************ Sermon on Revelation 22:12-15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 20, 2010
"My Reward is With Me"
"Jesus Is Coming." That is the heading in your pew Bible of the last section of the Revelation. "Jesus Is Coming." This theme is so important to Jesus that He tells us this three times in this last section of the Bible (vs 7,12,20). Not only is Jesus coming, but He is coming soon or He is coming quickly.
In our first message on this last section of the Revelation we focused on verse 7. Jesus is coming. Therefore, keep the words of the prophecy in this book. That is, persevere in the faith and godliness.
Our second message, last week, focused on verses 8-11. Jesus is coming. Therefore, repent and worship God!
Today, we again look at the coming of Jesus. As we do so, I want to ask three questions.
I The Coming of Christ as Judge
A The first question: Why is Jesus coming? Listen to what John writes:
(Rev 22:12) "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done."Do you hear why Jesus is coming? He is coming with His "reward."
The Greek word for "reward" refers to what a person has earned and therefore deserves. The word is sometimes translated as "wages." A wage is what a hired man has earned and therefore deserves. Sometimes, however, what someone earns and deserves is not a wage. A hired man, for instance, who steals from his employer earns and deserves a prison term. It should not surprise us, then, that the Greek word for "reward" is double-edged, that the reward can be either positive or negative.
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me ..." (Rev 22:12). Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming soon. And, He is coming to give people what they have earned and deserve – whether it is positive or negative, whether it is an award or a punishment.
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me ..." (Rev 22:12). Which means that someday there will be a Day of Judgment. Time is not a line that goes on forever, my brothers and sisters. Time is not an endless and repetitious cycle. Right now we are in the "last days" but someday the "last day" will come. In other words, when Jesus comes with His "reward" He will stop time, He will end time, He will bring time to a close.
B "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me ..." (Rev 22:12). Do you realize what this says about Jesus? This means Jesus is Judge and is coming to make judgments! He is coming to give people what they deserve – which implies a judgment on the part of Jesus. Jesus makes a judgment and people will get what they deserve – whether good or bad, whether positive or negative, whether an award or a punishment.
Jesus is Judge! Doesn't this run contrary to the popular image of Jesus? There are those today – both inside and outside of the church – who think of Jesus as a Teacher, a Mystic, a Prophet, a Social Revolutionary, a Pacifist, a Religious Do-Gooder, a Zealot, a Feminist. This Jesus is non-judgmental. He is love. He is meek and mild. Now along comes John and presents the opposite image of the Lord Jesus: He is Judge; He is Someone Who makes judgments. But haven't we seen this image of Jesus throughout the Revelation?
-In Revelation 6, His return inspires such dread that the earth-dwellers hide in caves and among the rocks of the mountains; there they pray that the rocks would fall on them and hide them from Him Who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
-In Revelation 19, He rides a white horse and "with justice he judges and makes war." His eyes are like blazing fire, out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
-What did we see in Revelation 20? "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them" (Rev 20:11).
Jesus is Judge! He Who was rejected by men gives each man His reward. He Who was condemned by men becomes the Judge of men. He Who was reviled and beaten and crushed and afflicted is now the very One Who strikes fear into the hearts of all.
The first question: Why is Jesus coming? He is coming with His "reward." He is coming as Judge.
II The Totality of Christ's Judgment
A The second question: How total is Jesus' judgment? How comprehensive is it? What or who is all included in His judgment?
You may not like my first answer. It may make you uncomfortable. It can lead to anxiety. Jesus' judgment includes you. You. The ones in front of me in the pew. Jesus' judgment includes me. Me. The one in front of you in the pulpit. What does Jesus say?
(Rev 22:12) "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done."Hear that word "everyone"? Who will Jesus judge? Everyone. No exception. No exclusion. Some think Christians will be exempt from the final judgment but that is not what our text says. Everyone: Christian, Jew, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, animist, pagan. Everyone: United Reformed, Christian Reformed, United Methodist, Baptist, Calvary Chapel, Neighborhood, Grace Community. Everyone: young, old, men, women, children. Everyone: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic. Everyone: American, Canadian, Dutch, English, Chinese, Russian, South African, Mexican.
(Mt 25:32) All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.Who will Jesus judge? Everyone who has ever lived. Everyone who has ever died. This judgment includes you and me. On the last day, each of us will face Jesus Christ in judgment.
(Acts 17:31) For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.
Not only will we all face Jesus in judgment, but we will also all face Him as individuals. It is an individual judgment. "I will give to everyone according to what he has done." To everyone. The actual Greek says "to each." "I will give to each according to what he has done." The individual is in mind. Each individual. Every individual. Know what this means? We don't stand before Jesus as a family, as a youth group, as a church. We don't stand before Jesus as a consistory or a Bible Study group. When we stand before Jesus, we are not judged by the goodness of our saintly grandmother. Nor, can we stand before Jesus on the basis of the faith of our mother or father or grandfather. When we stand before Jesus, we are not judged according to the faith of the pastor. Each person will stand before Jesus as an individual.
How total is Jesus' judgment? The first answer: it includes everyone, each one!
B How total is Jesus' judgment? What else does our text say? "I will give to everyone according to what he has done" (Rev 22:12). Remember what we learned when we looked at the great white throne. We learned about the books (Rev 20:12). God's ledgers that record everything. We learned there probably are no actual books; rather, this is a way of speaking about God's unfailing memory. Which means God records everything, misses nothing, sees all, skips no one. His recall is total. His eyesight is perfect. So nothing is ever overlooked. Which means Jesus judges all of our deeds.
Do you realize this final judgment by Jesus includes your words?
(Mt 12:36) But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.How many times don't you carefully guard your tongue? Or, how many times do you carelessly say something? Someday we have to give account for every word we speak. As husbands, wives, parents, children, elders, deacons, pastors, church members.
Do you realize this final judgment by Jesus also includes your thoughts?
(1 Cor 4:5) Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.Ulterior motives. Shameful thoughts. Secret things no one else sees and knows. Bad attitudes.
How total is Jesus' judgment? It includes thoughts, words, and deeds! That is total indeed. It includes everything about me as a person. It excludes nothing about me as a person. There is not a single part of my life than I can keep private and secret and off-limits.
The private life of politicians is considered off-limits to reporters in most other countries. In America, however, nothing is off-limits, everything is fodder for the media.
In the final judgment, this is intensified a thousand times over. Because, unlike reporters, Jesus misses nothing: no deed is hidden, no word is unrecorded, no thought is secret.
Thought. Words. Deeds. They will all be judged. And they all will be judged to fall short. Because we are sinners. Because we are fallen. Because we live for ourselves rather than for God and His glory. There is no partiality, no favoritism, no sliding scale, no grading on the curve. It makes no difference what your race, what your nationality, what your church, what your family, what your office.
How total is Jesus' judgment? The second answer: it includes thoughts, words, deeds.
III The Result of Christ's Judgment
A Which brings us to our third question: What is the result of Christ's judgment?
Let's go back to the idea of "reward" in verse 12. Remember, "reward" means what a person has earned and therefore deserves. Reward can be either positive or negative. Which is what we see in verses 14-15. We see two different destinies.
What is the result of Christ's judgment? Listen to what is written in verse 14:
(Rev 22:14) "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."Notice the use of the word "blessed." This, obviously, is the positive side of Christ's reward. And, it is presented to us by the use of two familiar images.
The first image concerns the tree of life (cf Rev 2:7; 22:2). Do you remember what Genesis tells us about this tree? Adam and Eve were allowed to eat from this tree and therefore live forever. Immortality was within their grasp. However, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were banned from the Garden and barred from eating from the tree of life. In fact, God put cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen 3:24). Do you see what Adam and Eve did? Because of their sin, they exchanged immortality for death. That was their reward, their due, what they deserved – as Paul puts it, "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23). Now, in Revelation 22, the tree of life reappears. Again, it is a symbol of immortality, eternal life, life that never ends.
John speaks of those who "have the right to the tree of life." The Greek is actually much stronger – "they have authority over the tree of life." In other words, they have the right to eat from the tree. They have the right to live for ever. That is the positive side of Christ's reward.
The second image concerns the gates of the city. Do you remember what we learned about the city in Revelation 21? That it was not a literal city at all. Nor did it have literal walls or literal gates. Rather, the city is the bride of the Lamb. She is the glorified church. She is the people of God. And, like a bride, she is beautifully dressed for her husband. Why is the church likened to a city? Because a city symbolizes fellowship, communion; so, the heavenly city emphasizes the eternal communion and fellowship God's people have with God and His people.
John speaks of those who "may go through the gates into the city." In other words, they have the right to eternal communion and fellowship with God and His people. Theirs is the right to see God face-to-face and to fully enjoy Him forever. This, too, is the positive side of Christ's reward.
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me ..." Does everyone experience the positive reward of life eternal and life with Christ? No! Not at all. Verse 15 presents a totally different destiny:
(Rev 22:15) Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."Outside"? Outside of what? Outside of the city. Outside of eternal communion with God. Outside of communion with the glorified church.
If they are not in the city where are they? They are outside. They are outside in the lake of fire. They are outside in a place of darkness and judgment. This is the negative side of Christ's reward.
B What is the difference between the two groups and the two destinies? How come one group eats from the tree of life and enters into the city whereas the other group remains outside?
Did you notice, both groups do something?
The first group, what do they do? They "wash their robes." What robes? What is in mind here? Every human wears a robe (cf Col 3:12-14). Every human wears a robe of his or her own making. Every thought, word, and deed is a thread woven into the fabric of this robe. So, what does your robe look like? It is filthy! It is gross! To use a Dutch word, it is "vies." It is soiled with spots, stains, blemishes, and defects! The spots, stains, blemishes, defects, and dirt of your sin. And, there is nothing you can do to clean it. There is no laundry soap on this earth that works on this robe.
(Jer 2:22) "Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me," declares the Sovereign LORD.Your robe is dirty and filthy, congregation. And, you have no one to blame but yourself. Because you have made it that way.
Your robe is dirty and there is nothing you can do to clean it. But God can. God can clean it. God can make your dirty, filthy robe white – pure white. How? By dipping your robe into a crimson bath – which is the blood of Jesus sacrificed upon the cross.
So notice how these people enjoy eternal fellowship with God and His people? Not because they have earned it. Not because they deserve it. Not because they are so holy (remember their dirty robe?). Not because they have earned their reward from the Judge of the living and the dead. Their experience of eternal life is only because of Christ and His blood.
What about the second group of people? What do they do? Listen to what John says:
(Rev 22:15) Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.John calls them "dogs." Not literal dogs. In the ancient world, this was a way of speaking of the worst of the worst (cf Phil 3:2). It means someone whose whole life is most unholy. After calling them unholy dogs, John specifies their sins: sorcery, sexual immorality, murder, idolatry, falsehood. What do they do? They sin. They love to sin. And, they are not washed in the blood of the Lamb. So, they are outside of the city.
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done" (Rev 22:12). What will you receive from the Judge? Eternal communion with God and the right to the tree of life? Or, will you be kept outside in the lake of fire?
That depends, doesn't it, on your answer to another question: Are you clothed in the filthy threads and rags of sin or you are washed in Jesus' blood and righteousness? Which group are you in? It is either one or the other.
"Behold, I am coming soon!" At any moment. At any time. Quickly. So, if you are not a Christian, I invite you to come now, today, to Jesus so your robes can be washed.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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