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A Great Feast

The Church — Revealed  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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As we begin today, let me ask you to pray for Haiti. Things are worse there than just about anyone can remember.
Even the town where I served with Supply and Multiply — a town that’s normally relatively safe from the kidnappings and the worst of the violence that Haiti’s often in the news for — has not escaped the most recent wave of violence in that nation.
A gas station and convenience store where we often shopped for snacks and drinks was overrun by rioters yesterday, and there were reports of homes being burned and a mob of people marching down the main street there.
The Haitians may well have reached their breaking point. Fuel is almost impossible to find, and when you can buy it by the gallon on the black market, it’s exorbitantly expensive.
The gangs that control much of the nation are not allowing food and other supplies to out of the ports. And there are constant reports of gunfire in the cities, including right outside the U.S. Embassy in Port au Prince.
Airlines have stopped their service into and out of Haiti. And even the president of the neighboring Dominican Republic is calling for the U.S. and the United Nations to intervene, because the chaos and anarchy in Haiti now threatens his nation.
As I was reading the reports coming out of Haiti yesterday, I got to thinking about my time there. I miss the folks I served with there, and wish I could go back and see them, to pray with them and to minister to the elderly people whom Supply and Multiply was founded to serve.
Maybe one day soon.
But as I was thinking about the six months I spent in Haiti, I was particularly struck by the memories of a couple of different meals I had there.
The Haitians I served with loved me very much, and they honored me several different times with special meals.
The first was not long after I’d arrived, when I had caught a stomach bug and spent the better part of three days dealing with its effects — and I’ll spare you the details, but it was pretty ugly.
By the end of the second day, they were worried about me becoming dehydrated. So the ladies who prepared my meals while I was there sent up a tray with bread and some kind of soup, along with strict instructions that I was to finish the soup completely.
Nothing had ever tasted so good to me, and I remember having no problem finishing it at all. And then I relayed my hearty compliments to them through Gary, Supply and Multiply’s Haitian director.
And so, the next day, when Gary brought up another bowl of the same soup and I was already feeling a little better, I eagerly sat down at my little table and began to eat.
But what had been wonderful and delicious when I was weak and dehydrated was now terrible. It tasted like someone had emptied a saltshaker into a bowl of fish broth. There was no way I was going to finish it.
When I’d finally been left alone to eat, I sneaked into the bathroom and poured it down the toilet.
And then, when Gary returned, I told him I was feeling much better now, thank you very much, and I didn’t think I’d need any more of the special soup.
Then, there was the time the other American missionary there had found a large, live conch on the beach.
Gary knew I’d been wanting to try conch for some time. It’s a local delicacy. But he wisely wouldn’t let me eat from a street vendor, so he had the ladies pull the conch from its shell and cook it for me.
He brought that cooked conch up to my room and I recognized what an honor was being done for me, as they’d given me the whole thing. The whole thing. And it was about this big.
And it was so tough I couldn’t bite through it. And he was so proud to give it to me, and the ladies had cooked it as an honor for me, and so there was no way I could not eat it.
So I finally put the whole thing in my mouth and chewed for about five minutes and then swallowed it pretty much whole.
And then I smiled and told him how good it was and prayed that I’d somehow be able to digest it.
But the most memorable meal was on one of my last nights in Haiti, when everybody connected to the ministry came to Gary’s house.
They’d laid out a huge spread of beans and rice and chicken. They’d bought a basket full of Haitian lobsters — which are somewhere in size between a crawdad and a small American lobster. And they’d cooked the lobster tails and filled a bowl with them for everyone to enjoy. But not until Pasté Res got his first.
And I will tell you that everything was delicious. I’ll also admit that many tears were shed around that concrete courtyard that evening, and many of them were mine.
There’s something special about a feast with people you love.
And today, as we conclude our series, “The Church — Revealed,” we’re going to talk about just such a feast. Except this one isn’t a going-away party; this one is a wedding feast.
You’ll find it in the Book of Revelation, in chapter 19. And as you’re turning there in your Bibles, let me remind you of some of the things we’ve learned along the way in this long study of the church.
We learned that it was created by Jesus, born of the Holy Spirit, and launched by a powerful sermon on the Day of Pentecost.
We’ve defined it as the New Covenant community of the Holy Spirit. So it’s a community of people who share the indwelling Holy Spirit by virtue of the covenant God made back in the Old Testament, when He promised to provide a way for sins to be forgiven and for His Spirit to dwell within us.
And central to that definition is the term “community,” which tells us that we who have followed Jesus in faith are not called to be “Lone Ranger Christians.”
Instead, we are called into community, and that’s the only way we can accomplish all the “one anothers” that we see commanded of us in the New Testament.
We saw that this community is marked by at least four characteristics.
We are one; in other words marked by a spirit of unity that reflects the unity of the triune God. Just as the three persons of God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — have existed eternally in perfect, self-sacrificial love, this community is to be marked by a love in which each of us sets aside our own desires and agendas for the good of others.
This community is marked by holiness. It is set apart for God’s service, and it is called to strive ever toward godliness by striving to be ever more like Jesus.
This community is little-c catholic, meaning that it consists of all believers from all times and all places and all classes. We are A church, but we are not THE church. THE church is much greater than Liberty Spring Christian Church.
And finally, this community is marked by its apostolicity. In other words, it rests on the foundation of the teaching of the Apostles, as revealed in God’s word.
We learned that the church has a two-fold purpose, which really is two sides of the same coin. We exist to worship God, which is something that happens here on Sundays, to be sure. But worshiping God is even more evident in the way that we keep the two commandments that Jesus gave — to love God and to love your neighbors.
On the other side of the purpose coin is discipleship, which is teaching and admonishing and exhorting one another to become more like Christ, and allowing the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, to make our character more like the character of Jesus.
And we saw that this is the other side of the purpose coin from worshiping God, because making us more like Jesus is God’s purpose for Christians. And we demonstrate love for God, at least in part, by cooperating with His will for our lives.
We saw that the church’s responsibility is to serve as an embassy for the Kingdom of God here on earth.
We who have followed Jesus in faith are now citizens of God’s kingdom. And His Kingdom agenda and values should be our agenda and values, as well. So, we should desire and pursue justice, righteousness, grace, mercy and goodness in all that we do and say.
We talked in recent weeks about how the church should be ordered and organized if we desire — as well we should — to do so according to the way that God has revealed proper in Scripture.
We talked about the power of the church being the power of the Holy Spirit. It was from Him that the Church was born in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus and 10 days after He ascended back into heaven in His resurrected body.
We talked about the Holy Spirit being the church’s seal. In other words, the Spirit is God’s guarantee to the church that He will keep His promise to unite the church with Jesus in marriage. The Holy Spirit is the church’s engagement ring.
We talked about the Spirit indwelling both individual believers and the corporate church and empowering us to do the work that Jesus has called us to do while we await His return.
And we talked about the Holy Spirit’s role in our sanctification — in making us to be more like Jesus. And we said that, even as the Spirit draws us to be more holy, we can choose whether or not we will participate in this work of God within us.
Finally, there was a series of seven messages in which we examined seven metaphors for the church used in Scripture.
The church is the flock of sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd, Jesus. The church is a kingdom of priests under our High Priest, Jesus.
The church is God’s temple, the household of God, with each believer a stone in that temple built upon the foundation stones of the Apostles and the chief cornerstone, which is Jesus.
The church is the body under the head of Jesus, and each believer is part of that body and, therefore, important to its correct functioning.
The church is composed of branches that have been grafted into the True Vine, Jesus. And therefore we can expect periods of pruning and even to see unfruitful branches being cut off from the vine.
The church is the new creation of the last Adam, which is Jesus.n Whereas the first Adam brought sin and death into the world, Jesus, the last Adam, brings righteousness and life.
And the metaphor we’ll be revisiting today is that the church is the Bride of Christ.
And what I hope you’ll see as we spend the remaining few minutes talking about the wedding feast in the Book of Revelation is that all of what we’ve talked about during the past 24 weeks or so has been preparing us for this moment yet to come.
Everything we’ve learned about the church has been to help the church to be a worthy bride when this great feast takes place.
We’re going to pick up in verse 6 of chapter 19. Read along with me now.
Revelation 19:6–8 NASB95
6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Now, what you need to understand here is that this Hallelujah chorus in heaven is the fourth one that appears in this portion of Revelation.
The first three appear in verses 1, 3, and 4, and they are also described by the Apostle John as having been voiced by a great multitude in heaven.
Probably this multitude includes all of the heavenly host, along with all of the believers who have died or been raptured with Jesus during His return to Earth in the clouds.
All those who have believed in Jesus from all times have been taken to heaven at this point in the Book of Revelation. Their spirits have been reunited with their risen and glorified bodies.
And all of that great multitude is praising God in the first five verses of this chapter because of the judgment He has brought against Babylon in chapter 18.
Now, there are many different interpretations of what Babylon represents in the Book of Revelation, and our point here isn’t to get into all that.
I believe the biblical evidence suggests that Babylon represents the great world systems of political and economic power that have helped lead mankind into sin. Babylon is the way of the world.
And in chapters 17 and 18, Babylon is represented as a woman “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” She is described as “the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.”
In verse 4 of chapter 17, John describes here like this:
Revelation 17:4 NASB95
4 The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality,
Just as sin itself so often is for us, the woman here is attractive and enticing. But just as sin itself does for us, what the woman offers only abomination and uncleanness and immorality and death.
And what we see at the end of chapter 17 and the beginning of chapter 18 is John’s prophetic vision of God’s judgment against Babylon, against the way of the world that has drawn so many away from God throughout history.
Babylon falls, and what we see in chapter 18 is the lost world mourning over its fall. Those who have refused to put their faith in God and have chosen instead to put their faith in themselves and in the ways of this world are absolutely heartbroken to see the objects of their faith in utter ruins.
But we who put our faith in the perfectly righteous and just God through Jesus Christ will rightfully rejoice at the destruction of those things that have been opposed to God and opposed to His righteousness and justice.
And so, we will join in the Hallelujah chorus in heaven as we see His perfect justice carried out and His perfect righteousness vindicated.
And that will be the purpose of the first three Hallelujahs in chapter 19.
But the reason I wanted to share this background for you is for you to see the contrast between the the woman who pictures Babylon in John’s vision and the bride of chapter 19.
Look at how the bride is described in verse 8.
Revelation 19:8 NASB95
8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
The woman identified as Babylon was dressed as a harlot would have been dressed. But the bride of Christ is dressed simply, in fine linens, bright and clean.
We know this is the church because of the reference to the saints — the holy ones — at the end of this verse. This also corresponds to the other references to the church being the bride of Christ that we studied earlier.
Babylon is all tarted up to catch the wandering eyes of the world, but the church appears here in the simple, bright and clean linens of purity, because the church is betrothed to Jesus.
The church has been promised to its sinless savior, the spotless Lamb of God who gave Himself as a sacrifice in our place and on our behalf so that those who follow Him in faith can have eternal life.
And John writes here that these bright and clean wedding garments we will wear represent the righteous acts we have been given by God to do while here on earth.
We will perform the acts of righteousness — and that includes everything we’ve talked about during these last 24 weeks or so — but the acts themselves are God’s gift to us.
All of what we have talked about during this long study of the church has been given to us so that the church might stand before its bridegroom as a bride who has made herself ready for her wedding.
Now, I’m sure it has happened before, but I have a hard time imagining a wedding in which the bride comes to the altar right from fixing her car or plowing a field or wrestling pigs or whatever.
Across all cultures, what we see is brides coming to the altar in special gowns and with elaborate makeup and fragrant perfume.
What we see here is no different, except that instead of flowing gowns and elaborate makeup, we have the bride appearing in linens made by having done what the bridegroom, her Savior, told her to do.
And, in case there’s any doubt about the joy that will accompany this union between Jesus and His church, look at verse 9.
Revelation 19:9 NASB95
9 Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ ” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” That word that’s translated here as “invited” means “to identify by name or attribute” or “to call or call by name.” In other words, blessed are those who are called or chosen in Christ.
This feast will be like no other before it. The soup will be perfect, the conch will be tender, and the lobster tails will be huge. And I like to imagine that everything will be sprinkled with bits of bacon.
But the feast itself isn’t the blessing. The blessing will be that those who have been called are finally in the presence of their savior, Jesus Christ.
This will be no going-away party. This will be the greatest homecoming feast and wedding banquet you could possibly imagine, all rolled together into one.
And as with any such feast or banquet, we should be making ourselves ready for it. Ready to present ourselves to the one who loves us the most, the one who loves us so much that He gave His very life for us. Ready to experience the blessings of eternal life with Him.
THIS is happily ever after in a way that no fairy tale could ever imagine.
But if you’ve never turned to Jesus in faith that only His sacrificial death and supernatural resurrection provide an answer to your problem of sin, then you will not be called to this feast.
If you’ve never turned away from the way of the world and turned toward the one who called Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then this banquet will not be for you.
If you have never repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus for forgiveness, then the blessings of eternal life in heaven will be replaced for you by the curse of eternal suffering in hell.
God doesn’t force anyone to worship Him. He allows us all to choose who or what we will worship. He allows us all to choose where we will place our faith.
And if you choose to reject His offer of salvation by His grace through faith in Jesus, He will allow you to experience the full and terrifying and eternal impact of your choice to reject Him and His grace.
Is Jesus calling you today to join Him one day at this great feast in Heaven? Is Jesus calling you to place your faith in Him as your only means of salvation? As the only way you can be reconciled to the God who loves you and made you to be in fellowship with Him?
Is Jesus calling you to true life as the person you were made to be? Do you hear His still, small voice in your heart telling you that He loves you?
If you do, please don’t ignore it today. He will not call you forever. If you hear Him calling you today, come up during this next song, and let’s talk about how you can find true forgiveness, perfect peace, and eternal life in Christ.
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