Sermon, Day of Fulfilment, Sunday November 20, 2016, St Petri
Isaiah 65:17-19, Psalm 97, Revelation 3:14-21
14 ‘To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Friends, as we complete this journey in the greatest story ever told: God’s Story, two things are true. 1) The Story is not over and 2) this world will not end. No, the world will not “end”.
Some may wish it would or believe that it might actually happen in the not too distant future because of events that happened this week or two! But the world will not end. The world will be fulfilled. “Fulfilled” or “completed” is the meaning of the word the New Testament witnesses use to name ‘the end” – the “Parousia”.
There is a big difference in hope between those two words, “end” and “Fulfilled”.
Fulfilled: The second word implies that something or someone has a plan and the power to enact that plan in just the right way.
End: The first word, “end” just means nothing – like it has all been a random, meaningless, dog-eat dog experience that ends in no good thing.
In the Apostle John’s vision given by the Lord, we hear that our world, our lives, our church, our story will not end. It will reach its zenith. We will be completed and not by us on our terms but the Creator on his terms. Everything that happens will be completed. Where any person fits within this right conclusion depends not on skill, family name, looks. Intellect, riches, knowledge or spiritual awareness, but on the One who began the story and says he will complete the Story – Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega.
From our point of view there is a determining factor in where we will be at this fulfilment day. We will all be surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses to the Ascension of Jesus.
- Some will be at joy in his kingdom rule of peace and love.
- Some will be lost forever in the evil of self-reward which has already been received in full and now no more.
The difference between the two places is this, according to John’s Revelation: Which Trinity you serve with your life; the Holy Trinity or the unholy trinity? The unholy trinity is sin, as in idolatry. It is idolatry’s inevitable payment: consequence: death. it is the One urging it – the Evil One who pushes this evil drug on you.
The Holy Trinity is our kind and loving heavenly parent, our rescuer from the other three. He is Jesus and the wind that fills our bodies and hearts with life and peace in Jesus; the Holy Spirit.
As this journey comes to an end and another Advent journey begins next Sunday, we are assured that in the end God wins. It does not appear to us this way. It appears that Rome rules the world as John the Apostle lives in exile on the Island of Patmos. But by Jesus’ promises, things are not what they seem.
8 The Lord God says, “I am Alpha and Omega,[a] the one who is and was and is coming. I am God All-Powerful!” (Revelation 1:8)
Whatever Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, and the rest do or don’t do, this man of God will complete this world’s journey and ours in it, not any human being. This is because we will not simply “end” but be “fulfilled” and “complete”.
The number 7 is used 54 times in Revelation, being the number of completion. John proclaims to us the very center of the whole human experience and the vast universe.
After this, I looked and saw a door that opened into heaven. Then the voice that had spoken to me at first and that sounded like a trumpet said, “Come up here! I will show you what must happen next.” 2 Right then the Spirit took control of me, and there in heaven I saw a throne and someone sitting on it. (Revelation 4:1-2)
The centre of the universe is this community of God. The center of this heavenly community is a throne. There is Someone, our triumphant triumphant sacrificial Lamb, sitting on the throne in the centre of everything.
The goal of God in giving you life is to reveal the fullest, most public and universally seen revealing of his glory.
His glory is the end of death, suffering of all kinds, and the restoration of his original intimate peace and love among all his created beings, especially us humans. His vision is that large, his work that big, his love that complete.
The very centre of the universe is full, open, adoration and praise of our Creator God.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, The all-powerful God, who was and is and is coming!” (Revelation 4:8b)
How open is your heart and big your vision?
Do you find yourself forgetting the truth that your life and that of the whole world is going somewhere planned, somewhere cared for, somewhere deliberate. The future is not random or only up to us or dependent on those in power.
God is still creating. This is who he is and what he does. He is creating a new heavens out of this one. It is a new earth for the new people for whom he has paid their debt in full, in blood.
I saw a new heaven and a new earth. 3 I heard a loud voice shout from the throne:
God’s home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own. 4 He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain.
5 Then the one sitting on the throne said:
I am making everything new. Write down what I have said. My words are true and can be trusted. 6 Everything is finished! I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 21:1-6)
The word will not end. It will be completed by the Lord of lords. We will not simply end, we will be completed by the Saviour.
We will be fulfilled: back to the garden and its closeness with our Creator. That is our present and our future and it depends on him, the Lord of the Story.
Friends, let’s put away any lukewarmness that comes from a lack of attention and heart for the things of God and his fulfilment in life.
Let’s take these words and trust the Saviour for our church, our family, our job, our world. He calls us to live in the truth about ourselves and his fulfilment for our lives.
To the Lamb be glory and honour and praise today.
Chapter 31, the end of time
Timeless Truth: The King is coming!
Chapter Summary (Have someone in your group read the summary section.)
Yes, I am coming soon. —Jesus. Of the original apostles, only John remained to hear these words. He had experienced the climax of salvation history, but God was not yet finished. He had one more message to share with John and the growing churches to show His servants what must soon take place.
John was exiled on the island of Patmos for his faith in Jesus. It was here that the glorified Christ appeared to John with a message of His second coming. John saw someone “like a son of man” dressed in a priestly robe and ready to judge. He fell like a dead man at His feet. This John who had leaned against Jesus’ breast (John 13:25) could not even stand before Christ’s unveiled glory. Jesus presented Himself as the resurrected One who has authority over life and death. He stood among seven golden lamp stands, which represent the seven churches located in the province of Asia Minor on the mainland close to the island of Patmos.
Jesus had messages for each of these seven churches. From the three churches addressed in this chapter, a pattern emerges. First, there’s a unique description of Jesus that is related to the message. Then each message contains both a word of commendation and a rebuke for the congregation. He then gives an instruction or warning before an encouraging promise to those who listen and overcome the problem. Jesus who stands among the lamp stands was carefully watching His churches.
John then saw the throne room of heaven where he was shown visions of future events. God sat upon His throne in unimaginable splendor and beauty. He was surrounded by living creatures and elders who worshiped Him without ceasing. He held a scroll that no one was found worthy to open, causing John to weep. But John’s hope was restored when he saw the Lamb standing as if slain. For the Lamb was worthy to open the scroll and also to receive power and glory and honor and praise!
Shortly thereafter, the bride, who symbolizes all faithful believers, was ready, wearing clean linen and prepared for the marriage supper of the Lamb. Then John saw heaven opened and Jesus descended in full glory on a white horse ready to wage war and judge mankind. The King of Kings was ready to rule with blazing eyes and a blood drenched robe, a sharp sword and filled with the fury of God’s wrath. He was accompanied by the armies of heaven. His appearance is a dramatic reminder of the awfulness of God’s coming judgment upon those who reject the Lord. God’s final judgment from His great white throne is the final event of human history as we know it. The dead stand before Him in judgment. Those not found in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire.
Then John saw the New Heaven and New Earth and the New Jerusalem. In this future re-creation, God dwells among His people where He wipes away every tear. Many themes from His redemptive Story find their culmination in this place where all things are made new. The majestic and glorious New Jerusalem will be home to all the redeemed. Nothing impure will ever enter it. The water of life flows from the throne of God, the tree of life bears much fruit, and all are invited to partake. This place is the hope of every believer, for it is where God’s Upper Story and His Lower Story finally merge into one. It is here that the redeemed will enjoy the presence of God and of the Lamb forever. As Jesus concluded His message to John, three times He said, “Look, I am coming soon!” No wonder we are called blessed! Our King is coming! Come, Lord Jesus, come!
Icebreaker Question: Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real that went you awoke you had to convince yourself that it had not actually happened? What was the dream about?
- Why might Christians resist studying this book? According to this chapter, what are the benefits connected to studying Revelation? (Hint: p. 459, 469; Rev. 1:3, 22:7.)
- Make a list of the various ways God the Father and God the Son are described throughout this chapter of The Story. For example, on page 459, the Father is “him who is, and who was, and who is to come”; Jesus Christ is the “faithful witness.” After completing your list, discuss what one or two of these descriptions mean.
- Jesus’ messages to the seven churches usually follow a general pattern: a description of Himself, a commendation, a rebuke, a warning or instruction, and a promise. Compose a letter to your church using this format.
- Notice the description of the throne room of heaven (p. 463, Rev. 4:1-6). Look up Ezekiel 1:26-28, Exodus 19:16 and 20:18, Job 37:4, and John 12:27-28. What do these images communicate about God?
- What four-fold reason makes the Lamb worthy to open the scroll and receive praise (p. 464)?
- Read Matthew 24:29-44, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, and Titus 2:11-14. How should you live in anticipation of Christ’s return?
- From what you have learned in this chapter about the great white throne judgment and the lake of fire, how might you respond to the person who does not believe that a loving God could ever sentence anyone to hell (p. 466-467; Rev. 20:11-15, 21:8)? See also Revelation 20:10 and Matthew 25:41 for further insight.
- Find at least three similarities between the original creation (Genesis 1-2) and the new heaven and new earth (p. 466-469; Rev. 21-22). How do these sections of Scripture contribute to our understanding of God’s Upper Story and what would we be missing without them?
- Share with your group how The Story experience has impacted how you live now.
In the time remaining ask your group members to share any of their personal reflection insights from their journal entries.