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Dec 31 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 30, 2012 – Revelation 22

Words to Take With Us Into the New Year

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Revelation 22:1-4

INTRO: Have you ever been so engrossed in a book or a movie, that when you put the book down or left the theater, a residue of strong emotions lingered for awhile?

It’s as if we’re still caught up in the action of the story and the experience of the characters
– but those feelings quickly go away
– that’s because they’re not reality
• they contain nothing that we have to deal with, nothing helpful

People who have had near death experiences say entering heaven is like putting aside a book or leaving a theater
Michael Herbert, “Upon returning from heaven, I felt as if I was taken from real life and reduced to the dimension of a shadow . . .”
Dr. Alexander, “Though I didn’t know where I was or even what I was, I was absolutely sure of one thing: this place I’d suddenly found myself in was completely real.”
– they describe heaven as real, and full of the beauty that brings us pleasure, yet amplified
– everything that causes distress, fear, or pain is gone

. . . 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 (Rev. 21:4)

If we condensed all of heaven’s wonders into one statement, it would be the line in verse 4, “they will see His face”

We have really butchered the Book of Revelation

It communicates in symbols, because there are no words for its reality

I know how such a man . . . was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak (2 Cor. 12:3-4)

– our efforts to scrutinize the particulars too closely, to interpret the symbols too precisely, causes us to lose big picture
– we have taken biblical prophecy into lab where we dissect and analyze it,
• and in the process analyzing, we’ve killed specimen

Taken as a whole, Revelation gives us a feeling of what heaven is like
– an insight into the connection between heaven and our world
– and of the relationship between the future and our lives today

There are a few words in this chapter that I want us to take into the new year

  1. “My Ministry” – I am not talking about the work I do — I want you to be more aware of your ministry
    – don’t panic, as if I were going to ask you to go on a short-term missions project or teach a Bible study
    – in verses 3 and 4, we are referred to as “bond-servants”
    • the Greek word is more raw, it means “slaves”
    ○ the image of a slave is related to the symbol of the throne (v. 1)  – the throne defines us
    • we encounter a sovereign will that overrules everything in the history of humankind
    • every nation, person, and event, from the greatest to the smallest
    ○ our response to God’s sovereign will is surrender
    ○ this is spiritual growth: to want only what God has given us and not anything he has withheld from us
    – v. 3, “His bond-servants will serve Him” – that is, to minister or to worship
    • our first ministry is to God, v. 9, “Worship God” (and see chs. 4-5)
    – you’ve heard of “discretionary income” – money that is yours to do with as you please after taxes and bills
    • our ministry to God includes using our discretionary time for waiting on God in silence
    ○ when we don’t have discretionary time, we can dedicate everything we do to God as prayer
    ○ this will help us go about our business, more conscious of God’s continual presence
    – some time ago, a friend of mine–a volunteer chaplain at the hospital–told Barbara,“God has blessed your ministry”
    ○ she looked at him with a quizzical expression, “Ministry?”
    ○ “Yes,” he said, “I’ve seen it. You cheer people up and give them hope”
    • your work is your ministry–someone is served by what you do
    ○ we belong to God, so nothing we do is secular or without spiritual meaning
  2. “My Vigil” – to keep watch (guard duty) in prayer or maintain the memory of a person or event (Lk. 12:35-38)
    – in verses 7 and 9, “heed,” observe, pay attention
    • we need to schedule a space of time for God every day to do this
    ○ not so for us to do all the talking, but to do some listening (1 Sam. 3:10)
    ○ hold our attention on the presence of God in the here and now
    – I’ve been thinking about a spiritual exercise known as recollection
    • this is usually a good place to begin our prayer time
    • we gather all our stray thoughts and turn the full concentration of our mind on one thing
    • a good image to help remember what recollection means is Mary at Jesus’ feet and Martha distracted (mentally) and bothered (emotionally) about many things
    – I think it would be wonderful if we could “condition” our mind and body
    • so we would immediately and automatically respond to the word “breathe” or “pause”
    ○ bringing us into a prayerful state – aware of God
    ○ causing our bodies (and nerves) to relax and our heart to open to God
  3. The “Alpha and Omega,” v. 13, and in 1:8, “’I am the Alpha and Omega,’ says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come’”
    – on January 1, we’ll have no idea what will be coming at us in the next 365 days
    • we will stand at beginning of a new year, not knowing its end
    ○ yet we will stand with Jesus who is both beginning and end
    • as far as our lives in this world go, we can’t take anything for granted
    ○ but God has given us a couple guarantees:
    God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God (Ro. 8:28)
    . . . and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20)
    ○ that is, until the lights go out on the show called “human history”
    – as we go through the year, we have the Alpha and Omega, or rather, the Alpha and Omega has us
    • alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet — the ‘a’ and the ‘z’
    • Jesus is the first and last letter, and all the letters in between
    ○ everything that can be spelled, spoken, or written is encompassed by him
    – the beginning and the end is present to us in each moment
    • in this moment – this breath, this heartbeat
  4. The Amen (v. 20)
    – amen is a Hebrew word that was not translated into Greek, Latin, English, or any other language
    • it has become a universal world, the same in every language
    • amen is an agreement, an affirmation of certainty
    – it appears at least seven times in Revelation
    • John responds to the truth about Jesus with “Amen” (1:6,*)
    • heaven responds to God – both to his praise and his actions (5:14; 19:4)
    – Revelation reports a lot of corruption, violence, and blasphemy
    • the angels, elders, and saints do not say “Amen” to that
    ○ evil may win some battles, but it is not the end, the omega
    • God’s ultimate resolve of every saga, tragedy, event is the end
    – there is a way for us to go through next year, taking it as it comes, and saying Amen to all God wills and does

Francois Fenelon [my paraphrase] “When my responsibilities prevent me from sitting quietly in Your presence, I will see You working in all that I am doing. I will observe with joy, You pursuing your will in me and the world around me, and like the saints in heaven, I will continually say Amen.”

CONC: There is a shift in verse 6

John is no longer describing the future as he had done in verses 1-5
– the remainder of the chapter consists of instructions, explanations, and exhortations
– this is how biblical predictions work — they never get stuck in the future
• they always bring something from the future into today — something for us
• God’s major concern is to equip us to life in the world for him today

I emphasize this, because there’s an invitation for us in verse 17
– this is not something that is going to happen in the future — it’s not that in the future the Spirit will say, “Come”
• it is happening now – we are hearing the invitation today
– the Spirit is inviting us to go into the new year with him
• inviting us to quench our thirsty souls with the “water of life”
○ and here is yet another symbol and another
• in verse 2, the water of life is a river, and on each bank “tree of life” thrives
○ notice that it yields twelve different kinds of fruit
○ a fruit in season for each month – January, February, March, etc.
• God has made provision for us through the year
○ each month he will meet us according to our need

Looking at year ahead, we see the surface of an unpredictable ocean
But a voice calls to us over the waves
and like the voice that called to Peter across the lake,
it speaks only one word, “Come”

Come and anchor your soul in the Alpha and Omega

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