Sunday After Ascension

Theme
"He'll Be Here Soon!"
Verses
Revelation 22, 12-17. 20
Hymns
220, 169, 128, 322

                                                                 Revelation 22:12-17,20

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

            When you hear the words, “He’ll be here soon,” what feelings does that evoke?  Well, if you’re lying on a cement floor with a broken leg, and excruciating pain, and you hear someone tell you, “The ambulance is on the way.  They’ll be here soon,” you may feel a little relief, some joy, some encouragement! 

            If you are a seven-year-old little boy who has been banished to his bedroom because you pushed one too many of Mom’s buttons, and she told you, “Just wait until your dad gets home,” and now you’re told, Dad is on his way home, “He’ll be here soon,” those words done make you feel all warm and fuzzy do they?

            Two Thousand years ago, through the apostle John, Jesus tells the world, “Look, I am coming soon!”  Jesus is on the way!  He’ll be here soon!  What type of emotions does that evoke from people today?   Many people consider this a joke!  “Soon?”  Really?  It’s been 2,000 years!  If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s not going to happen!”  Others have become experts on Revelation, and End times.   They arrogantly say “Well Jesus can’t come back yet!  There are certain prophesies that have not yet been fulfilled.  There needs to be a nuclear holocaust that will destroy three quarters of the forests and animals of South America!  There needs to be a pestilence that will wipe out half the people and animals of Africa!  Oh, and yeah there needs to be a “Zombie Apocalypse,” where people come back from the dead to eat the living people.  So, they say, these words can’t be true.  Jesus can’t be coming back soon.  It’s going to take quite a while for these other things to happen! 

            But these words were true when Jesus spoke them 2,000 years ago!  And they are still true today.  To God, 2,000 years is just like a couple of seconds that have passed by.  The truth is, all the prophesies Jesus spoke of have been fulfilled!              The truth is, Jesus can come back at any time.  Either to end the entire universe! Or to simply end my own personal universe!  Jesus is on the way!  And HE’LL BE HERE SOON!”

                                                                                                    I

            And when Jesus comes, He tells us, “My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”  And we rejoice with that!  Frankly we are sick and tired of the miscarriage of justice we see every day of our lives.  Rich and powerful people do horrendous crimes.  Crimes for which poorer people would be put in prison for decades.  And nothing happens to them!  Some dictator feels he has the right to invade another country, and drops bombs and shoots rockets into market places, and places of residence, and kills countless civilians whose only crime is that they happened to be the wrong nationality!  And nothing happens to him!  Some deranged gunman starts shooting people just for fun, or thugs rob a store in broad daylight, and nothing happens to them.  And we are sick of it.  And we say, “Yes!  Lord!  Come and bring your reward!  Come and bring justice to our world!  Come and give people what they deserve!” 

            And yet listen to those words once again.  “My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done!”  Jesus will be here soon, and He will render to each and every person in this universe justice for what they have done.  He will give each person exactly what they deserve!    

            Does that make you feel all warm and fuzzy?  Can you honestly say in your heart, “I just can’t wait for Jesus to come back to restore justice to our world and to give everyone what they deserve?  Everyone! 

            And just to set things straight, Jesus reminds us, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”  Jesus has been around even before the creation of the world.  Jesus talked to Adam and Eve!  Jesus talked to Moses!  Jesus talked to Abraham!  And Jesus has been around your entire life.   Jesus doesn’t have to read reports about you from other people.  He doesn’t have to check the archives to get a good look at your past.  He’s been part of your past from the day you were conceived until now.  He doesn’t have to listen to people explain to him what you did to them.  He was there when you did it.  He doesn’t have to listen to you trying to justify your actions by telling him what was going on in your life.  He knows what was going on in your life.  He knows what you were thinking.  We are good people!   We are God-fearing folk who walk the line and do what is right.  But what about the times when we aren’t so good!  Remember those rebellious teenage years!  What about those times I thought success and money and fun were more important than church!  What about those times we didn’t care what God’s Word said about forgiving, I hate that person and will never forgive him?  Are there faces and names of people you hurt and whose lives you’ve shattered that still plague your conscience?  

            Perhaps we might feel like that seven-year-old banished to his bedroom with the message, that Dad is on his way.  He’ll be here soon!  And we don’t feel so warm and fuzzy anymore.

                                                                                                       II

            When Jesus comes back there will be two camps.  The first camp are the people on the outside of the city.  “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”  Outside the city of God!  In the darkness!  Punished and separated from God, and doomed to eternal damnation!  The sexually immoral!  The murderers!  Those who lie!  Horrible things those people have done!  But think.  Could any of those words ever describe me?

            But then the other side, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”  These are the people who are allowed to enter the city of God, to enjoy eternal peace, joy and happiness!  People who will spend eternity in the presence of God.   

            So, what’s the difference between those who are outside, and those who are allowed to come into God’s City?  The deeds they’ve done?  The attitudes they’ve had?   The depths to which they have sunk?  No!  To be honest haven’t we done some of the same things those people outside have done?  In fact, I’m sure that some of those people outside, will look at me, inside God’s city, and they will complain to God.   “God’s it’s not fair!   I know that person over there!   He’s done the same things I’ve done!  In fact, I’ve seen him do even worse things than I’ve done!   Why is he inside while I’m out here?   Lord, you need to kick him out of there, and send him down here with me, because he’s just as bad as I am.”  And some of those people will have a point!   We have been just as bad as those people.  Sometimes, even worse!  So, why are we inside God’s city?

            The difference between those inside and those outside is not the things we’ve done.  The difference is that we are blessed because we are “those who wash their robes.”  The wickedness that clings to me, the horrible sins I’ve committed, the fact that I am a weak and wicked sinner is covered by a robe that has been washed and has been cleansed in the blood of the Lamb!  The only difference between those inside the city and those outside the city is that we are covered with the blood of Christ, and that forgives our sins, and makes us right with God and gives us the privilege of being residents of God’s Heavenly City! 

            There’s one more thing!  “That they may have the right to the tree of life.”  The word translated here “tree,” actually means a piece of wood!  Now it quite often is translated as a regular tree.  But it can also mean a piece of wood from a tree.  It was used to describe the clubs that Jesus enemies brought when they arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane.   And many times, it was used to describe the “tree” that Jesus was crucified on.  Which wasn’t a tree!  It was a piece of wood, nailed together, to produce a cross upon which criminals were hung and executed.  The “tree” that Jesus suffered on was a tree of suffering and pain.  It would be called a “Tree of Death,” because the only way off that tree was death!  No one survived!  Everyone died.  Including Jesus.  But, you wouldn’t expect to see a “Tree of Death” in Heaven, would you?

            Well, actually this cross, this “Tree of death,” actually became for us “The tree of life.”  The only way we can have life in Heaven is because Jesus suffered death on that piece of wood.  So, Jesus has changed the cross from a curse to a blessing.  He has changed the Tree of Death into the Tree of Life.   And only because we were blessed by God with faith in that suffering Savior, only because we recognize that Jesus, the Son of God suffered death on the cross for our sins, and then rose again, do we have the hope of entering heaven.  This one historical event makes the difference for eternity.  Believing in Jesus’ death on the cross, gives us access to heaven!  Not believing in Jesus’ death, put us outside the city!  So I never have to be afraid of Jesus coming soon.  For He will not give me what my deeds deserve!  He will give me the life He earned for me! 

            Most “experts” of end times, are terrified about the events that are going to happen before Jesus comes back.  They are terrified of a nuclear holocaust!  They are terrified of pestilence!  They are terrified of zombies!  They don’t want to even consider that Jesus will be here soon!  But we who believe in Jesus, our response is smile and a prayer, “Yeah!  Come!  Come Lord Jesus!  Come quickly.” 

            And as we’re waiting for Jesus to come back Jesus gives us stuff to do while you’re waiting.  “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”  As long as we have breath and life, we keep drinking the water of life.  We keep offering the water of life to anyone and everyone who will listen.  And we keep our eyes focused on that Cross, the real “Tree of Life.”  Whether Jesus comes back to end the entire world, or to simply end our little world, we can rejoice like that guy with a broken leg, hearing the siren from the ambulance.  He knows that help is on its way.  So, with Jesus!  Even though we are living in a wicked and evil world, and regardless of how frightening and how frustrating it can be, we can stop and rejoice.  Because we hear our Savior's voice, and we know that our help is on the way.  So, rejoice!  Our Savior is coming, and “HE’LL BE HERE SOON!”