A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on May 2, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Getting Ready to Take on the World… …with Clear Vision and PurposeRevelation 20:1-10, 21:1-6Sooner or later just about everyone needs glasses.  I started when I was 10.  My parents noticed I was holding books closer and closer.  They had my eyes checked, and when I put glasses on for the first time, I couldn’t believe how clear everything was.  It’s that way spiritually too.  We all tend to see just see the problems right in front of us, and not the big picture.  As a result we’re probably not seeing our problems that clearly either.    This is morning we’re continuing our sermon series on Revelation.  Revelation is perhaps the most comforting book in the all the Bible.  It fits us with spiritual glasses so we can see everything that’s going these days through the lenses of God’s grace.  But how can we be sure that this is what Revelation is all about?   We can know this by the way it’s outlined.  In Bible times the number 7 symbolizes God’s gracious dealings with man.  Why 7?  God is Triune – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The earth He made for us is North, South, East, and West.  Three plus four equals seven.  The Book of Revelation has 7 sections.  The first five sections have seven parts each, and the last two have 3 parts each to really emphasize that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is taking care of us.   And now with our spiritual glasses on, let me share with you the big picture of Revelation.  After an introduction, the first section is 7 letters or 7 encouragements to stay faithful to God’s Word.  After giving us that encouragement, Jesus next shows us all the different kind of troubles we can expect.  The vision of the 7 seals is about earthly troubles.  The vision of the 7 trumpets is about spiritual troubles.   The vision of 7 visions is about enemies of the Gospel.  And finally the vision of the 7 vials is about God’s judgment upon this unbelieving world.  Granted, some of the stuff in these visions is frightening.  But Jesus doesn’t want us to get caught off guard, and also He ends each section with a reminder that He is coming.  And so, whether we’re reading Revelation or today’s news, because there’s nothing in the news that isn’t talked about in Revelation, let’s put on our spiritual glasses!  Let’s see everything in the light of God’s grace.  And then we will know that He’s in control, and then also we will have clear vision and purpose as we take on the world.          Our text this morning is from the very last section of Revelation, and it’s both the scariest and most comforting chapters in the Bible.  We read Revelation 20:1-3. “1And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.”  The number 10 represents complete.  3 tens emphasize completeness, and so 10 times 10 times 10 or 1000 years is the complete time from Pentecost till Jesus’ return.  The chain that keeps Satan from deceiving people during that time is the Gospel.      We read on at verses 4-6.  “4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”  Again, the number that emphasizes God’s grace is three sevens.  The number for Satan’s competing with God is 666, because he always comes up short.  Now, even though the Gospel has chained Satan, that doesn’t mean he’s stopped trying.  And many unfortunately have gone within a chain’s length of him.  As a result they believe his deceptions that money, power, and prestige make life worth living, and can even equip a person for the next life (if they believe there is one).  Believing and living these lies is what it means to have the mark of the beast, and often those who do will persecute those who have the mark of God in them, which is the Holy Spirit living in them.  That’s scary too, isn’t it.  Yet what is comforting here is that even though we’ll be persecuted in various ways, we reign with Christ here; we will reign with Him in heaven; and when He comes again, we will not be among those thrown into hell, which is the second death.   We read on at verses 7-10.  “7When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”  Here is the scariest part of all.  Just before the end of the 1000 years, or just before Jesus comes again, Satan will be unchained.  What sets him free is for the most part, people will stop listening to the Gospel; and if they’re not listening to the Gospel, they also won’t be sharing it either.  And then with more and more letting themselves be deceived, Satan will launch an all-out war on believers.  Elsewhere in Revelation, this is called the battle of Armageddon.  But Satan is going to use every institution of religion, government, science, education, finance, and the media to make it impossible for Christians to survive on earth.   Are we heading in that direction?  If we are, why bother with anything?  Well, let’s keep clear vision and purpose, because there are lots of things that still matter.  Through the Word we need to keep preparing our faith and the faith of our children for this battle.  Also, because the love of many will grow cold, it’s all the more important that we still love and support each other.  And finally during the battle of Armageddon we will not be without comfort.  As we heard last week, our Good Shepherd will be with us.  He will protect us and bless us in body and soul, so that we may be among those sharing His Gospel right up to the moment He comes again, just as He promised.   Well, enough of scary stuff, let’s read now at Revelation 21:1.  “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.”  When Jesus comes again, lots of things are going to happen all at once.  Everything in the universe except the planet earth will burn up.  How that happens, we don’t know, we’ll find out.  Next the dead will be raised, except their bodies will have spiritual qualities, and the living will be transformed.  Then together all of us will ascend to meet Jesus in the air.  He will announce that we are His and send all the unbelievers into hell.   And now this is where the fun starts.  From above we will watch the earth burn up, which won’t bother us a bit.  In fact we’ll feel good about it, because after that we will watch and listen as God creates a new earth in a new universe.  This new earth will be like our present earth, only better.  For one thing, there won’t be any oceans, which is going to give us a lot more space.  As for other differences, I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see.  But what I do know is it’ll be perfect and breathtaking.    We read verse 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.”  The Holy City, the New Jerusalem is picture language for believers.  After we watch God create a new earth, we will descend down on it.  Also of comfort in this verse we won’t be among this crowd, because we earned or deserved it.  We’ll be there, because God prepared us and made us holy in His sight.    Verse 3 reminds us how He is doing that for us even now.  We read, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”  This phrase is used in various places in the Bible to describe a blessing of hearing the Word.  This phrase is also used in Ezekiel 36 to describe a blessing of baptism.  And finally it’s used in Jeremiah 31 to describe of blessing of Holy Communion.  Three different avenues but the same blessing – through Word and Sacrament God gives us faith in His forgiveness and by that same faith He lets us see with our spiritual eyes what we will someday see with our physical eyes.   Reading on at verse 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.” Can you imagine starting each new day forever with no guilt, no pressure, no regrets, and no danger that this will ever change?  No, we can’t imagine it.  Yet this is what we’re looking forward to, and it’s going to happen, because God is in control, and therefore we have vision and purpose in life.  It’s that through Word and Sacrament we keep on looking forward to this, and that help as many as possible to also look forward to this.  Finally, let’s not let ourselves get distracted from our vision and purpose by anything that’s going to be burned up anyway or get discouraged by whatever problems we’re facing.  I said it before, and I’ll say it again – God is in control.  Furthermore, all the things of this life are not worth even comparing to what life is going to be like on our new earth.   But what if in spite of seeing this big picture, we still don’t feel we’re strong enough for all the things we’re facing?  That can happen, but the answer is simple.  Come back here next week, and hear how God is getting us ready to take on the world through His Church and our fellow believers.  And then come back in two weeks for the conclusion to Revelation and for prayers of perseverance as we take on the world.  Amen. 

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