This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on February 14th, 2010. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Rev 21.
Rev.21 — THE PASSION OF GOD FOR HIS BRIDE
God is Passionate About His Bride.
vs. 1-5 God Has Taken Us as His Bride: Revelation 21 begins with a wedding scene. With the first heaven and earth passed away – the sea (which is the place out of which the beast and false prophet came), is gone – and all that was under a curse and which separated men from God, is gone.
The first thing, then that John sees is the processional – the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, beautifully dressed as a bride for her husband. The New Jerusalem is not a giant slab of concrete with spires and windows and doors and lawns – but it is the people (city) of God.
Immediately afterwards, In vs.3-5, the groom makes his Declaration of intent – so that we are being shown exactly what it will mean for Christ to be married to the church – what it means that we are the bride.
1. God’s intention is to “dwell” (to live and remain living), with human beings. To take them – the church – for his people and to be their God. In other words, the bride is to live in the unveiled presence of God – to see him face to face – to experience His glory and holiness – to live with his people and to make all things new (no more death or mourning or crying). He makes a point of telling John to write this down for others to see because his words are faithful and true.
2. God’s intention is to do away with – to personally address and wipe away – tears, sorrow, pain and death – to do away with the old, fallen order of things and to make all things new. Immortality is not merely re-animation, but a change in the whole order of things – both in the Creation and in our own bodies – as we will see.
Will You Take on Your Identity as the Bride? This image communicates what our salvation means to God from a positive view, just as the cross communicates it from a negative view. While the cross is a picture of disgrace and shame and the horror of our sin, and the lengths to which God was willing to go to overcome our sin… the Wedding is a picture of joy. The Wedding is a picture of longing and joy and anticipation and love.
These things communicate in a way that a doctrine or a mere statement never can, the love and longing of God for his people. The image of a wedding is not just a statement or teaching to be understood – it is an invitation to believe that God has set his love on those he has redeemed. If we believe that we are the longed for bride of Christ and that God is for us, then we will be drawn to, confident in, the one who loves us.
God is Passionate About Holiness and Faithfulness.
Vs.6-8 Rewards and Curses Show the Extent of His Passion: The extent of God’s response to the issue of faithfulness vs. unfaithfulness is further proof of God’s passion for his bride. For those who overcome and who are faithful, God offers Adoption, in which he calls them “Son”, and gives them an eternal inheritance. For those who thirst for righteousness, God offers the privilege of eternal life – being permitted to drink – without cost – from the spring of the water of life. These are amazing rewards.
On the other hand, God is not at all shy about expressing his hatred for sin. God hates it when we turn away from Him and his ways because of fear. God hates it when we reject him in unbelief. God hates vile, abominable behavior. God hates sexual immorality. God hates the occult. God hates it when we make something an idol that controls our life. God hates lies and falsehood. Those who practice and give themselves to these things will be eternally judged in the lake of fire – the second death.
Why is God so passionate about these things? Is he grumpy? No! Sin destroys the beauty and glory of the bride. Sin deceives us because it seems to be harmless and it seems to be something that we need – but sin is the cancer that eats away at us and distorts who we were meant to be.
Will You Turn to God for Help in Overcoming? Vs. 7-8, seem less gracious than what has come before. God wants us to be his bride, has committed himself to us- but now he wants us to overcome. It sounds like God is saying to us, do your best to stop sinning, and if you are successful, all will be well. If we look at these verses in this way, we can be in real danger of shifting our trust from grace to our own ability to be good people. Everything hinges on this question: What is an Overcomer?
An Overcomer is a person who continues to turn to God for help. An overcomer is not a person who learns to be sinless, but rather a person who learns to turn to God for grace and help in turning from sin and towards righteousness. God desires actual righteousness in our lives – but he does not desire that we should build a righteousness of our own through works of the Law, like those who, “…did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, [righteousness, because] they did not submit to God’s righteousness.“ — Rom.10:3 God’s desire is that we would turn away from these evil things and honor him by turning to him and asking for his help. That is because God is after this kind of relationship with us – to be our God – to help and bless us – so that we can experience his love, kindness and goodness.
So what does Overcoming look like, practically?
1. Asking God to create a thirst for righteousness in us
2 Asking God to help us to turn from sin.
3. Responding to the convictions that he puts in our hearts
4. Asking for and receiving grace when we fail – refusing to despair.
God Is Passionate About Restoring His Glory to Us.
God’s passion for holiness and faithfulness can only be fully understood in the context of the life and glory that we were made for – that we would be restored to be fully alive as we were intended to be.
Ezek.The Glory Returns: There is an OT background to vs.10-27. In Ezek. 43:5 & 44:2, the prophet is taken to a high mountain where he has a vision of the glory of the Lord (which had departed from the Temple, returning). This is incredibly important for Ezekiel because the Temple without the glory of the Lord, is just a building. If God is not in the Temple, then the people of Israel cannot worship God, there is no power to help them and their witness and very existence is pointless.
But in 43:5, after a scene in which an Angel appears and measures the Temple (CH.40-42 – a long and fairly boring scene), the glory of God returns, and the water of life begins to flow out of the Temple. In other words, God is showing Ezekiel that he is going ot return and bring life to the earth through the worship of his people.
The Bride Was Made to Be Beautiful and Glorious: You can read the book of Revelation as though God’s desire is to vent his anger and to destroy – focusing on judgment. up until Ch.21. Here it becomes clear that God’s desire is the glorious , restored beauty of his bride.
Living Jewels – notice the description of the bride – she shines with the glory of God and her brilliance is like that of a precious jewel. But these are not just regular precious jewels, they glow with life – with the glory of God which they are reflecting.
In other words, there is a light and a glory that will characterize the redeemed people of God. We see hints of it now – when we talk about a person’s face lighting up, or a person lighting up a room when they come in. But this picture of beauty and glory is much more than that. Somehow, we will be radiant and beautiful because we will live in the presence of God. Somehow we were made to reflect his glory – and because we are separated physically from God, because of sin, we do not and cannot reflect his glory. We were meant to shine like living jewels, but sin has made us dull stones. But God is passionate to recapture and restore the beauty we were made for.
Multi-faceted Glory – Even more than this – There are several clear statements that the bride will be made up of all nations – and that this will increase her beauty. First, vs.13, shows the 12 gates with the names of the tribes of Israel – pointing North, East, West and South – all directions – welcoming all nations. Second, in vs.19-20 describes 12 kinds of jewels – each with its different kind of glory – suggesting that there is something beautiful and glorious about different nations and their different expressions of faith in Christ. Then Vs.24-26 make these statements… “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.“.
God made the diversity of human beings with diverse cultures and expressions of worship, in order to add to the beauty and glory. We are not complete without one another – and we are not complete without other races and cultures. God is passionate about the diverse beauty of his bride.
The Bride Was Made to Be at Rest/Peace/Home: Finally, God is passionate about rest and peace – not laziness or inactivity – but the true rest of security and peace, in which nothing shameful or deceitful can assail his bride. The measurements of the city itself are odd and suggest unassailable security. Probably the strangest aspect of the city is that it is a cube – surrounded (whatever that can mean in regard to a cube), by a wall 220 feet thick. The cube is 1,365 miles long, high and wide. All of these things show that God’s passion is to live with us as his bride, in peace and security.
God is so passionate about rest that he makes 12 gates for the city – each made of a single pearl – and then leaves them open to show that there is no danger of sin, rebellion, death, harm, enemies. It is a delightful scene of peace and joyfulness.
Will You Passionately Wait and Look Forward to the Restoration of God’s Glory in You? We are invited this morning to comprehend the goodness and kindness of God – to see his plan for us and the glory that he longs to restore in us. If we truly understand the grace of God and the offer of glory, we ourselves can become passionate – can hunger and thirst for God, whose glory alone can restore us.
This morning, ask God to help you understand and to put in you a hunger for this glory that will be revealed in those he loves – his bride.