Introduction – We all know what it is like to anticipate something. We can hardly wait for our Caribbean cruise, summer break from school, new iPhone, or the visit with friends or family. We recently anticipated having some friends visit from Alaska where they serve as missionaries. I recall our three boys constantly peering out the window to see if their van was in our driveway yet. And this was several days before we expected them! In some of the things that we anticipate, it hinders us from doing things in the present – or at least affects our thoughts and attitudes. Sometimes our lives revolve around our vacations or recreation and, as a result, we minimize the importance of other things.
We have been studying the Book of Revelation. And we know that this book speaks primarily of things that are to take place in the future. God, in his grace, has decided that he would let us peer into his plan for the end of history. And we have seen that this largely consists of great judgment on those who do not call on Jesus for salvation – those who have chosen to serve and worship themselves. But we have seen that God will be gracious even to those as he gradually intensifies the judgments and allows for repentance. This will ultimately demonstrate the hard hearts of people as they shake their fist at God even as they are destroyed and leave him no choice.
The fact that God has revealed this to us shows us that he controls all of history. He knows all things, has ordained (or planned) all things, and is all powerful – which means that he WILL bring it about as he has planned. This is what we mean we say that he is sovereign. It is pointless to try to oppose this plan. Some find this disturbing. I find this tremendously comforting. Because God is good. God is good and he wants what is best for those who love him. So I want to serve this God. But people, along with Satan the Adversary, refuse to bow the knee to the only true God and will reap the consequences of their actions. I pray that this does not pertain to you. In fact, if it does, I hope that you will listen to the Spirit this morning as we look at “Invitations.”
Please turn in your Bibles to the last book, last chapter. We are in Revelation 22 and will be concluding this great study by looking at these final words. READ.
As I said, we anticipate many things in this life – some that sidetrack us from important things. I want you to see that what is anticipated in the future should do the opposite. The Bible anticipate the return of the Lord Jesus Christ where he will set things right. This means that he will receive his children, judge the wicked, and establish a new kingdom, a new heaven and earth for all eternity. Those facts alone should cause you to stutter or shutter. For the believer, we should be on the edge of our seats, waiting eagerly for our Lord because we have seen just a glimpse of the glory of our eternity. How can we not long for this?? And for the one who does not know Jesus, this should cause you to shutter in horror. The second death is reserved for those who do not bow the knee to the Lord of all. And we have seen in these last several weeks that it consists of eternal torment in the lake of fire. So the dividing line is clear. We have seen it all through the Book of Revelation. You belong either to Jesus or Satan.
My first point is “Jesus is Coming.” Our text indicates this several times. In fact, he says he is coming soon. Now this concept trips people up. And I think that this is largely because our concept of time. So for John to have written in the first century that Jesus is returning soon, most get confused over why it is nearly 2000 years later and we still haven’t seen his return. So we’ve got this issue of an apparent delay. We quickly forget that God operates with no time parameters. Remember the words of 2 Peter 3.1-9:
“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
So we see that with each passing day, God is expressing his patience, his longsuffering and grace, and allowing more people the opportunity to repent.
His coming soon is often referred to as “imminence.” And what that means is that He can come back at any moment. According to the prophets in Scripture, there is nothing else that needs to be fulfilled before he returns. Everything is poised for Jesus. Remember what this entire book has been telling us: God is sovereign and has ordained the beginning and the end. He is faithful and will bring things about when he is ready. And he says that he is coming soon.
The fact that Jesus is coming demands a Call to Obedience. The text says he is coming soon and adds this curious statement. The one is blessed who keeps the words of prophecy of this book. I believe that this is more than just a suggestion for which someone will be blessed. I think this is command and expectation. But how do you “keep” or “hold fast” to prophecy? In this context, I believe it implies several things. Believers are to long for the return of Jesus and the anticipation of eternal fellowship with him. We just reviewed briefly what the book consists of. And we see Christians persecuted and martyred for their faith, evil permeates our world. And to live lives according to this book will make us stick out. We are swimming upstream folks! That is, if we are faithful to the task. In this world we will have trouble. But our Lord is coming back!
But beyond this, the fact that the King of the Universe could “show up” at any moment should cause us to consider our condition and our lifestyle. You will find that all throughout Scripture, the passages that speak of his return are an exhortation to make sure that you are living correctly. One commentator puts it this way, "In light of the sovereignty of God and the realization that he has foretold the imminent end of the world, the Christian must at all times be ready for Christ's return. That readiness consists of right ethical and spiritual living. Every passage on the return of Christ ends with this demand."
Let’s think this through honestly and practically. When we invite guests over for dinner, it is usually our desire to be on our best behaviour – especially our children. If we were to entertain the Prime Minister or Wayne Gretzky, we would likely put on our best appearances. Now these are largely motivated by pride and the fear of man. “What will people think?” But just think about how our lives would look if we actually believed that Jesus is coming back. This is not someone that we can pull the wool over their eyes. He has eyes of fire and knows all. More than that, he holds our eternal destiny in his hands. We say that Jesus is coming back. Do we really believe it?
But our obedience is not only motivated by fear and urgency. It is also motivated by love. If we have repented and trusted in Jesus for salvation our eternal fate is secure in his hands. This should draw us to love him more - the One who shed his blood and gave his life on the cross so that we could be reconciled to God. God’s word talks often about our love for him. What does it say? If we love him, we will keep his commandments. 1 John says it several times. One of the best ways that we can keep the word of prophecy is obedience. And this authenticates our faith. It does not earn our salvation but is an overflow of it.
Verse 12 tells us again that Jesus is returning soon. This time he adds that he brings recompense and repayment with him. I think that this refers to both punishment and reward. We recently studied chapter 20 and the Great White Throne. It was here that we looked at all people standing before the throne and being judged according to our works. We concluded that, for the believer, it wasn’t his salvation at stake here, but the recompense. And it was here that we determined that the Christian is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and yet judged by his works. So there is a sense in which we will mourn at the judgment for not striving more diligently for God’s glory. But the unbeliever will be sentenced to the second death – the lake of fire.
The concept of reward is a bit more difficult to understand. To be honest, I don’t really know the full details of what this will be in eternity. I don’t think anyone does. As we develop our relationship with Christ, we become more aware of our sinfulness - and more enamored by his grace. To try to comprehend that we will be “rewarded” for something we don’t deserve is difficult. And here it says, “for what he has done.” I like what some have suggested. The rewards that believers will enjoy in heaven will be a greater capacity to serve God. Greater faithfulness leads to greater opportunity to serve. Matthew 16.27 says “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
Jesus is coming soon. And in verse 20 there is an echo of “amen” and “come, Lord Jesus.” The response comes from the church throughout the ages. This is the church who has been persecuted and martyred because of Jesus. And it is their longing that Jesus will judge those who have persecuted them and execute judgment. So there is both comfort and warning in this passage. Jesus says, “surely” I am coming. There is certainty in his return. Are you the one being comforted or warned in this statement? If you have trusted in Jesus, take comfort. If you have not yet bowed the knee, consider it God’s grace that there is yet time.
Next I would like to ask, (2) “Who Do You Worship?” In verses 8-10 we find an interesting interchange between John and the angel. As John continues to behold all this fantastic imagery and revelation from Jesus and the angel he appears to be overcome by the immensity of it all. And he falls at the feet of the angel to worship. It seems rather familiar, doesn’t it? John did this before in chapter 19, verse 10: “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” John was human. It was only like 3 pages ago that he received the first warning and he sinned again. This seems rather indicative of our own lives, doesn’t it? Don’t we also seem to struggle with the same sins time and time again? It’s interesting that God’s Word often repeats things because we seem to have short memories. We need to continue to renew our minds in order to be transformed. Repetition and repentance.
Now John here had the proper response to all this revelation. As he saw the end of history unfold before his eyes, it was only proper to fall down in worship. He just worshiped the wrong object. He worshiped the communicator of the message and not the one who carries it out. The angel reminds him that he is not that much different than him – a fellow servant with the saints.
It is interesting to note some of the things our culture worships – the cult of celebrity. Hockey players, movie stars, musicians, and the like are some of the people we look to for significance. Many want to be an Alex Ovechkin. You didn’t think I was going to say Sidney Crosby?? Or we want to snowboard like so and so (sorry, don’t really know anyone here), sing like somebody. This can even happen in Christian circles. We can be enamored by preachers and authors. Many flock to some of the popular TV preachers. And we need to remember that even those who are biblically sound and good communicators have been given these gifts by God and hopefully they point to God and give him glory.
We are all wired to worship. The question is again, who or what do you worship? This doesn’t mean that you have an idol in your closet that you pray to a number of times a day (though it does include those). Where is the bulk of your time and money spent? Do they reflect the lordship of Jesus or your lordship? Are you more concerned with appearance or performance than testifying to Christ? Idolatry originates in the heart and manifests itself externally. If your heart worships God, it will show on the outside. If it doesn’t show here, you need to assess things here in the heart. Worship God alone.
Jesus is coming soon. Are You Ready? When he comes back, time’s up. There is no second chance. How do you know if you are ready? Look at verse 14. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” We know that to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city by the gates equals eternal life. We saw this in the last chapter when we looked at the New Jerusalem. In the same way that recorded history began in a garden with the tree of life so will the end be. Only those who have washed their robes will be permitted. This reminds of Revelation 7 when we looked at a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne. And they were worshiping the Lamb. One of the elders asked John who they were. John didn’t know so the elder told him that they are those who had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“Washing robes” symbolizes those who have been cleansed of sin. Isaiah 1.18 reads, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Titus speaks of the “washing” of regeneration in referring to salvation. Psalm 51.7, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Isaiah 64:6, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Before trusting in Christ, we are clothed in dirty garments and are unable to have fellowship with God. But because Jesus shed his blood on the cross, that same blood cleanses our clothes and we can be looked on as clean and white by the Father.
I don’t know if you remember Pilgrim’s Progress or not. We watched the movie here not too long ago. But if you recall the story, Pilgrim came to understand his need for the cross. And in his pursuit of the Celestial City, he needed to enter by the wicket gate. As he did so and continued his journey toward his destination, he came upon many who attempted to sidetrack him. He also came across some people who thought that they had the same destination, the Celestial City, but had not entered the Wicket Gate. And when they tried to get entrance into the city, they were denied because they did not first enter through the gate.
If you’re clothes are not washed, you have not entered the gate and you remain outside. This echoes Hebrews 13 where it is those “outside the camp” who remain under the curse of sin. Verse 15 identifies those who remain outside with filthy garments. It is “the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” These are those who have not heeded the command by the angel to worship God. These are people who continue to worship themselves and by association, the Devil. This does NOT mean that everyone who has told a lie, had an idol of the heart, or who has participated in sexual immorality is disqualified for the kingdom. This list refers to those who are characterized by them. It is a partial list to provide a sample of the things that represent someone who has not given their life to Christ. So, are you ready for the return of Jesus??
The next point is Authentic and Exclusive. We read in verse 6 that the angel says that these words are trustworthy and true. This repeats Revelation 21.5. We know also that this is similar to the character of Christ. He is Faithful and True. And we remember how important it is that our Savior is characterized by these traits. Our faith hangs on them because he does not make empty promises but is faithful to deliver on them. And in an age of confusion and relativity we need, in fact we cling to, the fact that he is THE Truth!
“These words” refers to the entire book of Revelation. This we know because these statements serve as bookends from where we began. Revelation 1:1 “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.” And here it says that God is the one who inspires the words. So it is God who revealed to Christ who sent his angel to show John to tell the churches. God, Jesus, angel, John, to the church. In verse 9, we are commanded to keep the words of this book because it is authentic. Verse 10 John is commanded not to seal up the words of the prophecy of this book because of the imminent return of Jesus. In Daniel 12.4, when he was given revelation of the time of the end, he did not receive this instruction. It reads, But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.” It wasn’t the time for this to be revealed. But in John’s day, he is told not to seal the words. It is time for full disclosure of the end. One commentator adds, “in light of the nearness of the events, the readers must be told these "prophecies" so they can "keep" the commands and heed the warnings.”
Jesus says in verse 16, “I, Jesus have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches.” The Lord himself adds his stamp of authority to these words. He adds that he is the promised Messiah from the Old Testament who would redeem his people and rule the nations. He also says in verse 13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” What he is doing is emphasizing his deity and exclusivity. In this verse, he declares that he rules history. He is the creator of history. All things are sustained by him. Colossians 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
If you have spent any time in John’s gospel, you know that it is characterized by statements like this. Jesus often says these “I am” remarks. In the same way that Jesus here says the he is THE Alpha and Omega and descendent of David, he says in John’s gospel, I am the bread of life, I am the good shepherd, the light of the world, the resurrection and the life, and so on. Of particular relevance to our passage are two of Jesus statements. First, he says that “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” – John 10.9. This means that you remain outside unless you come to the Father by Christ. And in John 14.6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
There are many people who are lost and confused and think that there are many roads to God. Our Scriptures say otherwise. All throughout our study of the book of Revelation in particular, we have seen that eternal destinies are determined by one’s standing with Jesus. We have seen that he is the Alpha and Omega, the way, the truth, the life, the door. Some people find these claims exclusive and are offended by their exclusivity. Let me ask you, “If you were diagnosed with terminal cancer and you receive a phone call from your doctor who excitedly told you that he could offer you a prescription that would cure your cancer forever, would you be angry that there was only one medication that could cure it??”
Apart from Jesus Christ, we remain hopelessly lost in our sin for eternity. It is what we deserve because of our sin. But from eternity past, God had determined that he would provide a remedy for our sinful condition. Out of his great love for us, he sent his Son Jesus, to leave his heavenly throne to come and live as a human being. He would experience all of our hurts and temptations, be falsely accused by religious leaders and murdered on a cross to bear our punishment. He died the death we deserved to die. And all that sinful people need to do is to recognize this act and repent of our idolatrous hearts and surrender our lives to him. And we could experience an eternal relationship with him. I cannot be offended that there is only Jesus. He is my hope and he is my life. Enough said.
My last point, Last Call. Like I said before, when Jesus comes there are no more chances. Our fate is decided. Verse 17 reads, “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”
The Holy Spirit has been active throughout all of history convicting the hearts of sinners and making them aware of their need for a Savior. He works through the written and proclaimed word. He shines lights in hearts and removes scales from eyes so that we can see clearly. And he invites you to “come.” The church has been given the mandate to declare the word of the Lord and to make disciples of the nations. The church is not a building but a community of those who have been called by God and placed faith in Christ. And so the church through the ages has sent out missionaries around the world and in the neighborhood to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The first step in disciple-making is to make one a disciple of Christ. If you have not surrendered your life to Christ, the church invites you to “come.”
It may be that the Holy Spirit of God has been speaking to your heart. He may have been working for a long time. You may have heard his voice just this morning. If you are thirsty for water that quenches and will not leave you thirsty again, “Come.” Matthew 7.13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Our text closes with a benediction. John includes a prayer bestowing on God’s people the grace of the Lord Jesus. John has written this letter under heavy persecution. Churches around the world would probably understand more completely this benediction as they endure hardship we know nothing about. In this letter they would likely find great comfort. Persecution would drive deeper these great truths. For our salvation we need the grace of Jesus. For our ongoing walk with him we need his grace. And to persevere, to conquer, to overcome we need his grace to the end. “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.” Amen.