Series: The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part Ten
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
November 17, 2019
If you are able - would you please stand with me as we come together before God and His word - and would you read with me Revelation 22:8-21:
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 brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
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.”
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing My recompense with Me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
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. Outsider are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
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, 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.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Several years ago I started taking pictures of the gravestones of our family and friends. In part because these graves are scattered all over the place and probably some of them we’ll never have the opportunity to visit again.
This is a picture of my grandfather’s gravestone in Oakland. My dad’s father - who came to this country to escape persecution and slaughter by the Turks. And who was later murdered outside of his tailor shop in downtown Oakland.
My dad was about 1 1/2 years old at the time. My aunt was a couple months old. My grandmother remarried so we have the family name of Muncherian. Even though - a bit of family trivia - my father was never adopted. Meaning my last name really should be Pesendian.
This is the gravestone of my parents in Mountain View. Many of you knew mom. Some of you were at her funeral.
The pictures I’ve taken - like the gravestones - are locations to remember people’s lives and the relationships we’ve had. Meaning that a graveyard - standing amongst the dead - is a really good place to think about life. Thinking about death puts life into perspective.
What we see as so permanent - so enduring… isn’t.
Remember Kansas? I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone. Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky…. All we are is dust in the wind.
According to Revelation - even the earth and sky don’t last forever.
A.W. Tozer said: The church is constantly being tempted to accept this world as her home… but if she is wise she will consider that she stands in the valley between the mountain peaks of eternity past and eternity to come. The past is gone forever and the present is passing as swift as the shadow on the sundial of Ahaz. Even if the earth should continue a million years not one of us could stay to enjoy it. We do well to think of the long tomorrow. (1)
The revelation given to John invites us into a vision of eternity and the interlude of history that we live in. To contemplate what it is that God is doing in the brevity this heaven and earth - and the brevity of our own time here in the valley between the mountains of eternity - and to invite us to focus our lives on the forever to come.
As we’ve studied from Genesis to Revelation - we’ve seen God at work through that history - relentlessly and purposefully redeeming us from the disaster of our sin - Jesus and His work on the cross being central to all of that. And God inviting us to relationship with Him. Even giving us a glimpse of what that forever relationship with Him will be like.
That’s the invitation that these verses we’ve read - here in Revelation 22 - what these verses bring us to focus on. What really endures and what does not. And as we unpack these verses - we have the opportunity to consider the invitation that God is giving to us and - most crucially - to consider how we are responding to God’s invitation.
John begins - in verses 8 to 11 - with his personal testimony.
John tells us that he himself is the one who heard and saw the vision. What’s here is John’s first hand account of what he himself saw.
John tells us - understandably overwhelmed at what he’s seen - John falls down and worships the angel who’s been leading John through this revelation.
The angel rebukes John. “Don’t do that. Only God is worthy of worship. I’m just the messenger.”
John who’d been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry. Who was one of three of Jesus’ inner circle disciples. John who had heard Jesus. Seen Jesus. Touched Jesus. Followed Jesus. Watched Jesus. Pressed into and had deep fellowship with Jesus.
John who has endured persecution and attempted martyrdom as he followed Jesus. Who alone - out of the original apostles - John alone is left. Exiled to the island of Patmos.
John who’s testimony and example is known to the church. John has cred. Which isn’t about John but about how God desires to use John our brother and fellow servant - how God desires to use John for God’s glory alone.
John is given this revelation to pass on to the church - and through the church - even to us.
John is giving personal testimony. This revelation is true. I saw it with my own eyes. It’s God opening up what He’s been doing and where He’s going and about God inviting us to press into Him - to come to Him through Jesus.
Recorded in verse 10, the angel adds encouragement and sobriety to the testimony.
Don’t seal up the words of the prophecy. Daniel was told to seal up his prophecy for the end of time. Time that was way distant future. But John needs to share what he’s been shown because the end is near. The relevancy is now.
This is revelation was needed in the first century. It’s been needed throughout church history. We need to hear this today.
Then verse 11 adds what sounds really messed up. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
“Evil” is “evil” - what is morally wrong.
“Filth” translates a Greek word that graphically describes vomit and human excrement. It means being ceremonially unclean in the Old Testament Law and sacrifices way of being right with God - or not. A total disconnect with God and what allows someone access to God.
Evil and filthy are the total opposites of righteous and holy.
So at face value the angel seems to be saying that those who are doing evil should go right on doing evil and being filthy and that’s okay. And the righteous should go on being righteous and holy and that’s okay. Because the damned are damned and the righteous are righteous and that’s just the way it is.
Have you ever shared the gospel and prayed and prayed for unsaved friends and family who have died without trusting in Jesus as their Savior? And wondered why didn’t God save them? That can be kind of baffling, if not discouraging.
What’s here reminds us that - the invitation from God is there - with the urgency of the nearness of the end - death or Jesus coming back. But the issue isn’t the invitation it’s the response. The bottom line issue is the wickedness of the heart rejecting God - or not.
One of the big picture themes of Revelation is the nations in rebellion against God that persist in rebellion against God regardless of what God does to get their attention so that they repent and turn to Him.
That theme contrasts with those who have repented - and Jesus’ appeal to the 7 churches - and us - to the repentant to faithfully follow Him and gain victory over the evil and filth that runs rampant in the nations in rebellion against God.
Verse 11 is not meant to be fatalistic - like it must be this way. But it’s a sobering assessment of human history and of those who have no desire to be cleansed of their filth. They will persist in rebellion against God.
It’s been that way since John was given the revelation and that reality is relevant today.
Point being: Don’t seal the prophecy because the righteous need to understand that and not be discouraged. But be encouraged to deeper faith. To keep faithfully following.
What the righteous need to understand is that those in rebellion against God will persist in their rebellion. But that shouldn’t keep us from pursuing righteousness and holiness even when we’re getting hammered by the unrighteous and the world around us is sinking in filth and excrement.
So to the credibility of John’s witness is added the encouragement to persist in faith and following Jesus even in these days of evil and filth - what is human history - because everything that God showed John - everything God is about to do - He will do - and soon.
Verses 12 to 16 are Jesus’ affirmation of John’s testimony. Jesus backing John.
Jesus begins: “Behold,
Behold translates a Greek exclamation that basically means “Wake up and smell the coffee!” “Pay attention to this!” Consider it. Think about it. Don’t miss the significance of this.
Behold, I am coming soon,
“Soon” meaning “I will come.” “I must come.” What this revelation reveals will happen must soon take place. So be ready. Stay awake. Drink more coffee.
There’s a promise and a warning in what Jesus says that we need to pay attention to.
“Recompense” - some translations render it as “reward.” But, its more than a reward. The Greek word has the idea of getting what we deserve. Jesus coming and repaying everyone for what we’ve done.
Jesus here describes Himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Other places in Revelation that title is given to God. Here it applies to Jesus. Jesus is the one true God. Jesus rules over history. He is the creator.
Meaning that Jesus has the power and authority to recompense us based on what we’ve done - to make good on His promise of future reward and His warning of coming punishment. And He will do that… soon.
Jesus - expanding on that truth - Jesus goes on in verse 14 with the last of the 7 blessings in Revelation. Which are up on the screen. Without going through all of those let me suggest two relevant observations.
First - there’s 7 blessings. The number 7 gets used over and over in Revelation - 55 times. Which is most probably significant. We’ve talked about the number 7 in Scripture symbolically meaning... fullness and completeness.
Second - each of these blessings relates forward to future reward that’s promised to believers - the joy and happiness they’ll experience after being tested. Going through all that drama and persecution as they’re choosing to follow Jesus.
Pulling that together - those who follow Jesus - who have washed their robes in the blood of Jesus - who have stayed pure and faithful even in the midst of the worst the rebellious nations can throw up at us - when Jesus comes back - soon - they will receive the fullness and completeness of the God promised and God given life joy and happiness now and forever.
In contrast - verse 15 - are the dogs - think wild dogs running in packs - violent - dangerous - evil - and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and everyone else who loves and practices what is perverse and impious and deceitful.
When Jesus soon returns they will receive their just recompense. But, they won’t be blessed. They won’t be in the new Jerusalem. They all won’t be there because they all will be in the Lake of Fire. Judgement and punishment.
Then Jesus affirms what we saw in chapter 1 verse 1. God gave the revelation to Jesus who gave the revelation to the angel to give to John who gave it - unsealed - to the churches and through the church - by the preserving work of the Holy Spirit - this revelation has come to us.
The what and how of that we’re only given a glimpse of. But the point is Jesus’ affirmation that what John is saying is what Jesus wants us to understand about what God is doing. So drink more coffee and be awake. Pay attention. Behold. Soon.
Jesus says that He is the root of David. And as the Root of David. Jesus is not only of the Tribe of Judah - with all that implies of Jacob’s blessing and the fulfilling God’s promise of Judah’s royal Davidic line and the Messiah coming to restore David’s dynasty - forever. But, Jesus is the root - the very source of that eternal dynasty.
Jesus says that He is the bright morning star. Which ties back to Numbers 24:17 which prophesies, “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” which will crush God’s enemies.
The two titles emphasize a major theme in Revelation that Jesus will return to defeat the enemies of God and to rule and reign forever.
And the promise in that for us is that as Jesus is victorious God’s people - us - we will be vindicated and victorious. Resurrected and returning Jesus is the hope of all of God’s people who will dwell in God’s kingdom forever. Jesus who is our hope. He wins. We win.
Jesus is affirming - not only John as the messenger - but also the message - that we need to pay attention to - be alert and respond to - because all of this must soon take place.
Verse 17 is our invitation.
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 key word is… “Come.” Which in the original Greek means… “Come.” It’s in the imperative and its aorist. Meaning its a command to come and to coming. Not just one and done salvation experience. But a coming that is integral to who you are. Make it your ongoing heart level response to God to come to Him and to keep coming ever closer to Him.
The invitation comes from the Holy Spirit Who convicts of sin and calls us to repentance and salvation. The Holy Spirit Who regenerates believers - making us to be spiritually alive towards God. The Holy Spirit who empowers and enlightens and enables us to live in faithful obedience to God and Who seals us for eternal life with God forever.
The Holy Spirit Who - in chapters 2 and 3 - speaks to the churches - speaking through this revelation to the churches - even to us.
The Holy Spirit Who invites us to come. To come to life in Christ with God now and forever.
And the invitation comes from the Bride. Who is… us. The church. Those who have heard the revelation and who have come and who invite others. Which is why we are here on G Street and the greater Merced metroplex. To invite others to come to life in Christ with God now and forever.
To invite the spiritually thirsty to come. And there are a lot of thirsty people here in Merced. And not just here. Yes?
To respond to the invitation is to give our life to Jesus in order to receive the fulness of abundant life that He offers to each one of us. He is our Lord. He is our Savior. He is God. He alone is able to satisfy the thirst of our souls. The ache in our hearts. Let those who are thirsty come and drink of the water of life that is freely given by God’s grace.
Then in verse 18 - as the book concludes - Jesus warns against adding or subtracting from the book. Don’t change anything. Don’t alter anything.
Who would? But people do. They read into what’s here, what isn’t here.
Locusts become helicopters and meteors become ICBMs and all those days and years become an exact unalterable timetable of future history and whoever is head of some evil empire must be the antichrist and for sure the Roman Church is the whore of Babylon and on and on they go.
Yes - what’s symbolic requires interpretation if we’re going to understand what the meaning is and the application. But way too many people - even well meaning people - have emphasized the symbolic at the expense of the literal.
Understand it’s significance and very soberly - consider your response to God’s invitation.
Verse 20: He [Jesus] who testifies to these things says - Who witnesses to - Who verifies - notarizes - gives His stamp of approval to this revelation - Jesus Himself - says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
One of the key themes of this revelation that gets emphasized over and over again. What believers have longed for - lived by - desired to see since the beginning of the church - is that Jesus might come back during their lifetime.
What theologians call the immanent return of Jesus. Jesus is at the door. Waiting for the “Go” from God the Father - to come.
Our Creekside Statement of Faith - Article 9 - states our belief that: “The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.”
History is short - shorter today. There is an urgency to our response of faith and following.
John adds his own affirmation: “Amen!” And a prayer that is echoed by every believer: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Doesn’t that resonate with you?
Can we affirm that with John? “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
That is our invitation to Jesus. Come. Come soon. Amen. May it be so.
Finally, verse 21 is John’s benediction.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Isn’t it appropriate that this revelation - and the New Testament as it’s been arranged - that - in fact the Bible - ends with this benediction of grace coming from the Lord Jesus. Grace that comes - not from some abstract deity - some god who exists detached and unconcerned with the issues of creation - us.
But grace that flows from Jesus. Jesus Who is the means of God’s grace extended to us on the cross. Jesus in Whom is our only hope. Jesus Who is the giver of the water of life. Who alone can satisfy our deepest needs and desires.
Jesus Who stands in the midst of the churches - His church - very much aware of their spiritual condition - our spiritual condition and what we’re up against. Jesus who appeals to us - Who invites us to follow Him.
Processing all that…
This is a painting by Ron DiCianni - who’s a Christian artist - who for 25 plus years had been using his God given talents to share the Gospel and inspire followers of Jesus to follow Jesus.
This painting is entitled “Safely Home.” It focuses on the moment when the believer is welcomed by Jesus into eternity with God.
With your eyes - move with me through the painting.
First, notice the man. His clothing is really messed up - worn and torn. His arms hang limply at his side. He seems both exhausted and relieved.
He’s walked down a blood-red entry carpet that has led him to the foot of a throne. Where he kneels and his head rests on the chest of Jesus. And there he is freed of pain and suffering.
Then notice Jesus.
Jesus Who is the King of kings and Lord of lords - the Creator of everything. Jesus Who - in the painting - is revealed in His humanity. Jesus Who has come down from His throne - kneeled down - and holds the man in a loving embrace.
Then - to the right of the man - notice the shackles. On earth he’s been bound. In his right hand he holds a crown. He’s been a martyr.
This man has lived out the often brutal reality of what revelation tells us may be the cost of following Jesus.
To this man - to faithfully follow Jesus - to obey and serve - with all of who he is - that to him was more important than trying to hang on to the temporal - what seems so enduring to us between the valleys - stuff and circumstances of this life.
Then, notice what may be the most powerful part of the painting.
Look at the expression on Jesus’ face. Jesus gets it. He’s feeling the moment. He’s feeling the man. Jesus’ face radiates compassion and approval. His nail-scarred hands embracing and drawing this martyr to Himself. That’s love.
The intimacy of that embrace is overwhelming to process.
We tracking? The man - who has endured so much - the man is safely home.
His guardian angel stands to the side. The man is forever beyond the reach of the drama and death and crud of what this life throws up at us - even our own penchant towards the self-destructiveness of sin.
He has passed from death into life to be welcomed into eternity by the loving embrace of his Savior. Our Savior.
Well… that’s only a painting. What’s coming is way beyond description.
John testifies of it. Jesus affirms it. We are invited to it.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ - repentant of your sin and by faith following Him through life - we may be suffering under the weight of the world - with great pains and losses - but when we respond to God’s invitation that’s what’s promised to us. And it only gets better.
Don’t let what seems so enduring today rob you of the joy of focusing on tomorrow. And let that promise of what’s coming - the hope of that - let God use that to give you strength and encourage you for today.
If you are not yet a follower of Jesus - if you have not yet responded to His invitation to life because of Jesus - you need to talk to God. Or come talk to me after the service.
Time is shorter than you think. Than any of us think.
1. A.W. Tozer, Born After Midnight (Harrisburg, PA, Christian Publications, Inc, 1959), page 107 - cited by Randy Alcorn, In Light of Eternity (Colorado Springs, CO, Waterbrook Press, 1999), page160
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.