Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Marriage Dinner of Jesus Christ: Revelation 19:1-9

While on a South Pole expedition, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton left a few men on Elephant Island, promising that he would return. Later, when he tried to go back, huge icebergs blocked the way. But suddenly, as if by a miracle, an avenue opened in the ice and Shackleton was able to get through. His men, ready and waiting, quickly scrambled aboard. No sooner had the ship cleared the island than the ice crashed together behind them. Contemplating their narrow escape, the explorer said to his men, "It was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!" They replied, "We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea was clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other, 'The boss may come today.'"

The word "maranatha" is a Syriac expression that means: "our Lord comes." It was used as a greeting in the early church. When believers gathered or parted, they didn't say "hello" or "goodbye" but "Maranatha!" If we had the same upward look today, it would revolutionize the church. O that God's people had a deepening awareness of the imminent return of the Savior! (Our Daily Bread.)

Today we’re looking at Revelation, the last book of the Bible, chapter 19. In recent weeks we’ve talked about the triumphal entry of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and last week we talked about the ascension of Jesus.

Now I want to fast forward over two thousand years from the moment Jesus ascended, in AD 33, to the moment in the future when Jesus Christ returns.

So we know that right now we’re in the church age. The church has expanded across the Earth. And we know that Jesus will come again to collect his church and bring them home.

That moment I believe in rapidly approaching for us. But before history is completed, a time called “the great tribulation” will occur. This is a time of great crisis and struggle for the world at the end.

In life we have all sorts of struggles. We have health problems, surgeries. We deal with money problems, job problems, family problems, and so on. Life on Earth is rough. But the great tribulation will make all of this stuff seem like a walk in the park.

If you’re looking for an image of what this will be like, the Bible describes it this way, from Amos 5:19, “It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.” So it’s described as these worst case scenarios that only seem to get worse. You’re walking down the street and you just escape getting hit by a car, but then you get hit by a bicycle. It’s bad.

Now there is a view in apocalyptic theology that if we are followers of Jesus Christ, then we will be spared from this moment. They call it the pre-tribulation rapture. The idea is that Jesus Christ will come suddenly, gather his church, and bring us to heaven before the tribulation. That’s the view we’re going to go with today. There are other opinions, but we’re gonna focus on this view for today.

Christ returns in a moment and gathers the church to heaven. So you’ve got millions of people disappearing, then the great tribulation begins. So the church is safe in heaven while the tribulation occurs. So then we see the rise of the anti-christ and the formation of a world wide government. Many events happen but then at the end, in Revelation chapter 18, we see Babylon, called “the prostitute”, destroyed by God. And then we come to our scripture today: Revelation 19:1-4

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a large crowd of people in heaven, saying, “Praise God! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God! 2 True and just are his judgments! He has condemned the prostitute who was corrupting the earth with her immorality. God has punished her because she killed his servants.” 3 Again they shouted, “Praise God! The smoke from the flames that consume the great city goes up forever and ever!” 4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. They said, “Amen! Praise God!”

So let’s pause right there. We see this beautiful scene in heaven, you’ve got the church praising God. You’ve got the evil kingdom destroyed. And you’ve got the 24 elders praising God. Who are the 24 elders? Well we believe this would all the great humans in bible history, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and so on, and Jesus’ disciples, Matthew, Mark, Luke, James, and so on. The four living creatures, you’ve got me, I don’t really know what they are, but they’re made by God, to worship God and declare His glories.

Then it says in verse 5 through 8, “Then there came from the throne the sound of a voice, saying, “Praise our God, all his servants and all people, both great and small, who have reverence for him!” 6 Then I heard what sounded like a crowd, like the sound of a roaring waterfall, like loud peals of thunder. I heard them say, “Praise God! For the Lord, our Almighty God, is King! 7 Let us rejoice and be glad; let us praise his greatness! For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself for it. 8 She has been given clean shining linen to wear.” (The linen is the good deeds of God's people.)

9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Happy are those who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And the angel added, “These are the true words of God.”

Now you have this beautifully pictured marriage ceremony between Jesus Christ and “his bride.” Who are his bride? We are his bride. We are wed to Jesus, becoming one with Jesus, for all eternity. This will be a time of great celebration in heaven. As we gather around the table for this great and exciting ceremony of the marriage supper of the lamb.

Are you guys with me so far? Jesus was born, 2000 years ago. Jesus lived, and was crucified for our sins on the cross. Jesus came back from the dead. Then Jesus ascended to heaven, went to heaven to prepare a place for us. And now we see that Jesus will gather us in the rapture to heaven. The great tribulation will occur. The anti-Christ will establish an evil kingdom, and that evil kingdom will be destroyed by God.

Then we will celebrate the marriage supper of the lamb, this ceremony where we are joined with Jesus forever.

That is the day I’m looking forward to you guys. To be with Jesus in heaven. To be found faithful by God. So I’m always watching. Always waiting and hoping for Jesus to gather us to himself.

Your ultimate destiny as a human being, living on Earth, is to be washed in the blood of Jesus, have your sins removed, and to live to serve Jesus. And then, when the day comes of Jesus coming, you will be brought to heaven. And you will be joined with Jesus Christ your savior forever in the marriage supper of the lamb. This is the great moment of consummation. This is the great moment when we are permanently joined with Him.

We love Jesus today, but in the future we will be married to Him forever. That is the moment I look forward to. My destiny is in another world. My destiny is the new heavens and new Earth. That’s where I belong. No where on this Earth really feels like home. Heaven is home. The City of God is the real home.

But let me remind of you this, yes focus on heaven, watch always for the return of Jesus. But also continue to work here on Earth to get people saved and appose evil.

After World War I Germany was economically devastated and left broken. In that vacuum a terrible leader named Hitler rose to power. Many quietly followed Hitler and allowed him to take power. But famed Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for taking a stand against Hitler. Yet he continued to urge fellow believers to resist Nazi tyranny. A group of Christians, believing that Hitler was the Antichrist, asked Bonhoeffer, "Why do you expose yourself to all this danger? Jesus will return any day, and all your work and suffering will be for nothing." They had taken a fatalistic approach, that it was already too late.

But Bonhoeffer replied, "If Jesus returns tomorrow, then tomorrow I'll rest from my labor. But today I have work to do. I must continue the struggle until it's finished." -Daily Bread, November 10, 1991.

Yes I am waiting for Jesus. I fully expect Jesus to return in my life time. I don’t expect to die of old age. I expect to see Jesus with my own eyes sooner rather than later. You might think I’m being symbolic or theological, I’m being literal with that statement. But today, right now, I’m working to get people saved by Jesus, and to serve humanity through food, encouragement, hygiene products, help with bills, and so on. I’m hard at work. And you should be too.

Why do I talk so much about the return of Jesus? Well, because the word of God talks about it so much!

The Bible is filled with references to the second coming of Christ. “In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second coming of Christ--an amazing 1 out of every 30 verses. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books refer to this great event.” -Today in the Word, April, 1989, p. 27.

In 1987 Americans were surveyed, asking do you believe Jesus Christ will return a second time? 62% of Americans said yes. I wonder what that percentage would be today. I really wonder that. Or as Jesus said, “When the son of man comes again will he find faith on the Earth?”

We think we’re so advanced in the western world. We think we’re so sophisticated. We put so much faith in medicine, the sciences, and the intellectuals, we put so much faith in the experts, and we live by what they tell us to do. Whether it’s facemasks don’t help at all, we don’t use them, then a month later, facemasks are absolutely necessary. Then everyone wears facemasks. That’s a lot of faith. That’s very promising actually. Imagine if we put as much faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible as we do in handwashing guidelines, WebMD articles, and expert studies from The King’s College. I suppose that’s what we were taught, especially my generation, we were taught to trust experts, trust science, trust society, trust the TV, but the truth I realized later in life was, we should be more skeptical of the so called experts, and trust God’s word much more. It only took me about half my life to realize what my grandparents already knew a generation ago, God is real, and humans aren’t as smart as they think they are. A study can be absolutely wrong, and a Darwinian theory can be an invented fraud. And God’s word, though mocked as it is today, can actually be completely true. How ironic. What are you putting your faith in today? Theories of man, or God’s eternal truth?

So in conclusion today, Jesus Christ will gather His church, and we will be joined to Him in a marriage ceremony, the whole church to Jesus Christ, at the marriage supper of the lamb. We will see Jesus face to face, and be joined with Him. But yes, you’ll still be you. But you’ll be free from sin, and in love with Jesus with a full heart. Wow. So beautiful and amazing.