It's All About Hope - Revelation 22:8-21
The trail is approximately 2,165 miles long. It begins at Mt. Katahdin in Maine and concludes at Springer Mountain in Georgia. It is considered by some to be the most popular hiking trail in the world. On the journey, a hiker will pass through New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Each year somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 hikers decided to take on this journey, yet, for one reason or another, only about 12% actually make it from beginning to end. A “thru-hike” of the Appalachian Trail usually requires anywhere from five to seven months to complete.[i]
My brothers and sisters, while we have not taken on the Appalachian Trail, over the last six and a half months, today we complete a journey that many would consider as mentally and spiritually demanding, as the Appalachian Trail is physically and mentally demanding. Today we conclude our journey through Revelation.
Where have we been on this journey? What sites have we seen?
We have witnessed the visions that Christ himself gave to John on the island of Patmos. We have seen John’s incredible vision of the one like the Son of Man, standing among the lampstands. We have experienced the words of praise and warning to the seven churches of Asia Minor, realizing that those letters were to all the churches in existence at the time, and with Christ’s words to those churches came the counsel, “Let anyone with an ear hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” We experienced the throne room of God. We encountered the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, which is the Lamb of God, with marks of slaughter, but alive. We heard the affirmation of God’s call to John to offer this prophesy and were introduced to the Two Witnesses, which are the Church. We witnessed the opening of the seven seals, the blowing of the seven trumpets, and the pouring out of the bowls of God’s wrath. We encountered God’s intervention before the great battle of Harmegedon, preventing that war from breaking out. We saw the emergence and fall of the Dragon, who is Satan, and his lackeys, the Beast and the False Prophet. We watched the fall of the harlot Babylon and the wedding of the Bride and Christ. We read of the heavenly reign of Christ with the martyrs, and of God’s preparing to make all things new with the descending of the New Jerusalem. We heard the warnings that judgment would come, and for those who had remained faithful, marked with the name of the Father and of the Lamb, there was an invitation to the kingdom, but for those bearing the mark of the beast, who had compromised their faith out of fear or for profit, there was the promise of separation from God. Through it all we have discussed how John was given these visions and told to write them down to offer hope to those Christians experiencing persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. They were called to remain faithful, to ensure that their names remained in the Book of Life, and did not cave to the pressure to worship the emperor and align themselves with those who would…and even for those who had been doing the persecuting, and for those who had aligned themselves with Rome, there was hope given, a call to repentance where they would leave all else behind and become part of the people of God.
And, my brothers and sisters, though this was written to offer hope to those under the Roman Empire, if we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches, then it becomes a word of hope to all of us as well. Revelation is a book, not to be feared, not to be ignored, not to be dismissed, but it is a book of hope, for yesterday, for today, and for tomorrow. As we enter into the epilogue and benediction, as we complete our thru-hike of Revelation, we find that what began as a book of hope ends as a book of hope.
“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me; but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” The angel reminds John, and reminds us, that it is God alone that we are to worship…we are not to worship, not to devote ourselves, to anything other than God…we are not to worship celebrities, activities, neighbors, family members, or ourselves…we are not to worship politicians, political parties, political opinions or positions, cities, or nations…we are not to worship churches, denominations, leaders, buildings, prophets, disciples, or even angels…we are reminded that we are to worship God and God alone.
“And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” The angel says that the time is near…in the next few verses Jesus says, “I am coming soon” twice. Not I am coming in the next few thousand years, but I am coming soon. I am going to intervene soon. Your persecution will be over soon. If there is any doubt to this, most scholars suggest that Revelation was written between 90 and 95 AD. Does anyone know what happened in 96 AD? Domitian, the one we discussed was considered to be Nero-reborn because of his persecution of the Christians, died and the persecution came to an end. Talk about soon…talk about the affirmation that John was a true prophet of God…talk about the relevance of these words to the people they were written to, and to us as well. God’s Word is true.
“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” We are reminded, as we were in chapter one, that Christ, in God, is the beginning and end of all things…there is nothing that came before Him and there is nothing that comes after Him….and anything we face in this world is only temporary and does not have the first or final word in our lives.
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” It is those who remain faithful to Christ, those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, who will experience the tree of life, those who will remain in God’s presence, because those who don’t, those who are not faithful to Christ, those who turn away from Christ, will be kept outside.
“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star.” If there was any question as to who this word of hope was from, there can be no doubt now.
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.” The invitation is issued, from The Holy Spirit, and the bride, who is the Church, to come…the invitation is offered from all who hear, “Come.” It is a call to come, remain faithful to Christ, and experience His grace as the water of life. It is an invitation to all who are suffering and struggling and to any who are not part of the Bride, to come, and experience the grace of God.
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that persons’ share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” My brothers and sisters, this is not a curse to be thrown out on anyone who does not agree with yours or my or anyone’s understanding of Revelation…though that is how it has often been viewed and used. Some folks have said, “If you don’t agree with my understanding of what this says, then God is going to send plagues upon you and you won’t get to share in the tree of life.” My brothers and sisters, if that is the case, then there are a whole lot of curses going on between a whole lot of different groups and understandings. The truth of the matter is that this is John’s guarantee…this is John’s way of saying, the words I have written are true…God is going to intervene and the persecution is going to be over soon....stay faithful, hold the course…
“The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.”
My friends, what does this say to us…what does this say to anyone outside of the 90’s under the Roman Empire? It is a word of hope. It is a call to remain faithful to God, no matter what we face. It is a reminder that no matter how tough things get, no matter how bad they seem, to hold on to God, to not give in, and to keep the faith. It is a word of hope. It is a call to become faithful to God, no matter where we have been, not matter what we have done, it is a call to repent, and choose God, and keep the faith.
My friends, hear the call of the Spirit and of the Bride…hear the call of everyone who hears…hear the call of Christ…come…quench your thirst with the water of life…it is a gift…here is your hope…
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with us all…
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.