Intimacy – Revelation 21:1-7
And there shall no longer be any death.
I was attending a fellow contractor’s funeral wondering if the minister would remind us that one day, death, mourning and pain will be past tense. As I recall, the good man did cover this and more.
I know travelogue is discouraged but I am not writing for commercial acclaim. I am just documenting for my family, what the trail looks like at this bend. Our passage today is about new things – a new heaven and a new earth. I am currently 62 and I must say as I get older new things (bodies for example) are rapidly gaining appeal! And…. in today’s passage, John – The Revelator saw a whopping, big new thing……
the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
Is this a metaphor? I have kind of hoped so. I am sure it will be stupendous but a massive cube of city descending from heaven has never inspired me. Since I am just finishing books about John Muir and John Coulter, I would prefer seeing a wilderness decending, not too unlike Muir’s beloved Yosemite, or Coulter’s Yellowstone, several galaxies cubed. Why not dream BIG! While real estate may not properly move me, I am very attracted to the idea of The Bride made ready. The revelation in chapter 21 is unfolding rapidly so I read on….
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,
As enamored as a paving contractor might be with gold streets, I was far more attracted to the fact that God is dwelling among his people. As we entertain this reality I pray we are not just saying something foolish like, “Ah yes, the sweet bye-and-bye, it will undoubtedly be an improvement over current circumstances; I shall look forward to that day off in the distance. I pray, ‘If all goes well, I shall someday see it’.” I suspect if my deceased associate (who is now outside of time) could, he would report back that, as he has discovered, no man’s end is really off in the distance; rather, in light of eternity, we are each, at best, moments away from our ultimate passage. This is surely why scripture reminds us…
today is the day of salvation.
This means for all of us, at all times, the hourglass is nearly empty. It is only a mirage that time appears to spread out before us like a never ending road. These are the dice most of us roll every day but it is a fool’s gamble to assume that since we did not die yesterday, we will not die today.
Back to the funeral. The Lake of Fire might be a handy sermon-incentive but I believe fear is ultimately a poor motivator for us to come as you are. Decisions made in fear do not typically lead to intimacy with God. These types of transactions are more like little insurance policies which may or may not pay the death benefit anticipated. It is much healthier that we would come to a divine Person because we are drawn by their loving incentives than because we are driven toward a rescue net by wrath-filled disincentives.
The question always at hand is; will we take Jesus at His Word when He says….
“I will give to anyone who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost?”
The wheeler-dealers of this world are going to radically undershoot heaven. While successful business dealings do not preclude heaven, perpetually investing one’s heart in the prospect of a temporal windfall will. A life grounded solely in time, motivated alone by profit will not qualify as the overcoming type of life which inherits eternity. Oh, if the minister only knew how many of us wheeler-dealers were present! He would surely remind us that missing heaven will have nothing to do with net worth or even the relative goodness or badness of a life. No, missing heaven will result exclusively from the fact that the timeless One had not reigned in that heart during its time.
He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.
That some believed evidence of God was scant, or that, even if it was adequate, he was unworthy of their attention, will not matter at the end when God wraps up the old business portion of this world’s agenda and pounds His gavel, closing the proceedings with these words…..
IT IS DONE! I am the ALPHA and OMEGA, the beginning and the end. My words are faithful and true.
After reading Revelation, we must allow that John was either hallucinogenic, a gifted charlatan, or a divine oracle. I’m betting on the latter. Even though scripture tells us that “eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and which has not yet entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him”, I see that God has in fact revealed at least some of that which he has prepared for us. And, I believe he intended this sufficient portion to penetrate and influence our hearts.
God permitted John, who was in a trance or a dream, to leak some of these things which, at the very least, stretch our hearts and minds in the right direction. The book of Revelation was given to us for the same reason all scripture was – to penetrate our hardened and deluded, time-bound hearts. God’s words, which are outside of time, have graciously overlapped us. His words, always spoken in love, invite us to partake of Him who is both living water and bread for life.
Here I go with some ministerial – Monday morning quarterbacking; If I were the officiating minister (and a contractor), I would say……
“I am sure it would be the desire of the deceased and his family for each of us to take this fleeting moment to consider; our relationship to time and to eternity; our relationship to the idols of this world and; most importantly, our relationship to the God of this world and the next. We contractors have been conditioned to think of life as a series of contracts, each with an alotted number of days to complete, each with their own unique incentive and disincentives. The similarities between our vocation and life are profound….
We too, as individuals, each have an allotted amount of time. However, in our contracts, we do not know exactly when the Owner will say, “Time’s up. It is finished“. We professional managers of time and risk must consider our lives from the Owner’s timeless perspective. He who is faithful and true is saying, “Today, this very moment, is all I have given you. You bargain drivers out there, understand this: receiving eternity as a gift is the best deal you will ever wheel.” I am sure our friend, who has gone before us, would encourage each of us, right now, to do business with the One to whom we will each ultimately give account.
I would then close in prayer…..
Father, may You continue to assault our time-driven illusions with Your eternal words. We shall pass… but your words will never pass away. Teach us to number our days that we may present to you hearts of wisdom. Teach us to embrace the unseen now so that one day we will be among those who overcame, enjoying a tearless, pain free, joy-filled eternity as a part of Your very own family. And….may you comfort the precious family of our friend who has gone before us. Amen.”