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His Face

Knowing God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  20:42
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Picture-Perfect Paradise
11.6.22 [Revelation 22:1-5] River of Life (Knowing God—His Face)
O give thanks to the Lord, for his mercy endures forever. Amen.
Imagine a friend went on a long trip. You run into them at the grocery story on their first night back in town. They tell you: You have to come over this Sunday night for dinner! We want to tell you all about our trip!
So you accept their invitation. You grab a couple bottles of wine and a babka from the bakery and you head to their place. The moment you walk in the door, they are gushing about how excited they are to see you and how much they have to tell you. Even as you enjoy dinner, they talk about their trip for hours. After dinner, they pour you a cup of coffee, cut you a slice of babka, and tell you to grab a seat on the couch. They want to show you some pictures from their trip.
A few generations ago, this would have meant turning off the lights and firing up the old Carousel Slide Projector. Now we just cast it to the big TV in the living room. Suddenly all the places they were talking about around the dinner table become a little more real. You see some of the sights, a fraction of the phenomenal vistas, and pieces of the paradise your friend just returned from. Now it wouldn’t be totally strange for you to be over their trip. But more times than not, a virtual tour like this, makes you want to go where on that trip, right?
The final two chapters of the Bible are a little bit like that. The Apostle John was given this special vision of (Rev. 21:1) the new heaven & the new earth that God has promised to create. This new home for all God’s victorious children is totally different than the world we live in today. (Rev. 21:4) There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. (Rev. 21:3) God himself will wipe away every tear from the eyes of his own people. God’s dwelling place will be among his people.
The city that God has designed and will build for his people is mind-blowing. A city of pure gold, about 1,400 miles long, wide, and high. (Rev. 21:19-20) The foundation of this city is made of all kinds of precious stones—sapphires and emeralds, rubies and amethysts. (Rev. 21:21) Each gate is made of a single pearl. Even the great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. It will be quite a sight to behold.
But this city of God is not just meant to be a place for us to marvel at. It is a place for God’s people to live in for eternity, to prosper & flourish. There are no more threats, no more enemies, no reasons to fear or worry. read txt
John takes us to the heart and center of the city of God. What we see there is so wondrous, it is almost too wonderful for us to even imagine. Too good to be true. A crystal-clear river flowing gently alongside a street of gold. A prolifically productive tree of life. Each month it bears another bumper crop. Even its leaves have healing properties. It lives & gives life.
But as marvelous as the great street, the crystal-clear river, and the tree of life are, none of them are the crowning glory of this city. The highlight of heaven is throne of God and the Lamb who is the (Rev. 22:5) light of the city.
Who wouldn’t want to go there? A place where all the bad and sad aspects of life in this world are totally eliminated? A place of ornate beauty and supreme safety? A place where everything is new and every moment is spent basking in the light and glory of our Lord God? Who wouldn’t want to go to the heaven that the Apostle John saw?
But do we live that way? Do we live as if dwelling with God is our highest priority? Do we live as if heaven is the sole goal for our body and soul? Do we make choices that reflect God’s purpose? That bring him glory? Do we live with the confidence that Jesus is seated on the throne?
Is heaven your highest priority? Or do you make more and greater sacrifices to go on a grand vacation? Do you get fixated & infatuated with the temporal things of this world? Do you prioritize time in God’s Word and in God’s house or are you busy with advancing your own agenda at work or in retirement? Do you put the well-being of your kid’s souls above their being in every activity? When you face dilemmas, do you go with your gut or what God has said in his Word?
When doing the right thing—like telling the truth, or admitting that we did something wrong, or calling someone we love to repentance—is hard or thankless or worse yet multiplies our pain or sorrow, do we courageously do the thing God commands, or do we act as if our God is a doting grandfather who winks knowingly at our sins?
When we find the power of our sinful nature (Rom. 7:23) at work in our own hearts & minds, do we fight against temptation, or do we give in and pretend we tried? Do we tell ourselves that our struggles are not such a big deal because everyone else in our world is doing far worse?
When everything around you falls apart, do you still believe that God holds you and your world in his hands? Do you cling to his promises of wisdom, power, mercy, and grace? Or do you look for the things and the people he created to sustain or save you during trying times in life? Do trust that Jesus will make all things new, even when its all going to pot? Do you turn to God for spiritual healing or try to do fix things yourself?
John’s description of heaven isn’t just about what’s not there, it also includes who’s not there. (Rev. 21:8) The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral…the idolaters and all liars…will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
The most dangerous reaction we can have to his list is to (1 Jn. 1:8) deceive ourselves and think that we’re not capable or guilty of being cowardly, vile, deceitful, hateful, lustful, or faithless. (Rev. 21:27) No one who does what is shameful or deceitful will enter the Holy City.
Only One who is brave, faithful, righteous, compassionate, & self-sacrificing belongs there. Only someone who loves the One True God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength can enter through those gates. Only someone who rejoices in truth and never utters a single deceitful word can dwell in this picture-perfect paradise.
That One is the One we find at the center of this city. The crystal clear river flows from his throne, feeding that prolifically productive tree of life. The Lamb is the One who has done away with the curse. The Lamb is the one who gives us light and life and our lives purpose and meaning. This Lamb has brought healing to the world.
This Lamb was the One that John the Baptist spoke of. When he saw Jesus coming, John said (Jn. 1:30) Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (Jn. 1:34) This is God’s Chosen One. (Col. 2:9) In Christ, all the fullness of God lives in bodily form. In Jesus, we see God in a way (Ex. 33:20) sinners could never bear—face-to-face.
Jesus came into this world and lived like none of us have. He left behind the marvelous majesty of heaven and made his dwelling here on earth—among selfish, deceitful, vile, & shameful sinners like us. Yet, even though he was well acquainted with our struggles, he never gave into temptation. He never once behaved in a vile or cowardly manner. He never hated his neighbor, though they (Jn. 15:25) hated him without reason. He never gave into sexual temptation, or bent the truth just to get himself out of a jam. He never doubted the plan or promises of God—even though that plan plotted a course to Calvary’s cross.
Jesus was brave and faithful. Righteous in thought, word, and deed. Compassionate to all kinds of sinners. He loved the Lord his God with his body, mind, and soul. He treasured the truth. Yet, the Lamb of God sacrificed himself for shameful and deceitful sinners, like you and me. The Lamb of God (Gal. 3:13) redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming accursed for us. He was hung on a pole, executed on a cross, so that we might be redeemed from all our unrighteousness.
He shed his blood on the cross so that our names might be written in the book of life. (Rev. 21:27) Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will dwell in the Holy City.
Jesus has taken away the curse of the Law from us. He has done all that is necessary for our salvation. The One who descended from heaven to be our Substitute and our Savior, has ascended back to his heavenly throne. He is the friend, who every Sunday, invites us to his house to tell us about paradise. But he doesn’t just tell you some stories and show you some pictures and leave you longing to go to some place you cannot find or afford to get to on your own. He says, I am going to take you there. I’ve paid for all your travel expenses and I’m providing for all the accommodations. He tells us: (Jn. 14:6) I am the way, the truth, and the life. (Jn. 14:1) You believe in God. Believe also in me. (Jn. 14:3) I am going to my Father’s house to prepare a place for you and I will come back to take you to be with me.
And we will be with God, forever. We will see him face to face in a way that we cannot even begin to imagine. We will stare up at the impressive walls of the New Jerusalem. We will marvel at the great golden street in the center of the Holy City. We will be refreshed by the River of Life and renewed as we enjoy the fruits of the tree of life. We will be blessed even as we serve and worship the One True God. We will revel in the true light of the Lord our God. There can be nothing better than this picture-perfect paradise.
So shouldn’t our lives here on earth be centered on what our lives will be like for eternity? Shouldn’t we more focused on living as loyal servants of the Lamb of God? Shouldn’t we be more equipped to deal with hardship and heartache in this life when we know that one day God will wipe away every tear from our eyes? Shouldn’t we drink up the living water our Lord offers us here in his Word as often as we can as we eagerly anticipate the joys of eternal life in that Holy City? Of course!
What does that look like? For some of us, it may mean restructuring our lives, making time in our schedules for worship and growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord God. For others of us, it may mean recalibrating our reaction to our present troubles and hardships. Instead of being mad at God for allowing bad things to happen to us, we will rejoice that these things are part of the the old order he will one day do away with forever. For all of us, it means running our race with perseverance. Because we know that the finish line, our eternal destination is beyond anything we could dream up. It’s the kind of picture-perfect paradise that only God could design. And he desires for you and me to be with him there, for eternity. Amen.
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