The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. It begins with a terrible fall and ends with a glorious renewal. It begins with a curse and ends with the curse being reversed and all possibility of a curse being removed. It begins with humanity being shut out from the presence of God – it ends with an open invitation to all to come and drink from the river of the water of life.
It's a great ending. As we finish this series on Revelation let me remind you that this letter was written at a time when the church was under siege and things were looking grim. John sums up in this last chapter with some great principles that also apply to us today. Given that the whole book of Revelation is structured around the number seven, lets finish with seven principles
1. We need vision
John saw the church not as pathetic and tiny, in a weak and enfeebled state, but rather as the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the Holy City. He saw the water of the tree of life. He saw light, life and love. And it inspired him and kept him going. The vision was not small. It was not just about him. It was about 'the healing of the nations'. Is there ever a more appropriate desire for the Lords people today? To long for the healing of the nations. Seems impossible? What is impossible with humanity is certain with God.
2. We need the Word
There is no point in us having a Bible that is untrustworthy and untrue (verse 6). We have been given the testimony of Jesus. We are not to add to it (legalism) or take away from it (liberalism). Would that the Church and all the pseudo-prophets, scholars and anti-Christs within her would grasp this great truth.
3.We need to look for the return of the King
He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. He is coming soon. There is a kind of millennialist thinking which seems to see Jesus as the bogeyman coming to get us. For me the picture is more of the Father running to take the prodigal home. The return of Christ is something to be longed for, not feared.
4. We need to worship only the triune God
We must turn away from all other forms of worship. An authoritarian leadership which makes itself the head of the church is a horrendous blasphemy. We don't even worship angels. We worship God. On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation it's not a bad idea to remember that Luther's great aim was continually to bring us back to the Good News that we might slay the idols of our own hearts and the false idols of religion.
5. We need holiness
We wash our robes as we prepare for the great wedding feast of the Lamb. The Bride is to be pure. That is why the Bridegroom died for her. We seek to avoid all those things that are excluded from the Holy City – the ugliness, sin and evil.
6. We need to respond to the invitation
The Spirit and the Bride say come (verse 17). The thirsty are invited. Those who wish can take the free gift of the water of life. Let our acceptances of that invitation create in us a real desire to invite others – with all the authority that comes from the Spirit and the Bride. Christianity is the ultimate open and inclusive faith.
7. We need grace
How can we survive? How can we cope with the doubts? The fears? The persecutions? The horrendous evil we see? The spiritual assaults of the one who seeks to devour us? The foibles and sins of the church? How can we cope? Only by the grace of God. By the grace of God we are not what we once were, we are not what we shall be, but we are what we are.
Amen. Maranatha. Even so, come soon Lord Jesus.