Worship Theme: Faith Is Sure that the Best Is Yet to Come
Sermon Theme: What Joy to Join the Chorus
Jesus wants us to find strength and comfort in him, and most of all, Jesus wants to give us certain hope that will carry us through all our suffering to the End. As revealed in Revelation 22:1-5, Jesus gave to John and gives to us the hope of “Paradise Restored.” November 6, 2022.
Another night lying awake. Another night staring into the darkness. Who could close their eyes when your mind is racing like a Nascar driver? Who could relax when joints are throbbing in swollen pain and burning muscle knots send shooting jolts up and down your back? Who could sleep with so much going on? Wickedness around every corner. Christians squeezed in the vice grips of worldly pressure and persecution. God’s Word trampled on by public opinion like it’s some kind of joke. Who could rest in such a circumstance? Who could find any peace or comfort or hope?
We can only imagine the agony in the anxious heart of John. By this point, he had been through so much in life. It was about the year 90 A.D., and Jesus had been visibly gone for almost 60 years now. John had seen the highs of days like Pentecost, when more than 3,000 came to faith, and the gospel spreading like wildfire toward the ends of the earth.
But John had also seen some terrible lows, like his brother James who was the first apostle killed. It had been about 45 years since his death. Actually, John had lived through the death of all the apostles, including Peter who was crucified upside down and Paul who was beheaded, both about 25 years before this. He was now the last apostle standing. John had seen false teachings and lies spring up like weeds Satan was using to try and strangle and mangle the truth. He saw immorality all around him, corruption in politics, and so much evil. But most recently, it was the persecution that was flaring up again under Roman emperor Domitian that poured salt in the wounds as John was exiled to the island of Patmos.
Now an old man with a body weathered by life and a heart worn by troubles, what was John to do? There was so much personal pain, so much suffering for fellow Christians, so much evil, corruption, wickedness, and he really couldn’t do much about it stuck in exile. How could he have any peace comfort, or hope?
Then, suddenly, an angel appeared. An angel came with a message directly from Jesus Christ to soothe John’s weary soul and to bring comfort to suffering Christians. We know this message as Revelation. It’s the Revelation of Jesus Christ to his Church, a fantastic message filled with pictures and imagery to help us understand in a vivid way what’s going to happen. It’s almost like looking at a painting, or watching a movie unfold. Through all these visions and images, the Lord wants his people to know about what’s going to happen in the End Times and what’s going to happen at the very End, on Judgment Day. Jesus wants us to find strength and comfort in him, and most of all, Jesus wants to give us certain hope that will carry us through all our suffering to the End. And so, Jesus gave to John and gives to us the hope of Paradise Restored.
Of course, if we’re going to talk about Paradise at the End of all time, we probably should start back with Paradise at the beginning of all time. Maybe you remember the repeated refrain in Genesis when God created this universe. God created something, “and it was good . . . and it was good . . . and it was very good.” Everything was perfectly good in the beginning. Imagine that! No paper cuts! No stubbing your toe on the bed frame. No spilled coffee on your new shirt. No hurricanes. No snow storms. No long lines or grumpy people at the DMV. No body aches, no COVID, no cancer.
But best of all, Adam and Eve were made in God’s image and likeness, meaning that they had no sin. Imagine that! No arguments. No fighting over the remote control or doing the laundry. No lies or greed or lust. No hurt feelings or shame or embarrassment. How magnificent!
You might also remember the beautiful scenery of this paradise called the Garden of Eden. Water running through it. Trees bearing fruit (like the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). And God freely walking among his people because their relationship with him was perfect and there was no such thing as fear of God. Perfection! Peace! Paradise!
But all that was lost with one bite into that slithering snake Satan’s lies as they tasted the fruit that God had forbidden. Instantly there was shame and embarrassment and blame highlighting a broken relationship between Adam and Eve. Instantly there was guilt and fear because of a broken relationship with God. That’s when God announced the damage that was done, the curse of sin. The curse of sin would bring pain and hard, toiling labor, broken relationships, and worst of all, death. As Adam and Eve left Eden, perfection, peace, and paradise were left behind, too.
Ever since that moment of leaving the Garden, humans have been searching for some kind of paradise. Maybe if I have enough money . . . maybe if I build a big enough house . . . maybe if I accomplish enough things . . . maybe if I cross off items on my bucket list or go on dream vacations or Disney cruises . . . maybe then I’ll be happy. But money disappears and homes have flooded basements and leaky roofs. Accomplishments get outdone by other people and are quickly forgotten. Vacations are marred by sunburn, sea sickness, food poisoning, and whiny kids.
Well maybe this person will make me happy . . . but then the best friend betrays trust . . . the amazing homecoming date dumps her boyfriend . . . the star-crossed lovers become fighting exes . . . the happy marriage turns to hateful divorce.
Well maybe there’s just pain in this world and we have to deal with it. So maybe I can cope with fame . . . with popularity . . . with influence . . .with partying . . . with a good hobby . . . with funny YouTube videos . . . with the things I do or experience or buy. Maybe those things will make me happy.
Friends, why do we keep biting the fruit? Why do we keep believing Satan’s same lie? The devil tempted Adam and Eve with the allure that there was something better than the paradise God had given them, and he still tempts us today that we can find paradise in anything and everything of this world besides what God offers us. Let’s set the record straight here—Adam and Eve’s sin led to nothing but pain, sadness, and ultimately death—and so does ours. Any and every worldly allure will only lead us further into suffering, further into sadness, and further away from God.
Praise be to God that he is a God whose mercies are new every morning. We have a God who does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities, as the Psalm writer says. The gracious God who created a perfect universe and gave paradise to his crown jewel, humankind, still wants us to enjoy paradise with him. And praise be to God that he knew exactly how to do that.
So, God made a promise to Adam and Eve that he would send someone to crush that snake Satan. Some Bible commentators much wiser than I have said the rest of the Bible is nothing more than a commentary on how God made good on that first promise in Genesis. From generation-to-generation God carried forward that promise, sometimes expanding on it and revealing more details about it. Year after year, century after century, God’s people clung to the promise and waited for that Savior.
Then finally he came. And what unexpected joy to find out that God didn’t send a military hero, a superstar athlete, or a Marvel Avenger. He sent his own Son. Yes, God himself came here to fix the problem, because only the One who lives perfectly in paradise would be able to give paradise back to those who lost it.
So, Jesus set aside the glory of heaven to enter the muck and mire of our fallen world. He trudged through the temptations and slogged through the suffering. But he never lost focus with worldly things. He never stepped out of line with his Father’s will. He lived with perfection so that he could give back perfection.
But there was also that dreaded curse of sin to deal with, the curse that “the wages of sin is death.” So, Jesus took that curse upon himself, too. He took up every sin of every person onto his shoulders—from Adam and Eve to you and me. He took the wrath of a holy God against all sinners and suffered the fateful doom of death and hell that each of us deserve.
The opposite of paradise with God is hell without God, and Jesus went there and back for you. He offered himself to buy you back, to pull you out of the depths of hell so that you could once more have the hope of paradise. And if that seems too good to be true, just look at the empty tomb and know—it is true! Where there was sin, there is now forgiveness. Where there was guilt, there is now righteousness. Where there was death, there is now life. And all of that is yours. Just as God freely and graciously gave a perfect paradise to Adam and Eve, so now God has freely and graciously given back a perfect paradise to us through Jesus Christ.
Friends, this is our hope. This is our comfort. This is our strength. This is our peace. As we suffer through problem and pain, pressure and persecution, as we bear sadness, sorrow, and grief, we can be reminded that this world is not Eden. This is not paradise. But what great news! We have Paradise Restored in Jesus Christ.
That was the message the angel brought to the apostle John in the Revelation of Jesus. This is the message of comfort that we find in Revelation. And so, as we started in Eden, in paradise, in the beginning in Genesis, so now we can turn our attention to the very end. We turn today to the very end of the Bible as God gives us just a glimpse, a taste, of what is waiting for us in Paradise Restored at the end. Let’s look at Revelation 22 together. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
You may already note the perfect parallels to the Garden of Eden. We have the water flowing, just like in Eden. But this water is clear as crystal, reminding us of the calm, peace, and perfection of heaven. And this water doesn’t come from somewhere in ancient northwest Mesopotamia, it flows from the throne of God and the Lamb who was slain, Jesus Christ. We are reminded how Jesus tells us that he offers springs of living water.
We see in this paradise the tree of life making a return, but interestingly no tree of knowledge of good and evil. There’s only life in heaven. No possibility of falling and death again. And this tree of life offers 12 crops of fruit, one for each month to remind us that the blessings of life with God are ongoing and will have no end. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Imagine that! Every wound, every restless mind, every broken heart finds perfect healing in heaven. The vision continues: “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
That curse of sin—gone. No more hard, burdensome labor—only serving God in joy. No more hiding from God in fear—only seeing him face to face in awe and wonder, marked with his name just as we were first marked in his name at our baptism. No more darkness because the Light of the world will illumine our lives eternally. And no more end to joy because we will reign with him for ever and ever.
What puts you on Patmos in exile with John? The aches and pains of aging? Personal problems and suffering? The vice grips of pressure and persecution in the world? The evil, corruption, and wickedness around us? Or is it just the hurt of the curse of sin? Dear Christian, join John, and take a look. Catch a glimpse of what God has in store for you. Look at the vision of what God is giving back to his dear people. Soak up the sights, because this is your strength. This is your comfort. This is your peace. This is your heaven. This is Paradise Restored, and this is yours in Christ Jesus.
So, we join John in his last words of Revelation and the last words in the Bible. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Amen
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