PASTOR DON'S CHRISTIAN ED NOTES
Heaven - What It WIll Be Like and How to Get There - Continued
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Sunday, February 13, 2011 -

Revelation 22:1-21 - “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb [2] through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. [3] No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. [4] They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. [5] And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.[6] And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. " [7] "And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." [8] 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, [9] but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God." [10] And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. [11] Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy." [12] "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. [13] I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." 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. [15] Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.[16] "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." [17] 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. [18] I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, [19] and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. [20] He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! [21] The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

Today we continue with three more points relating to heaven and the final victory of God (numbered 4 through 6):

4) THE AUTHORITY OF THE PROPHECY AND THE IMPORTANCE OF HEEDING ITS MESSAGE

Revelation 22:6-9 - “And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. "[7] "And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."[8] 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, [9] but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God."

I think these verses begin what could, quite properly, be called an epilogue to the revelation. The description of the city of God, the New Jerusalem, is now complete. John is now given some final words that spell out the authority and importance of the visions he has so faithfully recorded for the churches.

a) “These words are trustworthy and true”(6) - These words take on even more depth when we remember they are an echo of an earlier portrayal of Jesus Christ at his Second Coming - Revelation 19:11 - “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.”

In chapter 22 the angel assures John that he hasn’t been tricked about anything. This is not merely some tranced-out, out of body experience he has been having. The whole revelation about what is about to come is trustworthy and reliable because it is all about Jesus Christ, the Faithful and True Witness.

b) “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."(7) - There is no blessing attached to knowing the words of this book. The blessing comes from heeding or keeping the words of John’s prophecy.

In other words, there is something of moral application to knowing that Jesus is coming quickly (7a). These prophecies are not given to satisfy human curiosity about the end of time. They are given to orient misguided lives. They are given to allow us all the chance at readjusting our affections and priorities. They are given so we can purify our lives before it is too late - 1 John 3:3 - “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

5) ON NOT SEALING UP THE WORDS OF THIS PROPHECY AND THE REASON BEHIND THOSE WORDS

Revelation 22:10-15 - “And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. [11] Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy."[12] "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. [13] I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

[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. [15] Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

The first two verses set the tone and theme of all the following instructions:
Revelation 22:10-11 - “And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. [11] Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy." These are very important and unusual words. All through the Scriptures the exact opposite of this is said at the closure of more prophetic passages:

Isaiah 8:14-16 - “And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. [15] And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken."[16] Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples.”

Daniel 8:26 - “The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now."

Daniel 12:2-4 - “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. [3] And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. [4] But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase."

In each of these prophetic passages the emphasis is laid on the fact that these words have future application only. The prophet is to seal up the message from present application. The time for the message is still for the future, not for the present.

But the angel tells John the exact opposite. The message, while certainly pertaining to the future, must be heeded now, in the present. These words about the Second Coming and the city of God are not for some future generation. The truths are not confined to some distant future time. Indeed, the message of the prophecy will be absolutely useless once that day arrives! The message is for our present hearing and application.

Verse 11 makes the reasoning behind verse 10 quite plain: Revelation 22:11 - “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 time of destiny is now. Hearts won’t be changed when Jesus comes again. The forming of spiritual destiny takes place moment by moment. It is always in the present tense. Small actions carry eternal consequence. This is the purpose behind the words of John’s prophecy. People need to be awakened now.

All of this is underscored in verses 12-15:

a) “Behold I am coming soon” (12) - This is the reason spiritual alertness and purity is so essential. There will be no time for repentance when Jesus comes again. Elsewhere Paul says He will come in the “blinking of an eye.”

b) We will all either be judged according to our deeds, or shown grace through the “washing of our robes.” - 12-14 - “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. [13] I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."[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.”

John has already referred to this defining moment in 20:11-15. Only those whose robes are washed can have access to the “tree of life” (14). Again, this is John’s picture of the truth that the effects of sin and the fall cannot be undone by the efforts of man.

6) THE HOUR OF REPENTANCE AND THE INVITATION OF GRACE

Revelation 22:16-21 - “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."[17] 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.”

[18] “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, [19] and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. [20] He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! [21] The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

These words are a natural follow-up to what John has just heard in verse 11 - “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy." While the day will come when it will be too late for repentance, that day is not yet. The Spirit and the bride both say “Come” (17). This is the message of God’s Spirit, and hence, the message of any Spirit attuned church. The message isn’t to be altered in any way. There is no sterner warning in the Scriptures than the one uttered to those who, in the name of Christ, distort the content of the Word. We are to convey the message as it is given. We must neither soften the message of judgment, nor refuse the richness of grace to the vilest sinner who repents and comes to Christ. Our arms must be open to all.

In each of the seven letters to the churches, the admonition was given - “He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Here John is seeing this theme again. The Church must first listen to the Spirit. Then she must constantly say the same thing. They both say “Come” in this age of grace and mercy.

7) SPIRITUALITY DEFINED BY THE HEART’S RESPONSE TO THE NEWS OF THE COMING OF JESUS

Revelation 22:20 - “He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

The early church made the prayer “Come Lord Jesus” the badge of genuine Christian confession: 1 Corinthians 16:22 - “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!” The word, “Maranatha” is Aramiac for “Come Lord Jesus!” That is the fire that births both evangelism and prayer. When we don’t care about this (even though we may still believe in it) we’re lost causes spiritually.

In 1865 Joseph Seiss closed his beautiful commentary on Revelation with these words: “‘Behold, I am coming quickly!’ The truth is, my friends, that there is no greater or gladder promise in all the Book of God, than this last word from Jesus to His people. It is the promise of promises - the crown and consummation of all promises - the coronation of all our hopes - the sum of all prophecy and prayer....Consider the sordidness of this world with the crystal purity and splendor of the New Jerusalem. Think of the dust, and toil of this earth, in comparison with that River and Tree of Life which refresh, and adorn, and satisfy the dwellers of that eternal realm....Let all God’s saints hold fast the blessed hope, and lift up their heads as they see the time approaching. What is there to command our fondest joy, our gladdest anticipation, if not this coming day of our completed happiness and finished redemption?”