“The End” The Christmas Story: Week 6 (Revelation 21:1-8)
We often forget that the story of Christmas isn’t about us. It started with a baby who was born to save the world. We see the story of Jesus conclude in Revelation 21. The story of Christmas is about how good God is and how the lamb paid our debt.
1. God’s End is God’s Presence With Man
2. God’s End is to Finalize His Promises
3. The End of Man
We’ll be in Revelation 21 verses 1-8. This is the last sermon in our series through Christmas, and you’re like, well, what’s Christmas got to do with Revelation 21? How does that fit? Well, Christmas is about God doing what God had to do to purchase his bride. Christmas is about God sending the son so that his people could forever be with him in eternity. That’s what Christmas has to do with Revelation 21. My hope this morning is that by looking at the end of the story that we would be motivated to work for today. We’d see how much God loves us, see how beautiful God is, see that where his is plan is ultimately taking us so that when we walk out of these doors we would not be distracted from his mission. Talking about being distracted, I love, Christmas is probably the single greatest illustration of us being distracted. Think about it. Christmas is an entire month dedicated to celebrating Jesus. Todd gave us four sermons on just telling the Christmas story. We have Advent calendars. We got nativities everywhere you go.
Christmas is plastered everywhere. Christ’s name is dead in the center of it and how quickly do we get distracted? I know my heart between travel, and presents, and gift buying, and all these things that are all good things, man, I just get distracted. I think Christmas is probably a good illustration for our lives. We all generally, we want to honor God. We all generally we want to spend time with God and we all definitely get distracted. As this year’s coming to a close and we’re looking into this 2019 tomorrow while you’re sitting around watching football or getting ready for your New Year’s Eve party and we’re thinking about resolutions and what we want to see in 2019, I pray that you would ask the question, “Have I been distracted from the mission of God?”
There’s probably a myriad of questions that you could ask yourself that would reveal this, but I just have two. The first question is, am I actually doing God’s mission? If your response is something like, well gosh, I don’t know, maybe, probably, hopefully, well then we’re probably not about God’s mission and we’re probably distracted. The other one is are you longing to be in the presence of God? Rally ask yourself, do I long to seek God out in prayer? Again, if your answer is I don’t know, or maybe, gosh, I hope so. Then no, you’ve been distracted from God’s mission and we make resolutions for everything. Why don’t we just resolve to not be distracted from God’s mission? Why don’t we resolve to long to be in God’s presence? Repentance is a simple thing. We make repentance have all these big range-r like things attached to it. Repentance is no more than a resolution. It’s changing your heart from the direction you’re going to go in a different direction, to pursue something else.
Let’s resolve that 2019 would be the year that we don’t get distracted from God’s mission. We’re going to work with God’s end in mind, and we’ll read this in a second, but here in this passage that we’re reading this morning, God presents himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. You see, God was before all things, God, he created everything that is. He created it out of nothing and nothing is here that he didn’t create, and he didn’t just create willy nilly. He didn’t just create without a plan. He created his creation with a plan and with a purpose, and not only did he create with a purpose, he’s already decided what the end’s gonna be.
Before he ever created anything he knew the end. Everything God’s doing, God’s doing with a plan. Man, Cody, where are you getting that from? Lots of places, but let’s just look at Revelation 13:8. You don’t have to turn there. Jesus is revealed as the lamb slain before the foundations of the earth. Ephesians 4, even as he chose us in him before the foundations of the world to be holy and blameless. You see, God in eternity past in the trinity, the father, son, and the spirit, they knew. They decided that Jesus would be the lamb slain before the foundations of the earth. They decided that they would create a world in such a way that they would purchase from that world of people that would treasure them as their God. The end, God’s end plan is that God would present his people as a bride to himself. That’s the end, that God brings us to himself.
God’s mission from before he created, to bringing Jesus, to dying on the cross, to the Holy Spirit and dwelling all the people who would believe in him. All of this is for one purpose, that we would dwell with him forever and that we would treasure him as our God. That’s God’s mission. That’s God’s end. We should be working today to bring that in, to introduce people to Jesus. Hey, spoiler alert. The prize of Heaven is God. That’s our reward. We can be basking in that reward today. That’s the end, that God would dwell with his people. Now let’s let’s read the text. Look with me at Revelation 21:8 or 21:1. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more, and I saw the holy city a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, 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 there as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eye and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away and he who was seated on the throne said, behold, I am making all things new. He said, write this down. These are the words of the trustworthy and true, and he said to me, it is done. I am the Alpha, I am the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the one who thirsts I will give from the spring of water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage. I will be his God and he will be my son, but as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the Lake of Fire that burns with sulfur, which is the second death.”
This is where all things are working towards. This is why God created the world. Every letter in this book, God is creating a tapestry telling his story of his pursuit after his people to bring his ends and his purposes to his completion. We are to join him in that. Look with me now at verse one here in Revelation 21. We see that God is making a new heaven and a new earth and he’s removing all chaos. God’s creating for his people a new Eden, a new garden. The old heaven than the old earth, they’ve passed away because they were corrupted by sin, they were corrupted by Adam, they’ve been corrupted by us. He’s done away with the old things and he brings a new heaven and a new earth, and I know y’all all said, well, what about the sea? Some of you might be fishermen.
Well, Revelation is a highly metaphorical book. Now, I don’t doubt there’s not a sea, but the reason that the sea has been added that it’s been removed is to tell the Jewish reader something. See, they’re not vikings, they weren’t a seafaring people. Think about the Jews most famous book in the Bible about the sea. How’d that go for old Jonah? They’re scared of the sea. The sea represents chaos and death. God is telling his people, I’m giving you a new heaven and a new earth. All chaos and death are gone. Look, we’ve all been stamped with eternity on our hearts. We know that this place isn’t as it should be. We can think about a place where there’s no death, no suffering, no sorrow. I mean, we all have had loved ones die. Tell me it’s not like the flesh ripping away from bone when they leave.
That’s telling us that things aren’t as they should be and God in his new heaven and in his new earth where he’s going to dwell with his people, He’s made all things right. That’s what we have to hold onto. Now let’s look at verse two and verse three. This is the climax of history verses two and three. This is the climax of the entire book. He waits to the very end to tell us what’s going to happen. Let’s read it. This is my absolute favorite part of scripture. “And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man and he will dwell with them and they will be his people and he will be their God, and he will wipe away every tear from their eye, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain or anything else for the former things have passed away.”
John the Revelator, he’s standing there in this vision and he sees this new heaven and this new earth, and then from heaven comes this new Jerusalem and Jerusalem means city of peace. He sees a new city of peace coming from the very person of God. It’s a new Shalom. It’s a new peace. It’s a peace that we have never known and then he looks, God’s prepared this new world. He’s prepared this new city for his bride, and John sees this bride prepared and perfect, but we’ve been in church enough to know that we’re the bride and all you gotta do is follow me around for a few minutes to know that I’m not perfect, that I’m deeply flawed. We are all very, very deeply flawed and nobody can be in the presence of God unless they’re totally and completely wholly, unless they’re totally and completely perfect and we are not that. Well, thanks be to God for Ephesians 5:25. Ephesians 5:25, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word so that he might present the church to himself in splendor without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing that she might be holy and without blemish.”
By the blood of the lamb we’ve been made perfect. We’re an imperfect people made perfect by Christ, without wrinkle, without blemish, without spot. We are wholly totally without shame. That’s what’s happened on the cross. That’s what happened at Christmas. Christmas is about God doing what God had to do to purchase his bride. You need to see Christ like God. God’s been waiting for this moment. Before he laid the foundations of the earth he’s been waiting for this moment of presenting his bride to himself. I can remember on my wedding day standing, I was on this side of the stage, stage left or on my left and Jordan, my wife, was going to come from that side and there’s about 200 people in the church. It was longer than this one, but it was narrower so I didn’t have to do all this, but I’m standing there and I’m thinking two things. Don’t lock your knees or you don’t pass out and that’s probably not a good start to the marriage.
Then with all those people in there I couldn’t see anybody’s faces. My eyes were set on those doors that I knew my wife was about to come out of and the music started bom bom, and all the people stood up and there was my bride. I just remember thinking she’s going to be mine. She’s prepared herself for me. She wants to love me. That’s the picture of God here. God is expectantly waiting for his bride. God is drawing and bringing us to himself with pure joy, pure joy. He says, behold from the throne at that moment it’s the culmination of all creation where he brings the bride to himself and he says, from his throne, 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 their God.
Listen to how God has been waiting for this day through the ages. He’s been yearning, pining, waiting for this moment. We’re going to have some verses come across and I’m going to read some verses. I was going to read all of them, but we’d be here for a minute because there’s over 40 of God saying something to this effect, pouring our hearts to this moment as we read through the Old and New Testament. Listen to this. This is just a few.
Genesis 17:7. I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant to be your God and to be the God of the descendants after you. I’ll be your God and you’ll be my people.
Jeremiah 32:38, right after we get the new covenant. They shall be my people and I will be their God.
Ezekiel 37:23. I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sin and I will cleanse them, and they will be my people, and I will be their God.
Leviticus 26:12. I also will walk among you and be your God and you shall be my people.
Jeremiah 11:4. Listen to my voice. Do according to all of which I’ve commanded you so that you shall be my people and I will be your God.
Jeremiah 30:22. You shall be my people and I will be your God.
Ezekiel 36:28. You will live in the land that I’ve given your forefathers and so you will be my people and I will be your God.
Do you get the point? This is what everything’s working towards. The time when we get to dwell in the presence of God and we will be like sons to him. We will be sons and daughters and he will be our God. We will be his bride. We will dwell with him forever in pure bliss and joy being in his presence. The joy of eternity is this, dwelling with God. The heart of God is that he would have the people who loves him. That’s what he wants. Now, look with me at verse four. He says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eye and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
God is making a new Jerusalem. He’s making a new city of peace and he just showed us how chaos is being removed, but now he says he’s removing it. We have a prince that cares. We have a God who loves us. We have a God who’s gonna be there and wipe every tear away from our eyes. Every second or maybe a few minutes, you might be thinking about that thing that person did to you. They were supposed to protect you but they didn’t and you might just be wrecked on the inside. You might be wrecked because your husband or your child they’ve already bridged the chasm of eternity and you’re left here waiting and hurting. Your body might be broken after rounds and rounds of chemo. I don’t know what your pain is, but I’ll know that we’ve all experienced pain and we’re all going to experience more pain, but there is a day when there will be no more pain. There’s a day when God himself will physically be there to comfort you, but here’s the good news of the New Testament. Not only are all things made new in heaven, if we’re a believer all things have been made new and us.
The dwelling place of God is with man and he’s put his spirit in us. God dwells with us. We can taste eternity now. Do you need to be comforted? Go lay those things at the feet of Christ. Cry out that he would comfort you. Now he might have to comfort you every day, but keep going to the throne. Keep crying out. Keep asking. God wants to hear you. God wants to comfort you. You see, he’s driving everything to the ultimate moment when he does. Start calling out for his comfort. God is near. God will comfort you in your time of distress, but God’s not just there to comfort, God’s there for all of us, even when we don’t need comfort. He just wants us to spend time in his presence. God died on a cross. God became man so that we could be in his presence now. God is the gift of eternity. God’s presence is a gift of eternity and we get to taste that now.
I feel like working at a church I’m constantly trying to talk people into praying and it’s the most obscure thing to me that I would have to talk people into prayer. Imagine at this welcome desk out here that I had for all the truly holy ones that come to Christmas after a Christmas service right? No? Okay? Out here at the welcome desk there is a million dollars waiting for all of you. There’s a check with your name on it. Signed, sealed, delivered. Would I have to talk you into going out there and picking up the check? Would I have to come to you and be like, all right, maybe you could just, I know you’re uncomfortable. Just try spending five dollars here and five dollars there. Just see how it feels.
Now, maybe in a few weeks you can work up to $15, after that maybe can spend $100. How much more worth is it to spend time with God? How much more worthy is God than money? What I’m having to do, what we’re doing is we, we feel like we just have to tip toe into it. Like, okay, just spend three or four minutes with God in prayer. Just try it. Just try it once this week and see how it works. No, Jesus is totally worthy. Jesus is totally worthy. Jesus hears you. God hears you and God answers your prayers. God answers all kinds of stuff. Sometimes I just throw up Hail Mary’s just to see what will happen. I want to know if God will just answer it.
The other day, I don’t see Jordan in here anymore. The other day I broke her car. There’s this key fob thing that goes into ignition and she’s got this weird foreign car and the battery was messed up and I couldn’t get the key out. It ate it. I was mad and everything in the car was dead. I just ripped it out and when I ripped it out I go, oh no. Then I tried to put it back in because I didn’t want Jordan to know that I had broke her car. I wanted her to think that the car had just been broken. Now I’m trying to jam the thing back into the key fob holder and it’s keeps ejecting it, violently ejecting that thing out and I’m like, oh God, just let this thing not be broken. Please don’t let this be broke.
The next day I changed the battery and put the, and it’s still broken. I just lobbed a prayer of like, God, you don’t want your servant to be murdered, do you? I took my pinky and jammed it in there and I heard something click, and I put that key in the ignition, turned it on, I didn’t tell her anything. Well now I just told on myself because she’ll listen to this, but God answers even the silly stuff. You want to see answers to prayers? My wife is an answer to my prayers. My Eliana is an answer to my prayers.
God hears you, God knows you, and God answers your prayers. He says, only that my children would ask. Only that my children would ask I would answer them. I’m a good father. I won’t give you a serpent. I won’t give you a stone. I’m a good God and I will give you good gifts. We have not because we ask not. God is so worthy. I pray that you would long to spend time in his presence. I pray that you would yearn to sit in silence. That calluses would grow on your knees for the time that you’ve spent bathing in front of God in prayer, because that’s the culmination. That’s what all things are working towards. The time when we get to spend with God. You’re not going to enjoy it later if you don’t enjoy it now. I take that back. There’s no way you won’t enjoy the presence of God, but there’s no way you won’t now. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Let’s keep going. Look now with me at verses five through six, we see that God finalizes all of his promises. He says, “And he who is sitted on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also, he said, ‘Write this down. These words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha, the Omega, the beginning and the end.'” God said trust me. You can write this down. The things that I said are going to happen because I’m the one who created everything, I’m the one who created the plan, I’m the one who’s made the plan happen, and I’m the one who will bring the plan to completion. Trust me. God is the Omega. God is the end. God will be the end of all men. Hear me. If you’re a believer God is our end. That’s all, that’s what we get. We get to be with him forever. When time is no more, God is our end. We get to be with him in his presence.
If you’re an unbeliever, if you haven’t put your faith and your trust in God he’ll be your end. Let’s look at verses six through seven. He says this to the thirsty. “I will give from the spring of water of life without payment. To the one who conquers, he will have this heritage and I will be his God and he will be my son.” Do you hear that ringing still? I will be his God and they will be my people. If you’re thirsty, if you don’t know Christ this morning, he says, all who thirst come to me and drink. You don’t even have to pay for this. You don’t have to be good enough. You don’t, come to me and drink without payment. I’ve already paid it for you is what God’s saying. It’s grace and not only will he pay your debt, but he’ll give you the inheritance of the king.
Verse eight is this, is the end for the one who doesn’t thirst. He said, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for the murderer or the sexually immoral, the sorcerer, the idolater, and all liars, their portion will be the Lake of Fire that burns with sulfur and this is the second death.” If you don’t drink of the spring of life that comes from Christ, if you don’t taste his goodness you will taste the second death. You’ll be tortured. You will receive the same punishment that the devil himself and the beast have received. It’s a fire that burns with sulfur that is never put out. You will long for extinction. You will long for death and you will never find it.
God will be the end. God will be your end by your own choice, by your own faithfulness. Jesus is not a way to heaven. He is the way to heaven. Those who reject him now will beg for him later. Call out to him today for salvation. Now that we’ve seen the end what do we do about that? As believers what do we do about seeing the end? I pray in 2019 we know that God is working all things to his end and to his completion. We would participate with God in that. We would be about the mission of God. We would not be distracted. Remember those two questions? Am I working to accomplish God’s mission and am I longing to spend time in his presence?
First, let’s look at in my working to accomplish his mission? What is his mission, right? To bring all things to an end, to bring his people to himself. Are you participating in that? Looking at the end and seeing what’s gonna Happen to the people who don’t believe in him. Are you reaching out? Are you introducing people to Jesus? If the answer is no you’re distracted. When was the last time that you’ve introduced anyone to your Lord and Savior? Our job’s not salvation. Our job is just making the introduction. When was the last time you made that introduction or confirmed? Think about this. If you’re like, I don’t think I’m distracted. Think about Christmas. All right?
All the people that you’re around in Christmas, let’s say that they were all represented by candles on this stage and the only candles that got to be lit were the candles that the people that you either affirmed their salvation in a conversation, you just talked to them this to see if they believed, or two, it’s just someone that you gave an introduction to Christ. There’s probably hundreds of candles on this stage for each of us. Answering the question of whether you’re not distracted from the mission of God, how many candles would be lit? Would the stage being darkness? I know I didn’t, I know I didn’t go around and make all the introductions that I should have made. I know that I didn’t affirm because I know what’s waiting for them on the other side, I know the glory and the goodness of God, and I know the punishment of God.
I have to be on mission for God, constantly affirming someone’s salvation. Just having that conversation, seeing if they know God, constantly making that introduction to people who don’t know God because we know the end. I pray, now let’s let’s talk about resolutions. I pray that one person would take this challenge this year. We’re giving resolutions, we’re wanting to be in shape, we’re wanting all these things, we’re looking out into the new year and the person that we want to be. What about, I feel like this is a really small resolution too. What if all of us or one of us would just resolve to make one introduction a week to Christ, just one? You’re like, Cody, that’s legalism. I don’t want to, no it’s not. It’s not, you’re not sinning if you don’t, right?
My question then is how many introductions did you make last year? How many introductions to God did you make last year? Let’s resolve to one time a week because I know some of us are at home a lot. We might be raising our kids from the house or some of you have jobs that are from the house, but we get out of the house at least once a week. Let’s resolve to make one introduction this year. Let’s look now at the second question. Do I desire to be in the presence of God? Am I longing to spend time with God because this has to do with the mission of God. If you’re not spending time with God you’re not about God’s mission. You will not be about making introductions, working towards leading people to Christ. You’re not going to be doing these things if you’re not spending time with God.
I see people get real pumped up and they’ll go out. They’ll go to a conference or something and they’ll go out into the world and they’ll be on mission, but they’ll go on mission without prayer and then they get real discouraged because they’ve read the book of Acts. They know that when you go out in the name of the Father that things happen, they do, and then they’re like, well, why haven’t I seen anybody saved? Why haven’t I seen anybody repent of their sin? Why haven’t I seen any of these things happen that I see happening in the book of Acts? Where does our power come from? God only. Only through God, only through prayer. Christ himself says so. Apart from God we can do nothing.
Think about this. The disciples. The disciples, did they ever ask God or Jesus when they were walking around with Jesus, “Lord, teach me to teach. Lord, teach me to preach. Lord, teach me to do miracles. Lord, teach me a cast out demons.” What they asked was, “Lord, teach me to pray.” You see, when we get real concerned with results and we get real concerned with method we get less concerned about God doing that thing through us. Think about the book of Acts again. Every person who shows up who’s concerned about method and concerned about results, they are all publicly shamed.
God does not bless that. If we want to see the mighty powerful sweeping hand of God come through our community, we must fall on our faces and pray. This might be blunt, but it’s honest. Don’t tell me you love people and you care about their souls. Don’t tell me that you care that America is falling more and more into sin if you’re not praying. Wayne Grudem has a great quote. He says, “We pray a little because we believe prayer accomplishes little.” Take a moment and reflect on your prayer life in 2018. Did you pray little? Resolve to pray, resolve to fall at the feet of God every day and cry out for salvation for those who are lost. Cry out for the salvation of [inaudible 00:36:41]. Cry out that God would empower you and God would empower those who he’s put in this community that this body would go out and we would open our mouths and we would speak, and the power of the Holy Spirit would go through us because if not you’re saying I can do this on my own.
You’re saying you’re smart enough, wise enough, and clever enough to change someone’s heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Make someone go from hating God to loving God. You’re wise enough by the words that you can think up to heal someone’s broken marriage. You’re smart enough and you’re wise enough by your very own words and just who you are that you can break someone’s addiction to drugs, or pornography, or whatever they’re addicted to. We are a people that say only by the power of God can we do anything. Let’s be a people who live like that in 2019. Let’s be a people who resolve to fall at the feet of Christ every day longer and longer, longing for the day that he comes back and longing to see his ends accomplished in our community and in the world. If that’s not who we are in 2019 it’s just a warning,
We’ll become ineffectual, we’ll become impotent as a body. We’ll have no kingdom impact in this place. At best, it will just be a facade of what we do. We’ve got to lean on prayer. I’ll close with this. I like some John Maxwell, a lot. Feeling like John Maxwell? You should. We’re resolving to be better people. He’ll help you work on that, but John Maxwell talking about business, he says, if you want to be better, ask every day how have I added value to this company? Every day when I get to work I ask myself, how will I add value to tabernacle? When I leave I ask myself, have I added value today? Just an easy little way that we get to grade ourself.
Look, I know we’re not going to have conversations with people every day. I know we’re not going to run into people we’ve never met or lost every day, but what about if we take this quote and we change it a little bit and we say, how have I added value to the Kingdom today? There is nothing that we can do more powerfully or to add more value to the kingdom in our community and in our world than to pray.
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