Sabbath Slow-Down for July 18 (’14)
Text: Revelation 21:9-22:7
Sometimes you come into a movie or book 1/2 way through the story. It’s rare you walk into a theater or begin reading a book at the end. But every best movie or book holds the glory there, at the end, leaving you wanting more or sighing in sad joy that the story has reached its end; you are desperate for more. This is what these verses do for God’s people. They are meant to. Think about it: of all that God could have said to us as his final word, these verses are what he chose. He wants you longing for more than your best life now—he wants you hoping in a life to come forever.
Last week, we saw that Revelation 21:1-8 show us two gifts God has promised to restore on that final good day that will never end: the gift of his presence (21:1-4) and the gift of his purity (21:5-8). For this Sabbath, enter worship with your local church giving thanks and with a new hope in two other gifts.
First, God has promised in 21:9-27 to restore to us the gift of his perfection. This goes well beyond our obsessions with complexion, waistlines, fashion, and food. Some are “born with it,” some need a little Finesse. Some will be bald; some are so hairy they qualify as Sasquatch. Some are short; some are tall. Some die young despite best efforts; some, in spite of lifestyle, live longer than seems fair. When Messiah comes, the perfection he brings will transcend and override all such concerns and classifications. What your eyes see and heart believes is perfect now will vanish giving way to an environment and race so glorious that if you saw such perfected people now you would think them worthy of worship. How can we imagine this? And yet he promises to restore such perfection to us. Our perfection is the Church’s. The Church’s is ours, and this perfection is that of the rarest jewels and a literal sharing in the glory of God (21:11).
There is also a perfect defense. 21:12-18 describe bejeweled and strong walls that cannot be breached. Moreover, they aren’t built for battle; they’re built for beauty. On that good day that is coming, we will no longer need battlements or walls, but the decor will be beyond belief. This reminds us of Isaiah’s prophecy that weapons of war will be used for farming. Our defense will be perfect because our Defender is present with us and all opposition has been put down. No more monsters in the our rooms or chatrooms. No more police or judges or lawyers needed to defend us. How does it make you feel to know that not only will you never need a first responder or public defender, but also you’ll no longer need to worry about yourself? One day, the Lamb upon the Throne will finish what he’s started. You’ll be safe.
Second, God has promised in 22:1-7 to restore to us his gift of permanence. Imagine if God only promised his presence, his purity, and his perfection and gave no promise these gifts would last. This would not be good news! It would be a tease. We need God to re-create not only our world, but us as well. He swears here that he will do it and that it will last forever.
He promises a permanent satisfaction to our hunger and thirst, for the river of life (22:1) flows freely for us to drink and the tree of life (22:2) is in full harvest for our picking. Next time you’re hungry or thirsty, instead of whining, eat and drink and give thanks that one day you will eat and drink for joy instead of need. Before that last, never-ending good day, he lets us get an hors d’oeuvre in the Lord’s supper. There, as often as we partake, we are reminded of a body broken for our health and of blood shed so our sins may be forgiven, and he—the Lamb—invites us to eat and drink. Have you? Will you?
The harvest of the tree of life is also permanent. May favorite time in Mississippi is now. The fruit of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and nearby Florida is in full-bloom. The peaches alone…I can easily eat three or four as my entire supper. But it doesn’t last. By August, the last of them are gone and I must wait another six months for their return. This harvest of the Lord that he grants to us with a full access pass is a permanent harvest “yielding its fruit each month” (22:2) and supplies a permanent healing “for the nations” (22:2). It will cure all illness and sickness and will turn mourning into joy as legs that have never been used stand and leap their first dance.
I very much hope you will be with us on this good day that will never end. It is not too late.
Children come with a built-in “can’t fathom tomorrow really exists” barometer. Tell them, “We’ll do that tomorrow,” and you’ve got a fight on your hands or an inconsolable frown and teary eyes. We would all do well to have a little of this childish impatience within us. We have come in at the end of the story, but it’s not hard to see that this is the best of stories. It’s the Christmas that never ends, and it can be yours if you would but trust in Messiah. He promises a restored gift of his presence, his purity, his perfection, and his permanence. He promises a final day that will never end: not the end of the story, really, but a perpetual chapter-one where, to play off of CS Lewis, each page of the chapter is better than the one that came before.
Heavenly Father, in Jesus’ name we ask you to expand our hearts and eyes to see the day you’re bringing. Help our children have enough trust in you to never trust in the stuff of this world. Help us and all Christian parents to never love this world and its toys so much we are unwilling to give them all up to see you on this final and good day. Come soon, Lord Jesus, Amen.