His final words. Let's walk through these final 16 verses together. I'll break it down into 8 main points. Time only permits us to cover the highlights.
First God says in verse 6 that "these words are faithful and true." There is a call here for the reader to trust the certainty of what he or she has just read.
Second, verse 7, Jesus says, "I am coming quickly." We see the same in verse 12, "Behold. I am coming quickly." And for a third time in verse 20 Jesus says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." To which John adds, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (cf. 1 Cor. 16:22 - "Maranatha").
This doesn't mean that John was inferring that the return of Jesus, also known as the Second Coming, would happen in his lifetime. Jesus made it clear that no one but the Father knows the day of His return (Mk. 13:32). Therefore I believe what John is getting at here is that the return of Christ is the next major event of God's timetable. So much has happened in revelation history. All God's people wait for at this point is the return of our Savior and then this world as we know it will come to an end.
Third, there is a blessing for reading and following the words of this book. In the prologue, 1:3, we read, "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." Now in the epilogue, 22:7, we read, "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."
Keep these words in the context of the book. Persecution will come upon the church. Just prior to the return of Christ it will be intensified. The temptation to fall away will be great. But blessings are pronounced throughout the book to those who overcome. As always, when things get rough we trust the word of God. We walk by faith in God promises in the Scriptures. Even when it doesn't make sense we know doing it God's way will result in blessings as these verses clearly teach.
Fourth, worship is to be reserved exclusively for God. We are all hardwired by God to worship. The question is not whether we will worship. The question is who or what we will worship. If God is not great in our hearts, we will worship something that we feel is greater. That could be money or creation or even ourselves. John knew this, but to our surprise, even he had difficultly when face-to-face with one of God's angels. Was he confused thinking it was Jesus? Or was he so blown away with the majesty and splendor of an angel that he simply couldn't help himself?
It happened in 19:10 and John was rebuked. "Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'" And then to our surprise (after you'd think John learned his lesson) it happened again in 22:8-9. "I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. But he said to me, 'Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.'" We can see how ascribing worship to things other than God is even a subtle problem for mature believers too!
Fifth, 22:14, those who enter heaven are blessed. "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city."
In the original garden the forbidden fruit was consumed and our original parents were expelled. They died spiritually immediately and were barred from eating from the tree of life and thus subject to physical death. Yet now we read about the new earth and a new garden with a new tree of life. Thanks to the work of Christ, we have been made spiritually alive and totally cleansed from sin symbolized by white robes. Therefore it is Christ's worthiness given to us that makes us fit for heaven and as verse 14 says, we may again, after once being expelled, enter into the city.
Sixth, heaven is open to all who trust Christ for eternal life. In 22:17 we have four invitations to the unbeliever. "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 wishes take the water of life without cost."
So fitting as Revelation is coming to a close that there is one last call to the individual who still persists in his or her rebellion against Christ. The warnings have been clear. While there is life there is still time to be delivered from the lake of fire. Heaven is available and open to everyone who receives Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit says, "Come." The bride, the church says, "Come." All who hear these words and all who want redemption; the invitation is to "come."
Salvation here is described as thirsting. And Jesus is described as the water that is offered to all who desire Him without any cost. It's a gift that He has given us and it's available to all who come to Him on the basis of faith. While you have life, before you die and no longer have a chance, will you come to the refreshing waters of Jesus Christ to quench your spiritual thirst to be satisfied and fulfilled and forgiven by the living God?
Seventh, we are warned in 22:18-19 not to tamper with the words in this book (cf. Dt. 4:2). "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book."
The warning goes out to "everyone." Don't ever add or take away from God's revealed words in Scripture. And that's not just cutting them out of your Bible, it is also desiring to follow only certain portions of what you read.
And finally eighth, 22:21, God's grace is upon all those who love Him. "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen."
God's grace sent Christ to the cross to die for our sins. God's grace opened our eyes and drew us to Himself. God's grace allows us to understand Scripture. God's grace empowers us to apply Scripture. God's grace enables us to persevere with Him. God's grace helps us to serve Him. God's grace with bring about the return of our Savior. God's grace will reward faithful believers. And God's grace has prepared a place called heaven for those who love Jesus Christ.
And with that high note, we bring our study of Revelation to a close. Yet may you continue to read and study the book to continually be blessed from God's Word.