A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on May 9, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Getting Ready to Take on the World… …through the Word and for His ChurchRevelation 21:10-23Today is the second to the last in our sermon series on Revelation.  Would you say Revelation is a comforting book?  Maybe not!  It warns us of all the different kinds of troubles we can expect till Jesus comes again.  That’s not so comforting.  On the other hand, because He told us these things ahead of time, when we see them happening, we have the comfort of knowing Jesus has got things under control.  But sometimes we need more comfort than that.  So did Jesus as true man.  When He was on the cross cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Now, in His case He really was forsaken by God, because He was suffering for our sins.  Nevertheless what got Jesus through that time was continually reciting God’s promises to Himself, especially the promise that He would rise again, and so will we.  This morning the Book of Revelation also helps us get through our rough times.  It shows us what the Holy Christian Church is going to look like in heaven and what God is doing now to make this happen.  May this vision give us so much comfort that we’ll be ready to take on the world with His Word and for His Church!     We read, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.  It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”  The Holy City, Jerusalem, is picture language for the Holy Christian Church, which is the total number of everyone who trusts in the Savior, both Old and New Testament.   However here the Church isn’t that glorious.  One problem is we’re all sinners.  For example Paul writes in Galatians 5, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” How would you like to belong to a church, where the members are doing these things?  Some of Paul’s members in Galatia were, and that’s why he had to warn to them.  We on the other hand would prefer belonging to a congregation where everyone is filled with the fruits of the Spirit, such as, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control – Galatians 5:22.”  Does this truly describe New Hope?  Does it describe us?  Not always, because we’re sinners! Another reason the Church may not seem glorious is many grade it by the wrong standards.  For them a glorious church is one that has lots of members, and lots of money for all the latest marketing tools in order to give people what they want, which is to feel good about themselves.  How does such a church compare to the eternal Church?  The eternal Church shines with God’s glory, not man’s.  And so the true glory of a church is not its buildings or programs.  The true glory of the church is that God’s Son became a man, and in His body paid for every sin, whether it was in thought, word or action.   And now let’s apply this to ourselves.  We can attempt to feel good about ourselves by covering up our sins from our own memory, or by lopping off the commandments that don’t suit our situation, or by comparing ourselves with others.  These ways of feeling good about ourselves are not real.  Real is confessing our sins to God.  Real is knowing that by Baptism our sins have been washed away and we’re covered with the righteousness of Christ.  As we rely on this hope, the Holy Spirit causes us to grow in all these fruits of faith, you see on the screen.  He also makes us to be a precious jewel in His eternal Church with an eternally important work to do.   Now, here we may not see our purpose.  Moms sometimes suffer from that.  Maybe they don’t feel appreciated, and so they start wondering if they’re accomplishing anything.  Well, they are!  In fact moms are among the most important people in the world.  Furthermore they’re an example of what’s truly glorious in God’s Kingdom.  It isn’t necessarily the big, showy things.  Rather it’s the little things they do day in and day out, especially when they don’t feel like it and everything is hard, yet they do it anyway.    Our text shows us what God is building through this kind of Christian service.  We read:  “The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia[a]in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. 21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.”   Well, now you know where the term the pearly gates came from.  Again, this is all picture language.  Anyway the sum total of all believers in both the Old and New Testaments are described as a giant cube.  There are several reasons for this.  One is the Holy of holies in the Old Testament temple, which symbolized God’s presence with His people was a cube – 10 x 10 x10.  That the eternal Church is 10 x 10 x 10 x 12 for the twelve tribes of Israel or for the 12 apostles is saying that in heaven we will all be as holy as God is; and that is going to feel really good and not only that we’re also going to feel really great about everything we do.  May this hope comfort you for today! Another reason it’s comforting that the eternal Church is described as a cube is in a cube, nothing is missing, nor is there room for any part that doesn’t belong.  So, are you a part of this eternal Church?  Yes – through the merits of Christ, for God so loved the world…  But do you have loved ones you fear might be missing from this cube, because of the way they’re living?  St. Paul feared that, which is why some nights instead of sleeping he would be praying for them with tears and then during the day looking for opportunities to share the Word with them.  For example, we earlier read what some of his members were up to and his warning that if they kept continued, they wouldn’t have eternal life.  However, he not only warned them, he built them up.  He told them, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ – Galatians 3:26-27.”   Just as God worked through Paul to complete the cube, He will also work through us.  And so, let’s never be discouraged by how inglorious the Church appears or by how weak its members seem.  Rather through prayer and through the Word, let’s take on the world, that God may use us to make His Church glorious!   There’s one other point worth noting in this description of the eternal church and that’s how big it.  A stadia was about 600 feet.  It was 12,000 stadia.  Do the math.  This cube would reach about 1400 miles into outer space.  The space station is at what, 200 some miles up?  Anyway the size of the eternal Church reminds us there are true believers from every nation, language, time and denomination.  Also, believers in heaven will not be divided by the various traditions they may have in this life.  However, does this mean we should be ignoring those difference now and join the ecumenical movement to make one giant glorious church?  No way!   Our text reads, “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”  The foundation of the eternal Church is the Bible alone.  Trying to build the Church on any teachings outside the Bible isn’t going to work, because it’ll be outside the perfect cube and will not stand when Jesus comes again.  So, am I saying that only those who have a perfect understanding of Scripture are going to make it?  If that were true only Jesus would be in heaven some day.  What I am saying is we need to keep comparing our beliefs with the Word, and whenever we find thoughts or attitudes that aren’t consistent with the Word, those thoughts and attitudes need to go.  Otherwise gradually our faith will be founded more and more on that which isn’t true, until we find ourselves outside the cube altogether.   Now, this danger is real.  In fact Revelation chapters 12-15, which is the vision of the 7 vision warns us that the greatest threat to the Gospel near the end is going to come from Christian churches.  That may sound weird.  But as we get closer, churches will be putting human rules and human reason above the Word.  Furthermore they will refuse to be corrected by the Word, because that would mean giving up some kind of earthly glory.  Whenever we see that happen, Jesus says in Revelation 18, “Come out from her!”  Get away as you would from a burning building.  But what about family and friends who insist on staying behind?  Well, pray, warn, lead by your example, but don’t stay in the fire with them!    But how far are we to take this getting away?  Paul writes in Thessalonians.  “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”  No one is perfect.  We’re all growing.  We’re all to keep encouraging one another.  But if a person becomes hostile toward any part of God’s Word, that hostility can keep leading him away from the foundation, until he completely squashes the mustard seed of faith in him.  This is why God wants us to be careful that we not give the appearance with our actions that we’re okay with what the person is doing.  Now, granted sometimes it takes a lot of prayer to know how to apply this.  And sometimes trying to say anything at all can be very frustrating and discouraging.  But that doesn’t change the need; and our text gives us the strength.   We read in our text, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” This is picture language to remind us that in the life to come we will have perfect joy in every way that we serve God, because everything we do will do in heaven will be an act of joyful worship.  That’s our goal.  It’s also our goal that others have this goal.  And so whatever we have to do between now and then, or  whatever we might have to suffer between now and then, it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is the goal, and also that because Jesus lives, He IS using us to accomplish great things.  So, then, let’s not give up.  Let’s not put our head in the sand, because of all the bad news in the world.  But let’s take on the world with His Word and for His Church.  Amen. 

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