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The Story, Chapter 31: “The End of Time”

August 27, 2017

The Story, Chapter 31: “The End of Time”

Revelation 1-5, 19-22    

 

Intro:  People can get really worked up about the book of Revelation.  There is a fascination with studying it.  Perhaps in hope of finding out things about what it will be like when Jesus returns and hoping that we will see prophesies that will point out that it could be any time now!

 

Let me put some minds at ease.  Jesus is coming back!  It is a for sure thing.  But people have been anticipating it for centuries and no one has pegged it yet!  So what other uses for reading Revelation might there be, especially as we come to the end of The Story?

 

You will recall that as we set out to read through the Bible we looked at the upper and lower stories.  God has been actively at work since creation to bring his people back to himself.  We read about this in the upper story.  The lower story is where we dwell, responding to what God has been doing throughout history and in our own time.  Revelation is the final chapter we have written to explain to us what God is about.  

 

If you read the chapter in the book, you read Rev. 1-5 and 19-22.  In these verses a lot is said but as we finish up, I want to focus on four topics that you can’t miss.

The Character of Christ 

The Quality of Worship

The Calling of the Church

The Communion of Saints

 

The Character of Christ (Who is Jesus?)

Revelation gives us a snapshot of Jesus glorified.  Jesus once again on the throne.  The Jesus who had been God incarnate on earth now back with the Father in all of his glory and power and honor.  That’s how we will see Jesus! As we sang and read Scripture at the start of the service, we used words to describe the character of Christ as: worthy, the Lamb of God, exalted, great, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end.  In the Scriptures we read about the vision John had of what Christ is like and while it may not all make sense, we get the idea that Jesus is full of power and authority. He is the only one who can set in motion the judgement of the earth. He is God’s Son, entrusted with all matters of our souls.  He is the victor over death and all evil.  And he will come again to make all things new.

 

The Quality of Worship (What is worship?)

Revelation also gives us some idea about what true worship is.  The focus is 100% on God and none of it is about what sort of music makes you personally happy.  Every being in heaven worships God because they can’t help themselves.

 

On Monday, the 21st, I was traveling on a plane from Edinburgh to NY during the solar eclipse.  I missed it.  But when I got off the plane I discovered that my friend who lives in California left this text: “I experienced the total eclipse. Words seriously fail.”  I believe that when we are serious about worshiping God we should be in the same condition.  Words seriously fail to convey the love we feel for God.  People speak of being lost in worship of God, sometimes in a worship service and sometimes when they are all alone with him.  If you have experienced that, you are blessed.  But when we all get to heaven, can you imagine?  There will be no distraction.  God will be the center.  Unbroken praise will surround us. And when we sing “holy, holy, holy” we will see with our eyes the object of our praise.

 

I feel like we should be getting in practice for that now!  When we worship God do we make it the best quality worship we can bring?  When we immersed ourselves in Scripture describing Christ and sang songs that focus on that as well, were you able to enter into a quality of worship that shut out all distractions?  No?  Well, we’re not in heaven yet! But that is the work we are called to do as worshippers.  What effort are you putting in to your personal and our corporate worship of God?

 

The Calling of the Church

In the Revelation, John records messages to seven churches. The Story includes three of those in our chapter.  But they capture the messages that all churches who seek to honor God need to hear: What is the church called to be?

 

In my NLT, each of the seven churches is given a catch phrase that fairly sums up their position in God’s eyes.  Ephesus is called, “The Loyal Church”

 

Ephesus - The affirmation for the church at Ephesus is found in Rev. 2:2-3. The things the church does well, and which we should model are: hard work, perseverance, non-tolerance of evil people, critical examination of false prophets, suffering without quitting.  This is a short list of how a church should be. But there is more for this church.

 

The word continues to exclaim that God has a complaint against the church at Ephesus and we would do well to pay attention here as well.  Rev. 2:4-6.  They had lost the love they once had for each other.  We may assume that every church began much like the first church in Acts, where everyone gave whatever was necessary so that no one went without.  There was no self-centeredness.  It was all about glorifying Jesus and serving one another. But they had become self-centered once again.  It’s easy to do.  But it’s not how we are called to operate as the church of Jesus Christ. 

 

Trying to think about how this might look today.  I think it appears in the ways we withhold ourselves from each other and resist becoming a deep relational community.  We might withhold our time:  “I can’t come to fellowship with my church family today because I have chores at home or just want to get home to put my feet up.” We might withhold our money: “I can’t give to the church/mission because I want to spend my money on me”. Or maybe we withhold our hearts from one another:  “I’m in and out of church. Don’t really want to relate to anyone. I’m there to worship and that’s it.”

 

The affirmations and warnings to Ephesus are ones we should use to check ourselves. How do we compare in these things with the church at Ephesus? God tells the church to repent, to stop what they are doing and turn back to their first love.

 

Smyrna is the next church addressed and is called “A Suffering Church”.

Pergamum is called “A Compromising Church” and that’s not a good thing.

Thyatira is “An Overly Tolerant Church”.  Again, not a compliment.

Sardis is called “A Dead Church” and we will check in here.

 

Sardis - This church hears the negative first.  Rev. 3:2-3.  The church of Jesus Christ is called to be a church that is alive!  How do you think we rate on this one?  How excited are we about the salvation Christ has given us? Is it something we talk about with others? If God were sending us a letter, would it be modeled on this one? Again, they are urged to repent and return to the land of the living.

 

There is a remnant in Sardis who are affirmed.  Rev. 3:4-5.  O Lord, I want to be in that number . . . 

 

Philadelphia is referred to as “A Weak but Obedient Church”

Laodicea, the final church, is called a “Lukewarm and Uncommitted Church”

 

Laodicea - Rev. 3:15-19. This is a sad state of affairs.  But I think it behooves us to take a look at ourselves in comparison to the warning to this church.  I think this warning might be applied to those who say, “I don’t need a church community to worship in.  I have everything I need with my family and my hike into the woods.”  There is so much danger in that philosophy.  It is being lukewarm.  It is setting oneself up to be spit out of God’s mouth.  I pray that it will not ever be said of this church that we are lukewarm.  So if you’re not feeling the fire, what do you need to invest in this community to make it burn again?

 

The good news for the church at Laodicea comes as an invitation.  Rev. 3:20-21.

 

The invitation to all of these churches, sometimes stated in the passage and sometimes eluded to, is this:  REPENT.  Quit practicing the bad habits you have developed and return to your first love for God and one another.  This is something that we need to do regularly as a the entire church body, and it is also something we need to do as individuals on a daily basis.  Let’s seek to keep short accounts with God.  Let’s be hot on God’s trail.  This is the calling of the church.

 

So we have seen in Revelation:

The Character of Christ

The Quality of Worship 

The Calling of the Church

But the thing many people look for in the book of Revelation is what eternal life is like.

So we conclude with . . . 

 

The Communion of Saints (Eternity)

We know that it will be filled with worship.  We know that it will be filled with the presence of Jesus, honored and glorified. We know that it will contain the saints from the churches mentioned and the myriads of others who have been faithful to God.

 

I once had an experience that led me to say in my heart, “This must be what it will be like in heaven!”  It was the end of a three day retreat.  We were marched into a sanctuary singing some rowdy song and were countered with a church full of people singing, “Love, love, love, love”.  The sanctuary was full, the balcony was full, they were all holding candles and singing this song.  We were standing on the platform seeing it all, tears streaming, hearts bursting.  And my thought, “this is what heaven will be like!” I didn’t know all the people in this community but they had come to let me know that I was loved.  Life changing.  And one of the really cool things was that earlier in the month, a member of this community who was also part of the church I served, had died and I could so sense her presence there, her light shining among all the others.  It was powerful.  And we worshiped.

 

As John experienced this vision of heaven and was asked to write about it, he had to find words that humans could relate to. So we have images of jewels and gold and pearly gates.  But let me conclude with some of the more concrete statements that John was able to record from Rev. 21 and 22.

 

Rev. 21:1-7, 22-27, Rev. 22:1-5