And He is Coming
Rev. Drew Stockstill – February 27, 2022
Revelation 21, 22
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Some things that have been said about the book of Revelation: Revelation is scary. Revelation is confusing. Revelation is about the apocalypse. It’s all hellfire and brimstone. I’ve never read the Revelation. Well, now you have heard it. We’ve spent the last seven weeks hearing John’s Revelation. What would you say about it now?
“See, the home of God is among people,” says Revelation.
“God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,” says Revelation.
“See, I am making all things new,” says Revelation.
And John continues in the final chapter of Revelation, with a word to the Children of God who were afraid, with an empire at their door, violence all around. And this is what he said to them, and us:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
“See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me; 9but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”
Then Jesus says, “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
See, this is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Revelation is the word of God for the people of God. It’s a gift to us, for our own good. It can be like a life preserver. Imagine the weather is finally warm here in Harrisburg and we head to the pool. It’s a beautiful hot, sunny day and you’re enjoying yourself in the shallow end where your feet are on the bottom of the pool and your head and shoulders above the water. When suddenly someone tosses you a life preserver. What’s this? Why do I need this? Do I look like I’m drowning? I’m just fine. What, are you trying to scare me or something with this? Who needs a life preserver when you’re enjoying yourself in the shallow end? You can just sit on it and relax.
But maybe you see someone swimming out in the deep end. Something is wrong. They are struggling to keep their head above the water. Their arms are flailing. There is panic in their eyes. They’re drowning. You swim out the them with that life preserver and they grab hold. It was just what they needed at just the right time. You know a life preserver when you need one.
For a drowning people, Revelation is a life preserver. Maybe it doesn’t make much sense to you when you’re just flipping through the Bible on a quiet sunny morning with a cup of coffee and a muffin. But if you’re like one of John’s churches and soldiers are coming door to door looking for you because you’re a Jesus follower, and you hear the war horses coming down the street, and you haven’t been able to go outside to sit by the river and pray without fearing for your life, well, when you hear John’s Revelation, maybe then you know exactly what to do with it: grab hold for dear life.
John had told them of the great red dragon he saw tormenting the earth, and boy did they know about that dragon – the Roman Empire. John told them about the four horsemen of the apocalypse- and they knew those horsemen: religious persecution, famine, disease, economic injustice, war, natural disasters. And then John told them he saw that dragon get caught by one of God’s angels and thrown into a great pit. He said he saw that liar the devil and Satan, thrown into a lake of fire and sulfur. John said he heard that heavenly choir of elders and angels start to sing again, “Hallelujah!” they sang, “Salvation and glory and power to our God…for the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory.” And John said one of the angels looked at him and said, “[You better be writing this down!] These are the true words of God.”
Then John didn’t see those scary horsemen any more, he just saw heaven open and one white horse whose rider was called Faithful and True. “His eyes are like a flame of fire…his name is called, The Word of God. And the armies of heaven were following him on white horses. His name is inscribed on his robe and tattooed on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” He is the savior, their life preserver, their great hope and ours. Our salvation comes through: a nation? A ruler? An empire? A business? No! We see our salvation and it is The Word of God, itself. This is where we find our hope, the hope of the world. This is where we learn of our salvation and learn what to do with it. And John made sure his church got that word of God to hold onto, and God made sure that John’s revelation made it all the way to 2022.
Remember, John told us that whoever reads this word and whoever hears it will be blessed. These words come as a life preserver to those who need it. And let me tell you, beloved, there are Christians today, Children of God, God is trying to rescue who need this life preserver. John said he saw that rider on the white horse coming to the rescue of the people of earth and his name was The Word of God.
I read an article this week in the magazine, Christianity Today, by Robert Briggs, the president and CEO of the American Bible Society. His job is to get the word of God into the hands of those who need it. He’s good friends with Anatoliy Raychynets, of the Ukrainian Bible Society. Robert Briggs said, his Ukrainian colleague, “has shared reports that are hard to read: mothers wailing for their sons outside the hospitals; children who won’t remember their fathers’ faces; thousands of people feeling hopeless and afraid.”
They are people who would know well the dragon and monsters and warriors of John’s revelation. But Anatoliy shared something else: “church leaders working together for peace, and people seeking out the hope of Scripture.
“In Anatoliy’s church, people are fearful they will lose everything. [They share a lot in common with John’s churches.] In response, [Anatoliy] has been sharing Psalm 31 with anyone searching for reassurance. He reports that people are often surprised to hear words that, according to them, sound like they could have been written in Kyiv in 2022: “Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege” (v. 21).
“As people grapple with the unknown, many are experiencing the Bible’s message for the first time ever. According to Anatoliy, priests and pastors over the past weeks have been flocking to the Bible Society store in Kyiv to buy Bibles. Demand is so high that they’ve run out of copies.”
We have sisters and brothers in Christ who are fleeing bombs. There is a mother fleeing with her child in one arm dragging a suitcase down cobblestone streets, and tucked into that bag is a life preserver, the only certain thing. It is The Word of God. Someone else is hunkered down in a subway station to escape bomb blasts, and finds a little light and reaches for that Bible he picked up last week and tucked in his winter coat. He opens to Revelation and the Word jumps off the page and into his heart like a savior on a white horse. John says, “Sister, brother, you can’t see this
from where you are, but I’ve seen it from where I am, and let me tell you, God himself is with you. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. Keep hope. Don’t give up. God is not done. He wanted me to make sure you knew, he’s going to make all things new.”
Around the world and in our own community, there are people who sit in darkness; some war or another wages– addiction, poverty, violence, sickness. From where they sit, it may be like one of our Ukrainian siblings praying to make it through this horrible day, but with no end in sight, no light in that dark bunker. When that is the case, John said, “The Lord will be their light.” That is the promise of hope in the Revelation. Through this word, God reaches out from within the darkness, so that those who think there is no hope, when they reach out into the dark they find a hand to hold onto, a person, Jesus Christ. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, they find a church, infused with the light of the Lord, praying for them in Harrisburg, PA, and people of God, a communion of saints praying with them in the dark.
A pastor in Ukraine said that is exactly what they are finding. He said, “We speak to our colleagues in Russia. We church leaders speak to one another, and we pray together. We are united in the Lord.”
And so let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is sent into battle say, “Come.”
And let every Russian and Ukrainian child forced to say goodbye to her father, say, “Come!”
And let every politician seeking to end war, say, “Come!”
And let every person of faith praying for peace, say, “Come!” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
And let the final words of John’s Revelation be trustworthy and true:
“The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.”
 Robert L. Briggs, “The Ukrainian Church: ‘We Need More Bibles,” 2/24/2022. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2022/february-web-only/russia-ukraine-war-bible-society-prayer.html