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The Triumphant God

The God Who Is  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:31
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Last Spring, we studied through the Sermon on the Mount. One of the great themes of Matthew is the coming kingdom. The Book of Revelation speaks of the time when that new kingdom is fully realized.
I shared with our Elders a week ago an observation that I gleaned about songs describing Heaven. Historically in tough times like World War or the Great Depression, more songs about Heaven are written and performed. When life is rather abundant, Gospel music focuses more on finding joy here and now.
There is a song writer who died 3 years before I was born. Before she passed she wrote a song that I often heard my mom (a mother of 4 within 6 years) sing around the house.
Oft time the day seems long, our trials hard to bear,
We’re tempted to complain, to murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away,
All tears forever over in God’s eternal day.
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.
Now, I must admit that I don’t recall mom singing that song until after my sisters started coming into our family, but then again, I don’t remember much from my first 18 months of life.
One way to increase our gratitude and thankfulness is to look forward to the life that God promises in the future kingdom. The most detailed description of this kingdom is found at the end of Revelation.

A New Creation (Rev 21:1-8)

Explanation

1. The first 2 chapters of the Bible and the last 2 chapters both talk about God’s creative work.
· One simple summary of the Bible could be:
i. Gen 1-2 - God creates a Perfect environment
ii. Gen 3 - Man’s rebellion spoils the environment
iii. Gen 4 – Rev 20 – God cleans up man’s mess
iv. Rev 21-22 - God’s perfect creation is given a do-over.
2. The sea was no more (v.1) – The ancient Israelites were land loving people. To them the Mediterranean and Galilee sees were symbols of chaos. In this way Rev 21:1 echoes Gen 1:2. In God’s new kingdom there is no more chaos, disorder, or injustice. This is why the promise of land was so important to Abraham and his descendents. Owned land is a reprieve from chaos and respite from nomadic wandering.
3. The holy city (v.2a) – The first creation was described in terms of a garden where Adam communed alone with God (until God provided a wife). The new creation is described as a city with all of the human interactions and relationship in harmony.
4. A bride adorned (v.2b) – Weddings are a lot of work. They often follow weeks of preparation and anticipation. As an officiant, I try to keep my eyes on the groom at the moment when the rear door opens and he sees his bride in all her glory. Sometimes it is a smile, sometimes it is a single tear rolling down a cheek, but the moment that all of the anticipation is rewarded is hard to capture.
5. New creation, no sea, holy city and beautiful bride. 4 overwhelming metaphors to describe the joy and peace when all is made right.
6. But the most important element is not the peacefulness, it is the presence of God amongst His people (vv.3-4). What makes Heaven Heaven is that the triune God is there!
7. God meets the needs of His creation (vv.5-7) as was originally intended when everything was good.
8. Anyone who would detract from the beautiful harmony between God and His Bride are restricted from access into this gorgeous reunion (v.8).
Transition: The spectacular beauty that has just been described with various metaphors is now depicted in various symbols.

A Cipher of Symbols (Rev 21:9-21)

Radiance (vv.9-11)

1. The city glows
City-dwellers are at a disadvantage when it comes to visualizing John’s description. In metropolitan areas suburbs, stripmalls and streetlights seem to just blend together with invisible boundaries. Sometimes the only way to decipher a change in municipalities is that the design of street lights change. But on the frontier we know the darkness of the prairie. We can observe the glow of headlights over the crest of the next hill even if we can’t see the vehicle. As one approaches Cottonwood from the south or Strong City from the north, the glow of the town lights the horizon from several miles away. Those who feed before sunup or gather strays after dark know the warmth inside when you top that last hill before home and the glow of the yardlight begins to melt the chill in your bones.

Dimensions of the City (vv.12-17)

1. Twelves (and multiples of 12) indicate that both Old and New Covenant people of God are represented.
2. Cubed dimensions (v.16) – We may describe a spread by length and width (acres and sections) to give a picture of the area it covers. In some places we may even describe elevation. But we rarely describe the height of a city.
You may recall that when we studied the Tabernacle as God instructed Moses to build a special tent of meeting, that the tabernacle was separated into two sections. The place of activity was twice as deep as it was wide, but the Most Holy Place (the place where God met with His creation) was a perfect cube.
3. The place where God met with the High Priest was a cube. When Jesus died the veil was torn from top to bottom indicating that through Christ all believers now have direct access to God.
4. Now in the New Jerusalem, the city itself is a cube. This indicates that God’s presence fills the whole city and all inhabitants have unfettered access to Him.
Transition: Time doesn’t permit me to get into the details of each of the jewels. Perhaps some of you would like to research these stones and share your finding in SS next week as we will look at this text. But the last paragraph of this chapter mentions…

Some Glaring Absences (Rev. 21:22-27)

No Temple (v.22)

1. There is no meeting place with God because the whole city is a place where God meets with His people.

No Night (v.23-25)

1. Just as the sea in v.1 was a symbol of chaos, the Sun and moon are symbols of being open or closed. When shops are closed, security must be in place to protect from robbers who steal at night. But since all evil people are banned and God’s presence is everywhere, there is no need for nighttime security measures.
Here’s a situation where I’m pretty sure I can get an “amen!” How many of you have become frustrated with passwords? Because there are dishonest people out there, we are forced to use passwords with the correct number of letters, numbers, symbols and capitalization. Then 6 months later we are forced to change the password, but, of course, that doesn’t change all the other accounts that use the old password.
2. Symbolically there is no night, meaning there is no need for security. Because evil-doers have been prohibited access (vv.26-27) and the glory/righteousness of God is present everywhere.
Transition: Chapter 21 clearly shows us that the consummated kingdom is a new creation aligned with God’s original purpose, it is a place of beauty and God’s presence, and it is a place where evil-doers are not allowed to corrupt it. But chapter 22 goes on to reveal…

The Main Attraction (Rev. 22:1-5)

A 2-seated throne and a river (vv.1-3)

1. 1 throne with 2 occupants
2. Frequently in Scripture the Holy Spirit is revealed as oil or water. This pictures a substance that flows or proceeds without propulsion.
3. Remember, this is apocalyptic literature so we can’t press the metaphors too far. God occupies the whole city, yet is seated on the throne. The Holy Spirit is a divine person yet pictured as a flowing river.
4. Yet the main attraction is that every blessing to be found on the throne or proceeding from it is found in the persons that constitute the Godhead.

Full vision of God (vv.4-5)

1. Remember in Ex 33 when God showed Himself to Moses, yet He warned that Moses could not look on His face?
2. In the new kingdom, where we have received glorified bodies, that restriction is removed.
As a bride’s veil is removed and the couple is permitted to gaze directly into one another’s face, in Rev. 22 we are promised the intimacy of adoring the face of God without shame or guilt.
3. There will be plenty of time to get all our questions answered. We have eternity to reunite with loved ones gone before.
4. In many ways I envision a couple gazing into one another’s eyes as they intimately exchange vows. I see sinners saved by grace, silently looking into the face of God in absolute adoration and wordless love.
As the bride looks intently into the eyes of her groom I can almost hear:
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

Conclusion:

This week many of us will gather around tables with friends and family. Many will express item for which we are thankful before sharing a meal together.
My prayer is that for many of us, in the last 14 weeks we have captured new glimpses into the glory of our God, the beauty of His love for us, and the hope of our eternal rest in His presence.
If this morning’s message about Heaven has left you a little homesick, I invite you to join me as we express our longing in the song…
Song of Response #542.. “When We All Get to Heaven”
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