Summary: This sermon is focused on the promise of a quick return from Jesus and the tension due to the apparent delay. It concludes a six sermon series on: Creation, Crisis, Covenant, Christ, Church, and Coming.
Behold, He Comes!
Rev. 22:12-21: Act 6
Introduction: Anticipation is powerful inspiration.
Some of you may have been to “In-N-Out Burger” in California. It is a pretty good hamburger, but I have to tell you it is perhaps the most over-hyped food chain in history. When people from California return to their state they will speak about going to “In-N-Out,” as if they were returning to the fountain of youth. You would think they were adding some kind of hypnotic drug to the burger! Proof of this was never more on display than last week when they opened a brand new “In-N-Out” in Frisco. People camped outside overnight! They lined up outside and didn’t care about waiting in line. As they readied to open the door people were singing a jingle about burgers! The first customers came in and started jumping with joy and high fiving the employees. One woman they interviewed eating her burger began to cry, nostalgic over her California upbringing. I mean, “Wow!” People can really get excited about the coming of a burger joint!
What does that tell you about human nature? Well, a lot of you are probably thinking that some people need to get a life! But it does tell you something about the power of anticipation. When you are waiting for something you really want to come, it affects your behavior, your way of thinking, and as that coming gets closer it becomes consuming, even if it is over burgers.
Do we as Christians have anything to anticipate that might alter our behavior in significant ways? I surely hope so. The Bible tells us Jesus is coming soon! If people can get fired up about a burger chain, shouldn’t the coming of Jesus to usher in the final glory of his kingdom be a controlling reality in our lives? But let’s be honest, it often is not. We often live as if he isn’t really coming. Maybe because it has been over 1900 hundred years since the last recorded words of the N.T. from Jesus exclaim, “Behold, I am coming soon!” So, the excitement wears off. We ask, “Where is this coming anyway?”
Jesus promises that he is coming again. It is the final act of the story; the act those living in act five must anticipate with great expectancy, but without knowing its precise timing. So, fittingly, today we go to the end of the entire Bible and hopefully come away with insights that will help us wait in a manner that is pleasing to our Lord. Read Rev. 22:12-21.
Trouble in the Text: Jesus’ coming was not as imminent as the early church anticipated.
V. 12, Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon!” He makes the same statement back in v.7 and affirms it again in v. 20. It is the unmistakable theme to the closing of the book of Revelation and to the entire Bible. And much is at stake.
The late first century Christians were enduring an escalating climate of persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. Christians do not belong to a militaristic kingdom. They are not instructed on how to take up arms and fight for their freedom. In this book of prophecy, they are told simply to wait. Even those that were already martyred cried out for God to act and were told to wait. Read Rev. 6:10-11.
In many ways, the entire practical application of Revelation can be summed up by the word, “Wait.” And what were they to wait for? They are to wait for the consummating victory of the Lamb over his enemies and the final vindication of the saints. And for waiting they are promised this: Read Rev. 21:1-4. Doesn’t that sound like something worth waiting for? But the new heaven and the new earth cannot become a reality until Jesus returns, which is why the promise of his coming is even more urgent than the promise of the new heaven and new earth. Jesus promises the return would be soon.
There are clear indications that even early Christians were disappointed that Jesus had not yet returned (like in our scripture reading). They were eager for the conclusion of the story, because in the interim there is much suffering. You can suffer, if you believe glory is near, but when the glory seems delayed, it becomes a very difficult wait, one in which some simply give up. The book of Revelation is in part addressed to those who would choose an easier life by compromising their faith instead of waiting on Jesus to return. Revelation makes it clear that doing so is a most tragic decision. If waiting was hard for them, how much more so for us living over 1900 years later?
Trouble in Our World: Jesus still hasn’t come!