Friday, November 28, 2014
The questions regarding the character of God must be answered; not for the universe who witnessed their fulfillment at Calvary, but for us who continue to ask “why”. In our previous study John began his final revelation of Jesus Christ. While it was not steeped in fantastic imagery and prophetic symbolism, it was in simple and plain speech. It was meant for us to understand. It was a simple answer to the complex question we ask of “why”. We resume our study in the final 22nd chapter of Revelations, it is here at the end of what would become the compilation of scripture we know as the Bible, that the last prophet of scripture would again reveal the motives of God clearly.
John writes in verse 12 ... “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. [verse 13] I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Here again is the promise of God, that He is coming back to retrieve us, to reconcile us to Himself. This world is not our home. A perfected character within us is His reward. An eternal life of service and love to others is His reward. He is the beginning of our salvation from ourselves, He is the Alpha. He is the ending of our salvation from ourselves, He will see it completed in us, He is Omega. He loved us First. He will love us Last. He is the reason we seek to see ourselves changed into His image. It is His love that draws us. It is the power of His love that will change us, and make us into the creations He intended us to be. His “reward” is not punitive. This is not another veiled threat for the disobedient. It is a promise of close proximity for those who have permitted Him to save them, and claim them as His own. There is no higher calling the in the gospel than that of redemption.
John continues in verse 14 … “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Blessed are they. We could easily define blessed as “relieved”. We could define it as “fortunate”. We could define it as “lucky” or “gifted”. Blessed is not about the attainment of wealth. Blessed is about a recognition that in having been transformed from the former things we used to want, we are now FREE to live another way. We are free from the chains that bound us to pain and death, and able to live for loving others, in the perfect freedom to serve others. In this context, the commandments are automatic. In the context of perfect love for others, the commandments are not nearly enough of a definition for loving God, and loving others. Our “right” to the tree of life and entry into the holy city our home is intended to be, is not founded upon our own will, or actions, but upon our complete transformation wrought by Him within us. We are permitted entry, and given the fruit of the tree of life, because we no longer want sin in any part of our hearts, minds, or lives. We are free from sin. We are made free from it by Christ. We automatically keep the commandments now, because loving others is “who” HE made us to be. There is no part of the definition of love contained in His commandments that is foreign to us, or a problem or us. They are inherent in our thoughts and desires, for our desires have been transformed by Christ. We are safe to admit into the perfection of our heavenly home, because our desires have been perfected within us by our Savior Jesus Christ.
We LONG to spend a special day with our God, where He takes the time off to be with us. We would not consider taking His name in vein. We love Him above all else. He is first to us. There is no other. For our fellow man, we would not consider taking or coveting anything they own. Instead we long to give them anything that might make them the least bit happier. We do not lust, or consider adultery, or in any way wish to break the special bond of intimacy that is shared with our own spouse, but instead we prize and treasure this bond of unity above all others. We love our parents and think only how we might serve them better. We never want to see death again, nor pain of any kind. We would gladly give everything we own to God, or anyone in need, 10% is 90% too little. We do not wish our appetites to cause any of Gods creations to suffer or die; instead we would gladly eat anything he provides to us in whatever form it comes. We are no longer governed by the chains of self-love, but have the perfect freedom to love others alone, and God most of all.
This is HOW we were made to live. This is how life was meant to be. This is what we will one day come to embrace as natural to us, instead of a struggle for us. But to become natural, Christ must make it natural within us. What is carnal within us must be killed, it must be eliminated. What is created by Christ within us in its stead, is what makes us Blessed. The law becomes a part of who we are, of how we think. Love for others alone motivates us. It becomes the “why” we do what we do. Credit for our actions is no longer wanted. The gift of what we do for others, is itself, our only reward. To make others happy is all we seek. This is what He frees us to experience. This is the reason we are safe to admit into heaven. This is the reason it is safe for us to live forever eating from the tree of life; for we will no longer live eternally in pain, or in sin, but in perfect freedom and happiness and love for God and others.
John continues in verse 15 … “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” Here is partial list of the opposite of Blessed. In this instance “dogs” is not a literal designation, but a representation of those who would eat anything, attempt to have sex with anything, and bite or destroy anything that pleases them. Sorcerers are those who would embrace the quest for power at any price, even of that of their own souls. Sorcerers know it is not God who offers them supernatural power, for they are know that God is not about control but about choice. So knowing full well that evil alone powers them, they embrace the demon that would offer power and lose themselves in it. Whoremongers are men and women who want sex at any cost, from any one, any time. They are the self-indulged, they prize orgasm above morality, and treat it as biology alone. Murderers kill any as it suits them, or feeds their greed, or makes them feel powerful. Idolaters need not bow before wood, or stone anymore, they need only bow to the image in the mirror before them every day.
Those who “love” and make a “lie” – how broad a categorization of those who “claim” to love others, but in truth only “love” themselves. Every person engaged in adultery has always thought themselves “in love” with their cohort in crime. Every person engaged in pre-marital sex justifies their actions based on a declaration of “love” for their partner, yet no commitment that would make it binding, just an intention perhaps to one day see about taking the next step. Every person who claims to love another, but does so only when it is convenient, only when they can afford it, only because they feel it is a 50-50 relationship, understands little about the truth of love for others, and is self-deceived in that they only truly love themselves. The love of self, is not love at all. It is a perversion. It is an abomination. It is the cause of every sin, every pain, and the reason for the existence of death. These people who embrace the chains of self-love are those who are not permitted entry into heaven, and do not live life, but rather live in a state of tortured existence. It is not a kindness to see them eat from the tree of life and remain forever in a state without the hope of decay or death to end it. Having rejected redemption, death is now their only hope for an end to it. It is a kindness to see the existence in self-inflicted torture ended, either through redemption and rebirth, or through death and non-existence. Anything is better than living forever in the self-embraced tortured state of sin’s pain and misery.
John continues in verse 16 … “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. [verse 17] And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Herein is the motive of God revealed. Herein is answer to the question of “why”. It is Christ that bridges the gap that ties together from before our genesis as the bright and morning star, to the genealogies of Israel and house of David, to the Spirit and the bride who say “come”. First and last, Alpha and Omega, beginning and the ending, for all of time and eternity it is the love of God that invites us to “come” and be with Him. Everything He has done to redeem us, is about bringing us home with Him, to be where He is, and to live with Him forever. This is the answer to “why” – it is because He loved us before we even existed, and intends to be with us forever. Nothing that happens to us is meant to distract us from that ultimate goal. No evil that befalls us is outside of His notice or concern.
For love to be a choice, it MUST be a choice, it cannot be forced or it is not love. So what He offers us, is the invitation to His love, He bids us “come”. It turns out our God is not a God of justice, more than He is of forgiveness. Forgiveness was more important to God than justice. Love was more important and more powerful than evil. Good triumphs over evil because God is good, it was known, before there was ever an alternative idea to good. Love is the over-riding motive of our God in every CHOICE He has made, despite the ones we have. His Love was a choice He made for us. No one forced God to love us, He chose to. No one forced God to forgive us, or free us, or reclaim and re-create us, He chose to. It was His free-will choice to love us, and that love stands behind everything He has ever done for us. Our choices have brought evil and pain upon us, and despite what we have done, His choice remains to love us. He longs to heal us as we let Him. And here at the end of all things, His choice bears fruit in surrendered souls who can now taste the perfection of life He intended them to exist within. His motive always was, and always will be, love for others.
Let whosoever will; anyone who wants to can drink of the water of life freely. Anyone who wishes to experience Christ for themselves is welcome to do so. There are NO restrictions. There is NO ONE who is excluded from doing so, no matter how evil they think themselves to be, or how righteous. ALL can come to Christ, and drink freely. All can experience salvation, to be made free from the chains of self-love, to instead love others alone and God most of all. Those who thirst, those who perceive the need for something more, are bidden to come and drink freely. Those who have heard the gospel of Christ, are bidden to join and echo the invitation bidding ALL to “come” and drink freely. Notice there is not one hint of condemnation in these precious words of hope. Nowhere is there a prerequisite to be holy before we come, but instead allow the waters of life to make us holy after we come. Nowhere in this text of redemption is a hint of judgment and condemnation over how we live our lives. He already knows we are bound in the chains of sin, it is the reason He wants us to “come” so that we can be made free from them through submission to Him and His love. He does not point us to focus on our pain, but instead maintains our focus on Him, the cure for our pain. Our lives will change, but this is His promise to us, not His edict. We will live differently because His love changes us as we surrender. Not because we “try” harder to be “good”. A different way of thinking, of loving, and of living is the gift He brings to us. He creates it within us. He makes us over again.
The message of the Christian should be to “come”. It should be an invitation to the world, no matter what condition we find the world in. The goal is not to keep the world outside of the church, but to get the entire world into the church in order to free it to love others. The waters of life that flow from Christ cannot be polluted by the sin sick souls who come to drink. Rather they purify those who drink and begin to change them from the inside out. There is no risk that Christ will be tempted by the sins of the world, He instead longs to free us from the sins of the world. It is NOT the job of the Christian to maintain the “standards” of the church by eliminating or ostracizing those who are caught in the pain of sin. It is the job of the Christian to love them, and bid them “come”. We are to JOIN with the Spirit and bride and bid them “come”. We are not to declare war on the Spirit and the bride, and begin a campaign of exclusion, under the self-righteous pretense of standards and holiness. We are to love the ones in need, and bid them come.
John echoes a warning in verse 18 writing … “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: [verse 19] And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” So often we attribute this warning to maintaining the content of the Bible in its current form, with the proscribed number and order of books in both Old and New testaments. Or we focus on insuring that the book of Revelation is not altered in any way. But what if the meaning is bigger than that? What if it applies to the invitation that immediately precedes it. What if we are supposed to ONLY offer the invitation in love to “come” and drink the waters of life freely. What if the intention of this warning was for the Christian church to keep it simple, to offer the love of Christ freely and bid “whosoever will” and “anyone who thirsts” to come and find the love of Christ reflected in us and directly from Him?
Perhaps the goal of this warning was not simply to keep the scribes who would transcribe the texts of scripture faithful in their efforts for the last 4 thousand years. Perhaps it was to prompt Christians to remember that Christ bid them a great commission to love others and in so doing let the world identify them as His servants. We need not embellish the words of Christ, nor should we feel free to take away any words He uttered. Christ is sufficient to save us. We can instead speak the words of His promises with absolute confidence that He has never failed, nor will He ever. We can instead point to His warnings and use them as a guide to reflect how we “feel” about them as an indication of where we are in the transformation of our own desires. The scriptures we have been gifted with, are sufficient to point us to Christ, and allow Him to lead us to His Truth, in His time, and in His way. He knows what needs to be done to save us, and He is able to complete that work within us. We may not always understand His methods, but we can have absolute certainty in His motives, and faith in Him to complete this work within us.
John concludes his book of Revelations in verse 20 writing … “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. [verse 21] The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” John had no idea that these words would be placed numerically as the last text written in what we call the Bible. He did not know, nor could he know, that other manuscripts from Paul, or Phillip, or Peter might someday be discovered, collected, and compiled into a larger volume we would come to know as the Bible. But God knew. It is no accident that the last verses penned in our Bible are a longing for the return of Jesus Christ to our world. It is no accident that the “grace” of our Lord Jesus Christ was offered as a blessing to all. It is by His grace that we are saved. Saved from our sin, saved from ourselves, saved from the evil of self-inflicted pain. We are saved by His grace. We do not deserve our salvation, but are offered it anyway.
John concludes with a longing for His return. John concludes with a blessing in the pronouncement of prayer that His grace with remain with us all. In this his final revelation of Jesus Christ, John offers us the motives of our God – to be with us, to see us saved. No matter what happens to us, these remain the motives of our God – to be with us, to see us saved. It is the answer to “why”. It is the reason for revelation. It is the Truth behind every scripture. It is the message of the gospel. It is the only doctrine that matters in the Christian faith, for it is the only one that can see us – with our God, and saved. All the rest of scripture can give us insight into our God, and context for what has occurred. But the answers penned here are really all that count – to be with us, to see us saved. This was in the heart of our God before we even came into existence. This was the plan of our God, who in spite of His knowledge of the poor choice we would make, created us anyway. For His love was greater than our choice. His love was able to redeem us in spite of our choice. And His love has never faltered from the goal of wanting – to be with us, to see us saved.
If there is any better final thought to be penned in scripture, I cannot imagine what it might be. To be with us, to see us saved. Let that always be how we choose to remember the Revelations of Jesus Christ, and entirety of the book we call the Bible …
Friday, November 21, 2014
Since before our genesis, a question was raised regarding the character of God. Why create choice if evil could be an outcome, doesn’t that make God responsible for evil. Why must death be the only alternative to what God says? If God could prevent tragedy and does not, is He not responsible for the tragedy that evil brings? All of these types of questions were raised by Lucifer who became Satan. Satan has consistently blamed God trying to assign the responsibility to God, for the decisions he alone made with his own free will. The gift of choice to Lucifer was mis-used. It was Lucifer’s choice to embrace the love of self, over the love of others. It was Lucifer’s choice to disregard trusting the wisdom of God, and embrace relying upon his own wisdom and common sense. Thus the choices of Lucifer led to his downfall, which he immediately blamed upon God. Satan proscribed his own flaws upon his maker. He cast dispersions on the character of God, and called the universe to wonder if there was “any” truth in the arguments Satan raised.
For the universe who remained faithful to God, doubt was not completely eliminated until Calvary. When our God demonstrated that He would rather die Himself, than to see His children suffer that fate; He proved once and for all what love means. The questions regarding the character of God were forever answered at Calvary for the unseen worlds who witnessed just how far love would go to save, and just how far evil would sink if it were allowed. Love would die for another who did not deserve it. Evil would kill God to satisfy a quest for power that could never be made whole. But for mankind the questions remained open. Even those who physically witnessed Calvary and His resurrection and ascension, did not fully understand what they were seeing. We who have the benefit of scripture in a compiled text we are free to read due to the mercy of God, still do not fully understand what it is we read. For mankind, doubt lingers. We remain unconvinced. When confronted with personal tragedy, even Christians begin to demand of God: the answers, the “why”.
Consider that the Apostle John may have had the similar reactions to those we display every day. Consider that despite his proximity to Christ, he had to wonder why he was being dipped in boiling oil. And wonder again when it had no effect. Failing to kill him, he was none the less sent into exile on the penal colony island of Patmos. It was no luxury spa on the Med. It was likely a dark dank cave in minimal lighting, scarce and bad food, with a rock for a pillow and a hostile guard for companionship. This was no reward for a servant of the most high. It was a torturous existence designed to drill the hope out of John, designed to break his sanity and his spirit. He was sent there by the intent of evil. To a place he would have no hope of escaping from. It was likely in this place that the Revelations of Jesus Christ were offered to him. In a place designed for him to question his sanity, he is offered insights into a universe beyond his human comprehension.
He sees 4 beasts who stand before the most high. He sees the Father. He sees the Lamb of God in power and glory as He was meant to be, not veiled behind the picture of humanity He existed within this world. He sees angels of great might who speak to him openly. He sees 24 human elders who minister before the throne of God and who regularly prostrate themselves before the Most High in worship and adoration. John sees the horror of evil revealed through the ages. He sees the fury of anger poured out in plagues upon those who refuse to repent. None of the Revelations were common place. None of these events lend credibility to sanity, if anything, they seem like a complete abandonment of sanity. Imagine the doubt that must have been presented to him in that dark dank cave-like structure. Perhaps you are mad. Perhaps these are the illusions of one who has lost all contact with reality. Perhaps these are nothing more than the dreams of a mad man. Perhaps …
But at the end of all of the Revelations of Jesus Christ that were to be presented to John, comes the explanation for why they were given. Now is to be revealed to John the answer man has yet to embrace. The answer to the character of God, to His motives, is to be revealed in the most stunning of revelations. Though since the words that follow had no symbolism in them, and were not cast in the light of prophecy, we the readers tend to skim over them. We negate the importance of what follows the magnificent Revelations of sights beyond our eyes, because we are pre-occupied with these fantastic images. But the plain speech, the plain revelation of the very motives of God, causes us no special attention. We take no special notice. But John does. The man who has battled to cling to his sanity, now finds immense comfort in the revelations of His motives, for it explains the “why” we so often ask.
John begins in chapter 22 of Revelations in verse 6 saying … “And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.” To begin with John, what you have seen is the Truth. Like every prophet before you who must have also had doubts as to their sanity, what was fulfilled before, will be also fulfilled again. You have seen Jesus (the Truth) revealed in every Revelation you were given. You have seen the beauty of Truth as it offers messages of counsel and warning to the churches throughout time. The things which are to come to pass are not in question, they are a surety and founded in Him, the Truth. If your humanity doubts the magnitude of God’s reality, it is your humanity that is in error, not God.
John continues in verse 7 writing … “Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” The events about to transpire are to happen quickly. The message to the first church was already relevant and needed. The fall of the Roman empire was already in motion. The decay of the church who calls itself by the name of Christ has already begun. The war to keep scripture suppressed is already being formed in the hearts of those who would prefer to exert control over the believers, rather than encourage independent study and learning. The angel does not lie to John. He expresses the urgency of the sayings of these Revelations for they were already in motion. While there would be many years after the death of John before the physical coming of Christ, the urgency of His return, and our need of redemption has never dissipated. We NEED Christ. We NEED Him now, and fully, to remove the evil that lives within us. We NEED to want something else, to make us into something different than the choices that we have made in our lives. We NEED to be saved from ourselves. This need is immediate and does not wait for His second coming to spring into action. It is here. It is now. It is within our grasp, if we but allow it, and embrace it, and accept it from Him.
John goes on in verse 8 … “And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. [verse 9] Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” Here John comes to the self-realization that what he has seen and heard is REAL. He is NOT insane. These are NOT the ravings of a mad man denied a lifestyle of any form of humanity. It is not the brink of starvation, or disruption of sleep, that has caused him to see what he has seen. It is the Spirit of the living God. It is the messengers sent from the throne of God to reveal the Truth to him. He is overwhelmed by it all. It is so much for him to absorb. He falls down to show his extreme gratitude to the messenger in front of him. But the messenger is a “fellow” servant and will not accept the gratitude of John. Notice the messenger is not in the least tempted to take credit for the words he was meant to convey to John. Instead he instantly points John back to the source of the Truth, to Jesus Christ alone. Gratitude should be reserved for God alone.
How often do those of us who are privileged to participate in service to God, in the ministry of the redemption of souls, eager to take credit for what “we” do in His service. “We” give excellent speeches. “We” write excellent words. “We” perform acts of love and benevolence to others. And when the recipients of our ministry come to us like John to the angel, when they acknowledge and praise what we have done for them. Unlike the angel, we accept their praise. We offer the words “no problem”, or “you’re welcome”, or “its ok”. We accept their praise on the pretense of being polite, but the reality is more self-centric than that. We crave the recognition. We enjoy the accolades. We like the “reputation” we build, and how we are “known” in the public eye. So few consistently refuse thanks, and redirect it only to Christ. So few understand the complete lack of ego the true servant of God lives by. So few realize that no good deed exists outside of the love and transformation God creates in the human heart. Gratitude should be pointed to God alone, for He alone is worthy.
John continues in verse 10 … “And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” Unlike Daniel of old, whose prophecies would extend for thousands of years and would not be fully understood in his own day; the prophecies of John already have relevance. There is already an immediacy to the writings of John. The prophecies revealed to him act in concert with those of Daniel and the prophets who preceded John. They together weave a tapestry and point to our redemption and to His ultimate return to take us home to be with Him in His kingdom remade to include us forever and ever. The Revelations given to John would be a source of study for us, but they were not meant to be a mystery we cannot decipher. They were meant to be a road map to eliminate our fear and remind us of “how” we are to be saved.
John continues in verse 11 by penning the most terrifying text in scripture, or the most hopeful depending completely upon your own perspective and relationship with God … “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” So long have these words been quoted as an “edict” from the angel to John. So long have we used this text to judge others, to attempt to use fear to motivate, to threaten the finality of our decisions before God. But in so doing, we deny the truth of ourselves. For none of us are yet able to stand before God and present ourselves as righteous, or holy. We are ALL as yet unjust, and filthy. The problem is in our use of this text. It is not an edict. It is a promise. We, through the transforming power of the love of Christ and our submission to it, are to be MADE righteous, and holy. It is His gift of salvation that transforms WHO we are, that saves us from HOW we think, and therefore WHAT we do, that will finally reach its fulfillment within us and make us righteous and holy. The process of salvation is what Christ does FOR us, sometimes in spite of us.
To have faith that the Author of our faith, will also be its Finisher, is our role in the process of salvation. We are to permit Him to transform us. We are to submit everything about us on His altar. We are to lay down our desires, the process of how we think, the decisions we think we make, all of it, offered up to Him. In so doing, we literally die to self, and become reborn to serve others, to love others, to reflect who He is within our lives. There is a finality to this text, but it is not meant to be a threat, but a promise. Our present condition of evil within us, does not and will not always remain so. Like Enoch who preceded us, it is possible to reach a state of perfection wrought within us by allowing Christ to remake us. Enoch lived in times of the worst of human kind. He was surrounded by people who made God sorry for His own creation. Yet with Enoch, his surroundings did not serve as an excuse to avoid transformation, they only served as a reminder of his own need to be transformed. So it can be with us. We need not live with the pain in our lives of self-inflicted evil. We need not be like those around us who indulge in more pain and sin every minute of every day. Christ can be a relief to us, and transform us to STOP wanting to sin.
To remain righteous still, we must ALREADY be righteous. To remain holy still, we must already be holy. This is not a threat to become righteous or holy, it is a proclamation that the work of transformation within you will be completed. The risk of continuing to sin for someone who does NOT want to sin is very small. The risk of continuing to sin for someone who sees sin for the pain and death that it causes becomes non-existent. Sin continues only for those who continue to desire it, to be self-deceived that it is still fun and exciting. We must indulge the lie of sin, to remain held by its chains. We must reject His transformation of what we want, in order to continue to want what is worst for us. It is only as we lie to ourselves, and reject what Christ would save us from, that sin is permitted to remain. The text of John promises us this need not be so. The promise of John in this revelation is that it WILL not be so forever. The destination is the same. But how we arrive is the critical matter.
But the motives of God had only been partially revealed there was still more to come …
Friday, November 7, 2014
Seeing through a glass darkly does not reveal the whole of the scene. While we remain in this world, the process of His perfection wrought in us, transforming who we are, into who we were intended to become will open our eyes. But it opens them slowly. We seldom instantly see, all that is possible to see. We carry baggage. We rely on our accumulated wisdom. To learn to depend upon God to the point where we are willing to let go of everything we think we know; in order that He may lead us into what His brand of wisdom truly is … takes time. So confident are we as we utter the words … “thus saith the Lord.” But very few of us would consider ourselves to be prophets of the Most High. More often than not, we base our confidence in our interpretations of scripture, which after much study and tradition has evolved a certainty within us that there could be no other way to see the texts we espouse. And like our Pharisee forefathers, we take pride in our certainty. We use it to evaluate the spiritual discernment of others, yet hesitate to put even our own “knowledge” upon the alter of humility in letting Christ teach us, that which may prove different from what we expected.
We know not, that we are blind, and poor, and naked. It is hard to see our poverty when we choose not to see it. It is hard to see our destitution and naked spiritual condition when we constantly tell ourselves that we “know the truth” … not the Truth of Jesus Christ, but the truth of our doctrinal integrity. To see then, becomes critical to know our condition. To see then, becomes the first step towards knowing what Truth really is. We need the abolition of darkness, and a strong embrace of His light. We need it in this world. And as John was blessed to witness, we will have it literally in our next one. Towards the end of the chapter 21 and beginning of chapter 22, to John was revealed a picture of heaven, our eternal home. In this revelation was contained what humanity would need, not just now, but forever. The revelation was shared perhaps to show us, that even in the context of forever; our dependence upon God never really goes away.
So in chapter 21 and verse 23 of his book of Revelations of Jesus Christ, John begins … “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” How salient a point for us today. Scripture is the word of God to us. Scripture is not God. What lights up the 1500 mile-across-city of our eternal home is the Lamb of God. It is the glory of God. There is not some book of life, or copy of the Bible, or other written sacred scroll mounted on the top of a hill in order that all light should come from its pages. Instead, the living God, that the scripture paints a very detailed picture of, is the source of the light. The word of God is a reflection of who He is, it is not a replacement for Him. We are to learn from His word, not to worship our own wisdom derived from its study. Our God is our light. Not just for a day, or “while He is around us”, or when He is not visiting some distant planet. Our God is our light continually. The city of heaven is well lit, by the very presence and glory of our God.
We are able to navigate the streets of the city. We are able to see where we are going and not blindly bump into walls and obstacles, because of the light provided to us from Christ Himself. What a model for the study of scripture today. As we fully submit our will, our decisions, our desires, over to God, we enable Him to re-teach us what each scripture was meant to say. What we thought of before as “simple”, can be re-examined and find the depths of profound thought and study. Imagine what it means to truly know what the simple text “Jesus wept” really means. Yes, He literally cried. But there is so much more meaning bound up in that little verse than a mere historical recollection of tears shed on a donkey, or in front of the tomb of His friend. “Thou shalt not kill” … seems very straightforward. But past submitting our “wisdom” to Christ, that one edict contains so much more meaning. It encompasses more than murder, but hate, war, and even death itself. Our God desires life to be eternal, killing and even death were never supposed to be a part of our existence. Sin brought these things, God didn’t.
No matter what text we think we know, in the perfect light of Christ, there is more for us to learn. Sometimes the process of that learning changes what we used to think. Belief in our God, and submission of our will to His, enables learning – it does not end it. We will forever study. We will forever see truth in the light of His presence. So why wait? Why limit what God can teach us in the here and now, because we prefer our blindness and stubborn interpretation of truth, over His intention to lead us to the Truth that can ONLY be found in Jesus Christ. The only distinction between ourselves, the modern churches that call themselves Christian and believe they are right to the exclusion of all other faiths, and our Pharisee forefathers (who had an equally valid claim) – will be determined in whether or not we actually allow Christ to lead our wisdom, or remain silent in the face of our so-great certainty. Our fundamental trust must be based solely in Christ, not in our doctrines. It is His doctrines we seek to learn. This must be done ONLY in His light, following not leading, and in a humility few of us have yet to adopt and appreciate.
John continues in verse 24 saying … “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.” Notice that nations of the saved, are saved, because they walk in the light of it, in the light of Christ. Our journey to our ultimate heavenly home begins here as we make a choice to follow Christ. In so doing, we allow Him to transform us, surrendering more and more of who we are, until His glory shines through us. We begin to reflect His light and love to others. We begin to feel within ourselves a passion for loving others that did not used to exist. Where once our calloused hearts knew little expression, now we find a yearning and caring to get deep into the lives and interests of those around us. If there is a need un-met, we want to find it, and meet it. In so doing, we begin to emulate the life of Christ without even realizing we are doing it. We honor God by loving others, and even in our eternal home, we bring this with us into His paradise.
John continues in verse 25 … “And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. [verse 26] And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.” In the time of John, city gates were closed at night, for the fear of what might sneak in while residents slept. In our eternal home, there is no night. There is no time when the residents are unaware of their surroundings. And further what there is in constant supply is a deep abiding love of others. It is this “glory” and this “honor” that is brought into the city by ALL the nations who reside there. There is no more spiritual slumber, and no need for the physical downtime when immersed in the light of Christ. It is a model for us today. We need not consider the limits of our humanity when considering how to love others. For we need not rely upon human strength, will, or motive to see loving others accomplished. We can instead, lean on Jesus Christ, and take on His strength, His will, His motives and let them replace our own. Living in His light, does not need to wait. It is available to us today. We need but ask.
John writes in verse 27 … “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.” John reminds us that the time of sin, disobedience, and death itself will be a thing of the past in the scenes revealed to him. Nothing that defiles will ever see the inside of that city. If something within us would cause defilement of any kind, it must be removed, before we enter those gates, before we become residents. This removal of what would defile us, is the very process of our salvation. We are being saved from ourselves, and from the slavery that binds us to self-love. We are being made free to love others, and only others, never self. For the love of self, is at the root of everything that defiles.
John continues the scene in the beginning of chapter 22 and verse 1 saying … “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Humanity does not long survive without water. We are largely made up of it. To remain healthy, we need a fairly sizeable quantity of it every day in our diets. Despite being in perfection, the very water we need, the water of life is not a random gift for us to enjoy. It has an origin. It flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. The source of our greatest needs comes from our God. He gives us light to see. Now He adds water for us to drink. Our needs do not terminate at the end of this sinful world. We are still going to be human, perfectly re-created humans, but humans still. We will still need water and light. And so here is John stating that for all eternity, our greatest needs will ALWAYS be met by Jesus Christ. We do not “create” the water we need. Instead we will drink the water He “gives us”.
John continues in verse 2 … “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Our next greatest need is food. Here John reveals that the tree of life has 2 trunks (perhaps symbolism for God the Father and Son) that are located on either side of the river. The tree of life yields 12 different fruits, one each month. It is through the eating of this food that our lives are sustained. It is the reason why Adam and Eve were denied access to the tree of life after sin, because God did not want them to have to live forever in the condition of sin. And you will recall that Adam and Eve lived nearly nine hundred years after being denied access. You and I will be eating every month. But I believe the symbolism is deeper than this. Our lives, our existence, is not found apart from God. We are not immortal of our own. We eat this fruit and live forever, we are not immortal creatures without need of God, or food, or water, or light. We are dependent creatures, whose needs are met because of the love of our Creator. When God breathed breath into Adam he became a living soul, not an immortal one. Adam had to eat from the tree of life to sustain his existence forever. Now, even past the end of things we know, we still have that need. We need to eat, and this food in particular to sustain our lives forever.
John continues the thought in verse 3 writing … “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:” The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. The curse that occurred in Babel, which differentiated our languages, and altered our appearances, will be once and for all be undone. In our present condition, each of us naturally assumes that our ethnicity will be the dominant one, resetting the rest of humanity to resemble those of our race. But in the light of heaven who is to say what man was intended to resemble. Case in point, the light of God is referenced by John several times to be green in color, resembling that of a Jasper stone. Hard to imagine humanity tilting green, but why put a limit on it? And why assume we are even capable today of discerning the spectrum of colors we will recognize when perfection removes the curse of our blindness from us. Does it really matter if we are darkest black, or lily white? Would it really even matter if we were all emerald forest green? Whatever our appearance then, it will be the perfection God intended. Our beauty will emanate from within as our love for others will be what makes us precious, unique, and valued without measure.
John wraps up his vision of heaven by focusing on what matters most as he writes in verse 4 … “And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. [verse 5] And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” The most important characteristic of heaven is that we will see the face of God without any veil, or any filter between us and Him. We will have His image and name ingrained in our foreheads, in our thinking, in the essence of who we are. We will see without the need of artificial light, because the real source of light will illuminate our world and our lives. And we will reign, not as kings who seek the services of others, but as kings who delight in serving others. We will serve this way forever. Forever in service to our God, Forever in service to each other. Forever finding delight in the perfection of loving another.
This is what makes heaven, heaven. The beauty of the architecture pales in comparison to the beauty of love. The idea of gold, and precious gems, are dwarfed by the beauty of a human heart intent on serving others. The ability to see God, to live with God, to enjoy the presence of God every day; this is what makes eternal life, a life worth living. Even in our world, we understand there are many kinds of love. We have all experienced to some extent the love of a parent, of a child, of a friend, of a lover, or a sibling. How many more varieties of love might we yet discover? Over the course of many years of marriage it is possible to find that you love your spouse more today, than you did in the past. And every single day that statement is both surprising and still true. You cannot conceive that it will happen tomorrow yet again, but it does. Heaven will be like that. No limit to love, no limit to joy, no limit to discovery, to creation, to the boundaries of exploration – in short, no limits at all. In the perfect freedom of loving others, there is no need for laws that limit behavior.
Our concepts of heaven are often warped by the self-centered desires we cling to today. We admire the gold and ideas of no more pain with eternal life. But heaven is not intended to be a place where we spend eternity trying to fill a hole of greed that will never be filled. Heaven is not a place where we can live forever, constantly plotting how we gain our next thing. It is not a place where perfect creations provide us an endless slew of candidates to lust over. Our selfish tendencies are the things we are being made free from. Our salvation comes as we depend on God to save us from us. It is our dependence upon Christ to save us from who we are, that allows Him to do just that. When we look in the mirror for salvation, we find only destruction. To depend upon self, is to lose. To depend upon Christ is to live. The lesson of heaven itself reinforces this idea of dependence for all of eternity.
It is Christ who gives us eternal light. It is Christ who gives us the water of life, and the tree of life. It is Christ who will sustain our lives forever and ever through His gifts. And in this world, our dependence is no less great, it is more. It is Christ who will save us from who we are. It is Christ alone who can teach us His Truth in His word. We must abandon human wisdom, and human strength, and certainty in what we think we know. Instead we embrace the humility of trusting in Him to teach us what we need to know, and when we need to know it. Intellect will not save us. Doctrine will not save us. Our force of “will” cannot save us. Only Jesus Christ can remake who we are from the inside out. If He does not, it will simply not get done. Our faith must be that He will do as He promised to do. Our part is to let Him do it. Our role is to depend upon Christ. That dependence begins in the here and now, but as John has revealed, it will never be over. We will live eternally depending upon the love of Christ to sustain us.
His revelations of heaven were over … but his messages and counsel to us was not …