Sabbath Slow-Down for July 11 (’14)
Read: Revelation 21:1-22:7
The opening verse of this Bible passage sends a chilling word: everything we know as our world and universe will come undone. Everything will end. But it ends because a newer world is coming, and the newer world is described as a city and, more importantly, as the Bride of Jesus. While chilling, it is chilling to those outside the church and to those who ignore the church or think her unimportant. To those of us within the Church, it is a word of comfort and joy. This new world is the Church. Not the church as we know her now. Currently, the church is filled with mess and sin. This is not how things will one day be. There is a good day coming, and it will never end. Specifically, four gifts that we all lost in Eden will be restored to the church on this last day—this good day that never ends.
The first gift John sees restored to the church is the most important and is described in 21:1-4: God will restore the gift of his presence. In Eden, we lost God’s presence when we were exiled from the Garden. True, God did dwell with his people in the Old Testament, but those times were always temporary, particular, and confined to a specific area. Moreover, they were infrequent. Even in the New Testament days—even now—the Holy Spirits’ dwelling upon and within us (his Church) is not meant to be the end all of God’s presence with his people. This is not to be crass, but the Holy Spirit’s presence with us now is like an appetizer: we are to look past this presence to what he signals is coming: the main course, the significant and lasting and universal presence of God with us. And we shall have it! I do not know what this will be like. I cannot fathom what Adam lost. How can any of us know what it is to have total communion with our Creator, then to lose it? Pious language is often used to talk about God with us now, but it is sometimes little more than confused concepts or pretense of subjective peace with little-to-no objective, Scriptural basis: “The Lord is with me. I felt him,” or “The Lord gave me peace about this with his presence,” or the like. Sure, such times are promised in Scripture and are possible (“I will be with you”), but some people become so accustomed to such pious language that they forget this may not be the norm expected. The Psalmists, even Paul at times, did not have such presence. But they had a hope—a certain hope—that what they dealt with was not in vain, “For now I know in part, but then I will know face-to-face” (1 Cor 13:12). Amen. They had a promise, and they focused joyfully upon it regardless of their present circumstances. I know on that good day that never ends, the church will have God’s permanent and universal presence restored to us, and the Spirit’s presence upon us now is like an appetizer whetting our appetite, making us long for that day to come when we will receive such a precious gift of presence. We should talk more about that day than any subjective experience we think we have now.
The second gift lost at Eden and now restored, John says, is God’s gift of purity. In 21:5-8, John sees a cleansing that will come and leave the church pure and clear. Her moral failures are gone. Likewise, her enemies are separated fully from her with no hope of intermixing.
When I clean my house, I most enjoy the look of a cleaned kitchen, especially the sink. Stains from food going down the drain, ketchup, syrup, and a hundred other kinds leave specks on counters and the stainless steel. The sponge firmly applied, however, leaves counters fresh and bright, stains in the sink removed, and the home feeling welcoming again. Why would a person clean their home by only vacuuming around the dirt, or wiping around food crumbs, or scrubbing around stains in the sink. Cleanliness is wholistic. A sink is not 1/2 clean. And when you clean, as do I, you know it is only fully clean when the dirt and grime are removed. God promises that the gift of his purity will be restored to the church in two ways: her personal cleansing or washing and the removal of her enemies who are, inherently, filth. In other words: those who embrace Jesus as Messiah and long for his presence will be purified, and those who reject him will be removed forever. What joy and hope to know that all the ways we have harmed and harm others around us will be purified, and all those who do the same to us will be removed! Everywhere, filth is turned into purity—or sent away forever!
This is the city to which we belong. This is our destination. God has promised that Sabbath worship is an appetizer of the Spirit’s gifts to us restored, especially his gift of a lasting presence of God and a wholistic cleansing resulting in total purity. Rejoice on Sunday as you worship God knowing this is our destination: presence and purity.
This is the future glory of the church on that Good Day that is coming and will never end. Next week, the last two gifts which he has promised to restore and which we lost at Eden.
Suggested Family Prayer:
Merciful Father, you sit in Heaven surrounded in splendor and glory. We know you have sworn to bring us back to you. We know you have promised to give us your presence in a lasting and unimaginable way. Thank you! Let us cling not to the things of this world which will pass away, but let us embrace and hope in the new heaven and earth to come. Let us shift our lives to focus on your presence and purity as we await them in our own lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.