************ Sermon on Revelation 22:7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 2, 2010
"The Obligation of Christ's Return"
I am going to say something that will probably shock you – at least, I hope it does. I have concluded that we, as Reformed Christians, sometimes shortchange the redemptive work of Christ. You heard me right. I believe that we, as Reformed Christians, sometimes shortchange the redemptive work of Christ.
For instance, when we talk about the redemptive work of Christ, what comes to mind and what do most Reformed pastors speak and preach about? Isn't it the cross? Isn't the cross what we focus on? Don't we say boldly with Paul, "We preach Christ crucified?" (1 Cor 1:23)? But, you know, Paul preached way more than Christ crucified.
Let me ask what might seem to be a dumb question: Are we saved by the cross? Let me say this emphatically: NO! If all we had was the cross, our sins would be paid for but we would have no standing before God. If all we had was the cross, Christ would be but half a Savior and ours would be but half a salvation. I hope you all realize that we also need the grave, the empty grave, Easter's resurrection. It is for this reason that Romans 4:25 is probably my favorite verse in the Bible:
(Rom 4:25) He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.To talk about the cross and the grave is to give a more complete picture of Christ's work of redemption than to mention only the cross (cf 1 Cor 15).
Why am I saying this in a sermon on the last chapter of the Revelation? Because it occurred to me this past week that our focus on the cross makes us neglect the redemptive work of Christ not only in the grave but also His redemptive work in the second coming.
Let's start off by acknowledging that the second coming of Christ is part of His redemptive work. When Christ returns, says Paul, He brings to completion the good work He has begun in us (Phil 1:6).
Now, let me ask you about the reason you live the Christian life. More often than not, we think of the cross. We live the Christian life because of Christ's work upon the cross. Let me give you another reason for living the Christian life: the return of Christ. Christ's redemptive work in the second coming is another reason for living as Christians. This is the teaching throughout the Bible:
(Mat 24:42) Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.Notice, we are expected to live a certain way, to do certain things, because Christ is coming. In this light, consider our text for this evening:
(James 5:8-9) You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. (9) Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
(2 Pet 3:10-11) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (11) Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives ...
(Rev 22:7) "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book." Because Christ is coming soon, we are to "keep" the words of the Revelation.
Who is talking? He Who says, "I am coming soon?" In other words, Jesus. It is Jesus Who speaks to us here!
I Keep the Words
A As I mentioned last week, the visions are now done. We've been assured that the words of the Revelation are "trustworthy and true" (Rev 22:6). Now, we hear Jesus saying, "Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book" (Rev 22:7). Notice that word "keeps." It expresses continuing action. It is something you do and keep on doing. Keep obeying. Keep watching. Keep observing. Think of those Japanese soldiers after World War II who kept on fighting long after they lost contact with their superiors. Think of parents who never stop praying for their child. Meaning what in our text? Meaning this is a call to perseverance. Meaning this is a call to overcome. Meaning this is a call to endure to the end. Meaning this is a call to be faithful to the Gospel.
B Why, does Jesus choose to bring this up? After all, when we look through the Revelation we see much has already been said about perseverance. Over and over again, Jesus has said much about the blessing that comes on those who overcome. So why does Jesus say this again?
Two reasons. First, to remind you that the prize of eternal life is not given to those who merely start the race; rather, it is given to those who finish the race, who persevere, who overcome. The prize of eternal life is given to those who to the end of their lives do not compromise their commitment to the Gospel.
Second, because the original audience – the Christians of Asia Minor were just like us. They were real people who lived their lives in a real world. Like us, their lives were messy at times and full of sin. Like us, they had struggles and doubts and fears. Like us, they struggled to be faithful in all things to Christ and the Gospel.
Think, for a moment, of what we have learned about the church in the Revelation. We've learned that the church of Jesus Christ is under attack. She is under attack by Satan. Satan attacks through the persecution of the beast, the lies and heresies of the false prophet, and the allurements of Babylon. Satan has one goal: to make the church compromise her allegiance to Christ and the Gospel, to make her depart from the faith, to make her start but not finish the race.
C "Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book" (Rev 22:7). Notice the result for those who do persevere: "blessed." What blessing does Jesus have in mind? As we shall see next time, in mind is nothing less than the full and final experience of salvation. In mind is the right to eat from the tree of life and to enter into the New Jerusalem. In mind is the fullness of life with Christ. But, but, this is only for he "who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book." This blessing is only for those who continue to the end, who persevere, who overcome.
D "Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book" (Rev 22:7).
Remember John's audience? The seven churches of Asia Minor. Remember the seven letters to the seven churches? Only two of the churches – the smallest and poorest and most insignificant – were keeping the word, were keeping the faith, were being overcomers.
So, how are we doing? How are you doing? Are you keeping and guarding and protecting and living out the Gospel? Is it well with your soul? Are you persevering in your faithfulness to Jesus Christ? Can you say – can you really say – that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important thing in your life. Does the Gospel shape every aspect of your life? Does the Gospel define the atmosphere of your home? Does the Gospel determine your approach to work and business, to money and material possessions? Does the Gospel determine the TV programs you watch, the music to which you listen, the recreation in which you are involved? Does the Gospel determine how you act on a date or when you are out with your friends? Does the Gospel determine your relationship with people who are not believers? Are you persevering in the faith? Is it well with your soul?
Let me ask from a more negative point-of-view. Have you made compromises with the Babylons of this world? Has lust gotten the better of you? Is your life controlled by alcohol, tobacco, or drugs? Are you a prisoner of your addictions? Is money too important to you? Is work the idol before which you bow? Is it well with your soul?
You know, when I look at my life, I have to admit there is always room for the Gospel to have more influence, there is a need for more perseverance. How about you?
What adjective would you use to honestly describe your present relationship with Jesus Christ?
-Let's start way at the top of the scale with zealous, eager, hungry, devoted, sacrificial. Do any of these adjectives describe your present Christian experience?
-Let's move down the scale a bit to steady, consistent, faithful, diligent. Is that how your spouse or children would rate your Christian experience?
-Well, then, what about sluggish, inconsistent, lackluster, lethargic?
-Are there some here this evening who would use an even darker set of terms: compromise, indifferent, mediocre, nonexistent?
Which set of adjectives describes you and your faith? Is it well with your soul?
Truth be told, each set of adjectives has described me and my faith at one time or another. And, I suspect they describe you as well.
Some of you here this evening are persevering in the faith; I praise God for that. My guess is that most of us are not doing as well. Isn't that right? So the question becomes, how do we persevere in the faith? How do we rekindle our passion for the Lord? How do we reignite spiritual devotion? How do we submit every part of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?
II Christ is Coming Soon
A Are you ready for the answer? It is so simple. All we need do is look at the firs part of our text this evening:
(Rev 22:7) "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book."Do you see what Jesus does? Jesus draws a direct connection between our passion to persevere and His second coming.
"Behold, I am coming soon!" What is the result? What should be the result? "Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book."
Heaven is more than a destination; it is a motivation. Knowing that we shall dwell in the heavenly city ought to make a difference in our lives here and now. The vision of the heavenly city motivated the patriarchs as they walked with God and served Him (Heb. 11:10, 13–16). Knowing that He was returning to the Father in heaven also encouraged Jesus Christ as He faced the cross (Heb. 12:2). The assurance of heaven must not lull us into complacency or carelessness, but spur us to fulfill our spiritual duties. Christ's return motivates us to persevere.
"Behold, I am coming soon!" That's what our text says in verse 7. Look at verse 12: "Behold, I am coming soon!" Look at verse 20, "Yes, I am coming soon." Three times in the last 15 verses. Of the last book of the Bible. Obviously, this is very important to Jesus.
Is it also important to you? Christ's return – is it important to you? Do you think about it? Do you talk about it with other Christians? Do you pray for it? Is it ever a subject for discussion in Bible Study?
As I said before, when we think and talk of the redemptive work of Christ, we tend to focus our attention on the cross. We usually don't look at Christ's return. But Jesus does. So, we should too. Because it will kindle our passion to persevere.
B "Behold, I am coming soon!" Soon. Quickly. Hurriedly. Speedily. "Behold, I am coming soon!" Do you hear the urgency? The sense of immediacy? "Behold, I am coming soon!" So, you had best persevere right now. Be an overcomer right now. Be faithful to Christ and the Gospel right now. Don't put it off. Don't wait until you are 48 or 68 or 88. Don't wait until you are married or have kids. Don't wait until you retire. Don't wait until business is better, or you have more money, or you put your kids through Christian School and college. Don't wait until you have conquered some sin in your life. Do it now. Why? Because "I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done" (Rev 22:12).
C I want to lay a principle before you this evening: What you believe determines how you live! Fanatical Muslims believe martyrs are rewarded – so they are more than willing to fly airplanes into buildings and to blow themselves up. What they believe determines how they live (and die)!
The same is true for you and me. If you say you believe the Gospel but your life doesn't show it, then you don't really believe the Gospel, do you? This is true for every sin we commit. We engage in shady business dealings because we don't really trust God to look after us. Men and women look at pornography on the internet because they don't really believe what God says about sexual sin. We turn to alcohol or drugs because we don't look to God for peace. We cheat on tests because we don't think what God says about honesty is important. A wife refuses to submit to her husband spiritual's leadership because she doesn't really believe that pleasing the Lord is more important than getting her own way. A husband is angry and abusive because he doesn't really believe he needs to love his wife the way Christ loves the church. Men and women hold on to their anger and hold grudges because they don't really believe what God says about forgiveness and peace in the church. Someone turns everything into a worry rather than a prayer concern because they don't believe in the power of prayer and the power of a God Who hears.
If you truly believe that Christ will return – soon, quickly, at any moment – it should show in your life. What you believe determines how you live!
Do you believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ? His quick coming? That He is coming soon? If you do, it should affect the way you live!
If you truly believe in Christ's quick return, if you truly believe He is coming at anytime to judge the living and the dead, if you truly believe He is going to conquer Satan and the beast and the dragon and Babylon, then you persevere and overcome and make sure it is well with your soul. Because what you believe determines how you live!
D So, what can we do to help our soul, to quicken our soul, so we are overcomers? After what I said at the beginning of this message, I don't want to suggest anything that shortchanges the redemptive work of Christ in anyway. It is not good to focus only on the cross, or only on the grave, or only on the second coming.
It occurred to me this past week that we already have something that helps to focus our thoughts on the full redemptive work of Christ. We know it as the Apostles' Creed. I would like to ask you to open the back cover of either hymn book. See the middle section, the section about Christ. I want to ask you to do something this week. I want to ask you to recite this middle section of the Apostles' Creed every day this week. In fact, let's say it together right now. What do we believe about the redemptive work of Christ? Say with me:
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
Focus on Christ, congregation, and the fullness of His work of redemption: think about the manger, the cross, the grave, God's right hand, the return in glory. Believe in this Christ with all your heart. Let what you believe determine how you live.
And, don't neglect His return. Don't ever neglect His return:
(Rev 22:7) "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book."Keep this in mind. Keep this always in mind. Then, by grace, you can say, "It is well with my soul."
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