by Pastor Cherie Dearth
Revelation 11:15-19 NIV
15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying:
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. 18 The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.
We are finishing up our sermon series on The Kingdom. We learned that with the death and resurrection of Jesus it has already begun, but it has not been fully realized. Now, we are citizens in a foreign land living the life of Kingdom people. We are following the ways of Jesus Christ, knowing that we are adopted children of God because of Christ’s death and resurrection. That is good. We are forgiven, now. We are in the process of being transformed, but for what?
To live in the fully-realized Kingdom. No longer foreigners, citizens of another country living in a strange land. We heard a little about it in our earlier passage. Now we here when God completes the transformation of all.
Revelation 21:1-5a NIV
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Here we have a picture of when the kingdom comes to full fruition. And, the strangest thing to me is perhaps that we humans don’t leave this place and go up to God, but that God comes down to us.
There is this idea that the purely spiritual is better. If we could only get rid of the corrupting imperfection of our physical bodies, we would be all right, we could live in bliss. This idea comes less from the Bible and more from Plato, the Greek philosopher. He said that all that is on Earth is an imperfect copy of the perfect, which is elsewhere.
Here in Revelation, we have a vision not of humanity being whisked away to some perfect spiritual realm, but perfected physical reality. God creates a new Heaven and a new Earth.
We have seen this before. The Gospel of John explains it this way in 1:14.
“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
The entire birth narrative in the Gospel of Luke is to make the point that God did come down to live the human experience with us in the flesh, in this physical world.
With this vision from John in Revelation, we see that the experience with Jesus was just a preview of God’s plan to live with and in the midst of God’s creation. God will be present with us in a way that is different from anything we have ever experienced before.
Everything will be made new. We will have the familiarity of Earth with the mountains majesty, the rivers that flow, the beauty of nature. The thing that will be missing is the death and destruction. The corruption and sorrow of evil and wickedness will be gone. Have you ever experienced a major life change after which the whole world seemed different? It could be like marriage, the birth of a child, a concerning medical diagnosis, or recovery from a major illness.
I knew a woman who had recovered from cancer. The treatment was difficult and taxing. At one point all of her hair fell out, which is not unusual. An interesting thing is that when it grew back it was completely different. She had very light brown hair, and it was very straight. It grew back black and wavy.
That was not the only thing that changed about her. She completely re-prioritized her life. She quit doing the things that didn’t make sense to her anymore. Her entire perspective on life changed.
Another one of those life changes could be when someone new comes to live with you. The entire pattern of your life may change. When do you take your shower? When do you eat? In the new Heaven and new Earth, these two planes of existence merge. God has come to dwell with the people. God is the new permanent house-guest. (NT Wright, Revelation for Everyone pg 187)
That thing that we prayed for short time ago, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” This would be the day when it comes to its full fruition.
Now, I have some questions for you. Some are rhetorical. Some to think about, and some where I will be asking you to share. Otherwise known as getting wisdom from the crowd. Are you ready?
How often do you find yourself thinking about the reality of this event … When God’s kingdom does come, when it is on Earth as it is in heaven? Do you think about it at all? Are we so busy and caught up in the here and now that we don’t consider this hope we have for the future? Or perhaps, this is a completely new idea for you. You didn’t realize that you have this hope for the future. Think about that for a moment.
What does God’s reign, the Kingdom – now and in the future – have to do with the way you live your life now? Would God say that he is reigning in every aspect of your life, of your relationships? Every aspect of your family? Every aspect of your job or other activities? Every aspect of your finances? Think about that.
How can you even know? So, I am asking for wisdom from the crowd. How can you know whether God is reigning in a particular area of your life, or in all areas? How can you know?
One idea is that you have to be intentional. You have to ask the question, do I really care to do this? Have I ever considered this before? How serious am I about being a disciple of Jesus? This is an important question you have to know. If we are serious about being disciples, we will want all parts of our lives to reflect this to the best of our ability… Knowing that we will grow and change and learn new things.
Another question to ponder to yourself: Is there anything in your life right now in which you need to see the reign of God. God’s unhindered will being done?
And finally, and I would like to hear your ideas about this as well, what is something you look forward to when the Kingdom of God is fully realized on Earth?
We do live in this tension of the Kingdom, this tension that it has begun, but it is not fully here yet. That can be very frustrating at times. The hope we have God has promised to us.
This is not a new promise. One of the times God promises this is in Isaiah.
“Behold, I will create a new heaven and a new Earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever and what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people of joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more.” (Isaiah 65:17-19)
We belong to this Kingdom already. We can look forward to the time when God will bring it to us completely. God has promised. It is not a question of if. It is only a question of when.
Will you pray with me? “God open our ears and eyes to the newness of your creation and make us act as partners that your dream will be realized here on Earth.” (Israel Kamudzandu, WorkingPreacher.org)
And the whole church said, “Amen!”