Revelation 21:9-10; 21:22—22:5
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
May 26, 2019
The faithful followers of Jesus on earth are destined for a higher and better life in heaven; and who they will become in the future determines who they are in the present. The task of their earthly life is to bring more and more of their tomorrow into today.
In the Book of Revelation God showed John what that tomorrow will look like. God sent John an angel to give him a vision of the future awaiting those who trust and obey Jesus. The angel said to John, “I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb”.
The Bible calls Jesus the Lamb because His sacrifice pays for the world’s sins and His death obtains life for His followers. The Bible calls these followers His bride because Jesus and they are bound together like a married couple. But, surprisingly, their relationship is depicted here, not in marital images, but in urban ones. The bride is a “holy city”, a new “Jerusalem”.
And what a city it is! Its magnificence surpasses the greatest city the earth has ever seen.
It is a city with buildings, but no buildings appointed for meeting with God – no temple, church or school. For this city’s residents see God’s face at every turn and know Him in intimate, open, person-to-person interaction. The God who is everywhere will be their temple; and people will engage with Him face-to-face with such immediacy and impact that He will be written all over their faces. “His name will be on their foreheads,” the Bible says.
Because God and the city’s residents will be that consistently close, there’ll be as little need for the light of the sun as for a temple. For God in all His radiant glory will be their light, all around them, vanishing the darkness of every uncleanness, falsehood, injustice and abomination.
What will be there is “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city”, on whose sides will grow “the tree of life” – a tree so great and potent that it is like a forest of trees whose fruit and leafs bring health and wholeness to all the nations.
The city’s residents will know God deeply, worship God fervently, and serve God’s purposes joyfully, reigning with Him to make all things forever right. That is the great and final destiny of Jesus’ followers; and their purpose here-and-now is to do what they will do in the hereafter: know God, honor God, serve God.
As we do those things today, we become more and more who we shall be in that eternal tomorrow.
That transformation of course is not automatic. To enable it to happen, we must trust and obey Jesus, and believe, by faith and not by sight, what the Bible says about our identity. For half the time, to our eyes, we will appear to be just like everyone else. The Bible says in 1 John 3:2 that “what we will be has not yet been revealed, and in Colossians 3:3 that our true being is still “hidden with Christ in God.” Our challenge is to dare to believe that, if we abandon our self-reliance and depend on God’s grace and Spirit, we have already become utterly changed in our inner core and are on our way to bringing to light our new character in our conduct.
This transformation requires our viewing ourselves and our fellow disciples, through the eyes of Jesus and no longer from a merely “human point of view” as the Bible in 2 Corinthians 5:16 puts it.
C.S. Lewis in his book The Weight of Glory explains the perspective we are to have: “Remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendship, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You’ve never talked to a mere mortal.”
Each of us will be immortal after we die, and it is up to us to decide what kind of resurrected existence we shall have in eternity. Our coming into our best self is not guaranteed. We are responsible for ourselves and each other. Our fulfilling our destiny depends on our faith and our faithfulness in love and hope.
It is as much an impossibility for us to fulfill our potential in Christ as it was for us to gain that potential in the first place. Yet, God does what is impossible for us. All we have to do is something that is possible for us: put ourselves God’s hands. We do that by giving up on the illusion of our being able to make our own way and by relying upon God to make happen what we never could. We do that by choosing again and again to worship, pray, study the word and serve others by the Spirit’s strength.
The river of the water of life that flows from God’s heavenly throne flows now on earth in the Holy Spirit. We paddle into the powerful current of this living water and get carried forward by its force as we persevere in the little acts of faithfulness that give God the chance to do big things for us. Let us gather at that river for the biggest of blessings!