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Apocalypse Now: Reading Revelation Sermon Three



Sermon Three


This is the final sermon in our mini-series on the book of Revelation. Over the last few weeks we have been dipping into this prophetic book and have seen that although it was written to a particular people in a particular context, it has a message for us as we seek to live the way of Jesus in this world.


The original recipients lived in the Roman Empire, and as we have previously discussed the Empire and the Emperor ruled the world in such a way that violence and economic exploitation was the norm and status quo which benefited the few at the expense of the many.



Freestyle- Baptising Caesar


The Empire and the Emporer shaped the world around them. Not only did they build aqueducts, armies, roads and ampitheatres , but they also shaped the worldviews and identities of those who lived under its shadow.


All cultures implicitly tell a story, a story which helps them to interpret the past, to understand the present and which offers a vision for the future. These worldviews shape values, ethics and identities


The story of Rome was reinforced by the surrounding culture, through politics, economic activity, state-sponsored religion, through its buildings, national liturgies and celebrations, arts and entertainment.


It sort to communicate that this is the way the world is, this is the way the world will be.


The book of Revelation through apocalyptic metaphors encourages the church to look beyond the propaganda of Empire to see that all that glitters is not gold, to walk a path which does not explicitly and implicitly collude with the powers. It offers the readers an alternative reality.


We too live in a world which tells implicit stories and propagates worldviews, and some of these worldviews and powers encourage economic exploitation which benefits the few at the expense of the many.




Consumerism, Unrestrained capitalism and Individualism, what we may call the unholy trinity, narrate a world in which many move through life as functional hedonists who run businesses, create lifestyles, and consume products and experiences which are undergirded by economic exploitation and environmental abuse.


And it is this unholy trinity, which has taken root within our lifestyles, expectations and voting habits which means that we (as individuals, nationally and globally) are perhaps unlikely to fully heed the warning of the climate change scientists and activists.


In doing so we may well reap what we have sown.


"We are witnessing the severe impacts of climate change throughout the world. Every credible scientific source is telling us that these impacts will only get worse if we do not address climate change and it also tells us that our window of time for addressing it is closing very soon…We need to dramatically increase our ambitions." — Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),


If things do not change rapidly, the next generation will live in a very different world than we do now.


If I have grandchildren they will likely be brought up in a world with significantly increased levels of famine, poverty, violence and war. It is difficult to see , without major imminent changes, anything but the collapse of the current world order. [I hope I am wrong]


Into the world of Empire (first readers) and into our world (of the unholy trinity) the Book of Revelation speaks.


It invites us to enter into a different story, to march to a different drum.


The church, both ancient and modern, is called upon to reject the seductive embrace of Empire and the Unholy Trinity , and invited instead to pledge allegiance to the loving, liberating and life-giving lamb.



Using powerful metaphors and emotionally charged apocalyptic language the central chapters of Revelation (6-19) predict that the Empire will enter a season of decline and destruction and that during these chaotic times the church needs to act as faithful witnesses.


The book of Revelation does not predict climate change or offer a coded message about TRump, China or Brexit. However it still has relevance for us. As we live in a world facing unprecedented change and challenge, the call of Revelation for us is that we too act as faithful witnesses, renewing our call to be faithful followers of the lamb who sow seeds of Shalom into a broken and changing world.


In the first two weeks of this series we have seen that Revelation gives the early church a fresh vision of Jesus. In our reading today, from Rev 21 we are given a vision of the future, a sure and certain hope of what will be.


It's intention is to stir the imaginations of its hearers and to inspire the christian community in its own time to faithful and hope filled engagement.




READING: With Music and Video (The Mountain - Two mics)


Revelation 21 (TNIV)


1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.


3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more deathor mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.


10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.


11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.



23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.


——












The stunning vision of Rev 21 is for the head, heart and hands.

It's for the head, (information)

it's for the heart (Plant hope within us)

and it's for the hands. (To change how we live in the present)


Yes, it's eschatology... the way things will be, but it's also missiology for it call us to live in the present as outposts and signposts of what will be.



The God who Creates, Calls us to Love Creation


John sees 'a new heaven, and new earth’. The Creator God, renews and restores this world.


Some Christians have seen the future as the time when our souls (that spiritual side of us) leave its earthly shell to be truly free.


Others Christians, and this was particularly popular in the late 90's early 2000's in the wake of the best selling 'Left Behind' series, saw a future in which the church is raptured away from this earth to spend forever in heaven.


Both of these views, one inspired by Platonic philosophy and the other by a misreading of scripture, can cause the Christian to devalue physicality and creation care.


Songs:

This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.

When Christ shall shall come with shouts of acclamation and take me home what joy shall fill my heart


The biblical view, as presented in this revelatory vision, is that God will one day renew all things.


As N.T. Wright, former Bishop of Durham says, 'Heaven is important, but it's not the end of the world'.


In the opening pages of the Bible we read that God observed all that he had made and said ‘it is very good’, the Hebrew word which stands behind the words' very good' is 'Bobby dazzler'.


And God created Adam and Eve, as his image bearers, to tend and keep his world, we are to work in his garden, and expand eden.



Yet this world itself is in the words of the Apostle Paul, longing and groaning, awaiting the time when it will be renewed. The christian future hope is to dwell in this new creation with our resurrection bodies.


The future world is one which is new and renewed. A world where heaven and earth are intertwined.


[It is said in the Celtic tradition that there are thin spaces, where heaven often touches earth. In the age to come all places will be thin spaces for heaven and earth will be united as one]


This renewed earth is physical.

Given this, I wouldn't be surprised to find in the glorious new creation; soil and streams,

mountains and music,

flowers and fauna,

laughter and love,

dance and daffodils,

flamingoes and food.


A world where we may well find a full array of non-human worshippers. Perhaps elephants and eagles,

red kites and racoons.

monkeys and macaws

All joining together, as Rev 5 says to give glory and honour to him who sits on the throne and to the lamb.


A world with a city, community and culture, with people from every tribe and tongue.


All instruments of war will have been beaten into ploughshares and the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as waters cover the sea.


A world of shalom a world of creational flourishing.

This view in the future should inspire us in the present. It tells us that Physicality is important, and what we do with our bodies and the earth's resources is important.


Our daily embodied lives matter

For those who work, our embodied jobs and careers matter.

Culture shaping and culture making matter.


These tasks of cultural formation can be done in the name of Empire or the Unholy Trinity or they can be done as followers of King Jesus.


Creation Care and what we do with our bodies are part of our worship and our mission. As 1 Cor 10:31 says 'Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God'


Yes, Empire may exploit the earth,

and the horseman of the climate change apocalypse may be at the door,

but creation matters,

physicality matters,

and stewardship of earth's resources and biodiversity matter as its part of God's future.


The God who desires proximity, invites us to draw close.


In Rev 21 we see that God's intent is to dwell with his people.


Revelation 21:3 (ESV): And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.


A times the Psalms found in the Old Testament lament the seeming absence of God.

Where are you God? Psalm 10, Psalm 44)


I long for you as a desperate and thirsty deer in the baked heat of day longs for living water (Psalm 42) .


Or Psalm 22 'My God, My God why have you forsaken me'.


But these Psalms will not be the active praise or part of the spirituality of the new creation for God will dwell with his people. This has always been his aim.


In Genesis 3 we see that God used to walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening sun. Throughout the old testament story, we see God dwells in the tabernacle and the temple.


Since the Ascension of Jesus, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit and at times we can tangibly feel his presence, peace and a joy within.


The Holy Spirit acts as a downpayment and guarantee of the new creation, like an engagement ring anticipates a future wedding.


You see, the fullness is yet to come.


With majestic metaphors, Rev 21 tells us that the new creation city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.


It also describes a river which continually flows so that no-one need thirst.


At this time there will be close proximity with the Divine,


a beautiful communion with YHWH the God of the whole earth,


a covenantal intimacy with Jesus the Lamb which has never been known before.


The Trinue God will be the God who is there, not the God who seems absent. Our Spiritual Thirst will be eternally satisfied.


This vision of the future should inspire us in the present to be aware of his presence.


We should be those who 'are still and know that he is God' and those whom celebrate in such a way that when we worship, we get a taste and preview of the new creation


Our worship, as individuals and as a community, act as signposts to the new creation, for now we see in part but one day we will see him face to face.





The God who brings Comfort, invites us to Kingdom work


Human life is incredibly painful at times.


Sooner or later, death that powerful intruder into God’s good creation comes knocking at our door or on the door of those we love.

Death of those we love steals joy, and creates deep wounds within the soul.

The Empire used death as a weapon, and the unfolding scenario of climate chaos will likely see an increase in death through lack of resources, human migration and conflict.


Yet, this is not the way it is meant to be. Death will not have the last word.



This hope was spoken of in the prophets,


Isaiah 25:7–8 (ESV)


6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

7 And he will swallow up on this mountain

the covering that is cast over all peoples,

the veil that is spread over all nations.

8 He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the Lord has spoken.




Yet the sure and certain promise is that in the death of Jesus we see the death of death itself. In his mighty resserurection we see that the grave does not win. And his resurrection is the first fruits, which points to resurrection of all those belong to him. In Jesus’ resserection we see a glimpse of the new creation which awaits


Revelation 21 is clear.


Revelation 21:4 (ESV): He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."


At this time there will be a glorious reunion,

at this time wounds hidden deep within our souls will be healed.

At this time we will know a comfort as he who is the king of life will wipe all tears from our eyes.


One day the Kingdom will be consummated, but know this- alongside and inside this present broken world, the kingdom, through Jesus our Lord, has been inaugurated.


As followers or the Lamb, knowing the great renewal of all things which he will bring about, we are to act as signposts to this kingdom.


We are to live, work, worship and reach out in ways which anticipate what will be. The church is called, however desperate the times around us, to work against suffering,

to live as peacemakers,

to comfort those who mourn,

to move towards a pain filled world full of kingdom hope, joy and peace.


Let your Kingdom Come, Let Your Will be done

In the name of the F,S and HS











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