Summary: Whether cultural conformity or sever persecution, the book of Revelation is written to brighten their hope, to rekindle their expectation, to stir their hunger for heaven.. Hopeful anticipation is necessary to survival.
“Desire Heaven Deeply”
Today, we finish our sermon series Victorious! We complete our study of the book of Revelation. I need to start this message the same way I started the series – giving you the methodology we have been using and will continue to use today to understand this book.
First, we have to remember the style in which this book was written. This is apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic means an uncovering, an unveiling, a revealing. The book of Revelation pulls back the curtain between the earthly realm and the heavenly. We get to see the intersection of the physical and the spiritual.
Second, we have to recognize the symbols within this book. The book of Revelation is more a series of pictures painted with words than it is the writing style with which we are familiar. It doesn’t follow a chronological order but uses numbers and images in a repetitive form called progressive parallelism.
Third, we have to realize the setting in which this book was written. The original writing was to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia. They were being targeted either by cultural subversion or by sever persecution.
These seven churches of Asia needed their hunger for heaven stirred. That’s why the book of Revelation was written. A few of the churches were conforming to the society around them. They were chasing money, physical pleasures, and the tokens of cultural respectability. They needed a reminder that the things of this world could never truly satisfy.
They needed their sights set on things above, a reminder that all the good things of this world are – to borrow the words of Philip Yancey – simply “rumors of another world.” Every pleasure of this present world is simply a preview of coming attractions. It’s not the main Event. John writes to turn their attention from these shadowlands below to the sunlit lands above.
Of course, some of these churches hadn’t compromised, and therefore were undergoing extreme persecution – hardship upon hardship. When we experience great pain, it can be easy to forget everything else. Eugene Peterson says that if a toothache “can eliminate the awareness of health in every other part of the body,” then think of how much constant harsh mistreatment could have blotted out everything else for these hurting believers.
Whether cultural conformity or sever persecution, the book of Revelation is written to brighten their hope, to rekindle their expectation, to stir their hunger for heaven.. Hopeful anticipation is necessary to their survival.
And it is for us as well. We face the allure of compromising with our culture. We face the abuses of those who believe that the ways of God are worthless. We need our hunger for heaven stirred so that we may remain faithful and so receive the crown of life promised to those who continue to follow Jesus.
There are three huge boulders we have to climb in the Christian life. The first boulder is: I have a Creator. He’s personal and he created me.
The second boulder is: I have a Redeemer. Relationship with the Creator is broken by sin and the message of Scripture is, “Please let me forgive you. Please come into my family.”
The third boulder is: There is life after death. What you are experiencing now is not permanent. It is only temporary. No matter where you go in this world, most belief systems have the idea that there is something beyond the grave. Solomon wrote in Eccl. 3:12 that God has “set eternity in the human heart.”
The message of heaven is not just a message for old people. Eternity is not something to be considered just because you reach a certain age or because you have been diagnosed with a deadly disease. It is a message to be considered because the alternative is more horrible than we could ever imagine.
During some of Jesus’ last words to his followers before his crucifixion, he tells them in Jn. 14:1-3 – “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Here in Revelation Chapters 21 and 22, we see heaven described in three ways. These descriptions serve to enforce our desire to spend eternity with the One who loved us enough to die for us, the One who had the power to rise from the dead, and the One who promises to return for his followers.
Heaven is described as a City