O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Book of Revelation: Worshipping with All of Heaven Part IV - Physically Restored
The Book of Revelation: Worshipping with All of Heaven Part IV - Physically Restored
Based on Rev. 21:1-7
Preached on April 28, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, have you ever been at that point - where you need to see God? Where you are so tired, or so weak or so overwhelmed that you just wish God would show Himself to you and make it all better? You know what I'm talking about, don't you? You are thirsty. Thirsty for God and His righteousness. Thirsty for something good. The brokenness of your life overcomes you and you want to see that God's goodness, His holiness and power are really there. Really with you. Your dry, parched mouth needs only the tiniest drop of water. And you even catch yourself praying this way, 'Lord, if you just show yourself to me this once, then I'll know, then my faith will be strong enough.' You begin to tell God how faith works, because after all, He doesn't know. You presume to teach Him what you need and how He ought to help you, because in that moment of thirst you have suddenly become an expert in matters of faith. Show us your righteousness Lord. End this thirst.
This was certainly the way the early Church would have felt under the heavy hand of Roman rule, hiding in their homes whenever they worshipped, looking over their shoulder for the soldier to come and haul them away for their faith in Christ. They needed to see God. They were thirsty for His righteousness. Dry and dehydrated in a spiritual desert of godlessness and evil.
But the vision didn't come to each of them, every individual getting what they needed for themselves, but only to the apostle John for the comfort of the Church as a whole. To God's chosen and sent apostle, one the Church would trust, that He might share the Revelation with us all. For it explains everything, this Revelation, from problem to solution, the reason we can't see God, and the glorious thing God has done to get us through this drought to His Promised Land. Look with John at what God has revealed.
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. John saw a new creation. A new heaven and earth created by God for His people. This current corrupted creation had passed away. It had died, and a new one was created in Christ.
Let me say that again. This current corrupted creation had died. Now this is significant, because as far as I can tell by looking around we haven't died yet, at least not our bodies. Our sinful flesh still lives.
And so we thirst. Our souls have been made new, born of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism, now righteous and pure in Christ. Yet our bodies are not a new creation yet, they are part of this same old sinful creation that Christ will make new on the Last Day. St. Paul writes, "For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." We thirst - we groan inwardly because this new creation God has made us in Christ lives in sinful flesh. Like a butterfly longing to burst forth from its chrysalis. A holy soul trapped in an unholy body. 100% sinner. 100% saint. Our soul knows we should be able to see God, but our body of sin blinds us. Our soul longs to feel God, touch Him, see Him, but our physical senses are still part of the old creation.
Look dearest Christian, you who thirst, writes John, the old creation is passing away along with your sinful desires. Even the sea is no more. What?!? The sea is no more? But I really like the sea. No, this doesn't mean there will be no water in the new creation. Rest assured there will be plenty of water. John gives us another one of his Revelation pictures here. The sea. The sea is a picture of where evil dwelled. Do you remember the account of Jesus walking on the water? This wasn't supposed to be some sort of cheap party trick - hey look, Jesus can walk on water, he must be special or something. No, this was a demonstration of His dominance over all evil, over all His enemies, all the false gods and things people feared. He put all His enemies under His feet as He walked, and here in John's vision all that evil is no more. It has no place in the new creation, not even in your body.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And you thought you were only one longing to see holy things, the only one thirsting? Does Christ not ache to see His bride? Does He not yearn to be with you? This is the picture. The holy people of God, this new Jerusalem, this bride, finally coming to be with her waiting husband. He has died for her. He has purified her with His own blood that she may live with Him forever. He has made her new, and He longs to look upon her. Christ wants to see you, even as you want to see Him. He wants to see you free from this old creation, adorned in righteousness in both body and soul. And that is what He will see. Yet with you, He yearns for it now.
But even though both husband and bride are waiting, even though we thirst for God in the sinfulness of our flesh, He is still able to show us His righteousness. He is still able to give us something physical to touch and see. He knows our human need, so He gives us His Holy Sacraments. He joins His powerful Word to physical elements that we can touch and see, and promises He is there in those elements. Water, Bread and Wine. Baptism and the Lord's Supper. No, you can't see His presence, you can't hear its beat or feel its warmth, but you can be certain it is there. Your newborn soul knows He is there with you by faith, even physically. For that is His promise. Your sinful flesh could never be with a holy God, so Christ comes down to meet you in your flesh in His Holy Sacraments, to touch your flesh with His Word - to give your eyes something to see and know He is there, that His Word is there for you - to satisfy your thirst, to pour His goodness upon you. Even until that day when you stand glorified in His physical presence, Christ will keep your thirst at bay with His Word and Sacrament.
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 with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." John cannot tell us all that He sees in the new creation. For it is beyond telling. It is too great for his eyes, too lofty for our earthly minds. But He can tell us what He does not see there. He can tell us what things have passed away.
The former things. Mourning, crying, pain. They have died. Even death has died. Passed away when our bodies were resurrected new on the Last Day. Gone are the things that keep us from physically experiencing God's presence, from seeing and touching and feeling Him. Gone is the thirst. For the bodies of all God's people will be raised perfect. Heavenly. Yes, I know its hard to believe. The world has done a really good job of telling you how terrible your body is, but God promises you it will be perfect. He says, "Behold, I am making all things new."
No more violence, no more trouble or stress. Nothing unclean or out of place. For God is making it new. All of creation, even you. You will be fresh, new and ready for all of eternity.
And if these incredibly good promises were not enough, here is the best part, your Lord says to you, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment." There is absolutely nothing for you to do to get this free gift. No expectations. No conditions, for it has already been purchased for you. It has already been promised to you. For this Jesus, this God-man has already become the new creation by His humble birth and bloody death on the cross. He has already made God and man one forever in His own person. It is done! He is yours, given to you by the Father. Your thirsty mouth drinks from the spring of the water of life even now as you hear His Word. But the day will come when your body will match your spirit, and you will see your Saviour face to face. You will look into the eyes of the One who has made you new, and you will never thirst again. He really wants to see you. He has so much to show you. And He knows it is worth the wait. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr