Power has won another round
Freedom’s shaking, gagged and bound
But we’re not so far away
And all these mighty little men
Proclaiming dollars, sterling, yen
But we’re saving for the day
These are days of selfish dreams
Troubled Kings and beauty Queens
So far away
From all those decomposing towns
Where starving hands claw the ground
Straining for the day
I hear the ocean foam with rage
As they crown the imbecile as sage
But we’re not so far away
And when the hospitals have gone
And as the party dances on
We’ll be yearning for the day
And judges break the law and there’s no fair play anymore
We’re a snarl away from war but not far from Jerusalem
We’re not far from Jerusalem
But still it seems so far away
And when the heavens crack and the sky turns black
I need to hear you say
You’re not far from the city
Your only hope, the holy hope
I am looking to Jerusalem the gold
These last few weeks have reminded us again about what it means to live in a fallen world. I originally preached this sermon following the Manchester bombing and the targeted killing of children by a terrorist. In these past few weeks we have seen the murder of George Floyd, the identification of a suspect for the kidnap and likely murder of Madeline McCain and a terrorist attack in Reading with the stabbing and killing of 3 members of the public. We can describe those crimes as monstrous.
Yet we also recognise that a fallen and rebellious world is not just about “monsters” committing atrocities. Evil is just as much at work when the same children are objectivised sexually, targeted as consumers of materialist hedonism or simply neglected.
Living in a fallen world means we recognise our own sin and selfishness. It isn’t just about monsters nor is it about powers and authorities and nor is it simply about outward actions. When we recognise greed, lust, bitterness and rage in our own lives then we recognise sin.
The Book of Revelation has been all about what it means to live in a rebellious, fallen, messy, broken world. Is it possible to survive? Is it possible to live faithfully for God? We have found that the answer is “Yes.”
So, here we are at the end and we have two final helps for faithful living based on the great hope that Jesus is coming back.
- Jesus is coming soon so worship and trust in God alone
V7 Jesus is coming soon. This is the closing theme of Revelation. Note this is marked out by an “inclusio”. The passage is bracketed by the announcement of his imminent return, here and in verse 20. It is also repeated at verse 12. The promise here is that at the end of time, Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. He is the one who will put all things right and bring a new creation.
Keep your focus on Jesus
V 8 -9 John’s initial response to the whole vision is awe, wonder and worship but this is misdirected to the angel who is guiding him through the vision. The angel says “Don’t worship me but God alone.” The angel is a faithful, fellow servant with John, humans responsible for proclaiming God’s word and all who respond obediently.
“The angel’s exhortation ‘Worship God!” puts in the most succinct form possible the theme of the entire book.”
How do we live here and now? We live with our eyes focused on Jesus. Worship means that we recognise his goodness and greatness. We do this when we put our trust fully in him. John’s response is awe but he is distracted. He puts his focus in the wrong place.
- We can be overwhelmed by the amazing things described here so that we get caught up in speculation and debate.
- We can be overwhelmed by the terror and chaos we see around us so that we are paralysed by fear.
- We can be in awe even of godly preachers, teachers, leaders and friends who have been helpful and encouraging to us so that we put them on a pedestal
Any of those things is to put the focus away from Jesus. Our trust is solely in him alone.
Pay close attention to God’s Word
V10-11 John is told not to seal up the prophecy. Remember that when something is sealed it remains a mystery, access and understanding is prevented. That is why Jesus has removed the seals from the scroll that reveals his plan for history. The words of Revelation are to be readily and immediately shared. This reminds us again that this is Scripture, relevant and accessible to today.
The instruction not to seal the scroll contrasts with Daniel 12:4 where the prophet was told to seal it. In that case, the prophecy was about future date events. The implication here is that these are words pertinent to the immediate context of John’s hearers. This reminds us of two things.
- That as we’ve kept seeing, Revelation is heaven’s perspective on the whole of history helping us to live in the here and now
- That with Christ’s coming and death and resurrection, things once consider mystery are now clearly revealed. We live as believers in the light of that first coming with the Holy Spirit and the completed Scriptures. This means we are without excuse.
Worship and trust means that we pay close attention to God’s Word.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
Taking time to read your Bible every day, making the Sunday gathering, attending a small group bible study are all great ways to make sure we are paying attention to Scripture. We also need to be challenging each other throughout the week. It’s not just about hearing God’s word by obeying.
Seek to live godly lives
Verse 11 is another reminder of imminence. Mounce puts it like this
“…the end is so close that there is no longer time to alter the character and habits of people.”
This does not mean we are to give up on the work of the Gospel and stop proclaiming the good news. Rather, imminence equals urgency. We cannot waste our time trying to reform the characters of people who won’t and can’t change. Our focus should be on sharing the good news so that those who are ready to hear, respond.
“The major thrust of the verse is that since the end is now at hand people are certain to reap the consequences of the kinds of lives they have led. The time arrives hwn change is impossible because character has already been determined by a life time of habitual action. The arrival of the end forecloses any possibility of alteration.” 
Worship is seen in lives lived in faithful obedience to Christ – a right and fitting response to Salvation. Worship is heard when we proclaim the truth of the Gospel to others.
- Jesus is coming soon, so be ready, alert, excited and expectant
V12-13 Jesus is coming soon. This is the second time that this promise is stated. Here he talks about coming with a reward. This is a reminder that judgement day is coming. There will be punishment for those who reject Christ but also reward for those who have put their trust in him. We come back again to John Piper’s emphasis of future grace. It’s grace because our faithfulness is only possible through the indwelling of the Spirit but there’s also the sense of future reward – blessings that come at the end of a faithful life.
These revelations are Christ’s words, he is the Alpha and Omega, first and last. Here, he takes on the title God has used for himself, a reminder of his deity. Jesus is Lord of Eternity and Lord of Revelation -Scripture is his Word to us. Here in Revelation it means that although an angel is speaking, it is Christ’s word he brings (22:16). This is another reminder of the importance of hearing and obeying God’s Word.
We are promised access and Eternal Life
V14-15 provides us with a promise of blessing and access. Those who wash their robes have access to the City. Readiness for Christ’s return means responding to the Gospel and receiving cleansing and forgiveness for sin. We can’t pass this over without stopping for a second and asking the question “Have you received forgiveness for sin? Are you ready for Christ’s return?”
Remember that the New Jerusalem represents God’s people kept safe into eternity. They have access to the Tree of Life. This takes us back to Genesis 3 where sinners were excluded from the Garden and barred from the Tree of Life. The promise is that those who belong to Christ will live for ever.
However, those who continue to sin and rebel against God are forbidden from God’s City -outside, excluded, exiled. In ch 21 we saw that their end fate is the lake of fire. This promises the protection and purity of God’s City representing God’s people.
I think this is one of those helpful places where we look forward to the future perfected vision of God’s people, the holy bride, the city of God and it fills us with hope but also reminds us about where we can spiritual safety now. No, the church isn’t perfect, yes we have our gripes and our grumbles. But the Church is where God tells us to be. Like an ancient City with its thick strong walls and solid gates, the church provides protection so that we can live faithful holy lives.
When we become isolated – either through physically not attending or by distancing ourselves emotionally from the fellowship we put ourselves at danger. That’s when Satan uses the voices of others to encourage bitterness. That’s when Satan uses the actions of others to tempt us to find fulfilment and satisfaction in sin.
The Church provides a safe place by:
- making sure that God’s Word is taught and proclaimed faithfully
- having elders who seek to counsel, encourage, exhort, challenge even to rebuke so that we are kept accountable to God’s Word. I wonder if you considered all of those things as part of what a pastoral visit means?
- being a body where we encourage each other and hold one another to account. When was the last time that you checked in with another believer to see how they were doing spiritually? When was the last time you made yourself accountable to someone admitting to others admitting to the things you struggle with? When was the last time you prayed with someone?
V16 We can trust these things because the words are from Jesus himself. He is the one who fulfils all the promises. He is the root or shoot of David. As David’s descendent he is the true Messiah (Isaiah 11:1). He is the “morning star” referencing another messianic prophecy about a great ruler over Israel (Numbers 24:17). Being ready means that we know, believe and rely on God’s promises.
We have a responsibility to tell others the good news – an invitation
I remember well the excitement of getting ready for our wedding. My main responsibility was to book the car, buy flowers and jewellery for the bridesmaids and help Sarah’s dad order in the food (my favourite bit). Sarah was busy choosing dresses and preparing favours. One of the best parts of preparing was sending out our wedding invites because there were lots of people who we wanted to share the day with us.
V 17. The Spirit and the Bride say “come” as do the hearers (the Church). Note it is possible here that there are two invitations. The first is from the bride to her bridegroom to come soon and the second is to the hungry and thirsty. Mounce on the other hand takes it as a single invitation to all who are hungry and thirsty to come. Jesus’s response that he is coming soon probably points to the former view that an invitation for him to come is included. This would also reflect a middle-eastern wedding where when preparation was complete, not only the guests but the bridegroom would be notified. Unlike a western wedding where the groom waits for the bride at the church, the bride would wait at her home for the groom to come. We must be careful not to see this as the bride (the church) deciding that she is ready and summoning Christ at her timing. God remains sovereign over the timing and it is his grace that prepares the bride. Rather when the Church says “come” it is an expression of eager anticipation as we look forward to the Day of the Lord.
The call to the hungry and thirsty echoes Isaiah and John’s Gospel. The main point here is that a wedding feast is ready and all are invited to come. This is to be a time of celebration and feasting. The banquet is an image of God’s blessing and provision for all who are spiritually hungry.
Being ready and expectant means that we have a responsibility to call others to find forgiveness, hope, joy and peace in Christ alone. What are you doing to invite others to come to Christ? This might include
- Responding to people’s questions in conversation
- Inviting a friend along to a service
- Saying to someone “let’s sit down and have a look at the Bible together” using the First Look and Rooted courses.
- Giving someone a Gospel, Jesus DVD, short book, relevant weblink.
V18-19. We are not to add or to take away from this prophecy. Note that by implication through the ages Christians have seen this as a wider warning about all of Scripture. God’s word is complete and sufficient. We are not to ignore the bits we don’t like or find uncomfortable, we are not to add our own ideas and thoughts.
Being ready means that we stay faithful to God’s Word and are not led astray by false teachers.
V20. The conclusion is that Christ’s return is certain and imminent. Note that this is not a prediction about how long in chronological time but rather that Christ could return at any moment so that we should be ready and alert, expectant and excited
V21. A concluding blessing. Remember this is a letter as well as a prophecy.
Jesus is coming. The promise is that it is soon, it is imminent. We do not know when it will be. So we live both:
- Ready for the long haul. We are to persevere and keep trusting. We do that only by depending on Christ’s grace and looking forward with hope
- Ready for the possibility that he could return or we could be called to be with him today.
Live as though today were your last day. If Christ were to return would he find us
-Seeking to live holy lives?
-Encouraging one another
– Telling others about Jesus?
Then you’ll step out of the sky
As clouds like cymbals crash and cry
That’s when we’ll see Jerusalem
 © 1988 Martyn Joseph, Stewart and Carol Henderson
 Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 405.
 Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 406.
 Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 406.
 See Kistemaker, Revelation, 592.
 Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 409.
 See also Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32. This is covenantal language with the promise of blessings and curse. See Kistemaker, Revelation, 594.
 © 1988 Martyn Joseph, Stewart and Carol Henderson