Sunday 8 November 2020
Remembering the future
Revelation 21:1-5, 15-17, 22-22:5
Context: an evangelical Baptist Church of 80 adults, predominantly white-middle class and 50+ years of age (but with other ages also present) in a south-eastern sea-side town
Aim: to offer a different focus for Remembrance Sunday - God’s promised future - in response to the recent global ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests
A VISION FOR OUR TIMES
When news broke of the death of George Floyd few of us could have imagined the repercussions it would have, not only in the USA, but across much of the Western World. It was the spark that ignited into flame issues that had been smouldering below the surface of society for generations. One such issue was how we remember and honour the past. Many of our cultural heroes, it was said, had another side to their stories that was seldom acknowledged.
One solution that the Scripture offers us to this challenge is to remember the future instead. Remembering the future may seem a strange idea, but such is the faithfulness and power of God that anything He has promised in His Word may be taken as being as sure and certain a part of history as any event that has already transpired.
Here in Revelation the apostle John is given such a glimpse of the future. This vision has served as a hope to countless Christians down through history and it can provide such a hope to us today. In many ways it is the world that so many people are longing for.
A DIFFERENT TYPE OF CITY
1. Room for Everyone. Firstly, in chapter 21 John sees the heavenly city descending from heaven. Many have wondered at the strange description of its cube-like dimensions (21:15-17). One explanation is that if you had laid a city that large on any map of the day it would have covered all the known world. In other words, the vision John sees is of a city that is big enough for anyone and everyone. No one need be excluded from the safety and belonging that God’s new city offers.
2. Everyone Belongs As They Are. In chapter 7 John sees the multitude that no-one can count or number. They are drawn, he says, from every nation, tribe, and tongue. They worship God together before His throne. Thus, in the fullness of God’s Kingdom the very things that so often divide people here on earth are the things that enrich and deepen our worship in glory. Every tongue, every tribe, every nation has something unique to offer.
3. Intimacy with God. That may seem a strange term to use but there is no other way to describe it. Five times in one verse (21:3) we are told in different ways that God is with us and we with God. Not only so, but in one of the most comforting verses in all the Bible, we are told that He will wipe every tear from our eyes.
4. A True New Order. We have heard many calls lately about the need for a new order of things. Here in 21:4-5 we are promised what we are looking for. God announces that He is making everything new, the old order has passed away, and there will be no more suffering, no more death, no more pain.
5. Hope for the Nations. Often, we think of heaven in purely individual and personal terms. However, God also has an eye on the nations themselves. In 22:2 we are told that the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations, in 21:24 that the nations will walk by God’s light, and in verses 24 and 26 that the splendour of kings and nations will be brought into the city.
6. God is at the Centre. Throughout John’s revelation it is God Himself and His Son Jesus Christ who are at the centre of everything. It is God who gives the city light and Jesus is its lamp (21:23), there is no Temple because God and the Lamb are the Temple (21:22), the River of Life flows from the Throne of God and the Lamb (22:1), and their joint Throne is in the city as a focus of our service (22:3).
A DIFFERENT TYPE OF HERO
This then is the hope for the future that we are called to remember today. It is a hope that only God can and will bring about. But in His divine wisdom it is our faithful walk of prayer, worship, witness, and work in the world that He uses to fulfil His purposes. And it is a safe remembering, for the hero of this story is not a fallen or fallible human. The heroes we remember today are God Himself and the Lamb that was slain to bring all this to pass.
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