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 V: City of Kings
The Book of Revelation: Worshipping with All of Heaven - Part V: City of Kings
Based on Rev. 21:9-14, 21-27
Preached on May 5, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints and kings, those whose names are written in the book of life, we are back again this morning with our Revelation sermon series, the fifth of six Easter texts from the book of Revelation. That's right, there will be six, not five. I miscounted. But come on, I am a pastor, not a mathematician.
With people forgetting things, it is a good time for a quick reminder of what we have seen so far, for a Revelation recap. What have learned so far? We've learned that the reason Christ appeared to John was because His people were being heavily persecuted. Things did not look good for the early Christian Church, so God gave them the true picture, the full picture, one we have been tuning into each week.
We've been turning heaven's video cameras on, and after doing this for a few weeks, we have begun to realize we are watching the same incredible event each week, but from different camera angles - In chapter one, what we might call, camera angle one, John turned to see one like the Son of Man standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands - and we were introduced to the picture of Christ present with His Church in worship, ruling and protecting them with His Word - Then in chapter five we looked through the IMAX lens, camera angle two, where John saw the Lamb take the scroll while all of God's people watched and worshipped - Then in chapter seven, camera angle three, John saw a multitude that no one could number dressed in white robes bowing down before the Lamb, worshipping Him for bringing them out of the great tribulation - Then last week in chapter 21, camera angle four, John saw the new creation, and all of God's people in newly resurrected bodies presented as a pure and beautiful bride to Christ her husband. Revelation brings reassurance to troubled hearts by showing us the same picture of Christ and His redeemed people, but from a different angle each time.
Which brings us to this morning, where still in chapter 21 John had to get out that wideangle IMAX lens again, because he was carried away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain and shown a fuller picture of God's holy city - a fuller picture of God's holy people basking in the light of the Lamb in His new creation. A Holy City. What a beautiful picture of God's holy people! What a way to describe the body of believers who have been redeemed by the Lamb. As a city, holy and true. And there is something absolutely breathtaking about this city, these people that John saw. They have the glory of God. These citizens reflect the divine majesty of God Himself. Poor John had no way to describe them but to say their radiance is like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. These people are so pure its beautiful. They radiate the very glory of God.
But there is more John tells us about this city, these people, he tells us what they are built upon, what makes them part of this city, for the city is built upon twelve foundations and has twelve gates. Thankfully he also tells us what this means. The twelve gates represent the twelve tribes of Israel, all of God's people from the old covenant. The twelve foundations represent the twelve apostles, all of God's people from the new covenant. In other words, the people that make up this holy city trusted in same thing. They trusted in Christ the Lamb. Whether they trusted that He would come and save them, as He promised in the old covenant, or they trusted He had come and saved them, as He promises in the new covenant, the people of this holy city have faith in Christ. They have all been saved, all been redeemed the same way, by this slain and risen Lamb in whom they believe.
And when it comes to this Lamb and His city, John tells us a most incredible thing. He says, "I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb." Now for someone living in the 21st century, the magnificence of these words needs some explaining. Holiness cannot be with sin. It destroys sin. That's what holiness is. The thing that pushes godlessness away. So ever since the fall of creation God's holiness has threatened to destroy sinful man. But in order to show He still loves them, and that He is with them working to save them from sin, God made His presence dwell in His Temple in Jerusalem there in the midst of His sinful people. This was fraught with danger, so God established an elaborate sacrificial system to keep the people's unclean sin from coming into contact with God's holy presence. All of this was in place until the proper time when God sent His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the very Lamb of God to be sacrificed once for all on the cross. Christ made His body the place where the holiness of God is united with sinful man. This Lamb, Jesus, has made His body the temple. "I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lamb." In other words, in this picture that John saw, Jesus' body is physically present with His people. He is with them directly.
Now, let's push the pause button for a moment to consider what John really saw here. We all think John is telling us about what's happening in heaven, and he is. But isn't this picture familiar. Jesus' body physically present with His people, bringing them into the holy presence of God. It sure it. This happens in the liturgy right here in this space. We confess it every week in the Lord's Supper. When God's faithful people surround His altar and the Words of Institution are spoken over bread and wine we say, "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace, grant us peace." Jesus' body, this Lamb of God, is physically present here on this altar. God's holy people, His holy city, you, are here with Him. Now. On earth. Yes, John saw this in heaven, but it is also seen right here in the Divine Service in God's Word and Sacrament. "I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb." John saw you and I, those built upon the teaching of the apostles, shining like a holy city, with the Lamb here in our midst.
Isn't that the most incredible thing you have ever heard? This holy city that radiates the very glory of God. It is you. Were heaven's video camera to pan over and capture you, you would shine like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Pause) This Lamb has been sacrificed for you, His blood is all over you, so you are holy. Clean. Pure.
Now I know it doesn't look like this to us. It looks totally plain. I know you don't feel like you are a most rare jewel, that you are clean - pure. Because when you hear John say, nothing unclean will ever enter the city, you seize up in fear. You are struck with the realization that you aren't perfectly clean, that regret it as you may, you have got caught up in falsehood, you have touched detestable things. But this is exactly why Christ appeared to John in the Revelation. This is exactly what the early Church saw when they gathered together, and they, like us, needed a visual reminder of the way God sees things. Beloved Christian, things are not exactly as they appear to your eyes. Why? Why are they different? Because you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Your name has been written in the Lamb's book of life in Holy Baptism. You are a citizen of the city. By no work of your own. By no choice of your own. But because God chose you. You are clean. You are holy, because Jesus' blood is yours for free. This is what John saw. He saw you.
Hear this troubled Christian.
Christ wants you to see.
His body is holy
And He gives it for free.
Nothing can change this,
Not sin, death or strife.
For your name is written,
In the Lamb's book of life.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr