Revelation 22: 20-21 (Easter 7 -2016)
“Come Soon, Lord Jesus!”
Is this your daily prayer? “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, soon, as you have promised.” If so, ask yourself, “Why?” Is it because Jesus has promised it, or because the world has become much too much to bear? Or is it a little of both? How much do we look forward to heaven? What circumstances last led you to that prayer?
As the Ascended Lord closes his Revelation to John, and consequently his written Word to us, he reminds us that he will come back. He promises that every ounce of his now finished book is true. He “testifies to these things.” Now it is done. If a person had set out to read the Bible cover to cover and reached these final verses, what might the reaction be? Is that all? Is this how it all ends? Where is the conclusion? Where is the resolution in such a dissonant chord? Perhaps an unsuspecting soul would be looking for one more book to explain how this all comes to fruition. Where is the happy ending that is promised to those who are faithful? Tell me all about Heaven and Hell. I want to know more … then, coming-to-the-senses, we close the Book and say, “No Lord, I don’t want to know more! Come, Lord Jesus! Come, and soon, as you have promised!”
But his testimony is completely clear: God has created the world and everything in it. Mankind and Creation as a whole have fallen completely into sin. The creation groans and begs for its destruction. By grace and promise God has sent his Son to redeem the world from its sinful fall. Heaven now waits for those who trust in his Son. Christ has died! Christ has risen! Christ will come again!
This Christ Jesus says: in this world you will have trouble. This Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men hate you because of me.” This Jesus says, “Whoever wants to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Our Jesus says, “Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life.” We sense that living in the world of sin was no picnic. But for those who bear his name, a new degree of trials and grief characterize our daily lives. A menu of hurts accompanies us each day:
We feel guilty about sin. We are troubled about repeating temptations. We are plagued with a keen sense about our enemy the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion. We find that living under the cross means living with the sufferings of Jesus. We are hated by those who hate God’s Word and God’s Son. We are loved for doing the wrong thing. We are mocked for doing the right thing. We have trouble explaining the truth to those who twist it around to say something it doesn’t say. We lose friends. We avoid certain conversations even at our own family table and among Christian friends.
To the world, and sometimes to us, the Church of believers seems so broken. There is never enough enthusiasm. There is never enough volunteerism. There is never enough financial support. There is too much disagreement and infighting. There aren’t enough new people. The new people that do come take my piece of the “kingdom pie” away from me – they sit in my pew and volunteer for my pet projects. It seems we never realize true happiness in the kingdom. With a scornful wonder the world sees Her oppressed by schisms rent asunder by heresies oppressed. That is the judgment we too often have placed on ourselves. Come, Lord Jesus, and soon, as you have promised!
Of course there is the other alternative. There is that welcomed satanic voice that says, “You wouldn’t have all these problems if you were not so intent on reaching out with this Jesus and his supposed truth. You wouldn’t have growing pains, if you kept this little secrete for yourselves. You wouldn’t be mocked for your faith if no one came to hear about your confession. You wouldn’t such obligation to the Word if you stopped learning so much about it. Cuddle up to the cozy calm of ‘nothing-happens-in-our-little-church.’ Nothing bad or dangerous happens if you stay away from the “faithfulness” edge to which the Lord Jesus calls you.
Perhaps, we think, the Lord Jesus will come sooner than we think, so soon we won’t have to feel guilty about our apathy to his calling of us to make disciples of all nations. Perhaps he will come and relieve us from our daily effort to hide our deepest secrets. Amen! Come, Lord Jesus, and soon, as you have promised! Will we then suppose to be like the servant who said, “Here is your talent back, I never lost it … but I never used it either.” Do we remember that he was the servant that the Master rebuked?!
But there is the more godly thought in the final conversation between Jesus and John on the Island of Patmos. Remember that this book included seven letters to seven churches. Remember that the Lord, who said that he was coming again, said that he once was dead, but is now alive. Remember that his purpose for John was to tell the churches to continue in their faithful work here on earth. He will come back, but he hasn’t yet! Remember that Savior who pictured himself as a radiant King who held the very souls of those seven churches in the palm of his nail-pierced hands. Remember the Easter Shepherd who tells his Father, “I have not lost one those you have given me.” Remember the Lamb who sits on the throne of his Father, who pleads for our good and our spiritual blessing. He has purchased and won us from all sin, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy precious blood and with his innocent sufferings in death.
That Jesus, who is coming soon, says “Go!” There is work to be done while it is day. There is comfort in knowing that he has overcome the world! There is comfort in knowing that he sits upon and above every dominion and authority! There is courage in knowing that his enemies are his footstool! There is courage in knowing that the gates of hell cannot overcome his communion of saints! There is great joy in knowing that his blood has washed away our stains, and with those sinful stains, he also drowns our fears and apprehensions. He cleanses us of “poor me” attitudes. He creates in us new hearts and new lives that rise to live before him in holiness and righteousness. It is certainly true that the “grace of the Lord Jesus is with God’s people.”
How shall believers spend their remaining time? Peter begs the question, “What kind of people ought you to be?” His answer - and Paul’s - in all their letters is clear: You ought to live lives worthy of the gospel to which you have been called. That bright communion of saints will not hide Christ and his light of truth under the bowl of selfishness and laziness. It will indeed be glad to shine it for all to see, and for all to hear, and for all to be welcomed by the same Savior whose arms were long enough to save us! It is that communion of saints that is glad to pray: “Come, Lord Jesus, and soon as you have promised!” – not because it lives in fear, but because it lives in the joy and confidence that heaven is our home. Till with the vision glorious Her longings eyes are blest and the great Church victorious shall be the Church at Rest!
Yes, come, Lord Jesus, be our guest!
Come and take us to that rest. And soon as you have promised! Amen.